You can feel it in the air. It’s April, and that means it is NFL Draft month. In a few short weeks, NFL teams will hand in cards and select their future building blocks. With the Senior Bowl and majority of pro days in our rearview mirror, let’s dive into a First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft and see how your favorite team could maneuver the draft board.
Garrett’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I know we can not agree on a lot this time of year, but can we all agree that the Jaguars will not mess this up and get too cute?
Now, I am not saying that Trevor Lawrence is a 100% can’t-miss prospect; he does have his flaws at times. With that being said, he has the highest floor of all the quarterbacks in the draft class and the requisite skill set to help head coach Urban Meyer lead and the Jaguars organization into a bright future.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
In my previous First Round 2021 NFL Mock Drafts, I said the event started at pick No. 2. Given recent events, I think that moves down a slot. Everything points to the Jets being enamored with Zach Wilson and all but have his name on the card.
The gunslinger lit up BYU’s Pro Day and showcased his best trait, making off-platform throws with both pace and precision. He does not come without risk — just like Trey Lance, Wilson only has one year of tape to evaluate.
While Wilson did play in 2019, he did not look like a draftable QB but made massive strides in 2020. Completing 73.5% of his passes for 3,962 yards and 33 touchdowns, the Jets believe he can shine under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
What remains to be seen is what the Jets choose to do with Sam Darnold. Should a team feel they will be too far out of the QB race on draft day, making a trade for Darnold in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick could be the move.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU through MIA): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Here is where the NFL Draft truly begins and where I differ from the recent speculation in my 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. After trading up to pick No. 3, PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline and other well-connected media members believe the 49ers’ target is Alabama’s Mac Jones. PFN’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo also stated the 49ers have “their guy” in mind at No. 3 overall. If you pull off a trade like this, you better have a plan.
I understand the allure of Jones in the Kyle Shanahan system. He can work under center and make quick, decisive, and accurate passes in tight windows. Schematically, Lance makes just as much sense — North Dakota State ran as much under center as they did from the shotgun. To me, this is where Justin Fields comes off the board.
Disregard the bashing he is taking from “anonymous people connected with teams,” who are just taking shots from the sidelines. Fields is a dynamic, game-breaking athlete who can throw it over your head 65 yards and run past you with 4.44 speed.
Care to guess whose picture is the home page for the QB Collective’s website? It sure isn’t Jones. It’s Justin Fields.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Falcons are in an intriguing spot here and could go several ways. They would benefit from an upgrade at nearly every position. After restructuring Matt Ryan’s contract, I feel it is less likely they look at the QB position. After all, he is still playing well and was not the reason for their struggles last season.
Given the depth at other positions in the draft, what they will not find later on is a player who has the talent to become the best ever at his position. Kyle Pitts is just incredible, and there’s no other way around it. No, he is not Calvin Johnson, but he might be the best player we have seen since Megatron last caught passes.
While his designation is TE, Pitts is so much more than that. At 6’6″ and 245 pounds, Pitts ran a 4.44, recorded a 33.5-inch vertical, a 131-inch broad jump, and managed 22 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. His 83.375-inch wingspan is wider than D.K. Metcalf’s receiver record.
Pitts is the player you create in Madden who your friends get mad about and say isn’t realistic. Guess what? He is real and will be a nightmare paired up with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in Atlanta’s offense.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Some people are concerned with Penei Sewell‘s arm length, but I am not one of those people. I mean, the Tyrannosaurus Rex fared pretty well for itself despite having short arms, didn’t they?
After watching Joe Burrow go down with a devastating knee injury, shoring up the offensive line has been a priority for the Bengals. While they did add Riley Reiff in free agency, it should not stop them from bringing in a generational talent such as Sewell.
6. Miami Dolphins (from PHI): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
After a flurry of moves, the Miami Dolphins put themselves in range to get whatever player they had their eyes on at No. 3 overall. Although DeVonta Smith is the Hollywood movie pick, Ja’Marr Chase seems the most logical one in this First Round NFL Mock Draft.
While I have my concerns that have been expressed before, Chase has the traits to be a top-10 receiver in the league before his rookie season is over. If the Dolphins are going to get the most out of him, Tua Tagovailoa needs to be willing to let it rip and give Chase that chance to make a play for him. After having a sensational outing at LSU’s 2021 Pro Day where he registered a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 41-inch vertical jump, and a 132-inch broad jump, it is safe to say Chase won’t make it past Miami.
7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Lions watched Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones leave in free agency and replaced them with Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. That is not going to cut it.
Much has been made of DeVonta Smith‘s reluctance to measure and test at the Senior Bowl and both Alabama Pro Days, but his film does the talking. Smith is a difference-maker who runs the cleanest routes in the class and has more than enough speed to succeed at the NFL level. Add in his wingspan (longer than A.J. Brown’s), Smith presents a large radius for Jared Goff to target.
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Outside of Lawrence, Fields, and Wilson, where the rest of the QBs will fall is highly unpredictable. If Trey Lance is still on the board at pick No. 8, the Panthers should sprint to the podium.
This past week, the Panthers made a splash by trading for New York Jets QB Sam Darnold. However, Panthers’ general manager Scott Fitterer recently affirmed that Carolina might not be done when it comes to the QB market.
“This doesn’t take us out of anything in the draft,” Fitterer said when asked about what the Darnold acquisition means for the team’s draft plans. “It doesn’t take us out of taking a quarterback, it doesn’t take us out of taking any position. What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have.”
By pairing Lance with Darnold, the team has a backup plan in place while also giving Lance time to develop into the potential QB of the future.
9. Washington Football Team (from DEN): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
At No. 9 overall of my First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, we have our first trade.
While Washington added Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, he is not the long-term answer for a team on the precipice of being a serious contender. Denver has several options on the board still and elected to trade down to pick No. 19 in exchange for picks 9, 51, and a 2022 second-round pick.
There is precedent for this move out of Denver. In 2019, they made a similar trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they sent pick No. 10 for picks 20, 52, and a 2020 third-rounder. The Steelers wanted Devin Bush, and the Broncos maneuvered those picks into Noah Fant, Drew Lock, and Lloyd Cushenberry.
Mac Jones has seen his stock soar in recent months and has the arm talent to succeed in the NFL. He shows fantastic accuracy, decision-making, and anticipation. While he is not a mobile QB, he tested well enough to get by but lacks the four previous signal-callers’ upside.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jaycee Horn‘s pro day could not have gone better. He posted one of the best Relative Athletic Scores ever at cornerback with a 9.99 overall. Horn ran a blistering 4.40 40-yard dash, posted a 41.5-inch vertical, a 133-inch broad jump, and threw up 19 reps on the bench.
His elite athleticism and length give him all the makings of the next lockdown CB in the NFL. Dallas is full of weapons, and pairing up Horn with Trevon Diggs would give the Cowboys the strongest 1-2 perimeter pairing in the NFL.
11. New England Patriots (from NYG): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I can feel three different fanbases losing their collective minds with this trade — first, the unlikely pairing. We know the Giants and Patriots’ history, but you can not let the past dictate the future. The Giants have several players on their board and get a decent haul for this pick.
New England sends pick No. 15 and 46 in exchange for pick No. 11, 116, and a 2022 fourth-rounder. The third fanbase upset by this is the Philadelphia Eagles as the player they needed slips from their grasp. Knowing they helped screw over the Eagles will provide a bit of solace for Giants fans.
Although the Patriots attempted to revamp their wide receiver room, their signings were less than impressive. You know what is impressive? Adding Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle to your receiving room. He brings a dynamic element to the Patriots that has been lacking in recent years.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
While the Eagles would love to walk out of here with a pass catcher for Jalen Hurts, the defense also needs help, and they grab the CB1 in many eyes with Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama. A strong, physical corner, Surtain did not see much work in 2020. That’s not a lack of playing time or anything, simply teams avoiding his side of the field. Having gone against the best of the best in the SEC, he has all the traits of a lockdown corner in the NFL and is one of the safest picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers walked out of free agency one of the most improved teams by attacking their offensive line. They added All-Pro center Corey Linsley and acquired guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi. After watching Burrow go down for the Bengals and possessing their own superstar to care for, protecting Justin Herbert was the first, second, and third priority.
Rashawn Slater tested very well at his pro day, even if his arm length left much to be desired. Some analysts and scouts have Slater as their OT1 ahead of Sewell, making this is a phenomenal pick as the Chargers nab their Day 1 starter.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Minnesota is in an intriguing spot here in this First Round 2021 Mock Draft. They can go best available, trade back, or fill a need. The Vikings addressed the IDL and CB groups in free agency, yet the offensive line remains a mess. Following the release of Riley Reiff, Minnesota selects his replacement in Christian Darrisaw.
A four-year starter, Darrisaw was one of the best linemen in the nation last season. He moves well when pulling and is a freight train downhill on run blocks. The Vikings rely on Dalvin Cook as their offense, and Darrisaw will plow the road for him for years to come.
15. New York Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Following Kenny Golladay’s mega-signing, the Giants no longer have to prioritize taking a WR early in the draft. It’s the deepest position here, so grabbing one in Rounds 2 or 3 makes more sense, especially since they have an extra second thanks to the trade back.
While this might seem a bit rich, Kwity Paye‘s upside is incredible. At Michigan’s Pro Day, Paye ran an awe-inspiring 4.54-second 40-yard dash and logged 36 bench press reps. He brings a suddenness and quickness off the line that is unmatched in this draft class, along with an endless motor. New York has assembled a sneaky scary team, and pairing Paye with Leonard Williams makes it even more dangerous.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Cardinals let perennial All-Pro Patrick Peterson walk in free agency, making corner an absolute must in the draft. Caleb Farley was the favorite, but if they are worried about his recent back surgery, Greg Newsome II makes a fantastic selection.
Although a bit raw, he has a tremendous ceiling due to his combination of length, physicality, and speed. Due to a great showing at his pro day, including a 4.39 40-yard dash, Newsome posted a 9.65 Relative Athletic Score.