2021 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Picks Entering Combine, Pro Days

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 22, 2021

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Picks Entering Combine, Pro Days

0 of 32

    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Everything about the NFL predraft process will be different this year, including a "combine" with no in-person workouts and limited contact between teams and prospects in the lead-up to what is expected to be another made-for-TV event.

    But March will still be dominated by pro days as teams get a feel for their needs based on how free agency shakes out.

    There's obviously still a lot to be determined before the April 29-May 1 event, but with chatter and buzz about to grow significantly, this seems like a good time to check in with an updated mock draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

1 of 32

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    BYU quarterback Zach Wilson's draft stock appears to be gaining steam. New Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has mentioned both Wilson and Ohio State's Justin Fields as potential alternatives to the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 overall, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. And Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting tweeted last week that multiple teams rank Wilson above Lawrence.


    Wilson is a tantalizing prospect, but there's a lot of smoke this time of year. And considering their experiences with Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert, the Jags shouldn't overthink this. Lawrence possesses practically every trait you want in a franchise quarterback, from tremendous vision to excellent pocket presence to a strong, accurate arm, to reliability to super decision-making skills to considerable athleticism and mobility.

    Coming off an unreal college career in which he threw 90 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions while establishing himself as a winner and a big-game performer, Lawrence provides little doubt he has what it takes to become the face of this franchise, both in Florida and the United Kingdom.

    Comparatively, Wilson presents too much risk for a team that can't afford to get this wrong.

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, Brigham Young

2 of 32

    Jeff Swinger/Associated Press

    An argument can easily be made that the New York Jets should keep 23-year-old quarterback Sam Darnold for one more year and use their salary-cap space and draft capital to bolster the 2018 first-round pick's supporting cast. In that case, taking blue-chip Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell would be the obvious move.

    But Jets general manager Joe Douglas didn't draft Darnold, and the new coaching staff led by Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur has no connection to him either. They won't likely want to inherit the league's lowest-rated passer from 2020 and won't want to give up on an opportunity to add a quarterback like Wilson or Fields.

    I wouldn't knock them for taking either prospect in the crapshoot that is Round 1, but Wilson's ceiling is higher. He has a far better arm than Fields and does a lot that resembles Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray's games.

    In this day and age, that's hard to ignore.

    Throw in the stigma attached to Ohio State quarterback prospects and the school's scheme in general, and Wilson looks like the more likely pick in the No. 2 spot.

3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

3 of 32

    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    Sewell might have the most potential at an even more premium position than wide receiver, but the Miami Dolphins used quality draft picks on offensive linemen Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley last year, and Ja'Marr Chase can become a superstar target for young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa immediately.

    Heisman Trophy winner and former Tua teammate DeVonta Smith is a strong candidate here, too, but it's fair to be concerned about how he'll hold up in the NFL considering his 175-pound frame.

    The 200-pound Chase is bigger, more physical and an opt-out year removed from a 1,780-yard, 20-touchdown season at LSU. That might have placed him in the Heisman conversation if it weren't dominated by his quarterback, Joe Burrow, in 2019.

    The Dolphins have DeVante Parker, but only one other wide receiver on the roster (Preston Williams) had multiple touchdowns last season, and none reached the 400-yard mark. A player like Chase alongside Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki in the pass-catching corps would shore up Miami's passing offense for years.

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

4 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    It's time. Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan might not be the main problem with the Atlanta Falcons, but Ryan will turn 36 in May, he hasn't been a first- or second-team All-Pro or a Pro Bowler since winning MVP in 2016, and the Falcons are coming off three consecutive losing seasons.

    The Falcons can save more than $15 million by parting ways with Ryan next offseason or $28 million by doing so in 2023. Those savings can be used to bolster support for their next franchise quarterback, and they'd be silly not to try to land and groom said signal-caller now that they have such a high pick in a quarterback-happy draft.

    Enter Fields, who could use a year or two in the wings and has the vision, athleticism and track record to become something special. He struggled more often than expected during a weird 2020 season but finished strong against Lawrence in the Sugar Bowl and was out of this world with a 41-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a sophomore in 2019.

    He beats out Sewell because a potential replacement for Ryan is more important than a nonguaranteed, potentially not-immediate upgrade at either offensive tackle spot. And while Micah Parsons would also be tempting here for Atlanta, off-ball linebacker isn't an urgent need either.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

5 of 32

    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals might already have 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams at offensive tackle, but that line was such a liability in 2020 that the organization couldn't justify passing on Sewell. The dude is just too dominant, and a team ideally has two strong tackles nowadays—especially in the AFC North.

    Burrow was sacked 32 times in just 10 games as a rookie, and his pocket collapsed immediately on the hit that resulted in a season-ending knee injury. Right tackle Bobby Hart was a turnstile, and it would be irresponsible for the Bengals to start the 2021 campaign without an upgrade at that position.

    At 6'6", 325 pounds, the huge, strong, athletic and technically sound Sewell would offer them exactly that after he surrendered zero sacks in 2019, per FanNation, before opting out in 2020.

    With him on the board, even thinking about Parsons or another prospect in this spot would be ludicrous. Sewell's as close to a sure thing as you'll get, and this is one of the most obvious decisions you'll see in this exercise.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

6 of 32

    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    It seems as though everybody expects the Philadelphia Eagles to use this selection on tight end Kyle Pitts, which assumes the team will trade Zach Ertz and isn't satisfied with in-house replacement Dallas Goedert. That's a reach, especially with Parsons on the board and linebacker a weakness in Philadelphia.

    In this scenario, Philly winds up with the best player available and addresses a need.

    The Penn State product is rangy and quick but physical and versatile. Before opting out in 2020, he recorded 109 tackles, five sacks and 14 tackles for loss as a consensus All-American in 2019. And he'd fit nicely behind Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham in Philadelphia's front seven.

    Quarterback is also a possible route here with Carson Wentz gone and Trey Lance on the board, but the Eagles invested heavily in Jalen Hurts. It makes sense to give him at least one full season, and if he fails miserably, there's a good chance they'll pick in the top 10 again in 2022.

7. Detroit Lions: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

7 of 32

    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    This changes if the Detroit Lions bring back impending free-agent wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., but that won't be easy for a team that is tight against the projected salary cap. The Lions are obviously going all-in on new quarterback Jared Goff, so they should use their top-10 pick to land one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in this class.

    Smith is coming off a ridiculous season in which he won the Heisman with 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in the SEC. He'll ideally add bulk to his 175-pound frame, and it helps that he's at least a solid 6'1". That, combined with tremendous hands and excellent route-running ability, makes him an easy target, and with the ball in his hands, it's often game over for opposing defenses.

    Even without added weight, Smith carries experience from Alabama that should enable him to start right away for Goff and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn in the Motor City. That would be hard to turn down in the No. 7 spot, especially with Chase and Parsons off the board.

    He beats out college teammate Jaylen Waddle, who doesn't have remotely the same track record at that position. In fact, the only other avenue I'd consider here if I were Detroit is a pass-rusher such as Gregory Rousseau or Kwity Paye, but that's less of a priority because they're so invested in Trey Flowers and they could still bring Romeo Okwara back.

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

8 of 32

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Carolina Panthers already tried to trade quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for Matthew Stafford earlier this offseason. Meanwhile, head coach Matt Rhule has yet to declare Bridgewater his starter in 2021 and hasn't ruled out drafting a quarterback.

    With Lance available, it would be difficult for Rhule to go in any other direction with what would be his first-ever draft selection of an offensive player.

    The North Dakota State product lit up the Missouri Valley Conference with a combined 42 passing and rushing touchdowns and zero interceptions during a borderline perfect 2019 season before essentially being sidelined because of the pandemic in 2020.

    And yeah, that didn't come in the SEC or the Big Ten, but that's the beautiful thing about the fact that the Panthers can give Lance at least a year with a tablet while Bridgewater serves as the bridge in 2021. Carolina isn't expected to be a major Super Bowl contender anyway, and if the team surprises, you give Lance another year as a pupil or look at your trade options.

    Of course, it's still possible the Panthers make a change at quarterback before the draft, in which case they could turn their attention to a high-ceiling tight end like Pitts or an offensive lineman like Rashawn Slater (especially if they lose Russell Okung and/or Taylor Moton in free agency).

9. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

9 of 32

    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Maybe the Denver Broncos don't find another quarterback in free agency and then trade up to grab one of the big four or even sit tight and take whichever quarterback lands here (even if that's consensus No. 5 signal-caller Mac Jones). But with the big four off the board and Drew Lock still in tow, let's have Denver focus on value while filling a need.

    That either means replacing likely departed pass-rusher Von Miller ($17.5 million club option) with an edge-defender like Rousseau or Paye, or replacing A.J. Bouye with a corner like Patrick Surtain II or Caleb Farley.

    Since it's possible Miller returns and they still have Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, we'll go the latter route and give them Surtain, who is almost unanimously the highest-rated player at that position after a fantastic three-year starting career in the SEC.

    The 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year would be ready to play a major role right away for a team that should be a playoff contender.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

10 of 32

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Assuming nothing unexpected happens with quarterback Dak Prescott, this has to be a defensive pick for the Dallas Cowboys. The offensive line was a mess in 2020, but that unit should be healthy again in 2021, and with so much aging, expensive talent, Dallas has to be in win-now mode.

    Only two defenses surrendered more passing touchdowns in 2020 than Dallas. The secondary missed top 2019 corner Byron Jones, who left in free agency, and regulars Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are slated to hit the open market as well.

    With Surtain off the board, Farley makes perfect sense. The Virginia Tech product has an ideal combination of size (6'2", 207 lbs) and speed, and he intercepted four passes in the ACC in 2019 before opting out in 2020.

    Farley surrendered only 18 catches on 50 targets in that 2019 season, according to PFF, and he'd likely be fresh and ready to make an immediate impact in Dallas in 2021.

11. New York Giants: Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan

11 of 32

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The general consensus is that Rousseau and Paye are the draft's top two edge-rushing prospects, and both are available to a New York Giants team that didn't get more than four sacks out of an edge defender in 2020 and could lose top sack man Leonard Williams in free agency.

    Paye is intriguing because he's a versatile, relatively seasoned defender who can also stand out against the run. His sack numbers weren't eye-popping at Michigan, but he often brought an incredible amount of pressure, and his athletic profile is tantalizing.

    Rousseau is in a similar boat in terms of his potential as a remarkably explosive 6'7", 265-pound presence, but he flashed more closing skills in a monster 2019 season that included 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.

    Both have developing to do, and we don't have a fresh read on Rousseau after he opted out in 2020, but the 6'4", 272-pound Paye looks a little more developed (physically and otherwise), and the Giants might prefer that as they attempt to compete in a wide-open NFC East in 2021.

12. San Francisco 49ers: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

12 of 32

    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Considering that practically every established cornerback on their roster is headed toward free agency, the San Francisco 49ers will likely be disappointed to see Surtain and Farley get snatched up before they go on the clock. But that might mean that one of the draft's five first-round-caliber quarterbacks will be available, as is the case here.

    It's possible San Francisco will do something wild like acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans or Darnold from the Jets or sign Prescott well before the draft, but if they stick with Jimmy Garoppolo on what is essentially a year-to-year contract, this might be a perfect opportunity to bring in a potential successor in Mac Jones.

    The Alabama product doesn't blow you away like the top four quarterbacks in this class, but he's accurate, efficient and smart. That might be all that's necessary to excel in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

    Assuming they bring back left tackle Trent Williams and at least a veteran corner or two, and assuming they can get healthier in general after a season that defined Murphy's Law from that standpoint, the 49ers are talented enough to afford using a pick like this on a signal-caller who may or may not see the field in 2021.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

13 of 32

    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers may have signed veteran offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga last offseason, but he was somewhat of a replacement for Russell Okung, and he's almost 32 anyway. Meanwhile, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was pressured more than any other signal-caller in the NFL during his rookie campaign.

    For Herbert's sake, it's time to give up on Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins III and finally invest major draft capital in the tackle spot. And in this case, they get solid value for Northwestern product Rashawn Slater.

    The versatile Slater doesn't have the ideal length to excel on the edge, but the tape indicates he could more than make up for that with his quickness and athleticism. He was often a game-changer in 2019, although we didn't get to see him in 2020 due to a COVID-19 opt-out.

    And even if he does move inside, that's another area in which the Bolts need more talent. The entire line is in rough shape.

    And yes, Rousseau and Pitts would both be tough to pass up, but even if Melvin Ingram III leaves via free agency, they have Uchenna Nwosu to support Joey Bosa on the edge, and we can't rule out the possibility of Hunter Henry's return at tight end.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)

14 of 32

    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    Without Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen and with only a cameo from Yannick Ngakoue, the Minnesota Vikings defense ranked in the bottom five in terms of sacks and pressure rate in 2020.

    Hunter might be back from a herniated disk in 2021, but for the defense to get back on track, another pass-rushing weapon might be necessary. The Vikings will likely be too cap-strapped to add one in free agency, but they're lucky to have Rousseau still on the board.

    The converted wide receiver and safety has a smaller-than-ideal frame at 265 pounds, but his ceiling is extremely high because of his length and explosiveness, and he put up 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2019 before opting out in 2020.

    Rousseau could need a little time to get acclimated, but that's what makes this a good spot. Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo can take a lot of pressure off of him early on.

15. New England Patriots: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

15 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Considering their dearth of talent at both wide receiver and tight end, the New England Patriots would probably be thrilled to find both Waddle and Pitts on the board when their turn arrives midway through Round 1.

    Both are potential top-10 picks, but the Patriots have often relied heavily on tight ends, and they're especially barren at that position. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels would probably also appreciate Pitts' ability to move around the formation and potentially even line up and run routes as a wideout.

    The Florida product is coming off a 12-touchdown campaign despite playing in just eight games in the SEC. And in addition to displaying excellent speed and athleticism, his reliable hands should also appeal to the Pats.

    With the top five quarterbacks off the board and Waddle more of a wild card, this is close to a no-brainer for a team that, considering its state, should be geared toward the best available player even if guard Joe Thuney gets away in free agency.

16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

16 of 32

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Legendary Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is slated to hit free agency. But even if he re-signs, Peterson is on the north side of 30, and his play has slipped in recent seasons. Johnathan Joseph, 36, and Dre Kirkpatrick, 31, are also old in NFL terms, leaving the Cards in need of somebody to pair with 2019 second-round pick Byron Murphy at that critical position.

    It's enough of a need for a contending Cards team that they should try to position themselves for Surtain or Farley, but in this exercise, they still have a shot at Jaycee Horn.

    The South Carolina product averaged 27.4 coverage snaps per reception allowed in 2020, which, according to PFF, was the best mark in college football. Former NFL receiver Joe Horn's son is physical, long and athletic and can become a No. 1 corner in the pros.

    He could be susceptible to NFL deep balls, though, which is why this might be a tad early for Arizona. And if the Larry Fitzgerald era is over, the Cards could consider Waddle here as well.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

17 of 32

    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    About six weeks ago, when yours truly listed the best player every NFL team could add this offseason, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was the pick for the Las Vegas Raiders. It just so happens that the ACC Defensive Player of the Year is available with Las Vegas on the board in this mock.

    It makes too much sense. The Raiders defense was an utter mess down the stretch last season, finishing 28th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) against the run, per Football Outsiders.

    They at least have promising young players Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby up front and Johnathan Abram and Damon Arnette in the secondary. But at linebacker, veteran Cory Littleton was a tremendous disappointment in 2020, and the promising Nicholas Morrow is headed toward the open market.

    According to 247 Sports, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. recently called Owusu-Koramoah one of the "best pure football players are in this draft." That'll do for a team that desperately needs the help on that side of the ball.

    With the top corners and pass-rushers off the board, this isn't controversial.

18. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas

18 of 32

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    For the record, the Dolphins should take Owusu-Koramoah if he's available here and fill a huge need by upgrading on Elandon Roberts at linebacker. But with him off the board and Chase already in tow at wide receiver, the Dolphins add the best defensive fit in Texas edge-defender Joseph Ossai.

    A popular pick might also be Alabama running back Najee Harris, but backs are almost never worth first-round selections and Miami is better off with a potential game-changer on defense. Thanks to head coach Brian Flores, they were greater than the sum of their parts on that side of the ball last season, but they need an impact pass-rusher who can move around the defense and make plays regardless of what's dialed up.

    That's Ossai, who recorded 29 tackles for loss the last two seasons in the Big 12 and has the motor and explosiveness to consistently win and make life easier on Shaq Lawson, Andrew Van Ginkel and Emmanuel Ogbah up front.

    Flores would have a field day with this guy.

19. Washington Football Team: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

19 of 32

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Terry McLaurin is a hell of a player, and there's room for Kelvin Harmon to become a solid starting receiver as well for the Washington Football Team, but the franchise can't pass up on the sinking Waddle in this spot.

    The value is just too good for the super-speedy Waddle, who would fit perfectly as a slot receiver while McLaurin and Harmon mainly work outside. The dude averaged 21.1 yards per reception before breaking his ankle six games into Alabama's 2020 campaign.

    Does Washington need to figure out its quarterback situation first? Yes, but that might have to come before the draft, considering that four or five quarterbacks are expected to go off the board well before the WFT is on the clock April 29.

    With the top corners, off-ball linebackers and offensive linemen already gone here, this is a no-brainer.

20. Chicago Bears: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

20 of 32

    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Standout Chicago Bears No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson II is slated to hit the open market next month, while slot receiver Anthony Miller's future could be up in the air after he disappointed in 2020. Whoever quarterbacks the Bears in 2021 will need a lot more support, but the team still looks set at tackle, and this isn't an ideal spot to take an interior offensive lineman.

    Especially with both Kadarius Toney and Rashod Bateman on the board.

    We're going with Toney because he's a more dynamic player who can be used all over the place on offense. Bateman is more of a prototypical X or Z receiver, while Toney can line up in the slot or outside and is a constant threat as a rusher as well.

    The Bears might have something in Darnell Mooney outside, while Toney would at the very least immediately make Miller expendable in the slot. His skill set could make it easier on whoever is throwing the passes in Chicago in 2021, while Bateman might be better off joining an offense with fewer questions regarding the deep passing game.

21. Indianapolis Colts: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

21 of 32

    Matt Bell/Associated Press

    This isn't rocket science. The Indianapolis Colts' line is its bread and butter, and new quarterback Carson Wentz will need as much support as they can get him. With longtime starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired, Indy should look for the best offensive lineman available.

    In this case, it can get good value from Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, who was a two-year starter in the left tackle spot for the Hokies. At, 6'5", 314 pounds, he has the size and strength to contribute right away for a team in win-now mode.

    The Colts might also need a receiver if T.Y. Hilton departs, a corner if Xavier Rhodes gets away and an edge-defender if they can't keep Denico Autry or Justin Houston. But the defense is in much better shape in general, and they've invested plenty of draft capital in receivers Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. the last couple of years.

    If Darrisaw is there, they have to pull the trigger.

22. Tennessee Titans: Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

22 of 32

    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Georgia's Azeez Ojulari and Miami's Jaelan Phillips are the top two edge-defenders on the board for a Tennessee Titans team that might lose Jadeveon Clowney after ranking in the bottom three in the NFL in both sacks and pressure rate in 2020.

    If they find themselves in this spot, as long as they aren't silly enough to pass on both and try for the second year in a row to find a diamond in the Round 1 rough, you won't hear any criticism from me.

    We're giving them Ojulari because he seems a little more trustworthy. The versatile 20-year-old had 9.5 sacks in the SEC last season, while Phillips had so much injury baggage during his original college stint at UCLA that he briefly retired from football.

    Considering what's happening with 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Wilson, the Titans might not want to go down a road like that.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle): OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

23 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    A lot of moving parts stand between now and this Jets selection, but we can assume they'll have settled their quarterback situation by then. Still, they're loaded with salary-cap space and are likely to add players who will transform their priorities, so let's assume they keep their key in-house free agents and make no assumptions beyond that.

    The roster will still have plenty of holes, so let's have them roll with the best player available while also naturally addressing a need with USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.

    The first-team All-Pac 12 21-year-old was PFF's highest-graded tackle on true pass sets in 2020. And while he might be better suited as an interior offensive lineman, that's actually a bigger need for Gang Green considering how ineffective Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis often were last season.

    Again, this selection is open-ended this early. But a versatile, established O-lineman is a safe prediction.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL)

24 of 32

    Matt Gentry/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers won't replace (or find a successor for) Ben Roethlisberger this late, nor will they likely replace retired center Maurkice Pouncey this early. They also might survive the potential loss of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva by bringing back underrated offensive line options Zach Banner and Matt Feiler, so we're going to hit the defense instead of the less-robust offense.

    There's a good chance they won't be able to afford to retain No. 2 pass-rusher Bud Dupree, so Phillips makes a lot of sense here.

    The Miami product is extremely physical and sports an impressive motor and the numbers to back it up. There are those aforementioned concerns about his injury history and background, but the ceiling is extremely high for a player who registered 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last year in the ACC.

    Besides, the defense is so stacked in Pittsburgh that he wouldn't have to dominate from the get-go.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

25 of 32

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    With their next franchise quarterback already on board, the Jaguars will use their second first-round pick to further fill out a roster that is riddled with holes but could look a lot different once the heart of free agency is through.

    After all, the Jags are loaded with cap space, and a lower-than-usual cap stemming from COVID-19 could lead to mass changes throughout the league next month. With that in mind, it's pretty tough to put a finger on Jacksonville's late-Round 1 priorities at this stage.

    Still, the Jags have a lot of in-house matters and premium positions to address, and it's possible they won't get around to bringing in upgrades at safety after throwing Josh Jones, Andrew Wingard and Jarrod Wilson out there in 2020.

    It just so happens that this is a good spot for TCU's Trevon Moehrig, who is probably the top safety prospect in this class after he won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2020. He's primarily a field-patroller over the top but can cover the slot (something the Jags also need help with). And while he doesn't jump off the tape every time you watch him, it's hard to find a major flaw in his game.

26. Cleveland Browns: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

26 of 32

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Put simply, the Cleveland Browns need more high-quality defensive players. The gap was large in 2020 between Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and everybody else. In this spot, they'll almost certainly think about the best front-seven defender available to either bolster the linebacker corps or complement Garrett on the edge (if not both).

    Tulsa's Zaven Collins fits the profile.

    The Chuck Bednarik Award winner and recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy was a unanimous All-American and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year during a phenomenal truncated 2020 campaign in which he racked up four sacks, four picks, two forced fumbles and 7.5 tackles for loss in eight games.

    He's 6'4", 260 pounds but looks longer and moves faster than you might expect, and he could drop this low because he wasn't bullying SEC or Big 12 players at Tulsa and doesn't suit everybody's scheme. It's also possible he'll need time to get acclimated, but the spotlight will be on Garrett, and Cleveland's linebacking group was so bad in 2020 that even an adjusting Collins should provide a tremendous boost.

27. Baltimore Ravens: IOL Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

27 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens hope to get left tackle Ronnie Stanley back from injury in 2021, but they never properly replaced retired former standout interior offensive lineman Marshal Yanda.

    With all of this class's premier pass-rushers off the board, they have an opportunity to swing the bat for Ohio State's Wyatt Davis.

    The two-time All-American and reigning Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year has the experience to start immediately and the strength and mobility to excel right away as well. His toughness would also make him a superb fit in Baltimore.

    Throw in Stanley's ankle injury and Orlando Brown's recent trade request, and it would be hard for the Ravens to justify passing on an offensive lineman here. Maybe that means they roll with a tackle like Jalen Mayfield, Alex Leatherwood or Samuel Cosmi instead of a guard, but they owe a first-round O-lineman to Lamar Jackson and an offense that relies so heavily on the run.

28. New Orleans Saints: DL Christian Barmore, Alabama

28 of 32

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    It would be nearly impossible for the New Orleans Saints to keep both Trey Hendrickson and Marcus Williams, and it will be very difficult to keep even one of the two standout impending free-agent defenders. Doing so would almost certainly mean the end of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins' tenure in New Orleans, but that might be the case regardless.

    With that in mind, a cap-strapped team that is pretty damn talented everywhere else is likely to target the best defensive player available. And that person happens to be an ideal replacement for Rankins.

    In fact, Alabama interior defensive lineman Christian Barmore just might be the top player at his position in this draft class after he put up eight sacks and forced three fumbles for the national champions, with most of that production coming in critical spots down the stretch.

    The Saints don't need a big run-stuffer with Malcom Brown on the roster, but they could find a lot of ways to allow Barmore to make up for some of the luster they'll lose in pass defense when Hendrickson and/or Williams get away.

29. Green Bay Packers: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

29 of 32

    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Key Green Bay Packers Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones could get away in free agency, but this isn't the spot to replace a center or a running back, especially with 2020 second-round back AJ Dillon on the roster.

    That could mean the Pack will do their best to trade down and take Alabama center Landon Dickerson in Round 2. But if they stand pat, it might be time to finally pull the trigger on a first-round wide receiver.

    Yes, they more than survived without adding a high-profile wideout to pair with Davante Adams in 2020, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard were not consistent, and Aaron Rodgers would appreciate another talented target in what is beginning to feel like a make-or-break season.

    Plus, they get good value here in Minnesota product Rashod Bateman, who already runs polished routes and has the experience and reliable hands required of a receiver who will be expected to make an immediate difference on a contender.

30. Buffalo Bills: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri

30 of 32

    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills are expected to be tight against the salary cap with several key players hitting free agency, which could make it difficult to keep top off-ball linebacker Matt Milano.

    Missouri's Nick Bolton is an ideal first-round replacement for Milano and at least an upgrade over third linebacker A.J. Klein. He and Tremaine Edmunds would form an exciting young duo in the middle for the Bills, who ranked below the league median in DVOA against the run in 2020, per Football Outsiders.

    The two-time first-team All-SEC defender is a big hitter with great chops in run defense, and his extensive resume in the best conference in college football indicates he could be ready to play a major role on a contending team like Buffalo right away.

    That said, the Bills almost certainly won't go this route if Milano returns and could instead take an offensive lineman (especially if Daryl Williams and/or Jon Feliciano escape on the open market).

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Jayson Oweh, Penn State

31 of 32

    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    The Bills would probably be stealing Bolton from the Kansas City Chiefs, who struggled with defending the run in 2020 and desperately need help at linebacker. But with him off the board, they could turn their attention to a so-so pass rush that didn't see a single edge-defender record more than six sacks in 2020.

    Frank Clark is a big-time player who disappears a little too often, while Alex Okafor and Tanoh Kpassagnon haven't gotten the job done. Thank goodness for the presence of Chris Jones inside, but K.C. still needs more talent on the edge.

    Penn State's Jayson Oweh can provide that.

    The lengthy and explosive 6'5", 252-pounder is a little raw after limited starting time in college, but the Chiefs can afford that based on their personnel up front. His high ceiling makes him an ideal player to groom as a situational rusher until he's tapped for a larger role in a year or two.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DL Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

32 of 32

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    This really could depend on who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose in free agency. Head coach Bruce Arians seems confident they can bring most of their key impending free agents back, but the reality is three of those players—Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David and Ndamukong Suh—come from Tampa's star-studded front seven.

    David, 31, and Suh, 34, are also getting up there in age, which means an influx of talent will soon be needed in that area even if it isn't required immediately.

    That being the case, we're closing out this mock draft with Iowa defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon. The astonishingly athletic 306-pounder recorded 8.5 sacks while rushing from the inside the last two years in the Big Ten, including 5.5 in only eight games in 2020. That was enough to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    Another option along those lines but on the edge is Carlos Basham Jr. from Wake Forest. It's almost a toss-up and will depend on if Barrett and/or Suh don't return.


    Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon. Salary-cap figures via Spotrac. Stats via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.