The Titans selected CB Caleb Farley with the 22nd pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Farley might have slipped because of a pair of back surgeries. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said before the draft that he “would have expected” a healthy Farley to be the 1st CB chosen. Farley also missed 2017 (his true freshman season) with an ACL tear and opted out of 2020. In between, though, he defensed 25 passes and snagged 6 INTs over 24 games with the Hokies. That’s particularly impressive because Farley arrived as a QB planning to move to WR. There’s likely still plenty of room to grow here.
Kwity Paye has joined the Colts as the 21st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Paye hits the NFL with loads of speed and athleticism. His 114.6 speed score ranks 89th percentile among NFL edge defenders. Paye stands a bit on the small side, though: 6’2.5 and 261 pounds. He enjoyed a nicely productive junior campaign in 2019, including 6.5 sacks and 12.5 total tackles for loss. But Paye played in only 4 games this past season. On tape, he looks like he’ll need some work developing that athleticism into NFL productivity as a pass rusher.
The Giants added Florida WR Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Toney has just 1 season of experience as a full-time WR. He was a dual-threat QB in high school and spent his first 3 years at Florida splitting time between WR, RB and Wildcat QB. Toney broke out at WR this past season, though, leading the Gators with 70 catches and 984 receiving yards and finishing 2nd to TE Kyle Pitts with 10 TDs. He added another 161 yards and a score on 19 carries. Toney is a fun watch. He has elite start-stop and change-of-direction ability. And his combination of vision, burst, contact balance and leg drive make him 1 of the best after-catch receivers in this class. Toney flashes potential as a route runner but has a ways to go in that department. There are also durability and character concerns here. Toney missed 10 games at Florida with shoulder and shin injuries and was involved in 2 off-field incidents involving guns. As a pro, he projects as a slot receiver who can also add value on end arounds, jet sweeps, etc. We’ll see exactly how he fits in a WR corps alongside Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.
The Washington Football Team selected Jamin Davis with the 19th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Davis gained attention with his strong pro day workout, delivering 98th-percentile or better measurements in the 40, vertical and broad jump. Davis also delivered statistically in his lone starting season at Kentucky, tallying 102 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 3 INTs over 10 games. In Washington, he should be able to land a full-time role right away. Davis sports immediate IDP upside.
Jaelan Phillips landed with the Dolphins as the 18th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. A heralded recruit, Phillips lost 14 games to injuries over his 2 years at UCLA. He decided to medically retire at that point but later returned and transferred to Miami. In his lone season with the Hurricanes, Phillips racked up 15.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and 4 passes defensed. He comes with some negative injury history, but Miami evidently felt comfortable enough -- even taking him over Kwity Paye as the 1st edge defender off the board. Despite spending 4 years in college, Phillips still enters the league just shy of 22. He carries big upside for your dynasty IDP roster.
The Cardinals selected Tulsa LB Zaven Collins with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Collins is enormous, at 6’5, 259, but his 4.71-second 40 time gives him a 70th-percentile speed score among LBs. Collins made plays regularly in the backfield, logging 25 tackles for loss over his 32 games. He added 8 career passes defensed, with 4 INTs in 2020 alone (8 games). Collins could immediately challenge the roles of either 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Simmons or EDGE Devon Kennard. Simmons never settled into a regular role as a rookie and could remain a moving piece. We'll see what Arizona reveals about its plan.
The Patriots sat at #15 and landed Alabama QB Mac Jones. A 1-year starter following the departure of Tua Tagovailoa, Jones went off for 4,500-41-4 last fall. His 84.2% adjusted completion rate led the nation. While Jones played with top-tier talent (Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris), his accuracy was on point at all levels of the field. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones even led the nation in deep yards (1,355). The 6’3, 217-pounder brings below average athleticism, so don’t expect much rushing production in the pros. But his profile might have him as the 2nd most pro-ready passer in this draft, behind only Trevor Lawrence. Jones will battle QB Cam Newton for the starting job this summer. Our early money is on Jones being under center come Week 1.
The Cowboys selected Penn State LB Micah Parsons 12th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, after a trade down with the Eagles. Before opting out of 2020, Parsons delivered cross-category production for the Nittany Lions. His 2019 stat line included 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 5 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles. He backed up that college production and tape with stellar athletic testing, including a class-leading 129.6 speed score (on a 4.41-second 40). That’s an even better speed score than Isaiah Simmons or Devin White, who led the past 2 LB classes. Parsons could be an option at any LB spot for the Cowboys. Sean Lee recently retired. Leighton Vander Esch has had neck issues. Even Jaylon Smith has been up and down. We'll see about the specific plan for Parsons, but he looks like a good bet for stat production.
The Bears traded up from #20 to #11 to snag Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Fields’ career has run parallel with that of Trevor Lawrence since high school. He entered college essentially tied with Lawrence as the nation’s top recruit. After a year at Georgia, Fields starred across 2 Ohio State seasons. He delivered 63 TD passes vs. just 9 INTs while completing 68.4% of his throws at 9.3 yards per attempt. Fields ranked 2nd only to Alabama’s Mac Jones in Pro Football Focus adjusted completion rate among draft-eligible QBs in 2020 (80.8%). Fields adds dynamic running ability, tallying 1,133 yards and 19 TDs on the ground for his college career. Fields hits the NFL with at least as much fantasy upside as Lawrence and the potential to deliver QB1-level numbers right away. It shouldn’t take him long to beat out Andy Dalton for the starting job in Chicago.
The Eagles traded up from #12 to #10 to select Alabama WR DeVonta Smith. You know the concern with Smith: He weighed in at 170 pounds at Alabama’s Pro Day and 166 at the medical recheck in Indianapolis. That puts him in a bucket that hasn’t produced many high-end fantasy assets. DeSean Jackson is the only WR 175 pounds or lighter to top 1,000 yards over the past 10 seasons. But Smith is also 6’0 with a 78.5-inch wingspan that lands him in the 72nd percentile among NFL WRs. So he’s skinny, but not small. And he puts big check marks in the production and tape boxes. Smith is coming off a Heisman-winning 2020 campaign that saw him post a silly 117-1856-23 line. Those yardage and TD totals both rank top 6 in NCAA history. Smith’s 2019 junior season was just as impressive. The raw numbers weren’t as big: 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs. But they came alongside a pair of 2020 1st-round picks in Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, plus a healthy Jaylen Waddle. Smith led that stacked squad in yards and TDs, ranking 2nd to Jeudy in catches. The tape shows a combination of ankle-breaking releases, silky smooth routes and uncanny ball skills. Smith wins at all levels of the field and is much better in contested situations than you’d expect from a man of his size. While the weight adds risk to his NFL projection, Smith is a guy we’re not gonna bet against. He’s simply good at football. The Eagles have now gone WR in the 1st round in 2 straight drafts after going with Jalen Reagor at #21 last year. Those guys should be the team’s top 2 WRs going forward.
The Broncos have selected Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II with the 9th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. A top-10 recruit nationally in the 2018 class, Surtain started 12 of 15 games as a true freshman -- plus 25 more over the next 2 seasons. He compiled 24 passes defensed, 4 INTs and 4 forced fumbles for the Tide. Surtain might have to open as the 3rd corner in Denver, after the Broncos signed Ronald Darby and traded for Kyle Fuller this offseason.
CB Jaycee Horn went to the Panthers with the 8th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The son of former NFL WR Joe Horn, Jaycee started 10 of 11 games as a true freshman in 2018. He finished his college career with just 2 INTs across 30 games but defensed 25 total passes -- including 8+ in each season. Horn’s 8 PDs in 2020 came in just 7 games, before he opted out for the final 7. Horn still landed a 2nd-team All-SEC bid for the year. He should quickly grab a starting job in Carolina.
The Dolphins selected Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle with the 6th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Waddle turned in a super impressive true freshman season back in 2018, hauling in 45 balls for 848 yards and 7 scores on a loaded pass-catching corps. His 848 yards ranked 2nd to only sophomore Jerry Jeudy -- ahead of sophomore Henry Ruggs, sophomore DeVonta Smith and junior Irv Smith. Waddle took a step back as a sophomore, finishing with a 33-560-6 line. But he got off to a monster start this past year, racking up 25 catches for 557 yards and 4 scores over the first 4 games. Waddle actually led DeVonta Smith in yards and matched him in TDs during that span. He went down with a fractured right ankle in game #5, though, and was clearly limited when he returned for the National Championship vs. Ohio State. Waddle is reportedly recovering nicely from that injury and didn’t miss time with any other injuries across his 3 college seasons. The Fins are getting the most explosive WR in this class. Waddle has supersonic speed, routinely blowing by DBs on deep balls and crossers. He also flashes plus contested-catch ability, despite going just 5’9 and 180 pounds. There are shades of Tyreek Hill to his game. No excuses for QB Tua Tagovailoa, who now has former college teammate Waddle plus Will Fuller, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki.
The Bengals added LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase with the 5th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Chase opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns but had nothing left to prove after a massive 2019. He set single-season SEC records with 1,780 yards and 20 TDs. And he did it as a true sophomore battling for targets with Justin Jefferson, who just set the record for receiving yards by a rookie, and Terrace Marshall, who is expected to be a 1st- or 2nd-rounder this year. Chase goes 6’0, 201 pounds but plays bigger. He’s physical through his routes, at the catch point and after the catch. And he’s excellent going deep, leading the nation with 24 catches 20+ yards downfield in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. Chase blew up his Pro Day, blazing a 4.34-second 40-yard dash and registering a huge 41-inch vertical to earn a 98th percentile Relative Athletic Score. “Chase is one of the best wide receivers in the last 10 years,” a longtime scout told The Athletic’s Bob McGinn. “He can take an underneath ball and go 80 yards. He can just run right by you and catch it 60 yards downfield. He’s built like a fullback almost, but can run like a wide receiver. He’s as good as it gets.” Chase reunites with QB Joe Burrow in Cincinnati as part of a loaded WR corps alongside Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Any of those 3 could lead the team in targets this season.
The Falcons selected Florida TE Kyle Pitts with the 4th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s the highest a TE has ever been picked. Pitts stands nearly 6’6 and 245 pounds with a massive, 83 3/8” wingspan. As a junior in 2020, he tallied 43-770-12 across only 8 games. That sample included monster lines against Alabama (7-129-1), Tennessee (7-128) and Ole Miss (8-170-4). The 20-year-old has the movement skills and versatility of a future WR1, making him a bit of a cheat code at TE. For further confirmation of his dominance, Pitts tested very well with a 4.44 forty time (98th percentile) and a 129-inch broad jump (97th percentile). He joins Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to give the Falcons 1 of the best groups of pass-catchers in the league. We’ll probably see a lot of 2-TE sets in Atlanta this year with Pitts and Hayden Hurst under former Titans TEs coach and new Falcons HC Arthur Smith.
Trey Lance completed an improbable rise to the NFL by landing with the 49ers at Pick #3 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance spent just 1 season as a starting QB in high school and then chose North Dakota State at the FCS level after being lightly recruited. He followed NFL backup Easton Stick there and balled out in his lone starting campaign. Lance completed 66.9% of his throws at 9.7 yards per attempt with 28 TDs and nary an INT. He led that Bison team to a 16-0 record and the FCS national title, adding 1,100 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. Lance boasts the size and willingness to be Josh Allen-like as a goal-line rusher. Also like Allen, he sports a big throwing arm. Lance started just 17 college games and might be asked to sit for a year before getting his starting shot in the pros. (Even Jimmy Kepouros, an NDSU WR, calls Lance “really raw.”) But the rushing ability alone gives Lance immediate fantasy upside whenever he does hit the field. This is a nice landing spot with a bright offensive mind in HC Kyle Shanahan and a nice group of pass-catchers in George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. We’ll see whether the Niners hang on to QB Jimmy Garoppolo -- and if he can hang on to the starting job for any or all of 2021. Bet on Lance hitting the field at some point this season.
The Jets selected BYU QB Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Wilson enjoyed a breakout 2020 with 3,692 yards, 33 TDs and 3 INTs across 12 games. He added a 73.5% completion rate while performing as one of the nation’s most accurate QBs. The low level of competition he faced wasn’t ideal, but Wilson (6’3, 212) truly stood out as a special passer. He also rebounded nicely from an injury-riddled 2019 that began with right labrum surgery in January. Now, he heads to a strong fit with the Jets and new OC Mike LaFleur, whose offense will take advantage of Wilson’s movement skills. He’s a heavy favorite to be under center come Week 1 and could provide some spot-start value this season.
The Jaguars selected Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the 1st pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s tough to say how long we’ve known this would be the pick. Lawrence spent at least all of the 2020 season as the presumptive #1 selection. With 36 starts across 3 years at Clemson, Lawrence enters the NFL long on experience. He racked up 90 TD passes vs. just 17 INTs with the Tigers and earned passing grades of 90+ from Pro Football Focus in each of his 3 seasons. Lawrence brings accuracy in throwing to every level and adds rushing upside. He topped out at 563 yards on the ground as a 2019 sophomore and punched in 17 TD runs over the past 2 years. With Jacksonville, Lawrence inherits a talented WR corps led by D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and free-agent addition Marvin Jones. Lawrence has the upside to crack the fantasy top 12 right away and should be a long-term factor for his fantasy teams.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is "disgruntled" with the organization and has told some that he doesn't want to return to the team, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. It seemed like this relationship had been mended, but Rodgers is reportedly still upset about Green Bay's decision to take QB Jordan Love in the 1st round of last year's draft. "As we've stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond," GM Brian Gutekunst told ESPN. "Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team." We'll see where this goes. The 49ers reportedly called the Packers on Wednesday night to inquire about Rodgers' availability but were turned away.
Update: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport adds that Rodgers' discontent stems from an inability for him and the Packers to agree on a new long-term contract. "No deal is done, and he’s not happy now," Rapoport adds.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that the Panthers are trading QB Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos for a 6th-round pick. That seems like a surprisingly small price, but Bridgewater is due nearly $23 million this year and would still carry $5 million in dead money on the 2022 cap if released after this season. His departure clears the way for Sam Darnold to take over the offense -- if Carolina doesn't go QB in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. In Denver, we'd bet on a competition between Bridgewater and Drew Lock for the starting gig. This trade might not necessarily take the Broncos out of the NFL Draft QB market. But it at least suggests they don't expect to land a 2021 starting candidate at the position. Bridgewater threw just 15 TD passes in his lone season with Carolina. If he earns the starting job in Denver, he'll find a talent-rich set of pass-catchers that includes Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and K.J. Hamler.
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