Brendan Donahue's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
BY BRENDAN DONAHUE (@donnycasino)
Updated: Tuesday, March 23rd
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 led them to a national championship.
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with mobility, he 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 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 quarterback 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 nor new head coach Robert Salah was 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.
With the Dolphins signing Will Fuller last week, I think their attention with the third pick moves to Sewell or perhaps even a trade down. PFF had the Dolphins ranked as the 20th-best pass blocking and 30th-ranked run blocking unit in the league last year so they could use an immediate upgrade there. Even though Sewell sat out all of last season, he has been long thought to be the best offensive tackle in this draft and has all the characteristics of a cornerstone tackle in the NFL.
I do think the fourth pick in the draft will ultimately be a QB, whether or not Atlanta is the team making the pick, I'm not 100% sure of yet. While the Falcons remain committed to Matt Ryan for the upcoming season with a recent contract restructure, 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-touchdown performance against Clemson in the national semifinals reminded everyone just how high his ceiling can be.
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 football while putting up 84 catches for 1,720 yards and 20 TDs and that was all with an older Justin Jefferson on the team. And who was throwing him the ball that year? None other than Joe Burrow, who I'm sure would be thrilled to be reunited with his former LSU teammate.
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. The news this past week is that the Eagles have been looking to add some talent at pass-catcher and Pitts is as talented as they come.
If the draft does play out this way, this pick would be a logical trading spot for teams trying to leapfrog the Panthers at No. 8 for a QB. That said, nearly all of the 2020 receiving corps hit free agency and even with the signings of Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, they could use another receiver. They can not only fill the need 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.
At 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 the 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.
Now that Denver has signed Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in the past week, I expect them to address their front-seven instead of their secondary with this pick. Having opted out of the 2020 season, I think scouts will be quickly reminded of the type of athlete/player Parsons is at his upcoming pro day (3/25) and may start to move up draft boards again. He is the type of versatile and dynamic linebacker that can play all three downs and make an impact in both the run and passing game.
There is a clear distinction in who the top three cornerbacks 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. Dallas 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 has the prototypical size and speed combination NFL scouts covet at the position.
Now that the Giants have officially signed their new WR1 in Kenny Golladay, I expect them to turn their attention to the offensive line. The Giants ranked 31st in the league in pressure rate allowed last year. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Slater may not be the biggest or strongest offensive lineman in the draft but he may be considered the safest because he could move inside. That's exactly what a team needs that is trying to protect what they believe to be their franchise QB.
Farley doesn't have to wait long to hear his name called as the Niners 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. Many expect the Niners to be aggressive at the draft and try to move up to grab one of the top quarterbacks, but if they aren't able to do that, they at least are in a spot to take a top-tier CB.
The Chargers at least addressed the offensive line last week and made a big upgrade by signing Corey Linsley and Matt Fieler, but that didn't solve all their issues along the line. Darrisaw is widely considered one of, if not the best pure blocker in this class as he consistently got better during his three years as a starter at Virginia Tech. Blocking for franchise QB Justin Herbert should be the Chargers' top priority.
Nobody in the league had a lower pressure rate on opposing QBs last year than the Vikings. Defensive lineman, specifically edge rushers, at this point in the draft process have not distinguished themselves yet and may push each other down the draft boards as a result. Rousseau sat out last season, but he had 15.5 sacks in 2019 while lining up all over the defensive line showing his ability to get pressure not just from the edge which Minnesota desperately needs.
Notoriously, the toughest team to predict with their first-round picks as they have a proclivity of trading down, sometimes even out of the round completely, they may have given us a little hint at their plans when they re-signed Cam Newton to another one-year deal and loaded up on skill position players in free agency.
Still, Newton's contract suggests 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 Belichick is looking for to ultimately take over the franchise for Tom Brady.
If the draft plays out this way, the Cardinals will feel fortunate that one of the top three cornerbacks actually fell to them, especially after Patrick Peterson officially left for Minnesota. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Horn, too, fits the mold of the prototypical NFL CB and plays a physical brand of football the Cardinals' defense could use on the outside.
Continue to 2021 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Picks 17-32
Also, check out Kevin Hanson's 2021 NFL Mock DraftMock Draft Databases:
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft
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