Cover 9@9: D. Led’s FINAL Mock Draft — Falcons to take Justin Fields

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (1) waits for the snap during the first half against Rutgers Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Piscataway, N.J. Ohio State won 56-21. (Adam Hunger/AP)
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (1) waits for the snap during the first half against Rutgers Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Piscataway, N.J. Ohio State won 56-21. (Adam Hunger/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Falcons tried to distract everyone from their final mock draft missions with the Julio Jones’ smokescreen.

The general manager basically said he’s been answering his phone. I hope everyone has been answering their phones. It would be rude not to answer your phone.

They didn’t fool AJC columnist Mark Bradley, either. He wrote “Here’s why the Falcons won’t trade Julio Jones.”

But with the draft set for Thursday through Saturday in The Land, you’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize. Here’s where to watch, listen or stream the draft.

The Jones’ situation will settle itself.

The Falcons have a chance to set the franchise on a new course for the next decade with this draft and will do so when they pick Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the fourth overall pick.

We’re pretty sure they are taking a quarterback but concede we may have the wrong one. If Trey Lance doesn’t go to the Falcons he’ll slip to Denver.

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts will go to Miami at No. 6. While Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who makes sense at four, will slip because our Cincinnati folks are sold on LSU tight end Ja’Marr Chase.

Also, because of the dearth of pass rushers, we have Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari rising up 10 spots to 18th overall and going to the Dolphins.

Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, of Tift County, will also get his name called on Day One. He’s going to the Ravens at 27th overall.

Here’s the FINAL mock draft of the 2021 pre-draft season:

Thomson defensive Will Roberts (91) puts pressure on Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during a play in the second half of the Class 4A state title game Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)
Thomson defensive Will Roberts (91) puts pressure on Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during a play in the second half of the Class 4A state title game Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

1. Jacksonville Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: Lawrence had one of the more celebrated careers by a quarterback in college football history from 2018-20. He led Clemson to a national championship as a freshman in 2018. He finished his career going 34-2 (.944) as a starter, the third-best winning percentage by a starting quarterback with at least 30 career starts since Division I split in 1978, trailing only Miami’s Ken Dorsey (.950) and USC’s Matt Leinart (.949), according to ESPN Stats & Info. Lawrence was a four-year starter at Cartersville High School and went 52-2, including a 41-game win streak and 14-2 record in the playoffs. He led his team to four region titles and two state titles. He finished with 13,908 passing yards and 161 touchdowns against 21 interceptions over his high school career. He was a member of the AJC’s Super 11, Class of 2017.

2. New York Jets, Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: He completed 247 of 336 passes (73.5%), which ranked second in the FBS. He finished with 33 touchdown passes and threw only three interceptions. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns.

3. San Francisco 49ers, Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: Jones set a single-season completion percentage record while connecting on 311 of 402 passes (77.4%). He also led the nation with a school-record 4,500 passing yards. He won the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

4. Falcons, Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: In addition to his impressive outing throwing the football, Fields showed off his speed by clocking a time of 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. To put this time in perspective, the only quarterback to run a faster time at the NFL scouting combine was Robert Griffin, who ran the 40 in 4.41 seconds.

5. Cincinnati Bengals, Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU: The Bengals reunite Chase and quarterback Joe Burrow with the pick. They created such beautiful music together at LSU that the Bengals will try to fix their shaky offensive line later in the draft. Chase had a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump which points to the explosiveness of his lower body. The sure-handed receiver played as a freshman and caught 23 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. The following season, he combined with Burrow to help lead the Tigers to the national title. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, which included a stellar title-game showing mostly against Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell.

6. Miami Dolphins, Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida: Forty-nine years have passed since a tight end was taken in the top five. Pitts has the chance to be the first tight end to be taken this high since the Denver Broncos selected former Houston tight end Riley Odoms fifth overall. For his size, Pitts has speed like a receiver and can line up all over the offensive formation. Just as important, he’s a great blocker when next to an offensive tackle.

7. Detroit Lions, Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: A dynamic wide receiver, Waddle suffered a broken ankle while returning a kickoff against Tennessee. Waddle was out for six games. He suited up for the College Football Playoff Championship game against Ohio State and caught three passes. Waddle, who’s from Houston, played as a freshman and caught 45 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught 33 passes in 2019.

8. Carolina Panthers, Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon: Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, which may be why he slipped to this spot. Sewell’s power in the run game is evident on film. Sewell possesses excellent athletic ability for someone his size, which makes him an ideal candidate to protect the quarterback’s blind side in the NFL. In two seasons as Oregon’s starting left tackle, Sewell surrendered only one sack.

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) winds up to throw during the first half of the FCS championship against James Madison in Frisco, Texas, in this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, (AP Photo/Sam Hodde, File)
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (5) winds up to throw during the first half of the FCS championship against James Madison in Frisco, Texas, in this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, (AP Photo/Sam Hodde, File)

Credit: Sam Hodde

Credit: Sam Hodde

9. Denver Broncos, Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State: Lance, 20, elected to enter the draft after North Dakota State played only one game last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. He led the Bison to the FCS national championship in 2019. He posted a 17-0 record as a starter. In 2019, he passed for 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and had 14 rushing touchdowns. The 49ers, Falcons, Broncos and Patriots were at his second Pro Day.

10. Dallas Cowboys, Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: Surtain’s father, Patrick Surtain, played 11 seasons in the NFL from 1998 to 2008. He was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins and went on to make All-Pro once and was selected to three Pro Bowls. Surtain is leaving Alabama after his junior season. He made 38 consecutive starts and was an unanimous first team All-American. He allowed 25 yards receiving or fewer in 10 of 13 games last season.

11. New York Giants, Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: Slater was the only offensive lineman to slow former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young for an entire game in 2019. What separates Slater from many of his counterparts is his ability to play guard and center in the NFL if needed. However, Slater stated at his Pro Day that he views himself as a long-term tackle at the next level.

12. Philadelphia, Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: Horn, the son of former Saints/Falcons wide receiver Joe Horn, had a fine three-year career with the Gamecocks. “I got the size, I got the speed, I’m athletic. I faced every receiver body type from (Florida’s) Kyle Pitts to (Mississippi’s) Elijah Moore to (Alabama’s) Devonta Smith. I just feel I’m the best defensive player in the draft,” Horn said.

13. Los Angeles Chargers, DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: As a freshman, Smith had the game-winning touchdown in Alabama’s 26-23 national championship overtime victory over Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He followed with 42 catches for 693 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018 and 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Last season, he caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Micah Parsons, OLB, Penn State: Parsons tested exceptionally well with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and a 34-inch vertical jump. Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, which came after a 20 campaign that saw him named a consensus All-American. He also became the first sophomore to win the Big Ten’s linebacker of the year in 2019.

15. New England Patriots, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame: A younger player, Owusu-Koramoah enrolled at Notre Dame when he was only 17. As a junior in 2020, Owusu-Koramoah recorded 62 tackles and was named a first-team All-American on a team that reached the College Football Playoff. Owusu-Koramoah fits the mold of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker in the NFL with his size and speed.

16. Arizona Cardinals, Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech: A former three-star prospect out of high school, Darrisaw became a three-year starter with the Hokies. With plenty of collegiate experience, Darrisaw has evolved into a fundamentally sound tackle in both the run game and pass protection. With the athletic ability that Darrisaw possesses at his height and size, it’s possible that he could play guard in the NFL if needed.

Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (13) during the Bulldogs’ practice session Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports)
Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (13) during the Bulldogs’ practice session Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports)

Credit: UGA Sports

Credit: UGA Sports

17. Las Vegas Raiders, Kwity Paye, DE/LB, Michigan: The Raiders need help on defense. In 2019, he was named second-team All-Big Ten after making 50 tackles, 12 for losses and 6.5 sacks. He was named a captain last season and earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten after playing in four games. He missed two games because of injury.

18. Miami Dolphins, Azezz Ojulari, DE/LB, Georgia: Coming out of Marietta High, he was a four-star recruit. He redshirted after playing in three games as a reserve and maintained his eligibility. He led the Bulldogs with 5.5 sacks in 2019. He flashed his speed and power in 2020, with 12.5 tackles for loss and had 8.5 sacks. He was named second-team All-SEC.

19. Washington, Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky: Davis excelled as a high school prospect at Long County. A rotational linebacker in 2018 and 2019, Davis had a breakout year in 2020 with 102 tackles, four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Davis had a pick-six and blocked a field-goal attempt during the season, too. Picking off three passes this past season, Davis has great awareness and possesses a knack for making plays on the football.

20. Chicago Bears, Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida: He was the Class 6A back of the year as a senior quarterback at Blount High in Mobile, Ala. He turned in a big 2020 season for the Gators, with 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 19 rushes for 161 yards and a touchdown. He also returned kickoffs (22.1 average) and punts (12.6 average). He was voted second-team All-American as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press.

21. Indianapolis Colts, Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern: Rangy cornerback with speed.

22. Tennessee Titans, Jaelan Phillips, DE/LB, Miami: Teams will have medical concerns as he had an ankle injury, concussions and a wrist injury. He briefly retired at UCLA and then transferred to Miami after reconsidering. He earned second-team All-American status after finishing sixth in the FBS with 15.5 tackles for loss and had eight sacks to go with 45 tackles.

23. New York Jets, Ronnie Perkins, DE/LB, Oklahoma: He projects as a 4-3 defensive end as a speed rusher in passing situations. During his Pro Day, he worked some drills as a 3-4 outside linebacker dropping into space. He turned some heads with a one-handed interception.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers, Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: Harris is from Antioch, Calif., and was the Bobby Dodd national high school player of the year. He did not start a game over his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide. He finished his college career as Alabama’s all-time leader for total touchdowns with 57 (46 rushing, 11 receiving). He’s the school’s career leader for rushing scores with 46, which surpassed the previous record of 42 held by Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Harris’ 3,843 career rushing yards also top Alabama’s all-time list.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars, Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: In 2018, Wallace had 86 catches for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns and was named second-team All-American by the Associated Press and first-team All-Big 12. In 2019, he suffered an ACL injury. Last season he caught 59 passes for 92 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games.

26. Cleveland Browns, Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech: Was considered the top corner in the draft, but dropped after having back surgery. Farley said the injury originally occurred during a deadlift exercise. He injured his lumbosacral joint — which connects the L5 and S1 discs — but previously elected for a procedure to repair only the L5 disc. For a year, Farley wasn’t limited physically, although he did experience some sciatica symptoms. A little over a month ago, Farley’s S1 disc flared up. With the constant training Farley needed to do, his options were to take considerable time off to let the S1 heal on its own or undergo a microdiscectomy procedure.

Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman (13) turns upfield against Auburn during the first half of the Outback Bowl Jan. 1, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman (13) turns upfield against Auburn during the first half of the Outback Bowl Jan. 1, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Credit: Chris O'Meara

27: Baltimore Ravens, Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota: Bateman, from Tift County, played in 13 games as a freshman in 2018. He caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns. In 2019, he caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named an All-American and the Big Ten’s receiver of the year. In Minnesota’s epic upset of Penn State, Bateman had 203 receiving yards and helped the Golden Gophers finish ranked No. 10, their highest ranking since 1962. Bateman, who has asthma, opted out of the 2020 season at first. When the Big Ten went to every-day coronavirus testing, he decided to play. He played in five games and made 36 catches for 372 yards and two touchdowns.

28: New Orleans Saints, Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: Collins came from the small town of Hominy, Oklahoma, and found it difficult to attract much attention from bigger FBS programs. In the end, his only two scholarship offers were from Tulsa and Central Oklahoma. After redshirting in 2017, Collins became a disruptive force at Tulsa, tallying 7.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and five interceptions over the past three seasons. One of his best plays came against Tulane, when he returned an interception 96 yards for a walk-off touchdown. Collins won the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

29: Green Bay Packers, Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State: An athletic tackle who moves well in space, Jenkins also played guard during his time with the Cowboys. Jenkins has a strong upper body and uses his hands well on a play-by-play basis. Jenkins opted out after seven games to prepare for the draft and ultimately decided against participating in the Senior Bowl after accepting an invitation. At left tackle in 2020, Jenkins finished blocks and played with great aggression.

30: Buffalo Bills, Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson: Etienne, arguably college football’s best running back during his junior season in 2019, opted to return for his senior season because he wanted to set a positive example for his younger brother and other the children in his hometown of Jennings, La. Etienne, who completed his sports-communication degree in December, likely would have been selected in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL draft had he decided to declare early.

31: Baltimore Ravens, Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame: Eichenberg possesses an ideal blend of aggression and patience. He’s violent in the run game and a tactician as a pass protector. He was a durable lineman, with 38 consecutive starts over the past three seasons.

32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU: Marshall, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson each caught more than 10 touchdowns during LSU’s historic run to the national title in the 2019 season. He played in seven games in 2020 before opting out. He finished with 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Explore2021 NFL draft preview

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION NFL DRAFT SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs

OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs

END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs

LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs

CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs

SAFETIES: Falcons likely will add position player | Top 10 Safeties

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