A wave of cuts, trades and franchise designations impacts projecting the 2021 NFL Draft.
This was a big week for the NFL with dramatic impact on mock drafts. The NFL announced the salary cap will be $182.5 million for the 2021 season on Wednesday, the morning after teams were required to place franchise tags on players.
A series of significant cuts, a couple trades and a few surprising franchise designations have shifted the thinking in our mock draft. There were also a few intriguing names not given a franchise tag, including Detroit receiver Kenny Golladay, that provide free agent options for teams looking to make a veteran improvement at a position of need.
The top pick in our draft has not and likely will not change. But behind it are some big shifts this week based on personnel decisions and players starting to work out as part of the virtual combine.
We’re still waiting for Deshaun Watson (and Russell Wilson) to get traded, and if/when they do that will obviously make a huge impact on our mock draft.
One big change to this mock draft from previous versions: on Wednesday the NFL announced, officially, the compensatory picks the each team has in this year’s draft. So you’ll notice a few more listed at the end of the third round, and the order is now official.
But for now, let’s jump into three rounds of craziness. Again, we’re not assuming any trades that haven’t already been made. Let us know what you think!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
We’re sticking with out prediction for the number one pick because, again, this has felt like a fait accompli for more than a year. Lawrence is arguably the most hyped quarterback to enter the draft since Andrew Luck, and he’ll be the centerpiece of Urban Meyer’s new look in Jacksonville. Can they build a winner around him? They certainly have the picks to make a quick difference.
2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This is where the Watson Sweepstakes begin influencing the draft. Will the Jets land Watson? The Jets could keep Darnold and look to add weapons around him. Or they could trade him and start over with a young quarterback. So many decisions! We’re joining the ever-increasing crows that believe Wilson is the guy for the Jets here… assuming Watson isn’t wearing green in August.
3. Miami Dolphins (from HOU)
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Miami has two picks in the first round, both of which could become property of the Texans if the Dolphins make the call. As it stands today, wide receiver is a glaring need. We’re betting they try to rekindle the magic between Alabama’s Smith and his former quarterback. Making Tua Tagovailoa happy is important after buying high on him last year. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a stud.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
More and more so-called experts have the Falcons selecting the heir to Matt Ryan here, but in a win-now world it’s hard to see Atlanta using a high pick on a back-up while their defense has so many glaring issues. Rousseau is regarded as one of the top pass rushers in this draft class and would provide immediate impact in an area of need for the Falcons.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals have their franchise quarterback but he was alone far too much of the time last year (before he got hurt). Building around Joe Burrow is now key to their future, and protecting him should be paramount after his rookie season ended because of an injury. A top receiver will be tempting here, but the top tackle in the class makes more sense.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Eagles ownership made clear this week that Jalen Hurts is their new franchise quarterback, and the front office needs to build around him. So what better way to support a young passer than an elite receiver? Some think Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is an option here, but Chase is a potential game-changers.
7. Detroit Lions
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Detroit traded Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and then let Golladay walk; they did sign former Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams, but he isn’t in the same class as Golladay. A top receiver is absolutely an option here, but after waiving Christian Jones the Lions need to address their defense. An elite linebacker here makes a lot of sense.
8. Carolina Panthers
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Another team interested in Watson is now on the clock in our mock draft, and this scenario is playing out ideally for Carolina to stay put at eight. Fields looks like a potential franchise quarterback and would be a terrific pick for the Panthers.
9. Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Denver started their offseason early, releasing veteran corner A.J. Bouye. Drafting his replacement here with the top corner in the class makes a lot of sense. They might consider helping their pass rush here as well, but corner is a significant need and Surtain is elite.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Dallas has two enormous needs on defense: linebacker and corner. And with a few really good corner prospects still available as well as Penn State inside linebacker Micah Parsons, this pick will undoubtedly address one of those two areas. We’re predicting they go with a top corner.
11. New York Giants
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Giants expressed confidence in tight end Evan Engram earlier this week, but his health remains a concern. Pitts plays like a receiver, so his value is skyrocketing. The other big consideration here is future pay; salaries don’t scale up as much for tight ends as they do receivers. Pitts is an elite athlete who would give the Giants options in the pass game.
12. San Francisco 49ers
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Niners have big issues in their secondary and need a new number one corner. Horn has been considered the number three corner in this class for a while and would be a big fix to a significant need for San Francisco. They have issues on their defensive line to consider here, but Horn is a smart pick.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers hit the jackpot with their rookie quarterback last year. Now, like the Bengals, they need to protect their investment in the most important position on the field. Slater had a massive workout earlier this week and is climbing; some may even consider him the number one tackle in this class.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
We’ve had Minnesota going quarterback in a few of our mock drafts, and if Trey Lance is still on the board they’ll certainly consider drafting the heir to Kirk Cousins here. But they have huge issues up front on both sides of the ball. Barmore dominated the national championship game and would be a huge addition to their defensive line.
15. New England Patriots
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This would be an absolute dream scenario for the Patriots. They need a quarterback, and Lance would be a strong possibility here. But they could also run it back with a veteran under center and add weapons around him. Waddle might be the best receiver in this class, so grabbing him at 15 to supplement a receiver corps that disappointed last year would be a smart add for the Patriots.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Roll Tide, eh? In this scenario, Harris would be the third straight player from Alabama to come off the board and fifth player from the defending national champs to go in the top 16 overall picks. Arizona needs to protect Kyler Murray, but adding a feature back to take the burden of the run game away from Murray would be a huge help.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC
Vegas traded tackle Trent Brown to New England and cut Richie Incognito, creating a few significant holes on their offensive line. Vera-Tucker is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft and would be a perfect fit in the Raiders offense. Mike Mayock loves prospects from big programs and Vera-Tucker is the kind of lineman John Gruden loves.
18. Miami Dolphins
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Dolphins acquired former first round pick Isaiah Wilson from Tennessee to potentially resurrect his career at tackle. That addition solves a need we had previously addressed here. So we’ll move to the next best inside linebacker in the class with Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame. He could be an impact backer for the Dolphins for the next decade.
19. Washington Football Team
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Washington sitting at 19 is a tough spot for them to consider a new quarterback, and they have already re-signed Taylor Heinicke to a multi-year deal. So what a dream scenario this would be if Lance falls into their laps at 19. There are other needs, but quarterback is a huge issue and this would be a fascinating fix.
20. Chicago Bears
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
The Bears haven’t drafted a franchise-defining quarterback in almost 40 years. But they’ve traded for a few and signed a couple others and the issue has always been protecting whomever is under center. Tackle has been a glaring problem since Chicago went to the Super Bowl. Mayfield would be a marvelous pick here.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Now that they’ve plugged their quarterback hole with Carson Wentz, it’s time to look at other issues. Bateman is a classic receiver who runs terrific routes and impressed at his pro day. Making him an option for Wentz would be a great fit.
22. Tennessee Titans
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Titans could be looking at Corey Davis leaving via free agency, making receiver a need. They also surprisingly cut corner Malcolm Butler earlier this week, making that an issue they could address here. But taking an impact pass rusher here is also a significant need and Paye would be a great fit in their system. He’s been mocked as high as the early teens, so grabbing him at 22 would be a dynamic addition to their defense.
23. New York Jets (from SEA)
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
We’ve mocked a receiver to the Jets at two more than once, but the sentiment appears to be that they’ll go Wilson with their first pick in the draft. Receiver is still an issue they need to address, so adding the talented Toney here would be a marvelous pick. There are some options Robert Saleh might advocate for to help his defense here, but coupling a number one receiver with a new quarterback makes sense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Steelers need to get younger on their offensive line, eventually need to replace Big Ben and could look to add depth at linebacker after losing both of their starters to injuries in 2020. The biggest immediate concern is protecting their quarterback. Darrisaw could be the second tackle off the board and could easily be a top-12 pick in this draft, so if he makes it to 24 the Steelers would likely be thrilled.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (From LAR)
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The Jags surprised some people when they put the franchise tag on tackle Cam Robinson. With him secured for 2021, the Jags will look to use their second pick in the first round on another need area. Stokes is flying up draft boards after running a 4.25 in the 40 at his pro day. A top tier corner would be a solid addition for the Jags.
26. Cleveland Browns
Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
The Browns could look at addressing their needs at linebacker or secondary needs here. Earlier this week they cut DT Adrian Clayborn, opening a need on their defensive line. Why not replace him with another strong tackle from Iowa? Nixon is a beast who would immediately upgrade the position.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Ravens need to protect Lamar Jackson if he’s going to be their long-term answer at quarterback. They also need to provide him with better options in the pass game if he’s going to perform. Hollywood Brown was a nice pick last year but he needs help. And there are quality receivers available here for the Ravens. But rushing opposing quarterbacks is a huge concern. Ojulari would be a great pick here for Baltimore, who can address their offensive needs later in this deep draft class.
28. New Orleans Saints
Zaven Collins, EDGE, Tulsa
The Saints are reportedly one of the three teams remaining on Russell Wilson’s acceptable trade destination list, so this pick could be in play if they fail to retain Jameis Winston. They could also be tempted to select Mac Jones here to be their future quarterback. But for now we’ve got them taking a nasty pass rusher in Collins, who was impressive at the Senior Bowl.
29. Green Bay Packers
Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
If you watched the Packers lose the NFC Championship Game you know their secondary needs help. They could stand to bolster their aging offensive line or add depth at receiver here, but defending the pass is too important to pass on a good prospect like Newsome here. He’s an athletic corner who’s young and has good length. This would be a strong pick for Green Bay.
30. Buffalo Bills
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The Bills avoided one area of concern when they re-signed safety Micah Hyde earlier this week. There are still a couple issues they might look to address on the defensive side of the ball here, and they could use an upgrade at running back as well. But a replacement at offensive tackle makes sense here. Jenkins is a tough player who would be strong value at 30.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Chiefs lost the Super Bowl for many reasons, the most significant of which was the play of their offensive line. When Eric Fisher went down, tackle immediately became their biggest need. Cosmi is a big lineman who would bring toughness and an edge to their protection of Patrick Mahomes II. The Chiefs could probably move back and get Cosmi later, so watch for a potential trade here.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
The Bucs won the Super Bowl because of their defense, but they have a handful of free agents on that side of the ball that will be nearly impossible to keep. They placed the franchise tag on Chris Godwin and then re-signed Lavonte David to a team-friendly deal, but Shaq Griffin still needs a new deal. Oweh is a physical freak who would be a tremendous addition to a stout defense.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
34. New York Jets – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
35. Miami Dolphins (from HOU) – Trevon Moehring, S, TCU
36. Atlanta Falcons – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
37. Cincinnati Bengals – Terrance Marshall, Jr., WR, LSU
38. Philadelphia Eagles – Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
39. Detroit Lions – Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi
40. Carolina Panthers – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
41. Denver Broncos – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
42. Dallas Cowboys – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
43. New York Giants – Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
44. San Francisco 49ers – Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio State
45. Los Angeles Chargers – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
46. Jacksonville Jaguars (from MIN) – Deonte Brown, iOL, Alabama
47. New England Patriots – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
48. Arizona Cardinals – Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
49. Las Vegas Raiders – Walker Little, OT, Stanford
50. Miami Dolphins – Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
51. Washington Football Team – Robert Hainsey, OT, Notre Dame
52. Chicago Bears – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
53. Indianapolis Colts – Asante Samuel, Jr., CB, Florida State
54. Tennessee Titans – Pauson Adebo, CB, Stanford
55. Seattle Seahawks – Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma
56. Pittsburgh Steelers – Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
57. Los Angeles Rams – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
58. Cleveland Browns – Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
59. Baltimore Ravens – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
60. New Orleans Saints – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
61. Green Bay Packers – Brady Christiansen, OT, BYU
62. Buffalo Bills – Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
63. Kansas City Chiefs – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
64. Tampa Bay Bucs – Josh Myers, iOL, Ohio State
65. Jacksonville Jaguars – JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
66. New York Jets – Carlos Basham, Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest
67. Houston Texans – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
68. Atlanta Falcons – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
69. Cincinnati Bengals – Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
70. Philadelphia Eagles – Keith Taylor, CB, Washington
71. Detroit Lions – James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
72. Carolina Panthers – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
73. Denver Broncos – Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
74. Dallas Cowboys – Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh
75. New York Giants – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
76. Washington Football Team (from SF) – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
77. Los Angeles Chargers – Trey Smith, iOL, Tennessee
78. Jacksonville Jaguars (from MIN) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
xx. New England Patriots – forfeited
79. Arizona Cardinals – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
80. Las Vegas Raiders – Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
81. Miami Dolphins – Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
82. Washington Football Team – Nick Eubanks, TE, Michigan
83. Chicago Bears – Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
84. Philadelphia Eagles (from IND) – Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
85. Tennessee Titans – Tommy Togai, DT, Ohio State
86. New York Jets (from SEA) – Brenden Jaimes, OT, Nebraska
87. Pittsburgh Steelers – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
88. Los Angeles Rams – Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
89. Cleveland Browns – Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
90. Minnesota Vikings (from BAL) – Ben Cleveland, iOL, Georgia
91. Cleveland Browns (from NO) – Ade Ogundeji, EDGE, Notre Dame
92. Green Bay Packers – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
93. Buffalo Bills – Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
94. Kansas City Chiefs – Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
95. Tampa Bay Bucs – Jay Tufele, DT, USC
96. New England Patriots (comp) – Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
97. Los Angeles Chargers (comp) – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
98. New Orleans Saints (comp) – Chatarius Atwell, WR, Louisville
99. Dallas Cowboys (comp) – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
100. Tennessee Titans (comp) – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
101. Los Angeles Rams (comp) – Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
102. San Francisco 49ers (comp) – Hamilcar Rashed, Jr., EDGE, Oregon State
103. San Francisco 49ers (comp) – Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
104. Los Angeles Rams (comp) – Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
105. Baltimore Ravens (comp) – Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee
106. New Orleans Saints (comp) – Richie Grant, S, UCF