2021 NFL Draft: Ryan Waldis's First Round Mock
Well, here we are again. Following months of rumors and speculation, we've made it to NFL Draft week.
This will be my 7th year completing a first round mock, which seems hard to believe! After five years scoring in the low-to-mid 30s, I finished with a score of 47 in 2020, which would have tied for 4th-highest on The Huddle Report's draft score leaderboard (one point per player picked in the first round, two points for matching a player to the correct team in the first round). I don't expect to do nearly that well again, but my five-year scoring average is now 36.4, so let's try to do a little better than that mark.
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
2. NEW YORK JETS – Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (MIA) – Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
This is where the fun will begin on Thursday night. For all of the “there’s no way they traded all that for Mac Jones” takes, there seems to be too much smoke at this point to prove otherwise. Maybe the 49ers will pull the greatest prank of all time when Goodell announces Lance or Fields, but that appears highly unlikely.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS – Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
It’s not out of the question for Atlanta to target Matt Ryan’s replacement here, but the organization seems content to pick up another offensive weapon for Matty Ice. Pitts is a generational talent who should shine in Arthur Smith’s offense.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS – Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
A cornerstone tackle would arguably make more sense, but perhaps the front office takes Joe Burrow’s request and makes it a reality. Chase isn’t without some flaws but it’s fun to imagine what the two former Tigers could accomplish together in the NFL.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS (PHI) – Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
With their top two targets in Pitts and Chase officially off the board, it wouldn’t be surprising for Miami to trade this pick to a QB-needy team who wants to jump ahead of Carolina or Denver. If Miami stays at six, though, perhaps they pivot to Waddle who could play inside or outside and give Tua Tagovailoa a tantalizing weapon.
7. DETROIT LIONS – Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)
The Lions need a lot to become competitive, and while they have Taylor Decker locked up for a while it’d be tough to pass on a lineman with Sewell’s pedigree. Once thought to go as high as 2nd overall, Sewell would become a mainstay on the Lions offensive line for years to come.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS – Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
For a plethora of reasons, Sam Darnold didn’t flash a lot of positive skills and traits playing for the Jets. The Panthers will give the former 3rd overall pick a fair shot at revitalizing his career, but Matt Rhule and the Panthers will double-down on the position and pick up a polarizing prospect who could very well end up being the QB2 from this draft class when we look back in a few years.
9. DENVER BRONCOS – Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota St.)
And with this selection, all five of the top QBs in the class are off the board. Lance is considered a project but he could theoretically sit behind Lock for a season and enter 2022 with a solid supporting cast of weapons surrounding him.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS – Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
Barring any injury-related issues, the Dallas offense should be towards the top of the league in most categories in 2021. The defense needs major help, though, and grabbing the top cornerback in the draft class would go a long way towards helping the Cowboys become a more balanced team.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS – DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman are reportedly intrigued by both Alabama WRs, and despite bringing in Kenny Golladay and John Ross this offseason, bringing in another weapon for Daniel Jones wouldn’t be a bad thing.
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (SF) – Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
There aren’t any receivers at this point worth taking, so the Eagles look to add a playmaker to a position they’ve struggled to fill for years. Horn can be a starter from day one opposite Darius Slay and give the team much-needed secondary help, especially playing in a division with so many talented offensive players.
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS – Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern)
Following a sensational rookie campaign, the Charger pick up a tackle to protect Herbert in the years to come. Slater is widely considered to be the second-best tackle prospect behind Sewell and should fit well in Los Angeles, especially if Joe Lombardi incorporates some of his zone-blocking concepts into the offense.
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech.)
After ignoring the unit for years, the Vikings have started to provide some reinforcements for the offensive line in recent years. They’ll go back to the pool this year as well, picking up the versatile Darrisaw who could feature at either tackle or guard and help give Kirk Cousins the best chance to succeed.
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
The popular theory seems to be that Bill Belichick and the Patriots will trade up for a QB, something that would be somewhat out of character for the organization when it comes to the draft. Instead, the team stays at 15 and picks up an intriguing linebacker in Collins who should find a snug fit in many of New England’s defensive packages.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS – Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
His injury history will definitely scare some teams away, but the Cardinals take a risk on the exciting Hokie CB (who hasn’t played since 2019) in the hopes that he remains healthy and lives up to his sky-high upside.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS – Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
If it wasn’t for the eye-opening character concerns associated with Parsons, the former Nittany Lion would likely go much earlier. Regardless, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will take a chance on the best LB in the class as they continue to try and find big time defensive playmakers.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS – Alijah Vera-Tucker (IOL, USC)
The Dolphins went with fellow Trojan offensive lineman Austin Jackson in the first round of last year’s draft, and they’ll head back to Southern Cal in 2021 to pick up Vera-Tucker, a Morris Trophy winner who will likely play guard in the NFL with the ability to kick outside if needed.
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
Washington still needs a QB for the future, but with no options available they’ll be content adding the rangy and versatile Butkus Award winner Owusu-Koramoah to a fast-growing collection of young defensive pieces.
20. CHICAGO BEARS – Teven Jenkins (OT, Oklahoma St.)
Another team in dire need of a QB, Chicago will opt to find a long-term offensive line option with their selection of Jenkins, a two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention who played both guard and tackle at Oklahoma State.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – Azeez Ojulari (EDGE, Georgia)
It’s tempting to find a weapon to pair with new QB Carson Wentz, but the Colts will instead try to address their pass-rush woes from a season ago and grab one of the best edge rushers in the class who took a big leap forward from 2019 to 2020.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS – Greg Newsome II (CB, Northwestern)
His measurables present a concern but Newsome should be able to provide immediate help to a CB group that desperately needs it
23. NEW YORK JETS (SEA) – Kwity Paye (EDGE, Michigan)
After grabbing their long-term QB, the Jets will transition to the defensive side of the ball with the selection of Paye, considered by some to be the best edge rusher in the draft. Considered an extremely coachable player, it’s exciting to imagine what new head coach Robert Saleh could do for Paye’s development.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
While investing a first-round pick on a running back is typically frowned upon, it seems as though Tomlin and the Steelers really want a durable, bellcow-type back to replace James Conner. If that’s the case, Harris would be the perfect option.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (LAR) – Alex Leatherwood (IOL, Alabama)
Urban Meyer is hopeful that the team’s top draft picks are able to contribute immediately, and Leatherwood would fit the bill. The winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy and Outland Trophy, Leatherwood could be a potential Cam Robinson replacement, but his skills will likely play better on the interior at guard.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS – Jamin Davis (LB, Kentucky)
A player who has continued to shoot up draft boards after a strong redshirt junior campaign, Davis has clear tools but will likely need time to realize them at the NFL level after only one college season as a starter. Cleveland would be a perfect location to develop as GM Andrew Berry is reportedly more-focused on long-term impact as opposed to instant gratification with his draft selections this season.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS – Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
The Ravens passing attack was surprisingly subpar in 2020, so the team will look to address it with the first of two first round selections. The former Gopher set a school record for receiving yards and touchdowns and could end up being one of the biggest steals from this draft class.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR, LSU)
The Saints stay close to home and give Taysom Hill (or Jameis Winston) a talented wideout to join Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith. Marshall
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS – Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
A year after selecting his long-term replacement, the organization will help out Aaron Rodgers in 2021 by giving him a true big-play threat in Toney. The Gator WR broke out in 2020 both offensively and on special teams, and he could be the piece Matt LaFleur needs to truly unlock his offense.
30. BUFFALO BILLS – Jaelan Phillips (DE, Miami-Fla.)
The ankle, wrist, and hand injuries would be enough reasons for concern, but three diagnosed concussions during his time in college may cause Phillips to fall out of the first round altogether. When he’s on the field, though, he flashes immense talent, so the Bills take a risk that his durability issues won’t follow him to the NFL.
31. BALTIMORE RAVENS (KC) – Samuel Cosmi (OT, Texas)
Following the recent Orlando Brown trade, the Ravens attempt to find his replacement immediately with the selection of Cosmi, a First Team All-Big 12 honoree and team captain who should find success in the Ravens offensive scheme.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – Christian Barmore (DL, Alabama)
The defending Super Bowl champions admittedly don’t need much, so they’ll take a chance on the Defensive MVP in the National Championship who has seen his stock fall due to reports that he resisted coaching and structure while at Alabama.
(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports)