October 18, 2021

2021 T10B MOCK NFL DRAFT

Synopsis: Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, I predicted that four quarterbacks would go with the 1st four picks. The first four teams on the board didn’t need a new QB so I assumed some trades would occur. Apparently, I overestimated the desire/desperation for teams to trade-up because the 4th signal caller “only” went off the board with the 10th pick. I won’t make the same bold prediction this year, but I do believe that the 2021 NFL Draft will set a new standard with five QBs going with the first eight overall picks. Using history as a guide, I predict that one will be great, one will be good/very good, 1-2 will be OK, and 1-2 will bust. Let the fun begin!


2021 T10B MOCK NFL DRAFT

Relative to past years, the 2021 T10B Mock NFL Draft seemed to require less analysis. I usually have to expand my pool of candidates for the first 10 overall picks to 25+ names to be confident that I have considered everyone. With five QBs targeted as likely Top 10 picks, I only had to come up with five other players. Given a “once-in-a-generation” TE, two “sure-thing” WRs, and a dominant OT, I really only had to think about one more pick.

I contend that the 2021 NFL Draft will be more similar to a typical NBA draft with few true surprises at the top. Given that the Raiders don’t have an early pick, I’m not worried about any “reaches” (not counting QBs going much earlier than they should). Without further ado, I offer the 2021 T10B Mock NFL Draft.

2021 T10B MOCK NFL DRAFT
Pick Team Player Pos Daniel Jeremiah Mel Kiper PFN Rating NFL.com Rating Mock Draft Avg Rating Avg
#1 Jaguars Trevor Lawrence QB 1 1 1 1 1.00 1.00
#2 Jets Zach Wilson QB 2 2 5 4 2.00 5.00
#3 49ers Justin Fields QB 7 10 8 8 7.25 7.50
#4 Falcons Kyle Pitts TE 5 4 4 2 4.38 3.00
#5 Bengals Ja’Marr Chase WR 6 7 2 3 5.88 3.50
#6 Dolphins Penei Sewell OT 9 5 3 11 7.00 5.75
#7 Lions Trey Lance QB 4 6 15 7 7.00 11.25
#8 Panthers Mac Jones QB 3 3 16 32 5.38 20.25
#9 Broncos DeVonta Smith WR 11 8 7 6 10.13 6.25
#10 Cowboys Patrick Surtain II CB 12 12 6 9 10.63 11.25
#11 Giants Jaylen Waddle WR 16 11 11 5 10.88 7.00
#12 Eagles Micah Parsons LB 15 9 9 12 12.38 10.00
#13 Chargers Rashawn Slater OL 8 13 14 10 11.75 11.25
#14 Vikings Jaycee Horn CB 13 15 10 14 12.25 16.25

* Notes: PFN – Pro Football Network. In addition to the sources listed in the table, other contributors to the mock draft average include Todd McShay of ESPN, Patrik Walker of Sporting News, Chad Reuter of NFL.com, and Peter King.

There are a couple major changes this year.

1.  I extended my mock draft from 10 to 14 players. Frankly, there seemed to be a significant gap after these players so it provided a convenient stopping point. In addition, the players I ranked 11-14 seem to line up with the needs of the teams currently in those draft spots to I just kept going. Sometimes, I have identified “spoilers” who might creep into the top 10. I feel pretty good that at least 9 of the Top 10 picks are listed in the table above.

I missed on my earlier prediction that five QBs would go with the first eight overall picks, but I otherwise nailed it. Of note, the first 13 players taken in the 2021 NFL Draft came from the 14 players listed above. Furthermore, the one player I missed (Mac Jones) went 15th. If asked to pick one player from my mock draft who might fall to 15, I would have picked Jones. As support, keep reading. 

2. I changed my ranking methodology to include each player’s evaluation rating (last column) as well as his projected draft position (2nd to last column). In prior years, I simply ranked the players based on their average mock draft position and adjusted the results based on need. For instance, I ordinarily would have swapped QB Mac Jones (4th lowest average – 5.38) and TE Kyle Pitts (3rd lowest average – 4.38) given that the 49ers have declared that they’ll use their #3 pick on a QB. Despite conventional wisdom, I have a hard time believing San Francisco gave up so much value to take Jones that high. In contrast, I contend that Justin Fields could have been the impetus for the arguably lopsided trade. I’m not saying Fields won’t be a bust or that he’ll be better than Jones, just that everything makes more sense with him in the 3rd spot. To make the numbers work, I changed my methodology this year to include player ratings. Given that most scouts rate Fields much higher than Jones (or Trey Lance for that matter), I was able to get my desired result.

At this point, it might be worth digressing to assess the pre-draft trades involving top 10 picks. Specifically, San Francisco gave up three 1st round picks (including their 2021 #12 pick) and next year’s 3rd round pick to move up and get Miami’s 2021 #3 pick. In turn, Miami traded two first round picks and swapped 3rd round picks (#123 for #156) to move back up from #12 to #6 this year. In order to evaluate how “lopsided” these trades might have been, I need to reference the Jimmy Johnson Value Chart (which still serves as an indication of the market value for a draft pick) as well as the T10B Football Index (which serves as an indication of expected production based on draft position).

JIMMY JOHNSON VALUE CHART

Football IndexBased on this chart, the value of the #1 overall pick (3,000 pts) is worth the value of the #5 overall pick (1,700 pts) plus the #10 overall pick (1,300 pts). To the extent any trade involving draft picks varies significantly from these values, the demand for a specific player likely caused a team to “overpay.”

In contrast to the presumed market value of draft picks, I offer the following T10B Football Index (TFI) as an estimate for each draft pick’s expected production.

TFI – EXPECTED PRODUCTION BY DRAFT POSITION
Round
Pick 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1 100.0 50.0 35.0 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
2-3 95.0 50.0 32.5 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
4 85.0 50.0 32.5 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
5-10 75.0 47.5 32.5 25.0 20.0 15.0 12.5
11-13 70.0 45.0 30.0 25.0 17.5 15.0 12.5
14-16 60.0 42.5 30.0 25.0 17.5 15.0 12.5
17-19 60.0 42.5 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5
20-24 55.0 40.0 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5
25-32 50.0 40.0 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5

In prior years, I have evaluated pre-draft trades based on the difference between the expected value from the picks. For instance, the 49ers arguably need to get a player worth three 1st rounders and one 3rd rounder for the trade to pay off. This year, I’m taking a different approach based on a comment I heard recently that the lopsided nature of trades involving teams moving to the top of the draft would be the equivalent of paying a 400% interest rate on your credit card. I had never thought of a trade in those terms, so I tested it out.

Specifically, I evaluated the implied interest rate (i.e. discount) applied to future picks for the two trades discussed above. With respect to the tables below, the discount rate reflects the comparable credit card interest rate that would even out both sides. In the first trade, the 49ers discounted their picks by an annualized rate ranging from 43% (Jimmy Johnson Value- in orange) to 285% (TFI – in purple). The second trade was even more lopsided with implied interest rates ranging from 100% (Jimmy Johnson Value) to 2,000% (TFI). Miami likely didn’t think of the trades separately with one being great and the other being horrendous, but rather as a two-step trade that overall was really good. As shown in the third table below, the two trades resulted in an annualized net benefit to the Dolphins ranging from 24% (JJV) to 125% (TFI).

As previously mentioned, I typically evaluate pre-draft trades based on the net difference in expected value. For instance, the 49ers got a #3 overall pick with a TFI of 95 and gave up four picks with a TFI of approximately 208. As shown below, they will need to get a similar player to Matt Ryan to be worth the pick. For me, Justin Fields is more likely to be that guy than Mac Jones so that’s why I changed my methodology.

As a post-draft update, my thought process was correct. Specifically, I went against conventional wisdom that Mac Jones would go #3 simply because I didn’t think he would have been worth the San Francisco’s lost draft capital. I can’t take complete credit, however, because I picked the wrong alternative given that Trey Lance was the guy who went to the 49ers instead of Jones.

TFI – ILLUSTRATIVE QUARTERBACKS
Super Bowl All- Pro Actual Future Proj
Player Wins Games Pro Bowls WCAV TFI Career TFI
Tom Brady 7 10 3 14 180 470 5% 495
Peyton Manning 2 4 7 14 177 377 0% 377
Joe Montana 4 4 3 8 123 293 0% 293
Aaron Rodgers 1 1 3 9 151 251 10% 279
Patrick Mahomes 1 2 1 3 54 109 60% 273
Drew Brees 1 1 1 13 167 267 0% 267
John Elway 2 5 0 9 138 248 0% 248
Russell Wilson 1 2 0 7 120 185 20% 231
Ben Roethlisberger 2 3 0 6 128 213 5% 224
Dan Marino 0 1 3 8 145 220 0% 220
Matt Ryan 0 1 2 4 140 185 10% 206
Philip Rivers 0 0 0 8 149 189 0% 189
Cam Newton 0 1 1 3 111 141 10% 157
Matt Stafford 0 0 0 1 102 107 10% 119
Alex Smith 0 0 0 3 93 108 0% 108

For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts, I value on-field performance (i.e. stats) much more than combine results. Still, certain teams seemingly get infatuated with speed (i.e. fast “40 times” for WRs or DBs) or concerned with physical characteristics (e.g. QBs < 6′ tall or with small hands).

2021 T10B MOCK NFL DRAFT PHYSICAL STATS
Pick Team Player Pos. Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Time Vertical Leap Bench Press
#1 Jaguars Trevor Lawrence QB 6’6″ 220 lbs 31 1/2″ 10″
#2 Jets Zach Wilson QB 6’2″ 214 lbs 30″ 9 1/2″
#3 49ers Justin Fields QB 6’3″ 227 lbs 32 1/2″ 9 1/8″ 4.46
#4 Falcons Kyle Pitts TE 6’6″ 245 lbs 33 1/2″ 10 5/8″ 4.44 33.5 22
#5 Bengals Ja’Marr Chase WR 6’0″ 201 lbs 30 3/4″ 9 5/8″ 4.34 41.0
#6 Dolphins Penei Sewell OT 6’5″ 331 lbs 33 1/4″ 10 3/8″ 5.13 28.0 30
#7 Lions Trey Lance QB 6’4″ 226 lbs 31 1/4″ 9 1/8″
#8 Panthers Mac Jones QB 6’3″ 217 lbs 32 5/8″ 9 3/4″ 4.83 32.0
#9 Broncos DeVonta Smith WR 6’0″ 166 lbs 31 1/2″ 9 1/4″
#10 Cowboys Patrick Surtain II CB 6’2″ 208 lbs 32 1/2″ 10″ 4.47 39.0 18
#11 Giants Jaylen Waddle WR 5’9″ 180 lbs 30 3/8″ 9 1/8
#12 Eagles Micah Parsons LB 6’3″ 246 lbs 31 1/2″ 11″ 4.41 34.0 19
#13 Chargers Rashawn Slater OL 6’3″ 305 lbs 33″ 10 1/2″ 4.96 33.0 33
#14 Vikings Jaycee Horn CB 6’1″ 205 lbs 33″ 9 1/8 4.45 41.5 19

Relative to physical attributes, the outliers include:

  • On the positive side:
    • QB Trevor Lawrence has large hands (10″), which presumably helps with ball security in bad weather or when avoiding a rush.
    • QB Justin Fields is very fast (4.46 time in the 40, despite slipping at bit at the start).
    • TE Kyle Pitts added to his mystique as a unicorn with a combination of speed and size
  • On the negative side:
    • Justin Fields has small hands (9 1/8″)
    • OTs Penei Sewell (33 1/4″) and Rashawn Parsons (33″) both have short arms
      • Team supposedly want to see linemen with at least 34″ arms to ward off oncoming rushers.
    • DeVonta Smith is small (6’0″ and 166 lbs).
      • Tyreek Hill is only 5’10” so I hope teams don’t outthink themselves on this one.
CONCLUSION

I’m looking forward to a return to normalcy with players hugging the Commish as they reach another milestone along a path that likely started as a childhood dream. In that regard, none of these guys are busts. Now that they have made it this far, however, they are susceptible to a new level of scrutiny. I’ll give them some time before tearing down the dream and exposing potential Top 10 Busts. As a former New Yorker, I can assure anyone going to the Jets won’t get that same guarantee. Get ready Zack, you’re not in Provo anymore.

2021 T10B MOCK NFL DRAFT

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