Welcome to 2021! It’s January, which means that it’s time for a new 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Two picks are set in stone as the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets have locked themselves into the first and second picks. January is really the start of the NFL Draft process as we get into decision time for players to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Topping everything off in January is the Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 30th, which is preceded by a week of practices, which are attended by NFL scouts.
I haven’t published a mock draft in a few months, so I’m not going to waste any time in getting down to business. I hope you all enjoy.
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1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
With Chicago’s win over the Jaguars, we can go ahead and mark this one in permanent marker.
The Jaguars have to find their franchise quarterback. If anything has become quite clear this season, it’s that Jacksonville doesn’t have a quarterback capable of winning games long-term on their roster.
Trevor Lawrence has consistently played at a high-level for Clemson. I don’t expect him to do much at the NFL Combine, but rather, just do enough to maintain his status as the top overall pick. Nonetheless, Lawrence is the right selection here at one, regardless of the team holding the pick.
2. New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
While I think it’s possible that the Jets could make a change at quarterback and draft someone like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson with this pick, I just think that the franchise has other needs.
By drafting Penei Sewell here, they can shore up the left tackle position while shifting Becton to the right tackle spot. With an additional pick later in the round, New York can always circle back and select a quarterback for the next head coach to groom and sit behind Darnold.
I’m still not sold on Darnold being the answer for the Jets, but with a solid group of quarterbacks likely to be available in the 2022 NFL Draft, I think that the franchise can show some patience in addressing the position.
3. Miami Dolphins (Via Houston Texans)
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This pick, by way of the Houston Texans, is part of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Thanks to Houston’s disastrous season, it’s now a top five pick.
If the Dolphins want Tua Tagovailoa to be a long-term solution, they’ll need to find him playmakers to move the ball downfield. Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 College Football season before it even began, but he still remains one of the top prospects in this draft class. DeVonta Smith has had an amazing season for the Crimson Tide, but I think when all is said and done, Chase is still the first receiver off the board.
Miami has DeVante Parker on one side of the field, so by lining up Ja’Marr Chase on the other, it’ll open up the entire field for Tagovailoa. I still think that the Dolphins could add an additional receiver later in this draft, too, but they need to draft the best available in the first.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
While I think that the New York Jets can show patience in addressing their quarterback position, I think the time is now for Atlanta to do so. Therefore, regardless of what the Jets do with their pick, I think this is the best available quarterback.
The Falcons have a potential out in the contract of Matt Ryan following the 2021 season, which will save the franchise upwards of $15 Million. Atlanta could, in theory, draft a quarterback of the future with their fifth overall pick. Then, midway through the 2021 season, the next Falcons head coach could implement Fields into the offense.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
With a win over the Houston Texans, the Bengals have, in theory, played themselves out of the Penei Sewell sweepstakes. However, it is still possible.
If the New York Jets pull the trigger on a quarterback, and the Falcons do as well, the Bengals would still be in play for Sewell. It’s a situation in which everything would have to fall right for Cincinnati, which I think is highly unlikely to occur.
Rather, if I were the Cincinnati Bengals, I’d explore the possibility of trading down in the first round.With a sixth overall pick, and only two quarterbacks off the board, it’s safe to assume that trade partners would exist.
Obtaining additional draft capital, and drafting an offensive tackle in the back half of the first round, is a smart decision long-term. The Bengals need to protect Joe Burrow when he returns from his knee injury. More so, they need to rebuild their defense, too.
Trading out of the sixth overall pick isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t make the rebuild process quicker for Cincinnati.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
I completely understand the argument that Eagles fans will make with this draft prediction.
‘The Eagles, specifically Howie Roseman, don’t invest early draft picks in linebackers’
But I think that Micah Parsons is a completely different prospect. While he is listed as an inside linebacker, I think he’s much more. In my opinion, he’s capable of playing inside or outside linebacker, as well as a defensive end.
Wide receiver is still a likely possibility here, and with the way that DeVonta Smith finished the season, it’s not wild to see him come off the board here. However, I just think that Parsons is the better overall prospect.
7. Detroit Lions
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
While we don’t know what the salary cap will be in 2021, we do know one thing.
The Detroit Lions are going to get hammered in free agency at the wide receiver position.
Five wide receivers are set to become unrestricted free agents. That’s right, I said five. This includes Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. If Detroit drafts a wide receiver here, not only will it save the Lions money in the long run, but it’s an upgrade in talent, too.
8. New York Giants
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
Head Coach Joe Judge has the Giants playing competitive football, which is something that I didn’t envision happening when he took the job. I think the franchise needs to find a prolific playmaker to make the offense more explosive, and take pressure off of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. If that’s the case with this pick, they could look for one of the Alabama Crimson Tide wide receivers, as long as they’re available. However, in my opinion, the defense is a much more pressing need for the Giants.
Ultimately, with the way that the draft order has shaped up, I think that Gregory Rousseau could be set for a fall. I’m still a huge fan of his upside and raw abilities, but I just don’t see any of the previous seven teams drafting an edge rusher with their first round pick.
9. Carolina Panthers
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Another win drops the Carolina Panthers down the draft board, essentially taking them out of contention to draft Micah Parsons. However, I don’t think it’s the end of the world for the franchise. Caleb farley opted out of the 2020 College Football season due to coronavirus, but he’s still a top fifteen prospect in my opinion.
10. Denver Broncos
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Drew Lock has gotten a fair shot in Denver to make things work. However, as we’ve seen in recent years with Josh Rosen and Dwayne Haskins, the NFL doesn’t wait for QBs to make that next leap in production.
With a draft pick in the top ten, the Broncos have a shot at drafting a true dual-threat at quarterback, essentially transforming the offense. I still have concerns over a lack of quality opponents that Wilson has faced while at BYU, but he has looked the part of an NFL quarterback throughout his collegiate career.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Regardless of who quarterbacks the Cowboys next season, Dallas needs to address their offensive line. They’re in a great position to do so here, with Christian Darrisaw available. If the Cowboys are able to win next week against the Giants, they’ll likely move down the draft boards. If Darrisaw is no longer available when Dallas is on the clock, Rashawn Slater is a possibility instead.
12. Los Angeles Chargers
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Quite frankly, in my eight years of covering the NFL Draft, I don’t know if there has been a better man coverage corner. Seriously, Jaycee Horn is that good at this point in his career. If Los Angeles wants to compete for a playoff spot, they’ll need to find a way to stop the Kansas City Chiefs.
13. Minnesota Vikings
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
I know that I have Kwity Paye listed as an edge rusher, but in my opinion, he’s a pure defensive end at the next level. I think that the Vikings still need to address defensive tackle, as well as the offensive line, but Paye is the best available.
However, if you want to look elsewhere for a prospect that Minnesota could draft, Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater makes sense here.
14. New England Patriots
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Following the end of the 2018 season, which saw Rob Gronkowski announce his retirement, I’ve mocked a tight end to the Patriots in an early round. I’ve been wrong every time.
But this year is different. Tom Brady, along with a now unretired Rob Gronkowski, are in Tampa Bay. With Cam Newton at quarterback, the Patriots have been far less superior than what they have been.
New England could use a wide receiver, but with Kyle Pitts, he’s a legitimate mismatch at both wide receiver and tight end. He is tremendous value at 14 for the Patriots, and should be a prolific weapon on offense immediately next season.
15. San Francisco 49ers
Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
San Francisco is in a tough position here. They’re out of position on cornerbacks, which they desperately need. Additionally, the franchise might want to take a serious look at quarterback, given the inconsistency at the position. All of these are very real possibilities for the 49ers in the first round.
Despite that, I think that the offensive line needs to be addressed, too. Trent Williams, the 49ers left tackle, is set to hit free agency. Wyatt Davis is a solid interior lineman that would allow the organization some flexibility in finding an adequate line for 2021.
16. Las Vegas Raiders
Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have to do a much better job in finding defensive talent. Mayock was a fantastic evaluator for the NFL Network, but it just hasn’t translated for the Raiders up to this point.
I’m high on Joesph Ossai and what he brings to the table. Even further, I think that his skillset translates very well to the NFL. More so, I think the Raiders can line him up opposite of Maxx Crosby and have solid success at rushing the quarterback.
17. Arizona Cardinals
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Similar to the 49ers at the 14th pick, the Cardinals are out of position when it comes to addressing their most pressing needs.
However, the Cardinals could address linebacker, allowing Isaiah Simmons, their first round pick in 2020, to play more downs in coverage. It’s not the biggest need for the franchise, but it does give them more freedom and flexibility to do more.
18. Indianapolis Colts
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
I’ve seen plenty of other mock drafts that have the Colts drafting a quarterback here, but I just don’t find it likely. First off, I don’t think that Trey Lance, who is the best available quarterback, fits what the Colts are looking for.
Instead, I think it’s likely that the team brings Philip Rivers back for another season, or entertains the idea of letting Jacob Eason bridge the gap for a year.
Therefore, I think the Colts can draft an offensive tackle to protect whoever it is that ends up running that offense. Which, if it is Rivers or Eason, would be key to giving each ample time from the pocket to make reads downfield.
19. Washington Football Team
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
It was only a matter of time until Washington released Dwayne Haskins, which finally took place on Monday. Alex Smith is an adequate quarterback that won’t lose the franchise any games, but I don’t think he’ll win them many games either.
Trey Lance would open up the offense for Washington, which head coach Ron Rivera had success with in Carolina with Cam Newton. I’m not saying that Lance is comparable to Newton, but he does run a similar style of play.
20. Chicago Bears
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
With four of the top quarterbacks off the draft board, the Chicago Bears are likely to be out of the first round quarterback market. rather, I think the franchise could go through another year of mediocre play and target a 2022 quarterback next April.
This year, I think an offensive tackle would be the best route for the franchise. I don’t know how impactful Cosmi will be in 2021, but I would bet on him being an above average tackle in 2022.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (Via Los Angeles Rams)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Frankly, I was shocked when I realized that Jaylen Waddle was still on the board in my mock draft. However, I just don’t know where he would come off the board earlier than this spot. Perhaps, if Philadelphia opts for a wide receiver, we could see him head to Detroit at 7, but I just think that’s a bit heavy on receivers.
Jacksonville needs to surround Trevor Lawrence with weapons on offense. The franchise already has Laviska Shenault, one of my favorite receiving prospects from last year, but by adding an additional one in 2021, would alleviate pressure and open up both sides of the field for their franchise quarterback.
22. Cleveland Browns
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The offense in Cleveland is, for a change, playing good football. As a result, the Browns can mainly focus improving their defense.
At this point in my 2021 NFL Mock Draft, the best defensive player on the board is Eric Stokes. He should be a solid contributor in the secondary at the next level. However, if the franchise decides to go in a different direction, there are a few linebackers that seem somewhat likely.
23. Miami Dolphins
Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
With their third overall pick, I had the Miami Dolphins selecting a playmaking wide receiver. With their second pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, I have the franchise selecting an interior offensive lineman, giving the quarterback more time to throw from the pocket. Given that it’s only January, it’s still relatively early, but offensive line is the right position to address in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
24. Baltimore Ravens
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Unless the Ravens are sold on Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth, or Baby Gronk as he’s called, then I think the franchise goes wide receiver. This is even more likely to happen given that their more pressing needs, such as help in the secondary or a capable pass rusher, are a bit of a stretch at this point of the Draft.
25. Tennessee Titans
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Jonnu Smith has been a very solid passing threat for the Titans this season. However, if the Titans want to make a push for the top team in the AFC, they’ll need to find explosiveness on the offense.
Behind Kyle Pitts, I think that Pat Freiermuth is the best vertical tight end in this draft class. Opening up the Titans offense, and putting more points on the board, will help Tennessee compete with the likes of Kansas City, Buffalo, and Baltimore.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jay Tufele, IDL, USC
Let’s have some fun with the Buccaneers roster and add a quality defensive lineman to their front seven. Tampa Bay is one of the best against the run, and in the bottom third against the pass. Lacking a game changer at corner at this point in the 2021 NFL Draft, let’s instead go after a disruptor in the trenches. If the Buccaneers can breakdown the pocket form the interior, it would go a long ways in reducing passing yards allowed.
27. New York Jets (Via Seattle Seahawks)
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Whether the Jets opt to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft remains to be seen, but one thing is certain.
New York needs to find a long-term answer at running back.
Travis Etienne is a versatile back with explosive abilities. Etienne was a workhorse for Clemson in 2018 and 2019, earning over 1,600 rushing yards each season and 43 combined touchdowns. If the Jets stick with Sam Darnold, Etienne would be a reliable back that would alleviate pressure on the passing game.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
There are several teams in the NFL, Pittsburgh included, that are going to be in the quarterback market very soon. Given how well the franchise has played this season, they’re out of contention for a top prospect in the first round.
The Steelers could use a second or third round pick to find a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger. Regardless of who is behind center, the franchise will have to protect him. By addressing the offensive line here, the Steelers will be able to rest assured that the offensive line will be better in 2022.
Some NFL Draft analysts have Rashawn Slater ranked much much higher in their rankings. Additionally, some are unsure if he fits better as a true offensive tackle, or if he’d be better suited for a year or two inside at guard. All of that aside, Slater is tremendous value at this point for Pittsburgh. More so, adding an offensive lineman to the roster at this point with help make the quarterback transition seamless.
29. New Orleans Saints
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
If QB Drew Brees returns for another season in New Orleans, I’d be shocked. Rather, I think it’s likely that the Saints turn to Taysom Hill, who they signed to an extension in April.
Regardless of what New Orleans decides, they should look heavily at investing in the wide receiver position. The franchise has Michael Thomas locked into a long-term deal, but need to find a capable receiver to open up the field.
30. Buffalo Bills
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
I’m not sure if there’s a better team in the National Football League than the Buffalo Bills. Given their success, the franchise might lose offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to a head coaching gig. Nonetheless, Josh Allen has taken a massive leap this season, which should limit any woes.
Shaun Wade is a borderline first rounder on my board, but I think that Buffalo can afford to make this move. Buffalo may need to bring in a veteran to bridge a one-year gap, but Wade should turning a very solid defensive back.
31. Green Bay Packers
Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Should the Green Bay Packers address their wide receiver position in the 2021NFL Draft?
However, they’re out of position to do so here. Instead, let’s add an offensive lineman to give Aaron Rodgers more time to throw the ball downfield, as well as opening up running lanes. Notre Dame has put together a solid group of NFL-ready prospects that are poised to make a splash in the 2021 NFL Draft.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Kansas City Chiefs are so good I seriously believe that the franchise could pull a name out of a hat to draft and they’d be just fine.
NFL Draft analysts have considered Zaven Collins to be one of the best defensive players on the field this season. Frankly, I do too.
We already know that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense are capable of putting points the board in a hurry, so addressing the defense here makes sense.