The consensus among teams I have chatted with is that there are around 16 players who are definitely worthy of a first-round grade in this draft. As we all know, 32 will be selected Thursday night.
The exact list of those 15-17 players varies by the team, in order and constitution, but I keep hearing 16 – half of the round – carry those grades. So who are the sure-fire first-round picks? Who could you absolutely say will hear their name called Thursday night, barring any sort of freak accident or social-media disaster or arrest or whatever? How many do I see, based on evaluations, need, and how locked-in certain teams are on certain players?
Honestly, it's probably fewer than I would have listed most years, for various reasons, many of them pandemic-related. The flow of information has been different, the evaluation process has been different and the amount of universal medical data and testing date is simply not the norm. But I will take a stab at identifying those I believe are absolutes, anyway. Because, why not?
This is usually one of my final exercises in trying to concoct a mock draft that isn't total garbage. Most years I fare pretty well … but most years I also feel a little more strongly about what I am hearing. It's easy to talk yourself into and out of a lot of things in this climate. I'm probably being a little more aggressive than I should be here, but as Day 1 nears, here are my first-round locks.
Nothing to see here. Been the first-overall pick for a long time.
Won't have to wait long.
Kyle Shanahan's remarks this week have me and many others thinking this is the third-overall pick. Either way, his stock is high enough that someone else grabs him in the top 10 if the 49ers pass.
Looking like a prime trade-up prospect very early in the draft.
I still don't think he gets outside the top 10. If Carolina can't trade down and he is there at No. 8, that seems like something owner David Tepper would be in favor of.