The NFL Draft is a lottery at the best of times, and I think it’s safe to say that we currently aren’t operating in the best of times. There are so many variables ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft that it makes trying to predict what happens next April (if that is indeed when we have the annual selection event) almost impossible. Regardless of what the future holds, we can still apply our knowledge to best predict the uncertain outcome in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is what I have done with my 4-round mock draft.
In this 4-round 2021 NFL mock draft, I have attempted, where possible, to address what I perceive to be each team’s probable needs as well as considering potential free agency losses.
The team order for this mock draft is as defined by the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator, which uses the current Las Vegas odds for the 2020 NFL season.
2021 4-round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB ClemsonIs Gardner Minshew the real deal? The former sixth-round selection received a vote of confidence from the Jacksonville Jaguars over the off-season, moving Nick Foles to Chicago and adding weapons in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Jaguars are currently projected to be selecting early in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if that is the case, selecting a quarterback with one of their two first-round picks may be a priority. With Leonard Fournette out of favor, a running back could be an early consideration while adding an edge rusher would continue the defensive transformation that started with last year's draft.
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) Washington Football Team: Penei Sewell, OT OregonWith Trent Williams departed to the 49ers, there is an undeniable need at offensive tackle for the Washington Football Team at the 2021 NFL Draft. Derrius Guice's dismissal from Washington leaves a hole in the running back room, which will need filling, and for some, the jury is still out on quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Safety Sean Davis will be out of contract at the end of the year, with safety and cornerback being the main defensive priorities.
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.
3) Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase, WR Louisiana StateThe Cincinnati Bengals found their franchise quarterback by selecting Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in last year's draft and will look to build around him as they seek to become a consistent challenger in the AFC North. A raft of wide receivers are due to hit free agency in 2021, including A.J. Green, so adding weapons for Burrow while adding offensive line pieces to help keep him upright will be a priority 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.
4) Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB Ohio StateThe Carolina Panthers 2020 class had Matt Rhule's defensive influence written all over it with zero offensive selections. Expect that to change in 2021. Additions across the offensive line are to be expected for the Panthers, but their 2021 NFL Draft needs will depend heavily on the success of Teddy Bridgewater in his first year with offensive coordinator Joe Brady. If they select early, Bridgewater could be replaced.
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) Miami Dolphins: Micah Parsons, LB Penn StateAfter three selections in last year's first-round, the Miami Dolphins follow up with two first-rounders in the 2021 NFL Draft. Surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talented targets would appear to be the main priority, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see a wide receiver selected early on. Replacing the departed Minkah Fitzpatrick should be a defensive priority, although upgrading the edge rush could also be an option.
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.
6) New York Giants: Shaun Wade, CB Ohio StateA desperate need to create any kind of pass rush could shape how the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft. They lack a true edge rusher but could also use an upgrade at inside linebacker despite adding Blake Martinez in free agency. After drafting Andrew Thomas last year, the Giants may look to address the interior offensive line, which lacks significant depth. Daniel Jones could also use some help at wide receiver.
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.
7) Detroit Lions: Marvin Wilson, DT Florida StateThe Detroit Lions addressed a need at cornerback in 2020 but still have several needs across the defense. The interior defensive line requires attention in the 2021 NFL Draft, and although the coaching staff appears happy with the linebacker group, there is a need there. Several wide receivers are out of contract in 2021, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Lions address that need either.
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.
8) New York Jets: Dylan Moses, LB AlabamaTrading away Jamal Adams means that the New York Jets will have two first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. It would be easy to suggest that they need to replace Adams, but there are needs across the defense, including cornerback and linebacker. Although the Jets drafted Denzel Mims last year, expect wide receiver to be a consideration with one of those two first-round picks.
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.
9) Arizona Cardinals: Creed Humphrey, OC OklahomaThe Arizona Cardinals addressed the defensive side of the ball during last year's draft, with Isaiah Simmons as the jewel in their draft class crown. With several offensive linemen set to hit free agency ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cardinals could seek further protection for franchise quarterback Kyler Murray, while keeping one eye on replacing legendary wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
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.
10) Las Vegas Raiders: Trey Lance, QB North Dakota StateAlthough the Las Vegas Raiders showed a defensive improvement in 2019, and further strengthened their unit through last year's draft and free agency, the front seven could see further additions in the 2021 NFL Draft. There is a sense that Derek Carr is drinking in the last chance saloon in 2020, making quarterback a genuine early option, as is an injection of youth into an aging interior offensive line.
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.
11) Los Angeles Chargers: Patrick Surtain II, CB AlabamaWith the future face of the franchise secured in Justin Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers would be wise to invest in the offensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft, especially as a high number of the current unit will be out of contracts next year. However, with two starting cornerbacks in their thirties, defense could be the first-round direction for the second consecutive season.
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) Atlanta Falcons: Jevon Holland, S OregonWith Takkarist McKinley failing to live up to his first-round selection and scheduled to hit free agency, along with several other defensive ends, the Atlanta Falcons could add an edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft. Even though four of their six picks in 2020 were used on defense, expect further additions to that side of the ball, with safety and linebacker also a potential team need. Could a long term replacement for Julio Jones also be an option?
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.
13) Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR AlabamaJaylen Waddle has had to wait for his opportunity to shine behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, but even with those two to compete for playing time within 2019, there were reasons to believe that Waddle can be an explosive, game-changing playmaker at the next level. Incredible speed and catch ability, combined with the ability to make a man miss in the open field, Waddle could easily be WR1 by the time the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off.
14) Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR MinnesotaThe Chicago Bears had one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2019, and unless there is a remarkable turnaround in 2020, then you can expect sweeping changes across that side of the ball. While quarterback is an obvious area of need, they could also benefit from addressing the wide receiver and interior offensive line. With six cornerbacks set to hit free agency ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bears could add depth at that position.
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 can possesses the hand skills, contested-catch ability, and route running skills to be a threat in the NFL.
15) Denver Broncos: Jackson Carman, OT ClemsonThe Denver Broncos were a prime candidate for one of the top offensive tackle prospects in last year's draft. Ultimately, they opted to select Jerry Jeudy and surround Drew Lock with offensive weaponry, so offensive tackle remains a priority in the 2021 NFL Draft. Additions to the defense, in particular at cornerback and linebacker, are other areas of attention.
Jackson Carman passes the offensive tackle eye test, and by that, I mean he'S a mountain of a man with an aggressive mean streak. Despite his 345 pounds, he shows good athleticism to get to the second level making him an asset in the ground game while showing a solid anchor to be proficient in pass protection. 2019 was his first full season as a starter, and another good year will see his 2021 NFL Draft stock soar.
16) Cleveland Browns: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE MiamiThe additions of Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin over the 2020 off-season means there should be increased protection for Baker Mayfield this season, although it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cleveland Browns address the interior offensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft. Multiple defensive starters are coming up for contract extensions, with edge rusher and linebacker being potential areas of need.
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.