NFL Draft 2021: 1st-Round Order and Prospects Who Can Shake Up Draft Outlook

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 19, 2021

NFL Draft 2021: 1st-Round Order and Prospects Who Can Shake Up Draft Outlook

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The drama during the 2021 NFL draft will likely begin with the Atlanta Falcons' fourth-overall selection. 

    The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers appear to be in line to take quarterbacks with the top three picks. 

    Trevor Lawrence could have taken up residence in Jacksonville once the Jags were locked into the No. 1 pick, Zach Wilson is the likely No. 2 pick and the 49ers will choose between Justin Fields and Mac Jones. 

    Atlanta could go in a handful of directions with its selection. A quarterback could be the pick since Matt Ryan is 35. If not, Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith are among the prospects in play. 

    The Falcons' direction at No. 4 should shape up the rest of the draft, and it could throw a wrench in the plans of the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins directly beneath them.

2021 NFL Draft 1st-Round Order

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    1. Jacksonville

    2. New York Jets

    3. San Francisco (from Miami via Houston)

    4. Atlanta

    5. Cincinnati

    6. Miami (from Philadelphia)

    7. Detroit

    8. Carolina

    9. Denver

    10. Dallas

    11. New York Giants

    12. Philadelphia (from Miami via San Francisco)

    13. Los Angeles Chargers

    14. Minnesota

    15. New England

    16. Arizona

    17. Las Vegas

    18. Miami

    19. Washington

    20. Chicago

    21. Indianapolis

    22. Tennessee

    23. New York Jets (from Seattle)

    24. Pittsburgh

    25. Jacksonville (from Los Angeles Rams)

    26. Cleveland

    27. Baltimore

    28. New Orleans

    29. Green Bay

    30. Buffalo

    31. Kansas City

    32. Tampa Bay

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Pitts has a chance to be the first tight end chosen in the top six since Vernon Davis was the No. 6 overall pick in 2006. 

    The junior out of Florida has the potential to be one of the top game-changers in football in his rookie season based on what we saw with the Gators. Pitts had 770 receiving yards on 43 catches and 12 touchdowns in the truncated 2020 season.

    If there was a full college football season, he likely would have been in the mix for the Heisman Trophy with massive receiving numbers. Those totals become even more impressive when you consider they were earned against SEC defenses.

    Atlanta does not have a major need at tight end with Hayden Hurst in place alongside Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but the selection of Pitts could be warranted since it has to keep pace with the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. 

    If the Falcons choose Pitts at No. 4, it would allow Cincinnati a clear path to select Penei Sewell as extra protection for Joe Burrow. If that happens, Miami would have its pick of the top receivers at No. 6, a position it would have been in had it stayed at No. 3. 

    If Atlanta opts to upgrade its offensive line through Sewell, or goes after a defensive back, it would put Cincinnati in a tough spot to pass up Pitts. 

    The Bengals have a nice set of wide receivers, led by Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but they could use an upgrade over Drew Sample and C.J. Uzomah, and if Sewell is off the board, Pitts could be their best option at No. 5. 

    If Pitts falls to the Dolphins at No. 6, that could create another trickle-down effect in two ways. The first would be if Miami lands the Florida tight end, which would drop Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith. The second is a drop from Pitts that leads the Detroit Lions or Carolina Panthers to consider selecting him. 

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State or Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    We have to prepare for a scenario in which four quarterbacks go off the board with the first four picks. 

    A strong case could be made in Atlanta's favor to take Justin Fields or Mac Jones at No. 4 since there is a chance it will not pick this high in the coming years. 

    The opportunity to bring in a quarterback of the future does not come across a franchise every year, and Atlanta could feel comfortable with grooming a young starter in the final years of Matt Ryan's career. 

    Since the quarterback position is valued more than others, the potential selection of Fields or Jones at No. 4 could create a frenzy from franchises looking to trade up for the next best signal-caller on the board. 

    The Denver Broncos may be the most affected team in this scenario. They could move on from Drew Lock if Fields or Jones dropped to No. 9, but if not, they would have to weigh how much they want to keep their current quarterback compared to drafting Trey Lance or another prospect too high. 

    The New England Patriots could be in worse shape if four quarterbacks go off the board right away because their chances of landing Lance might diminish if another team makes a desperation move to land a quarterback through a trade into the top 10 or 15 picks. 

    Lance would be the biggest winner in this scenario since he would be the top quarterback on the board once Fields and Jones hear their names called. The sooner both of them get drafted the better for the North Dakota State product. 

    If Atlanta opts to choose Ryan's replacement later in the draft, or in a year or two, the teams with quarterback needs in the top 15 should feel more comfortable about the potential of landing whomever the 49ers do not take at No. 3 and Lance. 


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    Statistics obtained from