NFL draft season is in full swing, and there’s no better way to prepare than with the PFF NFL Draft Guide, which is filled to the brim with grades and stats on the draft prospects who are currently preparing for Senior Bowl week, combine workouts and remote interviews with prospective teams. There is sure to be lots of hypothetical draft board movement in the coming weeks.
This mock draft is not a prediction but an exercise in team-building, as we examine what each team should do with every first-round pick. This particular mock removed trades from the equation, and it also ignored recent news like Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s imminent departure from the team. As of now, here’s what I would do with the 32 first-round selections.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
There’s no shock here, as the Jaguars take the consensus top pick in the draft. Lawrence has all of the tools and three straight years of 90.0-plus PFF grades to back them up, so it looks like the Jaguars have hit the jackpot as they look to rebuild after over a decade of ranking among the league’s worst teams.
2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
There will be plenty of debate about the next quarterback to come off the board, but Wilson’s breakout 2020 season has moved him to No. 2 on the PFF draft board. He has excellent accuracy and velocity to go with an incredible playmaking ability that led to the best PFF passing grade we’ve seen over a season (95.5).
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): T Penei Sewell, Oregon
While there’s a case to be made that the Dolphins could go quarterback once again here, I’m leaning toward building around last year's first-rounder, Tua Tagovailoa, in this scenario. Yes, the Dolphins started three rookies along the offensive line in 2020, but there’s still room to improve, and Sewell is an outstanding all-around prospect — his 95.8 overall grade in 2019 is still the best we’ve seen from a Power 5 offensive tackle since 2014. He’ll step in at left tackle, moving last year’s first-rounder Austin Jackson to the right side and last year’s second-rounder Robert Hunt inside to guard.
4. Atlanta Falcons: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Fields will be in the discussion at No. 2, but the Falcons are a good fit for him at No. 4, as new head coach Arthur Smith can roll with Matt Ryan for at least another year before Fields becomes the team's new signal-caller. The Ohio State product has 90.0-plus PFF grades in his two years as a starter to go with the velocity and accuracy to attack all levels of the field and the athleticism to add to the designed run game. A year of sitting and learning has worked for many quarterbacks in the past, and the Falcons would have that option with Fields sitting behind Ryan.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
While Bengals fans would have loved Sewell to shore up the offensive line, Chase could end up being even better for their offense in the long term. He reunites with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow and gives the Bengals a solid route-runner who simply knows how to win at the catch point at each level of the field. Burrow does need better protection, but receivers who get open quickly also protect the quarterback, and Chase produced a 91.1 PFF grade in 2019 while averaging 21.2 yards per reception.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Farley is the best combination of size, athleticism and production at cornerback in this draft class, and he adds to an Eagles secondary that has struggled ever since the 2017 Super Bowl run. Farley posted a 90.5 coverage grade while allowing a passer rating of just 26.8 in 2019, and lining him up opposite Darius Slay gives the Eagles an outstanding foundation on the back end.
7. Detroit Lions: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
With the news that QB Matthew Stafford will not be returning to Detroit and new head coach Dan Campbell recently signed a six-year contract, the Lions are in full rebuild mode. Lance is the best option for that scenario; he’s as talented as it gets, but time is likely needed given that he has just one full year of experience at the FCS level. Lance graded at 90.7 as a redshirt freshman in 2019 before a mediocre “showcase” game in 2020. He has a cannon and rushing ability to tap into, while the Lions have the time to allow Lance to reach his potential.
8. Carolina Panthers: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
After spending every draft pick on the defensive side of the ball last season, the Panthers add an offensive playmaker in Pitts, who produced the highest tight end grade in the country at 96.2 last season. His body control and ball skills are a perfect addition to a Panthers offense that already features Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore at wide receiver, and that pass-catching trio has the potential to become one of the league’s best.
9. Denver Broncos: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
Parsons is the best all-around linebacker in the draft, and he would add a three-down presence to the middle of the Denver defense. The Penn State star produced a 94.8 run-defense grade in 2019, second-best of the PFF College era, and he’s also one of the best blitzers to come out in recent years. Linebacker may not be the biggest need on the Denver defense, but Parsons can impact the game as a run defender, pass-rusher and in coverage, making him too good to pass up here.
10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain, Alabama
The Dallas secondary needs talent everywhere, and Surtain is a good fit because he has the size and technique to start immediately. Surtain had three productive years at Alabama, peaking last year with an 89.9 overall grade, and he is rarely out of position in both press and off-coverage.
11. New York Giants: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Waddle is the first Alabama wide receiver off the board in part due to the deep speed that showed up in his averaging 18.9 yards per reception over his three-year career. Waddle was actually the highest-graded Alabama receiver on their loaded 2018 team. He adds a vertical weapon for QB Daniel Jones, who was quietly one of the best downfield passers in the league a year ago.
12. San Francisco 49ers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
With three of their top four cornerbacks set to hit free agency, this is a crucial offseason for the 49ers’ secondary. Horn comes off the board a bit higher than we’d like here, but he has good size and is a ball magnet who ranked in the 95th percentile in forced incompletion rate over the last two years. Horn allowed a few big plays along the way, but he has the size and footwork to develop into a top-notch corner.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The Chargers’ annual quest for offensive line help brings them to Slater, the No. 2 offensive tackle on the PFF draft board. Even at a listed 6-foot-3, Slater has the ability to stick at tackle due to his incredible footwork that led to just five surrendered pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps in 2019.
14. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
It’s not a banner year for high-end edge rush talent, but Paye is the best of the bunch and could develop into a star. He has incredible athleticism that he just tapped into last season, earning an 87.1 pass-rush grade on only 138 rushes. Adding Paye to the mix is a good start in revamping Minnesota's defensive line.
15. New England Patriots: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
While quarterback is an offseason priority in New England, adding playmakers is right there at the top of the list. Smith is coming off perhaps the best college wide receiver season of all time; he’s an outstanding route-runner with after-the-catch and ball skills to win with any style. The Patriots may be in a tough spot to find their quarterback in the middle of the first, but adding Smith and his 94.9 PFF grade will make the future New England signal-caller quite happy.
16. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Oweh is another excellent athlete who has started to round out his game. He improved significantly against the run in 2020, and he’s posted back-to-back years of 80.0-plus pass-rush grades. With his get-off and length, Oweh is just scratching the surface, and like Paye, he may be even better in the NFL than he was in college.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: DI Christian Barmore, Alabama
It’s not a deep class of interior defensive linemen, but Barmore is one of the best interior pass-rushers to come out of college in a few years. He has the first step to keep guards and centers off-balance, and he gets to the top of the pocket with edge-like athleticism. Barmore has played just 747 career snaps, but his two-year pass-rush grade ranks in the 99th percentile compared to recent NFL prospects, which fills a huge need in Las Vegas.
18. Miami Dolphins: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Owusu-Koramoah is one of the more intriguing names in the first round, as he’s a safety/linebacker for the modern NFL. The Dolphins made great strides in their back seven last season, and adding JOK to the mix adds yet another versatile piece who flies around the field against the run, rushes the passer and has both man and zone coverage skills. Expect head coach Brian Flores to get the most out of the skill set that helped Owusu-Koramoah post strong grades across the board over the last two years.
19. Washington Football Team: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
This is another team that has to figure out the quarterback situation, but for this exercise, we’ll assume they are going to attack that need in free agency or via trade. Darrisaw steps right in as Washington’s starting left tackle after posting a 95.6 overall grade in 2020, best among all Power 5 tackles. Darrisaw is a monster in the run game, but he’s also solid in pass protection, where he allowed just six pressures on 293 pass-blocking snaps last season.
20. Chicago Bears: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
The Bears appear primed to make a power move at the quarterback position, and their next move will be adding more playmakers into the mix, especially with star wide receiver Allen Robinson II hitting free agency. Bateman has shown the ability to win at the catch point or after the catch, where he’s forced 36 missed tackles on his 147 catches in two-plus years. He’s a good fit for the current wide receiver mix in Chicago.
21. Indianapolis Colts: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Yet another QB-needy team in the middle of the first round, the Colts must make both short- and long-term plans at the position in the wake of Philip Rivers‘ recent retirement. Jones emerged with one of the best college seasons of all time in 2020, as he threw the ball on time and accurately to all levels of the field. There are still some questions about his tools when compared to his peers, especially when it comes to outside-of-structure magic, so this is a perfect spot in the first round for the Colts to see if Jones is the future in Indianapolis.
22. Tennessee Titans: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
The Titans have work to do to get their secondary back on track, and Moehrig is a step in the right direction. He works well working downhill, especially from split-safety alignments, making him a perfect complement to current free safety Kevin Byard. Moehrig recorded 21 pass breakups and seven interceptions in his three years at TCU, and that playmaking ability and versatile skill set are much-needed in Tennessee’s defensive system.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle): EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
With their second pick in the round, the Jets attack a need with a player who could develop into the top edge defender in the class. Rousseau has incredible size at a listed 6-foot-6. He opted out after notching 16 sacks in 2019, and given that he only had 46 pressures that season, there’s some uncertainty around his future production. However, Rousseau has the tools to continue his development, and he’s worth a look for a Jets team that must create pressure with its front four.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Asante Samuel Jr, Florida State
There’s a roster overhaul heading to Pittsburgh this offseason, and the cornerback position is one that may look different in 2021. Samuel is a good fit for the Steelers because he works well in off-coverage and zone schemes with his eyes on the quarterback, all leading to a forced incompletion percentage of 20.2% over the last two seasons, seventh among 157 recent NFL prospects.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
With Urban Meyer taking over in Jacksonville, adding a playmaker of Toney’s ability is a no-brainer. Toney emerged as a first-round option after a monster 2020 season that saw him expand into more of an all-around threat from the slot rather than just a change-of-pace player. He’s forced 43 missed tackles on 120 career catches, and he’ll pair with Laviska Shenault Jr. and D.J. Chark Jr. to give Trevor Lawrence the weapons he needs to succeed early in his NFL career.
26. Cleveland Browns: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
Value and need match up for the Browns for the second straight year, as Bolton is the top linebacker on the board, and Cleveland must have better play from that unit. Bolton flies around the field, and despite taking a step back in 2020, his 2019 coverage grade of 90.4 shows what he’s capable of. Bolton has broken up 11 passes over the last two years, but he must cut down on his 28 missed tackles during that same period.
27. Baltimore Ravens: WR Rondale Moore, Purdue
Look for the Ravens to add more weapons to their passing attack, and Moore is just what they need to put defensive coordinators in a bind. Moore has the speed and after-the-catch skills to win on the outside or in the slot, and his presence on the field combined with QB Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s rushing attack will add even more uncertainty for opposing defenses. Moore forced 37 missed tackles after the catch in 2018, most by a Power 5 receiver since 2014.
28. New Orleans Saints: TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
With veteran Jared Cook hitting free agency and the Saints balancing rebuild/reload mode, Freiermuth is an immediate-impact weapon who can solve short- and long-term problems. Freiermuth has good size, route-running ability and ball skills to work the middle of the field or create matchup problems on the outside and has posted three years of solid run-blocking grades. Sixty of Freiermuth’s 92 catches at Penn State went for either a first down or a touchdown, and he’ll become a crucial passing-game weapon for the next signal-caller in New Orleans.
29. Green Bay Packers: CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia
With Kevin King heading toward free agency, Campbell brings a similarly sized replacement to complement Jaire Alexander on the other side. Campbell is a fluent mover for 6-foot-2, and he ranks in the 98th percentile in coverage grade when playing zone. His size, movement skills and production fit well within Green Bay’s zone-heavy system.
30. Buffalo Bills: G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
We’ve seen Vera-Tucker grade well at both guard and tackle during his USC career, though he’s a better fit at guard in the NFL. He’s a smooth pass-protector and good second-level run-blocker, and 2020 showed that he could play tackle in a pinch because he allowed just eight pressures on 305 pass-blocking snaps on the season. Vera-Tucker helps the Bills maintain their solid offensive line.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Whether or not Shaquil Barrett leaves in free agency, the Bucs still have room to add a pass-rusher of Ojulari’s caliber. He’s a smooth athlete who knows how to use his hands as a rusher while getting dirty in the run game. Ojulari broke out with 37 pressures on just 193 rushes in 2020, good for a 91.7 pass-rush grade that ranked third in the nation.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: CB/S Elijah Molden, Washington
The Chiefs have specialized in hybrid cornerback-safety types in recent years, and Molden is that guy in this draft class. He has Tyrann Mathieu-like potential, and Mathieu hits free agency after the 2021 season. Molden has a 91.2 coverage grade when playing in the slot, one of the best marks we’ve seen since 2014. He projects as somewhere between a Mike Hilton and Mathieu-caliber player, and if that’s where he lands, he’s a top-32 value in this draft class and a perfect fit in Kansas City.