2021 NFL Mock Draft; Christmas Week Edition
Merry Christmas and happy holidays! In this season of giving, my gift to you all is my first mock draft of the 2021 NFL Draft cycle. Each selection is a combination of what I would do as the general manager along with positional needs for each team. I have scouted or watched all 32 players listed below in some capacity, so I’m not one of those people who just list prospects based on other people’s rankings. There are a few prospects with first round buzz who I have not yet scouted or barely seen live, so I could not mock them here. If you approve or disapprove of your team’s selection, let me know on Twitter @JerRinaldi2. Let’s get into it.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
Jacksonville struck the jackpot on Sunday when the New York Jets took themselves out of the number one draft slot by defeating the Rams. Now, they have the opportunity to draft one of the best quarterback prospects of the century. Trevor Lawrence is capable of transcending a franchise stuck in no-mans-land into a title contender. Pairing Lawrence with rising star James Robinson and two solid receivers in DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault will make Jacksonville a fun offense to keep an eye on for years to come.
2. New York Jets: Justin Fields, QB Ohio State
Yes, the Jets probably blew their chances at Trevor Lawrence. I’m not going to pretend that Justin Fields is a magnificent consolation prize either, because no one compares to the Clemson signal caller. However, the Jets are in dire need of a rebuild. The morale is low with Sam Darnold at the helm, so to me, a quarterback here is a no brainer. Although this is subject to change, I like Fields more than Wilson right now. Fields has the athleticism and big play ability that every modern-day quarterback needs in the NFL. The Jets grab their franchise quarterback in Fields and look to gain ground on a young and talented AFC East division.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
Joe Burrow played in 10 games this season and got sacked 32 times. That’s no way to protect a franchise quarterback. With the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Cincinnati should be running to the podium to select Penei Sewell. Sewell is a blue chip left tackle prospect with athleticism, power, flexibility, and no real weaknesses. Despite him opting out of the 2020 college football season, no offensive lineman will surpass Sewell on any big board, making him a virtual lock as a top 3-5 selection in April.
4. Carolina Panthers: Zach Wilson, QB BYU
Carolina is a young team stuck in one of the best divisions in football. To compete, they will need more of a high ceiling quarterback than Teddy Bridgewater. Zach Wilson has dominated college football all season and has made his case as a top five selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. With this selection, Carolina gives Wilson a solid supporting cast in the form of McCaffery, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel. Of the available prospects, Wilson is the best bet to elevate football in Carolina.
5. Atlanta Falcons: Micah Parsons, LB Penn State
Atlanta has been in need of a superstar linebacker for as long as I can remember. This year, they are in prime position to draft Micah Parsons, arguably the best defensive prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft. Parsons will be an immediate help to a defense that has struggled for the past few years. His athleticism and ability to get after the passer are heavily desired traits for a versatile linebacker. At this stage of the draft, Parsons is the most logical selection for the Falcons.
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU
As a Miami Dolphins fan myself, this is a pick I write down with mixed emotions. I’ve always said that skill position players should rarely be selected in the first round, let alone in the top ten. However, Miami’s most pressing need is clearly a number one receiver to get open for Tua. Ja’Marr Chase was dominant throughout his two seasons at LSU and looked the part of an X-receiver at the next level. His big-play ability, footwork, and hand-eye coordination at the catch point should grant him a fair share of targets as soon as he steps into the practice facility as Miami eyes a Super Bowl run in 2022.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama
The Eagles have struggled all season, but they may have found their quarterback of the future in Jalen Hurts. Their defensive front seven is solid and no offensive lineman seems justified at the seven spot. So, Philadelphia selects Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. Surtain is a lengthy, talented cornerback who has challenged the best receivers in the SEC every week as a member of the Crimson Tide. Although he is not the fastest, his ball skills are tops in the class and he looks to be a clear number one defensive back at the next level.
8. Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina
The first surprising name on this list, Jaycee Horn is a player that I know will rise even further up draft boards throughout the draft process. Horn’s father, Joe Horn, was an NFL wide receiver, so Jaycee knows all the ins and outs of the league. His summer tape was my favorite of all the prospects I saw, and he dominated in 2020 just as I expected. Dallas’ defense has been atrocious all season. Chidobe Awuzie is a free agent next season, so a cornerback makes the most sense here.
9. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech
The Chargers have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. Now, they need to protect him. I have not scouted the offensive tackle class too much so far, but Darrisaw is my second ranked tackle for the 2021 NFL Draft. He could slot right in at left tackle and be Herbert’s blindside blocker for the next decade.
10. New York Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE Michigan
New York has taken a surprising step forward in the latter part of the 2020 season. I debated between wide receiver and edge rusher here, but will always lean more towards defense in round one. Michigan’s Kwity Paye is an athletic speed rusher who will fit in well with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on the defensive line. The Giants can wait a round before selecting a receiver and grab a position of greater importance.
11. Detroit Lions, DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
Detroit can go in a number of directions with this pick. Until Stafford wants out, I’m keeping him in Detroit, as he has never been the problem. A trade down may be in order here, as there are no linebackers or defensive tackles worthy of a top eleven selection. But, I “settled” for DeVonta Smith here, a route running perfectionist with amazing hands and footwork. Smith will add another threat to a Detroit offense whose receivers looked stagnant all year.
12. San Francisco: Rashawn Slater, IOL Northwestern
San Francisco’s offensive line has gotten older and slower the past few years. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater is a versatile lineman who played left tackle in college, but appears to be able to play all five positions. Slater could line up at right tackle when Mike McGlinchey retires, or at left guard next to Trent Williams.
13. Denver Broncos: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE Miami
With the 13th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Denver is not in a position to draft a top quarterback prospect. I think Carson Wentz is an intriguing option for them, but that’s another topic. With a need at edge and Gregory Rousseau available, Denver takes the Miami stud pass rusher. Rousseau wowed in his lone season at Miami before opting out of 2020. He may fall a bit further than this if others at the position test better than him at the combine, but he is a middle of the first round lock at this point in time.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State
Despite Lance’s obvious upside, I will always have trouble selecting an FCS quarterback in the top of the first round with just one season of experience. However, Minnesota looks to be the best fit for Lance. They cannot win anything with Kirk Cousins, despite having a solid array of offensive weapons. Lance could sit behind Cousins for a year or two and learn the ropes of Minnesota’s offensive before taking over.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE Florida
Pitts is a guy who I am confident will be selected before 15 come April. However, no team above needs a tight end that badly. New England has few receiving weapons, so Pitts may just be their best pass catching option in year one. Pitts will be my highest ranked tight end ever, as he has the footwork, hands, and athleticism of a wide receiver and the strength and body type of a tight end. This man is a unicorn and will greatly improve New England’s offense, no matter who is under center.
16. Chicago Bears: Liam Eichenberg, OT Notre Dame
The Bears may be enticed to select a quarterback, but Trubisky may have proved that he is worth another shot. Liam Eichenberg is the next best offensive tackle on the board, a position Chicago has needed for years. He will be an immediate upgrade at either left or right tackle and should be the new anchor of Chicago’s offensive line.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Joseph Ossai, EDGE Texas
Ossai is another name that I expect to rise up boards throughout the draft process. Las Vegas’ defense has been nothing short of awful this season, both against the run and the pass. Ossai is arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class and should be an immediate improvement on a defensive line that rarely puts pressure on the quarterback.
18. Baltimore Ravens: Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama
Every year, it seems as though the Ravens miss on their wide receiver selections. In this year’s NFL Draft, Baltimore grabs Jaylen Waddle, a lethal speed threat in the passing game and the return game. In an offense with very similar receivers, Waddle might slot in as the team’s number one option right away.
19. Washington Football Team: Trey Smith, IOL Tennessee
With no quarterbacks available and not enough assets to trade up, Washington settles for offensive line here. Tennessee’s Trey Smith is a big and powerful lineman who, without health concerns, likely would be projected even higher. Washington’s offensive line is below average, so Smith should be an immediate upgrade at left guard.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Patrick Peterson has been picked on plenty of times this season, and Arizona’s secondary as a whole has not been the best. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley had a dominant 2019 season and plays with such fire and aggression that any NFL team would love. Arizona should be competitors for the next few seasons, so Farley will get the chance to cover for a potential playoff team.
21. Miami Dolphins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Notre Dame
Head coach Brian Flores always discusses defensive versatility. A prospect doesn’t come more versatile than Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The Swiss army knife can play in the box, rush the passer, and play nickel cornerback. Miami should benefit from his fundamentally sound tackling, especially against the run.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jaylen Twyman, DT Pittsburgh
Twyman was ranked highly among defensive tackles for me entering the 2020 season. However, it seems as though most people forgot about him due to him opting out of the season. Twyman’s speed-power combo should grant him success at the next level, and his ability to play the 3-tec through 7-tec will benefit Tampa’s already solid defensive front.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Mac Jones, QB Alabama
The Colts have been solid this season despite subpar quarterback play from Phillip Rivers. He is only under contract for one more season, and it has been proven that Jacoby Brissett cannot make a playoff push. So, Indianapolis should go with a quarterback in this NFL Draft. Heisman hopeful Mac Jones is that guy, who plays like a younger and stronger Phillip Rivers.
24. Cleveland Browns: Jayson Oweh, EDGE Penn State
Cleveland appears to have finally made the postseason. Their offense looks the part, so with this pick, they can get creative. Jayson Oweh has an unreal amount of upside as a pass rusher and could reach his full potential by lining up opposite of Myles Garrett. This edge rusher pairing would wreak havoc in the AFC for years to come.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Samuel Cosmi, OT Texas
After selecting Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville needs to ensure that he is protected. Samuel Cosmi is a safe bet to maintain protection, especially since left tackle Cam Robinson might be on his way out. Cosmi brings more youth and upside to a now dynamic offensive group in Jacksonville.
26. New York Jets: Rondale Moore, WR Purdue
Instead of following Jacksonville’s lead and going offensive line, New York goes for a splash pick here. Purdue’s Rondale Moore is a no brainer first round talent. He is always double covered or heavily contested, yet still finds a way to log triple digit scrimmage yards in most games. Moore is a threat as a receiver and as a runner, which should help spread out the Jets offense and keep the opposing defenses on their heels.
27. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE Georgia
Tennessee is in a similar spot as Cleveland, and can make a pick based on upside rather than immediate need. Their defensive front has been decent, but can improve with the selection of Azeez Ojulari. Georgia’s redshirt sophomore has produced like a first round pick all season, and should find a role in a Titans defense that is prone to having some blow-up games.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama
Pittsburgh has many options they can go with in the NFL Draft, but decide to go with offensive line here. Alex Leatherwood can play guard or tackle and is very reliable in both departments. He is not going to wow you with his performances, but he simply gets the job done in protection and should keep Rothlisburger clean.
29. New Orleans Saints: Nick Bolton, LB Missouri
Nick Bolton caught my eye over the summer and continued to impress throughout the 2020 season. New Orleans could serve to add depth at linebacker and take Bolton here at 29. He is a reliable tackler who excels at finding holes in the offensive line to blast the running back and or quarterback. The Saints will love the competitor they receive in Nick Bolton.
30. Buffalo Bills: Shaun Wade, CB Ohio State
Buffalo has two solid cornerbacks right now, but can improve their secondary in the 2021 NFL Draft. That’s why Shaun Wade is perfect for the Bills. He is much better as a slot cornerback, which is exactly what they need. Wade may not be able to cover the number one receiver, but he can make an impact from the nickel that is worthy of a first round selection.
31. Green Bay Packers: Terrace Marshall, WR LSU
Finally, Green Bay decides to take a receiver in 2021. Terrace Marshall was one of the lone bright spots for LSU this season and really took advantage of Ja’Marr Chase’s absence. Marshall is a polished route runner and should build a solid connection with Aaron Rodgers, as he may be open a lot with the defense shadowing Davonte Adams.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Wyatt Davis, IOL Ohio State
Kansas City is often mocked a wide receiver here, but they do not need to spend a first round selection on one. In this spot, they should grab an offensive lineman like Wyatt Davis. Their line has not been as good as people suspect and are very prone to penalties. Davis could play left or right guard as well as center and become an immediate improvement for the Chiefs.