If you look at 2020 mock drafts made in the summer of 2019, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that had Joe Burrow going in the first round, much less first overall. Now, you’ll have trouble finding a serious mock that has the Bengals taking anyone but him. However, the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft seems a lot more predictable. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is widely considered one of the top quarterback prospects ever. If Lawrence was to get injured or return to school, right behind him is Ohio State’s Justin Fields. He, too, is a contender for the first overall selection.
After those two top quarterback prospects, though, there is some other talent, including a loaded receiver class, an elite pass rush prospect, a shutdown corner, and a tackle prospect many believe to be the best in generations. So who are the candidates for the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and which teams would be the best fits for them?
The wide receivers
This is an unlikely scenario for a few reasons. First off, no receivers have been drafted first overall since Keyshawn Johnson was taken by the New York Jets first overall in 1996. However, there are some very intriguing candidates, to say the least. Many view the wide receiver class in the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the best ever.
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
The consensus WR1, Chase is an alpha receiver with prototypical size and athletic ability. He is a solid route runner and consistently wins vertically against some of the top defenses in the country. Chase was comfortably the most dominant receiver in college football this past season. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver after leading the NCAA in receiving yards and touchdowns. If Chase can produce numbers at all similar to that of last season, he has a legitimate chance to be selected with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Team Fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets
Rondale Moore, Purdue
The only other receiver I can realistically see being selected first overall is Moore. Moore has enjoyed great production early in his career, but an unfortunate injury cut his sophomore season short. However, what separates Moore from other receivers is his truly elite athletic ability. There’s a legit chance we see Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III get drafted in the first 12 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft, and Ruggs never even surpassed 750 receiving yards in a season. Moore has accumulated nearly as many career receiving yards as Ruggs has while playing 13 fewer games.
Expect Moore to be a combine star, and one of the most productive players in college football this season. A season that surpasses his freshman year and a dominant combine could be the path for Moore as the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Team Fits: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos
The elite pass rusher
It feels like more and more often, we get an edge rusher who is a scary physical specimen that was ultra-productive in college. The 2020 draft has Chase Young, and the 2022 class will have Kayvon Thibodeaux, but how about 2021?
Well, the 2021 NFL Draft class will have Miami’s Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau finished second in the nation in sacks with 15.5 on the season. He finished behind only Young, who tallied 16.5 for the year. Rousseau possesses dominant length at the position standing at 6-foot-7, which he pairs with elite burst off the line of scrimmage and impressive bend for someone his size. If that sounds familiar, it’s because those are the main calling cards of Young. The NFL is a passing league, and pass rushers are at an all-time premium.
Team Fits: Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New York Giants
The shutdown corner
What’s easier than learning from a football coach? Being raised by a player. Patrick Surtain II of Alabama knows that first hand, as his father Patrick Surtain Sr. was a three-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro cornerback in the NFL – something his son aspires to match. Surtain Jr. has already developed a number of fans, as he has been a vital contributor at Alabama over the first two years of his career.
The odds are stacked against him, as there has never been a cornerback selected with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. However, as the league moves towards a more passing centrist approach, the value of a shutdown corner will be at it’s highest.
Team Fits: Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers
The generational tackle
The Outland Trophy is awarded to the top lineman in the country. Whether it be offense or defense, the player that shows the best play in the trenches throughout the season is given the award. This past season, it was awarded to Oregon’s Penei Sewell, and deservedly so.
Sewell was a dominant force for the Ducks this year as both a pass protector and run mauler. His strengths are countless, and weaknesses are little to none. While also playing the all-important left tackle position, Sewell has a legitimate chance to challenge for the right of being the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.