As teams prepare for the 2020 NFL season, scouts and general managers around the league are already thinking about the next wave of incoming players. While the 2020 NFL Draft provided a great crop of talent, the 2021 NFL Draft could be even better.
Uncertainty surrounding the upcoming college football season will make this year especially interesting. While the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences won’t play football this fall, and other Power 5 conferences could follow, they will still send top players to the next level.
The 2021 NFL Draft will offer plenty of headliners with Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State star Justin Fields, but this upcoming draft class goes far beyond two generational talents.
Let’s dive into our latest 2021 NFL mock draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson
Even if the Tigers never take the field this season, Lawrence will be the top prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. We’ve seen him shine in the big moments,make jaw-dropping throws and he’s got all the tools that have NFL teams thinking about tanking.
As for Gardner Minshew, he isn’t the caliber of player that warrants building a team around. If the Jaguars land the No. 1 pick, which seems likely, they shouldn’t hesitate to grab Lawrence and make him a star in Florida. He’ll be ready to start immediately and could finally uplift an organization that desperately needs a transformation.
2. Washington Football Team: Justin Fields, quarterback, Ohio State
We still believe Dwayne Haskins can be an above-average starter in the NFL and his ceiling could be slightly higher in the right situation. However, Washington is a mess right now with an offense that will crater this team in 2020. If Washington’s Football Team holds the No. 2 pick, taking Fields is the right decision.
Ohio State’s leader carries impressive arm strength and touch. He also showed major strides with his ability to read and react to defenses in 2019. Of course, there are few players in the sport with his caliber of athleticism. Frankly, there’s an argument to be made that he could be an even better NFL quarterback than Lawrence. As for Haskins, he’ll be a nice buy-low trade option for teams like the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions.
3. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, quarterback, North Dakota State
We’ve seen quarterbacks go back-to-back with the top two selections in prior drafts, but three consecutive picks would be something special. A suspended college football season might be especially harmful for Lance’s draft evaluation process, but the tantalizing potential could be too much for the Panthers to pass on.
At 6-foot-3 with game-changing athleticism, Lance destroyed his FCS opponents during the 2019 season. On his way to winning a national championship, the young quarterback posted a 180.6 quarterback rating with 28 passing touchdowns, 2,786 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns and zero interceptions. He could thrive in Joe Brady’s scheme and if he develops, the Panthers will have their new dual-threat star at quarterback.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, offensive tackle, Oregon
The Bengals would be insanely fortunate if this exact scenario unfolds in the 2021 NFL Draft. With Joe Burrow under center and this unit boasting exciting playmakers, there’s understandable hope for Cincinnati’s offense. For Burrow to stay healthy and live up to the hype, the Bengals must protect him.
Sewell is not only the top offensive line prospect in the 2021 draft class, he is arguably the best in recent years. The 6-foot-6 tackle dominates in pass protection and enjoys bullying defenders when asked to create running lanes. With Sewell and Jonah Williams on the ends, Cincinnati’s offense would roll under Burrow for the next decade.
5. New York Jets: Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver, LSU
If the Jets hold a top-10 pick next spring, head coach Adam Gase is gone. That might be the first step toward unlocking Sam Darnold to help him reach his potential, but it won’t be remotely enough. Fortunately, a star receiver is sitting right here for New York.
There’s a reason Burrow loved lofting passes in Chase’s direction. He offers explosive ability at 6-foot-1 and is a master at catching footballs in contested situations. He hauled in 20 touchdowns with 1,780 receiving yards, and looked like Randy Moss at times. This is the perfect No. 1 receiver for Darnold and the two would create some incredible highlights.
6. Miami Dolphins: Micah Parsons, linebacker, Penn State
One of the biggest stars to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, Parsons doesn’t have to worry about teams knocking him down the draft board. While he might only have two years of film at Penn State, NFL teams recognize a defensive weapon when they see it.
Frankly, we couldn’t dream of a better landing spot for Parsons. He is a do-it-all linebacker with insane physical gifts that translate to the next level. Between Micah Parson’s 40 time (4.43), strength and tape, he has the makings of an All-Pro linebacker. Plug him into Brian Flores’ defense and he could become a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
7. New York Giants: Gregory Rousseau, edge rusher, Miami
The Giants desperately need pass rushers, a position they largely ignored this offseason. They missed out on the top disruptor in our first 2021 NFL mock draft, but the dream scenario unfolds for New York here.
Rousseau is simply an incredible force off the edge. The 6-foot-6 pass rusher is an athletic marvel that converted from wide receiver to the defensive side of the ball just a short time ago. In his first full season, Rousseau recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. There’s more risk here given he won’t play this season and he is still new to being an edge rusher, but the upside for the Giants is through the roof.
8. Las Vegas Raiders: Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle, Florida State
If a top quarterback falls, Las Vegas could easily move on from Derek Carr. With the top three passers off the board, general manager Mike Mayock should bolster a defense that needs to create more interior pressure.
Wilson showed nice improvement in his junior season, recording a career-high 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He could step in immediately and eat up running lanes, while also causing some havoc on passing downs. Add him to this defense and you’ve got a group that could start causing a few problems for the Kansas City Chiefs.
9. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver, Alabama
After adding a chess piece on the defensive side, Miami would recognize it needs to surround Tua Tagovailoa with more weapons. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of game-changing options at receiver in the 2021 draft class. While Waddle’s best plays this past season came on special teams with remarkable returns against some of the SEC’s best teams, he is also a savant in creating yards after the catch. He would complement DeVante Parker perfectly and he’s already got chemistry with Tagovailoa.
10. Detroit Lions: Christian Barmore, defensive tackle, Alabama
The Lions might quickly realize this season that Matt Patricia wasn’t the solution to their problems. Once they get him out, the front office will likely need to turn its attention to helping this team dominate far more often in the trenches. Barmore saw limited snaps in 2019, but he generated pressure on 20% of his downs, according to ESPN. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle is a bully in the middle of the defensive line, which Detroit needs.
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Caleb Farley, cornerback, Virginia Tech
During the Jacksonville’s short stint as an AFC power, a shutdown secondary helped this team achieve incredible success. The Jaguars are clearly building towards that once again after spending both 2020 first-round picks on the defensive side. Add Farley, another player who opted out, to this secondary and it would be the start of something special. Only this time, the Jaguars will have a great quarterback to pair with their defense.
12. Los Angeles Chargers: Alex Leatherwood, offensive tackle, Alabama
Based off the current roster construction, the Chargers can’t go another year without addressing offensive tackle. Bryan Bulaga was a nice addition, but he will be 32 heading into 2021 with a history of injuries. Los Angeles needs a pillar at left tackle for the next decade and Leatherwood is the perfect fit.
13. Atlanta Falcons: Quincy Roche, edge rusher, Miami
The Falcons addressed their defense early in the 2020 NFL Draft by selecting cornerback A.J. Terrell and defensive tackle Marlon Davidson. For this unit to really take a step up, though, they must find more help off the edge. Roche dominated at Temple in 2019 ith 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. While we won’t get to see him team up with Rousseau at Miami, Roche should still prove he is a phenomenal talent.
14. Denver Broncos: Dylan Moses, linebacker, Alabama
The rich get richer. If the Broncos miss out on the playoffs this year, expect them to address their defense next offseason. There’s plenty of talent we already like from this group, but Moses could put Denver’s defense over the top. He missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL, but is now healthy and craving a return to the field. If he is healthy, his floor is a top-20 pick and he could even sneak into the top-10.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Creed Humphrey, center, Oklahoma
Similar to the Bengals and Cardinals, protecting the face of the franchise is everything. Arizona chose not to use its 2020 first-round pick on the offensive line, a decision they can’t repeat in 2021. Humphrey is familiar with Murray from their time at Oklahoma and could help protect him at the next level.
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16. Chicago Bears: DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, Alabama
Another disappointing season will mean the Bears clean out everything next offseason. Mitch Trubisky, head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace would all be gone. With no quarterback worth this selection, Chicago adds a huge weapon to its offense. Smith averaged 18.5 yards per catch as a junior and would form a dynamic duo with Allen Robinson. Put those two together and any decent quarterback could look good.
17. Cleveland Browns: Wyatt Davis, offensive guard, Ohio State
Cleveland’s front office understands it all starts in the trenches. We saw what happened when Baker Mayfield was constantly under pressure last season, the results were disastrous. The Browns now boast two strong pillars at the tackle spots, but the interior could use one more piece. Davis is a bulldozer at guard and might even be the best interior lineman in the 2021 draft class.
18. Tennessee Titans: Jaylen Twyman, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh
A ferocious defensive tackle with disruptive abilities as an interior pass rusher, it might sound familiar for a defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh. While the comparisons to Aaron Donald will end there, Twyman is an impressive player in his own right. A breakout sophomore campaign with 10.5 sacks shows what he is capable of. After dedicating the falll to NFL Draft preparation, he could be a top-20 pick.
19. Buffalo Bills: Patrick Surtain II, cornerback, Alabama
Buffalo’s defense is its greatest strength and its secondary is one of the most exciting to watch in the NFL. However, the Bills would benefit by adding another outstanding cornerback to pair with Tre’Davious White. Surtain is a top-15 talent, but falls to the Bills in this spot. Add him to this defense and passing against the Bills, especially in the winter, will feel next to impossible.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Trey Smith, offensive guard, Tennessee
If you put medicals aside, Smith might be a top-15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. A former five-star recruit, he offers incredible athleticism for a 6-foot-6, 335-pound interior lineman. However, blood clots in his lungs have sidelined him for long stretches during his collegiate career. If Minnesota’s doctors clear him, he will be a stalwart guard on the offensive line.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Samuel Cosmi, offensive tackle, Texas
The Steelers have certainly enjoyed having Alejandro Villanueva protect the left side in recent years, but they could reportedly part ways after this season. The moment he leaves, Pittsburgh will have a massive hole to fill at left tackle. Cosmi is one of the best lineman in the country and he could start right away for the Steelers in 2021. Whether Ben Roethlisberger is still the quarterback or not, Cosmi’s addition would be welcomed.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jevon Holland, safety, Oregon
We might not get to see Holland play this season, with the Pac 12 canceling fall sports, but he is a first-round talent. The 6-foot-1 safety can fill the void left by Malcolm Jenkins as a leader in the secondary, who will also make plays all over the field. The Eagles would welcome that, especially given how their defense looked in 2019.
23. New York Jets (via SEA): Shaun Wade, cornerback, Ohio State
When NFL teams face New York’s defense, the skies are clear for an aerial attack that can wipe out the Jets. This entire secondary needs to be rebuilt, especially at the cornerback spot. Fortunately, Wade drops right into New York’s lap with an intriguing mix of size and athleticism for his position. If he develops, the Jets will take one step closer to shutting down the air space at MetLife Stadium.
24. New England Patriots: Rondale Moore, wide receiver, Purdue
The rich get richer. New England’s offense badly needs a player who can change the game on one play. Moore will get knocked for limited game film, with a stunning freshman season being his largest sample size, but the skill is undeniable. No player in the country evaded more tackles, put opponents on the spin cycle, nor broke more ankles. He is e everything this offense needs and this pick might even make Tom Brady a little jealous.
25. Green Bay Packers: Pat Freiermuth, tight end, Penn State
Aaron Rodgers would have loved for Moore to be available in this spot, but taking Freirmuth would still make QB1 very happy. There’s a reason he carries the nickname “Baby Gronk” and it’s because the 6-foot-5 tight end is a monster weapon with flashes of elite ability. If he develops as a blocker, Freiermuth is the perfect fit for Green Bay’s offense.
26. Indianapolis Colts: Tyson Campbell, cornerback, Georgia
Indianapolis is building a defense it can be proud of, but there is more work to be done. The front seven will generate plenty of pressure this season, but the secondary looks very suspect. When Xavier Rhodes turns into dust after this year, expect the Colts to draft a cornerback early. In this instance, grabbing a physical corner who could blossom at the next level with great coaching.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Pitts, tight end, Florida
The 2021 NFL Draft could be remembered for its exceptional class of tight ends. Pitts is an exceptional athlete at 6-foot-6 with the skills to match some NFL receivers. He does have some issues with drops and is a bit underdeveloped, but the upside is another dynamic weapon for an already loaded offense in Dallas.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travis Etienne, running back, Clemson
Tampa Bay will give Ronald Jones one more shot, but the additions of LeSean McCoy and third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn already show a lack of faith. If the Buccaneers fall just short of the Super Bowl this season, they will attack the draft with a determination to help Brady win one more ring. Fittingly, that means adding the best running back in college football to an offense that already looks unstoppable.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Aidan Hutchinson, edge rusher, Michigan
A defense simply can’t have enough talented edge rushers. Hutchinson got his chance to shine during his sophomore season and the 6-foot-6 defensive end started turning his size, power and length into production. He’s not a finished product, but he could be a situational player for San Francisco and be groomed into a long-term piece of the front seven.
30. New Orleans Saints: Carlos Basham Jr, edge rusher, Wake Forest
Basham surprisingly turned down a chance to be a potential first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s a decision he might regret given the pandemic, but we don’t think that will keep him from a bright future in the NFL. Named one of the best athletes in college football, Basham would find a home in New Orleans and could blossom into a Pro Bowl edge rusher in a few short years.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, wide receiver, Minnesota
The Ravens need to surround Lamar Jackson with more weapons, that’s the bottom line. He could easily lead this team to a Super Bowl ring in 2020, but the front office needs to make his life easier. Bateman loved roasting defensive backs in college, racking up 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019. He’s already declared for the 2021 NFL Draft and this is the dream scenario for Bateman and the Ravens.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jackson Carman, tight end, Clemson
With Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones signed to extensions, the Chiefs will need to start finding some cheap talent at other spots. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz will be free agents after the 2021 season, creating massive holes on each side. Carman is surprisingly athletic for his size at 6-foot-5, but his 345-pound frame packs plenty of strength. With the right coaching, he can be a great left tackle.