Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Kyle Pitts, Micah Parsons and other prospects are expected to be among top picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday in Cleveland. But which teams will pick them?
With the draft less than two days away, here’s our final 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): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
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). They’re reportedly deciding between Mac Jones and Trey Lance, and in this case they go with the former Alabama star who can overcome average mobility and arm strength with pinpoint ball placement skills, smarts and pocket presence.
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: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
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 one of Burrow’s top targets from LSU. Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season, but he won the Biletnikoff Award and set SEC receiving records in 2019 — with Burrow under center — thanks to his great hands and mixture of speed, shiftiness and physicality.
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: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Lions’ current projected starters at wide receiver: Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and 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. 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.
8. Carolina Panthers: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, giving them some competition (or a possible replacement) for Teddy Bridgewater. That frees them up to continue building the offensive line, even after signing Cam Erving and Pat Elflein. 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.
9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State
Denver could move on from Drew Lock, who has had a bumpy start to his career, but if they decide to keep him they could instead choose to reinforce a run defense that allowed 130 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. 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.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys allowed 29.6 points per game, fifth-most in the NFL, thanks to a pass defense that allowed a touchdown on 6.6% of attempts. 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.
11. Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Giants got Daniel Jones a No. 1 target in Kenny Golladay and also brought in John Ross on a one-year deal. That gives the Giants good depth at receiver — Golladay, Sterling Shepard and either Ross or Darius Slayton as the starters in three-receiver sets — but it doesn’t necessarily preclude them from taking another one. 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.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from 49ers via Dolphins): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Eagles ranked near the bottom in several pass defense categories last season: 43 passes defensed (worst in the NFL), eight interceptions (fourth-worst), 68.7 completion percentage (sixth-worst) and 7.8 yards per attempt (seventh-worst). Jaycee Horn —the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn — is a lengthy outside corner who thrives in physical, press coverage.
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: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Patriots most likely will have to trade up to secure a quarterback, but in this case one falls to them here. 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 and to get rid of the ball quickly in the face of pressure.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Patrick Peterson left for the Vikings and Dre Kirkpatrick remains unsigned. Although the Cardinals brought in Malcolm Butler, there’s still not much depth. 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.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OG, USC
The Raiders took a sledgehammer to their starting offensive line, releasing their starting center (Rodney Hudson), right guard (Gabe Jackson) and right tackle (Trent Brown). Alijah Vera-Tucker played the shortened 2020 season at left tackle, but he also has plenty of experience at guard, giving Las Vegas extra flexibility if needed.
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, Northwestern
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: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Bears released Bobbie Massie, leaving them with a hole at right tackle. Teven Jenkins started for three years on the right side at Oklahoma State and is a powerful run blocker.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Azeez Ojulari, Edge rusher, Georgia
The Colts need a left tackle to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo, but with the top-tier prospects off the board, the attention could turn to a pass rush that needs reinforcements. Azeez Ojulari is a solid hybrid edge defender with the athleticism and ability to play in both two- and three-point stances.
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): Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
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. Trevon Moehrig is a versatile safety with great ball skills and instincts to make plays in single-high coverage, and he's able to drop down to cover slot targets when needed.
26. Cleveland Browns: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Browns signed Jadeveon Clowney to pair with Myles Garrett, and without too many other glaring holes, they can afford to pick for value here. One possible option: A defensive lineman who can help create interior pressure to free up Garrett and Clowney on the edge. 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.
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: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Alex Anzalone, Kwon Alexander and Craig Robertson all left in free agency amid the Saints’ cap issues, and former Jet Demario Davis is 32 years old. 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.
29. 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.
30. Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau, Edge rusher, Miami
Jerry Hughes turns 33 in August and Mario Addison will be 34 in September, so the Bills need some youth in their pass rush alongside 2020 second-rounder A.J. Epenesa. 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.
31. Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City): Jayson Oweh, Edge rusher, Penn State
The Ravens sent tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City for a package of picks, giving them a chance to dip back into the first round and fortify a pass rush that has some young talent but lost Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Jayson Oweh burst into the first-round discussion after a dominant Pro Day, but he doesn’t have much experience and notched just seven career sacks at Penn State, including none last year.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
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, they fortify their defensive line with a former college teammate of nose tackle Vita Vea. Levi Onwuzurike opted out of the 2020 season and is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle at 6-3, 290 pounds, but he’s very explosive off the snap and uses his hands well to shed blockers.