What does the latest (first round only) mock draft of the 2021 NFL Draft look like according to Pro Football Network’s Free Mock Draft Simulator? With team needs now thoroughly focused on the draft, how does Day 1 potentially shake out?
2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
At this stage, it’s clear the Jaguars are ready to kick off the 2021 NFL Draft with Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have been hunting for their franchise QB, and in Lawrence, they have one who has few holes in his game.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
After trading Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, the Jets look set to make Zach Wilson their QB of the future. Despite the meteoric rise we saw from Wilson in 2020, there remain questions surrounding the BYU QB.
Wilson has a somewhat concerning injury history, and the level of competition in college raises eyebrows. Despite that, he possesses outstanding intangibles that should mean he can get on the field quickly, be that as a rookie or at the start of his second season.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Ever since the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 overall spot, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding what they may do. However, the consensus seems to be building that Mac Jones is the QB Kyle Shanahan has his eye on.
Despite coming into the offseason considered the fifth QB in this process, it would now be a surprise if Jones does not go third. With that said, it would be wrong to completely discount the potential of Justin Fields being selected over Mac Jones.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Since the end of the 2020 NFL season, the Falcons’ plans with the No. 4 pick have been an intriguing subject. With the top of the draft expected to be QB heavy, will the Falcons bring in a potential future QB to sit behind Matt Ryan? Will they go for a different position on offense, or will they look to trade down within the top 10?
In this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, the Falcons invest in that long-term QB to learn behind Ryan. Trey Lance possesses a lot of upside, both in terms of his impact in the pass and run game. As a QB who can excel in the RPO game, Lance could mesh nicely with Arthur Smith’s offensive system.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
If the Bengals are sensible, addressing the offensive tackle position in Round 1 is really the only decision that makes sense. If that is the case, Penei Sewell remains the top option at the position for many. Sewell is an athletic prospect with the footwork and agility to be a valuable asset in the NFL. Slight concerns are surrounding his strength and finishing of blocks. Those concerns have led to discussions that Sewell could slide outside of the top 10 on draft day.
Drafting Sewell with the No. 5 overall selection gives the Bengals several options. If they feel Jonah Williams remains a franchise left tackle, they can use Sewell on the right side. On the other hand, with Williams yet to show dominance on that side, the Bengals could flip him to right tackle. Either way, Sewell and Williams have the potential to be one of the best tackle pairings in the NFL.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Eagles): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
It seems unlikely that the Dolphins go anywhere other than a pass catcher with their selection at No. 6. In this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft, the Dolphins select DeVonta Smith in that spot.
Following the Senior Bowl, Pro Football Network’s NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright reported that the Dolphins are potentially interested in Smith. Therefore, it would be no surprise if Miami puts the Alabama receiver with his former college QB. Adding Smith opposite the speedy Will Fuller would give Tua Tagovailoa two high-ceiling weapons on the outside.
7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Speaking of dominant weapons, they do not come much more dominant than Ja’Marr Chase. The LSU receiver posted an incredible 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in his sophomore season. His decision to opt out of the 2020 college football season has perhaps prevented him from being the first receiver selected.
Nevertheless, Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline describes Chase as “a gifted athlete and natural receiver, who dominated at the college level and should easily adapt to the NFL.”
The Lions have added receivers in free agency with Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. However, they do not have a true No. 1 receiver, which is something Chase can immediately be.
8. Carolina Panthers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Adding Sam Darnold has shaken up the situation for the Panthers in the upcoming draft. While QB is seemingly not off the table for the Panthers in the draft, it does limit the names they may consider. If a project QB like Lance is available, that is a road the Panthers could explore. However, a QB considered more “pro-ready,” such as Jones or Justin Fields, would make less sense with Darnold guaranteed his salary through the next two seasons.
Consequently, the Panthers’ attention could turn to address their defense. With solid options at linebacker, they may not look to take a risk on Micah Parsons’ character concerns. In that event, upgrading at cornerback is a smart option. An intriguing option would be to keep the South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn close to home. Horn can be a No. 1 corner for the Panthers and could contribute as a rookie.
9. Denver Broncos: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Drew Lock does not appear to be the answer for the Broncos. In spite of that, Denver has built a team with the talent to challenge for an AFC playoff spot. Hence, the Broncos select Justin Fields in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft.
Fields has the physical skills to match any QB in this draft. Concerns have been raised around how often he had to work through progressions at Ohio State. Nonetheless, his physical tools make him an intriguing prospect for the Broncos’ offensive coaches to get their hands on.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Dallas Cowboys offense is a superb unit loaded with talent. There are still question marks, however, surrounding the tight end position. Blake Jarwin remains an unknown after his injury last year, but there is no doubting Kyle Pitts would be an upgrade. An offensive group of Pitts, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Ezekiel Elliott would be terrifying for any opposing defense.
11. New York Giants: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Giants invested in Andrew Thomas in the 2020 NFL Draft. But after adding another weapon in Kenny Golladay this offseason, providing more protection for Daniel Jones certainly makes a lot of sense.
Questions are going around as to who will start opposite Thomas, and adding Christian Darrisaw would answer that. Thomas and Darrisaw would make a fantastic tackle pairing and potentially set the Giants up at the position for the next decade.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from 49ers via Dolphins): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
How the Philadelphia Eagles offense will shape up in 2021 is an intriguing proposition. Jalen Hurts has had little time on an NFL field, making it hard to judge him.
Concerns are surrounding the receiving group for the Eagles. Jalen Reagor is the clear WR1, but behind him, the cupboards are bare. Adding the game-breaking ability of Jaylen Waddle to the group of Reagor, Dallas Goedert, and Zach Ertz would make for an explosive pass-catching group in Philadelphia.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Los Angeles has invested heavily in their offensive line the past two offseasons. Still, as it stands, a former third-round selection from 2019, Trey Pipkins, is set to be their starting left tackle. For this reason, the Chargers still need to consider adding a player with the talent of Rashawn Slater.
The Chargers can then hold an open competition for the left tackle spot between Slater and Pipkins, with the other providing a high-level backup option at either left or right tackle.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Vikings really need a pass-rush partner for Danielle Hunter. Azeez Ojulari grew into a legitimate first-round talent during the 2020 season and is an intriguing prospect. He is not a direct fit for the Vikings’ defensive shape, but he provides superb versatility on the outside. He can be an asset rushing the passer, as well as dropping into coverage if required.
15. New England Patriots: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Consistent rumors are now swirling that Stephon Gilmore could be on his way out of New England. If that comes to fruition, New England is firmly in the frame to draft a cornerback.
The link between Nick Saban and Bill Belichick is well known. For that reason, the Patriots drafting Patrick Surtain in this 2021 First Round NFL Mock Draft makes perfect sense. Surtain could provide an immediate replacement for Gilmore in New England.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The 2021 season is perhaps more vital for Kliff Kingsbury than any other NFL coach. Kingsbury’s reputation is built on offense, and they need a big showing this season. After adding A.J. Green to their pass catchers in free agency, adding a high-quality running back in Najee Harris would complete the picture offensively. Harris is an all-around back who can be the perfect backfield complement to Kyler Murray.