Miller’s 2-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Panthers trade up for Justin Fields

I promise not to waste your time with a long introduction to this 2021 2-round NFL mock draft. Just know this; I hate your favorite football team as much as you hate whom I picked for your favorite football team. With that said, this mock draft will provide commentary on picks for both rounds. So I hope you at least enjoy a synopsis of some players you may not know much about in this year’s NFL Draft.

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2021 2-round NFL Mock Draft | Round One

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

There’s no explanation necessary. Trevor Lawrence will be the top pick in the draft unless Thanos secures all six infinity stones and snaps his fingers.

2. Carolina Panthers (projected trade w/ New York Jets): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

There’s a good chance Justin Fields and Zach Wilson trade punches on 2021 mock drafts all the way up until the draft commences in Cleveland. Fields’ running ability tips the scales in his direction here. In this 2-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, offensive coordinator Joe Brady and head coach Matt Rhule decide they want to open the offense up further, with more designed rushes.

Fields doesn’t possess Wilson’s effortless arm, but he has no issues dialing in far-hash throws. He simply needs to put more effort into generating velocity. Fields hails from an offense that seamlessly integrates with the offense of Brady’s. The narrative surrounding his inability to process and go through progressions is overblown.

The Ohio State offense ran a higher percentage of option routes than with past quarterbacks, and the downfield nature of the offense made things seem more pronounced. Just as with their recruiting rankings, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields continue to go 1-2.

3. Los Angeles Chargers (projected trade w/ Miami Dolphins): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

The most important thing you can do for a young franchise quarterback is to protect him. What better way to make Justin Herbert comfortable than drafting his former Oregon Ducks teammate Penei Sewell?

The buzz on social media and other mocks is that Rashawn Slater closed the gap on Sewell, but I’m not so sure that is reality.

Sewell, at 19-years-old, displayed elite traits as a franchise left tackle with room to grow. And through all that, he allowed only one sack. Slater is no slouch, but the movement skills, length, youth, and tape of Sewell gives him the edge. And for the Chargers, it allows Herbert the freedom to sling it.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, Brigham Young

Speaking of slinging it, Zach Wilson will not be slinging it in 2021. The Falcons are entangled with long-time franchise quarterback Matt Ryan on a contract. However, selecting Wilson in this 2021 2-round NFL mock draft offers hope for the future of the franchise past Ryan.

Also, a new regime can spend their first year grooming the young signal-caller while building the rest of the roster back up. Wilson’s arm is silly. He provides effortless velocity and distance with a flick of the wrist. Some of his ball placement into impossibly tight throwing windows can boggle the mind. However, although he’s a fine athlete, he’s not the same caliber as Fields.

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But the bigger questions surround the offense he’s coming from, his consistency in seeing the field, and his pocket presence. All these things can easily be ironed out at the next level, giving Fields the edge over Wilson in Carolina’s eyes.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Speaking of comfortability, there might not be two people more comfortable with one another than Ja’Marr Chase and quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase is an outstanding talent, but his style of play is not quarterback universal. He needs a high-level decision-maker who can leverage passes away from defenders that will drape all over him.

Chase is a physical specimen, but he struggles to separate consistently. He’s a winner at the catch point, and Burrow is one of the few quarterbacks at the top who can actually maximize that strength. And quite honestly, Chase produced out of his mind as a sophomore in college at a young age.

His developmental curve probably has not reached its peak, so becoming more nuanced at the top of routes could materialize. His natural physicality should eventually transfer to beating press coverage.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Whether Carson Wentz or Jalen Hurts starts for the Eagles in 2021, DeVonta Smith is the best man for the job in Philadelphia. They absolutely need a receiver who can consistently separate from the outside.

Jalen Reagor is a developing top-pick for the Eagles, but he’s a better fit for the slot and as a gadget player. Also, drafting Jaylen Waddle would be the over on Jalen/Jaylen’s at the skill positions.

The Heisman Trophy winner is one of the more complete receivers of the past few seasons. His only sore spot would be his Slenderman frame, but that size hasn’t been detrimental for him in the past three seasons at Alabama.

7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The run on wide receivers officially ends at the top of the draft. Jaylen Waddle is a different animal and the same beast.

There may be “better” receivers in the NFL than Tyreek Hill. There might be better route runners. Julio Jones is a physical freak, and Stefon Diggs gets open at will. However, no player in the entire league can strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators like Hill. Waddle is very much in that same mold. He’s short, but he’s decently stacked together from a build perspective.

Waddle has the speed to make SEC cornerbacks look like they’re trying to carry vertically or across the field from quicksand. But he’s not simply a speed guy. No, Waddle’s ability to change direction is effortless, and it was evident in his progression as a route runner through four games as a junior. Tack on his ability as a returner — he averaged 24 yards on punt returns as a sophomore — and you have the entire package.

8. New York Jets (projected trade w/ Carolina Panthers): Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Rashawn Slater’s tape is outstanding. You can see games when Slater faced Chase Young, A.J. Epenesa, and Zack Baun. However, the narrative that he shut down Young, although accurate, is also overblown.

Young did not line up across from Slater play in and play out. Yet, in the plays they did go up against one another, Slater performed well. Slater’s knock seems to be his length, but he faced the long-armed, strong-handed Epenesa and performed well.

The one knock that I have on him actually stems from his matchup against Baun. There were multiple occasions where he struggled to reach his mark on the edge, and his lack of length did not allow him to recover. Slater is a solid prospect, but he needs to clean up how he operates against rushers who can work both ways.

9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Caleb Farley is a tricky evaluation because he opted out of 2020 and had a procedure done on his back after the 2019 season. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2017. However, his tape in 2019 showed unbelievable flashes of ball skills.

His click-and-close from depth is outstanding, and his vertical pass defense is unmatched. He has no issues finding the ball in the air, and his time as a quarterback in high school shows in his mental processing of route concepts.

He’s the prototypical build for a corner and moves like a much smaller cornerback. His fit in the Vic Fangio defense makes too much sense to pass on at nine. However, there is a world where because of the opt-out, injury, and lack of centralized testing, he could tumble a bit.

10. San Francisco 49ers (projected trade w/ Dallas Cowboys): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The situation in San Francisco is perfect for a developing Trey Lance. First, he doesn’t have to start immediately. As long as the relationship between him and Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t deteriorated to the point of no return, Head Coach Kyle Shanahan can start Garoppolo for a year as they develop Lance.

But the bigger plus to this selection is that the offense is a great fit for Lance. He comes from a heavy personnel, play-action dominated passing attack. His high-end athleticism will be a treat for Shanahan, who has dealt with immovable objects in the pocket for years now.

11. New York Giants: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Kyle Pitts is one of the most dominant receiving prospects we’ve seen at the tight end position. Travis Kelce was a third-round selection. Darren Waller was a receiver convert from college, and he plays at a different level than guys like Noah Fant.

Pitts is a legitimate X-receiver in a tight end’s frame. He can line up out wide and use his frame and athleticism as a deep threat down the sideline. Pitts can sink his hips and separate on whip and return routes underneath. He can be a menace over the short middle area of the field because of his length.

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What isn’t discussed enough, however, is his abilities as a blocker. He is more than just a glorified receiver. This young man puts in the work when he has his hand in the dirt.

Pitts is not necessarily a people mover, but he is very often in the correct position to use his leverage to seal running lanes for backs. Admittedly, the fit with OC Jason Garrett should scare some out there who remember years of six-yard Jason Witten option routes. Nevertheless, the Giants desperately need weapons on offense, and Pitts offers just that in this 2021 2-round NFL mock draft.

12. Dallas Cowboys (projected trade w/ San Francisco 49ers): Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

Just LISTEN! Mock drafts, even in February, are still about providing examples of situations. I understand you haven’t seen Ifeatu Melifonwu projected this high yet. Trust me, I understand that.

Yet, fluid, physical, and productive 6-foot-3, 215-pound cornerbacks aren’t falling out of trees. Additionally, the scheme fit in Dan Quinn’s system is a match made in heaven for the Cowboys. Sure, you’d rather see this selection made maybe through a trade with Chicago at pick 20, but they didn’t come calling in this simulation.

Melifonwu has the lateral mobility to mirror and match shiftier receivers. He is physical defending bubble screens and against the run, and he has the speed to carry vertically.

For transparency purposes, Melifonwu is my personal CB3. In this instance, I went with him over Patrick Surtain II simply due to the scheme fit and athletic upside over the “safer” pick. Getting a legitimate athlete opposite Trevon Diggs should be the priority.

13: Miami Dolphins (projected trade w/ Los Angeles Chargers): Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Christian Darrisaw doesn’t always look clean technically, but this young man simply gets the job done. Repetition in and repetition out, Darrisaw reels in defenders and locks them up.

He gets to his set points well and has the length and strength to anchor against power. The Dolphins missed out on one of the top three receivers, and they’ll live with that. They also already need an upgrade at left tackle, unless Austin Jackson magically makes marked improvements.

Dolphins fans may not love taking a tackle with their top asset in this 2-round 2021 NFL mock draft, but if they plan on keeping Tua Tagovailoa around, it’s imperative they do everything in their power to protect him.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Kwity Paye is, simply stated, a freak of freaking nature. Young men that are 270-plus pounds should not be able to change direction the way he can. He provides a versatile weapon on the outside, possessing the strength to hold the edge and shove down inside as an interior rusher. He also has the potential to be an explosive menace off the edge as well.

His lack of length does come up when he doesn’t hit on his first rush move, but if he becomes more technically proficient with his counters, he should thrive. The lack of production while at Michigan is the real reason Paye finds himself outside the top-10 as the first pass rusher off the board.

15. New England Patriots: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, Southern California

Alijah Vera-Tucker is one of the offensive linemen who has received the tackle-to-guard designation by some in this draft. However, unlike Sewell, Slater, and Darrisaw, Vera-Tucker has consistently seen this designation.

With that said, he should absolutely be allowed to play on the outside. His selection means the Patriots can move Michael Onwenu back inside, or they can have them battle it out for the right tackle spot.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Patrick Surtain II could go as high as fourth overall. The Cardinals must be his absolute floor. Surtain is as technically proficient as they come. He’s controlled, yet still physical at the line, and smooth in transition.

His ability to carry vertically has been questioned because of his lack of speed, but the real reason he isn’t seen as a home-run pick is his work in a phone booth. Although he’s silky in transition, he does not possess the explosiveness in and out of hard transitions. This hurts him against technically proficient route runners who are also explosive.

However, he’s one of the more intelligent players in this draft, no matter the position. In a vastly complex defensive scheme at Alabama, he was consistently in the right place at the right time, and his mental trigger is outstanding. The Cardinals get a steal here at pick 16.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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