Saturday, May 25, 2024

NFL mock draft 2021: Justin Fields falls to Falcons after Jets skip QB; Saints, Browns get consolation prizes

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The 2021 playoffs are down to four teams and two games — the AFC and NFC championship games. For everyone else, the 2020 season is finished and the long offseason is already here.

That makes it another good week o expand our latest Sporting News first-round 2021 NFL mock draft. Now we know picks No. 1 through No. 28, with four teams eliminated from Super Bowl 55 contention over the weekend’s divisional round.

Here’s breaking down all the projected selections, based on the updated draft order according to Tankathon:

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NFL mock draft 2021

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

  • Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)

Lawrence didn’t have the best finish to his college career, but he lived up to expectations of being a generational talent at the position, the second in a row after Joe Burrow. He’s a great leader and winner on top of being a strong-armed passer and capable tough runner. Lawrence will clean up the Jaguars QB mess, attached to a new coach, big college winner Urban Meyer. Lawrence can have success right away with the Jaguars having a decent line and top young skill players such as James Robinson, D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. Forget that talk about Meyer taking someone else, especially another QB.

MORE: How Urban Meyer, Jaguars can avoid ruining Trevor Lawrence

2. New York Jets (2-14)

  • DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 175 pounds)

The Jets, with defensive-minded Robert Saleh as head coach, may now stick with Sam Darnold as their franchise quarterback but need to give him some younger playmaking help with Breshad Perriman headed back to free agency. Smith picked up from where he left off last season to become Heisman Trophy-worthy and emerged as the best wideout in the class with his monster first-half performance in the College Football Playoff championship game against Ohio State. He ended up with has 105 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs in 13 games in his final season.

3. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)

  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)

The Dolphins can think about wide receiver here, too, but Sewell also makes sense as boosted pass protection for Tua Tagovailoa and a rock for the running game, too. He would be the best available player at this spot and someone they could use to push their offense forward all around.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

  • Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)

Fields has immense natural physical talent to make new offensive-minded head coach Arthur Smith think about finding Matt Ryan’s successor for a run-heavier approach to the offense. Fields wasn’t having the most standout second season for the Buckeyes in Big Ten play, but he saved his absolute NFL-loving best for lighting up Clemson and outplaying Lawrence with a dazzling all-around performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6-1, 208 pounds)

If Sewell goes off the board before their turn, the Bengals need to avoid reaching for pass protection for Joe Burrow and instead reunite him with a go-to guy who can replace A.J. Green to flank Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Chase posted 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs during the national championship season and can join former teammate Justin Jefferson in lighting up the NFL as a versatile playmaker. 

MORE: The biggest busts in NFL Draft history

6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)

  • Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)

The Eagles had all kinds of secondary issues away from veteran Darius Slay in 2020 and need a big shakeup at cornerback to help their defense under a new coach. Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player. 

7. Detroit Lions (5-11)

  • Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)

The Lions were a mess defensively under now fired Matt Patricia and need someone to dominate against run and pass on the second level. They can get a rangy playmaker in Parsons, going for matching value with need vs. going wide receiver. Parsons is a hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man in the Luke Kuechly game-changing mold.

8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

  • Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (6-3, 210 pounds)

Wilson has had an exceptional season with his accuracy and downfield passing to emerge as the draft class’ third-best QB prospect after Lawrence and Fields. Teddy Bridgewater did OK as the Panthers’ bridge QB out of necessity, but there’s also an indication they have a limited ceiling with him and should think about replacing him by 2022 with a longer-term solution. Wilson would be a strong, cerebral fit for Joe Brady’s offense.

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9. Denver Broncos (5-11)

  • Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan (6-4, 272 pounds)

The Broncos have an uncertain future with Von Miller and need to pair another young impact player with Bradley Chubb who can get after the quarterback and dominate physically and athletically against offensive tackles. Paye is a freak of nature and has quickly shot up draft boards. It’s hard not to think about a combination of Ziggy Ansah and Jason Pierre-Paul in that sense.

10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

  • Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)

The Cowboys’ secondary has been awful without Byron Jones and Farley would be a good complement to Trevon Diggs. Jerry Jones needs to focus on shoring up the back end first in the process of fixing the defense. Farley was one of the first top prospects to opt out for his final college season. He has great size and solid all-around coverage skills for the position.

11. New York Giants (6-10)

  • Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)

Waddle, like his Crimson Tide teammate Smith, is a highly skilled all-around receiver the Giants could use to run routes and get open everywhere outside for Daniel Jones. They should think about moving on from Golden Tate in the slot, putting Sterling Shepard and there and have Darius Slayton complement Waddle well as a deep threat.

MORE: The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)

  • Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-4, 226 pounds)

Lance is slowly climbing back up boards with his massive upside. As more teams see tapes of his one statistically brilliant lone season as a starter (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, no INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 TDs) it’s harder to ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills he displayed in his first full season of action. The 49ers can get out of Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract and needs to shoot for the QB ceiling to better dominate with their array of offensive skill talent, including George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Lance’s running would add a new dangerous element to Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and he has the head, quick release and accuracy to handle the passing precision of it all.

13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)

  • Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech (6-5, 314 pounds)

The Chargers know they have a potentially special QB in Justin Herbert and have some pretty good skill players to support him. But it’s imperative they improve their edge pass protection to their already established young franchise passer. Darrisaw has entered the first-round mix of late with standout athleticism that can help him develop into a smooth and nimble long-term pass protector in the NFL.

​14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

  • Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)

The Vikings will be looking mostly at offensive line and defensive line early in the draft with some issues related to age on both fronts. Rousseau, who opted out of the Hurricanes season, didn’t really need to play to boost his stock after posting 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his lone significant and final season under defensive-minded head coach Manny Diaz. He would be a great fit with Mike Zimmer.

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15. New England Patriots (7-9)

  • Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 246 pounds)

The Patriots need more dynamic and reliable pass-catchers for whoever takes over starting QB in 2021 and this is too great of a prospect to pass up here. Pitts, a wide receiver hybrid, would be ideal. He posted 770 yards and 12 TDs on only 43 catches, a rare field-stretcher for the position as well as a dominant red zone force.

16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC (6-4, 300 pounds)

The Cardinals could use an interior line boost for Kyler Murray and their run-heavy attack. Vera-Tucker is starting to edge out Ohio State’s now injured Wyatt Davis as the best such prospect in this class, as he can round out into a complete blocker with more polish.

17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

  • Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)

The Raiders need to get more disruptive inside up front to help their linebackers in the running game and also complement ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby better in the pass rush.Barmore has stood out as a inside terror for the Tide. He had a big College Football Playoff run against Notre Dame and Ohio State to boost his stock. Barmore combines strength and power with great technique. His late-season surge makes him worthy of a back-half first-rounder.

18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 216 pounds)

Brian Flores tapped into former Patriots for linebacker help in 2020, but he needs another versatile force to take his defense to the next level. Owusu-Koramoah covers like a defensive back and has room to grow into a physical run stopper.

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19. Washington Football Team (7-9)

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (6-3, 214 pounds)

Jones was the complete package in leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship, having a Joe Burrow-style breakout with his accuracy, big arm and downfield production, racking up jaw-dropping passing totals in the process to make the most of top receivers. Jones’ strong pocket passing should have great appeal to be Washington’s long-term solution in Scott Turner’s strong, QB-friendly offensive system.

20. Chicago Bears (8-8)

  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (6-4, 315 pounds)

The Bears also need to think about quarterback early but addressing pass protection is also a great idea. Slater, who opted out of his final season with the Wildcats, is quickly rising up the boards again with his all-around skill set getting more attention. He held more than his own vs. Washington defensive rookie of the year Chase Young in a college matchup.

MORE: Most painful NFL Draft slides of last 20 years

21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

  • Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan (6-5, 319 pounds)

The Colts must think about a replacement for 32-year-old retiree Anthony Castonzo first. Mayfield has stood out on film with his size, length and strength and can develop into a smooth blocker a la the Broncos’ Garett Bolles.

22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

  • Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas (6-3, 245)

The Titans’ pass rush was a bugaboo and it cost them in front of their weak pass defense in the end with Jadeveon Clowney not providing enough late free-agency answers. Ossai has been the recent fastest riser at the position as a tremendous upfield athlete with high motor who relentlessly goes after quarterbacks.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)

  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)

The Jets need to jump on Horn here for big-time coverage help outside should he drop a little because of teams addressing other positions ahead of them.  Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field in that game. This Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality to contain wideouts.

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24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

  • Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (6-5, 230 pounds)

Trask was up to the task leading a sizzling Gators passing game confidently with his arm, accuracy and athleticism, which got him into the first-round conversation. The Steelers may prefer Lance or Jones and can go after either in a trade up, but regardless they need to consider using this pick to somehow replace Ben Roethlisberger, retirement or not. With his raised efficiency and smart use of diverse weapons, Trask would be a great fit with their offensive coaching.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)

  • Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6-2, 210 pounds)

The Jaguars have Chark as a No. 1 for Lawrence and there’s a chance Shenault mans the slot in Year 2 with Keelan Cole and Chris Conley heading into free agency. Here they can target the ideal route-running possession No. 2 for the outside opposite Chark. Bateman, who opted back in for a while in 2020, put up 60 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 TDs working opposite Buccaneers draft pick Tyler Johnson in 2019. Without Johnson, he finished with 36 catches for 472 yards and 2 TDs in five games this season.

26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)

  • Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia (6-3, 240 pounds)

The Browns have Myles Garrett anchoring their defensive line and Denzel Ward leading their secondary. They could use some complementary pieces there, but they also were short on playmaking on the second level Ojulari has jumped into first-round consideration because he’s a unique pass-rusher who can fit a variety of schemes and alignments and has potential both in stopping the run and in coverage. Joe Woods is used to that type of linebacker from his 49ers days.

27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

  • Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida (5-11, 190 pounds)

The Ravens need to better complement the outside speed of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for Lamar Jackson so it’s worth going back into the first round to get a complementary high-level slot receiver with Jarvis Landry-like potential to replace Willie Snead. Toney is dynamic after the catch and also has some middle of the field-stretching ability.

28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

  • Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa (6-4, 260 pounds)

The Saints need to get more versatility and speed for the second level to better support their strong defensive front. Dennis Allen should love this prospect’s skill set. Collins explodes as an athlete and can make a lot of plays with his agility, quickness and range.


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