More than half of the 2020 NFL season is over and done with, which means it’s time for another first-round NFL mock draft. Several prospects have shot up boards in the four weeks since my last mock draft. Some have even gone from day two prospects into the top-10 discussion. Such is the nature of the college football season. Not everyone with a promising future makes themselves known the second they step on a football field — some take time to develop.
Newman’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-10
1) New York Jets – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
It doesn’t matter who ends up with the first pick in the draft. Whoever is lucky enough to get the chance to select Trevor Lawrence will not hesitate. Quarterback prospects who are compared to Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and John Elway do not come around every day. Lawrence is as close to a slam dunk pick as a quarterback can be.
Sure the Jets already have Sam Darnold, but Darnold has regressed in 2020 and continues to be injury-prone. He no longer looks like the future of the franchise. Lawrence would offer a hard reset for Joe Douglas and whoever coaches the team in 2021.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Minshew Mania took over Jacksonville, but he’s not a franchise quarterback. The Washington State product was nearly benched early in the season due to poor performances. Minshew struggles against good teams and dominates the bad ones. That’s enough to make him a starting quarterback in the NFL, but not enough to stop the Jaguars from jumping on an elite quarterback prospect.
Justin Fields has been on fire over the first three weeks of his NCAA season. Fields has as many touchdown passes as he does incompletions on the season. Add in his phenomenal athleticism, and it’s easy to fall in love with Fields as a prospect. In any other quarterback class, he’d be the easy number one pick. His bad luck is the Jaguars’ good fortune.
3) Dallas Cowboys – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Cowboys offensive line has anchored their team for nearly a decade. The likes of Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin have given the Cowboys arguably one of the best offensive line units in league history. Those days are gone. Frederick retired, and Smith is declining and hasn’t played a full season since 2015. Terence Steele has started every game at right tackle for the Cowboys, and he’s been arguably the worst offensive tackle in the NFL. That can’t continue in 2021.
Penei Sewell is one of the best offensive line prospects I’ve ever scouted. He can play on the left or the right side, he’s athletic, strong, and nearly perfect technically. He’s a complete and NFL-ready offensive lineman day one.
4) New York Giants – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Giants need to beef up their offense. Daniel Jones has few weapons and an even worse offensive line. They’ve played themselves out of the only top-10 caliber offensive lineman, so they move onto weapons for Jones. Darius Slayton has been an excellent outside receiver, though not a traditional number one, and all the other Giants’ receivers are either better in the slot or unproductive.
That’s where the LSU wide receiver comes in. A potential All-Pro with elite skills across the board, Ja’Marr Chase is a near-perfect wide receiver prospect. Some team will wish he ran a little faster. He’s expected to run in the mid 4.4s, but that’s the only part of this game that isn’t elite. He’s a phenomenal route-runner, he has elite play strength, his YAC ability is among the best in the class, and his contested catch ability might be his best skill. Slayton and Chase could make one of the best receiver pairs in the NFL. If Jones can’t succeed with them, the Giants will know it’s time to move on.
5) Washington Football Team – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Washington Football Team is ready to move on from Dwayne Haskins. Ron Rivera made that abundantly clear when he benched the second-year quarterback after his best performance of the season. Kyle Allen and Alex Smith aren’t the future for this team. Instead, they look towards the fastest rising prospect in college football.
Zach Wilson went from a mid-to-late round prospect before the season to potentially the third quarterback off the board. He did it by showing off his athleticism, elite arm strength, and creativity both inside and outside the pocket. His style of play is sure to remind many evaluators of the likes of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes coming out of school. Wilson seems an easy fit in Washington.
6) Los Angeles Chargers – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Chargers secondary is their one weakness on defense. With Desmond King, Casey Hayward, and Derwin James, it was one of the best units in the NFL. The issue is, the Chargers traded Desmond King prior to the trade deadline, Casey Heyward is 31 years old, and Derwin James has played five games in 2019 and none in 2020. They need help in the secondary.
Enter Patrick Surtain II. Surtain excels in zone coverage due to his natural athleticism and high football IQ. There isn’t a smarter or better technical corner in this class. That makes him an ideal fit for Gus Bradley’s zone heavy defensive scheme.
7) Miami Dolphins (Via Houston Texans) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Emmanuel Ogbah has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 season. Coming into the season, Ogbah had never had six sacks in a season; he has seven in eight games in 2020. But no other Dolphin has more than 2.5 sacks on the year. There is no guarantee that Ogbah’s breakout will be sustainable. That’s why, despite his breakout, edge rusher is still a big need.
Gregory Rousseau is as raw as they come. He doesn’t have well-defined pass rush moves, his technique is all over the place, and he only has one year as a starter under his belt. It doesn’t help that he opted out of the 2020 season. Still, it’s impossible to overlook his dominance. He put up 15.5 sacks in 2019, and he’s going to dominate the combine with eye-popping athleticism. The Dolphins are not passing up a hometown product at a position of need, especially one with Rousseau’s upside, in this first-round NFL mock draft.
8) Cincinnati Bengals – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Bengals’ defense is among the worst in the NFL. They need all the talent they can get. Micah Parsons is the best defensive player on the board at this point.
Micah Parsons is a do-it-all linebacker. He’s phenomenal in coverage, a beast in the running game, and effective as a pass rusher. There’s no phase of the game where he doesn’t excel. A top-five prospect in this class, the Bengals luck into Parsons in this first-round NFL mock draft due to the run of prospects at premium positions.
9) Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Teddy Bridgewater has had a good start to his Panthers’ career, but he’s not the future. Matt Rhule will want to bring in his own quarterback, and Trey Lance is too good to pass on.
Trey Lance is a perfect example of the modern quarterback. An uber-athletic prospect with the pocket presence and arm strength to dominate with his arm if he needs to. Most importantly, he rarely turns the ball over. The only reason Lance is even on the board at nine is because North Dakota State isn’t playing in 2020. As a one year starter at an FCS school, Lance will face questions about his competition and whether or not his dominance in 2019 was a fluke. The Panthers can afford to keep Lance on the bench for a year or two behind Bridgewater, making this an ideal landing spot.
10) Atlanta Falcons – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Falcons’ defense has been a huge disappointment. They have star players at every level and the talent to compete in the NFL, but they haven’t shown it in 2020. One of the major reasons for that is their poor cornerback play.
Caleb Farley fits the Falcons’ prototypical cornerback mold. He’s bigger, incredibly athletic, and has elite ball skills. He’s a raw prospect from a technical standpoint, but that shouldn’t bother the Falcons because they won’t be asking Farley to take over as their number one corner year one. This franchise knows how to develop corners; Farley has the highest ceiling of all the corners in this class.