It’s that time of year. When the flowers bloom, the pollen suffocates you, and your mock draft is completely busted after about five picks. I don’t expect this year to be much different, but after hours of research and scouting, this is my best guess on how the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will go down. This is the most difficult draft class I’ve ever tried to mock draft, and I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises on draft night. Without further ado, let’s get into this exciting and puzzling draft class and see if we can guess a few picks right along the way…
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
If you had to bet a million dollars on this pick being Trevor Lawrence to win 10 dollars, you might as well do it. Write it in blood. Duval County is getting a hero in Trevor Lawrence. A generational talent at his position, Lawrence will play under newly hired head coach Urban Meyer and try and help bring the Jaguars to relevance after a dismal 2020.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, BYU QB
This is almost as certain as the pick before, I have no doubt that Zach Wilson will be the future quarterback of the New York Jets, and with no other players on the roster with starter potential at that position, Wilson should slot in as QB1 as soon as he arrives in New York. The Jets will also have to be sure to add a few more weapons for him throughout this draft, but locking up Wilson should be a no-brainer here at pick 2.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via Miami Dolphins) – Justin Fields, Ohio State QB
This is the first big question mark in a draft filled with them, and there are three options here for San Francisco. Rumors are swirling and connecting them with Mac Jones, but I firmly believe that this is a smoke screen, they could have gotten Jones at pick 12 and stayed put instead of trading up. That’ll leave Trey Lance and Justin Fields, they are both ultra-talented quarterbacks who will most likely need some time to develop at the NFL level. With Jimmy Garappolo already on the roster, the 49ers would have time to develop their new quarterback behind a solid starter for however long they see it necessary. I believe that Fields is the third best quarterback in this class, and I think that the 49ers will see this as well and make Fields the third QB to come off the board within the first three picks.
4. Denver Broncos (via Atlanta Falcons) – Trey Lance, North Dakota State QB
There have been rumors of the Falcons also taking Kyle Pitts, Penei Sewell, or a quarterback here, but I think they’ll get plenty of value at pick 9 and benefit from a trade down while netting a slew of picks in return. The Broncos are a team that are in a similar situation to the 49ers. They have starting level talent at the QB position, but their QBs both had poor years in 2020. The Broncos would love to have Lance here while letting Lock have one more chance to prove himself in 2021. Letting Lance learn behind him would be a best case scenario, given that Lance has only one real college season under his belt. It’s impossible to deny the talent of Lance, and the Broncos will agree. They’ll take Lance and let him learn, and Lock will be tasked with trying to prove himself as the franchise QB in Denver after a mediocre season in 2020.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, LSU WR
This is by far the biggest question mark in the entire draft. It truly is a coin flip to guess. They probably should take Penei Sewell here to protect Joe Burrow, but with each passing day I suspect more and more that they’ll reunite Burrow and Chase at this pick. Chase is one of the best wide receivers I’ve ever scouted, and the Bengals are in a great spot where they have to pick between a spectacular offensive line prospect or reuniting the greatest QB/WR duo in the history of college football. Burrow will surely lobby for them to take Chase, and the pressure will eventually get to them on draft night and they’ll elect to go with the best receiver in the class. While I could still very well see them taking Sewell, I think they’ll lean towards Chase. It would be very exciting to watch Joe Burrow throw passes to Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati, and I think the Bengals won’t be able to resist it.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Kyle Pitts, Miami TE
The Dolphins owned the third pick before trading back to the twelfth pick, and then they moved back to pick 6 and made it very clear that they want someone who won’t be on the board at pick 12. It’s my belief that they are infatuated with a top tier receiver in this draft for Tua Tagovailoa to throw passes to. The two most likely players for them to trade up for are Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts. While the Bengals got one of those elite pass catchers with the pick before, I’m sure the Dolphins would be more than happy to take the other one. Pitts is an absolute beast, the best tight end I’ve ever watched on tape by a wide margin. He has the ability to be among the elite tight ends in the NFL as soon as he steps foot on field in Miami. The Dolphins secure a pass catcher for Tua, and will look to add some other skill position players on offense and some defensive depth with the surplus of picks they have throughout this draft.
7. New England Patriots (via Detroit Lions) – Mac Jones, Alabama QB
Yes, you read that right. Within the first seven picks, five quarterbacks will be taken. While it may seem like it’s against Bill Belichick’s creed to trade away draft capital and move up for a QB, he’ll most likely have to do it to get Mac Jones. After not having to stress about this position for nearly 2 decades with Tom Brady, they had a rude awakening in 2020. Cam Newton was awful as a starter, and while they resigned him to compete for the starting job, they would definitely like a great quarterback prospect to come in and try to improve the play at the position. Jones is a great player who is rumored to go as early as pick 3, and he can play in many schemes that the Patriots used to run when Tom Brady was under center. They would be wise to trade up and get Jones, only time will tell if Belichick and the rest of the stubborn Patriots front office actually goes through with it.
8. Carolina Panthers – Penei Sewell, Oregon OT
The slide of Penei Sewell on draft night will finally stop at pick 8. Carolina would gladly welcome Sewell into the organization to protect the newly acquired Sam Darnold. This would be the best possible scenario for the Panthers, who need to improve their offensive line throughout this draft. Having the best offensive lineman fall into your lap at pick 8 would be an amazing situation for Carolina. Sewell could immediately take over at left tackle and it is my firm belief that he will be among the elite offensive tackles in the NFL early on in his career. He’s an extremely gifted athlete and will protect the blind side of Carolina Panther quarterbacks for a long time. Carolina would be crazy to let Sewell fall past them at this pick.
9. Atlanta Falcons (via Denver Broncos) – Patrick Surtain II, Alabama CB
The Falcons traded back, which has been a rumor swirling around for quite some time, and grabbed the best corner in the draft at pick 9. Surtain is a battle tested corner who has shut down many SEC receivers who went on to find success at the NFL level and will immediately be the CB1 in Atlanta. This would be one of multiple picks that the Falcons net in return for their coveted 4th overall pick, and getting Surtain here would be a great start to their draft night.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, South Carolina CB
There are a few positions that Dallas could elect to target here, but cornerback is their biggest need and Jaycee Horn can fill that need. Horn is a twitchy and athletic corner that can start right away for a Cowboys team in need of help in the secondary. Horn has more boom-bust potential than some of the other prospects at his position, but he could very well end up being the best defensive back in this draft class. The Cowboys will have more work to do throughout this draft to shore up some big holes in the roster, but they could start the night off right and grab a talented prospect in Jaycee Horn at pick 10.
11. New York Giants – Rashawn Slater, Northwestern OT
The Giants are going to have to resist the urge to take a pass catcher here and instead bolster a rather weak offensive line with Slater. They could also take a defensive player still on the board like Micah Parsons or Jaelan Phillips, but passing up on a player of Slater’s talent would be a mistake. He is the consensus second best offensive lineman in this draft behind Sewell, and adding him to their offensive line would vastly improve Daniel Jones’ chances of success in a make or break year.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins) – Devonta Smith, Alabama WR
The Eagles traded back from pick 6 to pick 12 with the Dolphins and netted a fair amount of draft capital in return. Their first pick in this draft would address the wide receiver position. They are also in desperate need of a cornerback, but Surtain and Horn being off the board will lead them to take Devonta Smith with this pick. Smith played with current Philadelphia Eagles starter, Jalen Hurts, at Alabama and would improve the receiving corps in Philly for Hurts in his second season. Smith is sliding down some draft boards because of his size, but the Eagles will elect to overlook his size concerns and instead look at the chemistry that Smith already has with Hurts and the Heisman trophy that Smith won in 2020.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech OT
The Chargers had one of the worst O-Lines in all of football last year, but that didn’t stop Justin Herbert from winning the Rookie of the Year award as the QB for this Chargers team. Taking Darrisaw here would be a nice gift for their young QB and would be a good start to improving their O-Line as a whole. They’ll also have to avoid taking Jaylen Waddle with this pick, though they’ll probably add a receiver and tight end at some point in the draft. Offensive line is the biggest need for the Chargers, and they would be wise to address this need at pick 13 with Darrisaw.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC OT
The Vikings have a few needs that need addressed in this draft, and offensive line is one of them. Vera-Tucker feels like a great fit at this pick and could end up playing either guard or tackle on the Vikings offensive line. They may continue to bolster the offensive line later on in the draft as well, but Vera-Tucker at pick 14 would be a solid choice to give Kirk Cousins more time to throw to all of the elite weapons scattered throughout the Minnesota Vikings offense.
15. Detroit Lions (via New England Patriots) – Jaylen Waddle, Alabama WR
Detroit elected to trade back from pick 7 with New England and still managed to get a guy that would’ve been in play at the original pick. The hole that Kenny Golladay left would quickly be filled by Jaylen Waddle and this selection would give Jared Goff a great, young receiver to throw to in his debut season with the Lions. When watching Jaylen Waddle’s tape, there is so much to love. He will be a great receiver at the NFL level if he can avoid the injuries that have caused him to slide down the draft board. Detroit getting Waddle here at 15 could very well end up being one of the best picks in the draft. Detroit would benefit greatly from having Jaylen Waddle in their new look offense in their first season following the Matthew Stafford era.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech CB
The Cardinals are a team on the rise and looking to make a deep run in the playoffs in the upcoming season. Their off-season moves have only supported that statement and a good draft could really help this team reach their full potential. If one of the top 3 receivers fell to this pick, I would expect the Cardinals to take them, but I believe that the Cardinals would need to trade up to secure one of the leading three wide receiver prospects. I believe that they will elect to stay put at pick 16 and take a great prospect in Caleb Farley. Farley was getting looked at as the potential top cornerback in the draft before an off-season back surgery caused him to slide down the draft board. He’s one of the better athletes in the entire draft class and will be an amazing player at the NFL level if he proves that injuries will never threaten his career. The Cardinals are in need of a starting corner after the departure of Patrick Peterson, and grabbing Farley at pick 16 could end up paying dividends for a Cardinals team that is looking to make some noise in the packed NFC West.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Micah Parsons, Penn State LB
The Micah Parsons free-fall down the draft board will finally end here at pick 17. The Raiders had an absolutely horrid off-season, so now they need to replenish and find more success in the draft. They need tons of help on the offensive line, but Parsons is a player that could easily garner a top 10 selection, so the Raiders bolster their weak defense with Parsons at this pick. Parsons had once been considered a perennial top 5 selection, but serious character concerns have caused him to fall down into the later teens. While he has suitors earlier in the draft like the Broncos and Giants, it won’t be until pick 17 that he gets his name called. The Raiders would be adding an amazing athlete with unlimited potential, but it’ll take more than that to make the Raiders a threat in the AFC next season after a putrid off-season.
18. Miami Dolphins – Jaelan Phillips, Miami DE
While it will be enticing for the Dolphins to take Najee Harris with this pick, it would be smarter to use this pick on one of the many defensive ends that are still on the draft board. While there is some debate about who is the best in this DE class, I believe that it is Jaelan Phillips. Adding Phillips would bolster the Dolphins defensive line and make an already solid defense even better. Going from Miami University to the Miami Dolphins is a perfect fit for Phillips to showcase his talent, as long as he’s able to avoid injuries. While I fully expect the Dolphins to grab a running back at some point early on in the draft, I think Jaelan Phillips would be a better selection for them at pick 18.
19. Washington Football Team – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame LB
I’m sure Washington Football Team fans would much rather have their team trade up and make a run at a QB early in this first round, but after the Broncos traded up for Trey Lance, it would honestly be better for Washington to stay put at pick 19. They end up selecting Owusu-Koramoah, a freakish athlete who has climbed up draft boards in recent months. He makes an elite Washington defense even better, immediately slotting in as an inside linebacker with Chase Young and Montez Sweat in the front seven of that defense. While the Washington Football Team could benefit from adding a QB and some pass catchers later in this draft, adding Owusu-Koramoah at pick 19 would be a great selection and provide them with an athletically gifted linebacker for years to come on that great defense.
20. Chicago Bears – Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State OT
The Bears were in the mix for both Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson this off-season, and they came away with Andy Dalton. They’ll probably address the QB position later in the draft, as well as the receiver and cornerback positions. At pick 20 though, they’ll add a great offensive lineman in Teven Jenkins. Their O-Line was weak in 2020 and could use a couple additions in the draft, and the first is Jenkins. Bears fans will probably once again be mad at this pick not being a QB or WR, but adding a great tackle like Jenkins here is actually a good pick for the Bears. With a solid defense and good skill position players on offense, the Bears are likely a few offensive lineman and a massive QB upgrade away from being a contender. It’s a shame that they can’t draft a new GM at this pick, but a great offensive lineman would help this team too.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye, Michigan DE
The Colts addressed the QB position in a big way over the off-season, and while their offensive line needs improvement to insure we see the best version of Carson Wentz, this pick would be better used on a defensive end. Adding Paye here would take a lot of pressure off of DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard in the Indianapolis front seven. Paye is able to beat a couple of other edge rushers off the board in Gregory Rousseau and Azeez Ojulari, who are ranked very similarly to him. An offensive lineman or receiver wouldn’t surprise me here, but I believe they’ll address the defensive front and take a solid prospect in Kwity Paye.
22. Tennessee Titans – Rashod Bateman, Minnesota WR
The Titans have a few glaring needs to address in this draft after losing some key players in free agency. They’ll need to add a receiver, cornerback, and several offensive linemen at some point in this draft, and here they’ll elect to take Bateman. Rashod Bateman is the consensus WR4 of this draft behind the “big three” that have received most of the attention throughout the draft process. It would be a welcomed surprise for the Titans if Bateman fell to this pick, and they shouldn’t hesitate to lock him up to fill the void left by the Corey Davis departure.
23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Najee Harris, Alabama RB
The Jets draft their running back of the future just 21 picks after their quarterback of the future on draft night. Najee Harris becomes the first running back off of the board, though some believe it could be Travis Etienne. Jets fans would be ecstatic to see Harris in the backfield next season after years of Le’Veon Bell disappointment and Frank Gore being their only source of rushing yards. They could also elect to go with an edge rusher, offensive lineman, or cornerback here, but their best bet would be to lock up the top running back in the draft here at pick 23 and fill the other needs at a later point of this draft.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Travis Etienne, Clemson RB
The Steelers taking Etienne here makes it back-to-back running backs selected in the later stages of this first round. The Steelers were dead last in the league last season on rushing yards per attempt, and they didn’t fix their running back problem by bringing in a fresh face in free agency. That leaves a good chance they address the position early on in the draft. They have to address the offensive line at a few positions at some point in the draft, but locking up a great prospect like Travis Etienne would surely help out an offense that just has to be above average to make the playoffs with that tenacious defense of the other side.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) – Trevon Moehrig, TCU S
The Jaguars got their franchise QB at the first overall pick in Trevor Lawrence, and they’ll probably add some pass catchers later on in this draft, but this pick should be Moehrig. He’s the consensus best safety in the draft and can immediately be an upgrade to a weak position for the Jaguars. Moehrig has the ability to also play linebacker if needed and has the potential to be a star in the league. He was a very fun player to scout and watch tape on, and the Jaguars would be wise to lock him up at this pick and address other needs later in the draft.
26. Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore, Alabama DT
After a very good free agency period, the Browns look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They are a fairly complete team so they can elect to go with really whatever position they feel necessary. That’ll lead them to bring in Barmore, the top defensive tackle in this draft. He can be quite a disruption on the interior of a defensive line and provide ten sacks in the right system, and the Browns would value his presence on the line with Myles Garrett and newly acquired Jadeveon Clowney. The could go after a receiver or offensive lineman here as well, but Barmore is better than any receiver or offensive lineman left on the board at this point, and they would be wise to take him.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Azeez Ojulari, Georgia LB
The Ravens had a rough off-season that saw them lose a couple of key players and add Sammy Watkins as a wide receiver instead of some of the better receivers that were available in free agency. One of the key players that departed during the off-season was Matthew Judon, their star linebacker who elected to sign with the New England Patriots. That leaves a fairly big hole at his position, a perfect place for Azeez Ojulari to fill. Ravens fans might want a receiver more at this pick, but Ojulari would be the wiser pick here, especially since the Ravens also just traded for the 31st pick in this draft as well. They can add receivers throughout the draft, you won’t find a player of Ojulari’s talent much later in the draft though. Take him here, and build your O-Line and receiving corps with your later round picks.
28. New Orleans Saints – Greg Newsome II, Northwestern CB
The Saints had to do some cleaning out due to cap limitations in the off-season, they released many key veterans and will need to fill these various holes in the draft. One of the holes is at cornerback, where Janoris Jenkins used to play before being released in the off-season. This would be a great spot to take Greg Newsome. Newsome is reportedly viewed very highly by the Saints and if he is still on the board at this pick, there is a good chance that they elect to grab him. Look for the Saints to also add a linebacker, receiver, and offensive and defensive line depth at some point in the draft. The Saints have their work cut out for them to replace the key veterans they had to cut over the past few months, but they have drafted very well under GM Mickey Loomis and starting their draft off by snagging Greg Newsome would be a great decision.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Mayfield, Michigan OT
Packers fans are going to want to burn the city down after not drafting a wide receiver here, but offensive tackle truly is a bigger need for them ahead of this draft. They can get a great receiver later in this draft, it’s a very strong WR class. The offensive lineman in this class won’t be as strong in the later rounds. They have a plethora of choices at this pick for an offensive lineman, as many are slipping down the draft board. They’ll elect to take Mayfield over Alex Leatherwood, Samuel Cosmi, and Liam Eichenburg here at this pick. I would be surprised if they don’t address the receiver position on day two of this draft, but adding one of the remaining offensive line prospects listed above will be a much bigger need than receiver after the injury to David Bakhtiari and departure of Corey Linsley in free agency.
30. Buffalo Bills – Gregory Rousseau, Miami DE
The Bills were a game away from the Super Bowl last year after a tough loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their roster is very similar to the roster of last season, so their drafting could be what ends up pushing them over the edge and into the Super Bowl next season. Adding Gregory Rousseau here at this pick would be a great decision by the Bills front office, he is a great defensive end who will immediately help the front seven in Buffalo. They’ll probably address the running back and cornerback positions sooner rather than later in this draft too, but defensive end is a major need for this team and Rousseau still being on the board at this pick should make it a no-brainer for a Bills team looking to reach the Super Bowl next season.
31. Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City Chiefs) – Rondale Moore, Purdue WR
The Ravens traded Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs for numerous picks, including this 31st overall pick. While you’d think that they would immediately draft a replacement, they actually intend to sign one of the remaining offensive tackles left on the free agent market. The name floating around the most is Alejandro Villanueva, the former Pittsburgh Steelers pro bowler. They’ll probably add offensive line depth later in this draft to fill the void left by Orlando Brown even more, but this pick should be used on a receiver. Rondale Moore is the best remaining receiver on the board and would immediately be a great target for Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. He would join a rather weak receiving corps and the only thing that may stop him from finding success at the NFL level is his injury history. The Ravens should take this chance and bolster their offense with one of the most talented receivers in the class.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kadarius Toney, Florida WR
The Buccaneers locked up every key free agent that they had going into the off-season, that makes this team the most complete roster in the league and puts them in position for another run at the Lombardi Trophy next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded out of the first round and netted multiple picks in return, but I think they may stick around and snag a great receiver in Kadarius Toney at pick 32. Toney would just be another weapon for Tom Brady in the loaded Tampa Bay offense, joining Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson in their WR corps. They could use this pick on a defensive lineman to bolster their already strong front seven or an offensive lineman for depth behind their starters, but wide receiver makes more sense than both of these positions. Tampa Bay had a great off-season and now get to enjoy the luxury of not actually having to fill major holes in their roster. They’ll draft the best player available at just about every pick and try and make a run next season with the same packed roster that won it all last year.
RECAP OF THE FIRST ROUND:
The first round saw a whopping 4 QBs taken in the first 4 picks. Justin Fields ended up being that #3 pick, and Trey Lance immediately followed after the Broncos traded up to the 4th pick. There was 5 receivers taken, and only one tight end. It was a lot of offense early on, with defensive players outnumbering the offensive players in the back end of the opening round. The position with the best players still available is definitely the offensive line. Alex Leatherwood, Samuel Cosmi, Liam Eichenburg, and Wyatt Davis could all very well have been first round picks and remain on the board heading into the second round. There are also still plenty of quality receivers still available in the second round. Don’t be surprised if we also see a run on linebackers on day two, many have second and third round grades and should be off the board at some point in these rounds. All in all, round 1 was filled with franchise altering picks for lots of teams, and there is plenty of talent still available going into day 2 of this exciting NFL draft.
BEST PLAYERS STILL AVAILABLE
Here’s a list of the best players still available after the first round of this mock draft by position:
QB: Kyle Trask, Davis Mills, Kellen Mond
RB: Javonte Williams, Chuba Hubbard, Michael Carter
WR: Terrace Marshall, Dwayne Eskridge, Elijah Moore
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Brevin Jordan, Tommy Tremble
Offensive Line: Alex Leatherwood, Samuel Cosmi, Liam Eichenburg, Wyatt Davis, Creed Humphrey
DE: Jayson Oweh, Carlos Basham, Joseph Ossai
DT: Levi Onwuzurike, Daviyon Nixon, Marvin Wilson
LB: Zaven Collins, Jamin Davis, Baron Browning
CB: Asante Samuel Jr., Ifeatu Melifonwu, Paulson Adebo
S: Jevon Holland, Jamar Johnson, Caden Sterns