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2021 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (post-early entry deadline edition)

2021 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (Updated)

2021 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (Updated)

We're down to just four NFL teams left vying for the Lombardi Trophy but league business continues unabated elsewhere as franchises lock up their head coaches or continue their deep dives into the draft process.

While we are still months away from selections being announced and the unique pandemic-influenced process still to navigate (the NFL announced significant changes to the format of the Scouting Combine on Monday), there are plenty of connections being made between certain prospects and the teams who are locked into a draft slot.

With 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

Urban Meyer is officially on board in Duval and his first order of business is getting the QB of the future. While there will be plenty of speculation about going with Justin Fields due to his Ohio State and scheme connections, the new head coach knows there's only one QB1 to go with atop the draft.

2. New York Jets — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

It seems like Sam Darnold's time in New York will continue and general manager Joe Douglas will be tasked with surrounding him with more help than he's ever had moving forward. Sewell is the big prize given how polished he is and would instantly give the Jest the best young tackle tandem the NFL has seen in ages. However, keep an eye on the Jets trading back given how many QB-needy teams may prize this spot.

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans) — Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

There will be a ton of clamoring for the 'Fins to add a big-name weapon to help Tua Tagovailoa but fixing the team's woeful offensive line should take precedence, especially given the weapons available later on. Slater can be dropped in right away and provides the flexibility to kick inside if needed.

4. Atlanta Falcons — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

It's a new era in Atlanta with the hire of Arthur Smith and now he'll get the QB to build around in the future. Matt Ryan is a heck of a bridge to this Atlanta native, who provides a huge upgrade in athleticism and already will have tons of weapons to work with early.

5. Cincinnati Bengals — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Chase was bumped off the radar with the kind of year that DeVonta Smith had but he was a key contributor on that historic title-winning team in Baton Rouge and remains one of the best prospects at the position. A reunion with Joe Burrow makes all the sense in the world.

6. Philadelphia Eagles — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

A new head coach, an unsettled QB situation and a likely exit by Zach Ertz are all the storylines happening in Philly but the fan base could be energized by this selection after seeing what kind of impact Pitts had with the Gators. He'll be able to jump in right away and be target No. 1 for whoever is under center in 2021.

7. Detroit Lions — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

It will be a new era in Detroit from ownership on down and what better way to make a clean break with the past than also selecting a QB of the future. The new front office can help rebuild the right way with a rookie under center and apparent new head coach Dan Campbell will be thrilled at Wilson's competitiveness and ability to make throws all at all angles.

8. Carolina Panthers — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

A potential landing spot for a QB, Matt Rhule continues to view this as a long-term rebuild in Carolina. Farley has the ability to get thrown into the starting lineup right away while also growing into being one of the best corners in the NFC with athleticism.

9. Denver Broncos — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Fresh off a national championship, Surtain is a plug-and-play corner. With the team potentially moving on from the disappointing A.J. Bouye, the NFL legacy can help right away in Mile High as the team remakes their front office. Plus, one can never have too many high-end corners in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.

10. Dallas Cowboys — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

It's got to be mighty tempting for Jerry Jones to pick a more flashy name but upgrading the offensive line back to a point where it's one of the league's best is an overriding priority in Big D. That's especially the case given the investment likely to be made in Dak Prescott after his injury.

11. New York Giants — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

The G-Men's passing game has been hit or miss and that doesn't just come down to the quarterback position. There may be durability concerns with Smith but he's the Heisman Trophy winner for a reason and would provide an instant spark to an offense that struggles to move the chains and find the end zone.

12. San Francisco 49ers — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The 49ers have a pressing need at corner and Horn might have to be thrown into the fire from the get-go. He's not quite as polished as somebody like Patrick Surtain II but presents the upside and competitiveness that will serve him well in the NFC West.

13. Los Angeles Chargers — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Much of the roster building Tom Telesco and his new head coach Brandon Staley will be doing this offseason will focus on giving Justin Herbert help but both guys know you can't pass up a bargain of a pick in landing a top-five talent at No. 13, not unlike what the team did with Derwin James four years ago.

14. Minnesota Vikings — Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Mike Zimmer has churned out some good pass rushers in recent years but the team just didn't have the same kind of juice in 2020 due to a mix of personnel (hi and bye Yannick Ngakoue) and injuries (Danielle Hunter). Enter Rousseau, who is the most naturally gifted edge player in the draft.

15. New England Patriots — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Even if Cam Newton returns, it's clear he's not the long-term answer in Foxborough. Lance does need some development but has all the physical tools to turn into a special QB as the rebuild kicks into another gear for Bill Belichick.

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16. Arizona Cardinals — Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Haason Reddick is a free agent and the Cardinals need to continue to find upgrades on the defensive side of the ball. Enter Paye, who is also a plus defender in a division where everybody loves to run the ball.

17. Las Vegas Raiders — Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

Jon Gruden's offense may get all the attention but he and general manager Mike Mayock know they have to get some impact defensive players this offseason. Ojulari checks a lot of boxes on that front given his quickness of the line and ability to find the quarterback.

18. Miami Dolphins — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The best way to help a young QB, find him a wideout he trusts. Tua Tagovailoa certainly has the chemistry part down pat already with Waddle as he instantly becomes WR1 down in Miami.

19. Washington Football Team — Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

The revamped front office still needs to figure out a solution at QB but you know what would really help a team that was constantly injured under center? Better protection. Enter Leatherwood, who is polished enough to start at tackle on this team from Day 1.

20. Chicago Bears — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

The Bears have a bigger decision to make at QB but if they want to run it back one more time with Matt Nagy and Co., getting better up front will play a big role. Vera-Tucker has the quality to become the left tackle of the future in the Windy City even if he could play early on the right side.

21. Indianapolis Colts — Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan

Anthony Castonzo's retirement leaves a big hole up front and that should be all the motivation needed for the team to go after a replacement. Mayfield is just scratching the surface of what he can do and would form a pretty intimidating left side of the line with Quenton Nelson beside him.

22. Tennessee Titans — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

If at first they don't succeed, the Titans will try and try again to find that next-level addition at linebacker that can rush the passer while also make the requisite plays in space. Collins won a host of defensive hardware at tiny Tulsa for doing just that and would be a quality scheme fit with what Mike Vrabel wants to do.

23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

While Quinnen Williams has turned into a monster in the middle, he needs some running mates as the defense gets re-tooled this offseason. Owusu-Koramoah should be able to find snaps all over the place and get the added benefit of learning next to a returning C.J. Mosley.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

It will be interesting to see just how new offensive coordinator Matt Canada impacts this selection but the bottom line is the team has to find a way to run the football better. Harris is as good as they come in terms of all-around game and would make for a seamless transition as the next three-down back at Heinz Field.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) — Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa

Urban Meyer knows no matter what level of football you're at, you have to win in the trenches. The Jags were awful last season along the defensive line given their lack of talent and there are not too many DTs of Nixon's ability in this draft class. Meyer spent a ton of time looking at Big Ten teams in his previous jobs and knows just how disruptive the former Hawkeye star can be.

26. Cleveland Browns — Joseph Ossai, LB, Texas

The Browns' pass rush is pretty much just Myles Garrett forcing his way through double-teams so Ossai would be a big boost off the edge while providing plenty to stay on the field for other downs.

27. Baltimore Ravens — Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Another disappointing playoff exit and further questions about the passing game in Baltimore will reinforce the need to find Lamar Jackson more weapons in the draft. Bateman is the right kind of mix of hands, speed and playmaking ability that should help energize that aerial attack.

28. New Orleans Saints — Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

The Saints' offense figures to look quite different in 2021 but it's pretty clear that Sean Payton still wants to find some complementary pieces to Michael Thomas for whoever is slinging passes for New Orleans next season. Enter Toney, who could fill Taysom Hill's spot in the offense with his versatility while providing more explosiveness as a downfield threat.

Note: Picks 29-32 are ordered based on remaining playoff teams' records, but won't be finalized until the postseason concludes.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami

As good as the Bucs' defense has been, vets like Jason Pierre-Paul are still getting up there in age and will need to be replaced as Todd Bowles' unit gets younger and more athletic by plucking Phillips from just down the turnpike. A few teams might not have Phillips this high but his athleticism and upside is off the charts and Tampa won't mind taking a chance with this roster as it is.

30. Buffalo Bills — Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

The Bills' pass defense had a few struggles at the beginning of the year before finding their way late but that doesn't mean the front office isn't looking for some fresh faces on the backend. Campbell is another big, long corner who should fit right in as Tre'Davious White's new running mate.

31. Green Bay Packers — Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

The timeline for David Bakhtiari's return is still too early to determine but this could be a bit of insurance for Aaron Rodgers early in the year while also keeping an eye on upgrading that right flank with a dependable starter in Eichenberg.

32. Kansas City Chiefs — Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

Not a bad little luxury pick here for the Chiefs, as they get a top-20 talent at the bottom of the first round. Barmore's play really picked up down the stretch for the Tide and could form a devastating one-two punch given what Kansas City already has in Chris Jones.

— 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.