This 2021 NFL Mock Draft series was completed in collaboration with dozens of current NFL analysts, fantasy analysts and NFL fans on Twitter. Special thanks to everyone who helped make this possible. You can find the Twitter handles of each participant at the bottom of this article. Feel free to give them a follow for their hard work!
This is part one of a three part mock draft article series. Each article will have detailed breakdown of each selection, projected trades and way-too-early-and-totally-fake draft grades assigned for each team's draft class.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars | Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has been and should be the selection 1st overall for the Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Jaguars do anything but take but TLaw 1st overall, the world will be completely and utterly dumbfounded. Lawrence displays the size, skillset and winning pedigree that a team needs to see to tie their foreseeable future to him. Expect the Jaguars to load up on offensive line and defense the rest of the way out in this draft. The better supporting cast Lawrence has around him, the more likely he is to reach the outrageous expectations people are setting for his career.
2. New York Jets | Zach Wilson, QB BYU
This pick should be a slam-dunk lock come draft day. Many people thought the Jets would use the 2nd overall pick on Zach Wilson, and that notion has been reinforced to the point of near-certainty with the Jets trading QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, signaling a new era in New York. Wilson has all of the physical tools you look for in a modern-day NFL QB. The only question marks surrounding Wilson are if he is good enough to overcome decades of franchise ineptitude. New York has been where young QBs go to die (see Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, and now, Sam Darnold). If Wilson is going to become "the next Mahomes" as some people are saying, he's going to need the best team around him possible.
3. San Francisco 49ers | Justin Fields, QB OSU
Much has been made in the media about the 49ers sure-thing selection in Mac Jones, Alabama QB. The manager of the 49ers in this mock draft does not believe the smoke. Justin Field is far and away a better QB prospect than Mac Jones. While Jones was successful and productive at Alabama, Fields has a more diverse skillset and consistently hits WRs past his first read (he was actually the best in college at this, as opposed to what some people believe). Fields' decision-making, work-ethic, and mobility will open the Shanahan to previously unseen potential. If the 49ers do actually forfeit years of draft capital to select Mac Jones, 49ers faithful will be reeling.
4. Carolina Panthers (Projected Trade with ATL) | Trey Lance, QB NDSU
This is where the draft starts to get interesting. The Atlanta Falcons hold massive leverage with the 4th overall pick if a team falls in love with North Dakota State University QB, Trey Lance. The manager of the Panthers in this mock draft decided to move up the board to go get Lance, even with the recent acquisition of Sam Darnold. Lance is seen as more of a project QB, so he can always sit behind Darnold to develop. Should the Darnold experiment not pan out, Lance can easily take the reins over. In this trade, the Falcons receive: 2021 8th overall pick, 2022 1st, and DE Yetur Gross-Matos. The Panthers receive the 4th overall pick.
Trade Grade: A+
This trade is a win-win for both sides. In Lance, the Panthers have a high-upside QB of the future. Between Lance and Darnold, one of the two should pan out as the long-term option for Carolina. The Falcons move back and acquire much-needed future draft capital, a premium immediate asset, and sorely needed defensive line help in budding star Yetur Gross-Matos.
5. Cincinnatti Bengals | Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
Despite the recent hype connecting the Bengals and WR Ja'Marr Chase, Sewell is the pick here. The Bengals need an elite Left Tackle, plain and simple. With the investment in franchise QB Joe Burrow, the Bengals cannot afford to let him get hurt as he did last year. You can have all-world WRs, but when your QB is on his back 20 times a game, it doesn't matter how good your WRs are. The Bengals could take Chase here, but Sewell seems to be the more prudent selection.
6. Miami Dolphins | Ja'Marr Chase, WR LSU
The Dolphins need to give Tua Time a bonafide WR1. Chase fits that bill to a tee. Perhaps the most complete WR prospect to come into the league since Falcons WR Julio Jones, Chase should be a reliable target in Miami for years to come. Joining a WR-core of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Free Agent Acquisition Will Fuller should give defensive coordinators in the AFC East fits. The Dolphins are providing Tua with every chance to be successful. Now we just have to see if he can take advantage of this depth of weapons at his disposal.
7. Detroit Lions | Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern
Some pro scouts and NFL teams have Slater ranked as the number one offensive line prospect in the draft, which is a lofty evaluation, considering that Penei Sewell and Christian Darrisaw are in the same class. Despite Lions fan clamoring for ANOTHER first round Tight End in Kyle Pitts, the Lions decide to build the trenches with this pick in an attempt to keep new franchise QB Jared Goff upright. Following the "bite their kneecaps" mentality new HC Dan Campbell has brought to the Motor City, the Lions bring in an absolute mauler on the O-Line. Love this pick for a team that is trying to establish a run-first, play action offense identity.
8. Atlanta Falcons (Projected Trade w/CAR) | Kyle Pitts, TE Florida
The Falcons move back and still get arguably the best non-QB in the entire draft in Kyle Pitts. Every move the Falcons have made this off-season imply a retooling, not a rebuild. Matt Ryan is under contract at too large a cap hit for the Falcons to simply move on and start over. New HC Arthur Smith gets a versatile weapon in the passing game in Pitts, who should cause defensive nightmares with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and to a lesser extent, Hayden Hurst.
9. Denver Broncos | Micah Parsons, LB, PSU
Parsons is one of the few truly elite defensive talents in this year's draft. With the Broncos defense facing a slew of injury bugs in recent years (Bradley Chubb & Von Miller) they could use this youth on the defensive side of the ball. Parsons brings the versatile skillset necessary for a modern NFL linebacker and should excel in Vic Fangio's defense, as many athletic linebackers have before.
10. Dallas Cowboys | Patrick Surtain Jr., CB, Alabama
Arguably the best cornerback in this draft class, Patrick Surtain Jr. fills an immediate need for the Cowboys defense in the secondary. A group that improved over the last half of the 2020 NFL season, the Cowboys are squarely in win-now mode with the Dak Prescott mega contract, a recovering O-Line, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ceedee Lamb, and still very good Ezekiel Elliot. Shoring up the defensive end of the ball is going to be crucial in "America's Team" returning to form. Surtain Jr. is a great fit in Big D.
11. New York Giants | DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Back-to-back Alabama picks by back-to-back NFC East teams. While Giants fans may be scratching their heads at this pick since it isn't one of Gettleman's beloved HogMollies, it's the right selection for the Giants. Kenny Golladay has not necessarily been the picture of perfect health during his brief time in the league. Daniel Jones needs a REAL WR2 to throw to opposite Golladay. Adding Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith would be a huge plus, as the defense can't devote primary coverage just to Golladay. With Smith in town, Daniel Jones is officially out of excuses not to succeed.
12. Philadelphia Eagles | Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
If you're keeping score at home, that's 3 NFC East teams in a row that took an Alabama alum. Some analysts believe Jaylen Waddle has a case to be the WR1 in this entire draft class, which is bold considering the other options in the draft. Likened to Tyreek Hill, Waddle brings the skillset needed on the anemic Eagles offense. With the speed both he and Jalen Reagor bring, teams should have a tough time playing zone coverage against Philly. It's the Jaylen, Jalen (Reagor), and Jalen (Hurts) show in Philly now. Bet that won't get confusing in team meetings.
13. Los Angeles Chargers | Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Considered by some analysts to be the #2 overall Offensive Tackle prospect in this class, Darrisaw is the perfect blindside protector for 2nd year QB, Justin Herbert. The Chargers have already shown their commitment to build an O-Line around Herbert for years to come in their free agent signings this off-season, and that trend continues with the Darrisaw selection. The Chargers COULD go WR here, but offensive line is a much more pressing need in the short-term future of this team.
14. Minnesota Vikings | Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
Doesn't it seem like the Vikings are always an Offensive Tackle away? No? Just me? Okay. Anyways, Vera-Tucker is a great pick here by the Vikings. He's the consensus best OT prospect left on the board. Ideally, Minnesota trades down from this spot, given the multiple holes on the roster they have on the defensive side. Solid selection to keep franchise QB Kirk Cousins clean in the pocket.
15. New England Patriots | Mac "Attack" Jones, QB, Alabama
Belichick shaking his head in disgust at Mac Jones' Pro Day? All just an elaborate smokescreen on national television by the evil emperor of the NFL. In all seriousness, if the Patriots can snag Jones at this spot, he's a perfect fit for their team. He can sit for a year (or less) behind incumbent starting QB Cam Newton. Jones makes quick decisions and can keep an offense on schedule, while making minimal mistakes, which is the model of QB Belichick loved having in former starter, Tom Brady. The Patriots could still pull a Patriots, and trade down from this spot.
16. Arizona Cardinals | Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Son of former NFL WR Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn is widely regarded as the 2nd best Cornerback prospect in this draft class. Having lost longtime Cardinal Patrick Peterson via free agency, Arizona has a glaring need on the back-end of the defense. While rookie corners do not have the greatest track record of immediate success, Horn is the type of pieces the Cardinals need if they want to compete for a Super Bowl while Kyler Murray is still on a cheap rookie contract.
17. Las Vegas Raiders | Teven Jenkins, OT, OSU
Having scrapped almost their entire offensive line this off-season, there is not a larger hole both figuratively and literally on the Raiders then at offensive tackle. Jenkins is a bit of a reach at this spot, which usually does not work out well. However, it's understandable given the positional need the Raiders find themselves in now. Offensive Tackles come at an absolute premium, and I won't be shocked if we see even more lineman fly off the board in the first round of the real NFL Draft.
18. Miami Dolphins | Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
Paye is considered by many to be the best pass-rusher in this draft, in a class that is not deep at the position. I'd be surprised if Paye is available at 18th, but if he is, the Dolphins got a steal. Paye brings the type of juice off the edge the Dolphins need to keep their defense at the top of the pack in the AFC. Raw in technique, but makes up for it with his athleticism. Paye should be worked in as a situational pass-rusher in year one.
19. Washington Football Team | Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
This is downright scary if it comes to fruition. I can't think of a more menacing front seven in the league than the Washington Football Team defense with Owusu-Koramoah, Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat. This is arguably the most physical and fast defensive front in all of football. Owusu-Koramoah would fill what feels like the only need remaining in the WFT front seven. Great pick.
20. Chicago Bears | Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
If you watched a Bears game last season, you should not be surprised to see them take a tackle with this pick. Mayfield fills a need for the Bears, and I could see him starting his career on the right side of the Line before making the full-time switch to Left Tackle. Don't be shocked if the Bears reach on a QB like Kyle Trask, Davis Mills, or Kellen Mond with this pick.
21. Indianapolis Colts | Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley is one of the twitchiest athletes in this draft and in my opinion, the best prospect at his position. He has recently fallen down draft boards due to concerning medicals, but reports say he should be good to go come training camp season. Farley would be the perfect addition to an already well-rounded Colts D.
22. Tennessee Titans | Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
In many other draft classes, Terrace Marshall Jr. could be the WR1 in terms of talent. Perhaps the only true example of being statistically held back by his teammates (Ja'Marr Chase one year, Justin Jefferson the other) Marshall has everything you're looking for in a prototype WR1. With size, speed and production, Marshall is the perfect compliment to Titans WR1 A.J. Brown. Marshall could honestly go earlier than this with his recent climbing draft stock since his pro day at LSU. If the Titans can get him here, it's the perfect meshing of team need meeting value.
23. New York Jets | Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Remember the Jamal Adams trade? You can thank that trade for this extra 1st round pick. Adding Bateman to an offense that already invested at the position last year in 2nd round pick Denzel Mims, and this off-season in free agent signing Corey Davis, and Zach Wilson is looking a 3 more than capable weapons for him to throw to in Year 1. If the board breaks differently in the real NFL Draft, I could see the Jets taking an offensive tackle here to put opposite Mechi Becton.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
You didn't think the Steelers were going to trot out Anthony McFarland Jr. and Kalen Ballage as their workhorse running backs, did you? The Steelers get the consensus RB1 in this draft in Najee Harris. Explosive and more-than-capable in the passing game, Najee should start Day 1 in the NFL. While he isn't Derrick Henry, he's as close as you'll get. It's extremely important that the Steelers have a dominant running back behind Big Ben to alleviate some of the passing load off of his ancient arm, and to play more situational football than they did last season. This is the most fantasy football relevant selection of the entire draft, so far.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars | Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
We see ANOTHER offensive tackle go off the board in Notre Dame prospect, Liam Eichenberg. This is a smart selection by the Jaguars. They already have capable weapons in the passing game in D.J. Chark, LaViska Shenault, and free agent addition, Marvin Jones. With a reliable running back in James Robinson, offensive line is the only glaring hole on the Trevor Lawrence-led offense. The Jaguars learned from the bad example the Bengals set with Joe Burrow last year in not having capable O-Lineman to protect their franchise QB. Credit to Jordan Foote (who drafted for the Chiefs) for his article on Liam Eichenberg, which you can find here.
26. Cleveland Browns | Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Browns have the potential to be the best defense in the AFC North this next season with the addition of Collins and the signing of free agent Jadaveon Clowney. The Browns know the only way to keep up with the high-powered offenses of the AFC like the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, is to slow them down and play situational football. This is a team that is built to win sloppy football games deep into the season. Collins adds to that mix and should have Day 1 impact.
27. Baltimore Ravens | Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
Ideally, this pick would be a Wide Receiver (sorry, but Sammy Watkins isn't the answer). But, the Ravens have been depleted in recent years with edge rushers leaving via free agency, so they need to replenish their core of pass-rushers. Who I consider to be the most polished pass-rusher of the class, I think Ojulari is an absolute steal in the late first round.
28. New Orleans Saints | Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
I'm not as high as others on Rousseau, but I still think this is a good pick, given the positional scarcity at pass-rusher. My only hesitation about this pick for the Saints, is that I think they're going to throw a curveball come draft day. Whether that means Kellen Mond, Kyle Trask, or a Wide Receiver, I think the Saints are going to surprise. If they don't, then this is a great pairing with longtime Saint, Cameron Jordan.
29. (Projected Trade) Indianapolis Colts | Pat Freiermuth, TE, PSU
In this mock draft, the Colts trade up with the Packers. The trade compensation is: Colts receive 29th overall, Green Bay Packers receive 54th overall, 2022 2nd round pick. The Packers get some much-needed draft capital in two deep classes and the Colts get a safety blanket target for new franchise QB, Carson Wentz in Pat Freirmuth. I give this trade a B for the Packers, and B+ for the Colts. The only reason the Packers get a B, is because they did not take a WR here, but they'll likely address the need in the 2nd round.
A narrative being lost in this draft class is the assumption that Kyle Pitts is the only good Tight End. That simply is not true. Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan in any other class would be considered the TE1. Wentz has thrived in the past with a receiving TE, and the Colts currently do not have one that is capable of the type of volume Wentz targets the position at.
30. Buffalo Bills | Travis Ettienne, RB, Clemson
Oh boy. Someone send flowers to the Zack Moss truthers of the world (and Singletary truthers if there are any left). Ettienne is the perfect complementary piece to the pass-heavy Bills offense. A shifty, capable runner, Ettienne should take advantage of light boxes in the run game and be heavily utilized in the passing game via screen plays and check-downs. Absolutely love this pick for the Buffalo Bills. Alvin Kamara 2.0.
31. Kansas City Chiefs | Jaelen Phillips, Edge, Miami
The board didn't fall how the Chiefs would like, as they'd obviously prefer to take an offensive tackle here after the purge of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Phillips fills a need here for the Chiefs in bulking up the pass-rushing unit. This is a solid grab at the end of the first round and Phillips has some of the highest upside of any defensive prospect in this draft.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Wow. If the Bucs can land Christian Barmore here, I'm not sure if any team can run for 1 yard per carry on Tampa Bay in 2021. Already boasting a dominant interior defensive line comprised of Suh and Vita Vea, this is absolutely a case of the rich getting richer for the defending Super Bowl Champions. great selection here by the Bucs who get a win-now player in Barmore, while also setting up for a Suh-less future soon.
That's the end of Round 1! Thank you if you made it this far and I hope you enjoyed it. Have questions or comments? Comment below and I'll answer all of them! Tune-in next week for Rounds 2-3.
A special thanks to the following accounts that made this happen. Each of them made selections for one or multiple NFL franchises as the de-facto GM. Feel free to give them a follow and ask them about their selection!
Arizona Cardinals @realMrMallard
Atlanta Falcons @GamblingDad_
Baltimore Ravens @waggleleft
Buffalo Bills @DustinBuescher
Carolina Panthers @WaggleLeft
Cincinnati Bengals @aggiekappasig
Chicago Bears @texastrosch
Cleveland Browns @KaleBCLE
Dallas Cowboys @ChrisSmithUSN
Denver Broncos @Danny__Dimes
Detroit Lions @SportsBurner313
Green Bay Packers @JonHelmkamp
Houston Texans @DetroitBeastie
Indianapolis Colts @cliniccapp
Jacksonville Jaguars @texastrosch
Kansas City Chiefs @footenoted
Las Vegas Raiders @Tyler_FF_
Los Angeles Chargers @cliniccapp
Los Angeles Rams@texastrosch
Miami Dolphins @DPoFoSho
Minnesota Vikings @brandonstene4
New England Patriots @sportsburner313
New Orleans Saints @AaronNihart
New York Giants @Tommy2Socks
New York Jets @Tommy2Socks
Philadelphia Eagles @sportsburner313
Pittsburgh Steelers @AaronNihart
San Francisco 49ers @rjvillagomez
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @DustinBuescher
Tennessee Titans @DustinBuescher
Washington Football Team @DustinBuescher