By Ryan Bickerstaff
As a follow-up to my rookie mock draft from earlier this week, I’m bringing you a regular mock draft covering the first round. I will be writing deeper mocks in the offseason.
Since I’m writing this after a game was played this week, I determined the draft order by how I project the rest of this week’s games to play out. Projected record after this week is in parentheses. This is also based on how I think the draft could potentially look, not necessarily on my personal player rankings.
Let’s get it.
1. New York Jets (0-13) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I don’t think I have to spend a lot of time explaining this, so I won’t. It doesn’t get any easier than this. Not even the Jets can mess this up.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Similar to Lawrence, this pick doesn’t need much of an explanation. Fields is one of the best QB prospects we’ve seen over the last few years. He has the upside to be one of the best in the game.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
I hate this organization for what they did to Joe Burrow. This is why clown show franchises can’t have nice things. They stuck that kid out there behind the worst offensive line I’ve ever seen and let him get his knee destroyed. Sewell to the rescue. He’s an elite tackle prospect and will go a very long way toward fixing this line and keeping their franchise QB off the IR.
4. Los Angeles Chargers (3-10) – Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
This pick doesn’t come without a significant amount of risk, but the payoff could be fantastic. Rousseau is scary big at 6-7, 265 pounds, and has All-Pro upside. He’s raw, but is the best edge prospect in this class. The idea of pairing up Rousseau and Joey Bosa and letting them terrorize opposing QBs is too good to pass up.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (3-9-1) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Whether it’s Jalen Hurts or Carson Wentz starting in 2021, the Eagles need two things on offense, in particular. One is to fix that offensive line. In this scenario, the top tackle prospect is gone and there aren’t any others worthy of a top five pick. Trading down is an option. The second thing is to get the quarterback some weapons. Landing Chase is a great place to start.
6. Dallas Cowboys (4-9) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Surtain II is the son of a former All-Pro corner, Patrick Surtain Sr., and has similar upside to his father. He’s a lockdown corner who’s impact will immediately elevate this defense. I love the idea of pairing Surtain with his former college teammate, Trevon Diggs, and watching them develop into one of the best tandems in the league together.
7. Denver Broncos (4-9) – Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
Denver was crushed in terms of covid and injuries. Because of that, Drew Lock gets one more season to make it happen. In the meantime, Von Miller is coming off a serious injury and on the wrong side of 30. How much longer does he have? Paye is the second-best edge rusher in a class relatively thin at the position. Bradley Chubb and Paye will be a great duo going into the future.
8. Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Atlanta is great at drafting quarterbacks. Brett Favre (1991), Michael Vick (2001), Matt Ryan (2008). Could Lance be next? Lance almost feels like he could be a hybrid between Vick and Ryan. Hire Brian Daboll to be the head coach, let him maximize Lance’s talent like he did with Josh Allen. Lance could sit behind Ryan until he’s ready. And once he is, showtime.
9. Detroit Lions (5-8) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons falling this far is a pipe dream, but we also saw a blue chip prospect like Isaiah Simmons drop to this range in 2020. If Parsons is there, Detroit has to take him. He’s a freak athlete with the versatility to play many roles in the defense. He has All-Pro upside. As a Lions fan, please let this happen…
10. Chicago Bears (5-8) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Chicago needs a quarterback. Mitch Trubisky ain’t it. Neither is Nick Foles. Wilson could be, however. He also feels like a very Chicago pick. Like, of the big name QB prospects in 2017, Trubisky felt like the most wrong choice. I feel the same way about Wilson this year, though I will say that Wilson is a significantly better prospect than Trubisky was.
11. Carolina Panthers (5-8) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
For being as young as it is, Carolina’s defense has been lowkey good this season. They have studs at every level who are only going to continue getting better. Let’s throw another borderline elite prospect into the mix. Farley has a lot of upside to become one of those corners who can erase a receiver from the game and makes this rising defense that much tougher.
12. New York Giants (5-8) – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
With all the top quarterbacks off the board (and my inability to stomach the thought of Mac Jones landing with the Giants), New York decides to go out and finally get Daniel Jones a real #1 receiver. Plus, the weapons will be in place for the new QB in ‘22 if Jones is, in fact, not the guy. Call me crazy, say it’s Bama bias, but I see shades of Marvin Harrison in Smith.
13. Miami Dolphins (via Houston 5-8) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I so badly wanted to reunite Tua with Smitty, who was clearly Tua’s favorite go-to in college, but I couldn’t do the mental gymnastics necessary to put Waddle ahead of him. Still, Tua gets reunited with one of his college teammates, and the chemistry will be there from day one. I’ve said it many times. Waddle has Tyreek Hill kind of upside.
14. San Francisco 49ers (5-8) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Something else I’m on record saying is that Mac Jones would be a star in this league if he could get into a system like Kyle Shanahan’s. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t the long term answer for the 49ers. Jones, the likely Heisman Trophy winner, brings a stronger, more accurate arm than Garoppolo, and this team would hardly skip a beat with the roster and coaching in place.
15. New England Patriots (6-7) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
New England needs weapons and they can’t strike out again. To think that they picked Sony Michel over Nick Chubb in 2018, then opted for N’Keal Harry over AJ Brown and DK Metcalf in 2019… 2021 is the year they get it right with Pitts. He will be the rare kind of tight end prospect to come in and immediately make his presence felt, give this offense some teeth.
16. Minnesota Vikings (6-7) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Vikings continue investing in their young secondary, which has struggled throughout the season in 2020. Horn is a very good corner prospect and would likely emerge as the top cover guy on the team in his rookie season. He is also the son of wide receiver Joe Horn, a former Saints great.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (7-6) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Raiders passed on Devin White in 2019, opting to pick Clelin Ferrell instead at fourth overall. White, who was taken by the Buccaneers with the very next pick, is developing into one of the best linebackers in the game. Ferrell… to put it nicely, hasn’t been impressive. They don’t make that mistake again. Moses feels like a very Mike Mayock kind of pick, too.
18. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) – Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
It’s near impossible to replace a future Hall of Famer like Marshall Yanda, and that Yanda-sized void is certainly being felt by this team. Davis is the best guard prospect in this class and would slot in very nicely along that line. After paving the way for JK Dobbins to run wild in college, I love the idea of Davis being drafted to do the same in the pros.
*Note – I took a few liberties with the draft order in the playoffs. For example, technically New Orleans will have the best NFC record after this week, but they aren’t going to the Super Bowl. It’ll be Green Bay vs. Kansas City this year.
19. Washington Football Team (6-7) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Okay, hear me out. Washington could go quarterback here. They could also address the offensive line here. But Alex Smith has this team playing well and I like the idea of them building up the weapons around him. They have Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, and a really good defense. Let’s add a stud like Bateman to the mix and see how far Smith can take them.
20. Arizona Cardinals (7-6) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Is it just me or did it suddenly get hot in here? This fit is almost too perfect and makes too much sense. And could you imagine the takes it would produce? “Travis Etienne is dynasty RB1!” would be echoed from the highest peaks of the Twittersphere. Adding Etienne makes Kyler Murray’s life a whole lot easier, and just think about the numbers he will put up.
21. Miami Dolphins (8-5) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
We’re just going to continue loading up Miami’s offense with talent from Alabama to support Tua. When I think about how good Leatherwood is, it’s hard to believe he will fall this far, but the Dolphins sure are glad he does in this scenario. He will immediately step in as the best player along that offensive line and keep Tua protected in the pocket for years to come.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
What do you get a team that has everything? After watching what Tyreek Hill did to that secondary in week 12, cornerback is probably the most obvious answer. Wade is a physical corner, a good tackler with good size who can fill many roles in the secondary. This secondary is young and improving. Adding a player of Wade’s caliber really helps this process along.
23. Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Indy needs a quarterback and I like the idea of Frank Reich getting his hands on one of the top six quarterbacks in this class. This team isn’t close to bad enough to compete for one of the top guys in 2022, so it makes sense to go all in on a guy like Trask in 2021. The Florida product has enjoyed a Joe Burrow-esque breakout season and would do well in Reich’s system.
24. Tennessee Titans (9-4) – Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
In the end, Ossai probably goes significantly higher than 24th overall. He’s big (6-4, 250+), fast (probably runs in the 4.5s), and has a motor that won’t quit. He would also look great in the Titans defense where he would receive the coaching to reach his potential as the Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher he can become.
25. New York Jets (via Seattle 9-4) – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
You have your franchise QB. Now it’s time to make sure said franchise QB doesn’t receive the Joe Burrow treatment. Notre Dame has a fantastic track record when it comes to offensive linemen, so snagging one of this caliber in the late first round is a no brainer. They added Mekhi Becton in 2020, now Eichenberg solidifies the other side, and this line suddenly looks acceptable.
26. Cleveland Browns (10-3) – Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma
What’s the biggest difference between the disappointing 2019 Browns team and this 2020 squad that’s exceeding expectations? Aside from the obvious coaching change, of course. It’s the offensive line. It is playing much better after the addition of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. Why stop there? Adding Humphrey puts this Cleveland line into the “elite” conversation.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams 9-4) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
A defensive prospect could be at play here but, I went with the same logic as the Jets’ selection of Eichenberg. You have your franchise QB. Go get that man a franchise left tackle. It’s not likely a prospect, albeit a little raw, with Mayfield’s upside will be available in the late 20s but if he is, this is the obvious pick for Jacksonville.
28. Buffalo Bills (10-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Buffalo has it all on offense with one glaring weak spot at tight end. Dawson Knox flashes from time to time but seems to be hurt a lot and isn’t near the borderline elite prospect that Freiermuth is. This addition will give Josh Allen a safety blanket type target who can make plays all over the field, as well as open things up for the running game with his ability as a blocker.
29. New Orleans Saints (11-2) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
How much fun would this be? Drew Brees throwing quick hit passes and bubble screens to Moore and just letting him go to work. New Orleans needs a #2 receiver, and Moore would be perfect in this offense. He is a clear upgrade over any receiver on that roster not named Michael Thomas and would help this offense achieve a new level of efficiency and explosiveness.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Harris just feels like a Pittsburgh type of prospect. I can see it… Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns. It’s late December of 2021, freezing, the snow is falling heavily. Winner takes the division. And Pittsburgh just goes out and punches the Browns in the mouth, riding Harris to a tough victory over their rivals. Harris is a top five dynasty back if he lands here.
31. Green Bay Packers (10-3) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
The Packers finally give Aaron Rodgers a legit WR2 who needs to be accounted for by the defense at all times. In the short term, this would open things up for the offense and, in the long term, get that heir-apparent WR1 in place for Davante Adams’ eventual decline.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
I’ll be honest. This is way too low for Owusu-Koramoah. But we saw another stud linebacker prospect fall to the end of the first round last year, too. Owusu-Koramoah is like Isaiah Simmons in a lot of ways, just quite a bit smaller. He’s a super athletic and versatile “defensive weapon” who can make plays sideline to sideline, in coverage, and when rushing the quarterback.
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