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2021 NFL mock draft 3.0

Zach Wilson of the Brigham Young Cougars looks

Zach Wilson of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on prior to the game against the Central Florida Knights at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., on Dec. 22, 2020. Credit: TNS/Mark Brown

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Penei Sewell, Micah Parsons and other prospects are expected to be top picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on April 29. But which teams will pick them?

With the draft less than a month away, here’s our updated mock draft of the full first round.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

This pick is as no-brainer as it gets. Gardner Minshew surprised everyone with a good rookie season in 2019, but couldn’t build on it in 2020. And quite simply, he’s not Trevor Lawrence, who is in the Andrew Luck/Peyton Manning "generational" status of prospects. Lawrence brings a complete skillset to the NFL: size, arm strength, accuracy, mobility, leadership and a winning pedigree (he’s only lost two games since high school).  

2. Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

The Sam Darnold era officially is over, meaning a new quarterback will be throwing to new receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and handing off to new running back Tevin Coleman. The Jets will have their pick of the quarterbacks not named Lawrence; it just comes down to which one fits the kind of offense new head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur want to build. In this instance, GM Joe Douglas starts fresh with Zach Wilson, a well-rounded quarterback with a great deep ball, solid mobility and a sixth sense for pressure.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The 49ers took a huge leap up the board, giving up 2022 and 2023 first-rounders and a third-rounder this year to move up nine spots. That all but guarantees they’ll be taking Jimmy Garoppolo’s replacement —it all comes down to which one they prefer (and who's there at No. 3). Justin Fields, the former Ohio State star, is an excellent dual-threat quarterback with a ton of pure athletic talent, but questions remain about his ability to quickly process his progressions.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The Falcons have plenty of other needs, but not many players line up with those needs at this pick. Couple that with Matt Ryan’s age (he’ll be 36 in May) and it’s not too crazy to think that new head coach Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot would want to think long-term and get their quarterback of the future here. Trey Lance has excellent mobility, a strong arm and ideal size (6-4, 226), but he played only 17 career games at the FCS level. Luckily, with Ryan’s contract essentially guaranteeing he’ll be around through at least 2022, Lance would have some time to acclimate to the pro game.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Joe Burrow will need two things to flourish in Cincinnati: extra protection and extra targets. If four QBs go in the top four picks, the Bengals will have their pick of the best from either group — and in this case, they go for the blind-side blocker. Penei Sewell opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still is the best blocker in the class, with excellent upper-body power in the run game and the technique and arm length to hold off pass-rushers.

6. Miami Dolphins (via Eagles): Kyle Pitts, WR/TE, Florida

First, let’s take a second to appreciate Miami’s serendipity: Had Laremy Tunsil’s Twitter not been hacked on draft night in 2016, he likely would not have fallen to the Dolphins, who in turn would not eventually have turned him into four first-round picks (the Texans’ first-rounder last year, this pick and the 49ers’ next two first-round picks) and a third-rounder. Now, onto this pick, which   could be a "best player available" situation. In this case, they stay in state and add a dynamic playmaker for Tua Tagovailoa. Kyle Pitts was the top target in Florida’s high-octane offense thanks to his rare mix of size, speed, body control, route-running ability and hands. He can line up anywhere on offense and immediately be a mismatch for whoever is covering him, and even though his listed position is tight end, he might be just as good as the actual receivers in this class.

7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Lions’ current projected starters at wide receiver: Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus. Williams missed all of 2020 with a torn labrum in his shoulder, and Perriman and Cephus combined for 50 catches, 854 yards and five touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season, but he won the Biletnikoff Award and set SEC receiving records in 2019 thanks to his great hands and mixture of speed, shiftiness and physicality.

8. Carolina Panthers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

The Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, giving them some competition (or a possible replacement) for Teddy Bridgewater. That frees them up to go after some defensive help, namely a cornerback opposite Donte Jackson. Patrick Surtain II — the son of the former Miami and Kansas City cornerback — has the size (6-1, 203), ball skills and fluidity to lock down receivers.

9. Denver Broncos: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Does Denver move on from Drew Lock, who has had a bumpy start to his career? Mac Jones is a very efficient passer — he completed 76.5% of his passes in his first full season as Alabama’s starter — who can overcome average mobility and arm strength with pinpoint ball placement skills, smarts and pocket presence.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State

The Cowboys allowed 29.6 points per game, fifth-most in the NFL. Most of it was due to a pass defense that allowed a touchdown on 6.6% of attempts, but their linebacker corps could use some help as well. Jaylon Smith hasn’t quite lived up to the extension he signed in 2019, and Leighton Vander Esch has had trouble staying healthy. Micah Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, but he’s a versatile linebacker who can do anything asked of him. However, there are a few off-field concerns that need to be answered, most notably a fight with a teammate in 2018 and his involvement in a lawsuit against Penn State that alleges hazing and harassment.

11. Giants: Gregory Rousseau, Edge rusher, Miami

After inking Leonard Williams to a massive extension, the Giants got Daniel Jones a No. 1 receiver in Kenny Golladay, then brought in Adoree’ Jackson to play cornerback opposite James Bradberry, among other depth deals. That frees up GM Dave Gettleman to address other needs, the biggest one being edge rusher. Gregory Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season but was one of the nation’s best pass-rushers in 2019 with 15 1/2 sacks. He’s quite raw technique-wise but has excellent athleticism, burst and length – just like the last first-round pass-rusher the Giants took: Jason Pierre-Paul.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from 49ers via Dolphins): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Yes, the Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor in the first round last year, but there’s not much else after him. DeVonta Smith won the Heisman and emerged as Mac Jones’ favorite target in Alabama’s high-powered offense thanks to his excellent technique and soft hands. He’s a bit on the thinner side at 6-1, 175 pounds, but he plays like a much bigger receiver and would be a great fit as the "X" receiver to complement Reagor’s home-run ability.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Another year, another offseason in which the Chargers desperately need a left tackle — and with all the flashes that Justin Herbert showed in his rookie season, GM Tom Telesco would be wise to protect him. Rashawn Slater opted out of the 2020 season, but he’s an aggressive, physical blocker who moves very well and can play either tackle spot or inside at guard.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, Edge rusher, Michigan

Mike Zimmer called his defense "the worst one I’ve ever had," so look for the Vikings to add massive reinforcements there, starting with a pass rush that only mustered 23 sacks.  Kwity Paye has the physical tools, explosiveness and motor to get to the quarterback, and he’s an ideal fit for the 4-3 scheme that Zimmer loves to use.

15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The Patriots aren’t in range for any of the top quarterbacks, so instead they could try to get some help for whoever they put under center, whether it’s Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham or another veteran. In this scenario, Bill Belichick gets a quality receiver who played under good friend Nick Saban. Jaylen Waddle is recovering from a broken ankle (he played a bit in the national championship game in January, though), but when healthy, he’s a speedy threat who can turn a short slant into a long touchdown.

16. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

The Raiders only had 21 sacks, fourth-worst in the NFL, and it feels like forever since they’ve had an impact player in the heart of their defense. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is cut from the same cloth as recent hybrid defenders Isaiah Simmons, Derwin James and Jabrill Peppers – extremely athletic, versatile defenders who can do a little bit of everything.

17. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Patrick Peterson left for the Vikings and Dre Kirkpatrick remains unsigned, and although the Cardinals brought in Malcolm Butler, there’s still not much depth. Jaycee Horn —the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn — is a lengthy outside corner who thrives in physical, press coverage.

18. Miami Dolphins: Jaelan Phillips, Edge rusher, Miami

After getting an offensive playmaker at the top of the draft, the Dolphins don't look too far to add some pass-rush help to an already stout defense. After transferring from UCLA, Jaelan Phillips had a breakout season in Miami with eight sacks and 15 1/2 tackles for loss. He uses his size, speed and power very well against both the run and the pass.

19. Washington Football Team: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Washington needs long-term answers at two key positions on offense: quarterback and left tackle. They’re out of range for the top players at the former, but they’re in a good spot to find the latter. Christian Darrisaw moves well for a 6-5, 314-pound tackle, and he has the length to be a solid pass protector.

20. Chicago Bears: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

The Bears released star cornerback Kyle Fuller and replaced him with Desmond Trufant, but they could use more depth behind him and second-year pro Jaylon Johnson. Caleb Farley opted out of the 2020 season, but he has an excellent mix of size (6-2, 207), speed, and physicality in press man coverage. He does have a bit of an injury history and missed his Pro Day to undergo a procedure on his back, but agent Drew Rosenhaus said Farley should be good to go by training camp.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

After securing their quarterback situation by trading for Carson Wentz, the Colts could find another cornerback to pair with Xavier Rhodes. Eric Stokes is a long press corner with the speed to stay in lockstep with any receiver.

22. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Titans lost Corey Davis and Adam Humphries in free agency, leaving very little depth at wide receiver behind A.J. Brown. Rashod Bateman played five games before opting out of the 2020 season, but he has the size, hands and aggressiveness to come down with contested catches as well as the fluidity and route-running skills to beat defenders on shorter routes.

23. Jets (via Seahawks): Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

After getting their new quarterback at the top of the draft, the Jets address their biggest need on the defensive side of the ball. Greg Newsome II has the length (6-1, 190 pounds) and fluidity to line up on the boundary, and he’s comfortable in both Cover 3 and press-man schemes — an important trait for Robert Saleh’s defense.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama

The Steelers’ offensive line struggled this season, and that was before Maurkice Pouncey retired and Alejandro Villanueva tested free agency. Pittsburgh never has been shy about taking interior linemen in the first round, and they do so here with Landon Dickerson, a big, tough center with great strength.

25. Jaguars (via Rams): Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

After taking Trevor Lawrence, look for the Jags to address either the defensive line or safety with the pick they received in the 2019 Jalen Ramsey trade. Christian Barmore burst onto the scene late last season and has a knack for getting into the backfield with a great combination of power and quickness off the snap.

26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa

The Browns could use another impact pass-rusher opposite Myles Garrett. Zaven Collins won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defender and has a great mix of size, speed, smarts and overall versatility.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

Marquise Brown has shown big-play ability and Mark Andrews has been a reliable security blanket, but the Ravens still need a big-bodied receiver who can come down with jump balls. Terrace Marshall Jr. uses his 6-4, 200-pound frame, body control and leaping ability to make those contested catches, but he also has good speed – something the Ravens value in their receivers.

28. New Orleans Saints: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

Cap issues kept the Saints from being active in free agency, so they’ll have to fill their biggest holes – among them, another cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore – in the draft. Tyson Campbell impressed at Georgia’s Pro Day and has an excellent mixture of size, speed, length and fluidity.

29. Buffalo Bills: Joseph Ossai, Edge rusher, Texas

Jerry Hughes turns 33 in August and Mario Addison will be 34 in September, so the Bills could use youth in their pass-rush alongside 2020 second-rounder A.J. Epenesa. Joseph Ossai is great at getting to the quarterback both as a stand-up linebacker and as a traditional defensive end, and what he lacks in polish, he makes up for in athleticism and relentlessness.

30. Green Bay Packers: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

Davante Adams remains one of the NFL’s best receivers, Robert Tonyan broke out at tight end and Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are dependable depth options, but if the Packers want to maximize the rest of Aaron Rodgers’ remaining years and give heir Jordan Love a running start when his time comes, they could add another speedy playmaker. Don’t let Elijah Moore’s 5-9, 185-pound frame fool you. He’s speedy and shifty enough to blow by defenders but also has the toughness to make catches over the middle.

31. Kansas City: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OG, USC

Kansas City revamped its offensive line after a very poor Super Bowl showing. Gone are tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher and guards Austin Reiter and Kelechi Osemele. In are guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long, and Mike Remmers at right tackle. That still leaves a hole at left tackle. Alijah Vera-Tucker played the shortened 2020 season at left tackle, but he also has lots of experience at guard, giving Kansas City extra flexibility if needed.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Thus far, the Super Bowl champions have been able to bring back most of their key free agents, so they could go for more of a luxury pick here. In this case, it’s Najee Harris, a three-down back with a great mix of side speed, power and hands.

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