Mock draft season is wrapping up with the actual 2021 NFL draft is finally almost here. With testing and interviews taken care of, it’s time for our final predictions for how this year’s selections will unfold.
We have three rounds in mock draft 3.0 this year, covering all 106 picks through the first two days of the event. As usual, we’re not including trades, although a few potential trade situations are mentioned throughout the mock draft.
On to the draft:
It’s the obvious pick and the best pick at the top of the draft. Lawrence has been considered a future top-overall pick since he was in high school, so the Jaguars will make sure the prophecy is fulfilled. He’s got a big and accurate arm, which leads to his athleticism and running ability getting undervalued. There’s no better way for Jacksonville to start the Urban Meyer era than by getting Lawrence.
The more you watch Wilson’s tape, the easier it is to understand why leapfrogged nearly everyone to get to the No. 2 spot. Like Lawrence to Jacksonville, Wilson to New York has reached “open secret” territory, and the prospect is already speaking to former Jets pivots about what it’s like to play for the team. He’s able to make arguably the best off-platform throws in the class and is reminiscent of some of the NFL’s other young “how did he make that throw?” quarterbacks.
Despite all the smoke about Mac Jones, the 49ers are going to get an impressive athlete with an even more remarkable arm at No. 3 overall. Justin Fields was the pick in Mock Draft 2.0, but Lance is an absolutely perfect fit with the Shanahan system and jives with San Francisco’s public messaging about Jimmy Garoppolo’s immediate future should the NDSU Bison need a year to sit.
Already by pick No. 4 we have arguably the best narrative of this mock draft, with Justin Fields returning to his home state and nearby to where his college career got off to a rocky start. Atlanta doesn’t necessarily need a quarterback, but you can’t pass up this kind of value. It will also be an extremely tempting spot for the Falcons to trade down if the board falls this way. But replacing Matt Ryan with Justin Fields, either now or down the line, is a massive coup.
Some fans and spectators will rage at this pick, and Oregon’s Penei Sewell would be a fantastic pick here as well to shore up the horrible Cincinnati offensive line. But the Bengals also desperately need better pass catchers and Chase is the best receiver in the class. It doesn’t hurt that he already has a bond with Joe Burrow, and there have been plenty of whispers about how likely this pick is recently. Chase has speed, hands and route running that will all benefit the Bengals’ offense.
Pitts is arguably the best overall player in the draft, so don’t let the tight end position scare you off. He’s got speed despite his size and has great hands, too. The Dolphins will get a matchup nightmare from the moment he steps on the field. This move gets another weapon for Tua Tagovailoa, and pairs with Mike Gesicki to make one of the better receiving tight end duos in the league.
The Lions need help at receiver after losing both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones this offseason. Enter Waddle, who’s got elite top-end speed and great YAC ability. You can also line him up anywhere, so new Lions quarterback Jared Goff has a No. 1 option he can work with on the outside or in the slot that is a constant big-play threat.
Carolina lucks out with a run on skill-position players early and gets the best offensive lineman in the draft. Sewell opted out of the 2020 college football season but that shouldn’t hurt his stock at all. His tape from 2019 is tremendous. Sewell’s got a large frame and average arm length, which is more than enough to qualify size-wise as an early pick when combined with his skills. This is massive win for the Panthers.
First, the good. Jones put up eye-popping numbers for Alabama’s historic offense this season, and it’s hardly all because of the elite receivers around him. He’s got a high floor in the sense that he projects as a steady, reliable starter with some positive traits, including an arm underrated albeit still not great arm. And Denver badly, badly needs a quarterback. The issue is that the ceiling isn’t nearly as high as the other top quarterbacks this year, and it’s hard to know how he’ll perform without massive cushions for his receivers on every play.
Jerry Jones’s love affair with Kyle Pitts can’t be realized, so he’ll have to settle for maybe this year’s best defensive prospect. Surtain can line up against any receiver win a matchup, using his speed and physicality to bother them and frustrate quarterbacks. He’s great in press coverage and has special ball skills. It’s not a great year for defensive players, but this is as good as it gets in the top 10. The NFL pedigree doesn’t hurt, either.
Vera-Tucker played both guard and tackle in college, so the Giants can move him around on the line to best suit their needs. Which, just so happens, likely starts him off at guard. He plays with a nasty edge in both the pass and run games and is a natural, fluid mover. This has to be a make-or-break year for quarterback Daniel Jones, so it behooves New York to protect him as best as it can.
Devonta Smith would make sense here, but the Eagles will take one of the premier cornerbacks instead. And there’s no need to complain about Horn, who’s fantastic at attacking the ball and shows off all requisite traits you want to see out of a boundary corner. A little seasoning would help, but he’s arguably the defensive back with the highest upside this year.
Tackles are sliding a little bit in this mock draft and the Chargers end up as major beneficiaries of that development. Like Sewell, Slater opted out of the 2020 season but did more than enough in his college career to justify a top-15 pick. He doesn’t have elite measurements but still has quality functional strength, not to mention good athleticism. If the Chargers don’t love his measurables, he can still be a reliable interior lineman.
Farley’s injury concerns might cause him to slide, but it still feels like a great match for the Vikings. You’re getting a speedy yet physical corner who’s at his best in press coverage, which should entice Mike Zimmer. Minnesota did take cornerback Jeff Gladney in the first round last year, but Farley’s traits and Gladney’s major legal troubles makes this pick make sense.
Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network recently told 580 Sports Talk that he thinks Smith has the most complete game of any receiver this year and is a better prospect than his college teammate, Jaylen Waddle. The Patriots haven’t had a legitimate No. 1 receiver in several years now, so they’re hitting on both value and need here. Don’t be worried about his size because his game is more than enough to justify this spot.
Newsome had a great career at Northwestern and amazing 2020 season, one in which he allowed a passer rating of under 32. Despite only having one interception he showed off great ball skills, batting away more than one pass per game. Arizona moved on from longtime great Patrick Peterson this offseason, and finds its next stalwart at cornerback in the draft.
A brief aside: Northwestern has had eight first-round draft picks in program history, but may get two in the top 20 this season.
If Surtain isn’t the best defensive prospect in this draft, you can easily argue that it’s Parsons. However, his slide in our mock draft is precipitated by some worrisome off-the-field concerns while he as at Penn State. The Raiders, despite their reputation, have actually done a good job avoiding players with major character concerns under the Mayock/Gruden regime, save for Antonio Brown. If they take the leap here it would almost certainly improve their wobbly defense.
Miami’s elite roster building continues with the best edge rusher in this year’s draft. Paye can line up anywhere and rush the passer, whether it’s technically a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment, and be successful with it. The Dolphins run a unique hybrid defense that meshes well with Paye’s skills. Two picks, two needs filled for Miami in the first round.
If the Washington Football Team decides not to trade up for a quarterback, fortifying the offensive line is the smart play in the first round. Darrisaw is widely considered the third-best tackle prospect this year, so that’s good value to get with the 19th pick. He’s athletic, technically sound and can anchor the protection for whoever ends up being the long-term starting quarterback in Washington.
This pick is justified in almost the exact same way that Washington’s is. If Chicago doesn’t make a huge move for a quarterback, Ryan Pace will still pick up a win in the first round with Jenkins. The Topeka native is a Day 1 starter at tackle with his kind of talent, something the Bears are sorely missing. Phenomenal testing numbers only helped his stock and pair well with his physical blocking.
We have a run on tackles with Indianapolis getting involved next. The Colts have to make sure Carson Wentz is protected after he crumpled under pressure constantly during the latter stages of his Eagles career. Cosmi would benefit from adding functional strength, but there’s plenty of room for that with his massive 6-foot-7 frame. He started 34 of his 35 career games for a reason.
None of the best cornerbacks are available, so the Titans will settle for an instant improvement at wide receiver. He’s another target who can line up outside or in the slot, and he’s a competitive receiver who can win in tight spaces down the field. That’s a great second option next to A.J. Brown for the Tennessee offense.
Any team that builds an arsenal of weapons for their young quarterback is doing the right thing. Harris was one of the best in a long line of great Alabama running backs. He can run between the tackles, break off big plays in space and is a threat in the receiving game. Getting a dynamic and trustworthy running back is going to make Zach Wilson’s life that much better in New York.
It feels as though some of the shine has come off of Etienne as a prospect, which can only be explained by draft fatigue since he’s been highly touted forever. Like Harris, Etienne can essentially do anything you ask of him. Just watch his college tape for proof of that. Pittsburgh needs to add a legitimate threat out of the backfield, something the Steelers haven’t had since Le’Veon Bell’s heyday.
Jacksonville has invested a ton of draft capital in edge rushers the last two years, bringing in both Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson. There’s still almost no depth there, though, so we have the Jaguars taking yet another SEC pass rusher. He has good size despite not being exceptionally long, and he’s a constant competitor in the pass rush. You can never have enough guys who get after the quarterback.
Rousseau is an intriguing prospect, who was outlandishly good in 2019 before opting out in 2020 and tanking his pro day. Cleveland feels like a solid landing spot for him, a place that has already tried to strengthen its pass rush alongside my Myles Garrett by adding Jadeveon Clowney. Rousseau should have a chance to generate inside pressure in the Browns’ defense, something he excels at doing.
Simply put, Collins is just a great football player. You’re going to get more traditional linebacker play along with positive pass rush traits, all of which he showed in his breakout final season at Tulsa. The Baltimore linebackers struggled last year, and adding Collins should help stabilize that group’s play. Ideally, he and Patrick Queen should elevate each other.
Owuwu-Koramoah is a fantastic talent, but doesn’t have a perfect fit with the way the board has fallen in this mock draft. New Orleans benefits from that, getting a super athlete who succeeds as a hybrid linebacker/safety. If Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen can use him as a versatile piece they’ll get a ton of production out of J.O.K.
Radunz is just a perfect pick for Green Bay. Everything the Packers want in a tackle is what Radunz can give them. He can maul you and also get out in space to block. This gives Green Bay a long-term starting tackle and plenty of versatility right away. No, the Packers almost certainly aren’t taking a wide receiver. Yes, they need a cornerback, but you can’t pass on a fit like Radunz here.
Buffalo’s secondary has plenty of talent, but across the field from Tre White is its biggest need. Samuel isn’t a big body but he plays bigger than he stands. You’re getting a prospect here who’s physical in coverage and is a willing helper against the run. Zone coverage isn’t his strength, which will raise some questions with the Bills, but he’s got traits that still make him a worthwhile pick who can develop those skills with time.
Baltimore needs to get a bigger receiver who can more consistently make plays on the outside. That’s a match with Marshall, the most recent draft pick from LSU’s incredible group of receivers on its 2019 national title team. Lamar Jackson’s outside passing would likely fare better with an actual, reliable outside threat. It would also make sense here for the Ravens to target an offensive tackle after sending Orlando Brown to the Chiefs in a trade last week.
Phillips is a suitable future replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul, who’s in the last year of his contract, while also projecting as a player who can contribute right now. Drafting him comes with injury concerns, including concussion issues, but this past season at Miami he was able to stay on the field and was excellent. It would be smart of Tampa Bay to keep restocking the position that helped lead their postseason success last season.
The 580 Sports Talk 2021 Consensus Big Board
Moehrig is a borderline first rounder in a year with a weak safety class. He’s a good fit for Jacksonville, which might have the worst group of safeties in the league.
New coach Robert Saleh adds to his defense arsenal with a freak athlete on the edge. According to Pro Football Focus, Oweh was third in the Big Ten this season in pass rush win rate.
Atlanta gets Humphrey here and would be smart to hold on to him for the next decade regardless of who’s quarterbacking behind him. His athletic testing is impeccable and he’s a nasty blocker up front.
If you’re not getting Humphrey, there’s nothing wrong with Dickerson. He’s a readymade starter, but does have injury concerns after tearing his ACL this season.
Jalen Hurts gets a reliable receiver early in the second round, something the Eagles have been sorely missing in recent seasons. Moore is the prototypical slot receiver.
The Bengals address both of their needs with their first two picks, taking the best overall wide receiver and now the best remaining offensive tackle.
Carolina’s defensive backs are lackluster as they stand, so Stokes is in line to be a Day 1 starter. Any team would love to add his type of speed.
Bolton fills a need in the somewhat barren middle of the Denver defense. However, if he busts here, the Broncos will never draft a Missouri Tiger ever again.
The first interior defensive lineman of the draft goes off the board. Barmore was a menace for Alabama in this year’s National Championship Game and has positive pass-rushing traits.
New York has a good defense overall, and Ossai fills their biggest need: more talent in the pass rush.
Melifonwu is a big, physical corner who adds immediate depth and future starter potential.
Onwuzurike is as good at making plays in space as any defensive lineman in this class. His burst is special, as is his overall athleticism.
This year’s tight ends are as weak as ever, and Freiermuth is the last one before it really falls apart. He’s a receiving tight end and can be a safety blanket for Trevor Lawrence.
There’s room to grow here, but a rangy linebacker is a major help right away for the New England defense.
The Chargers need to revamp their pass rush next to Joey Bosa. Enter Basham, a smart, high-floor pass rusher who projects as a reliable contributor.
Whether he stays at tackle or moves to guard in the NFL, Leatherwood can be a centerpiece of a rebuilt Raiders’ offensive line.
If Toney falls this far it would be both a surprise and a huge win for a still-improving Washington receiving corps.
Williams isn’t the fastest running back prospect but he’s still dynamic. He’s another weapon for Tua Tagovailoa and makes for a nice trio of backs along with Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.
Washington gets a chess piece for the back end of its defense with Holland, who can both roam the middle of the field but also play coverage in the slot.
Ryan Pace needs to hit on a quarterback, or at least draft one at all, to save his job. Trask has to develop more and may not be the most exciting option, but he’s the best one here for the Bears.
Campbell is a bigger corner and is better on the outside than he would be in the slot. That helps a lack of depth in the Tennessee secondary, and his athleticism makes up for the loss of Adoree’ Jackson this offseason.
The Colts need to find both more talent and more depth for their pass rushers. Tryon is more of a natural 3-4 fit but has the skills to make it work in the Colts’ even front.
Pittsburgh gets much tougher up front by adding Christensen, a tackle who’s still growing as a player but right away can add physicality and agility for the Steelers’ offense.
It would be astounding if the Seahawks stay put with this pick, since they only have three total selections this year. If John Schneider does stand pat, Robinson meets most of their athletic requirements for a corner.
The Rams obviously have one of the game’s best pass rushers in Aaron Donald, but their edge presence is lacking elite talent. Perkins was a productive player at Oklahoma who can help Leonard Floyd on the outside.
Every other team in the NFL needs to band together to prevent this from happening. Moore should go much higher than this. He’s electrifying enough as it is, and the Chiefs adding him is one of the best picks in this mock draft.
Joseph wouldn’t give Cleveland a big corner across the field from Denzel Ward, but the physical Joseph is another prospect who plays bigger than his size, something he proved against powerful offenses in the SEC this year.
St. Brown gives New Orleans a receiver who can line up either in the slot or on the outside. He’s a competitive catcher and great on contested throws, which is perfect for playing with Jameis Winston.
The Bills continue to improve their defense. 2021 could realistically be the end for both Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison in Buffalo, so Turner will usher in a new era of Bills pass rushers.
Collins fits general manager Brian Gutekunst’s dream of a hyper-athletic receiver, and he’s got the big-play potential that fits the Packers’ offense. His production was lacking in college, but a look at who his quarterbacks were explains that quite easily.
As the Chiefs continue to reconstruct their offensive line, it’s important to keep an eye on the future. Davis could replace Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Kyle Long at guard, who are among several Chiefs lineman on what are effectively one-year deals.
Nixon could replace either Ndamukong Suh or William Gholston on the Tampa Bay defensive line, both of whom are free agents after this season. Gholston, in fact, could be a cap casualty candidate with no dead money this year, opening a spot for Nixon.
Dzwierzynski’s 2021 Mock Draft 2.0 – 2 rounds with alternate scenarios
One of the draft’s most interesting men, the D3 star will protect Zach Wilson.
After he got some first-round buzz, Denver ends up getting good value on the developmental tackle in the third round.
Sam Darnold will get his chance in Carolina, but Mills is a high-upside prospect who will make for interesting competition the next couple of years.
The Patriots lost this pick after illegally filming a Bengals game in 2019.
Surratt is a former quarterback who switched to linebacker at North Carolina.
Pittsburgh finds a new center, its replacement for Maurkice Pouney.
With an RAS of 9.65, Rochell is one of the cornerback class’s best athletes.
New England has to figure out its long-term quarterback situation sooner or later. Mond should push for the backup job right away.
“Tennessee Titans Take Tight End Tommy Tremble” is the possibly the most alliterative draft-related sentence you’ll see this year.
*-denotes compensatory pick