2021 NFL Draft: Predicting the top 10 picks

Ralph Vacchiano
·4 min read
DeVonta Smith/Ja'Marr Chase/Jaylen Waddle
DeVonta Smith/Ja'Marr Chase/Jaylen Waddle

The key to understanding what the Giants will do with the 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft is to understand what will happen in the rest of the Top 10. Some of the players are locks. Some of their places are cemented, too.

But there’s just enough uncertainty to add a little bit of mystery to what the Giants will still see on their board when it’s their turn to pick.

Here’s my look at what I think will happen Thursday night in the first 10 picks of the NFL Draft, based off of conversations with scouts, coaches, executives and other NFL sources over the past few months:

1. Jacksonville – Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

No surprise. He was always going No. 1 no matter who earned this pick.

2. JETS – BYU QB Zach Wilson

The Jets have been targeting him for months. He’s even been researching how to survive as a pro athlete in New York. The only thing he hasn’t done yet is buy a house.

Nov 21, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) reacts after their win against North Alabama in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK
Nov 21, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) reacts after their win against North Alabama in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK

3. San Francisco – Alabama QB Mac Jones

He was the likely target from the moment they traded up into the Top 3, even though they’re hoping the Jets forget how to spell “Zach Wilson” on their card. The late noise about Trey Lance is only noise.

4. Atlanta – Florida TE Kyle Pitts

Matt Ryan is only 35 and the Falcons think they can squeeze a few more years out of him. So to help, they’re going to take everybody’s favorite player and the most dangerous weapon in the draft. The Giants, by the way, love him and would move up if the price is right. Spoiler alert: It isn’t.

Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Florida TE Kyle Pitts

5. Cincinnati – LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase

They have been debating Chase vs. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell all along – giving young quarterback Joe Burrow a dangerous weapon or better protection. They can find offensive linemen later, though. They won’t find another receiver quite like Chase.

6. Miami – Alabama WR DeVonta Smith

This is really the key pick for the Giants. The Dolphins would prefer Chase or Pitts, according to a source, and could take Sewell. But most believe they will choose between the Alabama receivers – Smith or Jaylen Waddle. It feels like a coin flip and everyone seems to have a different opinion. I’m guessing they take Smith.

Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) celebrates a play against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) celebrates a play against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

7. Detroit – Oregon T Penei Sewell

This will break the heart of Dave “Hog Mollie” Gettleman, because from what I hear, he’s holding out hope that either Pitts or Sewell somehow fall just a little bit farther than this. Lions head coach and former Giants tight end Dan Campbell has been signaling it’ll be a tackle here, despite the Lions’ desperate need for a receiver after losing both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones this offseason. Maybe they’ll take Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater instead. Or maybe they’ll be willing to trade down knowing they can still get a tackle or a top guard a little lower. The Giants might be interested in trading up for Sewell, but again, it depends on the price. It won’t be cheap.

8. Carolina – Ohio State QB Justin Fields

This pick is a little hard to figure. The Panthers may have traded for Sam Darnold, but they haven’t exactly signaled a long-term commitment to him (they haven’t even picked up his fifth-year option for 2022 yet). Plus, they just traded veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. I’m not sold on them taking a quarterback, as much as I’m sold on this being the sweet spot for a team (like New England at 15) that might want to trade up for one, just to get in front of the Broncos. So I’ll pencil Fields in here, with the team taking him unknown.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

9. Denver – North Dakota State QB Trey Lance

They traded for Bridgewater on Wednesday, but re-did his contract so he’ll be a free agent after the season -- so that’s not something that’s going to alter any plans they had to take a quarterback. In fact, I think it makes it more likely. They added a veteran quarterback who’s known as a terrific guy to help ease the transition for their new young starter. That’ll be especially important if it’s Lance, who hasn’t really played since 2019 – he only played one game in the fall before the pandemic pushed the Bisons’ season to the spring. He’s going to need some time, and adding Bridgewater buys it.

10. Dallas – Alabama CB Patrick Surtain

The entire NFL world has been expecting them to take a cornerback since this process began, so there’s no need to change that now. The only question is whether it’ll be Surtain or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. More people believe Surtain is the top corner, but it’s close.

Which leaves this group for the Giants at 11:

They’d be looking at a group that includes Waddle, Slater, and either Horn or Surtain from which to choose when they make the 11th overall pick. Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye is believed to be the top edge rusher on their board and could get some consideration, too, especially if all the top receivers are gone.