The 2021 NFL draft begins Thursday, and beyond the first couple of picks, nobody is sure what to expect.
With so many top-tier quarterback prospects available, the first hour could be full of trade rumors. Or, the teams with those picks will stand pat and take their own chances at the elite QB and wide receiver prospects.
Here’s Local 4′s full first-round mock draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence QB, Clemson
The obvious choice, best overall QB prospect since Andrew Luck.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson QB, BYU
This is all but official, wouldn’t be the pick I would make here, but the Jets seem to be locked into Wilson.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance QB, North Dakota State
A lot of reports link the 49ers to Alabama Quarterback Mac Jones, but that feels like a lateral move with current starter Jimmy Garappolo. Lance has the upside to be an All-Pro, and if you move up in the draft, like San Francisco did, you must go for the Home Run.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts TE, Florida
Elite level athlete that gives the Falcons an extra weapon in they decide to trade Julio Jones.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell OT, Oregon
Maybe the most ‘sure thing’ in the draft, Sewell will make multiple All-Pro teams and help ensure Joe Burrow doesn’t have any more season ending injuries.
6. Miami Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase WR, LSU
This is the best-case scenario for Miami, Chase is the best WR in the draft by a mile. Will be the best thing to happen to Tua and his development.
7. Detroit Lions – Rashawn Slater OT, Northwestern
Before I get into Slater, and why I think that’s the right pick for he Lions to make at 7, lets look at some of the other options, and why I rule them out with this pick.
Jaylen Waddle and Davonta Smith: The biggest thing working against the two Alabama wideouts is the overall depth at the position. Some big boards have as many as 14 WR’s listed in the top 100. That means come round 3, you can still get a value player at the position. No other position in this year’s class has that kind of depth, and the fact that Waddle and Smith both come with questions marks, durability and size respectively, 7 seems like a reach to me.
Ja’Marr Chase is a different story. If he is a available, you can easily argue that he should be the pick. Chase does not come with the same concerns the Alabama players come with and looks like he can step right in and be a number 1 target.
Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, and Micah Parsons: If the top 6 go the way I have it, the Lions would be able to choose whoever they have ranked as the top defensive player in the draft. Some have Penn State Linebacker Micah Parsons, others have Alabama Cornerback Patrick Surtain II, I have South Carolina Cornerback Jaycee Horn at the top of mine. All three seem to have the makeup of NFL starters from day one, but that doesn’t mean the Lions should take them at 7.
For Surtain II and Horn, what hurts them is last years number 1 pick Jeff Okudah. Even with his underwhelming rookie season, its tough to justify going back to back years with a Cornerback as the top pick.
With Parsons, it’s not that he’s not good enough, or that the Lions don’t need him, it’s the fact that the Linebacker position is less and less valuable with each passing season. There are only a handful of 3-down Linebackers left in the NFL, and unless you are certain Parsons is going to be one of those you must look elsewhere this high in the draft. If Linebacker were the only position of need for the Lions you could take Parsons, but the fact that the Lions need help at just about every position on both sides of the ball its tough to justify the pick.
Justin Fields and Mac Jones: That leaves us with the two remaining Quarterbacks, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and Alabama’s Mac Jones. Both will be taken in the first round, possibly in the top 10, and if the Lions are lucky, they might receive a phone call or two asking for their 7th overall pick.
Jones reminds me of Jared Goff, so like what I said about the 49ers taking Jones, it doesn’t make sense to replace Goff with a replica of him.
If you go QB here, Fields would be the pick. He showed his upside in the win over Clemson in the CFP semifinals. Great athleticism, huge arm, and tough as nails. He was however inconsistent throughout the year and didn’t really show up in the National Championship game against Alabama. Still, with that, he is worthy of a top 10 pick, I just don’t think a team without a lot of weapons offensively, and a very bad defense should be in the market for a franchise Quarterback. Especially when you have a perfectly serviceable QB in Jared Goff signed for a few more years. For the time being, see what you have in Goff, build up the defense, and solidify the offensive line.
Let’s get back to the actual pick, Rashawn Slater from Northwestern. Slater is a top prospect at pretty much every position on the offensive line which makes him very valuable, so much so that some have him ranked ahead of Sewell as the top Offensive Lineman. Slater could do what Rick Wagner and Big-V couldn’t do, and solidify the right side of the line. Or he can do what Frank Wagner has shown he can do and show his versatility by moving to the interior line and help the Lions up the middle.
This feels like what the Lions want to be able to do as a team. New Head Coach Dan Campbell wants to beat up other teams, having great line will allow him to do that.
8. Carolina Panthers – Jaycee Horn CB, South Carolina
The Panthers have a lot of weapons offensively, continuing to build up the Defense should be a priority.
9. Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons LB, Penn State
Quarterback is an option here, but after the trade for Teddy Bridgewater the Broncos may be content going best available player.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II CB, Alabama
For as good as Dallas can be offensively, they can be equally bad defensively, Surtain fills a huge need.
11. New York Giants – Jaylen Waddle WR, Alabama
Will pair nicely with Kenny Golladay as a one-two punch.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith WR, Alabama
Eagles are in desperate need of a playmaker on the outside, Smith put up huge numbers and is familiar with QB Jalen Hurts.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Christain Darrisaw OT, Virginia Tech
Much like with the Bengals, protecting the QB is the most important thing for the Chargers.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker OG, USC
The Vikings had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL last season, why not make it better by giving Dalvin Cook another great blocker.
15. New England Patriots – Justin Fields QB, Ohio State
I don’t think Fields falls to 15, so if the Patriots want him, they will have to trade up to get him. Fields would be able to do the things the Patriots asked Cam Newton to do last year.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley CB, Virginia Tech
The Cardinals have one of the better rosters in the NFL and seem to be ready to take the next step. Farley would step right into Patrick Petersons role.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Trevon Moehrig S, TCU
Raiders need help everywhere on Defense, Moehrig is best available at this point.
18. Miami Dolphins – Azeez Ojulari EDGE, Georgia
Incredibly explosive, my favorite edge rusher in the draft.
19. Washington Football Team – Mac Jones QB, Alabama
Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a long-term answer for Washington, and by now he’s used to having an Alabama QB take his job.
20. Chicago Bears – Tevon Jenkins OT, Oklahoma State
Have to think the Bears would take Fields or Jones if they slip here. Without a QB to take, they go to the line.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Greg Newsome II CB, Northwestern
Colts have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, Newsome is the last of the top tier Defensive Backs.
22. Tennessee Titans – Elijah Moore WR, Ole Miss
Replacing Corey Davis from the school that gave you AJ Brown.
23. New York Jets – Najee Harris RB, Alabama
If you are going to put your faith in Zach Wilson, might as well get him as much help as possible. Harris is the best skill player left.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jaelan Phillips EDGE, Miami
Steelers defense took a huge hit when Bud Dupree went down with an injury, adding to the edge makes sense here.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travis Etienne RB, Clemson
Familiar face for Lawrence to have, plus he is so much more than just a Running Back.
26. Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore DT, Alabama
The 6th Alabama player off the board, with more to come in the 2nd round. They are good at football.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Kwity Paye EDGE, Michigan
He didn’t have the most productive career at Michigan, but Paye is the prototype when it comes to edge rushers.
28. New Orleans Saints – Terrance Marshall Jr. WR, LSU
After Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara there aren’t a lot of options in New Orleans as they start the post Drew Brees years.
29. Green Bay Packers – Kadarius Toney WR, Florida
They cant go another year without giving Rodgers a new WR.
30. Buffalo Bills – Jayson Oweh EDGE, Penn State.
Not a lot of holes to fill as the Bills brought back most of their own from last season. Everyone can always use an extra edge rusher.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Rashad Bateman WR, Minnesota
Everyone seems to think all Lamar Jackson needs is a good WR.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gregory Rousseau EDGE, Miami
Brady is running it back with the same guys, he doesn’t need anymore help, so Bucs can look to one of the drafts biggest upside guys.