With college football coming to a close and the 2020 NFL season not too far behind, now is the best time to look at our most recent 2021 NFL first-round mock draft. While there will likely be quite a few changes coming in the final three weeks of the NFL season, as things stand now, here is how we see the first round playing out.
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Ryan Gosling’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-10
1. New York Jets (0-13): Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This is not a pick that will surprise anyone. Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been mocked to the New York Jets since the beginning of the season, and the team has done nothing to dispel any of these rumors. Their current QB, Sam Darnold, has struggled in his third year, both with his health and his play on the field.
Lawrence has been heralded as the most complete QB prospect since Andrew Luck and is a home run pick by an organization that desperately needs a win. Their struggles are likely to continue if they do not make significant organizational changes. Luckily for them, PFN’s NFL Insider Tony Pauline is confident that those changes are coming.
Since nearly the beginning of the 2020 season, Pauline has been reporting that head coach Adam Gase was on thin ice and barring a playoff run, he would be shown the door at the end of the season. Pairing Lawrence with a competent, offensive-minded head coach could propel the Jets in the right direction for 2021.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The reality of the situation is that the top three picks in next year’s draft are fairly predictable. The QB-hungry teams at the top will draft exactly who we expect them to, with only the order of the teams still in play. With the second pick in the draft, the Jaguars are likely to take Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Fields, who has been putting together another impressive season for the Buckeyes, is the kind of dual-threat QB that has found success recently in the NFL. He has the ability to scramble outside of the pocket and use his legs in the same vein as guys like Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson.
While there is always the fear that he could end up being just another Ohio State QB bust, Fields is proving with his play in college that he could finally buck that trend.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Cincinnati Bengals have a solid core of offensive talent in place for the next few years. With Joe Burrow under center, Joe Mixon out of the backfield, and the emergence of Tee Higgins in the passing game, Cincinnati has reason to be optimistic.
Now, in this year’s draft, they need to work on protecting their franchise QB. Burrow was sacked 32 times in 2020 and had the second-lowest time in the pocket on average in the NFL. With the devastating knee injury he suffered against the Washington Football Team, the organization now has no choice but to surround Burrow with the best offensive line possible. That is where Oregon’s Penei Sewell comes into play.
I am not a huge fan of using the words “generational talent” when scouting NFL prospects. It is a phrase that has been thrown around all too often. However, I am comfortable using it when talking about Sewell. He is the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft and will help protect Burrow for years to come. This is one of the easiest selections in this first-round NFL mock draft.
4. Dallas Cowboys (4-9): Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This might come as a surprise to some, but there is a chance that the Cowboys are in the market for a new QB. There is an equally likely chance that the team trades this pick back to one of the other QB-hungry teams. However, if they decide to move on from Dak Prescott because a long-term deal is too hard to reach, Jerry Jones and the Silver and Blue could bring in one of this year’s biggest rising stars in BYU’s Zach Wilson.
Prescott is likely going to command between $35-40 million a year for an extension, and another franchise tag could cost the team somewhere around the same. As we have seen this year, the Cowboys need to invest in their defense. It is historically bad in almost any metric that you want to look at. If they invest another huge chunk of their cap into Prescott, it will be difficult to fix the multiple deficiencies they have on the team.
Wilson is currently having the kind of season that Joe Burrow had two years ago when he skyrocketed up draft boards to become the first overall pick ultimately. He is averaging over 300 yards per game with 26 touchdowns and just two interceptions. If the team can get their offensive line healthy, Wilson could step into arguably the best offensive unit in the NFL with weapons like CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Amari Cooper at his disposal.
5. Carolina Panthers (4-9): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The NFL is a QB-driven league, so it shouldn’t be surprising that we see four QBs taken in the top six of this 2021 first-round mock draft. North Dakota State QB Trey Lance’s stock has dropped in recent months simply because he only played the one FCS game of the season. Had he played a full season like some of these other prospects, he could be competing to be the second QB taken off the board.
The Carolina Panthers have had a better season than most expected, and a lot of that has to do with Teddy Bridgewater keeping them in some close games. However, Bridgewater is not the long-term answer at QB for this team. If head coach Matt Rhule is sitting here at six, he could look to bring in someone he could develop into their franchise QB. Lance could benefit from sitting behind Bridgewater for a year until he is ready to take over the team in 2022.
For a team that is continuing to rebuild under Rhule, Lance would make sense. People may forget that in 2019 Lance threw 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions while rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 more touchdowns. He is the kind of talent that teams cannot pass up on.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-9): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Falcons are in an interesting position. While the team has played better down the stretch under interim head coach Raheem Morris, they have some glaring holes. QB Matt Ryan is starting to show his age, and the defense continues to be awful.
If the Falcons cannot get one of the top QB talents in the draft, they will likely look to tighten up the defense. They could easily go with a CB here, but Micah Parsons also makes a lot of sense. Parsons is a 6’3″, 240-pound linebacker that has athleticism and explosiveness. While he isn’t as talented, his game is akin to Isaiah Simmons, and he could transform the Atlanta front seven into a unit that offenses might take seriously.
7. Miami Dolphins (from Houston 4-9): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Miami Dolphins will look to surround their young QB Tua Tagovailoa with as much talent as possible in this 2021 NFL first-round mock draft. They currently have DeVante Parker as their top option, with Jakeem Grant as their number two. Preston Williams had a breakout season last year but suffered an injury early in 2020, missing the rest of the season.
Bringing in someone like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase would bolster the unit. The team’s defense has proven to be close to elite in the past few weeks. Their only other weakness would be at the RB position, but they wouldn’t invest this high of a draft pick into that position. While the offensive line will be addressed later, the team uses their first pick to bring in a WR who can compete for the WR1 title.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1): Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
For the last few years, the Eagles have had one of the more impressive offensive lines in the NFL, and it was a huge reason why they were able to win the Super Bowl in 2018. However, with the line getting older and suffering several injuries, they need to invest in the once elite positional unit.
Featured | NFL Draft Prospects 2021: Tony Pauline’s updated big board, player rankings
Before making the switch to Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz had been sacked more than any other QB in the NFL. A big part of that was terrible offensive line play. With Hurts now taking over, his mobility will definitely help, but the line still needs to be better. Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis will do just that.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-9): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Los Angeles Chargers need help on the offensive line, but a good options are off the board. HEre, they go with secondary help.
With both Casey Hayward and Chris Harris set to hit free agency after the 2021 season, the Chargers do have some long-term concerns at the cornerback position. Additionally, with Hayward and Harris struggling this year, I don’t envision the team bringing either back.
With the offense already in place with standout rookie QB Justin Herbert, the team needs to fix their biggest weakness: their secondary. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley can step in right away and make an impact.
10. New York Giants (5-8): Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
The New York Giants are one of the tougher teams to figure out in this 2021 first-round mock draft. When looking at what they need to be successful, adding another weapon on their defense resonates. The unit has overperformed in 2020, and adding someone like Gregory Rousseau could take them to the next level.
An elite defense, combined with a capable offense under Daniel Jones and a healthy Saquon Barkley, could help keep the Giants near the top of the NFC East.
NFL Draft | Picks 11-20
11. Detroit Lions (5-8): Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Making this selection in our first-round 2021 NFL mock draft is tough without knowing the future of Detroit’s passing attack. They currently have several wide receivers that will be hitting free agency, including Kenny Golladay. Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, and Marvin Hall are all also free agents at the end of this season.
If Detroit decides not to bring back Golladay on a long-term extension, they would likely draft his replacement here. However, I find that hard to believe. Instead, they bring in another defensive weapon in Florida State’s Marvin Wilson. I was surprised he was still available after the top 10, but he falls into the Lions’ lap at 11.
The Lions are one of the worst teams in the NFL at getting pressure on opposing QBs. Trust me, Wilson will change that.
12. San Francisco 49ers (5-8): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
I know that many 49ers fans were hoping to grab Zach Wilson at this spot to replace the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Unfortunately, the Cowboys ruined any chances of that at five.
Instead, the 49ers opt to fix their secondary. Maybe they get someone like Kyle Trask or Mac Jones in the next round, but for now, they bring in the top CB talent in the 2021 NFL Draft with Patrick Surtain II.
13. Denver Broncos (5-8): Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
The Denver Broncos are at a crossroads. They need to decide whether or not Drew Lock is going to be their franchise QB. I tend to believe that he can be. PFN’s NFL Insider Ben Allbright has said adamantly that the team will not draft a QB, but instead, bring in a veteran to compete for the position and light a fire under Lock.
With QB off the table, and the team already boasting one of the most impressive wide receiving corps in the NFL when healthy, the Broncos focus on their secondary.
14. Minnesota Vikings (6-7): Creed Humphrey, G, Oklahoma
The top CBs going off the board right before the Vikings get to make their pick will frustrate Minnesota fans. Either Wade or Surtain would have been glorious in this spot. Unfortunately, the team will now need to look elsewhere.
The Vikings’ offense revolves around Dalvin Cook and their ability to run the ball. Bringing in Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, who is as versatile as he is talented, will help them do that. With Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen locked in as the team’s top WRs, offensive line help rounds out the roster the best.
15. Chicago Bears (6-7): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Chicago Bears could be without pending free agent WR Allen Robinson next season. And according to his social media, the odds of that happening are quite high. The team will use their first-round pick in this 2021 NFL mock draft to bring in his replacement. Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle is extremely talented and is versatile enough to be lined up in the slot or the outside.
While this might not help the Bears’ current QB situation, if Trubisky is still under center next year, Waddle will complement him well enough for him to possibly save his job.
16. New England Patriots (6-7): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Patriots selected a pair of tight ends – UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene – in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Neither one of those prospects has worked out all that well, so the team goes back to the TE well in 2021.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts is the top TE in this year’s class, and some have even argued he is the top receiving option in the draft. Now, that is a tad excessive, but I believe that Pitts can transform an offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the team in receiving yards next season.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7): Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Dylan Moses is a dominant linebacker that can be used to stop the run or in pass coverage. In a division that includes Patrick Mahomes and now Justin Herbert, he would make a welcome addition to a Raiders defense that will need to upgrade if they want to be a serious contender.
18. Baltimore Ravens (8-5): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
With the other two big WRs having already been taken earlier in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens will have to “settle” for Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman.
Bateman will be terrifying in this offense because of his big play ability. In 2019, he was averaging 20 yards per reception. Pairing him with Lamar Jackson could give the mobile QB a reason to start throwing the ball downfield a bit more.
19. Washington Football Team (6-7): Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
The Washington Football Team has a QB conundrum at the moment. Dwayne Haskins has now been relegated to the bench. Alex Smith is their current starter, but injury is always a concern with him. They also have Kyle Allen on the roster, but he is not the answer long-term. The reality is that they need to find a new franchise guy.
Florida’s Kyle Trask is the top QB option left on the board once the others are taken in the top 10. He has enjoyed the kind of meteoric rise that Joe Burrow had last year, and Zach Wilson is seeing this year. He is currently near the top of most Heisman Trophy conversations and has had an impressive year with Florida.
20. Arizona Cardinals (7-6): Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Taking a look at this first-round NFL mock draft, I had a hard time picking someone for the Cardinals. Looking at the roster, they don’t have many holes. They could go after a running back, quite a few mocks have Travis Etienne going to Arizona, but I see them focusing more on their defense.
Oregon safety Jevon Holland will improve their secondary with his versatility.
Ryan Gosling’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 21-32
21. Miami Dolphins (8-5): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
With their second pick in this 2021 NFL mock draft, the Miami Dolphins bring in another weapon to help Tua and their offense. In the past two seasons, the Dolphins have been absolutely terrible on the ground. Their current bullpen of Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, and Patrick Laird simply hasn’t cut it.
Travis Etienne is arguably the top RB prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. This year, Etienne has 758 rushing yards and 12 TDs in 10 games. He has also proven to be an asset in the passing game for Trevor Lawrence. With their two picks in the first round, Miami puts the weapons in place to ensure their new franchise QB’s success.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Fun fact, Chris Godwin is a free agent this year. Another fun fact? The Buccaneers have much of their cap tied up in Tom Brady and Mike Evans.
If Godwin ends up being a casualty of limited cap space, they could look to the draft to replace him. Luckily for them, in this 2021 NFL first-round mock draft, one of the best WRs in college football falls to them at 22.
DeVonta Smith is having another great season at Alabama. A case can be made for him to be the first WR off the board, but the competition for WR1 is quite close this year. This pick could be an absolute steal for Tampa Bay.
23. Indianapolis Colts (9-4): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Colts have found a way to reinvigorate the career of Xavier Rhodes after what can only be described as an awful final season in Minnesota. However, they need help on the other side of the field, and they find it with South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. Not only is he one of the best CBs, but he is also one of the best athletes left in our 2021 first-round mock draft.
24. Cleveland Browns (9-4): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
If you look at the Cleveland Browns LB unit, you will see that they lack upper-echelon talent. As was evident in their most recent loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the team needs an upgrade at this position.
One of the more interesting prospects available in the first round is Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame. Even though he is undersized for a traditional linebacker, Owusu-Koramoah can play the same kind of hybrid linebacker/safety role that someone like Jamal Adams has perfected.
25. New York Jets (from Seattle 9-4): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The New York Jets have a plethora of holes on their roster, which is a big reason why they haven’t won a game this year. The team has already fired their defensive coordinator this year and will look for answers on that side of the ball.
In this 2021 NFL first-round mock draft, they get one of the top edge prospects available. Michigan’s Kwity Paye is one of the team’s bright spots during a season that they would likely rather forget. The team could also look to shore up their offensive line here to protect their new franchise QB, but I think they look to improve the defensive side of the ball first.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LA Rams 9-4): Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Like the New York Jets, the Jaguars also have many holes on their roster. They could use this pick to improve their defense, offensive line, or even add another receiving option. Basically, the only position they won’t need to draft here is running back, thanks to the breakout season James Robinson is having.
In this mock, they take the best available talent in my opinion, which is Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield. With a mobile QB in place and with a heavy focus on the run game, bringing in a right tackle that the team can have confidence in will be paramount. Mayfield is that guy.
27. Tennessee Titans (9-4): Jay Tufele, DT, USC
As PFN’s Mike Tanier pointed out in his most recent mock draft, the Titans felt the loss of defensive tackle Jurrell Casey this year. For a team that has been famous for their tough defenses, they have struggled up the middle this season. Tufele is a ridiculous athlete for his impressive size (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) and can line up at multiple spots on the interior defensive line.
28. Buffalo Bills (10-3): Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The surprise team of 2020, the Buffalo Bills come into this draft with few glaring weaknesses. One position they will look to improve is their secondary. They already have a lockdown corner in Tre’Davious White on one side of the field, and now, they get to bring in someone to star opposite him. Georgia’s Eric Stokes thrives on the outside, with the length necessary to lineup man-on-man against bigger wide receivers.
29. Green Bay Packers (10-3): Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
Green Bay has needed a solid linebacker to defend against tight ends or running backs in man coverage for a long time. North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt can do just that; in his first season at linebacker in 2019, Surratt registered 115 tackles, including 15 for loss. He continued his success this year and strives in the middle of the field.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2): Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
In last year’s NFL draft, we saw only one running back taken off the board in the first round. This year, there are going to be two. With Etienne going earlier to the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers take the next best option in Alabama’s Najee Harris.
The Steelers already have some capable backs on their roster; unfortunately, their main guy, James Conner, struggles to stay healthy consistently.
Tanier said it best when he called Harris “Derrick Henry with better hands.”
Someone as talented as Henry, who is on his way to his second consecutive rushing title, is a scary thought with the bonus of being an elite pass-catcher. If Harris is all that he is being made up to be, he could easily take over this backfield.
31. New Orleans Saints (10-3): Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
The offseason is going to be interesting for the New Orleans Saints. They will be right up against the salary cap and will need to make some tough choices. They need to bring in guys in this draft that will make immediate impacts. The Saints do not have the time to wait for their rookie class to develop.
Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen is one of the more complete players available this far into the draft and will be able to start right away. Malcolm Jenkins has lost a step or two in the last few years, and Nasirildeen should be a welcomed addition to this defense.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1): Josh Myers, OT, Ohio State
Who can you possibly mock to the Kansas City Chiefs at this point? If they are selecting here, it is likely because they just won their second Super Bowl in a row and continue to dominate with Patrick Mahomes.
Realistically, what would make the most sense here is bringing in another player to add to their offensive line. They did invest $500 million dollars into their franchise QB, they might as well continue trying to protect him.
Ohio State’s Josh Myers could fit that bill. In our most recent college football live blog with Tony Pauline, Pauline mentions that Myers is likely to enter this year’s draft and could receive a junior invite to the Senior Bowl. Myers, a four-star prospect, could be an asset on this offensive line.