It's nearly here and you can cut the anticipation with a chainsaw. The 2021 NFL Draft is only days away and all 32 teams have, at this point, begun finalizing their big boards and are readying to pull their respective triggers on April 29 in Cleveland -- with teams like the . There won't be any surprise with the No. 1 overall pick, but don't use a pen when writing down what you think will happen thereafter. For as is usually the case going into the draft, not everything you hear is true, and there are bound to be surprises here and there.
In our latest first-round mock, that is precisely what occurred, and the early run on quarterbacks helped shape the remainder of the round -- as did what non-QBs got selected and where. Some teams walked away with a huge smile knowing their patience paid off in not striking a trade, while others were forced to think a bit harder after failing to find a partner to move up.
And with all eyes on the 49ers at No. 3, they cut right through the smoke and mirrors in this mock, leaving the Atlanta Falcons a much easier decision with the next pick, and the roller coaster ride launched from there.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Clemson • Soph • 6'6" / 213 lbs
The least surprising pick of the 2021 NFL Draft comes to fruition. Urban Meyer loves Lawrence and Lawrence is already ingratiating himself with the City of Jacksonville -- ushering in a new era in the process.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Zach Wilson QB
BYU • Soph • 6'2" / 214 lbs
The Jets seem utterly enamored with Wilson, so much so they didn't pull the trigger on trading Sam Darnold until they were convinced Wilson's shoulder was OK. That's a strong nod, and one that almost guarantees Wilson is a Jet soon.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ohio State • Soph • 6'3" / 227 lbs
It feels like all of the Mac Jones talk is smoke and mirrors, which would clear the way for the 49ers to surprise everyone and instead grab Fields -- the Ohio State dynamo who can do it all.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kyle Pitts TE
Florida • Soph • 6'6" / 245 lbs
Lots of options here for the Falcons, including trading out of No. 4 or grabbing Matt Ryan's successor, but restructuring his deal combined with the former league MVP still playing at a high level makes it prime territory to add Pitts to an already potent offense -- that would instantly become lethal and conjure memories in Atlanta of Tony Gonzalez.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Penei Sewell OL
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 331 lbs
Yes, the Bengals would do well to go after former LSU weapon La'Marr Chase -- who also helped propel Joe Burrow to a national championship, a Heisman and the No. 1-overall pick last season -- but the team doesn't need a reminder of how quickly their fortunes can tank if Burrow gets injured. For that reason, send them Sewell, an all-world specimen who can protect as either a left tackle or guard.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 6
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 201 lbs
No Pitts? No problem. Why? Because the Bengals opted to protect Burrow instead of asking him to run for his life on a reconstructed knee, which means Chase is still there for the taking, and the Dolphins couldn't make this call fast enough.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Northwestern • Soph • 6'4" / 315 lbs
The Lions would do well to consider their options of possibly trading out of this spot, but not with Slater staring them in the face. On some boards, Slater is graded higher than Sewell, and potentially generational left tackles don't just fall out of trees. They traded for Jared Goff, so now protect him, and find him weapons with the remaining picks to help set him up for success.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Jaycee Horn CB
South Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 200 lbs
The addition of Sam Darnold lessens the pressure to grab a QB here, but losing James Bradberry created a huge void in the secondary that must be filled. Horn is the right medicine and then some, and considering his days with the Gamecocks allowed scouts from Charlotte to see him dominate firsthand, they choose to keep him in the Carolinas.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Trey Lance QB
North Dakota State • Soph • 6'4" / 226 lbs
If you're John Elway, you want to believe Drew Lock is the future, but you can't chance it at this point. This is especially true if Lance is available, and while you need to add to your defensive unit, that's overshadowed by what Lance might become at the NFL level.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 202 lbs
The sound you hear is the Cowboys exhaling -- having seen Horn go off the board and Surtain scoot past the Broncos to land in their lap at No. 10. They won't risk trading back and letting the Giants or Eagles get a shot at him. Instead, reuniting him with Trevon Diggs solves a massive issue in the cornerback unit, and sets the defense up for immediate and needed improvement.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Alabama • Soph • 6'0" / 170 lbs
Big Blue needs help on the offensive line, but Dave Gettleman might find this too tempting to pass on. They tandem Kenny Golladay with a Heisman-winner who has been known to obliterate opposing defenses despite his size, and improve their NFC East chances without blinking.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 12
Alabama • 5'10" / 182 lbs
Sorry Giants, but you if take Smith, the Eagles are grabbing Waddle; and that's not a consolation prize. Waddle has often been ranked right next to Smith in terms of NFL potential, so the Eagles can only be thrilled at how the chips have fallen here, landing one of the two 'Bama star receivers after whiffing on a WR1 in last year's draft.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Virginia Tech • Soph • 6'5" / 315 lbs
It couldn't be more clear that Justin Herbert was the right call, and now it's about protecting him. Herbert would've loved to have former Oregon teammate Sewell in Los Angeles, but he's long gone. As is Slater, but Darrisaw could do big things for the Chargers -- even if he's often overlooked as a first-rounder due to the presence of Sewell and Slater.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Kwity Paye EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'2" / 261 lbs
It's unknown what happens next for Danielle Hunter regarding his looming return in 2021, and Paye can enter the mix and either take pressure off of Hunter or become the premier pass rusher in Minnesota. There are others to consider here, but Paye feels like the right call.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Mac Jones QB
Alabama • Soph • 6'3" / 217 lbs
With Fields and Lance both gone, the Patriots are able to land a potential franchise QB in Jones and without giving up any assets to do it. It's no secret the Patriots need a QB of the future, and Belichick might be able to do great things with the quarterback who helped make Smith and Waddle into household names.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Northwestern • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
The Cardinals did exceptional work in adding J.J. Watt to tandem with Chandler Jones, but losing future Hall of Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson stings mightily. Newsome has been graded by some as the best cornerback in the draft, and the Cardinals would love such a talent to fix their sudden issue at CB1.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Oklahoma State • Soph • 6'6" / 320 lbs
All in on Derek Carr, you say? Prove it by grabbing Jenkins and possibly extending Carr's career, while helping to clear lanes for Josh Jacobs (and Kenyan Drake) to be even more dominant.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Najee Harris RB
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 232 lbs
More offense is heading to Miami, and Tua Tagovailoa is wearing an ear-to-ear smile. Following the grab of Chase with a dynamic running back in Harris puts the second-year QB in position to level up in a big way, and especially considering the two know each other well from time spent together at Alabama (Tagovailoa reportedly lobbying for this pick).
Round 1 - Pick 19
Penn State • Soph • 6'3" / 245 lbs
The Football Team desperately needs a QB of the future, but the first-round talent there is wiped. This turns eyes to the needy LB corps, and Ron Rivera is never one to slouch on locating an elite talent at that position. It's why he puts the call in here for Parsons -- the first LB off the board in this mock and arguably the best.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Caleb Farley CB
Virginia Tech • Soph • 6'2" / 197 lbs
Unable to find a trade partner to move up for a QB, after failing to peel away Russell Wilson from the Seahawks, it's defense here for the Bears. Taking a risk on Farley, who has dealt with a back injury, will either pay off wonderfully or not so much, but his ceiling alone justifies giving him a shot at the back end of the first round for a team in need of a dynamic corner.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'2" / 221 lbs
At this point, the cream of the OT crop are gone and it can be addressed in the next round, so throw J.O.K. on the same defense as Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner and enjoy the fireworks.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Azeez Ojulari EDGE
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 240 lbs
Another year, another need at the edge for the Titans, and Ojulari is there for the taking at No. 22 overall. He delivered 9.5 sacks last season for Georgia and 15 in the last two seasons, improving as he goes along. This is the sort of talent needed in Nashville on defense.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 23
TCU • Soph • 6'2" / 202 lbs
They traded away a disgruntled Jamal Adams, and this is a pick that was included in the package from Seattle, so use it to grab Moerhig and heal the back end of the defense for Gang Green -- one that was a shell of itself with Adams gone.
Round 1 - Pick 24
USC • 6'5" / 308 lbs
Nothing to see here from a QB perspective, and the Steelers planned for that by keeping Ben Roethlisberger onboard for 2021. Given his age and possible decline, help him as well as whomever eventually becomes his successor by putting Vera-Tucker in the black and yellow. Double back and find a RB afterward.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 25
Wyatt Davis OL
Ohio State • Soph • 6'4" / 315 lbs
You have your QB of the future, so secure his offensive line with an impressive anchor like Davis. This is the perfect sort of double-up Meyer is hoping for in this year's draft: a new era at QB and the talent to protect it.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Alabama • Soph • 6'5" / 310 lbs
Sheldon Richardson is out and Jadeveon Clowney is in, but Clowney hasn't racked up many sacks lately. Adding Barmore to bolster the interior will help, along with the fact Myles Garrett will be present and accounted for. Barmore has received inconsistent grading as a first-round grab, but the late 20s is widely regarded as the beginning of the second round, even if not officially -- making this a great spot to take him.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jaelan Phillips EDGE
Miami (FL) • Soph • 6'5" / 266 lbs
Don't get cute here, Baltimore. You no longer have Matt Judon or Yannick Ngakoue and need to add a pass rusher. The Ravens could do much worse than Phillips, who's coming off of a breakout eight-sack season after transferring to the University of Miami in 2020.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Odafe Oweh EDGE
Penn State • Soph • 6'5" / 251 lbs
Considering how the board is falling, it just makes sense the Saints would select Oweh. He helps add potency to the pass rush unit that struggled to get to Tom Brady when it mattered most, and that'll be even more paramount until the offense figures itself out in the post-Drew Brees era.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Purdue • 5'7" / 180 lbs
You'll often hear about prospects "checking all the boxes," but it couldn't be more true when looking at Moore. All he needs to do is be more consistent, but catching passes from Aaron Rodgers while Davante Adams and Aaron Jones draw attention is a recipe for Moore to truly shine as early as Year 1.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Florida State • Soph • 5'10" / 180 lbs
There's a connection here with head coach Sean McDermott and Asante Samuel, Sr., and the former now gets a chance to coach up Junior as well. Samuel is a ballhawk in the secondary, and that's the medicine for a Bills team that failed to shut down Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs -- ending their otherwise phenomenal season.
From Kansas City Chiefs
Round 1 - Pick 31
Alabama • Soph • 6'5" / 312 lbs
The Ravens traded Orlando Brown to the Chiefs and landed this pick in the package, and they can't afford to not replace him on their offensive line. Leatherwood is no stranger to the big stage, and it doesn't get much bigger than protecting and creating lanes for former league MVP Lamar Jackson.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Florida • 6'0" / 193 lbs
There isn't truly a position of need for the reigning Super Bowl champs -- considering they were able to keep roughly the entire band together -- but they haven't yet re-signed Antonio Brown and might be waiting to see what they can get in the draft. To close out the first round, they land Toney, who's been called a "human joystick" and would provide insurance in the event Brown doesn't return.