You see a lot of mock drafts that try to project which prospects will go where, and in some cases, when trades will happen, but today, I go a different route — though it comes with a purpose.
What I do is a need-only mock draft where all NFL teams are focused on their biggest needs, regardless of positional value or who might actually be the best player on the board. The purpose of this mock draft is to illustrate what happens if all teams fixated on their biggest needs, as opposed to taking a quality player, even if it's not a priority need, or thinking about whether it's worth taking that position at that point of the draft.
My mock draft covers the first round only and I utilized Pro Football Network's simulator and rankings. My conditions were simple: I looked at each team's biggest needs, then checked to see who was the top-ranked player at those needed positions. From there, I made my selections.
Furthermore, I set the rule that no trades are allowed. In other words, every team drafts where it's at.
Again, the purpose of this is to illustrate what happens if you put need above all other factors. I'm sure you will find the actual draft, while with some picks similar, will see other players go much earlier or later than they did here.
Let's see how this draft turned out — and, in particular, who the Denver Broncos landed.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence | QB | Clemson
No surprise here. Lawrence is the best overall prospect in the NFL Draft and the Jaguars need a quarterback. Thus, he's the No. 1 overall pick.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson | QB | BYU
Most everyone thinks Wilson will be the pick, and Wilson was the highest-rated QB prospect by PFN. Thus, the Jets gets the player everyone expects to go No. 2 overall.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields | QB | Ohio State
Now we come to the pick in which it's anyone's guess as to which QB the Niners will take. In this case, Fields was the highest-rated QB prospect remaining, so he goes to the Niners.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance | QB | North Dakota State
Even with Matt Ryan under contract for the next couple of seasons, quarterback was listed as a high need by PFN. Therefore, Lance was the pick and QBs go off the board in the first four picks.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell | OT | Oregon
The Bengals need an offensive tackle and Sewell was the top-rated player at that position. In this case, I wouldn't be surprised if he's the actual pick here.
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase | WR | LSU
The Dolphins need a wide receiver and Chase was the top-rated player per PFN's rankings. Again, it wouldn't surprise me if Chase goes off the board here.
7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle | WR | Alabama
Wide receiver is a major need for the Lions, and though Waddle has health concerns going into 2021, he's PFN's top-rated player at WR at this point of the draft.
8. Carolina Panthers: Patrick Surtain II | CB | Alabama
We have our first defensive player going off the board here. Cornerback isn't the Panthers' biggest need, but Surtain was ranked ahead of other players, so I went with him. This is the first instance in which I don't believe this is the actual pick made.
9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons | LB | Penn State
This is a pick that Broncos fans will either love or hate. This pick is also a reminder about how my rules worked about a "needs first" draft, and what happens when you do that.
Parsons certainly fits a major need, but not everyone thinks you should take an off-ball linebacker in the top-10. Furthermore, Parsons' character issues are a concern.
I will say that, if the Broncos don't get the chance to pick a QB, I expect them to trade down, rather than reach for need here.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn | CB | South Carolina
The Cowboys need cornerback help and Horn was the top-rated player at the position. I do expect the Cowboys to take a cornerback, though I'm not positive that Horn will be their guy.
11. New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari | EDGE | Georgia
The Giants need more help in the pass rush and, while some might think it's a bit high for Ojulari, he was one of PFN's higher-rated players when the pick came up. Thus, I made the decision to take Ojulari.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith | WR | Alabama
In this scenario, Smith goes to the Eagles, who need WR help. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles did take a receiver, though perhaps it's somebody other than Smith.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater | OT | Northwestern
The Chargers need an offensive tackle and Slater was the top player at the position. Here's another team in which I expect the position will be the pick, though it may not be the player in question.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker | OL | USC
I had to make a decision here because there were several positions I could have considered, but none of the players were ranked as high as Vera-Tucker. Some might think it's too early to take a guard, but that's how things went with my criteria.
15. New England Patriots: Najee Harris | RB | Alabama
Here's a pick I don't expect to become reality, but as I've said, this is what happens when you prioritize need above everything else. The Patriots needed a running back and Harris was the best player at that position on the board.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Greg Newsome II | CB | Northwestern
Again, I had to make some decisions about which needed position to fill and, ultimately, I settled on cornerback. Newsome was the top player remaining at that position and, thus, he went to the Cardinals.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Darrisaw | OT | Virginia Tech
The Raiders do need more help on the offensive line and Darrisaw was the highest-ranked player at that position. I could have looked at other positions, but offensive tackle was the biggest need.
18. Miami Dolphins: Travis Etienne | RB | Clemson
We have two running backs going off the board in picks 11 through 20. There are other ways I could have gone, but running back was the Dolphins' biggest need. You may not like taking a running back this soon, but this how the "needs first" rules go.
19. Washington Football Team: Mac Jones | QB | Alabama
The fifth quarterback to go off the board in the first round goes to Washington. I will say it wouldn't surprise me if Jones goes off the board around this spot, but it may not be Washington.
20. Chicago Bears: Samuel Cosmi | OT | Texas
If Jones hadn't gone off the board at No. 19, he certainly goes here. But with Jones gone, I go to the next position the Bears needed, and that was offensive tackle.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye | EDGE | Michigan
Some might prefer Paye to Ojulari, but PFN's rankings meant Ojulari went off the board earlier. As far as the Colts go, if there isn't an offensive tackle here that they like, it won't surprise me if they take an edge rusher in the actual draft, though it might not be Paye.
22. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman | WR | Minnesota
The Titans were another team in which I could have gone different directions, but I settled on wide receiver here and Bateman was the top-ranked WR on the board.
23. New York Jets: Teven Jenkins | OT | Oklahoma State
Had Bateman not gone to the Titans, he would have gone here to the Jets. But with Bateman gone and offensive tackle the next need for the Jets, they get Jenkins instead.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Creed Humphrey | OC | Oklahoma
The Steelers need a center to replace the retired Maurkice Pouncey and Humphrey is one of the highest-rated players still on the board. I won't be surprised if Humphrey is the actual Steelers' pick, though they could go another direction.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Pitts | TE | Florida
Yes, you read this right — tight end wasn't listed as a major need for a team until this point in the draft, so a player considered a top-10 prospect goes off the board here. How lucky are the Jaguars in my 'needs first' mock draft?
26. Cleveland Browns: Joseph Ossai | EDGE | Texas
I will say it's strange that the edge rushers aren't going off the board as high as they would in most years, but that indicates the uncertainty around some of the players. At any rate, the Browns need help there and Ossai is the top-ranked edge rusher at this point.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jayson Oweh | EDGE | Penn State
And edge rushers go off the board in back-to-back picks, because the Ravens have a big need there. Oweh was the top-ranked edge rusher remaining.
28. New Orleans Saints: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | LB | Notre Dame
Not until this pick did I run into a team that had off-ball linebacker as a major need. This is actually a spot in which it's not a bad idea to take a linebacker.
29. Green Bay Packers: Caleb Farley | CB | Virginia Tech
You'll hear the cries about the need for a wide receiver, but none were ranked high enough to justify taking one. So I went with cornerback, another need the Packers have.
30. Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau | EDGE | Miami (FL)
The Bills needed an edge rusher and, while some might think Rousseau is a second-rounder, taking him at No. 30 overall isn't a bad move.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Leatherwood | OT | Alabama
The Chiefs managed to fill a big need here. To think they might be starting two inexperienced players at tackle -- Lucas Niang was a 2020 third-round pick, but opted out because of COVID-19.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore | DT | Alabama
The top-ranked defensive tackle goes to the defending Super Bowl champions. I don't know if the Bucs will be this fortunate in the actual draft because I can see a team taking Barmore earlier.
Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMorrisSports.
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