The 2021 NFL draft is roughly six weeks away, and with the first wave of free agency essentially over, mock drafts published between now and April 29 will have more value than what’s been written so far.
One of the first post-free agency mock drafts came via Joe Marino of The Draft Network, who began his journey through the first round with four straight quarterbacks.
Trevor Lawrence is the first pick to the Jaguars, of course, while Zach Wilson went second to the Jets. The Panthers trade up for Justin Fields at No. 3, and the 49ers make an aggressive move to the fourth pick overall for Trey Lance.
“San Francisco should feel great about the roster returning in 2021, especially when considering that it includes a healthy George Kittle and Nick Bosa,” Marino wrote. “What’s not exciting is the direction of the most important position on the team—quarterback. The 49ers are at the point where it makes sense to make an aggressive move to secure an exciting new direction at quarterback and Lance provides that. He is a dual-threat quarterback that has a beautiful deep ball and is outstanding in the play-action game. He can help the San Francisco offense become more dynamic and put more stress on defenses with the options his skill set brings to the table.”
Lance is riding some serious momentum after putting on quite a show at his pro day. I’ve been a bit cooler on Lance than most draft analysts, but I’m beginning to come around. My biggest hangup is his inexperience as a starter; he has just 17 starts against a lower level of competition. There’s no denying his traits and toolsy makeup, but players like Mitch Trubisky offer a cautionary tale when it comes to rolling the dice on traits over experience.
I think Lance will be a first-round pick. He’s too physically gifted not to be. But will a team mortgage its future on him as the 49ers do in Marino’s mock? They give a total of four picks to move up for Lance: 2021 first and second, 2022 first and fourth. That’s a big price to pay for a guy with as many questions as Lance.
Marino’s mock draft is pretty ‘chalk’ after the quarterbacks until we get to No. 12 overall. That’s where the Falcons select Georgia edge rusher, Azeez Ojulari. I currently have Ojulari just inside the top 30 (No. 29 overall), and I don’t see him jumping any higher than that as we run through our final rankings (which will be published soon). This would be a reach on my board, but with this year’s edge class being such a clustered group of players, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Ojulari to be the first one selected.
As for the fifth first-round quarterback? That’s Mac Jones, and he comes off the board to the Patriots at No. 15.
“While Cam Newton is back on a one-year deal, the long-term future at quarterback remains a concern,” wrote Marino. “Jones, who was the triggerman for the dynamic Alabama offensive attack under Belichick’s close friend Nick Saban, could be the guy New England tabs to be its quarterback of the future to help maximize its new-look offensive personnel.”
For Marino’s complete mock draft, click here.