While the 2021 NFL draft is still nearly a year away, teams are already plotting to weigh the selection process against the coming season. While no team will admit to tanking, some will allow the season to unfold in a less-than-ideal manner if it means landing a franchise-changing prospect.
The Miami Dolphins were a prime example of this in 2019. They traded away key players like Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick en route to a 5-11 season. That was good for the fifth overall pick and a new potential franchise quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa.
This season, most bad teams will be hoping to land a crack at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Tigers star has been viewed as a blue-chip prospect ever since leading his team to a national title as a freshman in 2018.
Of course, only one team can land Lawrence, but that doesn't mean every other team selecting high in 2021 cannot add a franchise-changing player.
Here, we'll examine some of the top prospects not named Lawrence who are eligible for the 2021 NFL draft. First, though, and updated Round 1 mock.
2021 NFL Mock Draft
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. Washington Redskins: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
3. Carolina Panthers: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
5. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
6. New York Jets: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
7. Detroit Lions: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
8. Arizona Cardinals: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
9. Atlanta Falcons: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
10. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
11. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
12. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
13. Chicago Bears: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
14. Los Angeles Chargers: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
15. Cleveland Browns: Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia
18. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
19. Pittsburgh Steelers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
20. Minnesota Vikings: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
21. New England Patriots: Jay Tufele, DT, USC
22. Indianapolis Colts: JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
23. Buffalo Bills: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
24. Philadelphia Eagles: LaBryan Ray, DL, Alabama
25. Green Bay Packers: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
26. Seattle Seahawks: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
27. Dallas Cowboys: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
28. New Orleans Saints: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
30. Baltimore Ravens: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
31. San Francisco 49ers: Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
For quarterback-needy teams, the 2021 draft should be intriguing. While Lawrence is currently viewed as the top prize, he is not the only potential franchise signal-caller in the class. As was the case in 2020—where Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were viewed as tremendous second options after Joe Burrow—there are quality consolation prizes.
Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields has virtually everything NFL teams want in a modern quarterback. He's big (6'3" and 228 pounds), athletic and has arm talent to spare.
In 2019, the transfer from Georgia racked up 3,273 passing yards, 484 rushing yards, 51 total touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Depending on how the 2020 season unfolds, there's a chance that Fields may even overtake Lawrence as the top quarterback on several draft boards. Even if he doesn't, there are several franchises who should be thrilled to land him.
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Speaking of guys who could potentially overtake Lawrence as the top signal-caller in next year's draft, we have to mention North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
"Trey Lance could emerge as a contender for the No. 1 spot due to his combination of athleticism, poise and playmaking ability. He reminds me a lot of Deshaun Watson with his style of play," NFL Media's Bucky Brooks recently told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman.
There isn't a quarterback-needy franchise out there that wouldn't love to change its fortunes with a Watson-type talent. If he can reach his ceiling, this is precisely what Lance can be at the pro level.
An athletically gifted signal-caller, Lance is equally dangerous with his arm and his legs. Lance threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 more scores. He also led the Bison to an undefeated season and an FBS championship.
With NFL teams becoming more interested in dual-threat quarterbacks—thanks largely to guys like Watson, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen—Lance truly could emerge as the No. 1 pick for the right team.
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
What if a franchise already has a signal-caller in place? This is a relevant question for teams like Miami and the Cincinnati Bengals who just drafted a quarterback this year. Well, getting that quarterback a franchise-changing weapon should be at the top of the priorities list.
This is exactly what LSU wideout Ja'Marr Chase can be. The 6'1", 200-pound pass-catcher helped turn Joe Burrow into a Heisman-winner and the No. 1 pick. He could potentially help turn an NFL quarterback into a star as well.
Last season, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. While he could have a hard time replicating those numbers at the next level, it isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Chase has the makings of a true NFL No. 1 receiver. When a franchise has one of those, life on offense becomes a whole lot easier.