2021 NFL Draft: Mock Draft
Andrew Cooper takes a look at each team's need and the available prospects to give his predictions for the first-round of the NFL Draft set to kick off TODAY!
1) Jacksonville Jaguars -- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This is an easy one. Trevor Lawrence has seemingly been a first overall pick since he was a freshman in college and he’s been the Jaguars first overall pick ever since the Jets inexplicably won those two games against the Rams and Browns last season.
2) New York Jets -- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Another seemingly forgone conclusion as the Jets have been linked to Wilson for months now. Barring a massive surprise, this is how picks one and two shake out. After this is when the draft really starts.
3) San Francisco 49ers -- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The 49ers have done a fairly reasonable job keeping this pick under wraps but Jones has quietly become the favorite over the last couple weeks. The fans may not like it but the organization is already out in front of that, essentially saying that the fans don’t get to pick - the front office knows what is best for the team. Despite his criticisms and a poor showing at his pro day, Jones fits the profile of what Shanahan has worked with in Atlanta and San Francisco at quarterback and he comes from the most polished and esteemed college program in the country.
4) *TRADE* New England Patriots via ATL -- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Unlike Shanahan’s system, the Patriots have been developing the offense around mobile quarterback Cam Newton . After shoulder surgery Cam Newton ’s arm hasn’t quite looked like it did during his MVP season but, even if backups Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer throw just as well if not better in practice, the excuse could always be that Cam offers rushing upside. With another mobile quarterback in camp as competition both throwing and running, there would be no more excuses.
5) Cincinnati Bengals -- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals are on the right side of the rebuild but they are still a team projected by Vegas with an over/under of 6.5 wins in a 17 game season. Some may want to reunite Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase but elite offensive tackles are typically found in the high end of the draft and the Bengals shouldn’t be drafting here many more times. With questions about Jonah Williams ’s ability to stay healthy and Riley Reiff being a more natural play at guard (which he already said he’d be willing to play) this is the sensible pick. If you really stop to think about it, most of the best WRs in the league have been found in the second or late first such as Davante Adams , Michael Thomas , DeAndre Hopkins , Justin Jefferson, AJ Brown, Allen Robinson . It’s not guaranteed but clearly receivers can be found. Not to mention, your O-lineman plays 100% of the snaps while any WR will platoon at first. Perhaps the Bengals take a note from the Jaguars who found Allen Robinson by first drafting Marquise Lee in the second round then going back to also take Allen Robinson in the second round of the same draft.
6) Miami Dolphins -- Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Unlike the Bengals, the Dolphins are projected for 9.5 wins which is tied with the New England Patriots and just behind the Bills at 10.5. They have essentially completed their rebuild and are in the position to make luxury picks. At six, they really could take whoever they wanted out of Chase or Kyle Pitts (or Peneii Sewell if he falls) but I see them going Chase here and focusing on three WR sets. They’ve earned it. Will Fuller was the first real free agent WR they’ve signed since at least 2018 and Chase would be the first real WR drafted since then as well. DeVante Parker was already with the team and Preston Williams was an undrafted free agent.
7) *TRADE* Los Angeles Chargers via DET -- Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
This move could have fans of both franchises a little disappointed with names like Kyle Pitts and DeVonta Smith on the board. But the Lions are clearly tanking with the same formula the Dolphins used in 2019 (fire coach, trade QB, carry most dead cap of any team, roll money to 2022, sign no one, collect comp picks). So the Lions don’t want to start the clock on a wide receiver now, they want to move assets forward. The Chargers on the other hand NEED to protect their young QB (just ask Joe Burrow). It may be seen as a bit of a panic move by them after Sewell goes but some actually have Slater as the top offensive lineman in this class so they can’t let them both get away.
8) Carolina Panthers -- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
This is where Pitts goes. Ian Thomas ran the ninth most routes last year of any tight end but was 47th in receptions. Unacceptable. Dan Arnold is an undrafted free agent journeyman who the Cardinals didn’t retain even though they don’t have a pass catching tight end at all. The Panthers have DJ Moore and Robby Anderson but lost Curtis Samuel to free agency. This move kills two birds with one stone as Pitts can line up anywhere from tight end to slot to flanker to split end. And he’s the best available player and arguably the best tight end prospect we’ve seen since Vernon Davis destroyed the combine.
9) **TRADE** Washington Football Team via DEN -- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Lance is viewed by many as a project as he played at a small school and opted out in 2020. They have Ryan Fitzpatrick to start for the time being so they can afford to wait and develop him. The Broncos give Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater a chance to compete this year but acquire picks in next year’s draft from Washington so that, if Lock and Bridgewater aren’t the answer, they have plenty of ammo to move up and get a quarterback of their own in next year’s draft.
10) Dallas Cowboys -- Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Chidobe Awuzie left for the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency and the Cowboys have no answer opposite of Trevon Diggs. Surtain offers an immediate answer bringing the three P’s you look for in a first round pick: Performance, he started as a true freshman and caused twice as many turnovers (8) as touchdowns allowed (4) in his three years. Pedigree, his father was an NFL All Pro/Pro Bowl defensive back. Prestige, Alabama is the premier college program in the country and he was one of their best players. Easy pick for Jerry Jones, especially with Kyle Pitts off the board, who he was reportedly infatuated with.
11) New York Giants -- Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants may be tempted to trade back here to accumulate capital and stick it to the Eagles who are drafting right after them (possibly by letting someone sneak in and take a cornerback which PHI needs). But the appeal of Micah Parsons might be too strong. He was far and away the best linebacker on the field and he wasn’t even a true linebacker (he converted from DE) so the sky's the limit. Off field issues have been the only downside but Lawrence Taylor had plenty of off field issues as well and he worked out pretty well for this organization.
12) Philadelphia Eagles -- Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
If nickel is the new base (62% of plays in 2020 were run out of nickel) then dime is actually the new nickel (more plays were run out of the dime formation than out of base in 2020). The Eagles need to stock up and Jaycee Horn is another player who performed well and has the pedigree (his father is former wide receiver Joe Horn). Like the Cowboys, the Eagles situation is fairly dire at cornerback, as we explained in the NFC East Team Needs article.
13) **Trade** Tennessee Titans via DET -- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
As Detroit is in complete tank mode with a skeleton crew team, it’s in their best interest to move as many assets to the future as possible. So they trade back once again here, allowing Tennessee to add a WR who can mix and match at slot/flanker with AJ Brown (Josh Reynolds will start the season lined up at split end given his size and blocking prowess). The Titans are a run heavy team so they opt for Waddle over DeVonta Smith given Smith’s low BMI.
14) Minnesota Vikings -- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Vikings on the other hand have Adam Theilen at split end and Justin Jefferson at flanker so they have no issue grabbing the Heisman Trophy winner and starting him off in the slot. The Vikings were a heavy 12 personnel team, a bit of a leftover sentiment from Kevin Stefansi’s days, using Kyle Rudolph in-line and Irv Smith Jr. and Chad Beebe in the slot. With Rudolph gone, Smith becomes the in-line tight end and they now run more 11 personnel sets. Makes things easier on everyone from Cousins to Dalvin Cook to Theilen.
15) **TRADE** Atlanta Falcons via NE -- Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
This is the backend of the trade that allowed New England to move up and take Fields. The Falcons defense has had issues across the board but a high end pass rusher makes things not only easier for the rest of the D-line but it takes some weight off the secondary as well. This team is competing now given the ages of guys like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and didn’t need to spend the high pick on pass rush (and can pick up capital to fill other gaps). This is arguably the best EDGE player in the draft and they still get him even trading back.
16) Arizona Cardinals -- Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
As we wrote about in the NFC West Team Needs article, the Cardinals lost long time CB Patrick Peterson as well as starter on the opposite side, Dre Kirkpatrick . They brought in Malcolm Butler but that’s about it when they lost both outside guys. The Cardinals take the best cornerback off the board here - we believe that’s Newsome but some may say it’s Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.
17) Oakland Raiders -- Trevin Moehrig-Woodard, S, TCU
The Raiders poached Gus Bradley to be offensive coordinator so they have some work to do on his defense as he utilizes a lot of nickel. They lost Lamarcus Joyner who was a big part of that run defense in the box but could also use help covering the slot. In walks “jack of all trades” safety Trevin Moehrig to be that hybrid nickel safety/linebacker/slot corner who can play on essentially every down in this defense from day one.
18) Miami Dolphins -- Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Dolphins get to make the fun pick at six with the wide receiver so now they come back down to earth a bit with the sensible play and take the best offensive lineman available. As we discussed in our AFC East Team Needs write up, this move allows current right tackle Robert Hunt to slide down to his more natural position of guard, solidifying the offensive line in front of Tua Tagovailoa for years to come.
19) **TRADE** Denver Broncos via WAS -- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
This is the back half of the trade that allowed Washington to take Trey Lance. The Broncos needed a linebacker but there have been some reports that they were a bit concerned with the character issues of Micah Parsons. This lets them acquire some capital and still snag what some argue might be the more NFL ready player.
20) Chicago Bears -- Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
As we discussed in our NFC North Team Needs article, the Bears are a bit of a wild card here because coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace have their backs against the wall to a certain degree and are fighting for their jobs. We’ve seen the Lions in the same position go for the luxury pick in D’Andre Swift in an attempt to win games now. That backfired as they both got the boot and now some of the best years of Swift’s cheap rookie deal will be wasted on a rebuild. Hopefully ownership in Chicago is in their ear, making sure they are aware that the best pick for both now and the future is on the offensive line.
21) Indianapolis Colts -- Jason Oweh, DE, Penn State
Pretty straightforward pick here. The Colts run a 4-3 and there are only so many 4-3 defensive end capable players in the entire draft and Oweh is safer than the options from the Miami Hurricanes as Gregory Rousseau opted out of 2020 and, perhaps even more concerning, Jaelen Phillips briefly retired from football based on concussions in 2018.
22) **TRADE** Detroit Lions via TEN -- Walker Little, OT, Stanford
This spot is the result of the second leg of the second trade back for Detroit, which might sound a little ridiculous but you have to remember, the draft can be ridiculous. The Patriots, when they needed a WR in 2010, traded the pick that was used on Demaryius Thomas and then traded THAT pick which was used on Dez Bryant before taking Devin McCourty . Which of those guys is still in the league? The Lions are at the very start of a rebuild and Walker Little is viewed as a raw asset that needs work but also one with tremendous upside. Perfect fit for a rebuild.
23) New York Jets -- Jaelen Phillips, DE, UCLA
As we discussed in our AFC East Draft Needs article, new Jets head coach Robert Saleh runs a 4-3 but the Jets had been running and 3-4. He let 3-4 DE Henry Anderson walk in free agency so they have a need for a pass rushing 4-3 DE off the edge. Phillips is one of the most risky players but also with the highest upside. After issues with head injuries, he left UCLA and briefly pursued a music career before returning to football with Miami where he seemed to pick up right where he left off. With Kwity Paye and Jason Oweh off the board, this pick becomes easier to the Jets.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers -- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Rarely do the team needs, the fan desires, and the talent match up the way this pick seems to. Najee Harris not only sounds like a Steeler name, but he plays like one as well. His only knock is that his speed isn’t elite, but Mike Tomlin’s zone blocking scheme has done great with guys that don’t have elite speed like Le’Veon Bell and James Conner . It’s the perfect fit.
25) Jacksonville Jaguars -- Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
There is no question that Vera-Tucker is one of the best blockers in this draft. The only question is whether he will be a guard or tackle at the NFL level and that’s why he sneaks by a few teams that need offensive tackles specifically. The Jaguars are still rebuilding. They get their QB at 1 and they take the best lineman available at 25. Then they figure the rest out later.
26) Cleveland Browns -- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
We went into a lot more detail on it in our AFC North Team Needs article, but the short and sweet of it is that the Browns at best need a nickel corner. At worst, they need an outside corner given the health issues their top picks in the secondary have faced. 2018 first round pick Denzel Ward has yet to play a full season. 2019 second round pick Greedy Williams injured his shoulder last year and there were reports of nerve damage where he couldn’t even move his arm and on top of that, 2020 second-round pick safety Grant Delpit ruptured his achilles and missed the whole year. This team is one of the most complete on paper but the secondary may need help.
27) Baltimore Ravens -- Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texans
Another simple one in our eyes (unless they want to trade up). Orlando Brown did not want to play right tackle. He wasn’t going to re-sign, so they traded him to the Chiefs. The Ravens can now use their pick on the best tackle in the draft, who they will then have for five years. Makes a lot of sense, really. For everyone involved.
28) New Orleans Saints -- Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
We touched on this in the NFC South Team Needs article but the Saints essentially have Marshon Lattimore , no one across from him, and a safety playing nickel corner. They released Janoris Jenkins and he was scooped up by the Titans. There are essentially five high end cornerbacks in this draft and there are more teams that could use a corner than that so they need to get lucky to land this pick (or they may need to trade up).
29) Green Bay Packers -- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
After feeling like they may have wasted a pick last year with a backup QB while their QB was the MVP, Packers fans deserve this one to fall right into their lap. The Packers have been searching for a true number two WR to take the pressure off of Davante Adams for a long time. There is interest in Bateman and, after Ja’Marr Chase, he may be the safest combination of size-speed out there.
30) **TRADE** Carolina Panthers via BUF -- Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
The Bills have no real urgent needs. We discussed it in the NFC South Team Needs article but the Panthers do. Barmore is the best interior defensive lineman in the draft but not quite worth the eighth overall pick where the Panthers are picking in this round. But, as it looks like Barmore may be slipping out of the first, Carolina moves back into the end of the first round and snags him.
31) Baltimore Ravens -- Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
This is the pick the Ravens acquired from the Chiefs for their tackle but they take a tackle with the earlier of their two picks. Most teams looking for pass rush in the early part of the draft are looking for pure defensive ends so they look past the slightly undersized Ojulari but, for the Ravens running a 3-4, Ojulari ends up being a perfect fit. Excellent value for Baltimore, per usual.
32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Alim McNeil, DL, NC State
The Buccaneers are the first team in the salary cap era to bring back all 22 starting players after winning the Super Bowl, so it’s safe to say they don’t have many needs and could easily trade back here. But given the aging guys along the front such as JPP (32), Ndomukong Suh (34), and Stephen McClendon (35), the Bucs could plan for the future at interior defensive line. They could also consider Levi Onwuzurike from Washington, the same school Vita Vea attended.
***If you liked what you read here, be sure to take advantage of our Early Bird Special and get the Fantasy Alarm NFL Pro Package today! Go to fantasyalarm.com/nflpro and use the promo code NFL50 for an immediate 50% off***
Want to compare Andrew Cooper and Dan Servodidio's Mock Drafts? CLICK HERE for Servo's Mock Draft version 3.0