2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 12-22
12. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The 49ers have needs on both sides of the ball and at pretty much every level aside from wide receiver. That puts the team in the middle of the first round with plenty of options. I was tempted to give the 49ers Kyle Pitts, the tight end out of Florida. I’d like to see how much trouble that would cause opposing defensive coordinators, but instead, I went a different route.
I gave the Detroit Lions a new signal-caller in this First Round NFL Mock Draft despite their trade for Jared Goff. Likewise, I am giving a quarterback to the 49ers despite no trade yet involving Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo’s lack of elite traits and inability to work under pressure or outside of the structure will prevent the 49ers from being a legitimate threat in the NFC West. The division has seen plenty of change already this offseason and could see more.
Trey Lance is an incredible athlete with the ball in his hands. The moment he decides to tuck and run, the defense faces a business decision defensive coordinators hate preparing for. He may require some seasoning as a passer, as the jump from NDSU to the NFL is a big one. Still, he showed the traits to succeed as a passer and a runner, as well as the ability to take care of the football and not make mistakes. Those are all traits the 49ers need at QB.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Los Angeles Chargers landed one of the biggest surprises of 2020 in Justin Herbert. It’s not that many saw him as a bad prospect, just that few saw him being as good as he was as early as he was.
This opens up new avenues for the Chargers in 2021, as they aren’t left wondering if their highly drafted QB is good. Now, they’ve just got to figure out how to make his life as easy as possible. Obviously, that’s not just getting him weapons. It’s also giving him protection and making sure his defense can keep him ahead in games.
Christian Darrisaw is a guy that hits a lot of thresholds. He’s got the size and arm length that franchises like in their blindside protectors. In addition, he has the technique and coachability that an offensive coordinator will pound the table for.
Darrisaw could probably stand to put on some muscle and get better at dealing with power. At the same time, the upside of this guy cannot be overstated. With Justin Herbert hitting everything the team needs so far, they’ve got to invest in ensuring he stays upright. Darrisaw certainly does that.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The NFC North has seen power flipping from one team to another year after year. It’s tough to keep ahead in a competitive division. In 2020, it looked like Mike Zimmer would retool a few positions and try to inject some youth onto his defense.
It’s a tactic that had some success. In addition, it had some pretty predictable drawbacks. Thus, leading to the team having needs at every level on that side of the ball. They may have to get creative in the 2021 NFL Draft to make it work again.
The Vikings went out of their way in 2020 to revamp their CB room by drafting Jeff Gladney in the first and Cameron Dantzler in the third. However, Zimmer has never been shy about turning a screw until it’s tight.
Having a talent like Jaycee Horn sitting in the middle of this First Round NFL Mock Draft, and with so few defenders rated anywhere near him, this is a simple choice. The Vikings pick the best player in an area of need who will put it all out on the field.
Horn has the size and length that Zimmer normally craves, but he also brings some athleticism that the 2020 selections lack. This should allow him to put the best matchups on the field every play and allow him to get creative with his front seven. Play-calling versatility is a situation he thrives in.
15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
While I’m sure he’d like to pick up some primo line picks and get back to basics, the New England Patriots’ clearest deficiency was at quarterback and their skill positions. With the top four quarterbacks off the board and decision-makers smart enough not to reach for need even at quarterback, I don’t think this ends up being a tough call for the Patriots, given who’s left on the board in this First Round NFL Mock Draft.
This seems criminal giving a weapon like Jaylen Waddle to a coach like Bill Belichick. However, with Tom Brady down in Tampa winning a Super Bowl, we finally got to see what Bill is like when the cracks are showing.
Waddle is a top-10 player on my board. His fall, though, isn’t entirely unbelievable, even if I was allowing for trades. Speed for days and one of the most athletic prospects in the class, injuries have plagued Waddle for years. In truth, those concerns are unlikely just to vanish. The Patriots have shown a willingness to take those sorts of risks on upside. So, they take a deep threat to stretch the field vertically on offense.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
Few teams show their needs as blatantly as the Arizona Cardinals did in 2020. Sure, they could use some help on defense, such as improving their pass rush. Yet, the offensive line is the first, second, and third problem with the Cardinals roster right now for a reason.
Someone has to protect your quarterback. You don’t draft a guy who can run and work outside of structure just to demolish the structure and watch him flee for his life every play.
There is some talk of Alijah Vera-Tucker moving inside as a pro. This mostly has to do with his size as he’s only about 6’4” and 300 pounds. However, I think if you have a guy this athletic, you want to give him a shot to win at his natural position first.
With the Cardinals’ needs on the offensive line, they can afford to have a guy play at tackle. Then, if it doesn’t look like he’s working out, move him inside. They also need some serious athletes on that line if they’re going to be blocking for someone like Kyler Murray, and AVT looks like one of the better athletes in the class.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Another team with question marks at quarterback. The Raiders are also a team I think might reach for someone like Mac Jones if they decide they’re moving on from Derek Carr. There’s some irony in that since they’re largely the same player, but I digress. The Raiders also need help at every level of their defense. That makes it more likely they go after help on that side of the ball no matter who they take in this First Round NFL Mock Draft.
Micah Parsons is an interesting prospect, as he’s a larger linebacker with pass-rushing upside in a league largely moving towards backers who can cover. He would allow the Raiders to get more creative on the defensive side of the ball, however.
Parsons can line up nearly anywhere and find ways to assist both against the run and the pass. There are some very serious character concerns to consider. However, Parsons is considered the top linebacker in this class for a reason when you’re talking about his on-field play.
18. Miami Dolphins: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
As mentioned with their previous pick in this First Round NFL Mock Draft, this team is headed in the right direction on defense. Therefore, I think they’ll largely concentrate on depth on that side of the ball.
On offense, the team will need some weapons for Tua, having committed to him for the immediate future. Having covered protection with the first pick, it’s time to get him some weapons.
The choice here came down to Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, both of whom are Florida prospects that I’m sure the team is familiar with. While Pitts is the better prospect by some margin, there’s enough overlap with what Mike Gesicki provides the team and what they’d get from Pitts.
As such, there’s better value in getting someone like Toney. His ability to play wide receiver like a running back with the ball in his hands should open up some fun play-calling opportunities for the team’s pair of offensive coordinators.
19. Washington Football Team: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Washington managed to make the playoffs in their division despite some roster dysfunction that would normally doom such an endeavor. It does mean the team is in a bit of a better position roster-wise. On the other hand, it also means the team is in a worse position to land elite talent due to picking later in the round. With needs everywhere except the trenches, it is a bit hard to find someone that can make an immediate impact barring a significant drop.
Like the breaks that helped Washington into the playoffs, positional value and team needs saw our last top-ten player left on the board fall all the way to them here at 19. One of the best overall players in this draft; some teams consider Kyle Pitts a receiver rather than just a tight end.
His value is going to be viewed in the same way by some. He should provide a boost to Taylor Heinicke in 2021 and either him or someone else as the franchise moves forward.
20. Chicago Bears: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
While the Bears are busy trying to swing trades for a new quarterback for 2021, the possibility they are unable to do so still lingers. Likewise, it’s possible they lose out on one of the elite talents at quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Indeed, likely given their draft slot, it leaves them with other options to pursue in this First Round NFL Mock Draft.
While all of their primary needs are on offense, the board simply didn’t fall well for Chicago here. As a result, I was left choosing between tackle Sam Cosmi and edge rusher Azeez Ojulari.
Ojulari notched 9.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore in 2020. What’s more impressive is he did so in only ten games. Georgia has a reputation for developing elite athletes as well, something the Bears have favored on that side of the ball. If they are looking to grab an edge who can improve their pass rush from day one, Ojulari is a good choice.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
With both Andrew Luck and now Anthony Costanzo retired, the Indianapolis Colts have to find a way to catch up at two of the most important positions on the field. They can’t fill those spots with stop-gap veterans every year. Their aggressiveness at seeking a trade this offseason shows that they’re aware of it. Their stinginess with draft assets, however, shows they’re frugal.
Now that the team has managed to bring in Carson Wentz while also keeping their first-round pick, the focus needs to shift to their offensive line. Protecting the oft-injured Wentz should be their top priority.
Samuel Cosmi is an odd one this draft period, as there’s nothing in his tape or profile that would suggest he’s falling off of anyone’s board. On the contrary, there’s nothing that stands out as such an elite trait that people are banging the table for him. It reminds me somewhat of Taylor Decker a few years back. Although not sexy, that pick certainly worked out for the Lions. Quietly good is still good.
22. Tennessee Titans: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
On offense, the Tennessee Titans like to punch you in the mouth and laugh while you cry. It’s a shame their defense doesn’t have the same level of toughness and talent. While the team could probably use a few more toys on offense, I don’t think the decision-makers will value those positions all that much. Not when they can improve the talent on the defensive side of the ball and have better results faster.
Christian Barmore is the best defensive tackle in a weak defensive tackle class. That shouldn’t take away from how talented he is as a player. Yet, it’s likely going to be a common narrative.
It may raise some eyebrows taking someone like Barmore only a year after taking Jeffery Simmons in the first round. Yet, think of it as taking two complementary players. One will eat space, while the other wrecks shop. That type of strength on defense right after the offense punched you in the jaw is how you deliver knockouts in the NFL.