9. Pat Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
In contrast to Jaycee Horn, I absolutely love what Pat Surtain II brings to Denver’s defensive backfield. I mentioned quite a few times in my mock draft that Surtain’s tape reads to me as one of those top-level, “take away half the field” tier of cornerbacks in the mold of Jalen Ramsey and Denzel Ward. In a backfield as loaded as Denver’s, though, teams will have to throw at Surtain, and mark my words, he will make them pay for it. Surtain has the potential to be one of the league’s top cornerbacks of the 2020s, and it seems that he’s in just the right place to breathe life into that potential.
Prediction: Top-tier cornerback, possible Hall of Famer
10. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
DeVonta Smith is a hard one to project, for me at least. There’s no doubt about Smith’s talent, of course. The “Slim Reaper” took the souls of many defenses last season on his way to the Heisman Trophy, and his 2020 play is the main factor in him becoming a top ten pick this year. But that “Slim Reaper” nickname could also be his downfall at the pro level. The NFL is faster, stronger, and hits harder than any college team. There simply isn’t much precedence for a player of Smith’s build, at Smith’s position, being successful in the NFL. Marvin Harrison is the exception here, not the rule. Harrison also still outweighs Smith by 20 pounds, and had Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
Prediction: No. 1 receiver, but only if he can take NFL hits
11. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 to make perhaps the draft’s best value pick in Justin Fields. The Ohio State product is an electrifying talent at the quarterback position, and one that might save Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace’s respective jobs. That being said, I’m still not totally confident in this current Bears regime to make the most of Fields’ talents. Justin Fields can be a fun prospect to watch, even if the Bears still are not very good. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
Prediction: Super fun, All-Pro level quarterback, but probably not immediately
12. Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys
I’m not the first to say it, but this feels like a panic pick for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Dallas likely thought they’d be getting either Jaycee Horn or Pat Surtain II in this draft, and when both were gone, they hit the panic button. They bought some time by trading down with a division rival, and eventually selected Micah Parsons at No. 12. Parsons can be great, but I don’t think he can fix a defense on his own, and this Cowboys defense needs a lot of work. That being said, Defensive Rookie of the Year is an award that is almost completely stats-based, and Parsons is going to have a ton of tackles this year. Beyond that, I don’t know where he projects.
Prediction: 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year, but only as good as the rest of the Cowboys defense
13. Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
In my last article, I raved about the Chargers’ draft class. I haven’t changed my mind since then, as I still think they got a massive steal in Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater (and Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round as well). The television broadcast of the first night of the draft noted that Slater was viewed as the safest player in this class, and while I don’t completely agree, he’s certainly up there. Los Angeles set out to protect their young star quarterback in Justin Herbert, and along with Corey Linsley, Slater will excel at that.
Prediction: Solid tackle, but a great guard, who might go under-appreciated because of his position
14. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, New York Jets
I think the Jets did the smart thing here, even if it wasn’t exactly the sexy pick once they traded up to No. 14 overall. Alijah Vera-Tucker will likely be a solid offensive lineman, unless the Jets force him to play tackle opposite Mekhi Becton for whatever reason. AVT is strictly a guard, and New York is going to have to keep him there if they don’t want him to be a bust that they traded up for. I think the Jets are building a nice line to keep Wilson standing upright, and Becton/AVT can be a brick wall on the left side.
Prediction: Solid guard, but I don’t think he’ll be a household name like Becton is
15. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
The Pats grab the last of the “big five” quarterbacks in this class, as they try to fill the void left by Tom Brady leaving for central Florida. Mac Jones is a high-floor, low-ceiling type of quarterback who feels a lot like Kirk Cousins if I’m looking at career trajectory. I don’t think the Pats will be winning any more Super Bowls with Mac at the helm, but he’ll be a good enough quarterback to keep them respectable for quite some time. There’s not a lot to say here, but if anything, I don’t think he’s a bust.
Prediction: Above-average quarterback, but he doesn’t move the needle all that much
16. Zaven Collins, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Where there was smoke on draft night, there certainly was fire, as the Cardinals selected yet another first-round linebacker in Zaven Collins. Like Haason Reddick and Isaiah Simmons before him, I struggle to have faith in Arizona to help Collins reach his full potential. I’m not really sure what to make of this pick, mostly because of past track record, but in addition to that, I’m not sure Collins fits the modern NFL. He can be a fun player to watch, but I doubt he moves the needle defensively for the Cardinals.
Prediction: Fun, with lots of potential, but unfortunately a bust due to scheme and coaching