Pro days are mostly done. Free agency has slowed to a crawl. And now NFL teams are well into the process of stacking their draft boards with April 29 fast approaching.
There are some loose medical ends that need tying up, but for the most part we know what the big picture looks like for the 2021 draft.
How it actually shakes out is another matter. But we’re giving it a crack here with our penultimate mock draft for 2021, with one more set to arrive the week of the draft.
The feeling right now? There will be a lot of activity involving Round 1, with a few more big first-round trades — centered on the quarterbacks — still likely to come.
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
He skipped the NFL scouting combine medical recheck in Indianapolis for his surgically repaired shoulder to get married. Solid excuse. It also tells us that Lawrence knows for sure he’s going first overall.
BYU QB Zach Wilson
The feeling heading into Wilson’s pro day on March 26 was that Wilson was the favorite here. Nothing changed after that. It feels nearly certain now.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans)
We’ll find out on April 29 around 8:30 p.m. ET whether Jones is the pick. Last mock we had Trey Lance in this slot, and when we sent it to a few folks around the league (with other teams) for review, two of them mentioned that their belief was that Jones, not Lance, would be picked third. We shall see if they are right, but you can blame me if they’re not.
North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
I could see Lance landing in this spot one way or another. Either as the Falcons’ future QB after they move on from Matt Ryan (at some point) or to another team trading up into this spot. Justin Fields is the local kid and appears to be the favorite QB among the team’s fans. The Falcons could regard Lance as having a higher ceiling long term. Just a guess.
Could they take Kyle Pitts here and assemble a battery of freaky pass catchers? Sure. We love the guy. But taking the long-term QB — or trading down — would create more bang for Atlanta’s buck.
Florida TE Kyle Pitts
There’s some buzz around the league that the Bengals feel they’ve done enough to upgrade their offensive line to bypass that spot (and Penei Sewell) at No. 5. That’s … interesting.
Pitts has the higher ceiling as a prospect. He’s an alien, basically. So Joe Burrow getting another premier weapon feels like a good thing. As long as the Bengals double back (at 38 or 69) and grab more OL beef.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia Eagles)
LSU WR JaMarr Chase
Sewell might be tough to pass on here, but Chase would give Miami a highly confident playmaker who can make life easier for Tua Tagovailoa with his separation, competitive ball skills and run-after-catch ability.
Now you’d have a WRs room with Chase, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jakeem Grant and others, which feels as strong as Miami has had at that spot in forever. That said, if Chase went fifth, we’d have pegged them Pitts.
Oregon OT Penei Sewell
Last time around, I had Penn State LB Micah Parsons here, a player they’ll have a high regard for. But with Sewell on the board, I am not sure the Lions would pass on him. Would they move Taylor Decker to right tackle? Not initially. Sewell could be the right tackle and slide over to the left side in a few years if needed.
Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
They went with an all-defense draft in 2020, but new GM Scott Fitterer shouldn’t be too concerned with that in 2021, even though trading for QB Sam Darnold could lead to them wanting to give him some blocking help.
Corner also remains a glaring need, though, and Surtain fits the mold of the long, athletic cover man defensive coordinator Phil Snow seeks and the prototype that the Seattle Seahawks prioritized when Fitterer was a key member of their scouting department. Seattle almost exclusively drafted corners with arm lengths 32 inches or longer, and Surtain crosses that bar — and he can play, too.
9. Denver Broncos
Ohio State QB Justin Fields
Don’t know if it works out exactly like this, but Fields’ arrival would be a major threat to Drew Lock’s starting status. The Broncos tried to get into the Matthew Stafford derby, and they could move up to No. 4 if they want Lance. But if Fields drops, not costing them anything additional to take him, it would be a win for new GM George Paton.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Northwestern OT-OG Rashawn Slater
This will anger some Cowboys fans, and we get it. They need defense! We know, we know. Would they consider South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn here? Maybe — he’d fit Dan Quinn’s preference for longer corners. What about LB Micah Parsons? Another maybe, especially if they’re worried about the health of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
But Slater could be a Day 1 starting left guard who eventually moves to tackle. Dallas has done a good job of sticking to its board, especially with first-rounders, so a Slater pick here shouldn’t be stunning. Some teams believe he has a chance to be picked ahead of Sewell.
11. New York Giants
Penn State LB Micah Parsons
Parsons fits a need for another playmaker on Patrick Graham’s emerging defense. That unit ranked in the top 10 in yards per play and points allowed but was in the middle of the pack in turnovers. Parsons (19 career TFLs, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles) is a big-play threat.
The Giants also would have intel on Parsons that other teams don’t: DL coach Sean Spencer, who was very close with Parsons at Penn State and could help vouch for his character, if needed.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
They could go with an outside corner in Round 1 and add a nickel corner with one of their three Day 2 picks. Horn would start immediately opposite Darius Slay and potentially be a significant upgrade over the options currently in place.
The NFC East is suddenly strong at receiver, with Kenny Golladay joining the Giants and Curtis Samuel going to the Washington Football Team, so the Eagles will need as many talented cover men as possible.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
The Chargers have upgraded the OL interior, but left tackle looms as a big void entering the draft. New head coach Brandon Staley seemed to suggest in a recent news conference that length and pass blocking are two big traits he likes in his left tackles, which leads us to Darrisaw.
He’s a three-year starter at left tackle who has allowed a mere three sacks (zero in 2020) over more than 1,100 pass-blocking snaps. Oh, and he has 34-inch arms and great mass for the run game, too. Justin Herbert’s protection gets better.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye
Maybe Mike Zimmer was being coy when he said after the season that he liked where his offense was at. An offensive lineman could make sense, but don’t they at least want to see if 2020 second-rounder Ezra Cleveland can play left tackle?
Paye might not be a sexy pick to some, but his upside is intriguing if he can channel his athleticism into better pass-rush results. The Vikings need bodies up front.
15. New England Patriots
Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
Imagine them having their choice of DeVonta Smith or Waddle? Even after upgrading the WRs room this offseason, there’s ample room for Waddle’s explosive, game-changing ability — both as a receiver and returner. This also could make up for the retirement of Julian Edelman.
As for QB, I’m starting to change my tune from what I wrote amid the Patriots’ free-agent flurry, that a draft day trade up for a premier passer made sense. It would take the almost perfect scenario for Belichick to pull the trigger on that maneuver. Perhaps they’re waiting for the 49ers (Jimmy Garoppolo) and Raiders (Marcus Mariota) to make one of their veterans available to create a competition with Cam Newton.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
The Cardinals certainly could trade down here. Right now, they lack picks in Rounds 3, 4 and 6 and currently have one selection in a nearly 200-pick span between Days 2 and 3.
If this scenario unfolded, with the Heisman Trophy-winning Smith still on the board, he’d be tough to pass up. They signed A.J. Green, and Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t yet said whether he’ll come back, but adding Smith to this group would be a no-brainer. The Cardinals have no great tight ends — just go four- and five-wide all game.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
For many teams, Jenkins might grade out close to the late first, early second-round range. But GM Mike Mayock hasn’t been afraid to reach for players with a lower league value for what they view as an ideal fit. Jenkins is big, nasty, smart and competitive, and he has played four different OL spots. For the Raiders he could be a Day 1 starter at right tackle, currently a big void.
Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips
It feels more prudent for them to wait for a running back, which they can grab at Nos. 36 or 50 overall in Round 2. The Dolphins didn’t add a pass rusher this offseason and currently have some uninspiring options to chase quarterbacks.
The debate here was between Phillips and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari. We sided with Phillips because of his length and extraordinary athletic burst. His medical and character reports will determine his draft landing spot. He could go from a top-20 pick all the way to a second-rounder.
19. Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera had Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in Chicago, Shawne Merriman in San Diego and Luke Kuechly in Carolina. All were big, rangy, highly instinctive linebackers who can play big or small. Collins fits that mold, and he has fascinating potential in the right hands. Washington has put together a nice defense but has a few holes at linebacker and safety, another position WFT could fill here (maybe Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah?).
Worth noting: There's also talk floating around that Washington loves Trey Lance and could make a big move up to grab him.
20. Chicago Bears
Predicting how the Bears will approach this draft is difficult. They have major needs at quarterback and tackle, and yet the cards don’t line up ideally here at either spot. They also could use another receiver, and Toney can be used as a multifaceted weapon on schemed-up touches until he develops more.
And to the Bears fans who react despondently to this pick, we get it … but check out the name one evaluator evoked to us when we asked them about Toney’s electric skills with the ball in his hands.
21. Indianapolis Colts
USC OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
GM Chris Ballard says he’s a listen-to-the-board drafter, and Vera-Tucker is a top-20 prospect in some evaluators’ minds. Can he play left tackle? All we saw of him in college was six games’ worth at that spot in 2020, and he might lack ideal length at that position in the NFL. Could the Colts move Quenton Nelson to left tackle and play Vera-Tucker at left guard? Don't rule that out.
22. Tennessee Titans
They’ve lost some firepower in the passing game and could use a YAC threat such as Moore. A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds are OK on the outside, but the slot is vacant now. Perhaps the Titans could give Moore a shot to be their primary returner after losing Kalif Raymond to the Lions.
23. Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
Notre Dame S-LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Perhaps there are more pressing needs, but GM Joe Douglas is a talent hound who knows a bargain when he sees one. JOK would work well as a weakside linebacker (or as a big safety) in the new defensive system and could develop into a playmaker like the ones new head coach Robert Saleh had in San Francisco with Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
The retirement of Maurkice Pouncey means the Steelers need a center. Their run game has slogged, and Ben Roethlisberger needs all the protection he can receive. Dickerson is a massive mauler with versatility to play any of the three interior spots and possesses the exact temperament the Steelers seek.
The problem: His torn ACL in December (along with a lengthy medical history) leave his short- and long-term health in question. Dickerson could go late first round ... or tumble well into Day 2 if the medical reports come back ugly. Alabama RB Najee Harris was another player we thought long and hard about here.
25. Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
When the Jaguars lost out on Tyson Alualu, it left a void up front. It’s clear they want to add size and athleticism. The redshirt sophomore isn’t ready for prime time yet but has disruptive traits and the highest ceiling of what looks like a lean year for DTs.
26. Cleveland Browns
We’ve placed edge rushers here in recent mocks, but a corner also could be a great fit. The highly confident and athletic Newsome could vie for a starting role in Cleveland right away if he can beat out Greedy Williams. The Browns know they need to curb the number of big plays they allow in the pass game, and this would be one savvy way to address that.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
Losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue puts edge rush high on their wish list. And in this scenario, the Ravens find a young, highly productive rusher who should grade highly on their board after a 9.5-sack, four-FF season in his 12 games.
28. New Orleans Saints
Whoo, boy. We’re not certain Mills will crack the top 32 picks, but a landing spot here wouldn't be a stunner. The Saints have bypassed QBs left and right over the years in an effort to add more immediate firepower. With Drew Brees gone, the Saints are left with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
They could roll the dice on Mills — whom they’ve done their homework on — after his limited body of work (11 college starts) but promising upside. Every few years we see teams late in Round 1 draft QBs (Jordan Love, Lamar Jackson, Paxton Lynch, Teddy Bridgewater) with an eye on locking them in with the fifth-year option.
29. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been aggressive in Round 1 under GM Brian Gutekunst, trading up multiple times the past few years. Drafting Farley would be a different form of aggression, betting that Farley's health worries are worth the risk on a player who was a possible top-10 pick at one point. And traditionally, this is a club that is conservative when it comes to medical risks. But they sure could use some insurance for Kevin King, and Farley could be a home run selection — or, if his back problems worsen, a whiff.
30. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have struggled to heat up their pass rush and could use another body here. As it turns out, Oweh might have the most tailor-made EDGE body in the entire class. He’s an elite athlete with rudimentary pass-rush skills that can be coached up over time. His upside is thrilling, and Oweh should be a good locker-room fit in Buffalo.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs could use another big, fast receiver, believe it or not, and Marshall fits the bill. There are some pitfalls in his evaluation (medical concerns, opting out midseason), but Marshall makes sense — yet another LSU pick late in Round 1.
And this also would have a feel-good element to it, too. Marshall’s great uncle, Joe Delaney, was the Chiefs’ second-rounder in 1981 and a beloved star in the making prior to his drowning in 1983 while trying to save some children.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With 22 starters back from a Super Bowl winner, the Bucs are in a glorious position here. Harris should supplant Leonard Fournette in time if this happens, and we can see Bruce Arians falling for a back who mimics some of the things David Johnson did for him in Arizona.
Teams without first-round picks
56. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks currently have only Ethan Pocic penciled in at center and could use an upgrade if there’s not a viable cornerback available here. Humphrey is a weight-room warrior with excellent experience and enough athleticism to fit the Seahawks’ needs. He has snapped to two future NFL QBs in Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts (three if you count Spencer Rattler) and could step in right away as a starter.
57. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have never been shy of taking FCS players (Cooper Kupp, Samson Ebukam, Troy Reeder, Nsimba Webster), and there’s a big hole at center with the departure of Austin Blythe. Meinerz played left guard at the D-III level but worked at center at the Senior Bowl (where the Rams frequently mine for talent, too) and has worked himself into the Day 2 picture. A mini run on centers in Round 2!
67. Houston Texans
Stanford CB Paulson Adebo
Houston has a lot of question marks and not a lot of picks. Is there a QB worth taking here in light of Deshaun Watson’s legal concerns? A receiver to bolster that unit? Odds are that new GM Nick Caserio will consider trading down to add picks, but a cornerback also would make sense. Adebo has good length and a history of making plays on the ball, two key elements this secondary could use.
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