2021 NFL mock draft: Updated 1st-round projections with trades

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We’ve already seen a pair of blockbuster trades shake up the top of the 2021 NFL draft order, but it’s highly likely there will be even more chaos once draft weekend rolls around.

This year’s loaded quarterback class has already enticed one team to make a big jump up the board, and depending on how things fall in the first round, other quarterback-needy teams picking outside the top 10 could be compelled to make a bold move of their own to land the franchise passer of their choice.

What might that look like?

Here’s my latest attempt at projecting this year’s first round, complete with a handful of trades that could go down when the clock starts rolling:

*denotes projected trade

1. Jacksonville Jaguars | Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

There aren't many sure things in this year's draft, but this is one of them. Jags head coach Urban Meyer has all but admitted Lawrence will be the pick, just as we've expected him to be since his freshman season with the Tigers. A new era in Jacksonville starts with one of the most promising quarterback prospects in recent memory.

2. New York Jets | BYU QB Zach Wilson

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The Sam Darnold trade to Carolina confirmed what we've long expected, which is the Jets targeting a new quarterback here. While I would take Ohio State's Justin Fields in this situation, Wilson appears to be emerging as the favorite to land here. Consistency wasn't his strong suit in 2020, but the flashes of greatness are what the Jets will be banking on with this pick.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU via MIA) | Alabama QB Mac Jones

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

I'll be honest: This one doesn't make sense to me. Yes, Jones has starting-caliber tools, but trading multiple first-round picks to get up this high, only to take Jones over Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance is a head-scratcher. That said, it's a match that seems to be picking up steam, and it won't be surprising if it happens. It feels like trading up for Mitchell Trubisky instead of Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes to me, though.

4. New England Patriots (from ATL)* | Ohio State QB Justin Fields

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Once the 49ers traded up to No. 3, this became the hottest spot in potential trade-up talks. If the Falcons don't want a quarterback for themselves (Matt Ryan's exorbitant cap number through 2022 alone could be enough to cause this), and they can live with passing on someone like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, they could easily offer this pick up to the highest bidder. If that happens, there should be no shortage of suitors. The Broncos at No. 9 would make sense, but the Falcons could easily get multiple future first-round picks in a deal with the Patriots, who are currently picking 15th. There might not be a huge difference in prospect value at the Falcons' biggest positions of need between the No. 9 and No. 15 picks, so they could get better value and more compensation by making a deal with the Pats. Bill Belichick has been aggressive in free agency, so why not do it here? He's also probably not interested in a longer-term project like Lance, instead opting for the pro-ready Fields. Getting the second-best quarterback in this class as the fourth one off the board would be well worth the cost of moving up.

5. Cincinnati Bengals | LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase

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This scenario gives the Bengals a fantastic problem, allowing them to pick between three blue-chip prospects who would immediately help last year's No. 1 pick, quarterback Joe Burrow. Positional value says take Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, but a deep class at the position could give them some bargain options at the top of the second round. If picking between two elite pass-catching prospects in Pitts and Chase, I'm betting Burrow himself breaks the tie for a reunion with his former college teammate.

6. Miami Dolphins (from PHI) | Florida TE Kyle Pitts

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Much like the Bengals, the Dolphins have a fantastic scenario here, with multiple top prospects at positions of need. They can't go wrong with either Sewell or Pitts here, but this year's tackle class is way deeper than the tight end group, and the gap between Pitts and the rest of his position is way bigger than the one between Sewell and the other top tackles. Miami can find another tackle with one of their other early picks, but they won't find anything close to Pitts.

7. Los Angeles Chargers (from DET)* | Oregon OT Penei Sewell

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In this situation, the Lions would likely receive trade offers from multiple teams targeting either Sewell or Lance, so it comes down to a few different factors. The Lions will want to balance getting the best deal, while also not dropping back too far in the first round, as well as making sure they don't help out a division rival. The Chicago Bears would likely be one of the teams trying to move up for Lance, but the Lions won't want to hand them a franchise quarterback prospect, nor will they want to fall back all the way to No. 20. Instead, they take a lesser deal from the Chargers, who need a franchise left tackle to protect Justin Herbert. The Lions could easily stand pat and take either Sewell or Lance themselves, and it would make plenty of sense. But this team needs way more than one guy, and the rebuild could be helped by acquiring additional draft assets.

8. Chicago Bears (from CAR)* | North Dakota State QB Trey Lance

(AP Photo/Sam Hodde)

The Panthers should absolutely take Lance themselves here, but after trading for Sam Darnold and picking up his fifth-year option, that seems unlikely. Instead, they incite a bidding war between the Bears and Washington. I think the Bears are slightly more desperate, which means they end up offering whatever extra pick it takes to seal the deal over Washington's best offer. Yes, the Bears have publicly committed to Andy Dalton as their starter for 2021, but there's no plan past that. The Ryan Pace/Matt Nagy combo is running out of time to save their jobs, and taking a long-term quarterback prospect like Lance might help their case to buy more time. Dalton starts Week 1, and Lance takes over as soon as he's ready. It shouldn't take him long to be better option than Dalton, either.

9. Denver Broncos | Penn State LB Micah Parsons

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Hey, a defensive player! The Broncos might make try to trade up for a quarterback, but if they're unsuccessful, getting to take the first defender off the board isn't a bad scenario for them. Devin White is proving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers what a difference a dynamic inside linebacker can make, and Parsons has that kind of athleticism and ability. If Denver does their due diligence and they're comfortable with Parsons off the field, he's absolutely a top-10 talent in this draft.

10. Dallas Cowboys | Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II

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This draft has to be about reloading the defense at every level for the Cowboys, which makes this an ideal scenario, with only one defensive prospect off the board so far. Dallas gets their pick of this year's top corners, all of whom have a promising blend of size, length and athleticism. The son of a Pro Bowl corner, don't be surprised if it's Surtain who gets the nod.

11. New York Giants | Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye

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This defense already has some talented playmakers, but they're missing that difference-maker on the edge who can get after the quarterback with explosiveness and athleticism. No edge rushers are off the board yet, so the Giants get their pick of a deep class, and it wouldn't surprise me if Paye's rare athletic ability and upside make him the first one taken here.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from SF via MIA) | Alabama WR DeVonta Smith

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Corner is a huge need, so I wouldn't count that out here. But if the board falls this way, I would be surprised if the Eagles passed up a chance to help Jalen Hurts by reuniting him with his former Alabama teammate. There are concerns about Smith's durability given his slight frame, but his playmaking ability and incredible production during last year's Heisman-winning campaign are hard to ignore.

13. Detroit Lions (from LAC)* | Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle

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This is a huge win for the Lions, who drop back six spots and still end up with a player they could have easily selected at their original slot. Yes, they've added some new faces to help replenish the receivers they lost in free agency, but none of them have the kind of explosiveness and big-play ability Waddle brings to the table. He's a huge bargain here.

14. Minnesota Vikings | Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater

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The Vikings have a glaring need at left tackle, and it'll be hard for Kirk Cousins to take advantage of his dynamic weapons if they don't fill it with a blue-chip prospect. Luckily for them, this scenario drops one right into their lap. Some might throw around the "undersized" label with Slater, but don't let his height or arm length distract you from the fact that he simply gets the job done against top competition.

15. Atlanta Falcons (from NE)* | Alabama RB Najee' Harris

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A running back in the top 15? In this economy? If there's anyone who knows the value of a massive, athletic, physical playmaker at running back, it's new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who rode Derrick Henry to 3,500 rushing yards over the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. It's hard to compare anyone to the unicorn that is Henry, but Harris is 6-2, 230 pounds, with an incredible combination of power and athleticism. He's got patience, vision, and the ability to make big plays as a receiver out of the backfield. He even played at Alabama, as Henry did. There are three top-shelf running back prospects in this year's class, and they're likely to be gone by the time the Falcons pick in the second round. They're much more likely to find better value at other positions of need there, so why not pull the trigger on a dynamic offensive weapon after getting multiple first-round picks for the future?

16. Arizona Cardinals | South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn

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Offensive line is a possibility here, but after losing Patrick Peterson, the best combination of need and value for the Cards is at corner. Horn has a fantastic combination of size, length, athleticism and ball skills, and he knows how to use them all to their fullest extent. If he's still on the board at this point, after the film he put out and the pro day workout he had, he'd be a slam dunk for Arizona.

17. Las Vegas Raiders | USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker

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I don't know what the strategy is out in Vegas, but I doubt Derek Carr is terribly thrilled about it. The Raiders got rid of Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, but at least they overpaid on a long-term extension for Kolton Miller and a new backup running back in Kenyan Drake, right? This offensive line needs help in a bad way, but this scenario allows them to land the top interior blocker in this year's class. It doesn't replace everything Carr lost up front this offseason, but it helps.

18. Miami Dolphins | Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw

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Just like at No. 6 overall, the Dolphins have plenty of attractive options here at multiple positions of need. It's a matter of balancing need, prospect/positional value, and how they think the board will fall between this pick and their early second-rounder based on the depth of those positions in this draft. This year's class is loaded at offensive tackle, but there's a deep group of edge rushers, too. In this scenario, Darrisaw is the best player available at either position, so he gets the call.

19. Washington Football Team | Tulsa LB Zaven Collins

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Offensive tackle is a strong possibility here, but with Darrisaw off the board just before this pick, I wouldn't be surprised to see Washington look elsewhere and target a tackle on Day 2. This defense is talented, but they could still use a three-down playmaker at linebacker. Collins has a rare combination of size, athleticism and versatility, giving him limitless potential.

20. Carolina Panthers (from CHI)* | Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley

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After dropping back and adding additional future draft picks, the Panthers still land themselves a top-10 talent at a key position of need. Losing James Bradberry last offseason left Carolina needing a big, athletic corner, and while offseason back surgery could cause him to tumble down the board a bit, Farley's talent and potential could end up making him a huge steal here.

21. Indianapolis Colts | Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins

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The retirement of Anthony Castonzo made left tackle the clear-cut top need for the Colts heading into this draft, and thankfully for them, this year's class is extremely deep. That should allow them to have their pick of multiple starting-caliber prospects even at this point in the first round, and Jenkins has all the tools to step in immediately and protect Carson Wentz.

22. Tennessee Titans | Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield

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The offensive tackle run continues, as the Titans look to replace Isaiah Wilson, who was traded for a late-round draft pick and cut by the Miami Dolphins just days later. This time around, Tennessee will be hoping to land a blocker who makes more headlines on the field than off, and they get a perfect fit at right tackle to keep their power-run offense rolling.

23. New York Jets (from SEA) | Georgia CB Eric Stokes

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Plenty of worthy options for the Jets here, but the intersection of need and player/positional value leads them to the corner spot. Stokes put out impressive film for the Bulldogs, and his size profile is exactly what NFL teams want in their corners. His impressive pro day workout cemented him as a first-round prospect, and he'd be exactly what the Jets need here.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari

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The Steelers way more needs than you might expect for a team that started last season with 11 straight wins, but this team is getting old real fast. Running back and offensive line are possibilities here, replacing Bud Dupree could end up being Pittsburgh's priority with their top pick. Ojulari is a complete player who can get after the passer and stuff the run, making him the perfect fit opposite T.J. Watt.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from LAR via JAX)* | Miami (FL) EDGE Jaelan Phillips

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What do you get the team that has everything? Another athletic pass rusher, of course. The Bucs are returning their entire starting lineup from last year's Super Bowl team, so they might not have enough roster spots for all eight of their current draft selections. They're also still in win-now mode, so trading up seems a likely scenario in the first round, if the right guy gets close enough. The Jags add another pick to help their rebuild, and the Bucs land a high-upside pass rusher to wait in the wings behind Jason Pierre-Paul, who is 32 and going into the final year of his contract. Phillips has some injury concerns, but he's got as much potential as any edge defender in this draft, thanks to a rare combination of size, length and athleticism. After watching the Steelers take Ojulari, and with teams like the Browns and Ravens lurking with their own need for a pass rusher, the Bucs make the move and get their guy.

26. Cleveland Browns | Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh

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Speaking of long, athletic edge rushers with tons of potential, the Browns need one of their own. Myles Garrett can't do it all himself, and this year's deep class of edge defenders still gives Cleveland some strong options here. His production was lacking in college, but there's no denying Oweh's impressive athleticism, so don't be surprised if he makes a bigger impact in the pros than he did for the Nittany Lions.

27. Baltimore Ravens | Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman

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Just because Lamar Jackson can do some incredible things on his own doesn't mean he should always have to, and the Ravens need to give him a true No. 1 receiver with a complete skill set. Enter Bateman, who has the size, athleticism and physicality to be exactly the kind of pass-catcher Jackson needs to take this offense to the next level.

28. New York Jets (from NO)* | Clemson RB Travis Etienne

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A young quarterback's best friend is a strong ground game, and if the Jets want one of those, they'll need an upgrade at running back. In this scenario, they land a third first-round pick, jumping ahead of a division rival in the Buffalo Bills that could be targeting a dynamic playmaker like Etienne. His three-down skill set would help keep the offense balanced as the Jets break in their new franchise passer in Wilson.

29. Green Bay Packers | Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II

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Sure, the Packers should use this pick to give Aaron Rodgers some help, whether it's a pass-catcher or a blocker. But recent history says they're probably not going to do that, and after losing Kevin King in free agency, they could be targeting a replacement at corner with similar size and athletic ability. Newsome has both, and enters the league as a more polished technician than King was when he left.

30. Philadelphia Eagles (from BUF)* | Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

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After getting a dynamic playmaker for their offense at No. 12, the Eagles trade back into the first round to get the same kind of player for the other side of the ball. The second level of this defense could use some juice, and with a talented prospect like Owusu-Koramoah sliding down the board, the Eagles would be wise to pull the trigger and bring him into the fold.

31. Kansas City Chiefs | Kentucky LB Jamin Davis

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Offensive tackle is the popular pick here, and with good reason. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs took this opportunity to bolster their defense, which could use a boost of athleticism and playmaking ability at the second level. Davis is an impressive athlete for his size, and would give the Chiefs defense a weapon they simply don't have at the position. A deep tackle class should give Kansas City some solid options in the second round, as well.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (from TB)* | TCU S Trevon Moehrig

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After moving back and getting an extra pick, the Jags still land the player they might have taken at their original spot. Moehrig is exactly the kind of athletic, versatile safety NFL teams covet, with the instincts and intelligence to make an immediate impact at the next level.

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