With the Super Bowl less than a week away, we release our most recent First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. How will the Matthew Stafford trade impact the first round? How did the Senior Bowl change the NFL Draft stock of some of the more notable players? Let’s find out!
And after reading this First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, you can start one of your own with PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator!
First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Round One
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
You would be hard-pressed to find a mock draft that doesn’t have Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team brought in Urban Meyer as their head coach for the sole purpose of coaching up one of the most sought after draft prospects of the last decade. Lawrence is currently a -2000 favorite to be taken first overall at most sportsbooks.
2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The New York Jets are a bit of an enigma to me. They drafted Sam Darnold third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he hasn’t accomplished much considering the draft capital invested in him. However, he has also been playing with one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and a questionable receiving corps.
It is likely that the team goes back to the QB well and selects either Justin Fields or Zach Wilson. It is also possible that the team decides to trade back and use their new ammunition to bring in offensive and defensive line help.
In this First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, I have them going with Fields. Yes, Fields came up short against Alabama in the National Championship Game with a somewhat underwhelming performance. However, it doesn’t negate the quality of play he’s shown throughout his career.
3. Detroit Lions (Projected trade with the Miami Dolphins via HOU): Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Detroit Lions just completed one of the more shocking trades in the NFL by sending longtime starting QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in return for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick. They now head into the season with Goff and one of the worst defenses and offensive lines in the NFL.
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On draft day, they make another surprising move, trading up with the Miami Dolphins to grab BYU’s Zach Wilson. Unless the Detroit Lions think that Goff really is the answer long-term, they will still be in the QB market. This way, Wilson can sit behind Goff for a year until the Lions have the ability to get out of Goff’s contract.
This also is beneficial for Miami, who can now add to their plethora of draft picks, adding another first-rounder next year. Why do they need so many first-round draft picks? You are about to find out!
4. Atlanta Falcons: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
With both Fields and Wilson going in the top three, this is a worst-case scenario for Atlanta. With a draft pick this high, the team would probably have liked to grab their QB of the future. Considering they also spent two first-round picks last year on the offensive line, this selection might seem redundant.
However, Penei Sewell is a special talent and will impact any line that he joins. The team will go all-in on protecting Matt Ryan for one more year and hope that he can capitalize on his impressive weapons to take this team back to the playoffs in 2021.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
In most mock drafts, the Bengals get lucky enough to draft Sewell to shore up their o-line and help protect Joe Burrow. However, with Sewell going one pick earlier, they will need to look at the next best OL prospect available in Rashawn Slater.
Even though Slater opted out of the 2020 season for the Wildcats, the tape he put up the year before was nothing short of spectacular. He would make for a decent enough consolation prize for the Bengals.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The debate for WR1 between DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle will likely rage on right up until draft day. In this First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles decide Smith’s performance at the end of the year was enough to make him the top WR in this year’s draft.
7. Houston Texans (projected trade with the Miami Dolphins): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Miami Dolphins remain aggressive in this mock draft, trading both of their 2021 first-round draft picks in addition to their first in 2022 acquired from their trade with Detroit and QB Tua Tagovailoa to Houston for Deshaun Watson.
Watson has made it clear that he wants out. Now, it is simply going to be up to management to decide if they are willing to cut ties for a treasure trove of draft picks or continue to try to convince Watson to stay. Miami will offer enough to persuade them to move on and start to rebuild.
With Tua now under center, the team needs to build around him. With a weak WR corps that stars the oft-injured Will Fuller (possible free agent if Texans don’t re-sign), the Texans bring in LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. Chase is the most complete WR in this year’s draft, with impressive route running ability. He will make an impact on his first day with the team.
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Carolina Panthers currently have Teddy Bridgewater as their starting QB. He wasn’t terrible last year, but he didn’t really do enough to cement his spot as the long-term answer for Carolina. Instead, the team looks to bring in North Dakota State’s Trey Lance to compete for the starting spot.
Lance likely won’t be ready to take over in year one, but with some time on the bench behind Bridgewater, he should be able to learn enough to put him in a good spot in the coming years.
9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
This selection is almost as certain as Trevor Lawrence going to the Jacksonville Jaguars first overall for me. Caleb Farley is the perfect CB prospect for the Denver Broncos and is arguably the best secondary prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. He will fit in perfectly under Vic Fangio.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys will need to shore up their defense if they want to be contenders in the NFC. This offseason, the team hopes to iron out Dak Prescott’s contract situation and turn their attention to positions that desperately need to be upgraded. Even if the defense started to perform better near the end of the year, the secondary needs help.
Alabama’s Patrick Surtain will be able to step in and provide an immediate impact. The NFC East is wide open next year, with each of the teams facing some substantial question marks. Dallas cannot expect to win games if they consistently let their opponents score over 30 points a game.
11. New York Giants: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
Some might argue that the top 15 might be a bit high for Miami’s Gregory Rousseau. I disagree. The New York Giants are going to have to face off against two of the tougher offenses in the NFL next season in Dallas and Philadelphia. They need to get better on defense.
The one spot the Giants’ defense was good at last year was rushing the QB with 40 sacks (tied for 10th most with Indianapolis). Now, add in Rousseau, who is a phenomenal pass rusher with 15.5 sacks in his redshirt freshman season.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The San Francisco 49ers are in a precarious position. There were rumors that they were looking to replace Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason with Matthew Stafford, but that never came to fruition. There was then talk about a possible Kirk Cousins trade, but that also has not happened.
Instead, the team is staring down the barrel with Jason Verrett, Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, and Ahkello Witherspoon all slated to be unrestricted free agents.
They need to figure out a long-term solution to their secondary, and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn is a step in the right direction. This pick could also be used on a WR, either Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase would be good options, but I think they look to help a potentially depleted defense first.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Los Angeles Chargers had a top-10 offense last year thanks to the quick development of Justin Herbert. Now, after adding receivers in the third and seventh-round in 2020, they use their top-15 pick to bring in Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle.
Waddle is one of the fastest receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft and will allow the Chargers to really stretch the field. The Chargers still need to work on their offensive line, but an opportunity to bring in Waddle is too good to pass up.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Minnesota Vikings struck draft gold last year by bringing in Justin Jefferson. Can they find the same success this time around?
In this First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, instead of focusing on offense, the Minnesota Vikings will look to improve what was one of the worst pass-rushing units in the NFL last year. Michigan’s Kwity Paye is coming off of a season where he only played in four games but was still able to register 22 pressures. He should be able to step in and make an immediate impact.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Not much that needs to be said here. The Jacksonville Jaguars will draft Trevor Lawrence, and the New England Patriots will draft a big, explosive playmaker at tight end. Florida’s Kyle Pitts fits the bill perfectly and will give whoever is the QB for the Patriots a reliable weapon.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
The Arizona Cardinals have both veteran CBs Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick on the free agent market this season. If the team decides to move on from both of them, they will need to find some depth. Some might think that Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu is a bit of a stretch here at 16, but with the top three CBs gone (Surtain, Farley, and Horn), they guarantee the next best option.