We’re now down to our final four playoff teams. That means 28 teams now have their eyes turned towards the NFL Draft with solidified draft spots. Our latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft of the first round looks at how teams could look to rebuild this offseason, including the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Indianapolis Colts, who could all have future Hall of Famers at QB walk out the door. Where will the top four quarterbacks go off the board, and which teams might want to trade up?
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2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
It’s not often that the first overall pick is as much of a slam dunk as it is this year thanks to Trevor Lawrence. That makes this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft much easier.
Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck. One could argue we’ve never seen a quarterback prospect quite this polished in every facet of the game before. However, everyone has a different indoctrination to the NFL, and we’ll see what the history books have to say about the 2021 class.
The Jaguars’ hiring of Urban Meyer to be head coach makes this pick slightly more suspenseful. He could be sentimental towards Ohio State product Justin Fields, but Lawrence is clearly the better prospect.
Jacksonville is also a great fit for Lawrence. They already have established weapons in James Robinson, D.J. Chark, and Laviska Shenault Jr. Lawrence will get to play under a legendary coach and offensive mind.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The draft truly starts with the second overall pick and the New York Jets, who could go in any direction.
Some will argue the Jets should give Darnold another season without Gase to see what he can do. If the Jets roll with Darnold for another year, they could trade out of the second overall pick for a war chest of draft capital, which their roster could certainly use.
However, general manager Joe Douglas doesn’t know the next time he’ll be picking second overall. Douglas should use that rare draft position to land a high-end quarterback prospect.
Zach Wilson is a perfect fit for Mike LaFleur’s offense, who is set to join Robert Saleh in New York. He also has a special arm and, at times, flashes the type of innate accuracy you just can’t teach.
3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Miami Dolphins could look to trade down in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft — perhaps in exchange for Deshaun Watson. For now, though, it’s still theirs, and it offers a perfect opportunity to infuse their offense with a blue-chip talent. It’ll also give Tua Tagovailoa an elite No. 1 wide receiver to grow alongside.
Ja’Marr Chase opted out of this season, but don’t let that cause you to forget about him. He’s a freak of nature. He was clearly LSU’s top receiver on an offense that also featured Justin Jefferson, who just had one of the greatest rookie years ever for a wide receiver.
Chase can win every way you ask him to. He would give the Dolphins’ offense a focal point to lean on as other pieces grow into their roles. He could quickly become one of the top 10 receivers in football.
4. San Francisco 49ers (projected trade w/ Atlanta): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Picking fourth is rarely ever bad, but it might not be the perfect spot for the Atlanta Falcons in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. Their needs don’t line up with the value on the board at all. Unless they want to find their Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, or Jake Matthews replacements early, it makes sense to trade this pick.
On the other end, San Francisco is a Super Bowl-ready roster that’s starving for average quarterback play. Justin Fields could present a major upgrade on what the 49ers have had at the position.
He might not be a dream fit for the scheme like Zach Wilson, but he’s close. Fields has a tremendous arm, terrific accuracy, and the athleticism to make almost any throw from any platform.
The move up to the fourth pick costs San Francisco the 12th, 43rd, and 96th overall picks from this year’s draft and a second-round pick next year.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Last year, the Miami Dolphins “tanked for Tua” only to end up with the fifth overall pick. Fortunately, Tagovailoa fell to them.
This year the Cincinnati Bengals desperately needed a premier left tackle, but late-season wins seemed to spoil their chances. In this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, those hopes remain undashed as Cincinnati lands Penei Sewell.
There hasn’t been an offensive line prospect this heralded in quite some time. You might have to go back to Joe Thomas to find a similarly elite prospect. Sewell will come in and immediately protect Joe Burrow’s blindside and has every chance at NFL longevity.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to fire Doug Pederson tells us a lot about their future direction. Most importantly, it tells us Carson Wentz is likely to return to his starting quarterback role. At the very least, he should be in the picture.
If the Eagles choose to double-down on Wentz, it makes sense to surround him with as much talent as possible. With Ja’Marr Chase off the board, that makes DeVonta Smith the best option.
Unlike their Day 1 wide receiver pick from last year, DeVonta Smith is a polished product. He can become Philadelphia’s top pass catcher and potentially their top skill position player as well. He would ideally play in the slot considering his smaller frame. However, the Eagles could probably play him outside as well.
7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Detroit Lions find themselves at an interesting crossroads with a new general manager, head coach, and potentially a new franchise quarterback as well. However, for this mock draft, we’ll assume they hold on to Stafford.
If that’s the case, they’ll have to get him a weapon with Kenny Golladay likely heading elsewhere. That makes Jaylen Waddle the perfect selection here. As crazy as it might sound, he has the highest ceiling of any Alabama wide receiver taken in the last two first rounds.
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Some people have the Carolina Panthers trading up for a quarterback. However, Matt Rhule and the Panthers shouldn’t have to trade up to land a talented prospect in Trey Lance.
Lance is easily the best runner among this year’s elite quarterback prospects, and his arm isn’t far off from the best ones in the class either. Outside of the gaudy physical features, Lance is also a terrific decision-maker, and he has great accuracy at all levels of the field.
The one concern with Lance right now is that he’s fairly underdeveloped. As a result, you ideally wouldn’t want him starting Week 1. Fortunately for the Panthers, they have a decent bridge quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who would allow time for Lance to develop.
9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Denver Broncos are a harder team to forecast in the first round with new GM George Paton. Paton could opt to restart at quarterback and trade up for one of the top four QB prospects. He could also trade down to add picks — or stay put and add a blue-chip defensive talent.
In this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, he opts for the latter option.
Inside linebacker is a key position in Vic Fangio’s scheme. Unfortunately, throughout his Denver tenure, he’s only had above-average talent at the position. The Broncos can change that by adding a superstar in Micah Parsons. Parsons could be the missing piece of the puzzle that takes Fangio’s defense from excellent to elite.
Some will argue for Caleb Farley here, and with good reason. Cornerback is Denver’s biggest need and a more premier position. However, Parsons has the higher ceiling, can play the role as Fangio’s utopic linebacker, and the Broncos will likely bring A.J. Bouye back, which would give them three starting cornerbacks.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Dallas Cowboys can’t believe their luck in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. Caleb Farley, the ideal selection for the Cowboys in this draft, falls right into their lap.
The offensive line could use some revitalization, but the offense should be elite once Dak Prescott returns. The real concern is the defense, specifically the secondary, and Farley is the best defensive back in the draft.
Farley is incredibly sticky in coverage with rare athletic traits. As a result, he has both a high floor and ceiling. The big concern with Farley is his reliance on physicality a little too much and might be penalized more often at the next level.
11. New York Giants: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The New York Giants’ defense was one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, thanks to a wildly underrated secondary. By selecting Patrick Surtain II, the Giants can upgrade that secondary to become one of the NFL’s best. Pairing him with James Bradberry and Darnay Holmes would be too fun.
Surtain is an ideal fit for Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme. He also has the type of gritty play style Joe Judge will absolutely love. That’s a result of his oversized frame that allows him to play like a head-hunting safety with the coverage skills of a cornerback.
12. Atlanta Falcons (from trade w/ San Francisco): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
This might be a hard one to pitch to Atlanta Falcons fans, despite the desperate need for edge rushing help.
Have you heard this one before? A hyper-athletic edge rusher that is still developing and lacks elite sack production going to the Falcons. The past trauma for such a pick is understandable, but Kwity Paye could be the one that breaks the trend.
The Falcons don’t have many other options with this pick. Edge rusher is their most glaring need, and the board doesn’t line up well for them to go elsewhere.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Los Angeles Chargers have their quarterback, and now they have to find a way to protect him. Rashawn Slater somehow managed to fall to the 13th selection in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft. This makes the Chargers’ decision to draft offensive line that much easier.
Slater isn’t much worse than Sewell at all. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah even had Slater ahead of Sewell at one point during the season. Remember, Sewell is an elite offensive line talent. That should tell you how good Slater is.
As a bonus, Slater has the versatility to play anywhere on the line. He’s a great tackle, though, so why move him?
14. Minnesota Vikings: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Despite some youth-related struggles around the defense and the secondary, the trenches were Minnesota’s biggest point of weakness this season. That was especially true at edge rusher, where the youth experiment was a disaster.
Returning Danielle Hunter from injury and adding a gifted speed rusher like Azeez Ojulari could have that unit rebuilt before Week 1. That should be priority No. 1 in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The New England Patriots are starved of offensive talent everywhere except the offensive line. Rectifying that will be the big mission of the 2021 offseason for Belichick and company.
Quarterback is also a major need, but Belichick may target a veteran over a mid-first round rookie. With that consideration in mind, the Patriots select Kyle Pitts out of Florida. Pitts is a mismatch nightmare that the quarterback can always rely on — exactly what New England needs.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
It isn’t Kliff Kingsbury’s style to invest in the offensive line. However, with Christian Darrisaw falling into their lap in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, they should pull the trigger.
Darrisaw is a terrific left tackle prospect that can keep Kyler Murray’s jersey free of green. He’s a great pass protector who also has great mobility in the run game and could be a starter immediately.
If it weren’t for the elite tackle prospects Sewell and Slater, Darrisaw would have much more buzz.