NFL Draft 2021: Reviewing Latest 1st-Round Expert Mocks with 1 Week Remaining

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 22, 2021

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts (84) breaks free from a Missouri defender as he runs a pass pattern during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

A majority of NFL draft experts are in agreement that the first three selections in the 2021 NFL draft will be quarterbacks. 

Trevor Lawrence has been a lock to go first overall long before the Jacksonville Jaguars secured that position with the league's worst record in January. 

The New York Jets appear set to land Zach Wilson after they shipped Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. 

That leaves the San Francisco 49ers to select Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones at No. 3. At the moment, Fields is the favorite to head to the Bay Area. 

With the first three picks basically set in stone, the intrigue will build with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4, but if you examine recent mock drafts, the decision may be easier than you expect. 


Reviewing Latest Mock Drafts

Experts in Agreement on Kyle Pitts at No. 4

John Raoux/Associated Press

The only shake-up that could happen is if the 49ers select Jones or Lance over Fields, which would cause a trickle-down effect throughout the first 10 picks. 

Atlanta is the first team that is not expected to select a quarterback, even though a case could be made to land a signal-caller to eventually replace 35-year-old Matt Ryan

ESPN.com's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson and CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso all have Florida tight end Kyle Pitts landing with the Falcons at No. 4. 

McShay noted Pitts' athleticism and ability to line up anywhere in the offensive formation as some of the reasons why he should be Arthur Smith's first draft pick as Falcons head coach. 

"There's of course a decent chance new coach Arthur Smith gets his QB of the future with this pick, but I'm not passing on a multidimensional offensive nightmare like Pitts," McShay wrote. "He can be used all over the formation and is nearly impossible to cover." 

If the Falcons add Pitts, they would have him, Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones available for Ryan to torch opposing defenses. 

In a division where offensive weapons are abundant between Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans as well as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay, adding another standout pass-catcher is not as far-fetched of an idea as it would be in divisions with fewer superstars. 

If the Falcons want to compete in Smith's first season in charge, they may need to surround Ryan with as many options as possible and fill other needs in the latter rounds. 

Atlanta could add more protection for Ryan with Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell or bolster its defense with Alabama's Patrick Surtain II, but Pitts seems to be a good fit and an upgrade over Hayden Hurst. 


4 Quarterbacks Land in Top 7 Picks

Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

Quarterback is the position of highest demand in the NFL draft. 

In 2020, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were off the board in the first six picks. The 2018 draft had three signal-callers land in the top seven. 

You have to go back to the 2017 draft for the last time only one quarterback was chosen in the top eight picks. That player was Mitchell Trubisky, who is no longer with the Chicago Bears. 

The 2017 draft is a perfect example of how risky taking a quarterback that high can be. The Bears ended up with Trubisky and did not sign him to a second contract. Kansas City landed Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 and he has already led the Chiefs to two Super Bowl appearances. 

If Lawrence, Wilson and Fields are all chosen in the first three picks, the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and others may be forced into taking a first-round quarterback. 

That is why both AFC teams are projected to trade up into the top seven to get their potential quarterback of the future. 

Monson has Denver trading up to No. 6, a spot that has already changed hands between the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, to select Lance. Kiper has New England trading into the No. 7 slot to land Jones, and Trapasso has Denver going up to No. 7 to land Lance. 

Miami could be the most willing trade partner in the second half of the top 10. The Dolphins already swapped picks with San Francisco and Philadelphia and have "received calls" from teams further down the draft order, per NFL Network's Ian Rapaport

If the Dolphins are serious about a trade at No. 6, they have to consider the package they could receive compared to selecting a top wide receiver for Tagovailoa to work with. The southpaw's former Alabama teammates, De'Vonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and LSU's Ja'Marr Chase will likely be available at No. 6.