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Tabeek's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: Falcons address trenches by fortifying their offensive line in a big way

By Matthew Tabeek

Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft appears to be a forgone conclusion. The Jaguars need a quarterback and the former Clemson star is considered to be one of the best prospects to come out at that position in the last four or five years.

Any other move here would be a total shocker.

The bigger question, especially if you are Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, is what will the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins do with the second and third picks? Whatever those two clubs do, whether it's making a pick or a trade, will undoubtedly impact what the Falcons do at No. 4.


And that's what I try to do here every week with these mock drafts: pay attention to headlines, recent team moves (i.e., the Matthew Stafford trade to the Rams) and assess each team's needs as I play out different scenarios. If the new Jets regime opts to take take a quarterback at No. 2 and the Dolphins decide to add a playmaker to their offense at No. 3, for example, that could make things very interesting for the Falcons.

So, without further ado, here is mock draft 5.0 presented by the Georgia Lottery with the updated draft order (see order explanation at the bottom of the page).

QB Trevor Lawrence

Jacksonville Jaguars: The draft card should already be filled out with Trevor Lawrence's name on it and ready to go. As soon as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell kicks off the draft and announces that the Jaguars are officially on the clock, someone from Jacksonville should hand Goodell the card before he even finishes his sentence. Lawrence checks all of the boxes and this one should be a no-brainer for the Jacksonville brass. The New York Jets are on the clock.

  • Needs: QB, OT, CB
QB Zach Wilson

New York Jets: What will the Jets do with Sam Darnold? Will they continue to build around him or will they move on (possibly trade him) and take advantage of the No. 2 pick by selecting what they hope is the next franchise quarterback? I think it's the latter and they take former BYU standout Zach Wilson, who is rising up NFL draft boards. Wilson is athletic, can make all of the throws and is extremely accurate. He is also smart, decisive, has a strong arm and can run. There's a lot to like here, and that's why I can't see the Jets passing on him.

  • Needs: QB, DE, CB
WR Ja'Marr Chase

Miami Dolphins (via Houston): Let's get a couple of things straight here. First, the Dolphins aren't giving up on Tua Tagovailoa after just one season. Second, Ja'Marr Chase is the best pass catcher in this draft class. And that's saying something because there are number of very good ones with first-round grades. Miami could opt to take an offensive lineman here, but I think they'll address the line with the No. 18 pick. Chase is just too good to pass up and any team could use a playmaker with his talent and abilities, including Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. Remember, Chase put up better numbers than Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and DeVonta Smith in 2019. That's impressive.

  • Needs: WR, OL, LB
OL Penei Sewell

Atlanta Falcons: Did you watch Super Bowl LV? Did you see the difference between the one team that could control the line of scrimmage, protect its quarterback and run the football compared to the team that had trouble with all of the above? Patrick Mahomes was pressured 29 times compared to just four times for Tom Brady. Games are won and lost in the trenches. Over the last three seasons, Matt Ryan has been sacked 42, 48 and 41 times. Even more problematic is the fact that Cam Jordan and the Saints have owned the Falcons the last two years, sacking Ryan 11 times in 2020 and 10 times in 2019. The Falcons' running game has not been a consistent factor the last three seasons, either.

With Penei Sewell sitting there at No. 4, the Falcons pounce on a player many consider to be the best prospect in this class after Trevor Lawrence. The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Sewell didn't allow more than two pressures in any of his 21 games while at Oregon. What would the Falcons offensive line look like after free agency and adding the 2019 Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman)? That remains to be seen at the moment, but how could they go wrong by adding a lineman who has an ideal frame, possesses great size, athleticism, has strong hands and plays with a nasty temperament?

  • Needs: DE, CB, QB
OL Rashawn Slater

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals caught a glimpse – well, 10 games worth – of Joe Burrow and what he can do for their franchise. They also found out the hard way that they need to do a much better job of protecting their new franchise quarterback. Giving the former LSU star some weapons would help things, too. With Penei Sewell off the board, the decision to take Rashawn Slater with the No. 5 pick should be an easy one. Slater can play both guard and tackle and should be an immediate upgrade to the Bengals' offensive line.

  • Needs: OL, DE, CB
WR DeVonta Smith

Philadelphia Eagles: The rumors and reports about the Eagles possibly trading quarterback Carson Wentz have been heating up over the last week or so. With all of the changes going on in Philadelphia, I wouldn't rule anything out at this point. For now, Wentz and Jalen Hurts are still on the roster and regardless of who lines up behind center, the Eagles must address their offensive line and add some weapons on the outside. With Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater now off the board, the Eagles take the Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith, here and I think it makes a lot of sense. Smith can stretch the field and could draw more attention from defenders (in time). That will help Wentz, Hurts or whoever lines up at quarterback.

  • Needs: OL, CB, WR
EDGE/LB Micah Parsons
Penn State

Detroit Lions: The Lions agreed to turn the page on Matthew Stafford and pulled off a trade with the Los Angeles Rams that included a starting quarterback in Jared Goff and a nice haul of draft picks. Depending on what Detroit ultimately does with those picks will determine how good of a deal it was in the end, but in the meantime the Lions can focus on upgrading other areas of their roster. At No. 7 they not only take the first defensive player in this draft-day scenario, but they land the best all-around defender in Micah Parsons. The former Nittany Lion star can rush the passer, stuff the run and is effective in pass coverage, makes sense here.

  • Needs: WR, DL, LB
QB Justin Fields
Ohio State

Carolina Panthers: If the Falcons end up passing on a quarterback and no other team trades up to land one, I can definitely see Zach Wilson, Justin Fields or Trey Lance sitting here at No. 8 for the Panthers, who need a long-term solution behind center. In this scenario, the talented Justin Fields is sitting here – and Carolina gets its future QB1. Fields can watch and develop behind Teddy Bridgewater while learning from offensive coordinator Joe Brady. This could be an ideal situation for Fields, who is loaded with raw talent. The 6-foot-3 Fields passed for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns, and three interceptions in 2019. He also added 484 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. While the 2020 season was an up-and-down year for Fields, the Big Ten Player of the Year's ceiling is high.

  • Needs: QB, OL, CB
CB Patrick Surtain II

Denver Broncos: There's been some talk about the Broncos taking a quarterback, or possibly even trading for a veteran signal caller. Until that happens, I'm going to assume that Drew Locke is their guy. And in this scenario – with the two best cornerbacks still on the board – I think Denver addresses the back end of its defense and pulls the trigger on Patrick Surtain II here. The former Alabama star was widely considered the best defensive back in college football last year.

  • Needs: CB, DE, QB
TE Kyle Pitts

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys' defense was not very good at all in 2020, especially against the run. While cornerback Caleb Farley might seem like a logical choice here, the Cowboys stick to their draft board and take the best player available for the second year in a row. They happily turn in their draft card for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who looks like he could be a game-changer with his size, speed and freakish receiving skills. Imagine Pitts in an offense with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper.

  • Needs: CB, OL, LB
CB Caleb Farley
Virginia Tech

New York Giants: The Giants need to address a number of areas, including their defense. If Caleb Farley makes it to No. 11, New York should pounce on the former Virginia Tech standout. Some analysts think Farley might be just as good as (if not better) than Patrick Surtain II. Farley didn't play in 2020 but he has decent size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) and excellent cover skills. Oh yeah, and he's ridiculously fast. Farley "blazed a 40 as fast as 4.35 and was reportedly clocked at over 24 miles per hour on GPS trackers during the Notre Dame game last season," wrote Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus.

  • Needs: DE, CB, WR
QB Trey Lance
North Dakota State

San Francisco 49ers: Outside of playing a full 16-game season in 2019, the most games Jimmy Garoppolo has started in his six other NFL seasons is six. The most games he's appeared in (outside of 2019) is also six. That's not great nor does it instill a ton of confidence. Jimmy G still has two years left on his current deal and there's been some rumors that San Francisco could part ways with its quarterback. True or not, taking Trey Lance here makes a ton of sense. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound quarterback from North Dakota State checks most of the boxes and has a very high ceiling. The major knocks on him are that he's only played one season (lack of experience), he's sometimes slow to work through progressions and the level of competition he's faced (NDSU also produced Carson Wentz, for what it's worth). Still, Lance is accurate, has excellent mobility, is a terrific runner and throws a pretty deep ball.

  • Needs: CB, OL, QB
OL Christian Darrisaw
Virginia Tech

Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers definitely hit on quarterback Justin Herbert, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. Even crazier is the fact that Herbert became the first Chargers player to win the award since Don Woods did in 1974. It's pretty clear that the Chargers must build around Herbert. They must protect him better and give him more weapons to operate with, too. In my last two mock drafts I had Florida tight end Kyle Pitts landing here. But now I'm thinking more about protection these days (yes, the Super Bowl really rubbed off on me) and I think Christian Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech makes a ton of sense here. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Darrisaw has an ideal frame to go along with long arms, quick feet and strong hands. He's one of the best prospects when it comes to squaring up and getting in position (or re-positioning) to handle pass rushers.

  • Needs: OL, TE, CB
DE Kwity Paye

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings need some help along the defensive line – inside and on the edge. The bad news is that this isn't the strongest draft class when it comes interior defensive linemen or edge rushers. The good news is that there are a few, and Michigan's Kwity Paye is one of them, and sitting here in this scenario. Paye has a lot of upside and could develop into a very good pass rusher, which is just what Minnesota needs. Paye tallied 11.5 sacks in four seasons playing in Ann Arbor.

  • Needs: OL, DT, DE
WR Jaylen Waddle

New England Patriots: It's pretty clear that the Patriots missed Tom Brady in 2020. But the play at quarterback was not the only issue with the Patriots. They need to address the defensive line and could use some more weapons in that offense, regardless of who is behind center in 2021. Something tells me the Patriots will address quarterback via a trade (with San Francisco or Philadelphia for a proven starter?) or if things fall just right, maybe a draft-day trade. Either way, taking Jaylen Waddle here at No. 15 would make that offense a lot better. His production at Alabama (prior to his injury) speaks for itself and he's also a threat in the return game.

  • Needs: QB, DL, WR
DE Gregory Rousseau

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals need to address the back end of the defense, the pass rush and Kyler Murray could use another weapon on the outside who can stretch the field, too. With the two best cornerbacks and the top three receivers off the board, I think the Cardinals pull the trigger on Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau here. He's a bit raw but he's also a freakish talent who could be a very good pro. Rousseau tallied 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2019 in Coral Gables.

  • Needs: CB, DE, WR
DL Christian Barmore

Las Vegas Raiders: As I've noted in previous mock drafts, the Raiders were exposed on defense in 2020 (we saw it firsthand during Atlanta's one-sided win over Las Vegas) and must improve a unit that was third worst in points allowed per game (29.9 per game). Enter former Alabama standout Christian Barmore. He is disruptive, excels as a pass rusher, has ideal length and foot speed. In short, he knows how to get to the quarterback – and that's just what the Silver and Black need.

  • Needs: DT, OL, DE
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker

Miami Dolphins: If they were calling it "Tank for Tua" in 2019, then 2021 should be "Tighten up for Tua," even if that doesn't have the same ring to it. With the Dolphins' first pick I have the best receiver in this class heading to Miami. Here is where the Fins address the line, and I think former USC stud Alijah Vera-Tucker makes sense at No 18. Vera-Tucker is a competent, nimble blocker who can play guard and tackle. Wherever he ends up playing, Vera-Tucker's presence should help Tua Tagovailoa in his development. And that's a good thing for Miami's offense.

  • Needs: WR, OL, LB
QB Mac Jones

Washington Football Team: Alex Smith's comeback from a horrific leg injury is one of the greatest stories of 2020, and really, for all-time. After he was unanimously named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, I tweeted that they should rename of the award after him. Smith has two years left on his deal and Washington also recently gave Taylor Heinicke a two-year deal. I still think they'll pursue a quarterback – either in the draft or via trade. In this scenario, Mac Jones is there at No. 19. Jones is considered a very good prospect, but not an elite one. Jones completed 77 percent of his passes with an 11.2 yards-per-attempt average for 41 touchdowns. He only tossed four interceptions and was sacked 10 times as Alabama rolled to another national title. Some analysts think Jones is a Day 2 pick, but I can see Washington taking him here. 

  • Needs: QB, WR, OL
WR Kadarius Toney

Chicago Bears: With pretty much all of the top quarterback prospects now off the board, I think the Bears opt to add some offensive firepower here and take Kadarius Toney. For three seasons at Florida, Toney appeared to be an afterthought. Then, in 2020, he had a breakout season, catching 70 passes for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. Toney is tad under 6 feet, weights 189 pounds and has been described as "electrifying" once he gets his hands on the ball. The Bears, regardless of what they end up doing at quarterback, could definitely use more of that. Toney is one of the top prospects in this class and makes sense here with the 20th overall pick.

  • Needs: QB, OL, WR
CB Jaycee Horn
South Carolina

Indianapolis Colts: Just like the previous two picks, there are questions at quarterback when it comes to the Colts. For now, and in this first-round scenario, I'm going defense with this pick – because the Colts must address it. With cornerbacks Tyson Campbell, Asante Samuel Jr. and Jaycee Horn still on the board, I'll go with the former Gamecocks star here. Horn was one of the best corners in the SEC and typically lined up across from team's top receivers.

  • Needs: QB, CB, DE
WR Elijah Moore
Ole Miss

Tennessee Titans: In previous mock drafts, I've had the Titans going defense here but … I think with Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore sitting there, Tennessee opts to give Ryan Tannehill another downfield weapon to stretch the field and, hopefully, open things up for some of those other playmakers on the Titans offense. Moore improved every single season while at Mississippi, including a junior year in which he had 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns. He's on the smaller side (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) but he can fly and is an explosive receiver.

  • Needs: DE, WR, DL
DE Jayson Oweh
Penn State

New York Jets (via Seattle): The Jets addressed the offense with their first pick and now start to work on the defensive side of the ball, taking defensive end Jayson Oweh out of Penn State. Oweh is tall (6-foot-5, 257 pounds) and loaded with potential. Good pass rushers are tough to find and that's why I think someone will look at Oweh's upside and take him in the first round. Still, some like ESPN's Mel Kiper was quoted in a story as saying he was "really surprised" Oweh entered the draft and thought he would return to Penn State for another season. He's an intriguing prospect, and I see the Jets rolling the dice here at No. 23.

  • Needs: QB, DE, CB
LB/EDGE Zaven Collins

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have their starting left tackle, top running back, leading receiver and No. 2 pass rusher ticketed for the open market in 2021. While that's a lot to figure out and Pittsburgh will have to make some tough decisions, taking Zaven Collins out of Tulsa should be an easy one. Collins seems like a perfect fit for that blitz-happy Steelers defense. He won the Bronko Nagurksi for the best defensive player in college football and was also a runner up for the Butkus Award.

  • Needs: OT, DE, RB
OL Wyatt Davis
Ohio State

Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams): The Jaguars got their man – the man – in quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick and now they do the prudent thing and get the former Clemson star some protection. Jacksonville selected Jawaan Taylor with its second pick in the 2019 draft and in this scenario, I have them taking Ohio State Wyatt Davis with the second of two first-round picks. Davis is tough as nails, smart, powerful and agile. He could help solidify that front for years to come – and that's just what the Jags need as they build around Lawrence.

  • Needs: QB, OT, CB
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Notre Dame

Cleveland Browns: As I've noted in previous mock drafts, the Browns have had all sorts of issues on defense at times this past season and it should be a major area of focus heading into the offseason. That's why I think it would be difficult for them to pass on a jackknife like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Like Micah Parsons, the talented Owusu-Koramoah is listed as a linebacker but he can be utilized in a number of different ways and play multiple positions (even safety). That kind of versatility is valued by defensive coordinators around the league. Plus Owusu-Koramoah is a great value picks at No. 26.

  • Needs: LB, CB, DE
WR Rashod Bateman

Baltimore Ravens: There's no denying that Lamar Jackson is the most exciting offensive player in the league right now. Patrick Mahomes might be the best young quarterback, but Jackson is electrifying and a must-watch. When he gets into the open field anything can happen – he's a threat to score from anywhere on the field. But the man needs more weapons, especially some receivers who can get downfield and make some plays. Jackson's style of play is exciting, but as we saw in 2020, it exposes him to injury. Enter Rashod Batemen. Bateman is big, fast and one of the best receiver prospects in this class. He had an extremely productive career while at Minnesota. Adding him to this Ravens offense makes sense, and would take a ton of pressure off Jackson.

  • Needs: WR, OL, DE
DL Levi Onwuzurike

New Orleans Saints: The Saints will have a lot to deal with this offseason, beginning with what to do at the quarterback position. Most assume that Drew Brees is retiring but nothing is official at the moment. Outside of that minor speed bump, New Orleans doesn't have a ton of salary cap space to play with, either. Again, that's putting it nicely. One thing the Saints have excelled at is drafting well in recent years and they'll have to hit on their picks again in 2021. I think they'll go defense and take Levi Onwuzurike out of Washington. Onwuzurike is both a solid pass rusher and run defender who can play both inside and outside.

  • Needs: QB, DL, DB
CB Tyson Campbell

Green Bay Packers: It'll be interesting to see how the first round plays out and whether one of the top-rated receivers falls to the bottom portion of the opening round. If that happens, I could see Green Bay adding another weapon on the outside for Aaron Rodgers. If not, the Packers know they must get better on the back end of the defense and Tyson Campbell would be a nice addition to their secondary. Campbell has decent size (he is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and many think his best football is still in front of him.

  • Needs: WR, CB, OL
CB Asante Samuel Jr.
Florida State

Buffalo Bills: In four previous mock drafts I've had the Bills picking a cornerback – twice with Tyson Campbell out of Georgia and twice with former Florida State standout Asante Samuel Jr. Well, guess what? Make it five – and put Samuel's name down on the draft card again. I obviously think cornerback will be a position of need for the Bills, and Samuel is a 5-foot-10 corner who is fast, twitchy, has good instincts and a high ceiling. At Florida State he broke up 29 passes and made four interceptions in three seasons.

  • Needs: CB, OL, DE
OT Jalen Mayfield

Kansas City Chiefs: Let's forget about what happened in the Super Bowl and how Patrick Mahomes was under duress for much of the game for a minute. The Chiefs haven't spent a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman since 2015 and tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are a year away from having their deals expire. Now factor in the offensive line's performance and hopefully it's easy to see why I have Kansas City bolstering that unit here with Michigan's Jalen Mayfield. He possesses ideal size, length, mobility and power – plus he can play tackle or guard. He's also a finisher in the run game. Check, check and check.

  • Needs: OL, WR, DE
RB Najee Harris

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running back may not be a pressing need to the world champs, but Najee Harris might be tough to pass on if he's sitting here at the bottom of the first round. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette did the trick for the Bucs in 2020, but "Playoff Lenny" was playing on a one-year deal. Jones is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2021 season. The bruising back from Alabama reminds some of Derrick Henry. What separates Harris from so many bigger backs is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield – and he'd fit the Bucs offense nicely.

  • Needs: DE, DT, WR

Teams without a first-round pick

As it stands right now, three teams do not have a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. Their team needs, actual draft picks (and rounds) are listed below:

Houston Texans
Needs: WR, CB, DE

Current picks (round): 67 (3), 100 (4), 113 (4), 131 (5), 164 (6), 178 (6), 188 (6), 195 (7)

Los Angeles Rams
Needs: OL, DE, LB

Current picks (round): 57 (2), 185 (6), 217 (7)

Seattle Seahawks
Needs: OL, CB, DE

Current picks (round): 56 (2), 120 (4), 151 (5), 184 (6)

2021 NFL Draft order

  • A note on the draft order: The non-playoff teams are picks 1-18 (the team with the worst record, Jacksonville, picks first overall). The rest will be determined as the playoffs unfold. Teams that will be eliminated in the wild-card round get picks 19-24. Teams that will be eliminated in the divisional round get picks 25-28. The two teams eliminated in the AFC and NFC title games get picks 29 and 30. The Super Bowl loser will pick at 31 and the winner picks last. The current order is based on records, strength of schedule and seeding (via Tankathon).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Matthew Tabeek and and do not represent the opinions of the Atlanta Falcons' front office staff, coaches and executives unless it is noted otherwise.

Kyle Pitts catch


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