The 2021 NFL Draft is going to be unlike any Draft I have covered. We’ve already had a few player opt-outs, and more are expected in the coming days. Players are going to want to show progression, but others have deferred to their tape of previous years in precaution of their safety, and the safety of others.
And as always, the NFL Draft order in this mock is determined by the inverse of the Super Bowl odds.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
If the Jaguars are picking this high in the 2021 NFL Draft, that means Gardner Minshew was very bad (Which I don’t actually think he is). And when you’ve got a bad QB, you try replace him with a good one. And Trevor Lawrence is a good one. As is the case with every other player in existence, he is not perfect, but the talent which he possesses exceeds that of any other QB I’ve scouted.
2. Washington Football Team – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Picking this high would suggest Dwayne Haskins didn’t play well, but I want to give him a real chance to succeed. Sewell will be the replacement for Trent Williams who was traded on day-3 of the NFL Draft. He is almost a flawless tackle; tremendous size, good leverage, technically proficient and athletic. He would be Dwayne Haskins’ blindside protector for years to come.
3. Cincinnati Bengals – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Despite addressing the LB position in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals group of LBs still isn’t great. I was one of the biggest Akeem Davis-Gaither fans, and I was fairly high on Germaine Pratt — but none of these players would stand in the way of drafting Micah Parsons. Parsons is still a far from perfect player, but his ceiling and versatility makes him a highly desirable prospect.
4. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
I’m still unsure if Lance — with one year of production at the FCS level — is going to come out in 2021. But what he showed as a Redshirt Freshman was very impressive. He made mistakes typical of a first year starter, but his talent is undeniable. And to put him in Joe Brady’s offense where he’s going to get the chance to throw vertical balls is a good fit.
5. New York Jets – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
I don’t think the Jets are going to roll with Sam Darnold if they’re picking this high again, but I also don’t think Sam Darnold is going to be as bad as he’s been so far. A big factor in Darnold’s struggles has been his lack of support on offense. The Jets drafted Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims in 2020 to help Darnold, Chase would be a great addition to that.
6. New York Giants – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Giants don’t really have what can be considered a pass rush, they ranked 22nd in sacks last season with 36. Markus Golden accounted for almost 30% of those sacks. The Giants need a versatile pass rushing piece that is Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau is still a very raw pass rusher, but has all the tools to be a successful pass rusher in the NFL.
7. Miami Dolphins – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
I don’t care that the Dolphins did a lot to address the offensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft, because I don’t think they did a very good job of doing so. They threw a lot of darts at the board, but they appeared to be blindfolded. And when you take a QB with the injury history of Tua, you need to protect him to the greatest extent to which you can. Davis is a highly dependable boulder on the interior of the offensive line.
8. Las Vegas Raiders – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
I can’t see Jon Gruden tolerating Derek Carr for one more year if they’re picking in the top-10. Carr has never quite found his way back from 2015, and five years on, it might be time to move on. Fields is a QB I have so many gripes with at this stage of his career; he is prone to inexplicable mistakes and his accuracy is quite inconsistent. But his talent is undeniable, Jon Gruden would love him.
9. Detroit Lions – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Matthew Stafford was playing at an elite level prior to his injury early in the 2019 season. As good as Stafford is, he lacks the support he needs to play at a high level. DeVonta Smith is a thin WR, but he is such a devastating route runner with very good ball tracking skills.
10. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Dolphins don’t have a true WR1 at the moment, they have a few solid receivers, but no one that Tua can rely on. Bateman is that guy; he has very reliable hands, and is a proficient route runner.
11. Denver Broncos – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The loss of Chris Harris was attempted to be rectified by the acquisition of AJ Bouye this offseason. Whilst Bouye is still serviceable, he is 29 and not the long term answer. And the other starting CB — Bryce Callahan — missed the entirety of 2019 due to injury. Farley is a big, long CB with good coverage skills.
12. Arizona Cardinals – Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee
Steve Keim and the Cardinals are slowly but surely building a formidable roster headed by Kyler Murray. As a rookie, Murray looked every bit as promising as he did at Oklahoma, but will continue to require protection after taking the most sacks of any other QB as a rookie. Granted, his play style will always inflate his sack total, but he still needs more help. Smith has struggled with health issues, but is a very talented guard nevertheless.
13. Chicago Bears – Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
The Bears roster is now very underwhelming. This calls into question the foresight of the Khalil Mack trade which has gutted the Bears of their resources to build up a roster. This is besides the point, but it is to justify the best player available approach with this pick. Wilson is my highest ranked player on the board; he is a big, strong, disruptive, and explosive Defensive Tackle who would’ve been my DT1 if he had declared in 2020.
14. Los Angeles Chargers – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
The Chargers haven’t been able to put together much of a consistent offensive line over the years to protect Philip Rivers. But now they’ll have a new QB to protect, one that they can’t waste years floundering with. The Chargers have thrown money and draft capital at their offensive line, but it is yet to come together. Humphrey is a great communicator up front who will help protect Justin Herbert.
15. Atlanta Falcons – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Grady Jarrett is good, very good in fact. But the Falcons have something of a weakness on the defensive front. Tyeler Davison is a competent run stopper, but the Falcons lack the pass rush diversity outside of Jarrett. Barmore is a raw, but explosive and relentless pass rusher who can be developed into a monster by Dan Quinn.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The Jaguars have made it pretty clear; they’re tanking. They have the worst roster in the NFL, and are in the position to take the best player on the board. That player is Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth is a much needed receiving option for Trevor Lawrence who is going to struggle if surrounded by such a flawed roster.
17. Tennessee Titans – Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh
I really like the Titans roster as a whole, there are few weaknesses to speak of which puts them in a privileged position to select without tremendous regard for need. But this is a team that got rid of Jurrell Casey, and to pair up a fast and unrelenting pass rusher in Jaylen Twyman with the disruptive force of Jeffrey Simmons would be a more than adequate replacement.
18. Cleveland Browns – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
With Dylan Moses’ ACL tear and the uncertainty of this upcoming season, it is hard to parse out exactly where Moses is going to be valued. But from the available tape of him, his talent and athleticism is very much apparent. The Browns’ biggest weakness right now is probably linebacker given that they are projected to start rookie Jacob Phillips this season. Moses would be an immediate upgrade.
19. Minnesota Vikings – Rashawn Slater, OT/G, Northwestern
I think the Vikings smashed it out of the park in the 2020 NFL Draft. But they still could do more to shore up the offensive line, particularly the interior. Slater is a highly versatile lineman who plays Tackle, but could easily make the transition to guard if necessary.
20. Buffalo Bills – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Despite trading for Stefon Diggs, I really don’t think the Bills are surrounding Josh Allen with the best players they can. Notice how I said ‘players’ there, not receivers, not running backs — players. Such an emphasis is necessitated by Waddle’s versatility as a runner and a receiver. His blistering speed is something that the Bills can’t refrain from giving to Josh Allen.
21. Green Bay Packers – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
Whether it is Jordan Love or Aaron Rodgers, they need someone to throw to not named Davante Adams. The Packers infamously neglected to take a WR in the 2020 NFL Draft, to the dismay of every Packers fan in existence. It may surprise some to see ST. Brown this high, and no I’m not just doing this to re-unite him with his brother, Equanimeous. But Amon-Ra provides the speed and deep threat that is currently not on display in the other members of the Packers’ WR room.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Joe Haden is now 31 years old. He hasn’t got much left in the tank, and it would be a good idea to line up a replacement for him with a player of Surtain’s calibre. Surtain is a long and physical CB who could hear his name called much higher then 22nd.
23. Indianapolis Colts – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Holland is a player who could go both much sooner or much later than this. I think Holland is a Swiss Army knife on the back end who will make plays in a fashion not too dissimilar to Minkah Fitzpatrick. I wouldn’t feel great about Philip Rivers as a long term option, but there isn’t anyone who I would take here to replace him.
24. Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
The Eagles’ LBs are not very good to say the least, and they didn’t do much to address it in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bolton is a fun LB who flies around the field and makes tackles. He isn’t a player who can reliably defeat blocks, but his speed makes him a perfect 4-3 OLB.
25. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
If Sam Darnold is to succeed, he’s going to need more than Denzel Mims to throw to. Moore is the polar opposite of Mims in that he is an incredibly undersized receiver who is a multi-directional athlete who can stretch the field.
26. New England Patriots – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Patriots tried to find their Gronkowski replacement in Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi. Neither of which are in fact Rob Gronkowski. Kyle Pitts is also not Rob Gronkowski, but he can be the next generation of Patriots TEs. He’s a dynamic receiver who can be a safety valve for Cam Newton.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Cowboys lost Byron Jones and made the decision to not replace him. Given that Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie are the Cowboys projected CBs this season, it’s probably a good idea to target a CB early in the 2021 NFL Draft. Horn might be a surprise this high in the Draft, but he’s a long and intriguing CB who has a chance to go on day 1.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
I am generally averse to taking a RB in round 1, but I think the Buccaneers situation necessitates it. The roster is strong, and they need to reinforce the roster to support Tom Brady in the last years of his career. Granted, the Buccaneers signed former first round pick Leonard Fournette, but I’m not confident in his fit in such a dynamic offense. Etienne, however, is one of the most dynamic playmakers in this class.
29. New Orleans Saints – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
The Saints roster is one of the best in the NFL, there are very few weaknesses to note, that is aside from Tight End. I don’t love Jordan as a first round pick just yet, but he has the athleticism to make an impact on the Saints offense.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
My hesitancy towards Wade is founded in his experience — or lack thereof — on the boundary. I think Wade has the tools to play outside, but I can’t be sure yet. Perhaps his best position is in the Nickel, a position with increasing value given the pass-oriented game that the NFL has become. As for the 49ers, they could really do with help in the secondary to push them over the edge.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Ravens roster is arguably the most complete and deep in the NFL. This enables them to take a gamble on the athlete that Kwity Paye is. Pernell McPhee and Derek Wolfe are the two starting edge rushers for the Ravens this season, this is a weakness for them. I think Paye can be the disruptive monster he has the potential to be if given an opportunity that he could get with the Ravens.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
The Chiefs defense is decidedly not their strength, and I am of the opinion that when you have multiple holes, you fill them with as many plugs you can get in one. And Rumph is a whole lot of plugs. He probably isn’t a true edge at the NFL level, but he has the athleticism to occasionally play off-ball who rushes on blitz packages.
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