The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner. Free agency has settled down, and teams are gearing up to add their future stars. The Los Angeles Rams have rented a beach house in Malibu, while the New England Patriots gathered their trusty canine companions into the war rooms to get ready to make their picks. Excited about the future, Jacksonville fans organized a charity fund for their future No. 1 pick in Trevor Lawrence (spoiler alert). Kick back and pass some time by reading my final 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft of this draft season.
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2021 7-Round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 1-16
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
We’re kicking this 7-Round NFL 2021 Mock Draft off with…the same old. The city of Jacksonville would bring out the pitchforks and torches if anyone but Trevor Lawrence were to go No. 1. In my conspiracy theory, Jacksonville has already sent him a copy of the playbook in secret. The Jaguars’ infatuation with Lawrence is the worst-kept secret about the 2021 NFL Draft.
It’s easy to see why, too. Lawrence has a habit of making the most difficult throws look annoyingly easy. Turn on the tape, and the arm talent leaps off the tape. Add that Lawrence is an easy athlete and remarkably accurate at all levels of the field, and the evaluation is simple. He’s not perfect by any means, but he’s pretty dang close. That Clemson team wasn’t exactly elite, but Lawrence didn’t skip a beat all season.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The New York Jets made this selection evident after trading Sam Darnold away to the Carolina Panthers. GM Joe Douglas and HC Robert Saleh hope this next quarterback ends up better than the last one, though admittedly, that’s not a high bar to clear. This pick hasn’t changed in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Zach Wilson took the college football world by storm this season, guiding BYU to an 11-1 season and a bowl win. Wilson set a BYU record in completion percentage and placed second in yards per attempt behind Ty Detmer all-time at BYU.
Much like Lawrence, Wilson’s arm talent is outstanding. He demonstrated an excellent ability to operate out of structure and adlib off-script. Wilson needs some ironing out, particularly with his footwork and play in the pocket, but the upside is tremendous.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from HOU via MIA): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
I’ve really settled on either Justin Fields or Trey Lance being the pick here for San Francisco. I really can’t believe Shanahan and all the scouts and executives in San Francisco firmly believe that Mac Jones is worth all of that. There are connections and points for both Fields and Lance, but ultimately, I settled on Fields in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft because I have him graded higher.
Fields is such an elite prospect that it’s ludicrous he’s being thought of as the 3rd, 4th, or even 5th quarterback off the board. In almost any other year, Fields would be the first quarterback off the board. His accuracy, arm talent, and physical ability would elevate the 49ers’ offense to a level they have not had in several years.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trey Lance has his own fair share of risks with his inexperience, but the natural tools are tough to ignore. It’s a perfect fit with Atlanta. Lance will obviously need some further seasoning before he’s comfortably ready with the NFL adjustment.
Luckily, the Falcons committed to Matt Ryan for at least 2021. Lance getting to learn behind Ryan before taking over the reins is an excellent scenario for his development. I’ve seen Kyle Pitts mocked here, but the Falcons make the smart pick here in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Arthur Smith’s offense features plenty of play-action out of 12 and 13 personnel with a steady dose of the run game. These all lean into Lance’s strengths. Smith also took advantage of Ryan Tannehill’s ability to throw on the run and his legs as well.
Lance is the best overall athlete in this QB class. Quite frankly, the fit makes too much sense to ignore, and it provides GM Terry Fontenot with a fresh rebuild window.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
As of right now, all signs are pointing to Ja’Marr Chase being the Bengals’ pick at No. 5 overall. While it’s not a pick I personally would make, it’s certainly understandable based on who Chase is as a prospect.
When we last saw Chase, he was a 19-year-old receiver who was dominating SEC defenses. He and Burrow were a dynamic duo that led one of the best offenses in college football history. With A.J. Green’s departure, it makes sense that the Bengals would want another superstar receiver who already has that connection with their franchise quarterback.
6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
This is a BPA argument for this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, pure and simple. There has only been one tight end to go within the top five picks in the history of the modern NFL. However, there have been two go No. 6 overall since 1980 in Kellen Winslow II and Vernon Davis.
Co-OC George Godsey is a tight ends coach, and in his past stints as OC, namely in Houston, tight ends have been a big value in his offense.
In 2016, in Houston, both C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin were top four in targets on the team, with 89 and 74, respectively. With the New England formula all over the Miami Dolphins, I don’t think it’s crazy to assume two talented tight ends would make a lot of sense.
Kyle Pitts is an absolute monster. Line him up in-line, line him up outside, in the slot, doesn’t matter. He’s going to produce. With him and Mike Gesicki, Tua Tagovailoa has two massive playmakers that create headache-inducing matchup nightmares.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (via DET): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Trade! The Philadelphia Eagles send picks 12, 84, 123, and Indianapolis’ conditional second-round pick in 2022 to the Detroit Lions in exchange for pick 7.
It’s a double-whammy of GMs here. Howie Roseman has always been aggressive to get his guys, while Brad Holmes comes from the Rams, where first-round picks are usually never made without a trade of some kind. As such, I think this is a perfect trade spot.
Roseman gets to leap all of Carolina, Denver, Dallas, and the Giants to take the best tackle in this class. There are rumors out there that the Chargers are also in the hunt for Penei Sewell. Philly has the edge in terms of total capital and picks one spot higher than the Chargers.
I know Philly needs a CB. I know about their WR situation. However, that offensive line has plenty of health questions.
Jordan Mailata showed flashes at left tackle, but Sewell is quite handily better right away. Mailata can move around as the team’s swing tackle or perhaps move inside. Lane Johnson has combined for 19 games in the last two seasons. Brandon Brooks missed all of 2020. With Philly seemingly pressing the reset button all over the roster, getting the offensive line sorted out is important. Nabbing Sewell is a damn good start to doing so.
8. Carolina Panthers: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I know it’s been pretty popular to see Rashawn Slater put here. However, hear me out. D.J. Moore, Jaylen Waddle, and Robby Anderson. The Panthers have enough pieces on the OL that I could easily see them deciding to go with one of the premier playmakers in this draft and scoop up more offensive linemen later on.
Part of the narrative on why Sam Darnold was bad in New York was that he didn’t have any weapons. We’ll know with this pick how true that is. Waddle is the closest thing to Tyreek Hill in this draft class. I think that’s all I need to say about him being worth the No. 8 overall pick.
9. Denver Broncos: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
I don’t really buy the Broncos being in on Mac Jones all that much. It feels like, to me, they’d have to take one of the top four that is clearly an upgrade over Drew Lock to be in on a quarterback in this draft. That doesn’t mean they won’t pick Jones or address quarterback later on, however. George Paton has taken quarterbacks like that in the past (to little success).
To me, solidifying and reinforcing that offensive line would be a much smarter move, which they do here in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft. I’m skeptical of Jones, and I’m not sure he’s the guy who will help Denver win now. Thus, taking Rashawn Slater makes more sense.
A five-wide combination of Bolles-Risner-Cushenberry/Slater-Glasgow-Slater/James is intriguing, especially when coached by Mike Munchak — that’s a physical and extremely athletic group. They’ll help keep whoever is at quarterback upright.
10. New England Patriots (via DAL): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Trade! The New England Patriots send picks 15 and 46, and a second-round pick in 2022 to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for pick 10.
It would take a lot to move Dallas out of here, but they are certainly open to the idea, according to PFN Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline. A first and two seconds to move down five spots is a nice premium deal to get them to do so.
New England and Mac Jones make too much sense from a precedent standpoint. The Patriots have Cam Newton for one more season, hopefully meaning Jones gets to sit and improve in his weaknesses. New England’s never been afraid to go and get their guy, and they certainly have a type at quarterback. This might be the best spot for Jones overall.
11. New York Giants: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
It’s no secret the Giants are going all-in with Daniel Jones. They signed Kenny Golladay in free agency to give him another weapon. Speaking to all of my Giants guys, they are all in on another receiver at No. 11. The team has had some mixed flashes from Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard could be gone after next season as a cap casualty. As such, adding one of the “big three” wide receivers could absolutely be in play.
Also, I’ve seen the recent rumors saying that they could trade down from No. 11. Gettleman has never traded down…at any pick….ever. I’d be surprised.
We all know how good DeVonta Smith is. He’s the first Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver in decades. With Golladay commanding plenty of attention and Shepard being a reliable weapon, Smith is free to move around from Z to the slot, depending on the matchup. Smith’s route running and athleticism open him up as an excellent No. 2 to Golladay. No more excuses for Daniel Jones.
12. Arizona Cardinals (via DET): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Trade! The Arizona Cardinals send picks 16 and 49 to the Detroit Lions in exchange for pick 12.
The Cardinals are in a clear win-now mode. They’re going to be aggressive building assets. In a division where they’ll have to play three extremely talented quarterbacks with formidable receiving groups, rolling with Malcolm Butler, Robert Alford, and Byron Murphy just isn’t going to cut it.
Given Vance Joseph’s love for playing heavy press man, a corner like Jaycee Horn would be incredibly appealing to him. Pauline said just this week that Arizona wants any of Horn, Surtain, or Waddle, but “none of them will be available by pick 16.”
With the Chargers, Vikings, and Cowboys sitting in front of them, there’s plenty of opportunity for one or both of their top corners to be gone by No. 16. As such, they’ll make a move up to leapfrog all of them in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, while Detroit just stocks up more picks to address their roster holes.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
With Brandon Staley’s love child in Horn off the board, the Chargers flip over to their offensive line and address their left tackle position. The team could certainly consider Patrick Surtain II here, but Staley loves physical, man-coverage-style corners. As good as Surtain II is, that’s not his play style. As a result, it’s a left tackle here.
The team reinforced the interior of their offensive line by signing Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler, and Oday Aboushi, but that left tackle spot is still a question mark. Drafting Christian Darrisaw solves that question. Since they missed on a trade up for Sewell, they’ll take another toolsy offensive tackle.
Darrisaw is one of the soundest tackles in recent memory, boasting an excellent combination of size, length, quickness, power, and IQ. The Chargers have clearly found their quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert. Now, they need to go out and protect him.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/G, USC
The Vikings could certainly be in play for a pass rusher here at No. 14. However, as of this writing, they have not yet traded Danielle Hunter, and they have enough on the defensive line that I think they’ll pass on one in Round 1.
They could also go corner here, but the team signed Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander in free agency and got good play out of Cam Dantzler last season. With Mike Hughes still on the roster, that’s plenty of guys in that corner room. As such, it’s time to fill out the offensive line with the best OL left available.
Alijah Vera-Tucker has his fair share of fans in the NFL. I’ve spoken to many who have AVT neck and neck with Slater. Vera-Tucker and Ezra Cleveland can battle it out for the left tackle spot. Off of pure talent, AVT is the most talented of the two. He measured in under the 33-inch-arm mark the NFL thinks matters for tackles, but his tape indicates a quality NFL LT with his quickness, intelligence, and technique.
15. Dallas Cowboys (via NE): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Dallas luck strikes again, with a clear top talent falling to them in the teens. With Philly trading up, Dallas would feel comfortable enough moving down the boards to nab any of their top guys who end up here. With the board falling the right way, Dallas gets the guy they would have quite happily taken at No. 10 with a couple of extra second-rounders to boot.
It’s just about the perfect match in terms of a prospect’s play style, a defensive scheme fit, and a clear team need matching up into one pick. Patrick Surtain II would immediately top the depth chart in Dallas.
16. Detroit Lions (via ARI): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Detroit finally makes their pick here. I’ve seen way too many picks with them taking Micah Parsons, which would be a surprise for many reasons. Brad Holmes clearly doesn’t value linebackers based on past draft history. Plus, all Detroit has preached is high character. Parsons has too many different character rumors out there for me to believe he’d be Holmes’ first pick to start his career.
How about starting with a phenomenal offensive weapon? Rashod Bateman, to me, is the best route runner in this draft class. The Lions don’t really have a future at wide receiver. Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are oft-injured speedsters on one-year deals. Is Quintez Cephus that guy? I doubt it.
Bateman, on the other hand, compares favorably to Allen Robinson and can develop into the team’s X WR of the future.