I finished it!
Every year, I spend too much time worrying about something that, inevitably, will come undone an hour or two into the actual draft. But doing a mock, for me, is a great exercise to go through. And to steal my old coworker Daniel Jeremiah’s phraseology: I do this with my ears, not my eyes. I’m not scouting these guys. But over the last few weeks I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been doing that work for the last year, and as the draft’s drawn closer, with their help, I’ve worked on connecting players with teams.
One caveat, before we get started: I’m not projecting trades here. I considered doing it (my mock draft back in March had trades), but figured I’d leave the order as is this time around. Obviously, there will be trades, so here are a couple of things to look out for …
• The Lions, as I see it, are the most motivated team in the top 10 to move. And it wouldn’t shock me if the Broncos wound up being their trade partner. Denver could leapfrog the Panthers to get a quarterback if the one it likes slides into that range (which I think is possible).
• If both Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase are gone, my radar would go up for the Dolphins to bail out of the sixth pick. If it’s true that they like the Alabama receivers (and that’s out there), then they could afford to slide back at least a few slots. But maybe not too far—I’d watch out for the Eagles and Cardinals if your target were Jaylen Waddle.
• Carolina is another team that I believe is very intrigued with the idea of moving down.
• I’ve mentioned in a few places that Philadelphia could move up for a corner if things fall a certain way. The other object of some teams’ affection is Penei Sewell. If he slides a little, it’s possible someone just outside the top 10 could get aggressive.
And with that, here’s my final mock for 2021.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson isn’t as much a consensus No. 2 as Lawrence is a consensus No. 1. But the questions on him seem manageable (level of competition, size). I’ve had people draw Aaron Rodgers comparisons (Patrick Mahomes, not as much), which is plenty to make him a worthy No. 2 pick for Jets GM Joe Douglas.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I’m not going to be floored if Trey Lance is the pick here. That said, Jones’s ability to play fast and play on schedule matches up with what Kyle Shanahan wants in his QBs. Just two things give me pause on putting Jones here. One, having an athlete like Lance (or Justin Fields) would open things up in Shanahan’s scheme. And two, you’ll be happy with Jones in Year 1 or Year 2. In Year 5? I’m not as sure. But for now, Jones makes sense.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
I’ve said this before: The way NFL folks talk about Pitts this year reminds me of how they talked about Quenton Nelson in 2018. And just like people had trouble reckoning with taking a guard that high that year, some might question taking a tight end this high this year. I don’t think the old tight ends coach Arthur Smith is one of them.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
We laid this scenario out for you in the MMQB column: The Bengals take a swing on one of the best receiver prospects of the last decade at No. 5, one who happens to have a preexisting relationship with their quarterback, and take advantage of the offensive line depth in the 2021 class to get Joe Burrow some bodyguards on Day 2.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Eagles): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I had a really, really hard time with this one—and went back and forth between Penei Sewell and the Alabama receivers here. Ultimately, I’m going with Waddle for two reasons. One, I don’t think there’s a shot he’ll make it to 18 (although DeVonta Smith might get there), with perception within the league holding that Philly and Arizona love him. Two, the Dolphins took Austin Jackson in the first round last year. And again, if it’s Sewell here, that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. In fact, I think it’s possible Miami could wind up with Sewell and Smith, which would be a huge win.
7. Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
I’ve been steadfast that I think this is going to be a lineman (either Sewell or Rashawn Slater) or Penn State LB Micah Parsons (we’ve noted the Chris Spielmen influence works into that one). No need to veer. One former coworker of Dan Campbell’s said, “He’s gonna want a glass-eater” with his first pick as head coach. And no one who knows Campbell that I’ve talked to believes this will be a receiver, despite the need there. Also of note: The Lions sent OC Anthony Lynn all the way to Oregon for Sewell’s pro day.
8. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Owner David Tepper has told people he wants to throw resources at the quarterback spot until he gets it right. If Fields is here, the Panthers can throw him into a competition with Sam Darnold and let the chips fall where they may, with two high-end talents under the age of 24 duking it out. Or they could auction off the pick—an idea that I believe Matt Rhule is intrigued with and, as a Seahawks alum, new GM Scott Fitterer has a lot of experience with.
9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Denver will need to have a plan for Lance, but I’ve had a bunch of scouts rubber-stamp the Josh Allen comp for me—with Lance being a raw, uber-talented passer with the intangibles to develop potential into production. Thing is, Allen had an ideal environment to grow within, so if they take Lance, it’ll be on Broncos coach Vic Fangio (who I’ve heard likes Parsons, if this pick isn’t a quarterback) and new GM George Paton to create one, like Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have for Allen in Buffalo.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys have been all over the corners, and continually connected to Surtain. The Tide star and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn are close enough to where I think this could be either/or, but Surtain’s safer and a really good scheme fit for new defensive coordinator and ex–Nick Saban assistant Dan Quinn.
11. New York Giants: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
In one since-deleted version of this mock, I had the Dolphins taking Sewell, the Cardinals trading up into this spot to get Waddle and the Giants landing Paye at 16. And I could see the Giants taking the uber-talented Jaelan Phillips or Horn here (I think they’ll address the offensive line later in the draft). But I’m going with Paye, because Joe Judge has strong connections to the staff Paye played for, and he’s a little safer and a strong fit for the program the Giants’ coach is building.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins via 49ers): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Eagles have sniffed around on moving up, in front of Dallas, for a corner—so I think this would be a really nice scenario for GM Howie Roseman, and a gift to new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, whose roots in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive scheme could come back to life with a top bookend for Darius Slay.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Merry Christmas, Tom Telesco. If Slater slips this far, my guess would be that it wouldn’t take the Chargers GM and new coach Brandon Staley too long to pull the trigger on a high-end, high-character bodyguard for Justin Herbert.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
In this scenario, I think the Vikings’ decision would be between Phillips and Vera-Tucker. I’m going with the latter for this reason: Minnesota took a risk last year on Jeff Gladney and is now paying the price for it. And Vera-Tucker, as it stands, is a safer proposition for the Vikings.
15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
As we noted in the Monday morning column, the Patriots have sniffed around on a trade up into the top 10, presumably for a quarterback—and I can say that if Fields is sitting there at No. 8, there are strong ties between New England and Carolina, and some groundwork has been done on what a deal might look like. But I’ll stick with the Patriots taking advantage of defensive players sliding a little here. I’ve heard New England connected to Horn, too. I don’t think he’ll make it here. So Parsons it is.
16. Arizona Cardinals: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I think the Cards will explore a move up for Waddle and might be tempted to reach for Najee Harris here. Which is what leads us to this play—stopping a small slide from the Heisman Trophy winner. A.J. Green doesn’t have much left, and Christian Kirk is going to be a free agent, so Smith makes sense as a long-term complement to DeAndre Hopkins.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Davis can play the Bruce Irvin role in Gus Bradley’s defense, so I’ll stick with him in this spot. One thing I would add: Two personnel people mentioned to me on Monday that Vegas has done a lot of work on Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley. I don’t know where the Raiders are at on him medically. But maybe this is the path to Farley, an opt-out who now has two back surgeries on his ledger, staying in the top 20 picks.
18. Miami Dolphins: Jaelen Phillips, DE, Miami
This could be Harris. But my guess is it’s more likely to be a piece for Brian Flores’s defense. Parsons would be a really, really good schematic fit if he fell, and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins is ideal stylistically as well. I’m going with Phillips here, though, who had the tape of a top-10 prospect, a freakish pro day workout and is a worthwhile risk at this point of the draft for a team rich with picks.
19. Washington Football Team: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Washington’s another team that I believe has been intrigued with Davis—and I think whether Davis is still available here, the debate between filling the linebacker need and taking Darrisaw would be an interesting one. The semilocal prospect (Darrisaw’s from the Richmond area) could fill a crying need for a true left tackle in Washington.
20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Jenkins’s personality is a little different, and that’s caused some trepidation for teams. But if the Bears are going to have a shot with Andy Dalton at quarterback, they’ll need to get him help up front. So while I think Florida’s Kadarius Toney would tempt GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, the Bears will do the responsible thing here.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
The tackle supply is low, so here Indy grabs a versatile rusher for its defense, who may be the most ready-to-contribute of the crew of edge defenders. And in this scenario, I’d have my radar up for a trade up on Friday to get a left tackle. Texas’s Sam Cosmi was pointed out to me by one GM on Monday night as a potential fit, given that he has the sort of explosive testing numbers that Colts GM Chris Ballard likes, so he could be a Round 2 target for the team.
22. Tennessee Titans: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Titans have a done a lot of work on the corners, so a slight reach for someone like Northwestern’s Greg Newsome wouldn’t shock me. But my sense is, with a lot of needs (edge rusher, tackle and receiver are three more), GM Jon Robinson is going to take a wide-open approach to this year’s draft, and Moehrig’s versatility and smarts make him a good fit for Mike Vrabel’s defense as the Titans work to rebuild their secondary.
23. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
I’ve heard that Robert Saleh would love to add another edge rusher to the mix here. But the way I have things falling, I’d guess Owusu-Koramoah would intrigue the Jets as the sort of safety/linebacker hybrid that could either play a Kam Chancellor or Kwon Alexander sort of role in Saleh’s defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
I almost feel like this has been said so much that we’re all speaking it into existence—but Harris would fill a need for the Steelers, and word is that Mike Tomlin really like Harris as a player. It’d also help take some heat off Ben Roethlisberger. (Just as an aside, I was really tempted to put Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey here.)
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
I mocked Oweh here back in March, and I’ll stick to my guns. Urban Meyer recruited him out of high school; Oweh has the measurables Meyer covets and GM Trent Baalke loves to add at this position.
26. Cleveland Browns: Greg Rousseau, DE, Miami
Rousseau hasn’t had a great spring and opted out of the 2020 season. But there’s talent to work with here, and his 2019 production was there—and the Browns’ signing of Jadeveon Clowney would give Joe Woods and Cleveland’s defensive staff some time to harvest that talent and grow, perhaps, a long-term bookend for Myles Garrett.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Toney’s one of those it-depends-on-who-you-talk-to players—but the Ravens do need some receiver help. And Toney’s ability to play all over the formation, and make plays with the ball in his hands, makes him a good fit for a team with so much creativity baked into its scheme. (Toney’s medicals aren’t perfect—there’s a bit of a knee issue there—so I think Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman could be in play here too.)
28. New Orleans Saints: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley’s slide will stop here, with the Saints taking a big swing at getting a high-ceiling corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore. The back surgeries are a serious concern. And again, maybe a team like Vegas will take a shot on him. But I think the late first/early second range is probably right, given the risk involved.
29. Green Bay Packers: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
There’s a lot of disagreement league-wide on who the fourth receiver will be (after Chase and the two Bama receivers). But I have been able to find a pretty good level of agreement that Moore’s a really clean prospect with a good amount of upside, to the point where I’d guess (and this is just a guess) NFL consensus would have Moore as the top guy in the second tier at the position. I love this NFL comp I got on him for the Packers, too: Randall Cobb.
30. Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
I got the Alvin Kamara comp on Etienne from a couple of teams. I vetted it out: Is that a little much? And everyone I’ve talked to has said no, it’s an appropriate parallel to draw. That’s why I love the fit with Buffalo. With the amount of space the Bills receiver group—and Josh Allen’s ability to push the ball downfield—should create underneath, Etienne could really wreak havoc.
31. Baltimore Ravens (via Chiefs): Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
There are a lot of off-field questions with Barmore. And it’s not like Sewell or Parsons, where it’s a young guy who needs to mature a little; or like Phillips, where you’ve got a really good-hearted kid with some demons. There’s been more digging for teams to do here. If the Ravens pass on him twice, given the franchise’s connections in Tuscaloosa, the league will pay attention. If they take him? There’s a good shot, in that environment, he could wind up being a very real steal.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
The Bucs are going to have some of their young corners coming up for contracts, and with all 22 starters coming back, the champs have flexibility to get ahead of that problem. Newsome strikes me as similar to the guys they drafted last year (Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr.)—very grown up and ready to contribute on a big stage.
More NFL Draft Coverage:
* Rosenberg: The Unrivaled Arrival of Trevor Lawrence
* Vrentas: MMQB Mock Draft 3.0; 49ers Pick Justin Fields
* Prewitt: What Happens to the Prospects Who Opted Out?
* Orr: Eric Stokes Is a Potential Steal Hiding in Plain Sight