2021 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Early Projections Ahead of NFL Season

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 7, 2020

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Early Projections Ahead of NFL Season

0 of 34

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Draft season is here, but it will be a unique one. In fact, based on conversations with scouts, coaches and agents over the summer, one thing is certain: No one knows what to expect.

    "How do we evaluate a class in which maybe half the guys are playing?"

    "What happens if seniors use the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is offering?"

    "How do you scout players without seeing them in person?"

    There are more questions than answers at this point, but that hasn't prevented scouts from scouting, and it won't prevent us from doing the work, either. The show must go on, and it will as the top 500-plus players in the nation will be evaluated, graded and valued between now and the late-April 2021 NFL draft.

    At first glance, this class is strong. It's good at quarterback with at least three franchise-caliber players. It's also strong (again) at running back and wide receiver. Throw in a top-heavy and deep offensive tackle class and a great safety group, and this starts to look like one of the better all-around classes since maybe 2017.

    There hasn't been a lot to get excited about in 2020, but we're thrilled to share the first mock draft of the season with you.

          

    Draft order based on Las Vegas sportsbook Super Bowl betting odds.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

1 of 34

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    This is not a shot at Gardner Minshew II. The second-year signal-caller could very well emerge as the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville and lift this team out of quarterback purgatory to a place where it's able to instead focus on rebuilding a bad offensive line.

    But if Jacksonville holds the No. 1 overall selection the 2021 NFL draft, it would likely be because Minshew didn't get the job done. The roster is young and promising on the defensive front seven, but earning the first pick in the draft would open the door for a quarterback some scouts believe is the most talented they've ever evaluated.

    Trevor Lawrence has been tabbed a savior at the position since he arrived at Clemson, and some would say he hasn't lived up to expectations from a statistical perspective with 66 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in his two seasons at the helm. It's hard to imagine that not being good enough, but that's where Lawrence sits right now with scouts and fans expecting him to break records with every throw.

    Smart evaluators are looking at what Lawrence does well. He's an impressive athlete at 6'6" and 220 pounds with room to fill out his lean frame. He's an accomplished and tough runner willing and able to beat defenses (see Ohio State) with his legs. But he's also a smart, savvy and crafty passer who rarely makes mistakes with his decision-making, clock management or ability to read the defense.

    While I'm not ready to anoint Lawrence as the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, he is the overwhelming favorite to be the first pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

2. Washington Football Team: QB Trey Lance, NDSU

2 of 34

    Sam Hodde/Associated Press

    Much like the Jacksonville Jaguars, if the Washington Football Team is selecting at No. 2 overall, it likely means they would move on from second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr.

    But again, this is not a shot at Haskins, who is a talented and capable quarterback. It's more a reflection of where the Super Bowl odds have this team and what direction it would go in this scenario.

    So, how about Trey Lance? In his 2019 breakout campaign, he was responsible for 42 touchdowns and no interceptions—28 passing and 14 rushing. Turning on his film, you'll think it's a highlight breakdown instead of his full games. He's athletic and strong-armed, and he gives you a Deshaun Watson-at-Clemson vibe. It's exciting.

    The downside is that Lance has started just one year in college, and his 2020 season is being limited to one game against Central Arkansas (for now). Is that enough tape for scouts to pick apart an FCS quarterback? There will be questions about his dominance against lesser competition while on an elite team.

    All we can do for now is evaluate what's there, and Lance's tape is exceptional.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

3 of 34

    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Unlike the situations in Jacksonville and Washington, it's highly unlikely a poor record in Cincinnati would mean moving on from Joe Burrow. Instead, one year after selecting the superstar quarterback, the Bengals are tasked with building an offense around the No. 1 overall pick.

    The offensive line in Cincinnati isn't terrible, but there is room for improvement. One quick fix would be selecting a left tackle and allowing 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams to play at the right tackle position. This would allow the five best linemen to get on the field while putting Williams in a position most scouts believed he was best suited to play coming out of college.

    The top left tackle on my board comes from Oregon, where, as it stands today, we won't see football this fall.

    That shouldn't affect Penei Sewell's draft stock. A two-year starter at Oregon, he has the combination of athleticism and strength that teams fall for quickly. Yes, there are already questions about arm length, but in selecting Williams before him, the Bengals showed they're more concerned with play than measurements.

    Sewell protecting Burrow's blind side is the move the team has to make if the Bengals are locked in at No. 3 overall.

4. Carolina Panthers: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

4 of 34

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Teddy Bridgewater has a chance to finally lock down a long-term starting quarterback job with new head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. But if the Panthers are at No. 4 overall (like others), it's likely they will consider a potential upgrade at the sport's most important position.

    That's where Ohio State's talented Justin Fields enters.

    If there isn't a 2020 season, it remains to be seen what he would do after one year starting for the Buckeyes—he could return to Columbus for another season or enter the NFL draft waters—but there is already excitement around his talent following a season in which he threw for 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

    The Panthers have needs along the offensive line that could make them a fit for Sewell if they get solid quarterback play from Bridgewater. But in that case, they're probably not selecting fourth overall.

5. New York Jets: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

5 of 34

    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    What's one thing Sam Darnold doesn't have that he badly needs? A No. 1 wide receiver.

    Denzel Mims was a fun prospect as a second-round pick out of Baylor, but he lacks the polish as a route-runner that LSU's Ja'Marr Chase brings to the fold.

    Already declared for the 2021 NFL draft as an opt-out player, Chase emerged as a rockstar last season in a breakout 20-touchdown campaign as the LSU offense caught fire. His 4.40-second 40-yard-dash speed and physical route-running at 6'0" and 208 pounds should allow for an easy transition to the NFL and make him perfect as a breaking route-runner for Darnold and the New York Jets offense.

6. New York Giants: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

6 of 34

    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman loves linebackers, especially ones who are 6'3", 245 pounds and running a rumored 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds. That's the type of linebacker who will move scouts to the edges of their seats.

    An opt-out player for the 2020 season, Parsons produced sophomore tape rich with plays in space that showcase his ability to run down ball-carriers, drop into coverage and impressively rush off the edge. Like a pre-injury Jaylon Smith at Notre Dame, he is a three-down eraser at linebacker.

    The Giants are a team with needs along the offensive line and in the secondary, but a playmaker like Parsons will be too tempting for Gettleman to pass up.

7. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami

7 of 34

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The rebuild of the Miami Dolphins has been impressive. Head coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier have put the team into position to compete in the AFC East ahead of schedule. Now, with two more picks coming in the 2021 first round, the franchise is poised to put together a draft class that will make it a complete team.

    Grabbing the top pass-rusher in the draft class from their own backyard is something the Dolphins should get on board with. An opt-out player for the 2020 season, Rousseau was a sight in 2019 with 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks coming from the edge and the nose. With a 6'7", 265-pound frame, he is ready for Flores' defense right now.

    After loading up on linemen in the 2020 draft and patching holes via free agency on defense, the Dolphins might just be one elite pass-rusher away from a division title.

8. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

8 of 34

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The run on opt-out players continues with the talented Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech.

    An athletic marvel at 6'2" and 207 pounds, Farley was timed on GPS running 24.16 mph by the Hokies' coaches. He also grabbed four interceptions in his sophomore season and had 16 passes defensed. Farley isn't just an athlete; he's a player.

    At No. 8 overall, the Raiders are outside the range necessary to consider a quarterback in Round 1 and have drafted well enough at other positions to not have a true need. Farley's value and the continual need to add to and address the secondary makes him a smart pick.

9. Detroit Lions: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

9 of 34

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    If you liked Henry Ruggs III last year—or if you're a fan of Tyreek Hill—you're going to love Jaylen Waddle.

    The Alabama wide receiver might actually be faster than Ruggs and is a yards-after-catch king. Alabama coaches told us he has the fastest first step they've ever seen, and Jerry Jeudy told me last spring that Waddle is unbeatable in a 20-yard dash.

    The Lions have solid playmakers at receiver but nothing like Waddle. It's time to get Matthew Stafford the help he deserves.

    The chunk-play ability of Waddle is what's been missing in Detroit.

10. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

10 of 34

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Just one season after Alabama wide receivers were drafted as the first and second off the board at the position, the Crimson Tide nearly repeat in 2021 with the first two again. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase went first this in this mock, but Nick Saban is still pretty good at his job with the next WRs being Crimson Tide players.

    DeVonta Smith isn't like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III or Jaylen Waddle, though. He's a leaner build at 6'1" and 175 pounds and is more of a possession-style receiver with the strongest hands of the four first-rounders from Tuscaloosa. There will no doubt be concerns about his skinny frame, but the playmaking we saw from him in 2019 would have made him a first-round candidate had he entered last year's draft.

    For Miami, which already grabbed Gregory Rousseau earlier in the round, adding a potential star like Smith to pair with his old quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is too rich to pass up.

11. Denver Broncos: OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas

11 of 34

    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    The Garett Bolles experiment isn't working.

    As good as the Denver Broncos are starting to look and as well as John Elway has drafted, one area where the team must look to improve in 2021's draft is at left tackle. With a franchise quarterback seemingly in place with Drew Lock, it's time to protect him.

    Texas left tackle Samuel Cosmi has all the agility, balance and burst you want in the position, but he does lack play strength that conditioning coach Yancy McKnight is no doubt working on as we write this. If he can develop more functional strength and find his balance to match it, he could make a run at Penei Sewell as the best tackle in the 2021 class.

12. Arizona Cardinals: OT Dillon Radunz, NDSU

12 of 34

    Sam Hodde/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals have an offense that's must-see television, but the offensive line still needs to be addressed. That's even after re-signing and restructuring the deal of left tackle D.J. Humphries and drafting Houston's Josh Jones in the third round.

    The answers to Kliff Kingsbury's offensive needs could be hiding in Fargo, North Dakota, where senior left tackle Dillon Radunz will, as scheduled now, only play one game this season. The showdown against Central Arkansas isn't quite the matchup we had anticipated against Oregon, but it will remind scouts of the power and balance Radunz brings to the table.

13. Atlanta Falcons: WR Rondale Moore, Purdue

13 of 34

    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    After loading up on the offensive line in 2019 and then addressing the defense well in 2020, general manager Thomas Dimitroff can look at the board with pick No. 13 overall and add an explosive and exciting threat to his offense to close out Matt Ryan's career at quarterback with a talented cast of characters.

    Moore, who has opted out for the 2020 season, burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2018 and was virtually unstoppable as a receiver, returner and runner. Even though he battled injuries and was limited to four games in 2019, he has scored 16 total touchdowns in 17 career games.

    A player who can take a short pass and turn upfield to score from anywhere is something the Falcons—despite having one of the best receiver corps in the NFL—don't have.

14. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

14 of 34

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The Chargers are a talented team in a talented division, which is why they're projected at No. 14 overall even with one of the best defenses in the league.

    Closing the gap on the Kansas City Chiefs will come as the Chargers offense grows to a point at which it can keep pace in shootouts, but also as the offensive line gets to a level at which it can keep the Las Vegas Raiders', Denver Broncos' and Chiefs' pass-rushers at bay.

    Adding a quality tackle to the right or left side is needed. Alex Leatherwood has played on the right side at Alabama prior to the 2020 season but will get a chance to prove himself on the blind side this year. Another solid season could cement him as a top-15 pick and make him an early target of the Chargers in Round 1.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

15 of 34

    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    After adding quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, the Jaguars are poised to add a weapon for the franchise passer with the selection received for trading Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams.

    Bateman would join a cast of receivers that could be decimated by free agency as Keelen Cole, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley are all on expiring contracts. Jacksonville would still have DJ Chark Jr. and rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. in roles Bateman would support beautifully.

    The best way to help a young quarterback is to protect him and give him weapons. In Bateman, the Jaguars would have an excellent underneath and breaking route-runner to pair with Lawrence as they start their careers.

16. Cleveland Browns: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

16 of 34

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Here's another Alabama player in the first half of the first round, and this one has a chance to find himself in the top five picks by April if he continues his solid play.

    The NFL is in the blood of Patrick Surtain II after his father had a brilliant 11-year career with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs in the late '90s and early 2000s. The son of the three-time Pro Bowler has all the tools and talent needed to excel. At 6'2", he is also bigger than his father's 5'11" frame. 

    The Browns have had bad injury luck at cornerback with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, which is why a versatile cover man like Surtain who can play cornerback or safety is an easy selection based on value, need and talent.

17. Chicago Bears: OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

17 of 34

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    At No. 17 overall, the Chicago Bears find themselves out of the quarterback race and right back into purgatory at the position. But the good news is they are finally done sending early picks to the Las Vegas Raiders for Khalil Mack, so the team is at least in position to start plugging holes with premium picks.

    The biggest non-quarterback need comes along the offensive line, where the tackle position hasn't been prioritized enough. Upgrading over Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie makes sense from a football, salary-cap and roster-age perspective. If the Bears can do so in Round 1, it's an easy pick.

    Michigan's Jalen Mayfield has opted out for the season, but his experience on the Wolverines offensive line and his traits as a mover and blocker are Round 1-caliber. He's a plug-and-play upgrade on the Chicago line.

18. Tennessee Titans: CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State

18 of 34

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has done a fantastic job building a team in his own image. As such, look for him to continue prioritizing the trenches and defense in Round 1. Grabbing a top-tier cornerback from his alma mater wouldn't hurt, either.

    Wade is an ideal replacement for Logan Ryan, who left the team in free agency after the 2019 season. Like Ryan, Wade has the ability to play inside and outside cornerback and could easily transition into the Titans' defensive scheme as a dime or nickel corner and then acclimate to an outside position.

    Wade needed the 2020 season to show he could handle full-time reps on the outside, but unless the Big Ten changes positions and allows a season, he will be betting on his potential to still land in the top 20 selections.

    On talent and potential, he belongs. But he could use another season of tape before he's considered a Round 1 lock.

19. Green Bay Packers: OT Walker Little, Stanford

19 of 34

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    We know the Green Bay Packers aren't drafting a wide receiver in Round 1 even if they should, but what they can and should do is draft to protect whoever is at quarterback in 2021.

    The Pac-12 might not be playing (for now), which could hurt the stock of Stanford left tackle Walker Little. He was my top tackle on the board before the 2019 season started, but a knee injury cost him that campaign. Without a 2020 season, his stock could now be damaged by a lack of tape.

    What's out there on Little is very good, though. His sophomore tape was first-round-caliber, and as long as teams are comfortable with where his knee is at after almost two years of not playing, his technique and upside are as good as any blocker the Packers could hope to find this late in the draft.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama

20 of 34

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Sometimes when evaluating a player, you're watching them and taking notes, and a dream NFL fit comes to mind. That's the case with Alabama running back Najee Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    A big back at 6'2" and 230 pounds, Harris has the size and power to easily handle the cold-weather, hard-nosed running style the Steelers have made popular since Franco Harris was running the ball.

    But what the new Harris does so well out of the backfield is add value as a receiver. That's where the new age meets the old school and makes this Heisman candidate a great potential fit as the Steelers offense looks to transition to a new era with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seemingly in his final few years.

    A quarterback of the future is definitely a consideration, but the 2021 class currently features three first-rounders, and all of them are well off the board by now.

21. Minnesota Vikings: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia

21 of 34

    John Amis/Associated Press

    The Minnesota defensive line is pretty darn exciting with Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue punishing quarterbacks off opposite edges. What could make it even more fun is a penetrating presence at defensive tackle.

    Jordan Davis is the top interior defensive lineman in the 2021 class and among the most exciting underclassmen in the nation. The Georgia defense is loaded with talent, but it all revolves around Davis in the middle.

    His tape as a sophomore last season was full of dominant flashes. If he takes the next step in 2020, his 6'6", 310-pound frame could make him a Javon Kinlaw-type prospect and a top-10-graded player.

22. Buffalo Bills: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama

22 of 34

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    Linebacker might not seem like the biggest on-paper need for the Buffalo Bills, but evaluators on staff feel it's an area that needs more help. Adding Dylan Moses next to Tremaine Edmunds would give the Bills two linebackers who never have to leave the field and can attack whatever personnel grouping AFC East foes put into the huddle.

    Moses made the somewhat surprising move to return to Alabama after missing the 2019 season to injury, but getting back onto the field and showing what he can do post-injury is important to his draft stock.

    As of now, he has shown the potential to be a top-10 pick, but injury questions have him available in the back half of Round 1 in this early look.

23. Indianapolis Colts: WR Sage Surratt, Wake Forest

23 of 34

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Here's another opt-out player, and this is a fun one.

    Sage Surratt dominated the 50-50 ball in college and was a savior for Wake Forest football with his ability to get vertical and make something out of nothing. Even at 6'3" and 215 pounds, he plays bigger and is a consistent jump-ball winner and middle-of-the-field warrior.

    You might be thinking that sounds a lot like a player the Colts selected in Round 2 of the 2020 draft: Michael Pittman Jr. And they are similar. But those similarities can work together as Surratt and Pittman could box out and overwhelm cornerbacks and safeties with breaking routes and big plays. Throw in the upside of Parris Campbell and the future at wide receiver in Indianapolis could be very exciting.

24. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

24 of 34

    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    The New York Jets bucked tradition and drafted a wide receiver earlier in Round 1, but they now find themselves back in familiar territory by addressing the secondary.

    The cornerback position in New York is unsettled, featuring some promise in reclamation projects like Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desir—capable starters who could benefit from a new scene. But there is still a need for the future. A 6'1" cornerback with a pro-ready 205-pound frame like South Carolina's Jaycee Horn would fit right into the mold—big, fast, athletic players at every position—Joe Douglas wants as general manager.

    No one can feel confident about who the Jets head coach will be in 2021, but the type of player the general manager wants is starting to come into focus, and Horn fits the description perfectly.

25. Philadelphia Eagles: S Jevon Holland, Oregon

25 of 34

    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    The 2021 safety class figures to be a very good one—something you'll see throughout this mock draft—but after an early look at game film, the best is Oregon playmaker Jevon Holland. The Eagles need him.

    At 6'1" and 200 pounds, Holland has center fielder size and range. He also has an eye for the football after grabbing nine interceptions in two seasons. Even without a Pac-12 schedule on the books for 2020, he is game-ready for Sundays with a skill set that should beautifully transition to the pros.

    The Eagles are also in a position to think about edge-rushers here, but the early look at the 2021 class shows that the pass-rusher group is much stronger in Round 2 than in Round 1. 

26. New England Patriots: OG Trey Smith, Tennessee

26 of 34

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots are always a hard team to predict. We never truly know what Bill Belichick is up to, and the front office is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to leaks. The best you can do is study team needs and trends and try to match players to the organizational philosophy.

    That's the case with a punishing blocker in Trey Smith. The Patriots surprised many when they used the franchise tag on left guard Joe Thuney, which could open the door for a rookie to slide in should the team move on after the season.

    Smith is a former top high school prospect who excelled at tackle as a true freshman before stepping away for a season with blood clots and returning in 2020 as a powerful guard prospect. If his medicals are clear, he has tape that could land him in the top half of Round 1.

27. Dallas Cowboys: S Andre Cisco, Syracuse

27 of 34

    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    Oregon safety Jevon Holland received plenty of love above for his nine career interceptions, so we have to talk about the 12 picks Syracuse safety Andre Cisco has pulled down in 21 games. No safety in college football is better playing the ball. And at 6'0" and 209 pounds, he also has the size to hold up in a tough NFC East.

    To date, the Cowboys haven't made a move on Earl Thomas or any other safety available, but team owner Jerry Jones has to be eyeing the future while evaluating the roster and the 2021 draft class. If Cisco is available, he'd be an immediate upgrade in Dallas.

    With a roster largely set for the future, the Cowboys can be adventurous (like they were in 2020 by drafting CeeDee Lamb) and get the best player available while taking care of future needs.

28. Tampa Bay Bucs: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

28 of 34

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The quest to find a quality running back in Tampa knows no ends.

    The team has drafted Ronald Jones II and Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the first 76 picks of the last three drafts, and it signed LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette as free agents. And yet, it still doesn't seem like head coach Bruce Arians is satisfied.

    A quick and easy answer is a do-it-all speed back with the soft hands and football IQ quarterback Tom Brady demands at the running back position. Dating back to his first year as a starter with J.R Redmond coming out of the backfield all the way up to the James White-era Super Bowl dominance, we've seen Brady love and rely on backs as pass-catchers.

    The difference with Etienne is the speed he brings, which makes him a legit house-call threat with the football in his hands.

29. New Orleans Saints: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

29 of 34

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints struck gold the last time they added a wide receiver from Ohio State (Michael Thomas in 2016); maybe it's time to try again?

    Chris Olave plays so much bigger and stronger than his 6'1", 188 pounds would indicate. He's a tough route-runner and has the timing, vision and courage to be excellent on underneath and breaking routes. He also has enough juice in his game to take those short passes and power his way to plus yardage.

    The Saints could be eying a quarterback of the future here, but outside of a slight reach (as of now) for Florida's Kyle Trask, there isn't an easy candidate to fill that role.

30. Baltimore Ravens: DL Christian Barmore, Alabama

30 of 34

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Some players are meant to play for certain NFL teams. That's the case with Alabama's powerful redshirt sophomore, Christian Barmore.

    Weighing in at 6'5" and 310 pounds, Barmore can play anywhere along the three-man defensive front and would bring the versatility and athleticism that are so crucial to the Ravens' defensive scheme. Watch what Calais Campbell does for the defense this season because it would be a seamless transition to No. 58 for the Crimson Tide.

    With few on-paper needs, the Ravens can once again sit back and collect talents who make them a perennial contender.

31. San Francisco 49ers: S Caden Sterns, Texas

31 of 34

    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    The 49ers did the right thing by locking up safety Jimmie Ward, but the veteran is more of a do-it-all player in the secondary and less of a true over-the-top safety. That's where general manager John Lynch can tap into the traits that made him a nine-time Pro Bowler and evaluate a deep class of safeties in the 2021 crop.

    Texas junior Caden Sterns came to campus with big expectations at a university known for churning out Jim Thorpe Award candidates. And while he hasn't brought home hardware of his own yet, his athleticism is better than we've seen from a Longhorns safety since Earl Thomas left Austin as an underclassman.

    Sterns' athleticism, football IQ and budding leadership skills should make him a Lynch favorite.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: OG Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

32 of 34

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    It seems general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid have devalued the cornerback position despite it being the team's biggest on-paper need. Of course, if you can find players like Charvarius Ward on the scrap heap, then why draft them early?

    The Chiefs still need cornerbacks, but they also need help on the interior of the offensive line. Veach's philosophy has been to give quarterback Patrick Mahomes all the weapons and protection he needs, which is why the move to address the guard position over defense in Round 1 is likely.

    Wyatt Davis is a mauler at guard, but he's also athletic enough to work in the Chiefs' zone-heavy blocking scheme. He can get after linebackers, he can peel and trap, and he can pull. His agility, vision and all-around blocking game would be an ideal boost for Mahomes and incoming rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Round 2

33 of 34

    Chris Jackson/Associated Press

    33. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
    34. Washington Football Team: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
    35. Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
    36. Carolina Panthers: OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
    37. New York Jets: EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
    38. New York Giants: CB Marco Wilson, Florida
    39. Miami Dolphins: RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
    40. Las Vegas Raiders: IOL Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
    41. Detroit Lions: IOL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
    42. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans): DL Jay Tufele, USC
    43. Denver Broncos: CB DJ Daniel, Georgia
    44. Arizona Cardinals: CB Israel Mukuamu , Washington
    45. Atlanta Falcons: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
    46. Los Angeles Chargers: S JaCoby Stevens, LSU
    47. Los Angeles Rams: LB Jabril Cox, LSU
    48. Cleveland Browns: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
    49. Chicago Bears: QB Kyle Trask, Florida
    50. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Chris Rumph II, Duke
    51. Green Bay Packers: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson
    52. Pittsburgh Steelers: IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
    53. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Minnesota Vikings): OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
    54. Buffalo Bills: CB Tariq Castro-Fields, Penn State
    55. Indianapolis Colts: OT Jackson Carman, Clemson
    56. Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
    57. Philadelphia Eagles: EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State
    58. New England Patriots: DL Tyler Shelvin, LSU
    59. Dallas Cowboys: DL Marvin Wilson, Florida State
    60. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pitt
    61. New Orleans Saints: LB Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
    62. Baltimore Ravens: S Paris Ford, Pitt
    63. San Francisco 49ers: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington
    64. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville

Round 3

34 of 34

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    65. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
    66. Washington Football Team: OT Alaric Jackson, Iowa
    67. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Pete Werner, Ohio State
    68. Carolina Panthers: WR Nico Collins, Michigan
    69. New York Jets: IOL Ben Cleveland, Georgia
    70. New York Giants: OT Trevor Reid, Louisville
    71. Miami Dolphins: WR Tamorrion Terry, Florida State
    72. Las Vegas Raiders: DL Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
    73. Detroit Lions: DL Rashad Weaver, Pitt
    74. Houston Texans: WR Charleston Rambo, Oklahoma
    75. Denver Broncos: LB Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
    76. Arizona Cardinals: IOL Deonte Brown, Alabama
    77. Atlanta Falcons: RB Chris Evans, Michigan
    78. Los Angeles Chargers: DL LaBryan Ray, Alabama
    79. Los Angeles Rams: EDGE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
    80. Cleveland Browns: WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
    81. Chicago Bears: S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
    82. Tennessee Titans: WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina
    83. Green Bay Packers: LB Charles Snowden, Virginia
    84. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
    85. Minnesota Vikings: S Kary Vincent Jr., LSU
    86. Buffalo Bills: WR Tyler Vaughns, USC
    87. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Tyree Johnson, Texas A&M
    88. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks): LB Monty Rice, Georgia
    89. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Elijah Molden, Washington
    90. New England Patriots: CB Josh Jobe, Alabama
    91. Dallas Cowboys: LB Garret Wallow, TCU
    92. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Kyler Gordon, Washington
    93. Cleveland Browns (from New Orleans Saints): EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota
    94. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
    95. Washington Football Team (from San Francisco 49ers): RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
    96. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Chandon Herring, BYU