There’s nothing like a good ol’ first round mock draft to take away the college football blues. Every day, it appears more likely that there may be no college season whatsoever in 2020. Rather than wallow in that depressing news, let’s distract ourselves with a mock draft*.
There are many draft simulators out there. We really like The Draft Network and Pro Football Network. For this mock, we have used TDN. If you are interested in trading picks without having to upgrade your account, PFN is the place to go.
* The draft order provided is based on reverse Superbowl order, so don’t blame me if you’re unhappy with your team’s spot!
Of course, with the small matter of a global pandemic blowing plans for the college and NFL seasons out of the water, the real thing in April could look very different. NFL teams will surprise us, and a limited/cancelled season could have a huge impact on an individual’s draft stock.
2021 Mock Draft 1.0
For what it’s worth, here’s my way-too-early prediction for 2021:
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Whichever franchise that holds the first pick will be taking Trevor Lawrence, or trading back and getting the world in return. He’s simply too good to pass up on for a Jacksonville franchise in need of a fresh start. Gardner Minshew may well rock a mean pair of jorts, but Sunshine and his golden locks will render Minshew Mania a distant memory.
Lawrence has played like a #1 pick in waiting since his freshman year, and his CFB semi-final heroics in the win over Ohio State showcased his leadership skills. He truly is the most promising QB to come out of the college game in years.
Psst! Hey, Jacksonville! If Travis Etienne is on the board at #33, do the footballing world a favour and reunite him with his QB in the NFL!
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
On and off the field, this franchise needs gutting out. If Washington is picking here in April, it is because the Dwayne Haskins experiment has failed. Washington therefore returns to Ohio State for its quarterback of the future.
Haskins has been the victim of terrible management and difficult circumstances. The video circulating last season of the rookie almost begging his veteran lineman to help him suggested a fractious relationship between signal-caller and his protection. Despite forces working against him, Fields is too good a talent to pass up on by persevering with Haskins. He had 51 total touchdowns and just 3 interceptions in the Big Ten in 2019.
Fields brings a different style of quarterback, and his ability to extend plays with his feet add to the temptation to pick him up here. Ron Rivera can truly put his stamp on the Washington franchise with a mobile QB, just like he enjoyed with Cam Newton in Carolina.
#3 Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Pinch yourselves, Cincinnati fans. You got your quarterback of the future in 2020. How about the best player in the draft in 2021? Deal.
Sewell is a “blue chip” talent. He has dominated defenders in both the pass and run game at the college level. Good luck getting past a man who is 6’6″, over 330 lbs, and more agile than most athletes.
The Bengals did take Jonah Williams in the 2018 Draft, who missed his entire rookie season due to surgery. Once healthy, he may have to transition to right tackle. If he succeeds in doing so, the Bengals will have a fearsome tackle tandem in the future.
#4 Carolina Panthers
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
It may be a little bit of a reach here, but the Panthers are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback since the departure of Cam Newton. Matt Rhule will be disappointed to see both Lawrence and Fields off the board already. However, Trey Lance has shown glimpses of potential to be a devastating dual-threat QB at the next level. The days of Lamar Jackson falling to the back of the first round are over.
With the best running back in the game and a decent wide receiver room, Carolina takes a big step forward on offense in 2021.
#5 New York Jets
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
New Jets GM Joe Douglas waited until Day Two to upgrade at wide receiver last time out when he selected Denzel Mims. They can’t pass on Chase. With needs across the board, the Jets might be tempted to go cornerback or edge rusher here.
However, an Adam Gase-less Sam Darnold will be delighted at his present from Uncle Joe. With Mims and Chase on the outside, the Jets could transform their WR corps into one of the most dynamic young groups in the league.
#6 Miami Dolphins
Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
The Dolphins will be racing to hand their card in with their AFC East rivals passing up on Gregory Rousseau. With two top ten draft picks, they can address their need at wide receiver later on.
Rousseau was in unbelievable form in his final year of college football, amassing double-digit sacks. The 6’6″, 260 lb defensive end is able to stay in-state and join the Brian Flores bandwagon. This is a franchise on an upward curve, and Rousseau is another piece to add to a promising rebuilding project.
#7 New York Giants
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants have got a steal here. Just as Isaiah Simmons fell further than expected in 2020, Micah Parsons drops out of the top five picks. Parsons is the best defensive prospect in the draft, and the Giants will hope that he can learn the tricks of the trade from veteran Blake Martinez.
The last time the Giants took an elite talent from Penn State, things seemed to work out just fine. Something tells me it will here, too.
#8 Las Vegas Raiders
Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
It is unusual to see two linebackers go in the top ten, but Dylan Moses is exactly the type of player the Raiders are looking for on defense.
Moses missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL. If he can prove his fitness to NFL scouts, he will be a sure-fire first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
#9 Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins are able to sit and wait until their second Day 1 pick to reunite Smith with former Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Smith pips Jaylen Waddle to the podium here due to his size, catch radius and previous targets.
Smith had 68 receptions in an offense alongside Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Not only that, he had over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Another elite WR comes off the ‘Bama conveyor belt, and Miami solves a pressing issue on offense.
#10 Detroit Lions
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Lions have their pick of talent on the interior of the defensive line here. Barmore is young and raw, but managed 2 sacks in his first year in Tuscaloosa. Just like Quinnen Williams before him, Barmore can be a top ten pick with little college experience.
With a limited/cancelled college season on the horizon, NFL franchises may rely on safe bets from reliable schools on Day One. Alabama churns out elite talent year after year, and Bamore has the potential to be the next Crimson Tide graduate to set the NFL alight.
#11 Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams)
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Back-to-back-to-back picks for ‘Bama alumni at the top of the first round here. Surtain II is largely considered the best cornerback in a talented draft class, and Jacksonville are able to get their long-term replacement for Jaylen Ramsey.
At 6’1” and 200 lbs, he has the perfect physical attributes to be a success at the next level. He is joining a franchise in flux in north Florida, and it may be some time before Surtain is part of a winning franchise in the NFL.
#12 Los Angeles Chargers
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley decided to opt-out in 2020, a decision that took significant bravery because he was the first college prospect to do so. In making his decision not to play, he showed principled decision making and put others first. These qualities are revered by any football team.
Not only that, his 2019 tape shows clearly his abilities to cut it at the next level. He is relatively new to playing in the defensive backfield, transitioning from high school QB. His game tape shows his outstanding ability and natural aptitude as a corner.
Farley has limited talented college wide-outs in man coverage, and with some development will do the same in the pros.
#13 Denver Broncos
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Well, what do you know? Another Crimson Tide player taken in the first round. The Broncos have a promising offensive line, with young talents like Dalton Risner and Lloyd Cushenberry emerging alongside more experienced veterans.
Leatherwood has played in both tackle positions, as well as at guard. Though his ultimate strength lies on the outside, his versatility will suit the Broncos here.
Ja’Wuan James signed a $51m contract to play for John Elway, and played in just three games before deciding to sit out the 2020 season. Question marks remain over left tackle Garett Bolles, who has split opinion amongst fans and commentators. Leatherwood will give Denver breathing space to deal with any future uncertainty on the offensive line.
#14 Atlanta Falcons
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
The Falcons defense was poor in 2019, ranking 23rd in the NFL. Vic Beasley left in free agency this offseason, with Dante Fowler moving the other way. The Falcons went defense with their first two picks in the 2020 Draft, and some fans will be disappointed to see them do the same here.
However, Wilson is the best player left on the board, and as a senior should be ready to play sooner rather than later. At 6’5” and 310 lbs, he is a physical force to be reckoned with, even for NFL offensive linemen. He had 8.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in the last two years at the Seminoles on the interior of the defensive line.
#15 Arizona Cardinals
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Kyler Murray needs protecting, and who better to do it than his former teammate at Oklahoma?
Most NFL defenses coming up against the Kliff Kingsbury offense will play with a linebacker spying the QB run. Humphrey’s ability to identify and call out the “mike” linebacker, as well as hold off the hog mollies in the trenches, will boost the Arizona front line.
The Cardinals have the potential to launch a devastating offense on the NFL, but keeping Kyler Murray pressure-free is key to their fortunes. The Sooners have taken pride in protecting mobile quarterbacks under Lincoln Riley. This young and exciting offense just got better with this first round selection.
#16 Chicago Bears
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Bears need a quarterback. Don’t be fooled by the preseason battle between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. Neither is the long term answer at the position. Unfortunately for Matt Nagy, the rest of the roster is good enough to keep them out of the sweepstakes for a top tier rookie.
There is no value in taking one of the remaining QBs here, and so they look to other needs. Step forward Jaylen Waddle. Yes, another ‘Bama first rounder. What d’ya know?
Waddle may see his stock fall due to his size (he is only 5’ 10”) and his limited slot role in 2019. However, the talent is there for teams to take a gamble on him in the first round. Waddle only had 33 receptions in 2019, but increased production is expected in 2020.
#17 Cleveland Browns
Quincy Roche, Edge, Miami
Every team should be interested in upgrading their pass rush. The Browns have one of the best defensive ends in the league in Myles Garrett. On the other side, Olivier Vernon was a serviceable rusher in the 10 games he played in 2019. His contract was reworked in the off-season to help fund a bumper deal for Garrett.
Roche transferred to Miami from Temple, where he had 23 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in three seasons. A year at the Hurricanes alongside Gregory Rousseau was supposed to boost his profile. There’s still enough talent there to suggest that Roche can be a first round pick even if the college season is compromised.
The Browns have paved the way for Vernon’s eventual departure by front loading his current deal. Roche can be the rookie to replace him.
#18 Tennessee Titans
Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh
Twyman was another early opt-out amongst college athletes. His performances and reputation at Pitt prior to that decision makes him a solid first round pick. Twyman had 10.5 sacks in a breakout 2019, which ranked second in the ACC.
Many expected Twyman to be the next great defensive lineman to come out of Pitt. Comparisons to Aaron Donald have been made, and have understandably boosted his profile. Twyman relished the prospect of wearing Donald’s #97 jersey at school. He won’t have the chance to improve in 2020, but the potential for greatness remains.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey left Tennessee in the off-season, and that roster hole is yet to be filled. They have picked up a bargain here by picking up a player with top level potential in the middle of the round.
#19 Minnesota Vikings
Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
Don’t get me wrong, the Vikings offensive line is far from terrible. You could even go as far to say it is good, but not great. In the games that mattered last season, the Vikings offensive line blinked. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked 5 times in the Week 16 against Green Bay. The same happened against the 49ers in the playoffs, with Cousins sacked 6 times.
The Vikings o-line is a generally strong unit, but could be strengthened on the interior, particularly at right guard. Ezra Cleveland, drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft, is a long term prospect at left tackle. Wyatt Davis of Ohio State is the #1 ranked interior offensive lineman in this draft class and solves a pressing need.
Davis could be an eventual replacement for the tandem of Josh Kline and Dakota Dozier at the right guard position. He did not allow a sack or a pressure in over 450 snaps in 2019. Good teams build strength on strength. That’s exactly what Minnesota can do here.
#20 Buffalo Bills
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Wade is infamous for the targeting penalty that ejected him from the CFP semi-final defeat to Clemson. An unfortunate decision for him, but by the letter of the law a correct one. Beyond that, he has been a solid slot corner at Ohio State. Don’t let that limit your expectations of him. Wade has the size, physicality and strength to stick with wide receivers at the next level.
Buffalo is strong across its roster, and can go in a variety of directions with this pick. In taking Wade, they solve a problem before it arises.
The Bills signed Josh Norman in free agency in 2020 to provide a short-term solution to a creeping need for depth at the cornerback position. Tre’Davious White is the leader of the defensive backs room in Buffalo, and Wade ensures long-term stability.
#21 Pittsburgh Steelers
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Steelers will eventually have to put a transition plan in place for Ben Roethlisberger, who will be 39 by the time of the 2021 Draft. The best QB left on the board, Jamie Newman, hasn’t done enough to command a first round pick. Instead, Pittsburgh can start protecting a young QB that isn’t even in the building yet.
Entering the 2019 season, the Steelers had 3 returning Pro Bowlers on the offensive line. Veteran left tackle Al Villanueva turns 32 this season, and Pittsburgh can now start to plan for their blind side blocker of the future.
Samuel Cosmi is a highly rated lineman out of Texas, but he is raw. At 6’7” and over 300 lbs, Cosmi is a huge unit to beat. His technique needs polish, and he can benefit from time to adjust behind the veteran Villanueva.
#22 New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)
Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
The Jets are able to return to the podium on Day One thanks to their trade with Seattle for Jamal Adams. Defensively, Gang Green needs both a pass rusher and depth at cornerback. Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham could be an option here, but the safer pick is Georgia’s Tyson Campbell.
Since taking a swing and a miss at Trumaine Johnson in free agency two years ago, the Jets have patched together a serviceable cornerback room. It is a position they cannot neglect any longer.
A 5 star recruit upon becoming a Bulldog, Campbell hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in Athens. However, at 6’2” and with impressive athleticism, the core attributes are there for him to make a name for himself in the NFL.
#23 Philadelphia Eagles
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Don’t be fooled by the Jalen Reagor pick in last year’s draft. The Eagles are still in need of wide receivers.
Bateman was excellent for the Golden Gophers, and loved by his teammates too. The support he received from P.J. Fleck after deciding to opt-out shows the respect he has from his HC, too.
He is coming off a 1,200 yard, 11 TD season at Minnesota from just 60 receptions. His average yards per catch in 2019 was 20.3, suggesting that he can be utilised as a deep threat in Philadelphia.
With a strengthened wide receiver room, Philly will have an offense to rival any in the NFC.
#24 New England Patriots
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Patriots could well pick up a defensive player here. However, they haven’t done so in the first round of the NFL Draft since Malcolm Brown in 2015. They have an equally important task to improve their wide receiver room.
N’Keal Harry didn’t produce as expected in his rookie season, but may see some improvements with a new man under centre in Cam Newton. If Harry can improve as an outside threat, a reliable slot receiver can open up NFL defenses.
Rondale Moore suffered injuries that limited him to just 4 games in 2019. He has shown glimpses of outstanding ability in a career disrupted by injury. At just 5′ 9″, he will likely be used in the slot role in the NFL. Julian Edelman is not getting any younger, and Rondale Moore is a ready made replacement.
#25 Indianapolis Colts
Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
Nasirildeen has had an impressive career with the Seminoles. In 2019 alone, he had 101 total tackles and 2 interceptions. Standing at 6′ 4″, he is a fearsome presence in the defensive backfield. He has shown versatility in the college game, playing deep, in the slot and at the line of scrimmage.
The Colts spent significant draft capital and cap on upgrading the offense in 2019. Now it is time to invest in the future of the defense. Nasirildeen will have to convince Chris Ballard that he is fully recovered from the ACL injury that ended his 2019 too soon.
#26 Green Bay Packers
Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
You’re welcome, Aaron Rodgers. That is if you’re still the Green Bay quarterback in 2021. If Jordan Love steps in for the Packers, he will be delighted to have a dynamic young receiver to work with.
The Packers were in need of depth at the position last year, and didn’t address the need. It is true that Matt LeFleur is keen to establish a run first offense. However a player of Surratt’s electric speed and physicality is too good to turn down.
#27 Dallas Cowboys
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Cowboys were unable to coax Jamal Adams to Dallas. Byron Jones left in free agency, and all of a sudden the Dallas secondary looks vulnerable.
Paulso Adebo stood out on a poor Stanford team in 2019. They managed just 4 wins, their worst return since 2007. He contributed with 8 interceptions in two years for the Cardinals.
He is the ideal candidate to play outside corner due to his size. His length makes for an effective pass defender. One question mark is over his physicality, as he weighed in at well under 200 lbs last season. He will have to bulk up and sharpen his technique at the next level.
The Cowboys aren’t yet in a desperate rush to upgrade at cornerback. It would be smart to solve that problem before it arises.
#28 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carlos Basham Jnr, Edge, Wake Forest
The Buccaneers look set on offense. For now. Old Man Brady and friends should keep things ticking on offense for the next two years.
The Buccaneers’ run defense was impressive in 2019, and they started to address the secondary at the top of the draft with safety Antoine Winfield Jnr.
This time out, they can improve their pass rush with Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jnr, who had 11 sacks in the ACC last year. Right now, he isn’t a three down player. He may be used as a third down rusher, but that will be enough to have an impact.
#29 San Francisco 49ers
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Etienne’s slide stops here. Any hopes of a reunion with Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville are ended by a 49ers team in need of an elite running back.
He is undoubtedly the best running back in this year’s draft class. At Clemson, he had over 1,600 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons. Etienne has the perfect combination of agility and strength, and is able to take any carry to the house.
Travis Etienne isn’t quite the prospect Saquon Barkley was in 2018, but is certainly worth a first round pick. The 49ers relied on Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman on the road to the Superbowl. They’ll need a reliable backfield threat if they want to return to the biggest game of them all once more.
#30 Baltimore Ravens
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Ravens used their Tight Ends expertly in 2019. Kyle Pitts is an athletic pass catcher, and would be the perfect fit in Baltimore.
Pitts had a breakout year in 2019, and will be desperate to take the next step if the SEC has a season this Fall. With Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth not playing in the Big Ten, Pitts is this year’s TE1.
#31 New Orleans Saints
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The New Orleans Saints are strong across their roster. With Jared Cook not getting any younger, it makes sense to pick up Freiermuth here. Most draft experts have indicated that “Baby Gronk” could go earlier in the first round. However, with a competitive Tight End draft class in 2021, he may slip to the back end of Day One.
Comparisons with Rob Gronkowski are possible, but premature. Freiermuth can block well, and has solid hands to make catches on short and intermediate routes.
Freiermuth averaged 12.3 yards per catch and had 14 touchdowns in two years at Penn State. The Big Ten won’t be playing football until at least 2021, which might hurt his draft stock. The Saints could well have picked up the bargain of the draft here.
#32 Kansas City Chiefs
Jackson Carmon, OT, Clemson
Jackson Carmon is used to protecting the blind side of elite quarterback talent in college. The step to the NFL is a big one. Carmon has shown he is more than capable of doing the dirty work in the trenches.
The Chiefs are set to be in cap space hell in the coming years. One person who is here to stay at Kansas City is their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Their offense is stacked with skill position talent. It would be wise to keep Mahomes protected in the long term.
At the college level, pass rushers have had a hard time beating him. If he can replicate this form in the NFL, the Chiefs are set for further success on offense.
Day Two Draft Steals:
Every year, Day Two of the NFL Draft begins with a chorus of “how did he end up here?”. Below are the names of some of the guys who may well have to wait until the second round to hear their name called by Roger Goodell.
Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
We saw some sold D linemen fall to Day Two in last time out. The same could happen again for Shelvin.
Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
Jordan is an athletic TE with great pass catching ability. As there are three guys in the position with a Day One grade, one could easily fall out of the first round. At only 6’3″, Jordan lacks the size that rivals Freiermuth and Pitts can boast.
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
Paye has been named at the top of Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List”. That’s not reason alone to assign him a team in the first round. If he gets the chance to play in his Senior year, he may do enough to warrant a Day One pick.
Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Holland is touted by many as a first rounder. So was Grant Delpit last time out, and the safety from DBU fell to Round Two.
Trey Smith, IOL, Tennessee
Smith’s talent is doubtless, but medical issues may warn teams off taking him too early. Smith had blood clots in his lungs in 2017, and they returned in 2018. Smith has had to avoid contact in practice at Tennessee, another reason to make NFL franchises wince.
And did I mention we have t-shirts?