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5 bold predictions for the 2021 NFL Draft

The draft is just a week away so let’s get bold with predicting what might happen next Thursday and beyond.

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Draft is exactly a week away and as such, we’ve reached the final stretch in terms of draft content. It’s time for final mock drafts—our RB1 100% accurate mock draft show will be dropping Tuesday baby!—final big board tweaks, and teams to billow out their final smokescreens. What a glorious time of year.

We all know NFL drafts are wildly unpredictable and all kinds of chaos could descend upon us in seven days. With that in mind, I’ve listed my boldest predictions for how the draft will play out next Thursday and beyond, this way if I’m right, I look like a fortune telling genius and if I’m wrong, well I told you they were bold. It’s a win-win.

The Patriots will aggressively trade up for Justin Fields

Call this wish-casting since as a New England Patriots fan I would LOVE to see Fields in New England, but I do think Bill Belichick has something up his sleeve this draft. In all likelihood, that “something” will be trading back five times and accumulating 10 second round picks, all he’ll burn on below-average cornerbacks but hey, a boy can dream.

With Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, and Zach Wilson seemingly locked in at picks one through three, and the Atlanta Falcons listening to calls for the 4th overall pick (and seemingly ok with Matt Ryan for the next three to four years), I think Belichick makes his move, trading up from 15 to snag their QB of the future.

The Vikings leapfrog the Broncos for Trey Lance

With four quarterbacks now going in the top four picks, that leaves Trey Lance as the bell of the QB-needy-team ball. While Lance lasting to the Denver Broncos at nine overall makes plenty of sense—and would actually be great for fantasy since Drew Lock is not good—that’s not bold enough. Instead, the Minnesota Vikings trade up with the Carolina Panthers to get their quarterback of the future. Lance would have the ability to sit behind Kirk Cousins for a year or two (Cousins’ contract lasts through 2022 but the Vikings can cut him after 2021 with only $10 million in dead cap while saving $35 million) and get acclimated to the NFL. Lance, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith Jr. is a very nice young core to build your franchise around.

Kyle Pitts falls out of the top 10

Pitts is getting all kinds of pub from draftniks and those in the know, and rightfully so. He’s a 6-foot-6 tight end who ran a 4.4 40 and can lineup all over the formation and will instantly cause mismatches with whomever he goes against. However, spending a top 10 pick on a tight end doesn’t necessarily have the best track record in the NFL and that could scare some teams off. The Falcons are viewed as a likely landing spot for him at four, but if they trade out of that pick, that leaves really only the Dolphins and Cowboys as possible landing spots for Pitts in the top 10. (Don’t forget, in my universe the Panthers just traded out of the top 10.)

The Dolphins will have their choice of pass catchers and already have Mike Gesicki on their roster (Gesicki and Pitts are different players but they play the same position and teams get weird about that), while the Cowboys have too many holes on defense to continue to add to their offense. Will that stop Jerry Jones? Not in the slightest, but I’m trying to be bold here remember? Besides, don’t you want Pitts to fall to the Los Angeles Chargers at 13 and join Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Austin Ekeler? Because I do.

Rashod Bateman goes ahead of Devonta Smith

There’s no denying what Devonta Smith can do on a football field—and to be honest, he’s my top receiver in this class—but so much has been made about his size recently, clocking in at 6-foot-1, 166 pounds, that there’s reason to think teams might be cooler on him come draft day than we initially anticipate. We’ve certainly seen this story before where a player’s draft stock drops due to concerns over his size.

Meanwhile, Rashod Bateman has more of the prototypical size that teams look for at the position and he offers much more than just a big body. Bateman is an extremely talented receiver and I wouldn’t be surprised if he emerged as one of the best pass catchers from this class given his sure hands and graceful route running.

We’ve seen shake ups in the perceived wide receiver rankings before in drafts. Just last year the Las Vegas Raiders made Henry Ruggs the number one receiver off the board ahead of presumptive favorites Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. All it takes is one team to fall in love with what Bateman can do and snag him well before where he’s anticipated to go.

Three running backs go in the top 10 picks of the second round

This year’s running back class boasts three clear top options: Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams. All three of these guys will go within the top 10 picks of the second round. First round running backs have to be special to go early in the first and there aren’t many teams at the end of the first round who need help in their backfield. The start of the second round is a different story though.

The Jaguars, Jets, Falcons, Dolphins, Panthers, and Broncos all sit in the 30’s and could all use improvements to their backfield. The Jags have added Carlos Hyde in the offseason but they’ve also stated multiple times they want to bring in competition for James Robinson in their backfield. The Jets, Falcons, and Dolphins currently have Tevin Coleman, Mike Davis, and Myles Gaskin listed as their starting backs for 2021 respectively. The Panthers lost Davis this offseason and would be wise to have a serviceable backup for Christian McCaffrey to help him stay healthy. Finally, the Broncos did a complete overhaul of their backfield this offseason, keeping only Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman on their roster from last year.

Moral of the story: there are plenty of teams atop the second round who need running back help with only three top running backs to choose from.