The day has finally come: The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and I am hyped.
Without further ado, it’s time to unveil my second and final 2021 NFL Mock Draft. This is my prediction of what all 32 NFL teams will do, not necessarily what I would do in their positions.
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — QB TREVOR LAWRENCE, CLEMSON
At -10000 odds you can wager $100 to win $1 on Trevor Lawrence to be the first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. With that dollar, you can treat yourself to most of the delectable food items at your local Taco Bell. Live más amigos, and brace yourself for the Lawrence/Urban Meyer connection to take the NFL — and fantasy football leagues — by storm.
2. NEW YORK JETS — QB ZACH WILSON, BYU
Although I can’t support Zach Wilson’s burrito bowl of choice (I’m big on greens), I do fully support his fit with the New York Jets and offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur. Gang Green’s new OC stems from Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone coaching tree, making the Wilson-to-New York pairing one we should be excited to watch unfold.
Adding Corey Davis to the receiving corps as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver was wise — he should fit Wilson’s style of play. The BYU gunslinger relied heavily on mesh concepts last season, and Davis finished last year as PFF’s highest-graded receiver (92.8) on drag routes.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (VIA MIAMI DOLPHINS) — QB MAC JONES, ALABAMA
Kyle Shanahan’s latest press conference made it pretty clear that Mac Jones will be the team's selection with the No. 3 overall pick. His insistence that the 49ers won't be influenced by social media and draft experts — who generally lean toward Justin Fields and Trey Lance — says it all.
Jones’ decision-making within the pocket and hyper accuracy (No. 1 in the FBS in on-target throw rate last season) will provide Shanahan with the QB he needs to operate the offense at a high level.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS — QB TREY LANCE, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
In my original mock draft, I had the Washington Football Team trading up with the Atlanta Falcons to acquire Trey Lance. But that won’t be the case with the Falcons unable to find a trade package worthy of the fourth overall pick. Instead, they select their QB of the future.
The Julio Jones trade rumors and overall cap situation foreshadow a rebuild in the near future; what better way to get the cap under control than with the flexibility of a rookie quarterback contract?
Trading away Jones doesn’t bode well for Ryan’s future, either; the veteran QB struggled without him on the field last season. In games without a healthy Jones, Ryan posted a 67.2 PFF passing grade, 11 TDs, 8 INTs, an 82.9 passer rating and 6.6 yards per attempt. With Jones, Ryan posted a 90.9 PFF passing grade, 15 TDs, 3 INTs, a 106.4 passer rating and 8.3 yards per attempt.
If Ryan is their “guy” for the next two years, wouldn’t they try to figure out a way to keep Jones around?
Earlier in April, general manager Terry Fontenot was reportedly focused on taking a quarterback, with Lance the target. That notion aligned with evidence I found based on Fontenot’s history as an NFL executive. Simply put: If the 49ers do not draft Lance, I bet Atlanta pulls the trigger.
Kyle Pitts also makes a ton of sense in this spot if the Falcons decide to not go QB.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS — WR JA’MARR CHASE, LSU
Since the start of the 2019 season, Ja’Marr Chase leads the draft class with a near-perfect PFF receiving grade (99.0) on targets of 20-plus yards. His presence in the Bengals’ offense will be felt immediately as he replaces A.J. Green, who caught only one of his 17 targets of 20-plus yards from Joe Burrow last season.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA PHILADELPHIA EAGLES) — TE KYLE PITTS, FLORIDA
Kyle Pitts is a perfect fit for the Miami Dolphins, and I believe that’s the reason why they traded back up to No. 6. In college, Tua Tagovailoa utilized tight end Irv Smith Jr. as a safety blanket. ISJ generated a 157.7 quarterback rating when targeted — a mark that is No. 1 among college tight ends since 2018. Pitts ranks second (146.2).
7. DETROIT LIONS — OT PENEI SEWELL, OREGON
New head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes can’t afford to miss on their first pick as members of the organization. Penei Sewell is this year's high-floor, can’t-miss tackle prospect, and teams like the Lions can't get enough guys like him. At just 19 years old, Sewell had the highest-graded season we've ever seen from a Power Five offensive tackle.
Holmes was part of the Rams organization when they elected to draft Auburn OT Greg Robinson with the second overall pick in 2014, and his measurables/workout metrics bear a striking resemblance to Sewell's.
|Penei Sewell||Greg Robinson|
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS — OT RASHAWN SLATER, NORTHWESTERN
There’s no way we see the Panthers invest their entire draft into defense like in 2020. New Panthers GM Scott Fitterer saw firsthand in Seattle how impactful poor OL play can be; Russell Wilson has been the most-sacked QB since entering the NFL nine seasons ago.
The group of offensive linemen that played left tackle for Carolina earned the league’s fourth-worst cumulative PFF pass-blocking grade (58.8). Rashawn Slater can immediately step in and provide a boost the Panthers desperately need up front. In 2019, Slater allowed just five pressures as the Wildcats’ left tackle.
9. ARIZONA CARDINALS (VIA DENVER BRONCOS) — WR JAYLEN WADDLE, ALABAMA
TRADE ALERT! Arizona desperately needs playmakers behind DeAndre Hopkins to raise Kyler Murray’s ceiling, and Jaylen Waddle does exactly that. He can take over the slot role vacated by Larry Fitzgerald and provide the electricity this offense needs to take the next step. He's the best slot receiver in the class and stands out for his dynamism, twitchiness and explosiveness.
Jaylen Waddle when lined up in the slot since 2018:
93.1 PFF grade (first)
20.4 yards per reception (first)
11.0 yards after the catch per reception (first)
4.19 yards per route run (first)
150.6 rating generated when targeted (first) https://t.co/BSWyCAv42l
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) April 9, 2021
Cardinals GM Steve Keim has a strong track record of aggressive draft behavior, in addition to heavily targeting the wide receiver position.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS — CB PATRICK SURTAIN II, ALABAMA
Patrick Surtain allowed only two catches of 20-plus yards in 2020. Over the past two seasons, he didn't allow more than 65 yards in a single game despite facing some of the best offenses in the SEC.
He will provide the Cowboys secondary with the dramatic boost it desperately needs. Last season, Dallas allowed the third-highest passer rating (112.8) to opposing QBs.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS — CB JAYCEE HORN, SOUTH CAROLINA
Jaycee Horn isn’t the prototypical “hog-mollie” we tend to see David Gettleman fall for. But Horn brings tenacity and physicality that matches a player twice his size — he simply beats down opposing wideouts. In 2020, Horn allowed just eight receptions on 239 coverage snaps (3%).
Big Blue added CB Adoree' Jackson to start opposite lockdown corner James Bradberry, but Jackson has missed 18 games the past two seasons due to injuries. Horn ensures they won’t be hung out to dry at the perimeter.
Giants head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham both draw roots back to Bill Belichick, who always put a premium on pass coverage over pass rush.
Notable performances by Jaycee Horn
1/1, 12 yards
1/1, 7 yards
2/4, 14 yards
1/3, 20 yards
1/9, 44 yards, 2 INTs
7/10, 47 yards (2 games)
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 20, 2021
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (VIA MIAMI DOLPHINS VIA SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS) — WR DEVONTA SMITH, ALABAMA
DeVonta Smith’s size concerns are sure to keep some teams from taking him in the first round, but I doubt the Eagles shy away from a player that would be the perfect fit. Howie Roseman can be riskier than other GMs; drafting an undersized receiver is par for the course for Philadelphia.
Former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson found himself trending on Twitter after Smith’s official weight was announced — he’s the only player in recent memory to have success in the NFL at a similar size.
Tom Telesco has been the Chargers’ general manager since 2013. He struck gold by drafting offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert last season, but the roster still has major holes that need to be addressed — most notably offensive line. Herbert’s league-leading passer rating while under pressure (99.4) isn’t something to bank on year over year.
Telesco has drafted six offensive linemen in the top three rounds — the most of any position. Tackle Christian Darrisaw has to be the selection here. His 95.6 PFF grade in 2020 ranked second-highest by a Power Five OT since 2014.
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — OT/OG ALIJAH VERA-TUCKER, USC
Rick Speilman has never drafted a defensive end with a first- or second-round pick, making an edge selection at No. 14 overall very uncharacteristic. USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker has experience playing both guard and tackle — he's a much more logical option for Minnesota. They’ve got major holes across the interior of their offensive line.
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — QB JUSTIN FIELDS, OHIO STATE
Everybody and their mother is predicting that the Patriots will move up and target Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Not me. New England will maintain the status quo, remain patient and let their next franchise quarterback fall into their laps at No. 15 overall.
Top quarterback prospects have fallen in recent drafts — Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Lamar Jackson — and Fields is shaping up to be that “guy” in 2021, for reasons that go well beyond my understanding.
16. DENVER BRONCOS (VIA ARIZONA CARDINALS) — OT TEVEN JENKINS, OKLAHOMA STATE
The Broncos just missed out on drafting Rashawn Slater, so they trade down with their eyes set on a different tackle prospect. Adding right tackle Teven Jenkins allows the Broncos some flexibility in how they handle veteran right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Since signing a four-year, $51-million deal back in 2019, James has played just three games due to injury and the pandemic.
He has a potential out in his contract at the end of 2021, so Denver remains proactive by drafting his successor.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS — CB CALEB FARLEY, VIRGINIA TECH
Mike Mayock has invested a ton of draft capital into the defensive secondary since becoming the Raiders’ general manager. But the investment has not led to success on the field; the Raiders have finished 29th in PFF coverage grade the past two seasons.
Las Vegas’ recent upheaval of their offensive line explains why so many see them drafting an OL in the first round, but Mayock’s affinity to draft DBs early could easily cause a massive shake-up. He can’t resist the urge to take stud cornerback Caleb Farley, even amid his injury concerns.
Getting a top-10 talent at No. 18 overall makes this an easy choice for the Miami Dolphins. Micah Parsons’ versatility as a run defender and edge rusher will allow him to effectively fill the void left by veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
The Football Team added to their offensive line with the recent acquisition of guard Ereck Flowers, but he’s no world-beater as PFF’s 32nd-ranked guard in 2020. I fully anticipate WFT to address the tackle position, but they are likely going to wait until the second round based on the remaining prospects.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah definitely won’t be available in Round 2, which makes him the perfect selection. Linebacker is easily the weakest position on the Football Team’s defense. JOK’s seamless flexibility and coverage skills will take WFT’s defense from great to elite.
The linebacker’s expertise at defending the pass will make him the ideal replacement for the departed Kevin Pierre-Louis. KPL was Washington’s highest-graded linebacker in coverage in 2020 (78.3).
20. CHICAGO BEARS — OT SAM COSMI, TEXAS
The Bears have their fair share of issues on the offensive line, but the problems stem specifically from the right side with Germain Ifedi. Ryan Pace has done a poor job of adding talent up front; since becoming the Bears’ general manager, he hasn’t selected a tackle inside the first four rounds.
It’s a glaring issue for their roster, and I think the trend ends with Samuel Cosmi out of Texas.
Cosmi can slide into the Bears’ starting lineup at right tackle. He finished last season as PFF’s third-highest-graded pass-blocker among 2021 draft-eligible tackles.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS — EDGE JAELAN PHILLIPS, MIAMI
Since becoming the Colts' GM in 2017, Chris Ballard has drafted pass-rushers with Day 2 picks in every draft except last season. With the pass rush a more prominent issue and offensive tackles being heavily targeted in the first half of Round 1, Indianapolis needs to make some noise by adding pass-rush depth. That comes in the form of Jaelan Phillips.
The Miami edge rusher fits the Colts' defensive scheme and can provide the juice needed to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. He came away from last season with PFF grades of 83.0 or higher as a run-defender and pass-rusher.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS — WR ELIJAH MOORE, OLE MISS
Jon Robinson has been the Titans’ GM since 2016, and one of the positions he has invested the most draft capital in has been at wide receiver. Among picks in the top three rounds, receivers slightly edge out all other positions.
With WR such a glaring need for Tennessee heading into 2021, reuniting former Ole Miss teammates Elijah Moore and A.J. Brown in Nashville is too enticing to pass up. Since 2019, Moore is PFF’s second-highest-graded slot receiver (90.0).
#MockDraftMonday – Nobody asked for this but here's my first round mock draft. Also wanted to highlight some of the great work and draft coverage from my colleagues @PFF.
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HERE WE GO
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) April 26, 2021
23. NEW YORK JETS — CB GREG NEWSOME II, NORTHWESTERN
The Jets will most likely address either CB or OL with their second first-round pick (23 overall). I have an inkling they favor players with elite athletic testing numbers. Last year’s top two draft picks — tackle Mekhi Becton and wide receiver Denzel Mims — posted extremely impressive results at the NFL Combine. Cornerback Greg Newsome II dazzled at his pro day with a 91st percentile vertical jump (40) and 91st percentile 40-yard dash (91st).
Newsome fits perfectly with Robert Saleh’s zone-heavy defenses, considering he spent the majority of his time at Northwestern (76%) playing zone. Newsome allowed just 0.44 yards per coverage snap in 2020 — lowest in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Ben Roethlisberger ranked dead last in play-action dropback percentage last season (9.6%). Play-action has proven to improve a QB’s efficiency; this is a sign that Pittsburgh isn’t embracing a numbers-driven analysis as much as other teams.
That’s why selecting running back Najee Harris with the No. 24 overall pick won't be a surprise. Maybe the Steelers believe they can sell the run more often with a capable RB.
At worst, Harris provides the team with a three-down workhorse who never has to come off the field. His frame (6-foot-1, 232 pounds) is nearly identical to ex-Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) when Pittsburgh drafted him in 2013.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — S TREVON MOEHRIG, TCU
The TCU product is the best safety in the class — his 92.8 career coverage grade is No. 1 among 2021 safeties. His ability to cover deep zones and match up with receivers in the slot will make him a featured piece of the Jags’ secondary.
New general manager Trent Baalke has a strong track record of targeting defensive backs with premium draft picks during his time with the San Francisco 49ers. The three highest DBs he took — Eric Reid (18th overall), Jimmie Ward (30th), Jaquiski Tartt (46th) — all play safety.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS — LB ZAVEN COLLINS, TULSA
Clevelands’ main weakness on defense is at linebacker, which makes drafting Zaven Collins an easy choice. The 260-pound athletic LB from Tulsa can be an immediate three-down starter because of his coverage ability and quick processing.
Last season he finished first in the 2021 draft class in tackles for loss per game (1.6) and yards allowed per target (3.4) at the linebacker position.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS — WR RASHOD BATEMAN, MINNESOTA
The “Get Lamar Jackson a WR1” movement comes to an end, as the Baltimore Ravens select future alpha WR Rashod Bateman. Bateman’s 35% career dominator rating ranks No. 1 in the class among receivers from the FBS. The former Golden Gopher led the nation in yards per route run (3.6) and was PFF’s eighth-highest-graded receiver (89.2) from an out-wide alignment during his epic sophomore season.
LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was highly considered here, but recent medical red flags could push him outside the first round altogether.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — WR KADARIUS TONEY, FLORIDA
The Saints don’t currently have much of a supporting cast of receivers behind Michael Thomas, which makes New Orleans a great landing spot for a rookie WR. Kadarius Toney is a dynamic playmaker, and Sean Payton will have a field day finding creative ways to involve him. As we know, Payton is a big fan of gadget players (Taysom Hill/Deonte Harris).
Toney‘s missed tackle rate per touch (35%) since 2018 ranks No. 1 among the 2021 WR draft class (minimum 100 touches). The guy turns into a modern-day Dante Hall with the ball in his hands, which has cemented his draft stock in the first round.
The Saints have been connected to Florida quarterback Kyle Trask throughout the draft process, so you can bet they've done their due diligence on Toney.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS — CB ASANTE SAMUEL JR., FLORIDA STATE
Three of Green Bay’s five highest draft picks since 2018 have been defensive backs.
Jaire Alexander is a shut-down corner, but his ability to lock down one side of the field doesn’t matter nearly as much if the cornerback opposite him is a liability in coverage. Kevin King re-signed with the Packers to the tune of a one-year deal worth $6 million. The modest deal is a sign that GB hasn’t forgotten King’s performance in the NFC championship game when he allowed five catches on seven targets for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
Needless to say, Green Bay is far from out of the cornerback market, which is why they take Asante Samuel Jr. at No. 29 overall. Since 2018, Samuel ranks seventh in PFF grade (90.0), second in forced incompletions (30) and fifth in passer rating when targeted (81.3) among Power Five corners. Last year, he earned the best PFF coverage grade (82.8) of his career playing outside cornerback.
30. BUFFALO BILLS — EDGE KWITY PAYE, MICHIGAN
Brandon Beane has been a pretty balanced drafter over the past four seasons, with the defensive line the only position he has taken extra shots on in the early rounds. For that reason, I fully expect the Bills to take an edge rusher.
Adding Michigan's Kwity Paye would be the first step in reinforcing last season’s pass-rush. His pass-rush win rate (26%) ranked first in the Big Ten and fourth in the Power Five last season.
31. BALTIMORE RAVENS (VIA KANSAS CITY CHIEFS) — DI CHRISTIAN BARMORE, ALABAMA
The Ravens dealt with a ton of injuries to the interior of their defensive line last season, so adding depth is crucial. Plugging up the interior starts with Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, but make no mistake: This beast of a man is also going to create a ton of interior pass rush for the Ravens defense.
His 91.5 pass-rush grade in 2020 led the country among interior defensive linemen.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — CB ERIC STOKES, GEORGIA
As reigning Super Bowl champions with few roster holes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can do what every team would like and select the best player available. That makes it difficult to predict whom the Bucs will select at No. 32 overall, but a quick peek into GM Jason Licht’s past can provide us with some guidance.
In the Licht era, the Bucs have taken cornerbacks most often during Rounds 1-4. It’s not much of a need based on the team’s three starting CBs — Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean-Murphy Bunting — but teams can never have too many guys to help cover. Plus, Davis is a free agent at the end of the season.
Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes has skyrocketed up draft boards, and it won’t come as a surprise to see him drafted in Round 1. His pro day was extremely impressive — 4.34 40-yard dash (95th percentile) — and his 6-foot frame aligns with what we typically see from cornerbacks in a Todd Bowles-led defense.
Stokes allowed just 12.1 yards per game in 2020 — the second-lowest mark in the class.