The Raiders' turmoil of off-field incidents and tragedies have clearly hampered a promising 2021 campaign. The loss of last year's 12th overall pick, wide receiver Henry Ruggs, may induce Las Vegas to spend a first round selection on a pass catcher in the 2022 draft. If they choose to take Olave, the Raiders will be getting a polished wideout with excellent awareness and body control. His ability to create separation, find soft spots in defensive coverages and win contested passes makes him a sensible receiving option for a contending team like Las Vegas.
The Raiders value raw numbers over seemingly everything, and Elam has them. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash in high school, and at 6-2 he certainly has the physical characteristics to project well at the next level.
The Las Vegas Raiders have had a tumultuous season off the field, losing their head coach and two of their 2020 first-round draft picks. The Raiders still have a talented QB in Derek Carr and if they want any chance at success in the future they need to surround him with talent. With this pick, the Raiders select USC WR Drake London.
Gardner is in the midst of the stingiest seasons PFF College has ever seen from a cornerback who predominantly plays man coverage. He has allowed only 87 total yards from 368 coverage snaps and 11 starts while picking off three passes and breaking up another. Gardner's success isn't limited to this year, either. The 6-foot-3 cornerback's length gives him an advantage against every receiver he faces. He brings a "dog" mentality to the field and is an easy first-rounder.
In previous years, these have been general manager Mike Mayock's requirements for first-round picks: being a senior, having production and playing at a blue-blood program. After the release of 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs, the Raiders quickly scrambled to sign veteran DeSean Jackson. Olave, who has 11 touchdown catches this season, is a natural fit as a replacement for an organization that values speed. Olave could be a downfield threat to help Derek Carr.
From a pure talent perspective, Kendrick is one of the best cornerback prospects in the draft. He has some red flags but Arizona has gone all in on its title hopes this year so it is reasonable to think that strategy might continue.
The Cardinals have an electrifying offense and are currently the fourth highest scoring team in the NFL (28.2 points per game). Unfortunately, Arizona's uber-talented signal caller, Kyler Murray has been sidelined for several weeks because of an ankle injury. If there is an area of concern for Arizona's offense it may be the team's interior pass blocking. Should the Cardinals draft Ekwonu, they'll acquire a stabilizing force who plays with an unapologetic attitude when blocking his opponents. Standing at 6'4" and 320 pounds, Ekwonu moves grown men out of the way, they don't move him.
Spiller seems like a Derrick Henry type, a wrecking ball-style runner averaging nearly six yards a carry for the Aggies. Also picks up blitzes very well. A bit of an issue with his sizable workload already; he's had more than 600 touches over the past three seasons in College Station.
Over the past two drafts, the Arizona Cardinals have valued defensive players who have versatile skill sets to play multiple positions (Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins). Daxton Hill fits that mold as a player that plays safety but has the fluid hips and explosiveness to play nickel. Hill be a great young addition to a talented defensive back group.
Ebiketie had a mini-breakout campaign in 2020 with the Temple Owls and has since become one of the premier pass-rushers in the Power Five at Penn State. He's been the model of consistency along the edge for the Nittany Lions, recording at least three pressures in every game that he's faced a Power Five offensive line. Ebiketie is fantastic with his hands and has stepped up in Shaka Toney and Odafe Oweh‘s absence (both are in the NFL). He has earned a 90.6 pass-rush grade this season.
Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson are promising pieces in the Cardinals' secondary, but they need an outside corner who could take over for veteran Robert Alford. As Arizona did with Murphy in Round 2 in 2019, it could go back to the Washington well with the selection of McDuffie. He has experience in both man and zone coverage and is a consistent tackler in run support. He has also played snaps in the slot, which adds to his value.
The idea of tossing Burks into an offense with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is tantalizing. Kansas City has explored adding another wide receiver and even signed Josh Gordon but that experiment has not played out well.
The Chiefs' struggles scoring this year may indicate opposing teams have finally discovered methods of slowing down their juggernaut of an offense. Drafting the 6'5", 210 pound London could provide Kansas City with a solid possession receiver, whose size instantly makes him an end zone option for the Chiefs. Another upside to potentially drafting London, is his willingness to block downfield and help expand Kansas City's running game.
Washington boasts a fine legacy of defensive backs in the NFL, and McDuffie will likely add to that. A bit undersized (5-11, 190) for his position, McDuffie more than makes up for it with his quickness and explosive athleticism.
The Kansas City Chiefs offense has been inconsistent at best due to the lack of a run game. With this pick, they draft OL Kenyon Green, an athletic run blocker who will help open running lanes for their running backs.
Enagbare's outstanding motor has helped him earn a 92.5 pass-rush grade this season. Even against solely SEC opponents, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound edge defender is still producing at an elite level, recording an 89.7 pass-rush grade against SEC opponents.
After attempting to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster in the offseason and adding Josh Gordon to the roster in September, it's clear that the Chiefs want to add a specific type of receiver to play alongside Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, one with size and the physicality to do the dirty work. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, London fits that profile. He can win easily at the catch point, is a versatile route runner and isn't shy as a run blocker. Before breaking his ankle last month, London had 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns.
Using exceptional acceleration and balance, Thibodeaux attacks in a variety of ways that keeps offenses guessing. His flexibility allows him to bend and out leverage blockers across the line of scrimmage, while disrupting offensive backfields with regularity. An incredible athlete with length and good functional strength, his abilities could immediately improve a lack luster Lions' pass rush. After ten games, Detroit is allowing 27.3 points per game (30th in NFL) and is in desperate need of a game changing defensive player like Thibodeaux.
24. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Lions have a unique opportunity to draft franchise changing players at two key positions. By possibly using their first pick on an elite pass rusher (Kayvon Thibodeaux), the Lions could use their other first round pick on quarterback, Malik Willis, a dual-threat talent with massive upside. Earlier in the year, Willis was touted as this draft class' most dynamic quarterback and for several weeks he played well. However, a step up in competition led to three losses in his last five games and questionable accuracy concerns. Despite his recent hiccups, Willis' athleticism and cannon arm still make him an attractive commodity for a struggling team like Detroit.
No other player has seen a bigger rise in draft stock than Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson has put together a dominant season with a skill set that is very reminiscent of the Bosa brothers. The Detroit Lions are void of an identity on offense or defense, and Hutchinson's playstyle will help form that tough, hard-nosed identity that head coach Dan Campbell is trying to mold. With this pick, the Lions keep the Michigan man in Michigan in hopes that he will be a foundational piece of a culture change in Detroit.
27. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
The offensive success that the Lions have had is through running the football. Ikem Ekwonu is an athletic offensive lineman that loves to finish run blocks. This addition will at least allow the Lions to effectively run the football next year.
Thibodeaux is Michelangelo's David of pass-rushers. The 6-foot-5, 258-pound edge defender has every trait NFL teams want on the edge at the next level. From a collegiate production standpoint, Thibodeaux has grown immensely this season after earning an 80.9 pass-rush grade as an underclassman. He's showing some refinement within his rushes, as he no longer relies on tools alone. The Oregon Duck has earned a 90.8 pass-rush grade in 2021 despite missing a couple of games early in the season due to injury. Heck, opposing teams have started to scheme away from Thibodeaux to take him out of the game completely -- just like we saw with Chase Young a couple of years ago.
27. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Burks has been a big-play threat over the last couple of years thanks to his size, physicality and speed. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound wide receiver has averaged 9.3 yards after the catch per reception and broken 23 tackles on 108 receptions since 2020. He's hauled in all 19 of his catchable vertical route targets in that span for 697 yards and nine touchdowns.
In full rebuild mode, the Lions are at the stage in which the emphasis should be on stockpiling the most talent. With no clear QB1 candidate emerging during the college football season and with an out in current quarterback Jared Goff's contract after the 2022 season, first-year general manager Brad Holmes could take the Browns' approach from the 2017 draft (Myles Garrett) and pick the best overall prospect. Thibodeaux has lived up to the hype (six sacks in eight games) and positioned himself to be the No. 1 pick in April.
26. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Lions got a star edge rusher with their first pick, and now they can get a starter on the other side of the ball. They are in desperate need of playmakers on the perimeter, and Burks can step in and play a vital role for a roster starved of talent. Burks has 51 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns this season, and he has done most of his damage out of the slot. At 6-foot-3, however, he could also play outside.
The Ravens are aging along their defensive line and need an infusion of young talent. Enagbare showcases a knack for penetrating beyond the line of scrimmage and disrupting offensive players' ability to execute plays. Moving with good balance, Enagbare is adept at attacking blockers with active hands and uncommon flexibility, which has led to 15 career sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
A three-year starter in one of the best offenses in college football says something about this promising tackle. He says even more with his play. There are very few at the college level who can move as well as he does at 6-5 and 320 pounds.
The Ravens don't mind investing first-round picks into the linebacker corps because they understand how important the position is to their defensive scheme. Brandon Smith is the most athletically gifted linebacker in this draft class and will make a great tandem with linebacker Patrick Queen.
Hill may be the only player who can challenge Stingley's status as the top athlete in this class. At The Opening event in high school, Hill posted a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, 4.13-second pro agility and 43.6-inch vertical. Hill has put those traits into action while primarily covering the slot in his 2021 true junior campaign, earning a 78.5 coverage grade overall this season. Specifically in the slot, Hill has seven forced incompletions and nine passing stops, ranking second and seventh in the FBS. He is versatile and a high-ceiling player in the 2022 class.
Following the offseason trade of Orlando Brown Jr. and the season-ending ankle injury to Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens have attempted to patch work their offensive tackle spots. They need depth along their offensive line. The 6-foot-7 Penning, a smashmouth blocker who plays through the whistle, fits the reputation of what Baltimore wants to do on offense.
Ridder is another four year starter who has shown consistency and improvement during his college tenure. Currently, Ridder has his Cincinnati Bearcats vying for a shot at the National Title showcasing an undefeated season (11-0). Ridder is an ascending talent with dual-threat ability who seems to elevate his play against top competition. If Ridder falls to the Saints, creative head coach, Sean Payton might want to take a chance on a winning quarterback who avoids mistakes in crucial moments of games.
If you've watched any Kentucky games this year, you know this guy is a bonafide playmaker. Sean Payton has proven time and time again that he knows exactly what to do with versatile offensive weapons like Wan'Dale Robinson. This guy combined with Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill will give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
If Strong just had a little bit of mobility, folks would be hyping up the Nevada passer as the next big thing. Unfortunately, his lack of mobility is a major concern when projecting him in the NFL. He has zero explosive runs of 10-plus yards in 2021, and his below-average mobility hurts him under pressure. Strong has no ability to maneuver or escape muddy pockets and often will force bad throws when pressured, which is why he has a 43.6 passing grade under pressure in 2021. However, his rocket-launcher arm -- paired with an ultra-quick release and pinpoint accuracy -- makes him worth a first-round flier. From a clean pocket, Strong has earned a 92.5 passing grade with 27 big-time throws to seven turnover-worthy plays.
With Jameis Winston tearing his ACL in Week 8, quarterback could be an option, but the absence of Michael Thomas has brought the team's lack of talent at wide receiver to the forefront. A strong argument can be made that Dotson has the best hands and widest catch radius -- even though he's only 5-foot-11 -- of any receiver in this class. His route running and strong hands would be a welcomed addition in Sean Payton's offense. He has caught 80 passes for 993 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Micah Parsons should remain at edge rusher long-term, which means the team needs help at linebacker again. Devin Lloyd is a player that reminds me a bit of Fred Warner in the way that he is able to get off blocks.
Daxton Hill ran a 40-time of 4.3 seconds and logged a vertical leap of 43 inches, which should be enough to get him drafted just off his pure athleticism. What makes Hill a first round prospect is his coverage range, ball skills and sure, open-field tackling. Due in part to star quarterback, Dak Prescott's hefty salary and the 21 unrestricted free agents on Dallas' roster, drafting Hill would be economically sensible.
Even with the unreal Trevon Diggs, Dallas' pass defense leaves a lot to be desired. Hill has the physical tools -- he's run a 4.3 40-yard dash and has a 43-inch vertical -- but needs to show a bit more consistency.
The Dallas Cowboys are loaded on the offensive side of the ball. So with this pick, they draft safety Jaquan Brisker. Trevon Diggs is dominating on the boundary but they need someone to roam the middle of the field and make plays in the pass game and run game. Brisker is a versatile safety that can do it all and plays the game with high energy and passion.
Brisker has been one of college football's top safeties since he transferred in from JUCO in 2019, as he is on pace to earn his third straight 80.0-plus single-season PFF grade with the Nittany Lions. Brisker's run defense and tackling have dipped a bit in 2021 due to playing closer to the line of scrimmage than in previous years, but he's hardly made a mistake in coverage. Brisker has a couple of interceptions and four pass breakups en route to an 89.3 coverage grade this season. He's a smart and heady player who has a high floor.
After handing out multiple one-year deals at the safety spot during the offseason, the Cowboys lack a young long-term option. Brisker is an active and loose-moving safety with experience at multiple spots. He has five interceptions and 12 pass breakups over three seasons at Penn State. Dallas' defense has improved this season, but it needs to look to the future to continue the overhaul of the back end. Taking Brisker near the end of Round 1 would be a low-cost option to help.
Cleveland has invested a lot of money into the offensive guards and tackles. Center is one position where they could save towards the salary cap and upgrade. J.C. Tretter has been solid this year but Linderbaum would thrive in a wide zone scheme.
Leal is an athletic 6-foot-4, 290 pounder, whose quick, balanced feet enhance his ability to hold his base and shift weight when battling at the line of scrimmage. Leal can operate effectively from various defensive alignments, regardless of whether he is positioned inside (3-technique), or along the edge of the line (5-technique). Cleveland may lose some talented defensive linemen due to free agency and Leal's ability to play along the defensive front would make him invaluable for a frugal franchise.
The Dawg Pound get a true Dawg to root for in Jordan Davis. He could have declared after the 2020 season, but stuck around for a shot at a national title. Davis is a physical monster (6-6, 340) who commands double teams on virtually every snap.
The Baker Mayfield project is stalling out and I have a feeling that if the Cleveland Browns don't get it turned around that Odell Beckham Jr. won't be the only departure. The Browns have a talented roster but need more out of their QB. With this pick, I believe they draft a QB. Desmond Ridder's athleticism will be intriguing for Kevin Stefanski in his run-heavy offense. Plus, Ridder has proven to be a flat-out winner.
Like his teammate Garrett Wilson, Olave is a seasoned route-runner. He's been getting open at one of the highest rates in college football since he stepped into a major role as a sophomore in 2019. Olave's 49 receptions over 10 yards downfield with at least two steps of separation since 2019 are the most in the Power Five by 11 (Wilson is No. 2, for what it's worth). Olave's wheels have led to 19 deep touchdowns over the last three years -- the most in the Power Five by five.
Odell Beckham Jr. is gone, and the Browns have several important decisions to make in the receiver room this offseason, which means they could look to the position with their pick. Wilson, who reminds me of Stefon Diggs, is my WR1 in this class. He has strong hands, shows off unique body control and is a creative route runner with a high-level understanding of how to get open. With general manager Andrew Berry showing that he values age -- Wilson will be 21 when he's drafted -- and production, Wilson checks many of the boxes Cleveland looks for in prospects.
McDuffie is a patient cornerback who avoids panicking in coverage, displaying unflappable confidence and an elite awareness on the gridiron. He is adept in man or zone schemes and supports the run better than most cornerbacks. A versatile athlete, he consistently demonstrates adequate NFL range when dropping into coverage downfield. Minnesota experiences some lapses in coverage and if they acquire a talent like McDuffie, those miscues should lessen and increase accountability within the defensive secondary.
Everything you read about Leal talks about his versatility. You can put him anywhere along the D-line and he can help you. Already with 7.5 sacks and 11.5 TFL this season, the 6-4, 290-pound Leal can get what he wants, when he wants it.
Jordan Davis is a dominant interior defensive lineman that plays with brute strength. In college, he has shown the ability to bull rush offensive linemen and collapse the pocket. He will immediately help a Minnesota Vikings defense that has failed to slow down opposing offenses' rushing attacks.
Elam dominated so much as an underclassman -- 89.8 and 81.0 coverage grades as a true freshman and sophomore in 2019 and 2020 -- that opposing offenses have largely avoided him in 2021. This year, Elam has been targeted 27 times in seven games, 18 of which came in just two games (Alabama and Samford). In addition, he has allowed only one explosive reception over 15-plus yards while making six plays on the ball. Elam is fantastic at the line of scrimmage in press-man coverage, but he can thrive in multiple schemes.
With Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland on expiring contracts and 2020 third-rounder Cameron Dantzler still developing, Minnesota's long-term outlook at cornerback looks bleak. In past early-round selections at the position, the Vikings' front office has valued versatile cornerbacks who are also consistent run-defenders. Booth is one of the best in this class at both of those, and so he'd check the boxes that the regime has coveted.
The Chargers compete in a division with talented quarterbacks, like Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes and a litany of game breaking receivers. Wideouts like Tyreek Hill, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and tight ends such as, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Noah Fant require defensive backs capable of defending these pass catchers. Should Los Angeles pick McCreary, they'll get a player with the skill set to quickly undercut ball carriers and limit how far they get downfield. Ultimately they'll have an unrelenting, physical defensive back with good hands and game changing ability.
It's hard to miss London among other wideouts -- he's a full 6-5 and uses that size and amazing hands and catch radius to grab anything in his area code. And 88 catches in just eight games is a ridiculous number at the college level.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have been great WRs when fully healthy, but we all know the best ability is availability. The Los Angeles Chargers take playmaker Garrett Wilson with this pick to give them another WR option, especially with the injury histories of both Williams and Allen--and the former being a pending free agent.
"They [Georgia] have a defensive lineman [Jordan Davis] that's 340 pounds and runs better than everybody on this call," said South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer following his team's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Coach Beamer isn't kidding, as Davis is a rare specimen at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds. The interior defensive lineman has been a force against the run since he stepped foot in Athens in 2018. He has earned an 88.7 run-defense grade while collecting 42 run stops and 14 tackles for loss or no gain. Davis attempted 69 tackles against the run over that span (464 run snaps to be exact) and only missed four.
The Chargers' run defense is still one of the worst in the league -- it ranks 32nd in yards per carry allowed (4.8) and rushing first downs allowed (85). And with Linval Joseph set to become a free agent, the team could look for a younger option. The 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis is an anchor in the middle who could completely change a defense. He has the potential to have a Vita Vea type of effect on a defense, as his presence allows other defenders to roam and make plays.
On the surface, the Buccaneers are stacked on both sides of the ball and even have solid depth at key positions. However, Tampa is an aging team built to win today, so drafting for the future starts immediately. Of the 25 unrestricted free agents on the roster, five of them are defensive lineman, four of which are 30 years of age or older. Although more of a power edge rusher, Karlaftis is skilled at disrupting pass plays having tallied six passes defended while at Purdue.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is struggling primarily due to the poor play of their secondary. Kaiir Elam is an experienced CB who has good length and size that will immediately improve the CB play for Tampa Bay.
Booth doesn't quite have the lockdown numbers as some of the other top corner prospects in this class, as he's allowed 321 yards across 288 coverage snaps in 2021. However, he does have the tools worth taking a swing on in the first round. The 2019 five-star recruit has exceptional feet, good length and brings the physicality out on the field.
After being plagued with injuries to multiple starters this season, the Bucs depth in the secondary has been exploited. McCreary, a physical man-coverage corner, has put together a stellar senior campaign. He has a playing style similar to Bears 2020 second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, who likely would've been a Day 1 selection if not for multiple shoulder surgeries. McCreary must improve his tackling in run support, but he has all of the tools to be an early starter on the perimeter.
There are going to be teams in the market for Aaron Rodgers and, presumably, Deshaun Watson. Denver is expected to be one of those teams. Kenny Pickett is a big, strong-armed quarterback with enough mobility to survive in the NFL.
Denver will have some interesting choices to make this upcoming off-season, and the decision on whether to retain some of its unrestricted free agent defensive backs may top the list. The Broncos' roster is ready to win now, so drafting an inexperienced quarterback may be something the front office shies away from altogether. Drafting a talented corner like Booth, lets Denver maneuver funds toward attracting top tier quarterbacks, like disgruntled signal callers Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers for example.
Denver has five picks in the first three rounds thanks to the Von Miller trade, so they can address a number of needs. No need is bigger than quarterback. The four-year starter has thrown 36 TD passes compared with just six picks through 11 games this season.
The Denver Broncos traded away their future Hall of Fame outside linebacker Von Miller. With this pick, they take USC edge rusher Drake Jackson. Jackson can be an instant impact edge rusher in the NFL.
From a tools perspective, Willis is in a class of his own. He is the most dangerous quarterback in college football from an athleticism perspective and possesses outstanding arm strength. He has recorded a 10.1% big-time throw rate and 93.9 rushing grade this season -- both of which lead all FBS quarterbacks by a substantial margin.
At the same time, though, Willis is still fairly raw and going to be a bit of a project at the NFL level, which is why he's QB3. The Liberty QB has been shredding lackluster competition for most of the season in 2021.
The Broncos are in dire need of a signal-caller, as neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Drew Lock has shown enough to be the quarterback of the future. The term "boom or bust" will be attached to Willis' name frequently throughout the draft process, but the Broncos must address the one position that is holding its roster back from being a consistent AFC contender. Built like a tank in a 6-foot-1 frame, Willis has plenty of arm strength. He oozes athletic traits that evaluators love to see at the position. While the Auburn transfer has the ability to become an NFL starter, his consistency this season has been a roller-coaster experience, as he has thrown three picks in three different games. If placed within the right infrastructure -- and given patience -- he could become worthy of this draft slot.