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NFL Draft Notebook: Draft Night Predictions

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After months of talking, debate, and mock drafting, it’s finally here. The 2021 NFL Draft is merely two days away, and the mystery over what will happen at #30 will be revealed. Today, let’s make some predictions about what you should expect to see on draft night. Each draft is unpredictable, and 2021 will be no different. Several superstar talents are slated to be taken in the first round despite the fact that they sat out their entire college football season due to Covid issues. 

Here is what I expect will happen on draft night, including who I think the Bills will select at pick 30.

1. Five Quarterbacks Will Be Drafted in the Top 10. 

It might not seem like the boldest prediction, but never have we seen five quarterbacks selected in the first ten picks of the draft. In the Josh Allen draft class of 2018, we saw four quarterbacks taken in the top ten (Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, and Rosen). That was exceedingly rare, but 2021 is set to one-up it. 

The first three picks are slam dunks to be quarterbacks. I also think Atlanta’s #4 pick will be used on a quarterback, either by the Falcons or a QB-needy team that moves up. The Patriots and Broncos could both use quarterbacks and could target the Lions or Panthers picks, #7 and #8 overall. However it works, expect to see an NFL record number of quarterbacks selected in the top ten. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields will all hear their names called in the first ten picks. 

2. No Defensive Players Taken Until Pick #10

Expect offensive players to dominate round one. In addition to the five quarterbacks, a deep wide receiver and offensive tackle class will dominate early. When it’s all said and done, the Cowboys at #10 will be the first team to select a defensive player. A corner makes sense for a Dallas team with a terrible pass defense, and Patrick Surtain will be sitting there for Jerry Jones. 

We’ve rarely seen a draft with no sure-fire top 10 picks on the defensive side. In a normal year, Micah Parsons would be just that, but a combination of potential character concerns and having sat out the 2020 season have pushed him down to the 10-15 range. Pass rushers are generally the most coveted defensive players, and this draft doesn’t have any elite ones.

3. No Running Backs in Round One

Najee Haris and Travis Etienne are the heavy favorites to be the first two running backs off the board, and most mock drafts have at least one going off the board in the 20s. I think the league has figured out the running back position is not a first-round position, except when there is a rare talent available. I like Harris and Etienne. Both should be decent pros. But neither is a franchise-changing talent, and both will be early second-round picks come Friday.

Running back is a sexy position, but let’s face it: it’s become a very devalued position. The Patriots were winning Super Bowls quite often with no big-name running backs. The Chiefs won a Super Bowl with undrafted free agents patrolling their backfield. Even Derrick Henry, the best back in the league, was a second-round pick.

4. DeVonta Smith Drops

There’s always a player or two that is thought to be a high-end draft pick that drops down the board. This year, that player will be Heisman winner DeVonta Smith. Smith has tremendous talent, but he also has a few things working against him. First, he’s very thin. He’s about 170 pounds soaking wet, with a slight frame that will likely always be small. Second, this is a very deep wide receiver draft. Jaylen Waddle, Jamarr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, and Kadarious Toney are all in consideration to be first-round picks. At the end of the day, I think the size factor works against him, and Smith drops well down the board, possibly even out of the first round. 

5. The Bills Select…

This is a really difficult selection to nail down. The draft is unpredictable, and trying to figure out how those first 29 picks are going to shake out is likely an exercise in futility. Expect a flurry of trades, some major reaches, and some surprising sliders. So, what happens when the Bills are on the clock at #30?

We know a quarterback is out of the question. Brandon Beane stated that the Bills wouldn’t be investing in someone with a spotty medical history in round one. That seems to eliminate Jaelan Phillips and Caleb Farley. Beane has also repeatedly said that they will trust their board and take the best player available. I think that means both running backs are highly unlikely. I think this comes down to three main positions for Buffalo: cornerback, offensive line, and defensive line. 

If Christian Barmore or Kwity Paye drops to #30, I think they’ll be the pick. That said, there’s a good possibility that both are gone by then. When the dust settles, I think the Bills find themselves with either a new offensive lineman or a cornerback. In this scenario, I’m predicting that the Bills will select Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Junior. He has terrific man cover skills and is a polished prospect who can contribute early. He has the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot. There may be some question as to how he fits into the Bills zone scheme, but I don’t think it’s a big issue. It’s harder for a corner who excels in zone coverage to be asked to play man than the other way around. Regardless of scheme, a top-flight corner needs to have coverage skills, and that’s Samuel’s strongest trait. His instincts and his ability to close on the ball make him a good fit in any scheme. If he’s available, I think he’s the right choice. 

What do you think, #BillsMafia? What are your bold predictions for the draft? Who do you ultimately see the Bills selecting? Enjoy the draft everyone! Next, we’ll have a brand new draft class to break down in detail!

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