The college football season is hurtling into the postseason, and the NFL regular season is just weeks from completion. For many prospects, teams and fans, attention turns to the draft in April. December is a time for giving. Consider this 2021 NFL Mock Draft a gift from me to you. Let’s do this.
#1 New York Jets
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
What more can be said about this pick? It wouldn’t be a 2021 NFL Mock Draft without the New York Jets making this selection at #1 overall. Draft Trevor Lawrence, trade Sam Darnold. Both Darnold and his current employers are in need of a fresh start.
Lawrence is the most complete talent entering the league at this position in a generation. The Jets chose the right year to be the worst team in football.
#2 Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields’ 2020 season has been disrupted by postponements and cancellations. The B1G’s decision to reverse it’s rules has ensured that Fields has a path to the Championship game, and possibly the playoffs.
Jacksonville is desperate for a QB. Fields is the best one left on the board. He had good pocket awareness, and can extend plays with his feet There are questions for Fields to answer. When he faced pressure against the Indiana defensive front, we saw him panic like never before. He made uncharacteristic throws and was careless with the ball. It will take time for him to comprehend NFL level defences.
#3 Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
This is another no-brainer. Cincinnati has its QB of the future, but a putrid offensive line has sabotaged his health.
An argument could be made that Sewell is the most complete talent in the NFL Draft this year. He has strong hands and a good base of power in his lower body. He could be the best left tackle in the NFL in years to come.
#4 Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
It is a close one here between Surtain and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. In the end, it will come down to personal preference. Both are deserving of an early pick. Surtain is stronger, and the best press coverage corner in college football.
Surtain has been a shutdown corner in the SEC. There’s a great depth of wide receiver talent in the conference, and Surtain has gone toe to toe with the best. At the next level, he will take some time to shut down NFL receivers, but with the right coaching, he’s sure to get there.
#5 LA Chargers
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Chargers are in need of developing their offensive line, but the value just isn’t there at this pick. If a team wants to get ahead of Carolina and pick a QB, this pick may be up for negotiation.
For now, I have LA taking Caleb Farley, the second of two top level cornerbacks in this draft class. Farley’s speed is impressive: he can keep with almost any receiver step for step. He’s also unafraid to do the dirty work. He’s a fierce tackler that is rarely faked out by the ball carrier.
#6 Philadelphia Eagles
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Eagles have had a terrible time in 2020. This pick should be some consolation for the Philly fan base.
Ja’Marr Chase would have been WR1 in 2019, and once again tops a deep receiver class. He had a historic year with Joe Burrow in Baton Rouge in 2019.
There’s some uncertainty at the quarterback position in Philadelphia. Carson Wentz’s time may be up. Let’s assume that Jalen Hurts is the man to take this franchise forward. If he is, it would be wise to pair him up with a receiver of Chase’s talent.
#7 Carolina Panthers
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Matt Rhule had success with a dual-threat QB at Baylor. Trey Lance is a stronger overall talent than Charlie Brewer, though. If Joe Brady is not tempted into a head coaching job in the off-season, he will be excited to work with Lance’s skillset.
As a one year starter, there are obvious and valid questions about how ready Lance is to make the step up to the NFL. Would it be such a bad thing for Teddy Bridgewater to start under centre in 2021 while Lance learns his trade? Good times are coming to Charlotte, but a little patience may be needed.
#8 Atlanta Falcons
Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
The Atlanta Falcons have had a disappointing year. And that’s putting it kindly. The Falcons needed a pass rush in last year’s draft, and it is still in need of improvement.
Rousseau is clearly the best pass rusher amongst his peers. He has a combination of speed and power, and can find many ways to get to the quarterback. He can line up in the middle or off the tackle, and employs a devastating spin move to beat offensive linemen.
#9 Miami Dolphins (via Houston)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Brian Flores is spoilt for choice here. He has two exceptional wide receivers that played with Tua Tagovailoa in Tuscaloosa.
Jaylen Waddle pips DeVonta Smith to the post here. Ask me tomorrow, and I’ll probably have changed my mind.
Waddle is a smaller receiver, but has devastating speed and quick feet. He of course is recovering from a broken ankle, and will need to prove his health before an NFL franchise takes the plunge.
#10 Denver Broncos
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
The more I watch Paye’s tape, the more convinced I become that he is going to be climbing up draft boards in the run up to draft day. He is excellent against the run, and is like a bulldozer at full speed.
Denver needs to begin it’s preparations for life without Von Miller. Paye would be the perfect understudy to the veteran Miller and Bradley Chubb.
#11 Washington Football Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Zach Wilson has the potential to make it in the NFL. He has a creativity that offensive coordinators will want to cultivate. Playing at BYU has led to predictable scepticism about the quality of opposition he has faced. The NFL may prove to be a baptism of fire for Wilson.
Washington has had three starters under centre in 2020. As remarkable as Alex Smith’s return from injury has been, Washington cannot rely on building their offence around him.
#12 Detroit Lions
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
With each week, it seems as though Kenny Golladay’s career is heading towards a premature end. Smith has been in sublime form in 2020, and has even been considered in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
There’s not a lot to be excited about if you’re a Detroit fan. With DeVonta Smith, this Lions offence just got that little bit more fun. With Swift at running back and Hockenson at tight end, could the Lions be exciting in 2021?
#13 Chicago Bears
RaShawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
There seems to be a lot of love for RaShawn Slater. That is particularly true for those in the know. The added versatility of possibly playing at guard may further boost his draft stock.
The Bears have a conundrum at quarterback, and have been disappointing on defence considering the talent on the roster. The high value pick here is on the O line. If and when a new QB rolls into the Windy City, Slater will be there to protect him.
#14 San Francisco 49ers
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jaycee Horn’s tape is so fun. He is a fierce competitor, controlled aggression personified. By far his strongest performance was against Auburn, where he had two interceptions.
Richard Sherman may be headed to the retirement home. The 49ers could have addressed this need after his Superbowl mishap against The Chiefs. Horn will be ready to contribute from the first day of training camp.
#15 New England Patriots
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Look away, AFC East rivals. The Patriots are in desperate need of a receiver, and tight end Kyle Pitts is the best on the board.
Don’t expect this to be the second coming of Gronk. Pitts is lean, a powerful runner who is fierce in the catch. He can be used in many ways on a creative offence.
The Patriots have been, dare I say it, ordinary in 2020. Kyle Pitts is far from that.
#16 Arizona Cardinals
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Michah Parsons disrespect ends here. Even I am questioning my sanity with Parsons falling this far.
He is excellent in coverage, and at this point is undoubtedly the best player left on the board. BPA. Go get him.
#17 Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Jones II, Edge, Pitt
Patrick Jones II is a tantalising blend of speed and power. He has developed an impressive habit of putting pressure on ACC quarterbacks in the college game.
The Ravens were known for their pass rush in years gone by. This year? Meh. It’s time to strengthen at this key position before it becomes a real issue in the future.
#18 Las Vegas Raiders
Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
Raiders fans should have been worried that their win over the New York Jets was so close. A key reason for that is the pressure that the Jets rushers were able to put Derek Carr under.
Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis is easily the strongest interior lineman entering the NFL Draft this year. Interior offensive linemen are never sexy picks, but their value is immeasurable when they land in the right spot.
#19 New York Giants
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
How did the Giants get here? They were supposed to be picking Justin Fields at #2 overall.
At this stage in the draft, Joe Judge can strengthen on defence. Leonard Williams has all of a sudden turned into a pass rusher, and so Dave Gettleman can improve the second level of the defence.
Owusu-Koramoah would not have been considered a day one pick before the 2020 season, but his performances this season have catapulted him into the first round. He’s been superb on a fearsome Fighting Irish defence. The Giants get a promising piece here.
#20 Minnesota Vikings
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Minnesota Vikings need to strengthen the interior of both of their trenches. However, the value just isn’t there at this pick. They may well be tempted to trade out of this pick and load up on draft capital.
Darrisaw is another talent that has emerged out of nowhere due to what he’s been able to put on tape. He’s a powerful blocker that impresses in pass protection.
Minnesota fans might hate me for this pick. Oh well. You’ll hate Christian Darrisaw much, much less.
#21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Can we all agree that Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette aren’t long term solutions at running back for Tampa Bay? Good. That’s settled.
Najee Harris has been compared to Derrick Henry for good reason. He is an incredibly powerful runner with an incredible stiff arm. Add to that a quick change of direction, and you’ve got yourself a tantalising rookie prospect.
Bolstering the pass rush would be a more sensible pick here. But where’s the fun in that? Tampa’s Superbowl window is closing. Go get it.
#22 Miami Dolphins
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Brian Flores treated his young quarterback to a weapon earlier on day one of the NFL Draft. Now it’s time to address a weakness on defence.
Many have questioned the Miami pass rush, but that has masked concerns about their run defence. This isn’t a great year for defensive linemen, but Marvin Wilson is the best of the bunch. He is a classic run stuffer. Is he ready to plug and play? Possibly not, but the potential is there for future years.
#23 Indianapolis Colts
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Colts need a long term plan at quarterback. However, neither Mac Jones nor Kyle Trask are worthy of a first round selection.
We move from replacing one veteran, to another. Anthony Castonzo is entering his tenth year in the NFL. His contract expires in 2022, by which point he will most likely retire.
Samuel Cosmi is a big, tough dude. He has the prototypical size for an offensive tackle (6′ 7″, 300lbs). His technique is in need of refinement, particularly how he uses his hands. Who better to learn from than Castonzo?
#24 Tennessee Titans
Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
Do the Tennessee Titans have a pass rush this year? This team relies on the run game, and keeping opposition offences off the field. In the postseason, they might struggle to contain the NFL’s best offensive minds.
Joseph Ossai is a high risk pick that could end up as one of the steals of the draft. He is an explosive and powerful runner. There isn’t much bend in his pass rush, preferring to bull rush opponents.
He may transition more comfortably to the linebacker position at the next level. He is like a heat-seeking missile for the ball carrier. With some coaching, he could polish his game to an elite standard.
#25 New York Jets (via Seattle)
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The Jets can wait until pick #33 to boost their receiver corps. They simply can’t pass on Eric Stokes of Georgia here.
The best compliment we can pay Stokes is that he makes plays. He’s an athletic, tough, aggressive corner that fights for every catch. He will need to rein in his aggression in the NFL, otherwise his plays will be called back for pass interference. It would be a key task for the next Jets’ defensive coordinator.
The Jets defensive backfield is currently topped up with free agents and late round/undrafted rookies. It’s time they invested in a high-level prospect with long term promise.
#26 Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams)
Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Jaguars have their quarterback of the future. They hope. Now it’s time to protect him.
Notre Dame is famed for producing offensive linemen that thrive in the NFL. Liam Eichenberg is the most talented of the Fighting Irish linemen entering the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s got the perfect size for the tackle position (6′ 6″, 300 lbs) but may struggle against more athletic pass rushers.
#27 Cleveland Browns
Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
If Cleveland are picking here, then they’ve likely won a playoff game. That relies on the star-studded Browns offence producing in the playoffs.
Moses is a high value pick at the back end of the first round. He joins a long list of Crimson Tide linebackers to go in the First Round of the NFL Draft. Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster, Rashaan Evans have all gone on Day One in the Saban era. You can add Moses to that list for 2021.
#28 Buffalo Bills
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Bills are strong across the roster. They are building a franchise that can challenge at the top of the AFC for the next few years.
Zaven Collins is an intriguing pick up here. He has lined up on the inside and outside for Tulsa. It is this versatility that should tempt Buffalo to part with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It will take time for Collins to contribute consistently for the Bills. Once he does, he could be utilised in a variety of ways.
#29 Green Bay Packers
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Aaron Rodgers gets his wide receiver a year late. Rashod Bateman can immediately contribute as WR2 alongside Devante Adams in Green Bay.
Rashod Bateman is a typical deep threat receiver. He has strong hands that can wrestle the ball from his cornerback. He also has impressive YAC ability, so expect him to be used on a range of routes.
#30 Kansas City Chiefs
Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
There aren’t many positions where the Kansas City Chiefs can be considered weak. In fact, weak is a word rarely used when we consider Kansas City.
Alijah Vera-Tucker is an impressive guard for the USC Trojans, but also has the size to suggest he might be serviceable at tackle, too (6′ 4″, 300 lbs). He has predominantly played at left guard, but has some snaps at tackle also.
He lacks the athleticism that elite NFL linemen possess, and can appear heavy-footed on tape. Nevertheless, his effective pass protection will translate to the next level.
#31 New Orleans Saints
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Where do the Saints go here? This is a tough one. Cornerback isn’t the most immediate need, but Shaun Wade is a high value pick.
Wade has predominantly lined up as a slot corner, with limited snaps on the outside. If he can convince NFL franchises that he is capable of shutting down deep threat receivers, he will demand a first round pick. If not, he may slip into Day Two.
#32 Pittsburgh Steelers
Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Could the Pittsburgh Steelers take a punt on Mac Jones here? The possibility of the fifth year option may tempt them to appoint Jones as Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent? They might be better off tempting Sam Darnold away from the New York Jets with their second round pick.
Dillon Radunz has dominated FCS pass rushers at NDSU. The level of competition he has faced may hurt his draft stock, and so his Senior Bowl performance will be carefully studied. Should he perform against college football’s best pass rushers, he’ll be a first round pick.