2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0 From Ryan McCrystal

With the majority of the big-name free agents off the market, each team’s needs have come into focus over the last two weeks. And with the pro day circuit in full swing, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of each prospect’s value as well.

To keep things simple, no trades have been projected in this mock draft, although we can assume any team targeting a quarterback will be exploring their options to move up on draft day. 

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

Previous Mock Draft Selection: Lawrence

Lawrence has both the athleticism and throwing ability to fit perfectly into Urban Meyer’s offense. We should assume this pick is already locked in.

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

Previous pick: Wilson

ESPN’s Rich Cimini recently reported the Jets have not made a decision about the future of Sam Darnold and that new head coach Robert Salah is a “Darnold supporter.” However, he also mentions the team is listening to offers for Darnold. Usually when a team starts listening to offers—especially when an alternative quarterback option exists, as it does for New York—that’s the end of the road. 

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

Previous pick: Sewell

GM Chris Grier has been in the Miami front office for just over 20 years and in that span, the Dolphins have drafted only two wide receivers in the top 50 (Ted Ginn Jr. and DeVante Parker). It appears to be a philosophy of this organization to avoid investing too heavily in the position, which makes it difficult to believe they’ll spend a top-five pick on Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith. If they don’t draft a receiver, Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater are the obvious alternatives. 

Pick #4 Atlanta Falcons – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Previous pick: Kyle Pitts, TE

As one of the teams unlikely to draft a quarterback, Atlanta should be offering this pick to anyone targeting Justin Fields or Trey Lance. Whether they stay put or move down, cornerback Patrick Surtain should be on the Falcons’ radar to upgrade a struggling secondary. 

Pick #5 Cincinnati Bengals – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Previous pick: Slater

Many Bengals fans want a wide receiver—for good reason—but offensive linemen like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are much harder to find. Teams rebuilding on offense rarely pass over the top tier offensive linemen in favor of pass-catchers. 

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

Previous pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR

With Zach Ertz likely on his way out of Philadelphia via trade, there’s room for Kyle Pitts in Philly. And even if the Eagles decide to keep Dallas Goedert beyond 2021, it won’t be hard to find room for both given Pitts’ experience lining up at wide receiver at Florida. 

Pick #7 Detroit Lions – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Previous pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB

A team in full rebuilding mode with a new GM and head coach is going to be tough to predict. Almost any prospect mentioned in this range is a potential fit for Detroit. Kwity Paye typically isn’t talked about as a top-10 prospect right now, but that could change after Michigan’s pro day (March 26). Expect Paye to put on a show and start to generate more buzz. 

Pick #8 Carolina Panthers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Previous pick: Fields

Carolina has reportedly pursued Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson this offseason, which likely means they’re trying to move on from Teddy Bridgewater sooner rather than later. It might require a trade-up to land Fields, but it should be safe to assume he’s on their shortlist of draft wishes. 

Pick #9 Denver Broncos – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Previous pick: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE

Drew Lock ranked 33rd out of 35 quarterbacks in on-target rate last season, according to Sports Info Solutions. Based on that performance, and the fact John Elway has ceded control to new GM George Paton, there’s a good chance we’ll see a new signal-caller in Denver next year. 

Pick #10 Dallas Cowboys – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Previous pick: Caleb Farley, CB

Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are both signed long-term, but are each returning from injuries that decimated the Dallas offensive line in 2020. If there’s any doubt as to their ability to return to form, the Cowboys could invest in another lineman, knowing someone (either Darrisaw or Collins, in this scenario) could always shift inside to guard. 

Pick #11 New York Giants – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami FL

Previous pick: DeVonta Smith, WR

With Kenny Golladay in the fold, GM Dave Gettleman might turn his attention to the defense with this selection. According to Sports Info Solutions, among the top 100 pass-rushers in pressure rate in 2020, only one is currently on the Giants roster (Leonard Williams, 42nd). 

Pick #12 San Francisco 49ers: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Previous pick: Jaycee Horn, CB

San Francisco is probably one of the teams considering a trade-up for a quarterback, but if they miss out, an alternative plan may be to add another weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo. Between Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and DeVonta Smith, the 49ers would have a dangerous trio of receivers with a wide array of skills. 

Pick #13 Los Angeles Chargers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Previous pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT

With Casey Heyward Jr. gone, the Chargers are left without much depth in the secondary beyond Chris Harris Jr. and Michael Davis. Unless they believe strongly in the development of Tevaughn Campbell and Brandon Facyson, we should assume cornerback is one of the positions on their radar with this pick. 

Pick #14 Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

Previous pick: Vera-Tucker

Alijah Vera-Tucker, who played both guard and tackle at USC, is likely to be viewed as a guard by most NFL teams. That isn’t a problem for Minnesota, which has some flexibility in rebuilding its offensive line. Right guard Ezra Cleveland played left tackle Boise State, and could shift back to that role to make room for Vera-Tucker. 

Pick #15 New England Patriots: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Previous pick: Trey Lance, QB

With offensive linemen and quarterbacks potentially taking up a significant chunk of the early first-round, and plenty of wide receivers expected to be available on Day 2, don’t be shocked if CeeDee Lamb’s 2020 draft-day tumble repeats itself for a similar prospect this year. New England is well-positioned to snag someone like Ja’Marr Chase if such a fall occurs. 

Pick #16 Arizona Cardinals – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Previous pick: Waddle

The addition of A.J. Green improved the Cardinals receiving corps, but there’s still room for an upgrade in the slot—especially if Larry Fitzgerald retires. According to Sports Info Solutions, 74% of Waddle’s targets were in the slot over his final two seasons at Alabama.

Pick #17 Las Vegas Raiders – Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas

Previous pick: Micah Parsons, LB

By trading Trent Brown, Las Vegas opened up a glaring hole at right tackle. The Raiders drafted left tackle Kolton Miller in the first round two years ago, overlooking mediocre production and betting on his elite athleticism. Cosmi’s similarly impressive pro day numbers are likely to catch the eye of GM Mike Mayock and HC Jon Gruden. 

Pick #18 Miami Dolphins – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami FL

Previous pick: Rousseau

So far this offseason, Miami has lost Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson without adding a meaningful pass-rusher. With the free agent market drying up, it’s starting to look like they’ll be addressing this need through the draft. Gregory Rousseau opted out in 2020, but finished third in the ACC with 47 QB pressures (3.6 per game) the year prior, per Sports Info Solutions. 

Pick #19 Washington Football Team – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Previous pick: Rashod Bateman, WR

It’s difficult to imagine Washington is excited about moving forward with Jon Bostic, Cole Holcomb, and Khaleke Hudson as their primary trio of linebackers. Any of those spots could be upgraded. Zaven Collins probably fits best in one of the outside linebacker roles in Washington.

Pick #20 Chicago Bears – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Previous pick: Jones

Since the Bears can’t fully control their ability to land a quarterback through the draft, signing Andy Dalton was a logical insurance policy. Assuming GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy like Mac Jones’ skill set, he should still be an option for Chicago. 

Pick #21 Indianapolis Colts – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Previous pick: Sam Cosi, OT

The Colts have signed Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport, presumably to compete for the left tackle job vacated by Anthony Castonzo. That’s an acceptable backup plan, but it shouldn’t be hard for Indy to find a better option with this selection. Liam Eichenberg was a three-year starter on the left side for Notre Dame.

Pick #22 Tennessee Titans – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

Previous pick: Jenkins

Tennessee addressed two of their major needs in free agency with edge-rusher Bud Dupree and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. That leaves them with right tackle as their one glaring hole left to fill. Teven Jenkins is a powerful run blocker which makes him an ideal fit in the Titans offense. 

Pick #23 New York Jets – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Previous pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE

The Jets signed linebacker Jarrad Davis this offseason, but coverage has always been a weakness of his game. Pairing him with the ultra-athletic Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would give New York more well-rounded talent at the position. 

Pick #24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Previous pick: Christian Barmore, DT

Pittsburgh recently cut cornerback Steven Nelson, which potentially puts them in the market for a new starter opposite Joe Haden (who also only has one year remaining on his contract). 

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

Previous pick: Joseph Ossai, EDGE

With needs everywhere, Jacksonville should focus the best available player approach with this selection. Christian Barmore will be the top defensive tackle on most draft boards and would be a good fit starting next to recent free agent addition Tyson Alualu

Pick #26 Cleveland Browns – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Previous pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB

Cleveland re-signed Rashard Higgins, but only gave him $2.38 million for one year. That type of contract indicates he’s a backup plan, not the intended outside starter opposite Odell Beckham Jr. (with Jarvis Landry in the slot). Bateman has the size and speed to help stretch the field and open up Cleveland’s offense.  

Pick #27 Baltimore Ravens – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

Previous pick: Ojulari

Pernell McPhee and Tyus Bowser are back in the fold, but Baltimore still lost Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon, who accounted for 25% of the team’s QB pressures in 2020, according to Sports Info Solutions. 

Pick #28 New Orleans Saints – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Previous pick: Aaron Robinson, CB

While Micah Parsons has the talent of an early first-round pick, some owners simply won’t want to answer questions about bullying and sexual harassment about their new star player. That could lead Parsons to falling on draft day, until the point where an owner can be convinced the value is so great it overshadows the risk.

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

Previous pick: Newsome

Green Bay re-signed Kevin King, but since he was the weak link in the secondary last year—he allowed 8.8 yards per target in coverage, according to Sports Info Solutions—it’s unclear if he has a starting job locked down. Greg Newsome thrived in Northwestern’s zone-heavy defense in 2020 and could make an easy transition to a similar scheme in Green Bay. 

Pick #30 Buffalo Bills – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Previous pick: Wyatt Davis, G

Caleb Farley had been a presumed top-10 pick until news broke of his back surgery, which will cause him to be unavailable until late July. The surgery will cause Farley to miss his pro day. Farley also opted out of the 2020 season and suffered a torn ACL in 2017—so there are a lot of factors working against him. A top-10 selection now seems unlikely, but some team willing to gamble in the late first-round could end up with a steal. 

Pick #31 Kansas City Chiefs – Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma

Previous pick: Liam Eichenberg, OT

The Chiefs have begun rebuilding their offensive line, but there’s still a glaring hole at center. Creed Humphrey was nearly flawless at Oklahoma in 2020—he allowed a 0.3% blown block rate in pass protection, according to Sports Info Solutions—and would likely be able to offer immediate production in Kansas City. 

Pick #32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Previous pick: Harris

Tampa, somewhat surprisingly, retained almost all of its free agents, which allows GM Jason Licht to treat this selection as more of a luxury. Upgrading a solid-but-unspectacular backfield is one of the only areas of the roster remaining for the Bucs to improve.

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