It’s mock draft season?
Oh, well, I guess it is. Even though it’s likely to be an unbearable stretch of time on social media where everyone and then some become ‘draft pundits,’ we have to take the good with the bad. And the good is that Todd McShay released his latest mock draft over on ESPN.com, and you guessed it, Oregon Ducks left tackle Penei Sewell fell right squarely in the discussion atop the picks.
We know Sewell is likely one of the top picks in the draft no matter what happens with the rest of the college football season and we know that we’ll see more Pac-12 players than just Sewell. This first iteration of a 2021 NFL Mock Draft is an eye-opener as Sewell is joined by three other Pac-12 players, including teammate and Oregon safety Jevon Holland.
USC Trojans DT Jay Tufele and Stanford Cardinal CB Paulson Adebo were selected in the first round as well, and here’s how it shook out:
No. 3 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals: Oregon Ducks LT Penei Sewell
Remember how much I talked about Joe Burrow’s toughness and mobility in the pocket leading up to the 2020 draft? Well, those traits will be important in Cincy. The Bengals’ line surrendered 48 sacks and recorded a 46.5% pass block win rate, second worst in the NFL, according to ESPN’s pass-blocking metrics. When you invest a No. 1 pick in a franchise QB, you have to protect him. Yes, they get 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams back from injury at left tackle this season, but that line is still a serious work in progress, especially at right tackle. Enter Sewell, the best player still on the board here and the most talented offensive lineman in the class.
No. 21 overall to the Minnesota Vikings: Oregon Ducks S Jevon Holland
Defensive tackle is a bigger need — though 2020 opt-out Michael Pierce will be back next season — so Shelvin or USC’s Jay Tufele could be the choice for Minnesota. But Holland, who I mentioned as a reach earlier in this mock, now becomes a great value at No. 21 overall. And he fills a hole, with Anthony Harris on an expiring contract and Harrison Smith turning 32 in February. Holland, the top safety on the board, has nine interceptions over the past two seasons, displays strong open-field tackling ability and shows some pop in the punt return game. He high-points the ball and attacks it, a skill set that would help keep the Vikings among the elites in interceptions (tied for third in 2019 with 17).
No. 25 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: USC Trojans DT Jay Tufele
I liked what Tampa Bay did this past April, crossing off needs at offensive tackle (Tristan Wirfs), safety (Antoine Winfield Jr.) and running back (Ke’Shawn Vaughn). Now, with Ndamukong Suh coming off the books, the Bucs could use some more beef up the middle with Vita Vea. Tufele not only provides value as a run stopper but also as an effective pass-rusher from the interior. He’s big, quick and very strong at the point of attack. Linebacker/edge would also potentially be in the cards here if there were value, and if Vaughn doesn’t show pop in Year 1 alongside Ronald Jones II, someone like Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard could even be discussed.
No. 32 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs: Stanford Cardinal CB Paulson Adebo
According to FPI’s projected draft order, the Chiefs would waltz into the draft as back-to-back Super Bowl champions. But even so, they are going to want to finally do something at cornerback. Despite questions about the group, K.C. didn’t select a corner in 2020 until the seventh round, and both projected 2020 starters — Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward — will be free agents after the season (Ward is a restricted free agent). Before he decided to go back to Stanford for another year, I had Adebo ranked pretty high on the 2020 board. He is a ball hawk (eight interceptions over the past two seasons), and though his tape was a little inconsistent at times, he is smooth, long and instinctive in press zone. Defensive line and interior offensive line could also be directions to go for the Chiefs.
There you have it.
For the full mock draft — head over to ESPN.com.