Kevin Hanson's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 7.0
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Thursday, April 8th
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Only three weeks to go until the 2021 NFL Draft, things are beginning to come into focus. It's a virtual lock that the draft will start QB-QB-QB for only the third time since 1970 as noted in 2021 NFL Mock Draft 6.0.
Beyond that, however, it's unclear how high the other two top-five quarterbacks will be selected, but it's unlikely that they get out of the top 10.
Will we get more trades up for a quarterback? Will the Falcons draft Matt Ryan's heir apparent, or draft a generational talent like Kyle Pitts?
NFL Mock Draft - Round 1
New mock, same pick.
There is zero mystery with this pick as Urban Meyer told Peter King that Lawrence is "the direction we're going" and that Lawrence "checks all the boxes." With a league-low 44 wins over the past decade, the Jaguars not only start over with a generational talent at the most important position in sports, but they've amassed a treasure trove of draft capital -- five picks in the top 65 and nine picks in top 170 -- to begin the overhaul of the roster with an infusion of young talent.
The only uncertainty that existed with this pick was whether or not Sam Darnold would be traded before or after becoming teammates with Zach Wilson. That mystery is now solved, as the Jets moved the No. 3 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft to the Panthers for a trio of picks including a second-rounder next year.
Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, former NFL quarterback and current analyst Chris Simms said, "I'm blown away by Zach Wilson, Dan. You know I look at it, and look at, and say this is an Aaron Rodgers, a Patrick Mahomes, Brett Favre-ish type guy." On top of lofty comparisons to HOF/MVP-caliber quarterbacks, Simms actually ranks Wilson ahead of Lawrence, but the BYU product's meteoric rise up draft boards this draft cycle has been similar to that of Joe Burrow in last year's draft.
If Lawrence weren't in this draft class, Wilson would be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.
Almost universally, Trevor Lawrence is the QB1. As noted with the Jets pick, Chris Simms has Zach Wilson as his QB1. But not everyone has Lawrence or Wilson as their QB1, though. Former NFL head coach June Jones ranks (Mac) Jones as his QB1.
Taking the reigns from Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in 2020, Jones really hit the ground running in 2020 as he completed 77.4% of his pass attempts and threw for 4,500 yards (11.2 Y/A), 41 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. While Jones may lack the elite arm strength and athleticism that the other top-four quarterback prospects possess, he makes quick reads and throws with outstanding accuracy and touch.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter (and others), the Falcons "are open to moving" down from No. 4. With the Panthers trading for Sam Darnold, their willingness to be aggressive with a move up the draft board has been diminished (at least some).
It was an up-and-down season for Fields, but he showed tremendous toughness and leadership in Ohio State's semifinal win over Clemson as he threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns. A two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, the dual-threat quarterback accounted for 78 total touchdowns -- 63 passing and 15 rushing -- while throwing only nine interceptions over 22 games as Ohio State's starter.
If the Falcons aren't able to find a trade offer they like, the Atlanta area native would have the opportunity to learn behind Matt Ryan in 2021 before potentially becoming the face of the franchise in 2022 and beyond.
A case could be made for any of Ja'Marr Chase, Penei Sewell or Kyle Pitts here. Signing Riley Reiff in free agency could allow the Bengals to wait to address the offensive line later in the draft as they reunite Burrow with his former LSU teammate.
If Chase, who opted out of 2020, were available for last year's draft, he would have been the WR1. The 2019 Biletnikoff Award recipient dominated SEC competition as a true sophomore to the tune of 84 receptions for 1,780 yards (21.2 Y/R) and 20 touchdowns. Not only did he lead the country in yardage and touchdowns, no receiver had more 15-yard receptions (46) or 25-yard receptions (25) than Chase in 2019.
The Dolphins drafted Austin Jackson (18th) and Robert Hunt (39th) with top-40 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft in addition to guard Solomon Kindley in the fourth round. That said, the work to improve the team's offensive line isn't done and Sewell has the potential to develop into an All-Pro tackle. While Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, the 2019 first-team AP All-American was dominant in his true-sophomore campaign and won't turn 21 until October. Sewell is the No. 2 prospect on our 2021 NFL Draft Big Board.
The Lions used the No. 8 pick on a tight end (T.J. Hockenson) in the 2019 NFL Draft, but could their new head coach (and former TE) be willing to spend another top-10 pick on the position?
The 20-year-old Pitts won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, as he finished the abbreviated 2020 season with 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. While technically a tight end, Pitts has generated some comparisons to Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson in terms of measurables. While there is only one Megatron, Pitts profiles as a player capable of dominating any defender lined up across from him.
Kyle Pitts' PFF grade when lined up as a WR and covered by CBs: 92.8— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) March 31, 2021
He's a potentially unstoppable pass catcher at any receiving position.
Proposed trade: NE sends No. 15 and 46 overall to CAR to move up to No. 8.
The Patriots brought Cam Newton back for another year, but this move would give them a long-term, high-upside option. While Lance is making the jump from 17 games -- including only one in 2020 -- against FCS-level competition, the dual-threat quarterback accounted for 48 touchdowns -- 30 passing and 18 rushing -- and threw only one interception in his collegiate career.
If five quarterbacks are already off the board before the Broncos pick (as they are in this mock), Parsons would make sense here. The 2019 first-team AP All-American is a versatile, three-down linebacker that uses his athleticism (sub-4.4 forty at 246 pounds), length and instincts to impact the game against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer.
Re-signing Jourdan Lewis to a three-year deal but losing Chidobe Awuzie in free agency likely means that this pick is an outside corner, especially if the Cowboys have their choice of the position group. Only three teams allowed a worse TD-to-INT ratio than the Cowboys (3.4-to-1) last season.
The 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Surtain II has an NFL pedigree (father was a three-time Pro Bowl CB that also coached him in high school) with outstanding size (6-2, 202) and length that new coordinator Dan Quinn will covet.
One of the bigger spenders in free agency, the Giants extended Leonard Williams after designating him with the franchise tag and signed Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson to multiple-year contracts. If the top 10 plays out this way, the pick may come down to Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle or Slater. All three offensive prospects are in the top 10 of my 2021 NFL Draft Big Board.
Slater's critics may point to his lack of ideal length, but if you watch Slater's tape against (former) Ohio State (and current WFT) edge rusher Chase Young, it's easy to project his ability to hold his own outside against NFL-caliber edge rushers.
Not the biggest receiver, Waddle is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft and extremely dynamic in the open field. With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs off to the NFL, Waddle started the year with four 100-yard games before breaking his ankle. In fact, Waddle (557 receiving yards) outproduced (the eventual Heisman Trophy winner) DeVonta Smith (483) through the first four games of the season.
Other than his slight frame (6-0, 170), what is not to like about Smith? An outstanding route-runner, the sure-handed receiver has been been uber-productive the past two years.
If Smith had declared last year, he would have joined Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy as first-round receivers. This year, he'll join teammate Jaylen Waddle as a first-rounder. Despite the star-studded receiving corps in Tuscaloosa, it was Smith that led the team in receiving yards (1,256) and touchdowns (14) last season. This year, the Heisman Trophy winner really stepped up with the injury to Waddle as he led FBS in receptions (117) and yards (1,856) and was second in touchdowns (23).
While Keenan Allen is under contract through the 2024 season, Mike Williams will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Trading for Yannick Ngakoue before the 2020 season, the Vikings should have had a dynamic 1-2 pass-rush duo with Danielle Hunter and Ngakoue. Not only did Hunter miss all of 2020, but the Vikings traded away Ngakoue only six games into his Minnesota tenure. Even so, the short-term Viking still led the team with five sacks. Meanwhile, Hunter is unhappy with his current contract.
It was an atypical journey for Phillips from the nation's top high school recruit to potential first-round pick. After briefly "retiring" from football and transferring to Miami from UCLA, everything came together for the gifted edge rusher as he recorded eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss over 10 games in his lone season in Coral Gables.
Proposed trade: NE sends No. 15 and 46 overall to CAR to move up to No. 8.
The trade for Sam Darnold doesn't preclude the Panthers from drafting one of the top five quarterback prospects, but trading back in this mock does as all of them are off the board here.
The Panthers used their franchise tag on right tackle Taylor Moton and Greg Little is currently projected as the Day 1 starter at left tackle with Russell Okung a 32-year-old free agent. Darrisaw is a three-year starter that had his best season as a junior and is especially dominant as a run blocker. At a minimum, he'd provide long-term insurance if they can't re-sign Moton to a long-term deal.
With Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Johnathan Joseph no longer on the roster, the Cardinals have signed Malcolm Butler and (cut and then) re-signed Robert Alford to one-year deals. In other words, cornerback remains one of the team's biggest needs heading into the draft.
The son of former Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee excels in press-man coverage due to his size, physical playing style and competitive demeanor. He helped his case with a strong performance at South Carolina's Pro Day -- 4.39 forty, 41.5" vertical and 11'1" broad jump.
Continue to 2021 NFL Mock Draft 7.0: Picks 17-32
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