2021 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Best Possible Fits for Every 1st-Round TeamApril 29, 2021
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Best Possible Fits for Every 1st-Round Team
For NFL fans, draft day feels like the holiday season. Everyone wants to see the shiny new additions to their teams, hoping each selection is a good fit.
In reality, we all know some rookies will flourish while others fizzle out.
Nevertheless, our focus on first-round picks increases the expectations of top prospects. Front-office executives and coaches are under immense pressure on Day 1 as they decide who's worthy of a top salary and an early push to make an impact.
Before teams pull back the curtains to reveal their picks, we'll go through one last dress rehearsal with a mock draft that pairs teams with the appropriate prospects based on roster need and scheme fit.
Where's the best landing spot for top players such as wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, edge-rusher Kwity Paye and quarterback Mac Jones? Let's play draft-day matchmaker.
2021 First-Round Mock
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
3. San Francisco 49ers (via MIA and HOU): QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
4. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
*7. Denver Broncos: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
8. Carolina Panthers OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
*9. Detroit Lions: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
11. New York Giants: Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA and SF): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
13. Los Angeles Chargers: OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
14. Minnesota Vikings: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
15. New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
17. Las Vegas Raiders: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
18. Miami Dolphins: Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
19. Washington Football Team: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
20. Chicago Bears: OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
21. Indianapolis Colts: OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
22. Tennessee Titans: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
23. New York Jets (via SEA): CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
26. Cleveland Browns: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
27. Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
28. New Orleans Saints: CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
29. Green Bay Packers: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
30. Buffalo Bills: Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami
31. Baltimore Ravens (via KC): Edge Zaven Collins, Tulsa
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
*Broncos projected to trade with Lions on draft day
No. 5 Cincinnati Bengals Select LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase
We'll see a reunion between former college teammates.
At No. 5, the Cincinnati Bengals will take Ja'Marr Chase, who had a prolific 2019 season with quarterback Joe Burrow at LSU. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in that term.
When we last saw the quarterback-wide receiver tandem on the field together, they celebrated a national championship. Now, Burrow and Chase can rekindle their on-field bond to provide fireworks for the Bengals offense.
Cincinnati could take Oregon's Penei Sewell in this spot, but the 2021 class has several starting-caliber offensive tackles. Chase is arguably the best prospect in the wide receiver group. His connection with Burrow should seal the deal as the club builds around the No. 1 overall pick from a year ago.
The Bengals' wide receiver unit would feature Chase and Tee Higgins on the outside with Tyler Boyd in the slot—a trio capable of putting up a lot of points through the air.
If this scenario plays out, Cincinnati likely fields a top-10 scoring offense for the 2021 season.
No. 11 New York Giants Select Michigan Edge Kwity Paye
Last season, the New York Giants finished with the ninth-ranked scoring defense thanks in large part to a stout front, Leonard Williams' 11.5 sacks and cornerback James Bradberry's Pro Bowl-caliber performance in coverage.
According to ESPN's Jordan Raanan (h/t Dan Benton of Giants Wire), Big Blue did a deep dive into this year's wide receivers and pass-rushers with a specific interest in Georgia's Azeez Ojulari and Michigan's Kwity Paye.
At 6'2", 249 pounds, Ojulari may experience some issues on early downs against the run. He's a bit undersized, so the Giants defensive line would have to keep the pass-rushing lanes clean, allowing him to wreak havoc on the edge.
At 6'2", 261 pounds, Paye has a sturdier build. Although he played in an even-man front, the Michigan product lined up in different spots across the defensive front. The Giants may prefer his stature and versatility compared to Ojulari, who's a bit lean for the position.
Aside from Williams, the Giants didn't generate a consistent pass rush. Last season, outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence tied for second on the team in sacks with four apiece. The former signed with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason.
Paye would certainly fill a void within the Giants' front seven.
No. 15 New England Patriots Select Alabama QB Mac Jones
Once the smokescreen clears, we'll find out the San Francisco 49ers didn't choose Mac Jones, which opens the door for the New England Patriots to land the ideal fit for their quarterback situation.
Jones' limited athleticism comes up as a knock against him, but he's composed in the pocket and rarely turns the ball over. Over the last two years, one as a full-time starter, the Alabama product threw for 55 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Of course, Jones had a great supporting cast this past season, throwing to the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, two probable first-round picks. With that said, his production didn't take a hit against top-notch competition. The 22-year-old signal-caller led Alabama to a national title in a perfect 13-0 campaign.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows how to win with a quarterback who has limited mobility. As a play-caller, he won three titles with Tom Brady, who's not an athletic signal-caller but wins with presnap reads, precision and accuracy. Jones checks all those boxes.
Although Jones isn't going to outrun defenders, he has the ability to evade pocket pressure while under duress.
The Patriots can sit Jones for a year behind Cam Newton or prepare the rookie to start if he looks impressive during training camp.