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.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.
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
Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
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
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.
4. Atlanta Falcons
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
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.
6. Miami Dolphins
Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Connection: Reuniting Tua with DeVonta, who splashed for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs with Tua in 2018.
7. Detroit Lions
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.
8. Carolina Panthers
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.
9. Denver Broncos
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.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn. St.
Connection: Replacing Sean Lee with another stud LB in Parsons feels very Nittany.
11. New York Giants
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.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Connection: Reuniting Jalen with Jaylen.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
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.
14. Minnesota Vikings
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.
15. New England Patriots
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.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
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!”
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.
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.