Just as the whirlwind of free agency had passed through, the 2021 NFL draft got a shake-up. The San Francisco 49ers traded three first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins to go from 12th to third overall; the expectation clearly being they’re taking a quarterback. Miami then traded back into the top-10, moving the 12th, 123rd, and a 2022 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth and 156th picks this year.
Got all of that? Good. *Deep breath*
We also got word that the New England Patriots are planning to make a move for current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo or one of the top rookies in the NFL Draft. The Atlanta Falcons are dealing with an aging Matt Ryan and the Carolina Panthers have made no secret about trying to upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater. Then there’s the Chicago Bears who need to do something.
A Major Shake-Up to the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence
(Original Selection – Trevor Lawrence)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, the Jaguars are broke but the initial pick wasn’t. When you get the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft for the first time in your franchise’s history, you better not mess it up. No matter the small pockets of dissent, Trevor Lawrence is the consensus top passer in this class. Scenarios imagining them going another direction are fiction.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson
(Original Selection – Zach Wilson)
See: Trevor Lawrence. In all seriousness, the Jets were always going to be picking a quarterback in our eyes and Zach Wilson made the most sense. His stock rose all season while the other option for second-overall saw his fall during a difficult college season. Now it appears that it’s becoming more of a foregone conclusion, though.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Justin Fields
(Original Selection – Trey Lance)
We always had the 49ers, like the Jags and Jets before them, slated to take a quarterback. But the aggressive move up means they’re likely trying to capitalize on the “slide” of Justin Fields more than banking on a project from a small program. San Francisco better hope the recent history of trades up for quarterbacks doesn’t repeat itself.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts
(Original Selection – Micah Parsons)
This is still where the draft could get most interesting. The Falcons could take their quarterback of the future as some major analysts predict. They could go for an impact defender. This was one of the worst defenses last season. But why not try to maximize Ryan now and set this offense up for the future too with a generational talent in Kyle Pitts?
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase
(Original Selection – Rashawn Slater)
Look, what Baby wants, Baby gets. We initially had the Bengals slated to take an offensive lineman, but after reports came out that Joe Burrow is lobbying for the Bengals to take Ja’Marr Chase (who happens to be a former teammate) the Bengals should be happy to oblige. The signing of Riley Reiff makes this an acceptable decision, especially if they can trade down.
6. Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell
(Original Selection – Penei Sewell)
No, Miami shouldn’t take another project QB. Miami picked up some capital by trading down but had to get back here to ensure they get Penei Sewell. He’s still the top tackle prospect with outstanding grades in a “down” season. Some might see them going for a playmaker here, but chances are they can still land that guy with the 18th pick. If they hold onto it that is.
7. Detroit Lions – Micah Parsons
(Original Selection – Kwity Paye)
Decisions decisions. The Lions are the first team to have to legitimately weigh pulling the trigger on a quarterback after trading Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff. It makes more sense to try and build the rest of this roster and the defense is still the neediest (though the offense is giving it a run for its money). Micah Parsons’s character worries are no match for Dan Campbell.
8. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance
(Original Selection – Caleb Farley)
Not many teams have been as connected to the big named quarterbacks who were subject of speculation as the Panthers. Don’t expect them to stop trying on that front, necessarily. But if those guys ultimately do stay put, sitting Trey Lance behind Bridgewater for a year or two wouldn’t be the worst plan.
9. Denver Broncos – Christian Darrisaw
(Original Selection – Justin Fields)
When healthy, the Broncos have one of the better rosters in the NFL. They’re only missing steady quarterback play. Having missed out on Fields in this mock, they turn to bolster the protection around the current quarterback, Drew Lock. This could be where a team like the Chicago Bears gets antsy and moves up so as not to miss on the remaining “first-round” quarterback.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtai
(Original Selection – Patrick Surtain)
The pick stays the same after the Cowboys only move at cornerback was to re-sign Jourdan Lewis. Maybe they go with one of the other top corners. But Patrick Surtain has the kind of pedigree that should catch the eye of the decision-makers in Dallas. His tape certainly won’t hurt, either.
11. New York Giants – Rashawn Slater
(Original Selection – Christian Darrisaw)
The selection may change but the objective remains the same: protect the quarterback. Daniel Jones was sacked 45 times (4th) despite missing two games. Rashawn Slater is versatile so, with Nate Solder set to return next season, the Northwestern product could kick inside to guard; replacing the departed Kevin Zeitler.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith
(Original Selection DeVonta Smith)
Sometimes things just work out. When the Eagles traded down it was viewed as further evidence they were fully invested in Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback. Then word broke they weren’t completely sold. With the way the draft has shaken out, the choice of taking the Heisman-winning DeVonta Smith should be an easy one. Why give up on Hurts before seeing what he can really do?
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Caleb Farley
(Original Selection – Zaven Collins)
This might be more of a value-pick than anything. But after losing 14-game starter Casey Hayward from what was a top-10 passing defense, it’s also a need. Caleb Farley would team with the returning Derwin James to give the Chargers a long, versatile secondary. We’re still in prime trade-up territory for some quarterback-thirsty team.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker
(Original Selection – Alijah Vera-Tucker)
The Vikings needed line help before cutting Reiff. Their activity beyond that in free agency only bolstered this. They would be getting a versatile one in Alijah Vera-Tucker who spent most of his time in college on the outside.
15. New England Patriots – Mac Jones
(Original Selection – Kyle Pitts)
If reports are true that the Patriots plan on making a move for one of the top passers in the draft it would likely have to be Mac Jones. If so, Bill Belichick would be cracking the closest thing to a smile you’re going to get from him if this scenario plays out. This still feels like a bit of a smokescreen, though, and a trade down wouldn’t exactly shock anyone.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn
(Original Pick – Travis Etienne)
After having some doubt whether another corner was worthy of going this high, Jaycee Horn erased all concerns. His 4.39 40-yard dash, 41.5-inch vertical, and 19 bench reps point to his pedigree. Yes, the Cardinals just signed Malcolm Butler. But it’s only a one-year deal. A pick of Horn is one with the long view in mind.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Teven Jenkins
(Original Pick – Ja’Marr Chase)
The Raiders created the need for this pick when they traded away right tackle Trent Brown to the Patriots. Despite the re-signing and signing of Zay Jones and John Brown, respectively, the Raiders could still use another receiver and there is a big need for a linebacker. But protecting the quarterback is paramount in the NFL.
18. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle
(Original Pick – Terrance Marshall)
This would be an absolute steal for the Dolphins. Initially slated for the versatile Marshall, Jaylen Waddle is the dynamic presence this offense, and second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa needs. Following their earlier selection of Sewell, landing Waddle would be enough to earn this class an ‘A’. And no, Will Fuller’s signing shouldn’t keep them from making this pick.
19. Washington Football Team – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
(Original Pick – Trevon Moehrig-Woodard)
A solid free-agent haul has left the Football Team feeling fine despite missing out on one of the top passers (barring a trade, of course). And while they still could use a safety or tackle here, but they instead opt for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, a player who tallied 142 tackles, seven sacks, and five forced fumbles (with four recoveries) in two seasons at Notre Dame.
20. Chicago Bears – Kadarius Toney
(Original Pick – Mac Jones)
If the Bears are serious about Andy Dalton being QB1, then they need to put more weapons around him. Allen Robinson will be playing on the franchise tag, Darnell Mooney is just in his second year, and they already tried to trade Anthony Miller. Kadarius Toney had 10 touchdowns and nearly 100 yards last season for the Florida Gators. They should try to trade up though.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye
(Original Pick – Dillon Radunz)
The Colts signed Sam Tevi who started 14 games for the Chargers last season in free agency. That plus the shake of the board pushed EDGE to the top of their list of needs. There might be players with more pass-rushing juice, but Kwity Paye is the most complete EDGE defender on the board.
22. Tennessee Titans – Greg Newsome
(Original Pick – Joseph Ossai)
The addition of Bud Dupree influenced this change of heart. But not more than the losses of both Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler in free agency. Janoris Jenkins will be 33 early in the season and Kevin Johnson isn’t an answer, especially on a one-year deal. Greg Newsome is quickly rising up draft boards.
23. New York Jets – Zaven Collins
(Original Pick – Jaylen Waddle)
A productive free agency sees the Jets needs change for this pick. Corey Davis doesn’t preclude them from taking a receiver but they can certainly wait for one. Instead, new head coach Robert Saleh gets a versatile new toy for his defense. Zaven Collins, the Nagurski award winner from Tulsa, can play off-ball linebacker or rush the passer.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris
(Original Pick – Liam Eichenberg)
With it looking like some quality tackles could be available in the second round, the Steelers opt to go a different route in an attempt to address their stagnant ground game. James Conner is a strong candidate to return but Pittsburgh has ranked 32nd, 29th, and 32nd with him as the primary back and he’s yet to play a full season.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig-Woodard
(Original Pick – Jackson Carman)
Just as with Pittsburgh, the Jaguars take note of the available tackles and see light in the second round of the NFL Draft. They can then make what might be a slight reach but secure the top safety in the class in Trevon Moehrig-Woodard. He would go nicely with free-agent acquisitions Shaquille Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins, and last year’s first-round pick C.J. Henderson in the Jags revamped secondary.
26. Cleveland Browns – Gregory Rousseau
(Original Pick – Gregory Rousseau)
This pick was originally made with the idea of getting a bookend for Myles Garrett. Takkarist McKinley isn’t it and Gregory Rousseau had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss for the Miami Hurricanes in 2019 before opting out last season due to COVID concerns. Barring Jadeveon Clowney singing here, this is the pick.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman
(Original Pick – Rashod Bateman)
Two things are working against this pick that shouldn’t. One is the hole at EDGE with the loss of both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. The other is the signing of Sammy Watkins to a one-year deal. But both defenders combined for just nine sacks. And Watkins on the perimeter for a year with Marquise Brown, while Rashod Bateman plays the big slot role, would be Lamar Jackson’s dream scenario.
28. New Orleans Saints – Terrace Marshall
(Original Pick – Jaycee Horn)
The Saints miss out on the top cornerback prospects and need an EDGE. But they also need another weapon for this offense with a new quarterback set to emerge between Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. Why not get one who can play all three spots and that you should have plenty of tape on in Terrace Marshall of LSU.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Mayfield
(Original Pick – Jalen Mayfield)
The Packers have a 37-year-old future Hall of Famer under center and a 22-year-old 2020 first-rounder waiting in the wings. It’s that simple. Jalen Mayfield also has the versatility the Packers like in their lineman, with the ability to play either tackle spot or to slide inside and play guard.
30. Buffalo Bills – Azeez Ojulari
(Original Pick – Najee Harris)
Buffalo has done a solid job adding to their offense. But the pass rush needs some juice behind the aging duo of Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Azeez Ojulari had 12.5 sacks for the Bulldogs last season and would make a nice compliment for A.J. Epenesa, should he come around.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Dillon Radunz
(Original Pick – Wyatt Davia)
We stick with the o-line for the Chiefs in our mock NFL Draft (2.0) but, following free agency, they need more help on the outside. With the names still on the board, they may opt to trade down a couple of slots, but Dillon Radunz has the potential to be a franchise left tackle but he might need some work. What better place than with Andy Reid who took Eric Fisher first-overall back in 2013.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian Barmore
(Original Pick – Christian Barmore)
The Super Bowl Champion Bucs have pulled off a rarity and have retained all 22 starters from the title run. It remains to be seen if the results will be the same. Christian Barmore can serve as useful insurance behind Vita Vea (who missed 11 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs) and, even more for Ndamukong Suh who is 34 years old.
NFL Draft Version 2.0
The NFL Draft is always an exciting event and this year should be no different. With a return of the in-person format, we will once again have those emotional moments when prospects hear their names called and walk across the stage.
So much can (and will) change between now and the start of the 2021 NFL Draft. Who knows, we might even have to update this once more before it’s all said and done.