As we get closer and closer to the 2021 NFL Draft in April, one thing stays constant throughout the cycle. It is always mock draft season! After the conclusion of the conference championship games, we now know where 30 teams will be picking in the first round. With only the fates of the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be decided in the Super Bowl.
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1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
With the recent hire of Urban Meyer as the new head coach in Jacksonville, many have raised questions of whether the first overall pick is up for grabs. Although they should do their due diligence on all prospects, this pick should always be a no-brainer to take one of the most complete quarterback prospects we have ever seen in Trevor Lawrence.
2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Another new coaching staff coming in here with the New York Jets selecting second overall. Robert Saleh will take the reigns as head coach and will also bring with him his new offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur. Saleh, LaFleur and general manager Joe Douglas should be jumping all over the opportunity to get a swing at their quarterback of the future. Justin Fields has the skill to develop into a solid starting quarterback in the league and especially for an offense that Mike LaFleur may want to run.
3. Carolina Panthers (via MIA from HOU): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
TRADE: Carolina Panthers send picks 8, 40 and their 2021 1st to the Miami Dolphins for pick 3.
We have a trade! With a bunch of teams that have current questions at the quarterback position at the back end of the top ten and into the teens, Carolina should absolutely be looking to trade up for their next face of the franchise. With Teddy Bridgewater locked into his current deal at least through next season, they are in perfect position to draft Trey Lance. Lance has all the physical tools anyone could want in a quarterback in today’s age of football. Combined with sitting and learning behind Bridgewater for potentially a whole season, Trey Lance would be set up perfectly for success in Carolina with Matt Rhule.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Atlanta Falcons may be in for a rebuild soon. With a roster in decline, both in terms of age and performance, this organization needs a fresh start. And what better way to kick off a new era in Atlanta then with a new head coach and new quarterback. Matt Ryan has begun his decline, so drafting his future replacement in Zach Wilson would be a wise decision while they are picking this high in 2021. Wilson is a toolsy quarterback who should be able to reap success in an Arthur Smith-type offense in Atlanta.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Cincinnati Bengals will be hoping and praying for the draft to play out this way. Penei Sewell, potentially the best overall player in this class disregarding position, has fallen to the fifth pick. Cincinnati needs to invest heavily in this offensive line to aid their young, star quarterback Joe Burrow. Sewell is a building block that will play 10-plus years as a well-above-average starter wherever he ends up.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Eagles have invested heavily in the wide receiver position the past couple of offseasons. Drafting Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins and John Hightower in 2020, their priority was clearly getting speed on the outside. Drafting Ja’Marr Chase would offer the Eagles offense something different for whomever may be the preferred starting quarterback of new head coach, Nick Sirriani’s choice. Chase is an excellent separator who can line up anywhere in an offense. He excels in contested catch opportunities outside the hashes as well as getting open very quick on underneath routes.
7. Detroit Lions: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
With Matthew Stafford looking to be on his way out at some point this offseason, the Lions look to be in pole position to tank for a top quarterback in next year’s draft. With that being said, Dan Campbell and new GM, Brad Holmes, need to infuse this team with as much young talent as they can this offseason to begin the culture reset in Detroit. Micah Parsons is an incredible player on the second level of the defense that can do it all as a linebacker. He would step in and instantly become a leader on that defense along with 2020 first-round pick, Jeff Okudah.
8. Miami Dolphins (via CAR): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
After trading out of the third overall pick, the Miami Dolphins hoped one of the top three receivers would fall back to them here. They struck gold here with acquiring DeVonta Smith, while still accumulating more draft capital in the process. As we saw at Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa was put in the best position to succeed when he had speed around him at the wide receiver position. Reuniting Tua with Smith in Miami would be great for all parties involved.
9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Denver Broncos had a somewhat disappointing season on both sides of the ball. While some of the lackluster performance can be accredited to major injuries on both sides of the ball, their defense underwhelmed with more veteran players. Caleb Farley is extremely fluid in coverage, who can shadow receivers extremely well. Plugging Farley on the outside for Denver gives them a bonafide number one corner for their team.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The selection of Patrick Surtain II just feels like a perfect Dallas pick. He is a hard-nosed, aggressive corner who contributes to all facets of the game and can be a true difference-maker on a defense because of his ability and leadership. With Dak Prescott regaining his health heading into next season, expect their offense to perform well with all that they have. However, their defense still needs a ton of help with a ton of holes everywhere and drafting Surtain helps infuse more premium talent to that side of the ball.
11. New York Giants: Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
The New York Giants need pass-rush help from their edge room. While they have a stout interior defensive line with the likes of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, there is not much in that edge rusher group. Jaelen Phillips is a former top recruit coming out of high school who struggled with injuries at UCLA. Since transferring to Miami, he has stayed healthy and rediscovered his form as a premier pass rusher. Phillips has a chance to be the best edge rusher in this class and he would be a perfect fit for Patrick Graham’s defense.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
A repeat pick from my last mock draft, Jaycee Horn to the 49ers makes so much sense. San Francisco is heading into this offseason with zero cornerbacks under contract. Combining that with the fact that they won’t have much money to work with in free agency, drafting a cornerback early in the 2021 NFL Draft is a must. Horn is excellent as a press corner because of his physicality and size at the position, he should find relatively immediate success in the league.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Protect Justin Herbert! This has to be the priority for the Chargers going into this offseason. Whether that is in free agency or the draft or both, they have to get more talent on the offensive line. Christian Darrisaw fits exactly what they need in a left tackle and can start right away to displace Sam Tevi/Trey Pipkins from the starting lineup. Herbert flashed star potential in only his first season, so keeping the pocket clean for him to play his best football should be the first thing on the to-do list for new head coach, Brandon Staley.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Similar to the Chargers, the Minnesota Vikings should continue to look to build through the trenches. They put their offensive identity in the running game and after a big year for Dalvin Cook with a somewhat mediocre offensive line, improving in that area would continue to strengthen that identity. Rashawn Slater also gives them a lot of positional flexibility going forward because of his experience at tackle along with the frame to kick inside. Rookie offensive lineman, Ezra Cleveland, also showed the ability to be a good guard in the league while still maintaining the opportunity to play left tackle if needed.
15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Filling the holes on the offense will be a priority for the New England Patriots. Their defense still showed they can be a great unit even with injuries and opt-outs in 2020. The offense, on the other hand, was hard to watch. Jaylen Waddle is a top receiver in this draft who would add so much to their offense, no matter who the quarterback will be, because of his playmaking ability and speed. He can also be a dynamic return specialist if they should choose to use him in that way.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Kyle Pitts freefall has come to an end. It will be interesting to see where he does fall come April because he is a top-five player in this class talent-wise, but the tight end position is hard to value at the next level. Even though the Arizona Cardinals may have bigger needs on the defensive side of the ball, a player like Kyle Pitts would be hard to pass on if you are Kliff Kingsbury. Pitts would give their franchise quarterback, Kyler Murray, a type of weapon that few teams in the NFL have. He would be a constant matchup nightmare every single week because of his size and ability to line up anywhere on the offense.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have been a fan of drafting defensive players in the first round from big college programs. They add another one here in the versatile defender from Notre Dame, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He would be a huge addition to the second-level of this defense because of his dynamic play-speed and natural instincts at the position. Owusu-Koramoah will never have to leave the field based on the package because he can play as a base linebacker, pushed back to safety or even flexed out into the slot on occasion. He is a freak of nature and one of the most improved players in college football this season.
18. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Another linebacker comes off the board here to Miami with their second pick of the first round. With the way Brian Flores likes to run his defense using multiple schemes within the game plan each week, Zaven Collins is a very movable piece at linebacker who can do just about everything. Collins is a stout run defender and is extremely good at dropping back into coverage. Collins showcased that by racking up 54 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions last season, earning him the Nagurski Trophy for the nation’s best defensive player.
19. Washington Football Team: Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas
In a season where the Washington Football Team exceeded expectations and won their division, there seems to still be a lot of uncertainty on offense. There are a lot of remaining holes heading into free agency and the draft, which makes this pick hard because of all the possibilities. Sam Cosmi, an offensive tackle out of Texas is a great way to build from the inside out. Cosmi gives Washington a very athletic offensive lineman who is still developing his technical abilities at the position and has the potential to be a quality starter in the league for years to come.
20. Chicago Bears: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Similar to the Washington Football Team, the Chicago Bears relied heavily on their defense to get them to a playoff appearance. Although their offense did pick up some steam in the last few weeks of the regular season when Mitch Trubisky re-assumed the starting job, they need to strive for more sustained success. The Bears go back to the trenches with another offensive lineman in Alex Leatherwood. Leatherwood is a very aggressive blocker who plays with a mean streak. With his experience at both tackle and guard, the Bears can line him up wherever they see fit in order to solidify their team up front.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Dillon Radunz, OT, NDSU
The recent announcement by Anthony Castonzo announcing his retirement from the game, offensive tackle is immediately propelled to a top need for the Colts. The organization does have a lot of money to play with in free agency so they may opt to sign one rather than draft one but until then, Dillon Radunz will be the pick. Radunz who has somewhat been forgotten about in the process because of his one-game season in 2020 for North Dakota State, can shoot up boards based on his performance at the Senior Bowl this week. He is a perfect fit with the identity of the Colts because of his aggressive playstyle as a run blocker who sets the tone at the line of scrimmage.
22. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Tennessee Titans need pash rush help badly. They generated almost no pressure after the failed signings of Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley last offseason. Harold Landry is a solid player but he needs help on the other side of the defensive line. Azeez Ojulari may be a perfect fit for this defense, lining up as a stand-up pass rusher who wins with legit quickness and speed. His hands are some of the quickest in recent memory. Even though his frame is on the smaller side, Ojulari has the potential to be a tremendous steal if he falls this far.
23. New York Jets (via SEA): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
After getting their quarterback in Justin Fields with the second overall pick, Robert Saleh will absolutely want to get that defense help. Besides Quinnen Williams up front and young secondary players in Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis and Bryce Hall, there is not much to ride home about in the front seven. Kwity Paye will intrigue Saleh very much as an edge rusher because of his athletic profile. Paye could be the first pass rusher taken in this draft but in this scenario, he has fallen into the 20s. The Jets should be all over this pick if it were to unfold like this in April.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
Although Steelers fans may want a running back here with all of them still available, the fact of the matter is that no matter who is back there will struggle behind their current offensive line. With Maurkice Pouncey retiring, Alejandro Villanueva’s future uncertain, as well as Matt Feiler becoming a free agent. The Steelers may not have anything moving forward in that department besides David Decastro, Kevin Doston and Chukwuma Okorafor. Adding a special, underrated talent in Spencer Brown would be crucial for Pittsburgh. Brown is a special athlete at his size and of course, plays with a lot of length. He can be a special player for years to come.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Christian Barmore, iDL, Alabama
After drafting the face of the franchise with the first overall pick in Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars should probably look to go with the best player available. Barmore has not gotten talked about as much as he probably should because of his under-the-radar performances for the Crimson Tide, especially with their offense getting most of the love. He quietly accumulated eight sacks this season along with getting consistent pressure from the interior. Putting him in between their young edge rusher in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson would be extremely fun to watch.
26. Cleveland Browns: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
The Cleveland Browns have swung away at the linebacker position in the draft the past couple of seasons and they do not stop here. This time, they opt to spend more premium draft capital than they have in the past to draft Nick Bolton out of Missouri. The Browns are in need of a true middle linebacker for the defense and Bolton can fill that void. He won’t wow you on tape with speed or eye-catching athleticism but he plays extremely smart by making good reads and taking good angles on his tackles.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Talk about fun. Adding a dynamic playmaker like Kadarius Toney to the Baltimore Ravens would be extremely scary for any defense to face. With a powerful running game led by Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins, improving the receiving core is the next step to transform this offense to the next level. At the very least, Toney will attract a lot of attention from the defense because of his ability with the ball in his hands. He will be a preferred target of Lamar as an underneath receiver who can separate quickly in order to get the ball in his hands to make plays.
28. New Orleans Saints: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Another repeat pick from my last mock draft, Eric Stokes to the New Orleans Saints makes a lot of sense. Stokes is a crazy athlete at cornerback with legit sub 4.4-speed on the outside. He can play in any defensive scheme at the next level and will add a solid playmaker opposite of Marshon Lattimore to aid their secondary. With incoming cap concerns for the Saints, they will be forced to lose a lot of starters on both sides of the ball so replenishing the lost talent will be a must.
29. Green Bay Packers: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
After what may be a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship, many parts of the team were ripped apart after the game including coaching decisions and players. One player that was burned at the stake was cornerback, Kevin King, because of his performance. King will also be a free agent this offseason along with starting nickel corner Chandon Sullivan. A replacement for either will be needed and Asante Samuel Jr. fits the mold. Depending on how the team views him, he can line up either on the outside or at slot for the Packers. He is outstanding in man coverage no matter where he aligns and plays with a chip on his shoulder which gives him the nod for the pick here.
30. Buffalo Bills: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
One negative from a predominantly marvelous season for the Buffalo Bills was their inability to run the ball. After investing two consecutive third round picks in Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, neither looked up to the task to be the guy in Buffalo to lead the team in rushing. Najee Harris would add a ton of upside to the already improved Bills offense because of his ability as a pure runner of the ball and as a receiver. His receiving ability will be of importance because Josh Allen’s tendencies to bail out on plays leading to dump passes to the running back.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Tampa Bay is able to draft the best player available on either side of the ball to go for another Super Bowl appearance next season. With the Buccaneers potentially losing some players in the front seven to free agency, Todd Bowles will surely make a pitch to GM Jason Licht to replenish what may be lost. Gregory Rousseau could be a perfect pick for the Buccaneers because of his potential and flexibility. He plays at a crazy size for an edge rusher and showed at Miami his ability to line up as a standup rusher or down with his hand in the dirt anywhere along the defensive line on passing downs. Rousseau is a true boom or bust prospect but Todd Bowles could develop him into a star.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC
After earning a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, the Chiefs should look to solidify their offensive line. They have gotten by the past few years with just making it work with what they have but it would be a worthwhile investment in the first round to get a building block on the interior of the line in between cornerstones Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher. Alijah Vera Tucker would slot in perfectly to the Kansas City Chiefs offense because of his supreme ability in pass sets with balance and a solid anchor. He also showed the flexibility this season to play tackle which makes him much more valuable in the grand scheme of things.