In case you haven’t noticed, the NFL’s offseason is in full swing, and moves are being made seemingly every day. Every decision teams make now directly affects the landscape of the 2021 NFL Draft. While we are still over two months away, it’s my turn back at the dish, and we are going to run through another 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft to see how things might shake out in April.
In my previous 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft, I employed chaos theory. I played into the “what if” side of things and postulated on a potential Deshaun Watson trade. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to see it. However, it seems both camps have their heels firmly dug into the Texas dirt and are in a $150 million staring contest.
In this 2021 First Round Mock Draft, I placed some personal opinions on the side; I went with what we’re hearing about how some of these NFL teams are valuing players. Anyway, enough rambling. More picking. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock.
2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Some things never change, and this is one of them. Ever since the Jaguars locked up the first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence‘s name was written in pen.
Sure, Urban Meyer still has his roots firmly placed in Columbus, Ohio, but I can’t see him passing up on Trevor Lawrence for Justin Fields. Nothing is left to say about Lawrence that hasn’t been said yet, so I will save you from my ramblings and get on to the fun start. Honestly, the second pick of the 2021 NFL Draft is where the fun really begins.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
While I have Fields ranked higher in my grading, there is simply too much smoke to avoid at this point. We know that Robert Saleh and the Jets have some massive evaluations to do across the board, especially when it comes to Sam Darnold. There is no question their phone will be blowing up with teams trying to trade up for this pick.
If Sam Darnold is indeed traded, Zach Wilson is the pick here for the Jets. Wilson made a gigantic step forward in his development from 2019 to 2020 and looked like a completely different QB. He can get power behind throws when off-platform that few people on this planet can. There is a certain moxie that he exudes on the field that makes you think he can succeed under the bright lights of New York. Wilson is a fantastic fit in the Shanahan-style offense the Jets will employ.
3. Carolina Panthers (projected trade w/ Miami Dolphins): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Panthers make their move for their QB of the future, and the Dolphins add more picks to their arsenal. Carolina receives pick #3 and, in exchange, sends Miami picks #8, #73, and their 2021 first-round selection.
Passing on Fields for Trey Lance might seem like a head-scratcher to some. While the Panthers have continuously been linked to a QB in mock drafts, whoever they take will likely not start in Week 1. The battle between Lance and Fields is as close as it gets. They both have cannons for arms and are the two best dual-threat QBs in the 2021 NFL class.
For my money, I think Lance has the highest ceiling between the two players. What he did as a freshman was unheard of, and if you like guys who don’t lose or turn the ball over, Lance is your guy.
Teddy Bridgewater is under contract for two more years with a potential out after the 2021 season and can serve as a bridge to their future signal-caller. The Panthers spent every pick on defense last year, and despite their youth, eight of their 11 losses were one-score games.
They are not far away from making noise in the NFC South, and with crowds back (hopefully) in 2021, it won’t be long until fans are clamoring in the stands to see Lance running an RPO with Christian McCaffrey while having the option to pull it and throw to a streaking D.J. Moore. That will be a thing of beauty.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Falcons are more than one piece away from competing. There will be the temptation to move back and acquire assets. They won’t be lacking for options, either. Quarterback, for now, is not a must-get as Matt Ryan played well enough and carries a sizable chunk of cap space until 2023. If they choose not to trade out of this pick, selecting the heir apparent is the prudent move here for the Falcons, and they get the hometown kid here at No. 4.
There is talk of Justin Fields struggling with reads, but I don’t buy that at all. Ask Brent Venables if that is the case, and I am sure he will share the opinion. Fields is the perfect fit in this 2021 NFL First Mock Draft in a heavy-run-and-play-action-style offense. There is nothing that you can critique in his game that can not be coached, and it will not surprise me to see Fields become a top-six QB in this league in a few years.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
For the Bengals, this is the best-case scenario. When they turn in this card, you will be able to hear an audible exhale.
Outside of Lawrence, this is the closest thing to a lock in the 2021 NFL Draft so long as Penei Sewell is still there. The Bengals struggled all season protecting Joe Burrow, and moving forward their primary goal is to invest in protecting him. That starts now with a tackle who will protect Burrow’s blindside while mauling defenders.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Most 2021 NFL mock drafts have the Eagles taking a WR here; usually, it is Ja’Marr Chase. While I think Chase is good, we know this is a deep class for receivers, and they can address it in another round. There will not be a game-breaking tight end who might be the best overall player in this entire class at a position with the shallowest depth of talent.
Kyle Pitts is the highest-graded tight end I have ever scouted, and what he brings to an offense can not be overstated. Pitts is 6-foot-6 and can line up in the slot like a WR1 for nearly every team in the NFL.
The Eagles could look at QB if they are not entirely sold on Jalen Hurts, but I believe in his skill set. He should have a year to prove himself. Very rarely do we see rookie QBs have seasons like Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow did last year. More times than not, they struggle. Hurts was thrust onto a team with a decimated offensive line and devoid of playmakers. He made everyone look better. That spark will carry over into 2021.
The combination of Hurts, Miles Sanders, Jalen Reagor, and Kyle Pitts is one to be feared.
7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Sitting at pick No. 7 in this 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft, to have whom many call the WR1 of the class fall to them has Lions fans ecstatic. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are slated to become free agents, and after trading for Jared Goff, they need to give him pass catchers.
Ja’Marr Chase plays bully-ball with defenders. He has hand strength that boards on arrogant levels and has a physicality to match. While not a burner, his speed is more than enough to be a threat, and he is not someone who ever goes down with arm tackles.
8. Miami Dolphins (projected trade w/ Carolina Panthers): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Not only do the Dolphins add an extra third-rounder and a first in 2022, but they also get one of the best WRs in the class.
Even when the entire world knew DeVonta Smith was getting the ball, he still put up nearly 200 yards a game. He broke almost every SEC record and became the first WR since Desmond Howard in 1991 to win the Heisman. To pair him up with former Alabama teammate and QB Tua Tagovailoa is the dream scenario, especially for a team that just went 10-6.
9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Broncos are sitting in a fantastic spot in the draft, as they have all of the top options for their defensive needs. A cornerback is undoubtedly a possibility here, but Micah Parsons is still on the board, and many call him the best defensive player in this draft. It seems inevitable that Von Miller is out of town, and a decision is looming on Bradley Chubb’s fifth-year option.
With his explosiveness and 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, Parsons has the size and range to be a force downfield and can roam the second level. He is also just as comfortable as a pass rusher, giving Vic Fangio all the flexibility he could want in his first-round pick.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley showed in 2019 that he can be an elite, lockdown corner and bring fantastic size to the position. After allowing 34 passing TDs last year, the Cowboys still need help on the secondary.
Pairing Farley with Trevon Diggs gives them two fantastic perimeter corners for the future.
11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Dave Gettleman could go several ways with this pick. I could easily see him going Kwity Paye with this pick, but Daniel Jones needs weapons. You will be hard-pressed to find a more game-breaking wide receiver than Jaylen Waddle in this year’s 2021 NFL Draft class.
Waddle can do it all. He lined up all over the field while at Alabama and is a dangerous returner. Waddle destroys angles and has a speed that will rival Tyreek Hill. His acceleration coming out of breaks is just as elite as his second and third gear.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
It is clear the 49ers are not happy with Jimmy Garoppolo and would have been calling the whole time trying to move up. After watching the first four go, they stick it out with Garoppolo and focus on other needs. One of those needs is at cornerback.
In lieu of a QB, they walk away with possibly the best cornerback in the class in this 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft. Patrick Surtain II can step in and be their No. 1 corner from the jump.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
There is enough smoke coming out of NFL circles to think Rashawn Slater is being viewed as the best tackle in this class by several teams. The Chargers have their QB for the next decade, and to make that happen, he needs protecting.
The Chargers need help on the offensive line at every spot except maybe right tackle with Bryan Bulaga. If someone does not trade ahead of Los Angeles to snag Slater, the Chargers get themselves perhaps the gem of the first round in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama
The Minnesota Vikings have major questions across their defensive line. As a 6-foot-5, 310-pound defensive tackle, Christian Barmore possesses exceptional quickness with excellent strength. He brings the aggressiveness that the Vikings need at the three-technique.
If not Barmore, I could see them selecting Gregory Rousseau to address their issues at edge rusher.
15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Cam Newton experiment failed, and if they do not address the position in free agency, they will in the draft. In my 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft, I have Mac Jones coming in to be the face of the franchise.
I like Mac Jones more than most and believe he is absolutely a first-round talent. While he will never be mistaken for a mobile QB, he has great pocket awareness and is aggressive with the football. The Patriots have the third-most cap space ($62.21 million) and need to use that on adding offensive weapons if Jones or any QB is going to succeed.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Arizona needs to get better on the perimeter, especially given the wide receiver talent they have to face six games a year. Patrick Peterson struggled at times down the stretch and will be a free agent in 2021. However, he is a likely candidate to get a franchise tag rather than be allowed to walk.
Jaycee Horn walks in as the immediate heir apparent. He has a great blend of size, length, and athletic ability to be the team’s CB1 moving forward. This selection is one of the best in my 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft in terms of fit and need.