NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah answered questions for two hours on Tuesday, previewing the 2021 NFL Draft (April 29-May 1 on NFL Network) during a media Zoom call. As you might expect, he offered insight on which prospects could be a strong fit with certain NFL teams. Here’s a look at the prospect-team connections Jeremiah made during the call.
Are the Falcons ready to invest a first-rounder in Matt Ryan’s replacement at quarterback? Jeremiah sees big upside in two who could be available at No. 4 overall — BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields — but prefers Wilson.
“I don’t think there’s a debate in terms of who played better last year, but that doesn’t mean (Wilson’s) going to be the best (pro),” Jeremiah said.
Kentucky LB Jamin Davis is a fast-rising prospect who was a full-time starter for only one season at UK, but Jeremiah sees big upside, an impressive comparison and a possible fit with Cleveland.
“He looks so much like Darius Leonard when you study him,” Jeremiah said. “You saw the impact Leonard had coming out of the second round. I think this kid is going to find his way into the first round once he gets to the pro day and people get a chance to get their eyes on him. He’s got legitimate Rookie of the Year type of ability.”
The Broncos hold the No. 9 overall pick, and a cornerback is a prime possibility. Jeremiah believes Penn State LB Micah Parsons could flourish under coach Vic Fangio, however, if a corner isn’t the play.
“He can do so many different things, and Vic could be creative with him,” Jeremiah said. “Week to week, you could change his role. … I think he could be a really good rusher, too, if you just wanted to cut him loose.”
With Detroit deciding against using the franchise tag on WR Kenny Golladay on Tuesday, that position looks like even more of a need for the Lions at No. 7 overall. Jeremiah sees three possibilities — Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, or one of Alabama’s duo of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — if the club goes with a receiver in Round 1. If the Lions don’t pick a pass catcher first, watch for Penn State LB Micah Parsons.
Following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw could be an option for the Colts at No. 21 overall to play offensive tackle.
“He’s got a really strong upper body. He can latch on and control guys — a powerful guy,” Jeremiah said. “He’s really good in the run game.”
Jeremiah also sees Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins and Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield as possible fits in Indianapolis.
With Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence expected to go to Jacksonville No. 1 overall, Jeremiah believes the club should turn to defense with its other first-round pick (No. 25).
“I think there are some pretty good pieces in place (on offense),” Jeremiah said. “… (But) you can’t have enough corners, you can’t have enough edge rushers.”
The Raiders, with the No. 17 overall pick, have their share of needs on the defensive side of the ball. If the Jon Gruden-Mike Mayock brain trust goes for an offensive player, however, Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw would be a fit following Tuesday’s news that the team is expected to trade Trent Brown to the Patriots.
“This is an offensive line a little bit in flux right now, especially after today,” Jeremiah said. “Darrisaw could plug right in. He’s got the size. He’s played left tackle, I think he could play right tackle and worst-case scenario, he slides inside and is a really good guard.”
Having moved out of the first round, the Rams, barring another deal, will turn in their first draft card at No. 57 overall. They could look to improve their pass rush, or their offensive line, with that selection, per Jeremiah. One to watch for: Houston pass rusher Payton Turner, who enjoyed an excellent Senior Bowl week. Another: versatile Illinois interior O-lineman Kendrick Green.
A combination of intelligence, skills and cold-weather experience make North Dakota State QB Trey Lance a nice fit with the Patriots if they turn to a rookie passer in 2021.
“I could see Bill Belichick having a lot of fun with a guy like Trey Lance,” Jeremiah said.
Lance might not be on the board when New England is on the clock with the 15th overall pick, so if he is the QB Belichick desires, chances are it will require a trade up to land him.
There isn’t a better landing spot in the NFL for Alabama QB Mac Jones than the Saints.
“If you could cherry pick one spot for him, I think it would be New Orleans,” Jeremiah said.
If the club makes an investment in the QB position in the later rounds instead, a good fit for the Saints could be Notre Dame QB Ian Book.
How about some more receiving help for Daniel Jones in New York? Jeremiah sees the WR class as a loaded one, with talent flush through the middle rounds. There will be plenty of Day 2 value at that position if the Giants go that route. Terrace Marshall of LSU, UNC’s Dyami Brown or Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman would provide a more vertical threat, Jeremiah said, while the smaller D’Wayne Eskridge of Western Michigan is a big-play machine with skills in the return game. Then there’s UCLA’s Demetric Felton, a strong middle-round value.
“Darn near uncoverable at the Senior Bowl,” Jeremiah said. “(He) would be a nice complement for what they have.”
Time and time again on the two-hour Zoom call with reporters, Jeremiah was quizzed about the Eagles’ ideal selection at No. 6. He didn’t waver: Florida TE Kyle Pitts, even if the club is tempted by a quarterback with that selection.
“Ja’Marr Chase, I could make a strong case for him with what he can do after the catch, but to me, the best matchup on the field is an athletic tight end versus the linebackers and safeties that are going to try to cover him,” Jeremiah said. “I watched some of the best corners in the SEC and they couldn’t cover this kid. Now we’re going to ask linebackers to try to match up with him? Not going to happen.”
Alabama C Landon Dickerson has a reputation for finishing blocks to the whistle and getting under the skin of defensive linemen. He also has an injury history, most recently a knee injury from the SEC title game, that is a concern for NFL teams. He’s a fine fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, according to Jeremiah.
“He’s almost the perfect Steeler. He’s physical and nasty. He’s fun to watch. He’s quick,” Jeremiah said. “He’s a taller guy (6-foot-6), but we’ve seen the Steelers coming off a pretty good run here with a tall center (Maurkice Pouncey).”
Another possibility for Pittsburgh would be UNC RB Javonte Williams, whom Jeremiah compares to one of the top backs in Pittsburgh’s division — Cleveland’s Nick Chubb.
If the 49ers are looking for a cornerback in the second round, Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph is a possibility.
“He’s got great ball skills,” Jeremiah said. “He’s one of those guys who got torched by Kyle Pitts, but I’m not going to hold that against him.”
Other potential Round 2 options for the 49ers among corners include UCF’s Aaron Robinson and Georgia’s Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes, per Jeremiah.
A pass rusher and a wide receiver, particularly if Corey Davis departs via free agency, could be a nice pairing for the AFC South champions in the first two rounds. Jeremiah likes Ronnie Perkins of Oklahoma in the former role, and in the second round, perhaps LSU’s Terrace Marshall or Rashod Bateman of Minnesota.
What’s next for the Washington Football Team at the game’s most crucial position? More than likely, the club turns to a veteran acquisition, according to Jeremiah — potentially Sam Darnold, if the Jets decide to move on. If the draft is the answer, however, Alabama’s Mac Jones could be a first-round possibility, or later in the draft, perhaps Davis Mills of Stanford.
“He can really drive the ball. He’s not as athletic as he might have been without the injuries, but he’s got poise, he’s incredibly intelligent and I thought you saw him get better throughout the year,” said Jeremiah, who believes Mills rates a third- or fourth-round selection.
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