The 2021 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and it’s time to project out how the 32 first round picks will end up! Outside of Trevor Lawrence going first overall to Jacksonville, there aren’t many sure things in this Draft as it pertains to which teams take which players (or positions). Plus, the unusual college season where some top prospects opted out entirely creates even more uncertainty. The rumors are swirling and the takes are hot - so let’s dive in and see where the best college players will be playing football in the upcoming NFL season!
1) Jacksonville Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
No surprises here. New head coach Urban Meyer and the Jaguars stand pat and lock down Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick. Lawrence enters this draft as one of the best QB prospects in years and he’ll be the early frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Clemson gunslinger went 34-2 as a three-starter in college, where he had full command of the shotgun spread offense that terrorized ACC opponents every Saturday. All the traits as a pocket passer are there, but Lawrence also boasts an NFL-ready body and is a deceptively good runner. Congrats on the successful tank job, Jacksonville!
2) New York Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
With Jacksonville locked into Trevor Lawrence, the Draft basically starts here with the Jets forced to make a decision at QB. We know they will/should take a quarterback following the recent Sam Darnold trade - and Zach Wilson is the name that keeps popping up in New York. Wilson exploded up draft boards this past season when he starred in BYU’s RPO-based offense as a dual-threat QB. Yes, the competition wasn’t the toughest - but Wilson’s skills and competitiveness are enough to warrant a top five selection.
3) San Francisco 49ers (from MIA via HOU) -- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Welcome to the most anticipated pick of the whole draft! After the 49ers moved up from No. 12, the presumption is that they’ll grab either Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Trey Lance to be the next franchise QB - despite Jimmy Garappolo still being on the roster. For me, it’s Fields who will ultimately head to San Francisco despite Lance/Jones getting a ton of buzz this past month. People can nitpick his throwing reads all they want, but Fields’ impressive combination of athleticism, running ability and accurate arm are hard to pass up. Plus, there’s familiarity with Kyle Shanahan when the two worked together at the QB Collective program - a small detail that cannot be ignored here. Then there’s my gut feeling that the Niners wouldn’t have traded all the way up to this spot if it wasn’t Fields and rather someone who could be there at the original 12th pick (Jones/Lance).
4) *PROJECTED TRADE* Denver Broncos (from ATL) -- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Falcons can go in a bunch of different directions with this No. 4 pick and there’s three logical outcomes: hold and draft Kyle Pitts or a WR to add to the offense, hold and take a QB to learn behind Matt Ryan , or trade out with a team willing to move up. Atlanta ends up taking the third door as the Broncos don’t want to miss out on the QB action at the top of the board. It’s not much of a secret that John Elway isn’t satisfied with Drew Lock as the franchise QB - and he makes the trade up to this spot to lock down Lance’s upside. Though mostly unproven and unknown out of North Dakota State, Lance has the arm talent, athleticism and mental makeup that NFL scouts are drooling over. It seems likely that someone trades up for Lance and the Broncos are desperate for their QB-of-the-future.
5) Cincinnati Bengals -- Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon
As much as Joe Burrow would like to reunite with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, this pick basically makes itself due to what occurred last season. Burrow unfortunately tore his ACL and that simple fact will force Cincinnati to invest in the offensive line to protect its franchise QB for the short and long term. Although he sat out last season, Penei Sewell was Oregon’s starting left tackle the previous two years and was a unanimous All-American in 2019. Most have him pegged as the top offensive tackle in the draft, and the Bengals will need him to protect Burrow’s blind side for years to come.
6) Miami Dolphins (from PHI) -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Tua Tagovailoa might want to reunite with one of his former Alabama teammates - DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle - but passing on Kyle Pitts seems very unlikely if he’s still on the board at No. 6. It’s not often we see a tight end drafted in the top 10, but Pitts is a rare talent with receiving skills that rival any and all WR prospects in this class. Though Mike Geisicki is still there, the Dolphins can get creative with two receiving tight ends on the field at the same time to help Tua develop more as a passer. If Miami doesn’t go Pitts here, expect them to grab one of the other top receivers.
7) Detroit Lions -- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Lions could go QB here, but it feels like they’re committed to Jared Goff as the starter for at least the next couple seasons after just trading for him. With that in mind, grabbing one of the top pass-catchers is the most likely outcome. Ja’Marr Chase would instantly become a top target of Goff’s with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones both departing in free agency. Despite sitting out this past season, Chase is still viewed as the top WR prospect over both Alabama guys. In 2019, he led LSU in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving TDs (20) and formed a solid 1-2 punch with Justin Jefferson - and probably would’ve been drafted ahead of Jefferson this time a year ago.
8) Carolina Panthers -- Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Panthers could go QB if any of the top four are still available, but the recent trade for Sam Darnold makes that a lot less likely. Instead, Carolina bolsters the offensive line with arguably the best tackle prospect in the class. Rashawn Slater lined up at left tackle last year at Northwestern and was a three-year starter facing some tough Big Ten defensive lines. Scouts say he can play all along the O-line at the next level if teams need him at right/left tackle, guard or center. That versatility (not to mention talent) should make him an easy top 10 pick.
9) *PROJECTED TRADE* Atlanta Falcons (via DEN) -- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
After moving down from their original No. 4 spot, the Falcons still have an opportunity to grab a top pass-catcher in the Draft. Atlanta has a history of drafting Alabama WRs, and Jaylen Waddle makes it a triple threat as he joins former Crimson Tide standouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in the same receiving corps. The room is split on whether Waddle or DeVonta Smith is the better pick, but the former is the more complete prospect and can be the eventual successor to Julio in this Atlanta offense. With Matt Ryan on his last legs, the team should be trying to compete this year and Waddle makes the offense as dangerous as any.
10) Dallas Cowboys -- Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
As much as owner Jerry Jones would love to take another offensive playmaker, the Cowboys simply need a lot more help on the defensive side of the ball. They address the secondary here by grabbing arguably the best defensive player in the Draft. Patrick Surtain II, the son of a Pro Bowl cornerback, was a three-year starter in Alabama’s loaded defense and played against the best competition in the SEC. He excelled as a press-man cover corner for the Tide and would start right away on whatever team takes him. At Dallas, he’d play opposite of former Bama teammate Trevon Diggs and bolster a shaky secondary.
11) *PROJECTED TRADE* Miami Dolphins (via NYG) -- Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech
The Dolphins make another draft pick trade by moving up from No. 18 overall to this spot for their second selection in the first round. After passing on offensive line with the first pick, Miami addresses that here to protect QB Tua Tagovailoa for the short and long term. Christian Darrisaw is universally viewed as the third-best offensive tackle in the class (behind Sewell and Slater) and can play at either tackle or guard positions in the NFL. As a three-year starter at Virginia Tech, Darrisaw mostly lined up at left tackle and specifically excelled at zone blocking in a run-heavy scheme. Though the Dolphins invested in the O-line at last year’s Draft, you can never have too many talented big men to keep your franchise QB upright.
12) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA via SF) -- Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The easy thing would be to just predict a WR to the Eagles at this spot and move on. Although that is a team need, Philly fans would agree that their squad desperately needs secondary help if they want to be competitive in the near future. Jaycee Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, was a three-year starter at South Carolina and often shadowed opponents’ top wideouts across the formation. That’s a big deal in the SEC, a league with plenty of top receiver talent. Horn would be an immediate starter opposite Darius Slay if Philadelphia makes this pick - and then grabs a WR later in the draft.
13) Los Angeles Chargers -- Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
You may notice a trend for teams with young franchise QBs - prioritize the offensive line or else! The Chargers have a proven, promising signal-caller in Justin Herbert and keeping him healthy should be the reason behind grabbing an offensive lineman here. Alijah Vera-Tucker started at both guard and left tackle at USC the last two seasons and has the versatility to play either position in the NFL. He’d probably be an upgrade over Trey Pipkins on Herbert’s blind side for the near and long term. LAC is a prime candidate to move up, too, if it wants one of the top tackles.
14) Minnesota Vikings -- Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
After losing Riley Reiff in free agency, the Vikings have an immediate hole on the starting offensive line and they’ll look to fill it in the Draft. Teven Jenkins was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State and primarily played the right tackle position - though he did play four O-line spots (not center) at some point in college. Minnesota’s offense is built on a strong run game where the line needs to be solid - and Jenkins will help replace Reiff up front to keep this team in the playoff mix.
15) New England Patriots -- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ failures in the draft over the last decade are well-documented to this point - but they have to make this year’s first-round pick count. Though some expect San Fran or someone else to grab Mac Jones earlier, there’s still a decent chance he slips all the way down to New England - assuming they don’t move up to grab him or another QB. The Pats may have re-signed Cam Newton this offseason, but that’s not their long-term answer at quarterback. Instead, Jones will bring his championship-winning experience up North as Belichik finds his new QB of the future.
16) Arizona Cardinals -- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Cardinals are a prime candidate to move up or down from this spot, but grabbing a defensive player should be the priority either way. There’s an immediate opening in the secondary following Patrick Peterson ’s departure, so a cornerback here seems the likely direction. If fully healthy, Caleb Farley would be the top CB off the board as he checks all the boxes in terms of size, speed and pass-defending skills. However, there’s a slight injury worry after he had back surgery in March and will get a slow start this summer in terms of offseason workouts/early practice time. Still, the talent is undeniable and it’s possible he’s gone before this pick anyway.
17) Las Vegas Raiders -- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
If you’ve been following the Draft history of the Raiders’ braintrust, you’ll notice a trend. In the last two years, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden drafted five players from Clemson, two from Alabama and one from Ohio State. It’s clear these guys love to grab players from the best college programs and this year will probably be more of the same. Notre Dame was a Playoff team this past year and their best defensive player was Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He played a Rover hybrid position for the Irish - similar to Isaiah Simmons from last year’s Draft class. Owusu-Koramoah can play typical linebacker, but his versatility to cover tight ends, running backs or some receivers all over the field in passing downs will make him valuable to the Raiders or anyone else who grabs him.
18) *PROJECTED TRADE* New York Giants (from MIA) -- Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Most mock drafts have the Giants taking Micah Parsons at their original No. 11 pick, but they can still grab him this late after moving down. Teams in the spots above aren’t looking for linebackers or edge rushers as much as other positions and it could cause Parsons to fall further than expected. At Penn State, he was only a one-year starter at linebacker but showed off the athleticism, speed and vision that can make him a three-down LB at the pro level. New York needs help on the defensive side and Parsons can play on the edge as an outside backer in their 3-4 base defense.
19) *PROJECTED TRADE* Baltimore Ravens (from WFT) -- Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Ravens move up from No. 27 to ensure they get a top edge rusher in the draft - to replace Yannick Ngakoue on the defensive side. Azeez Ojulari is arguably the best pass rusher in this Draft after he led the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles as an outside backer in Georgia's vaunted defense last season. Though he lacks some size and length, Ojulari makes up for it with athleticism and speed from the corner - usually leaving offensive tackles helpless. Baltimore’s D is built on strong edge play and Ojulari could be the answer for years to come.
20) Chicago Bears -- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
While it may sound crazy to predict last year’s Heisman winner falling all the way down to No. 20 overall, it’s very possible this happens with teams targeting different WR prospects or other positions entirely. If he’s available this late, though, the Bears won’t think twice about locking in the Alabama pass-catcher. The Chicago front office is desperate to make a splash and grabbing DeVonta Smith would certainly gain more approval from the fan base. He’d be a nice compliment to Allen Robinson in this receiving corps for new QB Andy Dalton .
21) Indianapolis Colts -- Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Colts should go defense with this pick and grabbing a top edge rusher seems likely. Some scouts have Kwity Paye as the best pass rusher in the class because of his elite-level athleticism and size that should help him develop more at the pro level. Though he wasn’t used a ton at true defensive end - often lining up inside at Michigan - Paye has the versatility to play either DE in a 4-3 defense or DT in a 3-4. Indy needs help on defense and Paye’s size/athleticism rivals anyone in this Draft.
22) Tennessee Titans -- Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami FL
After losing Jadeveon Clowney to free agency, the Titans have a need at edge rusher even after adding Bud Dupree in the offseason. Jaelan Phillips was the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 high school class but had to briefly medically retire from football following a third concussion in college. Then, Phillips transferred to Miami from UCLA and his talent ceiling finally emerged this past season when he led the ‘Canes with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. His body type, athleticism and pure pass-rushing skill should make him a first-round pick - and Tennessee’s defense would benefit from adding help on the edge.
23) New York Jets (from SEA) -- Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
With their second first-round selection on Draft night, the Jets address the defense after grabbing QB Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. As a three-year starter at Northwestern, Greg Newsome got better with each collegiate season - culminating in him leading the Big Ten in passes defended with an FBS-high in passer rating against this past year. Newsome can start right away for New York as a terrific cover corner.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers -- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers are in win-now mode with Ben Roethlisberger back, but the one hole on offense is running back with James Conner gone and unproven options on the current roster. Pittsburgh should draft a RB and Najee Harris would step right into a workhorse role - which should have fantasy football players salivating. At Alabama, Harris proved he can handle a full rushing workload while also being a good receiver out of the backfield. The Steelers could grab a RB with a later pick, but why not just lock down the top prospect in the first round?
25) Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR) -- Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
After locking in Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, Jacksonville uses their other first-round selection to address the defense. The Jags have some young talent at defensive end (Josh Allen ), linebacker (Myles Jack ), cornerback (CJ Henderson) - but the safety spot is lacking. Trevon Moehrig is viewed as the top safety prospect in this Draft and he can start right away to form a solid, developing defensive nucleus in Jacksonville. At TCU, Moehrig was a ball-hawking free safety and actually won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back last season.
26) Cleveland Browns -- Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami FL
Despite adding Jadeveon Clowney in free agency to pair opposite Myles Garrett , the Browns would still love more defensive line talent on the edges. As a converted defensive end, Gregory Rousseau is a raw talent who may need a year to fully develop at the NFL level. However, Cleveland can afford to take a chance on a potential Pro Bowl-caliber player since they already have Clowney and Garrett as the starters on the edge. Rousseau is a high-risk, high-reward pick in the first round, but the upside is definitely there with his length and athleticism.
27) *PROJECTED TRADE* Washington Football Team (from BAL) -- Samuel Cosmi, OL, Texas
After Washington moves down slightly, it still grabs a top offensive lineman to sure up the front on an offense and team that’s ready to make a playoff push. Replacing Trent Williams at tackle could be a group effort and Samuel Cosmi has the talent to be an eventual starter for WFT. At Texas, he started at left tackle in a pass-happy offense and was consistently tasked with protecting the blind side for QB Sam Ehlinger. Cosmi’s pass protection will be something teams covet, and Washington can use some O-line depth with plenty of talent at the offensive skill positions.
28) New Orleans -- Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Saints definitely need help on the defensive side of the ball and Zaven Collins would be a big boost as a playmaking linebacker. He dominated at Tulsa as a three-year starter with the ideal size, length and instincts needed to be a great NFL backer. New Orleans could use Collins at multiple linebacker spots as he can stop the run, rush the passer or cover tight ends/running backs. There’s a chance Collins is gone earlier, but the Saints would be getting a steal if he’s available this late.
29) Green Bay Packers -- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Everyone expected the Packers to take a WR in the first round a year ago - and then they surprisingly took QB Jordan Love. The front office does the right thing this time around and rewards Aaron Rodgers for his MVP season by providing another talented pass-catcher to pair with Davante Adams . Though Rashod Bateman could be a reach this early, he could easily end up as a top WR in this rookie class. At Minnesota, Bateman set the school’s single-season records for catches and receiving yards as a sophomore and played multiple receiver positions as the offense’s headliner. The Packers can get creative with moving Bateman around the formation and getting Adams better matchups as well.
30) Buffalo Bills -- Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The Bills don’t have many glaring positional needs, but the running game could be stronger to balance out the dynamic dual-threat talent of Josh Allen . The combination of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss was decent last season, but adding Travis Etienne to the RB room would be a game-changer. The Clemson workhorse can be the “lightning” to Moss’ “thunder” as he’s a shifty runner who was a good pass-catching back in college when called upon. Buffalo could also go with UNC’s Javonte Williams here, but Etienne is the better NFL-ready prospect.
31) Kansas City Chiefs -- Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The way to beat Kansas City in recent years has been no secret - run the ball and keep the offense off the field en route to grind-it-out wins. The Chiefs’ defense needs to get better at stopping the run and Christian Barmore would instantly help in that area as an NFL-ready defensive tackle. At Alabama, Barmore played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme but he was an elite run-stopper and probably plays more D-tackle in the NFL. The Chiefs would be able to start Barmore right away and help a defense that struggled against the run last year.
32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
The Bucs bring back basically all of their starters from last year’s Super Bowl champion squad, so there really aren’t many positions of “need” on the roster. This is essentially a luxury pick for Tampa Bay still in win-now mode - and why not add more talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball? As the son of a former NFL corner, Asante Samuel Jr. literally has pro-level talent in his genes and played like it the past two seasons at Florida State - allowing just two receiving touchdowns over 20 games. Though he isn’t as highly rated or as tall as other defensive backs in this class, Samuel Jr. can play both outside and inside as a solid coverage corner.
Editor's Note: Before you make comments on this mock draft, you better take a look at Dan Servodidio's NFL Mock Draft 2.0 to get the changes.
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