University of Central Florida was edging towards a final field goal attempt, until quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw a horror pass to allow Louisville to intercept and score the matchwinner.
It’s draft day!
The speculation will soon be over, but just before we find out who is going where, it is time for a final draft-eve mock draft. It’s the moment dozens of young American football players discover whether their dreams will come true and have their lives changed forever.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s event was fully virtual, but this time the event will occur live in Cleveland, Ohio. Fully-vaccinated NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be on hand to once again give out his trademark bear hugs the players so dearly missed last season.
Australians once again lead the way in terms of best punters available with Kentucky’s Max Duffy (Perth) and Cincinnati’s James Smith (Melbourne) expected to be the first two punters selected. While punters don’t get selected too often in the draft, these two may well be the exception, with Duffy expected to be taken between the fourth and sixth rounds and Smith between the fifth and seventh rounds.
Along with Duffy and Smith, Melbourne pair Haydon Whitehead (Indiana) and Stan Gaudion (Hawaii), as well as Queenslander Tyson Dyer (New Mexico) have also declared for the draft.
The first round of the three-day event begins on Friday at 10 am (AEST) on ESPN/Kayo and as many as five quarterbacks could go in this year’s first ten picks. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, here’s a look at my final mock draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
While no prospect is a sure thing, Lawrence has been earmarked as a future star for three years now. With the Jaguars having already provided the 198 cm tall Lawrence their playbook, there is no chance the Jaguars won’t select him here.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Similarly, to Lawrence, this looks like a very safe pick. The Jets traded their starting quarterback last season (Sam Darnold) to the Carolina Panthers. Wilson has been compared to Patrick Mahomes because of his often-unorthodox throwing style.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The 49ers traded up for this pick and look set to take Jones here after his incredibly high passing accuracy in leading Alabama to the NCAA championship.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Pitts looks set to be the first non-quarterback taken. An unstoppable pass catcher, Pitts looks primed to immediately make a mark.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Bengals need to provide help to Joe Burrow, and there is no better target in this year’s draft than Chase. The two combined brilliantly together at LSU as they were NCAA champions in 2019-20, and Burrow is reportedly keen to reunite.
6. Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
A tough break for Miami, who will hope Chase drops to them at 6. Here I have them taking one of the fastest and most explosive athletes in the draft reuniting Waddle with his college QB – Tua Tagovailoa.
7. Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Wide receiver may be the team’s biggest need after losing Kenny Golladay to the Giants, but it may be difficult for the team to pass up American Samoan-born Sewell, the best player available.
8. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
If the modern-day athletic QB Fields is available here, the Panthers can draft him and let him battle it out for a starting spot with new recruit Sam Darnold.
9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.
The fifth quarterback taken in the top nine picks. Lance looks like a talent and will push Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting position right away.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
The only defensive player taken in the top ten, Surtain was part of a brilliant Alabama side. After going up against the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith in training over the last few seasons, Surtain is expected to immediately shine in the NFL.
11. New York Giants: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
12. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT
15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, EDGE
18. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB
19. Washington Redskins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB
20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT
21. Indianapolis Colts: Jaelan Phillips, DE
22. Tennessee Titans: Kadarius Toney, WR
23. New York Jets: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jayson Oweh, EDGE
26. Cleveland Browns: Jamin Davis, LB
27. Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall, WR
28. New Orleans Saints: Caleb Farley, CB
29. Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome, CB
30. Buffalo Bills: Asante Samuel Jr, CB
31. Baltimore Ravens: Trevon Moehrig, S
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE