The 2021 NFL Draft is now just a matter of weeks away as anticipation builds for the real thing. But before we get to the real thing, we still have the better part of a month to wade through the simulations of the real thing, which can take a variety of approaches.
Take the mock drafts put together by Cynthia Frelund, the NFL Network analytics expert, who produces analysis based on data, whether it’s draft season or football season. She published her second version of the 2021 NFL mock draft for the first round last week, and has the Pittsburgh Steelers going offensive line with tackle Jalen Mayfield. She writes:
Even with a lot of replenishing defensive pieces available — and no certainty at the running back position — my model strongly suggests taking the right tackle.
If you click through to the link, there are some explanatory details at the bottom of the article that goes into what Freuland’s model entails, which includes a 15-year body of draft and player data for every team, with some more explanatory rubric at the top of this piece as well, should you be interested.
As for Mayfield, this isn’t the first time that we have seen the Michigan product’s name show up in mock drafts for the Steelers. Back in mid-February, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah had him going to the Steelers in the first round in one of his mocks.
To nobody’s surprise, Pittsburgh had as heavy a presence as it allowed with Covid-19 restrictions at Michigan’s Pro Day late last month. We reported here that Mayfield said he did speak to the Steelers, which, again, would be entirely expected.
While he is primarily being evaluated as a tackle, Mayfield was pretty emphatic in portraying himself as a five-position player along the offensive line, with the ability to play both tackle and guard positions as well as center. That would maximize his ability to start right away.
We had a mock draft up for him courtesy of Devin Jackson back in the first half of February, for those interested, and in his final evaluation, he had the big man listed as a late-first-round to early second-round prospect.
Tackle is just one of many positions the Steelers will likely be considering for their first-round draft pick, with running back being another notable one. General manager Kevin Colbert has gone on record as characterizing this class being particularly deep at the position, so it’s possible they are more willing to sit and wait here. the unsettled left tackle position, however, could change some minds.