It’s April. Draft month. And soon, the 32 NFL teams will face the next crucial step in the team-building process. We’ve spent months building up to it with the Senior Bowl and pro days, and now, the 2021 NFL Draft is just weeks away. We’ve put together a 3-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft in honor of the draft’s heightened proximity. How did your team fare?
Cummings’ 3-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jaguars have been trending toward picking Trevor Lawrence ever since they took the No. 1 overall pick from the Jets. They seem more or less set on the Clemson passer. Urban Meyer admitted as much less than a week ago. There’s no need to veil their intentions. For all practical purposes, the decision appears to be made. And for now, it appears to be the right one.
While Lawrence himself is not infallible, he offers a tremendous mix of athleticism, arm talent, accuracy, processing ability, and mechanical fluidity, and he’s well worth the draft’s most valuable investment.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Just as the Jaguars are trending toward picking Lawrence, the New York Jets appear to be leaning toward Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. This one isn’t as definitive as the Lawrence selection. Nevertheless, it seems likely that Wilson will be the next quarterback of the New York Jets.
Wilson’s rise this offseason hasn’t been without reason. The BYU signal-caller embarked on an incredible 2020 campaign, passing for 33 touchdowns and 3,692 yards while completing 73.5% of his passes at 11.0 yards per attempt. Wilson is a gunslinger on tape, with the arm elasticity, off-platform feel, and fearlessness necessary to succeed in the NFL.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU via MIA): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The 49ers made a decisive trade up to No. 3 overall. PFN’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo deduced through this move that the 49ers have “their guy” in mind at No. 3 overall. After all, teams don’t make these kinds of moves if they aren’t sure who they’re targeting. The 49ers know. But no one else does.
A source of PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline has Mac Jones, based on gut feeling. Schematic indications point to Trey Lance. But a player being overlooked is Justin Fields.
The criticism of Fields this offseason has been dramatic and somewhat unfair. No quarterback prospect is perfect, but Fields’ competitive fire, unheard-of natural accuracy, and elite athletic traits are too often glossed over. He’s the best QB still on the board.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
While the three teams ahead of the Falcons are certain to pick quarterbacks, the Falcons themselves are a bit of a wild card. As of now, it seems likelier than not that QB will be the pick for the new regime of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith. However, Matt Ryan was by no means bad last year, and the Falcons recently restructured his contract, giving them more dead cap in 2022 and 2023 if they cut him loose.
The Falcons could simply make a move to support Ryan here, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be in this good of a position to select a franchise QB in the future. Trey Lance has a ton of upside, and he’s also an excellent fit for Arthur Smith’s offense. This pick would complicate Ryan’s future, but it’s worth the initial obscurity for a signal-caller with Lance’s potential.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals’ recent signing of Riley Reiff feels like a move designed to preclude them from forcing a pick at offensive tackle early. Nevertheless, Reiff is set to turn 33 years old this year, and Joe Burrow’s long-term protection demands more attention, especially after the quarterback’s season-ending injury in 2020.
With a tackle duo of Penei Sewell and Jonah Williams, the Bengals would immediately have top-notch security for their franchise quarterback. The offensive line has too often been less than a priority for Cincinnati. In a deep WR class, as much as it might hurt to pass on Ja’Marr Chase, this is the time to make sure the line is set.
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
In my opinion, Ja’Marr Chase isn’t the best diagnostic fit for the Dolphins. However, after his athletic testing at the LSU Pro Day, which saw him log a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 41-inch vertical jump, and a 132-inch broad jump at 6-foot-0, 201 pounds, Chase likely won’t last past the Dolphins. Reports earlier in the offseason suggested that Miami prefers Chase among the top three receivers, and that certainly wouldn’t change after his pro day.
Chase doesn’t provide as much separation ability or RAC potential as DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Yet, he provides Miami’s offense with a dynamic big-play threat downfield, who has the burst, density, and physicality to develop utility in the short and intermediate ranges.
7. Detroit Lions: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
No, he’s not Calvin Johnson. We’ll get that out of the way right now. However, if you were to canvas the entire database of draft prospects since Johnson entered the league, Kyle Pitts would be one of the closest comparisons. There will never be another Johnson one-to-one, but Pitts has an enticing skill set in his own right. One that the Lions could quickly benefit from.
Pitts’ positional designation is at tight end. Above all, he has the explosiveness, agility, and smooth feet to win anywhere. Pitts also has the dominating length and body control to make plays downfield. The Lions still need to add a pure receiver or two, but as a pass catcher, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone more versatile and dynamic than Pitts.
8. Carolina Panthers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
As of now, it’s unclear which specific quarterback might fall to the Panthers at No. 8. Some whispers have Mac Jones breaking into the top five, but if we’re going by pure physical talent, Jones is most likely the odd man out.
Even then, Jones is hard to pass up at the No. 8 pick for the Panthers. He doesn’t offer the mobility of the quarterbacks above him, but while mobility is becoming increasingly preferred, QBs don’t necessarily need it to win.
Jones tested well enough at his pro day, and he has enough arm, as well as the short and intermediate-range accuracy, decision-making ability, and pocket poise to flourish with Carolina’s weapons. Carolina’s coach Matt Rhule also got to work with Jones firsthand at the Senior Bowl, so there may be a heightened level of comfort there.
9. Denver Broncos: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Broncos might need a quarterback, but they aren’t in prime position to grab one this year. As many as four quarterbacks are almost guaranteed to go before Denver, and as this mock exemplifies, all five of the top signal-callers may be gone before the Broncos’ pick. If that’s the case, Denver should instead focus on solidifying the roster around Drew Lock.
Micah Parsons is a popular pick here because he offers EDGE/linebacker versatility. However, there are some character concerns with Parsons that could cause him to slip.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, meanwhile, is an intense heat-seeking missile in the box, and he also has the flexibility to shift into the slot. Furthermore, he measured in heavier than expected at Notre Dame’s Pro Day. In Vic Fangio’s defense, Owusu-Koramoah would be a very enticing fit.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The “Jaycee Horn is CB1″ train adds new passengers every day. After his pro day performance, there’s no denying that Horn is a potential blue-chip prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. The South Carolina product put up one of the best Relative Athletic Scores ever at cornerback, registering a 9.99 overall. He logged a 4.4 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical, a 133-inch broad jump, and 19 bench reps with 33-inch arms.
With an elite combination of athleticism, length, and competitive swagger, Horn looks like he could be the next lockdown cornerback. In need of talent all over their defense, the Cowboys would be unwise to pass him up here.
11. New York Giants: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
After their free-agency additions, the New York Giants don’t necessarily need to go wide receiver in Round 1. They were able to add Kenny Golladay and John Ross to a unit that already boasted the likes of Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard. Nevertheless, the Giants’ receiving corps still has some ground to gain before it can truly be a feared unit.
The addition of another difference-maker would not only free up the other starters to produce more but also improve the depth of the unit and help bolster Daniel Jones’ chances of redemption. In that light, DeVonta Smith is an exciting choice here. Smith’s weight might be the only red flag on his profile. Aside from that measurement, he’s a crisp, athletic, skillful receiver whose toughness and detail transcends those around him.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from SF via MIA): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Few are sold on Jalen Hurts as the quarterback of the future for the Eagles. However, after Philadelphia’s trade back to No. 12, one thing is clear — they aren’t aiming for their quarterback of the future in this draft class.
Instead, they’ll likely sit at No. 12, let the board play out ahead of them, and simply take the best player available. Here, the Eagles have a few quality choices, between Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle, and Micah Parsons.
Parsons, on the other hand, might not provide the immediate coverage consistency that the Eagles need, and Howie Roseman might not look to add another receiver in Round 1 after last year. Surtain is a nice compromise. He’d fit very well into the Eagles’ new zone-coverage schemes adopted from the Colts, and he gives Philadelphia an immediate starter opposite Darius Slay.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers took a couple of steps in the right direction on the offensive line in free agency. They added All-Pro center Corey Linsley and also acquired guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi, both of whom should provide good depth at the very least. Nevertheless, if there’s anything Los Angeles has learned from their own failings in previous years, it’s that they shouldn’t settle on the offensive line.
That’s especially true with Justin Herbert’s health at stake. Thus, Rashawn Slater makes a lot of sense here for the Chargers. Slater is a smooth athlete who measured in larger than expected. He can be an immediate starter at tackle while possessing the positional versatility to move around if needed.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This is a classic case of best-player-available. It may not be entirely popular because the Vikings do have more pressing needs. They still desperately need more pressure along the edge, and they also need to improve their offensive line. However, if Jaylen Waddle were to fall, he’d provide the Vikings with one of the best, if not the best, receiving corps in the league.
With Waddle, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson, the Vikings would give defenses fits. Waddle, in particular, would give Minnesota a deep threat, as well as a quick separator and elite RAC threat in the short-range to potentially alleviate some pressure from Kirk Cousins’ shoulders.
15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The New England Patriots end Micah Parsons’ slide in this 3-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. In truth, it’s unclear where Parsons will go on draft night. He could very well be the first linebacker off the board. However, teams will assess his character and immediate utility differently. The upside is plentiful enough to bank on early, but other factors could cause him to slip.
The Patriots would be a good landing spot for him, regardless. Bill Belichick might be the coach Parsons needs to maximize his potential, and with Parsons, Belichick would have a versatile, explosive threat on the second level.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Running backs still matter in the NFL, but early draft positions at running back are trending downward. In 2019, the first running back selected was Josh Jacobs at No. 24 overall. In 2020, it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, with the last pick in the first round. It seems as though the days of running backs going in the top 10 are more or less behind us.
Najee Harris is a much better prospect than both of the aforementioned players, and he’s worth this pick for the Cardinals. Arizona could also seriously consider cornerback here, but Harris would immediately give their offense an incredibly versatile weapon in the backfield. He looks and plays like a true workhorse back, but he’s also an elite receiving option whose explosive athleticism and grace allow him to make plays wherever he lines up.