2021 NFL mock draft: Todd McShay starts the surprises early

Luke Easterling
·2 min read

While it’s always draft season around here, it looks like mock draft season will be starting earlier than usual throughout the national football media world, as Power 5 conferences postpone their 2020 seasons and top prospect continue to opt out anyway.

The latest 2021 NFL mock draft comes from ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has the usual suspect at No. 1 overall, but things get fun after that.

After sending Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the top pick, McShay goes off the beaten path with the No. 2 selection, having the Washington Football Team opt for Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II over Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

There’s no denying Surtain’s talent, but considering Washington’s need for a franchise left tackle, and the gap between Sewell and the rest of next year’s offensive tackle class compared to that between Surtain and the other top corners in this draft, this pick doesn’t make too much sense.

That’s not the only surprise in the early going of McShay’s latest mock. His top 10 picks feature a pair of wide receivers typically found in the back half of most early mocks, with Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman landing with the Detroit Lions at No. 7 overall, and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith going to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 10 overall.

Bateman could easily be the No. 2 receiver off the board following LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, thanks to his complete skill set and his ideal combination of size, length and athleticism. No. 7 still seems a little early, but it wouldn’t be out of the question. Smith’s slight frame is sure to be a concern among NFL teams at just 175 pounds, and it’s surprising to see him come off the board before his Alabama teammate, Jaylen Waddle, especially after watching Henry Ruggs III get drafted before Jerry Jeudy this year.

Only three quarterbacks make the cut for McShay, with Ohio State’s Justin Fields (No. 4 overall, Carolina Panthers) and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (No. 14 overall, Chicago Bears) joining Lawrence as first-round picks in this mock.

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