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  • Iestyn Withers

NFL Draft 2021: 1st RD Mock - Pre Senior Bowl

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

We are one week away from this year’s Superbowl, and whilst the eyes of the world will be glued on Raymond James Stadium next weekend, there will also be plenty of intrigue this Saturday as the 2021 Senior Bowl takes place. A final chance – particularly given the likelihood of no NFL Combine this year – for many college prospects to either cement or enhance their draft stock, the Senior Bowl can only mean one thing… it’s draft season. At each stepping stone throughout this year’s draft season we will see changes and amendments made to draft boards and scouting reports. We will see healthy debates and personal favourites. We will see grown men fearing the worst as they sit on their sofas preparing to see collegiate stars enter the professional ranks. There’s nothing quite like it in sport. Therefore, with the Senior Bowl speedily approaching, let’s look at what could happen if the NFL Draft were today. *For the purpose of this mock draft, there will be no trades. Given the likely trades of Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford this off-season, there will be many changes to the draft order in 2021. The Detroit Lions could be major movers – in terms of accruing draft capital and moving up the board – whilst the Houston Texans are destined to receive a hefty compensation from any team looking to get Watson out of the Lone Star State. That said, in order to remain simplistic this time around, trades are off the table.* #1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson) It’s simple. The Jaguars take Lawrence. There is no argument. There is no debate. A perennial talent with all the tools to be a top 3 quarterback in the league, Lawrence is as good a talent as any in the last few draft classes. The Clemson prodigy could turn the now Urban Meyer-led Jags into contenders within a few years if given the right supporting class. #2 New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB (BYU) This is where the draft starts to get interesting… and not just when it comes to potential draft picks. With Deshaun Watson on the market – and the Jets in desperate need of a QB – this pick has numerous potential results. Either way, this pick will be used on a quarterback. Jets or not. If the Jets stick at where they are at – whether due to losing the Watson lottery or opting against pursuing the Texans star – they will be left choosing between Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. Two superb quarterback talents, the choice will largely be determined by preference. Zach Wilson is the preferred option here given his 2020 season, with the BYU man likely to battle it out with Sam Darnold for the starting spot; competition breeds motivation. #3 Miami Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase, WR (LSU) Feeding into the inevitable quarterback frenzy the 2021 NFL Draft will bring, it would be far from surprising to see the Dolphins ship this pick to accrue more draft capital. Additionally, this pick could be long gone from the Dolphin’s possession come draft day if they are serious about recruiting Deshaun Watson. That said, in this tradeless draft, the Dolphins are sticking to their guns with Tua under centre. And if you’re sticking with Tua, he needs more pass-catching talent. Flores drafted two offensive tackles last year and put them straight into the starting line-up. For this reason, they go wide receiver at pick 3. Despite DeVonta Smith’s Heisman winning season, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase should still be seen as the WR1 in this year’s draft. Opting out of the collegiate season means that recency bias may count against him though. #4 Atlanta Falcons – Justin Fields, QB (Ohio State) Are the Falcons completely set on progressing with Matt Ryan? With a stellar cast of receiving options, the Falcons should be upset that they even find themselves at pick 4. That said, Ryan is still a talented QB who can take the Falcons to the Superbowl if everything goes right. Regardless of whether Atlanta wants to ship out or move on from Ryan, taking Justin Fields is still a logical choice. Whether Fields sits and learns behind Ryan – or beats him out for the QB1 position – it’s a win-win situation for ATL. #5 Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT (Oregon) “Penei for your Thoughts”. A legitimate banner held up at a Bengals game as the season came to a close. This pick is simple. The Bengals have their quarterback of the future in Joe Burrow, now they need to protect him. Sewell is the consensus best tackle in the draft, an NFL ready prospect who would be a firm fan favourite in Cincy. There is potential to trade back if one of the top 3 quarterbacks is still available, but worst case scenario they take Sewell. So, not really worst case. #6 Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama) With a quarterback dilemma that seems destined to go on in Philly, they would be best served by giving the fans something to cheer about with this pick. DeVonta Smith would do just that, whilst also replenishing a weak receiving corps. However, did the Eagles really keep Hurts out of the season closer to obtain pick number 6 and not take a quarterback? This one is a little bit iffy. #7 Detroit Lions – Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State) No trades sees the Lions stick at 7 here. With Lawrence, Fields and Wilson off the board, Detroit take a punt on Trey Lance here. The 20 year-old QB has limited college film to review, but has all the tools to have a near limitless ceiling in the NFL; high floor, high ceiling. The Lions could hit big, or could end up getting Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler next year. Either way, its worth a shot for a franchise in dire need of just about anything. #8 Carolina Panthers – Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State) Another team firmly in the Deshaun Watson trade game, the Panthers are also searching for their Luke Kuechly replacement. Carolina went all-defence last year in the draft and the explosive playmaking abilities of Parsons would go a long way in filling a remaining void. As with many picks though, the Watson situation could be a true spanner in the works. #9 Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtain III, CB (Alabama) Notoriously strong on defence, the Broncos are due an upgrade at corner. With both Surtain and Caleb Farley available at this point, Denver can pick their poison. Surtain is coming off the Crimson Tide’s National Championship winning season and showcased enough during his time at Alabama to convince the Broncos he is worth drafting here. #10 Dallas Cowboys – Caleb Farley, CB (Virginia Tech) America’s team still need to upgrade their secondary. Whilst the offence were able to score this season, the defence were simultaneously able to ship points on a regular basis. Trevon Diggs was a bright spot however, and Farley and Diggs would provide a promising young tandem for Dallas to build around. #11 New York Giants – Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama) The Giants are all in with Daniel Jones and now they need to give him more weapons. Jaylen Waddle is a stud receiver who has been unlucky with injuries – particularly this season – but if he can remain fit, Jones would have a prize asset to throw to. #12 San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Pitts, TE (Florida) Close your eyes and imagine it for one second… George Kittle and Kyle Pitts together… in a Kyle Shanahan run offence. Why not embrace the embarrassment of riches, and try to get the best out of Jimmy G? The 49ers are one year removed from a Superbowl appearance, and maybe Pitts is the kind of elite positionless player that could get them back there. #13 Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT/OL (Northwestern) If 2020 proved one thing – other than the fact we were not ready for a global pandemic – it proved Justin Herbert is legit. Coming off the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history, the Chargers now need to protect their meal-ticket. With room for improvement across the offensive line, Rashawn Slater would be a good pick up. Whether plying his trade at tackle or guard, Slater could be an instant step-up for the Chargers and help lead their charge to the post-season. #14 Minnesota Vikings - Gregory Rousseau, EDGE (Miami) Minnesota will be big fans of Rousseau and his potential at the next level. He has elite length and surprising pass rush polish despite his limited experience at the position or the collegiate level. The Vikings' defence took a big step back last year due to an inability to pressure the quarterback, with the athletic Rousseau a great remedy for this. #15 New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB (Alabama) This one seems too easy to predict. Big Bill is still searching for his Brady successor after the Cam Newton experiment failed to work, and Jones seems the reliable quarterback that might fit the mould. Far from the most athletic QB in the draft, the Patriots have a history of getting the most out of players and could do the same with Alabama’s Jones. #16 Arizona Cardinals – Kwity Paye, EDGE (Michigan) Paye is arguably the best edge in the draft and the Cardinals should be rushing this card in if he is available at the 16th pick. A dynamic athlete with a high ceiling in the league, the Michigan pass rusher would immediately improve a defence that is already trending in the right direction. #17 Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah (Notre Dame) Statistically, the Raiders had the worst linebacking group in the league last year. Owusu-Koramoah is a dynamic athlete at the second level of the defence, and something that Las Vegas need. He can cover in the slot if needed and he's an excellent blitzer. The Raiders need to address the pass rush, too, and that could be an option here with this pick. The Fighting Irish man may be slightly undersized, but has elite athleticism that could see him flourish at the professional level. #18 Miami Dolphins – Christian Darrisaw, OT (Virginia Tech) Having opted for receiver with the third pick of the draft, the Dolphins could get Tua some added protection here. Either Hunt or Jackson could kick inside on the O-line, allowing the insanely powerful Darrisaw to step into the tackle berth. The Dolphins are a young team and this adds another cog to the ever-improving machine. #19 Washington Football Team – Zaven Collins, LB (Tulsa) Washington reached the playoffs thanks to their defence this past season. Whilst fans and pundits may be clamouring for an offensive addition here, the Football Team could further bolster their team with the addition of Tulsa edge Collins. #20 Chicago Bears – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OL (USC) The Bears are still knee-deep in quarterback problems, but regardless of who is under centre, they are going to need protection. Chicago have had a glaring need at tackle for years, so a deep draft class this year works out perfectly for them. That said, with Slater, Darrisaw and Sewell off the board, Vera-Tucker is the next best option and has the potential to be a long-term answer for Chicago’s offensive line whether at tackle or operating inside. #21 Indianapolis Colts – Jaycee Horn, CB (South Carolina) The Colts have Rock Ya-Sin, Kenny Moore and Xavier Rhodes are the starting cornerbacks for this team currently. Ya-Sin has been somewhat inconsistent, leaving a potential opening for an athletic, physical corner. Horn won’t back down from anyone and has an edge that the Colts need in their secondary.

#22 Tennessee Titans – Christian Barmore, DT (Alabama) Maybe a long shot in reality, but given how the draft has panned out so far, Barmore is available at the 22nd pick and the Titans would jump at that opportunity. Barmore stood out in the National Championship Game and stands to be an impact player wherever he lands. Tennessee would relish his physicality and playmaking ability. #23 New York Jets – Rashod Bateman, WR (Minnesota) The Jets have secured their QB of the future in Zach Wilson, and with this pick they can add another young receiving target for the BYU signal-caller. With Denzel Mims taken last year, they can add further height and speed with Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman here. #24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Leatherwood, OT/OL (Alabama) How much longer does Big Ben hang around? He may even be gone by draft day. Either way, down the stretch they couldn’t run the ball effectively and Roethlisberger got hit far too often. Whoever is at QB needs protection, as does whoever is at running back. Leatherwood fits the bill here, whether at guard or tackle. #25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig, S (TCU) Moehrig is the best safety in the draft class and has the ability to play the deep middle or inside the box. A pivotal position in the current pass-happy league, if the Jags are to become contenders then they need to upgrade at the safety position. #26 Cleveland Browns – Chazz Surratt, LB (North Carolina) The Browns took a big step forward this year but saw that they aren’t there yet in the playoffs. Surratt was a consistent player at North Carolina and would be an immediate upgrade to the Dawgs current linebacking corps. #27 Baltimore Ravens – Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida) The commonly-repeated adage is: Lamar can’t throw. Maybe giving him another receiving options could go a long way to helping that. If Lamar Jackson is going to stick at quarterback, he needs help in the passing game; he can’t win every game with his legs and Hollywood Brown needs a friend too. #28 New Orleans Saints – Nick Bolton, LB (Missouri) Zack Baun failed to impress last season and the Saints could well dip their hand back into the linebacker pool this year. As analyst Todd McShay has previously said “the Saints could use a talent like Bolton, as inside linebacker is perhaps the only question mark on their stout defence”. #29 Green Bay Packers – Terrance Marshall Jr, WR (LSU) Finally Green Bay get their first round wide receiver. The fanbase has been crying out for it and Marshall would bolster a pass catching unit that is largely reliant on Davante Adams. #30 Buffalo Bills – Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson) The Bills were one of the most complete teams in the NFL this past year. That said, Singletary and Moss lacked finesse as receivers this year. Etienne is the best running back in this class and despite the perceived lack of first-round value of the position, the Bills could take him here and get an immediate upgrade on their already stacked roster. #31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Carlos Basham Jr, EDGE (Wake Forest) The Buccaneers have to add to their defensive front in 2021, and Basham does freaky things athletically on the football field at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds. Perhaps the true ‘freak’ of the draft, Basham would be a great addition to JPP and Barrett in Tampa. #32 Kansas City Chiefs – Levi Onwuzurike, DT (Washington) The Chiefs have the luxury of simply taking the best available player on their board. Mahomes and Co. could benefit from more O-line depth here, but Onwuzurike would also help bolster the defence that relies heavily on Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu.

Players to also look out for: Jaelan Phillips EDGE, Teven Jenkins OT, Jayson Oweh EDGE, Samuel Cosmi OT, Kyle Trask QB, Jalen Mayfield OT, Wyatt Davis OL, Aaron Robinson CB.

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