Although we don’t know the official draft order yet, it’s still fun to project where players will go. Let’s take a stab at where some of the top college prospects might end up in 2021 and see who the Vikings might draft.
1) New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to come out since Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. It really doesn’t matter who you have under center, you count your blessings, hand in the card and build your team around Lawrence. If the Jets play their cards right they could still net some more capital for Sam Darnold, who is still just 23 years old, and help stockpile picks for a second swing on a rebuild.
Remember, they already own the Seahawks first-round pick for safety Jamal Adams.
2) New York Giants: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
You know Dave Gettleman is going to be tempted to add another defensive lineman with pass-rush monster Gregory Rousseau sitting in his lap. However, after committing to Daniel Jones and so much around him, why not finish the job and complete the offensive line overhaul. Sewell is just 19 years old and has the freaky size and movement skills of a franchise left tackle.
In a league where you typically get what you pay for, going back-to-back drafts and plucking tackles with top-five selections would give the Giants the best young offensive line unit in the entire league. Not to mention, Jones suddenly has all the protection and talent to succeed as he continues to develop in a critical Year 3 for quarterbacks.
3) Washington Redskins: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
I’ve studied enough football to know that Dwayne Haskins ain’t it, and Ron Rivera knows it too after benching him last Sunday. Fields brings another dynamic to the offense, posing as a budding passer with tricky movement in and out of the pocket that puts constant stress on the defense. Make sure you call in sick that first day the new rookie quarterback from Ohio State walks in the locker room and takes the job of his former college teammate. Things could get a little awkward.
4) Miami Dolphins (Via Houston Texans): Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Brian Flores has a lot to be thankful for between the front office opening up the checkbook for him to sign a slew of defensive free agents and now this. Rousseau has a strong case as the highest upside player in the entire class with his freaky length and explosion off the edge — he’s a player who knows how to get home.
Adding more bulk to his frame and developing consistent technique is how you turn a prospect of this caliber into a future Pro Bowl pass rusher.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Jaguars need to give Gardner Minshew one more fair crack at the long term job. After all, the sixth-round magician put up over 4,000 passing yards and a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio all in his rookie season. Let’s get him the best weapon in the draft and find out once and for all just how high the ceiling goes with him. The Biletnikoff award winner will do the trick and add a true complete and polished receiver into the mix of other dynamic playmakers like Laviska Shenault, D.J. Chark and even Dede Westbrook.
6) Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain Jr, CB, Alabama
Top notch football IQ and NFL genes run in the Surtain family and John Elway knows a sure thing when he sees one. The Broncos have plenty of young, budding firepower on offense, now they will look to get back to building a brick house defense like the one that got them a Super Bowl trophy just a few years ago. Surtain will cement himself as a true shutdown cover cornerback and give the Broncos some much-needed talent and consistency at corner.
7) Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins kicked some serious ass in the 2020 NFL Draft and look to do the same in 2021 thanks to two first-round picks they received from the Houston Texans for Laremy Tunsil. After redshirting Tua Tagovailoa, this offense will walk out two new young and ultra-talented playmakers next season.
Smith is long and lanky with speed to be a threat at every part of the field, giving the Dolphins passing game a shot of life for the first time in a decade — not to mention the preexisting chemistry between Tua and Smith before they even step onto an NFL field together.
8) Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Joe Burrow looks the part of a No. 1 overall pick through his first handful of games, but it’s clear one thing is missing: better protection up front. When you draft a pure-pocket signal caller, building a solid offensive line has to be priority No. 1.
Leatherwood flirted with coming out last draft and would have heard his name called on Day 1, but another year at Alabama did him good, honing his craft and technique while putting on more NFL muscle. With Leatherwood and Jonah Williams, the Bengals have a great young nucleus to build around for Burrow and the offense.
9) Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
New head coach Matt Rhule set the tone by using every single pick on defense in 2020, and there’s a good chance that theme continues. However, while those defenders continue to blossom, Rhule is in a rare situation to make a franchising altering decision and bring in a new franchise quarterback. Lance is a dual-threat dynamo with one of the most ludicrous touchdown-to-interception ratios you’ll ever see.
Lance can learn the ropes behind Teddy Bridgewater and put the Panthers ahead of the curve in the division as Drew Brees, Tom Brady and eventually Matt Ryan all look to life after football sooner than later. The thought of Lance’s mobility paired up with home-run hitter Christian McCaffrey is as close to a real life video game as you can get.
10) Atlanta Falcons: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
I don’t care if the Falcons just drafted cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round of the 2020 draft. Between Jeffry Okudah, Damon Arnette and now Wade, the Ohio State program is about to produce three top flight cover corners into the league. And after what we saw last year for the Buckeyes, I’ve got a strong hunch Wade is going to wind up the best of the bunch giving the Falcons defense a young duo to build around for years.
11) Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Does anyone else feel bad for Mathew Stafford? One of the most under-appreciated signal callers of this generation due to a highly dysfunctional franchise that never was able to properly build a playoff team around him. Now, he must adjust to having five, count ’em: five, of his wide receivers set to become free agents leaving just Quintez Cephus as the lone wolf guaranteed to be back with the pack next season.
Waddle is a lightning bolt of explosiveness, though. As the former Special Teams Player of the Year, he can beat you on the outside boundary or thrive from the slot as a nightmare mismatch for any defender pitted against him.
12) Los Angeles Chargers: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Pitts has become the Gators’ go-to weapon from the moment he stepped onto the field. The addition would give Herbert a safety blanket to grow with, and a playmaker to create both inside and outside the pocket. In the best class of tight ends we’ve seen in maybe a decade, the Chargers can secure the best of the bunch. Do yourself a favor and be sure to turn on at least one Florida game this year to get a taste of Pitts and just how dominant he has been.
13) Minnesota Vikings: Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
While Mike Zimmer takes his new crop of fifteen 2020 draft picks and goes through a “mini rebuild” on defense, Rick Spielman fills the final piece of the offensive line puzzle with Davis. The Vikings brass should consider themselves lucky if Davis still on the board, because he is best interior lineman in the entire draft. While the scouting staff has put all their eggs in Gary Kubiak’s zone scheme basket, Davis brings a bully nastiness and demeanor with him that this unit is desperately lacking.
After focusing on the offensive line early for four straight drafts, Vikings fans should finally rest easy knowing Kirk Cousins has the time and protection in the pocket he needs to thrive. Forget that Davis hasn’t allowed a sack this year, he didn’t even allow a hit on his quarterback. Even Cousins can’t screw this up.
14) Philadelphia Eagles: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Eagles have one of the worst salary cap situations of any team next offseason, and they will be forced to cut ties with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, meaning a wideout like Rashod Bateman could be in play. However, Micah Parsons is far too good to pass up, and could hear his name called in the first ten selections. An absolute whizz when it comes to football smarts and fundamentals, Parsons will replenish the Eagles linebacker unit the day he steps into the locker room.
15) Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has opened more than his fair share of presents after building his offense with guys like Kyler Murray, Josh Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. Now, he looks to build a defense that can help him close out those high scoring games with a revamped secondary with Farley and last year’s top-10 selection Isaiah Simmons.
16) Las Vegas Raiders: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Wilson will get knocked and labeled as a “two-down specialist,” but leave it to Jon Gruden to maximize his big boy strength and skill set to be much more than that. Wilson is unblockable at times in the middle, and will not only help set up third-and-long scenarios, but will also help players next to him like Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby up their game. The Raiders quietly have assembled one of the better young rosters in the league, and are now forced to wait and see if Derek Carr can put it all together.
17) San Francisco 49ers: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The 49ers currently boast one of the finest rosters top-to-bottom you can find; however, a bevy of banged up players have riddled their season. Adding more depth, youth and talent into the cornerback room is always a viable option, especially when teams try to spread you out with four and even five wideouts.
Adebo will add much needed youth and fresh legs behind Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett.
18) Dallas Cowboys: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Like the Niners, the Cowboys have had their fair share of injuries, with more than half their offensive line and now starting quarterback Dak Prescott landing on the IR. One thing we know is they need help in their secondary in a bad way after losing Byron Jones to Miami. Campbell could be a big-time riser during the pre-draft process with his long, lanky frame that swallows receivers up once taught the proper technique. Campbell and Trevon Diggs will give the Cowboys a special 1-2 punch.
19) Cleveland Browns: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Moses helps replenish the team’s linebacking unit in a big way. Before his ACL injury, Moses looked like one of the best defensemen in the entire country at Alabama. He is an outstanding read-and-react linebacker who thrives at all three phases in run-stopping, pass coverage and blitzing — something teams will put heavy stock into and push him up their boards for once his medicals check out.
20) New England Patriots: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Patriots have no choice but to keep trying to land a big-time wideout who they can mold into a true No. 1 receiver. Bateman has the goods: He averaged over 20 yards per catch and looed unrecoverable when the ball was in the air against any competition he faced.
21) Chicago Bears: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
When he joined me on The Draft Rap podcast, Dane Brugler of Athletic said Holland will be one of the biggest play-makers in the entire nation. While Matt Nagy continues to play musical chairs at quarterback, at least Bears fans can take solace knowing their defense will still be one of the best of the bunch.
22) Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
This front office loves its blue collar lunch pale guys, and Paye is exactly that. A guy who lined up up-and-down the Wolverines line, Paye can finally stick with the edge position and prosper as coaches develop some of the best untapped athleticism at the position in the entire class. Paye helps fill a big need for the Colts opposite of Justin Houston, who already bolsters one of the most stout defenses in the NFL.
23) Jacksonville Jaguars (Via LA Rams): Creed Humphrey, OG, Oklahoma
It was a surprise to hear Humphrey was set to return for his final season for the Sooners after many had him pegged to be off the board by the end of Round 1. We’ve previously established that the Jaguars should push their chips all in with Minshew, and loading up the talent, weapons and protection around him is the only proper way to do it.
With Humphrey protecting the inside, and a combination of Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor as the bookend tackles of the future, this offense is going to be set for a long time.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
This front office has major financial decisions to make, meaning the possible departure of Alejandro Villanueva could be in the cards. Zach Banner was coming along nicely before his injury ended him on the IR. With just a few more years left in the tank for Ben Roethlisberger, it’s only right to offer up the proper protection to buy him time and keep him upright in the pocket.
Radunz screams Steelers football as a rough and tough bad boy in the trenches who, despite playing at the FCS level, was flat out dominant and has all the makings of a NFL starter.
25) Tennessee Titans: Carlos Basham Jr, EDGE, Wake Forest
Basham has already put up freaky numbers. He leads his defense with nearly 20 tackles for loss and over 10 sacks thanks to his high-end motor and sledgehammer hands that you know Mike Vrabel will fall for at the end of Round 1.
26) New Orleans Saints: Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
You couldn’t watch an LSU Tiger game and not see Shelvin stick out in a big way. He has to become more polished, but Shelvin has the size and tools to be a key disruptor smack dab in the center of the Saints defense. As fun as a guy like Rondale Moore would be, this front office needs to think about the team’s biggest needs and creating that physical identity in their front-seven is far more important than getting Drew Brees another toy to play with.
27) Buffalo Bills: Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee
Teams will make sure the medicals are clean on Smith after a wild ride on the IR that threatened his career. When he returned however, Smith looked strong and dominant and every bit worth the price of admission for a first-round pick. With the big cornerbacks plucked off the board, focusing on their offensive line is easily priority No. 2. Winning in the trenches and opening up more holes for their two young running backs will only make Josh Allen even better and continue his tremendous development at still just 24 years old.
28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Etienne would’ve likely been the first tailback selected had he came out in 2020. He’s easily one of the fastest and most explosive players in the country with the ball in his hands.
After one year in the books, Tom Brady and the Bucs scoop up Etienne to help take some of the pressure off Bruce Arians’ passing game. In a backfield with Leonard Fournette, bruising downhill tailback gives defenses fits with complimentary football and as a dynamic pass catcher.
29) Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
This kid was a treat to watch when he tore up the Big 10 as a true freshman. I don’t care if it’s Rodgers or Love, whoever is throwing passes to Moore will have an easy gig and give Matt LeFleur a whole new bevy of options with defenses officially double and triple covering Davante Adams.
30) Baltimore Ravens: Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
While some love to hate on head coach John Harbaugh, you have to give him credit for going all in and molding his entire team around Lamar Jackson. It’s easy to say now, but remember Jackson was far from a “sure thing” and considered a major risk for a variety of reasons — hence the reason he fell down to the 32nd pick.
With the offense rolling, the Ravens have to find defenders to help close out high-scoring shootouts. Cisco will be a household name by the time draft weekend rolls along thanks to leading the country in interceptions and created turnovers. Plugging him in the back end of the secondary would be a great addition to an already loaded and talented roaster.
31) New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
These lucky son’s of, um, snitches won the lottery and nabbed Lawrence — the best quarterback to come out in a decade. The very next decision has to be surrounding him with talent and help in any way, shape or form. Personally I’m not doing a damn thing until I fix his offensive line in front of him. Cosmi needs to fill out and add more brute strength to improve his run-blocking, but his pass protection technique and smooth kick step is a thing of beauty.
Penciling in Cosmi and last year’s top-10 selection Mekhi Becton would make the front office look wise a few seasons down the road and put butts in the seats with Lawrence now running the show.
32) Kansas City Chiefs: Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
Book it right now: When Andy Reid drafts with another Super Bowl ring on his hand and not many screaming needs, he will revert back to what he always does — drafting inside the trenches, specifically the offensive line. Not much we can sit here and knock on Eric Fisher or Mitchell Schwartz for; however, the Chiefs, like many teams, are one injury away from being a dumpster fire as they try their best to protect Patrick Mahomes.
Carman is much, much better than many realize yet until you flip on the film. He’s a physical mauler (6’5” 348 pounds) with an old-school mean streak and rock solid anchor Reid will adore.