Buckle up, it’s another Mock Draft Monday on President’s Day! For the purpose of this exercise, this mock draft will not feature any trades. However, there figures to be plenty of wheeling and dealing come draft day. The biggest trade rumors currently surround Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, which appears to be a fluid situation that we’ll continue to monitor. In the meantime, let's examine how the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft could shape up in just 67 days!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
This pick is almost a hands-down, slam-dunk type pick. With Urban Meyer now at the helm for the Jaguars, there has been some minuscule talk of Justin Fields but that would seem to be unlikely. In the end, the Jaguars will select Lawrence and never look back. This pick is enormous for a franchise that has struggled to find a competent quarterback over the past decade.
2. New York Jets - Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
Did someone say quarterback struggles? The Jets must decide whether to stick with Sam Darnold or hit the reset button once again. With new head coach Robert Saleh taking over, the Jets will kick it off right and snag Justin Fields, who is a game-changing quarterback. The question remains to be seen if they hold onto Darnold or trade him for more draft capital. New York has plenty of needs, so selling Darnold and acquiring those pieces will go a long way for this long-time suffering organization
3. Miami Dolphins - DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins were thought to have made some questionable trades over the past few years but look at them now. Yes, they traded Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, while purging their defense. However, after just missing out on the playoffs this past season, they sit in prime position to improve, as they own a pair of first round picks. This could be a dream scenario, to reunite Smith with his college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami would be set up to take the next step. Offensive line help is also in consideration here but they can address that later in the draft.
4. Atlanta Falcons - Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama
The Falcons and Matt Ryan don’t seem desperate to move on just yet and they still own an offense that can win now. Current free agent Todd Gurley will be 27 with plenty of wear on the tires but this spot is much too early to select a running back. In addition, the receiving core remains intact with Julio Jones and Clavin Ridley. Which leads us to the selection of Surtain, who could help Atlanta return to playoff contention. Expect them to also address a potential replacement for Ryan and edge rusher later in the draft.
5. Cincinnati Bengals - Penei Sewell, Offensive Line, Oregon
Protect Joe Burrow! The selection of Sewell is a dream scenario for the Bengals. After seeing Burrow go down, along with Joe Mixon being unable to stay healthy, it shows that they need major help up front. Cincinnati invested highly last year, it’s only smart to protect your biggest asset. The Bengals are also candidates to trade out of this slot, pick up more draft capital and take an offensive lineman later in the first round.
6. Philadelphia Eagles - Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU
Even if the Eagles trade quarterback Carson Wentz, they still need receiving help for Jalen Hurts (or whoever lines up under center next season). They drafted Jalen Reagor in the first round last year and even though he provided a spark at times, it just wasn’t enough for this team. Veterans DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey may not return in 2021, while tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz can’t do it all by themselves. If Micah Parsons is still on the board at this point, he could also be a viable option.
7. Detroit Lions - Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The new regime in Detroit made a huge splash just a few weeks ago. Long-time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams, in exchange for Jared Goff and two first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. They are also facing the reality of losing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Adding Waddle could entice Golladay to stay and it would be intriguing to see how that duo could help aide Goff moving forward.
8. Carolina Panthers - Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State
The Panthers are another organization that could look to go in a number of different directions. Do they stand pat with Teddy Bridgewater, trade for Deshaun Watson, or draft one of the top young quarterbacks in this draft? Bridgewater wasn’t horrible in 2020 but without star running back Christian McCaffrey, they struggled. The Panthers chose all defensive players in the 2020 NFL Draft and in 2021, they will start with a new quarterback. Lance could be in line for exciting things when paired up with offensive coordinator Joe Brady. If they needed, he could sit behind Bridgewater for a year and learn the ropes of the NFL.
9. Denver Broncos - Zach Wilson, Quarterback, Brigham Young
We have all heard this song and dance ever since Peyton Manning retired. Now that John Elway is out as the general manager, it is time to ring the bell again with another signal-caller, this time with the electrifying Wilson. Current starter Drew Lock doesn’t seem to be the answer. He may receive one more year behind center but he will likely be cut or traded with the start of the Wilson era. The Broncos have plenty of weapons to surround Wilson with and hopefully end the quarterback carousel in Denver.
10. Dallas Cowboys - Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
A year after losing cornerback Byron Jones, the Cowboys probably regret that decision. The highly talented Farley opted out of the 2020 season but laid down enough solid film during his 23 career games started for the Hokies to warrant a first round selection. Dallas is faced with the proposition of potentially losing two more cornerbacks this offseason via free agency, so this is a need that must be addressed.
11. New York Giants - Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State
After barely missing out on the playoffs in 2020, landing the 11th overall pick is not a bad consolation. The Giants are in dire need of a playmaker on defense that they can move around and create mismatches. Parsons can play as the outside pass-rusher or man the middle. They could be losing a few pieces among the front seven this offseason and the selection of Parsons would help soften the blow.
12. San Francisco 49ers - Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina
Although they had one of the better pass defenses in terms of yards and turnovers, the 49ers are facing the possibility of losing several defensive backs this offseason. While Horn won’t cure it all, he will undoubtedly provide that secondary with a much-needed boost. Yes, the 49ers need a quarterback; they could make a bombshell trade for Watson, since their franchise is currently in win-now mode.
13. Los Angeles Chargers - Rashawn Slater, Offensive Line, Northwestern
There were plenty of analysts who thought Justin Herbert wouldn’t live up to the draft capital that Los Angeles invested in him. The 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year surpassed those expectations and then some. The Chargers are in the same boat as the Bengals, they must protect their franchise quarterbacks. With the pending departure of Hunter Henry in free agency, tight end Kyle Pitts could also be in consideration.
14. Minnesota Vikings - Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Before the season began, the Vikings traded for pass-rush specialist Yannick Ngakoue, to pair up with Danielle Hunter. The plan never came to fruition, as Hunter missed the entire 2020 season and Ngakoue played only six games for the Vikings before they traded him to the Ravens. Minnesota is in need of another presence off the edge. Rousseau can be just that, as he is still raw but learning under the tutelage of Hunter could help accelerate the process.
15. New England Patriots - Kyle Pitts, Tight End, Florida
This pick just seems like a natural fit. The Patriots have been searching for that next Rob Gronkowski for quite some time. Will New England feel they can win without taking a quarterback, or does Bill Belichick believe he can find a signal-caller elsewhere? Mac Jones has been rumored here but it is hard to pass up a talent such as Pitts. Whoever is starting at quarterback for the Patriots in 2021, will have a great weapon to utilize.
16. Arizona Cardinals - Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The loss of Chandler Jones due to injury hurt the defense significantly. He is getting older and the Cardinals are also facing the potential loss of De’Vondre Campbell, Markus Golden and Haason Reddick this offseason. Injecting Paye into the fray would be a massive upgrade for the Cardinals, who finished in the bottom half of the league in terms of yards allowed. Things could look a lot different in Arizona next season, as Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald may also be gone.
17. Las Vegas Raiders - Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
The Raiders defense finished in the bottom half of the league in total yards, turnovers and touchdowns. Up front, it hasn’t quite clicked yet for Clelin Ferrell, while defensive end Maxx Corsby didn’t live up to the anticipated hype they had hoped for. Adding Phillips would give the pass-rush a massive upgrade. We saw what he did without Rousseau and showed why he was a former five-star recruit.
18. Miami Dolphins - Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama
Well, we have Tagovailoa and Smith; why not add in Najee Harris. The Dolphins finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Harris can do it all. He completed his Alabama career with over 4,600 scrimmage yards and 57 touchdowns. By adding Harris into the run game, along with a solid defense, Miami would be set up to compete for the AFC East crown.
19. Washington Football Team - Mac Jones, Quarterback, Alabama
Incumbent quarterback Alex Smith is still under contract through 2023 but he isn’t getting any younger and returned from a devastating injury. This may be a reach but Jones boosted his draft stock with a solid Senior Bowl week. He didn’t play in the game due to an injury but he did enough to make himself a first-round pick. Jones won’t have to play this year. He will have a year to learn the system and the NFL.
20. Chicago Bears - Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle, Virginia Tech
It remains to be seen if the Bears will opt to trade for Carson Wentz, stick with unrestricted free agent Mitchell Trubisky or find a quarterback elsewhere? The aforementioned Jones could have been a possibility here but the harsh reality remains that Chicago could be best off keeping Trubisky, who finished with 11 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Selecting an offensive lineman with this pick will help David Montgomery and whoever is playing at quarterback.
21. Indianapolis Colts - Alijah Vera-Tucker, Offensive Line, USC
One of the biggest question marks the Colts will face this offseason is who will line up under center. Philip Rivers retired, Jacoby Brissett is a pending free agent and they are definitely out of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. There is no quarterback in this scenario worthy of this selection. Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo also retired this offseason, leaving them with a hole in the trenches.
22. Tennessee Titans - Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Titans added Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney in 2020 and neither of them finished the season. Beasley played in only five games for the Titans before they released him. Clowney played in eight games with 19 tackles and zero sacks before getting injured and ending his season. Azeez Ojulari would be a great addition to this team. Playing opposite of Clowney would give Ojulari a considerable boost.
23. New York Jets - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Linebacker, Notre Dame
New York had a revolving door at linebacker last season. They traded Avery Williamson and C.J. Mosley opted out of the 2020 season, after missing all of 2019 due to injury. Enter Notre Dame Swiss-Army-Knife Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who can play linebacker or safety and be moved all over the field. New head coach Robert Salah will be looking to add a weapon on defense, which is his specialty.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Samuel Cosmi, Offensive Line, Texas
With the sudden retirement announcement by Maurkice Pouncey and uncertainty surrounding the status of Alejandro Villanueva, the Steelers will be in dire need of help on the offensive line. Cosmi owns excellent length and would be a perfect fit in the run game, which lacked any real substance this past season.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars - Christian Barmore, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
The Jaguars finished in the bottom five in total defense, total touchdowns and turnovers forced. They need a significant presence along the front seven that can make an immediate impact. Former first round pick Josh Allen had a down year and only produced two and a half sacks. They will have a new defensive coordinator that will be making some changes to the defensive scheme and Barmore will be a great addition to start those changes.
26. Cleveland Browns - Zaven Collins, Linebacker, Tulsa
While he doesn’t possess the prestigious Power Five pedigree, Collins projects as an impact player at the next level with his ability to stuff the run or drop back in coverage. He played a fantastic season and will be rewarded for it. Ever since Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins departed, Cleveland has been in search of a star linebacker. Collins fits the bill.
27. Baltimore Ravens - Rashod Bateman, Wide Receiver, Minnesota
It became evident that quarterback Lamar Jackson is in need of another playmaker on offense. Backfield mate Mark Ingram won’t be back next season and their top receiver, Marquise Brown, managed just 769 receiving yards on the year. The next closest wide receiver was Willie Snead, with 432 receiving yards. Bateman can give the Ravens that extra boost on offense and push them deeper into the playoffs for years to come.
28. New Orleans Saints - Nick Bolton, Linebacker, Missouri
The Saints need someone to man the middle. Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton owns an extremely high IQ with an excellent tackling radius and does a great job of plugging the gaps. Demario Davis is getting older and Bolton would be a perfect compliment to Kwon Alexander. The Saints are over the cap, so you could see some players becoming cap casualties, hence leading to the selection of Bolton.
29. Green Bay Packers - Eric Stokes, Cornerback, Georgia
One of the biggest reasons the Packers lost in the NFC Championship game is their bad cornerback play. Eric Stokes would fit in perfectly in Green Bay. The wide receiver position is also needed and if Terrace Marshall of LSU is available, they could go in that direction. Who knows if Aaron Rodgers will even be wearing green and yellow in 2021.
30. Buffalo Bills - Baron Browning, Linebacker, Ohio State
The Bills need another playmaking linebacker alongside Tremaine Edmunds. The star-studded Buckeyes defense features plenty of future pros but Browning may be the best of the bunch. He is one of the best cover linebackers in the draft and can be an asset in the passing game and run defense. AJ Klein filled in nicely for Matt Milano, who is a free agent. Browning could come in and be a day one starter.
31. Kansas City Chiefs - Trey Smith, Offensive Line, Tennessee
Anyone who watched Super Bowl XLV knows that Kansas City was outplayed in the trenches by Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers got pressure on Patrick Mahomes and didn’t let up all game. With three of their offensive linemen due to hit free agency, Smith would be a great addition to this team. Cornerback is also a position of need and if one of the top cornerback prospects slide, don't be surprised if the Chiefs pounce on the opportunity.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dayvion Nixon, Defensive Tackle, Iowa
After that impressive Super Bowl performance, one would not think that the Buccaneers would need to add another defensive lineman but hence the luxury of being World Champions. It is uncertain whether free agent Ndamukong Suh will return in 2021, so Nixon would fit in well next to Vita Vea. Key cogs Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett are also free agents, which could leave the team with plenty of voids to fill. How free agency pans out could dictate how this selection unfolds.
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