This 2021 draft class is surely special and loaded with intriguing players all throughout. Here, I have my first 32 picks with some very possible and very exciting trade scenarios as teams look to secure their favorite prospects in the first round.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
The Jaguars begin the second season of their full on rebuild following a promising 2018 season where they appeared in the AFC championship game.
Drafting Lawrence with the 1st overall pick gives them a very solid foundation for their offense, which already features young talent with RB James Robinson and WRs D.J Chark and Laviska Shenault. The Clemson QB has been highly sought after throughout his entire collegiate career.
He possesses a strong and talented arm with pinpoint accuracy on the field, plus he’s a very consistent QB who rarely makes mistakes. Of all the QBs on the board, Trevor has the best resume, best statistics, and the most clean tape. Although Minshew Mania was a fun stint, it’s time for Jacksonville to start fresh with a more talented field general and a new coaching staff.
- New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB BYU
The Jets decided to move on from Sam Darnold this offseason with a deal that sent him to the Carolina Panthers, and find Zach Wilson as his replacement with the 2nd overall pick this draft.
Wilson is a very intriguing prospect who exceled this past season at BYU. He has the most arm talent in this draft and I think has one of the higher ceilings in this class. His mobility and ability to make every single type of throw on the field makes him extremely valuable.
The Jets still need desperately need offensive line talent to keep Wilson upright. If they can protect him, he could develop into a Patrick Mahomes type of player. However, the Jets are far from a solid roster and need a lot of help all across their roster before they can expect to win more games.
I don’t think trading a young, franchise worthy QB just to replace him with that same hole filled roster was the best move, but what’s done is done. Wilson has a ton of upside and checks all the boxes of a modern day NFL QB.
- San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State
The 49ers traded a ton of assets to move up to the 3rd spot of the draft, and I think the 49ers management really loves a dual threat guy like Trey Lance.
Lance is the best athlete of all the QBs in this class. His has a very powerful arm, excels throwing on the run, and is a legitimate threat running the football. He would completely evolve an already dynamic Kyle Shanahan offense, especially with the heavy run focus they showcased during their Super Bowl run just 2 years ago.
Plus, the biggest knock on Lance as a prospect is “lack his competition” and him needing time to develop into a professional QB. Luckily for the Niners, they have the opportunity to let Jimmy G. start for another year or two while they let Lance knock off the rust from the lost 2020 season and adapt to the NFL level.
With a roster that looks to contend for a championship right now, drafting a high ceiling guy like Lance give them a shot to be good for another decade if he pans out.
- Denver Broncos (via trade w/Atlanta): Justin Fields, QB Ohio State
In a very John Elway type move, Denver moves on from their (seemingly) busted QB draft pick and goes after a much more solid prospect in Justin Fields.
As a QB, Fields is a big, athletic prospect with a huge arm. He had a Heisman worthy season in 2019 and was very solid this past season as well– carrying Ohio State to the NCG with banged up ribs.
Denver is desperate for a starting QB who can lead their offense. They have a very solid defense and possess a very talented group of weapons offensively with WRs Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, TE Noah Fant, and RB Melvin Gordon. The right QB could push them to be very competitive in the AFC.
Is Fields the right guy though? Ohio State has a history of producing tempting QB prospects only for them to struggle picking up the NFL game. We’ll see how things play out. A trade up for a QB feels right for Denver, but I have questions about Fields’ consistency, decision making, and translation– making the act of giving up assets a big gamble.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
There’s no way Cincy doesn’t grab this elite offensive prospect to protect their young franchise QB. Burrow has proven he can succeed at the NFL level, but needs better offensive line play to stay healthy. The Bengals could use more weapons, but the WR class is deep and they need to get someone to ensure they have Joe Burrow for a long time.
Sewell is extremely sound fundamentally and has this unteachable motor to his game. He uses his athleticism to block LBs/DBs in the open field, to control the edge, and to the dominate the run game. This dude is an absolute freak and Cincy would be crazy to pass up on the opportunity to grab an NFL ready, elite guy to protect their QB’s blindside.
- Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU
Chase is the perfect complimentary piece alongside DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki in the Miami offense. Adding a 3rd weapon to the arsenal should allow first round 2020 selection Tua Tagovailoa to produce and feel comfortable throwing the ball.
Chase is a dominant, physical receiver who runs very crisp routes and has sound hands. he attacks the ball at the highest point, makes tight window catches and has RAC ability. He should serve as a pure possession receiver and allow the more speedy targets in the Miami WR group to find more open real estate. Chase is a profound prospect, and is especially good for an already solid 10 win team.
- Detroit Lions: Kyle Pitts, TE/WR Florida
New Lions Head Coach and former NFL tight end, Dan Campbell, can’t resist Pitts with the 7th overall selection. Detroit is a rebuilding team who lost some key receiving talent to free agency. Pitts is an extremely versatile guy who would pair well with star TE T.J Hockenson.
With his versatility, Pitts can play all over an offense. He runs tight routes, has the best hands in the draft, run/pass blocks well, and creates separation at an elite level. Detroit would likely use Pitts primarily as an outside receiver while they begin to replace the talent they lost. Having two athletic, dominant TE builds to head your offense is never a bad thing.
- New England Patriots (via trade w/Carolina): Mac Jones, QB Alabama
In an already unorthodox offseason for New England, they continue to blow minds for a trade up for their QB of the future in Mac Jones.
At Alabama, Jones was very good. He had a ton of elite receiving talent at the college level, but made very smart throws and put his team in winning position every week. Nothing from his tape flashes to me, as he doesn’t have nearly the same athleticism or arm talent as the 4 QBs taken ahead of him, but New England has a history of turning these sorts of prospects into professional winners at the NFL level.
Cam Newton still has some years left in him as a starter in the NFL, but his role as QB1 gives Jones time to work, develop, and adapt to the NFL game.
I don’t love him as a 1st round talent, especially not in a trade up scenario, but the Patriots have been daring and relentless all offseason to reboot and prepare to win this season. Jones potentially gives them an outlet to be good again for a long time…if the gamble pays off.
- Atlanta Falcons (via trade w/Denver): Teven Jenkins, OT Oklahoma State
Atlanta has addressed several needs through free agency (RB, DB, and WR depth), so they trade back with Denver to accumulate future picks and then sure up their offensive tackle spot.
Matt Ryan has proved that he can still produce at a high level in the NFL (over 4,000 pas yards last season). Adding a solid OT never hurts your QB play, and in fact it helps a ton.
Jenkins brings aggressiveness and all around toughness to the OT position. He could play LT, but will likely be more helpful on the right side as a dominate run blocker with Jake Fisher already on roster. Atlanta gets an instant starter that can help their older roster compete now, but he’s also young enough to be their OT for the future.
- Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina
Two years ago, this defense looked to be on the up with a secondary full of talent, a dominant edge rusher in Demarcus Lawrence, and two young star LBs in Jaylen Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. However, they’ve basically lost their entire secondary to free agency and it’s hurt their defensive capabilities on the back end, so taking an alpha DB like Horn instantly upgrades their secondary.
The South Carolina super star is a legitimate CB1 who can lockdown anyone’s best receiver. Obviously we haven’t seen him play at an NFL level yet, but his game tape is something special to watch. A natural, instinctive corner, with a keen eye for the football who plays with an aggressive chip on his shoulder. He’s long, smart and athletic enough to shadow guys in the NFL and should be a very productive pro. Horn is an instant upgrade to an inconsistent Dallas defense.
- New York Giants: Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern
In the Game Winning Podcast group mock, Kyle Pitts magically fell this far, but we all know this isn’t going to happen. Realistically, the Giants have put together a very solid roster full of young talent. Their absolute biggest need lies within the offensive line.
With Slater, the Giants will get a natural, strong, fundamentally sound OT who rarely makes mistakes. Since he doesn’t have long arms or massive size, he really relies on good technique and smart reads at the line to succeed. Slater is one of the more interesting prospects due to his talent, but some teams will pass on him due to his size. The Giants, however, feel confident in his technique and tape to help them protect Daniel Jones in a year where they want to push their young QB to be more consistent and explosive as a playmaker.
- Baltimore Ravens (via trade w/Philadelphia): Devonta Smith, WR Alabama
The Ravens are DESPERATE for WR help outside of Hollywood Brown. They missed out on several free agents and eventually settled on the injury prone Sammy Watkins. If they really want to help Lamar Jackson get back to MVP form, they need to surround him with weapons offensively, so they move both their late round picks to acquire the 12th overall pick and TE Zach Ertz.
With the 12th pick, they’re able to get the falling Devonta Smith for a good price. Some people have Smith going within the top 10, but with the QB frenzy and teams not really needing a WR the speedster falls here for the Ravens to trade up for.
Devonta is a playmaker with elite NFL speed and hands that will be a very serviceable slot guy in the NFL. He needs to refine his route running, but his natural knack for creating separation and finding open space will allow him to be successful– especially with Hollywood Brown gaining a ton of attention with his explosive play ability. Opposing defenses will have lots of trouble matching up with all the speed on this new look offense.
Trading up multiple 1sts to get another speed based WR is tricky, but in this deal they also get TE Zach Ertz from Philly which helps if Ertz can move past his very lackluster 2020 campaign.
- LA Chargers: Deonte Brown, G Alabama
Justin Herbert was special in his rookie season, but the Chargers blatantly needed help on the offensive front. LA went out and signed All-Pro center Corey Linsley and veteran G/T Matt Feiler, which helps solidify three spots (those two plus OT Bryan Bulaga).
Brown is an elite pass protection guard who has been highly overlooked by the media leading up to the draft. The All-SEC team guard hasn’t allowed a single sack during his college career and has been at a school notorious for successful NFL offensive prospects in Alabama since 2016.
Brown is also a productive, aggressive run blocker who is eager to lay people out at the second level. His massive size hinders his movement a bit, but he definitely has the power to be a balanced, elite NFL guard who will protect Justin Herbert for years to come.
- Minnesota Vikings: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Notre Dame
The Vikings have built a brand new defense that mixes good young talent with experienced veterans, but with LB Anthony Barr in a contract year they need someone to fill that starting MLB role for the future.
The beauty of drafting JOK is that he’s a nasty, aggressive playmaker with sideline to sideline speed. He can cover an type of receiver man to man, sit and read in a zone, and blitzes efficiently. This dude does everything. Not only will he be Coach Zimmer’s long term LB, but he can also be a day one starter that you can play all over the field and have him disrupt the game.
JOK has the build and athleticism to be an elite defensive talent for anyone who takes him. The Vikings are lucky enough for him to fall, fill a need in their reloaded defense, and provide them a star for the future.
- Carolina Panthers (via trade w/New England): Christian Darrisaw, OT VT
The Panthers went out and got their QB of the future at a discount price in Sam Darnold, and acquired more assets from New England in this mock trade to move back and comfortably draft an OT to solidify their offensive line.
Darrisaw is a bit more raw than other line prospects in this class, but he has the right build, footwork, and controlled aggression to be a successful Tackle in the NFL. He does make mistakes and gets beat off the edge, but his long arms and strength allow him to combat those issues. NFL coaching will be tremendously help to his game and he hopefully grows out of the laziness I saw on tape when it came to finding work and playing hard from whistle to whistle. Carolina Coach Matt Rhule has shown that he can develop young talent, so Darrisaw is worth the mid-round selection for the future of their young offensive group.
- Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, CB VT
Arizona had one of the most flashy free agency periods in the league, but they need some help in the secondary after losing long time start, Patrick Peterson.
Farley is a super long, athletic, man to man coverage corner who can play all over the field. His ability to finish plays in coverage and eliminate receivers on a game to game basis instantly makes the Cardinal secondary a lot better.
A 2020 back injury is concerning to some teams, but Arizona still feels good about the potential of Farley as a CB1 as a pro.
- Las Vegas Raiders: Jevon Holland, DB Oregon
The Raiders are in need of long term safety help to sure up their secondary. With the front seven already filled with young talent, an all-around ball hawking DB like Holland would be a crucial addition to a young team that feels to be on the rise.
Holland plays safety, but is long, fast and athletic enough to come up and cover TE’s and slot receivers man to man. He reminds me a lot of a Minkah Fitzpatrick or a Tyrann Mathieau type of DB. High motor, good ball skills, and physical play all over the field is extremely valuable in the secondary, and Gruden gets the safety of his dreams here.
- Miami Dolphins: Micah Parsons, LB/Edge Penn State
Earlier, I mocked Miami taking Ja’Marr Chase to add a dominant receiving force to their offense. Now, with the 18th pick the Dolphins need to address their LB depth needs after losing Kyle Van Noy.
Parsons adds prospective speed and athleticism at the LB position. For the defensive minded HC Brian Flores, Parsons would be an interesting all around weapon to send on blitzes and track down the ball all over the field while Jerome Baker and Benardrick McKinney hold down the inside. He would be an instant plug for edge LB help and bring some explosive pass rush and run game help. At 18, this is a super solid selection that helps a 10 win team get better on day one of the draft.
- Washington Football Team: Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa
The WFT has one of the best front sevens in football, but they could really use an anchor in the middle of the second level.
Collins is a mountain of an athlete, standing at 6ft 4 and nearly 260 pounds, but is extremely quick and athletic for his size. He is a pure run stuffing LB with potential to develop into a solid middle zone guy in coverage. He’s shown excellent football instincts and the ability to play physical, smart football player, and can even blitz efficiently. Washington somehow finds a way to improve their already talented defense and continues to look for ways to improve their offense in the later rounds.
- Chicago Bears: Kyle Trask, QB Florida
Trask is a very interesting QB prospect who I think could sneak into the first round here to be taken by a team that desperately needs talent at QB. Bears fans really thought they would end up with either Carson Wentz or Russell Wilson, but that fell apart quickly and they settled for Andy Dalton.
Taking a leap of faith here on Trask isn’t as bad of a move as people may think. Trask has prospective size, arm strength, and has shown flashes of NFL ready play– especially in Florida’s impressive run at the SEC title this season.
The Bears do have weapons on offense with Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet, David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, so adding a young, raw QB in the late first round to learn from Andy Dalton is a good move. Trask is more of a project, especially as a 1st round selection, but there are worse things the Bears could do here.
- Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, Edge Michigan
After losing veteran starters on the defensive front in Justin Houston (still a FA) and Denico Autry, I think the Colts lean more towards filling a spot on the defensive line before they address offensive tackle.
Paye offers immediate help defending the run, which helps if they decide to move on from Justin Houston. He has a strong, dominant punch and attack technique to get rid of blockers and control his gap against the run. He is by far the best edge defender against the run, but needs a lot of work developing his pass rush game. He would be an excellent young talent to develop along side unproven young guys like Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay.
- Tennessee Titans: Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama
This offseason, the Titans cleaned house in their secondary and desperately need a young DB to help them bring together this brand new set of DBs.
Surtain is certainly talented as man or zone corner, but his over aggressive hands play and inability to track receivers with his instincts concerns me. I feel like he might start off his career with a lot of PI/illegal contact penalties. However, he can be coached out of those habits, and could turn into a productive pro corner for the Titans.
- New York Jets: Alijah Vera-Tucker, G/T USC
After drafting their next project, franchise QB, the Jets 100% need help on the offensive line to protect their #2 overall pick in Zach Wilson. Outside of Mekhi Becton, this Jets offensive line is putrid. Adding a very experienced, versatile lineman like Vera-Tucker will be an immediate help, as he can go play RT or either left or right guard.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Azeez Ojulari, Edge Georgia
After losing Bud Dupree in free agency, the Steelers will look to fill in that gap in their pass rush with the very raw, yet talented Ojulari. Right now, he’s an elite athlete with a great build for a 3-4 OLB pass rusher, but he does need development to become consistent– especially in the run game. This is a bit of a project pick, but the upside is undeniable. Pittsburgh’s reputation for developing defensive prospects is also very encouraging if they go this route.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Marvin Wilson Jr., DT Florida State
Although the Jaguars signed quite a few guys on defense in free agency, I think the talent and dominance of a big DT like Wilson is irresistible at 25. He’s shwon flashes of pure dominance in the run game, and has a super high motor for a 304 pound lineman which helps him in pass rush downs.
Wilson has the potential to be an every down force in the NFL with the right coaching and help around him, and could even start in Jacksonville week one with their rebuilding defense.
- Cleveland Browns: Jaelen Phillips, Edge Miami
The Browns are an extremely well rounded roster that can afford to take a guy like Phillips who is a top talent but needs a lot of work to become an every down DE.
Phillips is a really good pass rusher right out of college. He’s shown that he has an arsenal of moves and can reliably beat tackles off the line to rush the QB. He does struggle a bit in the run game, but the Browns have enough talent and depth already on roster (Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Jadeveon Clowney) to develop a raw talent like Phillips and allow him to play in passing situations.
- Philadelphia Eagles (via trade w/Baltimore): Nick Bolton, LB Missouri
In a blockbuster draft night trade, Philly sent Zach Ertz and their 12th overall selection to Baltimore for the 27th/31st overall selections (and probably some future picks). Not only do they rid themselves of a guy who didn’t want to play for the Eagles anymore, but they get tremendous value in picks to start reshaping their roster that is desperate for young talent.
The first step is to address their #1 need which is undoubtedly LB, and Bolton is a very solid solution. He is very smart, instinctive and physical in the run game. He can also serve as an adequate blitzer and zone coverage backer– immeidately helping out a team that was forced to start Nathan Gerry as their LB1 inside…yikes.
- New Orleans Saints: Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama
After the retirement of legendary Saints QB Drew Brees, Jameis Winston looks to be the starting QB week one. So, the Saints want to make him as comfortable as possible and add another weapon for the offense on top of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.
Waddle brings an elite level of speed that this offense seems to lack in the receiving area. He has very solid hands and can catch the ball in traffic as well, but needs a lot of work running routes. However, Sean Payton would 100% put an elite athlete like Jaylen Waddle to good use and find ways to set him up for NFL success.
- Green Bay Packers: Elijah Moore, WR Ole Miss
FINALLY, the Packers spend an early round pick to help out Aaron Rogers compete for another trip to the Super Bowl. Outside of Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, this team could really use another weapon, and Elijah Moore is a perfect compliment to what GB has already.
- Buffalo Bills: Christian Barmore, DT Alabama
One of the few places Buffalo could improve on is their defensive line. Adding a guy like Barmore would immediately add an interior rush/run defense threat to pair with Ed Oliver. What a scary duo that would be
- Philadelphia Eagles (via trade w/Baltimore): Kadarius Toney, WR Florida
With their second selection in this round, the Eagles want to go out and help out their project QB in Jalen hurts with a second option at receiver outside of Jalen Reagor.
Toney is an explosive player with fine tuned route running. He has special RAC ability and is something this Philly offense hasn’t had since DeSean Jackson in his prime.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Terrance Marshall Jr., WR LSU
The defending SB champs were able to retain a majority of their championship roster, but with the loss of Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin on a franchise tag, going out to get another receiever seems like the right move.
Marshall is a talented athlete that runs great routes, creates seperation, but needs to get better at finishing/making catches cleanly. He has issues dropping or bobbling NFL level catches. However, his frame, athleticism, and RAC ability makes him a legitimate late 1st round target, especially for the Bucs who are making a very fine luxury depth pick here.