NFL free agency had a different look this season. Due to the pandemic, the cap ceiling in the NFL fell for the first time since its implementation in 1994. Certain position groups saw their market-value fall and others saw a scarcity at their own position increase a certain player’s value. However, that didn’t stop teams from spending. The New England Patriots, for example, spent $137.5 million in guarantees during their first 24 hours of free agency. This spending, both from the Patriots and around the league, dramatically affect what could happen when writing the latest 2021 NFL mock draft.
Following the Super Bowl, most teams, general managers, coaches, and fans have a general idea of where their respective teams stand. However, they can do very little to address those needs over the first month of the off-season. There is always tons of speculation as to how a team’s free agency strategy will affect their draft but it is impossible to know until NFL teams are allowed to put their money where their mouth is.
The first wave of free agency is likely over, and now teams know the positions they need to address when April comes. It is your first chance to recoup your missed free agency targets but is also a chance to perhaps improve your team in a different way than you initially thought. With the majority of big-time names off of the market, this is a look ahead to who every team in the NFL may select in the first round of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
NFL Mock Draft 2021 V.4
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) – Quarterback
For anyone trying to stir up some sort of story about a potential non-Lawrence pick at first-overall, it has been pointed out that instead of watching Trey Lance’s pro day, Jags head coach Urban Meyer was at the Players Golf tournament two Sunday’s ago. This is pretty telling of how stressful the situation really is in Jacksonville. If there was any possibility that Meyer and Jags brass had not made up their mind, they would be paying attention to each of the top-five quarterbacks during any workout they did. Lawrence will be the first-overall pick in April’s draft and the Jaguars will have their franchise quarterback.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson (BYU) – Quarterback
The Jets made a splash early in free agency by signing former-Titans receiver Corey Davis and now look to have assembled a group of receivers that will at least allow a new quarterback to feel some sort of comfort. Wilson might need a little bit of time to catch up to the speed of the NFL but his intangibles scream franchise quarterback. The ball zips out of Wilson’s hand and his ability to throw on the run is perhaps the best in the class. Comparing him to Patrick Mahomes is rich but their play styles are definitely more similar than different.
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans)– Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) – Wide Receiver
With Tua Tagovailoa going into year-two, the Dolphins really only have two options with the third-overall pick if they do not trade it away; take a tackle or a pass catcher. The Dolphins added Will Fuller in free agency and Chase could join him to give Tagovailoa the arsenal of weapons he needs to breakout. At just 19 years old he had big games against current NFL starting corners C.J Henderson, AJ Terrell, and Trevon Diggs before sitting out 2020.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Justin Fields (Ohio State) – Quarterback
The Falcons made the predictable move of restructuring Matt Ryan’s contract but not even that could free up enough cap space for Arthur Smith’s new team to make a splash in free agency. Their cap situation makes it very hard for Atlanta to upgrade and thus, they need to be looking past 2021 and into the more distant future. Fields may not have played the flawless football he played in 2019 during his final year at Ohio State but his combination of athleticism and passing efficiency should be too hard for the Falcons to pass up. His 4.4-speed is just one of the reasons why his best football could still be in front of him.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell (Oregon) – Offensive Tackle
Mike Brown and Zac Taylor may be coming off of another down season but their moves in free agency make it look like they want to turn around fast. Instead of addressing the offensive line, the Bengals have added eight new defensive players and just one offensive lineman. Riley Reiff should bring a good amount of experience to the line but Sewell is a tackle who could be around for 10-plus years. He destroys people in the run game with his athleticism and power and has the agility and hand placement to stun pass rushers. Joe Burrow needs protection and the Bengals have not provided that just yet.
6. Philadelphia Eagles – Micah Parsons (Penn State) – Linebacker
The Eagles lack of free agency activity signals that they are going to need a little bit of time before they are back to contending for Super Bowls. While quarterback could be a target with a pick as high as sixth-overall, building around Jalen Hurts, or another young quarterback in 2022 isn’t a bad idea either. Parsons is a ferocious linebacker with tremendous athleticism and could be the first building block on a defense that could look very different in a year’s time. He fills a huge need and would be the first linebacker taken by the Eagles in the first round since 1979.
7. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) – Wide Receiver
Jared Goff might not be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Lions but it would be even harder for a rookie quarterback to succeed given the Weapons Detroit currently possess at wide receiver. While it might not happen right away, It would take a lot of athleticism on defense to contain the combination of Waddle and T.J. Hockenson. Waddle has a rare blend of soft hands, speed, and elusiveness that makes him maybe the most versatile weapon in the entire draft. Having a receiver that can create something out of very little with the ball in his hands is invaluable to every quarterback.
8. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance (North Dakota State) – Quarterback
The Panthers did what the Matt Rhule-Panthers do, again, in free agency — add impact players to the defense. Denzel Perryman and Haason Reddick should come in and provide a bit of a spark to the middle of Carolina’s defense, but they still need to add playmakers to their offense. Lance is probably the rawest of the top-five quarterbacks in the draft and would heavily benefit from sitting behind Teddy Bridgewater for a year or even two. He needs to work on his accuracy but has a cannon of an arm to work with.
9. Denver Broncos – Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) – Cornerback
After parting ways with A.J. Bouye, Denver needed to bolster their cornerback depth coming into free agency. They made multiple splashes adding Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby but they could still add more before the start of the 2021 season. Farley has the raw athleticism and size to match up with almost any receiver at the NFL level. Vic Fangio is a fan of larger corners who are asked to run a lot of press-man and Farley fits that build.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) – Cornerback
Signing Dak Prescott to an extension was likely priority number-one for the Cowboys this off-season. The only problem with the move is that they are now paying the combination of him, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and DeMarcus Lawrence somewhere in the range of $80-110 million over the next four years. Dallas now has to shift their focus to hitting home runs on defense during the draft and Surtain could be an important piece of fixing their porous secondary. He’s a handsy cornerback with a tremendous feel for locating the ball in coverage.
11. New York Giants – Gregory Rousseau (Miami) – EDGE
The Giants spent the majority of their free agency attacking the offense. Their signing of former-Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay was their largest move, but Dave Gettleman and company are still looking for a franchise-altering edge defender. Rousseau’s great mix of size, athletic ability, and production could make him that guy. His technique is still very raw but his physical traits give him probably the greatest upside of any EDGE in the draft.
12. San Fransisco 49ers – Kyle Pitts (Florida) – Tight End
The majority of John Lynch’s free agency work was done bringing back players that played pivotal roles in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Both Kyle Juszczyk and Trent Williams both had significant value to a very run-centric offense but opening up the passing game could bring it to another level. Shanahan already has George Kittle to work with but adding Pitts in this 2021 NFL mock draft could make them perhaps the hardest team to plan for in the NFL. He could line up besides Kittle in two tight end sets, out in the slot as a matchup nightmare, or even out wide.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater (Northwestern) – Offensive Tackle
Tom Telesco is quietly building incredibly well around Justin Herbert. They’ve drafted well at receiver, added Bryan Bulaga during free agency in 2020, and have added another two offensive linemen, Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler, in 2021. Adding Slater could be the final part of assembling one of the best offensive lines in all of football. His great footwork and quick punch allow him to stifle a variety of different EDGE defenders while his intelligence makes him very hard to counter.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Kwity Paye (Michigan) – EDGE
At this moment, the Vikings look like the most likely team in the first round to trade back out of their spot. While Minnesota has 12 total picks in the draft, they have just one in the first two rounds and could greatly benefit from a team trying to jump the Patriots for a quarterback. Here they pull a 180 on the failed Yannick Ngakoue trade and select Paye. The Michigan EDGE has a great first step combined with noticeable power in his lower half. He probably won’t be an every-down defensive end in his first year but Paye has incredible pass rushing upside if he can be developed properly.
15. New England Patriots – DeVonta Smith (Alabama) – Wide Reciever
Re-signing Cam Newton and spending in massive quantities on the free-agent market says that the Patriots are in win-now mode, but Bill Belichick is probably smart enough to know that there was nothing wrong with the way they schemed their offense. It was the players in that offense. Smith was a playmaker in the most literal sense at Alabama last season and could be the final part of the Patriots’ 2021 weapons shopping-spree. Quarterback is in play, but Belichick doesn’t seem like the kind of coach that is content on waiting for a quarterback to develop after the plethora of contracts he just handed out. The 2021 NFL Draft has tons of receiving talent, and this mock gives the Patriots a guy that could end up being the best when all is said and done.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) – Cornerback
The inevitable finally happened to the Cardinals when they elected not to re-sign long-time shutdown corner, Patrick Peterson. After spending 10 years with the team, Peterson will take his talents to Minnesota and the Cardinals need to find a replacement. Horn has the size and physicality to match up with any receiver 1-on-1 despite maybe not being the smoothest moving corner. He would be an ideal corner to have in a division that features a number of prominent young and veteran receivers.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) – Offensive Tackle/Guard
With the way the offensive line took a hit in free agency, the Raiders are looking like they’ve lost their identity. Josh Jacobs already had problems consistently running the ball in 2020 and it looks like even more of an uphill battle now that he’s lost three of his five starting offensive linemen. Vera-Tucker might be best positioned as a guard in the NFL but his performance at left tackle for USC in 2020 showed that he has a lot of upside anywhere on the offensive line. When he gets his hands on defenders early, he will almost always finish them with no chance of a counter. His natural athleticism would make him a candidate to play multiple positions and a perfect fit for the Raiders in this 2021 NFL mock draft.
18. Miami Dolphins – Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State) – Offensive Tackle
After spending big in 2020, the Dolphins took a more calculated approach to free agency in 2021. Center Matt Skura was the only notable offensive line addition (outside of Isaiah Wilson who was cut just two weeks after being acquired) and Tua Tagovailoa badly needs more protection. Jenkins is the meanest offensive tackle in the draft and was debatably the best tackle in the country in 2020. He could play either tackle spot for Miami depending on how they view Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt’s rookie seasons.
19. Washington Football Team – Mac Jones (Alabama) – Quarterback
Washington has quietly been nailing their off-seasons for the past three years and 2021 was another success through free agency. Curtis Samuel gives them a versatility second wide receiver besides Terry McLaurin and William Jackson could be Washington’s next top-end cornerback. The only big miss they’ve had during this timeframe has been quarterback. Comparing any quarterback to Tom Brady is impossible but Jones plays a very similar style of efficient and effective football. Washington has an incredibly strong roster and Jones could be the quarterback that turns them into a true contender in the NFC.
20. Chicago Bears – Greg Newsome II (Northwestern) – Cornerback
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy will be fighting for their jobs in 2021 this NFL mock draft reflects that. Andy Dalton might not be the long-term answer at quarterback but unless Chicago can find a way to trade up in the draft, he’ll be the quarterback for a team that needs to contend right now. Newsome could be the successor to Kyle Fuller and provides sticky man coverage ability with a willingness to tackle. Each of the four previous cornerbacks selected by the Bears in the first round have made at least one All-Pro team.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) – Offensive Tackle
To the surprise of some, the Colts did not add a left tackle through free agency. However, they are still likely in need of an Anthony Castonzo replacement to make sure Carson Wentz is fully protected during his first season in Indianapolis. Darrisaw is the kind of tackle that simply overpowers players when he is engaged. The Colts ran the ball a ton at the end of the season and Darrisaw should immediately excel in the run game.
22. Tennessee Titans – Rashad Bateman (Minnesota) – Wide Receiver
Corey Davis may not have been the player the Titans were hoping to get when they drafted him fifth overall in 2017 but he ended up being a solid contributor in his final season in Tennessee. Now with the Jets, Davis could be replaced by Bateman. He doesn’t have the athletic upside that Davis had coming out of Western Michigan but is an incredibly safe pair of hands underneath with some of the best wiggle at the line of scrimmage. Bateman and A.J. Brown could become the hardest receiving duo to cover in the intermediate part of the field.
23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Jaelan Phillips (Miami) – EDGE
Adding Carl Lawson from the Bengals should at least start steering New York’s EDGE group in the right direction but they could still add a pass rusher in the draft. Phillips is one of the draft’s biggest question marks but is probably the most complete edge defender in the class coming out of college. His mix of speed, bend, and ability to counter on the inside make him incredibly hard to contain.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Christian Barmore (Alabama) – Defensive Tackle
After going 1-5 to finish the season, the Steelers are in a rare spot. They are not a team accustomed to rebuilding but are probably in a position where they need to go best-player-available when they pick at number-24. Barmore is by far the best pass-rushing interior lineman left in this 2021 NFL mock draft and could join a defensive line that has made their money by continually disrupting the passer over the past half-decade. He is not ready to be a three-down defensive tackle in the NFL yet but has the athleticism to turn himself into a Pro Bowl type player.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) – Trevon Moehrig (TCU) – Safety
The Jaguars made the surprise move of placing the franchise tag on Cam Robinson after many assumed he would leave in free agency. Tackle is still a concern but Trevor Lawrence likely already has his two starting tackles for 2021 in place. Instead, Meyer and Tony Kahn opt to go best-player-available in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft with Moehrig. The safety is an incredibly instinctive player with the size and coverage ability to match up with bigger receivers in the middle of the field. If the Jaguars want to improve their secondary, Moehrig is the most complete safety in the draft.
26. Cleveland Browns – Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) – EDGE
The Browns did what they had to do in free agency and added to their back-seven. However, they could still do with adding another weapon opposite Myles Garrett. Ojulari might not be the most typical 4-3 defensive end but he plays longer than his height and has bulked up to just under 250 lbs over the pre-draft process. He has explosiveness, bend, and the ability to drop in coverage off of the edge. Joe Woods would love a player that checks the character, athlete, and production boxes.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall (LSU) – Wide Receiver
Eric DeCosta did not make the big play for a receiver in free agency that many expected. In fact, at this point, the Ravens have not added another wide receiver over the off-season. Finding Lamar Jackson a number-one receiver seemed to be a high priority going into 2021 but the Ravens have been forced to pivot. Marshall may not possess true number-one receiver ability but he has a good blend of size and speed with the ability to work on the outside or out of the slot. Based on who’s left on the board in the 2021 NFL mock draft, he’s the best fit for Baltimore’s needs.
28. New Orleans Saints – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) – Linebacker
The Saints are a little bit of a mess right now and probably need to just take the best player available with most of their picks this year. During free agency, they have lost both Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander and need some sort of stability in the middle of the field. Owusu-Koramoah is a linebacker that can do a lot of things and could fit in on the weakside or at strong safety. His background as a safety is very evident in his play as he is both very good at blitzing and dropping in coverage.
29. Green Bay Packers – Rondale Moore (Purdue) – Wide Receiver
Another free agency period has passed and the Packers have still not addressed wide receiver. The emergence of Robert Tonyan in 2020 made Aaron Rodgers jobs a little easier but there is still a clear deficiency of receiving talent outside of Davante Adams. Moore is a player that both Rodgers and Matt LaFleur would love. His elite athleticism and video game elusiveness in the open field would make him a best friend of both the running and passing game in Green Bay. He had perhaps the most significant Pro Day amongst the top-50 prospects by posting a 4.29 40-yard dash time and a 42.5’ broad jump.
30. Buffalo Bills – Najee Harris (Alabama) – Running Back
Brandon Beane opted to essentially stand pat with the offensive line he has assembled but the Bills need to find a way to be more efficient running the ball. Adding a back like Harris in this 2021 NFL mock draft would instantly upgrade Buffalo’s running attack. After deciding to stay back for his senior year, Harris turned himself into a true three-down running back despite being listed at 6’2” 230 lbs. He is big, athletic, powerful, elusive, and has incredible vision.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State) – Offensive Tackle
While it was somewhat predictable that the Chiefs were going to have to make some cuts with the way their salary cap situation played out, few expected that both of Patrick Mahomes’ tackles would not be back with the team for 2021. The Chiefs signed Joe Thuney to help solidify the interior of their offensive line but are still in need of help on the outsides. Radunz completely dominated the lower-level competition in his three years as a starter at NDSU. He may need to add a little bit more muscle to compete as a pro but has the build and awareness to be a high-level tackle in the NFL.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travis Etienne (Clemson) – Running Back
The Buccaneers have made a very strong effort to keep their entire Super Bowl roster intact but could do with some reinforcements in the running game. With the final pick in this 2021 NFL mock draft, Tampa selects a big homerun-hitter that can do so much more. He’s incredibly hard to take down in the open field and can create huge plays from anywhere he can manage to find the ball. Tom Brady started having his most success when he began to check the ball down more and Etienne could play a James White-type role from back when Brady was in New England.
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