Barring a trade up in this year's NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills won't be in a great position at No. 30 to get an impact pass rusher or one of the top cornerbacks, which are positions of need.
That's why they turn their attention to another position in which an upgrade might still be considered a priority: Running back. They go for more of a sure thing with Clemson's Travis Etienne, Fan Nation predicts in its 2021 mock first round, assembled by the publishers of each SI.com's team websites.
Because the running back position has come to be devalued by the NFL over the years, many of the top backs get pushed down in the first round and even out of the first round altogether in some cases.
In fact, as the publishers see it this year, Etienne will be one of only two running backs to go in the first round.
Here's how it breaks down:
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Biggest needs: QB, TE, S, OL.
There isn't a more obvious pick in the draft. Heck, there might not be a more obvious pick in the last plus-decade. For all intents and purposes, the Jaguars have essentially had Trevor Lawrence's name written down on the draft card since they secured the No. 1 overall pick in December and this was only intensified when Urban Meyer took the head coaching job the following month. Lawrence isn't perfect, but he is the best quarterback in the draft and has the tools to carry a franchise with some more development. Combine his on-field traits, Meyer's long-held obsession with his talent, and the way he meshes with Jacksonville's franchise as a leader, and this is a pick that is easy to make.
The pick: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson.
2. NEW YORK JETS
Biggest needs: QB, OL, CB, Edge.
After the Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, it became pretty clear what New York was going to do with the No. 2 pick. A two-win team has plenty of needs, more than the positions listed above, but when you have a chance to start anew at the game's most important position with a talented prospect like Zach Wilson, you don't hesitate. Jets GM Joe Douglas isn't revealing which QB his team is going to take just yet, but all signs point toward the BYU stud replacing Darnold under center in New York. You can use a sharpie for this one.
The pick: QB Zach Wilson, BYU.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Biggest teams needs: QB, RB, WR, CB, S, DE.
The 49ers are in win-now mode, having gone to the Super Bowl 14 months ago. They re-signed most of their veteran players and want to make one more run at a championship. And then they traded three first-round picks for the No. 3 pick — a baffling move if the 49ers intend to take the third-best quarterback in the draft. The 49ers shouldn't have traded so much capital for the No. 3 pick. But they did, and now they own it. So they have to make sure they get the pick right. They can take the third-best quarterback or the best player in the entire draft, Kyle Pitts.
The pick: QB Mac Jones, Alabama.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS
Biggest needs: OL, TE, QB, DE.
The Falcons at the fourth pick face a debate for the ages. It’s important to mention this first: They have their new GM in Terry Fontenot. What’s his general philosophy? They have their new coach in Arthur Smith. What’s his general philosophy? And they have an established (but aging) QB in Matt Ryan. If there was a QB’s Pro Day, Atlanta’s big wigs were present. But are the QBs available at No. 4 better players than Florida tight end Kyle Pitts?
The pick: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Biggest needs: OL, WR, Edge.
The Bengals desperately need to upgrade their offensive line, and Penei Sewell is clearly the best trench player in this draft. His combination of size and athleticism is impressive, especially considering he's just 20 years old. Sewell could start his career at guard, but he'll be an instant upgrade to a position group that desperately needs to improve. The Bengals seriously considered Ja'Marr Chase with this pick, but Sewell was too talented to pass up. He isn't a perfect prospect, but there's no reason why he can't develop into a high-end NFL tackle.
The pick: T Penei Sewell, Oregon.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Biggest needs: Edge, RB, WR, C.
The Dolphins absolutely will consider trading back a few spots here if Pitts no longer is available because they still would have their choice of one of the top wide receivers available, whether it be Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. With no trades in this mock, the Dolphins figure to try to land the most impactful playmaker to help out quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The pick: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU.
7. DETROIT LIONS
Biggest needs: WR, CB, LB, Edge.
The Lions should be hoping the phone rings with teams looking to trade up to draft a quarterback. Detroit has needs all over on defense, especially at the linebacker position. Linebacker Micah Parsons is exactly what Detroit is looking for to kick-start its rebuild. Even though the former Penn State linebacker did not play in 2020, he was the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year in 2019. Head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have just found their quarterback of the defense for many years to come.
The pick: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Biggest needs: OT, CB, DT, S.
By trading for QB Sam Darnold, the Panthers now have some flexibility with the eighth overall pick. If the quarterback they like is still on the board, they will still strongly consider taking one, according to head coach Matt Rhule. However, if the quarterbacks they like is no longer on the board, they can shift their focus to rebuilding the line or the secondary. Carolina’s offensive line was in shambles last season and needs to give Darnold more protection. By selecting Rashawn Slater and potentially signing Taylor Moton long term, the Panthers are well on their way to reshaping the line.
The pick: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern.
9. DENVER BRONCOS
Biggest needs: CB, LB, EDGE, T, S.
The national perspective continues its relentless speculation that new Broncos GM George Paton is looking to move off Drew Lock but that's not the read locally. With Vic Fangio's job potentially on the line, the Broncos have to win now, and a QB, despite the relatively spectacular talents of Trey Lance and Justin Fields still being available, won't do much to move that needle in the short term. Instead, Paton invests in one of the stingiest cornerbacks in the 2021 class and gives Fangio a win-now defensive weapon as well as a future hedge for life after Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan.
The pick: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS
Biggest needs: CB, DL, S, OL.
The Cowboys at the 10th pick are well aware of their glaring needs on a defense than in 2020 was by many measures the poorest in franchise history. They lack premium talent across the board in the secondary and they lack talent inside up front. They are also mindful of eventually replacing Hall of Fame-level left tackle Tyron Smith, and yes, they love tight end Kyle Pitts. (Who doesn’t?) But Patrick Surtain is polished and NFL-ready, filling a need while also meriting the spot.
The pick: CB Patrick Surtain, Alabama.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS
Biggest Needs: OL, Pass Rusher, Interior DL.
The Giants' offensive line is still somewhat unsettled, but with Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater off the board, addressing that unit will have to wait. They also could use a solid pass rusher, but again there was no one matching the value at number 11. So why wide receiver, especially after the team just signed Kenny Golladay and John Ross to free agent contracts? Jaylen Waddle can play both outside and in the slot, the latter position being a key. Current slot receiver Sterling Shepard has missed games each of the last two seasons and is getting up there in terms of football years. By adding a young receiver who is versatile enough to play both the slot and the perimeter, the Giants are getting good value at number 11 and adding yet another playmaker to a lethargic scoring offense.
The Pick: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama.
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Biggest Needs: CB, Edge, WR, LB.
Two quarterbacks – Justin Fields and Trey Lance – have inexplicably slipped, as has the Heisman Trophy-winning WR, DeVonta Smith, but the Eagles resist the urge and — with an NFL-high 11 picks in this draft and possibly at least two first-round selections in 2022, and probably a third depending on Carson Wentz’s snaps percentage in Indy —roll the dice on a boom-or-bust prospect. They drafted a Michigan edge rusher in 2010 in Brandon Graham, who has become an icon in team history, and go back to that school here.
The pick: Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan.
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Biggest needs: LT, CB, Edge, S.
The two best left tackles and the two best cornerbacks were gone. Linebacker Micah Parsons and edge rusher Kwity Paye were gone. So what would the Chargers do? Take the best available player like General Manager Tom Telesco has said in the past. Why not add a Heisman Trophy winner to the high-powered offense? Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson added some nice plays on offense, but the Chargers need a reliable third receiver. Now that the team has quarterback Justin Herbert, it needs to continue getting him offensive weapons. This weapon would help them reach the next level.
The pick: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama.
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Biggest needs: OL, Edge, WR, CB.
In a typical scenario, the Vikings are taking an offensive lineman like Christian Darrisaw or Alijah Vera-Tucker here, or maybe an edge rusher like Azeez Ojulari or Jaelan Phillips. But with several defensive players going earlier than anticipated, this isn't a typical scenario. General manager Rick Spielman has seen Justin Fields and Trey Lance — both of whom he evaluated at their pro days — fall into his lap, and the value is too good to pass up. The Vikings take their quarterback of the future, who can sit for a year and learn under Kirk Cousins. Next offseason, Cousins will be traded and the next era will start. Fields vs. Lance is an interesting debate, but the Ohio State product is more of a proven commodity.
The pick: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State.
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Biggest needs: QB, WR, DT.
Because of his freakish combination of size and speed and the many ways that Bill Belichick could use him on defense, Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins would be awfully tempting here, but having one of the five blue-chip quarterback prospects fall in their lap leaves the Patriots with little choice here. They are able to land their quarterback of the future without having to move up and can have Trey Lance spend his rookie season learning behind Cam Newton, a player who came into the NFL with many of the same physical traits.
The pick: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Biggest needs: CB, RB, TE, WR, OLB.
Without selections in the third and fourth rounds, the Cardinals have to be smart with their first two picks. The most logical move would be adding a cornerback to a position that currently has little depth following the departure of Patrick Peterson in free agency. Malcolm Butler and Robert Alford are on one-year contracts and youth is needed to join Byron Murphy Jr., who the team would prefer to keep in the slot. While it’s likely a corner will be the pick, the Cardinals will think long and hard about adding outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
The pick: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Biggest needs: LB, OL, DB.
The Las Vegas Raiders enter the 2021 NFL Draft in a unique position. Having attacked their needs in free agency, they are far from complete, but not desperate. They would love to see some guys drop, but they are positioned to move up or down, and could just as easily stay put.
The pick: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Biggest needs: Edge, RB, WR, C.
The Dolphins definitely could use an edge rusher here, but they also will be in a position to get one with the fourth pick in the second round, and the same goes for a running back. The better value, both in terms of position and prospect, then moves to other positions and the Dolphins actually have a lot of areas where they can use upgrades, even though they wouldn’t necessarily be classified as needs.
The pick: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa.
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Biggest needs: T, LB, QB.
The WFT sits comfortably at the 19th pick having smartly used free agency to fill needs. Now comes the luxury of being able to go “B.A.A.” at 19 ... because the roster really doesn’t have many holes. A starting tackle would be helpful, as would a playmaking linebacker. At the same time, with this loaded defense, having a QB to take over for “bridge” signee Ryan Fitzpatrick is a consideration.
The pick: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame.
20. CHICAGO BEARS
Biggest needs: QB, CB, T, WR.
With the Russell Wilson folly a thing of the past and top five quarterbacks of the draft gone, the Bears have to live with the reality they'll start Andy Dalton. Coach Matt Nagy would love another burner on offense, his version of Tyreek Hill. For now, cornerback and offensive line are more essential and at least they have viable tackle alternatives. They'll gamble on a health risk to replace Kyle Fuller after agent Drew Rosenhaus has guaranteed everyone his client is fine.
The pick: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Biggest needs: Edge, T, CB, WR, QB.
The Colts handled the QB situation by acquiring Carson Wentz. That fixed the immediacy of Indy's issue. Defensively, though, the Colts are absolutely riddled with holes. This team needs an edge rusher and one with some length. But Wentz needs protection on the edge. Offensive tackle was too tempting to pass on with two excellent prospects still on the board.
The pick: Teven Jenkins, T, Oklahoma State.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS
Biggest needs: CB, WR, TE, OLB, T.
Salary cap cuts and free agency created openings in the secondary and in the passing game that must be filled. Plus, the Titans have to address the disaster that was last year’s first-round pick, Isaiah Wilson, who was supposed to be the long-term answer at right tackle, as well as one of the league’s worst pass rushes in 2020. Thus, this will be a choice between players at different positions. Given the current make-up of the roster, a wide receiver would be tempting here, but there are enough good ones to wait on that position.
The pick: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia.
23. NEW YORK JETS
Biggest needs: OL, CB, Edge, RB.
Now that New York has its new franchise quarterback, the next order of business is to surround him with weapons and to protect him. If a top corner or edge rusher slipped to number 23, Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh would surely consider a defensive pick here, but having a high-upside lineman available here makes it an easy decision. The Jets didn't address their offensive line in free agency. Now, they'll have Alijah Vera-Tucker alongside Mekhi Becton up front for years to come.
The pick: T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Biggest needs: RB, T, CB, C, ILB.
The Steelers have plenty of needs but their most important are all on the offensive side of the ball. Fixing the run game has been a priority the last two seasons and by moving on from James Conner, they're ready to turn to a new pair of legs in the backfield. It's been four years since Pittsburgh has had a superstar running back. With Najee Harris and Travis Etienna sliding to the 24th pick, the Steelers can't pass up the opportunity to add a runner in the first round.
The pick: RB Najee Harris, Alabama.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Biggest needs: TE, S, OL.
The Jaguars signed a big-money safety in free agency in Rayshawn Jenkins, but they need more playmakers in the secondary. I would have picked Teven Jenkins, Azeen Ojulari or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah here if any of the three were on the board, but the Jaguars instead come away with an athletic and versatile cover safety who can be deployed across their secondary.
The pick: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Biggest needs: CB, DE, S, WR.
Even if the Browns are able to sign Jadeveon Clowney, which looks likely, corner and edge rusher are still the team's two biggest needs, so Joseph Ossai out of Texas was a consideration. However, the Browns have put significant resources into improving their secondary, signing John Johnson III and Troy Hill. They need another strong corner across from Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams has yet to prove anything two years into his career. He will have his chance to compete for the starting job but the Browns want more talent there as well as depth.
The pick: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Syracuse.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Biggest Needs: Edge, WR. OL, S, CB.
The Ravens will have a tough choice to make with the 27th overall selection. Baltimore's primary needs are at edge rusher and wide receiver. The team could also use help on the offensive line and in the secondary. LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall has been the player most closely linked to Baltimore. However, would GM Eric DeCosta be tempted to take a wide receiver in the first round for the second time in three years? Finding a talented edge rusher is one of the main priorities of the offseason. The Ravens have not had a player finish with double-digit sacks since Terrell Suggs managed 11 in 2017.
The pick: WR Terrace Marshall, LSU.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Biggest needs: CB, LB, OL, DL, WR, QB, RB.
The Who Dat Nation is clamoring for a cornerback with Marshon Lattimore's pending legal issues and no movement on a contract extension. New Orleans released CB Janoris Jenkins and LB Kwon Alexander in cap-saving moves, but also did not extend a new contract to LB Alex Anzalone. Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have to make decisions to counter the speed of skill players within the NFC South. After Horn, Newsome, Surtain and Farley off the board, expect the Saints to draft Asante Samuel Jr.
The Pick: CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Biggest needs: CB, DT, T, WR.
For a team coming off back-to-back trips to the NFC Championship Game, the list of needs runs rather long. The Packers have one really good cornerback (Jaire Alexander), one good defensive lineman (Kenny Clark) and no backup offensive tackles who have played a meaningful snap from scrimmage. Oh, and their All-Pro center (Corey Linsley) left in free agency and there isn’t a reliable receiver beyond Davante Adams. There’s a quality player available at each of those spots with cornerback Eric Stokes of Georgia, center Creed Humphrey of Oklahoma, receiver Rashod Bateman of Minnesota and slot receiver Kadarius Toney of Florida.
The pick: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama.
30. BUFFALO BILLS
Biggest needs: Edge, CB, TE, RB.
This is obviously a pretty deep roster already. But there's certainly room for upgrades, especially at defensive end and CB2. The Bills added speedy free agent RB Matt Breida but would have to also consider a do-it-all back who slips to them because of how much the position has been devalued over the years. So with all the uncertainty this deep in the first round, why not go for more of a sure thing?
The pick: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Biggest Needs: LT, Edge, WR, C.
The Chiefs have had a genuinely bizarre offseason, particularly at left tackle. After being in on the Trent Wiilliams sweepstakes until the bitter end, the Chiefs did nothing to bolster the position through free agency. But with the 31st pick, there’s no sure thing at left tackle. The Chiefs would love to add another edge opposite Frank Clark, who may be headed out of KC after the 2021 season, and Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips was going to be my pick here. ... And then Rashod Bateman made it to 31. The Chiefs were heavily recruiting JuJu Smith-Schuster and several other free agent wide receivers as potential Sammy Watkins replacements but missed out across the board. If Bateman is available at 31 overall, the Chiefs can reload Patrick Mahomes’s weaponry for years to come. ... Even though we won’t know who’s protecting his blind side.
The pick: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Biggest needs: CB, DL, OT, QB, Edge.
Tampa Bay's needs listed above aren’t exactly pressing, but that's because the Buccaneers retained each of their free agent starters this offseason from the Super Bowl run. The Bucs can approach this draft with the future and depth in mind as several starters have one year left on their current/new contracts. In this scenario and by that approach, the Buccaneers identify an heir to Ndamukong Suh at defensive end in Levi Onwuzurike, who offers the athleticism and pass-rushing capabilities to earn a third-down role in year one. With some lower-body strength added over time, Onwuzurike could take over a starting gig in 2022. Keep in mind, two of his former Huskies teammates are members of Tampa Bay's defensive line, Vita Vea and Benning Potoa’e.
The pick: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington.