Mock drafts are hard to do.
But it's hard because you have to balance truth from fiction. I trust my sources and their honesty in a general sense, but we all have biases and loyalties. You also have to ignore what you believe about certain players or positions. I wouldn't take a running back in this year's class in the top 20, but you'll see one below. Some team in the top-12 may not care about DeVonta Smith's weight, but it is a factor to me.
Here's my latest mock draft as best I see it for Thursday. There are some first-round trades but fewer than in my first mock. I'm skeptical that teams, once we get in the thick of it Thursday, will be able to agree to commensurate value for picks in such an odd year.
As always, if you have any complaints, please send them to the aforementioned Ryan Wilson.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kyle Pitts TE
Florida • 6'6" / 245 lbs
Falcons have wanted it known they can do anything but trade up. I think trading down and collecting assets is in their best interest, but it seems it'll be either a quarterback or Pitts. Atlanta will eventually move on from both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and selecting Pitts makes the Jones departure more palatable.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Penei Sewell OL
Oregon • 6'5" / 331 lbs
The mock-draft tide seems to be shifting in favor of Ja'Marr Chase, but I'm sticking with Sewell here. Look at how the Chiefs are protecting their half-billion-dollar investment. Why wouldn't Cincinnati do the same with their quarterback of the future?
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 7
Trey Lance QB
North Dakota State • 6'4" / 226 lbs
Trade terms: Patriots receive 2021 No. 7 overall pick in exchange for 2021 No. 15, second-round pick (No. 46) and 2022 first-round pick. I ran this projected trade by a few executives over the weekend asking if the Lions would make this deal with a Patriots team that gave them Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. They all said yes. Detroit gets its third first-round pick for 2022 when they most certainly won't be competing in 2021, and New England gets a QB that may surprise them with how quickly he's ready to take over.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Alabama • 6'2" / 202 lbs
Yes, I have Carolina passing on Fields. They like him, but it appears Carolina wants teams to believe they could take him (by virtue of not yet picking up Sam Darnold's fifth-year option, which I've reported they will) so that they can drive up the price for what they really want to do: trade back. They don't want to go too far back, though, and just because you want to trade back doesn't mean you will be able to. Carolina gets the best corner at a position of need at No. 8.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Penn State • 6'3" / 248 lbs
The Broncos and Panthers are doing a bit of a dance. Does Denver want Fields? Will they trade ahead of Carolina? I think Denver ultimately trades for Teddy Bridgewater for pennies and makes Carolina pay for a good portion of his 2021 salary, taking care of the QB position for them. They can turn their attention to improving the middle of Vic Fangio's defense and get an instant playmaker as they begin transitioning out of Von Miller.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Northwestern • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Cornerback is the obvious move here for Dallas, but there's no denying that offensive line is aging. Getting who some believe to be the best tackle in this year's draft at No. 10 could be viewed as a steal for Jerry.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Alabama • 5'10" / 182 lbs
We know Dave Gettleman desires an edge rusher, though I'm not convinced there's one befitting the 11th overall pick that fits his criteria. Joe Judge pulls on his Alabama connections and the Giants get great value at this spot as they continue to give Daniel Jones weapons.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 12
Jaycee Horn CB
South Carolina • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Looks like this winds up being a masterful trade-down for Howie Roseman. He's in position to take either DeVonta Smith or Horn. And though I have a strong urge to mock Smith here, they need an upgrade in the defensive backfield.
Mock Trade from Minnesota Vikings
Round 1 - Pick 14
Ohio State • 6'3" / 227 lbs
Trade terms: Bears receive No. 14 pick in exchange for 2021 No. 20, second-round pick (No. 52) and a 2022 fourth-round pick. Ryan Pace wants to make sure this isn't his last draft as Bears GM. Fields is my QB2, and I won't at all be surprised if he goes earlier than this. But if he falls—as some around the league predict could happen—the Bears have to jump ahead of the Lions to get him.
Mock Trade from New England Patriots
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • 6'0" / 170 lbs
The Detroit Lions win this year's draft. They spun Matt Stafford and a lost year into two additional first-round picks in 2022 (and one more in 2023) and the Heisman Trophy winner. His weight does scare me, but I'm far more comfortable with it at pick No. 15 than in the top 10.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Tulsa • 6'4" / 260 lbs
Arizona is still trying to figure out what position Isaiah Simmons will play. It's clear, though, that they need a linebacker. And the 270-pound Collins will absolutely control the second level of the defense.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Kwity Paye EDGE
Michigan • 6'3" / 265 lbs
Edge rushers are hard to predict this year. Paye is the "safest" of all rushers, which would make you think the Raiders *wouldn't* take him. But Mayock and Gruden stand pat and go against their conventionally unconventional wisdom.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Oklahoma State • 6'6" / 320 lbs
If Najee Harris isn't mocked here he's mocked to Pittsburgh. Those are the 2021 mock draft rules. But because this is my mock and because I believe in positional value, I don't have a RB going in the first 20 picks. Instead, the Dolphins get their Day 1 starter at right tackle in Jenkins.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Notre Dame • 6'2" / 221 lbs
I picked Wu here in my first mock and I'm doing it again. Washington is in good position to take best player available if they stay at No. 19, and getting this hybrid linebacker will make the defense even more multiple.
Mock Trade from Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 20
USC • 6'5" / 308 lbs
The Vikings desperately need interior offensive line help. Vera-Tucker is the best one in the draft and likely the only iOL taken in the first round. The Vikings trade back with their old NFC North pals to help Kirk Cousins gain a little more trust when he turns his back to the line on play-action. (Also, of course Rick Spielman trades back.)
Round 1 - Pick 21
Azeez Ojulari EDGE
Georgia • 6'3" / 240 lbs
I've been frustrated by the Colts' lack of activity this offseason, but it's hard to argue against the results Chris Ballard has gotten. They went the veteran route along the OL, so now it's time to get the edge rusher in the draft.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 25
TCU • 6'2" / 202 lbs
Urban Meyer wants to build in the trenches but it's hard to turn away from the best safety in the draft when the Jaguars need better play. Also, watch for the Jags to package some of those fourth- and fifth-rounders to slide up a couple spots in the first and second rounds to get the guys they really want.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jaelan Phillips EDGE
Miami (FL) • 6'5" / 266 lbs
If Cleveland hadn't signed Jadeveon Clowney, this guy was going to them. Phillips' history with concussions is the cause for his fall in this mock. And the player I think could be the best edge rusher in the class goes to a team in need of his services.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Clemson • 5'10" / 215 lbs
Not for a second will I be surprised if the Bills trade back into the second round with the ability to get likely the exact same player. If they stay, I think Etienne not only fills a need but represents the best player available.
Mock Trade from Baltimore Ravens
Round 1 - Pick 31
Jamin Davis LB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 234 lbs
Trade terms: Raiders receive 2021 No. 31 overall pick in exchange for 2021 second-round pick (No. 48) and fourth-round pick (No. 121). The Raiders have to assemble a better defense, and we know the Ravens will likely trade out of this pick. I could see Vegas going after the smart and instinctual Davis here to fill the linebacker need after missing out on Parsons earlier in the first.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Alabama • 6'6" / 333 lbs
Once he's fully healthy, Dickerson offers the best versatility of any offensive lineman in the draft. Everything the next two years is about protecting Tom Brady now that it's understood that players at star positions will take less money to stay there.