What direction will Atlanta go in with the fourth overall pick on Thursday night?
It's here. After months of waiting, enough discussions to bore even the most die-hard scouts and rumors upon rumors, it's time for the 2021 NFL Draft to actually kick off down in Cleveland. Who will land that franchise-altering player? Who will whiff on one? It's all part of the drama that is the first round of a draft unlike any other in the league's history.
With all that in mind, here's a look at who could go where in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Week 16 of the 2020 season is when the Jaguars ultimately locked up the services of Lawrence as the new face of the franchise. Now they'll make it official with the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck. The face of CFB since he was a freshman, he's capable of starting Week 1 but will still need to grow into a role that will involve more losing than he and his head coach have ever known.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets honed in on Wilson early in the process and haven't wavered, confirming their selection with the trade of Sam Darnold this offseason. The bigger challenge for the organization is surrounding their new QB with enough support to be successful and not repeat what they just did with another top-five pick under center.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via Houston and Miami) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
If the 49ers don't select Jones, it would be one of the great misdirections in draft history. There's no reason for them to play games and all of the smoke coming out of Santa Clara is that the title-winning signal-caller will soon be taking over in the Bay. It's a big bet. Keep in mind that Jimmy G. led the team to a double-digit lead in the second half of the Super Bowl so the bar for Jones is set extremely high for his NFL career right away.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Decisions, decisions. Atlanta is being pulled in a number of different directions with this pick and has a number of avenues to go from trading down, selecting a QB of the future or going with a shock selection. Given such a split, new GM Terry Fontenot instead plays it safe with Pitts — a good fit in Arthur Smith's offense and quite the insurance policy if those Julio Jones trade rumors come to fruition.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
If the Bengals think one of the top offensive tackle options (Peneii Sewell, Rashawn Slater, etc.) are at the level that we saw Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs or even Jedrick Wills Jr. play at as rookies, they can go with a smart choice and protect their young QB up front. If they don't grade them at such a level, giving into Joe Burrow's wishes and reuniting him with his old college buddy, followed by OL help in the second round, makes sense too.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Miami seems open to moving down (again) for the right price if Kyle Pitts/Ja'Marr Chase are both off the board. If they don't get the value they want however, they're comfortable going with Sewell and adding more weapons later. Keep this in mind: Tua Tagovailoa will be 23 this season and both his tackles could be 22 or younger. That's a young core to build around.
7. Detroit Lions – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
There are a lot of cooks in the Lions' kitchen and ultimate authority on a selection like this is still a little murky. If Penei Sewell is available, then things might get interesting. If not, it could well come down to Micah Parsons or Smith, who earns rave reviews from just about everybody about his approach to the game and could help elevate Jared Goff's play immediately.
8. Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Another potential trade spot if there's not a united front on Justin Fields being the guy (Sam Darnold or not) as a new franchise cornerstone. Matt Rhule loves to build his teams in the trenches however and would get an easy mover in Slater.
9. Denver Broncos – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
One of the more fascinating subplots of the top 10 is whether the Broncos blink and pay up to get a QB or stay put. The Fields discussions have taken a life of their own but in the end, Mile High gets a player who can go toe-to-toe with some of the others in the AFC.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The upside with a corner like Jaycee Horn might be a tick higher but everything Jerry Jones has done is about winning in the short term. Surtain helps to that end as somebody ready to be thrown in the fire amid a revamped Cowboys secondary.
11. New York Giants – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Maybe it's just the New York media needing to fill so much space but the hand arguing over what GM Dave Gettleman will or won't do sure has been something the past week or so. When in doubt though, the truism is go to the trenches and/or find a pass rusher. Paye adds plenty of versatility to a pretty fascinating defense under Joe Judge.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via San Francisco and Miami) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Nick Sirianni paper/rock/scissors story got plenty of laughs but speaks to how much the organization wants competitive players at nearly every position. Despite being an NFL legacy, that's Horn, who can help solidify a problem spot for the team the past few years.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Yes, the Chargers have been connected to pretty much every one of the top offensive linemen in the draft to help Justin Herbert up front. Yet GM Tom Telesco has made a living on nabbing top-tier defensive talent that ends up sliding. The latest will be Parsons, who becomes a big weapon against Travis Kelce twice a year.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Few would benefit more from those Patriots-QB rumors than the Vikings, who would be open to moving back to 19 on down. Kirk Cousins was under pressure a ton last season either way so Vera-Tucker, who brings plenty of positional flexibility, can help address that immediately.
15. New England Patriots – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
There are many around the league who would be fairly shocked if Bill Belichick when against years and years of standard operating procedure and traded up for a QB. But if one lands at 15, the organization has done all the appropriate homework. Lance is a bit raw but the offensive staff would love to shepherd along somebody with his football IQ.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
More offense for Kliff Kingsbury? Even with a number of defensive deficiencies, the Cardinals are in the camp that a great offense can outweigh having an average defense. Waddle is a good complement to DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green on the outside while becoming a speedy replacement for Larry Fitzgerald.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Raiders were near the bottom in the league last year in sacks and yards per pass attempt allowed. Rousseau helps inject life into the pass rush right away and brings the size to replace Maxx Crosby up front down the road.
18. Miami Dolphins – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Phillips doesn't have to go far nor do the 'Fins in scouting this pick. As good as Brian Flores' defense was a year ago, the West Coast transplant could be another young, athletic piece that is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
19. Washington Football Team – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Neither of WFT's current tackles is assured of a job this season or beyond. Darrisaw is going to get a little overdrafted by the lack of true tackles in the draft but he can slot in right away as FitzMagic's new protector.
20. Chicago Bears – Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Allen Robinson was franchised but the Bears have been dipping their toes in the wide receiver market for both incomings and outgoings. Moore is a tick undersized but brings so much juice down the field and could be a great fit in Matt Nagy's scheme.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Unless a top-tier tackle falls, it's a good bet for the Colts to move back even if they just net a mid-round pick in compensation. Tryon's opt-out complicates his evaluation somewhat but his versatility lining up all over to go with his physical traits could make him a monster in that Indy defense.
22. Tennessee Titans – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Despite being a consistent playoff team of late, the Titans have a variety of needs so which direction they go is up for debate. Jenkins' ability to jump in right away at right tackle while bringing a ton in the run game just feels like something that the front office can't ignore however.
23. New York Jets (via Seattle) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Jets couldn't sniff somebody of Farley's talent if he had no red flags with the medicals. GM Joe Douglas has plenty more ammo to find support for his young QB elsewhere and should run to the phone given the value here and the ability to provide a marquee first-rounder for Robert Saleh to work with on the other side of the ball.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Yes, the team is all-in for another go-around with Ben Roethlisberger but would they entertain sending this pick to Green Bay for somebody like Jordan Love in order to secure a long-term option under center? That scenario aside, it would be a bit surprising to find somebody who doesn't think Harris winds up in the Steel City as the new primary back.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
New DC Joe Cullen needs a guy on the back end that he can put a lot on the plate and not have to worry about. Moehrig's instincts and ability to play every coverage scheme imaginable fit the bill, plus he's a type somebody like Urban Meyer would love to have in the locker room.
26. Cleveland Browns – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Sometimes there's a natural marriage of player, team and draft spot and that feels right with this pick. Owusu-Koramoah is the prototypical type of player you need when your top competition in the division is Lamar Jackson and you have to deal with TEs on a regular basis.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
At least one of the two Ravens' first-rounders is getting shipped for additional draft capital unless there's a mega-move to be made into the top 12. Collins' combination of size and athleticism is rare to come by and could be quite a complement to the pieces already in Baltimore.
28. New Orleans Saints – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
There are higher-upside options for the Saints to address their secondary holes but Newsome has the ability to play right away and work within a defense that should face plenty of deep shots.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
This is GM Brian Gutekunst's gift to DC Joe Barry, much to Aaron Rodgers' chagrin. Davis' rise is to the point where he might not even be here but would be just the kind of three-down upgrade for a defense that has to re-tool slightly in order to take the next step.
30. Buffalo Bills – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Value pick here for a defense that has to get more push against the top-tier QBs they face. Ojulari is a bit undersized but Buffalo has had success with similar guys and the team loves the UGA star's production.
31. Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City) – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
We'll see if Baltimore sticks here but they love value in late picks and love the Crimson Tide even with Ozzie Newsome not turning in cards anymore. Barmore can benefit a ton from the vets in the DL room of the Ravens and has a chance to turn into a monster down the road with the kind of coaching he'll get here.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
The lack of sacks for Oweh has scared some teams off but the Bucs can spend a luxury pick on such an athletic edge rusher here if they're not tempted enough to nab Travis Etienne with the final pick of the round. He'll have a chance to be mentored by some top-notch players in Tampa and fits in with the kind of speedy defense Todd Bowles has assembled.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.