• Ben Matthews

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Hot Takes, Fallers and Huge Surprises

As the 2021 NFL Draft is only a few hours away, we put our collective excitable minds together and composed a final Gridiron Xtra writer collaborative mock draft. Hot takes, fallers, reaches and some huge surprises – this mock has it all!

The four writers who took part in this all took turns to pick for a team. There was no pre planning and no discussion prior to the mock draft, just a lot of fun and debate! The only rule? No trades allowed!


Shout at Ben Matthews, James Pike, Mark Ross and Tayyib Abu on Twitter if you have a case to argue regarding your team. This is what we WOULD do – not what we THINK will happen.


Enjoy.


1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB – Clemson


Pike: “Not much to say here. The Jacksonville Jaguars select the quarterback who has been the consensus number one overall pick for over a year. Hopefully adding a player with Pro Bowl potential for the next ten years.”


2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB – Ohio State


Matthews: “I believe that Justin Fields should be the pick here. He is a better player than Zach Wilson at present and is a better prospect, with a higher ceiling to boot. He is closer to being NFL ready, mechanically better, athletically superior and therefore comes with the added bonus of being a more realistic dual threat option at the position. Fields has an equally good arm compared with Wilson but displays greater touch and accuracy. This should be the pick.”


3. San Francisco 49ers: Zach Wilson, QB – BYU


Ross: “Since Justin Fields didn’t drop to number three the San Francisco 49ers get the next best quarterback available in the draft. The BYU prospect can step into a strong offense and have plenty of weapons available from day one. He also has a strong offensive line to keep him upright. Possibly the best team to go to as a rookie quarterback.”


4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB – North Dakota State


Abu: “The NDSU product owns a cannon throwing arm with a legitimate dual threat. While Lance is raw, the Falcons can afford to sit him while he develops with former MVP Matt Ryan.”


5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT – Oregon


Pike: “There was a lot of temptation to take either Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase here, but if I was drafting for the Bengals, I come back in round two and grab another receiver. No other player makes more sense to me here than Sewell to Cincinnati. The Bengals sure up the left-hand side of the offensive line for the next ten years.”


6. Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR – Alabama


Matthews: “With Sewell off the board, the pick comes down to not simply the best player available, but which of the best players would fit the Dolphins’ offense best? Kyle Pitts is very tempting, but the ‘Fins need a fast twitchy guy who can easily create separation underneath. Ja’Marr Chase is my number one wideout, but Waddle feels better here. Devante Parker will return as the X-receiver and Will Fuller will stretch the field vertically. Waddle is the closest thing to a Tyreek Hill type in the draft with elite open field quickness and can shift through the gears effortlessly. He will allow Tua to move away from a ‘dink and dunk’ offense and utilise his undoubtedly strong arm whilst maintaining a familiarity from his college days at Alabama. Year two is all about building confidence for the young signal caller and Waddle will expediate that process most efficiently.”


7. Detroit Lions: Kyle Pitts, TE – Florida


Ross: “The fact that Kyle Pitts was still available here makes this selection one of the easiest of the draft. Kyle Pitts is an absolute game changer and can make any offense look good. Jared Goff is likely going to be the starter come week one and he gets a huge weapon here. The tight end/wide receiver hybrid is going to be an instant star. Offensive rookie year candidate right here…. if Goff can get him the ball.”


8. Carolina Panthers: Ja’Marr Chase, WR – LSU


Abu: “Chase is the outstanding wideout in a loaded class. With Sam Darnold now QB1 in Carolina, he’ll need a number one target to throw to. Chase worked with OC Joe Brady who helped guide the 2019 LSU Tigers to a dominant championship winning campaign. It could be a match made in heaven.”


9. Denver Broncos: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB – Notre Dame


Pike: “For me JOK is a player we could see taken a lot higher than anyone anticipates on draft night. The hybrid linebacker/safety is one of the best coverage players in this entire class and his speed and athleticism would help take the Broncos defense to the next level. Denver has more important needs, but Owusu-Koramoah could be one of the best players to come out of this draft when we look back in a few years’ time.”


10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB – Alabama


Matthews: “This pick feels set in stone. Although Jerry Jones certainly knows how to create a box office smash, he will take the safe option here and snag the best corner in the class. This immediately upgrades an ailing secondary with the highest floored DB available. Surtain has a natural patience to his game and does not panic, meaning that he is likely to get burned less often than what the average rookie CB would. Also possessing a frame that will allow him to be comfortable in press, Surtain has the upside to be considered amongst the elite at his position early on in his NFL career.”


11. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB – Penn State


Ross: “With all the main weapons off the board, this came down to the best position player available. Luckily for the New York Giants that turned out to be Micah Parsons. In his last year of college football, in 2019, he was a tackling machine who had a knack for knocking the ball free. Blake Martinez gets a partner in crime in that Giants defense.”


12. Philadelphia Eagles: Devonta Smith, WR – Alabama


Abu: “The Heisman Trophy winner’s size may hold him back. However, his attitude, grit and hard work meshes well with the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles must provide for former Alabama man Jalen Hurts and pairing him with the ‘Bama star is a smart idea.”


13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT – Northwestern


Pike: “If the Chargers aren’t moving up for Sewell, then they’re likely to move down and add more assets in the future, however without trades this decision was easy. Slater was still on the board here and he walks into the starting line up to help protect Justin Herbert. Los Angeles needs help across its entire offensive line and the former Northwestern star has the versatility to play either guard or tackle. No brainer selection if he falls in this draft.”


14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT – Virginia Tech


Matthews: “An ideal situation would see me trade back here, but the rules state no trades allowed! The Vikings go into another season with their O-line in a state of flux. Brian O’Neill and Garret Bradbury remain at right tackle and center respectively, and Ezra Cleveland should be allowed to continue to develop at guard after finishing his rookie season strongly (PFFs 3rd ranked rookie guard). The left side of that line is trickier to nail down however, and in this scenario, Vikings fans may be calling for the versatility of Alijah Vera-Tucker at this juncture. However, I feel as though Christian Darrisaw has a higher ceiling at tackle than AVT and have faith that he can develop into a quality blind side protector at the NFL level. Some footwork refinement with regards to deeper pass sets is required, but he will immediately come in and benefit Dalvin Cook and the run game no matter which side of the line he ends up calling home. He possesses an extremely powerful punch and overwhelming functional power, but could turn into something much, much more. This, providing that his passion for the game and desire to improve matches his obvious athletic upside. Can blow hot and cold, but the sky is the limit if he puts it all together.”


15. New England Patriots: Caleb Farley, CB – Virginia Tech


Ross: “Another player who sat out the 2020 season but had put on a show in 2019. Farley has tremendous size and is capable of competing against bigger wide receivers in the NFL. Farley is also great at getting down and getting involved in the run game. A big addition to the Patriots defense.”


16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB – South Carolina


Abu: “The aggressive, grabby cornerback will add a level of competitiveness to the Cards backfield. After losing franchise heartbeat Patrick Peterson, Horn is an athletic cornerback who plays with an edge.”


17. Las Vegas Raiders: Teven Jenkins, OT – Oklahoma State


Pike: “For Mike Mayock it is imperative he addresses the O-Line on draft night, and Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State fits the bill as a player who you can plug and play from day one. He started 35 games for the Cowboys and is one of the safest prospects in this class. He might not have a high ceiling, but he fills a need for a franchise desperate to stay in contention in one of the toughest divisions in all of football.”


18. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB – Tulsa


Matthews: “The Dolphins linebacking corps has some serious tackling machines in the form of Jerome Baker and Benardrick McKinney but neither of the pair are athletic, playmaking specimens to the level of Collins. He is an instinctive player who is able to appear in the right place at the right time in coverage, whilst possessing explosive traits to get downhill and sideline-to-sideline in a hurry. This seems like a great fit for Head Coach Brian Flores and the selection will enable him to utilise the OLB in myriad different creative ways on blitz packages and coverage snaps. A Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in this scheme.”


19. Washington Football Team: Gregory Rousseau, Edge – Miami


Ross: “A division that has Dak Prescott (and all those weapons), Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and the potential that Jalen Hurts needs players to be able to get the quarterback and stop the run. In 2019 Rousseau racked up 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Explosiveness off the ball and an athletic ability when dropping back into coverage has Rousseau ready to dominate in the NFL.”


20. Chicago Bears: Kadarius Toney, WR – Florida


Abu: “The Bears offense is in a state of perpetual fluctuation. Andy Dalton and Allen Robinson aren’t the long-term solutions. The quick feet of Kadarius Toney could develop into a reliable WR1 in the future. Playing him opposite Robinson should ease him into the NFL.”


21. Indianapolis Colts: Jaelan Phillips, Edge – Miami


Pike: “Despite having injury concerns I believe that Jaelen Phillips is the most talented edge in this class. Filling the role of the aforementioned Rousseau he dominated for Miami in 2020 and has all the tools to succeed at the next level. wide receiver or offensive line is a need for Indianapolis, but the potential of Darius Leonard and Jaelen Phillips on the same defense is too enticing to pass up.”


22. Tennessee Titans: Elijah Molden, CB – Washington


Matthews: “Perhaps a surprise to some, but Elijah Molden should be a solid second round pick at worst. The Titans have far more holes going into the 2021 season that many would believe, and their secondary remains a real weak link. Receiver is the obvious pick here, but Tennessee needs a high character player on the back end of their defense who plays without fear. Molden is exactly this and has a certain Tyrann Mathieu/Budda Baker quality to him. Having almost exclusively played in the slot at Washington, some may feel this is a reach, but nickel corner is practically a starting position in the league these days and Molden is the best in the class. He allowed a mere 44.9 passer rating in 2020 and is an effective and physical tackler for his size, displaying a rare natural playmaking ability, snagging five interceptions across the past two years and forcing 12 incompletions in 2019 alone. Forget about perceived positional value: whoever grabs Molden has a serious player on their hands.”


23. New York Jets: Travis Etienne, RB – Clemson


Ross: “The first running back off the board is the Clemson prospect, Travis Etienne. New York failed with their experiment with Le’Veon Bell and the time has come to find a new star in the backfield. With a new quarterback, a pass-catching back is a great security blanket for him. Etienne is great coming out of the backfield and when he is just running the ball, he is explosive and great in open spaces. A complete overhaul to the Jets offense should have them competing in 2021.”


24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Mayfield, OT – Michigan


Abu: “The Steelers’ offensive line is a mess. With cornerstone players like Maurkice Pouncey leaving, Pittsburgh must re-establish a nasty front. Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield is a powerful, stocky blocker. Especially in the running game. If Pittsburgh plans to contend with a veteran QB in the AFC Crèche, a strong offensive line matched with a tough running game is the way forward.”


25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Eric Stokes, CB – Georgia


Pike: “One of the best athletes in the entire class lands with the Jaguars with their second pick on day one of the draft. Jacksonville addressed corner in free agency by adding Shaquill Griffin, but you can never have enough difference makers in the secondary, and Stokes has the potential to be a game changer for Urban Meyer. There is a significant drop off between the top three corners to the rest of the pack in this draft, but the former Bulldog could flourish in the right system.”


26. Cleveland Browns: Ronnie Perkins, Edge – Oklahoma


Matthews: “Perkins just excites me. The Browns are a team that is talent rich and so will be looking for upside and a player to develop across from Myles Garrett. They have brought in Jadaveon Clowney, who provides pressure, but doesn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet. Clowney is also an excellent run defender, and this is an area where Perkins needs work, so the idea of him sitting and learning behind Clowney for a year as part of a pass rush rotation should help him refine this aspect of his game. Irrespective of his sometimes wild run defense, Perkins has serious untapped potential at the position and just pops off the screen, looking simply like a mean dude off the edge. He has excellent size and a truly powerful first punch that he translates into an effective speedy finish when rushing the passer. He gets off blocks cleanly and has an intimating cat-like pounce and is able to take down ball carriers with aplomb. An immediate contributor that will add an element of extra fear to that front.”


27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR – Minnesota


Ross: “If the Baltimore Ravens do anything other than picking a wide receiver at this point then the streets of Baltimore will be filled with rioters. Lamar Jackson is a quarterback and not a running back, but to be a quarterback he needs a weapon. Strong hands and the ability to go up and catch the ball will make him a great red zone threat for the Ravens.”


28. New Orleans Saints: Davis Mills, QB – Stanford


Abu: “The Saints need to find the answer to replacing Drew Brees. Davis Mills is a tough, composed thrower with a ton of arm strength. Mills is incredibly raw and inexperienced, but, with the QB situation in NOLA set in the short-term; Sean Payton gets a raw talent to develop and evaluate for a year.”


29. Green Bay Packers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL – USC


Pike: “I was torn between Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore here, but ultimately went with my head rather than my heart. As much fun as it would be watching Moore terrorize the NFC North alongside Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and co., I went with the safe pick and took the former Trojan standout. I would be shocked to see Vera-Tucker fall so far in the draft, so taking him here is one of the steals of the first round here.”


30. Buffalo Bills: Kwity Paye, Edge – Michigan


Matthews: “A bit of a fall for Kwity Paye and he perhaps does not deserve this, but the Bills would be running to the podium in this event. Paye has played all along the line for Michigan and is effective rushing both inside and from the edge. On run defense, he maintains gap discipline, but sometimes plays too high and allows offensive linemen to control him, but this is a coachable aspect of his game that will be addressed by the coaching staff in Buffalo. Overall, perhaps the most well-rounded edge player in the draft, Paye will be the long-term replacement for either one of the aging Jerry Hughes or Mario Addison and could form an impressive tandem with 2019 first rounder A.J. Epenesa. This is a long-term outlook that echoes Brandon Beane’s ethos as he aims to cement a sustained success for Buffalo atop the AFC East.”


31. Baltimore Ravens: Azeez Ojulari, Edge – Georgia


Ross: “Yet again another Ravens pick being made by a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. A pick that I really don’t want to make but one that makes sense for the Ravens. Ojulari can get to opposing quarterbacks and in a division that is filled with quality edge rushers, the Ravens finally get one. Look out Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Burrow, and Baker Mayfield, the Ravens mean business.”


32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joseph Ossai, Edge – Texas


Abu: “The Bucs don’t have too many holes on the roster. So they are likely looking for depth players that can evolve into starters. Ossai is a thick, powerful athlete who could become the heir apparent to Jason Pierre-Paul. At 32, Paul isn’t the answer long term. Ossai is a 3-4 OLB pass rusher that could take Paul’s position in a year’s time.”

So that is it! Some surprising picks, but also some unexpected fallers. Mac Jones drops to round two, no Najee Harris in round one and a slide for Christian Barmore completes a Alabaman triumvirate expected to go in the first frame, but not selected here.


There is much to debate, so tell us what you think on Twitter or join our group on Facebook and start the debate!

See our full prospect Scouting Reports here.


#NFLDraft #NFLDraft2021

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