The 2021 NFL draft is approaching and teams will add young players to their roster in hopes of fielding a competitive team. In a year where cap space is tight, the draft could be more valuable than ever before. Teams will look to make key additions with their first-round picks to help improve their roster immediately. With teams drafting for need as the focus, here is a 2021 NFL mock draft.
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Complete First Round
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence – QB – Clemson
The Jaguars struggled at the quarterback position in 2020. This directly impacted their season and led them to the first overall pick. The best way to get back on track is to select the next franchise quarterback. New head coach Urban Meyer will be excited to work with Lawrence and build him into a great NFL quarterback.
2. New York Jets – Ja’Marr Chase — WR – LSU
The New York Jets may move on from Sam Darnold, but if they don’t, they might be set up for success. Darnold has a lot to prove and giving him a weapon like Chase could unlock all his potential we know he has. Chase is a dominant talent who could have a Justin Jefferson–type of rookie season if not better.
3. Miami Dolphins – DeVonta Smith – WR – Alabama
Questions about how Smith will hold up in the NFL are loud, but Miami shouldn’t be concerned. They need weapons for Tua Tagovailoa, and Smith was the ultimate weapon for Alabama in 2020. Smith has good height and weight can always be added. In a league where Tyreek Hill dominates weekly, Smith should not be passed on for his weight alone. His talent speaks volumes for how good he can be at the next level.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson – QB – BYU
Atlanta could go in many directions here, but unless they truly believe they can compete with the Packers, Buccaneers, and Rams, they should start looking to build for the future. Matt Ryan continues to age, and it seems like they are merely waiting for his contract to expire to move on from the veteran quarterback. Wilson is an incredible talent who can transition Atlanta’s offense from the pocket passer’s dream that it has been and move into a modern offense with a mobile quarterback who can still find Atlanta’s playmakers like Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Rashawn Slater – OT – Northwestern
The Bengals’ goal for the off-season should be to protect Joe Burrow. They failed to do so in 2020 and the young quarterback has already suffered a major injury. Hopefully, the Bengals dodge any major issues in the future with Burrow and can properly protect him.
They spent little draft capital on the offensive line last year and this year should be different. Slater is the most versatile lineman in the class and his skills jump out at you on film. Slater is a consistent blocker and should vastly improve the Bengals’ offensive line in 2021 and beyond.
6. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama
The Eagles’ luck with wide receivers has been tragic, to say the least. Alshon Jeffery never truly lived up to the hype set up for him and DeSean Jackson played well but did not play often due to injuries. They have drafted receivers in previous drafts, but those selections have not worked out the way they would have liked to this point. This includes 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor who missed five games in 2020 and caught just one touchdown.
Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson, the receiver selected the pick after Reagor, went on to dominate in 2020 and made the pro bowl in his rookie year. Waddle can fix all of this. Waddle is a talented receiver who has the skills to be a franchise receiver. His numbers in college don’t scream superstar, but his ability that he displays on the field does. Waddle would be a huge upgrade to an Eagles offense that is transitioning to a new quarterback for 2021.
7. Detroit Lions – Justin Fields – QB – Ohio State
The Lions have struggled to field a competitive roster for many years. Even with talented players like Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh on the same roster, Detroit’s best outing was a wildcard loss. The Matthew Stafford era in Detroit is over now. The Lions traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and quarterback Jared Goff.
Goff is still young and is a talented quarterback who has even been to a super bowl. Despite this, he has not lived up to those accolades in recent times and Detroit is likely to start fresh with their own guy. Goff could be a great help to Fields early on, but Detroit is going to move forward with Fields who had a great college career, scoring 78 total touchdowns in two seasons with Ohio State.
8. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance – QB – North Dakota State
Lance has an opportunity to be one of the best quarterbacks in this class if put in the right situation. His mobility makes him a big weapon for any offense and pairing him with the weapons in Carolina could be the perfect fit for him. Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson are an underrated unit of offensive weapons and giving them a quarterback who can properly utilize them could put the Panthers in the conversation for playoffs in 2021.
9. Denver Broncos – Caleb Farley – CB – Virginia Tech
There has been a debate between if Farley or Surtain II will be the first cornerback selected. Farley feels like the best fit for Denver’s defense and so he goes first here. Farley improves a position that Denver struggled heavily at this season after they have moved on from some of their long-tenured cornerbacks in recent years. Denver has some talent on the offensive side of the ball so adding defense here makes the most sense. They could also look at a pass rusher if they move on from Von Miller this off-season.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II – CB – Alabama
Dallas moved on from Byron Jones last off-season, who went on to sign with the Miami Dolphins and turn their defense into a top unit alongside Xavien Howard. Meanwhile, in Dallas, they felt the loss of Jones heavily throughout the season. They struggled on defense all season long and those struggles were amplified by the loss of Dak Prescott which put their defense on the field more often. Surtain is a fantastic cornerback who could develop into a player as good or better than Jones in the long run.
11. New York Giants – Kyle Pitts – TE – Florida
The New York Giants and their coach Joe Judge have been vocal about acquiring weapons for Daniel Jones. Kyle Pitts might be the biggest weapon in the entire draft, so grabbing him here makes sense for New York. Pitts has the potential to be a top tight end in the NFL immediately and could even be a great wide receiver if needed to line up there. He dominated at Florida making SEC defenses look useless against him. Pitts should greatly improve a Giants offense that struggled to score at times last season.
12. San Francisco 49ers – Alijah Vera-Tucker – IOL – USC
The 49ers have a well-built roster and there aren’t many glaring needs for them. With that said, they could use some more protection on the offensive line to help bolster their run-heavy offense. Vera-Tucker is a dominant interior offensive lineman who can play across the offensive line. That level of versatility makes him a great choice for a 49ers team looking to add depth to a competitive roster when healthy.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Penei Sewell – OT – Oregon
It may be surprising to see Sewell fall this far, but this is a truly loaded class. Sewell is another great offensive line prospect who has that great raw ability. Sewell can have a sloppy play in some instances, but his physical ability cleans up and the technical mistakes he makes. He’ll be able to clean this up with an NFL-caliber staff and should be a franchise tackle for Los Angeles.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Kwity Paye – EDGE – Michigan
Edge rusher isn’t very deep early in the draft, but Paye is a good prospect who can be a great pass rusher in the NFL. Minnesota needs help on defense, and they could use a pass rusher following a season where they ranked 28th in total sacks.
15. New England Patriots – Micah Parsons – LB – Penn State
This is a classic best player available pick and no better team to do it than New England. While New England isn’t the dominant annual threat they were with Tom Brady, they still have Bill Belichick and the philosophy won’t change. Parsons is the best linebacker in this draft class and could easily be a top ten pick. Grabbing him at 15 is a no-brainer for New England.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn – CB – South Carolina
The Cardinals addressed their need for a pass rusher by winning the J.J. Watt sweepstakes. Now, they address their need for a cornerback by selecting Jaycee Horn. A replacement for Patrick Peterson will be needed soon and having his replacement on the roster to learn from him is a good idea for Arizona.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Notre Dame
Owusu-Koramoah is a great fit for the Raiders. His dynamic playstyle would be perfect for a defense in need of talent. Owusu-Koramoah is a modern linebacker who can play like a safety but keeps the size and strength of a versatile linebacker. Adding Owusu-Koramoah is a much-needed addition to a struggling Raiders defense.
18. Miami Dolphins – Christian Darrisaw – OT – Virginia Tech
Darrisaw is the next offensive tackle selected in this draft. His talent speaks for itself on film and should translate well to the NFL level. The Dolphins need to add protection for Tua as much as they need to add weapons for him. Doing both in the first 18 picks would be a massive bonus for the Dolphins’ offense.
19. Washington Football Team – Mac Jones – QB – Alabama
The fifth quarterback of the round goes to Washington following a crazy 2020 season. Washington started four different quarterbacks in 2020 including the fourth starter coming in the wildcard round of the playoffs. Mac Jones played well at Alabama and will have the chance to develop in Washington with incredible defense and a talented young receiver in Terry McLaurin.
20. Chicago Bears – Samuel Cosmi – OT – Texas
Chicago is an interesting franchise. They made several switches at quarterback in 2020 but managed to find their way into the playoffs. They are expected to lose their biggest offensive weapon in Allen Robinson, and their offensive line has major issues that need to be addressed. Here, they start with the offensive line grabbing Cosmi from Texas. This class is deep at wide receiver and the top quarterbacks are all gone by this point, so Cosmi is the best option for Chicago here.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Jalen Mayfield – OT – Michigan
The Colts have traded for Carson Wentz and a priority for them will be to make sure he is protected. Wentz took a lot of hits in Philadelphia and Indianapolis will want to replace Anthony Castonzo following his retirement as soon as possible. Mayfield had a good career with Michigan and should develop into a solid tackle in the NFL.
22. Tennessee Titans – Gregory Rousseau – Miami
Tennessee has been looking for pass rushers and Jadeveon Clowney may have not been their solution. Now, Tennessee looks to the draft for their answer. Rousseau is a talented pass rusher who didn’t even start playing defensive end until college. Rousseau is a high-risk high reward prospect who could provide huge value for Tennessee if he can hold up at the NFL level.
23. New York Jets – Najee Harris – RB – Alabama
The Jets had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL last season following the release of Le’Veon Bell. Led by Frank Gore, the Jets failed to create any consistent rushing attack in 2020. This was not the case for Alabama this season. Harris dominated the sport with 1,466 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in 2020. He also caught over 40 passes for an additional 400 yards and four touchdowns. This level of consistency could immediately help the Jets’ offense and would be a great help to Sam Darnold.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Dillon Radunz – OT – North Dakota State
Radunz is another North Dakota State player who could end up being taken in the first round. Radunz was a big piece of the North Dakota State offense that featured Trey Lance. Radunz did a great job protecting Lance and it has earned him the right to be a top prospect in this year’s draft.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Christian Barmore – DT – Alabama
Jacksonville has many needs, but Urban Meyer is going to take the guys he believes in. I feel like Baremore is the perfect player for Meyer. A strong straight-ahead rusher who can clog the middle in run defense or collapse the pocket against the pass. Baremore is an underrated talent who could help bolster the Jaguars’ front seven.
26. Cleveland Browns – Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida
Toney is a speedy receiver who will translate well in the slot. Adding another threat to the offense, specifically in the slot, could help open the field up for the LSU duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Cleveland has a solid defense and adding more weapons for Baker could be a good move for Cleveland as they prepare for another shot at the playoffs in 2021.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Wyatt Davis – IOL – Ohio State
Baltimore has some issues to address on the offensive line. They have two talented tackles who want to play left tackle, which is a good problem to have, but they lack that same talent level on the interior. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense had trouble in the playoffs due to heavy pressure on Jackson in several instances. Adding Davis will help improve their interior offensive line troubles instantly.
28. New Orleans Saints – Rashod Bateman – WR – Minnesota
Yet another wide receiver being taken in this first round, this time for New Orleans. The Saints may be looking at the end of the Drew Brees era and if they are going with Taysom Hill, they may want to get more weapons on the roster. Bateman is a great fit for the Saints with his combination of size and skill. Bateman can pair well with Michael Thomas and help open the field for New Orleans’ various other weapons.
29. Green Bay Packers – Dyami Brown – WR – North Carolina
Brown is the Tyreek Hill of this year’s draft class. His speed and agility make him a weapon any offense would love to have. Green Bay already has a talented offense but adding Brown’s speed to it would transcend Green Bay into a Chiefs level offense. Aaron Rodgers would have a blast utilizing Brown in an offense that already features Davante Adams and Marques Valdes-Scantling; two receivers with great downhill speed.
30. Buffalo Bills – Jaelan Phillips – EDGE – Miami
Buffalo had a great season in 2020 making it to the AFC championship. In that game, the Chiefs’ offense picked apart the Bills’ defense due to a lack of pressure on Pat Mahomes. Getting pass rushers on the roster who can generate pressure on the quarterback will be crucial for Buffalo to improve in 2021. Phillips is a great option for the late first round. Phillips could end up being a top talent if put in a situation to succeed.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Creed Humphrey – IOL – Oklahoma
The Chiefs’ biggest weakness this season seemed to be their offensive line. They were bullied at the line in the super bowl and Pat Mahomes had several moments where he had to scramble immediately after the snap. Getting a solid center is an important goal for Kansas City this off-season and Humphrey is the best option in this draft. Kansas City is a perfect match for Humphrey, and he should see the field immediately as a result.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travis Etienne – RB – Clemson
The defending super bowl champions re-tool their offense by adding a talented weapon in Etienne. They have a big chance of losing Leonard Fournette this off-season and they have shown they don’t trust Ronald Jones as a feature back. Etienne would be a perfect weapon for a Tom Brady offense and could vastly improve their running attack.