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 Clemson
New head coach, new general manager, and new quarterback? It is practically etched in stone that the first selection of the Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville will be a quarterback. The Jaguars require a complete overhaul in 2021. Thankfully, they have a well-stocked war chest to accomplish that in the 2021 NFL Draft. Expect them to address all three levels of defense. Offensively, tight end and offensive line pieces will be a priority to protect their new face of the franchise.
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 Oregon
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.
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 State
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.
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 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.
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 State
Can the Miami Dolphins follow up their impressive 2020 class with another haul in this 4 round 2021 NFL mock 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.
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 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 this 4 round 2021 NFL mock 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.
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 State
With Matthew Stafford requesting a trade, the Detroit Lions' focus on finding his replacement in this 4 round 2021 NFL mock draft. Multiple teams require a quarterback so the market is heavily in the Lions' favor. Here they, receive the San Francisco 49ers first round pick -- 12th overall -- and a third round pick as the 49ers solve their QB dilemma. With two first round picks, the Lions can add top-level talent at both quarterback and their other offensive area of need, wide receiver. One of the NFL's worst defenses should look to make additions at defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback with the rest of their 2021 NFL Draft selections.
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 Alabama
The New York Jets are a team rich in draft capital and have the second overall pick 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.
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 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 in this 4 round 2021 NFL mock draft.
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 State
Despite impressive performances from Maxx Crosby, the Las Vegas Raiders remain one of the least productive pass-rushing units in the NFL. They should look to address this with either a defensive tackle or EDGE prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Question marks remain over Derek Carr's future in Las Vegas despite some performances that showed promise of a return to his 2016 form. There is a real possibility that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden find his replacement in April.
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 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.
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 Oregon
New Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has a primarily offensive background. However, it is the defense that requires the most work ahead of his first year in charge. Expect the Falcons to address multiple defensive areas in the 2021 NFL Draft, including EDGE, defensive tackle, and cornerback. Finding a long-term replacement for Matt Ryan may be seen as an offensive priority. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them address the running back position given Smith's success running the rock in Tennessee.
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 Alabama
Jaylen 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 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 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 Clemson
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.
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 Miami
Fans and the media following the Cleveland Browns have been crying out for the team to add a linebacker, and they could address the position early in the 2021 NFL Draft. They could also add a pass rusher to create a dominant duo with Myles Garrett. The offensive line has played surprisingly well this season and it would appear the main offensive need in the draft will be a wide receiver, with much speculation over the future of Odell Beckham Jr.
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.