NFL Mock Draft 2021: Updated Projections for Top 32 Picks

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IFebruary 11, 2021

NFL Mock Draft 2021: Updated Projections for Top 32 Picks

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    It's unlikely that the 2021 NFL draft will get off to a surprising start when the first round begins April 29. Most mock drafts have come to a consensus: The Jacksonville Jaguars will use the No. 1 overall pick to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

    Throughout his three-year college career, Lawrence was long expected to be the top prospect in the 2021 NFL draft class. And with the Jags needing a franchise quarterback to build around as they enter a new era with Urban Meyer as their head coach, it makes perfect sense for them to add Lawrence.

    After that? Anything could happen. The New York Jets own the No. 2 pick, and it's unclear whether they will stick with Sam Darnold as their quarterback or look to the draft a new one. They could address another one of their needs with the selection or they could even trade it.

    The 2021 NFL Scouting Combine was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there will still be pro days and chances for teams to interview top prospects. So the league's 32 teams are likely far from set with their plans for the draft.

    Here's a look at how the first round of this year's draft could unfold.

1st-Round Mock Draft

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

    2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

    3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

    4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

    5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

    6. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

    7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

    8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

    9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

    10. Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

    11. New York Giants: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

    12. San Francisco 49ers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

    13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

    14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OG, USC

    15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

    16. Arizona Cardinals: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

    17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

    18. Miami Dolphins: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

    19. Washington Football Team: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

    20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

    21. Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

    22. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia

    23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

    24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zaven Collins, LB/DE, Tulsa

    25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington

    26. Cleveland Browns: Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF

    27. Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

    28. New Orleans Saints: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

    29. Green Bay Packers: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

    30. Buffalo Bills: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

    31. Kansas City Chiefs: Joe Tryon, DE, Washington

    32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama

5 Quarterbacks Likely to Be Taken in 1st Round

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    George Frey/Associated Press

    There are a few NFL teams that will likely be looking for quarterbacks this offseason. And fortunately for them, there are numerous strong quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft class. It wouldn't be surprising to see five quarterbacks come off the board early, potentially even within the first 15 picks.

    Lawrence should go to the Jaguars at No. 1. It wouldn't be surprising if the Jets decide to draft a new franchise quarterback thereafter, and they could go with BYU's Zach Wilson, who is likely to be either the second or third quarterback taken.

    Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones are also all potential first-round selections.

    The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers could both consider taking quarterbacks. Matt Ryan will turn 36 in May, so Atlanta may want to start thinking about its future under center. Meanwhile, Carolina doesn't have Teddy Bridgewater signed to a long-term deal, and after his struggles in 2020, it may want to start building around a new franchise quarterback.

    It's clear the Patriots need a quarterback, with Cam Newton heading back to free agency. Newton struggled in 2020, so New England may want to look for its next starter in the draft.

    There are several other teams that could also consider taking a quarterback, so it seems likely that at least five will be selected during the first round. But after Lawrence goes to Jacksonville, it's not clear where the others will end up to begin their NFL careers.

Could Smith Reunite with Tagovailoa in Miami?

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    DeVonta Smith greatly improved his NFL draft stock during his senior season at Alabama. He not only helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 season and the national championship, but he also became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.

    While Smith is unlikely to go to the Jaguars at No. 1, it's possible that the Jets consider taking the former Alabama receiver at No. 2. But New York has several other needs, and if it decides to move on from Darnold, then finding a quarterback would become the most pressing issue.

    That could set up an interesting scenario. The Miami Dolphins own the No. 3 pick in the draft, as they acquired it in a trade with the Texans prior to the start of the 2019 season. If Miami takes Smith, then the talented receiver could reunite with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played at Alabama before the Dolphins took him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

    Tagovailoa and Smith not only played together in the Crimson Tide's offense, but they had some memorable connections. The most important was the final play of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship in which Tagovailoa threw a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to Smith to beat Georgia in overtime.

    Smith has only gotten better in the year since Tagovailoa entered the NFL. And although the Dolphins have DeVante Parker and Preston Williams in their receiving corps, they could benefit from adding another strong playmaker to their offense.

    Tagovailoa had some struggles during his rookie season, so it could help for him to have a familiar target join Miami's offense.

Will Alabama Match Record with 6 1st-Round Selections?

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    In 2004, the University of Miami set a record when it had six players get taken in the first round of the NFL draft: Sean Taylor (No. 5 to Washington), Kellen Winslow (No. 6 to Browns), Jonathan Vilma (No. 12 to Jets), D.J. Williams (No. 17 to Broncos), Vernon Carey (No. 19 to Dolphins) and Vince Wilfork (No. 21 to Patriots).

    Since then, there have been times when that record seemed in jeopardy, especially with how many players Alabama has sent to the NFL in recent years. However, the Crimson Tide have come up short of matching that mark. In 2020, they had four players go in the first round and three more in the second round.

    But it's possible this could be the year when Alabama has six players get taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

    Smith isn't the only Crimson Tide wide receiver who should be taken in the first round, as Jaylen Waddle is also likely to be selected early. Jones should be one of a handful of quarterbacks taken during the opening round, so Alabama is already halfway to the record with that trio.

    Cornerback Patrick Surtain II, running back Najee Harris and defensive tackle Christian Barmore could also all be taken in the first round of the draft. And if that happens, then Alabama will match Miami's record of six.

    Sometimes, the draft doesn't go as expected, but Alabama has a chance of tying this record, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise after its terrific 2020 championship season.