It’s a class with some top-flight quarterback prospects, but probably not enough to go around for all the teams that want one. It’s also full of offensive line talent, although the first tackle off the board will very likely be Oregon’s Penei Sewell.
The Jaguars secured the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft thanks to the Jets securing a pair of wins late in the season, and if you’ve watched any college football the last three seasons, you know they’ll take Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson.
So the draft gets interesting at No. 2, where the Jets have Sam Darnold but could decide it’s time to move on. As for the rest of the picks, we fill them in below.
The pick: Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
The most sure-fire No. 1 overall since Andrew Luck, Lawrence can literally do everything you’d want out of a 21st century quarterback. He’s accurate, mobile, can make all the throws, and he’s built like a barn. There’s no downside here except your significant other potentially swooning about his flawless hair for the next 15 years.
The pick: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
We had Fields down the board a bit because of questions about his performance against Indiana and in the Big Ten Championship Game during the abbreviated 2020 season. Those go by the wayside after his incredible game against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The raw tools are certainly there for the Georgia transfer. He’s got a rocket arm and tremendous mobility and athleticism that can give defenses fits, but his ability to recognize coverages is the issue. When he makes mistakes, they tend to be big ones.
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston)
The pick: DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, Alabama
Don’t overthink it, get Tua the best receiver prospect available. Going with Ja’Maar Chase is fine as well, but if you want to get better in a hurry (and the playoff-ish Dolphins do) Smith is closer to game-ready. His ability to take the top off also sets up well with Tua’s skill set that’s going to force teams to respect the run game and throw bombs out of play action. The Heisman winner is the real deal.
The pick: Zach Wilson, Quarterback, BYU
The “Mormon Manziel” might be a smaller but swifter Baker Mayfield, and the question will be can he throw a 15-yard out at the NFL level. He’s listed at 6’3, but the Combine will tell us for sure. He’s absolutely elusive and can make plays to both his left and his right when the pocket breaks down, and his ability to improvise is a strength. But does he have enough raw tools to be a top-five pick?
The pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Get someone to protect Joe Burrow, which after his gruesome injury should be the priority. Sewell is 6’6, 330, and runs like he’s on the track team for the Ducks. He was the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. He’s a freak of nature, and by all accounts a great kid that shouldn’t give you any problems in the locker room. On talent alone he’s probably the best player in the draft, but you tell the Jags to take a tackle instead of a quarterback.
The pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
He opted out of the 2020 season, but the ball-hawking Hokie is still the most talented option available at this position. It’s just a matter of how long it will take him to get back to game-ready in 2021, but Farley can do everything you need from a shutdown corner. He’s got coverage skills and can stay step-for-step with X’s and Z’s in both man or zone schemes.
The pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
He’s 1 and 1A with DeVonta Smith, and many draft-niks like Chase more on raw ability. Opted out of the 2020 season, and with good reason considering what happened to LSU this year, but his national championship season in 2019 showed he can run all the routes and isn’t afraid to go over the middle as the Y or slot as well. He’s also a nightmare for any DB covering as he adjusts for the ball in the air as well as any human not named Odell Beckham on the planet.
The pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Remember when Carson Wentz was good? He showed a QB can come from the FCS and Fargo and be effective in the NFL right away. Lance has only played one game in 2020, and looked pretty mediocre according to the stats. But Lance has all the tools, and at 6’4, 226 he was the Most Outstanding Player in the FCS Playoffs winning another national championship for the Bison.
2021 has a lot of teams that need a quarterback, but not a lot of talent on the board. Lance at No. 8 seems like a reach.
The pick: Patrick Surtain II, DB, Alabama
He’s not a quick-twitch guy, but if you need someone to cover physical wide receivers on go routes he’s your pick. At 6’2, 200, he’s physical enough to jam and has excellent ball skills. If you can start 12 games at Alabama as a true freshman, you’re probably worthy of a top-10 pick on that alone. A quality Rose Bowl doesn’t hurt either.
10. Dallas Cowboys
The pick: Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Double-J could use a local kid, and Comsi is 6’7, 309 and at 21-years-old he’s going to get bigger. Does everything you need to protect a quarterback and open up holes for your superstar running back, and would be able to start from Day One most likely. Fun facts: He’s from Humble, Texas, and is getting a degree in Human Dimensions of Organizations. Hook ‘Em!
11. New York Giants
The pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
For sure the third-best receiver in a class that might be loaded. Waddle is more of a slot guy than an outside guy, but if he gets behind you it’s six points. The precision of his routes and ability to separate using cuts is what makes him so dangerous.
The pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The best player on a bad defense, Horn is 6’1, 205 and plays physical enough to jam at the next level. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do without the limitations of Will Muschamp and sparse talent around him.
The pick: Wyatt Davis, OL, Minnesota
You need guards that can both pull and pass protect in that triangle spot, and Davis can do both. For a team that not only wants to protect their rising star quarterback in Justin Herbert, but also get movement in the run game, this could be the best option.
The pick: Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
The Volunteers had an outstanding offensive line in 2020, and it’s a shame the rest of the team wasn’t close to their level of production. Smith is 6’6, 325 and is considered a long-term stud at guard with the ability to open up holes in the run game. The knock is his quickness in pass protection, but that can certainly still be developed.
The pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
They might not get him at this position, but Jones meets all the Belichick tests for what you want in a quarterback. Big arm, not necessarily hugely mobile, makes the right decision, and has all the leadership intangibles. They also might do that Patriots thing and be able to trade back and still get him.
The pick: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Had his ups-and-downs with the NCAA and opting-in-out of this season, but he’s a total stud. Had just 36 catches for 472 yards this season, and he’s much more of a complete receiver than just a speed guy.
The pick: Greg Rousseau, DE, Miami
Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, but anchored a very good 2019 Canes defense, and finished with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL’s. He’s got that freakish South Florida athleticism, and can win either on the outside or in the run game.
18. Miami Dolphins
The pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
Less glamorous than some other picks, but he’ll be able to protect Tua Tagovailoa. At 6’4, 315, he comes from a school with a long tradition of producing great OL talent.
The pick: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Probably won’t be picking in this spot because all the top-tier quarterbacks will be gone, and even if they have to give up assets they’ll want one. But Toney would be a fit as well, with gamebreaker speed and playmaking ability. A freak athlete with Florida speed, he fits the prototype of a modern NFL receiver.
20. Chicago Bears
The pick: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The problem with making the playoffs as a bad football team is you’re stuck here with a tackle when you also need a quarterback. Jenkins opted out in November, but has shown plenty of upside for the next level of football, and this is a loaded class at OT.
The pick: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
Projects as an edge rusher with some run-stop ability. The Colts have plenty of needs, but Ojulari can make them more dynamic defensively right away.
22. Tennessee Titans
The pick: Joseph Ossai, LB, Texas
Another edge rusher that can get after the passer and has shown dynamic athleticism. You can never have too many players that can create negative plays with or without blitzing, and Ossai showed that ability for a Longhorns team that was often short on execution.
23. New York Jets
The pick: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
He’s going here because the Jets need everything, he’s likely the most talented guy left on the board, and he can excite a fan base. Harris is fantastic in pass pro, which is what often keeps rookies from getting on the field right away in the NFL. He’s also a pass catcher and a dynamic runner. The old saw about taking running backs too early doesn’t apply to this level of talent.
The pick: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
They might need a QB too, but if not Slater is much higher on some mock draft boards. This is a class where you can get a quality starter on your line very late, and that’s a need for Pittsburgh.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
The pick: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Just a redshirt sophomore so he’s young, but by the time he’s needed to win playoff games in Jacksonville he won’t be anymore. The Philly kid is a run stuffer on the nose or three-technique at the next level, and he’s learned at the best program for developing defensive talent in college football.
26. Cleveland Browns
The pick: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
He should wow at the Combine, and at 6’2 he can do freakish things on the field. But he makes plenty of mistakes as well, many of which got covered up by a lights-out Georgia defense last season.
27. Baltimore Ravens
The pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
His teammate Ja’Maar Chase is off the board, but Marshall still has plenty of ability. Had 10 TD’s in just seven games before getting on the train out of Baton Rouge in 2020, and looks like a Z with his 6’3 frame.
The pick: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Saints are beyond capped out and headed for a rebuild, so taking the best player on the board makes sense. Paye had four tackles for loss in just four games for the Wolverines this year, and 12.5 last year in 12 games. He can create negative plays as well as help in the run game.
The pick: Asante Samuel, CB, Florida State
You’ll recognize not only the name, but the pedigree too: St. Thomas Aquinas in the 305 to Tallahassee and the Noles. He’s only 5’10, but that’s the only knock on a South Florida kid that can cover like some of the better South Florida kids out there. And he’ll know what it takes to compete at the highest levels from Day 1.
30. Buffalo Bills
The pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Sometimes you just need to take the most dynamic player available, and this would give Josh Allen quite the weapon to keep defenses honest. A freak athlete that did have some games where he went missing, an NFL program will only benefit his development in rushing, receiving, and protection.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
The pick: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
After watching their offensive line get mashed in the Super Bowl, and almost getting their half-a-billion-dollar quarterback destroyed, look for the Chiefs to upgrade the OL in both free agency and the draft.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The pick: Joe Tryon, DE, Washington
The lights-out Tampa Bay defense that is still celebrating with the Lombardi Trophy might have some cap casualties, and an edge guy that can continue to run Todd Bowles’ scheme might be the way to go here.