I know this is a little bit of a cheat, a draft day mock draft, but there’s a long wait until the first pick and I felt compelled to write one. I haven’t projected any trades, it makes a mess of your mock when you get trade partners wrong but that does mean the Quarterbacks have gone far later in this mock than they will in reality. Slight spoiler – the Ravens get a pair of prospects at the top of their position groups but if I was projecting trades, I’d definitely have them moving off one of the picks.
So without further ado, with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select…
1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson
No surprise here at all, the Jags select their Quarterback of the future and begin the job of building a winner in Jacksonville to try and further burgeon Urban Meyer’s reputation.
2 New York Jets – Zach Wilson QB BYU
The Jets have already decided to reset their rookie Quarterback clock, I don’t blame them for doing so, especially with a relatively new GM making his first Head Coach hire. I would trust Joe Douglas to make this pick if I were a Jets fan, Zach Wilson could be a special player and thinking about his upside makes this a pick, I’m not surprised they make.
3 San Francisco 49ers – Justin Fields QB Ohio State
I refuse to believe that San Francisco traded up, giving away all those future picks, for a Quarterback I don’t hate, but is so much more limited than the other two, top tier guys, available. There is a lot to like about Mac Jones and it seems you have to be in one camp or the other but I’d be surprised if a prospect with the pedigree and body of work that Fields has, isn’t the pick here.
4 Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts TE Florida
This is a home run for the Falcons who pick up a weapon for Matt Ryan, they’re in cap hell, they need to pay Calvin Ridley soon, they need to get cheaper on offense and help out Ryan as he enters the Quarterback twilight years. Those years have been redefined a little by Tom Brady and you wonder whether the Falcons believe this is a little too soon to go after Ryan’s replacement.
5 Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’marr Chase WR LSU
I wouldn’t do this, but I’m trying to be predictive and I believe the Bengals will. It’s not that I don’t like the player, and Chase is a unicorn – he’s different to anything else they have in that WR room. But where did we get the notion that franchise altering Left Tackles are routinely available in later rounds? I say, get your guy to keep Burrow upright here, but they won’t.
6 Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell OT Oregon
Rumors abounded about moving Robert Hunt inside, maybe that was just a smokescreen, but I think in this scenario, the Dolphins don’t have a choice. This Front Office has been making far more sound decisions and this is another. They get my top rated player in the draft at six, and Sewell is a fixture on that line for the next decade and beyond. He’s a unicorn, just as much as Chase is.
7 Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama
This WR room is horrible. I was shocked when they let Kenny Golladay walk out of the building, I know it’s a rebuild, but come on. You cannot expect Jared Goff to have any success without some weapons. I know taking a receiver this high will be triggering for older Lions fans but Waddle is the most explosive guy at the position I’ve ever graded and he’s a weapon you can’t pass on here.
8 Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater OT Northwestern
The Panthers have picked up Darnold and I don’t think that keeps them out of the Quarterback sweepstakes entirely but I wonder if they would feel like they can’t pass up a premium talent at another position here. Taylor Moton is good, I like Taylor Moton, but that is it on their Offensive Line, they need help at all four other positions. Slater will be able to plug one of those holes.
9 Denver Broncos – Trey Lance QB North Dakota State
Yes, they’ve acquired Teddy Bridgewater and yes, they have Drew Lock but this seems to be a genuinely new regime with Elway genuinely moving upstairs. That means they want a new Quarterback in the building. I’m a big Trey Lance guy and I think he’s more ready to start than people think but he has the luxury of waiting it out a little in Denver with Bridgewater and Lock in house.
10 Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina
It felt like, in their press conference this week, that Jerry Jones was just shooting the breeze, not trying to misdirect anyone when he said they would have a chance to take the first defensive player at 10. I believe him, maybe foolish but I do. Jaycee Horn is most likely to be CB1 in this class and in this class that means at 10, he is the first defensive player selected.
11 New York Giants – Jaelan Phillips EDGE Miami
Gone are the days when Giants were chasing Tom Brady around in the Super Bowl, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul getting him off his spot. The cupboard is bare in New York for pass-rushers and they get the best in the draft, for me, here. Phillips is one of those players you watch and know that if he’d been in school one more year, he’d have dominated and gone top 5 next year.
12 Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Surtain II CB Alabama
The Eagles feel like a re-building team now, I think Hurts is worthy of a chance at the starting gig, and I know they need weapons for him – or someone to protect him. But this team needs help on defense too, so you take the best player available here at a relative position of need in Surtain. For Ravens fans, this guy is the closest thing to Marlon to come out of Alabama since Marlon.
13 Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw OT Virginia Tech
If the board falls this way, this should be the quickest selection in the draft, don’t over-think it – take the franchise protector you need in Darrisaw to man Justin Herbert’s blind-side. I couldn’t make it fit in this mock but I actually think Darrisaw goes earlier than this on draft night so they might not have a shot at him, but it could just as easily be CB here if Surtain or Horn falls.
14 Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker G USC
I nearly wrote Alijah Vera-Tucker G Minnesota here, this pick makes that much sense. The Vikings are a run first team without an elite interior Offensive Line. Ali Vera-Tucker is the best interior linemen in this draft, while I also think he could play Tackle, he’s just an excellent Offensive Lineman first, and he’ll occupy the interior of that line for some time to come.
15 New England Patriots – Mac Jones QB Alabama
I don’t feel good about this pick. Maybe because it seems inevitable he goes much earlier or maybe it’s because the Patriots seem to be going all in on more mobile QBs these days. But Belichick loves smart football players and Jones fits the bill. It probably necessitates a long-term move back to their old offense that Jones would operate well. I don’t hate the value in the middle of the first for him.
16 Arizona Cardinals – Devonta Smith WR Alabama
This is my favorite WR in the class and I think he really should go earlier than this, but receivers that are part of WR classes with good depth often slide down the board and Smith is no exception here. It’s been rumoured that the Cardinals are trying to add more weapons for Kyler Murray beyond Hopkins, they get a great one here and end up with a very potent WR room.
17 Las Vegas Raiders – Micah Parsons LB Penn State
For me, Parsons should absolutely not last this long, but the position is often devalued on draft day and I think this year is no exception, although this starts a mini-run of two for me. I’ve gotten pretty good at pegging what the Raiders like, when they went with Ferrell, Jacobs and Abram in Mayock’s first class I did think they would pick up Ferrell and Abram, maybe I’m right again today.
18 Miami Dolphins – Jamin Davis LB Kentucky
Another Linebacker, for me the second guy should absolutely be Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah but reading the tea leaves it looks like he’s falling somewhat and Jamin Davis is a “late riser”. The Dolphins can fill plenty of holes with their picks in this draft, one of those holes is in the middle of their defense, which they address here.
19 Washington Football Team – Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama
This is far too rich for me but Leatherwood is rumoured to be high on a lot of team’s boards. In a class with many short-armed OTs, Leatherwood’s still-not-quite 34-inch arms may be surprisingly sought after. For me, there’s too much to be coached up to consider taking Leatherwood at 19 but the Football Team needs a Offensive Tackle badly and they get a historically athletic one here.
20 Chicago Bears – Greg Newsome II CB Northwestern
Oh how I wanted to suggest a scenario where Bears fans burn Chicago to the ground with the selection of Davis Mills here, but I couldn’t do it. It’s just too far-fetched that they would pick another questionable QB with a severely limited sample size in the first round. Isn’t it? Much more sensible that they make the short trip to Northwestern to take Greg Newsome.
21 Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye EDGE Michigan
This pick screams Indianapolis Colts to me. I’m not projecting trades here but definitely look out for it on draft day when the Colts pick, they could do with a few more higher value selections. I know they need a Tackle but Chris Ballard and his front office love players who have a drive to be the best, Kwity Paye has probably the most powerful “why” in the draft, check out his story below, if you haven’t yet.
Named after his grandfather who couldn’t escape Civil War.
Named by his mother who did — twice.
— NFL (@NFL) April 27, 2021
22 Tennessee Titans – Teven Jenkins OT Oklahoma State
Tennessee is a run first team, as much as they need to replace Corey Davis with the whole WR board still available to them outside of the top three guys, as much as they need help on defense, they never properly replaced Jack Conklin. They do so here with one of my favourite players in the draft regardless of position and value – Jenkins is a violent finisher, to grade the road for Derrick Henry.
23 New York Jets – Caleb Farley CB Virginia Tech
Clearly there are serious concerns about his back, what he has, doesn’t seem to be straight-forward but Farley’s talent is undeniable. Don’t forget Joe Douglas learned at the altar of Ozzie Newsome, taking advantage of a falling premium talent like Farley would be right in his wheelhouse. And he doesn’t have to worry about the Ravens stringent medical grades to take him here.
24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Stokes CB Georgia
Strange, we’re 24 picks into this mock but I feel better about this pick than any other. I charted the Steelers tendencies in case we needed to trade above them, they are obsessed with CBs from power schools with good ball production and ridiculous athleticism. If I was being mischievous, I might suggest they like athletic CBs with bad tape so this is more likely to be Tyson Campbell.
25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Christian Barmore DT Alabama
Lots of potential places to go after they pick Lawrence. The real work of building this roster starts here. They could add a weapon or protection for their new face of the franchise – but I think they go to the other side of the ball and get an interior disruptor, with Roy Robertson-Harris in Free Agency added too, hopefully the new interior takes some attention away from last year’s first pick, Chaisson.
26 Cleveland Browns – Zaven Collins LB Tulsa
For the first time in what feels like forever in putting together a mock draft, the Cleveland Browns have very few glaring holes on their roster and they could genuinely go BPA here. I’m not sure Collins is BPA but he is a little bit of a luxury pick in that we don’t quite know how he projects to the NFL, what he is though, is talented. And the Browns could use a LB.
27 Baltimore Ravens – Trevon Moehrig S TCU
This isn’t the best board I’ve seen for the Ravens but I’m becoming more and more convinced that Moehrig will be the pick if he’s available. In reality they probably have a few guys graded similarly which is always a recipe for a Ravens trade back but I’m not projecting trades so they grab the best Safety in the class here and go to work on the back-end with a genuine playmaker. His best quality is the way he plays the ball and the Ravens will love that, along with his athleticism, versatility and coverage skills. He feels like exactly the type of pick the Ravens make and that we look back on with fondness when he signs a mammoth second contract to stay in Baltimore.
28 New Orleans Saints – Asante Samuel Jr. CB Florida State
I’m convinced Samuel is a first round pick – based off both my evaluation and what I think teams love at the position. The Saints have a glaring need opposite Marshon Lattimore, especially with Lattimore’s own sub-par play last year. Samuel fills that hole and this would be a slam dunk for New Orleans given the rumours that they are looking to move up to secure a Cornerback.
29 Green Bay Packers – Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah LB Notre Dame
I would think a genuine consideration for the Ravens at 27 to use as a weapon on the back end in the same way they will with Moehrig, Owusu-Koromoah is too good a player to slide this far and Green Bay gets a steal. He’ll patrol the middle of the Packers defense and make every other player on that defense better with his versatility.
30 Buffalo Bills – Azeez Ojulari EDGE Georgia
There are rumors of medical concerns and Ojulari falling on draft day, I hope he doesn’t. The Bills would be a great spot for him here, very different to Epenesa who they took early last year, Ojulari would play less inside than him and would set an excellent edge for the Bills against the run as well as considerable pass rush upside.
31 Baltimore Ravens – Creed Humphrey C Oklahoma
I feel sure that the Ravens would trade back off this spot, especially if the board fell like this with so many players still available that they might covet. As I’m not projecting trades, I have them taking the best Center in the draft in Creed Humphrey. Landon Dickerson is a better fit for Greg Roman’s offense but Creed fits fine too, as he is pretty scheme diverse, and the Ravens do seem to love an Oklahoma guy right now. Also, the Ravens are notoriously stringent medical evaluators and it’s hard to believe Dickerson is still on their board given his injury history. I know the Orlando Brown Jr. trade created a gaping hole at Right Tackle but if you don’t love the options here, fortifying the line with a premium draft choice at another spot is a different direction they could go.
32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Najee Harris RB Alabama
I would definitely have “Tampa Bay have got the band back together” in my draft night drinking game but it is true, they have. That includes playoff Lenny but this team was missing a back who could genuinely do a job as a receiver out of the backfield. Harris is an excellent receiving back and he can be a long-term three down back once Fournette and Ronald Jones leave town. It’s a luxury pick but they can afford it.