The 2021 NFL Draft will be the story of two quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Justin Fields of Ohio State are not only the top two quarterbacks going into next year’s draft, they just might be the top two players overall.
Lawrence has been a star since the moment he stepped onto the Clemson campus. He’s already started two years, and NFL teams have been looking forward to him becoming draft eligible after this season. He has a strong arm, athleticism, and a big frame.
Last season, Fields caught up with him in a hurry. After transferring from Georgia, Fields showed his electric athleticism for Ohio State while completing 67 percent of his throws for 41 touchdowns and three interceptions.
With those two at the top, it’s time for a way-too-early 2021 mock draft. These are always difficult to do. At this time last year, Joe Burrow wasn’t even in the discussion for the first round, let alone the first overall pick. In the next 12 months, a lot is going to change. Several of the players below won’t even be thought of as first-round picks. But they are now, so this is a look at how they could fall.
The draft order is based on the latest Super Bowl odds I could find after the draft. Teams with the same odds were randomized online. The only other change is putting the 49ers at No. 31 to properly represent the Super Bowl having an AFC and NFC team, so don’t get angry about the order.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
If the Jaguars end up with the first pick, chances are the Gardner Minshew experiment didn’t work, head coach Doug Marrone got fired, and general manager Dave Caldwell probably did too.
2. Washington: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
By this time next year, if Washington has the second pick in the draft, head coach Ron Rivera might want his choice of quarterbacks.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals have their franchise quarterback in Burrow, but their line play has been suspect. Sewell is a dominant force for Oregon and won the Outland Trophy last season.
4. Carolina Panthers: Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Left tackle Russell Okung is on just a one-year deal in Carolina, and the Panthers could find his replacement in Little. The belief was if Little didn’t get hurt last season, he could have been a first-round pick this year.
5. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Dolphins didn’t take a wide receiver this year, and the options after DeVante Parker are average. The last time we saw Chase, he was torching Falcons first-round pick A.J. Terrell in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
6. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants waited until the sixth round to address linebacker in the draft and could target the position in 2021. Parsons is the next great Penn State linebacker; he had 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and five sacks last season.
7. New York Jets: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
Usually it’s tough to project redshirt sophomores a year out, but Rousseau is coming off a season of 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
8. Detroit Lions: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are both free agents after the season, and the Lions could look to add some youth to their wide receiver group.
9. Las Vegas Raiders: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
The Derek Carr speculation seems to never go away — and 2020 could be a breaking point. Carr’s contract is much more manageable after this season. A graduate transfer from Wake Forest, Newman is excellent on run-pass options and has a strong arm.
10. Miami Dolphins (from Texans): Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Say hello to the 2021 version of Derrick Brown. Wilson surprised people by returning to Florida State for his senior season. That came after a season of 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks even though he missed his last four games.
11. Arizona Cardinals: Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
Smith could be the rare top-of-the-first-round guard in 2021. The 6’6, 335-pound Smith has history at left tackle and left guard, and will probably be projected as an interior player in the NFL.
12. Atlanta Falcons: Carlos Basham, Edge, Wake Forest
Basham is coming off an impressive junior year when he had 18 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. If second-round pick Marlon Davidson plays inside, the Falcons could use another player on the outside.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
The Chargers didn’t take an offensive lineman in the draft, and could be in need of one at this time next year. Leatherwood has played guard and tackle for Alabama, and done both well.
14. Denver Broncos: Jay Tufele, DT, USC
The Broncos could continue to improve their defensive line in 2021 with Tufele after taking McTelvin Agim in the third round this year. Tufele improved as a pass rusher last season, and would be a nice fit on a team that runs a lot of three-down linemen looks.
15. Chicago Bears: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
That’s right, not a tight end. And unfortunately, not a quarterback. Allen Robinson is a free agent after the season, and Alabama has another loaded wide receiver group to choose from in the draft.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
If the Jaguars do take a quarterback at the top of the draft, it would be smart to target a pass blocker with their second pick. Cosmi started his first two seasons at right tackle for Texas and will switch to the left side this year.
17. Cleveland Browns: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This one is a little bit of a leap — which is saying something about a mock draft that is coming out a year before the actual draft. The Browns have one of the most expensive wide receiver units in the NFL with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Beckham was rumored in trade talks last year and Landry is due a combined $31 million in 2021 and 2022. Something may have to give.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Joe Haden and Mike Hilton are both free agents after this season, and the Steelers could look to get younger at the position.
19. Buffalo Bills: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Veteran Josh Norman was brought in on just a one-year deal this offseason, so the Bills could go into next offseason looking for a long-term partner for Tre’Davious White.
20. Indianapolis Colts: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
If the Colts want to upgrade over Anthony Walker, the 2021 draft looks like it might be a good at linebacker. Moses was considered the best linebacker prospect in the nation before getting injured last season.
21. Tennessee Titans: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
If the Titans don’t want to give a big contract to Derrick Henry, they can find his replacement in the 2021 draft. Etienne is a speedy runner who has averaged a ridiculous 8 yards per carry the last two years.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia
Anthony Harris is playing on the franchise tag this season and might price himself out of Minnesota. If he does, the Vikings could maintain the strength of the position with LeCounte, a free safety with ball skills.
23. Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
A weapon for Aaron Rodgers? What a novel idea. Moore is a small receiver, but he showed as a freshman that he’s one of the best pass catchers in the nation. He only played four games last season, but should have a bounce-back junior year.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
A transfer from Georgia, Mays has experience up and down the line. Offensive line is a perennial need for Seattle, which could use another player to go with third-round pick Damien Lewis.
25. Philadelphia Eagles: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Eagles didn’t take a cornerback in the draft after trading for Darius Slay and giving him a three-year contract. They could go into the next draft needing someone to pair with him. Adebo could have been a top-64 pick in the draft this year.
26. New England Patriots: LaBryan Ray, DT, Alabama
The Patriots have taken edge defenders the last two drafts, and could turn their attention to the inside in 2021. Ray barely played last season after getting injured in September, but flashed next to Quinnen Williams in 2018.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Quincy Roche, Edge, Miami
A transfer from Temple, Roche comes to Miami with 26 career sacks. With Tyrone Crawford entering free agency next offseason, the Cowboys could save some money by replacing him.
28. New Orleans Saints: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
Janoris Jenkins’ cap hit nearly triples in 2021 from $5.05 million to $14.2 million, so the Saints could look to get out from under his deal after this season. If so, they might go after a cornerback in next year’s draft.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Chris Godwin is a free agent after this season and could cash in big. If he does and leaves Tampa, his replacement can be found in the draft. In the last two seasons, Wallace has more than 2,300 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
30. Baltimore Ravens: Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington
The Ravens have a ton of high-priced free agents after this season, including pass rusher Matt Judon, wide receiver Willie Snead, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey. That means they’ll have a lot of tough decisions to make. Judon is on the franchise tag this season and could go elsewhere.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The 49ers have numerous free agent cornerbacks after this season and might want to target that position in the 2021 draft. Stokes was Georgia’s leader in pass breakups last season with nine and was an All-SEC second team member.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh
If things between the Chiefs and Chris Jones fall apart, it will be imperative to find his replacement. Twyman had 10.5 sacks from his defensive tackle spot last year, just 0.5 sack shy of Aaron Donald’s single-season high at Pitt.