Now that Super Bowl 55 is behind us, all 32 NFL organizations enter the most exciting time of the year for many of us football fans; the offseason. The chapter of the 2020-21 season concludes and a new one begins with each fan base eager and optimistic about their team’s opportunity in the upcoming season.
Firstly, congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their Super Bowl victory. Some of the organization’s best assets have been recent draft picks, including their last two first-round selections in Devin White and Tristan Wirfs. Since the 2018 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay has invested in and been able to hit on many defensive back players that were able to minimize Tyreek Hill and the impact of the Kansas City Chiefs’ passing attack. The Buccaneers have been one of the most successful organizations as of late in hitting on their draft picks consistently leading them to having the talent and depth to win in dominating fashion against the explosive Kansas City Chiefs.
Whether your team needs to begin a rebuild, continue to bring in and develop young talent, re-tool an already contending team, or simply just needs to get healthy and run it back with the core already set in place, the offseason brings an opportunity for each franchise in taking its next step in the process hopefully leading to competing for a chance to become Super Bowl champions.
Each organization has its own unique path to finding its way to its next Super Bowl appearance, however, bringing in the right players for the organization through the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be crucial for your favorite NFL franchise making a push next season.
We have already seen some blockbuster moves from the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions in their attempt to make themselves a better team for their winning window and that is what we will continue in this mock 2021 NFL Draft. So, expect some trades to be made.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This has become the boring, obvious start to the 2021 NFL Draft, though Jacksonville Jaguars fans should be just as excited about the potential return this selection can bring them and their organization as they were when they locked in the number one overall pick. Combine the top quarterback prospect in a decade or more with having the most projected cap room this offseason and another first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and there is much to be anxious for this offseason and beyond in Jacksonville.
Bring in Allen Robinson II or Kenny Golladay to join that already exciting group of offensive playmakers, while adding some talent on the defensive side of the football through free agency and the Jaguars will take that next step in returning to the NFL Playoffs sooner rather than later.
2. New York Jets- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
While Sam Darnold may still be able to find some semblance of success in the NFL, the New York Jets are best off cutting ties with the former top-five pick and obtaining as much draft compensation as possible, in order to build around their new franchise quarterback in the new regime under Robert Saleh. With another first-round pick, plus the projected cap flexibility they will have, the Jets front office should bring in a better surrounding cast than Darnold had to work within his tenure as the franchise quarterback.
Fields provides them with a track record of winning, alongside his immense physical tools. If this coaching staff can effectively develop his mental understanding of the offense, there should be no hesitations in predicting Justin Fields’ success in the NFL.
3. Houston Texans (via Miami Dolphins)- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Miami trades: 2021 first (No.3 overall), 2021 2nd (No.35 overall), 2022 first, 2023 first, Tua Tagovailoa
Houston trades: Deshaun Watson
Houston is backed against the wall in the Deshaun Watson saga, as the disgruntled quarterback is one of the NFL’s best at the position at such a young age. This deal makes sense for Houston, as they get a new quarterback of the future in Tua Tagovailoa, while gaining three top-35 picks over the next two years to rebuild with.
With the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Houston can now afford to bring in Tagovailoa’s favorite target from his college days in DeVonta Smith. Smith has been one of the most dominant receivers in college football in recent history and bringing in a familiar face to Houston for Tagovailoa, with the continuity between the two already in place, this may be just what he needs to get settled into the NFL speed and take the next step in his development.
4. Denver Broncos (via Atlanta Falcons)- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Atlanta trades: 2021 first (No.4 overall)
Denver trades: 2021 first (No.9 overall), 2021 2nd (No.41 overall), 2021 4th (No.113 overall), 2022 first, 2022 second
With the Broncos on the outside looking in at the quarterback sweepstakes in the 2021 NFL Draft, they have to get aggressive early to bring in the future at the position. Let’s face it; it will cost you to move up and get a quarterback. With the talent they have on both sides of the football, it is growingly apparent that Drew Lock’s inconsistencies are holding them back from taking that next step.
Despite the Matthew Stafford trade, the Falcons have made it clear that they aren’t jumping ship and looking to move Matt Ryan and believe they are wanting to give this core one more shot under Arthur Smith. With a new regime in Atlanta, that front office is going to have to re-tool this offense to fit Smith’s power run scheme while bringing more talent on the defensive side of the football. With this deal, they are still in a position to take an impact player in the first round, while providing more opportunity to build around the new scheme later in the draft.
BYU scrambler Wilson is just the quarterback needed in Denver. With his ability to work off-script as well as having the arm strength to threaten all levels of the field, this could make for a fun offense with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler for years to come. The stabilizing quarterback play Wilson can bring might be just what the Broncos need to start competing in, what looks like, one of the better divisions in the NFL.
5. Cincinnati Bengals- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
You’re welcome Cincinnati fans. The Bengals get some much-needed protection for their franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow. With solid wide receiving talent already in place, it is essential for them to invest in the trenches and keep their first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft upright. Sewell is one of the best tackle prospects in recent memory and should cement himself alongside Jonah Williams as one of the best young tackle duos in the NFL.
6. Philadelphia Eagles- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Many have seemed to forget just how great of a pass-catcher Ja’Marr Chase is. Though he doesn’t possess the elite physical traits of some of the other top wide receiver options in the 2021 NFL Draft, Chase has the size, physicality and nuance to win in a number of ways across the field. His competitive toughness at the catch point will be enough to feel comfortable with Chase being the number one target in Philadelphia, regardless of who is throwing him the football next year.
7. Detroit Lions- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
It’s simple. Detroit just has to bring in wide receiver talent. With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola likely out the door to free agency, the Lions have multiple positions they need to address in the 2021 NFL Draft. Though it was thought that the Lions would be in the market for a quarterback with Stafford likely traded, now that they have Jared Goff as a return asset, that position isn’t necessarily a hole (though they could be in a different train of thought this time next year).
Detroit will need to get Goff some weapons outside of Quintez Cephus, in order to provide him the best opportunity to prove he has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in his new situation. Lions fans have to give him a chance, though. Ryan Tannehill looked like a bust after his time with the Dolphins. He was given a fresh start in Tennessee and has been a top-15 quarterback in the league ever since.
8. Carolina Panthers- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The future looks bright in Carolina. With Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Jeremy Chinn being the centerpiece of the defense moving forward and having young playmakers in place on the offensive side, this team is close. Real close. Teddy Bridgewater has been everything the Panthers have expected; a middling quarterback that won’t make too many mistakes. Bring Bridgewater back, draft Trey Lance and allow the new future franchise quarterback time to develop and get used to the speed of the NFL game.
If put in a situation where he isn’t tasked with being thrown in early in his rookie season, which he would be in this case, Lance can develop behind the scenes and work towards fulfilling his potential which is likely the second highest only behind Trevor Lawrence.
9. Atlanta Falcons (via Denver Broncos)- Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
As stated before, the Falcons moving back provides them more opportunities to bring in more talent at positions of need on defense, as well as bringing in offensive pieces that fit the new power-run game regime that Arthur Smith brings with him from Tennessee. This trade-back provides Atlanta additional draft capital to invest at running back, defensive end, safety and offensive line later in this year’s draft, while also making a selection of Patrick Surtain II a better value in this scenario.
They get their starting outside corner of the future opposite of 2020 first-rounder, A.J. Terrell. The Falcons continuing to go after defensive backs in the draft is a testament to the wide receiving talent in the NFC South. Atlanta just has to play more consistent in coverage in this division. Now, go get pass rushers and a running back on day two.
10. Dallas Cowboys- Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Well, they took Trevon Diggs in the second round in last year’s NFL Draft but they have to invest more into that defensive back room to pose a threat to opponents’ passing game. With Jaycee Horn, they get a physical-natured bully on the perimeter, as they wish to play more press-man coverage with Diggs and Horn. Better cornerback play will mitigate the pass rush concern the roster has aside from Demarcus Lawrence.
11.New York Giants- Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
This is a great value at a position of need for New York. With an outside pass-rush, as well as an off-ball linebacker presence needed, Micah Parsons can be a versatile impact player for both needs. With an edge-rushing background and playing primarily inside linebacker at Penn State, Parsons can be a chess piece in the front seven of this defense, with the tools that can make him one of the NFL’s best linebackers in the future.
12.San Francisco 49ers- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The 49ers are going to be tasked with re-tooling this defense, as they project to lose much of the talent on that side of the football this offseason. This is especially true in the defensive backfield, where they are losing Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett and Jaquiski Tartt among others. With each of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft already selected and failing to move up to get one themselves, this is likely the position that is looked at by this front office.
Though there may be better value selections than Caleb Farley here, the 49ers have to address this position. This coaching staff has to be able to develop on the physical traits here. On tape, he often gets lost in space and doesn’t show good awareness for route concepts around him in zone coverage which must be developed further in this scheme. His ability to play in off-man and some press-man is already up to standard for the NFL. From a physical traits perspective, Farley is in a tier of his own in this draft class. Farley has elite speed for the position and he should be able to grow as a zone coverage defender with NFL-level coaching.
13. Los Angeles Chargers- Rashawn Slater, OT/IOL, Northwestern
The Los Angeles Chargers need to reinforce their offensive line at both tackle and guard. Rashawn Slater allows them the flexibility to play him anywhere on the line and trust that his level of play will suffice early with potential of turning into a great long-term option wherever he sticks. He can plug-and-play wherever needed.
14. Minnesota Vikings- Greg Rousseau, DE, Miami
Minnesota gets the help they need across that defensive line. Greg Rousseau has proven throughout his limited tape that he can win from any alignment. With need across the line, they can deploy him as a versatile chess piece on the front of their defense. His length, size and success rate despite still being raw at the position offers promise that he can develop into an elite caliber pass-rusher with some technical development. With a ton of picks in the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, Minnesota can afford the gamble on the high-upside pick in Rousseau.
15. New England Patriots- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
It feels wrong letting Kyle Pitts fall this far in mock drafts but it is hard to find a landing spot for him before this point. A team may invest in him earlier as simply a pass-catching weapon, so it would come to no surprise that New England would scoop up this value, if he were to become available to them here. They desperately need talent in the passing game and Pitts can step in and be an impact weapon that can be deployed anywhere on the football field.
16. Arizona Cardinals- Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Arizona plays a lot of press-man coverage on the outside and with Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and other members of the cornerback room likely changing places this offseason, the Cardinals’ front office has to be able to reload at the position. Here, they thankfully get a talented athlete that can play a versatile coverage role at the next level. With elite speed and showing the ability to turn the football over in 2020, Stokes has the tools to play in this fun, athletic defense for years to come.
17. Las Vegas Raiders- Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Raiders need to invest in pass-rushing options. It’s no secret that former top-five pick Clelin Ferrell, hasn’t quite lived up to the billing. The Raiders would love to add Kwity Paye to this defense, as a versatile lineman in that 4-3 under scheme from Gus Bradley. Paye, too, has the elite traits that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden tend to gravitate towards. For his size, they don’t make athletes as explosive as Paye.
18. Miami Dolphins- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The “no running back in the first round” crowd has grown tremendously over the last handful of years but Najee Harris is too talented to pass up. The Dolphins brought in their quarterback of the future in Deshaun Watson in this mock 2021 NFL Draft and along with Harris, he can be a great compliment to each other and open this offense up. The Dolphins need to address the wide receiver room but there is so much depth at the position that they should be confident in their options later in the draft. Harris will be a workhorse running back that will be a plus contributor in the passing game, while providing excellent rushing production as well. (Just don’t pay him a second contract).
19. Washington Football Team- Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Washington Football Team saw their franchise left tackle, Trent Williams, leave the organization last year. In this situation, they are blessed with Christian Darrisaw falling to them and stepping in as their future at the position. Darrisaw looks to have all the tools necessary to become a franchise left tackle. He checks all the boxes, while also having room to develop even more. There are no concerning traits in him as a prospect, making him a comfortable fit to play week one for this ascending offense.
20. Chicago Bears- Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/IOL, USC
Alijah Vera-Tucker is a good football player. He can come in and fill a need they have at offensive tackle or inside where he has played most of his collegiate career. Vera Tucker has proven that he is a pure mauler ready to come in and make an immediate impact.
Yet again, the Chicago Bears look to be without a viable future asset at the quarterback position. The roster is way too good as it currently stands to be in striking distance to comfortably draft a quarterback, so they might need to look at the free-agent market to fulfill the need. The only problem is, the Bears are projected to be $10 million over the projected cap as it stands, which ranks 21st in the league. This frustrating run of years may look to continue in Chicago.
21. Indianapolis Colts- Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
With Anthony Castonzo retiring, the Colts need to fill that hole and they do so with Samuel Cosmi here. Chris Ballard has to figure out what is going to happen at the quarterback position. There are rumors that Andrew Luck is talking with team personnel.
Don’t hold your breath, Colts fans but it does provide a sense of optimism for the franchise at the potential of bringing back a quarterback that could lead this team to the Super Bowl.
22. Tennessee Titans- Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
This Titans team isn’t far from seriously contending, however, the departure of offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith makes you wonder where they will transition this offense to moving forward. Through the uncertainty of the offensive side of the ball, this is a great opportunity to continue to build the pass rush out for the defense. As a base 3-4 defense, Azeez Ojulari’s explosiveness and play strength will play well to their scheme. With Harold Landry opposite and Jeffrey Simmons inside, this makes for a promising pass rush core to build on.
23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)- Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas
Robert Saleh is in the building and that means this defense is going to get an energy boost. Why not pair the high motor head coach with a pass rusher that is lauded for his high motor. This seems like a great culture fit to me while also addressing an area of the defense that is lacking. With there being wide receiving talent everywhere in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets can afford to wait for another 11 picks to look at the position.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
This is a selection based on need. With multiple key linemen hitting free agency this year, there is little certainty that the Steelers will be able to go into 2021 without selecting a replacement lineman. Jalen Mayfield played an impressive brand of football in his limited action in 2020 and showed an upward trajectory of success that Pittsburgh can build on for the future.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams)- Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama
Alabama tyrant Christian Barmore was able to cement himself atop the interior defensive linemen ranks in the 2021 NFL Draft, after his exciting stretch through the College Football Playoffs. It is expected that the Jaguars will attack defensive back and wide receiver in free agency, so Barmore can be an explosive presence for this defense’s interior for years to come.
26. Cleveland Browns- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The second-level of the Cleveland defense needs some TLC. Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah burst onto the scene this season making his presence known as a coverage nightmare due to his athleticism and length. He can provide an impactful blitzing role from the linebacker position. This pick helps with Cleveland’s struggle covering the middle of the field in the passing game, while giving them another piece to use as an occasional pass rusher aside from relying on Myles Garrett.
27. Baltimore Ravens- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Without a doubt, the Baltimore Ravens can win a Super Bowl under their current regime and core. However, they have to figure out how to effectively attack through the air. Everyone knew Lamar Jackson wasn’t going to sling the ball across the yard coming in but he has to be able to move the safeties back. Rashod Bateman provides a terrific weapon for Jackson to utilize over the intermediate levels of the field, which is what they are missing. Mark Andrews has had to carry the load in that area of the field without any other viable options. Bateman spreads that offense out and gives Jackson another reliable body on the perimeter to balance back out this offense moving forward.
28. New Orleans Saints- Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa
The Saints will have a fun offseason navigating their quarterback situation. Whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill man the position in 2021, they aren’t going to be good enough to compete for a Super Bowl with Drew Brees retiring. They need to sure up that defense with an impactful linebacker in Collins, who can rush the passer and has some serious flashes in coverage.
29. Green Bay Packers- Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Do you know why Green Bay lost in the NFC Championship? They don’t have a good number two cornerback. In all seriousness, Kevin King has actually been a solid corner for them recently aside from that last chance to make an impression before free agency. It is safe to say they aren’t bringing him back as the fanbase wouldn’t like that very much. Tyson Campbell has all of the tools to be a great NFL corner but he hasn’t been able to put it all together quite yet. This is an excellent gamble for Green Bay to take here late in the first round to develop, as they did with Jaire Alexander.
30. Buffalo Bills- Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
The Buffalo front office is about to face some issues with pending free agents on the roster. Nick Bolton allows for the organization to go cheaper at off-ball linebacker beside Tremaine Edmunds and still get an impactful run defender that can play all three downs for the Bills’ defense.
31. Kansas City Chiefs- Alex Leatherwood, IOL, Alabama
Many give Kansas City fun weapons like Rondale Moore or Kadarius Toney here but they should seriously look to invest in their offensive line, with three of their starters hitting free agency this offseason. Though Alex Leatherwood has not impressed at tackle for many, he projects very favorably to the inside and can be a first-round worthy guard for the NFL. There are potential opportunities at both guard and tackle coming available in Kansas City this offseason that Leatherwood could find the opportunity to take over. However, he will find more success if forced to move inside, which is where Kansas City would likely have him.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Levi Onwuzurike, IDL, Washington
With Shaquil Barrett and Ndamukong Suh set to hit free agency and Suh, especially, likely to not return to the team next season, Tampa Bay should look to add some young pass rush to the interior to go beside Vita Vea. Levi Onwuzurike is an athletic, twitchy athlete that projects best as a three-technique in an even front like Tampa plays. He has all of the potential in the world and has shown flashes of being an un-blockable menace that can get in the backfield with authority. If deployed correctly, he should continue to dominate at the point of attack at the next level.
Just missing the first round in this mock 2021 NFL Draft are notable players such as Mac Jones (Alabama), Jaelen Phillips (Miami), Kadarius Toney (Florida) and Travis Etienne (Clemson). Jones looks like he may find his way into the first round but the value he can bring to the quarterback position in the NFL is questionable. Though the talent and play is undeniable, Phillips’ concussion history is concerning and may push him back further than many are willing to admit. For Toney and Etienne, there just wasn’t the right landing spot in this mock, though they could easily find themselves in the conversation for a first round selection.