By Paul Czarnecki
A virtual representation of the 2021 NFL Draft stage in Cleveland. The event will have in-person participants, and will also include commissioner Roger Goodell giving hugs to players, given clearance to do so by the NFLPA. IMAGE CREDITS: WKYC
As the NFL’s biggest stage is set, 32 talented, young football players will hear their names be called by commissioner Roger Goodell in Cleveland, Ohio. This particular year of football has been one of the craziest to date, through season-ending injuries, big-time touchdowns, and offseason madness, where it all culminates into one closing event to put a bow on the 2021 NFL season: the NFL Draft. As comes with drafts in all sports, analysts and experts tend to put out their “mock” drafts, setting a prediction for what may actually unfold on draft night. So, why do anything different? Here is my 2021 NFL mock draft:
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
It really shouldn’t have ever been a debate, shouldn’t it? Lawrence has been one of the most highly ranked prospects out of high school since 2010, when Cam Newton took the number one overall pick by FAR. Lawrence is the perfect fit for the Jaguars, as their new head coach Urban Meyer needs a blank slate to repeat his professional coaching career. With young receivers such as Laviska Shenault Jr. and D.J Chark, they’re in for a nice, easy development season with Trevor Lawrence.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson drops back and looks for an open receiver vs Boise State. Wilson’s accuracy on his deep passes have earned him a high ranking in most NFL analysts draft boards. IMAGE CREDITS: Getty Images/CBS Sports
2. NEW YORK JETS - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The rise of Zach Wilson has been mostly dominated by his pro days, where NFL team scouts came and watched him dominate the competition with deep ball after deep ball. His biggest strength is his safety in most NFL systems, due to his ability to stay alive in the pocket and find the open man nearly every single time. Wilson’s only problem is that 30 other NFL teams will not find a way to get this man onto their team. One day, he will become the NFL superstar that he is projected to be.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The 49ers gave up a LOT of draft picks to get into the top 3, which is interesting considering their Super Bowl appearance not two years prior to the draft. It seems like trading into a top spot would certainly land them a quarterback with a higher upside than Mac Jones from Alabama, but the direction head coach Kyle Shanahan is leaning in is Jones’. Unfortunately for the Niners, with better quarterbacks on the board still, this pick surely looks like a huge miss in the eyes of other NFL general managers.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Being at the fourth overall pick, the Falcons somehow manage to select the best player in the draft in Kyle Pitts. Pitts’ versatility in the Gators’ offense made them look like one of the best teams in the country, as his unguardable self logged 12 touchdowns in his junior season at Florida. With Matt Ryan on the cusp of retirement, and the receiving core looking stronger and stronger by year, there’s no question that Atlanta could have the youngest and brightest future of any NFL team soon.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS - Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Another disagreeable pick around the league, but head coach Zac Taylor wants to give last year’s #1 overall pick Joe Burrow a weapon he’s familiar with: wideout Ja’Marr Chase from LSU. Both of them played together in the previous college season, but after Burrow’s season-ending injury last season, it seems like a more logical choice to select an offensive lineman over a receiver. However, the influence of Burrow is too much for the Bengals to handle, and their offense becomes extremely deadly for the future with this selection.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Dolphins miss out on taking the best receiver on the board, as Cincinnati takes Chase just one pick earlier, so Miami settles for a player who is widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft. Penei Sewell’s college campaign was filled with ups and downs, after ranked seasons turned into underwhelming losses, but his impact on the game is so much more noticeable when given a young quarterback (ex: Justin Herbert). Sewell at 6 is very low in my opinion, so the Dolphins walk away from the top 6 with a steal of a player.
7. DETROIT LIONS - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Detroit’s recent seasons have been extraneously sorrowful, as their last playoff victory was over 30 years ago. Therefore, the Lions stacking up on clutch-time players with championship experience is a solid move for the franchise. Jaylen Waddle from Alabama is the perfect selection here, as his playing style most highly represents the comparison to a modern-day Tyreek Hill. Waddle’s explosiveness from the line of scrimmage and separation he creates from other defenders puts him on another level from other wide receivers in the draft. He is the shoe-in #1 receiver for the Lions and Jared Goff in 2021.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS - Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Carolina Panthers have been a team plagued with injuries over the last couple of seasons, with star halfback Christian McCaffrey missing nearly all of 2020 with an ankle injury. After trading for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who has been widely known by NFL experts to have been “put in a poor situation with his offensive line”, the Panthers may snag Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater to protect their beloved QB. His power blocking from the blind side should keep Darnold more protected than usual.
9. DENVER BRONCOS - Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Although it seemed like the Broncos would use this pick on a first-round quarterback, their trade for Teddy Bridgewater just days before the draft put that rumor to rest. Now, they take their chances on a highly-ranked prospect from Penn State: linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons has been known to have a few “character” issues, but still has a chip on his shoulder that will progress him further and make him become a top linebacker in the league. And who knows? Maybe former first-rounder Von Miller can become his mentor for years to come, coaching him into becoming a top defensive minded pass-rusher.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS - Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Dallas Cowboys had their offensive struggles last season, but those were mostly due to injuries to their top players, leaving them with a depleted offense that just couldn’t match up to previous seasons of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Their secondary, however, couldn’t guard an inanimate object. This seems like a great place for the son of former NFL legend Patrick Surtain to go, where a team needs him to lock down slot receivers and top tight ends. Patrick Suratin II is the best corner in the draft, and the Cowboys would love to scoop him up for themselves.
THE REST OF THE DRAFT (Picks 11-32)
11. NEW YORK GIANTS - De’Vonta Smith, WR, Alabama
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS - Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS - Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS - Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM - Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
20. CHICAGO BEARS - Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
22. TENNESSEE TITANS - Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
23. NEW YORK JETS - Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah, LB, Notre Dame
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS - Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS - Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS - Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
30. BUFFALO BILLS - Pat Friermuth, TE, Penn State
31. BALTIMORE RAVENS - Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas