2021 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Prospects Who Will Shape Day 1

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 4, 2021

2021 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions, Prospects Who Will Shape Day 1

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft is set to get underway April 29, and speculation continues about where the top college prospects will be going to begin their professional careers. And there are quite a few ways the first round could unfold.

    It's highly likely that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick. It's probable that several other top quarterbacks will be coming off the board shortly after that—there's likely to be five selected within the first half of the opening round.

    But how will the rest of the first night of the draft unfold? There have already been some trades featuring first-round picks that have put the San Francisco 49ers (No. 3), Miami Dolphins (No. 6) and Philadelphia Eagles (No. 12) in different spots for their opening selections. Could more deals take place before or during the draft?

    Here's the latest mock draft for the first round of this year's draft, followed by a look at some prospects who could help shape the opening night of the three-day event.

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. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

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

    5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

    6. Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

    7. Detroit Lions: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

    8. Carolina Panthers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

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

    10. Dallas Cowboys: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

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

    12. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

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

    14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

    15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

    16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

    17. Las Vegas Raiders: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

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

    19. Washington Football Team: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

    20. Chicago Bears: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

    21. Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

    22. Tennessee Titans: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

    23. New York Jets: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

    24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

    25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

    26. Cleveland Browns: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

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

    28. New Orleans Saints: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

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

    30. Buffalo Bills: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State

    31. Kansas City Chiefs: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

    32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia

Will Jets Take Wilson, Move on from Darnold?

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    It hasn't been long since the New York Jets last used a top-three pick on a quarterback. In 2018, New York selected Sam Darnold out of USC, hoping it could then build around him for years to come. But things haven't worked out that way, as Darnold has struggled during his first three NFL seasons.

    Part of the reason for that could be the offense around Darnold not putting him in a position to succeed. Nonetheless, the Jets may be looking to go in a different direction, especially because of the hype BYU's Zach Wilson has generated leading up to the draft.

    Wilson had a strong three-year career with the Cougars, and he further improved his draft stock with an impressive showing at his pro day in late March. At this point, the Jets could be best off by drafting Wilson, and with that option available, they are unlikely to be able to pass on the opportunity.

    With Lawrence and Wilson off the board, teams could be quick to take the other top quarterbacks (North Dakota State's Trey Lance, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones) to avoid missing out on one of them. So don't be surprised if there's a run of quarterbacks to open the draft—it's possible there could be four straight taken to start the night.

Dolphins Could Reunite Smith with Tagovailoa

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    When the Dolphins owned the No. 3 overall pick, it was likely they could have had their choice of any wide receiver in the draft class. At No. 6, that could still end up being the case.

    If four quarterbacks go in the first four picks and the Cincinnati Bengals opt to improve their offensive line at No. 5 (likely by drafting Oregon tackle Penei Sewell), then the Dolphins can take any receiver on the board with their first pick. And after rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had some struggles during his rookie season, it could be beneficial for Miami to add a top playmaker at No. 6.

    What better receiver to take than one who's already played with Tagovailoa? While LSU's Ja'Marr Chase could be the first wide receiver taken, it may make too much sense for the Dolphins to draft Alabama standout DeVonta Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

    After Smith goes off the board, it shouldn't take long for other receivers to follow, including Chase and Jaylen Waddle, another former Crimson Tide playmaker. But Smith could be the first one taken because of the fact that he could be the best fit among the group for Miami's offense.

Pitts May End Up Outside of Top 10, Go to Giants

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    With mostly quarterbacks and wide receivers getting taken early, it's possible that Florida tight end Kyle Pitts could fall out of the top 10. If that happens, it could be the perfect scenario for the New York Giants, who would benefit from adding the top tight end in the class to their offense.

    By adding Pitts, New York could pair the former Gators standout with Evan Engram to boast a strong tight end duo. That should help quarterback Daniel Jones continue to take steps forward, especially because Pitts has the potential to keep improving once he arrives in the NFL.

    It's possible that Pitts' ability means he won't make it to the No. 11 pick, which is when the Giants will be on the clock. However, there's a chance he's still available at that point based on how the teams owning top-10 selections decide to address their needs.

    New York may also decide to trade up to ensure that it can draft Pitts. And if he builds off his success from his time at Florida, that could be a smart decision.