NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly published his first mock draft of the 2021 NFL draft season on NFL.com Thursday, and it included an absolute shocker of a selection in the top 10.
Casserly sent Alabama running back Najee Harris to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 overall.
You read that right. Casserly has a running coming off the board in the top 10.
Casserly’s projection includes a trade-down scenario for the Falcons, who swap picks with the Panthers and end up with a new bell cow.
“The Falcons trade back and still get their top choice — a dynamic running back whom Arthur Smith can build his offense around. I know we rarely see running backs go this early these days, but Todd Gurley is a pending free agent and Atlanta has to have a strong running game if it’s going to get back to competing for a playoff spot,” Casserly wrote.
Look, Harris is a fantastic running back prospect and he’s going to make whichever team selects him very happy with his ability to produce as a runner and receiver. He reminds me of a blend between Marshawn Lynch and Le’Veon Bell, which to most fans screams first-rounder. And maybe he will be. But it’s more reasonable to start the ‘Harris watch’ when the Miami Dolphins are on the clock at No. 18 overall. It’s at that pick where value — both as a player and overall draft valuation — lines up for Harris.
The Falcons aren’t going to draft a running back in the top-10 simply because they have a need for a new starter. They can land a player with starter’s ability in Round 2; Travis Etienne, for example, slips out of Casserly’s first round. Atlanta doesn’t need to use a premium pick on a position that’s pretty easy to fill, assuming there isn’t an elite talent like Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey on the board. And with all due respect to Harris, he isn’t on either of those guys’ level.
While it’s always fun to read a new twist on what could happen in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft, file this mock away as one that has no chance of actually coming to fruition.