The NFL’s landscape is never robust, with the direction of the league and its franchises changing on a daily basis. Such is the case in recent weeks, with a pair of quarterback trades shaking up the top of the draft … with more likely to come.
So after weeks of trades and a new team picking in the top-3, how do we project the first round? What do we think the Jaguars could do on April 29 after they pick Trevor Lawrence? We answer those questions below in a first-round mock for the 2021 NFL Draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15): Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
The Jacksonville Jaguars made this pick when they hired Urban Meyer, who was only ever going to leave retirement for a quarterback unicorn like Lawrence. Meyer hasn’t been present at either the North Dakota State or BYU pro days to watch Trey Lance or Zach Wilson in person, but Meyer and his top two offensive assistants were front and present for Trevor Lawrence’s pro day. Meyer has also openly admitted to NBC Sports’ Peter King that Lawrence is who he has zeroed in on.
“I’d have to say that’s the direction we’re going. I’ll leave that up to the owner when we make that decision official. But I’m certainly not stepping out of line that that’s certainly the direction we’re headed,” Meyer told King when asked if there was any mystery the Jaguars would be selecting Lawrence.
Lawrence will be a Jaguar, that much we know — it just isn’t officially official.
2. New York Jets (2-14): BYU QB Zach Wilson
If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: I would take Justin Fields here and not think twice about it. With that said, it appears the Jets and Joe Douglas selecting BYU’s Zach Wilson is as much of a lock as the Jaguars taking Lawrence. Wilson is a talented quarterback in his own right, bringing natural playmaking ability to a New York roster that just traded Sam Darnold to Carolina.
3. San Francisco 49ers (6-10): Ohio State QB Justin Fields
Maybe Kyle Shanahan did trade three first-round picks to select Mac Jones, but I won’t believe it until it happens. Justin Fields would be worth taking No. 1 overall in almost any other draft class and it has gotten to the point where he is legitimately underrated as a prospect. He has a track record of production, toughness, and all the physical tools to succeed.
4. (TRADE): Denver Broncos (5-11): North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
We project Denver making a move up the board here. Atlanta has always been presumed to be in a sweet spot if they want to trade; this is a four-quarterback class and we all know three quarterbacks will be picked within the first three picks. That leaves any other quarterback-hungry team at Atlanta’s mercy. In this instance, we think the Broncos realize Drew Lock is holding them back and they move up for the immensely talented but raw Trey Lance. Lance may not be ready to replace Lock right away, but he will be sooner than later.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
The debate of whether the Bengals should be selecting Ja’Marr Chase or Penei Sewell has raged for weeks now and isn’t ending until April 29. Personally, I would pick Sewell because I think he has the rarer skill set, but Ja’Marr Chase has already proven he can be Joe Burrow’s favorite target and he has the least amount of questions of any X receiver in this class. It feels like this is the way the Bengals will lean.
6. Miami Dolphins (10-6; From HOU): Florida TE Kyle Pitts
The Dolphins moving up from 12 to six ensured they would still be able to draft one of this year’s blue-chip skill players. I have them selecting Florida’s Kyle Pitts because he offers the most versatility and upside, as well as the clearest path to playing time on a Miami offense that is still looking to add playmakers but already signed Will Fuller.
7. Detroit Lions (5-11): Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
Detroit’s wide receiver room is a mess right now after they entered 2020 with one of the league’s best duos in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. They have signed a number of free agent journeyman speedsters, but the losses of Golladay and Jones left a major need for a true X. DeVonta Smith has size questions but he is an elite route runner who catches everything thrown at him. He can produce instantly.
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11): Oregon OT Penei Sewell
The Panthers made a complete desperation move in trading three picks for Sam Darnold, but it has at least added some more clarity to what direction they could take at No. 8 overall. There isn’t a defender in this class who is more talented than Sewell, who may be the best non-quarterback prospect in the entire class. The Panthers need help everywhere, so a cornerstone left tackle certainly aids their rebuild.
9. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
Much like the Panthers, the Falcons need help everywhere — especially on defense. I considered surprising and going Jaycee Horn here, but I think Surtain’s strong track record in Nick Saban’s defense against top SEC wideouts earns him the status as the first cornerback drafted. He is a smart, instinctual player who has been billed as a top pick for years. Add him to a cornerback room with A.J. Terrell and the Falcons have some pieces in the secondary.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10): South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
Jaycee Horn isn’t a complete corner prospect, but man is he a fun one. He is a physical press man corner with elite athleticism who challenges receivers from the first whistle to the last one. Taking him at No. 10 may be considered a slight reach, but he pairs well with fellow starting cornerback Trevon Diggs and gives the Cowboys a young cornerback duo to help speed up the rebuild of their secondary.
11. New York Giants (6-10): Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
I still want to go Jaylen Waddle here even after the signing of Kenny Golladay, but I am going to do what I think Dave Gettleman will want to do: draft another offensive lineman. Rashawn Slater is a better tackle prospect than Andrew Thomas was last year and could play any spot along the offensive line. He is a bit small for tackle, but he has All-Pro upside and is one of the safest prospects in the entire draft. He would give the Giants a reliable blocker to build their offensive line around moving forward.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1): Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
Yes, the Eagles took a smaller speedy receiver in the first round last year, but that shouldn’t stop them from selecting Jaylen Waddle. Waddle is on a different planet as a prospect compared to every other receiver on the Eagles’ roster and he could legitimately turn into one of the NFL’s more dangerous yard after catch threats as a rookie. He had limited college production but shows great hands, routes, and controlled speed that can put corners in a blender in space.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9): Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
The Chargers have already poured a lot of resources into their offensive line this offseason, but there is still more work to be done at left tackle. Christian Darrisaw has a high ceiling thanks to rare tools at the tackle position; he just needs more seasoning. While he may not be in the top tier of tackles, he isn’t far off and protecting Justin Herbert should be the Chargers’ top priority.
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9): Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips
There are some questions with Jaelan Phillips; he has limited college production and dealt with an abundance of injuries at UCLA. But he is an elite athlete who has perhaps the best tape of all 2021 edge prospects after a dominant 2020 season at Miami. The Vikings need edge rush help badly, as evidenced by their panic move to trade for Yannick Ngakoue for just a few weeks last season. Add in Danielle Hunter’s unpredictable future with the team, and the Vikings need to make a big swing yet again for pass-rush help.
15. New England Patriots (7-9): Alabama QB Mac Jones
The Patriots have loaded up their offense in free agency and retained Cam Newton, but it is hard to think they don’t have plans to bring in some competition. Mac Jones doesn’t have the most upside in terms of tools, but he is a smart, accurate, and tough passer who will likely be a popular player inside the Patriots’ facilities. I don’t believe the hype about him being drafted so much earlier than everyone expects, but he feels like a logical pick here.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley
Caleb Farley has flashes of elite tape but a back injury may scare teams early on. There is one team that is very rarely afraid to take chances in recent years, however, and that is the Arizona Cardinals. Their three biggest moves have been adding 30-year-old veterans who have moved past their prime, but by taking Farley they take a roll of the dice on the future of their secondary. There are legit questions but Farley is good enough to justify the risk.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8): Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
The Raiders have to have some kind of plan for blowing up their offensive line, right? We give them some much-needed help up front here with one of our favorite prospects in right tackle Teven Jenkins. Jenkins has the feet and size to survive on the outside and just happens to be the meanest and most physical tackle in the draft, which is saying something considering this year’s crop of talent.
18. Miami Dolphins (10-6): Penn State LB Micah Parsons
An uber-athletic linebacker who excels at blitzing sounds perfect for a Brian Flores defense, especially after Flores and the Dolphins improved Miami’s passing game at the top of the draft. Micah Parsons may be the most talented defender in the draft and the Dolphins would likely sprint to the podium to select him here
19. Washington Football Team (7-9): USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker
Washington has plenty of needs and they still don’t have a long-term answer at quarterback, but they are in a bit of a tough spot at No. 19. As a result, we give them one of the draft’s best linemen in Alijah Vera-Tucker, who has impressed at both guard and tackle during his USC career. Washington can slot him into their biggest area of need and feel comfortable about the spot for the first time in s
20. Chicago Bears (8-8): Texas OT Samuel Cosmi
After testing like an elite athlete at his pro day, it is hard to see Samuel Cosmi last very long on draft night. He has years of starting experience at both left and right tackle and is a battle-tested pass protector. The Bears need to revamp their offensive line, especially at the tackle positions. Cosmi isn’t a sexy prospect but he is a long-term starter with upside.
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
Few position groups in the NFL need as much help as the Colts’ edge position. They have a few solid No. 2s and No. 3s, but no true dominant edge rusher. Justin Houston was their best edge defender in 2020 but is still a free agent, so we give them the young and ascending Azeez Ojulari. Only 20-years-old, there are few players in this class with a better first step and ability to turn the corner than Ojulari, who had an incredibly productive 2020 season.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5): Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman
Josh Reynolds is a fine player, but signing him doesn’t erase the fact the Titans have to replace the production of Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis. The Tians need to give Ryan Tannehill more weapons to ensure his production doesn’t fall off a cliff in his third season under center because as of right now they have A.J. Brown and nothing else in the passing game. Rashod Bateman isn’t a burner but he has inside/out versatility and perhaps the best route and release packages in the class.
23. New York Jets (2-14; from SEA): Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Robert Saleh’s defense requires speed at all levels and that is exactly what Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah brings. One of the most athletic and violent players in this class, Owusu-Koramoah covers like a defensive back but isn’t afraid to fly around and mix it up in the box. Linebacker may not be a major impact position, but his upside is right up there with Micah Parsons.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Michigan OL Jalen Mayfield
The Steelers have a surprising amount of holes for a team that flirted with an undefeated record through the first three quarters of the season. They could go to almost any position other than receiver and it could be justified here. We opt to give them Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield, who has Pro Bowl upside as a guard or right tackle. The Steelers have lost so many key offensive linemen this season that taking a versatile and athletic one like Mayfield could pay dividends come the fall.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15; from LAR): TCU S Trevon Moehrig
The Jaguars have been busy at safety this offseason, signing Rayshawn Jenkins to be a starter and Rudy Ford to be a depth piece. They also re-signed 2020 starter Josh Jones, which makes the safety room a bit crowded. With this said, I project TCU’s Trevon Moehrig to the Jaguars at No. 25 as the draft’s first safety off the board. The Jaguars still need a rangy safety with ball production, and that is exactly what Moehrig would bring to the defense.
Moehrig’s final season at TCU featured him becoming a team captain for each game in 2020. He finished the season with two interceptions, nine pass deflections, and two sacks in his second season as a starter.
Overall he contributed to 10 takeaways for TCU, recorded six interceptions the last two years, won a Jim Thorpe Award, was a team captain, and even won TCU’s Most Valuable Special Teams Player award in 2018 as a true freshman.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5): Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye
Cleveland has a stellar roster, but it isn’t yet complete. They still need a pass-rusher who can line up across from Myles Garrett and terrorize quarterbacks on a consistent basis; far too many times, Garrett is working alone when generating pressure. To take the next step as a defense, the Browns change that by taking one of the most athletic pass-rushers in the draft in Kwity Paye. He isn’t yet a complete rusher but he has the bend, speed, burst, and instincts to grow into a productive edge defender.
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5): Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
There aren’t many things Zaven Collins can’t do. He can play the run, drop in coverage, blitz, and make tackles from sideline to sideline. He isn’t a dominant pass-rusher but his athletic traits and versatility make him a terrific fit for Baltimore’s multiple and exotic defensive scheme. They have other needs such as receiver and even offensive tackle, but Collins is too good value-wise to pass up.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4): Northwestern CB Greg Newsome
Greg Newsome has the tape of a top-15 talent but his lack of production and experience could knock him down boards. If this happens, there are few teams who should be as ecstatic after April 29 as the Saints, who land one of the draft’s most talented cornerbacks new the end of the first round in this projection. Newsome has terrific athleticism and instincts in coverage and is closer to the top tier of cornerbacks in this class than people may think.
29. Green Bay Packers (13-3): LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
The Packers can’t ignore the wide receiver position forever, right? They have a few talented role players, but a true No. 2 receiver would unlock a Packers’ offense that has failed in big moments the last two seasons. Terrace Marshall Jr. has inside/out versatility after spending 2020 in the slot, and he has the age, size, and athletic traits to give him one of the highest ceilings in the entire class. He needs some polish, but where better to get it than in Green Bay.
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3): Clemson RB Travis Etienne
As good as Buffalo’s offense was last season, their running backs contributed little to the explosion of points. The Bills currently have a few solid No. 2 running backs but no top dog who can make plays week in and week out. Travis Etienne has some questions about his size, but there are few players in this class more dangerous with the ball in their hands. He is an ideal running back to pair with Josh Allen.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2): Florida WR Kadarius Toney
As talented as the Chiefs’ offense is, their wide receiver room isn’t very good outside of Tyreek Hill. Hill and Travis Kelce have long carried the load for the Chiefs’ passing game, but a third option is needed to ensure defenses can’t zero in on the Chiefs’ top targets like Tampa Bay did in the Super Bowl. Kadarius Toney lacks polish, but he is one of the most electric playmakers in the draft and would fit right in on Kansas City’s up-tempo offense.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5): Alabama DT Christian Barmore
The Buccaneers recently re-signed free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but they could use some young depth on what is an aging defensive line. Christian Barmore isn’t the most consistent defender but he is easily the best defensive tackle in a middling class this year, and his upside as a pass-rusher makes him worth the first-round investment. Barmore could go earlier than this, but it is hard to find a spot in the first-round for any defensive tackle, not just him.