Welcome to Football Outsiders’ pick-by-pick coverage of the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL draft! Over the next 29 hours or so, we’ll provide you with…
- Laser-accurate quarterback comparisons (only Football Outsiders dares to compare one of this year’s prospects to Drew Stanton);
- Heartwarming tales of offensive linemen destroying their childhood homes with their siblings and preteen quarterbacks getting publicly shamed by their fathers;
- Lots of statistical nuggets about teams and prospects (this is Football Outsiders after all);
- Visits from special guests like Emo Howie Roseman and Death Metal Shanahan;
- Actual scouting observations, occasionally;
- Tons of insights, analysis, asides and fun.
This is my 20th draft providing some form of live pick-by-pick coverage for outlets from Bleacher Report to The New York Times, but it’s my first time doing so for the home team here at Football Outsiders. I’m thrilled to be able to spend the next two nights with you. Welcome aboard what’s always a wild ride! Refresh often for updates!
If you’re looking for the usual “Open NFL Draft Discussion Thread,” there isn’t one this year. Feel free to get the discussion going in the comment thread below.
65. Jacksonville Jaguars
Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Cisco suffered an ACL injury after two games in 2020 when he collided with a teammate during warmups.
That cause-of-injury scans, because Cisco has a “just running around out there” style. Against North Carolina last season, for example, he materialized out of nowhere to intercept a pass in the deep middle of the field but spent much of the game slipping in coverage, overrunning open-field plays, and getting upended by blockers because he didn’t break down properly.
Cisco intercepted 12 passes in 2018 and 2019, though there’s a lot of production against Wagner and Liberty mixed in to the numbers. He’s fun to watch, because you never know what will happen next, and Jaguars coaches will enjoy trying to sand down some of the edges of his game.
A high-upside, meh success probability, swing-for-the-fences selection.
I’m done ripping the Jaguars. They’re dancing to their own music. Let ’em figure things out the hard way.
66. Minnesota Vikings
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
Upside: Dak Prescott Downside: EJ Manuel Likely Comp: Christian Ponder
Mond is this year’s Patron Saint of Contrary Arguments. If Mond only looked ordinary over the last three seasons because of a brutal schedule, ordinary teammates, and a Jimbo Fisher offense that has grown a little stale, then maybe that’s proof he’s an undiscovered Russell Wilson!
Or, maybe he’s just a career backup.
Watch enough Mond film and you will see him thread a pinpoint fastball between three defenders to a spot on the field where only his diving receiver can catch it. Unfortunately, that pass comes bundled with a half-dozen throws that are swatted away by defenders or force the receiver to fall backwards to make a play on them. Mond throws lots and lots of prayers into tight coverage. Every now and then, one of them is answered.
Mond impressed evaluators at the Senior Bowl, as Prescott and Wilson did before him, and that got the snowball rolling on him as a potential stealth franchise quarterback. Prescott also looked like a so-so prospect when playing for an SEC also-ran, though he looked significantly better than Mond. This is exactly the sort of logic that prompts would-be Isaac Newtons to try to patent their perpetual motion machines.
Mond will likely max out as a peppery backup and acceptable spot starter. But he’s the closest thing Kirk Cousins has had to a challenger since Robert Griffin.
Give the Minnesota Vikings credit for finally—finally—realizing they needed a Cousins escape hatch. Mond probably isn’t the answer, but he’s better than waiting until next year to even ask the question.
67. Houston Texans
Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Upside: Drew Stanton
Downside: Logan Thomas
Likely Comp: C.J. Beathard
Mills is the quarterback you talk yourself into if you are obsessed with body types and the ability to function under center. Rumor has it that Broncos general manager George Paton was forced to duct-tape John Elway to his desk chair to prevent him from drafting Mills with the ninth overall pick.
Mills was a top recruit and is a well-built athlete, but he is not an accurate or reliable passer and offers little as a runner. He also has a history of knee injuries. So his scouting report is mostly projection: Imagine what he could do in a less run-heavy offense, with better weapons, when fully healthy, after two years of NFL coaching, etc.
The Thomas projection above is based on Mills’ burly frame, leadership traits, and tendency to misfire on routine passes. Thomas, of course, is now Washington’s tight end.
Of course, you know what’s going on here with the Texans quarterback situation. Leaving the spicy stuff aside, they should have at least positioned themselves to get Kellen Mond.
This franchise is an utter multi-level disaster.
68. Atlanta Falcons
Jalen Mayfield, T, Michigan
Huge, inexperienced right tackle coming off a high ankle sprain. The Falcons may have him earmarked to start his career at guard. Don’t love the pick, don’t have much to say about it.
69. Cincinnati Bengals
Joseph Ossai, ER, Texas
Ossai is an edge rusher’s edge rusher who can be absolutely unblockable for long stretches. Against Oklahoma State, for example, he went Super Saiyan in the second half with a fumble recovery, a game-winning sack, one play where chased Chuba Hubbard down from behind, and another where he nearly obliterated quarterback Spencer Sanders before he could deliver a screen pass.
Ossai can string together moves, changes directions quickly, and explodes when he is within a few strides of the quarterback. That said, the Longhorns schemed him up with stunts to get many of his sacks and pressures. Ossai could be the sort of defender who is a little too easy to get detoured around the quarterback or rocked back in the running game.
I project Ossai as a sacks-in-bunches guy who will probably need to be protected against the run and will work best when allowed to attack from a variety of positions and angles. The Bengals benefitted from that wacky quarterback run: this is a fine value pick in the early third round.
70. Carolina Panthers
Brady Christensen, T, BYU
Christensen went on his mission to New Zealand after high school and will be 24 before the regular season starts. He looked great blocking for Zach Wilson, but the same Wilson caveats apply to Christensen: he was facing a schedule full of middling mid-major opponents. He’s big, powerful, and alert, but not a great technician. Christensen may max out as a swing tackle or four-position sub, but this is a solid enough “create some competition” pick for the third round.
71. New York Giants
Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Robinson is a thickly built, physical corner/safety hybrid who could excel in the slot or a Cover-2-heavy system. He plays the run, options, and screens very well. He has the quickness to blanket receivers on shorter routes. But on deeper routes, he doesn’t backpedal and flip all that smoothly, can get turned around in the open field, and either gives up a big play (four touchdowns allowed last year, per the SIS Football Rookie Handbook) or turns into Grabowski.
Overall, this is a sound pick with minimal risk and high-enough upside. I am really liking what the Giants are doing, and am therefore terrified.
72. Detroit Lions
Alim McNeill, DT, North Carolina State
McNeill is a rugged, burly little Poona Ford type with minimal pass-rush value. The Lions are clearly getting carried away with the “WE WILL BE TUFF IN THE TRENCHES” routine, especially since their receiver corps is currently a travesty.
73. Philadelphia Eagles
Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech
We have entered a strange little defensive tackle run in a draft where there are not many decent defensive tackles.
Williams had an exceptional pro day which helped push him up some draft boards. He was a productive playmaker for the Bulldogs, with 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons. But he looked very raw on the 2020 film I watched. He won some snaps by outmuscling or being faster than his blocker, but on many reps he got wired, blindsided by double-teams, or lost the leverage battle to a mid-major-caliber opponent.
Williams needs a lot of refinement to be more than a wave defender and interior pass-rusher on third-and-long. But he has high athletic potential. I like him better than Alim McNeill but think the Eagles should be seeking help in the secondary or more reinforcements on the offensive line or wide receiver.
74. Washington Football Team
Benjamin St. Juste, CB, Minnesota
When Jim Harbaugh offered him a full scholarship at the end of a Michigan tryout camp, the French-speaking St. Juste’s English was so weak that he didn’t have any idea what Harbaugh was telling him. St. Juste only found out a week later from the guidance department at his Montreal high school that he had earned a free ride to one of the most prestigious football programs on the continent.
You can read my full Fansided interview with St. Juste here.
I refer to St. Juste as the “French-Canadian Richard Sherman” in the headline to that profile because, you know, clickety-clicks. St. Juste has Sherman’s size and a touch of Sherman’s personality, but it would be unfair to compare his game to Sherman in any way. That said, he’s a tall, well-built, competitive cornerback with A-plus-plus off-field habits. He may max out as a situational matchup defender, but he should have a long, fine career.
75. Dallas Cowboys
Osa Odighizuwa, DL, UCLA
Effort-and-hustle guy with a quick first step and minimal pass-rush chops. Probably projects as a 3-tech tackle for the Cowboys. Mike McCarthy set out to find some tone-setters in this draft class, and Odighizuwa certainly checks that box.
76. New Orleans Saints
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Adebo appeared to be on his way to the top of draft boards after intercepting four passes in 2018, then was inconsistent and banged up in 2019 and opted out in 2020.
There’s a lot to like on Adebo’s 2018 tape, including a willingness to take on blockers that could make him a useful slot or force defender in the NFL. His pro day numbers are great, but then everyone’s pro day numbers in 2021 were great.
Adebo is a developmental pick with the upside to be an eventual starter; length, speed, and physicality should make him an immediate dime package and special teams contributor.
Somebody please shake the Saints by the collar and remind them that they are about to spend a season running the most expensive service academy offense in history and are in no position to keep noodling with sleepers.
77. Los Angeles Chargers
Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee
Palmer is a well-chiseled athlete with outstanding hands and overall pass-catching skills. He lacks any real separation capability and is an ordinary route-runner with so-so lateral quickness.
Palmer is willing to throw his muscles around as a blocker and hoovers up everything thrown to him, but it’s hard to project a 34-catch possession receiver at the college level to be much more than a No. 4 receiver at the NFL level.
The Chargers must have talked themselves into Palmer based on measurements, Senior Bowl interviews, and “playing for a struggling program in the SEC is hard” reasoning.
The Chargers nailed their first two selections, of course (Rashawn Slater and Asante Samuel Jr.) If my draft grades seem a little harsh in the third round, it’s because I am used to draft classes being much deeper. I knew the 2021 draft class was a little light, but I am really coming face to face with it as teams select guys in the third round whom I think of as fourth- or fifth-round picks.
78. Minnesota Vikings
Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
Surratt, a two-year starter for the Tar Heels with 6.5 sacks in 2019 and 6.0 last season, is effortlessly fast, allowing him to run with receivers in coverage and close the distance to the ballcarrier when pursuing plays laterally.
Surratt may be a little too lean to be more than a situational blitzer at the NFL level, but otherwise he could develop into an ideal three-down linebacker.
Surratt’s value may have slipped due to a reported 4.6-second 40-yard dash. One look at the film proves that he runs faster than he times.
See? There are still lots of players on the board that I am somewhat high on!
79. Las Vegas Raiders
Malcolm Koonce, ER, Buffalo
Koonce is a lean, frenetic defender with an NHRA edge rushing style: blast off the line and go as fast and straight as possible. He’s technically raw and a real reach at this point in the draft. But tools ‘n’ traits, traits ‘n’ tools, yada yada.
The Football Outsiders legal team recommends that you do not play the Compare Malcolm Koonce to Khalil Mack Drinking Game.
80. Las Vegas Raiders
Divine Deablo, S/LB, Virginia Tech
I sense a dichotomy within Divine Deablo. A roiling conflict between darkness and light, chaos and order. A cosmic, eternal battle encapsulated within his very essence. Something about him conjures images of an endless struggle between the ethereal and the infernal. If only I could put my finger on it…
I wanted to love Deablo, not just because of his name (his parents apparently wanted to offset his evil-sounding last name) but because he’s a 6-foot-3, 225-pound all-purpose defender with arms like a DC-10 who ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. Deablo also has a nose for the ball and a knack for coming up with big plays.
Unfortunately, Deablo doesn’t play to his timed speed and doesn’t display the lateral quickness to be an ideal modern “positionless” superweapon. The Hokies played him at free safety at times, but he wouldn’t even be in the camera frame for a Tyreek Hill touchdown if he tried to play deep in the pros. Deablo was also a fifth-year senior in 2020 and is probably maxed out athletically.
Deablo will probably become a solid nickel linebacker or adequate box safety in the NFL. The pro day results and production suggest that he could even offer a little more than that. But if the Raiders are looking for a Honey Badger, they will be disappointed.
Now THAT was a one-two punch of Raiders toolsy square pegs if ever I saw one.
81. Miami Dolphins
Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
One Team. One Tua. One ton of draft capital. One chance to finally return to relevance. THIS is DolphinQuest 2021.
The Problem: The Dolphins tight end corps of Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe is OK but by no means great.
The Solution: Another tight end who is OK but by no means great.
Long is a better blocker and more traditional in-line tight end than most of the others in this year’s class. He looks like Zach Ertz at times with his ability to gobble up lots of short passes in the flats and underneath zones. Like Ertz, Long also flashes YAC capability between long stretches of going to the ground immediately after the catch.
Long has a habit of ending up with the ball in his hands, especially after a play breaks down. He’s no Ertz, but he can stick for a long time as a reliable blocker and safety valve in the passing game.
Once again, I feel as though the Dolphins have managed to help themselves in this draft approximately 68.3% as much as they really should have.
82. Washington Football Team
Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
Brown was the designated deep threat for a loaded Tar Heels offense which also featured Dazz Newsome and running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Brown has the speed to eat cushions and gain separation, but he’s strictly a boundary receiver. He dropped 16 passes over the past two seasons according to Sports Info Solutions and can also be seen on film double-clutching on what should be routine receptions.
Brown’s production over back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons makes him worth a long look (a Playmaker Rating of 84.7% bears mentioning), but Washington may have just drafted a one-dimensional vertical threat who is just fast enough to defeat ACC cornerbacks.
That said, Washington needs a deep threat, and pickings are starting to get a little slim.
83. Carolina Panthers
Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
Tremble was trapped behind Cole Kmet early in his Irish career and then upstaged by freshman tight end Michael Mayer last season. As a result, Tremble caught just 35 career passes. He enjoyed an excellent pro day, however (who didn’t?), and some general managers draft Notre Dame tight ends through sheer force of habit.
Tremble has athletic potential and an excellent pedigree, and the Panthers tight end depth chart (Dan Arnold, Ian Thomas, my Uncle Giovanni Ricci) is a wasteland, but this is a wonky pick.
84. Dallas Cowboys
Chauncey Golston, DL, Iowa
Golston was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes with 12.0 sacks. Like Osa Odighizuwa, he’s a bit of a high-energy tweener, though he’s undersized to move inside. Dan Quinn has a plan for his defensive front, but I am not certain what it is.
85. Green Bay Packers
Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
It’s a little too little, it’s a little too late
I’m a little too hurt and there’s nothin’ left that I’ve gotta say
You can cry to me baby but there’s only so much I can take
Oh, it’s a little too little, it’s a little too late
Of all the Deebo Samuel-like receivers in this year’s draft, Rodgers may be the Deeboest Samuelest.
Rodgers is built more like a running back than receiver, and he runs like one, too. Rodgers lacks elite speed on film, but he has some crafty moves to get open in space over the middle and can haul in over-the-shoulder passes when he slips past the secondary.
Rodgers has been a major contributor to a stacked offense for three years and performed well at Clemson’s pro day. Not every versatile slot weapon is another Deebo, but Rodgers will find a way to help Packers quarterbacks Jordan Love and Chase Daniel as a slot receiver and source of YAC.
86. Minnesota Vikings
Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
Davis’ grandfather was Willie Davis, a Hall of Fame defensive end for Vince Lombardi’s Packers who passed away of kidney failure in April of last year.
Davis’ father Duane Davis played tight end at Mizzou in the 1980s, but injuries derailed his football career. So Duane Davis became an actor best known for playing Alvin Mack in The Program. When Wyatt was a child, strangers would walk up to his father and say “Kill EVERYBODY,” Mack’s catchphrase from that movie.
[Please do not walk up to random strangers and say “Kill EVERYBODY,” even if you suspect that they were movie actors and that was their catchphrase. —Football Outsiders legal team].
Duane Davis also played Buster Douglas and Philly college basketball legend Bo Kimble on screen, and he once got killed helping Steven Seagal save the world in Under Siege. His most amazing credit, however, came on a television show called Team Knight Rider, in which an ensemble cast helped heroic sentient sports car K.I.T.T. (and some vehicular pals) solve crimes.
Davis also had a recurring role on Sisters, but c’mon: Team Knight Rider! Tell me you wouldn’t watch the hell out of this. Also, either the wire effects were truly terrible, or Davis’ character could fly.
And now for a typically dreary guard scouting report (though for a very good guard). Davis has a thick base and wide body. He can do some road grader-type stuff. He reacts well to spinning defenders and on interior blitz pickup. He has good lateral quickness and is hard to disengage from.
Davis is not Quenton Nelson or Zack Martin but is everything a team needs in a starting guard. And he could probably play right tackle in a pinch.
Now back to more Team Knight Rider: five times the excitement, and five times the attitude!
87. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kendrick Green, G/C, Illinois
The Steelers offense ranked 32nd in adjusted line yards but first in adjusted sack rate in 2020. They ranked 30th in line yards but 12th in sack rate in 2019. Their sack rate hovered in the top five from 2016 through 2018, while their line yards dipped each season.
The numbers suggest that the Steelers need an overhaul on the offensive line, though an offense built on micro-passing hid their weaknesses to a degree. That’s why it has been odd to see the Steelers neglect their offensive line in this draft until now.
Green moved from defensive tackle to guard and ended his Illini career at center in place of injured starter Doug Kramer. He’s a solid athlete with a nasty reputation as a finisher. Green had some issues with his shotgun snapping when playing center but worked on them during the Senior Bowl. His future is likely at guard, but versatility won’t hurt.
Ornery guards tend to last longer in the NFL than technicians or behemoths, so don’t be surprised if Green ends up outperforming some linemen who were drafted earlier.
88. San Francisco 49ers
Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Sermon mounted some impressive performances at the end of the 2020 season, rushing for 331 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten title game and adding 254 scrimmage yards against Clemson in the FBS playoffs. He blessed the Oklahoma State backfield for three years before transferring to Ohio State. I would point out that running backs are largely interchangeable, but that would be like delivering some sort of homily to the choir.
OK, I’m done.
Sermon looked like 2017 Todd Gurley when the Buckeyes were cruising in December and January but more like 2019/2020 Gurley when their offensive line was struggling earlier in the season. That’s a bright yellow flag signaling that Sermon may be more of a product of his surroundings than a special runner. He’s also of limited value as a receiver.
49ers Draft Grades by DEATH METAL SHANAHAN: Laugh at my plans if you dare! You shall tremble before my new Anointed One and his weapons as we approach your kingdom. We shall assail you by air and ground. We shall overwhelm and undermine you. Prepare your body and soul for a ruthlessness unprecedented in human history. MUAHAHAHAHAHA.
89. Houston Texans
Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Not to engage in program scouting (heaven forbid we use past trends to make future predictions or anything unscientific like that), but Michigan has not produced a starting-caliber wide receiver since Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham in the mid-2000s. There are several reasons why, including Jim Harbaugh’s moribund offenses and the program’s preference for bigger (and often slower) possession-type receivers.
I’ve written my share of Michigan receiver scouting reports that began “well-built, physical receiver who works the middle of the field well” before working my way around to the fact that some team just probably spent a mid-round pick on a career fourth wideout and special teamer.
Collins is a well-built, physical receiver who works the middle of the field well. But whatever: the Texans are just trying to make it through each day.
90. Minnesota Vikings
Patrick Jones, ER, Pittsburgh
Jones is my favorite edge rusher in this draft class. He really eats up a lot of turf on his first two strides off the line of scrimmage. He can string together moves or rock his blocker off-balance with a violent collision. He has a disruptive inside move and a powerful bull-rush. He operates in space well when defending option plays and has the hustle to chase down scramblers from behind.
Jones pulled a hamstring during his pro day. As a result, he not only became the only human on earth to run slower than a 4.45-second 40-yard dash in March (it was reported at a gimpy 4.80 seconds), but Jones could not participate in linebacker drills. SackSEER hammered him with an ugly 13.6% rating, but again: pulled hammy.
Jones’ pro day misfortune may have been the Vikings’ gain: the rest of the league thought they were passing on an undersized defensive end, but I believe the Vikings just got a double-digit sack-producer as a standup linebacker who will be able to hold his own against the run.
The Vikings defense ranked last in the NFL in adjusted line yards and 28th in adjusted sack rate. They added former Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency and expect Danielle Hunter to return from back surgery, but their defense has weaknesses that one Hog Molly and a banged-up edge rusher cannot solve by themselves.
This was my favorite selection of the draft. And thank heavens, because I kinda hated the previous two or three picks.
91. Cleveland Browns
Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
Skinny slot guy and track star who was used a lot as a runner early in his career. Has a reputation for suspect hands. I didn’t do any real work on Schwartz, but he sounds like weak tea Mecole Hardman. I think there is still better, safer value at wide receiver on the board.
92. Tennessee Titans
Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
Well-regarded all-purpose linebacker who battled a foot injury that limited him for much of last season. Rice feels like a reach when defenders like Dylan Moses are still on the board. I really don’t have a feel for the Titans’ approach to this year’s draft.
93. Buffalo Bills
Spencer Brown, T, Northern Iowa
Brown stands over 6-foot-8 and looks every inch of it, which is a bad thing for someone expected to win NFL leverage battles. He has adequate quickness but is a head-ducker when blocking.
Brown succeeded in the Missouri Valley Conference by being a maple tree with long branches that defenders needed a few seconds to circumnavigate. He could succeed at the NFL level, but it will probably take a year in the skunk works to make him a better technician.
Man, I feel like the Grinch Who Stole the End of the Third Round.
94. Baltimore Ravens
Ben Cleveland, G, Georgia
Your basic 340-pound “Hulk Smash” guard. Cleveland fills a critical need and fits the Ravens system. I had a few players rated ahead of him.
95. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Robert Hainsey, T, Notre Dame
The tackle board really didn’t shake out like I thought it would this year. My guess is that some teams are leaning on high-character guys who played in 2020 and participated in the Senior Bowl (that’s Hainsey), while others are gambling and speculating on traits (the Bills a few picks ago, the Jaguars with Walker Little), and my own perceptions are off because I didn’t get to travel in the offseason.
Anyway: Hainsey appears to be pretty far down on most boards, but he’s little more than a redshirt insurance policy for the bench this season.
96. New England Patriots
Ronnie Perkins, ER, Oklahoma
Perkins is a rugged, alert, compact defender who lacks special traits as an edge rusher but has lots of secondary skills. Perkins disengages from blocks and hustles against the run, operates well on stunts and twists, and can make himself skinny when he finds a crease in the blocking scheme. He may max out as a guy who generates 2.5 sacks per year, but I enjoyed watching his film, and Bill Belichick knows how to develop precisely this type of defender.
97. Los Angeles Chargers
Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia
Where have you been?
Sailing the ocean blue.
And Tabby went as my good First Mate,
and Pearly and Mew were the crew.
No way this is a real human.
OK, he is, and he caught six passes last season after transferring to Georgia from Florida State.
Guys: Brevin Jordan, Kenny Yeboah, and Zach Davidson are all decent tight end prospects. This is a bad pick, and I don’t wanna touch it.
98. Denver Broncos
Quinn Meinerz, G/C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
I missed this year’s Senior Bowl because momma needed a new pair of Pfizer shots. That means I missed a chance to take part in one of my favorite pastimes: gushing about an obscure-program lineman. I got to interview Ali Marpet a few seasons ago and chit-chatted with Ben Bartch’s coaches while he thudded against big-school defenders in pit drills in 2019. Sadly, I never had a chance to lay eyes on Meinerz.
Fortunately, colleagues came through, not just with breathless blow-by-blow accounts of Meinerz’s accomplishments in Mobile, but video of the DIII standout teaching himself how to shotgun snap using a pizza slide and a garbage can.
Viral videos and predictable accolades aside (everyone in Mobile loves an unfamiliar helmet), I have no first-handing scouting notes on Meinerz. But it’s really late, so let’s whip up the Scouting Report-o-Matic.
Meinerz is a fine athlete who dominated lower-level competition. He then proved he could hang with the big boys at the Senior Bowl. He has the upside to be a capable NFL starter, though he may need a year to refine his technique and ramp up to the level of competition.
Indistinguishable from the real thing, right?
Seriously though: small-school linemen who roll through Mobile have a pretty strong track record of success, and Meinerz could end up like Marpet someday, blocking in the Super Bowl for a Hall of Famer like Aaron Rodgers.
99. Dallas Cowboys
Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State
Lean, lanky 6-foot-4 juco transfer. Dan Quinn likes tall cornerbacks and the Cowboys need all the help they can get in the secondary. This has been a weird third round for the Cowboys, and I hope they are pleased with it.
Grade: B for “Baffled.”
100. Tennessee Titans
Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
And there came a day, around the tail end of the 20th century, when Earth’s mightiest football champions got busy and produced a new generation of heroes to cover threats that no single cornerback could withstand. Young Cornerback Avengers: Assemble!
Name: Elijah Molden
Son of: Alex Molden, who played for the Saints in the 1990s and was briefly the teammate of Joe Horn, father of South Carolina (and now Panthers) cornerback Jaycee Horn. It’s like superhero continuity, folks: everything is connected.
The Huskies used Molden as a 191-pound slot corner/free safety/Will linebacker, and there were times that he tried to throw his body around like a chibi Brian Urlacher. Slot corner will be his natural NFL position, as he is just too puny for the “positionless defender” racket.
Molden is fast, quick, and competitive, with a knack for being around the ball (see: his much-memed leaping near-interception in the end zone against Zach Wilson). He’s a rodeo tackler against bigger ballcarriers. He’s also a bit of a projection because he was asked to do so many things he’s unlikely to do at the NFL level. But it’s easy to see him growing into a role where he covers nifty-shifty slot receivers and occasionally blitzes. There are shades of Budda Baker in his game.
Seriously: this guy was still on the board and the Cowboys drafted a clothesprop instead.
101. Detroit Lions
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
The Lions ranked dead-last in pass defense last season, per DVOA: 31st against deep passes, 31st against short passes, 30th against passes over the middle … you get the idea. A coaching change should help, and Jeff Okudah should get better after a disastrous rookie year (if he got any worse he would get lost on his way to the stadium), but the secondary was an area of obvious, glaring need entering this weekend.
Melifonwu’s brother Obi was a scouting combine Hall of Famer drafted by the Raiders in the second round in 2017. Obi turned out to be an injury-prone workout warrior. Ifeatu also blew up his pro day and looks as though he was sculpted during the High Renaissance. But while Ifeatu is smaller and lighter than his brother, he’s still 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and he’s both a smoother athlete and more natural defender than Obi.
Melifonwu projects as a matchup corner against taller receivers and Travis Kelce types. He can turn and run with those types of receivers, and he’s just physical enough to handle tackling and press coverage. He’s more of a project than some of the cornerbacks in this class who grew up in NFL locker rooms, but his raw tools make him intriguing.
Again … why didn’t the Cowboys draft this dude?
102. San Francisco 49ers
Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Solid press corner with return chops, plays the slot well.
49ers Draft Grades by DEATH METAL SHANAHAN: More defense. Resistance is futile. I am Locutus! Nay … I am Shanos the Mad Titan, the comic book version, and my minions shall make of you a sacrifice unto my royal consort, sweet lady Death.
103. Los Angeles Rams
Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina
High-energy Will linebacker likely to max out as a multi-position sub and special teamer. Basically another Bryce Hager. Hanging out at the beach turned out to be a great idea there, Rams.
104. Baltimore Ravens
Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU
Converted running back whom I did not do any real work on. I am once again shocked to see players I would normally consider sixth-round picks (I generally go about 25 players deep at cornerback) getting drafted so soon.
105. Denver Broncos
Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
Browning is a well-built athlete who flies all over the field. The Buckeyes often used him as a 240-pound slot corner as well as a pass-rusher in 2020, and he recorded 5.0 sacks as a rotation player in 2019.
Browning lacks the range in coverage to be a Tyran Mathieu, however. He’s more of a classic Will linebacker who can cover running backs and handle underneath zones while making plays in pursuit and contributing to a blitz package.
Thanks for spending the last two nights with me, folks! It was a thrill to be back at Football Outsiders for this year’s draft coverage. Look for me on Twitter @MikeTanier tomorrow. I will not be doing pick-by-pick coverage of Day 3 (I’ve done that a few too many times in my life to volunteer for it), but you can be sure that I’ll have some thoughts, as well as some beer selections. And of course, check back here at Football Outsiders for Audibles at the Line and other post-draft content.
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