Draft week is finally here!
I'll keep this introduction quick: Here is my full two-round mock draft just days before the 2021 NFL Draft begins. A seven-round, Buccaneers-only mock draft will be published on AllBucs before the draft begins as well, and both their first and second round selections in this exercise will be reflected in that story.
Explanations are offered for the top ten picks, for trades and other occasional picks, and of course, both of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' selections. Two trades are included for quarterbacks, but otherwise this mock follows the draft order as currently set.
Players drafted by position: Quarterback (5), running back (2), wide receiver (10), tight end (2), offensive line (14), edge rusher (10), defensive line (2), linebacker (6). cornerback (10), safety (3).
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
I prefer Justin Fields to Zach Wilson, but this mock isn't supposed to reflect my opinion of prospects. Wilson has felt like a lock to the Jets since his pro day.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
This is where the 2021 NFL Draft begins.
The 49ers traded up for a quarterback, there is very little doubt about, but which of the remaining three top signal-callers is the best fit for Kyle Shanahan? I tend to believe the ceiling is higher for Fields and Trey Lance over Mac Jones as Shanahan can utilize their athleticism on option/play-action plays and to move the pocket.
However, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted on Sunday night that San Francisco is seemingly down to Lance and Mac Jones. Either way, I was planning on rolling with Lance here.
I can't imagine that the 49ers will be able to find a trade partner to deal Jimmy Garappolo at this point, meaning Lance can enter San Francisco as the quarterback of the future while Garappolo holds onto his role as quarterback of the present. Lance is raw, but has all of the exciting tools to take a chance on as a project.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Atlanta has reportedly expressed interest in moving out of pick No. 4, but it'll take two teams to tango and I'm not sure a second team will tango given the price to move up this high, especially with two quarterbacks on the board. The Falcons could also take a quarterback themselves, but Matt Ryan is owed a lot of money and continues to play well at 35 years old. Imagine how much longer Ryan's career could last with Kyle Pitts catching his passes?
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
I totally disagree with Cincinnati taking a wide receiver at No. 5 given their needs on the offensive line, but this selection also seems a bit obvious given Ja'Marr Chase's ties to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Chase replaces A.J. Green and provides Burrow with another big-play weapon to go with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
6. Miami Dolphins: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The consensus is allowing Devonta Smith to drop in mock drafts and down big boards due to his size. I get the concerns, but size is also becoming less of a need to play receiver in the NFL so long as a player is both fast and capable of separating. Smith offers both skills and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. His injury history is also minimal, other than when he dislocated his finger.
7. New England Patriots (TRADE w/DET): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
New England sends No. 15 overall, No. 122 overall (fourth round) and its 2022 first-round pick to Detroit for No. 7 overall.
Our first trade! Perhaps Denver will look into moving up and securing a quarterback before New England can make a big jump, but I'm not completely sold on it.
The Patriots are giving Cam Newton another chance as their starter with hopes that their free agent additions will make Newton more comfortable. Maybe that will work, but if not, New England can't afford to rely on Jarrett Stidham as their signal-caller. Justin Fields gives the Patriots a quarterback of the future who is probably good enough to step in and play early if Newton falters.
8. Carolina Panthers: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The top seven could not have played out any better for Carolina, a team in desperate need of offensive line help. With four quarterbacks and three skill players off the board, Penei Sewell, widely considered to the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class since last offseason, falls right into the Panthers' laps at No. 8.
9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Although I understand George Paton is in charge of Denver's football operations now, I think John Elway's infatuation with Drew Lock will earn him another season to prove himself as the Broncos starter, with competition such as Teddy Bridgewater behind him.
Instead of targeting a QB (because taking Mac Jones here seems like a lateral move), Denver upgrades its secondary with consensus No. 1 cornerback in the draft in Patrick Surtain II. Paton played a part in drafting a lot of cornerbacks in Minnesota and that trend should carry over to Denver.
It was about time a defender came off the board, too.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Cowboys could use help across their entire defense, from head to toe. Of their available options, Jaycee Horn can offer the most immediate help and is strong enough in man coverage to provide Dallas with coverage flexibility as it retools its entire secondary.
11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
15. Detroit Lions (from NE): Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Although the Lions miss out on adding Sewell and Slater to their offensive line, left tackle Christian Darrisaw with an additional fourth round pick and 2022 first round selection is a fine consolation prize.
16. Washington Football Team (TRADE w/ARI): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Washington sends No. 19 overall and No. 82 overall (third round) to Arizona for No. 16 overall.
Unless San Francisco is truly infatuated with Mac Jones, I can't see another team valuing him enough to challenge their current starting quarterback. How big of an upgrade would Jones be over Drew Lock in Denver, or Matt Ryan in Atlanta? Would New England really (in this hypothetical situation at least) trade up for Jones instead of Fields?
I could see the Raiders eyeing Jones at No. 17 if he falls that far, however, which is why Washington hops one pick in front of Las Vegas here. With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke on the roster, Jones wouldn't need to be rushed onto the field and could instead be eased into QB1 status on a strong, young roster.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
18. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
19. Arizona Cardinals (from WFT): Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Cornerback was the target all along for Arizona in this scenario, but a quick run on corners beginning with Denver at No. 9 left Arizona with one first-round caliber option to play outside. Instead of reaching, the Cardinals collect an additional day two pick this year and still have Newsome available to them at No. 19. Win-win.
20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
21. Indianapolis Colts: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
22. Tennessee Titans: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
23. New York Jets: Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, Southern Cal
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
It seems like almost everyone is mocking a running back to Pittsburgh after James Conner left in free agency and the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is returning as the team's starter at 39 years old. Count me in as well. Najee Harris should not only take stress off of Big Ben by strengthening the Steelers' running game, but he's a surprisingly threatening receiver as well.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
26. Cleveland Browns: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
28. New Orleans Saints: Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami
29. Green Bay Packers: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
30. Buffalo Bills: Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
31. Baltimore Ravens: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington
In the SI Publisher's mock draft almost two weeks ago, I had the Buccaneers selecting Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike. Then GM Jason Licht propped up the edge class and talked down the defensive line class when speaking with media, so I moved toward a different former Huskies defender.
The Buccaneers could benefit greatly from a rotational edge rusher during a second Super Bowl push, who simultaneously can serve as the eventual heir to Jason Pierre-Paul as the 32-year-old will be a free agent next offseason. Tryon, 6-foot-5, 259 pounds, is a high-quality athlete with great edge-rushing tools and was productive with eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in his lone season as a full-time starter in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season.
Tryon needs to polish his game, particularly after a season removed from the field, but he physically looks like a modern-day edge-rushing force. The Buccaneers can develop Tryon over time to eventually become a starter opposite of Shaq Barrett, and reunite Tyron with former Husky defensive linemen Vita Vea and Benning Potoa’e.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
34. New York Jets: Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State
35. Atlanta Falcons: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
36. Miami Dolphins: Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
37. Philadelphia Eagles: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
38. Cincinnati Bengals: Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma
Remember what I wrote about the Bengals selecting a receiver over an offensive lineman earlier? Humphrey at No. 38 makes the Chase selection a little easier to absorb after he gave up zero sacks in three years as a starter at Oklahoma (per PFF). Alabama's Landon Dickerson offers an argument as a better interior linemen prospect, but Dickerson also had numerous, major injuries during his college career which makes Humphrey a wiser choice for Cincinnati's lackluster front five.
39. Carolina Panthers: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
40. Denver Broncos: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
41. Detroit Lions: Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
42. Giants: Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
43. San Francisco 49ers: Payton Turner, Edge, Houston
44. Dallas Cowboys: Carlos Basham Jr., Edge, Wake Forest
45. Jacksonville Jaguars: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Jacksonville's new tight ends coach, Tyler Bowen, spent three years with Freiermuth at Penn State as his position coach and co-offensive coordinator. Tight end is also the Jaguars' biggest need outside of quarterback. Just some things to keep in mind.
46. New England Patriots: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
47. Los Angeles Chargers: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
48. Las Vegas Raiders: Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
49. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
50. Miami Dolphins: Landon Dickerson, iOL, Alabama
51. Washington Football Team: Brady Christensen, OT, BYU
Offensive line is the trendy pick for Washington in round one, but I have the Football Team moving up slightly for its quarterback of the future there. Have no fear though, Christensen is a capable left tackle prospect who could move to guard given a lack of length. Outside or in, Christensen can provide Washington with an upgrade up front.
52. Chicago Bears: Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
53. Tennessee Titans: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
54. Indianapolis Colts: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
55. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State
56. Seattle Seahawks: Ronnie Perkins, Edge, Oklahoma
57. Los Angeles Rams: Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
58. Baltimore Ravens: Richie Grant, S, UCF
59. Cleveland Browns: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
60. New Orleans Saints: Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
61. Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
This feels like it could be one of the best picks in the 2021 NFL Draft if it pays off immediately. Buffalo's offense is already a whole lot of fun, and adding a well-rounded, two-time Heisman Trophy-contending running back in Travis Etienne could take it to the next level as Devin Singletary and Zack Moss don't seem to be anything more than role-players. 78 total touchdowns in four seasons at Clemson speaks for itself.
62. Green Bay Packers: Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
63. Kansas City Chiefs: Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio State
64. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Cornerback is one of the Buccaneers' biggest needs, as 2020 undrafted free agent Herb Miller is team's only backup outside. Tyson Campbell is an ideal fit for the Buccaneers' secondary given his length, speed and explosion, plus he has experience and is comfortable playing in man coverage from his time at Georgia. Campbell could push Jamel Dean to play opposite of Carlton Davis III over time, but at worst offers immediate, desperately-needed depth.