Image: Wikimedia Commons / All-Pro Reels
Image: Wikimedia Commons / All-Pro Reels

The 2021 NFL Draft predictions

The NFL Draft is a yearly event where franchises draft players out of college for their team. The order of the NFL Draft is decided by how well teams did in the previous season.

This year, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the prized first overall pick. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl title, the Bucs possess the 32nd pick while the Chiefs have the 31st pick.

The NFL Draft this year takes place in Cleveland on 29 April to 1 May.

There are a total of 259 picks in the draft this year, split over seven rounds. The first round only has 32 picks, reflecting the number of teams in the NFL.

The 2021 NFL Draft is a seriously exciting one, no thanks to the number of “opt-out” prospects. An “opt-out” prospect is one who opted out of the college season leading up to the NFL Draft. These include elite prospects such as LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Oregon’s Penei Sewell and NDSU’s Trey Lance.

On top of this, the top five quarterbacks in this year’s draft are all top prospects, like the class in 2018 (though not all of them have necessarily succeeded in the NFL so far).

The wide receiver class is nothing to sneer at either. The top three (or four) prospects are all excellent players.

With so many storylines in the Draft, there is no doubt that Draft day this year will be both chaotic and exciting for fans and teams alike.

Recently, the San Francisco 49ers moved up to the third overall pick thanks to a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins moved down to number 12 but quickly moved back up to the sixth overall pick courtesy of a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles (who are now picking at 12).

The moves at the top of the Draft have undoubtedly shaken up the Draft picture for many teams.

Draft talk is heating up and, with players showing off their talents at pro days, a mock draft seems necessary.

For the following mock draft, I will be considering a mixture of what I think teams should do, alongside what I think teams will actually do. The mock draft will be just the first round and have no trades.

So, without further ado, here is the mock draft…

1st: Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson.

This pick is a standard across all mock drafts. Lawrence is the most polished college prospect the league has seen since at least Andrew Luck, a generational talent. He will be the franchise player to re-ignite the Jaguars.

2nd: New York Jets: Zach Wilson, Quarterback, BYU.

The league consensus appears to be that Wilson is QB2. A very polished prospect who throws the ball with ease and grace, the Jets find their replacement for Sam Darnold, who should be traded.

3rd: San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, Quarterback, NDSU.

The timing of the 49ers trade seems to indicate that Kyle Shanahan is not after Justin Fields. Though Lance may be more of an unknown, boom or bust prospect, he is a fantastic scheme fit for Shanahan’s “safe” running offence. He will be able to learn on the job while relying on the team’s poignant running game.

4th: Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State.

Matt Ryan is reaching the end of his career and, with the Falcons’ Super Bowl window seemingly closed, the franchise opts to re-start with a young, dynamic quarterback prospect. Fields could also learn from Ryan, a former MVP, for a year.

5th: Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, Offensive Tackle, Oregon.

The Bengals select my number two prospect in this year’s draft. Sewell is a phenomenal talent and is, arguably, an even better prospect than Quenton Nelson was. After Joe Burrow’s horrifying injury, the Bengals need to protect their franchise quarterback to avoid picking in the top five again.

6th: Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama.

I love this pick. A lot. The Dolphins re-unite quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with Heisman-winning Alabama wide receiver Smith. Despite having a smaller frame, Smith is an excellent primary receiver and will become Tua’s primary target. He will complement free agency addition Will Fuller extremely well.

7th: Detroit Lions:Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU.

Speaking of excellent primary receivers, Chase is the prototypical number one receiver. With a weak receiving corps in Detroit, the Lions add an elite prospect.

8th: Carolina Panthers: Kyle Pitts, Tight End, Florida.

The top four quarterbacks in this class are gone so the Panthers opt to stick with Teddy Bridgewater for another season. They manage to add a versatile weapon for their quarterback though. Pitts has the potential to be the best offensive receiver in this class.

9th: Denver Broncos: Rashawn Slater, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern.

A top five prospect in this class, Slater is a “plug-and-play” tackle for the Broncos at right tackle. Again, a quarterback could be in play here but I think the Broncos want to stick with Drew Lock for one more season.

10th: Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama.

The first defensive prospect off the board is arguably the best one in the class. Surtain is a true lockdown corner and will team up with former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs in a bid to mend a leaky Dallas defence.

11th: New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, Wide receiver, Alabama.

The Giants recently added receiver Kenny Golladay in a huge free agency spending spree and, if Waddle is available here, they should double down at the position. With Waddle as their deep threat, Golladay on the boundary and Darius Slayton in the slot, the Giants give Daniel Jones all the necessary firepower to succeed.

12th: Philadelphia Eagles: Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina.

The Eagles traded back after being told they would not be able to trade up to get Zach Wilson. At this spot, the Eagles are still able to add one of the top defensive prospects in Horn, who had a phenomenal pro day.

13th: Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle, Virginia Tech.

Darrisaw is one of the top three offensive tackle prospects in the class. The Chargers need to protect Justin Herbert, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, who played behind a terrible offensive line last year. Darrisaw will help with that.

14th: Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Offensive Guard, USC.

After trading for lineman Mason Cole, the Vikings keep adding to the interior of their offensive line. Without a clear starter at right guard, Vera-Tucker is the perfect pick, being one of the most polished prospects in the class.

15th: New England Patriots: Mac Jones, Quarterack, Alabama.

The Patriots chose to re-sign Cam Newton this year, but Jones should be in play here if available. Jones is a top quarterback prospect and could learn behind Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, for a year (though he seems very “NFL-ready”). Jones is a great fit for Bill Belichick’s system too.

16th: Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech.

If Farley had no injury concerns and had not opted out of the season last year, he would have been a top 10 pick this year. Talent-wise, Farley is arguably the best cornerback in the class (best according to Chris Simms) and the Arizona Cardinals need a number two corner to partner with new signing Malcolm Butler. This is a risk that has incredibly high upside.

17th: Las Vegas Raiders: Teven Jenkins, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma State.

The offensive line in Las Vegas has seen a huge overhaul, losing key players along the right side of the line. Jenkins is an excellent prospect who will be an instant starter for the Raiders.

18th: Miami Dolphins: Micah Parsons, Middle Linebacker, Penn State.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the entire draft, Parsons is a Swiss army knife on defence who can do a bit of everything. His stock has crumbled thanks to some off-field antics and character concerns but there is no doubt he is an excellent talent, nevertheless. The Dolphins bolster their young, elite defence with this pick.

19th: Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Linebacker, Notre Dame.

Another versatile defensive piece, Owusu-Koramoah can play a linebacker/safety hybrid which will be invaluable to an already-talented defence. Offensive line could be in play here but Owusu-Koramoah is too valuable to pass up at this point.

20th: Chicago Bears: Jalen Mayfield, Offensive Tackle, Michigan.

The Bears bring in a talented offensive tackle from nearby. Regardless of the quarterback situation in Chicago, they must improve their offensive line and Mayfield could start from day one.

21st: Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, Offensive Tackle, Texas.

Cosmi could be he second best pass-protector in this class, behind Sewell. The Colts fill a position of need with a ready-to-play prospect.

22nd: Tennessee Titans: Greg Newsome II, Cornerback, Northwestern.

An intriguing cornerback prospect who had an immense pro day, Newsome has shot up draft boards as of late. He joins a defensive unit that is in dire need of help, especially after losing cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson in free agency.

23rd: New York Jets: Asante Samuel Jr., Cornerback, Florida State.

Samuel Jr. is a great, versatile defensive back who offers skills in the slot and on the boundary. He’s also a great tackler despite his small frame. The Jets recently franchise tagged Marcus Maye and add to their young defence with this move.

24th: Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama.

I ranked Derrick Henry as the second most important offensive player to their team in the 2020/21 season. With Ben Roethlisberger seemingly on the decline, the Steelers will need some Henry-esque magic in their running game, and Harris is their best bet.

25th: Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashod Bateman, Wide Receiver, Minnesota.

With Lawrence as the signal-caller, the Jaguars bring in a primary receiver for him to grow with. After Justin Jefferson’s historic season, Bateman, who has many similar traits, will hope to take the league by storm too.

26th: Cleveland Browns: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan.

Paye will be an exceptional pass-rusher on the end of Cleveland’s 4-3 defensive front. He will also be helped by playing alongside elite defender Myles Garrett.

27th: Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU.

Lamar Jackson gets his primary target on the outside in the LSU prospect. Marshall Jr. will play as a boundary receiver for the Ravens, something that the team had been missing all season. Despite signing Sammy Watkins recently, this pick solidifies the receiver group.

28th: New Orleans Saints: Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami.

The Saints are unpredictable. With Drew Brees retiring, it had appeared that the Saints’ Super Bowl window had closed but, the more I look at their team, the more I am convincing myself otherwise. In Phillips, the Saints get a man mountain to take the place of Trey Hendrickson, who they lost in free agency. One last shot for New Orleans?

29th: Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes, Cornerback, Georgia.

Wide receiver could certainly be in play here but, after watching Kevin King get torched by the Buccaneers in the NFC Conference Championship, I have no doubt that the Packers are looking to get a solid cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander. Stokes, who ran a blistering 40-yard dash, will be in the perfect position to develop behind Alexander and will fill a much-needed gap in the Packers defence.

30th: Buffalo Bills: Elijah Moore, Wide receiver, Ole Miss.

Moore is surging up draft boards now, thanks to an eye-opening pro day in front of NFL scouts. With Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, it seems receiver is far from a desperate need for the Bills. However, Moore gives the Bills added versatility in the passing game and, with his presence, Diggs could draw less attention. Why not improve what you’re best at?

31st: Kansas City Chiefs: Liam Eichenberg, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame.

Everyone saw how badly the Chiefs struggled upfront in the Super Bowl. After releasing their starting offensive tackles to free up money for free agency, the Chiefs have revolutionised their pass protection. The final piece of the puzzle could be a ready-to-play rookie tackle, and that’s exactly what Eichenberg brings.

32nd: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia.

On the topic of the Super Bowl, let’s not forget how great Tampa Bay’s linebackers were. A good pass-rusher and ability to play off the ball too, Ojulari is an ideal scheme fit for Todd Bowles’ Bucs defence. He would be a steal at this point in the Draft.

What are your thoughts? Go ahead and make your own mock draft here!

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