2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

I wanted to get a first round draft out there a few days before Thursday just to illustrate where I think things stand as of now. There will be another, final edition. Hope you enjoy.

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

You don’t need me to explain that the Jaguars are going to draft Trevor Lawrence.

#2 New York Jets – QB Zach Wilson, BYU

This seems like a done deal.
#3 San Francisco 49ers (F/MIA/HOU) – QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Until the words “the San Francisco 49ers select Mac Jones” come out of Goodell’s mouth, I’m not going to believe this trade was for Jones. The issue around the “reporting” on this pick is the perfect example of how “league sources” and “league insiders” gets spun into actual reporting. I don’t care that Schefter or Rapoport talked to five dudes on AFC teams and they all *think* Shanahan is after Jones. Go ask someone in Levi Stadium.

The reality is I don’t believe Shanahan or Lynch have told anyone else in the world who they’re taking, save maybe the owner. If you cherry pick look at some Shanahan quotes over the years you can try piecing together what he is looking for. For instance, here he is talking about how a running quarterback completely opens up your offense merely from the threat of the zone-read, and how defenses can no longer play “11 against 10.”

Then there’s Kyle saying in 2017, on the topic of elite arm talent, “[y]ou’re always looking for one of those seven throwers on the planet, whatever that number is. I’m guessing there’s only around seven. I hope to get one of those seven guys, but if you don’t you got to find other ways to win.”

Finding other ways to win is an important piece of the puzzle. A lot of the theory for why San Francisco is going to draft Jones is because he “fits the mold” of a Shanahan quarterback a la Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan. This, conveniently, ignores that the Shanahans took the league by storm with the zone-read in RGIII’s rookie season, or that Kyle’s dad Mike was salivating over Jay Cutler ahead of the 2006 draft, or that Kyle’s dad Mike, ya know, like, won two Super Bowls with John Elway. But what do details ever matter?

Kyle is smart enough to know that it’s not about the quarterback fitting your system but about constructing your system based on your quarterback’s strengths. Cousins and Ryan succeeded with Shanahan because he leaned into their talents as opposed to asking them to be someone they’re not.

As you read this next quote, bare in mind that Shanahan recently lost to Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl, and that this quote came on the heels of the 9ers losing to Buffalo in December in a game where Josh Allen went 32/40 for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns.

“I evaluate quarterbacks in terms of trying to find people who can have a chance to be one of those elite-type guys, and there’s a lot of different ways to do it. I don’t think you have one certain type you’re looking for. You’re just trying to find a guy who is better than about 98 percent of people on this planet.. and when you find that, you get him, and you adjust to him.”

Do you really think Shanahan sold the farm to go get an immobile quarterback with average arm strength when this is his one chance to shoot for the moon? What does Shanahan really want? Well John Beck said, among other things; smart, quick processor, in-game communication, somebody that can drive a ball downfield, and then within space.

Benjamin Solak did a fantastic job breaking down how each of Jones, Lance, and Justin Fields fit into the 9ers offense. Basically, they all do for certain aspects, but the one part of the Shanahan offense that probably will never go away is the quick game, and Lance is the best match of the three. Take that for whatever it’s worth, but based on everything above I truly believe this is Lance (which just ensured it will not be Lance).

#4 Atlanta Falcons – TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

I don’t think the Falcons are going to end up trading this pick, which I wrote about here. In short, I don’t believe any team will ultimately pay the bounty in order to secure QB4. That leaves Atlanta deciding between Pitts or taking a quarterback themselves.

There’s been a little more noise in the media lately that the Falcons are indeed taking a good, hard look at the quarterbacks. They’re attended pro days and second pro days in person. Even Arthur Blank did a public interview and covered enough ground you can create any take away you’re looking for in what he said.

As I mentioned while looking at the trade market for this pick, those I would deem reliable reporters say Atlanta would take the “right” quarterback here, but won’t force it. Your guess is as good as mine as to who the “right” one is, but there is some whispers Fontenot likes Lance. However, Fontenot also logged 18 years in the Saints organization, much of that spent repeatedly watching the team go all in on maximizing the Drew Brees window as he entered his twilight years (though they reportedly were itching to draft Mahomes before getting sniped by the Chiefs, so interpret both factoids however you please).

Kyle Pitts is the near-unanimous top non-quarterback in this class, and Arthur Smith ran more two tight end sets last year than any other team.

#5 Cincinnati Bengals – WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

I’m excited to see who Cincinnati takes here as a way to catch a glimpse into their team building philosophy. The reporting on this pick typically falls into three buckets; “they haven’t decided yet,” “they’re going to take Chase,” “I just have a hard time believing they wouldn’t take the left tackle.” I put more faith in the first two, as the “difficult time believing” is a personal anecdote from the individual saying it, not sourced information.

Assuming Pitts is gone we all know the two options. There’s been enough consistent smoke it’ll be Chase that I’m willing to bet it’s actually fire.

• The Dolphins, though, were looking for a way to stay closer to where they were originally picking, which led to this becoming what was essentially a three-team trade. And Miami needed a partner that would keep the talks in confidence. So Grier called the Eagles, who owned the sixth pick, a little more than two weeks ago to ask if they would be interested in moving back to 12 if the deal with the 49ers went through. Philly said yes, and the Dolphins told the Eagles they’d circle back. Then Grier and Eagles GM Howie Roseman chipped away at the parameters of a second-order trade.

• In doing that, Miami was in a position knowing quarterbacks likely would go 1-2-3-4, which would give the Dolphins the second pick of nonquarterbacks in the draft, while keeping the extra first-rounder for 2023.

• The Eagles worked exclusively with the Dolphins, and Roseman had to keep the trade under wraps in the two-plus weeks in between to allow for the bang-bang nature of how it eventually would go down.

Perhaps quarterbacks won’t to 1-2-3-4 after all, but Grier worked on locking in the 6th pick for two weeks over a month in advance of the draft. I’m willing to bet there’s three non-quarterbacks on Miami’s board that they’re insistent on getting their hands on. Trading with the 9ers ensured quarterbacks going 1-2-3, and trading with the Eagles ensures getting one of Miami’s big three, whoever they are.

For what it’s worth, I think the three are Pitts, Chase, and Smith, probably in that order. Smith was a hot name to connect with Miami beginning somewhere in November/December. For awhile it persisted, now the trails gone cold. We literally just saw this last year with a different Alabama propsect. #TankforTua went on for months and months, but once it became lying season the Dolphins were all of a sudden going to re-tank for Lawrence, make a run at trading up for Burrow, or actually draft Herbert over Tua. Of course, that was all bullshit and they drafted Tua. So, for my money, this is all bullshit and Miami made sure they stayed in range to get Smith (assuming Chase and Pitts are gone).

#7 New England Patriots (F/DET) – QB Justin Fields, Ohio State


Detroit Receives: #15, #46, 2022 first
New England Receives: #7, #153

We can get to the math when we cover Detroit’s selection. As for the Patriots, this is self explanatory. There’s debate as to whether or not Belichick will really consolidate draft capital, including leveraging the future, in order to move up the board since it cuts against the very fiber of his nature. Well, two things. First, the spending spree signals not only does Bill have no plans on picking as high as 15th ever again, but that he is willing to operate differently under certain circumstances.

Second, how many times over the years have you heard “we’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the New England Patriots” from Belichick? Normally, it’s in regards to selling off a player a year too early as opposed to a year too late, or letting someone like Darrelle Revis walk in free agency. The foundation of the concept is the same; long term viability. I have no idea how much longer Belichick intends to coach, but the best thing long term for the Patriots is to get Justin Fields, sticker price be damned. After 20 years of the most successful coach-organization marriage in league history, you’d think Bill wants to leave this team with the new quarterback already on the roster.

#8 Carolina Panthers – OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

Carolina, like the rest of the NFL, has put it out into the ether that they are “very open to moving back.” They do have picks to recoup, but in this scenario, where Sewell just falls into their laps, I don’t think they find an offer that entices them enough to pass. Whoever the quarterback ends up being long term, Darnold or otherwise, they’ll at least be protected on the left.

#9 Denver Broncos – OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

I really think the Broncos are going to be in a weird spot if this happens. First, it doesn’t seem very likely Denver will trade up in order to get a quarterback. It looks like if a certain quarterback gets to nine (which appears to be either Fields or Lance, but in this scenario it’s irrelevant anyway) they’d take him, but they don’t look to be interested in Jones. Furthermore, for a team picking in the top ten, the Broncos really don’t have needs outside of quarterback. George Paton even said they plugged their needs in free agency and that gives them flexibility.

I think Denver would prefer to trade back if the board falls this way, but of course it takes two to tango. I’d say the most likely trade partners are Philadelphia, the Clippers Chargers, Washington, and Chicago. Philadelphia allegedly wants to move back into the top ten, presumably to jump Dallas for Surtain. However, it seems more likely the Eagles would want to trade down. The Chargers figure to want to get Sewell or Slater, but will Denver deal within the division? Washington or Chicago would have to love Mac Jones and offer enough to get Denver to bail.

Paton talked about just taking the best player and leaving the entire draft with a bunch of talented football players. Slater may be the highest rated player on their board under this pretense, and like Carolina before them, whoever the long term quarterback is will be protected.

#10 Dallas Cowboys – CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

At this point, this might be the most common team-player pairing outside the top two. Need, value, and scheme fit perfectly align. Dallas, like everyone else, is “interested in moving down,” but with both Slater and Sewell off the board it’s hard to forecast who would be eager enough to move up.

#11 New York Giants – Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

So we all know Gettleman is full of shit when he says he might trade down, right? Good, glad we get that settled.

Anyway, Gettleman has a clear pattern when drafting. He is supremely confident in his own evaluations, leading him to take who he believes is the best player. He sort of drafts for need but within the confines of certain positions. We all know he likes his hog mollies, so the trenches are always an option, but he has also routinely spent premium picks of pass catchers and the secondary.

There’s also Gettleman’s old school-ness. He’s not going to care about the upside with someone like Paye or Oweh when their college production was so minimal. Ojulari is the best combination of production and athleticism without some terrifying injury history. You may or may not believe this is a reach, but Gettleman isn’t going to care. Even though this wouldn’t count as the tenches, Ojulari fits their scheme while addressing their pass rushing need, and despite his lack of size is surprisingly sturdy against the run.

This is most likely a coincidence, but for what it’s worth, during his three prior drafts as the Giants GM Gettleman has selected a Georgia product in each; one in the third round and another two in the first.

#12 Chicago Bears (F/PHI/MIA/SF) – QB Mac Jones, Alabama


Philadelphia Receives: #20, #83, 2022 first
Chicago Receives: #12

I believe Ryan Pace is going to do something aggressive on Thursday. I don’t love this match (Jones and Chicago) but Pace needs something to point to in order to rationalize him not losing his job. “Hey, Jones was pretty good after we benched Dalton, let’s just see this through!”

Also, if this doesn’t do the trick in salvaging Pace’s job, then not having a 2022 first rounder won’t be his problem.

Regardless if the Bears are able to come up for a quarterback here or not, I think this trade pairing has a lot of potential. I believe Pace is likely to leverage next year’s first in order to try to save his job, and Roseman is always open to trading. Plus, this would give the Eagles at least three firsts in 2022, with the potential of a fourth, providing them with plenty of ammo to go get a new quarterback should they deem it necessary.

Also, in a world where one of the five quarterbacks gets outside the top 9 and New England has already moved up for one, Chicago can aim to trade with Philadelphia knowing that the Cowboys at 10 and Giants at 11 are unlikely to trade with Washington.

#13 Los Angeles Chargers – WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

If Sewell or Slater get here there is a high probability either would be the pick. It also stands to reason the Chargers would be willing to move up to secure one of them. Telesco is willing to go get someone he truly believes in. However, even with the offensive line being an obvious need, the team is allegedly bullish on Trey Pipkins. This, of course, could be a lie, and just because they’re bullish doesn’t mean they’d pass on Sewell or Slater, or even Darrisaw for that matter.

With such obvious needs on the offensive line and at corner, why take Waddle? Because Herbert. The Bills brought in Diggs to really round out their receiver corps and Josh Allen exploded. Bringing in Waddle would put the Chargers’ three-wide set at Keenan Allen, Waddle, and Mike Williams. The route technician, the game altering speed, and the downfield/jump ball specialist. It’s a deep receiver class, sure, but it’s also considered a deep offensive tackle class and Los Angeles may just have Waddle graded too far above everyone else available to pass. Let’s also keep in mind the Chargers are going to have to keep up with the Chiefs twice a year for the next decade and a half (at least).

#14 Minnesota Vikings – OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

I’d expect Minnesota to try to trade back. Spielman has traded down 24 times during his Vikings tenure (not counting the 2020 draft, which included a trade down in the first), and Minnesota is without their second round pick. I can’t find a clean pairing, though the Raiders may want to sneak right in front of Detroit in order to snag Parsons. There’s reports Gruden loves the Penn State product, and Las Vegas does have an extra third rounder.

On the other hand, there does seem to be a consensus the tackles drop off after Darrisaw, even if the position is deep overall. Spielman has an extra third himself, so he still has two selections on Day 2. The Vikings also have four picks in the fourth round where they can take shots at plugging other needs. Perhaps Spielman sees Darrisaw as a day one starter and wants to just cross this off his do-to list despite so many holes on defense.

#15 Detroit Lions (F/NE) – LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

As promised, math! You may have saw the terms of the trade above (#15, #46, 2022 first for #7 and #153) and thought “that seems like not enough.” For whatever reason, when these trades happen on the clock they don’t approach the bounties teams pay when they happen before draft day. While the Wentz, Darnold, and 2021 QB3 (via projection) trades saw the selling team profit 27.5 points of draft capital on average, when it came to the Trubisky, Mahomes, Watson, Allen, and Rosen trades that happened on draft night it was a completely different story.

These trades are not created equally. Among other things, distance traveled and the quality of the prospect matters. But for what it’s worth, if we project New England’s 2022 first rounder to be the 22nd pick next year, then Detroit walks away with a profit 17.7 points, which is in the Trubisky, Mahomes, Watson, Allen range (14.5 – 21.4).

There’s also a reasonable argument to be made Detroit will prioritize a future first over, say, anything Denver might offer to flip up a couple spots. The Lions seem to be playing the long game and will roll into 2021 with Goff, but presumably would like the ammo to move up in 2022 should it be necessary.

As for Parsons, there’s been multiple accounts linking him to the team, and for what it’s worth this tweet exists.

#16 Arizona Cardinals – CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

Vance Joseph believes playing man “makes calling games easier, it makes game-planning a lot easier.” Corner is a huge need for the Cardinals and Horn is the best man corner in the draft. This is another instance (like Dallas) where need and value align and the team just takes the best corner available.

#17 Las Vegas Raiders – OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

Projecting what Vegas does is a nightmare. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have displayed an obvious pattern. They draft for need, are ridiculously overconfident in their own evaluation abilities, and disregard positional value. Oh, and if you didn’t play at an SEC school you better be from a national power house.

They’ve made five first round picks together, which are:

-Clelin Ferrell, 4th overall
-Josh Jacobs, running back
-Johnathan Abram, box safety
-Henry Ruggs as the first receiver off the board
-Damon Arnette, 19th overall

In the first three rounds the duo has selected five players from the SEC, four players from Clemson, and one from Ohio State. While they’re prone to go off the reservation, there’s at least some clues.

The Raiders jettisoned their offensive line this offseason so it’s a huge need. Given that the Gruden-Mayock regime took a running back and box safety in the first round of the same draft I don’t think ATV most likely ending up at guard is going to scare Vegas off. Is USC still enough of a national power house to be worthy of a Gruden/Mayock non-SEC selection? Who knows.

Basically everything I just said can be applied to Owusu-Koramoah as well.

#18 Miami Dolphins – Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan

I’ve never understood the clamoring for a running back here by Dolphins fans but, whatever.

In 2020, Chris Grier showed a deference for players at positions of value. After taking Tua 5th, he followed it up with two more first round picks; a left tackle (albeit a reach) and then a corner despite having Xavien Howard and Byron Jones already.

Miami taking a wide receiver at 6 is incredibly likely (another high value position) and here we are addressing edge. With Ojulari gone I don’t entirely love the fit of any edge worthy of this selection, but Paye has the athleticism to maneuver in space so my best guess is he’s the guy.

I like the idea of Moehrig here as well. Miami needs help at safety and Moehrig is the best in the class and then there’s a drop off so the Dolphins could snag him there then circle back with their 80 other picks hit to edge, offensive line, etc.

#19 Washington – LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

If Washington doesn’t go up for a quarterback I think two prime targets here are JOK and Moehrig. Outside of LB and S Washington doesn’t really have dire needs and both JOK and Moehrig present at least decent value.

The Rivera regime’s first two picks last year were Chase Young and Antonio Gibson, aka supreme athletes. Ok, Young was the obviously second pick (if you weren’t taking a quarterback) but they also declined to trade the pick despite not having a second rounder. The same thing I said above for Miami taking Moehrig to lock up the best safety then circle back later applies here, but after Rivera’s time in Carolina where he had Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson, coupled with Owusu-Koramoah’s freak athleticism, I lean him here.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles (F/CHI) – DT Christian Barmore, Alabama

Regarding the trade (#20, #83, 2022 first for #12) it winds up being similar to what the Chiefs traded away to move up for Mahomes (#27, #91, and a future first).

As for the pick, Roseman has routinely prioritized the trenches, receivers and corners with high picks. Fletcher Cox will be 32 in 2022 and Philly can save $10 million by cutting him. In 2023 Cox and Hargrave are free agents. In 2019 the Eagles took Dilliard to prep for the day an aging Peters was no longer their left tackle. You can argue at the time they were in a better position to take think more long-term, but I think Roseman in general thinks a few years ahead.

This class is deep at receiver and along the offensive line, and the corner class is at least “interesting” later on. If this trade happens the way I’m projecting, Philly would have four Day 3 picks to address more pressing needs.

The two picks above this I’ve said Moehrig would make sense since he is the best at a shallow position and that sentiment is even greater for Barmore. Defensive tackle is arguably the worst position in this class, and Barmore is easily the best of the bunch. He has work to do, but that’s the point to him starting off behind Cox and Hargrave. Barmore has the potential to provide the elite interior rush Cox currently provides once Cox is gone.

#21 Green Bay Packers (F/IND) – CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern


Indianapolis Receives: #29, #92
Green Bay Receives: #21

One of the things I’m most confident of ahead of the draft is Chris Ballard trading down. He loves to do so anyway, and he’s short on picks due to the Wentz trade. So it’s just a matter of figuring out the dance partner.

In each of the last three drafts the Packers have traded up. There’s more context to it than that (in 2018 they traded back up after moving down and in 2019 they moved up with their additional first round pick they had acquired from the Saints) but the point is they’re certainly not afraid to do so.

It may be hard to project this front office to pull the trigger on a win now move like this after taking a quarterback and then running back first and second last year. However, after watching Kevin King get absolutely torched in the NFC title game last year I’d say there’s a fair likelihood the Packers go up for a corner they view as an immediate impact player.

#22 Tennessee Titans – CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

The Titans have three clear needs; receiver, offensive tackle, and corner. Corner is the most shallow of the three positions in this class, and in 2017 we watched Jon Robinson reach on Corey Davis at #5 over more talented prospects (such as Marshon Lattimore) because in 2017 receiver was a shallow position. He then came back with his second first rounder and selected Adoree Jackson to address his need at corner.

We know a couple other things about Robinson. He will draft for need and he really likes athleticism. Oh, and in 2019 he drafted Jeffery Simmons 19th overall despite a recent ACL tear. Simmons was a top 10 pick without the injury so Robinson took advantage of such a talented player falling down the board.

Farley hits a huge need at a shallower position in the draft in comparison to Tennessee’s other needs, he’s as athletic as it gets, and he would go top 12 if it weren’t for his injuries.

#23 New York Jets (F/SEA) – OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

It’s common practice for a team to follow up drafting a first round quarterback with a support piece. Offensive line, wide receiver, tight end. If Jenkins pans out then the Jets will already have bookend tackles in place to protect Wilson.

#24 Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Najee Harris, Alabama

I couldn’t disagree with this more but there’s too much noise about the Steelers and Najee Harris to ignore. At this point I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the pick.

#25 Jacksonville Jaguars (F/LAR) – OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas

It’s common practice for a team to follow up drafting a first round quarterback with a support piece. Offensive line, wide receiver, tight end. Cam Robison will potentially hit free agency in 2022 and Jawaan Taylor hasn’t shown enough yet in his two seasons to prevent the Jaguars drop dipping into the second tier of tackles to provide Lawrence some protection.

#26 Cleveland Browns – LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

I think if one of the top four corners makes it to 26 there’s a high likelihood Cleveland pounces, and I’d also consider this the floor for Barmore in the wake of the Sheldon Richardson release.

But, alas, all five are gone. It’s crazy to type this, but the Browns don’t really have needs. Clowney is only on a one year deal so perhaps they shoot for the moon with one of the raw edges, which would make perfect sense.

However, Collins is a good match in terms of need/more immediate impact, value, and fit.

#27 Baltimore Ravens – OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

I understand this implies the Ravens are just going to draft Orlando Brown’s replacement and they don’t operate forcing things like that, but I believe this makes perfect sense. To start, many don’t believe that Leatherwood can stay on the left side in the NFL, but in Baltimore he would move to right tackle. Furthermore, the strength of this offense is their running game, and with Brown gone there is now a big hole on the offensive line. Yes, the Ravens don’t chase needs, but Leatherwood has the talent to be a late first rounder and in this scenario the Colts pick ahead of Baltimore’s second first (31) and they’re presumably in the tackle market themselves.

#28 New Orleans Saints – WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

Do you really think Sean Payton will be able to help himself if Kadarius Toney is on the board? Toney is getting a lot of traction leading up to the draft and could allegedly go much higher than this, but I feel like he is going to slide due to his character concerns.

#29 Indianapolis Colts (F/GB) – Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami

The Colts really need a left tackle and more edge defenders. I’m not saying Ballard will chase a need but he also covets athleticism and Phillips has more than enough of it. Phillips may go as high as 18 so this is good value. For the record, I think Phillips will fall a bit on draft day due to his dubious medical history.

#30 Buffalo Bills – RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

I don’t agree with this pick, but I’m not projecting what I’d do. Buffalo gets their choice of any running back.

#31 Baltimore Ravens (F/KC) – WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

This is the perfect blend of everything you’d look for in a draft pick. Value? Check. Hits a need? Check. Is a good fit for the roster? Check. If I bat 1.000 on Thursday night with my mock then on Friday this would easily get my highest grade.

#32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Edge Jayson Oweh, Penn State

The Bucs are in an interesting position. They don’t really need anything, so they can either just take the best player they think would make the most immediate impact as they chase another Super Bowl, or they can swing for the fences on a project.
I think if Bateman gets here he’ll be the pick. However, Oweh’s upside is limitless due to his outrageous athleticism. Jason Pierre-Paul will be a 33 year old free agent in 2022 so after a year of grooming Oweh can step in and help Brady chase his 9th ring.

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