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2021 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Picks by Fantasy Needs Only

SI Fantasy senior analyst Michael Fabiano mocks the 2021 NFL Draft first round for fantasy-based needs only.

It’s NFL mock draft season! No matter where you go on the world wide web, there’s a good chance you’ll see multiple mocks ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. So, rather than focusing on the norm, this first-round mock draft will be based on fantasy needs alone. That means there won’t be any defensive players (apologizes to the IDP fans) but will instead include offensive skill positions and offensive linemen alone.

Will all the players in this mock draft be valued as first-round selections? No, but then again, you never know for sure in the National Football League, right?

Here’s my “fantasy football” first round.

Trevor Lawrence Clemson football vs Ohio State

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: This is the biggest no-brainer of the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to come out of college since Andrew Luck, and his presence in Jacksonville improves the value of James Robinson, D.J. Chark, and the entire Jaguars offensive attack.

2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: Whether this is Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson, the Jets need to make a change at quarterback. I’ll take the Ohio State product, who has a versatile skill set and could make an immediate impact. The Men in Green also have plenty of draft capital and salary cap space to build around him.

3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU.: The Dolphins need more weapons in the passing game for Tua Tagovailoa, and the presence of Chase would give him a dynamic threat. He could see a nice target share in Miami right out of the gate, and Chase would like to be the first rookie wideout picked in most fantasy drafts.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: The selection of Wilson won’t make an immediate fantasy impact, as the Falcons will continue to roll with Matt Ryan as their starting quarterback. Ryan will be 36 heading into next season, however, so it won't be long before Wilson gets a chance to make his mark on fantasy football.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon: The Bengals’ top priority this offseason is simple: Protect Joe Burrow coming off a torn left ACL and MCL. Adding Sewel to 2019 first rounder Jonah Williams is a good start for the Bengals to accomplish this feat. Better protection will mean good things for this up-and-coming offense.


6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: The Eagles will have a new look on offense after the trade of Carson Wentz, and I'd guess Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Zach Ertz will also be gone in 2021. Adding Smith to an offense with Miles Sanders, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert would be exciting for fantasy purposes.

7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: The Lions have not always had the best luck with first-round wide receivers, but Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Danny Amendola are all slated to be free agents. Even if Golladay is tagged or re-signed, Waddle would still be a nice No. 2 option at wideout for Jared Goff.

8. Carolina Panthers: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida: Pitts is considered a unique talent at the tight end position, and he has a chance to break the trend of first-year tight ends not making an impact. He'd be a big upgrade over Ian Thomas and could turn out to be an absolute fantasy superstar during his pro football career.

Trey Lance

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State: The Broncos aren't in need at running back, wide receiver, or tight end, and in reality, this will likely be a defensive pick. However, Drew Lock hasn’t exactly taken the starting quarterback job and run with it. Lance might need time to develop, but his upside is apparent.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern: The Cowboys offense is loaded with talent, but the line needs work. Enter Slater, who is considered the best offensive tackle in the 2021 draft class. Solidifying the offensive line will be good news for Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and all the Dallas weapons in the pass attack.

11. New York Giants: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida: Daniel Jones needs more weapons in the passing game, and Toney is considered an explosive playmaker. He still needs work as a route runner, but he could etch out a decent role as a rookie.

12. San Francisco 49ers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC: The Niners are mostly set at the top offensive skill positions, but the line had its share of problems last season. That would make Vera-Tucker a nice addition to an offense with fantasy upside.

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13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech: The Chargers have one of the league’s top young quarterbacks in Justin Herbert, so protecting him is imperative. Darrisaw could turn out to be his blindside protector for years to come.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State: Protecting Kirk Cousins is a must, and adding Davis would fill a void on the offensive line. Better protection for Cousins means good things for Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr.

15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: The Patriots have a huge need at quarterback, and Jones will likely be the best option available at this point in the draft. New England is also in a good cap place to add some talent around him.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee: The Cardinals could go with a running back or even a wide receiver with this selection, but adding a piece to the offensive line to better protect Kyler Murray is also a positive fantasy move.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville: The Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards last season, but Tyrell Williams is gone, and Nelson Agholor is a free agent. Plus, Las Vegas loves fast wide receivers like Atwell.


18. Miami Dolphins: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson: No disrespect to Myles Gaskin in this scenario, but Etienne is a game-changer who could be a featured runner as a rookie. He'd bring potential RB2/FLEX starter value as a rookie in redraft leagues.

19. Washington Football Team: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU: Washington has questions at the quarterback position, but the eventual starter will need more weapons. Marshall would fit right in with Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin.

20. Chicago Bears: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss: The Bears might not get Allen Robinson back, as he's slated to become a free agent, and Anthony Miller took a step back last season. Moore was a first-team All-SEC selection and All-American.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State: The Colts have a new quarterback in Wentz, and they’ll be looking for offensive line help following the retirement of Anthony Costanzo. Jenkins can thrive in pass pro and run blocking.

22. Tennessee Titans: Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan: The Titans could be looking for a wide receiver with Corey Davis scheduled to be a free agent, but Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Dennis Kelly, and Ben Jones will all be in their 30s next season.

23. New York Jets: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: The Jets have a glaring need at running back, and Harris would be a perfect fit. A potential three-down back at the NFL level, Harris would bring RB2/FLEX starter value in most redraft leagues.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Landon Dickerson, OL, Alabama: The Steelers could be in the market for a running back with James Conner scheduled to become a free agent, but replacing the retired Maurkice Pouncey will be a bigger need for 2021.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota: The Jaguars have a boatload of cap space, so bringing in a big-name free agent wideout is possible. However, Bateman would be worth a look here if the Jags are building via the draft.

26. Cleveland Browns: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue: The Browns don't have a glaring need on offense, but Rashard Higgins is a free agent, and Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off an ACL repair. As a result, wideout depth could be on their roadmap.

Oklahoma State Cowboys Tylan Wallace

27. Baltimore Ravens: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: Like the Jaguars, the Ravens could sign a free-agent wideout to fill a void. If not, Wallace could compete with Devin Duvernay and Miles Boykin for targets behind Marquise Brown.

28. New Orleans Saints: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC: Michael Thomas is coming off a bad season, Emmanuel Sanders will be 34 ahead of next season, and Tre’Quan Smith hasn’t panned out to this point. That could push the Saints to draft a wideout.

29. Green Bay Packers: Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State: The Packers have Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling behind Davante Adams, but they'd be wise to add a young wideout to further build the passing attack and appease Aaron Rodgers.

30. Buffalo Bills: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina: The Bills have used draft picks to take Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in the last two years, but Williams is better than both and could compete for a prominent role in an explosive offense.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma: If we learned anything from the Super Bowl result, it’s that the Chiefs could use help on their offensive line. Humphrey would be a good addition to help protect superstar Patrick Mahomes.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: James Hudson, OL, Cincinnati: Assuming the Bucs retain Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski, adding O-line depth to protect the soon-to-be 44-year-old Tom (aka the G.O.A.T.) Brady makes sense.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the best analysis in the business!

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