With a steady stream of offseason rumors and no NFL Combine this year, the 2021 NFL Draft is sure to be full of twists and turns, perhaps even more so than usual. I have no insider knowledge or NFL sources, but I have gathered and kept track of every report and rumor over the last few months and combined those with team needs and scheme fits. Here’s the first round of my 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
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2021 NFL Mock Draft – Round 1
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence – QB
With the first pick in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft, the Jaguars of course select Trevor Lawrence, an impeccable quarterback prospect who has basically been written in pen to Jacksonville since the Jets upset the Browns back in December.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson – QB
There’s been a lot of debate about Zach Wilson, the one-year wonder, but he unquestionably has a high ceiling, and all reports point to the Jets being set on the BYU product to lead Mike LaFleur’s Shanahan-esque offense.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance – QB
It’s reportedly down to Mac Jones or Trey Lance. With some teams rating Lance as the smartest quarterback in this class and reports that the 49ers plan to keep Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance fits the high-upside mold if he redshirts as a rookie and develops behind Garoppolo.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts – TE
Anything could happen here, but given Matt Ryan‘s contract, this NFL mock draft projects the new regime in Atlanta trying to contend by adding an impact tight end in Kyle Pitts, something Ryan hasn’t had for nearly a decade since his days with Tony Gonzalez.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase – WR
Considering the depth of the 2021 class of offensive linemen, it’s reasonable for the Bengals to toy with the notion of reuniting Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase, the first unanimous top-ranked rookie wide receiver since Calvin Johnson in 2007.
6. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle – WR
The Dolphins traded back up to no. 6 after trading down to no. 12 overall, so it’s safe to say they viewed a tier drop after the top six prospects. With Will Fuller on a one-year deal, it would make sense for Miami to secure a long-term no. 1 wide receiver in Jaylen Waddle.
7. Detroit Lions ⇒ New England Patriots – Justin Fields – QB
Predicting trades is an impractical task, but with rumors of the Patriots’ interest in Justin Fields, this trade up would allow Fields to sit behind Cam Newton, with whom he shares similar strengths, for a year before taking the reins in 2022.
8. Carolina Panthers ⇒ Las Vegas Raiders – Mac Jones – QB
The Panthers have explored the option to trade back, and if Mac Jones falls, the Raiders have apparently done extensive work studying this quarterback class and are open to moving Derek Carr, so Jon Gruden leapfrogs divisional rival Denver to secure Jones.
9. Denver Broncos – Jaelan Phillips – Edge
The Broncos’ internal evaluation of Drew Lock versus this quarterback class will determine a lot, but if they stick with Lock and clear Jaelan Phillips medically, Vic Fangio could gravitate toward building on an already strong defense with another dynamic pass rusher.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II – CB
Many NFL mock drafts place Patrick Surtain to Dallas, and for good reason. The Cowboys’ struggling secondary was top-five in points allowed last season, so adding the top rookie cornerback would be the first step toward remedying that problem.
11. New York Giants – Micah Parsons – LB
It sounds as though the Giants are considering trading back but that Dave Gettleman absolutely loves Micah Parsons. The odds of a trade down seem low given Gettleman’s history, so it’s fair to pencil in Parsons to New York.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith – WR
With Jeff Lurie supposedly wanting the Eagles to build around Jalen Hurts for 2021 and the jury still out on Jalen Reagor, the best way to build around Hurts would be to enhance his arsenal of receiving weapons with the addition of DeVonta Smith.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Penei Sewell – OL
Justin Herbert has lobbied for Penei Sewell, and while it’s not a certainty that the Chargers will listen, they do need help on the offensive line, so this could be a match made in heaven if Sewell makes it to this pick.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Rashawn Slater – OL
Many NFL mock drafts have the Vikings taking a defensive player with this pick, but with the offensive line being a priority need as well, it’d be hard for Minnesota to pass on a top-tier tackle like Rashawn Slater here.
15. New England Patriots ⇒ Detroit Lions – Jaycee Horn – CB
A former defensive backs coach and secondary coach with the Browns and Saints, respectively, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn gets Jaycee Horn as a foundational piece to rebuild the defense after the previous regime dealt Darius Slay to the Eagles.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Greg Newsome II – CB
Greg Newsome has a worrisome injury history, but with Arizona having recently taken a chance on other risky players like A.J. Green and James Conner, it’s not a stretch that they could hope for the best with Newsome as a big addition to the secondary if healthy.
17. Las Vegas Raiders ⇒ Carolina Panthers – Alijah Vera-Tucker – OL
Carolina is able to add significant draft capital by trading back from the no. 8 overall pick, but they still manage to secure a strong addition to the offensive line in Alijah Vera-Tucker to help protect their new quarterback, Sam Darnold.
18. Miami Dolphins – Gregory Rousseau – Edge
The Dolphins fielded a fearsome secondary in 2020, and Gregory Rousseau may just be the talented edge rusher Brian Flores needs to perfect an elite defense capable of slowing down Josh Allen and eventually claiming the AFC East crown.
19. Washington Football Team – Christian Darrisaw – OL
The Washington Football Team’s ascending defense gave the Buccaneers a run for their money in the playoffs, but their offense fell short. Upgrading the offensive line will help on that side of the ball, and that starts with Christian Darrisaw anchoring the left side of the line.
20. Chicago Bears – Rashod Bateman – WR
Quite a few NFL mock drafts have the Bears trading up for a quarterback, but it’s uncertain whether they have the draft capital necessary to do so. Instead, they could give Andy Dalton another reliable receiver while also preparing for life without Allen Robinson in 2022.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Samuel Cosmi – OL
The last thing Frank Reich wants is for Carson Wentz to keep struggling with constant pressure like he was in Philadelphia. Replacing the recently-retired Anthony Castonzo with Samuel Cosmi could help protect Wentz and break some bad habits when he’s under duress.
22. Tennessee Titans – Asante Samuel Jr. – CB
Asante Samuel could slot in perfectly for Tennessee at this pick. After all, the Titans’ secondary was among the worst in the league in 2020, and they’ve yet to fill the void left by Malcolm Butler‘s release in March.
23. New York Jets – Kwity Paye – Edge
Robert Saleh wasted no time in assembling one of the best defensive lines in the NFL by signing Carl Lawson and Sheldon Rankins to complement Quinnen Williams. Kwity Paye could be the final piece to remaking a monstrous Gang Green defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris – RB
It would be smart of Pittsburgh to address the offensive line, but they may be desperate to make one final push with Ben Roethlisberger with hopes that Najee Harris can revitalize the run game after their offense stagnated in the second half of the 2020 season.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig – S
The Jaguars have needs everywhere, but Trevon Moehrig is a versatile playmaker in the secondary. He could be the first building block in getting Jacksonville’s defense back to where it was in 2017 when they were one score away from making it to the Super Bowl.
26. Cleveland Browns – Jamin Davis – LB
Cleveland fields a stout defensive line and secondary after adding Jadeveon Clowney and John Johnson in free agency, but they need a rangy linebacker like Jamin Davis who can at least slow down Travis Kelce if the Browns and Chiefs meet again in the playoffs.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Jayson Oweh – Edge
Many had previously mocked Terrace Marshall to Baltimore, but Marshall may fall out of the first round with some concerns about his injury history. Instead, the Ravens could add a raw but explosive pass rusher in Jayson Oweh with this pick.
28. New Orleans Saints – Caleb Farley – CB
Following his microdiscectomy back surgery in March, Caleb Farley‘s draft stock has tumbled. Although replacing Drew Brees is priority no. 1, there are no quarterbacks worth reaching for here, and adding Farley addresses a pressing concern with the recent departure of Janoris Jenkins.
29. Green Bay Packers – Landon Dickerson – OL
Corey Linsley just became the highest-paid center in the NFL with the Chargers, so a natural replacement for him could be Landon Dickerson. Multiple ACL tears and ankle injuries mar his resume, but such a versatile lineman might be worth the risk this late in the first round.
30. Buffalo Bills – Azeez Ojulari – Edge
There are rumors that Buffalo likes Travis Etienne, but the Bills did fine without Etienne in 2020 with the second-highest scoring offense. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Kansas City, and Azeez Ojulari could help limit Patrick Mahomes & Co.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Teven Jenkins – OL
After shipping off Orlando Brown to Kansas City, the Ravens might replenish their offensive line depth here with the pick received from the Chiefs. A mauler like Brown, the difference is that Teven Jenkins will be far cheaper on his rookie deal.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian Barmore – DT
Closing out the first round of this 2021 NFL Mock Draft is Christian Barmore. He’s a raw prospect with only one season as a starter, but with both Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul slowing down, Barmore can rotate in immediately and be a long-term replacement.
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