Daniel Jeremiah NFL Mock Draft 2021: Justin Fields Goes 8th, Zach Wilson to Jets

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2021

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields passes against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

With just three games remaining in the NFL season, a majority of teams are solely focused on the 2021 draft class and which rookies could make a profound impact right away. 

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has offered a glimpse into what clubs could be thinking in his first mock draft. 

As has been the case with virtually every mock released since last summer, Trevor Lawrence is the top pick, with the Jacksonville Jaguars making the selection. Three of the top four projected picks and five of the top 10 are quarterbacks, with the New York Jets kicking off the Robert Saleh era by taking BYU's Zach Wilson second overall. 

Jeremiah projects the Atlanta Falcons to select Trey Lance with the fifth pick, and the Carolina Panthers will get their franchise quarterback by taking Justin Fields at No. 8 overall. 

The top five picks include Lawrence, Wilson, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to the Miami Dolphins, Lance and Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater to the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Wilson has shot up draft boards thanks to a stellar junior year at BYU. The 21-year-old finished second in the nation with a 73.5 completion percentage, third in passing yards (3,692) and third in touchdown passes (33). 

Saleh did praise Sam Darnold during his introductory press conference earlier this week:

"He's got unbelievable arm talent. There's a reason why he was the No. 3 pick in the draft. He's fearless in the pocket. He's got a natural throwing motion. He's mobile. He's extremely intelligent and he's tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned. Just that in general, there's a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building in the way people speak about him."

At the same meeting with reporters, though, Saleh did say it "would be a bit premature" to say if Darnold would be New York's starting quarterback when training camp begins. 

The Falcons may be looking toward the future with new head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot. Lance is the potential wild card in the draft's quarterback carousel. He only played one game in 2020 before North Dakota State postponed its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fields' performance in the College Football Playoff may have gone a long way toward silencing any concerns about his late-season lull for the Buckeyes. He threw four touchdowns and five interceptions in the final three games of the regular season before racking up 385 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-28 win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. 

The Panthers need a long-term solution at quarterback after Teddy Bridgewater struggled in his first season with the team. The 28-year-old completed 69.1 percent of his attempts for 3,733 yards but only had 15 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions in 15 games. 

Of course, the one big cloud hanging over every quarterback-needy team leading up to the draft is Deshaun Watson. One person close to Watson told Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas the three-time Pro Bowler "just wants out" of Houston. 

If a team is able to work out a trade with the Texans for Watson, it will completely reshape what the first round of the draft looks like. 

There is plenty of time for all of these things to be decided before the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29. 


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