2021 NFL Mock Draft: Complete 1st-Round Predictions for Top Prospects and More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2021

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance prepares to play against Central Arkansas at an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

With the 2021 NFL draft mere days away, all eyes are on the San Francisco 49ers.

Trevor Lawrence was photoshopped into a Jacksonville Jaguars jersey as soon as the Jags secured the No. 1 overall pick. Likewise, Zach Wilson has become the consensus favorite for the New York Jets at No. 2.

Much like last year—when Joe Burrow and Chase Young were the first two players off the board—the intrigue begins with the third selection. And the only sure thing one can say about the 49ers is that Jimmy Garoppolo probably won't be the starting quarterback in Week 1.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Asked if he could guarantee that Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the 49ers’ roster Sunday, Kyle Shanahan said, “I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday."

Here's a quick preview for Thursday.


2021 NFL Mock Draft: First Round

  • 1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  • 2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
  • 3. San Francisco 49ers (via Texans): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  • 4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
  • 5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
  • 6. Miami Dolphins (via Eagles): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
  • 7. Detroit Lions: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  • 8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
  • 9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
  • 10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
  • 11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
  • 12. Philadelphia Eagles (via 49ers): DeVonta Smith, 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: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
  • 18. Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
  • 19. Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
  • 20. Chicago Bears: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
  • 21. Indianapolis Colts: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
  • 22. Tennessee Titans: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
  • 23. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Landon Dickerson, OL, Alabama
  • 24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
  • 25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
  • 26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
  • 27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
  • 28. New Orleans Saints: Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi
  • 29. Green Bay Packers: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
  • 30. Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
  • 31. Baltimore Ravens (via Chiefs): Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
  • 32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia


Biggest First-Round Storylines

What Will the Niners Do?

Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

To some extent, it's surprising this much uncertainty still hovers around the Niners.

They're clearly going after a quarterback after trading up to No. 3. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan know exactly who's going to be available, too, since Lawrence and Wilson appear to be locks.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on SportsCenter that Lynch and Shanahan are being so secretive that some high-level executives within the organization didn't know where things are headed:

Jeremy Fowler @JFowlerESPN

Draft notes from @SportsCenter with @JayHarrisESPN *49ers wrapping up draft meetings, QB legwork done (now up to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch) *Why Carolina could be tempted if Justin Fields there at 8 *Sneaky team to watch for Penei Sewell. https://t.co/5A3w2WzqAt

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Niners have narrowed their focus to two players, who are believed to be Mac Jones and Trey Lance.

Jones seems to be getting the most buzz following a prolific 2020 season for Alabama. He threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 77.4 percent of his passes.

Like Jones, Lance only has one full year of starting experience after the FCS moved its season to the spring. The North Dakota State star had 2,786 passing yards and 28 touchdowns while failing to throw an interception. He also ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jones' numbers are massive, but it's fair to wonder how he'll do against NFL defenses without the kind of talent he had around him at Alabama. He isn't especially mobile, either.

Lance, meanwhile, might face a big adjustment after not only having played at a lower level but also missing all of 2020.

Whatever the 49ers do, the outcome will continue to be debated by fans for weeks given the stakes.


How Far Does Justin Fields Fall (If at All)?

John Bazemore/Associated Press

The discourse around Justin Fields in the buildup to the draft has reignited the conversation on how Black quarterbacks are portrayed compared to their white counterparts.

ESPN's Dan Orlovsky drew criticism when he painted a picture of Fields as a "last-guy-in, first-guy-out-type of quarterback" based on opinions he had heard:

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

I love a good @danorlovsky7 roast sesh as much as anybody BUT.. I think folks are missing that he was answering my question about “Why the narrative has changed about Fields so much?” He very assertively said “These are not my opinions” He then went on to give a potential why https://t.co/Wud0ve4tcI

Orlovsky addressed the matter once his comments blew up and presented a more positive picture of the Ohio State star. Still, it's impossible to divorce what he originally said and the history surrounding Black quarterbacks.

Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks

These media narratives created from anonymous sources impact the perception of Black QBs. Fair or not, these labels stick & impact how fan bases view QB prospects beyond the pre-draft process. It’s all good to offer critiques but it would be nice to see non-stereotypical analysis

Get Up @GetUpESPN

.@Foxworth24 has a PSA for all draft analysts when discussing quarterbacks. "Do NOT be unaware of the history of Black QBs and them often getting pegged with this criticism ... It's important to be specific on what you're seeing." https://t.co/Zn9gHQrh6X

Fields didn't have a great junior season compared to his first year with the Buckeyes, but the Sugar Bowl was a perfect illustration of what can make him special. He went 22-of-28 for 385 yards, six touchdowns and one interception while running for 42 yards on eight carries. He also returned despite taking a brutal hit from Clemson linebacker James Skalski.

A case could be made that Fields is the second-best quarterback available behind Lawrence. He sits second overall on the B/R NFL Scouting Department's Big Board 3.0.

Assuming the 49ers opt for Jones or Lance, Fields could be in play for the Atlanta Falcons as they embark on their rebuild. If Atlanta goes in a different direction, the Denver Broncos at No. 9 would be the next team potentially in need of a new quarterback. If he slips out of the top 10, perhaps another franchise gets aggressive and moves up to take him.

Aaron Rodgers famously fell all the way to No. 24 in the 2005 draft. That couldn't possibly happen to Fields, right?