With the 2020 NFL season in the rearview mirror and free agency on the horizon, how does the latest 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft shape up heading into March? Let’s take a look through the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and see where players could wind up as teams look to fill needs and set themselves up for the future.
2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
While there has been some talk in the past week that Zach Wilson could have surpassed Trevor Lawrence, it seems unlikely the Jaguars will deviate. Trevor Lawrence is a near consensus number one prospect in 2021 and one of the best of the last decade at the QB position. It would be a massive shock if the Jaguars took anyone other than Lawrence on draft day.
2. New York Jets: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
What the Jets do is still very much up in the air. However, there is a growing sentiment that Sam Darnold may not be done in New York. Darnold has struggled, but illness, injury, and an ineffective offensive line has not helped.
The Jets have the chance to draft a talented offensive tackle in Penei Sewell and set their offensive line up for success. While taking a QB would not be out of the question, doing so without addressing the other significant needs first could mean the same cyclical struggle at QB for the Jets.
3. Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
If an offer is there for Miami to trade down, they probably should. It isn’t easy to separate the top two or three receivers from each other in terms of potential.
If the Dolphins do stay at three, the smart move in terms of an instant return is to bring in a receiver that their young QB is already familiar with. For that reason, DeVonta Smith is the pick that makes the most sense for the Dolphins at three.
4. San Francisco 49ers (projected trade w/ Atlanta): Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The debate around Zach Wilson is going to continue to rage over the coming weeks. As a one-year wonder out of a team that played a questionable schedule, there will always be concerns around his NFL potential. However, a team will fall in love with his style and potential and take the risk.
In this First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, that team is the 49ers. They give up at least the 12th overall selection, a first in 2022, and a second-round pick in 2021 to grab their guy. They may even need to give up a little more to secure this selection. However, if Wilson proves to be the missing piece for the 49ers, they could be right back challenging in the playoffs.
5. Chicago Bears (projected trade w/ Cincinnati): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Part of every draft process is the rise and fall of opinions surrounding the top QBs. This past week, Tony Pauline reported that there are concerns surrounding Fields among NFL teams. When it comes to raw talent, there is no doubting what Justin Fields brings to the table. His arm strength and ability to make difficult throws look easy will mean at least one team rates him as a top-five selection.
The best chance Fields has to succeed in the early part of his NFL career is for a team that is already a borderline challenger. Therefore, a team like the Bears, who have been fringe playoff contenders the past few seasons, could be a perfect fit. Fields has the arm for the often harsh conditions in the Windy City.
This trade sees the Bears giving up the 20th overall selection, their 2022 first-round pick, and at least one second-round selection in either 2021 or 2022.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Eagles have many options when it comes to projecting their first-round selection in a 2021 NFL Mock Draft. They could take any position across the board. However, their passing offense has been a major concern, thanks in part to the lack of a dominant receiver on the outside.
Ja’Marr Chase fits the mold for the Eagles here. He would provide a focal point of the offense and give Jalen Hurts a big-time target over the next few seasons.
7. Detroit Lions: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Detroit is another team that could realistically be looking at several options. Their decisions in free agency could change the shape of their draft dramatically. However, as it stands heading into March, taking the top defensive player available on Tony Pauline’s big board in Micah Parsons makes a ton of sense.
Parsons can be a chess piece that the Lions can utilize in several ways. Putting him in this defense allows the Lions to continue to build around him as a schematic centerpiece.
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trey Lance is another QB who splits opinions. In the debut show of Pro Football Network’s Breaking Down the Board, Steve Verderosa discussed the issues of projecting Lance at the next level. However, the potential upside of Lance is likely to appeal to most teams. One such team would be the Carolina Panthers, who have a young, exciting coaching staff and a system Lance can learn.
After playing just one year at college, Lance may need a redshirt year in his first NFL season. The Panthers would be the perfect place for that as they have Teddy Bridgewater under contract for at least one more year. If the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft plays out like this mock, the Panthers will likely be pleased with the outcome.
9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Broncos just released cornerback A.J. Bouye from what is already a position of weakness. Selecting Caleb Farley ninth overall could immediately fill that need.
Denver will likely still need to add a veteran to bolster their cornerback group’s experience, but Farley gives them a talented piece to build their secondary around.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Patrick Surtain II and the Dallas Cowboys feel like a perfect fit. Surtain would be reunited with his former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs and fill a need for the Cowboys. Dallas has a somewhat loaded offense, but their secondary is definitely in need of reinforcements.
This selection is somewhat of a toss-up between cornerback, pass rusher, and offensive line. However, if they can get the bulk of their offensive line back healthy in 2021, the Cowboys need to address their secondary if they hope to make the playoffs in 2021.
11. New York Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Giants are in a fascinating position, having built a strong defense over the past few years. Adding Kwity Paye to that unit would give the Giants a potential difference-maker in a pass-rushing role.
This selection came down to Paye or Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle. However, an opportunity to get one of the consensus best pass rushers in the class wins out, given the potential depth we are seeing emerge among the 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class.
12. Atlanta Falcons (from trade w/ San Francisco): Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Falcons’ biggest needs in this draft are offensive line and defensive playmakers. At the fourth overall selection, there is not really value in either of those roles. Therefore, trading back to the early teens would set the Falcons up perfectly. If Farley or Surtain fall, they could bolster their secondary. However, they will also likely have their choice when it comes to pass-rush options.
In this 2021 NFL First Round Mock Draft, the Atlanta Falcons stay close to home to select fast-rising Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari stood out in key games this year, including making crucial plays in the Bulldogs’ Bowl Game. He would make a great pass-rush partner for big-money free-agent signing Dante Fowler Jr.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Much like the Surtain-to-Dallas selection, a matchup of Christian Darrisaw and the Los Angeles Chargers would be an almost perfect combination. Darrisaw would give the Chargers a potential franchise left tackle to protect franchise QB Justin Herbert.
Darrisaw would immediately upgrade the left side of the Chargers’ offensive line and be another building block in a Chargers team that is full of talent.
14. Washington Football Team (projected trade w/ Minnesota): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Washington Football Team made the playoffs in 2020 despite a carousel of names at the QB position. Mac Jones is viewed as the second-most pro-ready QB in this draft class. A destination that has been penciled in for Jones is with the New England Patriots. Therefore, in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, the Washington Football Team jump the Patriots to grab themselves a potential 2021 starting QB.
Washington has a number of talented pieces on both sides of the ball and just needs a few improvements to remain a challenger in 2021. Jones could learn under Alex Smith in training camp before potentially taking over the offense early in the season. Moving up four spots would likely cost Washington a second-round selection or two mid-round draft picks.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Regardless of whether Jones is available at 15 or not, the Patriots’ priority should be putting talented pieces into this offense. The offense is lacking top-tier pass catchers, and that needs to change.
Kyle Pitts has the talent in the receiving side of the game and as a blocker. Pitts would immediately become the most talented tight end on the roster and arguably their most talented pass catcher.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/IOL, USC
The Cardinals’ focus in this draft is likely to be on the offense. Specifically, they could benefit from focusing on upgrading their offensive line. What makes Alijah Vera-Tucker an intriguing option is the dual nature of his potential. Vera-Tucker has impressed at both tackle and guard in his college career. Therefore, the Cardinals could utilize where they see him as the best fit.
While you should not draft for versatility in the first round, the upside at both positions for Vera-Tucker is worth it.