2021 NFL mock draft: First round picks for every team, with trades

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Maddy Hudak
·12 min read
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The 2021 NFL draft is less than a week away as teams begin to finalize draft boards and hone in on prospects. The lead-up to this year’s event is unprecedented; opt-outs and season cancellations hindered scouting efforts, and the loss of the NFL Scouting Combine leaves just pro day evaluations. Lack of game film and measurables present a unique challenge for teams performing due diligence on prospects.

Resultantly, predicting the first round picks for each team is a bit esoteric. I surveyed several recent mock drafts to identify positional trends and researched team needs accordingly to create something close to realistic result. Each pick will assess team needs and the best prospects available, but not all are necessarily the right picks. Much like the actual NFL draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Much like last year’s draft, there’s no mystery regarding the No. 1 pick. One of the top-graded quarterback prospects of all time, Trevor Lawrence is Jacksonville’s next franchise quarterback.

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU

Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

With the decision to trade Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, the projected pick here follows the above sentiment. The Jets enter a new era under Robert Saleh with a signal-caller whose PFF passing grade of 95.5 last season was the highest in the country.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU via MIA): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Credit: AP Photo/Sam Hodde

If the 49ers wanted a non-athletic accurate pocket passer, they could’ve stayed at No. 12, stuck with Jimmy Garoppolo, or attempted to develop C.J. Beathard. As Kyle Shanahan himself plainly indicated the limitations of a non-mobile quarterback, developmental prospect Lance makes sense. He ran an offense similar to Shanahan’s at North Dakota, and can improve his accuracy and mechanics sitting a year behind Garoppolo.

4. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

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Between the restructuring of Matt Ryan’s contract and the hiring of general manager Terry Fontenot to overhaul their draft approach, Atlanta takes their best player available at No. 4. There's a chance Fontenot picks Sewell or goes with a quarterback of the future, but Pitts is a rare tight end prospect an offense can be built around. While his play strength needs to increase to improve in-line blocking, he’s shown eagerness to develop the skill and his separation ability at his size is inexplicable.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

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If I were making the pick, the Post-It note reads, “Penei Sewell No Matter What.” Instead, they reunite Joe Burrow with an elite receiver he has exceptional chemistry with and is a threat underneath and on deep balls. While Burrow will need to remain upright to throw passes, this year’s deep offensive line class allows Cincinnati to address it early in the second round.

6. Miami Dolphins (from PHI): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Credit: AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

While this mock was done prior to the news Miami is open to shopping this pick, they're likely still eyeing Smith if they trade down. The signing of veteran tackle D.J. Fluker gave the team some flexibility, and a polished route-runner with great separation skills in Smith gives still-developmental Tagovailoa some familiarity and consistency to succeed.

7. Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

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Unlike Tagovailoa, Jared Goff isn’t a rookie NFL quarterback; he still needs weapons, but the depth of the receiver class fills this need in Day 2. If Sewell is available to new head coach and Sean Payton disciple Dan Campbell, Detroit bolsters its trenches with the top lineman in the draft.

8. New England Patriots (from CAR)*: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) warms up before playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco’s loss is Bill Belichick’s treasure should Fields fall out of the top 5. Carolina was the optimal target even prior to the news of their willingness to trade down; the chance of Denver drafting Fields at No. 9 is too high to chance – for any team coveting the prospect.

9. Denver Broncos: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

Credit: Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP Unexcitingly, the Broncos are left with the remaining quarterback that offers them higher upside than Drew Lock, culpability in his development aside.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

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After declining to pay Byron Jones in free agency and failing to address the need last offseason, Dallas makes the first defensive selection with shutdown Alabama corner Surtain.

11. New York Giants: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

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Similar to Miami, this isn’t necessarily the optimal pick. They need OL help, and Slater and Vera-Tucker are still on the board here. But the Giants are at a critical juncture with Daniel Jones; after losing Saquan Barkley early last season and leaving Jones with sparse weapons, they need to evaluate how much fault lies in lack of a supporting cast. A deep threat that stretches the field opposite Kenny Golladay will do just that.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from SF via MIA): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

Credit: AP Photo/Sean Rayford

Philadelphia could easily jump up for a receiver – like Miami, they took destiny out of their own hands by trading out of the top 10. Corner is equally a priority, and Horn opposite Darius Slay gives an immediate boost to their secondary.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Justin Herbert was sacked as many times as Joe Burrow last season; he luckily managed to evade severe injury. Protecting the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year is paramount, and versatile Slater who can play at several spots on the line is a solid pick. Considering Carolina is eyeing the prospect, drafting Slater No. 13 overall would be a steal.

14. Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

(AP Photo/Matt Gentry)

A glaring roster hole, Minnesota needs to protect their sixth-most sacked quarterback of last season. The choice is between Christian Darrisaw and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. While Vera-Tucker is versatile, Darrisaw is the pure left tackle; rather than shuffle around their offensive line, powerful run-blocker Darrisaw is a better fit for the vacant role.

15. Carolina Panthers (from NE): G Alijah Vera-Tucker

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Several mocks link Carolina to OT Rashawn Slater; their willingness to trade down indicates they’re not sold on a pick that warrants standing pat at No. 8. In acquiring Sam Darnold, they need to prioritize the trenches – and he has adequate weapons in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. The team needs help on the edge and the interior, and Vera-Tucker provides some necessary flexibility on the offensive line.

16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports After letting Patrick Peterson walk and signing Malcom Butler on a one-year deal, Arizona takes a chance on Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Whichever team selects Farley runs the risk of the obvious health concerns, but should the Cardinals feel confident in their medical evaluations, Farley is a steal with one of the highest ceilings.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

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With the run on offensive linemen, the Raiders address this need early in the second round in this year’s deep class. Here, they select the best player available who should’ve been swooped up before No. 17. Selecting Parsons neutralizes the ill-decision to pass on LSU’s Devin White two years ago and gives Las Vegas an immediate impact player to elevate their defense.

18. Miami Dolphis: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

Oct 5, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws the ball as Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kwity Paye (19) attempts to tackle during the third quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The first edge rusher off the board – one head coach Brian Flores expressed notable interest in, Paye fills the void in Miami’s pass rush left by Shaq Lawson. Edge isn’t the most talented class in this draft, but Paye offers versatility to start in several hybrid defensive schemes employed by the Dolphins.

19. Washington Football Team: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

Credit: AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Washington has several avenues here, but their offseason moves failed to address linebacker with coverage skills. Owusu-Koramoah is a great fit as a three down off-ball linebacker with the second-highest PFF slot coverage grade of any player last season. His versatility serves as an asset to line up at Nickel in zone-schemes or at WILL.

20. Chicago Bears: T Tevin Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Credit: AP Photo/Brody Schmidt

Should the Bears be unable to trade up for a quarterback, they need to give Andy Dalton a fighting shot behind a solid line. After cutting ties with veteran tackle Bobby Massie, three-year starter Jenkins is a powerful choice to slide in at his natural role. Chicago will eventually need to find a successor at quarterback, and a young pass protector ensures that heir apparent a chance to succeed.

21. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami

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With the top-ranking tackle prospects off the board, Indianapolis addresses the glaring need at edge rusher. Phillips is an elite rusher, but falls due to durability concerns. If the Colts are confident in their medical evaluation, Phillips is a potential steal to bolster the team’s pass rush.

22. Tennessee Titans: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

Credit: AP Photo/Tony Avelar

A top need, Newsome is a physical corner to line up opposite Janoris Jenkins with strong abilities in press man coverage and zone-heavy schemes. Jenkins and Lattimore were an aggressive lockdown tandem on the Saints; Newsome’s similar mentality projects chemistry in Tennessee’s secondary.

23. New York Jets (from SEA): EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

Ncaa Football Chick Fil A Peach Bowl Georgia Vs Cincinnati

New York likely selects Newsome if available; the talent drop off past Newsome warrants a second-round pick to address this need. One of the most advanced pass rushers with strong instincts, Ojulari offers immediate impact opposite newly signed Carl Lawson.

24. New Orleans Saints (from PIT)*: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

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Was this trade slightly unnecessary? Probably. There's too high a chance Cleveland or Baltimore selects Zaven Collins instead. With the top-tier corners off the board, Collins is a prospect worth the loss of the No. 28 and 133 picks. A true off-ball linebacker that offers a rare asset in pass coverage, Collins and his untapped blitzing potential are a dynamic fit in Dennis Allen’s defense.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

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A consensus top-ranking safety, Moehrig is Jacksonville's best player available at No. 25. They hold the first pick in the second round and enough capital to acquire talent regardless of positional need. Moehrig’s disruptiveness and ball skills are matched by prototypal size and physicality; his scheme-versatility and ability to tackle in space only bolster his value.

26. Cleveland Browns: DI Christian Barmore, Alabama

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Christian Barmore (58) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland’s defensive line depreciated with the loss of Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, and signing Jadaveon Clowney is insufficient at best; nor does it address the interior line. While inconsistency is a concern, Barmore is perhaps the top prospect in a weak class with high upside. Of note, Zaven Collins is arguably the pick here if not for New Orleans trading up; Jamin Davis remains a strong possibility.

27. Baltimore Ravens: WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU

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Recent news that unspecified medical issues “popped” at the medical combine in Indianapolis makes Marshall a shakier pick. He still offers upside with rare speed at his size and his physicality stands out in contested catches. Marshall can line up at slot or outside, the latter of which Baltimore sorely lacks.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (from NO): RB Najee Harris, Alabama

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Ranking last in yards per carry last season, the Steelers get a dynamic and physically imposing back that offers production as a pass-catcher. Harris helps Pittsburgh return to a two-dimensional offense with a legitimate run threat.

29. Green Bay Packers: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

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Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers asked for receiving threats last season, and was rewarded with an heir apparent. Should Green Bay intend to show Rodgers they truly value him under center, they can package their 10 picks to move up for a tackle in the second round and give their quarterback a proper weapon in Bateman.

30. Buffalo Bills: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State

Credit: AP Photo/Barry Reeger

While Oweh failed to record any sacks last season, he was disruptive in the backfield with five quarterback hits and 15 hurries. His explosiveness and 4.36 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 257 pounds are inexplicable. Oweh needs some development and technique, and experience will improve his instincts, but you can’t teach speed.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

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Leatherwood is not necessarily the best player available here, but the Super Bowl loss highlighted a major weakness that warrants this pick. While there's a camp that views Leatherwood as a guard at the NFL level, he’s the only remaining prospect with the requisite arm length (34 3/8) of head coach Andy Reid’s prototype. Not to mention his dominance in run blocking to unleash Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Kansas City’s weak point was exposed by Tampa Bay's imposing edge rushers and 6-foot-5 Tryon is a strong developmental pick. He lacks a pass rush arsenal and needs cleaner technique, but can learn under 32-year old Jason Pierre-Paul and is a sneaky long-term pick.

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