The San Francisco 49ers, after agreeing to a blockbuster trade-up, took a blowtorch to every 2021 NFL mock draft created beforehand. General manager John Lynch sent two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to swap their 2021 No. 12 overall pick for Miami’s No. 3 overall pick, all but ensuring that head coach Kyle Shanahan will have a new rookie quarterback on his roster this upcoming season.
The Dolphins proceeded to trade a 2022 first-round pick, a 2021 fourth-round pick and the No. 12 selection in 2021 to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 6 pick and a fifth-rounder. Miami reenters the top-end wide receiver market (Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith) with the second trade, while Philly trades six draft order spots for a future first-rounder to help build around second-year signal-caller Jalen Hurts (for now).
Let’s stoke the flames a bit. Here’s a new two-round 2021 NFL mock draft with the above trades reflected in the draft order.
Editor's Note: This is what PFF Analyst Austin Gayle would do as GM of all 32 NFL teams, not what he is predicting will happen.
View PFF's 2021 NFL Draft position rankings:
The flurry of trades this past Friday in no way impacts the Jaguars’ selection at No. 1 overall. Trevor Lawrence is the obvious choice for Urban Meyer and company — and that's been the case since the team secured the No. 1 overall selection in December.
Multiple analysts have said the Jets are locking into former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson as the No. 2 overall pick in April. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said an NFL scout texted him during BYU’s Pro Day on Friday: “Draft starts at 3. Wilson going 2.”
Fortunately for Jets fans, Wilson is the best-case scenario for the team. Betting on the elusive fourth-year breakout from Sam Darnold is not New York’s quickest path to relevance again. Wilson is PFF’s No. 2 overall player and quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft and a much better prospect than Darnold was even before his career derailed into a series of “wow” throws on Twitter and helpless optimism.
“The only way I’d go Fields over Wilson is if I had an offensive coordinator who needed a rushing threat at the quarterback position. Otherwise, Fields' issues with holding onto the ball combined with Wilson’s elite off-platform ability and arm talent ultimately gives the BYU quarterback the nod.”
PFF’s Seth Galina also praised Wilson in his article comparing the former Cougars quarterback to another significant pre-draft riser in Joe Burrow, calling out Wilson’s notable arm talent as a key separator between the two prospects. And no quarterback in college football posted a higher grade than Wilson in 2020.
The 49ers didn’t trade two future first-round picks and a future third-round pick to give Jimmy Garoppolo another wide receiver or add to the secondary. With all signs pointing to Lawrence and Wilson being the first two players off the board, general manager John Lynch knew it was his time to strike and secure his next favorite quarterback prospect. And while there’s been some speculation that the 49ers will take either North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or even former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, PFF’s pick at No. 3 overall would be Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
The concerns with Fields’ processing and his tendency to hold the ball too long in the pocket are valid, but the prospect of his development in those areas coupled with his proven athletic ability and accuracy should be too good for San Francisco to pass on. Fields is PFF’s No. 3 overall player and No. 3 quarterback prospect in the 2021 class. He’s also the only quarterback in this class with two years of 90.0-plus PFF grades (2019-20).
Bill Belichick didn’t spend north of $130 million in guaranteed money this offseason — the second-most of any NFL team in a single offseason in league history — to watch his Patriots play themselves into a worse pick in 2022 without their quarterback of the future on the roster. New England wore its checkbook thin knowing it can afford to do so with Cam Newton making backup money on a one-year deal and a rookie contract at the quarterback position pending.
Atlanta is pot-committed to Matt Ryan for two years after restructuring his contract during free agency. Per Over the Cap, the Falcons take on $65 million in dead money if Ryan is traded prior to June 1. And the team takes on $40.5 million in dead money if it trades him before June 1, 2022.
While it’s enticing to stay put at No. 4 and secure the best non-quarterback in the class, Atlanta would be foolish to not sell the pick to the highest bidder looking to come up for Lance or even Jones. Adding at least two future top-50 picks to move down 11 spots in this situation is better than any single non-quarterback selection at No. 4 overall, and that includes Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, etc.
New England will need to give up a lot of draft capital to do it, but it doesn’t have much of a choice. The Patriots likely won’t be drafting in the top 15 again in the Belichick era, especially after improving as much as they did this offseason. They’re in a very similar spot as San Francisco in that both teams have too good of coaches to ever draft in the top five but also too middling of quarterbacks to ever go the full distance.
Get aggressive, bet on Belichick and add a cost-controlled rookie contract at quarterback to balance the free agency decisions and give the team a high-ceiling prospect at the most important position in football.
While there is a chance a team is desperate enough to inquire about the Bengals’ pick at No. 5 in an attempt to secure Mac Jones, I expect there to be a calmer market for the former ‘Bama quarterback’s services. And if that is the case and the team’s phone isn’t ringing with trade-down offers, Cincinnati should sprint the card in for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Pitts and former Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell are similar in that they’re both arguably the best prospects we’ve seen at their respective positions in five-plus years. You can’t go wrong with either player at No. 5 overall, but the bigger impact in the wins column (and Joe Burrow’s development) comes with adding Pitts as a weapon for the offense than securing Sewell's services as an upgrade over either former first-round pick Jonah Williams or newly signed veteran Riley Reiff.
Pitts can immediately be the Bengals’ top receiving option and a top-five tight end in the NFL as a rookie — he’s that good.
I disagree with the value of trading a future first-round pick to move up just six spots and draft a wide receiver, but we’re playing with the cards Miami dealt. And while the content that would follow a Mac Jones selection at No. 6 for Miami would light the internet on fire, a near-lateral move at quarterback doesn’t feel close to as valuable as taking the class’ top receiver prospect in Chase.
The Dolphins need to do everything in their power to answer the pressing multi-million dollar question: Is Tua Tagovailoa the guy? Fitting him with as many weapons as possible is the fastest track to answering that.
I’d include a kneecap joke here if the bit wasn’t already played out in January. Plus, the better joke to be had is the sheer state of Detroit’s roster.
Dan Campbell’s Lions are one of Vegas’ favorites to pick No. 1 overall in 2022. With Jared Goff replacing Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay now suiting up for the New York Giants, Detroit's offense is well on its way to being a bottom-five unit in the NFL this season. Give Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell, Kedon Slovis or the field a fighting chance in 2022 and add the best non-quarterback in this class.
Carolina might have been the biggest loser of the 49ers-Dolphins trade. While the early offseason rumors were chock full of Panthers trade scenarios, Friday’s blockbuster moves blurred the team's future under center.
An in-division trade between Carolina and Atlanta is unlikely, even if the Panthers are willing to send the farm to come up to No. 4 overall. There’s still hope that one of the four best prospects makes it to Cincinnati at No. 5 overall, but the more likely scenario is the fifth-best quarterback in the class — which is Jones, in PFF’s opinion — still being on the board for Carolina at No. 8 to ultimately settle on.
Jones isn’t a clear-cut upgrade over current starter Teddy Bridgewater, but he’s not an obvious downgrade, either. Plus, he'll come significantly cheaper. The Panthers can afford to spend big in free agency once Bridgewater's contract is off the books in hopes of building a supporting cast good enough for Jones to win with in the NFL.
The Broncos' biggest need is quarterback, but if Carolina and New England target signal-callers early in the draft, it's likely five will have come off the board before Denver's selection at No. 9 overall. Vic Fangio and company would have no choice but to enter the 2021 season with Drew Lock as the starter and take the best player available in the first round.
Fangio can get the best out of Parsons at the next level and should put him in a position to make an immediate impact at off-ball linebacker.
Patrick Surtain II likely solidified his spot as the top cornerback to come off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft with his Pro Day. His 87.0 PFF grade in 2020 also led all college cornerbacks with at least 400 defensive snaps.
DeVonta Smith's reported weight (170 pounds) shouldn't keep the Giants from pulling the trigger on the Heisman Trophy winner if he falls into their laps at No. 11 overall. And while the team did just break the bank for former Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, Smith is an instant upgrade over Darius Slayton or Sterling Shepard — one who will benefit from playing a rotational role split between the outside and the slot.
Similar to Miami's situation with Tua Tagovailoa, New York needs to do everything it can to see if Daniel Jones can be “the guy” for the franchise before making the decision to either move on from him or offer an extension. Adding Smith is a step in that direction.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers) — CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Horn's combination of athleticism and physicality is rare for the cornerback position. He allowed just eight catches on 24 targets for 116 yards in the seven games he played in 2020.
A former three-star recruit, Slater earned 75.0 and 76.6 PFF grades playing right tackle for Northwestern as a true freshman and sophomore in 2017 and 2018, respectively. His PFF grade jumped to 90.0 in his first season starting at left tackle for the Wildcats in 2019. He immediately fills a need for the Chargers, regardless of whether he plays tackle or interior offensive line at the next level.
Paye is a rare athlete who won’t last deep into the first round if he tests as well as expected at the 2021 NFL scouting combine. He also produced the fourth-best PFF pass-rush win rate (26%) of any Power Five edge defender in the country in 2020.
Waddle is arguably a better receiver prospect than Henry Ruggs III was coming out of Alabama in 2020. An explosive, dynamic athlete, Waddle ranks inside the top five in yards per route run (3.64) and yards after the catch per reception (11.5) over the past two seasons. Adding him to play inside and split outside reps with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley would give Matt Ryan every reason to lead a top-flight offense in 2021.
Jaelan Phillips was regarded as the No. 1 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite coming out of Redlands East Valley High School. He racked up 218 tackles, 30.5 sacks and two interceptions in his junior and senior seasons combined en route to being tagged as a five-star recruit.
However, Phillips suffered three severe concussions early in his UCLA career that led to him retiring from football ahead of the 2019 season. He eventually returned to the game to play for Miami (Fla.) in 2020 and turned in one of the better seasons of any pass-rusher in the country. The concussion concerns will drive all of the conversation surrounding Phillips, but there's no arguing he's one of the most purely talented defensive prospects in the class.
Darrisaw was one of the bigger college football breakouts in 2020. A former three-star recruit out of Maryland, he improved his grade from 68.6 starting at left tackle in 2018 up to 95.6 playing the same position in 2020. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder earned himself some money this season, for sure.
One of several developmental edge prospects in this class, Oweh is athletic and bendy for the position but lacks high-end college production. He earned just an 81.8 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2019 and an 80.3 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2020. However, he is a project worth investing in the back end of the first round for a Dolphins team in desperate need of some juice along the edge.
Jenkins improved his PFF grade in each of his past three seasons at Oklahoma State, working all the way up to 92.0 in 2020. He is a road grader in the run game and a brick wall against bull-rush types in pass protection. Turn on his tape against Texas' Joseph Ossai, and you'll quickly understand the hype.
Ojulari is the best pure speed rusher in the 2021 class and should pick up wins along the outside edge early in his NFL career. The former Georgia standout has freaky explosiveness and the bend to turn the corner and finish at the quarterback. He earned a 91.7 pass-rushing grade that ranked second among all FBS edge defenders in 2020.
Bateman isn't a freak athlete with high-end top speed, but he's still one of the best pure separators in this class because of his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and win with efficient route-running. The former Minnesota standout led the country in yards per route from an outside alignment as a sophomore in 2019.
Losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in the same offseason should put Tennessee in a prime position to target a wide receiver at No. 22 overall, and Elijah Moore would be a huge value for Ryan Tannehill and company. Moore was one of the most productive receivers in the country for Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, finishing the 2020 season with the third-highest PFF receiving grade in the country (92.4).
Northwestern's Greg Newsome II is a perfect fit for Robert Saleh's zone-heavy defense. He has great click-and-close ability along with high-end balls skills that should translate to early production in New York.
Rousseau is far from a polished prospect, but the former Miami defender is a high-end athlete with ridiculous size and length for the position (6-foot-6, 260 pounds). He earned a 76.2 PFF grade playing up and down the line of scrimmage for the Hurricanes in 2019 and can immediately step in as a chess piece in Pittsburgh's defense while he develops his pass-rushing skill set.
The Jaguars need to continue to invest draft capital in the secondary. Sidney Jones is the only Jacksonville defender with 100-plus snaps at outside cornerback and a PFF grade above 61.0. Rookie C.J. Henderson should continue to get better with experience as long as he can stay healthy, but the rest of the depth chart is a bit of a mess.
Moehrig (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) is the best free safety prospect in the 2021 class and should be coveted for his physical tools and ball production come April's draft.
Barmore's consistency at Alabama is one reason to be concerned about him as a high-end prospect, but his performances in the Crimson Tide's bouts with Notre Dame and Ohio State in the College Football Playoff are some of the best we've seen from any defensive tackle in this class.
Buying into the high end and continuing to develop Barmore (RS So.) at the next level is a worthwhile investment for the Browns at No. 26, especially knowing the lack of depth in the 2021 defensive tackle class.
Terrace Marshall Jr. is a big-bodied wide receiver who can play in the slot or on the outside at the next level. He can immediately be what the Ravens hoped Miles Boykin would develop into over the past two seasons.
Currently PFF’s top-ranked cornerback and No. 14 overall player in the 2021 class, Farley is a fluid athlete with all the tools necessary to dominate at outside cornerback in the NFL. Before opting out of the 2020 season and declaring for the draft, the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder earned a 90.5 PFF coverage grade that ranked third among Power Five cornerbacks in 2019.
While Farley could very well be the best cornerback to come out of the 2021 class, concerns with his back injury and his sheer lack of experience at outside cornerback could lead to him being available for the Saints at No. 28.
An elite athlete with some of the best pure explosiveness in the class, Owusu-Koramoah can quickly become one of the league's best coverage linebackers if he continues to develop at the position. He excelled in coverage while playing the bulk of his snaps split between the box and slot cornerback positions.
Radunz is a big riser up draft boards coming off his stellar performance at the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl. He also earned 79.1 and 87.2 pass-blocking grades in his 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively. The Bills already have starters at both left and right tackle in Daryl Williams and Dion Dawkins, but getting younger and cheaper at a premium position while adding depth is a good use of draft capital for a team with few holes and a soon-to-be highly paid quarterback.
One of the better athletes at his position, the 6-foot-7, 309-pound Cosmi earned 82.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grades in all three of his years at Texas. He also posted a 90.5 PFF overall grade in 2020.
Walker Little would be coveted as one of the best players in this class if he didn't miss nearly all of the 2019 season and opt out of the 2020 season. He's a former five-star recruit with ridiculous athleticism for his size. Tristan Wirfs was a home run for the Bucs a year ago, and Little could be exactly that as a developmental piece behind Donovan Smith while the veteran plays out the rest of his contract.