The 2021 Draft is in the books and it’s time to move on.
Whether you’re excited for your team’s future, or feeling disappointed with their draft class, looking at next year’s draft can only bring an extra layer of hope of excitement.
Obviously a lot can, and will, change with this draft class over the next year. But it’s fun to get an early look at who you should be paying attention once September rolls around and college football is back on our TV screens.
This draft order comes from the Super Bowl odds flipped in reverse from FanDuel.com. Next week I will be releasing my 2022 Top 50 Big Board. After that, we get into the dog days of summer and I will be releasing some fun articles, of course pertaining to the NFL Draft.
1. Houston Texans
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
With the selection of QB Davis Mills in the third round, with their first pick of the draft, it seems clear the Texans are expecting to not have QB Deshaun Watson around for much longer. Is third-rounder Davis Mills the answer? It’s too early to tell, but assuming the Texans are picking even in the top 3 next year, they need to go QB. Rattler has been a step behind Trevor Lawrence as the most prized QB coming out of high school in the past two decades. Rattler is not at Lawrence’s level right now, and he could certainly get bumped from his spot as QB1 in the 2022 draft, but he has all the potential in the world.
2. Detroit Lions
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Howell is the first guy with a chance to unseat Rattler at the top. Both QBs appeared on Netflix’s season three of QB1, and both were nationally lauded throughout high school. I do not believe Jared Goff is in the Lions’ long-term plans. If they’re picking second, obviously the season did not go well. The Lions need to fully rebuild; it started with trading away Matthew Stafford, and here it follows with drafting his true replacement.
3. New York Jets
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Thibodeaux is currently the clear-cut best prospect in this draft class. He was also nationally praised in high school, and has dominated at Oregon ever since his first snap. The Jets went offensive heavy in the 2021 draft, wisely rebuilding around Zach Wilson. Currently projected to pick in the top 5 again, the Jets need to go with a best player available approach in 2022, and Thibodeaux matches a huge need.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jaguars followed a similar game plan as the Jets, with a QB at the top of the draft, followed by an offensive piece later in the first round to help their new franchise QB, and then more offensive support. I still really don’t like their offensive line, despite LT Greg Robinson getting a contract extension earlier this offseason. Neal is currently the top offensive lineman in this draft class, which looks like another great offensive line class.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
If the Eagles are picking this high next year, they may need to move on from Jalen Hurts. However, I’m just not a fan of moving on from a QB so early in their career (I also don’t think the Eagles will be picking this high). Instead, the Eagles can nab the second best defensive player in this draft class and drastically improve their defense. Stingley Jr. was dominant at LSU as a true freshman, and has only gotten better. He is one of my early-on favorites in the 2022 draft class.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
You may be wondering why I didn’t take an offensive tackle here. The Bengals did take an OT in the second round of the 2021 draft, and they are getting back two other starting offensive linemen this year from injury. A lot can change in one season, but at this time, they have other needs that need to be addressed. I’m higher on Jackson right now than most, but his ceiling is just so exciting. He’s one of the prospects I’m looking forward to watching the most this year.
7. Las Vegas Raiders
J.T. Daniels, QB, Georgia
We al know ahead Coach Jon Gruden has a wandering eye when it comes to quarterbacks. Plus, if the Raiders are picking this high next year, Derek Carr didn’t get things done again. Daniels was a five-star recruit out of high school and quickly became the starter as a true freshman at USC. Following an ACL year in the 2019 season, Kedon Slovis took over things and excelled, causing Daniels to read the tea leaves and transfer to Georgia. Daniels didn’t start for the Bulldogs at the beginning of the year, but once he took over, he was one of the best QBs in college football.
8. Carolina Panthers
Cade Mays, IOL, Tennessee
The Panthers balked on offensive line at the top of the draft, something that I think they will regret this season, despite my belief in the talents of CB Jaycee Horn. Once again, I do not believe in moving on from a young QB so quickly. They just traded for Sam Darnold, who I believe still has a ton of potential, and they need to commit to building around him. Head Coach Matt Rhule was one of the best program builders in college football, and he knows that it takes patience to build something great. Getting an offensive lineman is the most important thing for the Panthers moving forward.
9. New York Giants
Charles Cross, OT, Texas A&M
The Giants have quickly built up a good roster. However, their offensive line is still a glaring need. Having Andrew Thomas at LT and Charles Cross at RT moving forward, will create a nice pocket for the Giants’ young QB in Daniel Jones (who, you guessed it, shouldn’t be replaced any time soon).
10. Washington Football Team
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Washington missed out on the QB fun in the 2021 draft, and I don’t believe they have their future QB on the roster. Strong is a bit of a project, but he has sky-high potential. Maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick can stick around for 2022 as well for Strong to learn behind.
11. Atlanta Falcons
Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
The Falcons offense is set, even if they trade away Julio Jones. They really need to focus on the defense. Harrison is bubbling with potential, and it’s hard to pass up a pass-rusher from Ohio State. The Falcons have needs across the defense, but the pass rushers currently on roster do not make me very excited.
12. New York Giants (via CHI)
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The Giants addressed their secondary this offseason with signing CB A’doree Jackson in free agency and drafting CB Aaron Robinson in round three in the 2021 draft. I hesitated here a bit, as I don’t like drafting a safety this high, but Hamilton is such a special prospect. He stands at 6’4” and is a rangy playmaker
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
The Steelers offensive line is a mess; there is a good chance it is the worst in the league. They did not really address it in the 2021 draft, instead opting for a running back in the first round. Some call the decision between building the offensive line or drafting a great RB is like the chicken or the egg debate, but I believe it is clearly the better option to take the RB and put them behind an established offensive line. Walker could immediately be the starter at LT in 2022.
14. Minnesota Vikings
DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Vikings are in a tough spot currently. They don’t have the firepower to make noise in the playoffs (if they even make it in), but they’re not bad enough to be picking top 5. Plus, QB Kirk Cousins still has a fully guaranteed contract through the 2022 season, and the Vikings just drafted Kellen Mond in the third round. So, the answer for them in this spot is to take the best player available, which also happens to be at a position of need. Leal is an athletic space-eater who could work perfectly next to Danielle Hunter.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
The Cardinals continue to ignore the offensive line at the top of the draft, which really worries me not only for their Super Bowl chances, but for Kyler Murray’s health and continual growth. I would prefer they land an offensive tackle, but Kenyon Green is by far the best offensive lineman currently left on my board (obviously a ton will change in 12 months).
16. Tennessee Titans
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Titans have been searching for a pass rush for a few years now. They drafted Harold Landry 3 years ago and signed Bud Dupree this offseason. The only edge rusher they selected in the draft (in the fourth round) is now facing some legal issues. Adding Karlaftis will finally give them some options with a good rotation.
17. New England Patriots
George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Bill Belichick decided to go against what he normally does, and spent a lot of money in free agency in 2021. However, he threw a decent chunk of change at two receivers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Those deals happened on the first day of free agency, and they became overpays rather quickly based on other league signings at receiver. He did land two of the best right ends in the game in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. But the receiver position is still looking bare, especially with the retirement of Julian Edelman. It’s time for the Patriots to finally land a receiver worthy of being a number one option. Pickens is projected as the best receiver in this class and a steal here at 17, as I’m not as much of a believer in drafting receivers high as I used to be.
18. Los Angeles Chargers
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
I like the Chargers’ current wide receiver room, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and rookie third-round pick Josh Palmer. Allen is one of the best receivers in the league, and Palmer is bursting with potential. But Williams hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing, and he may not even be back in 2022. Olave is a walking highlight reel, always moments away from a huge game-changing play. The combo of Herbert, Allen, Olave, and Palmer is too good to pass up.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA)
Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
The Eagles offensive line is set for the 2021 season. But it’s much more murky after that. They drafted Center Landon Dickerson in the second round of the 2021 draft, one of my biggest overall steals. They have Andre Dillard at left tackle, but right tackle Lane Johnson will be 31 after this season and he suffered a season-ending injury in 2020. Furthermore, both guards can use an upgrade in terms of age and talent. Draft Nelson, figure out the rest later.
20. Dallas Cowboys
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Cowboys got sniped by the Panthers and Broncos in the 2020 draft for the clear-cut two best cornerbacks at 8 and 9 with the Cowboys at 10. They still haven’t figured things out, but they did make a few selections for their secondary later in the draft. Elam is a tall and lengthy corner, which fits the Dallas mold perfectly.
21. New Orleans Saints
Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
The Saints were rumored to be trying to trade up into the top 10 of the 2020 draft, apparently for a cornerback. If they’re picking this late, they made things work with Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill. They can grab the cornerback they were looking to add early this year.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
After the retirement of LT Anthony Costanzo, the Colts pretty much ignored the offensive line in free agency and the draft. A very surprising decision considering the retirement of Andrew Luck a few years ago. They need to address the offensive line and protect whoever QB is under center in 2022.
23. Denver Broncos
Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
I can’t hate on getting Patrick Surtain II in the draft at 9th overall. However, Micah Parsons was still on the board, my top defensive player and a player who filled a big need for the Broncos. Vic Fangio needs that middle linebacker, and I’m shocked they haven’t tried to get an elite talent there. The Broncos are selecting this late in most odds, due to the potential addition of Aaron Rodgers. If that trade were to happen, the Broncos won’t even have this first-round pick, but they will certainly make a deep playoff run.
24. New York Jets (via SEA)
Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
After building up the offense in the 2020 draft, the Jets can continue to build up the defense. Selecting Kayvon Thibodeaux and Josh Jobe in the first round of this draft is a huge step towards building a premiere defense. The Jets will be right on track to develop a playoff-caliber team in a short window.
25. Green Bay Packers
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Once again, I am asking the Packers to select a wide receiver in the first round. Whether or not they have Rodgers still around, they need a good option opposite DeVante Adams. Ross was a top-10 consideration last year before tearing his ACL. If he can get back to his talent level pre-injury, he won’t be around at 25th overall.
26. Cleveland Browns
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Browns have a top-10 offense, but a defense that is towards the bottom of the league. They showed that they recognized that by going almost strictly defense in the 2020 draft, but that shouldn’t stop them from going back to that side of the ball in 2021. With Myles Garrett, and Jadeveon Clowney currently on a one-year rental, the Browns need more options to rotate in. They don’t currently have reliable players behind their starters to generate a pass-rush.
27. Miami Dolphins (via SF)
Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
The Dolphins went through a very quick rebuild, and they can now sit back and take the best player available as their needs are very few. Davis could’ve been a first round pick in 2020 if he had opted to leave college early.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
The Ravens still have a mess of an offensive line (besides Ronnie Stanley) after not reply addressing it in the 2020 draft. Linderbaum can play center or guard, and will be a great building block in the trenches of this run-first offense.
29. Detroit Lions (via LAR)
John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
Yes, another first-round Alabama receiver. The Lions selected their QB of the future in Sam Howell with the second overall pick. Now, they can immediately supply him with a true number one option at receiver.
30. Buffalo Bills
Derion Kendrick, CB, TBD
Kendrick was dismissed from the Clemson football program after a history of disciplinary problems. He still has not decided his next college, but when he does, he will return to his status of one of the best cornerbacks in college football. The Bills had two glaring needs going into the 2020 draft, and solved one of them with their first two picks in adding two edge rushers. They did not really address the cornerback position, so they can do that with their first pick in 2021.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
The Buccaneers were the hardest team to figure out in this mock draft. I have no idea where they will be next year. I assume Tom Brady will still be playing, and normally I would assume they would lose some starters, but they didn’t lose a single one on either side of the ball this offseason. With an offense that can put up a ton of points, adding another secondary player can always come in handy.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
Xavier Thomas, EDGE, Clemson
I had Thomas as a first round pick last summer, but a rocky season with so much uncertainly around COVID-19, led him to decide to come back to Clemson for another year. The Chiefs massively overhauled their offensive line this offseason, but now they need to turn their attention to the other side of the trenches. The Chiefs have the most explosive offense in football in the last few years, at least. They need to match that with a defense that can get to the quarterback, and defend the pass. It starts with pass rushers, then they can focused on the secondary with their later picks.