2021 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0
2021 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0
With the Super Bowl fast approaching, we are all doing what is natural for all Internet Brains: turning towards what is next. With the news that the combine will not be taking place in Indianapolis, the next big event on the NFL calendar after the Super Bowl is the 2021 NFL Draft. While we will get continuous updates from “pro days” and there will be some standardization in terms of athletic testing, we are about to enter into the driest part of the calendar year for football news. I will, of course, be contributing to the endless hype and speculation of the most uncertain NFL draft ever with multiple mock drafts. My final mock draft last season correctly predicted nine players to the correct team in the first round, which is (if I recall correctly), the best I have ever personally done with a first-round mock.
I anticipate going through four or five more revisions of my first-round mock before the draft takes place, and this version 1.0 is likely going to be fairly chalky compared to the final version. In this first edition, I am not going to be projecting any trades though it is almost a lock that there WILL be first-round trades this season due to the QB carousel that we are all about to embark upon.
2021 First-Round NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Jacksonville Jaguar: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
What more needs to be said about this pick? We can have 99.99% certainty that Jacksonville is going to take the generational QB prospect in Lawrence. Maybe there is some infinitely small chance that the team trades for DeShaun Watson, but in almost every scenario, they take Lawrence and have their QB for the next decade.
2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
When it comes time to the final mock drafts, I expect that this pick is the most likely of any picks to actually be traded. The Jets can take Fields (who is great), or they can use this pick to get DeShaun Watson as it has been reported that they are interested in doing. The only thing the Jets can do wrong with this pick is not used it to acquire a QB.
3. Miami Dolphins: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
What ends up happening with this pick comes down to what Miami thinks of Tua. If they believe that he has the mettle to be a franchise QB and Super Bowl winner, Sewell is the clear selection as the best offensive line prospect we have seen in several years. If they don’t, they could select Zach Wilson or attempt to sign one of the other veteran QBs who are available for this offense. I don’t feel confident at all in what the organization actually wants to do.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
If Julio Jones has two or three years left (or if the Falcons believe that), it is not hard to see them passing on Devonta Smith or Ja’Marr Chase here. The Falcons’ biggest problem is on defense, and while they need EDGE players, Surtain has a big program pedigree and was brilliant in his final season in college.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
There is only one direction to go here for Cincy. Their offensive line consistently graded out in 2020 as one of the worst in the NFL, and it got their franchise QB injured and unable to finish his rookie season. While it might be tempting to take Chase or Smith to add more weaponry for Burrow, I don’t see how they can’t find someone to keep him from getting too much grass on his jersey.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This will, again, be a controversial selection. DeVonta Smith is a fan favorite, but it is clear to me that Chase is the better prospect. While Chase is not as prominent in the national consciousness because he did not play in 2020 and shared the field with Justin Jefferson, he simply represents a better gamble than Smith does. The Eagles also need to provide more help for Carson Wentz (or Jalen Hurts) if they want to resuscitate his value.
7. Detriot Lions: Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
You’re reading that right. After getting a massive haul to take on Jared Goff’s bad contract, the Lions can secure their QB of the future and not feel the need to start him in year one. Lance is only 20 years and had 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in his final full season at NDSU. This selection makes sense for both Lance (who is facing a giant step-up in competition) and the Lions, who can ride out the terrible years of Goff’s contract while having Lance on his rookie deal.
8. Carolina Panthers: Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Florida
The Panthers are certainly a potential destination for Zach Wilson (or Trey Lance), but they can also ride with Teddy for another year or bring in Trubisky, Andy Dalton, or any of the other floating veteran QBs. The Panthers got ZERO production from tight end last season, and Curtis Samuel is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Replacing his slot snaps with Kyle Pitts is a huge win for the organization.
9. Denver Broncos: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Despite the fans’ cries for a new QB, it doesn’t seem that the Broncos are that interested in moving on from Drew Lock and especially not interested in spending a lot of draft capital to do so. The Broncos defense was shambolic in 2020, and adding a blue-chipper on the EDGE is a classic Denver move.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Cowboys had a historically bad defense last season, though they also need help on the offensive line. As someone who roots for the Cowboys, I am hoping that they err on the side of taking an offensive tackle here, but I think the front office will be more interested in investing on the defensive side of the ball and locking up the next best CB in the draft in Farley.
11. New York Giants: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Leave it to the Dave Gettleman-led Giants to eschew the analytics and be the team to jump in the deep end with Devonta Smith. If the team wants to make it work with Daniel Jones, they need to replace Golden Tate’s snaps with a high-upside player, and Smith fits that bill.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
When I was working through this mock, the team I had the most trouble with figuring out is the 49ers. They have an elite skill position group on offense, but they do need some OL help. Rashawn Slater is another option here. However, for the team to access their ceiling as they currently exist, they simply need better QB play. The best way to get there is to tap into the uncertain ceiling of Wilson. This will not be a popular mock selection, and I am quite likely to waffle on it as we continue through DraftSZN, but it makes a lot of intuitive sense.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers are in much of the same position as the Bengals. They have their QB of the future, and now they have to decide between adding weapons for their young QB or simply trying to keep him upright. While Jaylen Waddle is tempting here, Slater is the safest selection in terms of immediate impact.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OG, USC
The Vikings will likely look to bolster one of their lines in the first round of the draft, whether that be on offense or on defense. Vera-Tucker played left tackle in college, so he has some versatility to play anywhere across the offensive line, which is always a plus when spending a top-fifteen NFL draft pick.
15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Yes, Bill Belichick is not good at drafting WRs. The proof is in the pudding up to this point. The Patriots offense, regardless of what they decide to do at QB, desperately needs what Waddle provides, which is an injection of speed. Watching the Patriots’ WRs try to get open in 2020 was a painful experience, and Waddle should remedy some of that.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
While the Arizona defense marginally improved last season, it is still a real problem for them, especially as Patrick Patterson continues to deteriorate in skill. Rashod Bateman might tempt Kliff Kingsbury here (or potentially more help on the OL), but Horn fits in best with what ails the team as a whole, not including Kliff’s propensity to kick field goals.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
In 2020, the Raiders were absolutely anemic at pass-rushing yet again. They recorded only 21 sacks and had pressures on only 23% of dropbacks faced. The only way to remedy that problem is to try and add competition for Clelin Ferrel and to add more skill on the EDGE. Ossai gives them a decent chance at remedying this problem.
18. Miami Dolphins: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
After locking down a spot on their offensive line, it is probably tempting for the Dolphins to spend a luxury pick here on Travis Etienne or Rashod Bateman, but the team needs help at linebacker, and Brian Flores remains a defense-first head coach. Parsons is a stud LB prospect who fits the mold of the modern NFL.
19. Washington Football Team: Christian Darrishaw, OT, Virginia Tech
If there was one team that seems most likely to trade up for a QB, it is the Washington Football team. They have no answers, at all, for the QB position, and at this point in the draft, they would likely have to talk themselves into Mac Jones, which seems non-plausible. If they don’t trade up, however, Darrishaw makes perfect sense considering the state of their offensive line.
20. Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
With Mitch Trubisky likely on a different team in 2021, the team will be searching for answers at QB, but they are not likely to find one at #20. Allen Robinson is also a pending free agent, and it doesn’t seem like he wants to come back to Chicago. Replacing ARob with Bateman is not the worst substitution ever, and Bateman thoroughly deserves to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft after his wildly productive 2019 and 2020 seasons.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Terrace Marshall Jr., Wr, LSU
With a new QB under center in 2021, the Colts desperately need to replace T.Y Hilton and Zach Pascal’s targets with someone explosive. Marshall never got as much pub as his teammates Jefferson and Chase but is only a tier below them as a prospect and should be intriguing to the Colts here if they decide not to go with an offensive lineman.
22. Tennessee Titans: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
There is only one direction for the Titans to go with this pick, and it is on the defensive side of the ball. Tennessee was historically bad at all aspects of defense in 2021, and if they stand any chance of capitalizing on the magic they have found with Ryan Tannehill, the defense NEEDS to be able to get some stops.
23. New York Jets: Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
The two EDGE rushers from Miami have a chance to go back-to-back here as the Jets should have their answer at QB via their earlier pick and took their franchise tackle last year with Mekhi Becton. The Jets were fine against the run on defense last year but need help getting to the QB.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Regardless of who is under center for the Steelers next year (probably Big Ben still, but we don’t know), their largest priority should be on shoring up their offensive line, so they don’t feel the need to throw six-yard passes continually. The defense is still above-average and doesn’t need first-round reinforcements.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tevin Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
With Trevor Lawrence slinging darts, the Jaguars need to move on to making his life easier. They already have Shenault and Chark for him to target, though Kadarius Toney might be semi-interesting to them here. The easiest selection for the organization to make is an offensive lineman to put more equity into keeping Lawrence safe in the pocket.
26. Cleveland Browns: Christian Barmore, Defensive Guard, Alabama
The Browns Achilles heel was not their offense in 2020 but rather their defense. They just could never get stops against elite offenses. That is a tall ask for any defense with the way the NFL is legislated, but shoring up their defensive line and adding complements to Myles Garret should be the Browns’ target in the first round. Barmore is yet another pedigreed Bama defense to go in the first round.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jalen Mayfield, Offensive Line, Michigan
The Ravens want to run the ball, full stop. In order to effectively run the ball in the NFL, teams have to invest in their offensive line. You cannot divorce o-line production from RB production at the NFL level, and I think the Baltimore organization understands that. While the defense needs help as well, adding Mayfield (who can play tackle or guard) seems like it would make sense for them.
28. New Orleans Saints: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Saints have really boxed themselves in over the years with the way they spend their cap and trade draft picks frivolously. They spent a third-rounder on linebacker Zack Baun last year, who was only able to play 82 total snaps. They need help at that position and have limited routes to acquire those players, so taking Owusu-Koramoah who can play box-safety fits their organizational goals.
29. Green Bay Packers: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Anyone who watched the Packers play in 2020 knows that they desperately need secondary help. Jaire Alexander, as great as he is, can’t make up for the mistakes of all the other defensive backs he is playing with. The son of the former NFL pro-bowler should be able to start as a man-coverage corner right away and help Green Bay from being tortured by opposing elite QBs.
30. Buffalo Bills: Nick Bolton, LB, Mizzou
The Bills struggled to defend the run effectively in 2020, and while we know at a very high-level that it doesn’t really matter for winning games, that is not the way coaches and GMs think about their rosters. Bolton is capable of being a MIKE right way in the NFL and plugging some of the holes that the Bills scotch-taped over in 2020.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wyatt Davis, Offensive Guard, Ohio State
When 44-year old Tom Brady is your QB, you better bet that you are spending your first-round pick in a way that directly benefits him. Last season, it was Tristan Wirfs in the first round. The Bucs are definitely one of the teams that could take a chance on ETN or Najee Harris (and I am not putting it past them), but Davis just fits perfectly into what the Bucs need on offense.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Trey Smith, Offensive Guard, Tennessee
In my dreams, the Chiefs are able to use this pick to find a replacement for Sammy Watkins that adds more pace to the offense and eases the burden on Travis Kelce. Someone like D’Wayne Eskridge or Rondale Moore would be a great system fit. However, the Chiefs always disappoint me with their first-round selections in the Mahomes-era, so a durable and dependable offensive guard is likely the direction they will go.