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NFL mock draft 2021: Projecting where Alabama, Ohio State players will land in first round

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NFL mock draft 2021: Projecting where Alabama, Ohio State players will land in first round

The 2020 NFL season is into the the 2021 NFL divisional playoffs. The college football season has reached its end with the College Football Playoff championship game.

That makes it another good time to expand our latest Sporting News first-round 2021 NFL mock draft. Now we know picks No. 1 through No. 24, with six teams eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend. We also know there will be plenty of top pro talent on display between Alabama and Ohio State on Monday night.

Here’s breaking down all the projected selections, based on the updated draft order according to Tankathon:

MORE: Alabama vs. Ohio State players in the NFL

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NFL mock draft 2021

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

  • Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)

Lawrence didn’t have the best finish to his college career, but he lived up expectations of being a generational talent at the position, the second in a row after Joe Burrow. He’s a great leader and winner on top of being a strong-armed passer and capable tough runner. Lawrence will clean up the Jaguars QB mess, attached to a new coach, potentially former big college winner Urban Meyer. Lawrence can have success right away with the Jaguars having a decent offensive line and top young skill players such as James Robinson, D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr.

2. New York Jets (2-14)

  • Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)

Fields wasn’t having the most standout second season for the Buckeyes in Big Ten play, but he saved his absolute NFL-loving best for lighting up Clemson and outplaying Lawrence with a dazzling all-around performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Sam Darnold may haven’t gotten the fairest shake with things around him under now fired Adam Gase, but regardless, he doesn’t have the type of ceiling Fields does. Fields can quickly help New York play catch up with the Bills (Josh Allen) and perhaps pass the Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa) with his immense natural physical talent.

MORE: Why Trevor Lawrence is a much better fit with Jaguars than Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)

  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6-1, 208 pounds)

Chase opting out of LSU’s mess of post-Joe Burrow season was a good decision to preserve his stock as the unquestioned best wideout in the class, even though he has some tough competition for that status from an Alabama duo. Chase posted 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs during the national championship season and can join former teammate Justin Jefferson in lighting up the NFL as a versatile playmaker. The Dolphins could use him as a true big-play go-to guy for Tagovailoa to support DeVante Parker, much like Jefferson played well off Adam Thielen as a rookie.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

  • Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan (6-4, 272 pounds)

The Falcons need to invest heavily in their pass defense (again) in the 2021 draft. They need to hit on someone who can get after the quarterback and dominate physically and athletically against offensive tackles. Paye is a freak of nature and has quickly shot up draft boards. It’s hard not to think about a combination of Ziggy Ansah and Jason Pierre-Paul in that sense.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)

Protecting Burrow better while also boosting the running game up front has to be a priority for Zac Taylor’s team. Sewell is the exact kind of rock the Bengals need and they shouldn’t hesitate to jump on him if he’s on the board. After Lawrence to the Jaguars, his availability would make Sewell the easiest pick in the first round.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)

  • Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)

The Eagles got some flashes from Alex Singleton but otherwise had a glaring defensive weakness at linebacker, struggling both in cleaning up against the run and second-level pass coverage. They can stay in state to get a rangy playmaker in Parsons, going for matching value with need vs. going wide receiver. Parsons is a hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man in the Luke Kuechly game-changing mold.

MORE: The biggest busts in NFL Draft history

7. Detroit Lions (5-11)

  • DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 175 pounds)

The Lions got a nice closing stretch from Marvin Jones Jr. with Kenny Golladay (hip) on the shelf for most of the season, but Jones is also heading into his age 32 season as a free agent. It makes sense to think about a high-level replacement who can form a great new combination with Golladay for Matthew Stafford (or whoever else might be at QB for a new coach). Smith has picked up from he left off last season to become Heisman Trophy-worthy. He has 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 20 TDs in 12 games this season.

8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

  • Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (6-3, 210 pounds)

Wilson has had an exceptional season with his accuracy and downfield passing to emerge as the draft class’ third-best QB prospect after Lawrence and Fields. Teddy Bridgewater did OK as the Panthers’ bridge QB out of necessity, but there’s also an indication they have a limited ceiling with him and should think about replacing him by 2022 with a longer-term solution. Wilson would be a strong, cerebral fit for Joe Brady’s offense.

9. Denver Broncos (5-11)

  • Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)

The Broncos had shaky cornerback play with aging A.J. Bouye as their best outside option. They will also think about further boosting their edge pass rush, but they also won’t pass up on some shutdown potential for the secondary. Farley was one of the first top prospects to opt out for his final college season. He has great size and solid all-around coverage skills for the position. 

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10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

  • Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)

Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player. The Cowboys’ secondary has been awful without Byron Jones and Surtain would be a good complement to fellow Alabama product Trevon Diggs. Jerry Jones needs to focus on shoring up the back end first in the process of fixing the defense.

11. New York Giants (6-10)

  • Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)

The Giants are strong up the middle defensively and look much better at cornerback, but they are in desperate need of punching their old calling card on the edge under Dave Gettleman. Rousseau, who opted out of the Hurricanes season, didn’t really need to play to boost his stock after posting 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his lone significant and final season under defensive-minded head coach Manny Diaz.

12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)

  • Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-4, 226 pounds)

Lance is slowly climbing back up boards with his massive upside. As more teams see tapes of his one statistically brilliant lone season as a starter (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, no INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 TDs) it’s harder to ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills he displayed in his first full season of action. The 49ers can get out of Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract and needs to shoot for the QB ceiling to better dominate with their array of offensive skill talent, including George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Lance’s running would add a new dangerous element to Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and he has the head, quick release and accuracy to handle the passing precision of it all.

MORE: The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)

  • Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech (6-5, 314 pounds)

The Chargers know they have a potentially special QB in Justin Herbert and have some pretty good skill players to support him. But it’s imperative they improve their edge pass protection to their already established young franchise passer. Darrisaw has entered the first-round mix of late with standout athleticism that can help him develop into a smooth and nimble long-term pass protector in the NFL.

​14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (6-4, 315 pounds)

The Vikings need to think about saving money at left tackle and also replacing so-so Riley Reiff with an upgrade who can help both Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook nicely. Slater, who opted out of his final season with the Wildcats, is quickly rising up the boards again with his all-around skill set getting more attention. He held more than his own vs. Washington defensive rookie of the year Chase Young in a college matchup.

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15. New England Patriots (7-9)

  • Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)

Waddle played only four games before his season-ending ankle injury and he still posted 25 catches for 557 yards and 4 TDs. The Patriots have had a rough time with wide receivers except for Jakobi Meyers and needs a big hit at the position. Tapping into Nick Saban and Alabama is typically good for Bill Belichick and he can’t afford to miss again looking for playmakers to boost whoever his next QB will be.

16. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 216 pounds)

The Raiders invested at linebacker with big-money deals for Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency, but still need to be more active and versatile on the second level to help their struggling defense all-around. Owusu-Koramoah covers like a defensive back and has room to grow into a physical run stopper.

17. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

  • Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 246 pounds)

The Cardinals got some pretty good play from Dan Arnold down the stretch for Kyler Murray, but with Larry Fitzgerald on the brink of retirement, they need a true young go-tog guy in the middle of the field to play well off DeAndre Hopkins. Pitts, a wide receiver hybrid, would be ideal, with the potential of being to Murray what Mark Andrews is for Lamar Jackson. Pitts posted 770 yards and 12 TDs on only 43 catches, a rare field-stretcher for the position as well as a dominant red zone force.

MORE: Most painful NFL Draft slides of last 20 years

18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

  • Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State (6-4, 315 pounds)

The Dolphins need to get more athletic and shore up their inside pass protection while also getting an asset with considerable upside as a run blocker. Davis can be an elite NFL interior blocker and already has showed plenty in the way of paving the way for the Buckeyes’ prolific rushing attack before deciding to opt in back into what could be a national-championship winning season.

19. Washington Football Team (7-9)

  • Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6-2, 210 pounds)

Washington might wait on QB in the draft and think more about Taylor Heinicke as a potential starter in 2021 after his playoff performance. They need to also get a good complementary receiver opposite Terry McLaurin. Bateman, who opted back in for a while in 2020, put up 60 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 TDs working opposite Buccaneers draft pick Tyler Johnson in 2019. Without Johnson, he finished with 36 catches for 472 yards and 2 TDs in five games this season.

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20. Chicago Bears (8-8)

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (6-3, 214 pounds)

Jones has been the complete package in leading the Tide, having a Joe Burrow-style breakout with his accuracy, big arm and downfield production, racking up jaw-dropping passing totals in the process to make the most of top receivers. Jones’ strong pocket passing should have great appeal as a big mental and physical upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky. If Jones isn’t available, the Bears should look for different offensive help instead of going for Florida’s Kyle Trask.

21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

  • Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan (6-5, 319 pounds)

The Colts need to think about a replacement for 32-year-dold potential retiree Anthony Castonzo, who ended his season with battling tough knee and ankle injuries. Mayfield has stood out on film with his size, length and strength and can develop into a smooth blocker a la the Broncos’ Garett Bolles.

22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

  • Christian Barmore, DE, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)

The Titans need more pass-rush juice after finishing 30th in the NFL in sacks — only ahead of the Bengals and Jaguars. They should also consider outside linebacker in their 3-4, but they can get plenty of extra pop up front here to flank Jeffery Simmons. Barmore has stood out as a inside terror for the Tide. He had a big CFP semifinal game against Notre Dame and has racked up 7 sacks and three forced fumbles in his final college season. Barmore combines strength and power with great technique. His late-season surge makes him worthy of a back-end first-rounder.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)

  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)

The Jets need to jump on Horn here for big-time coverage help outside should he drop a little because of teams addressing other positions ahead of them.  Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field in that game. This Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality to contain wideouts.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

  • Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (6-5, 230 pounds)

Trask was up to the task leading a sizzling Gators passing game confidently with his arm, accuracy and athleticism, which got him into the first-round conversation. The Steelers may prefer Lance or Jones and can go after either in a trade up, but regardless they need to consider using this pick to somehow replace Ben Roethlisberger, retirement or not. With his raised efficiency and smart use of diverse weapons, Trask would be a great fit with their offensive coaching.

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Masahiro Tanaka free agency: Right-hander returns to Japan after seven years with Yankees

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Masahiro Tanaka free agency: Right-hander returns to Japan after seven years with Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka is back pitching in Japan after completing a mostly successful tenure with the Yankees.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles announced Thursday that Tanaka had returned to his original club, which posted him in late 2013 so he could play stateside. Terms were not disclosed. Reports on Wednesday said the sides were close to an agreement.

Tanaka, 32, became an MLB free agent in the offseason after his seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees expired. He was solid during his time in the Bronx, posting a 3.74 ERA in the regular season and a 3.33 mark in the postseason. 

Tanaka put up those numbers despite pitching almost his entire Yankees career with a partial elbow ligament tear. He was hurt during the 2014 season but opted to rehab and treat the injury rather than have surgery.

MORE: Why did the Yankees trade Adam Ottavino?

Last year, he started his season a week late after suffering a concussion during summer camp. He was struck in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive during live batting practice at Yankee Stadium.

He publicly opened the door to a return to Japan around New Year’s when he said in a radio interview that he would consider signing with the Golden Eagles or the Yomiuri Giants. Before then, his focus reportedly was on re-signing with the Yankees.

While Tanaka stayed on the market, New York traded for Jameson Taillon and signed free agent Corey Kluber. They join a rotation that has multiple question marks after Gerrit Cole.

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Glazers in? Divisive family on verge of success with Manchester United, Buccaneers

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Glazers in? Divisive family on verge of success with Manchester United, Buccaneers

Glazers out.

Many times over the last 15 years these words have been seen scrawled on a banner or posted on social media.

The Glazer family famously owns world soccer powerhouse Manchester United and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Its leadership of both organizations isn’t really associated with success, with the Red Devils and Bucs both going through extensive periods without much glory.

MORE: Man Utd loss to Sheffield United had been coming | Brady leads Bucs to NFC title

But in recent times, the two clubs have turned it around on the field: The Bucs have made it to Super Bowl 55 and Manchester United is a realistic title contender for the first time in nearly eight years.

American businessman Malcolm Glazer and his six children purchased the Bucs franchise for a then-record $192 million in January 1995. The team hadn’t reached the playoffs since 1982 and had won just 87 games in 19 seasons prior to the purchase. The franchise picked up in the years after.

Following four visits to the playoffs in five seasons, Tampa Bay won its only Super Bowl title in 2003 against the then-Oakland Raiders, in Jon Gruden’s first campaign as the team’s head coach.

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The Bucs struggled to replicate the success in following seasons, and the Glazers eventually fired the long-serving Gruden in 2008. That began a spiral that wouldn’t see the team qualify for the playoffs until 2020.

Between 2008 and 2019, the Glazers hired and fired four coaches as the franchise managed just two winning seasons. Current coach Bruce Arians was hired in 2019 and then legendary quarterback Tom Brady arrived in March last year. Their leadership has driven the Bucs to the Super Bowl.

The Glazers’ purchase of Manchester United in 2005 has seen the English Premier League giants embark on an eerily similar path as the Bucs despite the vast differences in their historical success.

With sons Joel and Avram by his side, Malcolm Glazer controversially took control of the Red Devils while they were in the midst of a glorious era under Sir Alex Ferguson and with players of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs in the squad.

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The club’s supporters weren’t happy with the American family buying the club because the deal saddled the financial powerhouse with debt of around $900 million as the Glazers used a leveraged buyout plan financed by loans for the purchase.

On the field, the situation wasn’t much better. Chelsea, under master coach Jose Mourinho, won the Premier League title in 2004-05 and 2005-06 during the early stages of the Glazer ownership at Old Trafford.

A stroke and illness to patriarch Malcolm Glazer in 2006 led to sons Joel and Avram assuming leadership of the Red Devils. The elder Glazer died in 2014.

Protests were regularly seen inside and outside Old Trafford, with “Glazers out” emblazoned on banners at nearly every match.

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Just like with the Bucs, Manchester United was building in the early days of the Glazer leadership, before a sustained period of success in which the Red Devils won the next three Premier League titles and five of the next seven.

This was achieved under the leadership Joel and Avram Glazer, with Malcolm taking a back seat after his stroke.

However, the retirement of the legendary Ferguson as Man Utd coach at the end of 2013 saw the Red Devils experience a decline similar to what occurred with the Bucs.

Just like with the coaching turnover with the Bucs, the Glazers couldn’t settle on a manager at the Theatre of Dreams. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho were all hired and fired without really getting close to a league title.

Suddenly, almost surprisingly, both the Bucs and Manchester United are contenders to win their domestic titles in 2020.

The Bucs have been rewarded by sticking with Arians after a 7-9 campaign last season. The signing of Brady, who many thought was well past his best at 43, now looks inspired.

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At Manchester United, the Glazers installed club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a coach with a modest record in the profession but a personality who understood the culture at Old Trafford through his playing years at the club.

Despite Solskjaer’s struggles at times, the Glazers and club’s hierarchy have stuck with the novice Norwegian and it seems as if they are being rewarded. The Red Devils are in Premier League title contention and among the favorites to win the FA Cup.

It seems both Man United and the Bucs have enjoyed a meteoric rise at least partly because of the stability installed in the club by the Glazers after years of tumult and short-term fixes.

Even though the Glazers have been in charge for a long time, it seems a method for success in their ownership may have finally been found.

Glazers in?

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Who is David Culley? Texans bringing in veteran NFL assistant as head coach

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Who is David Culley? Texans bringing in veteran NFL assistant as head coach

David Culley is finally getting his opportunity to lead an NFL team after working for more than a quarter-century as a pro assistant. He is about to become the Texans’ new head coach, replacing Bill O’Brien and interim coach Romeo Crennel, according to multiple reports Wednesday night.

Culley, 65, is joining Houston by way of Baltimore, where he worked the past two seasons as the Ravens’ assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. That means he’s moving from Lamar Jackson to, for the moment, Deshaun Watson. Whether Watson will be behind center for the Texans in Week 1 remains to be seen.

MORE: The hunt to find Deshaun Watson jersey-swapped onto every NFL team

If Watson does stay, then he will be playing for a respected NFL coaching vet whose history is on the offensive side of the ball.

A quick SN sketch of Culley, who inherits a 4-12 team that may be in transition in the offseason:

Culley is the newest branch on the Andy Reid coaching tree

Culley was a part of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia and Kansas City for a combined 18 seasons (1999-2016) before moving to the Bills (and ex-Reid assistant Sean McDermott) in 2017 and then the Ravens (and ex-Reid assistant John Harbaugh) in 2019. He was Reid’s wide receivers coach in both places, adding assistant HC duties along the way.

Reid, who is preparing the Chiefs for Super Bowl 55, pointed out some of Culley’s top personal traits.

Positive energy and people skills will be needed after the Texans’ poor season, which left star pass-rusher J.J. Watt frustrated.  

Personal qualities aside, Culley is a first-time head coach with no experience as a full-time coordinator, but the Houston Chronicle reported that new Texans general manager Nick Caserio told Culley in their second interview that Caserio had no issues with that lack of experience.

Culley had a long college coaching career before the NFL

He began in the college ranks in 1978 with Austin Peay. Stops at Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State, Chattanooga, Southwestern Louisiana, UTEP and Texas A&M followed before he was hired by the Buccaneers in 1994.

Former Aggies coach R.C. Slocum lauded his ex-assistant for his character.

“He’ll do a great job. He is the kind of guy in the clubhouse that players want to play for. He’ll rally the guys around him,” Slocum told the Chronicle after learning that the Texans were about to hire Culley.

He edged out former NFL head coaches for the Texans job

The Chronicle reported that the Texans also interviewed Leslie Frazier, Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis for the job, as well as assistants Matt Eberflus, Brandon Staley (who became the Chargers’ head coach) and Joe Brady.

WATSON TRADE TRACKER: Timeline of rumors, dysfunction

Per the Chronicle, they also interviewed Eric Bieniemy, Reid’s current offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Watson reportedly became upset when the Texans initially did not follow his suggestion to talk to Bieniemy. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reportedly gave Bieniemy a strong recommendation in a conversation with Watson. 

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