All prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft have been analysed in depth. Now it’s time to predict what will happen when Thursday night rolls around as I present my NFL mock draft of the year.
There’s going to be a surprise quarterback at number three. Even though the name has gotten some steam lately, the big three receivers should go early. But considering the depth of this NFL Draft class, there could be a late run on edge rushers; I have only one running back going in the first round.
Notably, two of my top ten overall prospects will not hear their names called in the first round due to injuries. Without any concrete information on their medical history, it was difficult for me to put things into context and project where these guys could go.
As far as trades go, I have tried to stay close to what the NFL Trade Value Chart says and haven't included any picks from future years. I have done that to keep things fairly simple.
So without further ado, let's get started:
#1 2021 NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has been the number one overall pick since we saw him carve up the Alabama defense in the National Championship game as a 19-year old freshman.
The only question then was who was going to get him. Jacksonville, after losing their final 15 games of last season, secured that right. Urban Meyer has come out of retirement for a chance to coach this guy/
To go with a lot of things I already like about this Jags’ roster, they have to a chance to build something special in Duval County. Jackson-villians are already bringing Lawrence wedding gifts.
#2 2021 NFL Draft: New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Jets fans lost their minds when their team went from seemingly sabotaging themselves to stay ahead in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes to winning consecutive games against playoff teams.
However, getting Zach Wilson as a consolation prize is more than just fine. I believe he could be a great fit for what Mike Shanahan wants to do in offense. In terms of moving the pocket of the zone -un game, Wilson has the best vision for secondary plays and could only improve the Gang Green roster.
I noted in my quarterback breakdown about how the gap between these two guys isn’t as big as some make it out to be.
#3 2021 NFL Draft: San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Speaking of great fits for a particular type of offense, nobody may do it better than Kyle Shanahan. That's because his father basically made it popular around the league, but he needs somebody to rely upon to run it.
Trey Lance was in a very similar offense at North Dakota State, where his ability to throw on the run or settle after being on the move initially were impressive, along with his 'Howitzer of an arm'.
He may only be a one-year starter, but he has clean footwork and a good football IQ. Moreover, he has a strong lower body to shrug off NFL defenders, create off-script and rip off big runs himself.
#4 2021 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
I’m sure the Falcons would love to trade out this pick and collect more assets. But with the price,, that would demand and what I perceive the teams in the quarterback market to be, I couldn’t find a suitable player for them.
Instead, they might opt for the biggest mismatch weapon in this NFL draft to add to an already great group of pass-catchers. Kyle Pitts could create doubts in the opposition defense and could threaten the seams and immediately upgrade the 26th-ranked red-zone offense.
He would be too attractive to pass up, as the Falcons won’t get out of the Matt Ryan deal for another two years.
#5 NFL 2021 Draft: Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
There’s been a lot of noise about the Bengals reuniting Joe Burrow with his former LSU stud receiver Ja’Marr Chase. That seems to be a 50-50 call right now. If they go for him, they would get a great receiver early in the second run.
While they could have a run at offensive tackles in the late first and early second. Penei Sewell is the best prospect at the position I have scouted (over the last decade). There’s some hand-usage and footwork issues that he has to clean up in pass-protection, but his potential is off the charts.
#6 NFL 2021 Draft: Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This could turn out pretty well for the Dolphins, who have their choice of receivers if Kyle Pitts as the tight-end is counted as one.
Jaylen Waddle could aid the development of Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins need a dynamic separator, so reuniting Waddle with his explosive teammate from his time in Tuscaloosa could help him become less hesitant to pull the trigger and be a more aggressive downfield thrower.
Moreover, Waddle could create yards off quick touches and be a game-breaker in the return game for the Dolphins if they want to split those duties between him and Jakeem Grant.
#7 NFL 2021 Draft: Detroit Lions – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Lions won’t complain about this, since they could grab my number one receiver after they just lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones for almost nothing.
Ja’Marr Chase could be a nuisance to DBs down the field and run away from the defense with the ball in his hands. Detroit took on the Jared Goff contract because they knew that wouldn’t be a quick turn-around and they need to collect talented players.
Chase is the highest one on my board and fills a major need in the team. So unless somebody aggressively wants to move up here, the Liones should go for Chase.
#8 NFL 2021 Draft: Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
With the trade for Sam Darnold, I lean towards not going for a quarterback for Carolina, even if one of the big four could fall right into their lap in this scenario.
Instead, they should look to protect their new signal caller, as they already have plenty of receiving help around him. Kyle Pitts is the only guy who could be a major upgrade.
Their offensive line requires the biggest improvement. So by getting the most pro-ready linemen in the draft, they could upgrade left tackle and potentially have two book-ends - Pitts and Taylor Moton - for years to come. They could also upgrade either one of their guard spots instantly.
#9 NFL 2021 Draft: New England Patriots (via DEN) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Many people may not like this move because the Patriots could have their next franchise signal-caller for the next decade. But I think Denver may want to see what they have in Drew Lock for one more year, and if my number three quarterback is still available then, New England would make their move.
The Patriots gave up picks 46 and 122 to move up six spots and get Justin Fields, who is often considered a slightly smaller version of Cam Newton. With all the false narratives out there, I could see the Ohio State QB drop. But Bill Belichick won’t buy into that, and it should be a smooth transition from Cam.
Fields could use his athleticism in that type of offense. He was most comfortable recently with a lot of 12 personnel and speedsters on the outside at Ohio State.
#10 NFL 2021 Draft: Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
As crazy as it may sound, this seems to be a very realistic proposition. The Cowboys will have all the defensive prospects to choose from when they are on the clock at tenth overall.
If Kyle Pitts or one of the top two offensive linemen falls to them, they could go that route. But they desperately need to upgrade their defense, which ranked in the bottom-five in points allowed and 31st against the run last season.
They could address the front-seven later, especially with the amount of shade-nose tackles available in the middle rounds. So with this pick, they'' get the most technically sound corner in the draft, especially after they lost Chidobe Awuzie and have nobody else on the outside across from Trevon Diggs, as they re-build the Bama duo.
#11 NFL 2021 NFL Draft: New York Giants – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
No excuses for Daniel Jones, right? The Giants have already signed Kelly Golladay this offseason, to go along with Sterling Shephard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram.
With the investments they already made in their offensive line in last year’s draft and Saquon Barkley coming back, this has to be the year Danny Dimes puts it all together.
DeVonta Smith, who the Giants’ brass has reportedly been enamored with, gives them an excellent route-runner and a reliable deep threat to complete that unit. I could see Dave Gettleman go front-seven here as well. But that side of the ball wasn’t really the problem last season, and I don’t think there’s somebody here that blows them away.
#12 NFL 2021 Draft: Philadelphia Eagles – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
This is a sort of doomsday scenario for the Eagles because they have already almost written off last year’s first-round pick Jalen Reagor. They are in need of one of the consensus top-three receivers, which they won’t get now because they traded back from six.
In this scenario, I see them addressing their biggest need on the defensive side of the ball, assuming they don’t start valuing their linebacker position all of a sudden.
Jaycee Horn is the most physical, battle-tested corner in the draft and would allow them to put Darius Slay into more favorable positions going up against number two receivers, while Avonte Maddox could move back into the slot.
#13 NFL 2021 Draft: Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
I have had this pick locked in pretty much since late February. The Chargers clearly need to address their offensive line this offseason after Justin Herbert put together one of the all-time great rookie seasons.
He was under pressure a lot. But with the signing of Corey Linsley to a big contract, the Chargers now need an upgrade at left tackle, where they can trot out Trey Pipkins again.
Christian Darrisaw is my clear number three prospect at this position. He already excelled in a wide zone-based rushing attack, one LA could reportedly run more this season. He was a lockdown pass-protector in the ACC last year and could be a Pro Bowl-level player for the next decade.
#14 NFL 2021 Draft: Chicago Bears (via MIN) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
This is probably the oddest choice in my mock draft, as there are rarely trades inside the division. But as the Vikings don’t have a second-round pick, they could gladly move back six spots in return for the Bears' 52nd overall slot. Chicago could come up here to grab the final quarterback worthy of a first-round pick.
It may not be as exciting as Russell Wilson, but it would be more inspiring than settling for Andy Dalton. Mac Jones could excel in that spread RPO-oriented offense Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor originally intended to run last season.
They could also go with more of the zone-and boot-heavy approach they used later on. Jones’ processing ability and accuracy are second to none for any college QB, so he will not let that defense go to waste.
#15 NFL 2021 Draft: Denver Broncos (via NE) – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
This is another match I’ve really liked for a long time now. If the Broncos decide to stick with Drew Lock for another year and see what he could do when fully healthy, with all the pieces they have added around him, I see them going defense.
They could give Vic Fangio his version of Roquan Smith, who he coached in Chicago. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played a lot of big nickel for the Notre Dame defense, and it would make a lot of sense to match him up with Travis Kelce and Darren Waller in that division.
Moreover, they'll get a very promising player in that second level that they could deploy as a spy against athletic young QBs and in limiting big plays overall.
#16 NFL 2021 Prospect: Arizona Cardinals – Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
There’s some rumors about Arizona looking to trade up and potentially add another weapon to their offense.
However, I believe Jaylen Waddle could the guy they may target because he would be the perfect fit to give all those bubble screens and get somebody they could rely upon as a deep threat; I have him going sixth overall.
So instead, they could settle for what most people have as the top interior offensive linemen on their boards. Alijah Vera-Tucker would be an upgrade on either guard spot.
Whether they wish to put him at right tackle or move Justin Pugh there temporarily, the five overall would see an upgrade, especially with Kyler Murray having shown issues dealing with pressure up the middle.
#17 NFL 2021 Draft: Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama
From the information that is out there and what I’ve learned about the NFL over the years, I believe Christian Barmore could go earlier than most people expect him to.
The Raiders love big-brand players, and they just released Maurice Hurst out of nowhere after he was arguably their best defensive lineman last season; they have already let Maliek Collins walk away in free agency.
Barmore is a destructive player who can blow through interior offensive linemen and pursue the ball. His issue is lack of consistency in motor and pad-level. But putting Barmore as a penetrating three-technique could make him a problem to deal with,as they try to get into the faces of the quarterbacks in their division.
#18 NFL 2021 Draft: Miami Dolphins – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The buck stops here. Micah Parsons could reportedly be waiting longer than expected due to some of the stories about hazing teammates and character concerns. But what I can say is that Parsons would be a great fit for the Dolphins defense because he is a big New England-style linebacker, who can play a hybrid role.
He is heavily involved in blitz-packages and can rush from different spots and angles, so he would fit well in Miami’s zero-blitz happy approach. While I could see the Dolphins trade back from this spot, the Penn State LB would be a direct, more athletic replacement for the recently-cut Kyle Van Noy at a much lower cost.
#19 NFL 2021 Draft: Washington Football Team – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Washington may miss out on the quarterbacks because they seemingly want to break the bank to move into the top ten.
I don’t see them wanting to go with Mac Jones because they just drafted a pocket passer with limited mobility in the first round two years ago. They might not get an upgrade right now from Ryan Fitzpatrick that way.
Their defense is already loaded with young talent. Therefore, it could come down to another outside weapon or addressing their offensive line. They could try Teven Jenkins at left tackle and give themselves somebody with a mean-streak at that spot.
They could also easily move him back to the right side the next season when there would be no dead cap left on the Morgan Moses deal.
#20 NFL 2021 Draft: Minnesota Vikings (via CHI) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
This move might backfire a bit on the Vikings because they already have two good offensive linemen coming off the board after moving back with the Bears.
Mike Zimmer and company usually like bringing in mid-round projects at the defensive end. But with the uncertainty about Danielle Hunter’s back and his willingness to stay in Minnesota, to go with their sack-leader from a year ago who is stuck at 3.5 might be a wise way to address that problem early on.
Kwity Paye may not be the most instant-impact pass-rusher, but he has freakish athletic traits the Vikings covet. He is an excellent edge-setter in the run game. He did not allow zone-run oriented offenses in the NFC North to widen the B-gap, so the Vikings could move him inside on some passing downs.
#21 NFL 2021 Draft: Baltimore Ravens (via IND) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Ravens have some extra resources to deal with, thanks to the Orlando Brown deal.
In that scenario, I see them giving up their compensatory third-round pick (104 overall) and the fourth-rounder they acquired from the Chiefs (136 overall) to secure their top wide receiver on the board.
I know they signed Sammy Watkins, and their brass was adamant about having a good group of guys already. But they need that alpha on the outside.
Rashod Bateman is a silky-smooth route-runner. At the catch point, he can make things happen after catching the ball in the middle. He could be a perfect fit for Baltimore’s RPO-happy attack, where they could also put him in the slot.
#22 NFL 2021 Draft: Tennessee Titans – Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
With Bateman off the board as a replacement for the Corey Davis role, I see the Titans addressing the defensive side of the ball, where they could have some help.
Edge rusher could absolutely be a target here because they ranked 30th last season with only 19 sacks. But this is a sneaky-deep class, and they did spend big on Bud Dupree to pair him up with Harold Landry.
So I think they could go that route on Day two. They could go with the top corner available on most people’s boards after losing Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler this off-season.
Greg Newsome has experience with a lot of off-zone coverages. But he has a lot of upside to be put in press more as well, especially when they want to exert creative pressure.
#23 NFL 2021 Prospect: New Orleans Saints (via NYJ) – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Mickey Loomis is known to be an aggressive general manager, partly because of how the Saints roll over cap and magically make that all disappear after spending a boatload of money but also specifically trading up for defensive playmakers in the first round of the draft.
Here they move up five spots in exchange for their original third-round pick (98 overall) because they still have the final day-two selection, thanks to compensatory rules.
They could grab a dynamic linebacker in Jamin Davis, who has reportedly been shooting up draft boards and has three potential suitors.
I love the way he can work his way around blocks and move around in space. With last year’s third-rounder Zack Baun being more of a hybrid SAM, the only dependable stand-up backer the Saints have is Demario Davis, who will be 33 years old once the season starts and has a potential out in his contract next year as well.
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Jaylen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
This is the pick I probably struggled the most with. Alabama running back Najee Harris has been routinely predicted to go to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the last time they selected a running back in round one was Rashad Mendenhall in 2008.
They have now let Le’Veon Bell and James Conner walk in the last couple of years. An athletic project edge rusher like Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, who is in the mold of Bud Dupree, who they just lost in free agency, would make some sense.
But they liked what they saw from Alex Highsmith in limited action. So without somebody that stands out at cornerback (at least one with a clean medical), I see them selecting Jalen Mayfield here. That's because they also lost their two starting tackles this off-season, so Mayfield could give them a rugged blocker with position flexibility; he is only 20 years old.
#25 2021 NFL Draft: Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Another one of my favorite fits. The Jaguars ran more single-high coverages last season than any other team in the league, despite not having any reliable, rangy free safety.
While bringing over Joe Cullen from Baltimore would probably lead to more variety at the back end, Urban Meyer has always liked to have a guy capping over the top.
Trevon Moehrig is the most consistent player in that role coming out, and those guys just aren’t available later on in this draft or in the open market. Moreover, he has plenty of experience in quarters and man-on-slot receivers.
They already have plenty of receiving help around Trevor Lawrence, so they could go offensive line or tight-end in Pat Freiermuth on Day two and address a scarce position.
#26 NFL 2021 Draft: Cleveland Browns – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
This is one of the predictions I already made back in February when I discussed some of my favorite prospective team fits.
At 270 pounds, with the official numbers coming out of the medical checks in Indianapolis, it seems Zaven Collins is looked at more as a potential hybrid outside backer with rush capability.
While Collins might want to lower his weight a little bit, he could help the Browns beat Baltimore for the AFC North crown. When you look at Collins’ role at Tulsa, in terms of controlling the A-gaps for any dive action or getting out on the edges and chasign the ball, that is exactly what Cleveland couldn’t stop last season with the Ravens’ option run game.
Moreover, if they want to run two more high safety shells like they did at the end of last season, Collins could provide a lot of depth as the guy in the middle of a Tampa-2 defense.
#27 NFL 2021 Draft: Indianapolis Colts (via BAL) – Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas
When I look at the Colts, I think of the edge, either on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.
Their defense was one of the best in the league last season, so they could use another true threat rushing on the outside. But they have invested three second-round picks in that position between the 2018 and 2019 drafts, in Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu.
So I see them finding their replacement for the recently-retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Sam Cosmi is a highly athletic player but has some balance issues, which he needs to clean up with his footwork. But he was an effective pass-protector at Texas and put up some ridiculous testing numbers on his pro day.
#28 NFL 2021 Draft: New York Jets (via NO) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
It is well known that the Jets want to bring in somebody dynamic at the running back position.
They did bring in Tevin Coleman as a good scheme fit, but he has always been a number two, and we haven’t seen him stay healthy for a few years now.
Travis Etienne could be a perfect fit in the outside zone-oriented offense Mike LaFleur brings over from San Francisco, along with Robert Saleh. Moreover, he could be a weapon in the screen game as well.
He would give Gang Green an explosive game-breaker they don’t have in their offense yet. And with no major threat between 23 and 28, they'll pick up another third-rounder from New Orleans in the process.
#29 NFL 2021 Draft: Green Bay Packers – Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma
Talking about replacements, one of the bigger holes created through a free agency department came in the form of Corey Linsley being removed from the interior O-line for Green Bay.
The Green Bay Packers could, of course, move Elgton Jenkins to his original center position from college. But then they would still have to start at least one of their day-three linemen from a year ago at either one of those guard spots.
So I think bringing Creed Humphrey, who excelled in that same type of wide zone-run game, like I just discussed, and uses his wrestling background to anchor down in pass-protection, he would ensure that they need not switch things up too much and improve the unit as a whole from what it is right now.
#30 NFL 2021 Draft: Buffalo Bills – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
After Pittsburgh, Najee Harris’ second-most common landing spot seems to be Buffalo at 30th overall.
That would certainly make a lot of sense, considering they don’t have a reliable player in the backfield, who can stay on the field for all three downs and provide a presence.
However, when you watch them play and considering how incredible Josh Allen was last season, they would want to spread defenses out and throw the ball. They could look to improve their secondary play defensively.
For an undrafted free agent, Levi Wallace has played fairly well, but Josh Norman was a catastrophe, and they need a legitimate number two corner opposite Tre White.
Asante Samuel Jr. is pretty much a perfect fit, considering his ability to change direction and drive on the ball in zone coverage and off-man. Moreover, he has the speed to run with Kansas City receivers, who the Bills could expect to face in next year’s playoffs again.
#31 NFL 2021 Draft: Baltimore Ravens – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
With this pick the Ravens acquired from Kansas City in return for Orlando Brown, I could easily see them use it as leverage if some other team wants to come up a few spots, to secure the sixth quarterback or another high-level position.
However, there are two names whom I closely associate with Baltimore throughout this process. And with the way this thing shook out, I couldn’t pass on that idea.
After addressing wide receiver earlier with Rashod Bateman, I see them going with their biggest need in defense, especially after losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Azeez Ojulari is a true threat around the edge Baltimore haven't had for years, and he stonewalled pulling linemen in the run game routinely on tape.
#32 NFL 2021 Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Kansas City brought back almost their full starting lineup after they won the Super Bowl a year ago, but the Buccaneers did it even better, not losing any notable backups.
Therefore, this really is almost a luxury pick, and if the Buccaneers don’t like anybody on the board here, they could move back a few spots. However, the only guy that isn’t on their roster is Antonio Brown.
He could easily come back, but if he doesn’t, Kadarius Toney could be an explosive replacement. The former Florida jitterbug will have Tom Brady in his ear to refine his route-running. But what he can do after the catch and the fact that he can play more on the outside than somebody like Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore and still use Chris Godwin in the slot heavily, is very intriguing.
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