Buckle up, it’s another Mock Draft Monday on President’s Day! For the purpose of this exercise, this mock draft will not feature any trades. However, there figures to be plenty of wheeling and dealing come draft day. The biggest trade rumors currently surround Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, which appears to be a fluid situation that we’ll continue to monitor. In the meantime, let’s examine how the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft could shape up in just 67 days!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
This pick is almost a hands-down, slam-dunk type pick. With Urban Meyer now at the helm for the Jaguars, there has been some minuscule talk of Justin Fields but that would seem to be unlikely. In the end, the Jaguars will select Lawrence and never look back. This pick is enormous for a franchise that has struggled to find a competent quarterback over the past decade.
2. New York Jets – Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
Did someone say quarterback struggles? The Jets must decide whether to stick with Sam Darnold or hit the reset button once again. With new head coach Robert Saleh taking over, the Jets will kick it off right and snag Justin Fields, who is a game-changing quarterback. The question remains to be seen if they hold onto Darnold or trade him for more draft capital. New York has plenty of needs, so selling Darnold and acquiring those pieces will go a long way for this long-time suffering organization
3. Miami Dolphins – DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins were thought to have made some questionable trades over the past few years but look at them now. Yes, they traded Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, while purging their defense. However, after just missing out on the playoffs this past season, they sit in prime position to improve, as they own a pair of first round picks. This could be a dream scenario, to reunite Smith with his college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami would be set up to take the next step. Offensive line help is also in consideration here but they can address that later in the draft.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama
The Falcons and Matt Ryan don’t seem desperate to move on just yet and they still own an offense that can win now. Current free agent Todd Gurley will be 27 with plenty of wear on the tires but this spot is much too early to select a running back. In addition, the receiving core remains intact with Julio Jones and Clavin Ridley. Which leads us to the selection of Surtain, who could help Atlanta return to playoff contention. Expect them to also address a potential replacement for Ryan and edge rusher later in the draft.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, Offensive Line, Oregon
Protect Joe Burrow! The selection of Sewell is a dream scenario for the Bengals. After seeing Burrow go down, along with Joe Mixon being unable to stay healthy, it shows that they need major help up front. Cincinnati invested highly last year, it’s only smart to protect your biggest asset. The Bengals are also candidates to trade out of this slot, pick up more draft capital and take an offensive lineman later in the first round.
6. Philadelphia Eagles – Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU
Even if the Eagles trade quarterback Carson Wentz, they still need receiving help for Jalen Hurts (or whoever lines up under center next season). They drafted Jalen Reagor in the first round last year and even though he provided a spark at times, it just wasn’t enough for this team. Veterans DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey may not return in 2021, while tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz can’t do it all by themselves. If Micah Parsons is still on the board at this point, he could also be a viable option.
7. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The new regime in Detroit made a huge splash just a few weeks ago. Long-time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams, in exchange for Jared Goff and two first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. They are also facing the reality of losing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Adding Waddle could entice Golladay to stay and it would be intriguing to see how that duo could help aide Goff moving forward.
8. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State
The Panthers are another organization that could look to go in a number of different directions. Do they stand pat with Teddy Bridgewater, trade for Deshaun Watson, or draft one of the top young quarterbacks in this draft? Bridgewater wasn’t horrible in 2020 but without star running back Christian McCaffrey, they struggled. The Panthers chose all defensive players in the 2020 NFL Draft and in 2021, they will start with a new quarterback. Lance could be in line for exciting things when paired up with offensive coordinator Joe Brady. If they needed, he could sit behind Bridgewater for a year and learn the ropes of the NFL.
9. Denver Broncos – Zach Wilson, Quarterback, Brigham Young
We have all heard this song and dance ever since Peyton Manning retired. Now that John Elway is out as the general manager, it is time to ring the bell again with another signal-caller, this time with the electrifying Wilson. Current starter Drew Lock doesn’t seem to be the answer. He may receive one more year behind center but he will likely be cut or traded with the start of the Wilson era. The Broncos have plenty of weapons to surround Wilson with and hopefully end the quarterback carousel in Denver.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
A year after losing cornerback Byron Jones, the Cowboys probably regret that decision. The highly talented Farley opted out of the 2020 season but laid down enough solid film during his 23 career games started for the Hokies to warrant a first round selection. Dallas is faced with the proposition of potentially losing two more cornerbacks this offseason via free agency, so this is a need that must be addressed.
11. New York Giants – Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State
After barely missing out on the playoffs in 2020, landing the 11th overall pick is not a bad consolation. The Giants are in dire need of a playmaker on defense that they can move around and create mismatches. Parsons can play as the outside pass-rusher or man the middle. They could be losing a few pieces among the front seven this offseason and the selection of Parsons would help soften the blow.
12. San Francisco 49ers – Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina
Although they had one of the better pass defenses in terms of yards and turnovers, the 49ers are facing the possibility of losing several defensive backs this offseason. While Horn won’t cure it all, he will undoubtedly provide that secondary with a much-needed boost. Yes, the 49ers need a quarterback; they could make a bombshell trade for Watson, since their franchise is currently in win-now mode.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, Offensive Line, Northwestern
There were plenty of analysts who thought Justin Herbert wouldn’t live up to the draft capital that Los Angeles invested in him. The 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year surpassed those expectations and then some. The Chargers are in the same boat as the Bengals, they must protect their franchise quarterbacks. With the pending departure of Hunter Henry in free agency, tight end Kyle Pitts could also be in consideration.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Before the season began, the Vikings traded for pass-rush specialist Yannick Ngakoue, to pair up with Danielle Hunter. The plan never came to fruition, as Hunter missed the entire 2020 season and Ngakoue played only six games for the Vikings before they traded him to the Ravens. Minnesota is in need of another presence off the edge. Rousseau can be just that, as he is still raw but learning under the tutelage of Hunter could help accelerate the process.