The speculation is over, at least for the top two spots in the 2021 NFL draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars will pick first and the New York Jets will pick second, and nothing short of a trade will change that before April.
Everything else after that remains in flux heading into the final week of the regular season.
The unquestioned beneficiaries have been the possibly playoff-bound Miami Dolphins, who appear on the verge of having turned Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, this year’s fourth-round pick and next year’s sixth-rounder into — in addition to a 2020 first-round pick, Johnson Bademosi and Julién Davenport — a possible top-five overall pick next year and a high second-rounder.
Miami also owns its own first-rounder, currently at No. 23. Once again, this team will be a big-time player in the draft.
It’s not as good news for the Cincinnati Bengals, who have been in the draft’s No. 3 slot for the past several weeks. Winning two straight with their backup quarterback has now slid them to No. 5, behind two teams (Miami and Atlanta) that could take the offensive lineman the Bengals desperately seem to need.
Rounding out the top 10: the Philadelphia Eagles at six; the Detroit Lions at seven (are they in range for a QB?); the New York Giants at eight; and the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos at nine and 10, respectively.
Now let’s take a quick look at the top-five possibilities, the way things stand now.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14)
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
The draft drama begins at No. 2. This pick has to be set in stone already, right? Lawrence and the young Jaguars playmakers should make this a very fun team to watch in the offseason.
2. New York Jets (2-13)
BYU QB Zach Wilson
The debate starts with this: If general manager Joe Douglas believes Wilson (or Justin Fields or another QB) is better than Sam Darnold, then it’s going to be difficult going any other direction here. Missing out on Lawrence is tough to swallow, but the Jets have plenty of ammo to land a banner class.
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans, 4-11)
LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
We’re at the recency-bias stage where some media folks are asking, “Is Chase even that good?” Yes. He is. The real question, we believe, is whether he’s worth taking this high in the draft. There’s also the debate of whether he’s the best receiver in the class.
In the past 10 drafts, the receivers who have been taken in the top five are as follows: Corey Davis, Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, Justin Blackmon and A.J. Green.
The last top-three pick at wideout? That would be Calvin Johnson, in 2007.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-11)
Oregon OT Penei Sewell
There will be a debate on the merits of taking a QB to develop behind Matt Ryan or in Ryan’s stead if he’s moved in the offseason. We could see that possibility, especially with the Georgia-born Justin Fields still available.
But here we give the Falcons a potential bedrock left tackle in Sewell, whose arrival could allow the next head coach to kick either Kaleb McGary or Jake Matthews inside and possibly upgrade two OL spots with one fell swoop.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1)
Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley
Really tough spot for the Bengals, who would love Sewell. Cornerback would be a pressing need only if William Jackson III is allowed to walk in free agency, and there are some who wonder whether Farley is worthy of a top-five overall selection.
Trading down would be one option, if a QB-needy team wants to come up. They also could consider Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or Northwestern tackle-guard Rashawn Slater as options here.
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