A lot has changed since my early 2021 NFL Mock Draft from May, but the one thing that has stayed the same for my first mock of 2021 is the guy in the No. 1 slot. I'm sure that my final mock before the 2021 NFL Draft this spring will look quite a bit different than this one too.
All you need to know about this first attempt is that I'm basing these picks off what we know now and what I believe the teams need (or believe they need). Also, I try not to get too "crazy" with my first mock, but there are a few trades in this one as teams move up to get quarterbacks. One thing I do not do in my mocks is go into the trade details, so if you're wondering what a particular team gave up to move up to the pick in question, the answer is always "whatever it needed to."
So, without further ado, let's get to the mock. You've probably scrolled past all of this already, anyway.
Clemson • Soph • 6'6" / 220 lbs
A lot will change in my mocks over the coming weeks. This won't. Trevor Lawrence will be the first pick in the draft, and it will be the Jaguars drafting him. He is not a sure thing, but he's about as close to one as you could realistically expect to find in the NFL draft.
Ohio State • Soph • 6'3" / 227 lbs
I don't know where Sam Darnold goes from here, but the Jets can't pass up on the chance to draft Fields. He's been the second-best QB on my board for over a year, and that's not changing. His accuracy and touch on balls gives him a better chance to succeed than any other QB in this class not named Trevor Lawrence.
Mock Trade from Miami Dolphins
Penei Sewell OL
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 331 lbs
The Texans send Deshaun Watson to Miami for Tua Tagovailoa, this pick, and others. They then use the pick to improve the offensive line for their new QB. Something they probably should have done for the one they traded to get this pick back.
Mock Trade from Atlanta Falcons
Zach Wilson QB
BYU • Soph • 6'2" / 214 lbs
I like Zach Wilson. I get why so many others do too. But I believe there's a lot of confirmation bias in this evaluation. He does some Patrick Mahomes-like stuff, and therefore people want to compare him to Mahomes. He's not. But he's an interesting talent, and one Carolina is willing to take a chance on after swapping firsts (and more) with the Falcons.
Virginia Tech • 6'5" / 315 lbs
There's a lot of variance amongst evaluators on who the best offensive tackle in this draft is after Sewell. I'm not even 100% sure who I'd put at No. 2 on my board. That said, I do see a lot of potential in Darrisaw, and even if Sewell's off the board, the Bengals still need to address the tackle spot.
Alabama • 5'10" / 182 lbs
There's a chance the Eagles could go for a QB here, but with the top three off the board, I think they'd prefer to address a serious need at receiver. Waddle missed most of the 2020 season with an injury, but he is a multi-dimensional talent that can break a game open any time he touches the ball. Philly could use some of that.
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 201 lbs
Chase opted out of the 2020 college season, and considering how LSU's offense looked, it was probably a good decision. He's a very talented player who reminds me of Michael Crabtree in a lot of ways, but with a bit more speed and quickness.
Mock Trade from Carolina Panthers
Kyle Pitts TE
Florida • Soph • 6'6" / 245 lbs
The Falcons need to replace Matt Ryan at some point, but I don't think it's in the first round this year. Instead, the Falcons decide to add yet another weapon to the offense. Pitts is a wide receiver in a tight end's body and can be used in several different ways. Combined with Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones, the Falcons offense would be a matchup nightmare.
Caleb Farley CB
Virginia Tech • Soph • 6'2" / 197 lbs
You know, I was once a Caleb Farley hipster. I was all over him in 2019, but now that everybody else has caught onto how good he is, I'm not going to pull that "I liked his debut album" move. He's got the athletic ability, and he's very smart and intuitive when playing the position. I don't know that he's a perennial All-Pro, but I feel like his floor in the NFL is "starting cornerback." Those are valuable, you know.
Northwestern • Soph • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Slater's stock has risen this year, but part of what makes him good is what makes it hard to evaluate him. I don't know if he's a tackle or if he's going to have to move to the interior. Plenty of other people who are smarter than me are higher on him, and he's projected to be one of the first tackles off the board -- and Dallas can use all the help it can get up front.
Alabama • Soph • 6'0" / 170 lbs
I love DeVonta Smith. Teams might be scared off by his size, and I get it, but he's just such an elegant player on the field. He shows a tremendous understanding of what opposing defenses are trying to do to him and an ability to counter it, constantly finding the open spot in every defense he faces despite being the guy most defenses were trying to stop weekly. I look at him, and I see Marvin Harrison.
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 202 lbs
Surtain's size, length, discipline and intelligence make him a solid, safe pick for any team. I think he's a logical replacement for Richard Sherman in the 49ers defense. If there's any concern, it's the lack of top-end speed, but I wouldn't let that scare me off everything he does well.
Kwity Paye DL
Michigan • Soph • 6'3" / 265 lbs
Paye is more projection than production at this point. That's not to say that he wasn't productive at Michigan, as much as I'm saying there's a lot of untapped potential. Paye strikes me as a player who could go in the middle of the first, and three years from now, we're wondering what the morons in the top 10 were thinking when they didn't draft him.
Alabama • Soph • 6'5" / 310 lbs
I'm not sure how Minnesota will see the fit with Barmore, but he's probably my favorite interior defensive lineman in this draft. He strikes me as the one with the highest ceiling in this draft because he's able to create havoc from the interior, which has always been valuable and only seems to become more and more valuable to defenses with each passing year.
Penn State • Soph • 6'3" / 248 lbs
This isn't New England's most significant need, but they could use some help at linebacker, and Parsons has always struck me as the kind of player Bill Belichick likes. He can play as a middle linebacker or outside linebacker across multiple fronts. While it's his pass-rushing skills that will feed the family, he's also athletic enough to be reliable in pass coverage.
Minnesota • 6'1" / 193 lbs
Bateman doesn't have top-end speed, but that has never seemed to impact his ability to get open at the college level. That's largely due to how quickly he's able to reach his top speed. He has good hands, can win vertically, but also has the size to play over the middle and make an impact. I think he'd be an excellent complement to DeAndre Hopkins in the Cardinals offense.
Georgia • 6'3" / 240 lbs
Ojulari is the kind of edge rusher that will garner different opinions in any draft room. When I look at him, I see a player who hasn't quite reached his full potential. His pass-rush technique can use some refinement, but he doesn't take plays off (a real Gruden Grinder, if you will), so I'm sure he's going to be willing to work on it. He could prove to be a steal.
Mock Trade from Miami Dolphins
Trey Lance QB
NFL Draft • Soph • 6'4" / 226 lbs
How does one evaluate Trey Lance? When you look at him play, you see the arm and athleticism that causes evaluators to dream big, but we've only seen him play at the FCS level for a powerhouse FCS program. And that's when we did see him play. He opted out of the 2020 season when the FCS schedule was moved to the spring, so there's not a ton of film to work with. He is very much a high-risk/high-reward kind of prospect that will be all over the place on draft boards.
LSU • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Marshall should thank Ja'Marr Chase for taking the 2020 season off because it allowed him to shine as the one player on LSU's offense worth noticing. Marshall has great size and ball skills, and he's versatile. He's shown an ability to line up and succeed on the outside and in the slot. With Terry McLaurin, he'd give Washington's 2021 starting QB a pair of terrific weapons to use.
Florida • 6'0" / 193 lbs
The Bears need help on the offensive line, but general manager Ryan Pace has shown an unwillingness to address this OL early in the draft. Even though the Bears will likely use the franchise tag on Allen Robinson, I still expect them to add to the offense for whoever is playing QB for them next season. Toney is an excellent vertical threat, and when paired with Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, he gives the Bears offense a lot of exciting options.
Odafe Oweh EDGE
Penn State • 6'5" / 251 lbs
I love Oweh. That said, I'm not sure he's ready to step into an NFL defense and be a three-down player just yet, and that's likely to keep him from going any earlier than this in the draft. Still, there's so much potential here when you look at his length and athleticism.
Gregory Rousseau EDGE
Miami (FL) • 6'6" / 266 lbs
Rousseau was at the top of many early 2021 mocks last spring, but his stock has fallen a bit after he opted out of the 2020 season. Still, the reasons his stock was so high last year still exist, as he's a tantalizing talent that can be used in multiple fronts. The Titans need to add to their defensive line, and Rousseau is a good start.
From Seattle Seahawks
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'2" / 221 lbs
With their second pick of the first round, I can see new coach Robert Saleh looking to add a versatile defensive weapon to the Jets defense, and Owusu-Koramoah is a very intriguing player. He's only 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, so that size will likely scare some teams off, but he's also versatile. You can use him to bring pressure from a linebacker spot, or you can allow him to serve as more of a safety and have him cover receivers. If you're unfamiliar, watch him in Notre Dame's regular-season win over Clemson. He dominated that game and gave the world a glimpse of what he could be.
Mock Trade from Pittsburgh Steelers
Oklahoma State • 6'6" / 320 lbs
Having added Deshaun Watson, the Dolphins go about the business of keeping him on his feet with Jenkins. He played mostly right tackle at Oklahoma State, and he's powerful, often using his hands to knock opponents off balance and keep them there. Also, he's mean. Just because the play might be over doesn't mean he's going to stop blocking you.
From Los Angeles Rams
USC • 6'5" / 308 lbs
Vera-Tucker played left tackle at USC, but I believe he's destined to move to the interior at the NFL level. Still, the Jaguars could try him out at tackle and make him prove he can't cut it there first.
Miami (FL) • Soph • 6'5" / 266 lbs
Even though Phillips is listed as 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, and you're aware he's a very large human, I'm always still struck by how big he is when on the field. While teams will be drafting him intending to get an explosive pass-rusher, he's proven to be equally adept at stopping the run and shows the ability to fit any scheme.
Purdue • 5'7" / 180 lbs
The Ravens need help at the receiver position, and Moore provides lottery ticket potential. When he's healthy, and on the field, Moore is an electric talent. The problem is he hasn't been able to stay on the field much during the last two seasons. He has the kind of ability to prove to be the best receiver in this draft class if he stays healthy. He's a chance worth taking for Baltimore.
Mac Jones QB
Alabama • Soph • 6'3" / 214 lbs
Mac Jones is not Drew Brees, but Mac Jones is Drew Brees-ish. He doesn't have the strongest arm, but he has an accurate arm. He played well in an RPO-heavy offense with Alabama. While there are questions about how he'd look playing for a team that doesn't have a clear talent advantage against nearly everyone it plays, his decision-making and accuracy have nothing to do with the talent surrounding him. My biggest area of concern is his lack of mobility in an era where even "pocket" QBs need to be able to move a bit.
Jaycee Horn CB
South Carolina • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Horn is the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, and during his time at South Carolina, he improved every season. As of this moment, he projects as a solid NFL starting cornerback, but with room to improve. He has good size and length, and he's physically capable of mixing it up with bigger receivers. He's not a great tackler, though, which could hurt his draft stock with some teams.
Tulsa • Soph • 6'4" / 260 lbs
Collins was one of my favorite players to watch in the country. He's a linebacker who can do a little bit of everything for you. He's got the size and length to win as a pass-rusher but the athleticism to drop into coverage. He also shows an ability to quickly diagnose plays, as he consistently puts himself in the correct position to make plays. All of this suggests to me that he either lives in the film room and studies everything about his opponent or that he's just plain psychic. Whichever it is, both are valuable traits to have.
Wyatt Davis OL
Ohio State • 6'4" / 315 lbs
The Super Bowl showed the world about the limited depth Kansas City has on its offensive line, and while some might consider tackle depth to be more critical, I think the Chiefs could upgrade on the interior too. And with the lineman still available in this mock, I believe Davis offers a better value than the tackles left on the board. Davis may have already reached his potential as a player, which could cause him to drop down some boards, but I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't mind if a player has tapped all his potential if he's already really good.
Jay Tufele DL
USC • Soph • 6'3" / 310 lbs
Even if Ndamukong Suh stays in Tampa, I don't think it'd hurt the Bucs to add some depth behind him on the interior of their defensive line. I went back and forth between Tufele and Iowa's Daviyon Nixon. I like both, but Tufele might be a better fit for what the Bucs are looking for. He's extremely quick out of his stance, which allows him to beat his man to the point of attack. He can be inconsistent at times, but I love the potential here.