You’re probably wondering how exactly we can justify a re-do of April’s NFL draft without any regular season snaps played by any of this year’s first-round selections—but bear with me here.
Despite a limited showing for some—Kyle Pitts—the slate of exhibition matchups presented a nice view into the potential each prospect has moving forward into live fire this week. With exciting performances from each of the highly-touted gun-slingers to the eye-popping playmaking ability at corner, here is a redraft of the top 10 in this year’s class following their preseason performances.
No. 1 overall: Zach Wilson, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
This isn’t to say Trevor Lawrence didn’t live up to expectations, he was excellent, but Wilson was elite. Despite skeptics banking on a lack of competition in college to see Wilson falter in the NFL, his creativity and confidence we saw at BYU were still there throughout the preseason. Wilson finished 15-of-20 for 191 yards with two scores, two big-time throws, and no turnover-worthy plays. For now, he looks to be the belle of the ball.
No. 2 overall: Trevor Lawrence, QB, New York Jets
I’ll be the first one to tell you Lawrence looked every bit deserving of the first overall selection, but Wilson was really just that special this summer. Nonetheless, they both should enjoy outstanding first seasons in their respective organizations.
No. 3 overall: Mac Jones, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Let’s get some people fired up, shall we?
Look, Trey Lance is a dynamic, dual-threat talent that will enjoy a long, fruitful career under the tutelage and brain of Kyle Shanahan, but Jones wasted no time in asserting himself as one of the top passers in the class, stealing the job from Cam Newton. He’s advanced in his pre-snap progressions, quick and stout with his delivery, and of course, accurate.
The biggest pre-draft debate this year was which quarterback general manager John Lynch would select. Many thought it would be Jones in April and now, he sure looks like the right pick in this re-draft.
No. 4 overall: Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Two snaps in the preseason are two more than I would have played the former Gator star. He will be everything Arthur Smith hoped for and more when he took him in the top five just a couple of months ago. With Julio Jones now in Tennessee, buckle up for a heavy dose of Pitts this fall.
No. 5 overall: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase was the pick here in the spring, and so far, he doesn’t look fit to have even been selected in the first round, let alone the top 10—it’s as simple as that.
A lack of consistency would be putting it nicely for Chase, who totaled just one catch via five targets for a massive total of 16 yards. With five total drops, it’s internal for Chase right now, who must flip a switch as his fundamental skill set is just too unique to be average.
No. 6 overall: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Miami Dolphins
With rumors swirling surrounding Xavien Howard, Surtain’s addition to shore up the outside alongside Byron Jones would have been a nice plug-and-play for the defensive-minded Brian Flores. In coverage this preseason, Surtain was a blanket, allowing just one reception, a 0.0 passer rating when targeted, and a pick-six to boot.
No. 7 overall: Jaycee Horn, CB, Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah was taken No. 3 overall last year, but Horn looks the part of a shutdown corner early in his NFL career. It’s obvious Detroit needs upgrades in talent at any spot they can get it, and Horn opposite Okudah would have presented the Lions with a dynamic tandem on the outside to build a nice defensive foundation on.
No. 8 overall: Micah Parsons, LB, Carolina Panthers
Following the retirement of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have lacked pop in the middle of their defense, and understandably so. Parsons, the far and away premier talent at the linebacker spot, dominated during the preseason, flying from sideline to sideline for Dallas’ impressive linebacking corps. While Matt Rhule enjoyed an impressive offseason, Parsons’ insertion into Rhule’s core of youth-infused talent could have been the cherry on top of an impressive draft haul.
No. 9 overall: Justin Fields, QB, Denver Broncos
His slip in April baffled many, leading to his selection No. 11 overall. He fell into the hands of the talent-hungry Chicago Bears brass of head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. While Andy Dalton is set to start the year as Chicago’s signal-caller, it won’t be long before Fields snatches the reins from the veteran journeyman, captaining the Bears’ offense for the foreseeable future.
In Denver, the safe selection in Teddy Bridgewater earned the nod under center over Drew Lock, whose turnover-prone style of football has found himself on the pine to start the season. Fields’ addition into one of the league’s most impressive rosters could have been a dream scenario for Vic Fangio’s group based on the type of play we’ve seen from Fields during the preseason.
No. 10 overall: DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite limited work throughout the summer months, Smith remains an elite combination of speed and sizzle. Under newly-minted head coach Nick Sirianni, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner will be granted every opportunity to silence his doubters from the first whistle this fall. While many have compared Smith’s light frame to the likes of DeSean Jackson, think of Marvin Harrison when microscoping his talent. He’s a special, special prospect who should flourish if developed correctly in Philadelphia.