There won’t be too much drama at the very top of the 2021 NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence has been locked in to the Jacksonville Jaguars since they landed the pick, and there’s no indication that the new Jags leadership, including head coach Urban Meyer, plans to do anything else. Beyond that, it is a mystery, especially with the looming possibility of a Deshaun Watson trade shaking up the top of the draft. For now, we’re keeping things as currently projected for the third, Pre-Super Bowl edition of our 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
The first 30 picks are locked in, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs set to dual it out on Sunday night. This should be one of the more dramatic drafts we’ve had in a while, thanks to a glut of quarterback talent involved. There should be at least five taken in the first round, with plenty of teams looking towards the future at the position.
There may be more teams than first-round quarterbacks as well, so some wild trades are certainly possible here. We’re avoiding any trade projections for our 2021 NFL Mock Draft, but we certainly welcome them. The Matthew Stafford deal between the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions doesn’t affect this first round directly, but it does shake things up towards the top of the draft.
For the last edition of our 2021 NFL Mock Draft, click here. The 2021 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 29, and runs through May 1. This year’s event is being held in Cleveland.
2021 NFL Mock Draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB – Clemson
We’ve known that Lawrence would be the pick here for a long time. The long-rumored hire of Urban Meyer doesn’t change that. As an analyst at FOX, Meyer was consistently complimentary of the Clemson superstar, even taking him over Buckeyes signal caller Justin Fields before the season.
The former Florida and Ohio State head coach has to be very excited for the opportunity to launch his first NFL stint with the best quarterback prospect in a decade.
2. New York Jets — Zach Wilson, QB – BYU
Things get fascinating pretty quickly. The major unknown variable here: the status of Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans. If the team decides to acquiesce and move him, there may be no team in a better position to land him than the Jets. The team can send Houston this pick and/or Sam Darnold, and allow the Texans to figure out the future of their quarterback position. If not, Zach Wilson still seems like the best bet to be the second quarterback off the board. There’s an argument to be made to hold on to Darnold to see what he can do with a non-Adam Gase coaching staff, but a fresh start may be best for everyone involved.
3. Miami Dolphins — Ja’Marr Chase, WR – LSU
The Chase vs. DeVonta Smith debate is going to be one of the most interesting in the NFL Draft. Smith’s 2020 season is absolutely undeniable. It is hard to imagine a more dynamic year for a wide receiver. His size is starting to come up again now that he’s maneuvering the draft process. It shouldn’t hurt his stock too much, but it may be enough to bump him behind Chase, who was viewed as the top wide receiver in the draft after last year’s national title run with LSU. At 6-feet, 200+ pounds, he’s a bit more physically imposing, and still has blazing speed and elite athleticism. Matching Tua Tagovailoa with his former Alabama teammate would be fun, but he should be very happy with Chase as well.
4. Atlanta Falcons — Justin Fields, QB – Ohio State
Owner Arthur Blank has come back around on Matt Ryan being back with the team in 2021, now saying he’d be “shocked” if he wasn’t a Falcon in 2021. That doesn’t mean that Atlanta won’t take a young quarterback to groom under Matty Ice. As shown on Spotrac, the team could move on from the veteran quarterback after next season. Replacing him with a home state superstar in Fields might be too good to pass up.
5. Cincinnati Bengals — Penei Sewell, OT – Oregon
There may be no more necessary pick in this draft than the Bengals adding offensive line talent. Luckily for them, the draft could gift them the best tackle prospect in years. Any of the three teams above Cincinnati could justifiably go with Sewell, but there’s a fair chance he falls here to give the franchise someone to protect Joe Burrow’s blindside for years to come. After the onslaught he faced this year, this would be a fantastic selection.
6. Philadelphia Eagles — Kyle Pitts, TE – Florida
It looks very likely that the Eagles will lose franchise tight end Zach Ertz, a huge part of the offense, in the next year. The team desperately needs to give Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz, or whomever plays quarterback some weapons. Pitts is about as dangerous as any wide receiver in this draft, while having tight end size, drawing comparisons to the likes of Las Vegas Raiders star Darren Waller. The Eagles’ new quarterbacks coach, Brian Johnson, was Florida’s OC last season as well, so he can give Nick Sirianni some real insight into how to best use him.
7. Detroit Lions — DeVonta Smith, WR – Alabama
The Lions were one of the many teams connected to the various potential first-round quarterbacks in this draft. The Matthew Stafford trade to the Los Angeles Rams, which brings back Jared Goff in return, may change that. There’s no guarantee that the Lions don’t still go quarterback, but with the financial investment they now have in Goff, they could wait a year or so to figure out the future of the position. In the meantime, giving him the Heisman winner to throw to will certainly help Dan Campbell and his staff see what they have in the former No. 1 pick.
8. Carolina Panthers — Trey Lance, QB – North Dakota State
There have been a number of signals that the Carolina Panthers didn’t see exactly what they had hoped for from Teddy Bridgewater. Lance may be the most intriguing quarterback in this draft for numerous reasons: he comes from the FCS level, his incredible stats (2,786 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, no interceptions, 1,100 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns), and the fact that he basically has one year as a starter on the college level.
9. Denver Broncos — Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama
The Broncos are in a tough spot, sharing a division with the best team in football (Kansas City Chiefs), a team with the best rookie quarterback (Los Angeles Chargers), and a solid franchise with a dangerous passing attack (Las Vegas Raiders). There are multiple ways to best counter an elite Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert passing attack, but without a ton of top-flight pass rushers in this draft, taking the top cornerback is probably the move here. Surtain absolutely erased half of the field for Alabama’s opponents over the last few years. He should find plenty of success at the next level.
10. Dallas Cowboys — Rashawn Slater, OL – Northwestern
Dallas needs to keep Dak Prescott upright when he returns in 2021. Slater is an unbelievably well-rounded offensive line prospect, with experience all across Northwestern’s front. He is also one of the few players who was able to go head-to-head with Ohio State’s elite pass rushers like Chase Young, and come away unscathed. The Cowboys’ offensive line, the best in the NFL just a few years ago, has fallen apart a bit recently. Slater can slide right in and shore it up.
11. New York Giants — Jaylen Waddle, WR – Alabama
Daniel Jones needs some help in the passing game, and Waddle is the third elite wide receiver prospect in this draft. He should be able to stretch the field in a major way, opening things up for guys like Evan Engram. Last year, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard led the team with 751 and 656 receiving yards, respectively, and no one caught more than three touchdowns. The Giants need to get Jones a true WR1 to see what he has, and take some pressure off of Saquon Barkley and the run game as well.
12. San Francisco 49ers — Caleb Farley, CB – Virginia Tech
There’s a serious debate at the top of the cornerback board in this draft, between Surtain, who had another incredible season in 2020 for Alabama, and Farley, one of the year’s most significant opt-outs. Farley has ideal size and athleticism to counter NFL receivers. The 49ers will likely lose Richard Sherman in free agency, so it is a major position of need as well. With Surtain off the board, this one makes a ton of sense.
13. Los Angeles Chargers — Christian Darrisaw, OT – Virginia Tech
The Chargers offense was exciting with Justin Herbert under center, but shoddy offensive line play made his life harder than it needed to be. Sam Tevi was extremely shaky at left tackle in 2020. Christian Darrisaw was one of college football’s breakout stars at the offensive line position, going a full year without allowing a quarterback hit according to Pro Football Focus, while also grading out as a dynamic run blocker.
14. Minnesota Vikings — Greg Rousseau, DE – Miami
The Minnesota Vikings have been undergoing a multi-year overhaul of their defense. After a major youth movement in the secondary in 2020, which led to some serious growing pains, they very well may turn their attention to the defensive front in 2021. Rousseau is one of the many talented but raw pass rushers in this draft, but was extremely productive for The U in 2019, with 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2019. He opted out of this past season.
15. New England Patriots — Mac Jones, QB – Alabama
When Bill Belichick consults Nick Saban about the Alabama players in this year’s NFL Draft, he should get glowing reviews for Mac Jones. Saban has consistently praised Jones for his patience, and then his incredible play in 2020. Jones led the Crimson Tide to the national title, was a Heisman finalist, and put together maybe the best quarterback season in Alabama football history. Whether he can become the true heir to Tom Brady is obviously a huge question, but he spent a year defying odds in Tuscaloosa.
16. Arizona Cardinals — Jaycee Horn, CB – South Carolina
Matthew Stafford is now in the Cardinals’ division, playing for Sean McVay. The Seattle Seahawks already have an explosive passing attack (when they want to) which should only improve as DK Metcalf continues to develop. The San Francisco 49ers are a question, but even if the team settles with Jimmy Garoppolo, he will have a really fun group of receivers to throw to, at the very least. The Cardinals need to boost their pass defense, and Horn is the best guy available to do it.
17. Las Vegas Raiders — Micah Parsons, LB – Penn State
Parsons could be one of the first players off the board, or he could wind up tumbling based on team need. Parsons can rush the passer, he’s a fantastic run defender, and he’s as sure a tackler as there is in this NFL Draft. He could add some much-needed versatility to a Raiders offense that is going to be tested often in the AFC West, and he’s fantastic value here at 17. It’d be hard for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock to pass him up.
18. Miami Dolphins — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB – Notre Dame
Barring a trade for Deshaun Watson, the Dolphins have a pair of first round picks. After taking a huge offensive weapon with the No. 3 pick, Brian Flores could add a rock-solid defender out of Notre Dame to improve the weakest level of his defense. Owusu-Koramoah is coming off of a fantastic final year in South Bend, and excels at doing the little things, something the former Bill Belichick assistant has to value.
19. Washington Football Team — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL – USC
Vera-Tucker improved his stock in a big way after an impressive 2020 season playing left tackle for the Trojans. It isn’t totally clear if he projects at left tackle in the NFL, but he’ll likely get his shot their as a first-round pick. If not, he should be a major asset on the inside of the line. Washington needs to figure out its quarterback position, but with the top five guys already off the board, they should start to build the supporting cast for when they find that quarterback of the future.
20. Chicago Bears — Teven Jenkins, OT – Oklahoma State
The Bears desperately need to shore up the offensive line. Luckily, this NFL Draft class is pretty loaded, with numerous potential first round options. Teven Jenkins is another prospect that really upped his stock with a big 2020 in Mike Gundy’s offense. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound tackle has ideal NFL size and strength, and experience at both tackle spots. If the Bears are running it back with Mitchell Trubisky, they may as well give him everything he needs to succeed.
21. Indianapolis Colts — Sam Cosmi, OT – Texas
The run on offensive tackles continues. The Colts have to account for two huge recent retirements: quarterback Philip Rivers and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. With five quarterbacks off the board, the first of those is pretty tricky. Offensive tackle is an easier sell here, with a slew of potential first rounders at the position. Cosmi was an All-American for the Longhorns in the fall.
22. Tennessee Titans — Kwity Paye, DL – Michigan
The Titans need a pass rusher in the worst way, after failing to get after the quarterback in any meaningful way through most of the 2020 season. This draft doesn’t have a ton of polished, plug and play guys, but it does have a few with high ceilings, perhaps none more so than Michigan’s Kwity Paye. He’s a long, rangy defender who should give offensive tackles fits once he really settles in at the position, coming off of a productive 2020 season, one of the few bright spots for the Wolverines.
23. New York Jets — Jaelan Phillips, DE – Miami
With Rousseau out in 2020, UCLA transfer Jaelan Phillips filled the gap for the Hurricanes on the defensive line, putting up 45 tackles and eight sacks in 2020, landing on some All-American teams for his efforts. There are some injury concerns here; Phillips left UCLA due to numerous 2017 and 2018 injuries, before transferring to Miami where he thrives this fall. As long as he checks out medically, he should give the Jets a solid lift to a defense that needs help all over.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Zaven Collins, LB – Tulsa
Collins absolutely blew up for the Golden Hurricanes this season, filling the stat sheet with 54 tackles, four sacks, and four interceptions en route to the Nagurski Award. He’s one of the most versatile defenders in the entire draft. The Steelers will likely need to replace Bud Dupree, who went out with a torn ACL, and is set to hit free agency. Collins isn’t the same kind of pure pass rusher that Dupree is, but he can fill that spot and do it all at the second level of Pittsburgh’s defense, alongside Devin Bush.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars — Christian Barmore, DL – Alabama
After landing his franchise quarterback at the top of the draft, Urban Meyer needs to turn his attention to a very porous defense. Christian Barmore emerged as the key guy up front for Alabama this year, and was highly productive playing all across Nick Saban’s line. He also played his best football in the biggest games, really shining in the College Football Playoff against Notre Dame and Ohio State. With those two opponents, you know he’s on Meyer’s radar.
26. Cleveland Browns — Trevon Moehrig, S – TCU
The Browns dealt with numerous injuries in the secondary this year. While the defense held up well in 2020, it can definitely use some additional help all over, especially in the back end. Moehrig is one of the best pure ballhawks in this class, with six interceptions and 20 pass breakups over the last two seasons.
27. Baltimore Ravens — Terrace Marshall Jr., WR – LSU
It is past time to really complete Lamar Jackson’s receiving corps, and give him a chance to prove himself as a top passer once and for all. Mark Andrews is a very nice piece at tight end, and after a strong rookie season, Marquise Brown rebounded from a sophomore slump late in 2020. Neither is the big, fast threat that can really open up the offense. 6-foot-4, 200+ pound Terrace Marshall Jr. slots in here very nicely. He followed up a 671 yard, 13 touchdown sophomore season with 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games for the Tigers this fall.
28. New Orleans Saints — Jevon Holland, S – Oregon
Given the Saints’ hellacious salary cap situation, and the potential retirement of quarterback Drew Brees, it is pretty imperative that they nail this year’s NFL Draft. New Orleans has some aging pieces in its impressive defense, namely safety Malcolm Jenkins. Holland was a real ballhawk at Oregon, picking off nine career passes, and has the versatility to shift over to play the slot.
29. Green Bay Packers — Kadarius Toney, WR – Florida
Last year, Aaron Rodgers wanted wide receiver help. The Packers took a quarterback in the first round. Rodgers responded with an MVP season, thanks in large part to the improvement of guys like Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Robert Tonyan, but they still need a really reliable second weapon to Davante Adams, who made his case to be the NFL’s best receiver this year. Toney, the burner out of Florida, gives the Packers one of the elements that their current receiver group doesn’t have, and most importantly, it’d probably make No. 12 a happy camper this NFL Draft week, as the team’s championship window continues to tighten.
30. Buffalo Bills — Najee Harris, RB – Alabama
Josh Allen had an MVP-level season this year, but the Bills were very one-dimensional at times. Buffalo has invested in the running back position, taking Devin Singletary in the third round in 2019, and Zack Moss in the third round last year. Both are fine players, but neither really established themselves as the guy, and there were games this year where the Bills abandoned the run completely. Najee Harris is the kind of plug-and-play guy that you can sell as a first-round running back, and the Bills have a complete enough roster to make something of a vanity pick at this point in the NFL Draft. He is also a major contributor in the pass game, which adds to his value.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Travis Etienne, RB – Clemson
The time for the Buccaneers to win a Super Bowl is now. Tom Brady may be able to pull it off on Sunday, but in any event, it sounds like he’ll be back for a second year with the team. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette have had their moments, but neither is a game breaking player. Etienne is one of the best running backs in recent college football history, and did it all for the Tigers. He’d round out one of the most talented offenses in the NFL, both for Brady and whoever comes after him, assuming he will in fact retire at some point in all of our lifetimes.
32. Kansas City Chiefs — Azeez Ojulari, EDGE – Georgia
The Chiefs defense has succeeded in making things tough for opposing quarterbacks, but without a huge presence on the edge. Defensive tackle Chris Jones is a game breaker inside, which helps everybody. Adding a dynamic player to the outside can really kick things up a notch for Steve Spagnuolo’s unit here. Ojulari emerged for the Dawgs as the 2020 season went on, and went nuts in the Peach Bowl, sacking Cincinnati’s Desmond Ritter three times, bringing his total to 8.5 on the year. He forced four fumbles on the season. The Chiefs are extremely dangerous when their defense is forcing turnovers and making big plays, and Ojulari is a big play machine.