It’s early December. The snow is falling, Christmas adverts dominate television air time, and college football players are making decisions about their future. What better time to release the latest edition of my 2021 4-round NFL mock draft?
With a clearer idea of who might elevate their stock at the Senior Bowl, and the NFL regular season careening towards its conclusion, we have as clear a picture of what the 2021 NFL Draft might look like than ever before. Of course, it’s all guesswork. Still, it’s becoming more of an educated guess than a stab in the dark.
In this 2021 4-round NFL mock draft, I have attempted to match team needs with the best available prospect. The order is determined by the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator, which you can use for FREE to put your favorite college football players on your NFL team!
2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 1-16
1) New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
The New York Jets are a team rich in draft capital and seem destined to be picking early in the 2021 NFL Draft. The expectation is that they will move on from former first-round quarterback Sam Darnold in a class packed with talent. With two first-round picks, they should be able to secure starting-caliber quality at positions of need, including wide receiver, running back, cornerback, and EDGE alongside the obvious quarterback selection.
The consensus QB1 of this 2021 NFL Draft class from the moment he exploded onto the college football scene and led Clemson to a National Championship as a true freshman. With arm strength, accuracy, and surprising mobility for a 6’6”, 220-pound quarterback, Trevor Lawrence has all the traits to succeed in the NFL.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Fields, QB Ohio State
The emergence of undrafted free-agent running back James Robinson has been the only bright spot for the Jacksonville Jaguars offense this season. A string of dismal performances led to the sacking of general manager David Caldwell, and his replacement will need to oversee a successful 2021 NFL Draft. The main order of business will be securing a franchise quarterback. The Jaguars started Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton, and Mike Glennon this year, and none is the answer to the quarterback question. There are many defensive needs, including EDGE, defensive tackle, and cornerback.
The former backup quarterback to Jake Fromm at Georgia saw his stock soar with an impressive 2019 season for Ohio State. With the ability to make all the throws, a ruthless efficiency, and mobility to extend the play, Justin Fields will be right at the top of any quarterback-needy team’s board at the 2021 NFL Draft.
3) Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
The season-ending injury to quarterback Joe Burrow highlighted what was already a glaring need for the Cincinnati Bengals. They desperately need to upgrade the offensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft, and probably in free agency too. Although there was a defensive overhaul last offseason, the Bengals will look to make upgrades across the board, including cornerback and EDGE.
Athletic, strong, and dominant, Penei Sewell has everything that you want in an offensive tackle and then some. Equally as impressive in pass blocking or run blocking, Sewell is not only the best offensive tackle in this 2021 NFL Draft class, but also the best offensive tackle prospect in a number of years.
4) Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama
Will Dak Prescott be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021? His contract saga dragged out into the season, and then he was lost to a devastating injury. There is a chance they replace him in the 2021 NFL Draft. Investing in the defense would be a wiser decision for a unit that has been one of the worst in the league in 2020. They could use upgrades at the cornerback and safety position at a bare minimum.
Patrick Surtain Jr. has all the ingredients to emulate his father’s success in the NFL. Surtain Sr. was the 44th selection of the Miami Dolphins in 1998, and there’‘s every reason to suspect that Surtain Jr. will be drafted considerably above that in the 2021 NFL Draft. Surtain Jr. combines prototypical size, good ball skills, and an ability to create turnovers in various ways to rank as one of the best cornerbacks in the class.
5) Los Angeles Chargers: Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Justin Herbert has excelled in his rookie season, and one of the main priorities for the Los Angeles Chargers will be to upgrade his protection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Keenan Allen has been his most targeted receiver, and it would be wise for the Chargers to provide some additional weaponry to prevent the offense from becoming too predictable. Cornerback will be their primary defensive need in the 2021 NFL Draft, although they could use an addition at linebacker.
In becoming the first big-name player to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, Caleb Farley has already garnered a lot of attention in the 2021 NFL Draft process. Expect him to receive even more attention in the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the most productive cornerbacks in the class. Size, speed, and ball skills (he came to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver) combine to make him a first-round prospect.
6) Philadelphia Eagles: Micah Parsons, LB Penn State
Jalen Hurts was a surprise selection last year, but could he be the long-term solution to Carson Wentz, who has struggled this season? If not, the Philadelphia Eagles could be a surprise candidate for a quarterback. However, they have far too many defensive needs, in my opinion, for that to be a viable option in the 2021 NFL Draft. They desperately need to upgrade at linebacker, cornerback, and the safety position. Offensive additions are more likely to be on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
A perfect blend of size, strength, and sideline-to-sideline speed make Micah Parsons the most dangerous linebacker prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Parsons’ high school experience playing defensive end shows in his ability to get after the quarterback, and he is also highly skilled in pass coverage. Parsons tackling ability shows on the stats sheet, twice leading Penn State in tackles.
7) Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State
Has Teddy Bridgewater shown enough this year to be handed the reins to the offense again? Or will the Carolina Panthers look to add a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft? Whoever starts under center in 2021, the Panthers will need to add pieces on the offensive line for protection. Adding a cornerback will be a top defensive priority, and they could use an upgrade at the linebacker position.
A playmaking quarterback who can get the job done by air or by land. Trey Lance has an impressive array of throws in his repertoire but can make magic with his legs when required. The quality of the opposition he has faced is the big question mark against his 2021 NFL Draft stock, but North Dakota State alum Carson Wentz has proven that Bison quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL.
8) Washington Football Team: Zach Wilson, QB BYU
Alex Smith’s comeback from injury to be the starting quarterback for the Washington Football team is about as good a fairytale as it gets. However, not all fairytales have a happy ending, and Washington is one of the teams most in need of adding a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. That isn’t to say they don’t have other needs. Washington still has issues on the offensive line and a lack of depth at wide receiver. Although the defensive front may be one of the best in the NFL, the secondary could use an upgrade, especially at the cornerback position.
Prior to this college football season, many experts were pondering which quarterback might make a Joe Burrow-esque rise. That quarterback is Zach Wilson. He may not have faced the quality of opposition that some quarterbacks in this 2021 NFL Draft class have faced, but the ‘Mormon Manziel’ has demonstrated the ability to make every throw in the NFL book. He combines that with excellent mobility to provide a true dual-threat at the position.
9) Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR Louisiana State
The Detroit Lions are in the market for a new head coach and general manager following the mid-season dismissal of Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. Will they also be in the market for a new quarterback? Rumors around Matthew Stafford refuse to die, and the Lions could use the 2021 NFL Draft to find his eventual successor. Wide receiver remains a big offensive need, and several defensive holes require attention. Don’t be surprised to see the Lions add a defensive tackle, safety, and linebacker at some point in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner, Ja’Marr Chase led the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns as a sophomore. Chase is a genuine deep threat due to a combination of phenomenal catching skill and ability to play taller than his 6’0” frame. Tough to take down with the ball in his hands, he should be a playmaker in the NFL.
10) Atlanta Falcons: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE Miami
It remains to be seen who leads the Atlanta Falcons war room after the departure of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. However, a repeat of the defensively focused 2020 NFL Draft class should be in the cards. They have consistently been one of the worst defensive units in the league this season, and upgrades at EDGE, linebacker, and safety are all possibilities. Calvin Ridley has blossomed as a player this year, but don’t rule out the Falcons swooping in for a long-term replacement for Julio Jones from this deep 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class.
Although Gregory Rousseau is far from the finished product, NFL teams will be willing to bet on his athletic upside and phenomenal production levels from last season at Miami. Only Chase Young had more sacks and sacks per game than the redshirt freshman. Rousseau lined up all across the defensive line in 2019, possessing the versatility that the NFL values so highly.
11) Miami Dolphins: Devonta Smith, WR Alabama
Can the Miami Dolphins follow up their impressive 2020 class with another haul in the 2021 NFL Draft? Thanks to their trade with Houston last offseason, the Dolphins will have two first-round picks and two second-round picks to bolster their roster. It is to be expected that one of the first-round picks will be used on a wide receiver. After that, offensive additions should include further enhancing of the offensive line and securing a running back. On the defensive side, they need to address the EDGE position as well as add a safety.
DeVonta Smith led a talented quartet of Alabama wide receivers in 2019 in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Although he lacks the speed of a Henry Ruggs or the frame of a Jerry Jeudy, Smith combines great catchability with an elusiveness after the catch to create a playmaking threat. Smith has the skillset to ensure Alabama has two first-round wide receivers for the second straight year.
12) Denver Broncos: Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech
The development of Garrett Bolles through this season has been impressive, but I expect the Denver Broncos to still address the offensive tackle position in the 2021 NFL Draft. They neglected the offensive line last year, and it would be foolish to do so again. The offensive line might not be their prime concern, however, with multiple defensive needs, including cornerback, linebacker, and EDGE.
Christian Darrisaw may have elevated his stock higher than any other offensive tackle in this talented 2021 NFL Draft class. At 6-foot-5 5 and 314 pounds, Darrisaw has the size and strength to play left tackle in the NFL. He is strong in pass protection and has incredible athleticism to excel as a run blocker. Virginia Tech has been one of the most potent offenses in college football this year, and Darrisaw has been a pivotal part of their success.
13) Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR Minnesota
One of the most beleaguered offenses in the 2020 NFL season is a prime candidate for a new quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Chicago Bears will presumably call time on the Mitch Trubisky experiment, and Nick Foles hasn’t been much better. Allen Robinson is in the final year of his deal and is expected to be playing elsewhere in 2021, so they will need to add wide receiver to their shopping list. Cornerback will be the prime defensive need with a number of players set to hit free agency.
Despite splitting targets with Tyler Johnson in 2019, Rashod Bateman still managed to break a 1,000+ yard season. Although his opportunity to shine as the true WR1 at Minnesota has gone with his opt-out and subsequent suspension of the BIG Ten season, Bateman has already shown that he possesses the hand skills, contested-catch ability, and route-running skills to be a threat in the NFL.
14) Minnesota Vikings: Wyatt Davis, OG Ohio State
Although rookie Justin Jefferson has been impressive alongside Adam Thielen for the Minnesota Vikings, they lack depth at the wide receiver position. The interior offensive line is also a position group that could use an upgrade. Defensively, they lack any sort of pass-rushing depth, so EDGE will be a priority. Anthony Harris is set to become a free agent, meaning there’s also a need at safety. However, the biggest question ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft is whether they try to replace quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Wyatt Davis has NFL bloodlines and an NFL ready skillset. The 6’4″”, 310-pound interior offensive lineman is an absolute mauler who will instantly upgrade the offensive line of whichever team he lands on. Davis combines phenomenal play strength with an incredible anchor to provide an elite level of pass protection whilst having the ability to get out front and carve open lanes in the run game. His NFL Draft stock can only be helped by his return to Ohio State for the 2020 College Football season.
15) New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE Florida
Although the New England Patriots have placed more emphasis on a rushing attack in recent years, the glaringly obvious lack of depth in the wide-receiver room has been detrimental to the offense. They should add pass catchers in the 2021 NFL Draft regardless of whether that is in the form of a wide receiver or tight end — perhaps both. If an elite quarterback prospect is still available when they select, the Patriots have to strike. Neither Cam Newton nor Jarrett Stidham is the future of the franchise.
Although Kyle Pitts was held in high regard prior to this season, he has exploded onto the scene as a tight-end touchdown machine in 2020. No tight end in college football has more touchdowns than the Florida pass catcher. He will need to get stronger and maybe even add a little weight if he is to be considered a true tight end in the NFL, but he has shown he is willing to get his hands dirty blocking when required.
16) San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina
Such is the clamor among San Francisco 49ers fans to replace Jimmy Garoppolo that taking a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft seems a distinct possibility. However, with the potential to lose multiple cornerbacks at the end of 2020, cornerback seems like the biggest area of need. That is just one of several defensive needs for the 49ers, including EDGE and safety. Whether it is Garoppolo or someone else under center next year, help on the interior offensive line will be a big need.
If you define cornerback play purely on interception numbers alone, then Jaycee Horn probably isn’t on your radar as a first-round pick. However, Horn led South Carolina in pass breaks ups in 2019 and in doing so, showcased the ball skills he presumably inherited from his former NFL wide receiver father. At 6’1”, Horn has the size that NFL teams covet, as well as the fluidity in his movements to succeed at the next level.