My First 2021 NFL Mock Draft
As an aspiring college football writer, I'm learning that making picks in a mock NFL draft is not easy! There are mock drafts flying around the internet, trade rumours galore and the days where quarterbacks were drafted and remained the cornerstone of their franchise until they retired, are gone. The recent trades of Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford means that none of the quarterbacks taken in the first round between 2009 and 2016 are with the teams who drafted them.
More trades are likely - Chicago at pick #20, Washington at #19 and New England at #15 all need an upgrade at quarterback and are too low in the running order to select a difference maker. The top QB prospects are likely to be gone by then, Carolina, with the eighth pick, are rumoured to be keen on trading for Houston's DeShaun Watson and if a trade doesn't materialise, may look to trade up the board to draft their future signal caller.
It will be fascinating to watch the Draft process over the next few weeks, and a nightmare to predict. Here is the first of my mock drafts. For ease in this mock, I'll leave the teams in the order they sit currently, with no predicted trades.
1 Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence - QB, Clemson
The pick was virtually in the moment Lawrence officially declared for the Draft. The best player in college football goes to the worst team. That's how it should be.
Team needs: QB, OT, CB, TE
2 New York Jets - Zach Wilson - QB, Brigham Young
They could also stick with Sam Darnold and trade down for more picks, but new Head Coach Robert Saleh starts afresh with the second best QB in the draft.
Team needs: QB, WR, CB, EDGE, RB
3 Miami Dolphins (via Houston) - DeVonta Smith - WR, Alabama
There's a strong argument for Penei Sewell, the best tackle in the Draft, to protect the pocket, but reuniting Smith, the Heisman trophy winner, with Tua, his former Alabama QB, makes too much sense.
Team needs: WR, OL, LB, RB, EDGE
4 Atlanta Falcons - Justin Fields - QB, Ohio State
It could be Trey Lance here, but the Georgia native Fields returns home as Matt Ryan's successor. Fields has his critics, but was superb against Clemson in the CFP semi-final and has time to learn under an experienced NFL QB.
Team needs: QB, EDGE, LB, TE
5 Cincinnati Bengals - Penei Sewell - OT, Oregon
Having taken 32 sacks before a season-ending injury, Joe Burrow and the Bengals are ecstatic Sewell falls to no.5 to shore up their offensive line.
Team needs: OL, WR, CB
6 Philadelphia Eagles - Ja'Marr Chase - WR, LSU
Kyle Pitts could be the pick here, or even a QB to replace Colts-bound Carson Wentz, but I think the Eagles give Jalen Hurts a year and an impressive weapon in Chase to stretch the field.
Team needs: WR, QB, CB, TE
7 Detroit Lions - Jaylen Waddle - WR, Alabama
Three receivers in the first seven picks seems high, but Detroit risks losing three of its receivers in free agency. Kyle Pitts could be considered, but the Lions have a premier tight end in TJ Hockenson, so Waddle, a superb receiver, is the pick here.
Team needs: WR, OT, CB, QB
8 Carolina Panthers - Trey Lance - QB, North Dakota State
This could change if Carolina can prise DeShaun Watson away from the Texans. If not, Lance is a raw, athletic, talented prospect with a huge arm who can develop behind 'bridge' QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Team needs: QB, OL, CB, TE
9 Denver Broncos - Micah Parsons - LB, Penn State
Denver needs a cornerback and John Elway does like to look at quarterbacks in the Draft, so you wonder if they go down this route, but Parsons is too good a prospect at linebacker to pass up.
Team needs: CB, EDGE, LB, QB
10 Dallas Cowboys - Patrick Surtain II - CB, Alabama
Alabama corners are aggressive in defense and the Cowboys need a spark in the backfield, especially with the risk of losing two of their starters in free agency.
Team needs: OL, CB, DL, EDGE
11 New York Giants - Kyle Pitts - TE, Florida
Rashawn Slater is still on the board and could bolster the Giants' O-Line here with last year's fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas, but Pitts is one of the best tight ends to come out of college football in years and a steal here.
Team needs: WR, LB, EDGE, OT, CB
12 San Francisco 49ers - Caleb Farley - CB, Virginia Tech
Another aggressive corner off the board filling a need to replace the departing Richard Sherman. Farley is an athletic, fast corner who could turn defense into attack - four interceptions in 2019 (he sat out the 2020 season).
Team needs: CB, EDGE, WR, OL
13 LA Chargers - Rashawn Slater - OT, Northwestern
The Chargers have a few needs here and Gregory Rousseau lining up on the line with Joey Bosa would be appealing but Slater is a top offensive tackle who can play anywhere along the line. He gives QB Justin Herbert security to build on a great first season
Team needs: OL, WR, EDGE, CB,
14 Minnesota Vikings - Gregory Rousseau - DE, Miami
Opted out of the 2020 season but only behind last year's No.2 overall pick Chase Young in sack numbers in 2019. Rousseau registered 15.5 sacks and gives the Vikings defense a much needed boost in a division that, outside Green Bay, is weak at quarterback and ripe for attack.
Team needs: EDGE, CB, WR, OL, DL
15 New England Patriots - Chazz Surratt - LB, North Carolina
Devin White and Lavonte David highlighted the impact of a star linebacker in the Bucs' Super Bowl win. Mac Jones is tipped to land here and you can see the potential likeness with Brady - the competitiveness and intelligence. Bill Belichick lands his quarterback, but a converted QB to LB in Surratt, who switched positions at North Carolina. This seems high for Surratt but he has huge upside and a potential future defensive leader for the Patriots.
Team needs: WR, TE, DL, LB
16 Arizona Cardinals - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - LB, Notre Dame
Arizona addressed a big need on the edge with the capture of JJ Watt in free agency. The defense still needs some help and Owusu-Koramoah is a tremendous athlete who can rush and cover. Like last year's pick Isaiah Simmons and the Panthers' Jeremy Chinn, this guy is a hybrid option who can give offenses more problems.
Team needs: RB, CB, TE
17 Las Vegas Raiders - Christian Barmore - DL, Alabama
Mike Mayock loves picking players from the big schools and Barmore had a terrific postseason for Alabama. The Raiders need help all over the defense and Barmore gives them immediate presence in the trenches.
Team needs: EDGE, DL, OL, LB
18 Miami Dolphins - Christian Darrisaw - OL, Virginia Tech
A three-year starter for the Hokies, Darrisaw has huge presence up front and gives QB Tua Tagovailoa protection as he looks downfield for their pick at No.3, Devonta Smith.
Team needs: (see pick 3)
19 Washington Football Team - Mac Jones - QB, Alabama
The departure of Alex Smith this week and two-year deal for Taylor Heinicke suggests Washington is looking for its next signal caller. Jones has the smarts, competitiveness and character to lead this developing offense.
Team needs: QB, OT, WR, CB, S
20 Chicago Bears - Rashod Bateman - WR, Minnesota
The Bears have multiple needs, including offensive line and quarterback, but I think they can address that in later rounds or free agency. Allen Robinson's future in Chicago is in doubt and so they snag a high value pick in Bateman here, an aggressive receiver who gains yards after the catch.
Team needs: QB, WR, OL, DL
21 Indianapolis Colts - Jaycee Horn - CB, South Carolina
Carson Wentz neatly replaces Philip Rivers so the Colts address the defensive side of the ball, taking Horn, a three-year starter in college who excels in man-to-man coverage. The best corner available after Surtain and Farley.
Team needs: OT, CB, WR
22 Tennessee Titans - Kwity Paye - DL, Michigan
Paye is a surprise faller here, but a godsend for the Titans who desperately need help with their pass rush following the disappointing signings of Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley.
Team needs: EDGE, DL, WR, CB
23 New York Jets (via Seattle) - Najee Harris - RB, Alabama
Zach Wilson gets some help with the best running back in college football. Harris is a three-down back who gives the Jets a good pass catching option out of the backfield too. They can pick up a receiver to compliment these two later in the draft or in free agency.
Team needs: (see pick 2)
24 Pittsburgh Steelers - Samuel Cosmi - OT, Texas
Pittsburgh needs picks everywhere. If Ben Roethlisberger stays another season or the Steelers find a replacement, they will need help in the offensive line. Cosmi is a 6'7", 300lb lineman who has played both left and right tackle. He slots straight in.
Team needs: OL, CB, RB, DL
25 Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams) - Carlos Basham - DE/DT, Wake Forest
Jacksonville, with Lawrence on board as their QB, addresses the defense with their second pick in this first round. The appropriately named Basham is a good run blocker and much improved pass rusher.
Team needs: (see pick 1)
26 Cleveland Browns - Zaven Collins - LB, Tulsa
Secondary could have been the pick here, but Collins is a versatile player who gives Cleveland an option at inside linebacker, or a pass rusher opposite Myles Garrett.
Team needs: EDGE, CB, DL, WR
27 Baltimore Ravens - Kadarius Toney - WR, Florida
Lamar Jackson needs some protection but also weapons if Baltimore is going to threaten Kansas City and Buffalo. Toney is a dynamic receiver and playmaker who can also line up in the backfield add value on special teams.
Team needs: TE, EDGE, WR, OL
28 New Orleans Saints - Teven Jenkins - OT, Oklahoma State
The Saints have big needs in the secondary but also on the offcnsive line to protect (presumably) Jameis Winston at QB and unleash Alvin Kamara's running game. Stevens can play left or right tackle and will be a solid starter in the NFL.
Team needs: CB, EDGE, WR
29 Green Bay Packers - Asante Samuel Jr. - CB, Florida State
As a Packers fan, it's hard not to pick a receiver here but watching Tom Brady pick apart the Green Bay secondary means cornerback is a must if the Packers are going to get to the Super Bowl. Samuel is a little high here, but has good pedigree (his dad was an All-Pro NFL corner) and would line up well opposite Jaire Alexander.
Team needs: WR, CB, OT, LB
30 Buffalo Bills - Dylan Moses - LB, Alabama
A little overlooked on draft boards, Moses is a leader and could be a great fit in the Bills' defense, bolstering their pass rush and helping against the run. Will be invaluable if Matt Milano leaves in free agency.
Team needs: LB, OT, EDGE, RB
31 Kansas City Chiefs - Liam Eichenberg - OT, Notre Dame
A solid starter for the Fighting Irish, Eichenberg is a strong blocker who will freshen up the Chiefs' offensive line. Memories of Patrick Mahomes running for his life against the Bucs in the Super Bowl means they have to protect him with this pick.
Team needs: OL, WR, LB
32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Daviyon Nixon - DT, Iowa
While the Bucs are in win-now mode, Nixon fills a potential gap if Ndamukong Suh leaves. He is a big defensive line presence with excellent pass rushing ability, likened to the Packers' Kenny Clark.
Team needs: EDGE, DL, WR, QB