We are less than three weeks from the start of the 2021 NFL Draft (April 29 - May 1) and anticipation is mounting.
We've got two more mock drafts on tap after this one, so don't write anything in stone. If there's one thing we know for sure about the draft, it's that we don't really know anything. Well maybe that's not entirely true. We know – or at least we're pretty sure -- that the first three picks will be quarterbacks. And that means the first really intriguing moment of this draft comes at No. 4, when the Falcons are on the clock.
- Falcons NFL Mock Draft Tracker: Updated
Quick note about this mock draft: With two more to follow, we are not going to predict any trades just yet. We know there will be a few, but we'll save that for the final mock.
Needs: QB, OT, CB, TE
The Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Does anyone at this point think the Jaguars will shock the world and not take Lawrence? Of course not. According to draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., the only quarterbacks he's ever graded higher than Lawrence are John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The only Jags fans who might be sorry to see Lawrence picked here are the Minshew Maniacs.
Needs: QB, CB, WR, DE
The Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Most people had the Jets taking Wilson even before they traded Sam Darnold to Carolina. Now Gang Green makes it official and takes a quarterback in the top three for the second time in four years. A mobile QB with a big arm from BYU? If Wilson is half as good as Steve Young, the Jets will be happy.
Needs: CB, OL, QB, DT, S
The Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Has Kyle Shanahan's perceived love of Mac Jones been an elaborate smokescreen? Days after San Francisco gave up a king's ransom to move up to this spot, Shanahan and GM John Lynch went to Alabama's Pro Day to see Jones – instead of going to see Justin Fields at Ohio State's Pro Day on the same date. So now that the world thinks they're drafting Jones, Shanahan and Lynch are going to see Fields this week. Is that the smokescreen? Who knows? But Jones' meteoric rise is legit. A one-year-wonder who posted gaudy numbers for a national championship team? Sounds like Joe Burrow a year earlier.
Needs: DE, QB, CB, RB, OL
The Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Here's the deal: The Falcons absolutely must trade this pick. With two highly-touted QBs – Justin Fields and Trey Lance – still out there, along with Pitts, who just about everyone is going nuts over, Atlanta is in the catbird seat. We've got two more mocks to write before draft day, so we're not pulling the trigger on a deal just yet. The Falcons' best move is to wait as long as possible and see which teams get desperate. For now, we'll put Pitts in this spot. If push comes to shove and there is no trade to be had, Pitts is hard to pass up. Don't think of him as a tight end; think of him as a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. He could easily be the next Shannon Sharpe.
Needs: OL, WR, DE, CB, TE
The Pick: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Cincinnati's two biggest needs are both deep positions in this draft. So the Bengals can take one of the top tackles here and wait to get a receiver in Round 2, or vice versa. We're going vice versa, because the poetry of reuniting Chase with quarterback Joe Burrow is too good to pass up. In 2019, Chase was on the end of 20 of Burrow's 50 TD passes.
(from Philadelphia Eagles)
Needs: DT, RB, WR, OL
The Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
More college reunions. Tua Tagovailoa was already in the NFL last season when Smith had his record-breaking season – catching 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs on his way to winning the Heisman – but the two were together for three years at Bama. In 2019, even with 2020 first-round picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs on the roster, Smith caught 10 TDs from Tagovailoa.
Needs: DE, WR, QB
The Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Make that three Alabama players in the last five picks – and four first-round Tide receivers in the last two years. There are some scouts that think Waddle is a better pro prospect than Smith. Certainly, Smith's 2019 numbers wouldn't have been as gaudy had Waddle not injured his ankle. Along with his game-breaking ability, Waddle's toughness was on display when he played in the national championship game even though he was far from 100 percent.
Needs: OL, CB, TE, QB
The Pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
With Fields and Lance still out there, do the Panthers draft a QB despite having just traded for Sam Darnold? It's not out of the question. The fact that Carolina was able to get Darnold without giving up a first-round pick is a sign that the former Jet is no lock to be the Panthers' long-term answer at QB. While Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, he's been considered one of the top prospects in this draft for months. Having Sewell as an anchor on Carolina's line not only helps Darnold but can also help to jumpstart Christian McCaffrey after a tough 2020 season.
Needs: QB, CB, LB
The Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Maybe there are some in the Broncos front office that aren't ready to give up on Drew Lock, but if Fields really is available at this spot, it's a no-brainer. Of course, Fields probably won't be available here. It's very likely a team trades up to get him – and Denver could very well be that team.
Needs: DL, CB
The Pick: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
As much as Jerry Jones loves his skill players, the Cowboys owner/GM knows that his Dallas teams have been at their best with dominant offensive lines. Even with Dak Prescott out and a Swiss cheese defense, injuries and lack of depth on the offensive line was what really crippled Dallas last season. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will lobby hard for a cornerback (Patrick Surtain?) or pass rusher, but Jones can't help but grab Slater, who can start at either tackle or guard on Day 1.
Needs: DE, CB, OL, RB
The Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
A pass rusher is the Giants' greater need, but the draft is much deeper at that position than corner, and Surtain would be very hard to pass up at this spot. There's a decent likelihood that Surtain will be taken by NFC East rival Dallas one spot earlier – and a virtual lock that division foe Philadelphia would grab him with the next pick if he's still there. Paired with 2020 Pro Bowler James Bradberry, Surtain would give the Giants an impressive cornerback combo.
(from Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers)
Needs: OL, LB, WR, DE, QB
The Pick: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Now that the Eagles have made a commitment to Jalen Hurts at quarterback, there might be a thought about using this pick to find him a new weapon. But Philly needs an upgrade at linebacker, and Parsons is a good fit.
Needs: OL, TE, CB
The Pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Chargers have already addressed their offensive line in free agency, but you can never have enough big men up front. Especially when you've got the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year to protect.
Needs: IOL, DL
The Pick: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
There are a handful of edge rushers with a mid-first-round grade, and Paye becomes the first one off the board. The former Wolverine has great athleticism for a 6-4, 272-pounder.
Needs: QB, WR, DL
The Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
There's a good chance Lance is drafted much higher than this. There's also a good chance the Patriots trade up to get him. New England has uncharacteristically addressed several pressing needs in free agency, so perhaps they invest more in their future here. They appear committed to Cam Newton at QB for at least one more season – and that's fine, because Lance will need a little time to develop.
Needs: CB, DE, TE, RB, QB
The Pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Arizona taking a cornerback to replace departed veteran Patrick Peterson might be one of the most expected picks of this draft. The only question is which one. Farley's back issues have some teams concerned, but we see the Cardinals grabbing him.
Needs: DL, CB, WR, LB
The Pick: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Yes, the Raiders signed Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. But when you have to play Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice a year, you can never have enough pass rush.
Needs: DT, RB, WR, OL
The Pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
That's right, we've got Miami doubling down on Alabama skill-position players. With Harris and Smith both reuniting with Tagovailoa, the Dolphins would have an extremely marketable new version of The Triplets.
Needs: QB, OL, WR, CB
The Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
It's hard to think about Washington as defending NFC East champs, but they are definitely moving in the right direction. And they're doing it the old-fashioned way – building up both sides of the line. The Football Team already has one of the league's best defensive fronts. Vera-Tucker, who can play tackle or guard, is a solid piece for the offense.
Needs: QB, IOL, WR, OT
The Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn is a perfect fit in Chicago, replacing departed veteran Kyle Fuller, who signed with the Broncos.
Needs: OT, CB, WR
The Pick: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
The sudden retirement of left tackle Anthony Castonzo leaves a hole along the Colts line. And new starting QB Carson Wentz might still have PTSD after the beating he took behind a shaky Eagles offensive line last season.
Needs: DE, DT, TE, WR
The Pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Titans lost wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith to free agency, and that duo combined for 106 receptions, 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns. Which makes this a fairly obvious choice.
(from Seattle Seahawks)
Needs: QB, CB, WR, DE
The Pick: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
After getting their new franchise quarterback at the top of the draft, new head coach Robert Saleh gets a piece for his defense. At 6-7, Rousseau cuts an imposing figure coming off the edge.
Needs: OL, CB, RB, TE
The Pick: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Davis Mills has been a fast riser among draftniks, and he's being called the kind of quarterback who could be a steal for somebody in the second round. So here's the deal: If a guy is going to be a steal in Round 2, then it stands to reason a team will grab him before he slips to Round 2. It might not be Pittsburgh, but there will be a team that takes Mills on the first night of the draft. Why not Pittsburgh? The Steelers made the tough decision to keep Ben Roethlisberger in the fold for at least one more year, but it's time to start thinking about the future.
(from Los Angeles Rams)
Needs: QB, OT, CB, TE
The Pick: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Trevor Lawrence will have some decent skill players at his disposal, so now Jacksonville needs to make sure it has the big guys up front to protect him. The Jags put a franchise tag on starting left tackle Cam Robinson. Cosmi would give them a solid bookend.
Needs: DE, LB, CB, DT
The Pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
With recent reports that the Browns are looking to sign free agent Jadeveon Clowney to rush the passer opposite Myles Garrett, Cleveland can turn its attention here to the interior. With Barmore stuffing the middle and Garrett and possibly Clowney rushing the passer, the Browns defense would be formidable.
Needs: DE, WR, TE, OL
The Pick: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Ravens are a team that can afford to take the best available player, and the 6-2, 202-pound Moehrig might be just that. He's the top safety prospect in this draft, a ball-hawking safety with great athleticism and instincts.
Needs: QB, DL, TE, DB
The Pick: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Saints corner Marshon Lattimore took a step back in 2020, but he's still very capable. Paired with the speedy Newsome, New Orleans would have a dynamic duo in the secondary.
Needs: WR, OT, RB, DL
The Pick: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
The seventh Crimson Tide player off the board, Dickerson replaces Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley, who signed with the Chargers.
Needs: IOL, DE, CB, OT
The Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
After rushing for nearly 5,000 yards in a storied college career, Etienne falls into a perfect spot in Buffalo. Etienne can be the lead back for a Super Bowl contender, and he's got the pass-catching chops to help Josh Allen in the passing game as well.
Needs: OL, CB, LB
The Pick: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
There are some smaller, faster linebackers that could find their way into the back end of Round 1, but the Chiefs opt instead for a classic big 'backer. Collins is a 6-4, 259-pound bruiser.
Needs: LT, QB, IDL, DE
The Pick: Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest
It will be fascinating to see what happens if Davis Mills is still around at this pick. Will Tom Brady allow the Bucs to draft his heir apparent? For now, since Mills is not on the board, Tampa Bay looks to draft the heir apparent to Jason Pierre-Paul. In addition to having a great name for a defensive end, Basham has a non-stop motor and a nose for the quarterback.
Teams without a first-round pick:
56. Seattle Seahawks
Needs: DE, OL, CB
The Pick: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
Seattle waits until Day 2 of the draft to bring in a lineman to help protect Russell Wilson.
57. Los Angeles Rams
Needs: OT, CB, DE, IOL
The Pick: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Stellar LT Andrew Whitworth had an injury-plagued 2020 season. At 39 years old, it's hard to expect a strong bounce-back campaign. Whitworth is a warrior, but it's time to find his replacement.
67. Houston Texans
Needs: IOL, DE, CB, TE, WR
The Pick: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Good things come in small packages. The 5-9, 181-pound Moore is as explosive a playmaker as the Texans will find at this spot. And after losing DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller the past two years, Houston can use all the playmakers they can find.
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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