After what has felt like an incredibly long off-season, the 2021 NFL Draft week is finally here. As usual, this is set to be another unpredictable draft where things appear offensive-heavy in the early going.
The good news? We all know the first three picks are going to be quarterbacks. The bad news? The Chicago Bears have swung and missed all off-season at the quarterback spot, and they could be in line to complete the trifecta if something doesn’t break their way on Thursday night.
Anyways, let’s get to the fun.
No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson)
At this point, is there really much to say? Lawrence is viewed as the best quarterback to come out of the draft over the last decade. Will the hype pan out? For the Jaguars’ sake, one can only hope. Either way, this pick is a no-brainer.
Wilson presents the latter portion of the two no-s*** picks to open up the draft. Early in the off-season, the Jets played coy with former first round quarterback Sam Darnold. They finally cut the cord when they dealt him to the Carolina Panthers and because of that, this pick has been obvious for quite some time. I know I’m higher on Wilson than most, but it would not at all shock me if he ends up being the best quarterback taken in this draft class. That’s not a slam on Lawrence, either. Wilson’s tools are undeniable and Patrick Mahomes-like.
No. 3 San Francisco 49ers (Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State)
This is the pick where things start to get interesting. In late March, the 49ers engineered the rare pre-draft trade up in which they sent No. 12, a 2022 third-round pick and their 2022 and 2023 first round picks to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 3 pick. They gave up a ton and they’ve somehow spent the last month trying to convince the entire league they didn’t know who they wanted when they made the trade up? C’mon. While we may not know who the quarterback is, there’s no chance they didn’t have their exact target in mind. Either way, I’m going to go with the upside pick in Lance here because I refuse to believe any team would mortgage their future on a limited-upside quarterback like Mac Jones.
No. 4 Atlanta Falcons (Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida)
There’s been plenty of talk that Lance was the top quarterback for Atlanta. With him going to San Francisco in this scenario, that opens the door for either a trade down or them taking arguably the best (non-quarterback) offensive player in the draft. This is also presents the first “target” for the Bears if they choose to engineer their own massive draft day trade up for someone like Justin Fields.
No. 5 Cincinnati Bengals (Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon)
I know that all of the talk is surrounding a receiver here. I’m not going to debate that the Bengals could use some offensive weapons, but the argument for protecting their 2020 No. 1 overall pick should override anything else. Hence, them being smart and taking the less sexy pick in Sewell.
No. 6 Miami Dolphins (Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU)
Outside of the Jaguars, is there a team in a better spot this draft? General manager Chris Greer has done a fantastic job not only re-building this roster but stacking a ridiculous amount of draft capital over the next handful of draft classes.
It appears they are going to stack their eggs in the Tua-basket and at this point, why not? That’s why taking the best receiver in this class makes the most sense.
This is where things start to hurt a little. I’m a big Fields fan and I truly believe that he should be going within the Top 3. Obviously, there are things that we’ll never know in regards to why players rise and fall within the draft. Fields feels like the type of prospect that everyone has overthought and will make the team who takes him very happy. As much as I want that to be the Bears, this is where the uphill climb comes in. Outside of the obvious notion that the Lions are unlikely to trade down with a division rival to land a quarterback, dropping all the way to No. 20 can’t be overly attractive right now. Thus, the Bill Belichick gets his guy.
No. 8 Los Angeles Chargers (Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern) *Trade with Panthers*
Despite not playing a snap in 2020, Slater is one of the best offensive prospects in this draft and in most classes would be the top offensive lineman. Which is why, just a year after finding their franchise quarterback, this would be a fantastic pick for the Chargers. Even if that means trading up five spots to jump in front of a team like the Broncos to get their guy.
No. 9 Denver Broncos (Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State)
Originally, I had the Broncos moving up two picks to grab Fields but after trading a sixth-round pick for Teddy Bridgewater, that move is clearly off the table. It’s been rumored that they love one of the Top 2 tackles but with both off the board here, Parsons could be a very nice piece in the middle of Vic Fangio’s defense.
No. 10 Dallas Cowboys (Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama)
Out of all the “fits” within this draft class, Surtain II to the Cowboys makes too much not to happen, right? Obviously he could end up going before No. 10 but if he slides, this is yet another perfect pick that has fallen into their laps for the second straight year.
No. 11 New York Giants (Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan)
There’s a few different ways the Giants could go with this pick, including receiver. So, it’s completely possible that they could opt to go with Smith here, but after spending big money on Golladay, I’d lean on them spending top resources in another area. Edge rusher makes a lot of sense here.
No. 12 Philadelphia Eagles (Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama)
Make no mistake, the Eagles have plenty of needs here. They could go offensive line, corner or receiver. Considering their woes at receiver as of late, Smith could end up being the second straight receiver to be taken in the first round in as many years. I tend to believe Smith is going to be a star at this level and shouldn’t drop out of the Top 10, but his size questions will leave multiple teams taking “safer” options.
No. 13 Carolina Panthers (Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech)
It would be a pretty incredible situation if the Panthers were able to trade down from No. 8 and recoup some of what they gave up for Darnold and still land this quality of lineman in Darrisaw. Some question Darrisaw’s finishing ability, but in all reality he’s a top 10-12 talent. Excellent value here and recouped some draft picks in the process.
No. 14 Minnesota Vikings (Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami)
The Vikings are another team that could go multiple ways with their pick, including dealing down a time or two and garnering more picks in the process. Despite getting Danielle Hunter back, edge rusher still remains a sizeable need. An argument can be made for Phillips being the best edge rusher in the class. At worst, it’s a 1A. vs 1B. situation with he and Paye.
No. 15 Detroit Lions (Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina)
The Lions were able to take advantage of a quarterback needy team and still get a top-end talent at a large position of need. Horn has arguably the biggest toolset of this corner group and is an outstanding value in the middle part of the first round. Receiver could also be an option here but unless one of the Top 3 fall, this pick makes more sense.
No. 16 Washington Football Team (Mac Jones, QB, Alabama)
I debated projecting the Bears as the landing spot here at No. 16 for Jones and decided against it. Why? Something tells me they aren’t as interested in Jones as they would be in Fields. Maybe I’m wrong and this is a perfect storm for them. Either way, Washington is in a similar situation with a need at quarterback and only a veteran stop-gap in the way.
No. 17 Las Vegas Raiders (Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa)
For Raiders fans, things could go from frustrating to a nightmare awfully quick if the Raiders fall flat again in 2021. The biggest focus has been on the defensive side of the ball and rightfully so. Offensive tackle is another need, but at this point the Raiders simply need more talent on the defensive side of the ball. Collins has been a fast riser and makes a lot of sense at the mid-point in the draft.
No. 18 Miami Dolphins (Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia)
In their first pick, Miami was able to land a star wide receiver in the making. In their second act, they’ll land a top-end edge rusher. Things somewhat cloud up when you start to look at the second wave of this edge class, but purely based on need and fit, Ojulari makes a lot of sense here. Assuming the Dolphins don’t attempt to trade down again.
No. 19 Arizona Cardinals (Caleb Farley, CB, Auburn)
Horn could have made a lot of sense for Arizona but he went one spot before their pick at No. 15. Farley has as much talent as any corner in this class but his medicals are something to be overly warry of. In the end, this might be the Cardinals biggest need, though.
No. 20 Chicago Bears (Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State)
Believe me when I say that I objectively tried to engineer a trade up for a quarterback earlier in the first round for this team. Realistically, I just find it hard to see a spot where they are going to be an attractive enough trade down partner to make it happen. Thus, the Bears stay at No. 20 and build around a future quarterback. Offensive tackle is a huge need for this team and considering Charles Leno Jr. is a free agent at the end of this season, they could easily face a situation where they don’t have a single starting quality tackle under contract moving into next off-season.
No. 21 Indianapolis Colts (Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC)
Vera-Tucker is an interesting fit because he can either slide inside and play guard or they could put him outside at the tackle position and boost things there. Either way, Vera-Tucker is a highly rated lineman that fills a need for this team, even if it’s not the most conventional approach.
No. 22 Tennessee Titans (Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota)
The Titans are an interesting team to project at No. 22. They parted ways with top cornerback Adoree Jackson and lost their second receiver in Corey Davis. So either position could make sense here, but Bateman’s value is just too good to pass up here. Many have comp’d him to a young Allen Robinson.
No. 23 New York Jets (Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern)
The Jets are the second team to make an additional pick in the first round. Obviously there’s no guarantee that both (or either pick) work out for both teams, but this is one of the best ways to speed up a rebuild. The Jets could go edge rusher or offensive line here, but Newsome is a very good value at the back third of the first round. Newsome comes with his own durability concerns, but he’s a playmaker that should start from Week 1.
No. 24 Pittsburgh Steelers (Najee Harris, RB, Alabama)
The Steelers are in a very strange spot here. Do they reach on an offensive lineman, take the fifth cornerback on the board or spend a first round pick at running back? From a pure value standpoint, I’m not sure there’s a right answer. From a “what can you do for me now?” perspective, taking Harris makes a lot more sense. Hence the pick.
No. 25 Jacksonville Jaguars (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame)
The Jaguars are the third of four teams slated to have a pair of first round picks. After landing Lawrence at No. 1, they’ll turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball with an excellent value in Owusu-Koramoah. To be clear, I have nothing against the linebacker, he just happened to slip further than he should have.
No 26 Cleveland Browns (Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama)
Can we just take a minute to sit back and enjoy the fact that the Browns are finally not picking in the top half of the draft? It’s been a pretty incredible turnaround in Cleveland and this fanbase absolutely deserves it after decades of football hell. Now on to the pick. Barmore makes quite a bit of sense for this team, especially after releasing Sheldon Richardson to make room for Jadeveon Clowney’s one-year deal. Building the defense needs to be the priority here and while it’s not sexy, it’s a quality pick this late in the first round.
No. 27 Baltimore Ravens (Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida)
The Ravens bring up the rear of the four teams that will have multiple first round selections. This will be the first of two picks and their needs seem pretty clear here. Edge rusher and receiver should be priorities and I expect them to be. Especially after trading Orlando Brown Jr. and replacing him with Alejandro Villanueva just before the draft. Toney isn’t a traditional receiver, but his ceiling and physical abilities are ridiculous.
We’ve officially reached the point in a first round mock where picks become almost impossible to make. The Saints have a few needs and could opt to reach on a second-tier quarterback here. They could also go linebacker or receiver here. I debated giving them Zaven Collins but decided against it. Thus, they land Samuel Jr. who could end up being Jaire Alexander-like when all is said and done.
To me, this pick will go one of two ways. Maybe they opt to replace Corey Linsley with someone like Creed Humphries. That or they decide to add to an already prolific offense and go receiver (like they should have done last year). If so, Moore makes a ton of sense as a compliment to Davante Adams. Moore is a burner and someone that would love playing with Aaron Rodgers. I mean, what receiver wouldn’t at this point?
No. 30 Buffalo Bills (Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson)
Originally I was going to mock an edge rusher to them at No. 30 but after more deliberation, I’m going to take their talks of adding a more dynamic running back, more seriously. Reality is, they’ve added two running backs the past two off-seasons but some view running back as “protection” for quarterback Josh Allen. While I may not agree, Etienne is ridiculously talented and not a bad “1B” from Harris that went six picks earlier.
No. 31 Baltimore Ravens (Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State)
Could the Ravens engineer a slight trade up to jump in front of a team like the Bills for their guy? It’s very possible, but even so, Oweh’s testing numbers at his pro day were off the charts. Combine that with how well the Ravens have done developing edge rushers and I’d have to feel pretty good if I were a Ravens fan.
No. 32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington)
This pick is going to be a very hard one to project. Something tells me Tampa Bay decides to trade out, maybe to a quarterback needy team who wants the first swing at the second tier of passers? Either way, why not add more riches to the richest team in football? Tryon has been another “under the radar” guy that could strike gold as a first round pick on Thursday night.