The 2021 NFL Draft order is finally set … well, until the next team gets desperate for a quarterback, that is.
I won’t try to predict the teams that could part ways with a first-round pick for a Deshaun Watson or a Carson Wentz (hopefully not, for their sake); what I will do is predict which teams will feel that same longing for a franchise quarterback come draft time and move up to secure one. This is also a prediction of what I think the teams will do, not what I would do as GM of all 32 teams. Let’s dig in.
If the Jaguars take up the full 10 minutes on draft night, they should be forced to forfeit future picks.
2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
Until the Jets come out and tell us otherwise, you can’t convince me this won’t be the pick. Sure, you could roll the dice with Sam Darnold, but then you’ll have to pay him immediately afterward. Four cheap years with Wilson could quickly put the Jets in Super Bowl contention.
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): T Penei Sewell, Oregon
Sewell is simply too rare for me to see any team not in need of a quarterback passing on him. I don’t care what other needs you got; every offensive line in the NFL could use Sewell. He was the highest-graded offensive tackle in the country as a true sophomore.
4. Carolina Panthers (from Atlanta): QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
The Panthers are on the upswing and won’t be in a position to pounce on next year's quarterback class. Teddy Bridgewater is a limited passer whose 66.4 passing grade isn’t getting it done in this day and age. I don’t expect them to leave their quarterback decision up to whoever falls in their lap.
The Ja'Marr Chase-Joe Burrow connection is too much to pass up with Sewell off the board. Chase is the deep threat this offense was missing in 2020 — the LSU product led the country with 24 deep receptions as a sophomore.
The idea of taking a first-round receiver in back-to-back years (and a second-round receiver the year prior) may be a tough pill to swallow, but those are sunk costs. The Eagles need a reliable No. 1 receiver, and Smith quite obviously fits that bill.
7. Denver Broncos from (Detroit): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
This isn’t giving up on Drew Lock; it’s admitting he hasn’t been good enough. Lance isn’t necessarily the guy you want to start Year 1, but he’s got the tools required to open up the Denver Broncos offense.
8. Atlanta Falcons from (Carolina): TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Falcons defense may have struggled last year, but they still shouldn't pass up a talent like Pitts. He had the highest receiving grade we’ve ever given to a tight end in college this past season and is the true middle-of-the-field threat the offense has been missing.
9. Detroit Lions (from Denver): LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
It seems fairly clear that Chris Spielman is leaving his fingerprints on the Lions' moves of late. If that continues through the draft, he’ll certainly be enamored with Parsons' throwback size and skill set at his former position. Parsons earned the second-highest run-defense grade we’ve given a linebacker as a sophomore in 2019.
The Cowboys could reunite the Alabama duo of Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain II, but it would give Dallas one of the slowest starting corner tandems in the league. Farley has the best physical tools of any corner in the class and only allowed a passer rating of 26.8 on throws into his coverage in 2019.
Surtain is about as NFL-ready as it gets at the position, and his 88.6 coverage grade in 2019 was the second-highest in the country. While there are numerous other needs on the roster, a corner across from James Bradberry is a big one, as well.
12. San Francisco 49ers: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
Dee Ford looks bound for the chopping block this offseason and Arik Armstead’s versatility can slot in a lot of places along the defensive line. The 49ers defense relies on that front four to get home, and Paye’s freak athleticism could benefit from learning across from Nick Bosa.
Whether it’s at tackle or guard, Slater can serve as an immediate upgrade for the offensive line-needy Chargers. We last saw him in 2019, and he allowed all of five pressures all season.
The Vikings need edge and interior, so this decision comes down to positional scarcity. It’s a weak defensive tackle class, and Barmore is a massive upgrade as a prospect over what you can find in the second or third round at defensive tackle. The edge class is much deeper, though, and it includes some athletic projects who will fall.
This would be a dream scenario for the wide receiver-needy Patriots. Waddle not only brings some much-needed speed to the table; he's also someone who can just flat-out get open.
With the top-three receivers and Kyle Pitts off the board, the Cardinals can go a number of different ways. Darrisaw could not only protect their franchise quarterback, but he can also take their running game to the next level given his 94.5 run-blocking grade in 2019. With Kelvin Beachum on a one-year deal and never being much a run-blocker, this could be the best long-term option.
Mike Mayock is still searching for a leader on the Raiders' floundering defense, and that’s Bolton to a T. He’s a big-hitter who’s consistently around the ball and owns the second-highest grade of any linebacker behind Micah Parsons over the past two seasons.
Owusu-Koramoah can play man coverage better than any other linebacker in this class. He was pretty much a slot corner in Notre Dame’s defense and can bring that versatility to Brian Flores’ squad.
He’s likely a guard, but after what we saw from him at left tackle this past season, I wouldn’t put it past him. Both positions are obviously needs, but guard becomes an even bigger priority if the Football Team can’t re-sign Brandon Scherff.
Radunz proved he belonged in this conversation after coming away as the highest-graded lineman of Senior Bowl week. He’s an explosive tackle who could start his career at guard if need be.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Colts have coveted length every year of the Chris Ballard era. There may not be a longer edge defender in the draft class than Rousseau. We haven’t seen him put it all together on the edge, though, and that may drop him down the draft board.
With Corey Davis likely out the door, the Titans won’t have a quality No. 2 alongside A.J. Brown. If defenses aren't forced to respect any other receiving option, it’s going to severely limit the Titans' downfield passing offense. Moore has the explosiveness to threaten downfield early in his career and is tough over the middle of the field — he went 9-of-11 in contested situations last year.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
The Jets are relatively barren at the cornerback position, and Horn has the kind of physicality that Robert Saleh will love in his defense. He had almost as many combined picks and pass breakups (seven) in 2020 as he did receptions allowed (eight).
Collins is made to play in any blitz-heavy defense, and few are willing to send the house as often as the Steelers. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linebacker can also shut down passing lanes in zone coverage, as he picked off four passes in 2020.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
The Ravens have been known for their versatile deployment of safeties in recent years, and now their former defensive line coach, Joe Cullen, is the Jaguars' defensive coordinator. Moehrig fits perfectly in that mold, with ideal size, explosiveness and playmaking at the position.
26. Cleveland Browns: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Oweh across from Myles Garrett would give the Browns one of the freakiest athletic tandems in NFL history. The zero in Oweh’s sacks column this past season obviously stands out, but he took a massive leap forward in grading, going from 74.6 in 2019 to 85.3 in 2020.
27. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Ojulari fits like a glove into the Ravens blitz-heavy defense. His speed and ability to win the edge make up for his lack of size. He’s got a very similar skill set to Yannick Ngakoue if the veteran pass-rusher walks away in free agency.
28. New Orleans Saints: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
It might be a hard rebuild for the Saints this offseason, which means they should be in the market for cornerstone pieces. There’s no more cornerstone position than quarterback, and Mac Jones’ elite underneath accuracy is tailor-made for Sean Payton’s offense.
Moore is not only a chess piece that Matt LaFleur could deploy in a varied role in his offense, but he is also a far more gifted natural receiver than he’s given credit for. He’d give the Packers offense another guy they could trust to beat press coverage.
The Bills' interior got waxed in the AFC championship game against the Chiefs, and right tackle Daryl Williams was only on a one-year deal. Jenkins has the size and game to play either guard or tackle.
The Kansas City offense's uncanny ability to put points on the board gave its defense a ton of obvious pass-rushing situations, but their edge group still ranked dead last in pass-rushing grade. Basham is a true 4-3 defensive end with the versatility to kick inside.
With one of the most complete teams in the NFL and an unwavering commitment to early-down runs, Harris is far more of a banger than any other back on the Bucs' roster. He is ultra-reliable as a receiver, as well.
Courtesy of PFF’s 2021 NFL Draft Guide, find PFF's top draft prospect, biggest riser and wild card to watch at each position here: