We've been talking about the 2021 NFL Draft for months, and it's finally here. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be officially on the clock Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, but in many ways this draft really begins with the Falcons' pick at No. 4.
Quarterbacks will go 1-2-3 at the top. Will the Falcons make it four straight QBs for the first time in draft history? Will they grab Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, the unicorn of this year's draft? Or will they find a trade partner willing to make them an offer they can't refuse?
It's time for our final first-round mock. Here we go…
Needs: QB, OT, CB, TE
Previous Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Here's a fun trick: Google "long-haired quarterback." That's right – you'll be served a picture of Trevor Lawrence. So in addition to coming into the league with the expectation that he is a generational talent, Lawrence is going to start a new craze. In our last mock, we mentioned the "Minshew Maniacs," those Jags fans that sported fake mustaches in honor of Gardner Minshew. They will now be replaced by the "Lawrence Lunatics," who are sure to be wearing long-haired wigs on gameday.
Needs: QB, CB, WR, DE
Previous Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This will be the third time in the last 12 years the Jets are taking a quarterback in the top five (Sam Darnold, third overall in 2018; Mark Sanchez, fifth overall in 2009). But if long-suffering Jets fans want to be optimistic about this pick, here's how to spin it: This will be the highest they've drafted a quarterback since Joe Namath was the No. 1 pick in 1965. There you go, Zach. No pressure.
(from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans)
Needs: CB, OL, QB, DT, S
Previous Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
It's been a wacky month since the 49ers moved to nine spots in a trade with Miami. At first, everyone was under the assumption they made the move to get Jones. Then there was uncertainty. The 49ers attended a second Justin Fields pro day and Las Vegas sportsbooks suddenly made Fields the favorite to be picked here. And in the final days leading up the draft, the pendulum has swung back in Jones' favor. The Alabama QB is indeed who the 49ers traded up for, and that's who they will get.
Needs: QB, CB, LB
TRADE: Keep one thing in mind, Falcons fans. While the Dolphins got two future first-round picks when they swapped spots with the 49ers, that won't be the case here. The 49ers moved up nine spots to get Miami's No. 3 pick. In this trade, the Broncos are only moving up five spots to No. 4. The Falcons would get more in return if they could trade that pick with a team further down – say the Patriots at No. 15. Then again, trading with Denver at least keeps Atlanta in the top 10. If Atlanta is lucky, they can trade this pick for Denver's No. 9, their first-round pick next year and a 2021 seventh-rounder this year.
The Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
It might be the right thing to move on from Drew Lock after just two seasons, but the fact that Denver must face Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice a year only ratchets up the desire to find an elite franchise quarterback.
Needs: OL, WR, DE, CB, TE
Previous Pick: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
On the one hand, it would be hard to pass here on getting 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow a big-time weapon like Kyle Pitts or Ja'Marr Chase (the latter of whom caught 20 TD passes from Burrow two years ago at LSU). On the other hand, nobody is catching anything from Burrow if the Bengals' QB isn't healthy. And remember, this is a franchise that has some history taking an OT this high. Anthony Munoz was the third overall pick in 1980, and he anchored a Bengals offense that went to the Super Bowl twice. It might not be fair to comparer Sewell to a Hall of Famer, but this would be a solid pick for Cincinnati.
(from Philadelphia Eagles)
Needs: DT, RB, WR, OL
Previous Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Pick: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Before you start with the "What about Kyle Pitts" comments, consider this: Even if Pitts is a unicorn, the bottom line is that first-round tight ends rarely pay off. And the Dolphins already have a decent tight end in Mike Gesicki – who will be that much more dangerous when opposing defenses have to start worrying about a receiver like Chase. While the former LSU star opted out of the 2020 season, it's hard to ignore his 2019 campaign, when he produced 1,780 yards and 20 TDs.
(from Detroit Lions)
Needs: QB, WR, DL
TRADE: The new front office in Detroit has made it clear they are in rebuilding mode, and they've already got a bevy of draft picks over the next few years from the Matthew Stafford trade. They can afford to give Jared Goff a shot this year – if he doesn't pan out, the Lions have enough draft capital to secure a QB of the future next year. As for the Patriots, yes, their modus operandi is usually trading down not up, but this isn't a usual year. Between all the key free-agent signings New England has made, not to mention getting back some good players who had opted out in 2020, Bill Belichick's squad is already much improved over last season even before the draft.
The Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Because of the Patriots' offseason moves, they can afford to invest here in a QB of the future who can sit a year and learn from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and incumbent QB Cam Newton. Lance has great promise as a dual-threat QB, and New England would be a perfect spot to develop before getting thrown into action.
Needs: OL, CB, TE, QB
Previous Pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Georgia
Most people think there's no way Pitts is still on the board at No. 6, but we'll see. If he is, just imagine how happy Sam Darnold will be. He spends three years with the Jets, where he has no bona fide weapons and now he finds himself in Carolina potentially with a player that has been described as the ultimate matchup nightmare. If Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is the mastermind people think he is, then he'll have a field day with Pitts.
(from Denver Broncos)
Needs: DE, QB, CB, RB, OL
The Pick: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Now that the Falcons have made the decision to pass on finding Matt Ryan's replacement in this draft, the focus is on keeping him healthy. Ryan should still have a few good years left – but it doesn't help that he's been sacked 131 times in the last three seasons. Even after gaining some extra picks in the trade with Denver, Atlanta comes away with one of the top two offensive linemen in the draft. Slater has the versatility to play guard or tackle, eventually moving into a starting tackle spot.
Needs: DL, CB
Previous Pick: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
For all the pre-draft talk about Jerry Jones being infatuated with trading up for Pitts, the Cowboys' front office realizes that what they must do is add a major piece to the defense. If the instinctive Surtain is as good as advertised, he frees up new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to be more aggressive with his blitz packages.
Needs: DE, CB, OL, RB
Previous Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Pick: Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
Some see the Giants going offense here, and it will be tempting seeing as Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are both still available. But they've already addressed the offense in free agency with the signings of WRs Kenny Golladay and John Ross and TE Kyle Rudolph. The defense showed improvement last year, but still needs to get better at pressuring the quarterback. Ojulari has been rising up draft boards and could be the top pass-rushing threat available.
(from Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers)
Needs: OL, LB, WR, DE, QB
Previous Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Now that the Eagles have expressed their faith in second-year QB Jalen Hurts, they get him a shiny new weapon – one that he's familiar with, as they were Crimson Tide teammates in 2017-18. The only reason Smith drops this far is that some are concerned about his lack of size. Philadelphia's own draft history would make them less concerned. The Eagles took 175-pound DeSean Jackson in 2008, and Jackson averaged over 1,000 yards in his six seasons with Philly.
Needs: OL, TE, CB
Previous Pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
One of the locks of the draft, as the Chargers continue to fortify the line that protects Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.
Needs: IOL, DL
Previous Pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Some boards have Paye as the No. 1 pass rusher, so this is a solid pick if he's still on the board. Then again, EDGE is a fairly deep position this year, so don't be surprised if the Vikings don't think about trading down a few spots to gain extra picks and still find a quality pass rusher.
(from New England Patriots)
Needs: DE, WR, QB
Previous Pick (at No. 7): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
There are some personnel experts who think Waddle is right up there with Chase and Smith as one of the best receivers in the draft – which makes this a great value pick after trading down eight spots. It's possible Goff never had a receiver with the Rams as dangerous as Waddle.
Needs: CB, DE, TE, RB, QB
Previous Pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
It will be interesting to see how far Caleb Farley falls due to teams being concerned about his bad back. Even if the Cards pass on Farley, they won't pass on a cornerback. Some scouts have Jaycee Horn right up there with Farley and Surtain, so he's the right player to replace departed veteran Patrick Peterson.
Needs: DL, CB, WR, LB
Previous Pick: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Raiders may address pass rush when they signed free-agent Yannick Ngakoue, but this pick adds much-needed speed and size to the linebacking corps. Parsons can be a tackling machine for the Raiders.
Needs: DT, RB, WR, OL
Previous Pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Pick: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami-Fla.
After adding a big piece for their offense with the No. 6 pick, Miami goes for a defensive disruptor. In a division with Josh Allen and potentially two new first-round QBs, the Dolphins will have to dial up the pressure.
Needs: QB, OL, WR, CB
Previous Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
The Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
There's a reason one of the names being tossed around as a possible new name for this franchise is the Washington Hogs. Lunch-pail offensive linemen are a big part of this team's history. Vera-Tucker would form a daunting guard tandem along with Brandon Scherff, who was retained this offseason via franchise tag.
Needs: QB, IOL, WR, OT
Previous Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Do the Bears dare trade up for a quarterback? Or could they take a chance here and reach for the sixth-best QB, whether that's Davis Mills or Kyle Trask, or someone else they may like? It wouldn't be shocking but makes much more sense to see them replace cornerback Kyle Fuller, who was lost in free agency. If not for Farley's back issues, he'd be drafted much higher than this. So if Chicago believes Farley can overcome those issues, he's a potential steal at No. 20.
Needs: OT, CB, WR
Previous Pick: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
The Pick: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Another of the more obvious picks in Round 1, as the Colts replace retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Needs: DE, DT, TE, WR
Previous Pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Not many glaring needs on this team, so the Titans look to account for the free-agent departure of Corey Davis. Bateman is a tremendous route-runner with big-play ability.
(from Seattle Seahawks)
Needs: QB, CB, WR, DE
Previous Pick: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Pick: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
After getting their potential franchise QB at no. 2, the Jets go defense. Newsome's speed and instincts have helped him rise steadily up the charts throughout the pre-draft process. If he has indeed risen to the ranks of Round 1, it will mark the first time Northwestern has ever had a pair of first-round picks in one draft.
Needs: OL, CB, RB, TE
Previous Pick: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
The Pick: Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma State
One of the reasons the Steelers have been perhaps the most consistently successful team in the last 50 years is because they draft wisely and don't take unnecessary risks. Could they do something here to address life after Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback? It's in the mix, but it's not Pittsburgh's style. What makes much more sense is the Steelers looking to get a viable replacement for center Maurkice Pouncey, who retired after 11 stellar seasons in Steeltown.
(from Los Angeles Rams)
Needs: QB, OT, CB, TE
Previous Pick: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Pick: Jason Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
It was tempting to have Jacksonville double-down on offense here and either take an offensive lineman to help protect No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence or get him another receiver to throw to. But the Jaguars had just 18 sacks last season, 31st in the league. If they can find a pass rusher to help the defense get off the field faster, that's good for Lawrence, too.
Needs: LB, CB, DT
Previous Pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
After signing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last week, Cleveland made up for that expense by releasing veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. In addition to saving $12 million in cap space, that move also made DT a more pressing need. Which makes the Barmore pick all the more obvious.
Needs: DE, WR, TE, OL
Previous Pick: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Pick: Samuel Cosmi, T, Texas
Question all you want whether it was a good idea to trade a Pro Bowl offensive tackle like Orlando Brown to a playoff rival in the Kansas City Chiefs. Regardless of where they sent Brown, what matters now is that the Ravens need to replace him. While Brown pushes K.C. for a big-time contract extension, Baltimore gets the hard-nosed Cosmi on a rookie deal and plugs him into right tackle.
Needs: QB, DL, TE, DB
Previous Pick: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Having Michael Thomas on the field for the entire season will make a big difference for the QB tandem of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, but it's not enough. Entering their first season of the post-Drew Brees era, the offense needs more help. Marshall is a big target whose LSU roots will make him a fan favorite in the Superdome.
Needs: WR, OT, RB, DL
Previous Pick: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
The Pick: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
If there's a center they really like here, it would make a lot of sense to bring in a replacement for departed Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley. But the defense needs help, too. The Packers really missed the versatility of linebacker Blake Martinez, who signed with the Giants last year and made an immediate impact in New York. Collins, with the ability to make plays all over the field, could fit the bill.
Needs: IOL, DE, CB, OT
Previous Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The Pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
It's a toss-up between Etienne and Harris as to which running back is the first off the board. Harris is better between the tackles, which might make him more valuable playing in the AFC East in winter. But Harris can be electric as well, and is a better pass-catcher than people think. Either of these backs would be a dynamic addition to an already dangerous offense. We prefer Harris.
(from Kansas City Chiefs)
Needs: DE, WR, TE, OL
Previous Pick: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Pick: Travis Moehrig, S, TCU
Having already had a first-round pick and being blessed with a serious playoff-contending roster, the Ravens can certainly afford to draft the best player available. If Moehrig is still on the board when the Ravens pick, then that would be him. The versatile and athletic Moehrig would be a dangerous addition to an already strong defense.
Needs: LT, QB, IDL, DE
Previous Pick: Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest
The Pick: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
With the Bucs returning all 22 starters from their Super Bowl-winning team, this is the definition of a luxury pick. But do they have the luxury of drafting a potential quarterback of the future when they know it might piss off you-know-who? Yes, they should tread lightly, but this can be done. Scouts absolutely love Mills' potential, but they recognize that he's a risk because of knee injuries and he hasn't played many games at Stanford. The Bucs can afford to take a chance on his potential, and they have no qualms about letting him sit and learn at Tom Brady's feet for two years. You know, as long as Brady understands that's the plan…
56. Seattle Seahawks
Needs: DE, OL, CB
Previous Pick: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
The Pick: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
No change here. Seattle uses its first pick to bring in a lineman to help protect Russell Wilson.
57. Los Angeles Rams
Needs: OT, CB, DE, IOL
Previous Pick: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Pick: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
No change in positional focus, but there's a chance Jenkins can slip to them here. Either way, finding the successor to Andrew Whitworth is a high priority.
67. Houston Texans
Needs: IOL, DE, CB, TE, WR
Previous Pick: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Pick: Josh Myers, C, Ohio State
This could be a tough one for Falcons fans. You may recall in our Falcons' seven-round mock, we had Atlanta taking Myers in Round 3 … with pick No. 68. It's an area of need – one of many – for the Texans. So it's not out of the question they draft a player the Falcons were targeting one pick later.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Craig Ellenport and and do not represent the opinions of the Atlanta Falcons' front office staff, coaches and executives unless it is noted otherwise. Veteran NFL writer Craig Ellenport is editor-in-chief of The33rdTeam.com.
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