2021 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: Six First-Round Quarterbacks; Three Projected Trades

2021 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: Six First-Round Quarterbacks; Three Projected Trades

The Panthers and Bears trade up for QBs, the Patriots trade for Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers choose Mac Jones in our final mock on draft day.

My annual crack at the mock draft is normally a one-time deal. This does not mean I slam it down like a holy tome or attempt to cozy up to the legacy of our great mock draft godfather, Paul Zimmerman. Not even close (and I’d have to get more than five right in a given season to start feeling that way). For me, handling the mock draft this way simply reflects the way you can fall in love with a certain way things could go. Based on some phone calls and intuition, you end up slotting people in a certain place and creating a version of the universe that fits neatly together. But as a wise former coworker once reminded me, that universe is only in one place: the brain of the author.

With that in mind, I decided to take another crack at my original mock draft with a fresh set of eyes and obviously some more phone calls. The draft order has also changed, with the Ravens now adding a second first-round pick, thanks to the Orlando Brown deal.

Like Silvio, just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. Please use whichever version of my mock draft was more successful as my “real” one.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

The Jaguars are the only ones helping us out here in the mock draft industry. Life is good for Shad Khan, who had his pick of coaches and quarterbacks. Theoretically, his franchise is on the fast track back to relevance after a brief, two-year hiatus. Lawrence’s throwing motion is like something out of a painting. He makes few bad decisions. According to Sports Info Solutions, 89% of his passes last year were catchable balls. That follows the two previous years where 84% were catchable.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

With Mike LaFleur installed as offensive coordinator, the Jets have their most anticipated pairing of coach and quarterback in modern team history. A look back at recent years shows that the offensive coordinator position’s vision, in general, has either been the product of a coach’s fantasy (Rex Ryan’s ground and pound) or a scheme that was impossible to implement given the talent on the roster (Adam Gase). Wilson would seem to be the ideal avatar for this system. He’s functionally mobile, twitchy and can make throws from awkward angles with one foot half planted on a tippy toe.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Nothing about this pick makes me happy. From the moment the offseason cards began to unfold, I predicted the 49ers would trade up for one of these quarterbacks. (When I wrote my QB carousel predictor back in February, I thought they would end up at No. 2, after the Jets had acquired Deshaun Watson and the Texans had opted to move back. We live in a different world now.) Trey Lance was the person who immediately stuck in my mind. He has the most upside. He’d provide a power element to this offense, which the NFL is completely unprepared to stop. And yet, at every turn, I’ve been met with people saying Jones really will be the pick.

What tipped me over? Jones is probably more ready to play than Lance, and, at the 49ers’ smoke-heavy predraft press conference, it sure as heck seemed like they were ready to put Jimmy Garoppolo on the block.

If that was a smokescreen, then I think Lance will be the pick and that he’ll sit for a few weeks before transitioning into a starting role. That just doesn’t seem likely at the moment. Also, former Shanahan college teammate and friend Chris Simms mocked Mac Jones to the 49ers, which either means he’s right and has been tipped off, or he is part of the ruse. Trust me, I have thought of everything.

One thing about Shanahan’s people: They like quarterbacks whose accuracy developed before their frame. Jones had to scrape and claw just to get here, and honed the most integral part of the 49ers’ system (accuracy) before he developed into a collegiate-sized passer. That matters.

(Editors note: We can confirm Conor is unhappy. He made us change this pick back and forth 15 times. It’s too late now, Conor, leave us alone.)

4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Pitts is the best receiver in this draft class and would give the Falcons some flexibility if they do intend on moving Julio Jones after June 1 (this is not to say—by any stretch—that he’d be a one-for-one replacement. This is merely a suggestion that Jones is either going to be traded or will soon be, by NFL standards, a bit too old and expensive for the Falcons). This weapons overload in Atlanta is the easiest way to pour jet fuel on the Arthur Smith regime, which will again pair Matt Ryan with a successful and dynamic outside zone rushing offense.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Bengals lost 30% of their targeted air yards when A.J. Green departed in free agency. If you’re the Bengals, the cost-benefit analysis here is how much Chase is better than a receiver you could get in the second round vs. how much better Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater is over another offensive lineman early in the second (or back at the end of the first). Joe Burrow’s excessive lobbying, plus the club’s confidence that Jonah Williams will build on a strong first season, all come into play here.

6. Miami Dolphins (via Eagles): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The Dolphins climbed back up here for a weapon to make their offense work. Waddle is not necessarily the combination of size and speed they were hoping for, but would add several dimensions to this system and provide them with backfield flexibility as well as someone to tear the roof off of opposing defenses.

7. Carolina Panthers (via projected trade with the Lions): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Detroit’s spot in the draft could become a fascinating destination, perhaps with the ability to have both the Panthers’ Scott Fitterer and Broncos’ George Paton on the phone simultaneously. One of you wants the No. 7 pick … who is going to come and get it?

In this scenario, the Panthers want it more.

As I wrote Wednesday, trading Teddy Bridgewater makes it feel more likely that Carolina wants to buttress its QB room with young talent instead of betting on Sam Darnold. Perhaps Fields won’t play right away, or maybe Darnold will become a bridge/insurance option. Either way, this group of coaches has a more intimate knowledge of this year’s QB class than anyone (given Matt Rhule and Joe Brady’s recent college experience). They’ll put it to good use here. Given present circumstances, there is also nothing stopping them from auctioning off Darnold again.

8. Detroit Lions (via projected trade with the Panthers): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

I can’t imagine Sewell falling out of the top 10, and Detroit has to realize the value they’d get here. Yes, the wide receiver class is exceptionally deep and it represents their biggest need, but this is a complete and total rebuild. So they should worry less about specific need.

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Both the Broncos and Panthers liked Fields. The Panthers liked him just a little bit more. The Broncos should be tickled with the idea of avoiding a bidding war, standing pat and getting their man at No. 9. Lance fits ideally in Denver, a place where he can sit behind a top-notch mentor (new arrival Teddy Bridgewater) and emerge as a mid-season threat.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

So begins the second-most interesting stretch of the draft. Three divisional opponents in a row, some with overlapping needs (though not for long, as you’ll see below). What I heard: The Eagles would like either one of the Alabama wideouts, or they would prefer to trade back, just like everyone else picking between here and the end of the first round (in Philadelphia’s case, for a more realistic landing spot for corner No. 2 or 3). Dallas goes first, though, and can take Surtain, who did not allow more than 20 completions in a season throughout his college career.

11. Arizona Cardinals (via projected trade with the Giants): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Steve Keim can give Dave Gettleman a chance to do the one thing he’s never done as general manager: trade out of a first-round pick. It’s no secret the Eagles covet either of the two Alabama receivers (to the point that they could vacate the No. 12 spot if neither is available). Keim and the Cardinals are all in this offseason, so jumping ahead of Philly for Smith can help push the boundaries of what Kliff Kingsbury’s offense can accomplish.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Wouldn’t this have been the perfect place for Washington to come down and take the sliding Trey Lance? Alas, Howie Roseman is not going to hand his divisional opponent a potential steal—an idyllic situation where Ryan Fitzpatrick can groom a player with myriad tools at Philadelphia’s expense. Instead, they’ll stand pat and hunt for a receiver in the second round (plenty will still be available). Again, I’ve heard their 100% dream scenario is taking either Waddle or Smith here at No. 12 and a cornerback slipping in the second round.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

I think we’ve all kind of settled into a consensus-driven funk here. I’ve seen some really interesting mocks with the Chargers nabbing a slipping wideout or exploring some other options, maybe a toosly edge rusher to pair with Joey Bosa. However, Darrisaw is a strong player who can act as a quick salve for Los Angeles’s rebuilt offensive line. The Chargers’ intentions here have been pretty clear throughout the offseason with some aggressive maneuvers already, including the signing of Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

The Vikings need both offensive line help and edge rushing help badly. It would seem that having one of those two things fall into their laps at No. 14 would represent a win for Rick Spielman. Vera-Tucker can start inside and move out as he matures, or cross over in a flash due to injury.

15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

In this scenario, I have the Patriots reacquiring Jimmy Garoppolo, thus taking them out of the running for a quarterback. Bill Belichick would probably love the opportunity to trade down here, but there aren’t a ton of great candidates at this point, especially with the Bears unable to come up and get their QB1 of choice. Parsons, formerly a pure pass rusher, has developed into a finely rounded prospect who logs a ton of tackles for loss and can hold his own in coverage. Unless Belichick believes Ja’Whaun Bentley is seasoned enough to step into this role, he can see Parsons as a player who can take his defense in multiple directions again.

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16. New York Giants (via projected trade with the Cardinals): Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Slater’s game against Chase Young will start to get an awful lot of play. I think Dave Gettleman can’t resist this move, despite some more pressing needs on the edge. Jaylen Waddle is off the board already, and the edge market isn’t quite shaping up yet. For once, it would be hard to argue against Gettleman not trading down. This is good value and would set the Giants up for a more complete offensive line. I’ve read some great arguments against Slater. Playing him at guard, for example, while you tinker with one more year of Nate Solder on the right side, doesn’t make a ton of sense when you could just nab Alijah Vera-Tucker (h/t Art Stapleton of The Record). But you could make a million moves between now and then to clear a space for Slater at tackle.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Do I think Eichenberg is the best player available here? No. Do I think the Raiders evaluate players differently? Yes, so much so that I had a version of this mock with North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz there but I pulled back because of the differences between North Dakota State’s offense and Vegas’s. Have they surprised the hell out of us at least once a year? Yes. Do they need a tackle opposite Kolton Miller? Yes. Shake all of this and pour. For what it’s worth, Sports Info Solutions has a breakdown of Eichenberg’s gap vs. zone running responsibilities at Notre Dame and they’re almost identical to Vegas’s heavily zone-leaning system. He’s athletic enough to make the blocks and immediately improve life for Josh Jacobs.

18. Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, edge, Michigan

The Dolphins have some developmental players they might want to throw at the guard spot now vacated by the Ereck Flowers trade. Maybe they’ll take a stab at the position in the later rounds as well. Paye is hard to ignore here, especially with Miami’s pressing needs on the edge. Regardless of how Tua Tagovailoa responds to his rookie season, this team can still win games with its opportunistic defense alone. Paye would put them over the edge (pun intended?).

19. Washington Football Team: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

Was Washington’s first visit to Trey Lance’s pro day indicative of a desire to somehow grab a quarterback? We’ll find out. But here, the team can lay the groundwork for whomever that will be. Jenkins is a physical player who can secure Washington’s near future as a team with dominant lines on both sides of the ball. Controlling the trenches means more to Rivera than reaching on a QB.

20. Chicago Bears: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Bears will look at offensive tackle here, or perhaps cornerback. Maybe they are the team that hopes to hit on Caleb Farley, which could make some sense given that Ryan Pace will be searching for astronomical, noticeable value as he tries to punch his way out of embattlement in Chicago. Cosmi, though, would give the Bears some heft up front and some serious athleticism.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Jaelan Phillips, edge, Miami

I’m sticking with my original pick here. I think the Colts would be thrilled if a high-upside player fell here. Phillips’s medical history is an obvious concern, but this team is primed to win now and could be one more impact player away from not only taking the division but making a serious run behind a rejuvenated Carson Wentz.

22. Tennessee Titans: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Here’s another pick I’m doubling down on from my Mock 1.0, technically MMQB Mock 2.0 (Why do we do decimals in our mocks? Has there ever been a Mock 1.5?). As I wrote in a profile of Stokes, ask around and you’ll hear that his floor might be in the early 30s. Maybe teams are worried about his relative lack of experience at the position, but you’re not going to find a corner this fast and physical, with extensive reps against the draft’s best wide receivers, anywhere else.

23. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Azeez Ojulari, edge, Georgia

Ojulari isn’t that undersized, and he’s coming to the NFL at 240 pounds. Like I said in the last mock, maybe he’s better suited as someone who can whip off the edge in a different kind of defense, but his production is pretty incredible for his age in the SEC of all places. Fourteen sacks, 42 hurries and 18.5 tackles for loss against premier competition is nothing to ignore. Regardless, Robert Saleh wants an edge player here to complete his suddenly formidable defensive line of Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Quinnen Williams and a future first-round pick.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Fine, you all wore me down. To be clear, I don’t agree with this, but the Steelers have invested almost as frequently in first-round running backs during the Kevin Colbert era as they have first-round offensive linemen. It’s a crapshoot. Maybe the theory is that Harris would give them the flexibility they had with Le’Veon Bell. Maybe this is a massive smokescreen and they’ve been showing so much interest in the running back because they’re looking at one of his offensive linemen. Either way, this pick will probably be a running back or a tackle.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): Jason Oweh, edge, Penn State

This would give the Jaguars a formidable duo on the outside. Our Albert Breer noted that Urban Meyer recruited Oweh and could view him as a potential franchise pass rusher despite concerns about rawness. That nugget swayed me an inch off of where I was in the past. I liked Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon here previously and still think that Jacksonville could—and should—upgrade its run defense. That said, Oweh’s connections and potential could move him up.

26. Cleveland Browns: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

With the three best edge rushers off the board, the Browns would look for a linebacker who can continue to alter the way their defense plays. Owusu-Koramoah is invaluable when facing a player like Lamar Jackson twice a year. He was targeted with regularity last year against a beefy schedule and allowed just a 50% completion rate to opposing quarterbacks.

27. Chicago Bears (via projected trade with the Ravens): Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

I’m stealing the Mike Tannenbaum special here. The former Jets general manager and now ESPN analyst says some team is going to come up and get Trask. Why? Because if he pans out, it’ll want the fifth-year option available on first-round picks. I admit the mechanics of this pick are a bit sloppy. Ideally, the Bears would just take Trask at No. 20, since his value to the franchise is greater than that of Sam Cosmi. However, Chicago would look at the layout here, see the QB-needy Saints coming down the pike and opt to take a flier on a player who could possibly supplant Andy Dalton if trouble arises.

28. New Orleans Saints: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

The Saints need some help at the position. Samuel, Greg Newsome and Caleb Farley might be neck and neck, but Samuel has the pedigree and the temperament to play everything from press man outside to the slot, which he did a bit more of during his early years with the Seminoles.

29. Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

The Packers have been sniffing around the cornerback market this predraft process, and while they might be hoping to snap up a talented prospect falling in the second round, Newsome, from a Northwestern program that has great familiarity with the Packers’ organization, would be a solid choice to help them combat the receiver depth they’ll face trying to survive the NFC once again.

30. Buffalo Bills: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

The Bills tried to go for it this offseason but I think were brushed back a bit by the market. The Williams maneuver would provide them with an explosive talent who must immediately be accounted for. Why do I like him over Clemson’s Travis Etienne? There seems to be a better pass-blocking pedigree here. Williams is a guy you can leave on the field for three downs.

31. Baltimore Ravens (via Chiefs): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

I was tempted to steal the idea of Terrance Marshall Jr. here from editor Gary Gramling, who much prefers that scheme fit to Bateman in Baltimore. However, I like the idea of Baltimore doubling up on lottery tickets in the second round to fix its offensive line and get a player who can command the ‘X’ spot and add a different dimension to Baltimore’s offense.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

This is the kind of pick a defending Super Bowl champion can make. While it’s ludicrous to assume the Buccaneers don’t need anything, everyone can use cornerback help. Farley may be able to provide that. He is reportedly going to be ready for training camp and said his combine medical recheck went well, following corrective back surgery.

More NFL Draft Coverage:

Rosenberg: Trevor Lawrence Is Out to Prove Absolutely Nothing
Bishop: Trey Lance Is Just Different
Prewitt: The Year of the Opt-Out Prospect
• Rosenberg: Justin Fields, the Player and the Story Line
• Kahler: The Search for 2021’s Prospect X

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