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$250K/month selling electric bikes [with Mark Cuban as a partner]
Today's interview is with Stephan Aarstol of Tower Electric Bikes, a brand that makes direct to consumer ebikes
- Product: Direct to consumer eBikes
- Revenue/mo: $250,000
- Started: June 2010
- Location: San Diego
- Founders: 1
- Employees: 4
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?Hello! My name is Stephan Aarstol. I'm the CEO of Tower Electric Bikes.
Tower Electric Bikes is direct to consumer eBike brand I co-founded with Mark Cuban. We make electric bikes we love, and are proud to recommend to our friends and family. Electric bikes so beautiful they exude heart and soul. We believe eBikes will change the way people get around, and we believe we can accelerate this shift by selling beautifully crafted ones direct to consumers for half what they cost in retail.
Tower began as a paddleboard company in 2010 and has since evolved into a holistic direct to consumer beach lifestyle company. We produce and sell everything from paddleboards to beach cruisers, to sunglasses, to surfboards, to skateboards, to inflatable docks, to electric bikes. The primary focus of our future growth is in eBikes so that's what I'll speak to in this article. It's a story about the evolution of a brand.
In October of 2019, Tower was named one of the "Top 20 Shark Tank Products of All Time" in USA Today. We've done over $36 million in sales since getting a $150,000 investment from Mark Cuban in 2012.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?I live right on the boardwalk on the beach in San Diego. I get a good sense of up and coming trends in beach lifestyle while just kicking back on my patio with a Margarita and watching the world go by. In the last three or four years, there has been an explosion in electric powered things buzzing down the boardwalk. They've always been there, but it used to be one dude cruising the boardwalk with some kind of homemade electric skateboard or something once a week. Then the trend started growing exponentially in the last few years and you could just see the future.
My main form of transportation down the boardwalk has always been a beach cruiser. While bikes are also recreation around the beach, unlike many places they're a central form of transportation for anyone who lives at the beach. Why sit in aggravating coastal traffic and then search for scarce parking when you can just cruise down the boardwalk with the wind in your hair and an ocean view. A rusty beach cruiser literally offers you a better quality of life than a car which might set you back $50K. Not to mention the rent for a garage to park said car might be $500/mo.
The thing about electric bikes that most people don't get is that they're basically the perfect form of transportation. This is NOT just a "different kind of bike". Aside from kids, beach dwellers like myself, and what my son refers to as "butt darts" (those odd and colorfully dressed Tour de France type road cyclists), normal people just don't use bikes as transportation in the US. Bikes are a recreation with a side of exercise. Electric bikes can be better described as a replacement for a car. It's like a scooter that doesn't require a helmet and you can ride on paths, boardwalks, sidewalks, across the lawn, wherever. The first time you ride one, the light bulb goes off in your head... wait, this is fun, requires no effort even up hills, let's me avoid traffic, doesn't require a parking spot, has a range of 30-60 miles, and if the battery does die I can just pedal the rest of the way home.
At the time this all donned on me, Tower was a thriving start-up primarily selling paddleboards, but we wanted to diversify our products and business to make our company healthier. We were expanding into other beach lifestyle products like surfboards, skateboards, and sunglasses. Building the world's finest electric beach cruiser was a natural fit. When I looked at the market, it was a fragmented mess of ill-conceived products and brands. Apparently, anyone could Frankenstein together an eBike, or piece together one with a conversion kit, and start an "eBike company", and so that's what happened. Hundreds of competitors. Very few goods, a handful of bad, and a lot of ugly.
If you ask a person on the street anywhere in the US to name an eBike brand they couldn't. Many wouldn't even know what an eBike was. But worldwide it is already a massive industry with an estimated 30 million units sold per year, and it's expected to grow to 75 million in the next 10-20 years. In 2018 in the US, 300K eBikes were sold. This is expected to grow 20x to 7 million in that same time frame. So the plan was we would do exactly what we did in the paddleboard industry - make high-quality, low-cost products easy to find. By focusing on that simple premise, we created the #1 fastest growing company in San Diego in 2014, then the following year we ranked #239 on the INC 500 list of America's fastest-growing companies.
So that's our aim. We're going to create the world's first famous eBike brand. It is a brand void waiting to be filled. Our first product is aptly named the Beach Bum. It's a high-end electric beach cruiser that would sell for $3750 in retail, but we sell it directly to the consumer for under $1,700.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.Product design is critical. Not just the aesthetic look of something (which is also critical), but the functional choices you make in product design. You've really got to take a blank slate approach and get to the heart of what the product you are designing will be used for. This is an area that I've found I kind of excel in. I'm a fair contrarian thinker so I don't just accept the status quo and go along with what everyone else is doing. I challenge everything. If everyone is doing something one way, my assumption is that it's probably the wrong way to do it. Herd mentality and groupthink take things in the wrong direction a lot of times. Maybe most of the time.
When we launched in paddleboards back in 2010, part of the reason I started was when I went shopping for my first paddleboard I learned that these things cost like $1200-$1600 for what was basically a big surfboard. And you could buy a cheap surfboard for $300. It didn’t make sense. Ninety-five percent of these paddleboards and the ~80 or so brands at the time that were making them were using a traditional retail sales model with brands, distributors, wholesalers, salespeople, and retail stores. As a result, SUP boards were selling for 4-5 times what they cost to produce. Additionally, the majority of brands seemed to perceive paddle boarding as a different kind of surfing. Lastly, there was this oddity called inflatable paddleboards in the market that had been around for years, but they were horribly designed and only represented about 1% of the market.
Our process was to assume that what the bulk of the market was doing was probably stupid, especially if they were all doing it, so we hypothesized, "What if we do the exact opposite?" Then we did just that.
We sold direct to consumers only, and at a single markup. By doing so, we offered consumers a better value proposition - half-price paddleboards. We intentionally ignored the sexy surf and race market's that all the other brands we're aggressively trying to stake their claim in. We looked at paddleboarding as more like kayaking than surfing, and when you looked at the numbers, 80-90% of the market wasn't surfing or racing. We also refused to advertise in magazines like all the other "serious" brands, and we still to this day have never attended one industry trade show. Then we took a hard look at the viability of those inflatable boards, as they fit our direct to consumer mail-order business model better anyways. We discovered that inflatable paddle boards, with a little re-engineering, worked just fine for tooling around bays, lakes, and harbors, and were actually far superior to hard boards in terms of storability, transportability, and durability.
Within 5 years, without advertising one dime the first 4 years because we couldn't keep stuff in stock as is, we built Tower into one of the strongest brands in the paddleboard industry. Today, surfing and racing are tiny segments of a quite large paddleboard market. And the last time I looked at market stats, inflatable SUPs were 70% of the paddleboard market. In 2017, our co-branded Chris Craft inflatable paddle board was rated the #1 paddleboard in the world by the prestigious Robb Report, over some boards that sold for $2500 to $3500. Ours sold for $650 at the time.
In the eBike market, with Tower Electric Bikes, we're taking a similar look at what the industry is doing that makes sense, what is groupthink, and what is just plain stupid. In 5 years, we'll see what happens, but I'm optimistic. As an entrepreneur, sometimes you find yourself in the very fortunate position to see an opportunity that looks oddly familiar to something you've seen before. When that happens, you can almost see around corners.
Our first product, an electric beach cruiser called the Tower Beach Bum, is starting to gain traction already, and we've just barely started.
Describe the process of launching the business.While we had rolled out a diversified portfolio of beach lifestyle products beyond paddleboards over the years, we knew going in that our eBike wasn't just going to be another product. This was a massive market that was seeing explosive growth with a brand void. This was more akin to us starting a paddleboard company in the first place, so we separated things out and treated the opportunity with the same serious attention to detail.
We had a very healthy going concern in Tower Paddle Boards, so we didn't need to rush into anything. We took our time and did things right. We first prototyped and rolled out a regular bike (non-electric), which we considered to be the world's finest beach cruiser.
We over-engineered the thing so we knew what it took to create a really great bike. One interesting thing about selling direct to consumer is it allows you to offer very high-end products at very reasonable prices so you can tread where others won't go because they fear pricing the product out of the market. For starters, our beach cruiser came with a belt drive. Many beach cruisers sell at retail for just over what our production cost of just the belt drive system was, so this was definitely distinctive. It's about as high end as you can go on a beach cruiser!
We brought in a serious product design studio. We went with a stretched, lightweight, rust-free aluminum classically styled beach cruiser frame. We used all premium components. We put innovative, and patented, passenger pegs on the rear wheel. Then we added premium wheels with 48 spokes as you'd find on high-end mountain bikes, and top of the line tires. The design aesthetic itself was black on black, with a matte black frame and glossy black logos, a brown leather seat and grips, all accented by unique brown whitewall balloon tires. It's truly a work of art.
Our eBike design was based on this frame design and aesthetic, but we took a blank slate approach on the eBike because we didn't want to be boxed in by our bike design. Bikes are more about exercise and recreation. At the very high end, they have style, but basic bikes are about functionality. When that gets ported over to eBikes and electronics get tacked onto them, they tend to look like bike mechanics for engineers built them. They're contraptions, halfway between weird looking bikes and homemade motorcycles. They've got noisy tires, they shift awkwardly at times, they've got their brand name in big letters plastered all over the place (imagine that on a luxury car), and they're just kind of obnoxious. That's kind of the state of the eBike market.
We view eBikes as transportation with a side of recreation, more akin to an improved version of a scooter, or a convertible sports car. They're not a different kind of bike, in my mind, We call our electric beach cruiser the Beach Bum. Our tagline is, "Stay cool. Be Free." The 'stay cool' part is about the fact that it's stylish first, like a beautiful car that just plain looks stunning. And it's got air conditioning built in to keep you 'cool'. The "be free" part is the light bulb that goes off in your head the first time you ride one. You realize you can go on a 30-mile bike ride and up any hill so it frees you to go anywhere. It expands your local circle of familiarity from the half-mile or so you are willing to walk, to about a 10-20 mile radius. And perhaps more importantly, you're no longer constrained by traffic, or roads even as you can hit any path you want, or by available parking spots. You have freed yourself.
For funding this new company, we use profits from our paddleboard cash cow. Even if we have to invest a good chunk to get things up to speed, it's all tax-free as we're reinvesting profits. So much more advantageous than starting from scratch. Even better, we're able to leverage our entire infrastructure so our incremental burn rate to add an eBike company to our existing operation is basically zero. Just add inventory. That gives us a huge operational cost advantage over the competition. We already have a warehouse. We already have a competent marketing team on staff. We already have the shipping function taken care of. We already have a customer service team.
The most important difference between how we started the paddleboard business and our eBike business is that we now can see the future. Mostly, we're only doing things that work. We're definitely avoiding our prior mistakes. And with Mark Cuban as a co-founder this time, we have the ability to leverage his celebrity status in a meaningful way to separate us from the hundreds of me-too eBike brands out there. In a way, we're talking more about Mark Cuban's eBike company early on instead of the Tower Electric Bike company because we know that is more meaningful until we get the brand well established. It's like Tesla. There are a handful of electric car company start-ups out there, but most people only know Elon Musk's company, in part because he's Elon Musk. His reputation and proven record speak volumes.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?Our objective is to make high-quality, low-cost electric bikes easy to find. It's a very simple strategy. Everything emanates from that.
I get a lot of people calling me because they've heard we're killing it and they want to know our secret. They've maybe seen me on Shark Tank talking about our SEO expertise ("Search Engine Optimization"), so they'll call saying they want to hire me on a consultant basis for their company. Or they'll have invented some product and say all their missing is the marketing guy and I'm their guy. Let's partner.
But there really are no marketing secrets, and when there are it's not for very long in today's fast-moving world. I've been at an executive level in the online marketing and business development space since 1999, and what I've learned is that there are these arcs of opportunity with each newly identified marketing tactic.
In 2000, two years before Google Adwords even existed, I was leveraging GoTo.com's invention, PPC search advertising to buy search traffic clicks for a penny a piece. It worked fabulously and big companies wouldn't even start using it for another 5 or 6 years. It still worked then, but less so, and it's gotten crowded in the past decade and now only works selectively. Even then, Google has a monopoly now and just sucks the profit out of everything they touch.
Then it was email. Then it was group buying in discussing groups, the predecessor to Kickstarter. Worked great for a while, then the window of opportunity closed for the most part, for most people. Then social media came and the organic following was great. Then because they had a monopoly, they made it pay to play and that seemed bad but it was actually another even more fantastic opportunity with highly targeted FB and IG marketing. Then influencer followings exploded and that became the new window of opportunity. Then Amazon marketplace became an untapped marketplace that was getting huge overnight, and that window opened and closed... because they're a monopoly too so they're correctly sucking out all the profit. And it continues. Windows open and if you're early, you can do well. And once everyone clues in 5 years later, it stops working as well, then it gets crowded and the opportunity passes.
So our plan is to not worry about the next online marketing window to come along, but rather to make a really high-quality product. Obsessively focus on that. And then make it relatively low cost for consumers. Not making cheap products by cutting corners, but rather figuring out ways to get your amazing product into consumers hands inexpensively without any middlemen. That's why we go direct to consumer, and largely starve our advertising budget. It forces us to identify hacks.
The next step is to make a good web site, pitch how great your product is to the press in whatever creative way you can, and get butts in bike seats locally so people can find us thru referrals. Start locally, and grow things organically from there. Pass all our savings onto customers from our lean operations, not advertising, and no middleman. Execute well with a smart team and customers will start to tell their friends about us. Most of all, don't really worry too much about the "marketing". The best marketing advice that I always give (that no one listens to) is "fix your crappy product," which often translates to "fix your crappy value proposition". That's the only viable marketing plan in today's transparent world. Marketing is really quite easy with a brilliant product, and it's impossible with anything else. So start there.
The windows of opportunities I see on the horizon today are currently only two:
1) Start a direct to consumer brand - I've spoke at Harvard Business School four times over that past 3-4 years and the #1 thing that those students are looking to do is start a direct to consumer brand. I've been working in one intentionally since 2010, and unknowingly in one back as far as 2003. Hundreds of brands in hundreds of categories have been started. The top 25 have raised over $2.5 billion in venture funding. Many of these companies are already unicorn status. And there are scrappy companies in many sectors that you wouldn't expect. Consumers won't know these brands for 5 years, but these are the brands that will own the future. They are the future of retail.
2) Throw in with other direct to consumer brands to exchange free leads - Don't advertise and give Google 50% of every revenue dollar you take. Don't sell on Amazon and give them 50% of every dollar you take. At least don't make that your long term strategy. Others will, and you'll beat them when they realize that's a losing proposition long term.
A few years back as I started to realize that as Google and Amazon we're becoming more and more monopolistic. What started as a truly free, direct to consumer market place online was quickly circling back to retail like normal. We were heading back to a place where brands would sell thru retail and give the retailer 50%. The retailers used to be physical stores on the right street. The only difference now is that the street is the information superhighway and there are only a couple stores, Google and Amazon. Instead of thousands of middlemen, there are just 2, and they're becoming the biggest companies and biggest monopolies the world has ever seen. Going forward, they'll take 50% of all transactions everywhere.
A market reaction will happen, though, because that's pretty stupid to give them 50% of everything people buy. So a few years ago I started to think about what the reaction would look like. My thought is that it might involve all the direct to consumer brands throwing in together to leverage their collective reach to exchange free leads to each other. I started The No Middleman Project to do just that. The first initiative, NoMiddleman.com, is what I envision could be the Amazon antidote. It launched in October of 2018 to a great reception by media and insiders (made the front page lead story on INC Magazine all day at launch), but like everything, it will likely be five years before the masses clue into what is going on. In the meantime, it's an incredibly valuable product search tool for consumers to find the best direct to consumer products in any category. Currently, the site has something like 400 brands in over 1500 categories. More interesting to entrepreneurs, there are over a thousand completely vacant product categories on NoMiddleman.com waiting for smart entrepreneurs to start a world-changing direct to consumer brand. And there are likely 10,000 more product categories that aren't even listed on NoMiddleman.com yet.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?Tower Electric Bikes is profitable today, but we're really just in our infancy. Our burn rate is incredibly low as we are able to tack this onto an existing, profitable direct to consumer eCommerce business.
We've launched with one SKU, an electric beach cruiser that has been fairly well-received by the industry media. We're very encouraged by early sales traction, and even more, encouraged by the number of referrals we've got versus our installed base. eBikes really seem to be something that once people try a good one, they get it and buy one. The metrics are way better than what we saw early in the SUP industry. I think eBikes just appeal to a larger percent of the population.
We're having a local University of San Diego student team take a crack and putting together a strong local marketing plan of attack as a class project. We expect good things out of that and it's free labor!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?Part of the benefit of having Mark Cuban as a business partner is that I also get him as a sort of mentor by default. All his feedback is a learning opportunity. One thing that really bugged me early on with Tower Paddle Boards was that we never had enough access to capital to be able to grow as fast as I wanted. The first 5 years our revenue grew as from 3K, to $265K, to $1.3M, to $3.1M, to $5.1M, to $7.5M, which looks impressive when I look back on it, but those first 4 years really we were constantly out of stock of our best products at bad times. We'd frequently come into our summer season and be out of stock of our best seller for 2 months. To me, this was maddening. I felt like we were missing out on so much because of a stupid constraint... lack of money. But he always seemed to have the opinion of don't worry about forgoing upside so much. Worry about going to zero. Because stuff always goes wrong at some point and you need to be prepared to handle that and survive. And stuff did go wrong. I've started to adopt his thinking on that front a lot more.
When the SUP market started to level off and decline even, a bunch of competitors started to copy us, and the online landscape changed with Amazon's power, this mentality started to make a lot more sense to me. That thinking has probably saved us, while there is a lot of other blood in the water in the SUP industry and more to come in the next few years.
Keeping our burn rate low has been engrained in my mind. I've never had a company that could afford to lose money for a long period of time, so survival is all about burn rate. I view everything through that lens, especially as the world starts to move faster and faster. I see our lean operation as a strategic competitive advantage. That's what really excites me about our Tower Electric Bike company. It has zero operating cost, or about as close to zero as is possible. That gives us a huge advantage. And once it takes off and becomes a significant profit center, that gives me a paddleboard company with a near-zero operating cost if I want to look at things a little differently. That gives me a lot of strategic flexibility in what we can do to take the Tower Paddle Boards brand to the next level.
One of our cost-cutting measures was to figure out a way to have a retail store without paying retail rent. This led us to stumble upon an opportunity to rent a waterfront kayak shop in San Diego, dress it up, and turn it into a part-time high-end event venue when it wasn't our retail showroom. We figure the event rental fees would cover our rent and we'd do pop-up retail in the space between events, and have our offices housed in the back. It not only worked, but it also worked incredibly well. I think we may have stumbled upon a great solution for the retail, real-world presence for a direct to consumer beach lifestyle company like Tower. The brand experience basically.
We've been up and running for about 4 months now, and we've got a nice little diversified event venue rental revenue stream coming in that easily offsets our rent costs a few times over. The place is a beach club and it's decorated with our stylish direct to consumer beach lifestyle products on the walls like an art exhibit, even when events are happening. So events become automated brand activations. We've held events for 1400 people. That's a lot of brand activations to do, all while making a tidy profit. More importantly, there's no reason we can't replicate this in other beach towns. That's our future roadmap now.
The last thing that I've learned is that I should probably incorporate, or I just end up paying a lot of taxes until my business goes under some time in the future. We're experiencing a few lean years as we've re-invested profits heavily into launching the Tower Electric Bike business and the Tower Beach Club, so it's not critical immediately, but it's kind of a huge mistake to try to grow a fast-growth company that's also a highly profitable business with pass-thru income. If you make a million dollars, you have to pay half that in taxes regardless if you only take out only enough to live on and reinvest everything else into building an inventory asset. It seems like you should be killing it, but you're not really. And then if things go south, you're worse off then you started, but you've made the government a lot of money... and there not really going to help you when you have loses. They only take half when you make money. That's problematic for start-ups that grow fast, change fast, and sometimes die fast. I'm all for paying my fair taxes like the next guy, but when you pay a lot for years and then end up owing the bank money that you may not even be able to pay back, something seems wrong with the equation. I think that's why corporate retained earnings were created... just I'm a little slow on all this financial wizardry as I'm just focused on making high-quality, low-cost products easy to find.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?We use Americommerce for our shopping cart. The thing I love about it is that it allows us to have a single back end to feed multiple front end websites. All our inventory is in one system, all our products only have one instance. This is different than before where we had a separate eCommerce login for each of our websites. This is a huge problem for many entrepreneurs that have been around for a while as you tend to collect businesses! With Americommerce, the same back-end feeds all 4 of these sites:
For our merchant account, we switched to Stripe a few years ago. It's a no brainer switch from any other merchant account, which is a fairly shady business for the most part. Stripe just makes things simple, and fair to you as the vendor.
We use a variety of productivity tools that all of my team has contributed to identifying. In June of 2015, I moved the entire company to a 5-hour workday. We worked 8 am-1 pm straight thru with no lunch. I gave my entire staff their lives back, but then also put the pressure on them. If they couldn't get as much or more done in terms of productivity as they could before, then they would be fired. We were doing it as a 3-month test. It worked very well. We ended up just moving to it full time for 2 years. Our revenues increased by 50% over the next year. Today, we work the 5-hour workday in our busy season from June 1st to Sept 30th, then go back to start-up hours in the off-season.
One of the key benefits or our 5-hour workday was that it squeezed people for time and forced them to identify productivity tools and better methods of doing their job. I ended up writing a book on our experiment called The Five Hour Workday. It got press is 20 countries and spread the idea to over 10 million people worldwide. A bunch of companies has gone on to do their own experiments. It's perhaps started a trend. At the website at the link above, you can download the first 50 pages of the book for free, and also get a list of amazing productivity tools that my team identified.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?I loved everything I read from Seth Godin when I first started into the online business in the late 90s. I love books by other entrepreneurs or about them. Love Branson's books. Love the book on Bezo's, The Everything Store. I've actually gotten to know the author a bit as he works on his sequel. Love the Sam Walton book, Made in America. Love the book on how Jack Ma built Alibaba. Love Phil Knight's book, Shoe Dog. Love the Steve Jobs book by Isaacson. Love the Elon Musk book by Ashley Vance.
I'm also a big fan of the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Obviously, my own book title is a homage to Tim's revolutionary book on how an individual can break away for the 9-5 and outsource his life. Our 5-hour workday experiment and my subsequent book explore how many of the same principles can be applied to a large organization or society as a whole.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
- Keep your burn rate low. Worry less about the competition putting you out of business and worry more about yourself putting you out of business because your burn rate bloats.
- Start early. This is a corollary to the above because your personal burn rate grows as you do. Many college kids worry about their lack of experience being a disadvantage when starting a business, but they fail to see that their ability to live with 5 roommates, eat mac and cheese every night, have no kids or wife or mortgage, and still live enjoy a high quality of life, but cheaply is a massive advantage. The opposite is also true. The older you get, the higher your personal burn rate gets, and the higher your opportunity cost of walking away from a six-figure job gets, the bigger disadvantage you have over a competitor that doesn't face those realities.
Where can we go to learn more?Our websites
- Towerpaddle boards.com
For more interviews, check out starter_story - I post new stories there daily.
Interested in sharing your own story? Send me a PM
NFL Draft week 10 Mock Draft 2 round w/ Explanations
1.) NY Jets- Trevor Lawrence-QB
It really doesn’t matter who is picking here T Law goes 1st. This guy is the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck and has been playing against the top tier competition since he was a freshman. Also, those golden locks are more marketable than Luck’s thick beard ever was so he should do well in NY
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars-Justin Fields-QB
Minshew Mania is finally subsiding and as Duval County comes out of their haze of jean shorts and 80s inspired mustaches they see Fields ready to take the reins. Fields is coming out of the very QB friendly offense in Ohio State where he was given ample opportunity to show off his arm, decision making, and athleticism. Fields will have to have to adjust to a pro offense but his football IQ and progression ability seems higher than the last few QBs out of Columbus so he should be fine.
3.) Washington Football Team-Penei Sewell-OT
The Washington Football Team has a lot of holes to fill on offense including QB, LT, and WR. With top prospects on the board at each position they opt for the generational talent in the trenches and keep moving. Kyle Smith loves going BPA in the trenches, see WFTs DL for proof, and will have his mouth watering to grab the heir to Trent Williams’ throne. Also, I think Rivera has faith in his QB room at the moment to hold the reins for a year or two while a developmental guy is brought in in rounds 2/3. Sewell is a “cant miss” prospect and should anchor that LT position for 5-10 years and could develop further as he is just 20 years old.
4.) Dallas Cowboys-Patrick Surtain II-CB
At this point I think Dallas would be looking to trade out with a team that has fallen in love with Parsons, Chase, or Rousseau to get more picks and retool that entire defense. But, in the “No Trade” universe Jerry stands pat and takes the best player on the board at a position of need in Surtain. Surtain is a true shutdown corner in the making with NFL lineage, his biggest weakness is tackling but if your Corner is doing a ton of that there are other issues to deal with.
5.) LA Chargers- Gregory Rousseau-EDGE
The Chargers came into the draft hoping that Sewell would fall to them and if he didn’t then they would likely trade out. But, we’re in the no trade universe so the Chargers look at their big board and decide to pick the best pass rusher available in Rousseau. The Miami product opted out of the 2020 season but there is good tape on him from the year prior and an athleticism that is hard to pass up. Also, Rousseau replaces Melvin Ingram for a much cheaper price than the UFA would ask for.
6.) Miami Dolphins via HOU- Micah Parsons-LB
Brian Flores would be sprinting to the podium to make this pick himself if Parsons is still on the board. Miami has a hole in the middle of their 3-4 and Parsons could be the dynamic playmaker to take the defense to a new level. The Penn State product is a fantastic athlete with good if not great instinct at the position. Additionally Parsons can be moved all around the defense with the ability to play at Edge rusher as well.
7.) Cincinnati Bengals-Ja’Marr Chase-WR
The Bengals have needs across the offensive line but cannot pass up the opportunity to reunite Joey B with his favorite target at the next level and get an elite talent in the process. Chase has the ability and Size to be a true number 1 at the next level and should pair nicely with Tee Higgins as the replacement for AJ Green.
8.) NY Giants- Kwity Paye-EDGE/DL
Credit given where credit is due, Joe Judge has transformed the defense in New York. But his fantastic defense is missing one key component, a strong pass rusher on the edge. Enter Kwity Paye who can set the edge with a solid combination of size and speed but also kick inside with his 277 Lb frame. Paye is a slight reach at the number 8 pick but it is hard to find Edge rushers with his potential if the Giants had waited until their second pick to grab one.
9.) Carolina Panthers-Kyle Pitts-TE
A moment of silence for the LBs that will face the Panthers this year. Pitts represents a matchup nightmare on most teams, with the Panthers though it goes to another level. Pitts takes some of the focus off of CMC while making it near impossible to be doubled because of the shifty running back, meaning he creates better matchups for one of the best weapons in the league. Pitts is an athlete who runs a wide receiver route tree at 6’5” 240 with soft hands and a willingness to block not much else you could want at his position.
10.) Atlanta Falcons-Caleb Farley-CB
Atlanta is stuck between a rebuild and a win now mentality because of Matt Ryan. The franchise QB has 3 years left on his contract and no easy out, cutting Ryan this year would incur $85 million in dead cap. So, because of that the Falcons fill a hole at Corner with Farley who should start from day one. Farley is a former WR who is presses well and plays the ball outstandingly, the only concerns might be zone concepts at the next level.
11.) Denver Broncos- Dylan Moses-LB
Although Broncos fans may want to see Drew Lock’s replacement picked here, John Elway keeps the faith and gives his guy another year. Instead he turns to the defense who is sorely lacking a leader in the middle of the field and picks Dylan Moses. Moses is the MLB in Alabama and should fit in to a similar role at the next level with a solid frame and good playmaking ability, his only weakness is that he is caught sometimes trying too hard rather than taking what the offense gives him.
12.) San Francisco 49rs-Zach Wilson-QB
The Niners are ready to move on from Jimmy G, and have a team friendly cut available. Also, Shanahan is known for having a QB friendly offense so it should be easier for a rookie QB to grasp and hit the ground running in San Fran. Wilson is the best combination of Pro Ready and Talent left on the board, despite running a spread offense in college, Wilson is seen on tape going through progressions and looking off Safeties already and has a cannon for an arm. The issues with Wilson come in his mechanics as he doesn’t set his feet as often as he should but this is coachable.
13.) Detroit Lions- DeVonta Smith-WR
The Lions have their top 3 WRs going into free agency this offseason and it is unlikely they retain all three. Also, The Lions still have Matt Stafford for one more year at least before a team friendly cut is available. To maximize the year Stafford has left along with setting the table for the next Franchise QB the Lions get a weapon with elite potential and shift the focus to defense for the next few rounds.
14.) Minnesota Vikings-Wyatt Davis-IOL
The Vikings would really love to move on from Kirk Cousins, in this “No Trade” world they can’t without cutting him which would incur 50 million in dead cap over two years. So like the Falcons their hand is forced to fill a need, fortunately for the Vikings, their biggest need is IOL and they get their pick of the top IOL prospects in this draft. Davis is an outstanding guard with few weaknesses and NFL bloodlines, he should start right away.
15.) New England Patriots-Jaylen Waddle-WR
For most other franchises with the Patriots pick/needs I would have mocked a QB here but this franchise is in the unique position of having a GOAT Head Coach/GM who is trying to win one more ring before retirement. Because of this I see the Pats picking a weapon who can help them immediately while grabbing a veteran like Jimmy G or sticking with Cam. Waddle represents the potential number 1 they have been missing since an aging Randy Moss walked into the practice facility. The WR has speed that would make Lightning McQueen jealous and sure hands. Waddles only issue is that he needs to expand the route tree.
16.) Chicago Bears- Alex Leatherwood-OL
The Bears are a strangely built team, on one hand they don’t have a QB of the future so they are primed for a rebuild. On the other hand they have lots of money and veteran talent tied up in the next year. This makes me think they are gunning for a playoff run this next year and if that doesn’t work out then clean house. Meaning, they pass on a QB that they need going forward and grab Leatherwood who should play immediately at LT should they move on from Leno or at one of the guard positions if they don’t.
17.) Cleveland Browns- Carlos Basham Jr.-EDGE
The Browns has a good offense that should compete in the AFC North going forward, their defense on the other hand could use some tuning up. Given the QBs in the division the easiest way to upgrade your defense is to grab someone who specializes in the pass rush. Basham Jr has all the skills right now to be a productive pass rusher while also being versatile enough to play the 5 tech in running situations. Basham’s only shortcoming as a prospect is that his athleticism doesn’t impress and may limit the potential he has as a top level pass rusher.
18.) Tennessee Titans- Joseph Ossai-EDGE
Tennessee tried to paper over their pass rush problems through the offseason with the pickup of Vic Beasley which did not work out. There is clearly a hole in the Edge/OLB role of that 3-4 which Ossai could really grow into. Ossai is a very raw prospect with lots of potential and positional flexibility, projections show him as a WLB or pure EDGE rusher. A 3-4 OLB would be a perfect mix of the two roles and should allow the athletic prospect to flourish
19.) Philadelphia Eagles-Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah-LB
Due to the absolute suck fest that is the NFC East this year, the Eagles earn a playoff birth that they are promptly defeated during and their reward is a much crappier draft pick than their team warrants. Luckily for them a top prospect is still available at a position of need. Owusu-Koramoah would slot in the WLB position from day one and should be an upgrade on everyone on the roster while providing a necessary amount of athleticism in a division which includes Barkley, Elliot, and Gibson
20.) Arizona Cardinals- Pat Freiermuth-TE
Kyler Murray looks good enough early on that he may not need a security blanket like most QBs his age but the Cards give him one anyways. Similar to the situation that Kyle Pitts walked into, Freiermuth is going into an absolutely stacked receiver group in Arizona and will operate in the middle to ensure single coverage to Nuk, Fitz, and Kirk. Freiermuth is more of a traditional TE, think Gronk style of play, but should still create matchups to take advantage of due to his sheer Size, Speed, and Physicality.
21.) NY Jets via SEA- Rashod Bateman-WR
The Jets are a team that has lots of needs and should probably go with BPA through the first few rounds. Although there are some good corners on the board, the prospect of giving their new Franchise QB a favorite target is tantalizing. Ultimately they pick Bateman as a receiver opposite Crowder and Mims. Bateman should step right in as a red zone threat while catching contested balls and having some sneaky YAC ability. The only drawback to his game is that he plays like a traditional possession receiver while lacking the size to pull it off at times
22.) Miami Dolphins- Rondale Moore-WR
The Dolphins get a WR to pair with DeVante Parker and make Tua’s life just a bit easier in Miami. Moore is coming out of Perdue with some impressive tape under his belt albeit while being a touch undersized at 5’9” 175. Moore will slip right into the slot and can be a threat after the catch on slants and bubble routes or a deep threat on the seam route.
23.) Indianapolis Colts-Mac Jones-QB
Honestly this pick heavily is impacted by Philip Rivers’ potential retirement. If Rivers decided to come back after this year I could see the Colts taking a shot on Trey Lance essentially redshirting him and letting him learn from Old Man Rivers. However, I bet that Rivers will retire and in this case leading the Colts to the playoffs in the process. The Colts will still need a QB but is going to need someone who can start reliably on day one, of the three major QB prospects left Mac Jones is the most pro ready prospect and has faced a high level of competition while taking over for Tua last year and this year facing the whole of the SEC. Lastly, I don’t see the Colts trading for a QB/Signing one because they got recently burnt on Jacoby Brissett.
24.) Baltimore Ravens- Creed Humphrey-IOL
The Ravens have a fantastic defense with the only hole being at the FS position after the Earl Thomas incident(s) and the Ngakoue trade. I see Ngakoue staying in Baltimore if the money can be figured out so the holes that need to be addressed are the FS and on Offense. At this pick, the isn’t a lot of value at the Safety and WR positions so in the “No Trade” universe the Ravens solidify the interior offensive line with the best IOL on the board at the moment. Humphrey was a consistent starter at a top level program in Oklahoma, called plays at Center and should have the football IQ and athleticism to move to G if necessary at the next level
25.) Jaguars via LAR-Samuel Cosmi
The Jaguars have their QB of the future and get some insurance protection in the same round with Cosmi. Cosmi has lots of starting experience at a top tier college program and still has room to grow at only 21. Could add some weight to his frame but as is he is extremely athletic and has the capability of a mauling tackle who can hold down his position.
26.) Las Vegas Raiders- Marvin Wilson-DT
The Raiders need help all along the DL and could take one of the Edge rushers that are left but ultimately the one of the top DTs is still on the board in Wilson. Gruden has good starters with Hankins and Collins but they are both UFAs and have little depth behind them currently. Wilson gives the organization flexibility at either technique if either of the starters go down injured or aren’t signed and has lots of potential if he can develop a secondary rushing move.
27.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Christian Darrisaw-OT
At this point the name of the game is protect the old GOAT. Darrisaw has been starting games in a top five conference since 2016 and has been impressive every step of the way. Darrisaw has a nice frame and could put a few Lbs on as he transitions to the next level but needs to keep control of his footwork while doing so.
28.) Buffalo Bills- Shaun Wade-CB
The Bills need someone who can hold down the spot opposite of Tre’Davious White for the long term so they wait through the draft and Wade falls into their lap. In many mocks Wade is off the board earlier than this and for good reason. Wade played at Ohio State who is lauded for their DB development with several first rounders under their belt. Wade specifically has the ability to play both inside and outside while being an aggressive cover man.
29.) Green Bay Packers-Terrace Marshall Jr.-WR
The Packers are in a weird spot coming into this draft, while they are still successful the Pack have an aging Aaron Rodgers to keep happy but also drafted Jordan Love last year around this spot. Honestly if Green Bay decided to fill holes on Defense with this pick Aaron Rodgers could try to skip town. To keep the Hall of Famer happy the Packers finally get him a first round weapon in Marshall who has been climbing up boards lately while showing out for LSU. Marshall is a hulking possession receiver who rarely drops a pass while being athletic enough to create separation. Rodgers and Devonte Adams will be thrilled to have another high ceiling skill guy in the locker room
30.) Kansas City Chiefs-Trey Smith-IOL
With question marks surrounding the return of Austin Reiter from Free Agency and Kelechi Osemele from returning to the medical field during COVID the Chiefs take a safe pick in grabbing Trey Smith to insure the protection of their Star assets. Smith should slot right in to the starting lineup should one or both of them not return and the offense wouldn’t skip a beat.
31.) New Orleans Saints- Jevon Holland-S
With Trey Lance on the board Sean Payton passes?!? Yes, this is due mostly to two factors: Cap Crunch & Coaching Context. From a Cap Crunch perspective, the Saints currently have over $275 Million in expected expenditures under the cap and will need to fill holes in the secondary as there are 6 UFAs including their starting SS. Also, financially the Saints are invested heavily in the QB position with $36 Million headed Brees’ way and $16 Mil headed to Taysom Hill. Secondly, from a coaching perspective I am unsure if Sean Payton is enthusiastic about starting over again with a rookie. For evidence I point to the multiple high profile backups like Bridgewater and Winston. I think Payton much prefers experience in the league especially with a team built for a Super Bowl run. I think Lance would not meet the expectations of the shoes he would need to fill right away for the money being spent in other positions. Holland, would come in likely start at SS and fill in at slot CB when necessary and patch up the back end for a team poised to win a Championship.
32.) Pittsburg Steelers-Travis Etienne-RB
The Steelers are in a bit of a Cap Crunch next year, they have $200 million in current expenditures and only $6 million in cap to carry over from year to year with projected cap space potentially not growing due to COVID. Some of their UFAs include Juju Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, & Bud Dupree to name a few. In this situation the Steelers decide to let the RB go and get his replacement in the draft. Etienne will come in day one as the starter and bring a shocking combination of speed and size to the running back position that should bring more explosiveness to the Steelers Offense.
33.) NY Jets- Quincy Roche-EDGE
The Jets only have one edge rusher for their 3-4 defense under contract for 2021. Given that edge rushers are typically going for top dollar in free agency I suspect they fill the need here for a starter with Roche. The Miami product is probably best suited for the 3-4 edge role as he is a touch undersized for the 5 tech that a 4-3 DE needs to play on occasion. Roche has really good hips and athletic potential, will need to put on some weight and learn how to cover in the next level.
34.) Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Barmore-DT
The Jaguars need a space eater in the middle of their defense and Barmore is a 6’5” tackle with great technique to hold up blockers and bring double teams on. This is a good matach and the Jags get value here, although Barmore does have a relative rawness to him due to a lack of snaps at Alabama
35.) Dallas Cowboys- Hamsah Nasirildeen-S
The Cowboys need help at both safety positions and move to get Nasirildeen. The Florida State prospect projects to an in the box safety who plays fast and physical in the run and can hold his own in the pass. Nasirildeen slipped due to an ACL injury he sustained in the past along with some questions about his ball skills
36.) LA Chargers- Liam Eichenberg-OT
The Chargers finally get their QB some protection in the second with Eichenberg. Eichenberg should slot right into the LT spot and has very few issues besides fixing his footwork.
37.) Miami via HOU- Jayson Oweh-EDGE
Miami has a need at 3-4 edge rusher which they select Oweh to fill. Oweh has gobs of potential and athleticism but is very raw. Oweh was third string all of last year and has shown in 2020 to be weak against the run. If Oweh can refine his tech and be placed in a system centered around pass rush he can be great.
38.) Washington Football Team- Trey Lance-QB
REMINDER THIS IS A NO TRADE DRAFT, TREY LANCE WILL CERTAINLY BE GONE BEFORE THE END OF THE FIRST ROUND IN A DRAFT WITH TRADES. With that out of the way, Lance falls to the WFT in the second and all of the sudden Washington has a Franchise QB and LT in the same draft. Of course there are the caveats that make other teams pass on him: his arm is huge but so is the bust potential. Trey Lance could be the next Josh Allen IF he is able to get his footwork under control, learn to hang in the pocket, learn NFL progressions, and stop staring down receivers. But WFT has Kyle Allen or Alex Smith to start the season with and could redshirt Lance until they are out of playoff contention. They are under little to no pressure to “win now” like the Bears, Saints, and Colts are and thus the risk is mitigated exponentially especially with picking Lance in the 2nd
39.) Cincinnati Bengals-Dillon Radunz-OT
How weird is it that the NDSU guys go back to back in this draft? Despite the obvious questionable competition in college Radunz did dominate in pass pro with NFL caliber size and technique. However, he lacks the punch/first step necessary in the run game with consistency and has an issue with getting out of his stance at times. Bengals care about the pass pro more at the moment so they grab him.
40.) Carolina Panthers- Jaycee Horn-CB
The Panthers Defense is much more formidable unit than they were than just one short year ago but they still need some talent in the secondary. Jaycee Horn should be able to fix this while bringing length and SEC experience. He could see some issues with fluidity or double moves but coaching should fix this at the next level.
41.) NY Giants- Rashawn Slater-OL
The Giants selected two tackles last year in an effort to keep Danny Dimes from being strip sacked last year but it hasn’t quite fixed the issue so far. To bring in some more young help, they take Rashawn Slater. Slater has played RT in the Big Ten for years and is well regarded for his Pass Pro and has the frame that could kick in to OG. The positional flexibility that he brings makes up for some stiffness in his stance for the Giants and they take him.
42.) Denver Broncos-Trevon Moehrig-S
The Broncos continue to help their defense by adding Moehrig to their back end in replacement of Justin Simmons. Moehrig is the best FS available in the draft and excels in the single high coverage where he can play center field and take the deepest man over the middle. Although Moehrig does have a tackling issue, it shouldn’t be a huge issue as the single high safety shouldn’t be making tackles
43.) Atlanta Falcons-Tyson Campbell-CB
Falcons decide to double dip at corner because the cupboard is bare right now. They take one half of the Georgia duo that is turning heads at the moment and go for Tyson Campbell. Campbell is a bit longer and can put more size on his frame with fewer weaknesses. Campbell needs to produce a bit more in the next level but his perceived lack of stats could be due to QBs throwing away from him in college.
44.) San Francisco 49rs-Eric Stokes-CB
The Niners are in a similar situation with their CBs as Atlanta except a bit worse as there are none under contract for next year. They take the other half of the Georgia duo, Eric Stokes. Stokes has a similar experience and coverage qualities as Campbell but has iffy ball playing skills and is an inch shorter and a step slower.
45.) Jacksonville via MIN-Asante Samuel Jr.-CB
Jacksonville sees CBs go back to back and decide to grab one to replace DJ Hayden. Asante Samuel is a fantastic off the ball cover man and has NFL lineage that should provide him some guidance going forward. Samuel Jr is undersized and will likely struggle in press but if he winds up in the slot or playing in a zone scheme he should do well.
46.) New England Patriots- Brevin Jordan-TE
New England loves their TEs and pick up another athletic guy to fill the position with Jordan. Jordan is a natural athlete who likes to get down and dirty in the trenches when asked. The route tree is very much in question for Jordan and will likely have to be developed.
47.) Detroit Lions- Jay Tufele-DT
The Lions run a hybrid defense similar to the Patriots due to Matt Patricia, in those successful hybrid defenses there is usually DTs that can shade in the 1 and 3 techs. Jay Tufele can be that DT for the Lions having filled a similar role at USC. Tufele has a problem with consistency from rep to rep which does worry me but with proper coaching it could be stomped out.
48.) Chicago Bears-Kyle Trask-QB
The Bears filled their biggest need on the OL and still had a highly rated QB fall into their laps in the 2nd round. Without many other glaring needs on their roster to fill they take Trask with the thought that he sits behind Foles through the rest of his contract. Trask is very raw as a prospect and just got his first taste of starting at the QB position ever while at Florida. If he can develop behind the starter he could turn into a good but not great QB.
49.) Tennessee Titans-Derion Kendrick-CB
Kendrick is new to playing CB, he’s only been playing there for two years, but is incredibly gifted. His ball skills are top tier and man coverage is sticky but he will have to learn proper technique for coverage on double moves and get better at zone coverage to develop into a game changer at the next level.
50.) Cleveland Browns-Nick Bolton-LB
Bolton is a thumping old school LB who blitzes well and plays downhill getting to the ball. The Browns could fit him in at WLB or MLB and he could start throughout the season and will energize the side. The largest drawback to Bolton’s game is that he lacks fluidity, once he is headed to a gap or engages a lineman he gets stuck in it.
51.) Philadelphia Eagles-Chris Olave-WR
Olave is a fluid route runner who is able to run a nearly full tree right off the bat. His athleticism isn’t terrifying any defenses but Olave is a crafty WR who should get going right away. The Eagles can place him into the slot and let him take advantage of the space created by Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor
52.) Seattle Seahawks-Paulson Adebo-CB
The Seahawks use their first draft pick of the 2021 draft to upgrade their secondary by taking the west coast CB Adebo. Adebo is a prototypical outside corner and has the length that Pete Caroll loves combined with solid cover technique and pressing ability. Although he can get lost in zone or washed out in the middle of the field
53.) Miami Dolphins-Najee Harris-RB
During this selection, Miami moves on from Matt Breida and fills a need at RB. Harris will be in the same backfield as Tua once again and will have to prove that he can continue to be a productive runner without the gaps that an Alabama offensive line is capable of creating
54.) Indianapolis Colts-Amon-Ra St. Brown-WR
The Colts got their QB in the first so they give him someone to throw to in the second. Brown is 6’1” with good size and speed, although the route running is question this combination of Size, Speed, and Separation is hard to ignore.
55.) Baltimore Ravens-Patrick Jones II-EDGE
Without a ton of WR names that jump off the board at the moment, Baltimore decides to stash some talent at edge rusher with Patrick Jones II. Jones has moments where he looks like an athletic sack artist and others where he looks pedestrian. If Baltimore can coach him up to come up with secondary pass rushing moves and winning more contested match ups he could be a good pickup.
56.) Arizona Cardinals- Israel Mukuamu-CB
The board does not fall well for the Cards as there was a surge of CBs taken in the second rounds and they end up reaching for one of their bigger needs with Mukuamu. However, they do get an athletic 6’4” SEC starter for their troubles.
57.) Las Vegas Raiders-Chazz Surratt-LB
Chazz Surratt is even a perfect LB name and has the attitude to fit, Surratt is seen flying around the field on tape. Surratt converted from QB in college and is new to the position so he’ll bring to the field and different football perspective on defense as well which is unique. Although the downside to Surratt’s game is over pursuit and over running the play, if the D coordinator can teach the guy some control he can be really productive.
58.) LA Rams-Jalen Mayfield-OT
The Rams were one pick away from Surratt who would’ve fit fantastically into their system but instead come away with a tackle to protect Jared Goff and take over for Whitworth. Initially Mayfield will likely kick inside to guard but after a year or two of experience in the NFL should be able to protect on the edge, this transition is perfect as he struggled in college on the edge so it would mitigate one of his largest weakness at the moment.
59.) Buffalo Bills-Josh Myers-IOL
Josh Myers played C for the offensive lines which protected Justin Fields cleanly and helped JK Dobbins break out. For a Center he is mobile but doesn’t exhibit extraordinary finishing ability or football IQ. However, he should fight for a starting spot due to his pulling ability next to Mitch Morse in Buffalo
60.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jordan Davis-NT
Jordan Davis is the typical 2 gap huge nose tackle that modern defenses undervalue but sit at the heart of a good 3-4. Davis has the size and ability to command double teams while stuffing the run. However, he can be inconsistent and has film that shows him as easy to move, coaches will likely hammer on the basics of leverage to correct. Also his move provides depth for Vita Vea and cover for Suh leaving
61.) Green Bay Packers-Jaylen Twyman-DT
Now that Rodgers is happy the Pack can get to work on retooling the defense starting with Twyman. Twyman is a 3 tech which specializes in solid pass rushing and could be perfect for the move to DE in a 3-4. Although Twyman has issues in the run game, mainly being washed out at times, he would be taking less double teams and working against a guards outside shoulder.
62.) Kansas City Chiefs-Kadarius Toney-WR
Andy Reid and co. get another wideout who plays more like a weapon and will likely utilize him in an incredibly fluid way. Also, Toney could take the pressure off of Tyreek Hill in the return game as well.
63.) New Orleans Saints-Aidan Hutchinson-Edge
A 4-3 DE with good tape and average athleticism, could provide good depth at the 5 technique behind Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
64.) Pittsburgh Steelers-Daniel Faalele-OL
An absolutely MASSIVE OL measuring in at 6’8” and 400 pounds, Faalele can move that weight well enough to play tackle but likely projects better to guard. If he can prove that he can play the edge with good technique then he could be an athletic freak and a steal but if he has to kick inside he should be able to manhandle DTs.