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ESPN: 2021 NFL Draft Order Projection

Christian McCaffrey
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

New at ESPN+: Your first look at Football Outsiders' team projections for 2020, as we go through our projected top ten for the 2021 draft. This was originally suppoesd to run alongside Todd McShay's annual "too-early" mock draft for the next year, but that's been delayed a bit by McShay's illness. Get well, Todd.

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24 comments, Last at 12 May 2020, 8:59am

1 First of three

This will be the first of three legitimate runs at the first pick in the draft. The only thing that can stifle the Panthers now is losing the season to the coronavirus. But they are prepared to suck for as long as it takes. And then longer.

2 Are they better positioned…

In reply to by morganja

Are they better positioned to out stink the Jaguars? I mean...the Jags have practically gutted themselves of any decent veteran making more than the minimum.


Bridgewater is probably better than second year Minshew, but CMC is miles better than anyone on the Jags. 

8 What a train wreck…

What a train wreck organisation the Jaguars have been for the last decade +. How have they managed to turn an AFC Championship appearance in 2018 into arguably the worst roster in the league in just two years?

9 Well, in fairness, its…

Well, in fairness, its easier than you think.  For starters, the team that made the afc title run is exactly the type of team that is hard to sustain greatness from - namely - a defense heavy, run heavy but mostly inefficiently and play hide the QB. 

I think there were several points of demarcation. Bortles is a bad starting qb(he might be an ok backup) and the offense as a whole wasn't that good to begin with. They then made a colossal whiff with Foles(something an analytics heavy ownership / front office should never have allowed in the first place) 

There were other things. A too good to pass up offer for disgruntled Ramsay. The sabbatical of Telvin Smith. Age declines in Campbell, Bouye falling off a cliff, Dante Fowler being perennially injured during that period. 

Once you zoom out, you saw a roster that was top heavy with veteran defensive talent, a sinkhole on offense and you just think even above average qb play puts you in the NFL's version of purgatory. Better to hit the reset button was their thinking. 

I am more amazed they have kept Marrone as the coach this long. Coupled with the Gus Bradley era and man the Jaguars have entered a really prolonged dark period. 




12 Yeah, the crux of the matter…

Yeah, the crux of the matter (to which you allude), is that the Jaguars prolonged dark period has been caused by lousy QB play. They hit upon a great defense one year, but that alone isn’t sustainable. 

They’ve really experienced the worst of all worlds with their QBs in the past decade: colossal draft bust (Gabbert); cheap, replacement level dirge (Henne); prolonged draft disappointment (Bortles); and expensive free-agent bust (Foles). Of them all, Bortles was probably the most ruinous, showing just enough promise, and benefitting from fortuitous enough circumstances (said great defense) to be persisted with for four whole years. But an all-round dismal tale. 

14 if the Browns didn't exist…

if the Browns didn't exist it'd be maybe the longest sustained run of terrible play in football history (the run of top-5 picks was already historic);  even before this, it isn't like Leftwich was what you'd hope for in a first-round quarterback.  Wouldn't be surprised if Khan's endgame is moving the team;  for a data-oriented organization they've made plenty of indefensible moves (I'd have drafted Watson over Fournette at four, and Lamar over Taven Bryan the next year, but Lamar, at least, wouldn't have been the success he is in Baltimore, here)

15 Buffalo between 2004 and…

Buffalo between 2004 and 2017 was a pretty terrible run. Bengals in the 90s and early 2000s was pretty awful. Tampa Bay has also been on the low end of mediocre for a long time now. 


One pattern that emerges over and over. A team will draft a first round qb, that player will end up a bust. They will then try to avoid the risks of a first round qb by settling on some kind of mediocre veteran which ends badly and the cycle repeats. Right now Jacksonville is in the cycle of hoping it works with Minshew but i expect them to draft a qb next season.  


3 This schtick is getting old…

In reply to by morganja

This schtick is getting old. We all get it, you hate the Panthers for firing Ron Rivera, who you worship as a God for some reason.  You're like RaderJoe talking about the Raiders, except without the quirky typing and the seriously massive amount of knowledge and insight RJ has about the other 31 teams.

16 Have you made it your life's…

Have you made it your life's work to troll me? Have you ever, in the past several decades, thought that perhaps people have tired of your blasphemous worship of the Patriots? 
You seem incensed that anyone anywhere talks about anything except about how awesome the Patriots are. 
I have supported the Panthers through some awful seasons, 1-15, springs immediately to mind. I am going to talk about the Panthers, and yes, I am upset that they completely sabotaged their team.
Guess who else agrees that the Panthers are going to suck this year to the point they are going to get the first pick in the draft?
Oh yeah. 
The site you are on.
You can take your Patriots and stick them up your racist, trolling behind. Piss off and let the rest of us discuss our own teams.

19 Hey there folks

Just dropping in to remind you that we're not really into commenters attacking each other in our discussion threads. Knock it off and keep it positive towards each other. Thanks.

22 I'm not the guy you are…

I'm not the guy you are responding to, but having seen previous posts, I'm pretty sure he's not a Patriots fan so the whole premise is wrong.

But even if he was, calling someone a racist and then telling them off over a football post is just weird. You really need to comport yourself better.

5 Don't have ESPN plus, so I…

Don't have ESPN plus, so I haven't seen the article, but I would think a contender for the top pick would emerge from the AFC East, since those teams all have brutal schedules, along with travel distance.  Of course, actual opponents' winning percentage works against teams when tied, so perhaps Cleveland might have a shot (I would be surprised though).  The Panthers and Jaguars have schedule strengths of .500 and .494 respectively.  Perhaps the Bengals repeat as reverse champions?

6 Let me know...

... when the actual article is available, and not being held hostage behind the WWL's paywall.


7 Can someone send the link or…

Can someone send the link or tell me the FOA year and page where it says run defense is a better predictor of next year’s defense than pass defense? To be honest, I’m skeptical, but it was mentioned a lot in the almanac last year and pops up again here.

20 No specific article

I don't think we've ever written an article specifically about this. It's just an element of the team projection system for the last few years, so we reference it when it plays a role in unexpected projections. Maybe we'll pick one of the teams where this is a thing in 2020 and talk about it a little in the book.

10 escaping QB hell

The Panthers are escaping QB Hell.  Bridgewater is a major upgrade from Allen/Grier.  Sometimes that change in leadership alone can propel a team to a significantly better record than expected. 

11 On the other hand, if you…

In reply to by Jetspete

On the other hand, if you think Rivera is a good coach( I do) or a modern day Lombardi(morganja), then you lose something there + no Kuechly.

Bridgewater's value is still a big question mark for me.

17 Bridgewater is an upgrade…

Bridgewater is an upgrade from Allen/Grier. So would be Blake Bortles. But a minor upgrade in quarterback isn't going to compensate for the loss of the entire coaching staff and its replacement with a couple of one hit college wonders, who all signs point to the players not being excited about.
They have one linebacker and still no answer at defensive line for the worst run defense. The inexplicable switch to a 3-4 appears, in retrospect, to have originated from the owner, who is a big fan of the Steeler defenses. They didn't have the personnel to make it work last year, and they are even worse off this year. Rivera has already gone back to a 4-3 in Washington, which shows how much he liked it.
They did nothing for the offense, and especially the line, which, when I think about it, is actually far, far better than what Gettleman did to Rivera by signing Matt Kalil to a huge contract. That is a huge blaring neon sign that screams we intend to lose this year and get a long term quarterback in the next draft. But what are the chances that this coaching staff with so little experience and a meddling owner are going to be able to pick a good quarterback, even at the top of the draft?
And what good is a great quarterback, even if they luck into it, on a team with a college level staff? What confidence should a Panther fan have in this team?