The countdown to the 2021 NFL Draft now sees itself under 30 days, with roughly four weeks until the entire world of football sets its sights on Cleveland, OH, for an entire weekend. The NFL Draft provides a fresh start for all 32 fan bases in the NFL, hoping to grab the next fresh face to mold into a franchise player for years to come.
As with every year, 2021's version of the draft is filled with storylines in nearly every corner in the first round. Aside from Jacksonville being heavily favored to land the talents of Trevor Lawrence, the rest of the first-round is filled with mystery, thanks in-part to a blockbuster trade that saw San Francisco move up to the third overall pick. The rest of the dominoes will follow thanks to decisions made by teams such as the Falcons, Bengals and Dolphins in the middle of the top-ten.
How will those dominoes fall? Opinions are like mock drafts, everybody has one (that's how the saying goes, right?), and yours truly isn't an exception. This is the first of two full first-round NFL mock drafts I typically do, with the second one coming the morning of day one with the most up-to-date information.
But enough with the boring backstory of how I found a recipe for apple turnovers on a crisp Monday in September with the windows open, you're here for the good stuff.
With the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select...
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I feel like there's not really a huge explanation here. Jaguars grab what appears to be a generational talent at football's most prestigious position.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
It's not every day you get to pick in the top-five, especially with a few solid options at quarterback. While Sam Darnold wasn't the reason the Jets were underperforming, an opportunity to grab a fresh face via Zach Wilson shouldn't be passed.
3. San Francisco 49ers (Via Miami): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
This is where the draft truly starts. San Francisco didn't give up multiple first-round picks and move up to not select a QB. So, Lance or Justin Fields? Many around the league believe Lance to be a better fit under Kyle Shanahan's offense, and it appears he would have the opportunity to develop behind Jimmy G for a year or two.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
While the Falcons are heavily favored to either take a QB here or trade down, I found it difficult to find a trade partner with reports of Denver not wanting to trade up and Atlanta not wanting to allow division rival Carolina to move up. With Atlanta restructuring Matt Ryan's deal, the Falcons take the unicorn known as Kyle Pitts to further add to the offensive firepower.
Trade Alert! The Carolina Panthers have swapped picks with the Cincinnati Bengals, and are now on the clock
5. Carolina Panthers (Via Cincinnati): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
With Atlanta not selecting a quarterback and the Bengals confident in landing a franchise tackle at pick number 8, the Panthers are able to move up and grab Fields at number five. Teddy Bridgewater isn't the answer for the future, and if Fields is available after Atlanta's off the clock, Carolina had better be ready with a plethora of picks to get what many believe to be the second-best QB in the draft.
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
There are really a few different options here, especially with Sewell still on the board. With the team confirming their belief in Tua Tagovailoa for the future, their next task is to surround him with weapons. Chase's uber-productive 2019 campaign at LSU has many believing he is WR1 in this draft, leading the Dolphins to take one of the top pass-catchers in the draft to improve the aerial attack in Miami.
7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
If last year's draft showed us anything, the NFL values top levels of speed almost more than anything. While I personally have no problem with Devonta Smith, his frame has raised legitimate concerns in NFL circles. Waddle's speed alone would upgrade a Detroit receiving corps that so badly needs it, and should he live up to his potential, he would become one of the most lethal receivers in the league down the road.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (Via Carolina): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Whether it be at 5 or lower, I want to make this clear: If the Bengals refuse to give Joe Burrow protection in the first-round with a supposed generational talent at the tackle position, the franchise simply should fold. However, the Bengals (in this mock) are able to trade down AND get their guy, similar to what Miami did a few picks earlier. Cincinnati gets a valuable asset to keep their other valuable asset standing clean.
Trade Alert! The Philadelphia Eagles have swapped picks with the Denver Broncos, and are now on the clock
9. Philadelphia Eagles (Via Denver): Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles will forever kick themselves for passing up on Justin Jefferson last year, and with more playmakers needed now that they have their guy at quarterback in Jalen Hurts, they don't allow the Giants or any team behind them to get an opportunity to nab the Heisman trophy winner. Smith would provide a dangerous presence in Philadelphia immediately with potential to truly be special.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
Dallas nabs the first defensive player of the draft, and what a player to snag. Surtain's coverage abilities rightfully peg him in the top ten, as Dallas can now pit Surtain across from fellow Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs in what looks to be a tremendous, young duo in the defensive backfield.
11. New York Giants: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Giants continue to bolster their offensive line with one of a dominant yet versatile piece up front, as Slater can play either guard or tackle at the next level. Protection for Daniel Jones/Saquon Barkley is pivotal for the team's success, and with the three major receivers off the board, Slater is the next best scenario for New York here.
12. Denver Broncos (Via Philadelphia): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
With Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright insisting the team is looking to trade down, they're able to move down a few spots and still get their guy in Micah Parsons. Parsons, who was once considered a top-ten pick but now is projected to fall due to character concerns, remains one of the best defensive chess pieces in the draft that can roam sideline to sideline.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Now that the Chargers are for sure that Justin Herbert looks like the real deal, their next task is to protect him. Darrisaw would be able to step in immediately as a pass-protecting left tackle in a division that features strong front-sevens. Simple yet effective pick.
Trade Alert! The Chicago Bears have swapped picks with the Minnesota Vikings, and are now on the clock
14. Chicago Bears: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Although Andy Dalton and Nick Foles are both on the roster, the Bears see Jones fall to pick number 14 and move up six spots to grab what could potentially be a franchise quarterback in Mac Jones. Trubisky didn't pan out, and while the Bears are set at QB for 2021, Jones could sit and learn until he's ready to see the field.
15. New England Patriots: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
This pick screams New England, thanks to Owusu-Koramoah's versatility at the linebacker position. While Micah Parsons is the household name, Owusu-Koramoah's resume and film are equally (if not more) impressive. With the hybrid linebacker fitting any mold asked of him and drawing comparisons to Jamal Adams, New England bolsters their defense after seeing any potential quarterback go down the drain.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Admittedly so, I'd be surprised if Horn is available at this pick, as he could easily take Surtain's spot as CB1. I could also see the Cardinals taking a back like Najee Harris here. Yet with Patrick Peterson departing and no true boundary answer in the long-term, Arizona snags the more-than-capable press corner who is physical and lengthy to keep up with a division full of talented pass-catchers.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Raiders could go a myriad of directions here, including trading back. Yet Vegas sticks at 17 and add a crucial piece to their pass rush in Kwity Paye. Paye had the third-highest win rate for college pass-rushers since 2020 despite doing minimal damage last season. The production in college wasn't there for Paye, yet GM Mike Mayock is willing to bet on his current build and potential as a pass-rusher at the next level.
18. Miami Dolphins: Greg Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
After taking Chase earlier, the Dolphins are able to focus on the defensive side of the ball and take Rousseau, who sacked the quarterback 15.5 times in 2019 prior to opting out of the 2020 season. Rousseau admittedly still looks raw, and although we also don't have tape from last season, his size and athleticism are enough tools to build off as a pass-rusher in the NFL.
Trade Alert! The Tennessee Titans have swapped picks with the Washington Football Team, and are now on the clock
19. Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Adoree Jackson left Tennessee and got paid in free agency, leaving a fairly decent-sized hole in the Titans' secondary. Recent news of Farley needing back surgery took him out of CB1 conversation and will likely cause him to fall a few spots. Considered by some to be the best corner in the draft, Farley would be an absolute nailed pick here by the Titans should his back problems not derail his play.
20. Minnesota Vikings (Via Chicago): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Vera-Tucker is hailed as one of the most versatile linemen in the draft, excelling at left guard prior to playing left tackle at USC. That's good news for a Vikings team that could draft Vera-Tucker and slot him at either position, although many believe him to be a guard at the next level. Vera-Tucker's consistency in both run and pass-protection should bode well in Minnesota.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
With Anthony Castonzo's retirement, the Colts will absolutely be in the market for a left tackle in the upcoming draft. Cosmi's giant yet athletic frame allowed him to thrive in Texas (5 pressures allowed in 600 snaps last year), and would be a perfect puzzle piece to allow newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz to remain upright and healthy.
22. Washington Football Team (Via Tennessee): Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The run on offensive linemen continues with Washington selecting an absolute mauler in Teven Jenkins. Jenkins, who has experience playing left and right tackle, has been knocked for his short arm length and average athleticism. While Washington still looks to work their future out at the quarterback position, they're able to trade down and still find a tackle that brings the same mentality as Trent Williams here.
23. New York Jets (Via Seattle): Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
After adding their next franchise quarterback, the Jets continue to build their offense by adding one of the most highly touted ball-carrying prospects in recent memory. New York is in dire need of a fresh running back to potentially spark the running game, and Harris' all-around game bodes well in any situation.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Travis Ettiene, RB, Clemson
The Steelers not attending North Carolina's pro day (mixed with Art Rooney II's comments about adding a RB in the draft) set Pittsburgh up as heavy favorites to land a running back barring a crazy fall at another position. Although the Steelers weren't able to land Harris, Ettiene's finesse and athleticism should bode well in a Matt Canada-led offense.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (Via Los Angeles Rams): Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
After Tyson Alualu flipped his original commitment to sign with the Jaguars, Jacksonville is now on the prowl for a defensive linemen who can create havoc up front. Although Barmore was hindered by a knee injury throughout 2020, his heavy mix of explosiveness and quick feet provide a solid base to build upon as the Jaguars retool their defense.
26. Cleveland Browns: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Ojulari's hype train at the current moment appears to be unstoppable, and should Cleveland pair him opposite in a front seven with Myles Garrett, the Browns may be unstoppable as well. Ojulari racked up 9.5 sacks in 10 games last year at Georgia, while also showing to provide capabilities in pass coverage as well. Cleveland may get the steal of the draft here if Ojulari develops properly.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
When Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, it was Phillips who stepped up for Miami in the pass-rush department. After losing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, the Ravens look to ask the same of Phillips. Although this pick may certainly be a receiver, Baltimore couldn't ignore the potential ceiling of Phillips while also satisfying an immediate need.
28. New Orleans Saints: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Saints desperately need a legitimate number two receiver opposite of Michael Thomas, yet if Bateman's talents are realized at the next level, New Orleans will walk away here with a legitimate number one receiver. Bateman's resume as a pass-catcher is extremely impressive and is often overlooked. Should he fix his concentration-drop issue, secondary's in the NFC South are in deep trouble.
29. Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
You can never have enough talent at the cornerback position, and although the Packers already have one of the best in the business with Jaire Alexander, Green Bay opts for what many people believe the most versatile corner in the draft here in Newsome. His 6-1 frame combined with a low 4.3 40 yard dash time and excellent tape could signal Green Bay has another top-notch defensive back on their hands.
30. Buffalo Bills: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Bills need a Matt Milano replacement at linebacker, and Zaven Collins could fill that role quite well. Collins' ability as a hybrid to help in run support, drop in pass coverage or get after the quarterback would be well welcomed on a Buffalo defense looking to take the next step.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Look, we all watched the Super Bowl. After losing multiple starters in free agency, protecting Patrick Mahomes isn't even a question at this point. Mayfield offers an athletic, versatile tackle with minor dings for a first-round linemen.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
Although raw, Ossai's pro day numbers (99% percentile in long jump and vertical) and high motor at the position may pay dividends for a Buccaneers team that can afford to have Ossai sit and learn behind the plethora of pass-rushers in Tampa Bay. To conclude the first round, the Bucs take on a project that may potentially keep the prominent pass-rush alive in the future.