Just two months until the commencement of the 2021 NFL Draft, and it’s time to start digging into which teams are connected to certain prospects most frequently. This year is a particularly difficult draft to mock because after the first pick, there’s no absolute answer for which teams will take a quarterback and which quarterbacks teams like the most. In this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, we see four quarterbacks selected in the first eight picks and a fifth in the top 15.
As always, with my mock drafts, the selections made are what I think teams will do, not necessarily what I would do if I was running the show. How do you feel about your favorite team’s selections? Let me know if you love it or hate it on Twitter @MVScouting.
2021 3-Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer declared him the best quarterback in college football when Meyer worked as an analyst. The Jaguars already have a strong group of offensive playmakers and have four selections in the top 50.
Expect Lawrence to lead a large influx of young talent and become a contender in the AFC South sooner rather than later.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
I would’ve taken Justin Fields here, but all the smoke seems to surround Zach Wilson.
I did consider a trade back here as well, but for now, I believe the Jets are most likely going to take Wilson. He’s a natural fit in the Shanahan offense that the Jets will be running with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Denzel Mims and Mekhi Becton will also be significant contributors to the offense in their second year.
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
PFN’s own NFL Insider Tony Pauline linked Ja’Marr Chase to Miami in a recent mailbag of his. He doesn’t directly say it, but hints that Miami could be interested in getting the former LSU WR1 to pair with 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.
Ja’Marr Chase had one of the best seasons ever as a true sophomore in 2019 but sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the draft. Tua gets a weapon that excels in contested-catch situations and is a threat to stretch the field.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
In my opinion, Justin Fields is the second-best passer in the class. He’s my second-highest graded QB since 2018, behind only Lawrence. He possesses all the physical tools to be a future NFL MVP and is already well-developed mentally. His internal timer and progression speed need work before he gets to that point, though.
Atlanta is almost certainly not going to be in a position to get a quarterback of Fields’ talent any time soon, so taking him here is the smartest decision they can make for the future of the franchise. Let Fields continue to develop as a passer under Matt Ryan, then move on from Ryan in a year or two when it’s a bit more manageable.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Protecting Joe Burrow is, without question, the biggest priority in Cincinnati this offseason. I expect them to leave free agency with one of Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff, or even Corey Linsley.
Sitting at No. 5, they’re ecstatic that Penei Sewell makes it here. Sewell is my highest-rated tackle ever, just barely passing Tristan Wirfs last year. His play strength, hip flexibility, motor, and explosiveness are all elite. He also never played a college football game outside of his teens.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I’m not entirely confident that Howie Roseman can make this selection, but I’ll award him the benefit of the doubt here. DeVonta Smith is my top-rated receiver and was the best player in college football this past season. He is arguably the best receiver of the elite ‘Bama quartet and is credited by the unit for having the group’s best hands.
Philadelphia is desperate for receiving weapons, and Smith would instantly become the team’s alpha receiver. They’ll consider Trey Lance here, but they don’t pull the trigger on a quarterback in this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
There’s a decent portion of draft analysts that believe Jaylen Waddle is the top receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Genuinely, I think at least a few teams will feel the same way.
Waddle is one of the most explosive weapons in the class but is more than just an athletic gadget weapon. He’s not only a YAC monster, but he’s a fierce and decisive route runner. He’s also very competitive in contested catch situations. Detroit gets a weapon that works well with new QB Jared Goff.
8. San Francisco 49ers (projected trade w/ Carolina): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
There’s not a cell in my body that believes San Francisco is content with their quarterback situation. I think they’re motivated enough to move up if one of the top passers falls.
Trey Lance‘s ability to make plays out of structure and in space plays perfectly into what San Francisco wants to do, ideally. The only concern is that Lance could be asked to play right away on a team that feels they’re capable of contention right now.
SF sends: 12, 43, 2022 3rd
CAR sends: 8, 152
9. Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Denver and A.J. Bouye have parted ways, and the Broncos will get their pick of CB at ninth overall. Their decisions come down to whether they want the upside and tools of Caleb Farley, the composure and floor of Patrick Surtain, or the attitude of Jaycee Horn.
I expect them to take Farley, whose physical skill set and size are in the mold of someone like Jalen Ramsey. He can become a true shutdown press-man cornerback. He just needs to clean up his mental mishaps.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys will be interested in whoever the Broncos pass up at No. 9.
Well-developed past the norm of college cornerbacks, Patrick Surtain plays level-headed at all times and is rarely out of position or panicking. He has long arms and smooth feet, making him a difficult draw for any receiver. He lacks elite tools, making him an excellent fit for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and his famous Seattle Cover 3 zone.
11. New York Giants: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Giants desperately need more weapons in the passing game, and with the top three receivers already off the board in this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, New York lands arguably the best offensive weapon in the class.
Kyle Pitts towers over defensive backs at 6’6″, and is too explosive and nuanced as a route runner to consider covering him with a linebacker. Pitts’ selection also makes it easier to part with Evan Engram when his rookie contract is up.
12. Carolina Panthers (from trade w/ San Francisco): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
There’s been too much smoke around Mac Jones and Carolina to call it a coincidence. I’m not sure the team is entirely on board with taking him at No. 8, but a trade down could be on the table. However, if Jones is truly their guy, they should take him at No. 8.
Jones is fresh off a national championship where he was arguably the top quarterback in the nation. He doesn’t possess the elite physical traits others in the class show, but his accuracy to all levels is excellent, and he can run a pro-style offense effectively.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The NFL seems to love Rashawn Slater — so much so that he’s consistently linked to Cincinnati and Philadelphia. However, for this 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, he falls to Los Angeles, who input the selection expeditiously.
Slater is the best technician in the class with the highest variance of pass sets and most consistent hand usage. He’s the least exciting physical specimen among the top tackles, but he projects as a quality professional on Day 1.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Vikings have a desperate need for talent on the defensive line, whether on the edge opposite Danielle Hunter or the interior. They select what many view as the top edge rusher in the 2021 class, Kwity Paye.
Paye is a dominant run defender whose motor runs hot 24/7. The explosion he plays with at 270+ pounds is truly rare, and he would be an excellent option to pair with Hunter. The retooling of Mike Zimmer’s defense gets another quality piece.
15. New England Patriots: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/IOL, USC
The Patriots are likely losing Joe Thuney this offseason, and the plan seems to be to move Michael Onwenu from right tackle to left guard. Alijah Vera-Tucker (AVT) has the smooth feet and functional athletic ability to be a quality right tackle. However, should New England decide to keep Onwenu at right tackle, AVT could play guard at a high level. The positional versatility is what will draw a team like New England to Vera-Tucker.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
One of the most entertaining studies in this draft process, Jaycee Horn‘s confidence and aggression make him a polarizing prospect. He is not the elite athlete Caleb Farley is, nor the dominant technician Patrick Surtain II is.
However, no other cornerback competes like Horn, nor does another prospect get into a receiver’s head and under their skin like Horn does. All of the mental traits you want in a shutdown CB1, Horn has. His confidence, cockiness, moxie, and unwavering belief that he is the best player on the field are what make him an excellent cornerback prospect.
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