Mel Kiper 2021 Mock Draft: Wilson to Falcons, Fields to Lions, Mac Jones to Pats

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) looks to pass the ball in the first half, of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/George Frey)
George Frey/Associated Press

Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock has five quarterbacks—yes, five—going in the top 15 of April's NFL draft.

The ESPN guru released his latest outlook Tuesday, which features Trevor Lawrence still entrenched at the No. 1 spot and heading to the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the rest of the first round remains up in the air after Lawrence, it didn't take long for his fellow signal-callers to come off the board.

BYU's Zach Wilson went No. 4 to the Atlanta Falcons, Ohio State's Justin Fields went three picks later to the Detroit Lions, and North Dakota State's Trey Lance went right after Fields at No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers. The New England Patriots rounded out the quarterback run at No. 15, taking Alabama's Mac Jones.

The Falcons and Lions both have longtime, veteran starting quarterbacks who may head elsewhere this offseason. 

Matthew Stafford and the Lions have already mutually agreed to part ways, with the team actively shopping the 2009 No. 1 overall pick ahead of the draft. It's possible the Lions will pick up an additional first-round selection in exchange for Stafford—one they could use to trade up and pick his replacement.

Fields would give the Lions a running dynamic they never had with Stafford. The Ohio State product may be able to use his legs to help alleviate team's offensive line woes and breathe life into a dormant running game. Detroit has not had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2013. 

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Matt Ryan's future in Atlanta is murkier. It seems likely, given the cap implications of moving on that he will be the Falcons' starter in 2021. A divorce becomes far more feasible in the 2022 offseason—when the team could get out of his deal for between a dead-cap hit of $17 million and $27 million, per Spotrac—but it's possible that this will be the Atlanta's best opportunity to select his long-term replacement.

New Falcons coach Arthur Smith spent the last two seasons reviving Ryan Tannehill's career in Tennessee, so the team's direction at No. 4 may depend on his vision.

Wilson, who is a capable runner and can make every NFL throw, could be developed into a superior version of Tannehill. Given the lofty comparisons Wilson has been getting, Tannehill may even be selling him short.  

Teddy Bridgewater had a solid-but-unspectacular first season as the Panthers starter, and it'll be interesting to see if coach Matt Rhule wants to run it back or make a long-term investment at the position. Lance will draw concerns for his lack of college competition and the fact he did not play in the 2020 season, but he has all the tools of a modern quarterback.

The Patriots will be looking for a replacement for Cam Newton, but it's unclear if Jones is a fit. Given the team's veteran-laden roster, the Patriots may opt to trade for a more established quarterback this offseason.