2021 NFL Mock Draft With Trades
We launch our dedicated 2021 NFL Draft page with a brand-new Mock Draft. This one includes trades, so buckle up and get ready to digest some ideas of what your team might do in April’s 2021 NFL Draft.
By James Pike
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We are well and truly in the off season of the NFL and if you thought the eight month wait between now and kick off in 2021 was going to be a dull affair then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.
The off season merry go round started before the season ended when the Detroit Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and two future first round draft picks, and just this week we saw Carson Wentz leave the Eagles’ nest when he jetted off the Indianapolis to link up with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich of the Colts. Silly season has begun ladies and gentlemen, and we know there will be plenty more twists and turns before all is said and done.
Even with no games to watch, the NFL still gives us excitement all year round, and there is simply no more exciting time during the off season than the NFL Draft. It is a time for hope for fans as they get to see the potential future stars of their franchise and hope and pray that those players end up being selected by their team. This is the time when everyone in the league has optimism, and anything is possible. But where does each prospect end up?
That is the ultimate question that fans ask themselves in the build up to the NFL’s annual celebration of the future. The only thing missing from the NFL Draft build up is a platform for fans, pundits and critics alike to voice their opinion as to where they thought certain players would end up. It’s a shame nothing like that exists right?
Ooh wait. Mock drafts!!
It is time to share with you our first mock of the year as we edge closer to April 29th. I will be including trades in my first addition of the mock draft as I want to try and predict as precisely as possible and there is no way we will ever get through the first round without a blockbuster or two. So, let’s dive straight into the first Gridiron Xtra mock draft of the year.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence - Quarterback, Clemson
In a shocking turn of events, the Jacksonville Jaguars take the most highly coveted quarterback prospect since the Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck back in 2012. There really isn’t any discussion to be had here in the Jacksonville War Room, as the Clemson Tigers superstar is practically everything the organisation could want in a franchise quarterback.
He is the perfect build for the position, and although he might not have the best arm talent, accuracy, vision, decision making or athleticism of all quarterbacks in this class across each measure, he is arguably second in every one of those categories when you evaluate this group. Lawrence combines all these qualities together to form the closest to a sure thing we have seen in years.
I think everyone in the footballing world would be shocked if any other player’s name is called when Jacksonville is on the clock on April 29th. There will be some consideration for rising prospect Zach Wilson of BYU or Justin Fields after his outstanding season for Ohio State. Outstanding tackle prospect Penei Sewell’s name will come up in conversations between Urban Meyer and new General Manager Trent Baalke, but in the end this pick is a no brainer.
Jacksonville finally has a marketable star who can hopefully turn the fortunes of Duval around for the next decade.
2. New York Jets
Justin Fields - Quarterback, Ohio State
This selection might not be as trendy as Zach Wilson who has skyrocketed up draft boards over the past few months, but it is the one that makes the most sense for the Jets organisation as they look to continue their rebuild.
Justin Fields in any other year could potentially have been the first overall pick, but in a year where the quarterback position is loaded, he finds himself being the second player selected. This however is not a knock on his talents as he might have the highest ceiling of any signal caller in this class.
Now I understand the buzz that has followed BYU’s Zach Wilson and why many now expect him to be the second quarterback taken in 2021. He has arm talent that is akin to the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen who are players that teams simply cannot game plan against when they’re at their best. However, during Wilson’s rise through the collegiate season, Fields was always viewed as the second-best quarterback in this class.
It seemed to me that many pundits and experts only started to mock Wilson ahead of Fields after the National Championship game. A game in which the Buckeyes lost to arguably the greatest college team in history in this year’s iteration of the Crimson Tide. Now I would understand if Fields went down in people’s estimations if he had a bad game, but Fields actually performed quite well considering the circumstances.
Alabama this past season were absolutely loaded from top to bottom with stars on both sides of the ball. Their defense was just as formidable as their offense in 2021 and Fields was able to avoid any turnovers while also throwing for a touchdown and making an impact with his rushing ability. If Wilson or Lance or any other top quarterback prospect went up against Bama this year in the National Championship game would they have done any better? Probably not.
I have seen absolutely nothing that should deter the New York Jets from selecting Justin Fields with the second overall pick this year. He has a great arm, is a fantastic athlete for the position with the potential to get better at the NFL level. There has always been question marks about how Ohio State quarterbacks will transition to the professional game due to the system that is run at The U, but when you compare Fields to previous Buckeye QBs to have entered the league in recent years he is the absolute best of the bunch.
The Jets get their franchise quarterback, and with a certain 23-year-old quarterback also on the roster we might be seeing them making moves to get back into the first round later.
3. Houston Texans
Miami Dolphins trade:
- 3rd overall pick
- 36th overall pick
- Houston’s 1st round pick in 2022
- Miami’s 2nd round pick in 2022
- Tua Tagovailoa
Houston Texans trade:
Houston selects Penei Sewell - Tackle, Oregon
The Houston Texans finally give in to Deshaun Watson’s demands as the biggest domino of the 2021 off season falls. Nick Caserio finally bites the bullet and trades away the team's franchise quarterback to quite frankly the only team in the league which has the assets to make such a trade work without sacrificing their entire future.
Miami is set up to win right now, and Deshaun Watson expedites the rebuild in South Florida to its completion. This is the absolute best outcome for the Houston Texans. By holding onto Watson and taking the risk that he doesn’t sit out the entire 2021 season Houston are only hurting themselves. They will still be a bad football team regardless of whether Watson is on the payroll or not, so they may as well strike now while the iron is hot.
It will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Dolphins to have to give up so many assets to get their man, but they will soon forget about it when they witness Watson tossing touchdowns left and right at Hard Rock Stadium. As talented as Tua Tagovailoa is, he no longer fits in with this group’s timeline. Miami is built to win right now, and they absolutely have to swing for the fences if they want to compete with the top dogs in the AFC moving forward.
The question now turns to what the Texans would do with the 3rd overall pick. In the aforementioned trade the Texans will hopefully secure their franchise quarterback. That is step one of the process. The second most important thing this organisation would need to do moving forward is find a way to protect its new signal caller, and no one in the 2021 draft class will be better at doing so than Penei Sewell of Oregon.
Sewell may well be the most talented player in this entire class, as his size, strength, athleticism and toughness are everything you could possibly look for in a left tackle. Sewell in most other years would be an absolute lock as a top 5 pick. There is no question of his talents. However, in a year where we have four potential franchise quarterbacks and a whole host of other difference makers at skill positions Sewell has found himself sliding down draft boards all over the place. Not in my mock draft.
If you’re going to lose Deshaun Watson, then you have to extract as much value as you possibly can in return. That is exactly what the Texans do here. Not only have you gained a potential star at quarterback, but the most complete tackle prospect to come out of college since Joe Thomas. This is the definition of a slam dunk pick for Houston, with the left side of their offensive line being secure for the next ten years.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Zach Wilson - Quarterback, BYU
Let me preface this pick by saying if I were the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons I would not be selecting Wilson here at pick number four. Don’t get me wrong; this has absolutely nothing to do with Zach Wilson as a player as I fully believe that he could turn out to be the best of the bunch when it comes to this class of quarterbacks in 2021. The reason I wouldn’t be selecting Wilson here is because he doesn’t make the Falcons better next season.
First of all, Atlanta doesn’t need a quarterback. Despite his advancing years Matt Ryan is still one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league. In 2020. Matty Ice threw for 4,581 yards, completed 65% of his passes and 26 touchdowns. Sure, he threw 11 interceptions last year, but he played behind one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. Julio Jones: Ryan’s favourite target also missed significant time due to injuries and the toxic nature of the locker room at the Mercedes Benz Stadium before Dan Quinn was relieved of his duties can’t have helped either. Simply put, Ryan wasn’t the reason the Falcons were so terrible in 2020.
The Falcons defense was mostly why this team only won four games last season, but unfortunately there isn’t much value in selecting one of the top defensive prospects at pick number four this year. They could target a player such as Micah Parsons from Penn State or Bama corner Patrick Surtain, but they aren’t going to push the needle too far and make this team competitive once more. Neither are the top receiver prospects in this class as the one positional group which thrived for the Falcons last season was their wide receivers. So, going for a skill position isn’t going to turn things around either.
Atlanta picking Wilson at fourth overall almost feels like a novelty at this point, but there simply aren’t many other options on the board that make much sense. In the long haul however, this could be looked back upon as the smartest move this franchise has ever made.
Zach Wilson is an outstanding prospect at the quarterback position. His ability to throw the ball on the run and make plays for his team is only exceeded by his special ability to throw the ball down the field. An effortless flick of the wrist flies through the air at breakneck speed whenever Wilson launches the ball down the field. It is rare to find a player with the type of deadly arm talent that the BYU product has, and when this type of potential falls in your lap at four in the draft you have to take advantage.
Wilson does have his drawbacks, and out of the top three quarterback prospects in this year’s class he has the most work to do to polish off the rest of his game. However, a year learning behind a former MVP in Matt Ryan would do wonders for his career going forward, and for new general manager Terry Fontenot he offers the franchise a safety blanket if fans start to turn on the team late on in the year. It’s a win-win for the Falcons as they secure their quarterback of the future whilst also keeping Matt Ryan for the final years of his prime.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase - Wide Receiver, LSU
The Cincinnati Bengals would have loved for Penei Sewell to still be on the board at pick number five in the 2021 NFL Draft, however if my prediction of the Miami Dolphins trading for Deshaun Watson were to come true, I find it highly unlikely that the Oregon tackle falls out of the top three. This leaves the Bengals with an entirely different question at the fifth overall pick. How do we build our offense around Joe Burrow?
There would be consideration of moving down at this point, as quarterback needy teams further down the draft board may start to get desperate, however I don’t believe the Bengals will receive an offer good enough to force them to move down from this spot. This is when things start to get tricky for Cincy.
They need to improve their offensive line and protect their franchise quarterback. That became abundantly clear when the former LSU star went down to a season ending knee injury. This was not just ominous for the Bengals; this was an alarm sounding for them to sure up their offensive line play next season and keep Burrow on his feet. However, there isn’t anyone on the board at pick number five worthy of the selection with Sewell off the board.
Rashawn Slater has risen up draft boards, and some even have him as their top tackle prospect, but the reality is that selecting the Northwestern star would be a reach at this point in the draft. Especially when you consider the talent available at this spot. As well as this: the Bengals are projected to have around $45 million in cap space available to them during free agency, so they will have plenty of spending power to address the offensive line this off season.
My prediction is the Bengals go best player available at this spot and take Burrow’s former teammate in Ja’Marr Chase. In 2019 the former Tigers wide receiver had one of the most dominant year’s in college football history from the wide receiver position. At the time just a sophomore, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards, averaged a ridiculous 21.2 yards per catch as well as hauling in 20 touchdowns. He was the best receiver on a team that also featured rookie sensation Justin Jefferson, and we all know what he did for the Vikings in 2020.
Chase is everything you could possibly ask for as a number one wide receiver in the NFL. He will walk to the top of the depth chart the minute he walks through the door in Cincinnati, Ohio, giving the Bengals an impressive young receiving corps in Chase, Tyler Boyd and another impressive rookie from 2020 in Tee Higgins.
The fit is just too good to pass up on here for the Bengals. Adding a player of Chase’s calibre to their already talented young roster would help take Cincy’s offense to the next level. Although their defense might not be able to slow teams down, Burrow would have all the tools at his disposal to keep the score close. This makes too much sense not to happen.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Kyle Pitts - Tight End/Wide Receiver, Florida
A new era has begun in Philadelphia, as on the 18th of February the Eagles traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 third round pick and a conditional second round pick in 2022. Speculation had been running rife since the end of the 2020 season as to whether or not Wentz would be an Eagle next year, and on Thursday we got our answer. The Jalen Hurts era is officially here.
I believe that this is a smart move by Philly as this current iteration of the Eagles is simply not the team it once was a couple years ago. Doug Petersen is gone, Wentz never truly recovered from the injury that ended his Super Bowl run and the franchise has been in disarray ever since. Now we have some clarity to the situation, and the Eagles can finally begin their next chapter.
Hurts was good in a limited sample size towards the end of the 2020 season. His dual threat abilities were on full display and he gave the team their best chance of winning down the stretch last year. He does have to work on his game and needs to find a balance between being a passer and a runner but having more weapons at his disposal will absolutely help him develop at quarterback. Luckily for the Eagles one of the most versatile threats in college football falls into their lap at pick number six.
Many will argue that picking a tight end so high in the draft is a reach, but Gators star Kyle Pitts is so much more than just a pass catching tight end. He is so dominant in the passing game, as his size and physicality is too much for corners and safeties to deal with, and he is too fast and athletic for linebackers to be able to keep up. If you looked up the meaning of mismatch in the dictionary you might just find Pitts’ face staring back at you.
Now there would be work to be done for the Eagles before selecting Pitts at sixth overall. Zach Ertz is still under contract, and he would have to be moved before Philadelphia even considers selecting the Florida standout. Not even the Eagles are crazy enough to roll with three tight end sets as their primary offense next season, but as previously mentioned Pitts is a lot more than just a tight end. His route running and athleticism allowed him to play one on one on the outside against some of the best corners in the country last year for the Gators meaning that the Eagles could easily draft Pitts with the intention of transitioning him into a fully-fledged wide receiver.
This would be a waste of his talents though, as Pitts has the ability to be a Swiss army knife for Shane Steichen’s offense next season and provide them with the ultimate matchup nightmare to contend with. Kyle still has work to do at the next level don’t get me wrong. He isn’t a dominant blocker, but with Dallas Goedert still under contract he will be able to guide Pitts along throughout the early part of his career.
The sky is truly the limit for Pitts when it comes to his potential as an athlete. It is certainly a risk to take him this high in the draft, but the risk could turn out to be worth the reward.
** TRADE ALERT **
7. Washington Football Team
Detroit Lions trade:
- 7th overall pick
- 19th overall pick
- 3rd round pick in 2021
- 1st round pick in 2022
Washington selects Trey Lance - Quarterback, North Dakota State
Having already found their starting quarterback in 2021 the Detroit Lions decide to load up on future assets and move back in the draft. The Washington Football Team are the ones to pull the trigger, jumping up an incredible 12 places to grab their quarterback. Washington has to be aggressive if they want to upgrade their man under center and that's exactly what they do here.
Some may argue that the Lions trading back so many spots is a little bit far-fetched, however I believe that the new front office in Detroit are thinking about the future of this team, and by moving all the way down to 19 they were able to acquire another first round pick in 2022. This trade would give the Lions organisation three first rounders in next year’s draft, putting themselves in prime position to turn things around for a franchise that has spent years treading water.
For Washington, this trade was made out of desperation, but also necessity. There is no way the North Dakota State prospect would have fallen outside of the top 10 in this draft. Not with the Panthers and Broncos sitting at eighth and ninth, respectively. Both of those teams have aggressively pursued an upgrade at quarterback this offseason so far, and Washington had to get above them in order to get their man.
It is a lot to give up for Washington, however if there is one team who might just be a QB away from contention it's the Football Team. Their defense is legit, with one of the most dominant defensive lines in all of football. They also have weapons on offense such as Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. This team is ready to take the next step and Trey Lance could push them over the edge.
Riverboat Ron Rivera has found success in the past with a mobile quarterback under center, and Lance might even be a better athlete than what Cam Newton was back in his prime. Lance is one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire class due to his size, athleticism and potential.
The NDSU prospect will need to work on his game during OTA's and training camp to adjust to the professional game, but Washington has the perfect mentor already rostered to help with Lance's development. Alex Smith will act as a teacher to Lance and hopefully help guide him through his rookie season with the Football Team.
Washington gets their quarterback, and the Lions add more assets to their war chest. It's a big risk for Washington, but one which has the potential to pay off in the long run for one of the league's most exciting young teams.
8. Carolina Panthers
Rashawn Slater - Tackle, Northwestern
The Carolina Panthers haven’t exactly been hiding the fact that they want to find an upgrade at the quarterback position during the offseason. Despite Teddy Bridgewater having a solid first season with the franchise last year it appears that the Panthers don’t believe that the 28-year-old former first round pick is the answer at the games most important position. Unfortunately for Carolina I believe that they are going to be the team left at the altar this year in their pursuit of a new quarterback.
They have heavily pursued Deshaun Watson ever since news broke that the Texans superstar wanted a change of scenery, and although they are currently in the midst of hard negotiations with Houston for the former Clemson Tiger, I believe that another team: the aforementioned Dolphins are going to pip them to the post and snatch Watson from under their noses.
They missed out on Matthew Stafford, and other options such as Carson Wentz or Derek Carr aren’t a major improvement over what they already have. Meaning that Scott Fitterer and the rest of Carolina’s front office would likely look to the draft to find their quarterback going forward. However once again the Panthers are left hanging.
This is a likely scenario which could play out on draft night for the Panthers, being stuck with the eighth overall pick and all four of the top quarterback prospects in this class being off the board by the time they make their selection. The question then turns to what on earth do the Panthers do now. It has become clear that this organisation’s number one priority during the 2021 offseason is to get an upgrade under center, but with all the best options now either finding a new team or off the board, which are the other position groups could use an upgrade?
If you are going to be stuck with Teddy Bridgewater next season, you have to give him the best chance to win football games, and the best way to do this is to keep him on his feet. Taking Rashawn Slater so high is definitely a reach at this point. I believe he has established himself as the second-best lineman in this class due to his versatility to play either guard or tackle. Some even have him going ahead of top tackle prospect Penei Sewell, but in my opinion Sewell is the more complete prospect.
This is not to say that Slater would be a bad pick at this spot. The Northwestern product is a very scheme friendly prospect, who could potentially be plugged in at any spot along the offensive line in his rookie season and make an impact. He is relatively undersized at tackle, but if you watch tape of how he performed against Chase Young in 2019 you will see why scouts are raving about his talents. If Slater can go toe to toe with the former second overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft class, then he should be able to transition to the pro game without many drawbacks.
This might not be a flashy pick for the Panthers, but sometimes the safest option is the best option. Slater can be plugged in anywhere along the offensive line and he would improve this group going into next season.
9. Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II - Cornerback, Alabama
Another team who are in the market for a quarterback are the Denver Broncos. However, it appears that Denver isn't as desperate as a team like Carolina. They made an offer for Matthew Stafford, but the deal breaker appears to be that the Broncos wanted to keep hold of Drew Lock in any negotiations with the Lions, which ultimately cost them their shot at the former Lions quarterback. So, it is clear that this organisation believes that Lock has the potential to make a leap next season. Attention now turns to improving the rest of the roster.
Denver isn't as far away from being competitive as you would expect. They have plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, with the ground game being one of their biggest strengths. Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay form one of the most underrated running back duos in the league.
They have a talented young group of receivers headlined by last year’s first round pick, Jerry Jeudy. Noah Fant continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best young tight ends. So, there are weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and if Drew Lock can rebound from his sophomore slump next season then this team can put points on the board.
It was their defense which let down this team last season, which is surprising as this has long been one of Denver’s greatest strengths. Missing former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller couldn’t have helped matters and overall, the Broncos were ravaged by injuries last season. Therefore, it is imperative that new general manager George Paton addresses this during the offseason, and there aren’t many defensive players in this draft class who could have the impact that Alabama corner Patrick Surtain II could have.
The son of the former three-time Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain Snr, the Crimson Tide corner is one of the most pro ready prospects in this draft class. At 6’2 and 202 pounds he is the ideal size for the position, as he can go toe to toe on the outside against almost any receiver at the next level.
He plays physical which is something all NFL teams look for when evaluating the cornerback position and being the son of a former NFL player means that he should have a high football IQ at the position. He will already know exactly what to expect from the bigger, stronger and faster athletes he will find himself against at the next level.
He is also a solid open field tackler who has solid technique as he wraps up the ball carrier and limits yards after the catch. Something which is very important at the NFL level. Everything about Surtain’s game will transition well in the pros, and he is a plug and play option for the Broncos next season. Other corners may have a higher ceiling than the Bama star, such as Caleb Farley or Jaycee Horn, but Surtain is the most complete prospect right now, and that is exactly what Denver needs.
The Broncos can sure up one side of the field and continue to build a formidable secondary alongside Justin Simmons who they will hopefully hold onto during free agency.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Caleb Farley - Cornerback, Virginia Tech
The mini run on corners continues as the Dallas Cowboys take the rangy Virginia Tech product Caleb Farley. Dallas needs to improve their secondary, and adding another playmaker here in Farley will go a long way to helping improve a defense which was one of the worst in football last season.
Some consideration will go into the offensive line here, as the Cowboys need to get younger in their front five. Once one of their greatest strengths, has now morphed into one of their biggest weaknesses. Injuries did take its toll on the offensive line last year in Dallas, losing perennial Pro Bowler Tyron Smith early in the season as well as Zach Martin also being banged up throughout the 2020 campaign.
Dallas would have loved for Rashawn Slater to still be on the board here, as he would have brought much needed youth to an ageing front five in Arlington. However, that isn’t the case, so Dallas addresses another issue for this team going forward.
Dallas wasn’t a terrible defensive football team last season, especially down the stretch as they were able to improve during the final phase of the season. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t look to improve on this side of the ball, and Caleb Farley has the potential to take this secondary to the next level.
Farley can slot in alongside Trevon Diggs and instantly make an impact. It would give Dem Boyz two talented young corners, hopefully securing the position going forward. Diggs performed well as a rookie when you consider the circumstances, as he was often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best receiver most games. Farley helps alleviate some of this pressure.
Just like the previous pick Patrick Surtain, Farley is a big, physical corner with almost the exact same measurables. At 6’2 and 207 pounds Farley has the height and length you would look for in a shutdown corner. His speed and athleticism means that he can run with the best of them, and during the 2019 season the last time scouts had the chance to watch him he allowed a passer rating of just 26.8. That is impressive and should be a solid indicator of his talents going into the 2021 NFL Draft.
This was essentially a coin flip here, as both Farley and Surtain have all the skills you look for in a true number one corner at the next level. It comes down to a team’s preferences, and in this scenario the Broncos favoured Surtain’s intangibles over Farley’s athleticism. Dallas however don’t mind as they are able to grab one of themselves a playmaker on defense who should help this group improve overall next season.
11. New York Giants
Devonta Smith - Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Heisman Trophy winner’s slide in the draft comes to an end, as the New York Giants are ecstatic to have him fall out of the top 10 and into their welcoming arms at the 11th overall pick.
The Giants are a difficult team to mock, as they could go in a variety of different directions with their selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. The G-Men did improve in the 2020 NFL season, with the defense taking the biggest leap. Smart acquisitions last offseason paid off as James Bradberry was excellent in his first season with New York. The secondary as a whole was a strength for the Giants as Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney all had their moments last year. Leonard Williams swapped locker rooms in New York and made an impact during his first season with the Giants, and Blake Martinez helped to sure up a linebacking corps which was greatly improved in 2020.
It was on the offensive side of the ball where the Giants struggled the most. It all starts with the quarterback, as Daniel Jones’ struggles continued during his second season in New York. His decision making continues to be an issue, as he was once again prone to turnovers in his sophomore campaign. He was able to showcase his athleticism and his potential as a dual threat, but until the mistakes stop, he won’t be able to take that next step in his career going forward.
Granted it was difficult for Jones to find much rhythm with his receivers as the Giants were plagued with injuries throughout the 2020 season. Golden Tate rarely saw the field, Darius Slayton missed time and Evan Engram also spent some time on the physio’s table last year. Not to mention that star running back Saqoun Barkley went down for the year in just his second game of the season. All in all, it was a bad season for the Giants offense in 2020 so fortunately one of the best weapons in college football falls into their laps.
Devonta Smith is a playmaker. There are no two ways about it. This past year with the Crimson Tide he was able to establish himself as one of the most dominant wide receivers in college football history and became only the fourth wide receiver in history to win the Heisman. That should tell you everything you need to know about the kind of an impact that Smith could have at the next level, and he is exactly what the Giants need.
Many will talk about Smith’s frame in the build up to the draft. At 6’1 and only 175 pounds his slender frame will be a concern for scouts, however that shouldn’t be a major concern for teams going forward. NFL strength and conditioning programmes are amongst the absolute best in the world, and Smith should be able to add a few pounds without losing any of the explosiveness that makes him such a nightmare to deal with for defenses.
If Smith were to fall outside of the top ten there is absolutely no way the Giants would pass up on selecting him. There is a risk that his game won’t transition to the NFL, but I believe wholeheartedly after watching his tape that he will find a way to have a successful NFL career. He is a humble, hardworking kid and he might be exactly what the Giants are looking for to take them to the next level.
12. San Francisco 49ers
Christian Darrisaw - Tackle, Virginia Tech
The San Francisco 49ers should not be selecting here. I just wanted to get that out of the way now. This team is just too good to be selecting in the top 15 of the NFL Draft. They’re stacked on both sides of the ball, and the 2019 NFC Champions should not be selecting this high. That should give you some indication of how bad the injury crisis was for the city by the Bay.
I won’t go into too much detail, as we all know just how devastated this team was by injuries last season, but no team would have been able to have a successful season if they were hit as hard as what the 49ers were by the injury bug. It’s amazing that this team was able to win as many games as they did when you look back at it. As bleak as it got in San Fran last season their fans should be optimistic of a quick turnaround next year.
For now, the 49ers have the luxury of being a team well and truly in contention with the opportunity to take one of the top prospects in college football. Adding depth to an already deep roster. It is difficult to identify any areas of need for San Francisco, so identifying who they may be targeting in the 2021 NFL Draft is tough. However, I think I have found the answer with Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw.
Joe Staley’s retirement during the 2020 off season was a bitter blow for the organisation, as he was a perennial Pro Bowler throughout his career. The 49ers never really replaced Staley, but Darrisaw might just be the man for the job. He is almost the perfect size for the position at 6’5 and 315 pounds. He has surprising athleticism for the position and should be able to slide straight into the starting line up next season either at left tackle, or moving over to the right hand side while he adjusts to the professional game.
He has solid footwork, and there is room on his frame to put on more size which should help him in run blocking which is obviously San Francisco’s biggest strength on the offensive side of the ball. What is most impressive about Darrisaw is that he was a starter as a true freshman for Virginia Tech and he improved every single year throughout his tenure with the Hokies. This is a good indicator that there is still room for Darrisaw to improve as a pro and the 49ers could potentially find themselves another franchise left tackle for the next decade.
Darrisaw isn’t as pro ready as Sewell or Slater, but he has the potential to become a premier offensive linesman, and help San Fran establish themselves as one of the NFC’s top dogs once again in 2021.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Kwity Paye - EDGE, Michigan
Defensive end is one of the toughest positions in this year’s class to evaluate. However, there is one player in this year’s class who has separated himself from his peers as the best prospect in 2021, and the Los Angeles Chargers couldn’t be happier.
The Chargers have to be happy with what they saw last year, as their first-round pick in 2020 Justin Herbert took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, beating out the likes of Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson to take home the award. Herbert for all intents and purposes looks like an absolute slam dunk of a selection who could go onto being the face of the franchise moving forward.
Now the Chargers look to build up their defense, and Michigan edge prospect Kwity Paye should give them exactly what they’re looking for. One of the biggest issues for Los Angeles’ defense last season was their inability to get to the quarterback, as they only managed 27 total sacks on the year. Joey Bosa was still an absolute menace along the defensive line, but he would often find himself double teamed as there simply wasn’t enough pressure coming from elsewhere to justify leaving Bosa in a one-on-one situation.
Losing Melvin Ingram early in the season was a big blow for the Chargers, but as Ingram continues to decline with age it is now time to look towards the future, and Paye is exactly what they’re looking for. He might not be a complete prospect right off the bat, but he is a freaky athlete at the position, and he has made strides in each of his four seasons with the Wolverines.
From a physical standpoint Paye is everything you could possibly want as a pass rusher. At 6’4 and 274 pounds he is the ideal size to play a 4-3 hand in the dirt defensive end and should slot in perfectly alongside pro bowler Joey Bosa. Paye is definitely more of a bull rusher at this point in his career rather than finesse, but spending a year or two learning from one of the best in the business in Bosa must be an enticing prospect for the Chargers. This is one of those selections that just makes sense.
There will be cries for Micah Parsons at this spot, who could walk in day one and be the best linebacker on the team. There will also be a case for drafting Bama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and giving Justin Herbert even more weapons to throw the ball to, but in the end Paye may have more potential than both of those prospects, and the Chargers intrigue in Paye’s physical skill set is too much to pass up. This could sneakily be one of the best picks of the entire draft.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Gregory Rousseau - EDGE, Miami
One of the most intriguing prospects to evaluate in the entire 2021 NFL Draft class is Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau. He is an absolute freak of an athlete who some teams are going to fall in love with in the build up to the draft, and the Minnesota Vikings are the ones to pull the trigger.
There are risks to selecting Rousseau at 14th overall. The 6’7, 260-pound behemoth only has one year of college tape to his name, as he was yet another player who decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. For some prospects sitting out was probably the best option, as is there anything a player like Ja’Marr Chase could have done this year to improve his stock? For the case of Rousseau however it would have greatly benefitted his stock if he were to have played this past year.
The Miami product is a raw talent. We have already established that he is a freakish athlete at the position, and he has the ideal size and measurable to be a perfect fit as a 4-3 defensive end. The issue with Rousseau is that he needs to work on the fundamentals of the game and is a project who will need time to adjust to the professional game. He will need time to develop his skill set as NFL tackles are much better athletes compared to anything Rousseau has faced at the collegiate level.
The Vikings could use help on both sides of the line, as their offensive line could also be an area the team looks to improve during the offseason. Finding a way to keep Kirk Cousins on his feet and more importantly open running lanes for Dalvin Cook will help this team get back into playoff contention next season. However, after the failed experiment of acquiring Yannick Ngakoue last year Minnesota tries once again to improve their pass rush and takes a chance on the potential of Rousseau.
15. New England Patriots
Mac Jones - Quarterback, Alabama
The Cam Newton experiment in New England was a failure. There is no other way to put it, and I would be shocked if the former league MVP lines up as the Patriots starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. Bill Belichick is in the market for a new quarterback once again, and this time around they look to address the issue in the draft by selecting Mac Jones.
It’s been no secret that New England is on the lookout for a new quarterback next season. They were never in the running for Matthew Stafford, but they did make the Lions an offer which is a good indicator that New England wants to find an upgrade under center. I can see the Patriots making a move for one of the veterans who might be available before the draft. Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater or even a return of former Tom Brady back up Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the move this off season, however I believe that the Patriots remain patient and draft their quarterback of the future.
Mac Jones isn’t on the same level as the four quarterbacks selected before him as a prospect, and there is a sizeable drop off in terms of perceived talent and potential from Trey Lance down to Jones, but the former Alabama star might just be the most pro ready of anyone outside of Trevor Lawrence in this group of quarterbacks.
Much has been made of Jones’ apparent lack of arm talent, but as I mentioned in my scouting report of the Crimson Tide signal caller, I believe this is more of a ball placement issue. He can make all the throws he will need to at the NFL level, and despite the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert redefining what a great arm is in the NFL; players like Mac Jones can still find success at the next level.
It’s true that Jones doesn’t have elite arm talent, but the Patriots offensive system doesn’t need its quarterback to be able to throw 60 yard bombs every possession. This could be the most perfect scheme fit in the draft when you look at it. If New England can improve their receiving corps through the deep class of free agents at the wide receiver position, then they could bounce back in 2021 and give Jones the best possible chance at success in Foxborough.
There will be consideration for defensive players such as Micah Parsons, Jaycee Horn or even Christian Barmore, but with a whole host of difference makers returning next season after opting out of 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic the Patriots will be confident that this group will be able to return to their 2019 form which was one of the most dominant defensive units in all of football.
Jones is the Patriots choice here, and I believe that if anyone can get the absolute best out of the Crimson Tide product, it’s Bill Belichick.
16. New York Jets
Arizona Cardinals trade:
- 16th overall pick
New York Jets trade:
- 23rd overall pick
- 4th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
- 7th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft
New York select Jaylen Waddle - Wide Receiver, Alabama
The New York Jets decide to get aggressive in order to jump up the order and grab one of the premier receivers in the NFL Draft. Jaylen Waddle’s name is the last of the “big three” receivers to be called in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Jets make a move to get Justin Fields as many weapons as possible in New York.
Let’s talk about the Cardinals first. There isn’t much in terms of value and fit here at pick number 16. The only player who makes sense here for the Cards is Jaycee Horn, but he might still be on the board later on, so it might be worth the risk for this team to move down and acquire more assets later on.
For the Jets this move makes a ton of sense. They could have waited at 23rd overall and selected one of the tackle prospects left on the board in this deep lineman class. However, one of those prospects will slip out of the first round entirely, and the Jets will have the opportunity to grab one on day two. The opportunity to select one of the best receivers in the draft won’t be there at the 23rd overall pick and the Jets decide to jump up and grab him while they can.
Waddle is a fantastic prospect in his own right, but his play has kind of been overshadowed by the outstanding season that Devonta Smith had with the Crimson Tide. Waddle profiles as being an elite slot receiver in the NFL, as he combines exceptional change of direction with explosive speed. Waddle might just be the fastest player on tape in college football throughout the 2020 season.
He would also compliment the weapons that the Jets already have on the roster. Jamison Crowder is the do it all guy, while Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman provide the deep threat. Waddle could slide in as the Swiss army knife for this offense as a player you can put in motion. Defenses will have to always account for his whereabouts and he could be a matchup nightmare for Gang Green.
His size is of course a concern. At 5’10 and just 182 pounds he has a slender frame like fellow Bama receiver Devonta Smith, but this isn’t a major concern. Especially if he is going to be working mostly out of the slot at the NFL level. His route running could still use some work, but this Jets team is a young squad that has time to develop together.
The Jets round out their day one selections by taking Justin Fields and Jaylen Waddle back to MetLife Stadium. That is what you call an absolute win!!
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Micah Parsons - Linebacker, Penn State
Every year we see one of the top prospects in the draft fall for one reason or another. This year it is Penn State’s star linebacker Micah Parsons, who falls into the very thankful grasp of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jon Gruden gets his hands on one of the most impressive athletes in the entire class, as Parsons is the definition of a sideline-to-sideline defender. He has outstanding cover speed and finds himself in and around the ball on every single down. This is the exact type of player that the Raiders need to help improve their defense. Last year the Raiders ranked 25th in the league in total defense, and that simply isn’t going to cut it if they want to stand a chance of overthrowing the Kansas City Chiefs as the Kings of the AFC West.
Parsons instantly improves a linebacking corps that was one of the worst in football last season. Despite being recruited as a pass rusher in high school Parsons was converted to a linebacker during his time with the Nittany Lions. Although he still has to polish the finer details of linebacker position specifically pass coverage; he instantly projects as an impact player in the run game. His explosiveness will allow him to clog up games quickly and stop runners from getting to the second level.
The Raiders are a team who could be just a couple of pieces away from contention and adding an impact player like Parsons at 17th overall in the draft is the dream scenario for the Black and Silver. Parsons could help elevate the Raiders to being a true rival for the Chiefs going forward.
18. Miami Dolphins
Rashod Bateman - Wide Receiver, Minnesota
The Miami Dolphins already have their prize from this draft with the aforementioned trade for Deshaun Watson, but the Dolphins managed to work out a deal with the Texans where they get to keep the 18th overall pick, and with that pick they decide to get their new franchise quarterback another weapon to throw the ball to.
Rashod Bateman is one of the best route runners in college football, and this will transition immediately in the NFL as the Dolphins look to give Watson as many weapons as possible. Bateman is a great athlete. At 6’2 and 210 pounds he is a big bodied wide receiver who can win at the line of scrimmage, as well as having some of the best hands of the 2021 class of receivers.
He would instantly be the number two option on the depth chart alongside DeVante Parker and would give Watson two towers to throw the ball to down the field. Both being capable of fighting for the ball and making big gains.
There isn’t a significant drop off in terms of overall talent from the top three receivers in this class to the rest of the field, and the former Golden Gopher is projected to be the best of the rest. Not much to talk about here what it comes to this selection. Miami is ready to win now and adding a weapon of the quality of Bateman to an offense that has Watson spraying passes all over the field is a recipe for success. Expect Miami to be a contender for many years to come if this is how their offseason goes.
19. Detroit Lions
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Linebacker, Notre Dame
The trade that sent the Washington Football team the 7th overall pick means that the Detroit Lions now occupy the 19th position in the 2021 NFL Draft. It was a big step down for the Lions, and many will question whether the organisation would be willing to trade down so far with all of the top stars finding a new home. The Lions would have been tempted to try and make a move back up the order, but there wasn’t really a specific player who the Lions could have targeted.
Ultimately the Lions avoid temptation to try and move back up and land one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire class. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is undersized for the linebacker position, but what he lacks in size he more than makes up for it with his speed and explosiveness. The former Fighting Irish star has a unique ability to find the football and plays the game at a different speed to everyone else around him. Owusu-Koramoah masks the weakness of a lack of size, by being the best athlete on the field. However, at the NFL everyone is an outstanding athlete, so the question will be whether or not he can make up for his limitations in size.
For a creative defensive coordinator, Owusu-Koramoah projects as being a do it all tool who could act as hybrid safety/linebacker. On one play Owusu-Koramoah could be in the box on run defense, and on the next lined up against a receiver chasing them down the seam. That is the type of versatility that scouts are looking for in the modern NFL, and Owusu-Koramoah can be that weapon for the Lions defence.
The biggest concern here is that the former Notre Dame product will never be able to play the role of a traditional linebacker in the league. He won’t be effective as a traditional Mike linebacker, and Owusu-Koramoah should look at adding some size to his frame if he wants to develop his game, but I will say this: Darius Leonard is the same weight as Jeremiah, and the Colts linebacker is one of the absolute best defensive players in the league.
Detroit will be tempted to look at wide receivers in this spot, as there is a chance that Kenny Golladay could walk in free agency, but if the Lions ever want to compete with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, they have to improve their defense. Owusu-Koramoah could be a great fit in the Motor City.
20. Chicago Bears
Samuel Cosmi - Tackle, Texas
The Chicago Bears would have loved for Rashod Bateman to still be on the board here, but the Miami Dolphins snatched up the physical wide receiver out of Minnesota. This forces the Bears to pivot to another position of need along the offensive line by selecting Texas Longhorn Samuel Cosmi.
At 6’7 and 309 pounds Cosmi profiles athletically as an ideal left tackle prospect in the future. He has played on both the right and left side of Texas’ offensive line throughout his three seasons in the Lone Star state and has impressed whenever he has been on the field. In total the big man played a total of 368 offensive snaps last year, and only allowed pressure on the quarterback eight times. That is exceptional production from a player who has a wealth of experience against the best competition.
As a run blocker Cosmi is dominant as he makes his way to the second level and has solid technique to lock onto a defender and move them out of the way. This is where his greatest strength lines in his ability in the running game. Despite his size he is also an impressive athlete. He isn’t going to blow you away with his speed and quickness, but he is above average for a man of his size.
I do believe there is work to be done in order to fill out his frame. He isn’t as comfortable in pass protection, but hopefully by adding a few pounds of muscle during the off season he can develop as a pass blocker and eventually slide over to the left side of the offensive line after spending his first season or two over at right tackle.
Cosmi is not the finished article, but with the way that the Bears offseason is projected to go it might be quite some time before this team is competing with the Packers for NFC North supremacy. They have missed out on the big names at the quarterback position and could potentially be losing their best offensive player in Allen Robinson in free agency. This could be a year of transition for the Bears, so adding a prospect like Cosmi to the roster could be one that pays off in the long run.
The Bears have a lot of holes to fill during the offseason, but by adding Samuel Cosmi they could sure up their offensive line for years to come.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Alijah Vera-Tucker - Tackle, USC
The reunion of Frank Reich and Carson Wentz solved the biggest problem the Colts had during the offseason: who would line up under center for the team next year. Wentz will fill the hole left by Phillip Rivers’ retirement, and the Colts use their first round pick to replace another recent retiree this year.
Anthony Castonzo, the former Pro Bowler announced his retirement at the end of the 2020 season. This leaves a glaring hole on the offensive line that the Colts need to find a way to fill, and they do that here with the selection of former USC Trojan Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker is one of the most versatile linemen in this draft class, as he projects as a player with the skill set to play anywhere along the front five and perform well. He is very athletic for a lineman with a bit of a mean streak which everyone is looking for from a tackle prospect coming into the league. He isn’t easily moved by bull rushers and has the skill and footwork to keep up with smaller, faster edge rushers as well.
This is just an all-round solid selection by a competent franchise. Indianapolis identified which areas of need they have to address during the offseason early and go out of their way to find the best possible piece to fill that role. The Colts will also have the luxury of having bundles of cap space during free agency, so I fully expect this team to be better next season.
By adding Vera-Tucker through the draft the Colts pick up one of the safer offensive linemen in this class and will once again look to challenge the Tennessee Titans for divisional supremacy in 2021.
22. Tennessee Titans
Jaycee Horn - Cornerback, South Carolina
The Tennessee Titans are a Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde football team. Their offense is one of the best in all of football with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith providing the fire power, but their defense is one of the league’s worst. They struggled to stop anyone in 2020, and that ultimately became their undoing in a one sided playoff defeat to the Ravens on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans go about fixing that need here with the selection of South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.
Horn, just like Surtain and Farley taken before him is a big physical corner, with ideal size for the position. Horn projects as a tough man to man corner in the NFL, at 6’1 he has the size and length to go toe to toe with the big bodied receivers in the pros, and he is athletic enough to run with just about anyone down the sideline.
Another of Horn’s best qualities is his ball skills as he gets his hands up to disrupt the receiver’s rhythm when catching the football, and can also snag an interception if he is able to win the outside battle. In man coverage very few receivers were able to get the better of Horn throughout his college career, but he needs to develop his understanding of zone schemes if he wishes to take that next step at the NFL level.
The biggest issue in Horn’s game is also his tackling technique. This is something the Titans coaching staff will have to work on during OTAs and training camp. Receivers at the NFL level are going to torch teams who don’t wrap up, and if Horn is to go on to have a successful professional career then this is something he has to improve going forward.
There are risks selecting Horn here, as of right now he is purely a man coverage defensive back and a lot of work is needed to iron out some of the flaws in his game. However, the Titans can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they have selected a player with the potential to sure up one side of the field and help improve their defense instantly next season.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Jalen Mayfield - Tackle, Michigan.
Three out of the last four picks have now been tackles, and Jalen Mayfield is arguably the most opinion dividing of them all. In terms of raw potential Mayfield could very well end up being one of the best linemen in this class, and the Arizona Cardinals snap him up here at pick 23.
The Cardinals would have loved for corner Jaycee Horn to still be here at this point, but the Titans’ desperation to improve their defense was just too great and they snatched him up before the Cardinals had the chance to draft him. Arizona’s biggest problem is on the defensive side of the football, but there isn’t any real value here to go for so instead they address another area of need.
The former Wolverine Mayfield is the ideal size at the position at 6’5 and 318 pounds. He is also one of the most athletic tackles in this class, as he is very comfortable moving in space and gets to the second level very quickly. His footwork isn’t exactly where it needs to be, but this could be attributed to his limited playing time at the collegiate level. Mayfield has only started 15 games for Michigan, so that could be an area of concern for scouts as there simply isn’t as much tape on Mayfield as there is on other prospects.
However, one thing you will see will see when you watch tape on Mayfield is drastic improvement from year one to year two. During his first season with Michigan he looked out of sorts and was often blown by in pass protection. Year two saw Mayfield as almost an entirely different prospect and one the Cardinals should be willing to take a chance on.
When you have a quarterback with the type of athleticism as Kyler Murray running the offence you need linemen who can move, and Mayfield has all the potential in the world to develop into a dominant run blocker at the next level. There will be growing pains sure, but in the end, Mayfield is such an intriguing prospect and the Cardinals continue to build around their franchise quarterback.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Travis Etienne - Running Back, Clemson
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a unique position here at the 24th overall pick. Defensively they are one of the best teams in all of football, and although he will be 39 years old when the 2021 NFL season gets underway, Ben Roethlisberger is still an elite quarterback with a bunch of weapons to throw the ball to. The Steelers are almost an elite football team, but one area of weakness Mike Tomlin would like to address is the ground game, and there are no players more dynamic out of the backfield than Travis Etienne of Clemson.
The former Tigers running back has played at a high level throughout his collegiate career, and 2020 may have been his crowning achievement. He is the ACC’s all-time leading rusher, and finished his final season at Clemson with 914 yards off of 164 attempts for 5.4 yards per carry to go along with 14 touchdowns. It isn’t just his ability as a runner that makes Etienne so enticing, as he is a playmaker in the passing game who is more than capable of taking a screen pass to the house or running routes along the sideline.
Etienne is the most complete back in college football, and I fully believe that he will be the first one taken in this year’s draft. Najee Harris of Alabama might be a better runner, and Javonte Williams is climbing up draft boards, but if Etienne is still available at the 24th overall pick then the Steelers should not pass him up.
One of the issues that scouts will point to with the former Tiger is the wear and tear he might have on his body, after playing three seasons in one of the toughest conferences in college football. Clemson also featured Etienne heavily in their offense, so some teams might be put off wondering if the workload will catch up to him. Luckily the Steelers already have James Connor on the roster who helps lighten the load for number 9.
Connor could get the majority of first down work, while Etienne can enter the game as a change of pace back to help add some spark to the Steelers backfield which was sorely lacking in 2020. This is a solid pick for Pittsburgh as they add another young versatile weapon to a team that already has Diontae Johnson and sensational rookie Chase Claypool on their roster. Watch for the Steelers to have another deep run in 2021, and for Etienne to make considerable contributions during his rookie season.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams)
Javonte Williams - Running back, North Carolina
I would have absolutely loved to have Trevor Lawrence paired up with his college running back Etienne in Jacksonville but alas, the Steelers ruined everyone’s fun. However, the Jaguars are able to snag an exceptional consolation prize in the North Carolina star.
Williams has been climbing draft boards since the start of the 2020 season, and it is no surprise to see why he has established himself as one of the top runners in college football. Of the big three backs who could potentially be first rounders, Williams might be the most explosive of them all.
When I watch Williams, I see the most pro ready back in this draft. He is very patient and trusts his blockers to create the space for him before hitting the hole with ferocity. In terms of speed, he might be a tick slower than Etienne when you watch his tape, but he is a much more physical runner out of the back field. His ability to break tackles is uncanny, and at 220 pounds he has the type of body which should hold up to the beating he will take in the NFL.
Many will argue that the Jags have more important holes to fill, especially when you consider the outstanding rookie season that undrafted rookie James Robinson had in 2020, but you can never have enough playmakers in the running game and that is exactly what Williams can be. By giving Trevor Lawrence a solid one-two punch out of the backfield in Robinson and Williams Jacksonville are giving Lawrence all the tools he needs to be successful in the NFL, and that is exactly what Williams will provide here in this spot.
26. Cleveland Browns
Nick Bolton - Linebacker, Missouri
The Cleveland Browns pushed the Kansas City Chiefs all the way in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs last month and had the chance to stop the Chiefs and put the ball in Baker Mayfields hands with the game on the line inside the two-minute warning. Then Chad Henne happened. The Browns defense which had been so exceptional all year round couldn’t make the stop when it needed to the most and it ultimately cost them their shot at making the Super Bowl.
So Cleveland adds even more firepower to the defensive side of the ball by selecting Nick Bolton for Missouri to add more youth to their linebacking corps. Bolton doesn’t exactly jump off the page from an athletic standpoint. At 6’ and 232 pounds he is relatively undersized for the position, however what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in ability and toughness.
His explosiveness allows him to get to the ball quickly and he delivers powerful hits to the ball carrier trying to force a turnover. He plays well above his size, and that is something that fans of the Browns will grow to love over time. His speed and quickness allow him to shine in the passing game too, as he is more than capable at running with tight ends in pass coverage. All in all, there is a lot to like about the former Tiger and he definitely has the potential to excel in this Cleveland Browns defense.
You would like for Bolton to add a couple more pounds in the build up to next season, and he does need to work on his decision making at the next level. He oftentimes doesn’t get the right angle when closing on the ball carrier, and shifty running backs and wide receivers in the NFL will be able to exploit this and simply slide out of the way of contact, but all in all Bolton should do well as a professional.
If Cleveland wants to build a truly dominant defense, then adding a player of Bolton’s calibre would definitely speed up that process.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Terrace Marshall Jr - Wide Receiver, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens fielded the most dominant ground game of any team in the league last season, and it wasn’t even close. The Ravens averaged 199 yards per game on the ground last season, and with Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards and J.K Dobbins all set to be back next season the Ravens will look to continue their dominance in the running game. Where Baltimore does need to improve however is at wide receiver and that is exactly who they target in this year’s draft.
Terrace Marshall Jr filled the role left behind by Justin Jefferson for LSU this past season, and if you take a look at his stats from 2020, they are eerily similar. In fact, Marshall Jr was even better. He caught 106 passes during his career with LSU for 1,594 yards and 23 touchdowns. That is outstanding production from a wide receiver at the college level, and his play this season has gone seriously unnoticed due to the dominance of the two Alabama wideouts.
In a small sample size as being the out and out top receiver with LSU Marshall Jr dominated, and that is exactly what the Ravens are looking for to help improve their offense. At 6’3 and 200 pounds Marshall has ideal size to project as a deep threat wide receiver, and he should be able to stretch the field enough to help players such as Mark Andrews and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown thrive underneath.
This is a fit that makes too much sense for the Ravens to pass up on. This is a roster that is built to compete for years to come, and by adding Marshall Jr to the lineup they will give Lamar Jackson even more weapons to throw the ball to. Minor issues of drops and his ability as a blocker should not deter the Ravens from taking the former Fighting Tiger and continuing to build a perennial contender down in Baltimore.
28. New Orleans Saints
Jaelen Phillips - EDGE, Miami
The New Orleans Saints are in a phase of transition, as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history Drew Brees could ride off into the sunset after an outstanding career in the NFL. New Orleans has to find a way to remain competitive with a roster that is built to win now and a quarterback in Taysom Hill who could be set to assume the role of quarterback for the team.
One way to do this is to continue to improve on their outstanding defense, and that is exactly what Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips should do. Phillips doesn’t really have any weaknesses to his game, as he is equally adept in defending against the run and against the pass. Phillips was a 5-star recruit for UCLA out of high school, and though things didn’t work out during his tenure there due to injuries he more than made up for it in 2020 with Miami.
Phillips is the prototypical NFL defender as he provides a little bit of everything with his play along the defensive line. There are issues which I would like to address when evaluating Phillips though. Particularly his injury issues as he has had several during his college career. He is also a little sloppy with his hands and could find himself lost when up against the elite tackles at the professional level, however the Saints are a tremendous organisation at developing talent, so any issues Phillips might have entering the league should be addressed down in the Bayou.
New Orleans should be very competitive for years to come, and let’s not forget this team beat the Super Bowl champions twice during the regular season, so it is clear this team is talented. The biggest question mark will be at quarterback for the Saints next season, so a safe pick of Phillips in the draft eases the pressure on the coaching staff moving forward.
29. Green Bay Packers
Zaven Collins - Linebacker, Tulsa
The Green Bay Packers are a difficult team to mock for, as this is a roster with very few holes to fill. Offensive they will be set for as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center. He has a unique chemistry with Davante Adams which means it doesn’t really matter that Green Bay doesn’t necessarily have an out and out wide receiver two on the roster. The offensive line is brilliant and on the defensive side of the ball their secondary is one of the best in football.
The only real weakness on the Packers you would consider is the play of their front seven. This isn’t really a weakness as Green Bay still fielded a top ten run defense this past year as well as being able to apply pressure to the quarterback. This is one of the most complete teams in the NFC so the Cheeseheads can go in whatever direction they like in the draft. That is why I have them selecting intriguing linebacker Zaven Collins with the 29th overall pick.
Collins is huge for the position, at 6’4 and weighing in at 260 pounds he isn’t your prototypical linebacker. However, despite his size he has a versatile skill set that current defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would love to have for his defense. Despite his size, Collins is able to move around the field swiftly whether as a pass rusher or dropping back in coverage, and also being a force in run defense.
This is a smart decision for the Packers, especially this late in the first round. Collins can slide into the starting lineup straight away and continue to elevate Green Bay’s defense to the next level. Teams picking so late usually don’t have many glaring weaknesses, so being able to take the best player available who can also improve your team in the long run is exactly what the Packers do here by taking the former Hurricanes star.
30. Buffalo Bills
Najee Harris - Running Back, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills’ meteoric rise over the past few seasons has been one of the major talking points in the NFL, as Buffalo in the space of just a couple of seasons have transformed themselves from a team in the midst of a rebuild to one of the most explosive teams in all of football. That all starts with quarterback Josh Allen who is one of the best dual threats in the league. Stefon Diggs headlines an outstanding group of receivers who helped Allen take the Bills to the AFC Championship game this past year.
In the end Buffalo came up short against the Chiefs, but the Bills are just a couple of pieces away from being arguably the most complete team in the entire league. Defensively they are able to match up against anyone, and we have already talked about the dynamic nature of the Bills passing attack. The only real weakness for Buffalo in 2020 was their ground attack.
Luckily for Buffalo, Najee Harris is still on the board when they pick at 30, and they rush to the podium with the former Crimson Tide running back’s name on the card. Harris is everything the Bills could possibly want out of the backfield and provides the team with something completely different to what they already have on the roster.
Harris is a physical runner with the ball in his hands. At 6’2 and 230 he is a big back with room to add even more muscle onto his frame. He usually wins in collisions and more often than not falls forwards rather than going backwards after making contact. No one finishes their runs better than Harris in college football, and he reminds me of Dalvin Cook the way he locates a defender and drops his pads into contact.
Running the football is just one of Harris’ strengths mind you, as he is more than capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, and Bama routinely drew up plays just so Harris could catch the ball in open space. This shows that despite profiling as a power back in the NFL, Harris does a little bit of everything well, and that is exactly what the Bills have been missing.
If I can find one critique of Harris is that he is an upright runner. In the NFL where defenders are faster and smarter, they will be targeting the ball when making contact trying to force turnovers. Harris needs to be able to get down low when finishing his runs and although he is no slouch, I do believe that both Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams are more explosive with the ball in hand. That however is nit-picking, and every bit of tape suggests that Harris will be successful in the NFL.
Buffalo thanks their lucky stars that Harris falls to them, and he helps to unlock even more potential for the Bills’ already terrifying offense.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Leatherwood - Tackle, Alabama
If the Super Bowl taught us anything, it's that you can’t have enough depth along the offensive line, and the Kansas City Chiefs will tell you first-hand that this isn’t something to be taken lightly.
The Chiefs were banged up on the offensive line heading into the biggest game of the season, and I’m not trying to take away from what the Buccaneers were able to achieve as I believe that even if KC had their full complement of linemen available during the Super Bowl they would have struggled to contain the Bucs’ pass rush, but when you are missing three starters along the line you will always struggle in the biggest games. That is why the Chiefs address this issue here with the 31st overall pick by selecting Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood.
Leatherwood is the sixth member of this past year’s iteration of the Crimson Tide to be selected in the first round, and when you watch Leatherwood on tape you can see why he is also considered as a first-round talent. He can play at either tackle or at guard like he has done during his three seasons down at Tuscaloosa, and he profiles as someone the Chiefs can plug in year one and be productive.
He is an aggressive blocker, who moves people in the running game as well as being nimble enough to stay in front of some of the best edge rushers in the nation. He sometimes struggles against craftier edge rushers who have a variety of different moves they use to get past linemen, and that is why at least in the early part of his career we could see Leatherwood move to guard as he adjusts to the professional game.
At the end of the day, it is hard to find many weaknesses on a team that has just made it to back-to-back Super Bowls, but if this year has taught us anything with the number of injuries that teams suffered through the year. It’s that you can never have too much depth, and by selecting Leatherwood, KC adds to the depth chart whilst also finding a potential long-term replacement for Eric Fisher who isn’t getting any younger. Leatherwood is a fantastic pick here at 31st overall.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kadarius Toney - Wide Receiver, Florida
Rounding out the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team who shocked the world this past season by upsetting the all-powerful Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs’ leap from being a team on the rise to Super Bowl Champions is one of the most incredible stories in football, and it wasn’t just because the G.O.A.T moved to Florida.
Tom Brady helped to take this team to the promised land, but the years of expertly putting together this roster is the biggest reason the Bucs call themselves World Champions this year. Their defense is outstanding, and they have weapons on the offensive side of the ball with arguably the best group of wide receivers in the entire league. So why do I have the Bucs taking a receiver with their first-round selection this year? Well, it might be very difficult for Tampa Bay to keep the band together next year.
Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are set to become free agents this off season, and both of those two players will likely receive a significant pay rise. Especially Godwin, who in the past two seasons has established himself as the league’s best slot receiver.
Brown is also probably looking to get paid this off season too, as the 32-year-old returned from his suspension and didn’t miss a beat. It’s going to be very difficult for the Buccaneers to keep both of them, and that is why I have them selecting Kadarius Toney with the 32nd overall pick.
I believe that Godwin walks during free agency. As much as I would love to say that the Bucs find a way to keep him, I just don’t see any way they can afford to match what other teams will be offering him on the open market. By taking Toney, Tampa Bay may have a readymade replacement ready to go. He is electric when he is in space and has speed and agility in to make multiple defenders miss. Despite being under six feet tall he plays much bigger than his height and projects as a high end slot receiver at the next level.
Toney is also a former high school quarterback, so his football IQ is off the charts, which means despite being relatively new to the position he will learn quickly and there is no better mentor in all of football than Tom Brady. Having Mike Evans and potentially Antonio Brown also in the locker room will help Toney adjust to the professional game very quickly and I believe he is a fantastic selection for a team which is looking to maximize value going forward.
Winning a Super Bowl is one thing but remaining competitive and getting back there next season is arguably even tougher. The Bucs have to do whatever they can to stay competitive while the greatest player of all time still wants to play football. By adding a player with the potential of Toney, the Bucs can continue their dominance next season and could well be in the running for the Lombardi Trophy once again when the playoffs begin in 2022.
Phew!! We made it. There it is folks. My full first round mock draft for the 2021 NFL Draft. Let me know what you think. Did your team take the player you want? How did I do? Let us know on Twitter or join our group on Facebook and start the debate!
See our complete Big Board of prospects here and decide for yourself who your team should pick.
All this and more in our 2021 NFL Draft Guide where you can find more mock drafts, scouting reports and prospect positional rankings within the most comprehensive UK based 2021 NFL Draft site.