by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
April 20th, 2021
Nine days out! We’re nine days away from the NFL Draft finally appearing on our television screens, answering all the questions that we’ve been asking, and making everyone, teams included, look stupid in the process. It’s kind of a funny thing to try to predict who will be on what team, but the speculation is fun and the fanfare, especially last year when it was all at home, is genuinely very exciting. The Shaping and molding of the future is exciting to see unfold and hey, maybe you look pretty smart in the process.
This may be my last mock draft of the cycle depending on the number of trades that happen in the coming week. If there’s more than two or three in the first round in the next few days, I jump and throw out another one, but if there’s insignificant movement, I won’t bother switching one or two picks. Either way, here’s to hoping your team gets better and you can be excited about the future!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback
No matter how many trades there are, I can’t imagine a single scenario in which Trevor Lawrence is not the first name off the board. He’s one of the highest graded quarterbacks to come out of college since Andrew Luck and there’s a moderate consensus that Jacksonville will be set for the future when they take the player. As there hasn’t been in the past, there’s not much to think about here.
2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, Quarterback
As we’ve talked about in my last mock drafts, the Jets showed their hand by trading away Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, but luckily they won’t be jumped by anyone because we already know what Jacksonville is doing as well. The Jets are grabbing Wilson and I really have yet to see anyone say any differently.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via HOU)
Justin Fields, Quarterback
If you draft to get as many exactos as you can find, the ease ends here. San Francisco also made their intentions clear by trading into the top three picks, but there is no consensus as to which player they’ll be taking with this pick. There’s a lot of talk about Mac Jones and there’s a bit of a Trey Lance contingency, but I think that the player to take with this pick is absolutely Justin Fields. There’s a lot of misconceptions that he takes too long to make reads, but Ohio State runs an offense with a lot of wide receiver reads so he was really waiting on pass catchers to make their move. He’s the best mobile quarterback in this draft and should be a really nice fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts, Tight End
If you’re Atlanta and Justin Fields is still on the board at this pick, I don’t think there’s a reason not to take him. If he is in fact taken with the third pick, Atlanta has to take Kyle Pitts. Tight end is far from the biggest need on this team, but it is a need and Pitts is one of the best players in this entire draft. Think of all the teams who have played in a Super Bowl recently and tell me which ones haven’t employed an excellent tight end. That position has become extremely important in professional football and with Matt Ryan’s career running down, it’s worth it to try and get one more good run out of this offense.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver
With the board sitting as it does, this pick has gone from a potential no-brainer to one of the tougher selections in the first round. The two options are fairly easy to develop, but picking one is very tough. The two players are Penei Sewell and Ja’Marr Chase. The argument for Sewell is that you have a number one overall quarterback who was in the top 10 for sacks taken despite playing just 10 games due to a knee injury. On the other hand the organization could reunite the quarterback with his most productive receiver in college, Ja’Marr Chase, and provide him with a consistent weapon for the next five years. What makes this decision even tougher is that both positions are very deep and you have to decide between the top of each class and two players who are very similar in value. I like Ja’Marr Chase in this situation just because Zac Taylor said he wants to keep Jonah Williams at left tackle and Chase and Burrow have that connection. Were it not for them sharing such a productive bond at LSU I would go Sewell without question, but Chase is starting to seem more likely.
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI)
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver
Last season the Dolphins allowed 34 sacks which was good for a tie at 15th in the NFL. That offensive line they employed had three rookies at left tackle, right tackle, and right guard, and a fragile rookie at quarterback. So do the Dolphins think the rookies will markedly improve? Can Robert Hunt slide over to center if the team wants to take Penei Sewell? Will one of the Alabama receivers make a huge difference for Tagovailoa? I think all of those questions will come into play for this pick, but ultimately the Dolphins need to upgrade the weapons for Tagovailoa because while time is important, it doesn’t matter how much you have if no one is open. Plus, just like Chase, there’s a connection between passer and pass catcher in this scenario.
7. Detroit Lions
Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver
The wide receiver situation in Detroit is flatly abysmal, embarrassing, negligent, really any demeaning adjective you can think of would apply. They have to get a pass catcher with this pick and if they don’t I would suggest that the NFL dissolve the franchise. Jaylen Waddle is the next best pass catcher on the board so he’s the choice.
8. Carolina Panthers
Penei Sewell, Offensive Tackle
The first order of operations for this team needs to involve improving the offense, be it via pass catcher or blocker. Considering all of the top pass catchers are taken and all of the blockers are not, particularly the best one in the draft, they need to take that player. Penei Sewell is arguably one of the two best players in this draft and grabbing him all the way down at eight would be a miracle for the Panthers. He would instantly step into the starting position at left tackle and make the line markedly better.
9. Denver Broncos
Trey Lance, Quarterback
As much as I like Drew Lock, he isn’t going to be the quarterback of the future for Denver and that means they need to take advantage of the situation. Trey Lance probably isn’t ready to start right now in the NFL but with a bit more time left on Lock’s contract, it gives the team the opportunity to open up a competition and let the best player start. If it’s Lance, let him acclimate in the trenches. If it’s Lock, Lance can learn behind him. Either way, you have a nice option for the future and a player who has extreme upside.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback
I’ve had Dallas grabbing some offensive linemen in the past drafts but the more I look at the situation the more I realize that they really need to improve their pass defense more than anything. The need for someone to stop something in the air is just a necessity and whether it’s a cornerback or an edge rusher, I don’t really care, I just want to see the defense improve. I think Patrick Surtain II is probably the best pass defender in this draft and there’s an argument for him to be seen as the top defensive player in general. The team still hasn’t replaced Byron Jones and Surtain is capable of doing that.
11. New York Giants
Rashawn Slater, Offensive Lineman
The Giants allowed a whopping 50 sacks last season and will be looking to improve on that number through the draft this season. While there’s a good shout for a pass rusher to be taken at this position, I think keeping the backfield clean for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley is much more important at the moment. Slater provides massive value in that he’s so versatile and could play any position along the line right now. He could start at guard or center and move around based on need and be effective at every stop along the way and that’s not something you see very often from a top offensive lineman, so the Giants will be happy to take the player.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via SFO)
Micah Parsons, Inside Linebacker
The Eagles have needed two positions for what feels like an eternity: wide receiver and linebacker. If one of the top three pass catchers is still available at this pick I would like to see that player taken, but Micah Parsons won’t be much of a downgrade from that position. Philadelphia’s defensive line has been one of the best in the country for a while and Micah Parsons will just make that front even better. He’ll give the defense a chance to be a bit more versatile and allow them to take more risks because he’s such a great tackler.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle
I don’t really think there’s another option outside of Christian Darrisaw that really makes any sense for this pick. The Chargers need to pick an offensive lineman so that they can protect their young star Justin Herbert and there really isn’t another player that justifies a pick at this point outside of Alijah Vera-Tucker, and he seems to be better suited to play guard. The Chargers need protection and that’s what they’ll be looking for with this pick.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Alijah Vera-Tucker, Offensive Lineman
To me this pick really comes down to whether the Vikings want to address the offensive or defensive line. There’s a need for a good pass rusher to go opposite of Danielle Hunter, but there’s also a need for the team to improve their line after cutting Riley Rief. It’s really a choice for whatever the Vikings find to be more important and to me that’s offensive line. Keeping the backfield clean is much more important in their division than having extra tools to get to the quarterback and Alijah Vera-Tucker can step in at two different positions.
15. New England Patriots
Rashod Bateman, Wide Receiver
If Trey Lance can somehow fall to this point in the draft, I’m all for the Patriots jumping on him. I won’t be surprised to see them actually trade up to grab him, but since we’re not projecting trades this season, they’re going to have to look elsewhere. I like the idea of grabbing either a linebacker or a wide receiver with this pick. Both positions will be desperate for help, but after making some investments at both ends of that spectrum I think the right way to go is grabbing a wide receiver. Rashod Bateman will immediately become the top pass catcher on this team and considering Matt Judon was signed in the offseason, the need for an outside linebacker is diminished. Bateman is the right choice to get this team back into a place where they can fight to win games in their division.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Jaycee Horn, Cornerback
Cornerback is going to be a big area of need for the Cardinals this season even with Jaycee Horn on the roster. They don’t currently have enough talent at the position and while Horn will take over the top spot, they’re still going to need help there. Normally I would like Caleb Farley in this position but considering he’s coming off a back injury, I like Horn more.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Christian Barmore, Defensive Tackle
There seems to be a large contingency pushing for an inside linebacker to be taken with this pick and while I’m not completely against that, I think there are much bigger needs on this defense. The Raiders have Nick Kwiatkowski and Cory Littleton on the roster for decent money until 2023 and while they’re not the best players in the world, they are good and a third player for big money would be overspending at the position. I believe outside linebacker, guard, or defensive tackle would see their money spent much better. Considering they have more than enough edge rushing and the offensive line has enough to survive at the moment, I like Christian Barmore. He isn’t a tremendous value at this point but he does fit a big need and will make the middle of this line a lot less appetizing to attack.
18. Miami Dolphins
Kwity Paye, EDGE
I personally like a couple of players over Kwity Paye, but I have absolutely no problem if he’s the first edge risher off this board. Miami needs some players to get pressure on the quarterback so that they can really nail down the passing defense and Paye can do that from day one. I expect Miami will rely on their pass rusher heavily to get pressure on the strong side and that player should find success in the AFC East if they perform to their levels.
19. Washington Football Team
Zaven Collins, Outside Linebacker
Washington really needs a great linebacker and luckily, there’s a couple available at either position they want to fill with this pick. I believe that Zaven Collins has the versatility and ability to really make this defense great from the outside spot while he provides a bit of everything, from pass rushing, to spying, to covering any player on the field. He’s a fantastic playmaker and will be very effective for this team.
20. Chicago Bears
Caleb Farley, Cornerback
After cutting Kyle Fuller this offseason the Bears suddenly have a decision to make between offensive tackle and cornerback for this pick. Guys like Greg Newsome II and Teven Jenkins have been picking up steam in their respective positions for this pick, but if Caleb Farley is available at 20 the Bears need to pull the trigger. He was being argued as the best cornerback in the draft before he underwent back surgery and if you can get a player who has the chops to be the best defensive talent in a draft this late with this need, you have to pull the trigger.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE
The players that Indianapolis should be looking at for this draft pick just so happen to mirror each other on the football field. The Colts have found success recently by improving their lines and while they’ve been effective with that strategy, it’s time to reload on both sides. There’s a need for a star offensive tackle or defensive end and both can be found at this point. With the situation sitting as it is, I like the prospects of going defensively more than I do grabbing an offensive tackle. Gregory Rousseau was a stellar talent at Miami and should be able to get into the backfield with regularity this season for the Colts.
22. Tennessee Titans
Greg Newsome II, Cornerback
Though the Titans have been successful in the past couple of seasons, there’s still a few large needs that could be addressed in this draft. They could do with an offensive tackle, an edge rusher, and a cornerback, all which have starting positions up for grabs. The consensus needs seem to be at tackle and cornerback and Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern looks like he would be the best player for the Titans to snag. His stock has risen astronomically since the beginning of the season and the Titans would be able to employ one of the top pass defenders in the draft.
23. New York Jets (via SEA)
Rondale Moore, Wide Receiver
With a sparkling new quarterback, the Jets will need to look at their receiver corps and consider upgrading that. While there is a need for a good defensive pass rusher I think a consistent target for Zach Wilson to throw to will be much more pressing than anything else. The Jets are destitute at wide receiver and Rondale Moore will bring everything you need out of a star pass catcher to the room.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris, Running Back
With James Connor heading to a new organization, Pittsburgh is in need of a new running back and there’s a great one to be had in Najee Harris. He’s Derrick Henry 2.0 and will thrive in a physical AFC North. The offensive line needs to be pieced together to help him, but he will thrive in the NFL and is the best running option in this draft by a decent margin. A real running game will be a necessary threat for Pittsburgh considering the quarterback situation.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR)
Joe Tryon, EDGE
Be it a pass rusher or a defensive lineman, Jacksonville has a serious need to upgrade their defensive line with this pick. Both positions along the line are in seriously bad shape so filling either need would be acceptable, but I like Joe Tryon on the edge in this situation. He’s not the best power rusher in the draft but he’s the best speed rusher by far and his power moves certainly aren’t lacking. Jacksonville just needs to find pressure from somewhere and this player is more than good enough to make that happen.
26. Cleveland Browns
Tommy Togiai, Defensive Tackle
Cleveland’s first pick is going to be spent on a defensive player, the question to answer is just which position. The defensive line in general could use some improving, but there’s also an availability at middle linebacker. With Jadeveon Clowney signing I feel comfortable just focusing on the middle of the front seven. While Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would be a nice pick at middle linebacker, the team needs to get better at defensive tackle urgently and Tommy Togiai out of Ohio State would be a good candidate to step into that role. He’s an extremely talented player out of Ohio State that helped anchor a very good line.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE
It’s tough for me to imagine any positions other than wide receiver and edge rusher being in the minds of Baltimore as they make these picks, but I suppose I’ve seen teams do wilder things than draft outside of their needs and fits before. The Ravens desperately need to get pressure with their defensive line if they want to do anything in the playoffs, but they also really need to help Lamar Jackson by getting him pass catching options. I think the depth at wide receiver is good enough that the team can pass on that position for the moment while grabbing Jaelan Phillips at edge rusher. I think he could make a huge difference for this defense and still provide nice value for the pass catcher in the second round.
28. New Orleans Saints
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Inside Linebacker
This is one of the few picks in the first round that there isn’t at least a majority leaning towards one position. I’ve seen plenty of different picks here at 28, from safety to linebacker to pass catcher to offensive lineman to even quarterback, but I think the biggest needs are either at pass catcher or on defense. The biggest needs by far are at wide receiver and inside linebacker so we should focus on those positions. Elijah Moore is a great player and more than worthy of this pick, but Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is an absolutely fantastic talent that would instantly make the team around him better. The defense needs an anchor to soak up tackles and this player can do that.
29. Green Bay Packers
Elijah Moore, Wide Receiver
There’s a split at this pick between wide receiver and cornerback, but I can’t imagine the Packers will be allowed to draft anyone outside of a wide receiver with this pick. I like the options available at cornerback here, but wide receiver is so much more ideal considering the need to maximize Aaron Rodgers’ prime that he’s so clearly still in. Moore would be an unbelievable talent at WR2 and he’s an extremely forgiving pass catcher which will give Rodgers some extra space to work.
30. Buffalo Bills
Patrick Jones II, EDGE
The Bills looking at the defense is almost an imperative with this pick and the positions of need are cornerback and edge rusher. I like the prospects of a cornerback but with so many talented players coming off the board already I think it’s worth a shot to address edge rusher considering it isn’t as deep. I really like Patrick Jones II out of Pitt and believe he’s the best player to make a difference at the position right away, especially with the defense constructed as it is.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Jalen Mayfield, Offensive Tackle
Kansas City’s offensive line fell apart late in the season and it was overwhelmingly evident after the Super Bowl. To make things worse, some of their starters were cut to make space on the roster. The Chiefs need to go after an offensive lineman desperately and they should be able to get a nice player in Jalen Mayfield. He has the chops to start right away and he’s athletic enough to run in this very diverse and fast paced offense.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jayson Oweh, Defensive Lineman
I’m not really sure what Tampa Bay really needs right now, but I’m pretty sure the answer is “nothing in particular” and that’s a good thing in the first round. The priority for the Bucs should probably be defensive line depth and they can find some good players yet on the board. I think the edge rushing is sufficient for the moment but getting a player who can attack effectively on both the inside and outside might be the best option. Jayson Oweh struggled in 2020 for Penn State but could do very well developing behind the current pass rush and contributing in a rotation.
Other Draft Materials
Draft Big Board
Mock Draft 1.0
Mock Draft 2.0
Mock Draft 3.0: All Offense
Mock Draft 3.1: All Defense
Mock Draft 4.0
Running Back Rankings
Wide Receiver Rankings
Tight End Rankings
Offensive Tackle Rankings
Defensive Tackle Rankings
Outside Linebacker Rankings
Inside Linebacker Rankings