The 2021 NFL draft is several months away, but the uncertainty of the 2020-21 college football season has left us looking towards the upcoming draft much earlier than usual. Several top players have decided to sit out of the season anyway to protect themselves for their NFL future. Others have had their season canceled by their conference’s leaders. Even those who are still looking at playing this season have one eye on the NFL draft. While the draft is difficult to predict in August, the top talents are easy to see as they are typically dominant players for several years in college. Here is a prediction of the top six picks in the 2021 NFL draft.
Predicting the Top Six Picks in the 2021 NFL Draft
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
The Jaguars have fallen far from their appearance in the conference finals in 2017. They have lost numerous starters from that team and is now led by former sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew. Minshew has had a decent run with Jacksonville so far, but Lawrence would change the franchise with his natural talent. The Jaguars are looking for their identity and should easily be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. The days of “sacksonville” are long gone and now the Jaguars will look to draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time since Blake Bortles in 2014.
2. Washington Football Team – Penei Sewell, Offensive Tackle, Oregon
Washington has been rebuilding their roster for a few seasons now. They are now also rebuilding their franchise’s image. Reading into the 2020 season, the Washington offense looks less than impressive on paper. Sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has limited weapons outside of Terry McLaurin and the rushing offense is led by 35-year-old Adrian Peterson. The loss of Trent Williams has left the offensive line without a leader and Haskins is just 23 and has his second head coach in as many seasons.
It will take some upgrades on offense to be able to see what Haskins can truly offer the Washington offense. Sewell would be a nice start for Washington as they would fill the hole made by Trent Williams’ departure. Sewell is a dominant tackle who has great strength at the line of scrimmage. He has been an anchor for the Oregon Ducks and has done enough in his two seasons with Oregon to show that he is a top player in the upcoming draft class.
3. New York Jets – Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU
The New York Jets haven’t seen Sam Darnold reach the potential they expected from him so far in his career. This is greatly due to the lack of weapons on the Jets’ offense around Darnold. The Jets haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver in either of Sam Darnold’s two seasons and haven’t since Brandon Marshall in 2015. Chase would provide an incredible upgrade to the wide receiver position for the Jets. He had 1,780 receiving yards in 2019 to go with 20 touchdowns and a national championship. Chase served as a recent number one overall pick Joe Burrow’s top target last season. He had 84 receptions for 21 yards per catch. This level of production would help Sam Darnold finally reach his potential for the Jets.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – Gregory Rousseau, Defensive End, Miami
The Bengals started their push towards the future this off-season when they drafted Joe Burrow first overall. They also selected wide receiver Tee Higgins in the second round to add more youth to their offense. This time around the Bengals should look at their defense. Rousseau is the latest elite pass rusher to enter an NFL draft. Recently, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and most likely Washington selected talented pass rushers with top picks in their respective drafts. Myles Garrett and Nick Bosa have become dominant players in the NFL and Chase Young is primed to continue the trend in Washington. Rousseau is as talented as these players and should provide a big upgrade to the Bengals’ defense. Rousseau had 15.5 sacks and. 19.5 tackles for loss in 2019 cementing himself as a top player heading into the 2021 NFL draft.
5. Carolina Panthers – Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
The Carolina Panthers have moved on from Cam Newton and put their faith in former first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater played well with the New Orleans Saints in Drew Brees’ absence last season. Now, he will look to lead the Panthers back to the playoffs with Christian McCaffrey in the backfield with him. While Bridgewater could end up being a success for Carolina, Fields is an incredible talent and would be great competition for Bridgewater in the present while also being a safe option for the future.
Fields dominated college football in 2019 with over 3,000 passing yards and 41 passing touchdowns. He also had 484 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Fields look primed to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and Carolina would be a great place for him to be able to learn and grow into an NFL system much like Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
6. New York Giants – Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, Alabama
The Giants have been hit and miss with their first-round picks in recent years. They are beginning to find some footing in today’s NFL with the development of quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants have their future set at quarterback and running back which opens the option to draft defense in 2021. The Giants’ former first-round pick cornerback DeAndre Baker has found himself surrounded in legal trouble and is not a strong option for the future right now. Patrick Surtain II, the son of former all-pro Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, is looking like he can be as good as his father. Surtain II has been a consistent cornerback for Alabama and has continued to develop each season. The Giants could take another step towards success by adding a future cornerstone player like Surtain II to their defense in 2021.
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