The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books and it will be remembered not only for being the first fully-virtual NFL Draft, but for the incredible talent that is entering the league. While the NFL and college football season is months away, our focus now turns to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Everyone knows about Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence headlining next year’s draft class. After two years of being hyped by the NFL world, Lawrence is already a near certainty of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But this class goes much deeper than just one prized quarterback.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could make a push for the No. 1 spot and offers the tantalizing talent that will easily have him looked at for a top-five selection. Behind him, the 2021 draft class is loaded with incredible receivers and future stars on both sides of the ball.
Now, using The Draft Network’s 2021 draft simulator, dive into our 2021 mock draft with the order setting based on recent Super Bowl odds from Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson
There’s a reason we’ve talked about teams tanking for Lawrence. He is a generational talent and already carries a remarkable track record of success with a championship ring on his finger. He makes jaw-dropping throws look easy and knows how to step up in the big moments. He’ll also be 21 when he enters the NFL, far younger than Joe Burrow.
The Jaguars believe in Gardner Minshew right now, but this isn’t a team built to win next season. Jacksonville needs a lot of work on both sides of the ball and we’ll also likely see Minshew regress from his peaks in his rookie season. If the Jaguars land the top pick, they’ll take Lawrence in a matter of seconds and he’ll bring excitement to Jacksonville and London.
2. Washington Redskins – Penei Sewell, offensive tackle, Oregon
The Redskins are headed in a positive direction under head coach Ron Rivera. While they could have taken Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, grabbing a generational edge rusher was the right call. They are building a defense that Rivera can be proud of, but it will be time for Washington to start helping Dwayne Haskins.
Sewell is the consensus top offensive line prospect in the 2021 class and he would have arguably been the top prospect in the 2020 class. The 6-foot-6 tackle loves to maul people and is the pillar at left tackle Washington needs to replace Trent Williams. We expect to see growth from Haskins next season, which keeps Washington from taking a quarterback here.
3. Cincinnati Bengals – Gregory Rousseau, edge rusher, Miami
The Bengals spent the No. 1 pick on the most important position in football. We’re excited about this offense in 2020 under Joe Burrow and believe it will one day reach incredible heights as one of the NFL’s best units. This team is still in a rebuild, though, and Cincinnati must start putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Rousseau is simply an incredible force off the edge. The 6-foot-6 pass rusher is an athletic marvel that converted to the defensive side of the ball and instantly found a home. After racking up 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman, he is poised to be Miami’s highest draft pick in over a decade.
4. Carolina Panthers – Justin Fields, quarterback, Ohio State
This is the dream scenario for Carolina. They dedicated their entire 2020 draft class to improve their defense, a decision that should offer plenty of long-term benefits. However, head coach Matt Rhule made it to this point with his work on offense and he’ll want a franchise quarterback leading this team into the future. Due to the teams in front of Carolina already having quarterbacks, the perfect situation leads to this moment.
Fields is one of the most electrifying players in college football. He showed his toughness this past season in an incredible moment and that’s just the latest selling point on a future star. The 21-year-old shows off impressive arm strength and touch and there are few players in the sport with his caliber of athleticism. Just imagine what offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who rebuilt LSU’s offense and turned Burrow from a Day 3 pick into the No. 1 selection, can do with Fields.
5. New York Jets – Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, LSU
The Jets finally provided Sam Darnold with a left tackle to keep him protected for years to come. We also credit New York for snagging wide receiver Denzel Mims, who offers the potential to develop into a Pro Bowl receiver if he can catch the football more consistently. If the Jets want Darnold to take advantage of his physical gifts, though, they must find him a No. 1 receiver.
Ja’Marr Chase isn’t just the top wide receiver in this class, he might also be the best to come out in years. While he’s only 6-foot-1, the young receiver delivered plenty of jaw-dropping accomplishments in 2019. He hauled in 20 touchdowns with 1,780 receiving yards, making Randy Moss-like catches frequently. Chase will be a star in the NFL the moment he arrives. It’s just a shame he couldn’t follow Burrow into the NFL this season.
6. New York Giants – Micah Parsons, linebacker, Penn State
The Giants addressed their need at linebacker this season with Blake Martinez, giving him a contract that we’re pretty confident will backfire. We also don’t expect Dave Gettleman to be in New York next season, so the future general manager won’t be tied to a belief in Martinez. In the hunt for an upgrade to this defense, Parsons will easily stand out.
It would be difficult to find a better playmaker or athlete at linebacker. Parsons racked up 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, five pass deflections and four forced fumbles this past season at Penn State. He offers unique athleticism for a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker and plays with the instincts and tenacity that make him perfect for the position. It’s rare to see linebackers taken this high, but Parsons is the kind of player that is worth it.
7. Detroit Lions – Brock Purdy, quarterback, Iowa State
If the Lions find themselves with another top-10 pick next year, the entire organization will likely be cleaned out. Detroit will push general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia out the door, creating an opportunity for new leadership to take over. Once that happens, the Lions will likely be moving on from Matthew Stafford.
Purdy isn’t in the same tier as Lawrence or even Fields, but teams covet quarterbacks and he’ll likely be pushed up the board. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-1 passer completed 75.7% of his passes for 3,982 yards, 27 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He also likes to keep the football near the goal line, racking up 13 rushing touchdowns in two seasons.
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8. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver, Alabama
The Dolphins landed their franchise quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. He is exactly the kind of player this franchise needed and, if he stays healthy, it could only be a matter of time before this team quickly climbs up the AFC. But for Tagovailoa to be the best version of himself, Miami must surround him with far more talent.
Reuniting him with one of his fastest receivers at Alabama is an easy decision. Waddle’s biggest moments came on special teams with remarkable returns against some of the SEC’s best teams. In addition to averaging 24.4 yards per punt return and 35 yards on kickoff returns, Waddle accounted fr 560 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He is a game-changing player with the big-play ability that Miami’s offense needs to thrive.
9. Miami Dolphins (via HOU) – Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson
After adding an electrifying presence at wide receiver, Miami rounds out its offense in our mock draft with the player who would have been a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Etienne surprised everyone when he announced his return to Clemson for the upcoming season, but it clearly works out in this scenario.
It didn’t take long for Etienne to shatter Clemson’s all-time rushing touchdown record. Now coming off consecutive seasons with over 1,600 rushing yards, he is bound to break even more records in 2020. A runner capable of breaking off 90-yard runs like it’s a casual stroll in the park, Etienne is the final piece that the Dolphins would need. Put all of these great players together and the Dolphins would immediately become the best team in the AFC East.
10. Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtain II, cornerback, Alabama
The Broncos devoted much of their offseason to upgrading their offense. It’s an organizational decision we expect to pay off, with the kind of weaponry in the passing game and rushing attack that will set this team up nicely for years to come. Denver could be a sleeper to contend for the playoffs next season, but they also might need to think about building the defense in 2021.
We saw Jeffrey Okudah land with the Detroit Lions with the No. 3 overall pick in 2020 and Surtain does offer that kind of potential. He is a shutdown corner in every sense of the word and a player that head coach Vic Fangio would do backflips for to land him on his defense. Realistically, this might be the lowest that Surtain falls to next year if he delivers another strong year.
11. Atlanta Falcons – Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle, Florida State
If the Falcons find themselves near the bottom of the standings in 2020, they’ll have to consider taking a quarterback. Similar to Detroit, Atlanta would also likely see a significant change at the top with head coach Dan Quinn a lock to be pushed out. Because Purdy is already off the board, though, the Falcons turn their focus to the defense.
Wilson showed nice improvement in his junior season, recording a career-high 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He proved to be quite the disruptor on the interior for Florida State’s defense. After addressing cornerback with their top pick in 2020, the Falcons turn to their defensive line here with a terrific player.
12. Arizona Cardinals – Rondale Moore, wide receiver, Purdue
The Cardinals landed their No. 1 receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, a move that will help Kyler Murray thrive in 2020. Arizona also did a nice job dividing up their picks to address both sides of the ball, bringing more balance to an exciting team next year. When this team eventually heads into the 2021 NFL Draft, though, the decision on who to pick will be obvious.
A hamstring injury limited Moore to only four games in 2019, leaving our focus to his true freshman season. No player in the country evaded more tackles, put opponents on the spin cycle, nor broke more ankles than Moore. He accounted for 1,258 receiving yards, 213 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns in 2018. While he’s undersized at 5-foot-8, Moore will be an unstoppable weapon in the NFL.
13. Chicago Bears – Walker Little, offensive tackle, Stanford
The Bears need a strong draft to take a little heat off general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, but that didn’t happen. Pace is one of the likeliest executives to be fired before the 2021 NFL Draft, so a new man in charge will almost certainly make this selection. Instead of reaching for a quarterback, Chicago grabs a top left tackle who will step in and provide tremendous protection for a quarterback of the future, not named Mitch Trubisky.
14. Las Vegas Raiders – Jamie Newman, quarterback, Georgia
If we’ve learned anything from the Raiders, it’s that they aren’t afraid to take a player they love earlier than most expect. Newman isn’t a consensus top-25 pick this early in the process, but he easily offers the potential to shoot up draft boards. Newman excelled during a breakout season at Wake Forest with 32 total touchdowns, 2,868 passing yards and 574 rushing yards. He’s now in great position to take a huge leap at Georgia and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is a top-15 pick.
15. Cleveland Browns – DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, Alabama
The Browns have built an offensive line they can depend on and we expect it will help Baker Mayfield rediscover his form next season. We also believe in the duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr, but the Dallas Cowboys just showed that two receivers aren’t enough. Smith averaged 18.5 yards per catch as a junior and that big-play ability would be welcomed in Cleveland’s offense.
16. Tennessee Titans – Shaun Wade, cornerback, Ohio State
Ohio State’s history of sending great cornerbacks to the NFL is already a nice boost for Wade’s draft stock. Regardless of the program he plays at, though, this is an outstanding cornerback. Tennessee could use reinforcements in its secondary and Wade fits the bill perfectly.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR) – Kyle Pitts, tight end, Florida
After landing their quarterback, it’s time for the Jaguars to add weapons around him. There are a few receivers who merit consideration at this spot, but we give the nod to the best tight end in college football. At 6-foot-6, it feels impossible that a player of this size would be this athletic. It’s rare to see tight ends taken with top-20 picks, but Pitts is one of the few that is worth the selection.
18. Minnesota Vikings – Xavier Thomas, edge rusher, Clemson
Thomas is an example of betting far more on traits than production to this point in his collegiate career. In 26 games with the Tigers, the 6-foot-2 edge rusher only has 16.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. It’s not easy to find players with this caliber of explosiveness and with a quick first step. Minnesota’s coaching staff would get the most out of this former five-star recruit.
19. Los Angeles Chargers – Alex Leatherwood, offensive tackle, Alabama
It’s odd that the Chargers didn’t select an offensive tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bryan Bulaga could handle the spot in 2020, but the Chargers would be better off keeping him on the right side moving forward. Leatherwood decided to return for his senior season and he’ll likely be a first-round pick in 2021 because of it.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Samuel Cosmi, offensive tackle, Texas
Pittsburgh will consider taking a quarterback here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ben Roethlisberger convinces the front office he can give it one more year. In that case, the Steelers take a chance on an offensive lineman with tantalizing potential. If Cosmi shows what he’s capable of this season, he’ll likely go much higher than this.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Paulson Adebo, cornerback, Stanford
In a string of teams with decisions to make at quarterback, the Colts stick to their draft board by taking an impressive, young cornerback. Adebo showed flashes of greatness in 2018 before an injury and inconsistency dragged him down this past season. If he can return to form, the 6-foot-1 cornerback will hear his name called on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
22. New England Patriots – Justyn Ross, wide receiver, Clemson
If we’re betting on any team to make a giant move into the top-10 picks, either by their own doing or via trade, it would be the Patriots. In this instance, though, the top quarterbacks already coming off the board push Bill Belichick to take a wide receiver. Ross is better than Tee Higgins, the No. 33 pick in 2020, so he’d be a wonderful piece for New England’s passing attack.
23. Buffalo Bills – Tyson Campbell, cornerback, Georgia
The Bills won’t let All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White leave in 2021, but they would benefit by pairing him with another top coverage guy. Campbell missed significant time this past season with an injury, but he is also one of the SEC’s best cornerbacks. Putting him and White together would make passing against Buffalo’s secondary in the snow practically impossible.
24. Green Bay Packers – Dylan Moses, linebacker, Alabama
The Packers could make up for a baffling 2020 draft class by grabbing a wide receiver at this spot. Given taking offensive skill players in the first round seldom happens in Green Bay, we expect them to address the defensive side. Moses missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL, but he will be a star next season at Alabama and could one day be an All-Pro linebacker at the next level.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Creed Humphrey, center, Oklahoma
It’s a near certainty that Philadelphia will be seeking a replacement for Jason Kelce by this time next year. Fortunately, Humphrey falls right to them. He could have been the first center taken this year but opted to return for his senior season. Expect Humphrey to be a first-round pick in 2021 and he’d fit right in with the Eagles.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Israel Mukuamu, cornerback, South Carolina
The NFC West is quickly turning into a division that will be dominated by offenses. If the Seahawks want to try and contain the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Deebo Samuel, they need more help in the secondary. Watch Mukuamu’s three-interception performance this past season against Georgia and you’ll understand why the NFL will love this 6-foot-4 cornerback.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quincy Roche, edge rusher, Miami
Roche might start the season as a projected top-30 pick, but no one will be shocked if he shoots up draft boards during the 2020 season. After dominating at Temple with an 18.4% pressure rate with 13 sacks, per Pro Football Focus, Roche is set to be a star on Miami’s defense. Frankly, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Hurricanes have two edge rushers taken with top-15 picks in 2021.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Richard LeCounte III, safety, Georgia
The Cowboys can feel confident in their offense being one of the NFL’s best for years to come, but the defense still needs some work. LeCounte III opted to return for his senior season and will put his coverage skills on display once again. He would be a tremendous addition for the Cowboys, perhaps being the piece that puts them over the top.
29. New Orleans Saints – Chuba Hubbard, running back, Oklahoma State
If the Saints can sign Alvin Kamara to an extension, the focus shifts towards the defense. It’s unlikely that New Orleans gives Kamara the mega-deal he will seek, though, pushing them to grab a top running back early in 2021. Compared to Secretariat by his coach, Hubbard just needs a little space and he is gone. Putting him in this offense with a great offensive line would instantly make him one of the NFL’s most productive runners.
30. Baltimore Ravens – Brevin Jordan, tight end, Miami
The 2020 NFL Draft class didn’t provide much at tight end, don’t expect that to be a problem in 2021. Jordan experienced an injury-marred 2019 campaign, but he’ll be healthy this upcoming season and ready to be a force in Miami’s offense. He’s an exceptional athlete and can even be counted on as a blocker. Good luck stopping Jordan and Mark Andrews.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Caden Sterns, safety, Texas
Yes, one of the NFL’s best defenses can still find a way to get better. Playmaking skills are crucial these days in the NFL and Sterns can do exactly that deep in the secondary. He will need to play much closer to his 2018 form, when he recorded four interceptions, but the potential exists to be a first-round pick.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Rashod Bateman, wide receiver, Minnesota
The rich get richer. Kansas City’s offense is already unstoppable and they keep giving Patrick Mahomes even better weapons. Bateman loves roasting defensive backs. He demonstrated it as a sophomore by averaging 20.3 yards per catch and finishing the year with 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He’d go higher if the 2021 receiver class weren’t so deep, but the Chiefs wouldn’t complain about him falling.