The 2021 NFL Draft is inching near. Here is a look at our 2021 NFL Mock Draft. There are some risers and some fallers.
The 2021 NFL draft will be a draft like no other, as this year brings uncertainty to every phase of the Mock Draft process. Teams might push away from the table when it comes to this year’s crop of talent, accumulating picks in 2022 when things get back to normal (hopefully) from a scouting process perspective.
That means there may be more teams willing to move back with other teams looking to come up for quarterbacks. Selecting a quarterback is always a gamble, but this year, teams may be willing to take on that risk because of the uncertainty across the board. Here’s a look at how it could play out, with explanations for each selection.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
As much as I appreciate BYU QB Zach Wilson’s game, and I do, it is tough to put any other player here over Lawrence in this Mock Draft. I think it is closer than some think, but Lawrence has put enough on tape over several seasons to make him the first pick in 2021. Lawrence threw for 24 scores and five interceptions last year over 397 attempts, and he had 68 carries for 203 yards and eight scores.
Lawrence has the prototype size and athletic ability that teams covet, and he has played high-pressure football and has been successful. He will help restart the Jaguars franchise, and Lawrence will sell an exorbitant amount of jerseys.
2) Denver Broncos (TRADE UP)
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson had an incredible season for the Cougars, throwing for 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions on 336 attempts. He also ran for 254 yards on 70 carries and scored a whopping 10 touchdowns as a runner. Wilson oozes confidence on film, consistently making plays that most college quarterbacks cannot. He plays with a “shortstop” style, and that gives him the ability to make off-platform throws, delivering the ball with accuracy and on time while throwing from unique arm angles, sometimes while his feet are not set.
Wilson is accurate to all parts of the field, has enough arm strength to handle any throw necessary, and he has fast hands and a lightning-quick release. Wilson is entertaining to watch, and interestingly, there is room for him to grow into the NFL game while already being a skillful player.
3) Miami Dolphins
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Sewell is a high-end tackle prospect with rare moments on film. He moves like a much smaller player, but Sewell is 330-plus pounds, and you would never know if you watched him getting to the second level of a defense. Very light on his feet, capable of changing direction, and excellent at breaking down to hit targets in space, and all this helps to spring running backs and give them help into the areas of the field where they can be dangerous.
Sewell has heavy hands when he uses them. He is excellent in the pass protection game, light and springy on his feet. Sewell forces defenders to run around him (that is a long way) because he anchors so well that you are not going through him. It is beyond impressive to watch Oregon ask Sewell to cut off the one technique or Mike linebacker on running plays going away from Sewell, and then see him execute it.
Sewell is a 20-year-old football player, and we are watching film of him as a 19-year old, and that is amazing. He will sign his second contract at the age of 25. Sewell is not close to where he will finish as a player, and he should be one of the better players in this entire mock draft class.
4) Atlanta Falcons
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley fills a gigantic need for the Falcons as a long physical corner with rare movement skills. He is 6’2 and 207 pounds, and that gets him lined up outside against bigger receivers. His instincts to find the ball in the air are impressive, but it is the length that allows him to break up passes all over the field.
Farley possesses excellent ball skills and is disruptive at the catch point. Farley moves like an elite athlete, and watching him speed turn is a thing of beauty. Drafting a defender that impacts the passing game is critical in today’s game, and Farley has a chance to be a very productive cornerback in the NFL.
I have heard from several sources that Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson wants to play at home in Atlanta. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s situation would need a resolution, but Watson’s ability, age, and desire to play in Atlanta could push for something to get done here.
Players like Watson are never available, and if Watson wants to be in Atlanta, the Falcons should make this happen. There are always ways to make these kinds of things happen. If the Texans are on the board here, they are likely targeting a quarterback, and that throws a wrench into this mock draft, but we’re going to send Farley to Atlanta for now. Something to consider…..
5) Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This is a very natural pairing with the ex-LSU teammates joining forces in Cincinnati. First, the Bengals need to find a way to protect quarterback Joe Burrow, and a player like Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg would be an excellent fit in Round 2. Jonah Williams can play left tackle, and Eichenberg can step in to man the right side while allowing them to add a premier talent like Chase.
Chase is a very physical player, capable of separating at the line of scrimmage or down the field with the ball in the air. He is an explosive weapon and would make an excellent No. 1 receiving option for the Bengals. Chase brings a physical, alpha mentality to the position, and it is undeniable how much chemistry he and Burrow played with in 2019.
6) Philadelphia Eagles
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Pitts is one of the 2021 draft’s most exciting players as he is one of the few elite weapons available. The 2021 draft is full of uncertainty with the lack of the Combine and limited workouts, and that forces teams to place a priority on film. Pitts’ film is ridiculous. He screams “passing game weapon,” and he should not be locked into the tight end position playing inline.
Pitts needs to be utilized like a wide receiver, and with tight end Dallas Goedert in the fold, that is exactly how the Eagles could utilize him. He lined up all over the offensive formation for Florida and was dominant everywhere. His ability to adjust to the ball in the air gives him easy wins on the boundary, and his quickness and speed are a mismatch in the middle of the field. The addition of one of the mock draft’s most dangerous offensive players gives quarterback Jalen Hurts a chance to prove himself.
7) San Francisco 49ers (TRADE UP)
Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
Lance is a very high-upside player and one nowhere near as raw as some think. He put an incredible season together as a redshirt freshman in 2019 and only played one game in 2020. His freshman season was on par with Lawrence’s freshman season three years ago, but detractors will point to a lower level of competition with Lance.
Understandable, but a quarterback is accurate, or he is not, regardless of who he is playing against. Lance understands what a defense is trying to do and what it is trying to take away. He will throw the ball away from the leverage a defender has, and that points to his football intelligence and instincts.
As a runner, he is super dangerous because he is tough to bring down. Lance brings a combination of skills that make him a dangerous quarterback, whether that is throwing the ball or running with it. Lance goes to a team that can sit him for a year, but one that is incredibly quarterback friendly. He should flourish in Kyle Shanahan’s system and could be incredibly productive for the 49ers down the road.
8) Carolina Panthers
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Panthers have signaled a desire to move away from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as they have been linked to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in this offseason. They are interested in an upgrade, and Fields gives them the potential to make that happen.
Fields is mobile and can make all the throws required of an NFL quarterback. There is going to be some trepidation from scouts on him based on his desire to stay locked on his first read, but we should not crush Fields for playing in, and being very successful in the Ohio State offense.
The Panthers need to give Fields a good amount of run/pass option-type plays to keep him in rhythm, allowing him to use his legs to generate yardage. He is accurate throwing down the field and can hurt defenses with his arm and legs.
9) New York Jets (TRADE DOWN)
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Slater is an interesting case study in arm length, size, and offensive tackle play. He moves his feet incredibly well, and is a very technically advanced prospect entering the NFL. Slater should be deployed at right tackle, where he has a chance to play at a high level.
The Jets selected tackle Mekhi Becton last year, and he is capable of playing on the left side. And in this scenario, you have truly given quarterback Sam Darnold a much better chance of success by keeping him clean. Slater can perform right away because he plays with an excellent combination of technique and athleticism.
Truly, if you are not moving your feet well, it does not matter if you have long arms because you are reaching and lunging, and that is playing without power. Slater has great positional versatility and can play inside as well, but he should play right tackle in 2021. We have him at 9 in our Mock Draft.
10) Dallas Cowboys
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Cowboys need an infusion of talent on defense and getting one of the best defensive backs in the draft helps. Moehrig can be moved around the defense and has played in the box, as a slot corner, and in the deeper parts of the field.
He has excellent range and can cover a lot of ground to make plays on the ball. Moehrig has great length and is at his best coming forward to attack the ball as it arrives at the receiver. He consistently finds the ball and looks to be aware of what an offense is trying to do. He displays good football intelligence. Moehrig is a natural playmaker, and that is something the Cowboys defense desperately needs.
11) New York Giants
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons is a very aggressive linebacker capable of erasing plays in the backfield before they get started. He is really good at exploding through gaps to make stops versus the run. He can get after the passer as a blitzer because of his elite athleticism and physical makeup.
Parsons is big and thick, and he gives offensive linemen issues. He attacks so quickly, getting on top of them much sooner than anticipated. Parsons is not a player that should be relied upon for coverage responsibilities. Early in his career as he is not great at dropping away from the line of scrimmage. He is best suited to play in an aggressive defense that asks him to come forward and get to the ball.
There are reportedly off-the-field issues with Parsons. He will need to make a team comfortable with how he addresses these concerns. Parsons’s game is filled with potential and upside, and he could be a valuable piece of any defense if he can maximize his talent.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle might be the most explosive player in the entire 2021 class. He is a blur, and if a defender gives him even the slightest edge, he can turn that into a huge play. Waddle is elusive, slippery, and accelerates instantly. Jaylen chews up the cushion a cornerback gives him quickly and uses a defender’s leverage against him.
Waddle is smart and knows how to set up a defender to run away from him. He is sharp, precise, and detailed as a route runner but is also so quick and fast that defenders cannot stay with him.
There are eye-popping moments watching his film too. Waddle is small, but he plays big in the contested-catch game. He routinely coming down with passes while absorbing contact in traffic. When a small receiver runs obscenely fast like Waddle but also shows the competitiveness and desire to go up and make a 50/50 ball his, it is worth noting.
Also, his vertical route running and how he creates separation down the field is incredible to watch. He is polished and nuanced in this phase, stacking a defender and forcing that defender to slow his feet. Waddle does this by straying off his line a little and then coming back to that line while at full speed. When a defender slows just a little, Waddle runs away from them.
It is intentional, and it is dirty. Waddle also has a third gear and can hit that to run away from defenders when he has to slow himself to catch an underthrown pass. There are durability concerns, and teams will have to get comfortable with Waddle’s smaller size. However, he is one of the draft’s most electric weapons and could be an incredible receiver in the NFL.
13) Los Angeles Chargers
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Chargers need a tackle to help protect second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, and Darrisaw fills that role here. He is a physically gifted offensive tackle, capable of getting to the second level with ease.
Darrisaw is big, strong, and he will help the Chargers rushing attack while filling out as a pass protector. There are not a lot of true pass sets with Virginia Tech, so there is a bit of a projection with his upside as a pass protector, but a gamble on his upside is worth taking here.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Football Team is in need of quality quarterback play because the defense might have this team in challenge now mode. Getting a quarterback on a rookie deal could put this team over the top, but they likely have to jump the Patriots to grab the last first-round quarterback in the 2021 mock draft.
It is a smart move and one that could pay dividends when Jones eventually becomes the starter. Jones needs to be kept clean to be productive, but he is a talented quarterback, and he is very capable of playing the position at a high level with quality pieces surrounding him. He gets it done differently than the flashier prospects going earlier in the draft, but he is intriguing here.
15) New England Patriots
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Barmore gives the Patriots defensive front an infusion of size and playmaking ability. He is built thick and tall but is capable of disrupting the interior with ease. His first-step quickness smothers interior offensive linemen, and he uses his hands really well to stay disengaged.
There are times when he plays too tall, but coaching can help him to be more consistent. Barmore is extremely strong, and when he plays with good pad level, he is tough to move. I would guess the Patriots defenders playing behind him will appreciate what he brings to the table.
16) Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cardinals pass defense is in need of help as they have been lit up the past two seasons. Cardinals star cornerback Patrick Peterson is aging and due to be a free agent, and there is a massive hole to fill if that comes to pass.
Surtain II enters the NFL having played a lot (and early) for the Alabama defense, which is saying something. He has received excellent coaching at the college level, and that makes him prepared to play right away. Surtain II should step in, and with his talent, he can help this defense right the ship.
17) Las Vegas Raiders
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
Paye moves about as well as any edge defender entering the NFL in a long time. He is a big man but moves like a much smaller player, and in a typical year, Paye would have been one of the stars coming out of the Combine.
This is a total projection though, as he is nowhere near the football player when comparing the athlete. Paye may take a season or two to get up to speed, but if he can match his ability to play football with his athleticism, he will be an absolute force as a pass rusher.
18) Miami Dolphins
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
This is an excellent pairing made by the football gods. Second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gets his old college weapon here, and Smith goes to an up-and-coming team that is building excitement.
Smith is slight of frame, but that did not stop him from putting up a season for the ages as a wide receiver in the SEC football conference. DeVonta wins as a highly polished route runner, and in particular, his work at the stem of his route is dynamic.
Smith moves in a very sudden manner, and he has great hands. He catches everything in range of him, whether it is high, low, or behind. Smith is a smart receiver, capable of setting up defenders. The best words I have for Smith is that he is a very, very solid football player, period. He brings a game that can be paired with receiver Devante Parker to make for an extremely solid pairing for Tagovailoa.
19) Minnesota Vikings (TRADE DOWN)
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
In this exercise, the Vikings traded down, but with no second-round pick in 2021, there may be a desire to recoup a pick in that range in this deal. The Vikings need to be able to generate more pressure on the quarterback as their sack total last season fell off a cliff. Ojulari is a very polished pass rusher entering the NFL.
He is quick and fast, can get low and force tackles to reach for him, and then he rips past them into the pocket. Adding to that, he uses his hands very effectively, and you get a complete pass rusher capable of producing at a high level in the future. Ojulari is not just a one-trick pony though, as he will bring it to set an edge against the run, and he will use a very physical to win his gap and spill blockers aside.
20) Chicago Bears
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Marshall Jr. is an excellent addition to the Bears offense as he offers positional versatility to an offense needing help. Marshall Jr. is a very big receiver, and he can truly do it all. He is adept at catching the ball cleanly, has sound ball skills, runs excellent routes, and can punish defenses running with physicality after the catch.
Marshall Jr. is fast, and he could be a very explosive “YAC” guy in an offense that can get the ball in his hands on time. He can play out of the slot as well as outside, and he has shown the ability to attack and win at every part of the field while at LSU. Marshall Jr. has been the forgotten man with Chase and 2019 first-round pick Justin Jefferson getting all the publicity to this point, but his time is coming.
21) Indianapolis Colts
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
The Colts need a replacement for retiring left tackle Anthony Castonzo, and that is where Vera-Tucker enters the picture. Vera-Tucker has played in a few different spots for USC, and he is incredibly versatile. He played left tackle in 2020, and he held up very well for the Trojans.
His story is similar to Slater, and the same length issues are here, but so is the plus athleticism that could allow Vera-Tucker to stay outside at tackle. Vera-Tucker is incredibly mobile, and his ability to get to the second level could help spring running back Jonathan Taylor, creating big runs for the Colts ground game.
22) Tennessee Titans
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Philips fits the mold of a multiple defender as he is capable of winning versus the run and as a pass rusher, and that fits what the Titans want to do on defense. He brings the size teams running a multiple front covet, and he can make plays as a defender in a variety of ways.
Phillips has a good first step to threaten a tackle with speed and can turn speed into power to bullrush if a tackle oversets. He is also physical enough to set a strong edge against the run and win his gap assignment. Phillips is a smart player, using the correct shoulder to take on pullers to win his gap. Phillips can be utilized as a stand-up outside linebacker or a down defensive end, bringing excellent versatility to an NFL team.
23) New York Jets
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, HYBRID, Notre Dame
Owusu-Koramoah is a swiss-army knife playing in a variety of roles. He is undersized to play a traditional linebacker role in the NFL, but that is not how he has been utilized at Notre Dame, and that is not what he will do in the NFL. He plays in coverage extremely well, whether that is against slot receivers or running backs coming out of the backfield.
A true modern-day defender, he showcases solid instincts in coverage and has excellent short-area quickness to get to the ball. Owusu-Koramoah is going to struggle if asked to stay in the box. He can’t take on power as he does not have the bulk to do so. Asking him to play on the edges and in space is a smart plan and maximizes his value.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Jenkins is a nasty offensive lineman, and he displays a very aggressive attitude and demeanor on the field. He has played all over the interior of the offensive line but has manned the right tackle position the past two seasons.
He is a phone-booth mauler. Playing with heavy hands to control his man and he wants to embarrass his man. Jenkins uses a jump set to shut down rushers before they get started. Once he gets latched on, you can see him engage his lower body to help him drive his feet through contact. Jenkins could play a long time as there is a lot to like about his game. That is why we have him at #24 on our Mock Draft.
25) Jacksonville Jaguars
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney’s route running is fun to watch as he has lightning-fast footwork and elite short-area quickness. He can uncover very quickly and will be an asset as a security blanket to a young quarterback looking to get an offense moving.
The Jaguars have a big, outside weapon in receiver D.J. Chark and a do it all type in receiver Laviska Shenault, but Toney adds playmaking from the slot. Toney also is a nightmare as a blocker as he will light up a defender in the ground game. He plays a very physical style for a smaller statured receiver, but he would help this offense running routes out of the slot.
26) Cleveland Browns
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Collins is a very interesting player and much more a football player than an athlete running and chasing. Collins has good football instincts, as evidenced by his dropping into coverage very effectively in college. He finds the football and does a good job of getting to proper depth while understanding his areas of coverage.
At 260 pounds, he is a big linebacker, and he can stand up and rush the passer effectively. Collins is also a very strong run defender with the ability to take on guards and shed to get to the ball. He is an excellent example of a complete prospect being a value at this point in the draft.
27) Baltimore Ravens
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman is super intriguing as a prospect as he brings excellent size to the position, and he runs very well for a big receiver. Bateman is a precise route runner, and he is capable of creating separation to all parts of the field. He did not look quite as explosive this past season as he did two seasons ago.
However, he is an excellent fit for the Ravens as they need to add an element of size and playmaking ability to their receiver room. Bateman does that and could open up more passing-game production for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
28) New Orleans Saints
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Bolton is talked about as if he is small, but he is not small. He is just short. He is a thickly built linebacker playing an intensely physical brand of football. Bolton has outstanding athleticism and is patient while moving laterally, but he looks very explosive when he decides it is time to attack coming forward.
Bolton lays heavy hits on ball carriers on a consistent basis, and he’ll end plays in the backfield. He patrols the middle of the field and will punish pass catchers as they enter his zone. Bolton does a solid job of covering the flats, but he is at his strength moving laterally and attacking gaps while defending the run. He can be effective as a blitzer running through gaps as well, and that gives him some three-down ability.
29) Green Bay Packers
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Horn is a very physical cornerback, capable of playing in press-man coverage and holding up one-on-one. He is an aggressive player, but he does a solid job of playing away from receivers too. Horn is smooth and fluid, and he brings excellent size to the position.
This helps him hold up as a defender against the run where he is willing. Horn gets out of his pedal quickly and can close on the ball, and is really good at punching the ball out as a receiver is bringing it in. He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. Horn is a very confident player, and he would immediately upgrade the Packers secondary, helping their defense get off the field.
30) Buffalo Bills
Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Rousseau is a big, explosive athlete playing on the edge, but he is raw, and his game is a projection at this point. He is going to take time to develop, both from a strength standpoint, but more importantly, as a pass rusher.
However, he does bring great size and length to the position. If a team can get him dialed in, they could get solid production from him. Rousseau can play all across a defensive front and brings good versatility to the next level.
31) Kansas City Chiefs
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Moore is a very explosive slot receiver, and he wins on the field in a variety of ways. He showcases excellent first-step quickness and the ability to separate over a short area. This helps him win on in-breaking routes where he can run away from a defender quickly.
Moore also has excellent long speed and can win vertically too. That makes him a dangerous weapon for a team that can use him in the multiple ways he can win. Whether it is short, intermediate, or deep, you can see how dangerous Moore would be paired with receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
Moore would give the Chiefs offense another weapon, one that defenses would have to account for, and he could produce at a high level early in his career.
32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2021 Mock Draft)
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The addition of Etienne would be a nod and a gift to quarterback Tom Brady. Pass-catching running backs have been incredibly productive throughout Brady’s career. Etienne would be one of the best running backs ever to play with Brady.
He stayed for his senior year at Clemson, and that has turned into a wise choice from a football standpoint. He has improved as a pass catcher, and that makes him an intriguing addition here. Etienne is an explosive runner, capable of gashing the defense, running with, and catching the ball.
He would help the Buccaneers create more explosive plays in their offense. That means less reliance on Brady dropping back and taking hits as he gets even older. Etienne must improve in pass protection, but he is willing, and that is a start. The addition of Etienne makes the Buccaneers offense more potent. It keeps them in a position to play important games late into the postseason.