All off-season we will run this series in an effort to show you that it is not just a certain position or a certain player that your team is searching for, rather they are actually searching for the perfect fit for the system they run. In the series, “2021 NFL draft matches”, we will try to give fans a sneak-peek at the players who could be playing for their favorite teams next season and why they are a great fit for the organization.
2021 NFL Draft Matches: Defense
The Tennessee Titans and Tulsa OLB Zaven Collins
First on the list of dream 2021 NFL draft matches is the Tennessee Titans and Tulsa OLB Zaven Collins. It is well known in the NFL community that the Titans are in the market for pass-rushers. They attempted to sign Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year prove-it deal in 2020, only to see him rack up more surgeries than sacks. The rest of Tennessee"s pass-rushing outfit did not fare much better, however. In 2020, only the Bengals (17, and the Jaguars (18) had fewer sacks than the Titans (19).
The fact that they made the playoffs despite having this little of a pass-rush is a testament to the offense. This defense was historically bad, but if they can bring Desmond King back, get Kevin Byard on track and get Adoree Jackson healthy, at least the secondary looks promising. The front-seven can use a pass-rusher that can also drop into coverage on occasion. As the season went on, Tennesee was repeatedly exposed via the pass, but it cannot all be attributed to bad pass defenders. Most of it was due to a nonexistent pass-rush that had the secondary chasing for days.
Collins is the best fit for the Titans of all of the 2021 NFL draft matches because, as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the mold of a “Micah Parsons lite", he can do it all. In 32 games at Tulsa–less than two full NFL seasons now that the league has expanded the schedule– Collins has put together an extremely versatile stat line. With 236 total tackles, including 25 for a loss, he is constantly around the ball in the run-game. His eight pass-deflections and five interceptions show that he can defend the pass, as well, and his four sacks in eight games in 2020 show his improvement as a pass rusher.
Collins may fall down to Tennessee in the 2021 NFL draft due to the fact that he only had 7.5 sacks over 32 games as a full-time player, and he will have to answer those questions in the lead up to the draft. The versatility is tantalizing, though, and head coach Mike Vrabel may see him as a player who could succeed in the NFL the way that Kyle Van Noy has.
The Atlanta Falcons and South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
Second on the list of dream 2021 NFL draft matches is the Atlanta Falcons and South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. As mentioned in the Falcons team needs article, Atlanta has major issues in the secondary. The Falcons finished tied for third to last in the NFL in allowing 34 passing touchdowns in 2020. That number has to change if they want to be a playoff team anytime soon.
Especially in a division that is going to have the Saints and Bucs" throwing the ball all over the field, regardless of who their future QB"s may be, a lockdown CB is a must. The Rams showed what a top-notch CB can do to even the best WR"s during the regular season when Jalen Ramsey held DeAndre Hopkins and D.K. Metcalf to season low"s in receiving production….twice.
Enter South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. The son of Saints legend Joe Horn, Jaycee makes his living on the other side of the ball, locking up receivers like his dad. A big, press-man or zone corner who likes to get his hands on you early, Horn is ideally suited to match up with for bigger receivers. He has very good length and his ball-skills have improved every year. He will need to improve as a tackler and needs to stop guessing on routes, but his upside is as high as anyone at this position in the 2021 NFL draft.
2021 NFL Draft Matches: Offense
The Indianapolis Colts and North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
The first offensive player in the dream 2021 NFL draft matches series is Trey Lance, who we have matched up with the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis is certainly looking for their QB of the future, as Jacoby Brissett is a free agent, Philip Rivers may retire (and is also a free agent) and Jacob Eason did not gain any meaningful snaps as a rookie.
Colts head coach Frank Reich is very familiar with big, mobile, strong armed passers from North Dakota State. He was the offensive coordinator of the Eagles when Carson Wentz had his best seasons and Wentz" skill-set works perfectly in Reich"s system. Whether or not the Colts choose to go after Wentz via trade this off-season, the Colts could get the cheaper version of him in the draft.
Lance has all of the tools that you look for when searching for a passer. He can make all of the throws on the field, he is decisive, accurate and also has mobility. The intangibles are off the charts and Lance has also been an extremely healthy prospect. What he has working against him is the low level of competition that he played against(FCS), the fact that he played only one game in 2020 because his school cancelled their season and his tendency to run with the ball before finding his second read.
The talent is too much, though, for the Colts to pass up if Lance somehow makes it to their pick in the first round. Coaches will relish the opportunity to give Lance the best coaching that he has ever had in his life. The ceiling of his potential is infinite and with the accuracy and mobility, the floor is starting to become pretty high as well.
The Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman
Last on our first list of dream 2021 NFL draft matches is Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman and the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is desperate for another playmaker to go with Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Brown has been a capable “Z" receiver, using his shiftiness and agility to get open and the get YAC. The Ravens also can use Brown out of the “Z" position to clear out the field for the tight end Andrews or the “X" receiver.
What Baltimore needs is an improvement in the just mentioned “X" spot. Usually the “X" receiver does not need as much separation skills as the “Z" spot would. They would theoretically be using their size to get open. They run a lot of the outside routes and catch the ball, naturally, outside the numbers. But, for this Ravens offense we wanted to go with a bit of a different version of the “X" receiver.
Bateman is a natural “X" receiver, but also can separate with the best of them with his routes. He profiles as a true number one receiver in the NFL in the mold of Keenan Allen. If Brown and Andrews are drawing attention, it will be impossible to double team Bateman. Picture this, just when your defense finally gets all of their attention on these pass catchers, you have Lamar Jackson and JK Dobbins running it down your throats. Watch out NFL, this Ravens offense can–and will– get even more electric.
As we get closer to the draft, the 2021 NFL draft matches series will become even more and more clear. As team needs are added and subtracted via free agency, cuts and trades, we will be here, updating these lists. Is there some fits that you would like to read about? How about some players who you think would fit well on your team? Send them to us with the subject “2021 NFL draft matches" and maybe your potential match or a question you ask will appear in the next issue of the series.
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