2021 NFL Draft: Latest Expert Mocks for Top Impact Players of 1st Round
The top prospects in the 2021 NFL draft will help shape the direction of this league.
They just need to officially latch onto a team first.
Barely more than two weeks out from the start of the talent grab, it feels like the event's only certainty will be the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Trevor Lawrence first overall. Zach Wilson to the New York Jets seems likely at No. 2, but it's not quite cemented. It's a series of educated guesses from there.
To get a better sense of that guesswork, we have examined three recent expert mock drafts to see where they have the top players in this draft class landing.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
The latest mock draft from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. features two rounds, two trades, six quarterbacks and a million wide receivers. OK, maybe that last one is exaggerated, but wow, this pass-catching class is loaded.
After opening with the customary Lawrence and Wilson picks, Kiper forms the latest link between the San Francisco 49ers and Mac Jones at No. 3.
"It's hard to ignore the Jones-to-San Francisco buzz within the league," he wrote. "Every sign two weeks out from the draft points to general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan being infatuated with Jones. I think he's the quarterback they traded up nine spots to take."
The ESPN analyst then has the Miami Dolphins trading up to No. 4 to grab Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. The Atlanta Falcons move back to No. 6 in the exchange where they take Matt Ryan's eventual replacement, Trey Lance.
Kiper's other trade sees the New England Patriots moving up to No. 10 to end Justin Fields' slide. The Dallas Cowboys fall back to No. 15, where they grab South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn.
CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones
The first mock draft from CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones is about as quarterback-heavy as they come.
He opens with the same trio of Lawrence, Wilson and Mac Jones, then drops the hammer at No. 4. There, he has the Patriots paying a fortune for the pick—Nos. 15 and 46 this year, first- and third-rounders next year and a 2023 first—and promptly investing it in Lance.
"Patriots have been aggressive all offseason so why stop now?" Jones wrote. "Lance has the brains to match the arm, and Bill Belichick liked what he saw from how Josh McDaniels opened up the playbook last year for a more physically capable quarterback. The Pats can start Cam Newton and develop Lance at his own pace."
After that internet-breaker, Jones goes some familiar routes with the Cincinnati Bengals getting Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell at No. 5 and the Dolphins snatching Pitts at No. 6. Then, it's trade time again, as he has the Denver Broncos moving up to No. 7—at the cost of Nos. 9, 71 and 191—to get Fields.
"Denver was never going into training camp without providing real competition for Drew Lock," Jones wrote. "New GM George Paton trades up here because he's not entirely sure the Panthers won't take Fields since they have not yet picked up Sam Darnold's fifth-year option."
No more quarterbacks go in the round, but a slew of offensive skill players do. Five wide receivers crack the opening round—starting with LSU's Ja'Marr Chase to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8—as does Clemson running back Travis Etienne, whom Jones sends to the Buffalo Bills at No. 30.
SI.com's Conor Orr
The first mock draft from Conor Orr breaks the run of identical top trios. While Lawrence and Wilson again open the proceedings in that order, the Sports Illustrated writer stops the Mac-Jones-to-San-Francisco hype train and instead has the Niners nabbing Lance.
"I have a hard time with the seeming inevitability that San Francisco will take Mac Jones," he wrote. "It simply doesn't feel right to me. Nothing more, nothing less. ... [Lance is] built for a run-first offense and can provide the 49ers with the mobile, battering-ram element from the QB position that Jimmy Garoppolo never could."
Jones doesn't have to wait long to near his name called, though, as Orr sees the Broncos trading up for the Alabama signal-caller at No. 4. The trade, which Orr thinks will cost Denver a 2022 first-rounder, would reunite Jones with one of his former targets with the Tide in Jerry Jeudy.
"Why Jones over Fields? I think Jones is slightly better under pressure," Orr wrote. "I think Pat Shurmur's connections to Alabama's pro-style staff will probably result in some tea leaves pointing to Jones."
Orr has Fields falling the furthest and landing in the Patriots' lap at No. 15, though the scribe cautions, "Fields will probably not make it this far." If he does, though, he'd be the perfect dual-threat replacement for whenever he's ready to take the reins from Cam Newton.