The day has finally arrived. After hours of tape study and countless arguments with colorful eggs on Twitter, the 2021 NFL Draft is finally here.
They say that you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and after finishing dead last and second-to-last in the previous two mock draft scorings at The Huddle Report, I’m ready to take a third shot!
Without further ado, I present my final 2021 first-round mock for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy the draft, everybody!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
We’re at the point in the draft process where it already seems like Lawrence has been the Jaguars’ quarterback for several years now. No surprises here.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
Not a surprise, either.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
All right, I did it. I took the bait. It should be Justin Fields and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Trey Lance. But in the end, if the 49ers are set to deal Jimmy G (perhaps to Chicago), they want a guy who will command Shanahan’s offense from day one. That guy is Mac Jones.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
The Falcons would love to trade down from here but may have trouble finding any takers. While I understand Kyle Pitts is a good fit, a full-scale rebuild usually doesn’t involve taking a tight end in the top five. New GM Terry Fontenot was part of the Saints’ front office that was once infatuated with Patrick Mahomes and Atlanta could follow a similar developmental blueprint with Lance.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
This pick should be an offensive lineman (Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater) for the sake of Joe Burrow’s health insurance premiums but, alas, Cincy opts to re-unite him with his former teammate to replace AJ Green. Keep an eye on the Bengals to potentially sneak back into the end of the first round to address the offensive line.
6. Miami Dolphins – Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
Pitts is the best player in the draft and this is most likely the exact scenario the Dolphins had in mind when they moved back up to this spot in their deal with the Philadelphia. Either of the Alabama receivers and Penei Sewell could also be considerations here if Pitts is off the board.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (from Detroit) – Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)
The Chargers use Brandon Staley’s connections to the new regime in Detroit to move up and select Penei Sewell, a player one source described by saying “if I could create a lineman, it would be him.”
8. New England Patriots (from Carolina) – Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
Denver’s acquisition of Teddy Bridgewater may have just opened the door for New England to move up and select Justin Fields at this spot if the Panthers aren’t tempted to give Sam Darnold some competition. If the Patriots opt to trade down instead, look for Jaelan Phillips, DeVonta Smith and Ernest Jones to be other good fits.
9. Minnesota Vikings (from Denver) – Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
What better trade partner than a former co-worker? The Vikings know they’ll have to jump in front of Dallas and Philadelphia if they want to add help for their secondary and they do so in the form of Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
The Cowboys watch as Patrick Surtain II is plucked right in front of them but still see Jaycee Horn as a nice consolation prize. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater is another good fit here, as well.
11. New York Giants – Kwity Paye (EDGE, Michigan)
This team needs pass rushers and even though I want to give them DeVonta Smith or Micah Parsons in this scenario, I’ll stick with one of the twitchiest edge rushers in the class, Michigan’s Kwity Paye.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
New head coach Nick Sirianni has preached competition since his first day on the job and Waddle’s fiery demeanor has been comped by Nick Saban to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Consider this a lock!
13. Detroit Lions (from LA Chargers) – Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL, USC)
The Lions trade down but are able to still position themselves to land the talented former Trojan, Alijah Vera-Tucker, before the next group of offensive linemen start to come off the board.
14. Denver Broncos (from Minnesota) – Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern)
Trading for Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Justin Fields. But then again, it just might. Whichever quarterback starts for the club in 2021, they’ll need more protection up front and Rashawn Slater can provide that.
15. Carolina Panthers (from New England) – Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
New GM Scott Fitterer is well-schooled in the Seattle trade-down approach and I imagine he’ll have several deals in place on day one. Here, he lands North Carolina native Caleb Farley, who may be the best cornerback in the draft from a pure talent standpoint. If the Panthers are comfortable with his medicals, this is a great fit.
16. New Orleans Saints (from Arizona) – Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
The Saints decide to end former Nittany Lion Micah Parsons’ slide after a trade up with the Cardinals, adding an athletic new piece to their defense.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Liam Eichenberg (OT, Notre Dame)
It wouldn’t be a Raiders’ first-round pick without being somewhat of a surprise. I could see Darrisaw or Farley being options here as well but instead the team takes Eichenberg, whose Notre Dame program is very familiar to GM Mike Mayock.
18. Miami Dolphins – Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
An edge rusher like Gregory Rousseau or Jaelan Phillips could be in play but don’t discount Tua Tagavailoa’s close relationship with his former teammate in the backfield, Najee Harris.
19. Washington Football Team – Jamin Davis (LB, Kentucky)
Having been one of the league’s most unlikely playoff teams last season, Washington finds themselves in a tough spot on the board to upgrade at quarterback. I wouldn’t rule out a trade up for Trey Lance, but I think the team is better off sticking at this spot and adding a leader in the middle of the defense with Kentucky’s Jamin Davis. Former Hokie standout Christian Darrisaw is also a consideration here.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Chicago) – Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech)
After seeing WFT pass on Darrisaw, the Jaguars seize the opportunity to jump up and grab the talented Virginia Tech alum ahead of several other tackle-needy teams.
21. Indianapolis Colts – DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Boy, would this be quite the storyline on draft night or what? I wouldn’t be shocked if Smith goes anywhere from 6 to 11 but I love this fit in Indianapolis if he slides out of that range.
22. Tennessee Titans – Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
The Titans have quite a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball and here they choose to invest in the versatility of Tulsa’s Zaven Collins to add to their front seven. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari or TCU’s Trevon Moehrig could be considered here, as well.
23. New York Jets – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
The Jets could continue to build around Zach Wilson on offense with their second pick of the first round (Travis Etienne, Elijah Moore) but this pick would certainly please defensive-minded head coach, Robert Saleh. JOK is one of my favorite players in the entire draft and would be an absolute steal at this spot in round one.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
Pittsburgh is likely to put an emphasis on rejuvenating the club’s running game and here they get a step closer to doing that with the selection of Clemson’s Travis Etienne.
25. Chicago Bears (from Jacksonville) – Tyson Campbell (CB, Georgia)
The Bears would be the team to watch for Mac Jones if San Francisco doesn’t take him at three but otherwise a trade down is likely given their position and needs. After moving down a few spots with Jacksonville, they add to their secondary with Tyson Campbell, who is getting plenty of first-round buzz of late.
26. Cleveland Browns – Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
The Browns have slowly but surely assembled one of the strongest rosters in the AFC over the past several years. After addressing the pass rush with the signing of Jadeveon Clowney, they decide to add more offensive firepower for Baker Mayfield in the form of Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Samuel Cosmi (OT, Texas)
Dealing Orlando Brown Jr. and securing an additional first-round pick all but guarantees the Ravens will use one of them on the departed tackle’s replacement. I see former Longhorn Samuel Cosmi as the best fit of the remaining tackles left on the board.
28. Arizona Cardinals (from New Orleans) – Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR, LSU)
After missing out on the top corners and Jaylen Waddle, it makes sense for GM Steve Keim to explore a trade down. I like the fit of former LSU standout Terrace Marshall Jr to add to an already-potent Cardinals offense.
29. Green Bay Packers – Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
The Packers buck the trend of avoiding first-round wideouts with the addition of Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, which should certainly please Jeopardy! host Aaron Rodgers.
30. Buffalo Bills – Jaelan Phillips (EDGE, Miami)
Phillips’ ceiling seems to continually be pushed down during the draft process by his off-field questions and durability concerned. In an atypical evaluation year, especially surrounding medicals, the Bills could feel the risk is worth the reward towards the end of the first round. Other names I like at this spot are Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II and Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Trevon Moehrig (S, TCU)
Picking in the Chiefs’ spot here gives the Ravens a lot of flexibility, especially for teams looking to jump back up into the end of the first round (San Francisco, perhaps?) for a tackle or cornerback. In the end, I have them standing pat as TCU’s Trevon Moehrig represents too good of a value to pass up.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (from Tampa Bay) – Landon Dickerson (iOL, Alabama)
I don’t see the Bengals coming out of the first round without also addressing the offensive line. The medicals for Dickerson are obviously concerning but Cincy could love his positional versatility and loads of experience against top-flight talent. Stanford’s Walker Little could be another consideration at this spot, as well.
Other names to watch: Gregory Rousseau (EDGE, Miami), Teven Jenkins (OL, Oklahoma State), Ronnie Perkins (EDGE, Oklahoma), Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama), Greg Newsome II (CB, Northwestern), Eric Stokes (CB, Georgia), Creed Humphrey (OL, Oklahoma), Azeez Ojulari (EDGE, Georgia)
About the author: Conor Dorney is a writer and comedian originally from Seattle, Washington. He is an alumnus of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. You can follow him on Twitter here so the rest of us don’t have to. He currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, Jessica, and dog, Luci.