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NFL mock draft 2021: Quarterbacks dominate top of board with one big surprise

Our latest NFL mock draft features a furious run on quarterbacks at the top of the order.

The Miami Dolphins shook up the top of the draft order Friday with a duo of trades with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles respectively. The order should remain relatively static until draft night, when there will undoubtably be more moves when teams jockey for the player they’re aiming for.

There has been a lot of movement in player rankings after the pro day workouts, so today we dive into the latest where there will be more than a few shocks in the first round.

No. 1: Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson) — Jacksonville Jaguars
There is nothing that changes at the top of the draft, and for good reason. There is no doubt selecting Lawrence first overall is the correct move, despite hype about other quarterbacks. Lawrence represents the perfect mix of NFL readiness and future potential. He’s everything the Jaguars need to get back on track. This is FINALLY the franchise quarterback Jacksonville has been desperate for.

No. 2 : Zach Wilson, QB (BYU) — New York Jets
This pick is a representation of the Jets showing some confidence and betting on themselves. Incoming coach Robert Saleh isn’t beholden to continue the Sam Darnold development project, and the upside of Wilson is too good to pass up. New York will hope it’ll be a long time before they pick top three again, so striking now and getting a passer they believe can become a franchise QB is the correct move.

No. 3: Mac Jones, QB (Alabama) — San Francisco 49ers
The bomb drops here and the NFL world is in shock. Rumors abounded that the 49ers liked all the passers at the top of this draft, but nobody thought that meant Mac Jones. Here’s the deal: Trading up to No. 3 to take Jones might seem stupid, but San Francisco has a window that’s still open, and getting a NFL-ready quarterback to step in now keeps it going. Jones might not have the long-term upside of Justin Fields or Trey Lance, but he also doesn’t carry the risk. At worst the 49ers get a low-level NFL starter, and that is too appealing to pass up here.

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No. 4: Justin Fields, QB (Ohio State) — Atlanta Falcons
I have no doubt the Falcons are fine going in another direction here and waiting to find a QB in the future, but after the 49ers take Jones, the choice becomes obvious. Fields is given a chance to sit for a year in Atlanta behind Matt Ryan and learn the Falcons’ system, an ideal place for him. This is an organization who isn’t afraid to take big swings in the draft to land elite talent, and this falls in that tradition.

No. 5: Penei Sewell, OT (Oregon) — Cincinnati Bengals
The bottles will be popping in the Bengals’ war room before this pick is even announced. Never in their dreams did Cincinnati think Sewell would be available at the fifth pick, but the unprecedented run on quarterbacks allowed Sewell to fall. Joe Burrow needs protection, badly, and Sewell will lock down his blindside for the next decade.

No. 6: Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State) — Carolina Panthers [TRADE]
The Panthers had been hoping all offseason that they wouldn’t be making a pick during the draft, instead wishing this pick could be flipped to the Houston Texans in a deal for Deshaun Watson. However, Watson’s off-field issues, paired with a reluctant Houston front office leads to this moment. Miami gains the Panthers’ 2021 second round pick in exchange for falling back two places, with Carolina terrified someone else would jump up to get Lance. The Panthers were heavily scouting Lance at his pro day, and don’t want to enter the season without a long-term plan.

No. 7: Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State) — Detroit Lions
This is one of those picks that just makes too much sense. On paper the Lions need more help on offense, but their linebacker corps is slow, and in dire need of an upgrade. Couple that with Detroit’s woeful 26th ranked pass rush, and a new defensive-minded coach who will love Parsons’ versatility out of the gate, and it’s a recipe for success.

No. 8: Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama) — Miami Dolphins
The newly pick-flush Dolphins have every tool to put together an elite team, assuming they make the rights moves. The defensive side of the ball is coming together well, but in order to take the next step the offense needs a major upgrade. Picking Jaylen Waddle, the draft’s most electric receiver, is just too beautiful considering it reunites him with Tua Tagovailoa. Waddle is a Swiss army knife, who can adapt to passes at all three levels and allow Tagovailoa to find a rhythm with ease.

Texas A&M vs Alabama Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

No. 9: Caleb Farley, CB (Virginia Tech) — Denver Broncos
If this draft broke in a way that allowed the Broncos to get a quarterback I assume they’d go in that direction, but instead of reaching for a passer, Denver waits and gets the best cornerback in the draft. Denver allowed 66 percent of opposing passes to be completed last year, and Farley will go a long way to fixing that.

No. 10: Patrick Surtain II, CB (Alabama) — Dallas Cowboys
With Dak Prescott under long-term contract and the offense largely solidified it’s time for the Cowboys to fix their defense. The secondary is an area of major concern, and Surtain is a major talent with stunning size at the position. He’s going to be a leader on defense from day one, and a lockdown corner for the Cowboys.

No. 11: Kwity Paye, EDGE (Michigan) — New York Giants
I wish I loved anything in this world as much as Giants GM Dave Gettleman loves large linemen. That said, getting Paye at this spot is a major boon to a pass rush in need of help. Paye is an excellent hand in the dirt 4-3 end with the size and speed to get penetration on speed or power moves.

No. 12: Ja’Marr Chase, WR (LSU) — Philadelphia Eagles
There’s a lot of temptation to take DeVonta Smith here, and personally I like Smith better. However, for the fit, Chase works better in the offense the Eagles are building. It remains to be seen how Jalen Hurts will operate as a full time starter, but his legs and creativity will warrant a receiver who is better picking up yards after the catch, and a powerhouse with the ball in his hands, regardless of where he catches the ball. This selection adds more electricity to the burgeoning offense.

No. 13: Rashawn Slater, OT (Northwestern) — Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers hit one of the home runs in the 2020 draft with Justin Herbert, who was electric his rookie season. Now they just need to protect him better. This is an oddly similar situation to Cincinnati, who benefitted from a QB-heavy top to the draft to select someone above their station. Slater would probably go in the 8-11 range in any normal draft, so they’ll be thrilled to get him here and keep Herbert upright more often.

No. 14: Christian Darrishaw, OT (Virginia Tech) — Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota needs trench help on both sides of the ball, and a major talent upgrade at cornerback. Right now this board isn’t shaping up for the secondary, with both the top corners taken, and it’s a little early to take an interior defensive lineman. This is all fine though, because the Vikings need serious help at left tackle. The team was forced to release starting left tackle Reilly Reiff due to salary cap concerns, so Darrishaw can step in from day one and start.

No. 15: Kyle Pitts, TE (Florida) — New England Patriots
Kyle Pitts is an athletic freak. This is a man who is a 6’6, 240-pound tight end who can run faster than a good chunk of NFL wide receivers, and put the work in as a blocker as well. Bill Belichick has always had an affinity for tight ends in his passing game, and Pitts could be the best he’s ever coached next to Rob Gronkowski. Furthermore, it’s the ultimate “show me what you got” move for Cam Newton. Newton’s best seasons in Carolina were when Greg Olsen was healthy, and Pitts is a player in the same mold who can stretch the field, and serve as a safety net.

South Carolina vs Florida Photo by Hannah White/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

No. 16: DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama) — Arizona Cardinals
Yes, the Cardinals need help on defense. Yes, taking a receiver would be a bit of a luxury move. No, I do not think there is any way on this earth Kliff Kingbury sees Smith on the board at his pick and doesn’t select him. Larry Fitzgerald was the sure-handed cornerstone of the Cardinals passing attack for almost two decades, and Smith has that same kind of potential. Putting him across the field from DeAndre Hopkins would immediately lock in Arizona as having the best receiving tandem in the NFL, and continue making Kyler Murray’s transition into the NFL as easy as possible.

No. 17: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE (Georgia) — Las Vegas Raiders
A hybrid defender who can fit a lot of roles, Ojujari might be best as home as the Will linebacker in a 4-3, but he has the speed to be moved all around the defense. This is a kind of versatility Jon Gruden will love on the Raiders’ defense, at a position they need more help on in order to make a playoff push.

No. 18: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG (USC) — Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have multiple picks in this draft because they traded away starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil last year — and haven’t really recovered on the line. It’s unclear exactly where Vera-Tucker projects in the NFL. He started at LT for USC this season, but there are legitimate concerns his lack of arm length will force him to play guard in the NFL. Either way, he’s an excellent, instinctual lineman who help Tua Tagovailoa have a cleaner pocket in his sophomore season.

No. 19: Jaelen Phillips, EDGE (Miami) — Washington Football Team
Is it greedy for one of the NFL’s best defenses to keep loading up in spite of the other side of the ball? Yes. Do I think they’d do it? Also yes. There’s a strong likelihood Washington takes a top RB here, but I think a player like Jaelen Phillips would be even more impactful. Najee Harris or Travis Etienne would certainly balance out the offense better, but a rushing rotation of Phillips, Chase Young, and Montez Sweat would be the most terrifying group in the NFL. Ron Rivera is a defensive guy, and that’s a hell of a toolbox to give a coach like that.

No. 20: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB (Notre Dame) — Chicago Bears
There is a chance the Bears trade up for a quarterback in this draft, but at least for now I’m operating under the assumption they stay put and try for a season with Andy Dalton (yuck). That said, whatever bad taste Dalton leaves on the offense can easily be washed away by adding one of the most explosive defensive players in the draft to a unit already featuring Khalil Mack. Robert Quinn is a decent player opposite him, but now at age 30 the slow down will be happening. Owusu-Koramoah can be a rotational linebacker, even move back and play as a third safety when needed.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Notre Dame at Georgia

No. 21: Rashod Bateman, WR (Minnesota) — Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have a major interest in learning quickly whether Carson Wentz can regain his form, and a key part to that is getting him a weapon. Michael Pittman Jr. had a promising first season, but T.Y. Hilton is getting on in age. Bateman has ideal size, athleticism and speed to be a No. 1 receiver for a long time.

No. 22: Baron Browning, LB (Ohio State) — Tennessee Titans
The Titans went a long way to helping their defense in free agency by signing Bud Dupree and Janoris Jenkins, but there’s still work to be done. Browning is a prototypical linebacker with great speed and versatility. He can be spelled in his first season without too much pressure being on him to start from the jump, and develop into a defensive cornerstone.

No. 23: Jaycee Horn, CB (South Carolina) — New York Jets
Robert Saleh strikes to get a defensive player who can help the Jets immediately. The son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee has great size and speed, and is comfortable being on an island covering a top receiver.

No. 24: Najee Harris, RB (Alabama) — Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s debate on who the better running back is between Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne, but there’s nobody more Steelers than Harris at the position. A Derrick Henry-esque runner, Harris may not possess Henry’s top gear speed, but he’s still a bruising runner who can pick up hard yards and move the chains. Exactly what the team has been lacking.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

No. 25: Teven Jenkins, OT (Oklahoma State) — Jacksonville Jaguars
You’ll probably notice a theme here of teams selecting quarterbacks, then getting protection. It’s because it’s just a no-brainer. Jenkins is definitely more of a developmental project than the other tackles taken so far, but he offers tremendous versatility having played almost every position on the line. Jenkins can be moved around, coached up, and help make Trevor Lawrence’s debut easier.

No. 26: Jayson Oweh, EDGE (Penn State) — Cleveland Browns
An athletic edge rusher, Oweh perhaps projects more to the role of a 3-4 pass rusher, but we’ve seen that the Browns don’t saddle themselves too much with prototypical size. They’re happy to use speed rushers on the edge, and Oweh can step into the rotation immediately and be spelled with Takkarist McKinley while adjusting to the NFL.

No. 27: Tevon Moehrig, FS (TCU) — Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens need a safety, and Moehrig is the kind of impact player they’ll love to tinker around with. Comfortable working the middle, he’s a ball-hawk who will make plays in his area and relish the opportunity to make a play. These are qualities the Ravens love, and they’ll suit him well in Baltimore.

No. 28: Greg Newsome II, CB (Northwestern) — New Orleans Saints
The Saints bled talent on both sides of the ball due to difficult salary cap-based cuts. Greg Newsome II helps turn the tide. He’s a raw prospect with tremendous upside, and it’s worth rolling the dice on what Newsome II could become, rather than what he is right now.

No. 29: Kadarius Toney, WR (Florida) — Green Bay Packers
Honestly, I just want to see this — because Aaron Rodgers throwing passes to Toney will be FUN (except for opponents). A lightning fast slot receiver, Toney perfectly compliments Davante Adams and gives the Packers some offensive depth. We saw in the NFC Championship what happens when Adams was taken out of the game and Green Bay crumbled. Another big play threat is just what they need.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Florida at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 30: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE (Miami) — Buffalo Bills
A varied, devastating pass rusher, Rousseau can adapt to almost any scheme and make an impact. He’s comfortable working from the outside and inside, giving the Bills a defensive tool to wreck havoc with.

No. 31: Jalen Mayfield, OT (Michigan) — Kansas City Chiefs
Do you remember the Super Bowl? Remember how overwhelmed Patrick Mahomes was without Eric Fisher? Remember how bad the rest of that line was? Yeah, I do. Let’s fix it. Mayfield can play either tackle spot to varying degrees of success, or kick inside and be an effective guard.

No. 32: Zaven Collins, LB (Tulsa) — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers don’t have a lot of needs, and the ones they do they tend to fix in free agency. Collins has the ability to play a lot different places and make an impact, allowing Tampa Bay to play around with him until they part ways with veterans and he finds a long-term spot.