Oh, boy. It's been a wild ride since I last wrote one of these. My last mock draft had the Chargers passing on Justin Herbert to take an offensive tackle (good thing I was wrong, Chargers fans). The point of that story is to reinforce that a mock draft is supposed to take a look at what may happen if what everyone thinks will happen, doesn't happen. Keep that in mind as we dive into my first mock draft of 2021. The disclaimer I need to put out is that this is what I think will happen as of today, January 4th, 2021. This is not how my rankings have landed. This is not how I would draft. But simply, my best guess at what I believe will happen. Let's dive in.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
"I stopped reading at 1." Yeah, I know you did. Hear me out.
For quite a while, I was convinced that NFL teams were going to screw this up and choose Trevor Lawrence. Setting aside the fact that I have Justin Fields as my QB1, let's look at the facts.
Urban Meyer is reportedly headed to Jacksonville, putting the finishing touches on his coaching staff as I type this (yes, I understand this may end up dated; that's okay)
Urban Meyer trusts Ryan Day's words more than most
Ryan Day & Urban Meyer have both been praising Justin Fields left and right for the last few weeks
Urban Meyer can't seem to stay away from football, and if he's returning, I'm positive he wants a sure thing. His relationship with Day, his Ohio State ties, plus the fact that he knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks indicate that Justin Fields could be the pick when the Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first-overall pick.
There's a world in which this pick happens, folks. And, quite frankly, it'd be the correct pick (and I'll break down why Justin Fields is my QB1 in the future).
2. New York Jets - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jets failed at everything in 2020, including tanking. But much like the Dolphins' failed attempt at tanking, only to get the player they would have tanked for, the Jets come out of this draft with Trevor Lawrence. A dandy consolation prize, and a great way to kick off a new era for the New York Jets; an era that excludes Adam Gase. You can find my latest work on Trevor Lawrence here.
3. Miami Dolphins (from HOU) - DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The popular pick here (for some reason?) is Penei Sewell. And while Miami ranks in the bottom-half of the league in most offensive line metrics, the team just drafted 3 offensive linemen within the first 111 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. I have discussed the possibility of the Dolphins abandoning ship on Tua - he didn't do a ton to convince anyone that they shouldn't - but I think they're committed to him for 2021. And if that's the case, why not go get his favorite target from college (yes, DeVonta was Tua's favorite target, don't get it twisted). DeVonta isn't my WR1 (he isn't really close), but the pick makes sense from a team-building perspective.
4. Atlanta Falcons - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Atlanta Falcons shouldn't be picking inside the top-5; they're one of the best, most efficient 4-12 teams in the history of 4-12 teams (shoutout to my buddy Drake who put together a database of such arbitrary stats). But because that is the case, and because they'll be bringing in a new regime to lead the way in 2021, they have to go get their quarterback of the future. Pairing Calvin Ridley with Zach Wilson's shortstop arm for many, many years will probably be too appealing to pass up.
5. Cincinnati Bengals - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Jonah Williams has been good to the naked eye this year. He hasn't been phenomenal, though, and a move to offensive guard or the right side was always a suggestion for him. Getting the best tackle prospect in the 2021 class is an ideal scenario for the Bengals, who desperately need to build in front of Joe Burrow before he turns into a poor man's Andrew Luck (or a rich man's Tim Couch?).
6. Philadelphia Eagles - Micah Parsons, EDGE Hybrid, Penn State
I've been listening to a lot of Benjamin Solak on the Locked on NFL Draft podcast, because his realistic outlook for the Eagles both makes me laugh and brings me sadness. The reason I bring this up: he's been stating for weeks that Howie Roseman won't draft a linebacker in the top-10. What if I told you that I don't think Micah Parsons is going to be used like a traditional linebacker in the NFL, though? His pass rush-ability is extremely advanced and his coverage-ability lacks fluidity. I don't see a world in which Micah is a good coverage linebacker, and with the news of Jim Schwartz's potential retirement, a scheme change could be coming. Let's get the Eagles a defensive playmaker.
7. Detroit Lions - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Detroit Lions may very well be losing the top-two wide receivers on their team this offseason. Both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are free agents, and while I think there's a strong chance Kenny Golladay returns, there is still a problem at the position - especially with the season that Golladay just had battling injuries. Insert Ja'Marr Chase, one of the only true 'alpha' receivers of this class and a catch-point beast.
8. Carolina Panthers - Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Teddy Bridgewater project was a lot of fun, and the Carolina Panthers had promise at one point in the season. They struggled to put together a competitive year after losing Christian McCaffrey, and the Teddy Bridge-Quarterback-Water trial is done. The Panthers have an out after the 2021 season, so getting their quarterback of the future while allowing Teddy to start until Trey Lance is ready is the smart thing to do. Matt Rhule was impressive in his first draft. Will he make the right decision here?
9. Denver Broncos - Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
Patrick Surtain is probably the most well-rounded corner I've watched since I began actually film grinding. He has a higher grade for me than Jeff Okudah did last year, and the Broncos have a pretty clear deficiency in their secondary. The balance Surtain possesses mixed with his ability to be dominant within any scheme make this a slam dunk of a pick.
10. Dallas Cowboys - Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley wasn't as impressive to me as he may be to others, but he's still going to grade out as a top-three corner in this class. His physicality is probably unmatched in this class of defensive backs, and the Dallas Cowboys have one of the least physical, worst secondaries in the NFL. I fully expect the Cowboys to draft defense with this pick. Hopefully they get Trevon Diggs some help.
11. New York Giants - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The New York Football Giants need playmakers. While I don't have a ton of belief in Daniel Jones, I also think there's a little bit to work with. Do I think Joe Judge is ultimately the guy to lead him? To be determined, but I know that this offense can't target Evan Engram 8 million times again in 2021. Insert Jaylen Waddle, a kid who will be coming back off of injury in the spring, but likely hold buzz simply because of what he did in four full games for Alabama. I'll be lower on Waddle than this, but the NFL will eat him up.
12. San Francisco 49ers - Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
I said I wouldn't go by my rankings, but damn it, I don't understand why Azeez Ojulari is consensus-ranked behind Kwity Paye. Ojulari is a technician with his hands, is turning into a strip-sack specialist, and offers a heightened level of explosiveness off the edge. The 49ers need someone to pair with Nick Bosa, and Ojulari fits the bill. It's not their biggest need, but because I'm not entirely comfortable with my eval of Jaycee Horn just yet, I'm going to go with a guy I think is probably a top-12 talent.
13. Los Angeles Chargers - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Chargers will likely lose Hunter Henry this offseason, after he put up a fairly underwhelming season. He turned into a liability as a blocker, and while he fared well with Justin Herbert, the team can easily replace what Henry gave them. Kyle Pitts is already better than Hunter Henry, and when used as a big slot next to Keenan Allen and *insert wide receiver here because they're going to cut Mike Williams*, he can be dominant from day one.
14. Minnesota Vikings - Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
Let me be clear: as a tackle prospect, AVT is not it. He's okay, but he doesn't have the quick kick-step required to last at that position. But he's currently my top-graded offensive guard (though I'm admittedly early in this process), and he's graded higher than any IOL prospect from 2020, too. His guard film is impressive; he bullied defensive tackles, effectively using his low pad level to create leverage and look like a beast in the run game. That's what the Vikings need, and that's what they'll get with AVT.
15. New England Patriots - Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I think Bill knows that he has to get this position right if he wants to shake the "he needs Brady" narrative. Mac Jones has some limitations, but has shown more zip this year than I expected, has been crazy accurate when throwing deep, and makes some really sound decisions. He's a perfect fit in the Patriot offense, and while I think a Jimmy G return could be in play, I think this is a likely scenario right now.
16. Arizona Cardinals - Rashawn Slater, G, Northwestern
Rashawn Slater was impressive against Chase Young in 2019, and that's essentially the last time we saw him play. I have concerns about his hand placement and his ability to play tackle in the league (a ton of his reps against Young should have been called holding), so I'm having the Cardinals take him and move him to their interior. Their tackles played well in pass pro this year, but the interior of their offensive line vastly needs improved - especially when they play Aaron Donald twice a year.
17. Las Vegas Raiders - Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
I have not studied Christian Barmore intensely, and I'm realizing this just now. But I have watched a ton of Alabama games this year, and this kid constantly stands out for the Crimson Tide. This kid is solid, and he has sneaky speed for what many will consider a 1T (I think he'll succeed in a 3T role). The Raiders need to fix their run defense; Barmore helps. Plus, he's got a blue chip pedigree, something we know Mike Mayock loves.
18. Miami Dolphins - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Hybrid, Notre Dame
Miami's top-graded linebacker in 2020 was Kyle Van Noy, who ranks 55th before the Week 17 grades are added. That's... not great. Miami's defense played outstandingly for a majority of the year, but their issues at the LB position were evident at times. JOK offers a mix of both pass rush-ability and outstanding coverage-ability. He's not going to provide a ton in run support, and he's definitely a 'tweener,' or position-less player, but I think JOK is going to be drafted highly this spring.
19. Washington Football Team - Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Football Team's problems on offense run deep. They have two cornerstone players in Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. They have a late-blooming stud tight end in Logan Thomas. But they don't have nearly enough offensive firepower to truly present a threat in the playoffs, and Rashod Bateman could definitely help that. Bateman has been dominating college football since before he was 18 years old, and while his production slipped with his move to slot in 2020, he's an absolute stud (especially when paired with Terry McLaurin). Bateman is my WR1, and all of the pieces are there for Washington to sign/trade for a quarterback and be perennial contenders in the NFC East.
20. Chicago Bears - Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Bears have a ton of issues on offense; from mediocre quarterback play to just a lack of ingenuity from HC Matt Nagy. Their offensive line allowed David Montgomery to get mauled for weeks, before finally turning the corner late in the year. Darrisaw currently holds my highest run-blocking rating of this tackle class, and the Bears need to commit to improving that area of their offense.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR) - Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Getting Justin Fields a reliable target in the middle of the field would be an absolute priority. Freiermuth provides just that. If Kyle Pitts weren't a thing, we'd be talking about him as a top-10 pick in this draft. He has soft hands, is an adequate blocker, and stacks up similarly to TJ Hockenson. The Jaguars starting skill positions would be:
QB: Justin Fields
RB: James Robinson
WR: DJ Chark
WR: Laviska Shenault
WR: Collin Johnson
TE: Pat Freiermuth
Yeah. Sign me up.
22. Indianapolis Colts - Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Colts have had coverage issues this year, partly due to the fact that Rock Ya-Sin has underperformed. Xavier Rhodes has been an extremely bright spot, but the secondary still needs help. He has great size and fits the scheme quite a bit (the Colts have strayed away from base-Cover 2 and experimented with Cover 3 and man coverage). I haven't deep-dived Horn yet, but he's definitely a guy the Colts will like.
23. Cleveland Browns - Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
I think the Browns are going to watch Shaun Wade's 2019 film and say "we can work with that." There's no need for Shaun Wade to play outside corner for the Browns (assuming that Greedy Williams returns fully healthy in 2021). That's not how he should be used at the next level either. His ability to affect games either from the slot corner position or even as a strong safety is undeniable, though, and it feels like he could still be selected in the first round this spring. The Browns have a dire need in their secondary, even if Greedy and Grant Delpit return to health. Wade can step in day one and help, despite the bad 2020 tape.
24. Tennessee Titans - Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
I brought Kwity Paye up earlier in this mock, and now he finds a home with the Titans. The Titans pass rush is one of the worst I can remember for such a good football team. Jadeveon Clowney, prior to injury, had kept up with his narrative of "pressures, but no sacks" and the secondary options at the position have failed to make an impact, as well. The highest-graded pass rusher for the Tennessee Titans is Tuzar Skipper, who has only rushed the passer 21 times in 2020. It's a big old yikes. And if they want to compete for Super Bowls, they have to improve their pass rush.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Dane Brugler put it best when he said that box score scouters will hate Oweh; his 7 career sacks won't bode well for those people. But at 6'5, 252 pounds and possessing the bend that Oweh does, he's certainly going to be considered in the first round. I think the Buccaneers have a desperate pass rush need, as they've been one of the best run-defending teams in the NFL for two years straight, but fail to impact opponents' passing games. Oweh should provide instant help and give the Bucs a shot at the division title in 2021.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
Again, this isn't how I have these receivers graded, but the fit of Marshall makes too much sense with the Ravens. It's pretty clear they don't know how to use receivers, so as a fantasy asset, Marshall is pretty much worthless. But pairing Marshall with B-Movie Brown, Devin Duvernay, Mark Andrews and crew is a good idea. The big-bodied role was supposed to be Miles Boykin's to take, and while he's flashed at times, it seems as though the Ravens would willingly replace him. Lamar needs a big target. Marshall provides that.
27. New York Jets (from SEA) - Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
The Jets have to do something else on offense, sure, but they have a ton of pieces on defense that can impact games in 2021. What they don't have is a good wide receiver room. Pairing Amon-Ra with Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder will help ease Trevor Lawrence into the NFL, something that I think is going to be more necessary than most believe.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Najee Harris isn't my RB1, and there are legitimate concerns that surround him and his inflated production. But his fit with the Steelers is too good to pass up, and he fits the bill of a prototypical Steelers running back. I don't love the positional value, but Mike Tomlin just might.
29. New Orleans Saints - Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Zaven Collins is currently my LB1. His ability to cover is something that NFL teams are going to love, and I wouldn't be shocked if he's gone before the Saints pick. He would provide instant support to a linebacking room that has greatly struggled in 2020.
30. Buffalo Bills - Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
Trey Smith is a mauler. That's the only word I would use to describe him, and it's a position of desperate need for the Buffalo Bills. While their issues at the running back position have been highlighted frequently, much of the blame can be placed on the interior of their offensive line. While I think this is a tad rich, Buffalo currently has one of the worst guard pairings in the NFL. Smith provides instant relief at the position.
31. Green Bay Packers - Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
Green Bay has a dire need at the LB position, and while a lot of the top prospects have left the board, my LB2 is still sitting there. The play that may be scorched in your brains is Trevor Lawrence outrunning the edge that Browning had locked up on the read option play in the CFB semis. But don't be mistaken, Browning's fluid hips and raw speed will put him in first-round conversation before the NFL Draft process concludes. We'll keep tabs on him at the Reese's Senior Bowl when we're covering the damn thing!! I'm sorry - got excited there.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
It's time to admit that Samuel Cosmi is my OT2 this year. His size can't be taught, and he has enough raw ability to succeed at the next level. I was one of the first onto Mekhi Becton in 2020, and I think that Cosmi could very well end up hearing his name called in the late-teens to mid-twenties. But since he's here, the Chiefs get Eric Fisher's replacement a year before they need to, allowing Cosmi to sit and learn - something that could prove to be fairly crucial to his success.
That'll do it for my first mock. Where did I go wrong? How did I make you mad? All that jazz. Disclaimer is that I know your favorite prospect isn't here. I'll be doing more 2-3 round mocks in the future. For now, tell me your thoughts on Twitter (@FFBaldMan) and we can have a fun discussion on these 2021 NFL Draft prospects.
Post-Credit Scene: some of you asked for a SF rookie mock, as well. A one-round mock can be found below, though there will be players that I didn't list above (because talent always > opportunity and I think these guys will have high enough draft capital to matter).
1.01 - Justin Fields, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
1.02 - Trevor Lawrence, QB, New York Jets
1.03 - Zach Wilson, QB, Atlanta Falcons
1.04 - Kyle Pitts, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
1.05 - Trey Lance, QB, Carolina Panthers
1.06 - Javonte Williams, RB, Atlanta Falcons
1.07 - Rashod Bateman, WR, Washington Football Team
1.08 - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Detroit Lions
1.09 - Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1.10 - Kenny Gainwell, RB, Miami Dolphins
1.11 - Rondale Moore, WR, Seattle Seahawks
1.12 - DeVonta Smith, WR, Miami Dolphins
Until next time!