With the regular season coming to a close, it’s already mock draft season for the majority of the NFL.
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 Jordan Reid’s Mock Draft 5.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.
Best Value: Chicago Bears select Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
There were a lot of quality picks in this mock, but I decided to circle Alijah Vera-Tucker to the Chicago Bears for the value spot. An interior offensive lineman right at No. 20 feels like a proper spot, but Vera-Tucker is as strong of an interior offensive line prospect as I can remember.
For one: He could be a tackle. For the Bears, that’s important, as they could have needs at guard and tackle depending on how the offseason goes. Vera-Tucker played on the outside this season for USC and did so even more successfully than I expected. For two: He’s rock-steady in pass protection while not suffering for any running game mobility, which is important in a Matt Nagy offense that wants to run more wide zone.
If the Bears can’t go quarterback, they better go offensive line to protect whoever ends up back there. Vera-Tucker is the best available and fits a need.
Biggest Surprise: San Francisco 49ers select Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The San Francisco 49ers made a big splash during last year’s draft cycle when they traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts—and subsequently drafted his replacement in Javon Kinlaw. Could a similar play be in the cards with a Dee Ford replacement? It’s not an absurd idea. Ford is technically cuttable this season but far more likely to get cut next season, when he’s due $22 million but would only be $10 million in dead cap.
Ford’s health situation is up in the air for that 2021 season, and with a top defensive line coach in Kris Kocurek still on staff, the hope will be that the 49ers can return to the dominant defensive line play of their 2019 season with an immediate impact from the pro-ready Kwity Paye. He doesn’t exactly fit the Ford mold at his size, but he won’t need to be the primary pass rusher when playing opposite Nick Bosa.
Best Idea I’ve Never Had: Pittsburgh Steelers select Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Pittsburgh Steelers fanbase is dedicated to the idea of an offensive tackle in the first round, which is worrisome; the Steelers haven’t selected a tackle in the first round since 1996.
Now, in that time, they’ve made some interior offensive line picks early, including Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro. That’s a great hit rate of nasty run blockers, and that’s what we’re after with a Teven Jenkins pick. The big Oklahoma State tackle moves people off the line of scrimmage and lets them know about it after the play.
The Steelers are undoubtedly going to invest in the running game this season after a rough season on that front this year. Jenkins represents that investment.
Head Scratcher: Washington Football Team selects Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Maybe I’m just disproportionately faithful in Cole Holcomb, who I think is just really good at football, but I don’t see linebacker as a big need for the Washington Football Team. They should re-sign one of their starters—Kevin Pierre-Louis and Thomas Davis are both free agents—and could go for an improvement on either.
But Holcomb was arguably the best coverage linebacker in the league last season, and with good slot players in Jimmy Moreland and Kamren Curl, I don’t see room for an overhang style linebacker in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. If they elected to go with a linebacker in Round 1, with all of their offensive holes considered, a box player like Zaven Collins makes more sense.
But those offensive needs are a big deal. Wide receiver and tackle are bigger needs than another second-level defender, especially if Washington doesn’t have a ton of room for him. I just can’t see Washington going on the defensive side of the ball here.
Best of the Rest: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
I see a first-round player when I watch Rashod Bateman. I know that he’s not as sexy as Kadarius Toney, who has the elite yards-after-catch ability, or Terrace Marshall Jr., a top-tier deep threat with his combo of speed and size; but Bateman does everything well and has elite toughness. I think in a role like Justin Jefferson’s with the Minnesota Vikings—a high-volume WR2 at all three levels off the field—Bateman would be highly productive in Year 1.