2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Final Projections

2021 NFL Mock Draft season has finally reached its homestretch. After all, only a day remains until all the rumors and predictions transform into reality. Each NFL team will reveal their intentions through actions and opposed to words. After consuming a myriad of information from beat reporters, coach interviews, and extensive mock drafts, here is my third and final projection of Round One of tomorrow’s 2021 NFL Draft.

2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Final Projections

Pick:  1st
Team:  Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick:  Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson)
Previous Pick:  Trevor Lawrence

Every NFL mock draft has Lawrence getting selected first by Jacksonville. There are no reports to the contrary. If Lawrence is not the pick, this would be the biggest surprise at No. 1 overall in the history of the NFL Draft.

Trevor Lawrence NFL Draft Profile

Pick:  2nd
Team:  New York Jets
Pick:  Zach Wilson, QB (BYU)
Previous Pick:  Zach Wilson

Wilson has been the overwhelming betting favorite to become the Jets new starting quarterback for quite some time.

Zach Wilson NFL Draft Profile

Pick:  3rd
Team: San Francisco 49ers
Pick:  Mac Jones, QB (Alabama)
Previous Pick:  Mac Jones

This is the first tipping point of the 2021 NFL Draft.  I think the 49ers made the move up to No. 3 overall to have their choice of Mac Jones, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance. It is now between Jones or Lance, and I think Shanahan stays with the accuracy and strong decision-making of Mac Jones. The odds have now swung in Jones’ favor, and I don’t think this is a smokescreen.

Mac Jones NFL Draft Profile

Pick:  4th
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (Profile)
Previous Pick: Kyle Pitts

Atlanta would need to be convinced that either Fields or Lance is the quarterback of their future to bypass one of the best tight end prospects we’ve ever seen.  Quarterback Matt Ryan‘s contract was restructured in the offseason, with $40.5 million as dead money next year and a $43 million cap hit in 2023. Would the Falcons make that move to secure Ryan as their starting quarterback just one month ago, only to take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in late April?

The Super Bowl LI loss to New England will haunt owner Arthur Blank until he wins a title, and the addition of Pitts would give Atlanta an offense that rivals Kansas City and Dallas. The Falcons need to get by Tampa Bay and New Orleans to win the NFC, and Fields/Lance doesn’t move them towards that goal for a few years. Still only 20 years old, I think Pitts is the choice to solidify a superior offensive attack.

Kyle Pitts NFL Draft Profile

Pick:  5th
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Pick:  Ja’Marr Chase, WR (LSU)
Previous Pick:  Penei Sewell

Pick:  6th
Team: Miami Dolphins
Pick:  Penei Sewell, OT (Oregon)
Previous Pick:  Ja’Marr Chase

Teams reveal their intentions by actions. Miami recently traded OL Ereck Flowers to Washington, despite ranking as Miami’s best offensive lineman in 2020.  The leaves one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines without their best individual lineman from last season. Last season’s 18th overall pick, Austin Jackson, only ranked 84th out of 89 offensive tackles by PFF. I refuse to believe that the Dolphins would pass on a top offensive lineman to protect their second-year quarterback in favor of a 5-foot-9 wide receiver in Jaylen Waddle. Both Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater grade out as elite tackles, but I’m going with the Outland Trophy winner and unanimous All-American from 2019.

Pick: 7th
Team: Detroit Lions
Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Previous Pick: Justin Fields

Detroit trading for Jared Goff is much different than Miami drafting Tagovailoa with the fifth-overall pick. Detroit can get out of Goff’s four-year, $134 million contract after next season with just a $10 million cap hit. The Lions also have the Rams first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, giving them plenty of opportunities to build other positions in the future. With the most vacated targets (313) of any NFL team, the Lions need explosive playmakers, but they have three picks in Rounds 2 and 3. When Fields falls to them at No. 7, there is no justification to take an undersized wide receiver (Waddle, Devonta Smith) over a potential franchise quarterback.

Justin Fields NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 8th
Team: Carolina Panthers
Pick: Rashawn Slater, OL (Northwestern)
Previous Pick: Rashawn Slater

Carolina needs offensive line help, and they won’t take a redundant asset in Smith over an elite offensive lineman in Rashawn Slater. Peter Schrager of FoxSports reported that several teams feel Slater is a better prospect than Sewell. In mid-April, many mock drafts started to make the adjustment. At 6-foot-4, 304 lbs, Slater is not falling out of the Top 10. Why trade a 2022 second and fourth-round pick for Sam Darnold, not protect him, and run the risk of him seeing more ghosts?

Pick: 9th
Team: Denver Broncos
Pick: Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)
Previous Pick:  Trey Lance

Are you sold on Drew Lock? I’m not, and the Broncos are desperate for a franchise quarterback to compete in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. In one of the strongest QB classes in recent memory, Elway hedges to ensure stability at the most important position. Denver has already shown strong interest in Lance.

Trey Lance NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 10th
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB (Alabama)
Previous Pick:  Patrick Surtain II

One of the most confident picks in my mock draft. I understand owner Jerry Jones is fascinated with the athletic upside of offensive-skill players, but Dallas has a massive need on defense. If Sewell or Slater falls, Dallas would gladly grab offensive line help here. But assuming they are gone, Dallas takes the top CB in the draft.

Patrick Surtain II NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 11th
Team: New York Giants
Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Previous Pick: DeVonta Smith

For most teams, it is a coin-flip between Surtain and Horn as to who is the better cornerback. GM Dave Gettleman has hammered home the “best player available” mantra, which in this case would be Horn. Per Dan Duggan of The Athletic, Gettleman mentioned the “inside-outside flex” of newly-acquired CB Adoree’ Jackson this week, despite Jackson’s limited experience playing in the slot of his five NFL seasons. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham prefers to play man-to-man on receivers, and Horn would join Jackson and James Bradberry to form one of the best secondaries in the NFL.  I think the Giants shy away from LB Micah Parsons after the DeAndre Baker fiasco, and I can’t see Gettleman using the 11th overall pick on Waddle or Smith after signing Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million contract.  Unless one of the big two offensive linemen falls, Gettleman grabs an elite corner in Horn.

Jaycee Horn NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 12th
Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama)
Previous Pick:  Jaylen Waddle

The Eagles have valiantly tried to address their lack of offensive playmakers with multiple offensive selections in recent history. The results have been less than stellar with Nelson Agholor (2015), Carson Wentz (2016), Dallas Goedert (2018), and Jalen Reagor (2020) all being selected in the first round. They need more offensive weapons, especially with Jalen Hurts entering his first full season as starting quarterback. Pairing Hurts with his former college teammate makes perfect sense in this spot.

Jaylen Waddle NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 13th
Team: Los Angeles Chargers
Pick:  Christian Darrisaw, OT (Virginia Tech)
Previous Pick:  Christian Darrisaw

The trend continues with another team choosing to protect their young quarterback. Almost all reports have the Chargers picking and offensive lineman and cornerback with their first two picks. The Chargers badly need offensive line help. Los Angeles’ offensive line ranked dead-last per PFF and cut veteran guard Trai Turner in March. One of my most confident positional picks, I’ll put the three-year Virginia Tech starter with raw physicality in the powder blue uniform.

Christian Darrisaw NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 14th
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL (USC)
Previous Pick:  Alijah Vera-Tucker

If Darrisaw falls, Minnesota would make him an auto pick, but Vera-Tucker represents the last top offensive lineman before the tier break. The Vikings spent $24 million on defensive upgrades this offseason, drastically trying to improve a defense that ranked 29th in points allowed. The interior of their offensive line is a major concern, and the 6-foot-4, 315 lb Tucker fills that need. His tenacious run-blocking suits the run-heavy preference of head coach Mike Zimmer with two-time Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook.

Alijah Vera-Tucker NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 15th
Team: New England Patriots
Pick: Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State)
Previous Pick:  Micah Parsons

It feels like if Bill Belichick is returning to his traditional roots of defensive success and two-tight end sets. After bombing with Sony Michel and N’keal Harry as past first-round picks, I see New England taking this year’s top linebacker in Penn State’s Micah Parsons. Before opting out, Parsons was given incredibly high praise by Michael Renner at PFF.

Reports have surfaced about character issues with Parsons, but that is an unlikely concern for a legendary coach like Belichick. The Patriots are getting back to their elite defensive ways, and Parsons provides a solid piece in the middle of the field.

Micah Parsons NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 16th
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)
Previous Pick:  Jaycee Horn

General manager Steve Keim made a splash in free agency with veteran wideout A.J. Green, running back James Conner, and defensive end J.J. Watt. Their one glaring remaining need is cornerback after losing Patrick Peterson to Minnesota, but they need to trade up to grab either Surtain or Horn. Assuming both players are gone, the Cardinals add the explosive Heisman Trophy winner for quarterback Kyler Murray. Adding the 32-year old Green to the tiring promise of Christian Kirk doesn’t fully solve Arizona’s need alongside All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is an offensive coach, making the dynamic Smith too enticing to pass up.

Pick: 17th
Team: Las Vegas Raiders
Pick: Tevin Jenkins, OT (Oklahoma State)
Previous Pick: Jaelan Phillips

Las Vegas signed defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to a two-year, $26 million contract, joining Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell. The Raiders cleaned house on their offensive line by trading three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson, and right tackle Trent Brown. Las Vegas brought back The Raiders resigned 38-year old guard Richie Incognito, who is coming off an Achilles surgery. The Raiders need to select an offensive lineman with this pick, and I’ll go with Oklahoma State lineman Tevin Jenkins. Per PFF, Jenkins failed to allow a single sack over two seasons at Oklahoma State. At 6-foot-6, 320 lbs, Las Vegas starts their offensive line rebuild.

Teven Jenkins NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 18th
Team: Miami Dolphins
Pick: Kwity Paye, DE (Michigan)
Previous Pick:  Kwity Paye

Miami bolsters their pass rush here with the versatile athlete with superb quickness from Michigan. I don’t see CB here after using a first-round pick on Noah Igbinoghene last year and adding former Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Coleman on a one-year deal in March. With the departure of Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson, the Dolphins are likely going edge rusher here. Ben Standig of The Athletic has either Paye or Miami’s Jaelin Phillips as the first pass rusher off the board.

Kwity Paye NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 19th
Team: Washington Football Team
Pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB (Notre Dame)
Previous Pick:  Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

Washington addressed a ton of needs in the offseason with wide receivers Curtis SamuelAdam Humphries, and cornerback William Jackson. Now they add a great pass coverage linebacker to one of the NFL’s best defenses in this mock draft.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 20th
Team: Chicago Bears
Pick: Rashod Bateman, WR (Minnesota)
Previous Pick:  Terrace Marshall Jr.

The recent reports of Marshall’s injury concerns caused me to drop him out of the first round.  This draft is filled with smaller frame wideouts who are often considered slot receivers, but Bateman provides a legit WR1 pedigree from Minnesota.  The Bears are in “win or else” mode for general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. They add a 6-foot, 190 lb wideout with 4.43 speed who can grow alongside Allen Robinson.

Rashod Bateman NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 21st
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Pick: Greg Newsome, CB (Northwestern)
Previous Pick:  Caleb Farley

Farley comes with a risk as a result of a back microdiscectomy in late March after opting out of the 2020 season. The Colts opted to go with the safer selection in Newsome and add to their pass defense with a long-armed cornerback who ran a 4.38 at Northwestern’s pro day.

Greg Newsome II NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 22nd
Team: Tennessee Titans
Pick: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE (Georgia)
Previous Pick: Azeez Ojulari

Titans grab one of the top pass rushers in the draft in Azeez Ojulari. He is an impressive athlete with a high-end character. Ojulari is slightly undersized at 6-foot-2, 249 lbs, but is lightning quick and is compared favorably to Las Vegas defensive end Yannick Ngakoue by Marcus Mosher.

Azeez Ojulari NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 23rd
Team: New York Jets
Pick: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE (Miami)
Previous Pick: Jaelan Phillips

Robert Saleh’s first pick as head coach comes on his defensive side of the ball. The Jets grab a top pass rusher in Miami’s Jaelan Phillips. He was the star at the Hurricanes’ pro day, running a 4.56 40-yard dash at 260 lbs. Phillips falls to the back of the first round due to injury concerns but is still too talented for the Jets to pass up.

Jaelan Phillips NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 24th
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Najee Harris, RB (Alabama)
Previous Pick: Tevin Jenkins

Harris fits the Pittsburgh running back mold as a 6-foo-1, 232 lb bruising back that rarely fumbles. His pass-catching skills are also superior as he generated a 13.4% (89th percentile) college target share at Alabama. With the big four offensive linemen off the board, the Steelers grab a positional need after losing James Conner to Arizona.

Najee Harris NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 25th
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson)
Previous Pick:  Trevon Moehrig

New head coach Urban Meyer is unlikely to trust his starting backfield to a UDFA (James Robinson) that he didn’t sign, leaving a massive hole at starting running back. While first-round running backs is a polarizing topic, there isn’t as much value left at the other positions. Etienne could be the best all-around running back in this draft and joins former college teammate Lawrence as building blocks for the Jaguars offense.

Travis Etienne NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 26th
Team: Cleveland Browns
Pick: Rondale Moore, WR (Purdue)
Previous Pick: Rondale Moore

The signing of Jadeveon Clowney to a 1-year $8 million deal allows the Browns to look to the offensive side of the ball with their first pick. Per PlayerProfiler, Rondale Moore comps to Colts’ wideout T.Y. Hilton. An angry runner after the catch, Moore plays with physicality despite a 5-foot-7, 181 lb frame. With great speed and agility, some believe Moore is the second-coming of Steve Smith Sr. Look for the Browns to add another offensive weapon to support quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Rondale Moore NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 27th
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Gregory Rousseau, DE (Miami)
Previous Pick: Azeez Ojulari

The Ravens add another strong pass rusher to their defensive front in this mock draft after losing defensive ends Matt Judon (New England) and Yannick Ngakoue (Las Vegas). Rousseau slides because of the premium placed on cornerbacks, and the Browns get an edge rusher who finished second in sacks behind Ohio State’s Chase Young in 2019.

Gregory Rousseau NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 28th
Team: New Orleans Saints
Pick: Caleb Farley, CB (Virginia Tech)
Previous Pick:  Rashod Bateman

The Saints grab the Farley discount and replace Janoris Jenkins with Virginia Tech’s Farley. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season and has elite size at 6-foot-2 205 lbs. Farley is a converted receiver, with massive upside at a position the Colts desperately need. He certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

Pick: 29th
Team: Green Bay Packers
Pick: Zaven Collins, LB (Tulsa)
Previous Pick:  Zaven Collins

We know this likely won’t be a wide receiver, and the Packers need defensive help in this mock draft as they push for one last Super Bowl for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Collins won both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. At 6-foot-4, 260 lbs, Collins is a very safe option with a high NFL floor.

Zaven Collins NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 30th
Team: Buffalo Bills
Pick: Jayson Oweh, Edge (Penn State)
Previous Pick:  Jayson Oweh

The Bills road to the Super Bowl goes through Kansas City, which means they need pass rushers. At 6-foot-5, 237 lbs, Oweh ran an eye-popping 4.36 at Penn State’s pro day. He’s raw but reminds me of Jason Pierre-Paul with his high ceiling. Buffalo needs a running back but can fill that need in the next two rounds.

Jayson Oweh NFL Draft Profile

Pick: 31st
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Elijah Moore, WR (Ole Miss)
Previous Pick: Greg Newsome

Baltimore needs another wide receiving option for quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Ravens grab the uber-productive Moore who garnered a 45.5% (91st percentile) college dominator rating at Mississippi.

Elijah Moore Draft Profile

Pick: 32nd
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Trevon Moehrig, S (LSU)
Previous Pick: Kadarius Toney

Tampa Bay takes the best player available in safety Trevon Moehrig.  He won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and bolsters an already strong pass defense for the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Trevon Moehrig Draft Profile

 

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images


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