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Opinion: Best Matches Picks 1-16 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

With regard to a anyone’s prospects of being afforded new opportunities, my mom liked to say, “e = mc2 — after that —- it’s who you know in life.”

Well, in this mock of the first 16 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft, the purpose is to match the top prospects with the teams who may be the most tempted to pick them.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Connection: Urban Meyer and his former OC (now Ohio St. HC) Ryan Day are apt to agree with the pundits who believe that Justin Fields has the highest ceiling in this year’s QB class. And it just so happens that Meyer has Russell Wilson’s former OCs on his staff, in Darrell Bevell and QBC Brian Schottenheimer, both of whom have a pretty good idea of how to cater a high voltage offense around a mobile, dual-threat QB.

2. New York Jets

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Connection: OC Mike LaFleur (Matt Ryan) and PGC Greg Knapp (Peyton Manning) —- both had great success with classic, tall, strong-armed pocket passers.

3. San Francisco 49ers

NFL: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Connection: Kyle Shanahan had his best success with Matt Ryan (MVP in 2016). Mac Jones is a similar style athlete, accurate thrower and prolific play-action passer.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

4. Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Connection: Arthur Smith is a TE coach by trade. This feels like a total slam dunk in pairing Kyle Pitts with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The addition of Pitts may add 3-4 more years to Matt Ryan’s career—- and Julio Jones’!

5. Cincinnati Bengals

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Connection: Reuniting Joe Burrow with his #1 WR at LSU in light of the trifling fact that Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards (21.2 ave.) and 20 TDs with Burrow at QB in 2019.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

6. Miami Dolphins

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Connection: Reuniting Tua with DeVonta, who splashed for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs with Tua in 2018.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kyle Robertson via Imagn Content Services, LLC

7. Detroit Lions

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Connection: Dan Campbell knows what Alvin Kamara means to success of the Saints’ offense. Plus, OC Anthony Lynn and RGC Deuce Staley (running game gurus) would be over the moon to have Harris as their bell cow and D’Andre Swift as RB2.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY Sports

8. Carolina Panthers

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

Connection: Matt Rhule loves a mobile, dual-threat QB (P.J. Walker, e.g.) and Lance is precisely that, plus with superb size.

NCAA Football: FCS Championship Game-North Dakota State vs James Madison Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

9. Denver Broncos

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Connection: OC Pat Shurmer got a 3,547 yard 22 TD, 7 int. Pro Bowl caliber season out of Case Keenum. Imagine what he can do with Zach Wilson. This pick comes likely via a trade up in this draft.

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Central Florida at Brigham Young Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

10. Dallas Cowboys

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn. St.

Connection: Replacing Sean Lee with another stud LB in Parsons feels very Nittany.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Memphis vs Penn State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

11. New York Giants

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Penei Sewell, T, Oregon

Connection: Tabbing the closest clone to Anthony Munoz one may find, to be the heir to Nate Solder, feels like the finest re-welding an offense line can hope for.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

12. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Connection: Reuniting Jalen with Jaylen.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Alabama The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

13. Los Angeles Chargers

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Jayson Oweh, LB/Edge, Penn St.

Connection: Brandon Staley’s defense relies on speed and Oweh, at his pro day, ran a 4.36 40 at 6-5, 257. Yup, that’s probably fast enough to be a lightning bolt.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

14. Minnesota Vikings

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Rashawn Slater, T, Northwestern

Connection: Purple in college to purple in the NFL. High need pick now that Riley Reiff is gone. Plug him and play him.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

15. New England Patriots

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Connection: When Nick Saban says to close friend Bill Belichick, “this kid is legit, coach”, that’s generally all it takes. Heir apparent to Stephon Gilmore who is on the last year of his deal.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

16. Arizona Cardinals

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Rookie Minicamp Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pick: Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Connection: It was potentially a race between the two players pictured above and Terrace Marshall prevailed (literally running a 4.38 to Jaycee Horn’s 4.39 at their pro days) and this pick could be made thanks in large part to Marshall having been coached by Cardinals’ offensive assistant Jerry Sullivan (when Terrace was a freshman at LSU). If the NFL adopts the new proposal for expanded single digit availabilities, chances are Terrace will keep the #6.

Or —- in keeping with the spirit of single digit numbers —- “O Captain! My Captain! Larry Wilson!”

Cleveland Brownd v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Connection: Cardinals’ Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury played for a year with Jaycee Horn’s dad, WR Joe Horn, when they were members of the New Orleans Saints in 2004. Plus, there could be a full-circle kind of synergy afoot if the Cardinals replace their last 1st round CB pick Patrick Peterson with another SEC sticky-coverage stud CB in Jaycee Horn. Of course, Horn would have to pick another number with the Cardinals, because his college number belongs to the Cardinals’ 2019 1st round pick.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Or —--

Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Connection: Steve Keim and Clemson HC Dabo Swinney have forged a strong relationship in recent years. In essence, Travis Etienne is the offensive version of the Cardinals’ 2020 1st round pick LB Isaiah Simmons by virtue of their superior versatility and athletic explosiveness. Amazing too that both Simmons and Etienne were virtually on no major college’s radar when going through the recruitment process, until Swinney and his staff went searching far a wide for diamonds in the rough. In Etienne’s case, even though he had 8,864 total yards and 115 TDs at Jennings High School (LA) under HC Rusty Phelps, Etienne was always playing baseball, basketball and track during the off-seasons and didn’t go to any regional football camps. One day in the spring after his senior football season, he surprised Coach Phelps and came in to grab his cleats. Etienne told his coach that he was going to go to a college scouting day in New Orleans to see if he could garner some attention. As legend has it, Etienne blew away the RB field, which included Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Cam Akers, when he ran a blistering 4.38. This caught the attention of Dabo Swinney and the rest is history —- real NCAA history —- as in Etienne becoming the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing with 4,952 yards (7.2 ypc.) and 70 TDs. Looks like the Cardinals have #9 available, just in case. Etienne has stated that his dream scenario in the draft is to be selected by the Cardinals.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports