Reinforcing the value of the position, five quarterbacks go in the top 10, while offensive linemen follow, in this 2021 NFL mock draft.
Finally, It’s draft week—and there’s no better way to start the week than with a mock draft.
I will humbly try to predict each one of the 32 first-round picks, with a particular focus on each team’s scheme fits and previous draft choices. Of course, I will probably get it all wrong, but trying is the name of the game.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The easiest pick in the draft, either to make or predict. The Jaguars can do no wrong by selecting Trevor Lawrence. He’s the perfect QB prospect: tall, big arm, athletic, smart, and has shown he can handle the big stage. If not for Urban Meyer, I would be worried about Jacksonville in years to come.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Even though Zach Wilson is not as unanimous as Lawrence, he is the consensus No. 2 quarterback. Wilson has a quick, compact release, a strong arm, is accurate and anticipates his passes. If he can develop his post-snap processing, he will be a great quarterback for the New York Jets.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The draft really starts at No. 3. I, for one, would take Trey Lance here, but I think Kyle Shanahan believes Mac Jones will run his system to perfection. Jones is the best quarterback in the draft at getting out of his pre-snap reads. He quickly adapts to post-snap rotations by defensive backs and gives his playmakers chances to make plays.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Falcons have a few ways to go here. They can move down, get a playmaker, or take a quarterback. With a new head coach-general manager tandem in town, a new quarterback is basically a matter of time. Atlanta will be smart enough to understand that, under Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith, they won’t have the chance to get a quarterback with Lance’s talents anytime soon. Lance is the perfect guy to sit behind Ryan for a year or two, before taking over the heavy play-action system brought by Arthur Smith. I love this pick.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This is something I definitely wouldn’t do, even though I love Ja’Marr Chase. Cincinnati has to keep Joe Burrow upright, and by neglecting offensive line early, they will put themselves in a tough spot. Anyway, watching Burrow to Chase again will be fun (if Burrow is able to stay upright for more than two seconds, that is).
6. Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Miami starts the draft by addressing their most important need. Brian Flores is a defensive-minded coach who grew under Bill Bellichick, so he understands solidifying his offensive line is more important than grabbing a playmaker early. Sewell comes in to be Tua’s best friend.
7. Denver Broncos – Justin Fields, QB, OSU (trade with Detroit)
Deep down, the Broncos do not trust Drew Lock. The team is ready: they have playmakers, a solid offensive line, and a solid defense. By adding Justin Fields, John Elway takes another swing at a talented, big quarterback. I believe it pays off this time.
8. Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
It’s hard for Carolina to pass up on Kyle Pitts, but they need to build Sam Darnold a good offensive line if they hope to get something out of the USC product. They already have some good skill players in place, so solidifying the trenches becomes a must now that they invested in Darnold.
9. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (trade with Denver)
Once again, passing up on Pitts is hard, and I wouldn’t do it this time. But when I look at the Lions’ wide receiver signings, I see speed. And if Detroit values speed, they will value Jaylen Waddle, who can take off the top of the defense and also be used on manufactured touches. Taking T.J. Hockenson a few years ago prevents the Lions from grabbing Pitts here.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Jerry Jones rejoices: His reported favorite player falls to his lap, and the Cowboys boss ignores his defensive needs to get his brand new toy. I don’t blame him. Pitts is my favorite player in the draft and is a matchup nightmare. Dallas’s offense becomes scary, if healthy.
11. New York Giants – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Eleven picks, eleven offensive players thus far. Dave Gettleman is a man worried about his job, so he will give Danny Dimes a chance to prove he’s the Giants’ guy. The offensive line is bad, but after reaching for Andrew Thomas last year, Big Blue takes the receiver route now: Kenny Golladay, Devonta Smith, Darius Slayton, all of whom are solid players on the outside.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Now that Jim Schwartz is gone, I expect the Eagles to play a more zone-heavy scheme under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Jaycee Horn is the perfect fit for a heavy Cover 3 scheme, possessing the ability to break on routes quickly while also being extremely aggressive.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
This has to be the most commonly mocked pick during mock draft season. Justin Herbert had a great rookie season despite poor offensive line play. By bringing in a big, good tackle like Christian Darrisaw, the Chargers give Herbert the chance to reach the next level.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
The dream is over, Jets fans. The Vikings solidify their line by going after Alijah Vera-Tucker, my favorite interior offensive lineman in this draft. Extremely technical and aggressive, Vera-Tucker is a complete player that will help the Vikings’ offensive line on day one. After all, they are still tied to Kirk Cousins, and they must give the man a chance.
15. New England Patriots – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Bill is mad that he missed out on the top quarterbacks, but will calm down as soon as he gets his hands on Micah Parsons. The Penn State product will become a monster under Belichick, who will abuse his skill sets as a blitzer, and will teach him how to process and diagnose plays quicker.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
With the departure of Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals have a need at the cornerback position. Patrick Surtain II is the perfect fit for Vance Joseph, who loves some 2-deep-man looks. I expect that to be one of the best picks in the draft.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Raiders will look a bit more like the Raiders of old when speed was everything for Al Davis. After settling down for some high-floor defensive players on past drafts, Mike Mayock and co take a flier at this year’s most talented cornerback, ignoring injury history and bringing in Caleb Farley to the silver and black.
18. Miami Dolphins – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Miami looks smart. After taking Sewell at No. 6, the organization now grabs Kadarius Toney, a great weapon well suited for Tua Tagovailoa’s game. The Dolphins now have an X receiver (Parker), a Z receiver (Fuller) and an all-around H in Toney. It’s all of a sudden a solid offense.
19. Washington Football Team – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Washington, low-key, has one of the most talented teams in the NFC. Its skill-position group is solid, its offensive line is good and its defense is ferocious. By adding Zaven Collins, the Football Team solidifies its weakest spot: linebacker. A former quarterback, Collins can be your intellectual leader on defense – just like Luke Kuechly was for Ron Rivera in Carolina.
20. Chicago Bears – Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
After the departure of Kyle Fuller, the Bears have a glaring need at cornerback. Chicago bets on a deep offensive line class to address the position later, so they can secure a top-four cornerback in Greg Newsome at 20.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
With the sudden retirement of Anthony Castonzo, the Colts are in the market for an offensive lineman. Liam Eichenberg is a plug-and-play starter who will benefit from playing alongside Quenton Nelson. The Colts invested big on Wentz, so I don’t think they can take chances with their first-round choice. Eichenberg is a solid tackle.
22. Tennessee Titans – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
After missing out on Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley, the Titans are still looking for their game-changing edge rusher. Kwity Paye slides to 22 and Mike Vrabel couldn’t be any happier. Tennessee gets the best hand-in-dirt rusher in the draft.
23. New York Jets – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Jets do right by their fans and get help for Zach Wilson early in the draft. Teven Jenkins is a solid player who can play both tackle and guard. He’s aggressive, has a nasty offensive lineman mentality, and fits the mold of the intangibles the Jets are looking for.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jaylen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Alejandro Villanueva is gone, so the Steelers lack a tackle on Big Ben’s possible last rodeo. By taking Jaylen Mayfield at 24, the Steelers put their hands on a solid prospect who has been tasked with tough matchups through his college career. I believe Mayfield will fit in nicely at Steel City.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, FS, TCU
Free safety is one of the most important – if not the most important – position in a single-high defense. By bringing in Joe Cullen, I believe Jacksonville will be a heavy Cover 1 team, making this pick, Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, a no-brainer.
26. Cleveland Browns – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
It will be one of the biggest draft mysteries if Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah slides to the 26th pick, but that’s absolutely his floor. An extremely talented and versatile player, JOK will add to an ascending Browns team.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Baltimore provides Lamar Jackson a No. 1 receiver with their first first-rounder. Rashod Bateman is a great route runner who can line up everywhere. His playing style reminds me of Allen Robinson: not the fastest guy, but he gets open.
28. New Orleans Saints – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Despite the losses suffered by the Saints this offseason, they are still a great, deep team, which gives them options. After Trey Hendrickson said goodbye, New Orleans needs an edge rusher. Sean Payton and company go after the 6-foot-7 freak, Gregory Rosseau, in order to solidify their defense and play ball-control with either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston on offense.
29. Green Bay Packers – Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
Corey Linsley comes out, Landon Dickerson comes in. Green Bay solidifies its line by bringing in this draft’s top center. If not for injury concerns, Dickerson would be rated much higher.
30. Buffalo Bills – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Buffalo is ready to win. Josh Allen has shown us all he is a great quarterback. I think Buffalo will try to solidify its running game with Harris, so they can preserve Allen’s health by giving him fewer carries in the ground game.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
I just don’t see the Ravens passing on Jaelan Phillips if he’s there at 31. Phillips is the best edge rusher in the draft and would, if healthy, be a great addition to this already very good Ravens defense. The value is too good for Baltimore to pass up here.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi
Tom Brady has a great receiving group, but he lacks a slot receiver that can read coverages and move the chains on third down. Scotty Miller is more used as a deep threat than anything else. I believe Elijah Moore can learn a ton from Brady and develop into that chain move machine that we saw in New England from both Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. With this pick, the rich get richer.
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