2021 NFL Draft: Nicholas Perlich’s Mock Draft 1.0

Nicholas Perlich
Passionate about NFL Draft. Alum of West Virginia University. Completed The Scouting Academy curriculum.

The 2020 NFL regular season is now in the books! This was a regular season unlike any other with limited fans, games getting delayed and rescheduled multiple times, and key players missing key games. Such is life in the NFL amidst a global pandemic. Amazingly, however, the NFL was able to play all 256 regular season games in 17 weeks and finish the season on time. That feat alone needs to get more recognition for the job by everyone associated with the NFL for completing that feat. With the regular season now finished, 14 teams will start the battle of keeping their Super Bowl aspirations alive in the playoffs. The other 18 teams, however, will get an early start on the offseason. And that includes the preparations for the 2021 NFL Draft.

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While a lot can still change between now and then, here is what the draft could look like if it were held today:

2021 NFL Draft Prospect Trevor Lawrence
Courtesy: JetsWire

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

After winning their first game of the season, the Jaguars proceeded to lose their next 15 games to win the “Tank for Trevor” sweepstakes. Lawrence is the best QB prospect to come through the draft since at least Andrew Luck. He has everything you look for at the position: size, arm strength, accuracy, mental processing, and athletic ability. No matter who “earned” the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Lawrence was going to be the selection. The Jaguars just got their franchise quarterback of the future.

2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

It only takes until the second pick in the draft for things to start getting interesting. When the Jets were in line to have the first pick, everyone expected them to make the no-brainer pick in Lawrence. Now things are a little more complicated. While Sam Darnold hasn’t lived up to expectations yet, he has shown flashes of what he could be with better coaching and talent around him. Joe Douglas and the new head coach will need to decide whether to start over at the most important position or build a better team around Darnold. If they start over Justin Fields is the likely pick. He is a tough, physical runner to go along with a strong and accurate arm. If New York decides to stick with Darnold, then they likely try to trade this pick to a team wanting to select Fields and get a bunch of premier picks in return to accelerate the rebuild. Either way, Justin Fields figures to be the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

3. Miami Dolphins (From HOU): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

The Miami Dolphins are set up very well for the future. Remember, it was just two years ago that Miami began one of the biggest rebuild projects in the history of the NFL. The job Brian Flores and Chris Grier have done in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. The Dolphins just missed the playoffs despite going an impressive 10-6 on the year. Now, they have the third pick in the draft by way of Houston in the Laremy Tunsil trade. GM Chris Grier will have no shortage of options at this pick, but Micah Parsons would be tough to pass up here. Parsons has elite athleticism and versatility to play off the ball at linebacker and is an excellent pass rusher off the edge or by the blitz. He would be an excellent fit in Brian Flores’ defense. Brian Lamb agreed with Micah Parson’s fit in the Dolphins defense in his Miami mock draft from earlier in the year.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

The Falcons are another team that will have to figure out the QB position going forward. Matt Ryan can still play at a high level, but he is starting to get up there in age and his contract is doing no favors for a pretty expensive roster. If there were a time for Atlanta to find their next franchise QB, it would be with the fourth overall pick in the draft. Zach Wilson sort of came out of nowhere this season to push Justin Fields for the QB2 spot in the draft in the eyes of many. Wilson would add a running and athletic element to the position that Matt Ryan lacks. Not to mention he would be much cheaper than the veteran.

 

2021 NFL Draft Prospect Penei Sewell
Courtesy: College Football 24/7

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

It looks as though the Bengals got their franchise quarterback in last year’s draft in Joe Burrow. The protection in front of him, however, needs to be upgraded in the worst way. Especially after Burrow suffered the devastating knee injury to end his promising rookie season. Penei Sewell is far and away the best offensive line prospect in this draft. He is athletic, strong, and smart. Sewell would immediately be the best offensive lineman on the Bengals’ roster and Cincinnati needs to look at every option for upgrading that position group.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Eagles made a lot of noise in their last game of the season as it looked a lot like they tanked for a better draft pick. Either way, they have a chance to add an elite talent with the sixth pick in the draft. There are a few ways Philadelphia could go with this pick, but they should definitely look to add talent around whoever is playing quarterback for them in 2021. Ja’Marr Chase is sometimes forgotten in this draft class after opting-out of the 2020 college football season early over the summer. But there was a reason he was pretty much the consensus WR1 in the preseason. Chase has good size, speed, hands, and route running ability. In other words, everything you want in a WR1 in the NFL.

7. Detroit Lions: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

The Detroit Lions are a hard team to predict at the moment. Who they hire as their next General Manager and Head Coach will go a long way in determining how they attack this offseason. Not to mention what they might do at quarterback with Matthew Stafford. Right now, with Stafford still on the roster, they should look to improve and upgrade on defense. Especially the porous pass rush from a season ago. Rousseau is very raw but shows a lot of potential on tape. He shows the versatility to play outside on the edge or inside the defensive front based on the situation and scheme. Either way, he would definitely help improve the pass rush in Detroit.

8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

Teddy Bridgewater was solid for the Panthers this past season after coming over in free agency. Matt Rhule hasn’t exactly given the highest votes of confidence as they head into this offseason, however. In fact, he’s all but indicated that they will look to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason. Trey Lance is the last of the Top 4 quarterbacks still on the board. Luckily for Carolina, he is a perfect fit for Matt Rhule’s system. Lance is big and strong as a runner and shows good accuracy, arm strength, and decision making as a passer. He has even been compared at times to former Panther Cam Newton. He still needs some development as a passer, but the fit is too perfect for the Panthers to pass up here.

 

2021 NFL Draft Prospect Patrick Surtain II
(Image Via rolltide.com)

9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

John Elway just stepped out of the General Manager role and into the role of President of Football Operations for the Broncos. It will be interesting to see who they hire as the new GM and how they feel about Drew Lock. If they aren’t sold by the flashes that Lock has shown to end each of the past two seasons, the Broncos could look to move up for a quarterback. As it stands, they miss out on the top quarterback prospects in this mock draft. All is not lost, however, as Patrick Surtain II is a perfect fit for Vic Fangio’s offense and fits a need. Surtain is the prototypical Press Man Cornerback who has the potential to be a legitimate shutdown cornerback in the NFL. He would be the missing piece that would take the Broncos defense to the next level.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Needless to say, this season was a mess for the Cowboys. Everything really went downhill once Dak Prescott went down early in the year with a dislocated ankle. It is now obvious just how many holes are really on the roster in Dallas. It was only a few years ago that the offensive line in Dallas was considered easily the best in the NFL. Now, after injuries and retirements, it looks like a big need that needs to be addressed for 2021. Rashawn Slater is a very athletic offensive lineman that has been projected at both tackle or guard for the NFL. Either way, he would help the Cowboys and hopefully get Dak Prescott through the entire 2021 season.

11. New York Giants: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

In a horrid NFC East, the Giants were really only one game away from getting into the playoffs. As their 6-10 record shows, however, there are still plenty of holes on the roster that need to be filled. None may be more pressing than adding talent and explosiveness to the wide receiver unit for Daniel Jones. A lot will be made of Devonta Smith’s slender and skinny frame, but he does it all at receiver. I mean he was the first receiver in nearly 30 years to win the coveted Heisman Trophy! Smith is an excellent route runner with great body control and speed to create easy separation. And despite his smaller frame, Smith shows the capability of winning contested-catch situations consistently. He would immediately be the WR1 in New York as soon as he walked into the building.

12. San Francisco 49ers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

There may not have been a more unlucky team than the 49ers in 2020. They suffered multiple injuries to stars and key players. Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garappolo, Raheem Mostert, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, and Jaquiski Tartt all missed significant chunks of the season. That did put them in an excellent position to add a premier talent to a roster that was in the Super Bowl just one year ago. Caleb Farley is a perfect fit for the 49er defense especially if Richard Sherman moves on this offseason. Farley is a long athlete who is equally good in Press Man Coverage or Off Zone Coverage. There is no doubt Farley would help get this team at least back to the playoffs if they can have better luck with injuries in 2021.

 

2021 NFL Draft prospect Kyle Pitts
Courtesy: SI

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Justin Herbert set the league on fire in his Rookie of the Year-worthy season. The first order of business for the Chargers is hiring a new head coach who can continue to develop Herbert (Brian Daboll?). The second order of business is upgrading an offensive line that has been pretty bad for years. Christian Darrisaw experienced a massive rise up draft boards this season as a big, strong, and athletic offensive tackle who simply doesn’t lose reps very often. Darrisaw would step right in a left tackle and protect Herbert’s blindside for many, many years.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

The Minnesota defense took a major step back this season. To the point that Mike Zimmer said it was the worst defense he had ever coached. A young secondary combined with virtually no pass rush after an injury to Danielle Hunter can be pointed to as the main culprits for the drop off on that side of the ball. Hopefully, the young rookie cornerbacks can make a big step in development in 2021. That leaves the pass rush. Kwity Paye may just have the quickest and most explosive first step of all the edge rushers in this 2021 NFL Draft class. He would be a perfect complement to Hunter to create a scary edge-rushing duo in Minnesota.

15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

In the first year after Tom Brady, let’s just say the Patriots season did not go according to plan. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. Whether they decide to bring back Cam Newton or not, it is obvious that they have to upgrade the pass catchers around whoever is the starting quarterback next season. Here they could go with either Waddle or tight end Kyle Pitts to accomplish just that. An argument can easily be made for both prospects, but Waddle adds an explosive element at WR that can’t be matched. New England hasn’t had a truly explosive threat at that position since at least Randy Moss. Waddle would change that in a big way.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

The Cardinals just missed the playoffs after suffering a late-season skid with Kyler Murray fighting through a tough ankle injury. Do the Cardinals really need more explosive players on offense? Nope. Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Kenyan Drake offer plenty of explosiveness. But one position where that is lacking would definitely be at tight end. Kyle Pitts is the best and most explosive tight end to come through the tight end in quite some time. He would no doubt go higher than this in the draft if not for positional value. As it is though, adding Pitts to the offensive core already in place in Arizona would make that offense nearly impossible to stop.

 

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

While there were certainly flashes of good football in the Raiders’ first season in Las Vegas, they have yet to make the playoffs under the direction of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. The defense especially showed the need for a lot of improvement this offseason. Nearly every level of the defense could use some sort of upgrade, but none more than the linebacker position. The Raiders severely lack athleticism and coverage ability in their current linebacker corp. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, on the other hand, has athleticism and coverage skills in spades. He would instantly come in and change the feeling around the Las Vegas defense.

18. Miami Dolphins: Kadarious Toney, WR, Florida

After adding the versatile defender Micah Parsons with their earlier pick, it’s time for the Dolphins to help Tua Tagovailoa on the offensive side of the ball. Tua showed throughout the year that he wasn’t yet comfortable throwing to possession receivers whose body position represented their separation. He needs someone who can create some real separation with speed and quickness. Enter Kadarious Toney. There are few prospects that showed the ability to get more consistent and easy separation last season in college football. He would immediately become Tua’s favorite target in Miami.

19. Washington Football Team: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

Washington might not have a real team nickname, but they have some real talent on the roster that helped them win a subpar NFC East division and get into the playoffs. While Washington will likely be in the quarterback market this offseason, filling that need in the 2021 NFL Draft is likely out of the question. So what could they look to add beyond that? The answer is easy: offensive line. More specifically the left tackle position where a gigantic void was left after the trade of Trent Williams. Alex Leatherwood is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds. He shows tremendous power in the run game and enough athleticism to get the job done in pass protection. Whether it’s Alex Smith or someone else at quarterback next season, they will like having Leatherwood protecting their blindside.

20. Chicago Bears: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Chicago Bears lucked into the playoffs thanks to the Cardinals’ Week 17 loss to the Rams. They are another team with big questions at the quarterback position who likely won’t be able to answer those questions in the draft. Either way, the offensive line needs to be upgraded in front of whoever is the quarterback in 2021. Samuel Cosmi has an argument as the most athletic offensive lineman in this draft class. He needs to develop a little more in his physical profile and strength, but Cosmi’s potential is off the charts.

 

Joseph Ossai Texas
(Image Via texassports.com)

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The Jaguars got their new franchise quarterback with the first pick in the 2021 NFL draft. They received this, their second pick in the first round, by way of the Jalen Ramsey trade with the Los Angeles Rams. While they would likely want to build the offense up around Trevor Lawrence with this pick, the value isn’t really there. Instead, they should take Jaycee Horn. Horn showed great improvement in 2020 as a cornerback who was rarely tested in coverage and made opposing teams pay that did try and throw his way. Pairing Horn with CJ Henderson would create a young, incredible shutdown corner duo on Jacksonville’s defense.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

This will be a very important offseason for the Colts at two of the most important positions on offense, quarterback and left tackle. Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are set to hit free agency and Anthony Costanzo has one year left on his contract but already contemplated retirement after last season. Left tackle is the easier position to fill with the 22nd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Costanzo has been a steady, underrated force for the Colts since he was drafted and it was obvious how much it hurt the offense when he was out with an injury multiple times throughout the year. Whether he returns or not, Indianapolis needs to find a future left tackle in this draft. Liam Eichenberg may not be the most physically or athletically gifted offensive lineman in this draft class, but there are very few that are more steady. Eichenberg would team up with former Irish teammate Quenton Nelson to keep the left side of the offensive line a strength for the Colts.

23. Cleveland Browns: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

The Browns finally did it! After 18 years of suffering, Cleveland has finally made it back into the playoffs. The most exciting part for Browns fans has to be the excellent young talent sprinkled throughout the roster for an exciting future in Cleveland. So where do they need to look to add to their young core in the 2021 NFL Draft? Adding to the pass rush would be a good start. Yes, Myles Garrett is one of the best pass rushers in the entire NFL. But Olivier Vernon is set to be a free agent after this season and there isn’t a lot to get excited about behind him. Ojulari is an explosive pass rusher with raw hand usage who burst onto the season this year at Georgia. Pairing Ojulari with Garrett is plain unfair.

24. Tennessee Titans: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas

The Titans have one of the most balanced offenses in the league with Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill leading the way. The defense, however, is not near good enough for Mike Vrabel’s liking. The pass rush has been especially lacking the past couple of seasons with Harold Landry the only true edge rusher who can consistently apply pressure. Joseph Ossai started his college career as an off-ball linebacker, but he flourished once he moved down to defensive end at Texas. His experience and versatility perfectly fit Tennessee’s defense.

 

Rashod Bateman Wide receiver
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – OCTOBER 24: Rashod Bateman #0 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers carries the ball against the Michigan Wolverines in the third quarter of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Wolverines defeated the Gophers 49-24. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama

There are really few holes in the Bucs roster when looking to the future. They could start looking for an heir to Tom Brady, but they are probably more focused on trying to win now while they have one of the best to ever play the game. With the offense pretty much settled, they will likely look to shore up the defense a little more. Specifically, the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh was convinced to come back on a one year deal that will expire after this season. The other starter at end in their three-man front, William Gholston, sees his contract expire after the 2021 season. Christian Barmore is considered one of the best interior defensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft with great strength and quickness for his size. His pass rushing ability would perfectly complement Vita Vea on Tampa Bay’s defensive front.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Ravens have built one of the best and most balanced rosters in the league. If there is one position to nitpick that they could upgrade, it would definitely the wide receiver corp. They have some good speed and quickness but could use a bigger body that can win some contested-catch situations for Lamar Jackson. Rashod Bateman can win on contested catches as well as create good separation with his route running and create after the catch. He would ease some of the burden on Hollywood Brown and make the offense even more balanced and scary in Baltimore.

27. New York Jets (from SEA): Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State

With the second pick in the draft, the Jets took Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Now, with the pick they received from Seattle in the Jamal Adams trade, it’s time to build around him better than they did with Sam Darnold. That definitely includes the offensive line. So why not bring in another former Buckeye in Wyatt Davis? Davis is the best offensive guard in this draft who creates good movement in the run game and has a mean streak to match. Pairing him with Mekhi Becton would go a long way to completing the overhaul of the offensive line that was started last offseason by GM Joe Douglas.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

The Steelers are another team that could be looking for an heir apparent for an aging quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. But with how their run game has sputtered to close the season, they could look to build that back up first. Najee Harris had a Heisman Finalist-type season for Alabama showcasing his speed, explosiveness, quickness, and power throughout the year. He also showed that he has the size and build to be a true feature back in the NFL. While James Conner and Benny Snell have been solid for Pittsburgh, Harris would represent a clear upgrade next season.

 

Courtesy: CBS Sports

29. New Orleans Saints: Zacen Collins, LB, Tulsa

Zaven Collins has experienced quite the rise this season with excellent play all year for the Tulsa defense. He could easily end up going even higher than this when it’s all said and done. For now, though, the Saints rejoice as they fill a need with an ultra-athletic linebacker. Collins has prototypical size for the position with the athleticism and versatility to be a true chess piece for any defense. He can rush the passer, play the run, and drop in coverage all at a high level. An already scary Saints defense would be even scarier with Collins in the fold.

30. Buffalo Bills: Jay Tufele, DL, USC

The Bills are another team that has a very balanced roster with very few holes. There is a reason Buffalo is the favorite to have a chance at knocking off the Chiefs in the AFC. The interior of the defensive line could use a little work, however, after injuries decimated the position this season. Jay Tufele is a very athletic defensive lineman with excellent first step quickness in the 2021 NFL Draft. Playing him next to Ed Oliver would create an insane amount of trouble for the opposing interior offensive line.

31. Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

According to many, fans and pundits alike, the Packers made a mistake last year by drafting Jordon Love in the first round instead of getting more help for Aaron Rodgers. While that criticism was warranted, Rodgers and the Packers have had an excellent year. To the point that they are among the favorites to win the MVP and Super Bowl, respectively. Either way, the Packers should look to build up the skill positions around Rodgers this offseason as Rodgers’ career begins to wind down. They have plenty of receivers with size, but they don’t have the dynamic slot receiver to balance out the corp. Rondale Moore definitely has some injury questions, but if there is one way to describe Moore, it would be a dynamic slot receiver. He would perfectly complement Devante Adams and Allan Lazard in Green Bay’s offense.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma

And finally, we get to the defending Super Bowl Champions. Who, after going 14-2, are good bets to repeat this season. When you have a great quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, he can cover up a lot of deficiencies on the roster. One of the biggest areas of concern for the Chiefs has to be the interior of the offensive line. Enter Creed Humphrey. Humphrey can immediately step in and solidify the middle of the offensive line with his intelligence, power, and leadership. I mean, you want to be able to make sure to protect your $500 million quarterback if you Kansas City, right?

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