Mel Kiper's New 2021 NFL Mock Draft Predicts Trades, Fields to Panthers at No. 3

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2021

FILE - In this  Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 file photo, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields runs against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla. The last NFL event not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the 2020 combine in Indianapolis. A year later, with the 2021 combine canceled, the league has released a list of players who would have merited invitations. From such high-profile quarterbacks as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields to guys who sat out last season such as Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, there are 323 players from 100 schools. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The need for quarterbacks could lead to a lot of movement in the 2021 NFL draft, as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicted in his latest mock.

The projection has four quarterbacks in a row going off the board to start the first round, including the Carolina Panthers trading up to land Justin Fields at No. 3 overall.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and even Atlanta Falcons also grab their quarterbacks of the future at the top of the draft.


Mel Kiper Jr. Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

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

3. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida


It wouldn't be surprising to see a run on QBs early considering both the demand around the league and the talent in this class. Lawrence is considered by many to be a generational prospect, while the Jets could like Wilson enough to move on from Sam Darnold.

There are more question marks at No. 3, where the Miami Dolphins are on the clock but used their No. 5 pick in 2020 to take Tua Tagovailoa. The organization has a chance to build around the young quarterback with an elite pass-catching option like tight end Kyle Pitts.

A trade could also be an option, with Kiper projecting the Panthers give up at least a 2022 first- or second-round pick in order to move from No. 8 to No. 3.

Teddy Bridgewater remains under contract in Carolina, but the team could start building for the future with Fields in what could be an exciting offense alongside Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore.

Later in the first round, the New England Patriots also find their new quarterback in Alabama's Mac Jones. 

Kiper also projects a second trade with the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos swapping the ninth and 14th selections. The Vikes would move up to solidify their offensive line with Penei Sewell, while the Broncos get linebacker Micah Parsons and extra draft capital to improve more of their roster.