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NFL Draft

Best, Worst, Surprising Picks From Marino’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

  • The Draft Network
  • November 3, 2020
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With half of the season spent and the playoff picture beginning to winnow out the field, mock draft season is in full swing for several sad fan bases turning their eyes toward the future. And also the Dallas Cowboys.

Here at The Draft Network, you can read a new mock draft every Monday and see my review of each mock afterward, with second and third round updates coming later in the week. If you want to do your own mock draft for your favorite team, open our Mock Draft Machine and take control of the reins yourself!

I sat down with Joe Marino’s Mock Draft 3.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.

Best Value: Carolina Panthers select Caleb Farley

I like the way Joe put this draft together. He pushed surprises into the top of the first round—at this early stage of the 2021 Draft cycle, we should do chaos mocks, in that so much is going to change between now and then. He let teams in the middle of the first round take the top talent that fell to them, focusing less on need and more on value—that’s how the middle of the draft typically works. That’s how Caleb Farley got outside of the top 10 and into Carolina’s lap

Phil Snow’s defense has done some impressive stuff with light cornerback talent, using Philly castoff Rasul Douglas, perceived bust Corn Elder, and late-round draft pick Troy Pride Jr. with incumbent Dante Jackson to produce the 17th-best pass defense per DVOA—average, but relative to preseason expectations, impressive.

With that said, better talent will give them more ball production in their zone coverage and the ability to go man in critical, gotta-have-it situations. Farley is a scheme-versatile ball-hawker with great tackling ability, which is critical in Snow’s 3-3-5 structure. The fit is clean, the talent is top 10, and the Panthers defense will benefit from it even with their already solid corner play considered.

Biggest Surprise: Washington Football Team selects Kyle Pitts

There are two things surprising about this pick. Obviously, the first is that a tight end is going in the top 10. Pitts at No. 7 overall would be the highest-drafted tight end since Vernon Davis, who was sixth off the board in 2006. (As an aside, Vernon Davis remains one of the best athletes to ever come out at tight end despite the massive improvements in Combine preparation over the last 15 years.) While the Niners likely feel they got a fair return on their dollar, other tight ends drafted in the top 10 have been less exciting. Kellen Winslow Jr. (sixth overall pick, 2004) showed a lot of early promise but suffered from injuries that shortened his peak; Eric Ebron (10th overall pick, 2014) flamed out in Detroit and is now just a modest starter in Pittsburgh; T.J. Hockenson (eighth overall pick, 2019) has not impressed so far in the league.

So it’s a rare thing to see, and it doesn't often go that well. Of course, you can make the argument that Pitts isn't so much a tight end as he is a wide receiver—and that’s a fair argument given his frame and usage at Florida this year. But if that’s the case, then this pick has Pitts selected as a wide receiver above all true wide receiver prospects besides Ja’Marr Chase. That’s pretty wild.

Now, the tight end designation on Pitts can give him some added value in conflating your tendencies on offense and contriving matchups. I’m not sure the Washington Football Team should take Pitts over a player like Jaylen Waddle or Rashod Bateman or Rondale Moore, but by the same token, if a team known for smart drafting made that decision, I'd believe in them. So perhaps Washington deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Best Idea I’ve Never Had: New York Jets select Trevor Lawrence AND Travis Etienne

The Jets will select a quarterback with their earliest first-round pick, and if Trevor Lawrence is on the board, he will almost undoubtedly be the quarterback they call on. All of that is par for the course.

What is new and fun and really interesting is the idea of the Jets adding Travis Etienne, Lawrence’s running mate in the Clemson backfield for the last three seasons, with their second first-round pick. That pick, given to the Jets by the Seattle Seahawks in the Jamal Adams trade, currently projects to be at the end of the first round—and while the Jets have big needs at EDGE and linebacker and cornerback and… well, everywhere, they do also have a need at running back, and at the end of the first round, Etienne will be one of the most talented players left on the board.

There is no particular chemistry between quarterback and running back that warrants an investment in Etienne over a potentially more talented running back, but Etienne is comfortably the best back in this class. Modeling their offensive personnel after Clemson’s is far from a bad idea, and depending on how the next head coach uses Lawrence’s running ability, they can rip off much of the Clemson running game packages with little variation.

Head Scratcher: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jordan Davis

I love Jordan Davis. People throw around the “two-down run-stuffer” label as if it’s an insult—codswallop, say I. Davis will be an extremely valuable player to NFL defenses for his play strength and gap control as a nose tackle, immediately making life easier on linebackers and safeties filling against the run. That’s value in the passing game, specifically against play-action, that doesn’t get put in his stat sheet, but certainly still matters—maybe not as much as a sack does, but it does.

With that said, Tampa Bay is an example of that truth, with Vita Vea a critical player in their defensive structure who they are sorely missing already. Vea eats up double teams, frees Devin White and Lavonte David to play aggressive and in space, and even brings something as a power rusher. He’s a great player, and I don’t think Tampa Bay will let him walk in 2021, assuming a successful return from injury.

Accordingly, Davis would be redundant in Tampa Bay, especially if the Buccaneers have an angle on starting him beside Vea in Suh’s absence. A pass-rushing interior defender like Jay Tufele of USC makes more sense to me here.

Best of the Rest: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

All in all, I thought it was a solid mock from Joe, and have little complaints with the players he left out. He installed the fast-rising offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw from Virginia Tech in the top 15, and off the film I’ve seen, I don’t have an argument with him as a leading candidate for OT2. He does have Alex Leatherwood as an offensive tackle, which is a position and draft stock of which I remain suspicious for a player I see as a better guard prospect. As such, I think Samuel Cosmi, the high-caliber athlete with a solid floor in pass protection, is a better prospect altogether.

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