The 2020 NFL season is speeding by as we’ve already made it through Thanksgiving games, with the playoff picture getting clearer and clearer each week. Thankfully this fleeting season also means we’re getting closer to the 2021 NFL Draft, a time for all teams to take the next step into the future. In this 2021 3-round NFL mock draft, we see Dallas and Minnesota take their QBs of the future, and six receivers go in the first 32 selections. Who does your favorite team select? Have something to say about your team’s draft? Let me know on Twitter at @MVScouting.
2021 3-round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence is the obvious selection here. He’s the best QB we’ve seen since Andrew Luck, and he may be even better. Already a refined passer in a complex, pro-style offense, Lawrence displays the type of arm talent only available once every few years. However, unlike other elite-armed prospects like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Lawrence is well developed past a college prospect’s expectation. His understanding of coverages, ball placement, and progression make him an extraordinary and even generational-level prospect. Add in his well-above-average athletic ability and running talent, and Lawrence is as close to a can’t-miss quarterback as we’ve ever seen.
The New York Jets have some pieces in place for a potentially successful offense. They have a future superstar in left tackle Mekhi Becton and a WR corps made of the always consistent Jamison Crowder and 2020 second-round selection Denzel Mims, who was my fourth-ranked receiver that year. After parting ways with Adam Gase, the New York Jets will be headed in the right direction with a superstar quarterback in the first year of his rookie deal. Lawrence was the easiest selection of this 2021 3 round NFL mock draft.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Jaguars are potentially more excited than New York because they get Justin Fields as the second quarterback in the class. Fields would have been my QB1 in every class I’ve evaluated, dating back to 2017. Lawrence is in contention for the best QB prospect ever, while Fields has a bid to be the best QB2 in NFL history. His blend of elite arm talent, running ability, decision making, and production makes Fields an elite QB prospect in his own right.
The Jaguars already field a young and talented nucleus, but the coaching staff and quarterback room are below average by NFL standards. Whether or not the staff changes could determine Fields’ future, the Jaguars have the talent on offense to allow for early success. Lawrence vs. Fields will be the next big rivalry in the NFL.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Joe Burrow already lost nearly half of his rookie season to horrid offensive line play. Why not invest in your franchise QB and take the best offensive tackle prospect we’ve seen in over a decade? Ideally, the Bengals would also add a new offensive line coach to give Sewell the best chance to succeed in the NFL. The Bengals get the best player available for arguably their biggest need.
Sewell is a natural offensive tackle with great length, smooth feet, and natural power. His flexibility is unheard of for his size, and his nasty attitude causes him to finish every play. He wears down defenders and takes no prisoners as linebackers and defensive backs alike fear him downfield — Sewell projects as an All-Pro.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The first surprise of this 2021 3 round NFL mock draft, Zach Wilson makes his way to Jerry World. Despite the Cowboys already possessing an elite quarterback, it’s hard to ignore the combination of Dak Prescott’s injury, how far the two parties were in contract talks last season, and the Cowboys sitting in a position to take one of the top quarterbacks in college football this season. I believe paying Dak Prescott is the only correct choice, but I wouldn’t put it past the Cowboys to make a business decision like this.
Wilson possesses an above-average arm with impressive ball placement down the field. He uses his natural athletic ability to create plays out of structure and push the ball down the field. This selection would also help Jerry Jones save face by not forcing him to give Prescott a mega-extension that he avoided last year. Considering how poorly Dallas’ needs match the 2021 NFL Draft class’ positional strengths, this could become a real possibility.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
There are three acceptable cornerbacks to choose from here. I believe the NFL will come to value Patrick Surtain II a tick above the rest. His natural length and high football IQ give him a high floor and make him a favorite among NFL coaches and GMs. Add in his pedigree as a three-year player on Nick Saban’s defense and his legacy as the son of a former All-Pro, and it’s a recipe for favor among draft evaluators.
Surtain lacks an elite physical profile, but he plays with patience and understands the game that allows him to cover the best. He is aggressive when the ball’s in the air and plays calm and collected, which keeps him from getting burnt. He’s big and long enough to handle even the most physical of receivers, and he provides some youth to the cornerback room.
6. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants have two glaring holes on their defense. The first being an edge rusher, and the second being a linebacker. Micah Parsons has the ability and talent to fill in as the Giants starting SAM linebacker and take over the game both as an off-ball linebacker and be brought up to the line of scrimmage to rush the passer. With head coach Joe Judge hailing from the Patriots organization, it’s easy to envision a role for a multi-faceted player like Parsons.
7. Atlanta Falcons: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Falcons are rumored to have made a push to move up in last year’s draft to select Chase Young. They didn’t get the chance to take Young, but instead, they’ll attempt to alleviate that pain with the selection of Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau finished second in the nation in sacks, behind Young, in the 2019 college football season. He chose to opt out of the 2020 season and is now preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Rousseau possesses elite length and natural athletic ability, being a former safety. He’s active behind the line of scrimmage, but the film leaves a lot to be desired. His traits will get him drafted early, but his development and coaching will determine whether or not he finds sustained success in the NFL.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Eagles drafted a wide receiver in the first round of last year’s draft, and they do it again here. Last year, the Eagles took the fast and dynamic Jalen Reagor. Here, they select the physically dominant Ja’Marr Chase. Chase would become the instant alpha in a Philly receiving corps that desperately needs one.
Chase had one of the most prolific receiving seasons in college football history his sophomore season, as he was the WR1 on the best passing offense in college football history. Chase dominates at the catch point and fights for tough yards after the catch. He projects as an X receiver who wins vertically and can help bail Carson Wentz out on any ill-advised 50/50 ball.
9. Detroit Lions: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Lions will likely be searching for a new coaching staff and maybe even the front office after this season. Their new coach will probably sway the decision heavily, but here we give them the best player available at a position of need. Kwity Paye was widely considered a dominant athlete, appearing first overall on Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List.” This year, though, he has taken the next step in his development and has been the most efficient pass rusher in the nation. Whoever runs the show for Detroit next year will be quite pleased with the selection of Paye.
10. Carolina Panthers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia
The Panthers have been surprisingly competitive this year, but they’re a dominant CB1 away from fielding a truly frightening defense. Farley would be the next piece added to a defense that already possesses young stars in Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Jeremy Chinn. With how Teddy Bridgewater has played this year, I don’t expect Carolina to think quarterback unless they fall in love with a prospect.
Farley is one of the top athletes in the 2021 cornerback class. Farley has all the physical tools coaches drool over with an expected 4.3 athlete with a 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame. He’s a ballhawk, registering 14 interceptions and 19 pass deflections in 23 career games.
11. Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins receivers seem like a talented unit, but they cannot separate consistently and lack the speed to provide pressure up top. This lack of separation makes life difficult for perceived franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa because defenses aren’t worried about the Dolphins taking deep shots. Jaylen Waddle and Tagovailoa already have pre-built chemistry from their playing days at Alabama.
Waddle is an explosive athlete and will have tested like one of the top receivers in NFL history. Unfortunately, an ankle injury ended Waddle’s season early and may prevent him from testing at the NFL Combine. Waddle is extremely talented with the ball in his hands. He’s a threat to score whenever he touches the ball, and his dynamic skill set would perfectly round out the Miami receiving corps — the orange-and-teal get a top talent in this 2021 3 round NFL mock draft.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Minnesota has not had the success they hoped for following a season in which Kirk Cousins went to New Orleans and took down the Saints. The Vikings are currently below .500 and are likely to miss the playoffs. I think the Vikings jump at the chance. Mike Zimmer could develop Lance’s elite traits in his system before moving on from Cousins, like how Kansas City moved on from Alex Smith for Patrick Mahomes.
Lance had one of the best seasons by any FCS quarterback ever, where he posted 2,786 passing yards and 1,100 rushing yards. He also passed for 28 touchdowns to no interceptions and another 14 rushing touchdowns. Drafting Lance and letting him sit for a year could be just what he needs to adjust to NFL speed. Dropping a dynamic player to an offense with Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen could be what pushes Minnesota over the hump in the highly competitive NFC.
13. New England Patriots: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Patriots desperately need WRs who can separate, stretch the field vertically, and provide some relief for Cam Newton and the running game. Had Wilson or Lance been on the board here, I would’ve gone that route. However, with each of the top four quarterbacks off the board, New England goes with the most explosive playmaker remaining, Rondale Moore.
Moore blasted onto the scene as a freshman, accumulating nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. Moore would provide an explosive weapon the Patriots are missing in the passing game, and if they bring Cam Newton back, it could be the most explosive offense in the AFC East. New England will fight for that 7th seed, and Moore could be the difference-maker they needed.
14. San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The 49ers are currently just out of reach of one of the top four quarterbacks, but they are in range to land one of this class’s elite cornerbacks. Jaycee Horn has the best tape of any cornerback in the 2020 season. He registered two interceptions, six pass deflections and has the alpha mentality to be a legitimate shutdown CB1 in the NFL. Horn could end up as the best cornerback from the class despite being the third CB selected in this 2021 3 round NFL mock draft.
15. Denver Broncos: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
I know edge rusher isn’t exactly the number one need for Denver, but when you consider both Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have contracts that end after the 2021 season, it would make sense to draft at least one replacement early. Considering Denver’s base 3-4 scheme, it also makes sense stylistically as Ojulari is an ideal fit for the OLB position under Vic Fangio.
Ojulari isn’t a massive player, measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 240, but his ability as a speed rusher is what draws attention to him. He has natural shoulder dip, and he’s explosive off the ball. His natural burst and flexibility allow him to turn corners with ease and is reminiscent of Broncos superstar Von Miller in the way he wins with speed and hand usage.
16. Chicago Bears: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Bears are desperate to find their QB of the future, and here they take Crimson Tide QB Mac Jones, who is playing like a Heisman contender. Jones has displayed elite ball placement down the field and does a good job staying in rhythm and getting the ball to his playmakers. The Bears already have a competitive defense with several young playmakers on offense in Tarik Cohen, Cole Kmet, Anthony Miller, Darnell Mooney, and Allen Robinson. Jones could find success in a Matt Nagy offense surrounded by a strong supporting cast.