Photo Credit – Getty Images/SN Illustration http://www.sportingnews.com
If you didn’t already know, 2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. I think it’s only fair to believe that this NFL season is going to be unlike any we have seen before. The ripple effects of Covid-19 will certainly alter both this season and next. The way teams scout college athletes is going to change and it will be extremely hard for scouts to see the players who are on teams that had their seasons cancelled. A lot of things are probably going to change between now and the draft. With that being said, there are some standout athletes in this year’s draft class that teams will not be able to pass on. Here is my first edition of the 2021 NFL Draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I love Gardner Minshew just as much as the next guy. He is a great personality and I do believe he could be a middle of the pack NFL starter on a competent team. However, there is a young man by the name of Trevor Lawrence who happens to be in this draft class. If you follow college football you almost definitely have heard of Trevor. He is a generational talent and has been projected as the top pick in his class since high school. Jags take their future starter for 10+ years.
2. Washington Football Team – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
There’s probably a couple different options for Washington here with the 2nd pick. Some teams might be interested in moving up to grab their guy. I think Washington hangs on to the pick to take Sewell. The tackle from Oregon is the best offensive line prospect in this class. Washington lost Trent Williams and desperately need to replace him to keep Dwayne Haskins on his feet. Sewell should be a long term starter on the line for Washington.
3. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
This pick depends a lot on the current WR room in Cincinnati. There is a lot of talent in that room but there are also a ton of question marks. The Bengals brought in Tee Higgins with their second round pick in 2020. They have an aging AJ Green who has had injury issues as of late and a former top ten pick in speedy John Ross III. Don’t forget they still have Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate who saw playing time last year. All that being said, the Bengals have an opportunity to draft a former teammate of their most recent number one overall pick, Joe Burrow. Ja’Marr Chase is one of the first big name athlete in this class to opt out of his season so it will be interesting to see how it effects him. He is still extremely talented and it gives Cincinnati another weapon for Burrow to throw to for the next decade. I think he’s a locked and loaded top 5 pick.
4. Carolina Panthers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Teddy Bridgewater is going to be a decent NFL quarterback for the next couple years. He is going to produce at an average level and the defense will let him down. I don’t think Teddy is capable of outplaying the defense he has in Carolina. Matt Rhule and Joe Brady are looking at their future franchise quarterback in this draft. Fields rates higher on some scouts boards than Lawrence so it’s not crazy that he’s going this high. He could lead the young core of players that Carolina already has in Christian McCafferey, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and newly acquired Robby Anderson. This offense will be dangerous in years to come.
5. Miami Dolphins – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Miami has added weapons on offense and talent on defense through both the draft and free agency. They still need to improve a ton before they are competing at an elite level. Tua will most likely get reps at some point this season. It could be earlier in the year than we expect. Another rebuilding year for Miami leads them to have another high draft pick. I think they take Micah Parsons with the first defensive player off the board. Parsons is one to watch because the Big 10 cancelled their fall season. Will Parsons drop on team’s draft boards? I guess we will find out. Either way, Parsons is extremely talented and can be a centerpiece of that defense.
6. New York Giants – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Giants have struggled on defense for the last few years. Things have changed since Michael Strahan and Jason Pierre-Paul were wreaking havoc in backfields. Teams have been able to move the ball handily against New York especially through the air. Adding Surtain II will help alleviate some of those struggles. Coming from Alabama, he is going to be disciplined and be able to step in and play right away. Having Jabrill Peppers and Surtain II in the same secondary will create some issues for opposing offenses.
7. New York Jets – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The hype behind Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy will spill over into Smith. The Jets need to help out the offense by adding weapons. The Alabama weapon will be a threat all over the field for Sam Darnold who might be running out of time in New York. Some scouts will tell you that Devonta Smith is a better prospect than both Ruggs III and Jeudy. After drafting a WR in 2020, the Jets could really improve their offensive production with another weapon in that room. If Darnold does’t produce in 2020, they might be looking for a new QB and a new Head Coach during this draft as well.
8. Detroit Lions – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Lions could be looking to replace all of their starting WRs in 2021. Yes you read that right, all of their contracts are set to expire. I would assume they try to get a deal done with Golladay soon, but Marvin Jones is now on the wrong side of 30 years old and Danny Amendola probably will not be brought back either. Bateman pairs with Golladay, giving Stafford weapons on the outside. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I am still a Stafford believer. I think he has the talent to bring some victories to Detroit. If 2020 is another failure though, the Lions will probably be in a similar situation as the Jets, looking for a new coach and QB.
9. Las Vegas Raiders – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trey Lance is widely listed as the third ranked QB in this class, but similar to Justin Fields some scouts have Lance listed as the top dog. I think Gruden sees an opportunity to pair Trey Lance with the young core they have in Vegas. Josh Jacobs, Henry Ruggs III, and Darren Waller are all play makers and just need someone to get the ball in their hands. Lance threw for 28 TDs and 0 INTs in 2019. His ability to protect the ball will help keep the Raiders in games. The move to Vegas is going to be huge for the Raiders so bringing in a young, promising QB to lead the future will get all the fans excited.
10. Arizona Cardinals – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Another weapon for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Waddle has been causing issues for opposing defenses since his freshman year at Alabama. He is speedy and elusive which pairs well with Deandre Hopkins on the outside. Year two of Kyler Murray looks promising so adding a talent like Waddle should only help. Arizona could use some help on defense, but the idea behind the offense is to score more points than the other team. You can never have enough weapons on one team.
11. Los Angeles Chargers – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
The Chargers have a pair of older CBs that they might be looking to replace in 2021. They have some needs on offense, but I think they can address these later in the draft. Adding a strong CB like Wade will help the struggling Chargers defense when they face offensive juggernaut Kansas City. Ohio State has sent a loaded group of CBs to the NFL over the last couple years and Wade only adds to that group. LA added Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray in last year’s draft and have former top pick Joey Bosa running the defensive line. Wade could lead the third level of the defense for years to come.
12. Denver Broncos – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Broncos added a ton of offensive weapons in the 2020 draft and in Free Agency to help Drew Lock. Their defense might be an issue this year, but protecting your franchise QB might be more important. The offensive line was a concern going into this year even before Ja’Wuan James opted out, so we may see some interesting combinations on the Bronco line this year. Cosmi is extremely athletic for his size (6’7″ 315lbs) and could help keep Drew Lock on his feet. He does need to improve a little bit, but being in a conference that is still planning on playing in 2020 will allow him to do that.
13. Atlanta Falcons – Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Wilson probably shouldn’t fall this far and the Falcons could also go elsewhere, but this is a steal to get him here. Atlanta missed out on the top 3 QBs in this draft to potentially find Matt Ryan’s replacement, but Ryan doesn’t seem to be slowing down a ton just yet. The defense needs help and adding a force like Marvin Wilson in the center of that defense will help. The offense should be able to keep Atlanta in games this year so it will be important to add a run stopping force to the middle of that defense. Wilson has been a vocal and emotional leader at FSU and his personality and work ethic will translate well in the NFL. Look for Wilson to cause issues for QBs for years to come.
14. Chicago Bears – Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
The Bears might be one of the surprise teams to move up in the draft to get one of the top QBs. I don’t think Trubisky or Foles is the solution for Chicago, but if they are drafting at 14th then their 2020 season wasn’t a total bust. Rousseau is a monster that will pair well with Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson on that Bears defense that struggled a little bit in 2019. The Bears will probably be playing from behind a lot in 2020 so the defensive side of the ball will be highlighted as a need in this draft. Rousseau provides top ten talent in this draft so the Bears make out well with this pick.
15. Miami Dolphins via HOU – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Miami finally address the RB position. Etienne will be coming off his senior year at Clemson which means he will be prepared for the next level. Miami should expect him to compete for the starting job with whoever may be in that RB room in 2021. Etienne will join the young group that Miami has added with the plethora of first round picks they have had in the last two seasons including Tua Tagovailoa in 2020. Only time will tell if the group in Miami can become something special, but the hype is there. Miami grabs a stud on both sides of the ball in the first fifteen picks.
16. Cleveland Browns – Carlos Basham Jr, DE, Wake Forest
Basham and Myles Garrett on the same defensive line will be an issue for opposing teams. The weapons on offense are there and the new coaching staff is looking to utilize what they have. Defense is where the focus needs to be. The Browns did just lose their rookie Grant Delpit to injury, but the core of the 2021 defense is there. Adding an explosive DE like Basham will help the Browns contain the speedy offenses in their division. Having to play Lamar Jackson twice a year forces the Browns to address their edge rushers. Basham is another extremely talented defender that could make his way up into the top ten if he produces well this year.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars via LA Rams – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Here is another WR that is not going to be playing in 2020. It will be interesting to see if this changes where hes drafted, but before the season was cancelled Moore was considered a top WR talent in this class. The Jags addressed defense in the 2020 draft and grabbed their QB of the future with their first pick. It only makes sense to add a short yardage WR like Moore to help out the rookie QB. DJ Chark is a monster on the outside and they do still have a couple veteran WRs that could allow Moore to develop for a couple weeks before being put into the starting role. We could see Fournette on his way out after 2020 so if Etienne slips to this spot I could also see the Jags taking him.
18. Green Bay Packers – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
At this point, this is just wishful for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers had the opportunity to help him out in the 2020 draft, but decided to draft his replacement instead. Collins provides a big body on the outside that is used to playing in the cold. He is athletic and can go up and get a ball over the defender. Having Collins line up opposite Davante Adams will give Rodgers some weapons to play with. Again, this is just wishful hoping to see Rodgers light it up for another season or two. Even if the Packer’s plan is to get rid of Rodgers, Collins will provide a reliable set of hands for whoever is taking snaps in Green Bay.
19. Tennessee Titans – Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
The status quo in Tennessee isn’t going to change from everything I have read. They are going to run their extremely large RB through defenses until they can no longer run. Ryan Tannehill had a great end to the 2019 season, but during the playoffs they ran the ball more than anyone else. The Titans are looking for someone who can stop the run and plug up holes on the defensive line. Shelvin provides a big, experience body to the middle of that defense. If the Titans can lock down some of their expiring contracts, this defense could be really good with the addition of Shelvin.
20. Indianaplois Colts – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Who will be behind center for the Colts in 2021? Will it be Phillip Rivers? Maybe the Colts decide to move up and grab their future franchise QB? I don’t see the last scenario happening. Adding Freiermuth to the offense just adds another reliable and athletic pass catcher. The addition of Jonathon Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr in the 2020 draft will pair nicely with a big bodied TE. The Colts like to use their TEs, but Jack Doyle is over 30 and has only really had one great year. There are a few teams that have a great young core like the Colts.
21. Minnesota Vikings – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
The Vikings have had one of the more reliable secondaries in the last 5 years. Harrison Smith has been arguably the best safety in the league during that time frame, but Father Time gets to everyone as he is 32 years old. Holland could come in a learn from Smith for a year while getting some reps throughout the year. He is the top safety on the board right now. Defense is most likely the move for Minnesota with this pick and Holland offers the best value. I think the Vikings take Holland and don’t worry about the safety position for a few years.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Trey Smith, OT/G, Tennessee
This pick might surprise some people, but I think Ben still has a few seasons left. The Steelers will try to protect him as long as possible. There are some injury concerns for Big Ben, but there isn’t a QB at this part of the draft that is worth a first round pick. Adding a big body like Trey Smith who is versatile and can play Guard and Tackle at the NFL level will allow the Steelers to move guys around in order to find the best fit. Smith probably projects best at Guard in the NFL, but he could be a long term fill for the Steelers at Tackle.
23. Buffalo Bills – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia
The Bills have added a lot to the offense over the past few years, most recently adding Stefon Diggs via trade this past year. Josh Allen has the weapons he needs to succeed so addressing the defense this year is key. Some scouts have Farley has the top CB even though he has opted out of the 2020 season. Buffalo has a chance to take over their division with the departure of Tom Brady to the Bucs so adding a lock down CB opposite of young phenom Tre’Davious White and a safety duo will help. That could be a secondary that tops the league.
24. New England Patriots – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Patriots are one of the hardest teams to predict who they will draft. They are notorious for keeping their information private, so we can only guess who they will draft. New England prides themselves with their ability to play great defense. Since Tom Brady is no longer on the team, the need for the defense to control the tempo of the game becomes that much more important. Saban and Belichick are similar style coaches and expect greatness from their players. Moses will fit in and lead that defense right away.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
No one can stay healthy in Philly. Every time you turn on the news you seen another Eagle go down with injury. They let go of Jason Peters, but had to bring him back due to injuries they had on their line. Adding depth to the line to protect Carson Wentz and Miles Sanders is going to be the focus for Philadelphia. Davis provides a big body in the interior of that offensive line. He can step in a compete for a spot right away especially if the injury bug stay in the Eagles locker room.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jay Tufele, DT, USC
The start to the 2019 season was a struggle for the Bucs defense. Surprisingly they came together at the end of the season and ended up playing well. The weapons are there on offense so that shouldn’t be the focus in this draft. I think grabbing a guy like Tufele is going to load up the defensive line in Tampa. He is athletic and not only stops the run, but is an effective pass rusher as well. He can put pressure on offenses and help that defense that does include young stars like Devin White. This is a value pick for the Bucs.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Jones, DE, Pittsburgh
This might be an athlete that really benefits from being in a conference that is playing this year. There are some extremely talented edge rushers in the Big 10 that will not be on the field this fall. If Jones can play well and prove his worth, I think he makes a leap into the first round. The Cowboys are explosive on offense and could potentially add a piece to the offensive line, but I think they address defense here. They have a great core of LBs and some talent in the secondary. Adding to the defensive line will make that defense more of a problem.
28. New York Jets via SEA – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
The Jets lost the leader of their defense this off season to Seattle. Adding someone to the secondary almost seems necessary at this point. They already addressed the offensive side of the ball in this draft by taking Devonta Smith early. They need to be able to cover some WRs and adding Mukuamu will help. He needs to develop, but again being in a conference that plans to play this fall will allow him in game action to perfect his craft.
29. San Francisco 49ers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The 49ers are always looking for weapons to add to that offense. They just paid George Kittle and have guys like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but Olave will only add value to that offense. It doesn’t seem like Kyle Shanahan wants to open the offense up and start slinging it around the yard, however he will get creative in how he gets the ball to his play makers. The loss of Emmanuel Sanders this year and injury to Deebo to start the season, the 49ers might wish they could draft a WR right now.
30. Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Ravens just parted ways with Earl Thomas so they might be looking to add to the secondary, but their offensive scheme is to control the clock by running the ball. Linderbaum’s wrestling background allows him to get physical at the line of scrimmage and manhandle defensive lineman. It is never a bad idea to protect an asset like Lamar Jackson and they did just draft JK Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 draft. Even if Linderbaum doesn’t get a chance to start right away, he can be a valuable piece to plug and play on the line for years to come.
31. New Orleans Saints – Charleston Rambo, WR, Oklahoma
The Saints added Emmanuel Sanders in the off season to help take some pressure off of Michael Thomas. Sanders is a veteran presence and will provide a reliable option for Drew Brees to throw to, but he is older and has had some concussion issues in the past. Rambo not only has one of the best names in football, but imagine that name in black and gold. Either way, Rambo is explosive and could be a threat opposite of Michael Thomas on one of the highest powered offenses in the league. This is most likely Drew Brees last season so it will be interesting to see who lines up behind center in 2021, but I trust Sean Payton and what he will put together.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
Just like the Ravens, the Chiefs are going to protect Mahomes with everything they can. I mean when someone is worth over $500 million it kind of makes sense. Standing 6’6″, Walker provides mass to the offensive line that will not only help Mahomes, but also their first round RB from the 2020 draft. Allowing the play to develop and watching the former MVP QB sling the ball around the field is exciting for everyone. The Chiefs are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, but everything runs through Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Walker is the pick here to protect your most valuable asset.
This 2021 Mock Draft was a lot of fun to put together. I believe there are future NFL stars in this draft and it will be interesting to see how Covid-19 plays into the whole draft process. Take these early drafts as just a baseline for what is currently going on. We are going to see names shoot up draft boards throughout the year. Remember, Joe Burrow was projected as a 6th round pick going into the 2019 season. A lot of things can and will change.