Spooner’s First-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

There’s only one week left of the 2020 NFL season. For many teams, it’s goodbye 2020 and hello NFL Draft prep. Let’s finish the year in style with one last First-Round NFL Mock Draft.

Featured | Tony Pauline’s 2021 draft rankings

Spooner’s 2021 First-Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Against all odds, the Jacksonville Jaguars sealed the number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They have won the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. This pick is a no-brainer for the Jaguars.

Gardner Minshew isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback, and neither is Nick Foles. Trevor Lawrence can be that guy. Jacksonville has a decent number of weapons. Getting a bonafide QB in the mix is of paramount importance.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

It seemed impossible for much of the season, but somehow the Jets messed around and didn’t land the number one pick. Instead, they’re locked into the two spot with several options. They could stand pat and take star offensive tackle Penei Sewell to pair with last year’s first-rounder Mekhi Becton. They could also take a king’s ransom and trade out of the pick.

Or they could take a quarterback, and they should. Zach Wilson wasn’t in the first round of my last mock draft. This selection is a combination of me warming up to Wilson after film study and people smarter than I am who have suggested Wilson could go here.

The Jets have an obvious need for a QB. Sam Darnold hasn’t been given the greatest situation, but he has also not developed the way most would have hoped. Still, the Jets should be able to flip Darnold for more assets as they rebuild.

3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Miami Dolphins are a playoff team. As it stands today, they also have the third pick in the NFL Draft. Thank former Texans head coach and GM Bill O’Brien for that one. Due to the trade last year that sent Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to Houston, Miami should have three selections in the top 40. They’re going to need all three.

Despite being a playoff team, the Dolphins still have a slew of holes on the roster. Particularly, holes at the skill positions. The wide receivers have been an issue all season. Miami needs a dynamic playmaker to inject some life into the offense.

LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase can be that guy. Miami would likely prefer to trade down from here, pick up some assets, and still pick up a WR like Chase or Alabama stars Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. If they can’t pull off a trade, Chase at 3 is not a bad consolation prize.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

What the 2020 Atlanta Falcons have done this year is simply incredible, in the worst sense of the word. The number of double-digit leads Atlanta has blown shouldn’t be humanly possible, and yet here we are. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Falcons desperately need some help on defense.

This First-Round NFL Mock Draft sees Atlanta take that first step. There are several directions the Falcons could go with this pick. They need help at every level of the defense.

Ultimately, taking Micah Parsons from Penn State helps them kill two birds with one stone. Parsons is a solid linebacker who is still learning the position, yet his physical gifts are undeniable. He can also provide Atlanta with help rushing the passer, as he was originally recruited as an EDGE.

No one deserves what the Falcons fans have had to witness this season. Drafting Parsons should help ease that pain.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

The Bengals have their quarterback of the future. They have a few nice pieces around him, namely fellow rookie Tee Higgins. Now, and going forward, the plan of attack should be about keeping Joe Burrow healthy and upright. He’s already lost one season to a knee injury; you can’t afford to have the future of the franchise be a sitting duck.

Enter Oregon phenom, Penei Sewell. The Bengals already have a promising left tackle in Jonah Williams, but the prospect of Sewell should be too much to pass up for Cincinnati. If the Bengals move Williams to the right side and have Sewell on the left, Burrow should sleep easy knowing he’s protected from both sides.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Things have become quite a mess in Philadelphia. Carson Wentz was supposed to be the quarterback of the future. It’s looking less and less like he is that guy. Wentz has been replaced by last year’s second-round pick Jalen Hurts. Is Hurts the guy going forward? Is he the franchise quarterback in Philadelphia?

With Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields still on the board, it’s tempting to go quarterback here. However, Hurts may have shown the Eagles brass enough to hand him the reins in 2021. If so, the Eagles need more firepower, and that’s where this First-Round NFL Mock Draft comes in.

When paired with last year’s first-round pick Jalen Reagor, Jaylen Waddle could give Philadelphia a dangerous 1-2 punch at the position for years to come.

7. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

It may be later than most expected, but Justin Fields is finally off the board in our First-Round NFL Mock Draft. There were many teams ahead of Detroit who could have taken Fields. Quarterback may not even be Detroit’s biggest need in this draft, as their defense may need to be completely reworked. However, it’s time to start thinking about life after Matthew Stafford.

Related | Could Zach Wilson be selected over Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Lions are clearly embarking on a rebuilding phase in their franchise. Stafford has already been in the league for more than a decade. Chances are he’s not going to be around by the time Detroit is ready to compete. Having Justin Fields slip to them at 7 may be the dream scenario for Detroit. Get the QB of the future without having to give up assets to do so.

8. New York Giants: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Despite the down season, there’s a ton of WR talent in the NFC East. In order to compete, you have to be able to cover. James Bradberry is a good corner for the New York Giants. However, the cupboard is pretty bare behind him. The Giants could choose to give quarterback Daniel Jones more weapons, but focusing on the defense should be the move.

Adding Patrick Surtain II would greatly bolster the back end of the Giants defense. Surtain has pro pedigree, coming from a vaunted Nick Saban defense. He also has the genetics, being the son of former Dolphins and Chiefs cornerback Patrick Surtain. Surtain is the best corner in this draft and arguably the best defensive player.

9. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The Carolina Panthers have been a competitive squad under first-year head coach Matt Rhule. While Teddy Bridgewater has come back from a devastating knee injury and regained some of his form, it’s unlikely he’s the long-term answer for the Panthers. Carolina needs their franchise quarterback, and one falls to them in this First-Round NFL Mock Draft.

Trey Lance may be young — just a redshirt sophomore — but the physical talent is undeniable. He can do things with both his legs and arm that few others can.

But he’s young and is going to need time to develop. He can get that in Carolina. If Lance is allowed to sit behind Bridgewater and learn the game for a year, Carolina could have an outstanding player on their hands. Coupled with the return of Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers’ offense could be well on its way.

10. Denver Broncos: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

I’m sure some Broncos fans are going to be disappointed in this selection. A large section of the fan base has seemingly given up on Drew Lock and would like to move on. I still believe it’s too early to make that move because Lock may still develop into a serviceable option. Look at the development of Bills QB Josh Allen in year three. It may not be likely, but it can happen.

Regardless, with the top four quarterbacks all off the board, that’s not an option anyway. The Broncos missed Von Miller dearly this season. He should be healthy next year, but he’s another year older and scheduled for a big payday. Finding an EDGE to learn under him and eventually step up in his absence is probably the best of a bad spot for Denver.

11. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The Dallas Cowboys lost cornerback Byron Jones in free agency last season. His absence in the Cowboys secondary was felt in a big way this year. Dallas has given up a ton of big plays in the passing game and has not taken the ball away from their opponents. It’s a passing league, and that’s a terrible combination.

The Cowboys need help on the outside, and that’s what Jaycee Horn can provide. Some may be surprised to see Horn as the first CB off the board in this First-Round NFL Mock Draft, but Horn fits the Dallas scheme. Caleb Farley would be a great selection here, too, but Horn is the better overall fit.

12. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Much like the Bengals, the Los Angeles Chargers have their quarterback of the future. Justin Herbert has been everything he was advertised, and more. Los Angeles has some good pieces around Herbert, too, in Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler. Now the focus needs to be on protecting Herbert and keeping him upright.

Rashawn Slater may not be the best tackle prospect in this draft, but he has certainly helped his draft stock the most of anyone at the position.

The first-round buzz around Slater is real, and he’s going to go higher than some might expect. He’s the type of plug-and-play starter teams covet at the position, especially in the early teens. This pick should be the building block towards a bright future for Herbert and the Chargers.

13. Minnesota Vikings: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami

Mike Zimmer’s defense in Minnesota has been bad this season. Like, BAD bad. Even the coach himself knows and admits this is one of the poorer defenses he has had in his career. As a coach who has made his name on strong defenses, that has to burn. Minnesota has issues at every level of the defense, but chief among them has to be their inability to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Enter Jaelan Phillips. It may come as a surprise to some that Gregory Rousseau is not only not the first EDGE prospect off the board, but not even the first Miami EDGE. Phillips, though not as much a physical specimen as Rousseau, is a more complete EDGE prospect. He has all the physical tools and is technically sound. His medicals, however, may scare some teams away.

14. San Francisco 49ers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

I’m sorry, 49ers fans. I know a few of you are probably disappointed in this selection. You were hoping that one of the quarterbacks was going to fall to you. I get it. Confidence in Jimmy Garoppolo has waned, and you want the shiny new toy. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other teams who need their quarterback as well. This time, it’s just not in the cards.

However, getting Caleb Farley should be a nice consolation prize.

Perhaps no team was more impacted by the injury bug this season than the 49ers. That certainly was reflected in the performance of their defense. Most of those guys should be back next season. But one guy who’s not likely to be back is Richard Sherman. Farley would be a great replacement and give the 49ers a legitimate cover corner.

15. New England Patriots: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

It’s been a long time since the New England Patriots have selected this high in the NFL Draft. The first year in the post-Tom Brady era did not go well for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Most of that was because New England has neglected the wide receiver position for years. It finally caught up to them, and in a big way.

DeVonta Smith would inject talent into this position group. Smith should pair well with whoever is throwing him the ball next year, whether Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, or someone else. Smith has game-breaking ability and is a dynamic playmaker. Defenses will need to respect that, which should open up opportunities for everyone else, too.

16. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Sometimes you see a player and just know that he’s a fit for certain teams. That’s the vibe I get from Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and his fit with the Las Vegas Raiders. Owusu-Koramoah just feels like a Jon Gruden type of guy. He’s fast, physical, and athletic. He’s going to check all the boxes for what Gruden and the Raiders like in a player.

He also fills a position of need. The Raiders have been looking to upgrade their linebacker play for a few seasons now, largely to no avail. Owusu-Koramoah can be that infusion of youth and talent to shore up the Raiders’ linebacker woes.