2021 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper’s latest full of surprises, question marks

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Luke Easterling
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This time of year especially, everybody wants to know what Mel Kiper thinks. His latest 2021 NFL mock draft, complete with trades, should certainly get folks talking.

Kiper’s latest projection starts out as expected, with three quarterbacks in the first three picks (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to the Jaguars, BYU’s Zach Wilson to the Jets, and Alabama’s Mac Jones to the 49ers). Then comes his first trade, and it’s a head-scratcher, as the Miami Dolphins trade back up to No. 4 for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.

It’s a strange trade because it ends with the Dolphins basically trading down just one spot from their original pick, and not having nearly as much draft capital to show for it. After loading up on all those extra picks from other trades, it would be odd to see them give away a good chunk of it, even for a player as special at Pitts.

Kiper explains his reasoning:

We know the Falcons have talked to other teams about moving out of the No. 4 spot, and they could be open to the highest bidder. There’s a catch, though; they surely don’t want to move too far down, or else they’ll miss on their guy. So this trade allows them to add assets and still pick at No. 6.

I don’t think it would cost the Dolphins a first-round pick in 2022, but it’s tough to predict without knowing who else is bidding. For this exercise, I think it could take something like a second- and third-round pick next year for Miami to move up two spots. (The Dolphins have an extra third-rounder in 2022 from the 49ers.)

Why would the Dolphins move up two spots? To ensure that they get their guy, and to ensure that another team doesn’t trade into that spot to take that guy. Cincinnati at No. 5 could also take the prospect the Dolphins want.

Even if Miami stays at No. 6, though, they’d be assured of getting either Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase or Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell at that spot. Any of those three would be a huge win for them, so spending premium picks to move up for one of them seems unnecessary.

The Atlanta Falcons win big in this move, dropping down two spots and still landing their quarterback of the future in North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Getting rid of Matt Ryan won’t make much financial sense for at least two more years, so picking Lance over Ohio State’s Justin Fields actually makes some sense here for the Dirty Birds.

Kiper’s next trade makes way more sense, as he sends the New England Patriots up from No. 15 overall to No. 10 overall to steal Fields. He should be the second quarterback off the board in this draft, so landing Fields at No. 10, as the fifth passer selected, would be absolute robbery.

To check out Kiper’s full two-round projection at ESPN.com, click here.