The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner, with the event taking place next month. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be on the clock once the draft begins, and everyone is under the assumption that Trevor Lawrence will hear his name called with the No. 1 overall pick. After Lawrence, this year’s draft figures to have a ton of uncertainty due to no NFL Scouting Combine, players opting out of the 2020 season, and other effects that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic. With all this in mind, it’s now time to take a crack at a 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Disclaimer: These picks were not made based on who I believe each team should take, but rather who I believe each team will take. Also, for the sake of this article, I avoided conducting any trades for this mock draft.
2021 NFL Mock Draft
No. 1 — Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
What an absolute shocker, right? Regardless of Urban Meyer being hired as the next head coach of the Jaguars, Jacksonville is in need of a long-term solution at quarterback. There isn’t any quarterback better than Lawrence, who is one of the most coveted quarterback prospects in recent memory. It would be quite a surprise if Lawrence isn’t the first player selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
No. 2 — New York Jets: Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
It remains to be seen if the Jets are fully committed to giving Sam Darnold another year to prove himself, especially since Adam Gase is out of town. New York has seemingly made Darnold available, showing that they could be in the market for a quarterback in the draft (if they aren’t able to acquire Deshaun Watson). Zach Wilson sounds like he could be the second quarterback off the board despite Justin Fields being the better prospect.
No. 3 — Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
The Dolphins are another team that could be involved in the sweepstakes for Watson. But if the Houston Texans don’t move him before or during the draft, then Miami will enter 2021 with Tua Tagovailoa as their signal-caller. One of the biggest needs for the Dolphins is finding a reliable pass catcher for Tagovailoa, and Ja’Marr Chase does just that.
No. 4 — Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
Entering the Arthur Smith era, the Falcons are in an awkward spot with Matt Ryan under center. While Atlanta is content with Ryan operating the offense in 2021, Smith could want a more mobile quarterback to orchestrate his play-action-happy offense. Justin Fields would be an ideal fit in Smith’s offense and would have a year to be mentored by a grizzled veteran like Ryan.
No. 5 — Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)
Without a doubt, the Bengals have a bevy of needs entering the 2021 season. Some people believe Cincinnati should grab another weapon for Joe Burrow early in the first round. On the other hand, they should prioritize keeping him upright. If Penei Sewell — the best offensive tackle prospect in this year’s draft — is available at No. 5, there’s no way the Bengals can pass on him.
No. 6 — Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
The Eagles already moved on from Carson Wentz, with Jalen Hurts currently slated to start in 2021. Regardless of who the quarterback is, Philadelphia has had an affinity for using multiple tight ends on offense. With the future of Zach Ertz in doubt, adding a lethal threat like Kyle Pitts to pair with Dallas Goedert would be a wise move.
No. 7 — Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Ahead of free agency, the Lions have their top three wide receivers from 2020 prepared to hit the open market (Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola). Even though Detroit could franchise tag Golladay, he could be traded before next season. Seeing that the Lions need to revamp their receiving corps for Jared Goff, a vertical weapon like DeVonta Smith makes sense.
No. 8 — Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
Before the Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford in a massive trade with the Lions, it was reported that the Panthers made an offer for Stafford. Provided that, Carolina would love to find someone that could give them an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. If the Panthers can’t land Watson via trade, then Trey Lance could be the long-term project for Matt Rhule to work with.
No. 9 — Denver Broncos: Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
The Broncos witnessed Chris Harris Jr. walk in free agency in 2020, and they released A.J. Bouye early this offseason. With a glaring need at the cornerback position, Vic Fangio likely wants to bolster his secondary early. Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech gives Denver a player who has potential to be a No. 1 cornerback early in his career.
No. 10 — Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
Depending on who the Broncos take, the Cowboys could be the next team to draft a cornerback. After letting Byron Jones depart in free agency last offseason, Dallas saw a drastic decline in the secondary in 2020. With Farley off the board, the Cowboys take Patrick Surtain II to make everyone feel old.
No. 11 — New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
All signs point toward Daniel Jones getting at least one more season to prove he can be the franchise quarterback for the Giants. To help Jones possibly reach his full potential, New York needs to add an offensive weapon in the draft or in free agency. In an attempt to give Jones a true No. 1 wide receiver, they select Jaylen Waddle with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
No. 12 —San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
The 49ers are one of the teams that have multiple question marks this offseason with Trent Williams and a majority of their secondary possibly hitting free agency. There’s a chance they take an offensive tackle here if they are unable to retain Williams. But if Williams returns, then Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina seems like a perfect fit to replace Richard Sherman.
No. 13 — Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern)
There’s no doubt the Chargers found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, who impressed in his rookie season in 2020. With Herbert exceeding expectations, the need to keep him protected needs to be the No. 1 priority for Los Angeles. Being able to take Rashawn Slater at No. 13 would be a great development for the Chargers.
No. 14 — Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye (Edge, Michigan)
Throughout the 2020 season, Mike Zimmer’s defense looked out of sorts for the first time in years. The Vikings lacked a pass rush and had inconsistent play from their secondary. Seeing that inciting pressure is a necessity in today’s NFL — plus, the failed signing of Yannick Ngakoue — Minnesota could add an electric edge defender like Kwity Paye in the first round.
No. 15 — New England Patriots: Alijah Vera-Tucker (IOL, USC)
It always seems impossible to guess what Bill Belichick is going to do in the draft. And this year, after going 7-9 sans Tom Brady, Belichick has his highest first-round pick since 2008. With Joe Thuney possibly leaving in free agency, the Patriots could replace him with Alijah Vera-Tucker, who is capable of playing offensive tackle as well.
No. 16 — Arizona Cardinals: Gregory Rousseau (Edge, Miami)
One of the most interesting prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft is Gregory Rousseau. Rousseau is the best edge defender in the draft to some, while others believe he’s an overhyped player. Besides the addition of J.J. Watt in free agency already, being able to play opposite Chandler Jones could help Rousseau reach his full potential.
No. 17 — Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
If Micah Parsons falls to the No. 17 overall pick in the draft, Jon Gruden would be giddy with excitement. The Raiders have been seeking an athletic specimen at linebacker, and Parsons is just that. While Parsons has off-the-field concerns, pairing him with Cory Littleton could be a dream scenario for Las Vegas.
No. 18 — Miami Dolphins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
Besides the wide receiver position, some would argue that the Dolphins need to add a running back. Before free agency gets underway, Miami has been listed as a favorite to ink Aaron Jones. In the event they address the running back position in free agency, then the Dolphins could use a versatile defensive weapon like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who could be utilized as a safety and linebacker.
No. 19 — Washington Football Team: Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
Before fans of Washington shake their heads with disappointment with this selection, just remember this draft doesn’t involve trades. There’s a chance that another team snatches Mac Jones by trading up for the Alabama quarterback. But with Washington moving on from Alex Smith, they likely don’t want to begin Week 1 with Taylor Heinicke as their starter despite his impressive outing in the playoffs.
No. 20 — Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
Entering free agency, the Bears are expected to lose Allen Robinson to a team that could give him a better situation at quarterback. While Darnell Mooney flashed plenty of potential as a rookie in 2020, giving him a running mate would be ideal. Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota would give Chicago a wide receiver capable of moving around in the offense and is a polished route runner.
No. 21 — Indianapolis Colts: Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech)
After returning for one more season with the Colts in 2020, Anthony Castonzo decided to retire from the NFL following a successful 10-year career. Indianapolis has done a remarkable job putting together a stout offensive line in recent seasons and won’t want to waste time replacing the void left behind by Castonzo. Having an opportunity to replace Castonzo with a prospect like Christian Darrisaw would be a home run for the Colts.
No. 22 — Tennessee Titans: Jaelan Phillips (Edge, Miami)
When speaking about the ceiling of edge prospects, there might not be one with a higher ceiling than Jaelan Phillips. There were doubts Phillips would play football again due to concussions at UCLA, only for him to excel in his lone season at Miami. With the Titans desperately needing an edge defender, Phillips finally gives Tennessee exactly what it needs on defense.
No. 23 — New York Jets (via SEA): Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
When the Dolphins are on the clock with the No. 18 overall pick, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they took Najee Harris instead of spending money in free agency on a running back. But in this draft, the Jets are lucky enough to land Harris later in the first round. Harris gives New York a much-needed workhorse back, taking pressure off Darnold — or whoever the quarterback is — in the offense.
No. 24 — Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Mayfield (OT, Michigan)
The Steelers are preparing to enter a new era despite Ben Roethlisberger returning for at least one more season in 2021. Besides the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, the impending free agency of Alejandro Villanueva leaves a hole at left tackle for Pittsburgh. Grabbing Jalen Mayfield with the No. 24 overall selection wouldn’t be the prettiest pick, but it helps the Steelers rebuild their offensive line.
No. 25 — Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Trevon Moehrig (S, TCU)
Once the Jaguars take Lawerence to begin the 2021 NFL Draft, some fans may become overzealous in wanting Jacksonville to grab him an offensive weapon late in the first round. Instead of adding another skill player, the Jaguars take Trevon Moehrig with their second first-round pick, giving them the consensus No. 1 safety in the draft to help their new-look secondary.
No. 26 — Cleveland Browns: Azeez Ojulari (Edge, Georgia)
Following their impressive run in the playoffs, the Browns could go in a variety of directions late in the first round. While Myles Garrett is a one-man wrecking crew, pairing him with a talented edge rusher would drastically improve the defense. Azeez Ojulari has the potential to be a longtime edge rusher in the NFL, so adding him alongside Garrett could give them a lethal duo for years to come.
No. 27 — Baltimore Ravens: Wyatt Davis (IOL, Ohio State)
When it comes to the Ravens, it’s obvious they need to give Lamar Jackson a true No. 1 wideout if they hope to see a better passing attack in 2021. Even though reports state Baltimore isn’t set on signing one of the elite options in free agency, we can all hope the club adds someone. With Bateman — who would be perfect for the Ravens — off the board, Baltimore takes Wyatt Davis to help bolster their interior offensive line.
No. 28 — New Orleans Saints: Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
The Saints are in one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL, so they’ll need to build this offseason through the 2021 NFL Draft. With Emmanuel Sanders expected to be a cap casualty, New Orleans is in desperate need of a complementary option to Michael Thomas at wide receiver. Rondale Moore is a dangerous weapon for whoever the quarterback of the Saints is when the 2021 season kicks off.
No. 29 — Green Bay Packers: Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
After the ridicule they received last offseason, the Packers surely can’t ignore the wide receiver position again, right? Davante Adams had a truly special season for Green Bay in 2020. But with the window to win with Aaron Rodgers gradually closing, getting someone like Kadarius Toney gives the Packers a shifty pass catcher who could excel out of the slot.
No. 30 — Buffalo Bills: Ronnie Perkins (Edge, Oklahoma)
Amid Buffalo’s playoff run, it was evident the Bills lacked a pass rush that could cause problems for opposing offenses. Buffalo made a run at J.J. Watt in hopes to improve its pass rush, only for him to choose the Cardinals. While Jerry Hughes continues to be a consistent option for the Bills, taking an exciting prospect like Ronnie Perkins would give them an electric edge rusher.
No. 31 — Kansas City Chiefs: Samuel Cosmi (OT, Texas)
Patrick Mahomes was running for his life throughout Kansas City’s lopsided loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. In light of that, making sure the offensive line is revamped for next season needs to be a priority. At the tail end of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, while a wide receiver could be the ultimate decision, Samuel Cosmi would give the Chiefs some much-needed help in the trenches.
No. 32 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore (IDL, Alabama)
Speaking of the trenches, the Buccaneers have formed a lethal defensive front in recent seasons. There is uncertainty on whether or not Tampa Bay can retain Ndamukong Suh and Shaquil Barrett on the defensive line. Vita Vea is a dominant interior defender, but giving him another interior defender like Christian Barmore would make the defense of the Buccaneers even scarier in 2021.