Pre-Free Agency 2021 NFL Mock Draft

9. Denver Broncos- Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley has gained serious steam in the conversation for first cornerback taken off the board, but I still can’t put anyone over Patrick Surtain II. Surtain’s tape reads like one of those NFL cornerbacks like Cleveland’s Denzel Ward or LA’s Jalen Ramsey, who just takes away about half the field from a quarterback’s vision. At 6-2, Surtain has the size to compete with just about any receiver, and his quickness allows him to keep up with just about any receiver. He has the versatility to be one of the “take away half the field” guys, and that defensive presence on the back end is just what Denver needs.

10. Dallas Cowboys- Kwity Paye, DL, Michigan

In my last mock draft in December, I still had Kwity Paye going to the Cowboys. Granted, it was five picks earlier, but I still feel that Paye is just the right fit for Dallas. The Cowboys had a historically awful run defense last season, giving up 300 yards on the ground to the Cleveland Browns and nearing doing it again when they played the Ravens. This is, frankly, despicable and the Cowboys need a run-stuffer to ease their woes. Paye measures in at 6-4, 272 pounds, and can take up space in the middle like a champ. If he can move outside and get after the quarterback too, that’s just a bonus for the Cowboys.

11. New York Giants- Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

The New York Giants have this history of making seemingly-boring draft picks that turn out to be absolute studs for them, and Rashawn Slater fits that description to a tee. Slater isn’t the biggest tackle prospect, standing at just 6-4, but his technique and football smarts will at the very least keep him afloat in the NFL. Slater might be best playing guard or center due to his size, but I believe he’s worth a shot at tackle. He might not rip you in half, but Slater showed at Northwestern that he might have the traits to make it in the NFL as a tackle, and if that doesn’t work, sliding him inside definitely should.

12. San Francisco 49ers- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

I can’t lie, this board has broken pretty badly for the 49ers up to this point. All four of the top-flight quarterbacks are gone, both of the top two offensive linemen are also gone, and to take a linebacker or safety here would be just a bit of a reach. But, the 49ers can take solace in the draft’s second-best quarterback, Caleb Farley. Some have argued that Farley could be better than Surtain once they hit the NFL. Farley is clearly a quick learner, and is still raw at the cornerback position, but his size and potential make him a mouth-watering prospect for a team that just lost their defensive coordinator. In addition to his nice collection of traits, Farley’s life should be made much easier once Nick Bosa makes it back onto the field.

13. Los Angeles Chargers- Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

A second-straight Virginia Tech player comes off the board, and it’s Christian Darrisaw to the Chargers. I think this is just a tiny bit of a reach for Los Angeles, but they need protection for Justin Herbert so badly that I can’t even blame them. At 6-5, 313, Darrisaw is nearing the perfect size for the position, and it’s likely that he’ll continue to grow into the frame he’s been given. Darrisaw isn’t overwhelmingly strong, but his technique and size can make up for it until he develops pro-level strength. The Chargers get a nice piece on the line here, and Justin Herbert shouldn’t have to worry about his blindside for too much longer.

14. Minnesota Vikings- Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (FL)

Minnesota is becoming a common Kwity Paye landing spot, but with the Michigan product off the board, I think they’ll go with Gregory Rousseau out of Miami. Rousseau isn’t a ready-made product, and he’s going to need some time and some work to hit at the NFL level, but his potential to be truly great is enough to keep him in the top half of the first round. At 6-7, 265, Rousseau has all the physical tools to push people around on any position of the defensive line. Rousseau’s mental game needs work, but if Minnesota can instill even the slightest bit of technique into him, he’ll be a force in the NFL.

15. New England Patriots- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

I have a feeling that Bill Belichick is going to fall head over heels in love with Mac Jones. Mel Kiper compared Jones to Tom Brady of all players in his most recent mock draft, and while I don’t totally agree, some of the traits are there. Jones has elite processing speed for a college quarterback, and works through his reads quickly, cleanly, and without an ounce of panic. The one thing holding him back is physical ability. That being said, Jones screams “system quarterback” and with the right pieces in place, Belichick could be getting a steal here.

16. Arizona Cardinals- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

I was tempted to put a defensive player here when I was sketching out this mock draft, but JJ Watt signing with Arizona opens up a whole world of draft possibilities. I think the Cardinals could, and should, add to their legion of high-octane weapons for Kyler Murray. Murray works best in the open field with explosive players like Deandre Hopkins, so adding another home-run hitting target would put this offensive group over the top. He might not be the cleanest blocker, but Florida’s Kyle Pitts is a huge threat in the receiving game. Lining him up with Christian Kirk and Deandre Hopkins would make for an overwhelming air attack once they get to know each other.

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