Brendan Donahue's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
BY BRENDAN DONAHUE (@donnycasino)
Updated: Sunday, March 14th
NFL Mock Draft - Round 1
It feels as if this pick has been three years in the making ever since Lawrence burst onto the scene as a freshman at Clemson and lead them to a national championship. At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with mobility, Lawrence is the type of prospect that scouts have compared to the likes of John Elway and Andrew Luck as a once-in-a-decade type of talent. With a new regime in Jacksonville headlined by Urban Meyer, they aren't going to begin their tenure by passing on a talent like Lawrence.
This is where the draft really begins and it could go in many different directions this year. The Jets certainly have the ammo to make a trade for a big-name QB, but as of now, it looks like they may stay put and instead trade away who was recently considered their franchise QB. Neither GM Joe Douglas or new head coach Robert Salah were part of the process in drafting Sam Darnold, so it would make sense that they are ok moving on from him and bringing in their own guy. Enter Zach Wilson, who has seen the biggest rise up draft boards in the past year. His 2020 season justifies the praise he has been receiving as he threw for 33 TDs and only three interceptions while completing 73.5% of his passes.
Due to Chase opting out of the 2020 season and combining that with the Heisman winning season from DeVonta Smith, it's easy to forget the type of player Chase was as a true sophomore at LSU in 2019. He won the Biletnikoff award as the best WR in college while putting up 84 catches for 1,720 yards and 20 TDs and that was all with an older Justin Jefferson on the team.
While the Falcons remain committed to Matt Ryan for the upcoming season, they have a chance to draft his heir apparent who happens to be from the Atlanta area in Justin Fields. Once considered the consensus QB2 in this draft class, Fields has seen his stock drop a bit due to some inconsistent play in 2020 but his six-TD performance against Clemson in the national semifinals reminded everyone just how high his ceiling can be.
The Bengals are able to match the best player available with their biggest need in Sewell. The season-ending injury to Joe Burrow last season was a stark reminder that the Bengals need immediate help along the offensive line. Sewell, who even after sitting out 2020, is widely considered the best lineman in this draft and can become the blindside protection for Burrow for the next decade to come if all goes right.
While Pitts is technically labeled as a tight end, his tape reminds many of an elite WR, so let's just call him the best pass-catcher available for a team that could desperately use one. The Eagles have utilized two tight end sets since they drafted Dallas Goedert, so with the rumblings that Zach Ertz may be on his way out, they can seamlessly integrate Pitts into the system and give Jalen Hurts a dynamic weapon to help him in his first full season as the Eagles starting QB.
If the draft does play out this way, this pick would be a logical trading spot for teams trying to leapfrog the Panthers at 8 for a QB. However, in my first iteration of mocks I am not going to project any trades even though the Lions would be wise to trade down and garner more picks to address their multiple needs.
That said, given the fact five of the WRs on their roster last year are currently unrestricted free agents including Kenny Golladay, they can not only fill a glaring need at WR with Waddle but also add someone who exemplifies the toughness that head coach Dan Campbell preached about in his introductory press conference. Waddle who rushed back from what many thought was a season-ending injury, was able to be productive in the national championship game while still visibly limping. Now that he has had extra time to heal, he can return to being the fastest WR in the draft and an explosive weapon for the Lions offense.
Fresh off his pro day, Lance reminded scouts that he is a unique talent and got them buzzing about him again. Turn on NFL Network or ESPN and you hear comps to Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. While there are questions about his competition and total number of games started, there is no questioning his physical tools and athleticism. To quote Daniel Jeremiah, "it's a limited body of work, but the foundation is outstanding." As the draft draws closer, I expect Lance to continue to move up draft boards and won't be surprised to see him be a top-five pick on draft day.
There is a clear distinction in who the top three CBs are this year, but it is not as clear which one will go off the board first between Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley and Jaycee Horn. Denver goes with the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year even while opposing offenses typically avoided throwing at him. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he is the prototypical size and speed combination NFL scouts covet at the position.
Farley doesn't have to wait long to hear his name called as the Cowboys also have a need at corner. At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, he has almost the same measurables and attributes as Surtain which is why it is pretty much splitting hairs between the two.
If the Giants believe in building around Daniel Jones as their franchise QB, then it's time to start providing him with the best weapons they can. They happen to find one in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who is coming off one of the most impressive seasons any college WR has ever had. Smith posted 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs and was on his way to a historic national championship game with 12 catches for 215 yards and 3 TDs before being knocked out of the game early due to injury. It is only his lack of size that knocks him down the draft board a bit and from being in the mix for the Dolphins at No. 3.
Many expect the Niners to be aggressive at the draft and try to move up to grab one of the top four QBs. If they aren't able to do that, they at least are in a spot to take the last remaining CB of the top tier. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he too fits the mold of the prototypical NFL CB and plays a physical brand of football that will fit in well with the Niners D.
MORE: Our way-too-early 2022 NFL Mock Draft
This is a case of where value meets need. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Slater may not be the biggest or strongest offensive lineman in the draft but because he can also move inside he may be considered the safest. That's exactly what a team that found their cornerstone just last year in QB Justin Herbert needs.
My guess is the Vikings are hoping Slater falls to them as they too have needs at both tackle and guard but since the Chargers snatch him up the pick before they go with the next best tackle/guard combo in the draft. Listed at the same exact size as Slater, Vera-Tucker would probably be best utilized at guard but he offers insurance in case the Vikings aren't able to replace Riley Reiff, who the team recently cut due to cap concerns.
Notoriously the toughest team to predict with their first-round picks as they have a proclivity of trading down and sometimes even out of the first round, they may have given us a little hint at their plans this week when they re-signed Cam Newton to another one-year deal. The player and contract suggest he is just a bridge to the next guy as they did not want to commit dollars or years to another established QB.
Jones does have a lot of traits that Bill Belichick typically looks for including accuracy, decision-making and leadership. Couple that with the Saban connection and it seems Jones may be the guy Bill is looking for to ultimately take over the franchise for Tom Brady.
While CB may currently be the Cards' most glaring need now that Patrick Peterson has become a free agent, they instead address the most important issue which is protecting Kyler Murray. Darrisaw is widely considered one of the best pure blockers in this class as he consistently got better during his three years as a starter at Virginia Tech.
Also, check out Kevin Hanson's 2021 NFL Mock DraftMock Draft Databases:
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft
- 2023 NFL Mock Draft
- 2021 NBA Mock Draft
- Fantasy Football Rankings
- Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule (SOS)