2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 17-32
17) Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG/OT, Southern California
Trying to predict what the Las Vegas Raiders might do in the NFL Draft is akin to predicting the end of the world. Impossible. In recent drafts, they’ve provided some moments that have come truly come out of left field. Selecting Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with the No. 19 overall selection last year or Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft are prime examples.
With safety being one of their biggest needs, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them reach for someone like UCF’s Richie Grant in the first round.
Following an offseason where they inexplicably off-loaded most of their offensive line assets, they need to add pieces across the line. What better player to select to fill that need than the poster boy for offensive line versatility, Alijah Vera-Tucker?
The USC lineman has, for me, the best tape of any guard prospect in this 2021 NFL Draft class. Furthermore, he excelled at left tackle for the Trojans last season despite some analysts tearing apart his performance against Oregon.
AVT can come in, play immediately, and be a force on the offensive line for many years. It makes perfect sense for the Raiders, which ultimately means they won’t do it.
18) Miami Dolphins: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
There is a section of analysts, fans, followers of the game that will recoil at the thought of selecting a running back in the first round of the NFL Draft. A running back is a waste of a first-round pick in an NFL that doesn’t value the position, is what they’ll tell you. The theory is that you can pick up a running back in the later rounds, and he’ll be successful in the league.
Najee Harris isn’t just any running back, however. Powerful but with the nimble footwork of a ballerina, Harris contains a toolbox of skills that includes a sublime spin move and the ability to hurdle anyone in his path. He’s practically unstoppable at the goal line while being the safest pair of hands out of the backfield in this class.
Opposing defensive coordinators have to account for Harris in their game plan. Currently, the Dolphins don’t have a running back remotely capable of impacting the game. It is just another way of helping alleviate pressure on Tua and giving him the best opportunity to succeed.
19) Washington Football Team: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Washington Football Team is one of the key contenders to trade up and grab a quarterback in the NFL Draft. However, the price to jump up from No. 19 into the top 10 could rule them out of the race, especially if four quarterbacks go in the first four picks as they have in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.
If they don’t trade up, the No. 19 overall pick is too rich for one of the “Tier 2” signal-callers like Davis Mills or Kellen Mond. They could address a major need at linebacker or offensive tackle here, but their likely targets are already gone.
Instead, they add a receiving threat to play alongside Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel in Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman. The former Gophers pass catcher has the hand skills, contested-catch ability, and exceptional route-running capability to be one of the best receivers to come out of this deep class of wide receivers.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick hurling bombs downfield to McLaurin and Bateman, Washington could have the makings of a contender in the NFC.
20) Chicago Bears: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Don’t be fooled by the Chicago Bears’ social media team. Andy Dalton isn’t going to be the long-term QB1 in the Windy City. The “Red Rifle” is merely a placeholder, albeit a more reliable one than the departed Mitchell Trubisky or QB2 Nick Foles.
The Bears are another contender to possibly trade up. However, similar to Washington, the price to get up into the top 10 will likely see them settle for a second or third-round selection.
Whatever the future holds under center, the Bears will need to make additions to the offensive line to help keep their quarterback upright. Texas offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi brings versatility to the offensive line. He has played at both ends of the line during his Longhorns career and could start on the right side before transitioning to be the long-term left tackle for the Bears. Athletic and intelligent, Cosmi’s height and length make him a difficult roadblock for pass rushers to negotiate.
With uncertainty over the future of Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, expect a wide receiver during the 2021 NFL Draft.
21) Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
After losing Anthony Castonzo to retirement, the Indianapolis Colts’ main order of business will be finding his replacement. There is a good chance that if there’s a left tackle that they like here at No. 21, they’ll swoop to select him.
In previous editions of this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, Cosmi has been the selection here. He fits the athletic profile that the Colts value at the position. Unfortunately, they’ve been sniped by the Bears in this final edition. They could look to reach for someone like Alex Leatherwood, but with a deep offensive tackle class, they can likely find a starter at the position on Day 2.
Instead, they address what could be classed as an equally big need in a pass rusher. The Colts’ roster is hardly stacked with pass-rush production, and former early-round picks like Ben Banogu haven’t been allowed to show what they’re capable of.
With the selection of Michigan’s Kwity Paye, they get an athletic freak of a pass rusher who impressed with his pass-rush ability during the 2019 season. Paye has incredible speed for a guy that’s 6’2″ and 261 pounds, and he demonstrates impressive strength that helps him overwhelm opposing offensive linemen.
22) Tennessee Titans: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
With no true standout pass-rush prospect in this 2021 NFL Draft class, the Tennessee Titans addressed their need to create defensive pressure in free agency with the signing of Bud Dupree. While this shouldn’t preclude them from adding further pass-rush pieces later in the draft — maybe in the third round — it does mean they don’t need to make it a priority in Round 1.
Instead, they can focus on upgrading a secondary that is incredibly thin at the cornerback position. Standing at 6’1″ and with long arms, Greg Newsome II meets the requisite size demands to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. When you combine his size with a competitive nature, excellent athleticism, and impressive football instincts, he projects to be not just a Day 1 starter but to have an extremely successful and productive NFL career.
Other considerations for the Titans include offensive tackle — just one year after selecting Isaiah Wilson in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
23) New York Jets: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
As referenced during the analysis of the No. 2 overall pick, the Jets have to ensure that they do everything in their power to make Wilson a success. An often-overlooked element of Wilson’s success at BYU this year was the impact of his offensive line. He was afforded an incredible amount of time to make plays that Darnold simply didn’t have with the Jets.
Offensive line was one of the areas where the Jets succeeded in last year’s draft. Their first-round selection, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, turned in some impressive performances when healthy last season and has the makings of a long NFL career at left tackle. In this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, they add another first-round offensive tackle to bookend their line.
Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins is one of the most athletic and strong offensive tackles available at this point. He may well be the best right tackle prospect in the class. Additionally, he has experience playing at left tackle, which would make him a serviceable replacement if Becton were to miss time with injury again in 2021. Another behemoth of a tackle, Jenkins measured in at 6’5″ and 317 pounds at Oklahoma State’s Pro Day.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
For another year, the return of Ben Roethlisberger removes the necessity for the Pittsburgh Steelers to get involved with trading up for a quarterback, or even worse, reaching for one late in Round 1. On the other hand, the departure of Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey means that finding protection for Big Ben becomes a pressing need early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Creed Humphrey has been the anchor for an Oklahoma offensive line that has allowed multiple quarterbacks to put together Heisman-caliber campaigns. Incredibly strong and athletic, the 6’4″ monster of a man was a successful high school wrestler, which helps him overwhelm opposing defensive linemen.
The Steelers add a running back in Round 2 of this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, and Humphrey would give the rookie a bulldozer of an offensive lineman to run behind.
25) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Moehrig, S, Texas Christian
Just a few years ago, the Jaguars’ run to the AFC Championship Game was built on a fearsome defense. That unit has since been completely disbanded, and Jacksonville’s defense is barely recognizable from that team. Last season, they gave up amongst the most passing yards and touchdowns in the NFL. They were also particularly poor in allowing yards after the catch.
They need a leader at the heart of the secondary. Here, they find that leader with TCU’s Trevon Moehrig. Part of a dynamic safety tandem for the Horned Frogs, Moehrig is a versatile ballhawk who excels in coverage. He’s also a physical enforcer in the run game who isn’t afraid to fly downhill and take on players bigger than himself.
26) Cleveland Browns: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
The Cleveland Browns signing Jadeveon Clowney this week means they now have three former No. 1 picks on their team. Combining Clowney with Myles Garrett as the bookends of this defensive line gives the Browns a frankly terrifying pass-rush threat. It also means that they’re free to pursue other options with their first-round pick rather than being tied specifically to target a pass rusher.
That said, Clowney is only signed to a one-year deal, and there’s no certainty that he can come in and have the impact that the Browns need. Therefore, I still have them addressing the position in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft with Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips. If you remove the injury concerns that hang over Phillips, he is by far the best pass rusher in the class as far as I’m concerned. He’s fast, strong, and has multiple pass-rush moves in his toolbox.
Given recent developments with Sheldon Richardson, there’s a case for them using this selection on a defensive tackle like Christian Barmore. That may be considered as a safer pick. However, they could still select a productive interior defensive lineman in Round 2 while landing the best pass rusher in the draft here.
27) Baltimore Ravens: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Although Orlando Brown’s trade demands could make right tackle a priority in the NFL Draft, there is a bigger need to be resolved early on. The signing of Yannick Ngakoue during the 2020 season highlighted that the Baltimore Ravens are not comfortable with their stable of pass rushers. It would be a huge surprise not to see them address that need early in the draft.
Azeez Ojulari may not be considered a true scheme fit — he was an outside linebacker for Georgia — but he possesses the ability to line up from anywhere in the defensive front seven and be an immediate impact. Athletic and strong, Ojulari’s draft stock has skyrocketed this season due to a productive campaign for an impressive Georgia defense.
Some analysts consider him to be the best edge prospect in the class. Therefore, he provides excellent value for the Ravens at the back end of the first round.
Due to the depth of the offensive line class, the Ravens can add talent at that position later in the class. The same can be said for the potential for adding a wide receiver.
28) New Orleans Saints: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Despite having one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, the New Orleans Saints’ needs in the 2021 NFL Draft are primarily on that side of the ball. As they’ve had to massacre their roster to sneak in under the salary cap, the loss of players like Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson figure to be big losses that will need replacing.
Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins could slide into the heart of their linebacker trio and have an immediate impact on the Saints. Bigger than your average modern-day NFL linebacker, Collins represents an old-school, heavy-hitting thumper of a linebacker. He can come downhill and rush the passer while also being extremely effective in coverage.
Collins would be the first Tulsa player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in over 40 years.
29) Green Bay Packers: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
It’s April, so of course, it’s time for the annual clamor for the Green Bay Packers to select Aaron Rodgers the first-round wide receiver that he apparently so desperately needs. While it would be exciting for them to select someone like Rondale Moore here, it would be entirely missing the point of why the Packers didn’t win the Super Bowl this year.
Green Bay’s main issues last year were defensive. Their biggest needs as they head into the draft include cornerback, defensive tackle, and linebacker. Basically, anyone who can help them not be run all over like they were last season. That’s why with the No. 29 pick of this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, they select Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis.
Davis has been a late riser in the process, and possibly even deserving of becoming a first-round selection. He’s a physical specimen with the size and athleticism to play that inside linebacker role for the Packers. His ability to find the ball carrier using his football instincts is just one reason he makes sense as the selection here.
30) Buffalo Bills: Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
In almost every edition of the 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft that I’ve written since August of last year, the Buffalo Bills first-round selection has been a cornerback. I really like the fit of Eric Stokes here, lined up on the opposite side of Tre’Davious White. That would make the Bills’ secondary a hazardous place to throw the ball on.
However, there is an evident need to address their lack of pass-rush production. The Bills had one of the highest blitz use percentages in the NFL last season yet one of the lowest pressure percentages. Despite using a second-round pick on A.J. Epenesa last year, they clearly need to add talent to a well-populated defensive line group.
Although Ronnie Perkins comes with some concerns — he was suspended late last year, which saw him miss game time in 2020 — he is an absolute savage from the defensive end position. Explosive, strong, and able to execute some pass-rush moves to a high level, Perkins can impact both as a pass rusher and run stopper. The Sooners’ edge rusher embarrassed Oklahoma State’s offensive tackle (Jenkins) this season.
31) Kansas City Chiefs: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Anyone who witnessed Patrick Mahomes fleeing for his life in Super Bowl LV understands what the Kansas City Chiefs needed to do this offseason. They’ve begun the transformation of the offensive line with the free-agency acquisition of Joe Thuney, but it is set to continue in the 2021 NFL Draft. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them use their first two selections on offensive linemen.
They kick start the draft in Round 1 with the selection of one of the most experienced offensive tackles in the class. Liam Eichenberg has been a three-year starter for a Notre Dame team that consistently produces high-quality NFL offensive linemen. He combines prototypical NFL size with intelligence and athleticism to provide solid pass protection in addition to excelling as a run blocker.
32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
What do you get in the NFL Draft for the team that has everything? The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have returned their entire starting lineup from the win over the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. It’s an unprecedented rate of return that leaves them with precious few holes to fill in the draft.
They could take a running back like Clemson’s Etienne here. However, with one eye very much on the future, they turn to Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore to close out the first round of this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.
Anyone who witnessed Barmore destroying a talented Ohio State offensive line in the college football title game knows the devastating impact his combination of size, strength, and speed can bring.
With multiple defensive line players set to be out of contract at the end of the 2021 season, Barmore gets time to learn his craft before taking over as the full-time starter in the 2022 season.