2021 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 From Brendan Donahue

Now that we have the first week of free agency out of the way, there are certainly some updates to the original mock but surprisingly not to the most active team which was the Patriots. I also think the top 2 picks will most likely stay the same throughout the process unless the Jets make a big splash at QB before the draft. 

Pick #1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

It feels as if this pick has been three years in the making, ever since Lawrence burst onto the scene as a freshman at Clemson and led them to a national championship. At 6’6″, 220lbs with mobility, he is the type of prospect that scouts have compared to the likes of John Elway and Andrew Luck as a once-in-a-decade type talent. With a new regime in Jacksonville headlined by Urban Meyer, they aren’t going to begin their tenure by passing on a talent like Lawrence.

Pick #2 New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

This is where the draft really begins and it could go in many different directions this year. The Jets certainly have the ammo to make a trade for a big-name quarterback but as of now, it looks like they may stay put and instead trade away who was recently considered their franchise QB. Neither GM Joe Douglas nor new head coach Robert Salah was part of the process in drafting Sam Darnold, so it would make sense that they are ok moving on from him and bringing in their own guy. Enter Zach Wilson, who has seen the biggest rise up draft boards in the past year. His 2020 season justifies the praise he has been receiving as he threw for 33 TD’s and only three interceptions while completing 73.5% of his passes.

Pick #3 Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

With the Dolphins signing Will Fuller last week, I think their attention with the third pick moves to Sewell or perhaps even a trade down. PFF had the Dolphins ranked as the 20th-best pass blocking and 30th-ranked run blocking unit in the league last year so they could use an immediate upgrade there. Even though Sewell sat out all of last season, he has been long thought to be the best offensive tackle in this draft and has all the characteristics of a cornerstone tackle in the NFL. 

Pick #4 Atlanta Falcons – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

I do think the fourth pick in the draft will ultimately be a QB, whether or not Atlanta is the team making the pick, I’m not 100% sure of yet. While the Falcons remain committed to Matt Ryan for the upcoming season with a recent contract restructure, they have a chance to draft his heir apparent who happens to be from the Atlanta area in Justin Fields. Once considered the consensus QB2 in this draft class, Fields has seen his stock drop a bit due to some inconsistent play in 2020. But his six-touchdown performance against Clemson in the national semifinals reminded everyone just how high his ceiling can be. 

Pick #5 Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’marr Chase, WR, LSU

Due to Chase opting out of the 2020 season and combining that with the Heisman winning season from DeVonta Smith, it’s easy to forget the type of player Chase was as a true sophomore at LSU in 2019. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the best WR in college football while putting up 84 catches for 1,720 yards and 20 TD’s and that was all with an older Justin Jefferson on the team. And who was throwing him the ball that year? None other than Joe Burrow, who I’m sure would be thrilled to be reunited with his former LSU teammate. 

Pick #6 Philadelphia Eagles – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

While Pitts is technically labeled as a tight end, his tape reminds many of an elite WR, so let’s just call him the best pass catcher available for a team that could desperately use one. The Eagles have utilized two tight end sets since they drafted Dallas Goedert, so with the rumblings that Zach Ertz may be on his way out, they can seamlessly integrate Pitts into the system and give Jalen Hurts a dynamic weapon to help him in his first full season as the Eagles’ starting QB. The news this past week is that the Eagles have been looking to add some talent at pass catcher and Pitts is as talented as they come.

Pick #7 Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

If the draft does play out this way, this pick would be a logical trading spot for teams trying to leapfrog the Panthers at No. 8 for a QB. However, in my first iteration of mocks, I am not going to project any trades even though the Lions would be wise to trade down and garner more picks to address their multiple needs.

That said, nearly all of the 2020 receiving corps will free agency and even with the signings of Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, they could use another receiver. They can not only fill the need with Waddle but also add someone who exemplifies the toughness that head coach Dan Campbell preached about in his introductory press conference. Waddle, who rushed back from what many thought was a season-ending injury, was able to be productive in the national championship game while still visibly limping. Now that he has had extra time to heal, he can return to being the fastest WR in the draft and an explosive weapon for the Lions’ offense.

Pick #8 Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

At his pro day, Lance reminded scouts that he is a unique talent and got them buzzing about him again. Turn on NFL Network or ESPN and you hear comps to Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. While there are questions about his competition and the total number of games started, there is no questioning his physical tools and athleticism. To quote Daniel Jeremiah “it’s a limited body of work, but the foundation is outstanding.” As the draft draws closer, I expect Lance to continue to move up draft boards and won’t be surprised to see him be a top-five pick on draft day.

Pick #9 Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

Now that Denver has signed Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in the past week, I expect them to address their front 7 instead of their secondary with this pick. Having opted out of the 2020 season, I think scouts will be quickly reminded of the type of athlete/player Parsons is at his upcoming pro day (3/25) and may start to move up draft boards again. He is the type of versatile and dynamic linebacker that can play all three downs and make an impact in both the run and passing game.

Pick #10 Dallas Cowboys –  Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

There is a clear distinction in who the top three cornerbacks are this year but it is not as clear which one will go off the board first between Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn. Dallas goes with the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year even while opposing offenses typically avoided throwing at him. At 6’2″, 202lbs, he is the prototypical size and speed combination NFL scouts covet at the position.

Pick #11 New York Giants – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Now that the Giants have officially signed their new WR1 in Kenny Golladay, I expect them to turn their attention to the offensive line. The Giants ranked 31st in the league in pressure rate allowed last year. At 6’4″, 315lbs, Slater may not be the biggest or strongest offensive lineman in the draft but he may be considered the safest because he could move inside. That’s exactly what a team needs that is trying to protect what they believe to be their franchise QB.

Pick #12 San Francisco 49ers – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Farley doesn’t have to wait long to hear his name called as the Niners also have a need at corner. At 6’2″, 207lbs, he has almost the same measurables and attributes as Surtain, which is why it is pretty much splitting hairs between the two. Many expect the Niners to be aggressive at the draft and try to move up to grab one of the top quarterbacks, but if they aren’t able to do that, they at least are in a spot to take a top-tier CB.

Pick #13 Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

The Chargers at least addressed the offensive line last week and made a big upgrade by signing Corey Linsley and Matt Fieler, but that didn’t solve all their issues along the line. Darrisaw is widely considered one of, if not the best pure blocker in this class as he consistently got better during his three years as a starter at Virginia Tech. Blocking for franchise QB Justin Herbert should be the Chargers’ top priority.

Pick #14 Minnesota Vikings – Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Nobody in the league had a lower pressure rate on opposing QB’s last year than the Vikings. Defensive lineman, specifically edge rushers, at this point in the draft process have not distinguished themselves yet and may push each other down the draft boards as a result. Rousseau sat out last season but in 2019, he had 15.5 sacks while lining up all over the defensive line showing his ability to get pressure not just from the edge which Minnesota desperately needs. 

Pick #15 New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Notoriously, the toughest team to predict with their first-round picks as they have a proclivity of trading down, sometimes even out of the round completely, they may have given us a little hint at their plans when they re-signed Cam Newton to another one-year deal and loaded up on skill position players in free agency.

Still, Newton’s contract suggests he is just a bridge to the next guy as they did not want to commit dollars or years to another established QB. Jones does have a lot of traits that Bill Belichick typically looks for including accuracy, decision making, and leadership. Couple that with the Saban connection and it seems Jones may be the guy Belichick is looking for to ultimately take over the franchise for Tom Brady

Pick #16 Arizona Cardinals –  Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

If the draft plays out this way, the Cardinals will feel fortunate that one of the top three cornerbacks actually fell to them, especially after Patrick Peterson officially left for Minnesota. At 6’1″, 205lbs, Horn, too, fits the mold of the prototypical NFL CB and plays a physical brand of football the Cardinals’ defense could use on the outside.

Pick #17 Las Vegas Raiders – Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan

We’ve seen Gruden and Mayock get enamored with “eye-popping” draft prospects and Paye is a player that is expected to wow scouts at his pro day on 3/26. The Raiders were 25th in rush yards allowed after contact per attempt along with ranking 25th in pressure rate, so adding Paye should help improve both of those areas even though the Raiders have signed Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas, they could still use some more long-term depth on the line. 

Pick #18 Miami Dolphins – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

If not for his size, this is someone that may have been in consideration for Miami at No. 3 as they look to reunite Tua Tagovailoa with his former Alabama teammate. While the Dolphins did sign Will Fuller, it was only a one-year deal and Smith is a much more complete WR to go along with DeVante Parker for the long-term. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is coming off one of the most impressive seasons any college WR has ever had. Smith posted 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 TD’s and was on his way to a historic national championship game with 12 catches for 215 yards and three TD’s before being knocked out of the game early due to injury. With their first two picks in this draft, the Dolphins start to build the foundation around Tua.

Pick #19 Washington Football Team – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

If Mac Jones is here I would expect him to be the pick or Washington may even try to move up to try to obtain him since they surprisingly don’t have a ton of holes on their team outside of QB. Instead, they go with the next best tackle/guard combo in the draft. Listed at the same exact size as Slater, Vera-Tucker would probably be best utilized at guard but does have experience at both positions.

Pick #20 Chicago Bears – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Another team looking to upgrade the QB position but ultimately settling on a WR at this point in the draft. Although looking at Bateman’s college stats, coupled with his recent sub 4.4 40 at the Exos combine on 2/27 it’s unfair to describe picking Bateman as “settling.” Just a sophomore in 2019, he had 1,219 yards and 11 TD’s while averaging over 20 yards per catch. 

Pick #21 Indianapolis Colts – Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Colts have been quiet so far in free agency with only three official moves and one of those was formally announcing the trade for Carson Wentz. Wentz was the most sacked QB in the league last year as he has a propensity to hold onto the ball too long so trying to give him the best protection possible will be paramount. With the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, the Colts have an immediate and very pressing need to fill at offensive tackle.

Pick #22 Tennessee Titans – Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami

The Titans had the third-fewest sacks in the league last year with just 19 and it looks like they will be losing Jadeveon Clowney on top of it. They did make a big splash with Bud Dupree, who signed a five-year deal and will certainly help create some pressure off the edge, but they still could use an upgrade along the defensive line. Phillips, who has had some medical issues and even “retired” from football briefly, may be the most talented defensive lineman in the draft, as he was the No. 1 high school recruit in the country. 

Pick #23 New York Jets – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

I had Azeez Ojulari here in the first mock, but with the Jets signing Carl Lawson to a three-year deal coupled with Ajulari’s disappointing pro day I think the Jets go a different direction. New head coach Robert Salah saw first hand in San Francisco that you could still have success on offense with the running game being more of a focal point. With a rookie QB and a lack of depth/talent of running backs on the current roster, I could see the Jets wanting to shore up that position to take some pressure off of Wilson, and who better to go to than the all-time rushing yards leader in Alabama history. Even with his impressive rushing stats that saw him average over six yards per carry during the course of his college career, it’s his 43 catches at 9.9 yards per catch last year that could catapult him into the first round.

Pick #24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Jaylen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

If the Steelers are going to give it another go with Big Ben at the helm they are gonna have to try and protect him so look for them to go offensive line here especially given their starting left tackle is now a free agent. Mayfield is another guy who can play outside or move in depending on what the Steelers do in the offseason but he should be able to help either way.

Pick #25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

At 6’5″, 310lbs, Barmore has the size to stack up against the run but also the ability and explosiveness to get to the QB, as evidenced by his team-leading eight sacks last season, including one in the national championship game to also go with two tackles for loss and five overall tackles, earning him the defensive MVP of the game award.

Pick #26 Cleveland Browns – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

The Browns signed one of the top safeties available in John Johnson to a three-year deal but could still use some versatility on defense and few meet that criteria better than Owusu-Koramoah. At 6’1″, 215lbs, he may be a bit undersized but has shown he can make up for it not only with his ability in coverage but also attacking the line of scrimmage averaging a tackle for loss per game the past two seasons at Notre Dame.

Pick #27 Baltimore Ravens – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma St.

With Orlando Brown requesting a trade, the Ravens now have an opening on the right side of the line that Jenkins can fill. Jenkins is considered one of the better run blockers in the class, which will fit Baltimore’s style perfectly.

Pick #28 New Orleans Saints – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Now that Drew Brees has officially retired, the Saints will move forward with Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill. It would probably be best to try and give the offense easy throws/decisions and Toney, although a bit undersized, is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete, who not only caught 70 passes for 984 yards and 10 TD’s but also ran the ball 19 times for 8.5 yards per carry. He should be able to make the New Orleans quarterback’s life easier and a moveable piece in the Sean Payron offense.

Pick #29 Green Bay Packers – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

The lasting image in most Packers fans’ minds from the NFC championship game is Tom Brady continuously picking on CB Kevin King. Newsome may have solidified a spot in the first round with his 4.38 40 at his recent pro day. When on the field, Newsome earned first-team Big 10 honors but injuries have been a bit of a problem in his career. He has missed parts of each of the past three seasons, which puts him just below the top 3 CB’s in this draft. 

Pick #30 Buffalo Bills – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

While I don’t personally subscribe to taking a running back in the first round (let alone two), one or more always seem to be taken. With the Bills bringing back their entire offensive line from 2020, they could use a homerun threat at the position as Devin Singletary and Zach Moss, who were their two top RB’s last year, combined for only seven runs of 20 yards or more. Compare that to Derrick Henry who had 16 such runs on his own last season. Etienne confirmed his home run speed at his recent pro day, clocking a 4.41 40 while weighing in at 215lbs. That would add another dynamic to an already potent Bills offense.

Pick #31 Kansas City Chiefs – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

The Super Bowl shined a very bright light on the importance of a competent offensive line. At the time, we could chalk up the incompetence of the KC o-line in the Super Bowl to injuries, but now it’s a more permanent problem with the release of both of their starting tackles. KC has addressed the inside of the line by signing the best available in Joe Thuney and also enticing Kyle Long out of retirement but could still use some help on the outside. They were reportedly in on Trent Williams before he re-signed with the 49ers. Eichenberg is a three-year starter at left tackle at Notre Dame and gives KC an experienced college player who can step in and contribute on Day 1.

Pick #32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington

It’s hard to find many holes on the defending Super Bowl champions’ roster, but depending on whether or not they bring back Ndamukong Suh may create one. The Buccaneers led the league last year in rushing yards allowed per game at only 80.6 which is even more impressive when you see the Colts, who were the second-best team, allowed 90.5 per game. His tape is a bit inconsistent but being able to line up next to an anchor like Vita Vea should allow him to flash some of his high-end potential more often and utilize his versatility.