2021 NFL Mock Draft With Trades
Updated: Apr 29
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.