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2021 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Next Year's Top Prospects

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIApril 25, 2020

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against LSU during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Joe Burrow's illustrious final college season came to an end, and then he was the first player to hear his name called in the 2020 NFL draft.

Who will have that honor next year? Perhaps it will be another quarterback, as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields are poised to have strong final college seasons and be top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. And there will surely be players who boost their stock this fall and emerge as future NFL stars, like Burrow did this past year.

With this year's draft winding down, here's an early look at who could be selected in the opening round of next year's draft.

      

1. Jacksonville: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2. Detroit: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

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3. N.Y. Jets: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

4. Washington: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

5. Cincinnati: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

6. N.Y. Giants: Patrick Surtain Jr., CB, Alabama

7. Miami: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

8. Chicago: Walker Little, OT, Stanford

9. Las Vegas: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

10. Pittsburgh: Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State

11. Atlanta: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

12. L.A. Chargers: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

13. Carolina: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

14. New England: Xavier Thomas, DE, Clemson

15. Arizona: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

16. Cleveland: Caden Sterns, S, Texas

17. Jacksonville (via L.A. Rams): Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

18. Denver: Jay Tufele, DT, USC

19. Tennessee: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina

20. Indianapolis: Patrick Johnson, DE, Tulane

21. Philadelphia: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

22. Minnesota: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

23. Tampa Bay: Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma

24. Buffalo: Quincy Roche, DE, Miami

25. Dallas: Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson

26. Miami (via Houston): Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

27. Green Bay: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

28. Seattle: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

29. San Francisco: Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest

30. Kansas City: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

31. New Orleans: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia

32. Baltimore: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

Draft order based on projected 2019 records.

              

Lawrence, Fields set to be top prizes of draft class

In 2019, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields were two of the best college quarterbacks in the country. And this year, they'll both be back looking to lead their respective teams to a national championship.

Then, Lawrence and Fields are set to be the top two players in the 2020 NFL draft class, potentially going Nos. 1 and 2 overall, depending on which teams end up with the top picks. Regardless, they're going to be two of the most exciting players to enter the NFL in 2021.

Lawrence is entering his third year as Clemson's starter, and he's already had tons of success with the Tigers. He passed for 6,945 yards, 66 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions in 30 games over his first two seasons. He won the national title in his freshman year, then helped Clemson return to the College Football Playoff last season.

Fields started his career at Georgia, but he didn't get much playing time while sitting behind Jake Fromm as a freshman in 2018. He then transferred to Ohio State and had a tremendous sophomore season, passing for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushing for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Both Lawrence and Fields have the potential to become star quarterbacks in the NFL and should dominate college football once again next season, provided it goes ahead.

                    

More Clemson players likely to go in first round

Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

Lawrence isn't the only Clemson player who could be selected in the opening round of next year's draft.

The Tigers are likely going to the College Football Playoff for the sixth straight season, as they should again roll to the ACC championship and be one of the best teams in the country. Their roster is filled with a plethora of talented players who have already experienced success, in addition to Lawrence, and their draft stock could continue to rise in 2020.

These players include defensive end Xavier Thomas, running back Travis Etienne, offensive tackle Jackson Carman and wide receiver Justyn Ross. Two Clemson players were selected in the first round of this year's draft (linebacker Isaiah Simmons and cornerback A.J. Terrell), but there could be more Tigers to come off the board in next year's opening round.

Etienne likely would have been a high pick in this year's draft, but he opted to return to Clemson for his senior season. Over his first three years, he's rushed for 4,038 yards and 56 touchdowns, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark each of the past two seasons and totaling double-digit touchdowns all three years.

It's not a surprise that Clemson has so many top draft prospects as head coach Dabo Swinney has turned the program into a perennial contender.

                

Chase set to build off strong sophomore season

John Bazemore/Associated Press

While LSU will lose some key pieces from its team that won the national title this past season, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is one of the Tigers' top returning players for 2020. And he's poised to build on a tremendous sophomore season.

Last year, Chase had 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns as one of the top targets for quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner and this year's No. 1 overall draft pick. It was a breakout campaign after he hadn't contributed too much in his freshman year.

Chase is likely to have another big year for the Tigers this upcoming season, which should solidify his position as one of the projected top picks in the 2021 draft. Plenty of teams should be interested in adding one of the nation's top playmakers, which will likely lead to Chase being one of the first players selected.

It's possible that Chase's numbers will go down some this season because he won't have Burrow throwing to him, but that shouldn't completely shut down his production. His skill set alone should impress NFL scouts, and he's still likely to have a solid year.

At this year's NFL Scouting Combine, several top cornerback prospects said Chase was the best receiver they faced in college, according to Jordan Reid of The Draft Network. That should be a good sign for the LSU standout moving forward.

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