With the first wave of free agency behind us and the 2021 NFL Draft less than a month away, how does our latest 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft shape up heading into April? Following the trades at the end of last week, let’s look at how this affects the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
With all the intrigue being focused on the rest of the top five selections, this pick is almost getting forgotten. However, while there are plenty of question marks surrounding the QB situation, there is little in the way of questions surrounding Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence is all set to head to Jacksonville as the likely Week 1 starter. The Jaguars have finally got their hands on the franchise QB they have been searching for.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
There has been some talk the Jets could target an offensive lineman here. Still, with plenty of intriguing linemen available later in the first round and into the second round, the Jets go after a new, shiny QB.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston through Miami): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Since the 49ers traded for the third pick on March 26, multiple options have been discussed. However, in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, the 49ers select Justin Fields. Fields has worked closely with Kyle Shanahan as part of the QB Collective. Therefore, Shanahan likely feels comfortable that Fields could come in and contribute right away.
At the end of the day, the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo, who is fighting for his career in 2021. Therefore, Shanahan also has the luxury of letting Garoppolo open the season. If he impresses, the 49ers can give Fields more time or trade Garoppolo when his value rises.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Falcons were likely eyeing a trade back here. The 49ers moving up puts the Falcons in a tough spot. Carolina is likely the primary team to be looking to move up. Consequently, Atlanta may be hesitant to make a move that hands the Panthers their QB of the future.
As such, with WR not a priority for the Falcons, they instead take the next best offensive weapon on Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline’s big board in tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts would add another dynamic weapon to the Falcons offense.
He can be utilized as a conventional tight end or as a slot wide receiver. A combination of Pitts, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley has the potential to be a devastating offensive combination.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
All the moves of the past week set up a perfect storm for the Bengals. Cincinnati needs to improve their offensive line, including making a decision at left tackle. Jonah Williams had his struggles in 2020, but this move could allow the Bengals to transition him to right tackle and utilize Penei Sewell on the left side of the line.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins’ move back up to six is perfect for ensuring they get their primary target in DeVonta Smith. Pro Football Network Insider Benjamin Allbright reported at the Senior Bowl that Smith was the potential target for the Dolphins.
While the Dolphins may have overpaid slightly to get back to the No. 6 pick, they still had a net benefit from the two trades they made. Getting back to six keeps them above the Lions, who may also be eyeing a WR.
7. Carolina Panthers (projected trade w/ Detroit): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
With Trey Lance still on the board, the Panthers may need to make a move to ensure they get their QB. Moving to No. 4 will be tough as it is within the division, while the Bengals and Dolphins may not be willing to risk losing “their guy.”
A move up one spot can ensure the Panthers get their guy in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. The cost would likely be as little as a couple of late-round selections or a future third-round pick. This move allows the Panthers to get their guy while giving the Lions an extra pick or two in the future.
8. Detroit Lions (projected trade w/ Carolina): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Lions move back a spot and still pick up a player that fills a big need for them in Ja’Marr Chase. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones leaving in free agency, the Lions need to get a receiver who can be a lead target for QB Jared Goff.
9. Denver Broncos: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
This is an intriguing spot for the Broncos. They could target an EDGE or a linebacker, but they feel ready to challenge sooner rather than later given their offseason moves. Therefore, bringing in a QB that is considered “pro-ready” in Mac Jones makes a lot of sense in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft.
Jones can potentially provide an immediate upgrade to the Broncos offense. If Jones is not available, look for the Broncos to fill another need, most likely on defense.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The combination of the Cowboys and Patrick Surtain II has been a fit I have had penciled in for a few months. With Caleb Farley’s draft stock falling and the Broncos addressing CB in free agency, there should be no reason the Cowboys cannot pair the two former Alabama cornerbacks together in 2021.
11. New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The New York Giants could continue to add to their offensive line and build around their QB. However, they also need to add more dynamism in their pass rush. Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari adds exactly that; he is a player who seems more impressive every time you turn on the tape.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from San Francisco through Miami): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The move down to No. 12 is somewhat perfect for the Eagles in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. Jaylen Waddle would likely have been a target for the Eagles with the sixth pick, and he is still available. Waddle will add a dynamic receiver option to go alongside Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, and Jalen Reagor.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Chargers started to address their offensive line in free agency, and the addition of Christian Darrisaw continues that work. Darrisaw can slot in at left tackle, giving the Chargers a solid base of Darrisaw, Corey Linsley, and Bryan Bulaga. Putting that group in front of second-year QB Justin Herbert allows the Chargers to challenge for the AFC West this season.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Vikings have the option of focusing on their defensive or offensive line. On the other hand, with Kirk Cousins set to be with the team through 2022, putting a stable offensive line in front of him is crucial.
With intriguing depth at the defensive line position in the middle rounds, the Vikings target the leaner position and get one of the top offensive linemen in Rashawn Slater at No. 14.
15. New England Patriots: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Patriots appear set at cornerback with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. However, both are set to be free agents after the 2021 season. Thus, the Patriots could immediately add depth with Jaycee Horn. This would allow Horn to learn from Gilmore and add the flexibility to trade Gilmore during the season.
16. Buffalo Bills (projected trade w/ Arizona): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Bills really need to address their pass rush to push for the AFC crown in 2021. Their lack of pressure up front was evident in the AFC Championship Game last season. As such, in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, the Bills give up pick 30 and 61 in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022 to move up to 16. The Bills can add Kwity Paye, who is considered one of the safer EDGE options in this group.