17. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Las Vegas Raiders
God, the Raiders are just…so, so weird. I struggle to classify Leatherwood at No. 17 as anything other than “puzzling,” but I can’t even call it “puzzling” because this is just how the Raiders operate. Every single year, they reach on their first-round pick, and every single year, we all scratch our heads about it. That being said, I don’t think Leatherwood is this massive undraftable bust, it’s just a really weird pick. Had they taken Trevon Moehrig here instead of the second round, and taken Leatherwood in the second round instead of here, we’d be celebrating this draft class. But instead, it’s just backwards.
Prediction: Not a bust, I think he’ll be serviceable, but definitely a huge reach
18. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami Dolphins
I want Jaelan Phillips to succeed so badly, honestly. It’s just that his injury history, especially with concussions, worries me a lot. After a while, all of those concussions start to add up for a player, and Phillips already has had plenty of them before entering the NFL. He is, however, the most talented pass rusher in this class, and it’s not very close. The bottom line is that I simply get a bad feeling about the future for Phillips, and as I said, all those injuries begin to add up after a while.
Prediction: Bust due to injuries
19. Jamin Davis, LB, Washington Football Team
Kentucky’s Jamin Davis came into the league with a wide range of reviews on his tape. While most agreed that his athletic ability at the linebacker position was unmatched in this class, most struggled to project where he would be drafted, simply due to his lack of polish. Washington took a chance on Davis at No. 19, and he’ll be going to a great situation with Ron Rivera and one of the league’s most talented defenses. I think Davis needs some time to marinate, but he can be an impact player by the back end of his rookie contract.
Prediction: He’ll be good, but might look like a bust initially
20. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
I’m just not sure anyone expected Kadarius Toney to actually go in the first round. It’s such a puzzling selection by the Giants, and full disclosure, I screamed in surprise when he was selected. Toney going on day one caught me so off-guard that I didn’t know what to make of it, and quite honestly, I still don’t know where he fits. The Giants just signed Kenny Golladay and they already have a couple more talented receivers. Where is Toney going to play? It feels like Dave Gettleman is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, especially since receiver wasn’t a massive position of need.
Prediction: I think he excels as a gadget receiver, and those shouldn’t go in the first round
21. Kwity Paye, DT, Indianapolis Colts
I struggle when trying to assess what Kwity Paye can be at the next level, specifically because so much of unlocking his potential relies on coaching. Paye has the tools to succeed, though, and landed in a great spot to develop his talents, so I’m warmer on him than I am on most. While I’ve significantly cooled on Paye following my first 2021 mock draft, I’m still a very big fan of his talents. Even though he probably won’t be a star, Matt Eberflus got a nice developmental project here.
Prediction: A solid “second guy” on the defensive line, but never truly dominant
22. Caleb Farley, CB, Tennessee Titans
Much like Jaelan Phillips, I think Caleb Farley could have a great career, if not for the injury history that comes along with his college career. Farley might be the true top corner in this class, but he’s had so many injuries that it’s no wonder he fell so far. That being said, it would seem that Farley’s back injuries have healed, and he’ll be ready to go for his rookie season. I don’t think I can call him a bust right now, but he’s definitely on the line for me when looking at this year’s first round prospects.
Prediction: Very good, until injuries derail his career
23. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Minnesota Vikings
Christian Darrisaw must have suffered a fall to No. 23 for a reason, and I think it might be that teams are doubting his work ethic. There aren’t many holes in Darrisaw’s physical game, and he has all the tools, so I struggle to think teams didn’t think he was talented. However, the Virginia Tech product seems to lack the mean streak that NFL scouts look for in premier offensive linemen. In addition to rumored work ethic problems, that “laziness” in his play makes me a bit worried about the distant future for Darrisaw.
Prediction: Eventual bust, but a solid tackle when he wants to be
24. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Running backs are not long for the NFL world, especially in today’s game where they’re normally perceived as replaceable. I really want to like this pick for the Steelers, but I just wish they would have gone with offensive line at No. 24, rather than in the later rounds. I feel Pittsburgh had bigger needs to address here, which might affect the future for Harris at the pro level. Despite being an incredibly talented running back, he might not help Pittsburgh win much, simply because they had bigger fish that they chose not to fry.
Prediction: Pro Bowl running back on many not-great Steelers teams