Man, what did Mel Kiper put in his coffee this morning? I’ve seen some wild mocks in my day, but this might top them all. Earlier Thursday, ESPN’s resident draft guru unveiled an ambitious first-round mock featuring countless trades, none bigger than the Falcons moving up two spots to snag BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second overall pick. Though many in the draft community are bullish on Wilson’s upside coming off a breakout 2020, trading up for a late bloomer (Wilson was well off the first-round radar before this year) from a non-Power 5 school would take a momentous leap of faith on Atlanta’s part.
Perhaps even more vexing was his selection at No. 4, where Kiper has the Jets making a play for Florida standout Kyle Pitts. While the consensus seems to be that Pitts will go somewhere inside the top 10, a tight end coming off the board at fourth overall would be unprecedented. Talented as Pitts is, many would argue the Jets have more pressing needs than tight end, particularly with one of Justin Fields or Penei Sewell, if not both, likely to be available at that juncture. Speaking of Fields, despite GM John Lynch’s assistance that Jimmy Garoppolo will be back as the Niners’ starter in 2021, Kiper has them trading up for the Ohio State QB at No. 7.
But wait … there’s more! Kiper took another big swing at No. 8, mocking Mac Jones to the Carolina Panthers. The poise and skill Jones demonstrated throughout Alabama’s title run this past season was undeniable, though detractors, Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports among them, would suggest the quarterback was buoyed by an impossibly stacked supporting cast, rarely, if ever having to look to his second read. While it would be a surprise if Jones fell out of the first round, it’s equally hard to fathom a team choosing him over Trey Lance, who Kiper suspects will be a New England Patriot when all is said and done.
Last year’s draft saw a remarkable six receivers go in the first round (Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk) and from the looks of it, Kiper is expecting a similar result in 2021 with five wideouts among his top 32 including reigning Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, who he has landing with the Dolphins at No. 3. Many have wondered whether the Eagles, in their post-Carson Wentz incarnation, will hand their offense over to Jalen Hurts or wade back into the quarterback pool this offseason. Kiper, however, doesn’t see Howie Roseman and company going that direction, instead mocking LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase to the Eagles at sixth overall.
Before you get carried away, remember this is only Kiper’s second stab at a 2021 mock with future mocks likely to look much different. With at least a handful of mocks to go before the final product (he published five leading up to last year’s draft), why not dream big?