The 2021 NFL Draft is finally here. Though it may not hold the same weight with the Cleveland Browns picking outside the Top 20, following NFL free agency, the draft signals hope, and the start of a new season just around the corner.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is all but locked in as the No. 1 pick, and BYU’s Zach Wilson is close to a lock at the No. 2 pick as well. But from there, the intrigue in this draft begins. Did the 49ers really trade up for Alabama’s Mac Jones? Will four quarterbacks go in the first four picks? What about five in the first five? Who will be the first non-quarterback selected? Florida TE Kyle Pitts? Oregon OT Penei Sewell? Or maybe Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater?
Yes, not only could a Northwestern Wildcat go Top 10, but two could potentially go in the first round in Slater and CB Greg Newsome II. So without further ado, here is my NFL Mock Draft 2.0…
(Offensive and Defensive ranking via Football Outsiders. Offensive line rankings come via Pro Football Focus. Pass rush and block win rate stats via ESPN)
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. When Goodell steps to the podium on Thursday night, it’d be an absolute shock if Trevor Lawrence isn’t the Jaguars’ No. 1-overall selection. Jacksonville might have been infatuated with Mishew mania for a few weeks, but the former Cougar still finished 27th among 33 qualified QBs in Total QBR.
- New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU. The Jets moved on from 2018 first-rounder Sam Darnold, and with the No. 2-overall selection, Joe Douglas and co. have a chance to find the next Jets’ franchise QB. And barring something unexpected, New York will place their hopes in Wilson.
- San Francisco 49ers (via Miami, via Houston): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State. Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers traded up for their next franchise QB, the question being, who? Shanahan and co. have been connected to all three of Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones, and while the recent buzz seems to point to Jones, I’m not buying it.
- Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State. With Matt Ryan under contract for another three seasons, the Falcons don’t need a QB, but Ryan isn’t getting any younger, turning 36 prior to the start of the 2021 season, and who knows if/when Atlanta will pick this high again.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon. Joe Burrow might need some better weapons, but it doesn’t matter if the second-year QB doesn’t have time to throw. The Bengals have to better protect Burrow, and Cincinnati’s offensive line ranked 30th in the NFL in 2020, and 29th in pass block win rate. A healthy Jonah Williams will help, but the Bengals need a bookend tackle opposite him.
- Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU. If the Dolphins want to Tua Tagovailoa to succeed and develop into their franchise QB, they have to improve his arsenal. Tagovailoa might have ranked 26th in the NFL in Total QBR, but down-the-stretch, he was passing to the likes of Lynn Bowden Jr. and Jakeem Grant.
- Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama. With Jared Goff under center, the Lions are a prime candidate to trade down. Detroit could target their future franchise QB, but with the Top 4 quarterbacks off the board, a trade back, or a wide receiver after losing both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in free agency, would make more sense.
- Carolina Panthers: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida. After trading multiple picks for Sam Darnold, the Panthers now need to set the former first-rounder up to succeed in Carolina. The Panthers beefed up their offensive line in free agency, and can give Darnold a nice, security blanket with this selection, the likes of which Panthers fans haven’t seen since Greg Olsen.
- Denver Broncos: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama. Drew Lock sure doesn’t look like the Broncos’ franchise QB, with career completion percentage of just under 60 percent, and a Total QBR of 48.8 in 2020, good for 29th in the NFL. Reportedly, the Broncos have been exploring trading up for a QB, but they might have to settle for QB5 with this selection.
- Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern. The Cowboys once-vaunted offensive line is no longer the top-notch unit it used to be. Dallas’ offensive line ranked just 26th in pass-block win rate, and 15th in run-block. OT Tyron Smith played just two games in 2020, and hasn’t played a full season since 2015. It’s time to find his replacement, and the Cowboys won’t be passing on Slater if he’s still on the board at No. 10.
- New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State. After New York’s defense finished the year ranked 19th in the NFL, with a league-worst pass rush win rate, the Giants need to improve their pass rush, and adding Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson isn’t going to make enough of a difference.
- Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami, via San Francisco): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama. Eagles fans will clamor for a wide receiver, but if Surtain II is still on the board when the Eagles are on the clock, Howie Roseman isn’t passing on CB1.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech. Justin Herbert sure looked like the real deal down the stretch, but the Chargers have to better protect Herbert if they want him to succeed. In 2020, the Chargers’ offensive line ranked 32nd in the NFL, 31st in pass block win rate and 32nd in run block win rate.
- Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan. Minnesota’s defense took a significant step back in 2020, in large part, due to a poor pass rush that ranked 30th in the NFL in pass rush win rate. And while the Vikings should get DE Danielle Hunter back from injury in 2021, Minnesota needs to add another pass rusher opposite him.
- New England Patriots: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama. The Patriots have a dearth of offensive playmakers, and Smith seems like he’d the perfect fit in New England. New England does need a quarterback as well, but I’m not sure Bill Belichick will want to give up what it’ll take to jump into the Top 10 and draft one of Fields, Jones or Lance.
- Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina. Patrick Peterson is off to Minnesota, and the Cardinals need to find his replacement. Arizona signed Malcolm Butler to a one-year contract, but the Cardinals need a long-term solution to go up against the top-flight receivers in the NFC West.
- Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame. The Raiders, once again in 2020, had one of the worst defenses in football, finishing the year with the 28th-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 6.0 yards per play, 7.0 net yards per pass attempt and 4.6 yards per rush. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley needs more playmakers at all three levels of Las Vegas’ defense.
- Miami Dolphins: Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC. Miami’s protection and run blocking still has plenty of room to improve, especially if Brian Flores and co. want to give Tagovailoa the best chance to succeed. The Dolphins’ O-Line graded out as the 28th-best in the NFL, and finished in the bottom third of the NFL in both pass block and run block win rate.
- Washington Football Team: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa. Led by 2020 first-round pick Chase Young, Washington has a number of studs up front along their defensive line, but there’s not much talent behind them in the linebacking core. Washington could certainly look at a wideout with this pick, but upgrading the middle of their defense will be hard to pass up for a coach in Ron Rivera, who’s coached team’s that’ve consistently excelled at all three linebacker spots.
- Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State. Chicago’s another team that might try to trade up for a QB, especially with Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy on the hot seat. But it’s going to take a lot of ammo to jump both the Patriots and Broncos from No. 20. If Pace and co. can’t find Chicago’s next franchise QB with this selection, improving an offensive line that ranked 20th in the NFL would make a lot of sense.
- Indianapolis Colts: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech. The Colts defense ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL last season, but its secondary can’t compete with some of the elite passing offenses in the NFL. Xavier Rhodes will turn 31 before the start of the 2021 season, and Rock Ya-Sin hasn’t lived up to his second-round billing. If arguably the most talented CB in this year’s draft is still on the board at 21, Chris Ballard isn’t passing on him, even with Farley’s injury concerns.
- Tennessee Titans: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (Fla.). Tennessee’s defense ranked 29th in the NFL, and got pressure on opposite QBs at one of the lowest rates in the NFL. The Jadeveon Clowney signing didn’t work out, and Tennessee’s big free agent signing, Bud Dupree, is coming off a torn ACL. The Titans need to upgrade all three levels of their defense, but especially the pass rush.
- New York Jets (Via Seattle): Najee Harris, RB, Alabama. One way to help your rookie QB settle in and adjust to his first season in the NFL? Giving him a strong run game. The Jets had one of the worst offenses in football in 2020, averaging just 4.1 yards per carry with the combination of Frank Gore and Lamical Perine. Adding Tevin Coleman in free agency isn’t much of an upgrade, so Joe Douglas could look to the draft, especially if Harris falls this far.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama. The Steelers will head in 2021 with at least three new starting offensive lineman after Maurkice Pouncey retired and Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva left via free agency. But it’s not like Pittsburgh’s offensive line was that good in 2020 though, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL in both pass block and run block win rate. RT Zach Banner and RG David DeCastro are slated to start on the right-side of the Steelers’ O-Line, but the rest of the line is still up for grabs.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Via LA Rams): Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama. The Jaguars’ really missed Calais Campbell last season, as their defense ranked 31st in the NFL, and 18th in Team Run Stop Win Rate. Taven Bryan hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft status, and while Jacksonville is set on the edge with Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacksonville could much improve the interior of its defensive line.
- Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern. Chances are Andrew Berry and co. will go defense with this selection, the question being whether they target an EDGE rusher to pair with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, or a corner to play opposite Denzel Ward. And while 2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams should return from injury in 2021, the Browns don’t know what to expect out of him after missing a full season.
- Baltimore Ravens: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia. The Ravens’ pass rush consistently ranks among the Top 10 in the NFL, but with both Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon leaving Baltimore via free agency, Eric DeCosta and co. will have to find a replacement.
- New Orleans Saints: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU. With their salary cap an absolute mess over the next couple years, New Orleans will have to get younger and cheaper at a number of different positions if they want to stay atop the NFC South. The Saints franchise-tagged FS Marcus Williams, but odds are they’ll have to let him walk in free agency 2022, while SS Malcolm Jenkins really struggled and has an out in his contract after 2021.
- Green Bay Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota. One of these years, Green Bay is finally going to add another receiver or two. Aaron Rodgers clamored for a wideout last offseason, but instead, the Packers traded up for QB Jordan Love. But after coming up short again in the NFC Championship Game, the Packers should acquiesce to Rodgers’ wishes and find another receiver to take some coverage away from DaVante Adams.
- Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (Fla.). If Buffalo’s going to challenge Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the Chiefs for the AFC crown again, the Bills have to get more pressure on Mahomes. And with the Bills top-2 pass rushers, Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes, both on the wrong side of 30, and Buffalo near the bottom of the NFL in QB pressure rate, adding a young EDGE rusher is atop the Bills’ offseason to-do list.
- Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City): Terrace Marshall Jr.., WR, LSU. While the Ravens have a number of smaller, speedy wide receivers like Marquise Brown, they still don’t have a WR1 for Lamar Jackson. Too often, and especially in the playoffs, defenses are able to key-in on Brown and TE Mark Andrews, forcing Baltimore to be too one-dimensional. If the Ravens are ever going to get through the AFC with Jackson under center, they have to find him a WR1 and DeCosta and co. swung and missed in free agency, only coming away with Sammy Watkins on a one-year deal.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson. Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers somehow retained almost all of their free agents, setting themselves up for another run. Pass rush, linebacker or even wide receiver would been big needs, but the Bucs re-signed Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Ndamukong Suh. While a running back would be more of a luxury pick, Etienne would certainly be an upgrade over Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, both of whom will be free agents next year.