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

A couple of blockbuster trades have shaken up the order at the top

There's never a dull week in the NFL and a pair of back-to-back mega-trades proved that as the top 10 of the draft takes on a whole new look going into April. Thanks in part to the 49ers, Eagles and Dolphins, the twists and turns might just be getting started as we barrel toward an incredible finish in Cleveland.

 

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

Urban Meyer all but confirmed what has been rumored for, well, months? Years? The Jags have their QB of the future in the former Tigers star but now need to keep upgrading the talent on the roster — making that 25th pick much more interesting to the folks in Florham Park.

 

2. New York Jets — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

After being signed, WR Corey Davis said it's his understanding that Sam Darnold is the guy in the Big Apple. Yet all that we're hearing is that the Jets' brass remains enamored with Wilson — especially after his Pro Day. Likely some regular draft double-talk but we won't know for sure until the card is turned in.

 

3. San Francisco 49ers (via Houston and Miami) — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Everybody's talking about Jimmy G's cap implications but a team doesn't pony up that draft capital if they didn't have a long-term vision in mind. Lance is a perfect fit in that Kyle Shanahan offense and will be able to sit for most of the 2021 season before raising the ceiling on what this group can do when he takes over the reins.

 

4. Atlanta Falcons — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

There may be some pressure to make it a run of four straight QBs but Matt Ryan's restructure was the telling sign the team can't move on from their starting signal-caller. While Jake Matthews will either have to get kicked inside or traded, Sewell is just too good of a player to pass up as the team goes all-in on a top-tier offense.

 

5. Cincinnati Bengals — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Joe Burrow might be bummed for about 10 minutes after seeing Sewell come off the board before quickly realizing that puts Pitts into the lineup as his top target. More than a few scouts think the Gators tight end is the best bet to make it out of any of these top picks.

 

6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia Eagles) — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Miami had to figure out something that confirmed they could get their target by trading back (in a roundabout way). No matter how it happened though, Chase is a game-changer for Tua Tagovailoa's development and gives the franchise their first true WR1 in a long time.

 

7. Detroit Lions — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Maybe Dan Campbell is no fan of Parsons opting out but if he digs deep into his film and what the folks at PSU say about the linebacker, he'll be won over quickly. There are precious few impact linebackers like this around and finding a new chess piece to upgrade that awful defense seems likely if they won't find a reasonable trade package to move down.

 

8. Carolina Panthers — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

One wonders what went through the minds of Panthers' brass when they saw the 49ers trade up. Maybe their guy is gone or maybe they feel good about landing Fields here as the QB of the future. One thing is for sure, the Buckeyes QB is a great match for OC Joe Brady's system.

 

9. Denver Broncos — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

The signings of Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby to go with Justin Simmons' big deal make corner less of a need for a roster that's still in decent shape. Don't be shocked if they suddenly pivot without any of the top QBs on the board and lean in on Vera-Tucker, who has the versatility to upgrade as many as four spots on a line that hasn't performed up to expectations.

 

10. Dallas Cowboys — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

The Cowboys have brought back most of their offensive firepower so you get the sense they'll be all-in on defense come draft time. Surtain is a polished corner who can play right away and it seems like a good bet he'll be thrown in right away as a rookie.

 

11. New York Giants — Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

After splashing a bunch of cash on Leonard Williams, there's still work left to be done for GM Dave Gettleman. The team will have to weigh Rousseau's limited sample size with his top-tier physical attributes but he's got a chance to be a real problem off the edge for years to come.

 

12. Philadelphia Eagles (via San Francisco and Miami) — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

What better way for Nick Sirianni to help his young QB than get him a receiver beyond his years that he already has a history with? Even the demanding Eagles fans out there will be snapping up Smith jerseys at a record pace after seeing what he did with the Tide.

 

13. Los Angeles Chargers — Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

It's pretty impressive how good Justin Herbert was despite having one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year. They've already added center Corey Linsley in a big splash move and can continue to fill out in the trenches with the addition of Slater.

 

14. Minnesota Vikings — Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami

The defensive revamp for Mike Zimmer's squad has begun with the signing of Dalvin Tomlinson but there's still plenty left to be done. Phillips is a familiar project for the Vikings given that his best days as a player may be ahead of him in the pros with just a bit of seasoning since he has the physical makeup to be a monster.

 

15. New England Patriots — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

With Jason McCourty a free agent and Stephon Gilmore constantly in trade rumors, it makes sense for Bill Belichick to continue to re-tool his secondary with an eye on 2021 and beyond. Newsome has all the tools to thrive at the next level and a little bit of seasoning by the defensive wiz could make him an early impact rookie.

 

16. Arizona Cardinals — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Patrick Peterson is off to the chilly NFC North and somebody is going to need to cover all those speedy wideouts in the NFC West. Horn has the pedigree, athleticism and smarts to step in right away into the lineup.

 

17. Las Vegas Raiders — Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

While Jon Gruden has been driving the bus with the franchise, GM Mike Mayock is an old DB and will likely pound the table to get Moehrig. He can be the captain of the defense in no time and become a nice complement to the hard-hitting Johnathan Abram.

 

18. Miami Dolphins — Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State

The Dolphins' offensive line is young and improving but could really get a boost by adding Jenkins to the mix. His ability to finish in the run game as well as protect Tua Tagovailia's blind side should make for a fun fit in South Florida.

 

19. Washington Football Team — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The WFT's free agency efforts landed a stop-gap solution at QB but Jones makes plenty of sense as the long-term answer. Ryan Fitzpatrick won't enjoy having to fight off another youngster but such is life.

 

20. Chicago Bears — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Allen Robinson was franchised but the receiving corps still needs work in the Windy City. Enter Waddle, who seems like just the type of player that can get the city excited about a pick the front office makes for the first time in a while.

 

21. Indianapolis Colts — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

It will be tempting to figure out that tackle situation with this pick but the front office sees value in a potential top-10 selection falling this far. The team doctors would have to sign off but the upside is undeniable for the Colts in finding somebody opposite Xavier Rhodes.

 

22. Tennessee Titans — Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan

Mayfield has a chance to start right away in Tennessee at right tackle but his selection could be viewed a bit as Taylor Lewan insurance as well. While it might be a little hard for Mike Vrabel to select a Michigan Man, the latter's toughness will be endearing enough to allow the franchise to completely forget their whiff on Isaiah Wilson last draft.

 

23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Jets fans may scream and yell about the value of spending first-round picks on RBs but Harris is a different breed compared to most. His ability to be a focal point between the tackles and a factor in the run game could make him a great fit while helping out a young QB.

 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Collins is just such a unique prospect and the team letting Vince Williams (and Bud Dupree) go may have freed up a spot to insert the athletic Tulsa linebacker into the front seven. He's a much better defender against the pass than people think and his ability to rush the passer opposite T.J. Watt could be quite troublesome for opponents.

 

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) — Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Few teams were as active in free agency as the Jags and they still have plenty of moves left to make as they start to build around Trevor Lawrence. Still, Paye is just too good of an athlete to pass up for a defense that still needs a lot of work. Cue the obvious jokes about Urban drafting a Wolverine but Paye's ability to line up in about seven different spots would be mighty appealing.

 

26. Cleveland Browns — Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State

The Browns are still eyeing an opposite number for Myles Garrett and Takkarist McKinley doesn't appear to be a multi-year solution baring something wild happening. Oweh is an athletic monster and you wonder if learning from the guys on the Cleveland roster is just what he needs to unlock his real potential off the edge.

 

27. Baltimore Ravens — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Lamar Jackson would love for the Ravens to be aggressive in trading up to land one of the top wideouts on the board or see one of them slip to No. 27 but if that's not the case, the team will likely take the best player left on the board. In this situation, that might be Darrisaw, who would become the easy solution to Orlando Brown seeking a trade.

 

28. New Orleans Saints — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Lots of issues with the Saints' roster still need to be addressed after seemingly half the team was a cap casualty but Owusu-Koramoah could fill a variety of roles and become a replacement for both Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander.

 

29. Green Bay Packers — Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

Kenny Clark has been the team's best defensive lineman but there's hardly anybody behind him and Barmore has the ability to either kick outside or help with some even front looks. The Packers don't mind grabbing a top-20 talent at the bottom of the round, especially in such a weak year for defensive linemen and a pressing need to get better in the trenches.

 

30. Buffalo Bills — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

The current depth of the Bills' roster allows them to be extremely flexible with this pick, which is where Etienne comes into the picture. There are some solid names already in upstate New York but the ACC's all-time leading rusher can help that offense become even more dangerous on all three downs.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs — Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

Offensive line is still a focus in the draft but the kid from just down the road might make them kick that can down the road ever so slightly. Chiefs fans have been clamoring for upgrades at LB and Bolton brings a ton of athleticism and explosiveness that some current players just don't have.

 

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF

The band is pretty much back together for the Super Bowl champs but they can still keep building that roster depth. You can never have enough corners and Robinson would be a perfect replacement for Ross Cockrell at the nickel on an already elite defense.

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo by Tim Sanger/NDSU Athletics)

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