With some clarity on a few of the changing quarterback situations in the NFL, it’s time for another new Sporting News 2021 mock draft.
Indianapolis joined Detroit in getting a still-young 2016 first-round starter with the trade for Carson Wentz from Philadelphia. Those aren’t the only three teams going away from taking a QB early from a position group that has five worthy first-round prospects.
This edition also shakes up the potential destinations for many more of the most talented offensive skill players in the class. The Colts, Lions and Eagles all do get help for their QBs in different ways. One big tight end, two top running backs, five great wide receivers — along with five strong offensive linemen — also all go in this mock.
Here’s how SN sees the picks playing out from No. 1 through No. 32 on April 29:
NFL DRAFT BIG BOARD: Ranking the top 50 prospects overall, by position
NFL mock draft 2021
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)
Lawrence didn’t have the best finish to his college career, but he lived up to expectations of being a generational talent at the position, the second in a row after Joe Burrow. He’s a great leader and winner on top of being a strong-armed passer and capable tough runner. Lawrence will clean up the Jaguars QB mess, attached to a new coach, big college winner Urban Meyer. Lawrence can have success right away with the Jaguars having a decent line and top young skill players such as James Robinson, D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. Forget that talk about Meyer taking someone else, especially another QB.
2. New York Jets (2-14)
- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (6-3, 210 pounds)
Wilson had an exceptional season with his accuracy and downfield passing to emerge as the draft class’ new second-best QB prospect after Lawrence. Wilson would be a strong, cerebral fit for Mike LaFleur’s offense replacing Sam Darnold as the face of the franchise. The Jets are looking less likely to stick with Darnold in the new regime, changing to a rookie draft pick or a big-name veteran. If the Jets do trade for Deshaun Watson , then there would be a good chance Wilson goes with this pick to the Texans.
3. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)
- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)
The Dolphins can consider wide receiver and tight end here to help Tua Tagovailoa but ultimately can’t go wrong going with landing an elite left tackle to help keep him upright for a long time. Sewell still is the best all-around tackle in this class with his smooth agility for pass protection and rock-like stature for the running game.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)
The Falcons have hinted they might draft a quarterback at some point, but it doesn’t make much sense in the first round as they are still locked into Matt Ryan and could use more secondary help to support A.J. Terrell on the back end of their rebuilding defense. Farley was one of the first top prospects to opt out for his final college season. He has great size and solid all-around coverage skills to the point he can develop into a sound shutdown player.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 246 pounds)
The Bengals need to get more unique, diverse playmakers for Joe Burrow with Tee HIggins and Tyler Boyd keeping the future bright at outside and slot receiver. Pitts, a wide receiver hybrid, would be ideal. He posted 770 yards and 12 TDs on only 43 catches, a rare field-stretcher for the position as well as a dominant red zone force. He would be big pass-catching upgrade from free agent C.J. Uzomah, headed to free agency after an injury-curbed season.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6-1, 208 pounds)
The Eagles did use a first-rounder on Jalen Reagor last year, but they have plenty of other issues at wideout for new starting QB Jalen Hurts and could use Chase as their true go-to “X” outside to complement Reagor as a speedy “Z.” Chase posted 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs during the national championship season and can join former teammate Justin Jefferson in lighting up the NFL as a versatile playmaker.
7. Detroit Lions (5-11)
- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 175 pounds)
The Lions will need some wide receiver help for Jared Goff in some form as they won’t be able to re-sign both prime Kenny Golladay and aging Marvin Jones Jr.. Someone who can complement T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swifte well in the passing game would be ideal. Smith is falling on some boards because of concern about his frame, but it’s hard to ignore his Heisman Trophy-worthy dominant production, especially when it peaked during the College Football Playoff games and put him into the conversation for best wideout in the class.
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)
The Panthers can think about offensive line and other offensive skill positions here, but there’s a strong indication coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady want a more dynamic, younger upgrade to Teddy Bridgewater. Fields wasn’t having the most standout second season for the Buckeyes in Big Ten play, but with his immense physical talent, he saved his absolute NFL-loving best for lighting up Clemson and outplaying Lawrence with a dazzling all-around performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
9. Denver Broncos (5-11)
- Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-4, 226 pounds)
The Broncos are already at a crossroads with Drew Lock and will be tempted to replace him here should Lance, appealing to John Elway, remain on the board here, pushing them away from taking cornerback or edge-rushing help for Vic Fangio’s defense. Lance has climbed back up boards with his massive upside. As more teams see tapes of his statistically brilliant lone season as a starter (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, no INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 TDs) it’s harder to ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)
The Cowboys need to help DeMarcus Lawrence better up front especially with the likelihood of losing both Tyrone Crawford and Aldon Smith. Rousseau, who opted out of the Hurricanes season, didn’t really need to play to boost his stock after posting 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his lone significant and final season under defensive-minded head coach Manny Diaz. He would be a great fit with new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
11. New York Giants (6-10)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)
Waddle, like his Crimson Tide teammate Smith, is a highly skilled all-around receiver the Giants could use to run all the routes and get open everywhere outside for Daniel Jones. He could easily take over as the “X” go-to guy in New York, with Sterling Shepard sliding back into his best position as the “Y” in the slot and Darius Slayton settling into the big-play threat “Z”.
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)
There’s a growing chance the 49ers go in a different direction at quarterback, either sticking with Jimmy Garopolo or trading for a veteran upgrade. They do have a major issue looming in their defense with a slew of cornerbacks headed to free agency, led by veteran leader Richard Sherman. That lines up well with this selection. Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (6-4, 315 pounds)
The Chargers cannot go into another season with Sam Tevi and oft-injured aging Bryan Bulaga as the top tackles for second-year franchise QB Justin Herbert. The best offensive lineman available makes great sense here, more for outside than inside. Slater, who opted out of his final season with the Wildcats, is quickly rising up the boards again with his all-around skill set getting more attention. He held more than his own vs. Washington defensive rookie of the year Chase Young in a college matchup.
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Alijah Vera-Tucker, G/OT, USC (6-4, 300 pounds)
The Vikings need to target a versatile offensive lineman who can help upgrade the left side of their line. Vera-Tucker has separated from Ohio State’s now injured Wyatt Davis as the best interior prospect in this class, as he can round out into a complete blocker, also capable of playing outside for a long time with a little more polish.
15. New England Patriots (7-9)
Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)
Parsons’ stock isn’t falling; it’s the fact the teams picking ahead of the Patriots now totally cannot feel comfortable going for this position over some glaring necessities. That’s not to say Parsons is a luxury pick for New England — the team could use a second-level anchor to bring together all of Bill Belichick’s young front seven reinforcements, especially with a free-agent mess ahead. Parsons is a hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man, a rangy playmaker in the Luke Kuechly game-changing mold.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 216 pounds)
The Cardinals are pretty good in the edge pass rush with Chandler Jones and Haason Reddick, but need more rangy second-level help against both pass and run. Owusu-Koramoah covers like a defensive back and has room to grow into a physical run stopper.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
- Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan (6-4, 272 pounds)
The Raiders have to keep think about upgrading their pass rush with a player who is also versatile enough as a big athlete to get to the quarterback from the inside. Paye is a freak of nature and has quickly shot up draft boards. It’s hard not to think about a combination of Ziggy Ansah and Jason Pierre-Paul in that sense.
18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
- Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa (6-4, 260 pounds)
The Dolphins, after going for offensive tackle first, might be tempted to think receiver or tight end for Tagovailoa here, but they could also a high-impact playmaker on the second level of their defense. Collins explodes as an athlete and can make a lot of plays with his agility, quickness and range. Brian Flores would love deploying his skill set.
19. Washington Football Team (7-9)
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida (5-11, 190 pounds)
Washington might really be considering rolling with young Taylor Heinicke or another veteran bridge option while it upgrades its offense elsewhere for now, with tackle and wide receiver high on the radar. Toney is dynamic after the catch and also has some middle of the field-stretching ability. He would be an ideal big-play slot complement to Terry McLaurin.
20. Chicago Bears (8-8)
- Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (6-3, 214 pounds)
The Bears can’t stick with Nick Foles anymore and Mitchell Trubisky is a free agent. They don’t have a lot of resources to upgrade QB elsewhere, so they might as well tap into a rising prospect with championship pedigree. Jones’ strong pocket passing should have great appeal to be Chicago’s long-term solution in the offense of Matt Nagy and John DeFilippo.
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
- Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech (6-5, 314 pounds)
Now that the Colts have landed Wentz as their new starting quarterback, they can focus first on replacing 32-year-old retiree Anthony Castonzo with another potential rock at left tackle. Darrisaw has put himself into strong first-round consideration with standout athleticism that can help him develop into a smooth and nimble long-term pass protector in the NFL.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
- Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia (6-3, 240 pounds)
The Titans’ pass rush was a bugaboo and it cost them in front of their weak pass defense in the end with Jadeveon Clowney not providing enough late free-agency answers. Ojulari has jumped into first-round consideration because he’s a unique pass-rusher who can fit a variety of schemes and alignments and has potential both in stopping the run and in coverage. Mike Vrabel and Shane Bowen would love his style of play.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
- Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (6-2, 230 pounds)
After fielding a mess of a backfield in 2020, the Jets can go for a feature option to help Wilson or another QB. Harris had a strong Senior Bowl week of practices showing off his running power and versatility. He showed up in excellent shape and proved capable he can handle a three-down workhorse role with his receiving skills, quickness and smarts.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)
The Steelers have aging corners outside in Steven Nelson and Joe Haden and both sub-package players, Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, are free agents. Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field. This Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality to contain wideouts.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
- Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)
Barmore, ideal as a new building block for the Jaguars’ new base 3-4 defense under former Ravens assistant Joe Cullen, stood out as a inside terror for the Tide. He had a big College Football Playoff run against Notre Dame and Ohio State to boost his stock. Barmore combines strength and power with great technique. His late-season surge makes him worthy of a back-half first-rounder.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State (6-5, 257 pounds)
The Browns need to address their pass-rush situation opposite Myles Garrett with Olivier Vernon and Larry Ogunjobi about to make their defensive line thinner in free agency. The courting of aging J.J. Watt aside, Oweh is the classic freakish athlete in the Pierre-Paul mode who has the potential to be an explosive and productive rusher for a long time, even if he must produce situationally at first.
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
- Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU (6-1, 208 pounds)
The Ravens had the bad breakup with Earl Thomas after having Eric Weddle give them good play at the end of his career. They are weak at one of the safeties with DeShon Elliott flanking Chuck Clark. This safety class is deep with a lot of similarly valued prospects but Moehrig has managed to stand out from the rest as a ball-hawking presence, strong run supporter and solid single cover man. He is an active, impactful cleanup man in the mold of Derwin James or Jessie Bates.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
- Nick Bolton, OLB, Missouri (6-0, 232 pounds)
The Saints have a pretty good edge pass rush and a second-level force in Demario Davis, but they could some help both upfield and getting around in coverage. Bolton, with his great speed and quickness made to fly around the field, can provide that. He also is a very sound tackler to keep boosting their strong run defense.
29. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
- Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan (6-5, 319 pounds)
The Packers need to think about the near future of Aaron Rodgers’ pass protection with right tackle shaky opposite locked-up elite left tackle David Bakthiari, with Rick Wagner released and an upgrade needed from Billy Turner. Mayfield has stood out on film with his size, length and strength and can develop into a smooth blocker a la the Broncos’ Garett Bolles.
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)
- Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5-10, 205 pounds)
The Bills have done a good job of working on offensive line and wide receiver upgrades to boost Josh Allen, but they have to think about cleaning up running back where Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have shown flashes but limited dynamic skill sets as later-round picks in the past two drafts. Etienne was a surprise return to Clemson but boosted his stock behind Harris as an all-around back with 1,506 scrimmage yards and 16 TDs. He could be a massive extra asset in the passing game for Allen.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
- Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (6-3, 200 pounds)
With Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson hitting free agency in 2021, this would a coup for Patrick Mahomes, who needs a game-changing third target behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. LSU keeps churning out the big-time NFL wide receivers, with Chase going earlier and Jefferson being an instant first-round hit for the Vikings. Marshall has a great combination of size and speed and can line up anywhere as a big-time complementary route runner to Hill.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
- Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (6-5, 226 pounds)
The Buccaneers are bound to take a hit from their solid all-around defensive with tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge rusher Shaquil Barrett and inside linebacker Lavonte David all free agents. To that end, for now, they should look for the highest-upside player available for Todd Bowles’ 3-4 front. Phillips has a nice wingspan as an athlete who gets after it against both run and pass.