With over a quarter of the NFL season in the rearview mirror, the good teams are beginning to truly separate themselves from the bad ones. While some teams still hold out hope of making it all the way to the Super Bowl, others are already narrowing their focus towards the 2021 NFL Draft. Which teams are truly in the market to take Trevor Lawrence? Will someone get a steal with Penei Sewell? Is Micah Parsons poised to be the first defensive player off the board? It’s time to answer these questions in my 2021 4-round NFL mock draft, version 3.0.
Like the previous two versions of my 2021 4-round NFL mock draft, the aim is to try and satisfy as many potential team needs as possible. Those needs could be defined as requiring a positional upgrade, additional depth, or replacing potential free agency losses.
The team order for this 2021 4-round NFL mock draft is as defined by the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator. With that, the New York Jets are officially on the clock.
4-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Round One
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 on to 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) New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB Penn State
Will the New York Giants stick by Daniel Jones? They have struggled offensively without star running back Saquon Barkley in 2020 and Jones has failed to provide an offensive spark. There could be offensive improvements coming in the 2021 NFL Draft. Although I find it unlikely they use a second consecutive first-round pick on an offensive tackle, that has to be a consideration given the struggles along the offensive line. Cornerback, EDGE and linebacker remain realistic defensive possibilities.
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.
3) Atlanta Falcons: Dylan Moses, LB Alabama
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.
Despite injury in 2019, there was talk that Dylan Moses would have been a first-round pick in last year’‘s draft. He returned to Alabama to add tape to an already impressive portfolio and is expected to cement his stock as an early first-round pick. A heavy-hitting, bullet out of the gun linebacker, Moses is one of the best defensive players in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
4) Washington Football Team: Justin Fields, QB Ohio State
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.
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.
5) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trey Lance, QB North Dakota 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.
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.
6) Miami Dolphins: Ja'Marr Chase, WR Louisiana State
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.
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.
7) 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.
8) Detroit Lions: Marvin Wilson, DT Florida 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.
A defensive tackle who is strong against the run while also being able to disrupt the quarterback is a valuable commodity in the NFL. Wilson is the standout defensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft class. He has the strength to be effective against the run but also has surprising athleticism for a man of his size, which makes him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
9) Denver Broncos: Shaun Wade, CB Ohio State
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.
Shaun Wade could have followed teammate Jeff Okudah into last year's draft and been a late first-round pick. He returned to improve his stock, and for my money is the best cornerback available in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Wade has prototypical size for the position and flashes excellent playmaking skills in coverage, but he can also impact the game as a blitzer.
10) Minnesota Vikings: Jevon Holland, S Oregon
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.
Jevon Holland is the epitome of a “do-it-all” player. Equally competent in pass coverage as he is at playing at the line of scrimmage against the run, Holland combines strong tackling ability with good ball skills to perfectly fit the requirements of a modern-day safety in the NFL. Described as a “special talent” by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, Holland should be an early first-round selection.
11) Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama
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.
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.
12) Miami Dolphins: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE Miami
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.
13) Los Angeles Chargers: Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama
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.
A potential early-round pick last year, Alex Leatherwood returned to Alabama to improve his stock ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. Leatherwood utilizes strength and aggression in pass protection, but his strongest suit maybe his run blocking ability. The debate will be whether he best projects as a tackle or guard in the NFL. Either way, he will be a stellar addition to any offensive line.
14) Arizona Cardinals: Creed Humphrey, OC Oklahoma
With a number of offensive linemen set to hit free agency at the end of the year, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Arizona Cardinals address the offensive line early in the 2021 NFL Draft. Although the defense has shown improvement from last year following a defensive-minded 2020 class, there are needs at EDGE and cornerback to consider.
A 6'5'', 316 pounds, behemoth of a man, Creed Humphrey has put his size and strength to great use as the anchor of what is consistently one of the best offensive lines in college football. A former high school wrestler, Humphrey uses those skills to dominate at the line of scrimmage and also has the football intelligence to help direct the rest of the offensive line.
15) Carolina Panthers: Wyatt Davis, OG Ohio 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.
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.
16) New England Patriots: Pat Freiermuth, TE Penn State
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.
There is a reason that Pat Freiermuth has attracted the nickname “Baby Gronk”. He brings everything to the tight end position that Rob Gronkowski did during his time in New England, having the ability to be a receiving threat while being effective as an inline blocker. Freiermuth is my TE1 in this 2021 NFL Draft class, which is a remarkably better tight end group than last year.