The 2020 NFL season is in the books and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are world champions after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl 55.
Tom Brady’s remarkable seventh Super Bowl win is a perfect segue to the 2021 NFL Draft season, one that will be dominated by quarterbacks in the first five picks.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will (or, should) select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick but it gets much less predictable after that.
Who’s QB2 and when does he come off the board? Here’s our first swing at predicting what will happen in the first round this April in Pro Football Draft’s Mock Draft 1.0.
Check it out:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
-This one’s chalk. Lawrence in the best quarterback — and player — in the 2021 NFL draft. He’s the best quarterback — and player — to enter the league in a very long time. The long-suffering Jaguars fans won’t be in pain for much longer.
2. New York Jets
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
-Fields is in a pre-draft battle with BYU’s Zach Wilson for the QB2 position, and while Fields’ draft stock has inexplicably slipped a bit since his final snap at Ohio State, there’s a good chance the Jets will make him their pick by the time the draft rolls around. New York is fielding calls for Sam Darnold and it would be a shock if they don’t use this pick on a quarterback, assuming they don’t trade it away. If the Jets remain in this position, they’ll snag Fields, who brings the kind of dual-threat skill set that’s needed to succeed in today’s NFL.
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston)
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
-There will be some pre-draft chatter about the Dolphins swinging for the fences on Alabama WR Devonta Smith here, but that isn’t going to happen. Instead, they’re going to invest in their young quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) in another way; they add the best offensive lineman in the class who can serve as a bookended pass-protector for the next decade.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
-Wilson is QB3 in this mock draft but he’s off the board by pick No. 4. It’s proof of how good the top of the quarterback position is this year. Wilson ends up in a good situation with the Falcons where he’ll get an opportunity to learn the pro game behind veteran Matt Ryan for the 2021 season. The BYU gunslinger may have the most naturally gifted arm in this year’s draft and has the traits to be a high-end starter in the NFL for a very long time.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
-This would be an awesome pick for QB Joe Burrow as he continues on his road to recovery from a torn ACL that cut short his promising rookie season. Burrow and Chase made magic happen at LSU in 2019 and would be one of the more exciting young QB-WR tandems in the league. Chase is the most well-rounded wide receiver in this year’s draft and profiles as a legitimate WR1 in the NFL.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
-The Eagles are in the midst of change on offense with the expected trade of QB Carson Wentz. Assuming Jalen Hurts is their QB1 next year, he’ll need more weapons at wide receiver to have any chance of success. Waddle is the most explosive playmaker at wide receiver in this year’s draft and would instantly become Philadelphia’s most lethal offensive weapon.
7. Detroit Lions
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
-The Lions make it back-to-back drafts with a top-10 cornerback, and that’s not a bad thing. Jeff Okudah struggled as a rookie, but it isn’t uncommon for young corners to go through some early growing pains. Assuming Okudah progresses in Year 2, pairing him with Surtain, who is this year’s top all-around cornerback prospect, would give Detroit the makings of a high-end secondary for years to come.
8. Carolina Panthers
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
-The Panthers are in the quarterback market as evidenced by their attempt to trade for Matthew Stafford. Their belief in Bridgewater may be gone, but he’d serve as a solid bridge option in 2021 for Lance, who needs at least a season or two of development before he can be trusted in the starting lineup. Lance’s physical traits are outstanding. He just needs more reps and experience to unlock them.
9. Denver Broncos
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
-The Broncos need to add more youth and talent to their secondary, and Farley is right there with Patrick Surtain from a talent perspective. He could end up getting picked before Surtain. If he falls to No. 9, the Broncos will waste little time making him the new centerpiece of their defensive backfield.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
-The Cowboys’ lack of depth along the offensive line was exposed in 2020. They couldn’t recover from the rash of injuries they suffered up front, and even when they were healthy, it appears their standing as the league’s most talented starting unit is fading. Enter Slater, whose diverse skill set as a tackle and guard will give Dallas a blue-chip starter to protect Dak Prescott and pave running lanes for Zeke Elliott.
11. New York Giants
Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami
-Phillips isn’t mentioned often as the top edge rusher in the 2021 draft class, but he’s our top-ranked guy at the position right now who profiles as an ideal selection for the Giants, who need a blue-chip prospect with his skill set to get after the quarterback. Phillips’ rocky start to his college career was cleansed with a fantastic 2020 campaign that proved he has special attributes that are consistent with a double-digit sack guy in the league.
12. San Francisco 49ers
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
-Jones is going to be a first-round pick, and while most mock drafts have him coming off the board between picks 15 and 20, it’s the 49ers at No. 12 who take him in this mock draft. It makes too much sense. He profiles as a Shanahan-type player who has a Kirk Cousins profile moving forward. Shanahan loves Cousins, so don’t be surprised if he loves Jones too. With Jimmy Garoppolo’s days in the Bay Area numbered a prospect like Jones, who’s as pro-ready as any quarterback in the draft, is a great fit.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
-Even if the Chargers re-sign Hunter Henry, the opportunity to add Pitts to QB Justin Herbert’s arsenal of weapons is too valuable to pass up. Mike Williams is headed for free agency and Los Angeles doesn’t have the kind of red zone difference-maker that Pitts is projected to be. He’d be an absolutely dominant force catching passes from Herbert for the 8-10 years.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
-The Vikings can go in a number of directions with this pick, but their needs at edge rusher combined with the value and upside of Paye make this a logical fit. Paye has a rare athletic profile for a guy with his size and power. He reminds me of a poor man’s Khalil Mack. No, I don’t think he’ll be a Hall-of-Fame player, but he’ll have his fair share of 10-plus sack seasons on his NFL resume.
15. New England Patriots
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
-Smith slides to No. 15 in this mock draft, and to be honest, I think this is about as high as his draft value will be. The Patriots have no one — literally — at wide receiver, so adding a pro’s pro in Smith makes sense. He’s an NFL-ready route-runner and has the most reliable set of hands in the class. He’s not going to have the kind of dominant pro career that he had at Alabama, but expecting him to repeat that level of success would be unreasonable. Smith will be a long-term starter for a team that needs a new centerpiece on offense.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
-Horn isn’t an elite cornerback prospect, but the positional value combined with the Cardinals’ need to improve their secondary leads to this pick. Horn is a scrappy defender with an NFL cornerback’s moxie. His ceiling is very high and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up outproducing one of the cornerbacks picked before him in this mock draft.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
-Do I think Parsons will actually slide all the way to the 17th pick? It’s hard imagining a scenario in which he will, but there wasn’t a good spot to fit him in with the way this mock unfolded. As a result, the Raiders land one of the best pure football players in the class who could end up solidifying a top-five grade by the time the draft rolls around. Las Vegas would waste little time handing in their card if Parsons is still on the board.
18. Miami Dolphins
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
-Sorry, Dolphins fans. I know you want at least one Alabama skill player in the first round, and one of the popular narratives making the rounds since the national championship game is that Miami will target RB Najee Harris with this pick. And while I wouldn’t hate it, the bigger need is at wide receiver and Bateman is an absolute stud. He’d provide Tua Tagovailoa with a Keenan Allen-type target who he can rely on for many years to come.
19. Washington Football Team
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Va Tech
-Washington would love to land a quarterback here, but they won’t reach on Florida’s Kyle Trask. They can get him later in the draft. Instead, they bolster their offensive line with one of 2020’s biggest risers in Darrisaw. The Hokies star has the length and athleticism to be a quality starter at left tackle for a very long time and he also offers some positional versatility. He’s a plug-and-play starter.
20. Chicago Bears
Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC
-The Bears’ biggest need entering the 2021 offseason is at quarterback, but it’s unlikely they’ll reach on Mac Jones or Kyle Trask at No. 20 overall. If they bypass quarterback, they’ll have no choice but to upgrade the offensive line. An offensive tackle would be the preferred place to look, but with several already off the board, Chicago pivots to the interior and lands a tone-setter in Vera-Tucker, who could end up being the most coveted interior lineman in the class.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
-The Colts are in the market for a quarterback, but GM Chris Ballard has made it clear he won’t reach on one. He also likes adding quality offensive linemen in the draft, and he lands one here in Cosmi, who could step in and start at left tackle right away. He’s a bit raw and would be a gamble to plug into the starting lineup in Week 1, but his upside is undeniable. Finding quality offensive tackles isn’t easy and it takes slight reaches like this one to make sure you secure a potential starter.
22. Tennessee Titans
Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
-Ossai has been one of my favorite tape studies in this draft class because of his fantastic use of his hands as a pass rusher. He plays with non-stop energy and intensity and would be a great fit for what Tennessee is trying to build. The Titans need an injection of juice in their pass rush, making Ossai an obvious choice here.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle)
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
-Harris has clearly established himself as the top running back in the 2021 draft and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a first-round pick. The Jets have no identity on offense and with their pick of BYU QB Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall, the addition of Harris gives them a revamped backfield with superstar upside. Jets fans will have legitimate reasons to get excited about the 2021 season.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
-Jenkins is making a strong push up the 2021 draft board and is considered a bonafide first-round prospect by numerous draft scouts. He isn’t a finished product and needs some technical refinement in his game, so consider this more of a prediction pick than a real value pick on my board. The Steelers have had some head-scratchers in the first round in recent years, and while this wouldn’t qualify as a bad pick, it may not be one that’s ready to pay dividends right away in 2021.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
-Rousseau began the 2020 season as a potential top-five pick but his decision to opt-out and a longer look at his film shows a guy who is extremely raw as a pass-rusher. But his freakish length and above-average athletic ability make him a coach’s dream to mold into a quality NFL sack artist, which is something the Jaguars will look to add in the 2021 draft.
26. Cleveland Browns
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
-Owusu-Koramoah is one of the most dynamic and athletic playmakers on defense who will instantly upgrade the athletic upside for whatever team he ends up going to. He’s like a heat-seeking missile and can be a real tone-setter, which is something the Browns could use on the second level of their defense. Cleveland’s offense has its cast of characters. It’s time to add a few more to the defense.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
-The Ravens can’t exit the 2021 draft without a big-bodied target for Lamar Jackson. Enter Marshall whose 6-3 frame is a bonus for his scouting report. The highly productive LSU pass-catcher averaged 100 yards per game and emerged as a viable first-round pick with a bigger role following Ja’Marr Chase’s decision to opt-out of the 2020 season.
28. New Orleans Saints
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
-The Saints seem to always make an ‘odd’ first-round pick, and while Collins is certainly worthy of late-first-round consideration, he’s far from a lock. He’s a great athlete who fares well in coverage and has some pass-rushing upside. Swing for the fence on athletes at this point in the draft; that’s what the Saints do here.
29. Green Bay Packers
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
-It may be one year later than Packers fans would’ve liked, but Green Bay finally gives Aaron Rodgers the kind of dynamic weapon at wide receiver that he needs opposite Davante Adams. Toney is the best start-and-stop player in this year’s draft and will be an electrifying short-to-intermediate target in the NFL.
30. Buffalo Bills
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
-Boltin is a heavy-hitter who reads and reacts as well as any linebacker in this year’s draft. The Bills already have a championship-caliber roster but need a second-level defender like Bolton who can serve as the defense’s enforcer.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
-The Chiefs’ lack of depth along the offensive line was exposed in Super Bowl 55, so adding a player like Leatherwood makes a ton of sense. He should get a crack at offensive tackle in the NFL, but if he struggles with pro speed, he profiles as a potential Pro Bowl guard. His odds of being a bust are very low. He’ll be a starter in the NFL, whether it’s at tackle or guard. And that’s what the Chiefs need.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
-The Buccaneers may already have their long-term running back on the roster in Leonard Fournette, but if his price gets too high in free agency, they’ll have the luxury of picking Etienne at the end of Round 1. That’s what Super Bowl winners can do, right? Adding Etienne to an already loaded offense is the kind of pick that will extend Tom Brady’s career, making this pick more valuable than any positional assessment.