On April 29th, 2021, all eyes around the NFL will turn to the 2021 NFL Draft. Hundreds of collegiate players will hope to hear their names called over the three-day event, where teams can either take a leap into contention or plummet towards a rebuild. And with only weeks remaining until the draft, smokescreen season is now upon us.
Teams around the league are trying to disguise their draft plans. After all, nobody wants their opponents and rivals to know their next move. Nonetheless, some selections are becoming clearer by the day. That being said, let’s take a look at how I believe the 2021 NFL Draft will unfold three weeks out…
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Was there really any question here? Trevor Lawrence has been the face of college football since his first snap at Clemson and is up there with John Elway, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning as the best quarterback prospects of all time. This is a no-brainer for Urban Meyer and the Jaguars who will look to turn things around with Lawrence under center.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
With Sam Darnold gone, it is obvious that gang green is eyeing a quarterback at second overall. It is also known that general manager Joe Douglas is fond of BYU’s Zach Wilson. It seems as if the Cougar’s former gunslinger is heading for the big apple for 2021 and beyond.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via MIA): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Leading up to the draft, there is going to be plenty of discussion as to who the 49ers take now that they own the third overall pick. At the moment, rumors are swirling about Mac Jones, given his similarities to Matt Ryan, who head coach Kyle Shanahan had success with back with the Falcons. However, that may just be a smokescreen. Trey Lance has astronomical upside in Shanahan’s scheme, and with Jimmy Garoppolo expected to remain with the team another year, it’ll give Lance time to sit and learn before taking over in 2022.
4. Denver Broncos (via ATL): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
(MOCK TRADE: Broncos receive 4th overall, Falcons receive 9th overall, 71st overall, 2022 first, and QB Drew Lock)
With three of the big five quarterbacks off of the board, the Broncos trade with the Falcons to draft their quarterback. The regime that selected Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft is gone, and they are going to want their own quarterback leading the way. They send Drew Lock to the Falcons in the deal (who will be mentored by Matt Ryan), making way for Justin Fields to take over. Fields enters a strong situation with Melvin Gordon at running back and a receiving duo of Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.
5. Cincinnati Bengals select: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Yes, Joe Burrow needs to be protected. But he also needs players to throw too. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are great weapons, though adding Burrow’s old friend Ja’Marr Chase would take his receiving corps to another level. Luckily, the offensive tackle class is deep, and the Bengals own the 33rd overall pick to take care of that need.
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins find themselves picking between two former weapons of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in college – DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Smith is coming off of a Heisman-winning season and can work wonders in Miami’s offense.
7. New England Patriots (via DET): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
(MOCK TRADE: Patriots receive 7t overall, Lions receive 15th overall, 97th overall, 2022 first, and 2022 third)
With four quarterbacks gone, the New England Patriots make yet another shocking off-season move in trading up in the draft to select Alabama’s Mac Jones. He fits the precision passer build that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has had success with in the past, and can immediately compete with Cam Newton for the starting job.
8. Carolina Panthers: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
With Sam Darnold now as their quarterback, the Panthers are no longer in the market for a gunslinger. That being said, it is about time they protect one. Rather than taking Kyle Pitts, they snag the best offensive tackle prospect in Oregon’s Penei Sewell. He is a phenomenal athlete and will provide a day one starter.
9. Atlanta Falcons (via DEN): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
And finally, the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft is off the board. The Falcons land Kyle Pitts after trading down with the Broncos, signaling that they will look to contend for the playoffs in 2021. Imagine that offense with Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Pitts. That is a defense’s absolute worst nightmare.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
It seems as if the Cowboys have needed secondary help forever, and they take care of that need here. Patrick Surtain II was college football’s best cornerback this past season, and he will provide Dallas with a much-needed shutdown corner.
11. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Like the Cowboys, the Giants have also been in need of a specific defensive position for years. Linebacker has been a revolving door for the Giants for a long time, and they land an elite talent in the draft. Micah Parsons can line up anywhere in the box and will be a huge addition to their already very talented defense.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
After passing on Justin Jefferson for Jalen Reagor last year, the Eagles go back-to-back drafts in taking a receiver in round one. Waddle is an elusive freak in open space, who compares to a bigger Tyreek Hill. Whether or not the Eagles are sold on Jalen Hurts under center, at the very least they can be forming a speedy tandem with Reagor and Waddle.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Last season Justin Herbert took the league by storm. Now, it is time to protect him. After solidifying parts of the offensive line in free agency, the Chargers take Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater to protect Herbert’s blindside.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Also in need of a tackle, the Vikings take care of the need with Christian Darrisaw of Virginia Tech. With the ability to be a day one starter, Darrisaw is an athletic left tackle who can hold steady blocking for Dalvin Cook and actually give Kirk Cousins time to throw.
15. Detroit Lions (via NE): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Having moved down in the trade with the Patriots, the Lions can go many ways with this pick. The team is beginning a massive rebuild that will take years, and head coach Dan Campbell is going to want guys who play hard every down. Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will provide just that for Detroit’s defense.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
After roaming the Arizona secondary for a decade, Patrick Peterson is no longer a Cardinal. With such a big hole at cornerback, it only makes sense for Arizona to once again turn to the draft for a corner. Jaycee Horn has excellent size and is very physical, giving the Cardinals a fantastic Week 1 starter.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Despite signing Yannick Ngakoue during free agency, the Raiders cannot be done adding pass rushers. They are among the most valuable positions in the league, and the Raiders need a player like Kwity Paye. He brings insane athleticism to the front and will give Las Vegas a high upside edge rusher.
18. Miami Dolphins: Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
With their second first round pick, the Dolphins opt to build in front of Tagovailoa. Alijah Vera-Tucker is among the best offensive lineman in the class, and while he played tackle in college, the Dolphins could move him inside in the pros.
19. Washington Football Team: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Coming off of a Wild Card berth in 2020, Washington added Ryan Fitzpatrick, taking them out of the running to trade up for one of the top five quarterbacks. The team turns to Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins at left tackle, as they finally replace Trent Williams. Jenkins is an absolute mauler and will be able to create plenty of room in the run game.
20. Chicago Bears: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
In desperate need of a quarterback beyond 2021, the Bears are a team to watch on day two. Until then, they will add Kadarius Toney as a weapon for Andy Dalton. Toney is a jack-of-all-trades type receiver and can be a nightmare lining up with Allen Robinson.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Every year there is a player who slides in the first round due to pre-draft injury concerns. This year, the Colts are the benefactor, as they land Caleb Farley. Considered by some as the top cornerback in the class, he falls after sitting this past season out and his past injury history. Nevertheless, as the Colts look to leap into Super Bowl contention, they might have just landed the steal of the first round as Farley could quickly become a lockdown corner if healthy.
22. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
During free agency, the Titans lost wideout Corey Davis to the Jets. In this mock, they find his replacement in Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman. Playing in Tennessee’s play-action-heavy offense, Bateman’s strong hands and size will surely come in handy.
23. New York Jets (via SEA): Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (Fla.)
One thing about new Jets head coach Robert Saleh is that he loves having depth along the defensive front. And at 23rd overall, he adds another piece to the puzzle. Jaelan Phillips has Pro Bowl potential in Saleh’s 4-3 front and gives the Jets another edge rusher opposite free agent addition Carl Lawson.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
The cash-strapped Pittsburgh Steelers are aiming to run it back one last time with Ben Roethlisberger under center. So, it only makes sense to protect him. Long-time left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains on the market, but the Steelers elect to replace him with Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, who while raw, can start right away.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
With their second pick in the first round, the Jaguars move onto the defensive side of the ball. Trevon Moehrig is the best safety in the draft, with great size and amazing versatility. The do-it-all safety gives the Jaguars another young talent for their revamped secondary.
26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
One of college football’s most entertaining players this past season, Zaven Collins does it all. He can stop the run, he can rush the passer, and most importantly he can cover. The Browns, who are in dire need of linebacker help, add Collins to the unit.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
This past season it became apparent that Lamar Jackson needs a go-to receiver to throw to. Sammy Watkins is a nice addition, but who knows if Marquise Brown will truly breakout this season. Terrace Marshall Jr. is a big-bodied receiver who can bring down any jump ball, something that no other Ravens receiver can do.
28. New Orleans Saints: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
And another receiver goes off the board! In the post-Drew Brees era, the Saints need to add another target opposite of Michael Thomas, and Rondale Moore is just the guy. He may be on the smaller side, but his playmaking ability will allow the Saints to utilize him all over the field.
29. Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Packers must add a wideout at some point too, but with the depth of the class, they turn for more defensive support. Greg Newsome II is a top cornerback who can compete with Kevin King to start opposite of Jaire Alexander. He brings instincts, size, and pro-ready ball skills to the table.
30. Buffalo Bills: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
As the Bills look to push the Chiefs for the AFC crown this season, they will need to add pass rushers. Their current unit is not getting any younger, and a player like Azeez Ojulari can provide a much-needed boost. His burst off the edge will be refreshing for Buffalo’s defense, as he can wreak havoc week in and week out.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
When the Chiefs cut both their starting tackles, it took many by surprise. With their first round pick, they go with a safe, plug-and-play starter in Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg. He plays with power and size and will easily slide into the left tackle job.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Well, the Buccaneers did as they said they would – they re-signed everyone. They are gunning to defend their Super Bowl championship and adding Christian Barmore will only make their team even more stacked. Ndamukong Suh is not getting any younger, and Barmore will make for a great addition alongside the interior of the defensive line with Vita Vea.