NFL mock draft 2021: Cowboys, Eagles opt for defense in top 10; 49ers, Steelers find QBs of future

By | December 3, 2020

With a little more than a month left in the 2020 NFL regular season, it’s another good time for a new 2021 NFL mock draft.

The college football season has shaken up the stock of propsects across the board, because of both who’s playing and who’s not. There’s also a better indication of what teams will be locked into high selections for next April.

Here’s how we see the picks from 1-32 playing out now. The top 18 picks are based on the current draft order, according to Tankathon. The bottom 14 is based on SN’s projected finish of the current playoff teams through Super Bowl 55.

MORE: NFL playoff picture after Week 12

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NFL mock draft 2021

1. New York Jets (0-11)

  • Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)

With Sam Darnold breaking down and not living up to his first-round promise, even with limited help, the Jets will find it hard to pass on this generational talent, a can’t-miss QB prospect in the echelon of Andrew Luck and Joe Burrow. Lawrence isn’t just a great passer and athlete; he’s an accomplished leader and winner, just like those other two. Lawrence will be coming out despite some rumors to the contrary. The Jets would make that easier by replacing Adam Gase as head coach.

MORE: The 10 best fits for Trevor Lawrence in the NFL

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)

  • Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)

Fields is getting his desired second college starting season, albeit abbreviated, to help build his stock and push Lawrence, confirming the dynamic dual threat has his eyes on the draft. Between an injured Gardner Minshew and elevated backups Jake Luton and Mike Glennon, Jacksonville needs to clean up the mess with likely a new coach. Fields finds a good fit with the Jaguars’ solid skill players, led by undrafted rookie feature back James Robinson.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1)

  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)

The Bengals have made some investments in their offensive, line including first-round tackle Jonah Williams from 2019, but they need to better protect franchise quarterback Joe Burrow when he can come back from his big knee injury. Sewell’s strong, sturdy presence would be a great fit in front of Burrow and also help their running game.

4. Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

  • Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)

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 for the position.  The Cowboys’ secondary has been awful without Byron Jones and Farley would be a good complement to Trevon Diggs. Jerry Jones needs to focus on shoring up the back end first.

5. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)

  • Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)

Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Heyward are breaking down with injuries as older cornerbacks, and Desmond King was traded to the Titans. Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player. 

MORE: The biggest busts in NFL Draft history

6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1)

  • Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)

The Eagles have had some of the worst linebacker play in the NFL and they can stay in-state to address their greatest need if they stay up here in the draft order without a playoff berth. Parsons is a rangy, hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man in the Luke Kuechly mold. Ahead of his opt-out from conference play, he had 109 total tackles, including 5 sacks, last season for the Nittany Lions.

7. Carolina Panthers (4-8)

  • Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (6-3, 210 pounds)

Wilson has had an exceptional season with his accuracy and downfield passing to quickly emerge as a threat to be the third QB off the board after Lawrence and Fields. Teddy Bridgewater has fared pretty well as the bridge QB in Carolina, but there’s also an indication they have a limited ceiling with him and should think about replacing him by 2022 with a longer-term solution. Wilson would be a strong, cerebral fit for Joe Brady’s offense.

8. Washington Football Team (4-7)

  • Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-4, 226 pounds)

Washington seems to be done with Dwayne Haskins after less than two seasons, and neither Kyle Allen nor Alex Smith are long-term answers. Despite Lance’s one-game showcase for the Bison not going as planned in 2020, one cannot ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills he displayed in his first full season of action (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, zero INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 more TDs). His name is only a few letters different from Trevor Lawrence and he carries an extremely high ceiling.

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9. Detroit Lions (4-7)

  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6-1, 208 pounds)

The Lions will need to replenish at wide receiver opposite Kenny Golladay with Marvin Jones Jr. heading into free agency for his age 31 season. Chase, opting out of LSU’s season, is coming off a big final season with Burrow (84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs) and would be an excellent additional big playmaker to pair with Matthew Stafford.

10. Atlanta Falcons (4-7)

  • Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)

With the demise of Matt Ryan greatly exaggerated, the Falcons do the smarter thing for the short term and try to fix their defense again. They keep having issues rushing the passer so they should want an upgrade for whoever is coaching them in 2021. The ACC and the Hurricanes are playing, but Rousseau, who opted out, 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.

11. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)

  • DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 175 pounds)

The Dolphins need a home-run hitting playmaking to further complement DeVante Parker. Smith has picked up from he left off last season, posting 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs, making his big share of big plays all over the field in another loaded receiving corps. He has 72 catches for 1,074 yards and 12 more TDs in eight games this season.

12. Denver Broncos (4-7)

  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)

Offensive tackle is no longer a pressing need with Garret Bolles playing very well (finally) and earning his extension. The Broncos might think about a Drew Lock replacement, but cornerback is a big defensive area to address.  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 in that game. Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality. 

MORE: The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

13. Chicago Bears (5-6)

  • Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (5-9, 180 pounds)

The Bears may or may not bring back Allen Robinson, but regardless of who their QB is in 2020, they need more dynamic playmakers everywhere. Moore, who opted back in to make more big plays for the Boilermakers in 2020, is a versatile athlete and an explosive catch or carry waiting to happen.

14. Minnesota Vikings (5-6)

  • Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State (6-4, 315 pounds)

The Vikings have been hurting at guard next to first-round center Garrett Bradbury without Pat Elflein, who’s also a free agent in 2021. Davis can be an elite NFL interior blocker and already has showed plenty in the way of paving the way for the Buckeyes’ prolific rushing attack before deciding to opt in back into the season.

15. New England Patriots (5-6)

  • Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 246 pounds)

The Patriots should be in the market for a quarterback early, but they could also go for the best player available, a real difference-making tight end a la Rob Gronkowski to help whomever is passing for them in 2021. Pitts is dominating SEC play this season with 29 catches for 513 yards and 11 TDs in only 6 games.

​16. San Francisco 49ers (5-6)

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (6-3, 214 pounds)

Jones is having himself a big season replacing Tagovailoa in Tuscaloosa. He has been the complete package in leading the Tide, having a Burrow-style breakout with his accuracy, big arm and downfield production, racking up jaw-dropping passing totals in the process. His strong pocket passing should have great appeal as an upgrade to Jimmy Garoppolo.

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17. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

  • Dylan Moses, OLB, Alabama (6-3, 240 pounds)

The Raiders need to keep investing in the second level after landing Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton in free agency. Moses, rangy, instinctive and ideal for Paul Guenther’s defense, easily would have gone in the 2020 first round without the knee injury that wiped out his entire 2019 season in Tuscaloosa. This season, Moses has picked up where he left off in 2019 with 56 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception in seven games.

18. Baltimore Ravens (6-4)

  • Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6-2, 210 pounds)

The Ravens have too many speedy deep threats and not one consistent, reliable route-running go-to guy all over the field. Marquise Brown needs a better complement. Bateman, who opted back in for a while in 2020, put up 60 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 TDs working opposite Buccaneers draft pick Tyler Johnson in 2019. Without Johnson, he finished with 36 catches for 472 yards and 2 TDs in five games this season.

19. New York Giants (4-7)

  • Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)

Waddle played only four games before his season-ending ankle injury and he still posted 25 catches for 557 yards and 4 TDs. The Giants have had a rough time with veteran Golden Tate and could use a little more reliable young playmaking with Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard for Daniel Jones.

20. Arizona Cardinals (6-5)

  • Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan (6-4, 272 pounds)

Paye tapped into pass-rushing upside with two sacks in four games this season before being curbed by a lower-body injury. The Cardinals need a little more punch in getting to the quarterback to complement Chandler Jones, who will be 31 in 2021 coming off a biceps injury in the final season of his contract.

MORE: Most painful NFL Draft slides of last 20 years

21. Miami Dolphins (7-4)

  • Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU (6-1, 208 pounds)

The Dolphins have invested a ton at cornerback and linebacker but need a rangy centerfielder in Brian Flores’ secondary. Moehrig has been rising up boards standing out from several close rospects at his position.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)

  • Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5-10, 205 pounds)

The Bucs tried their best to solve running back woes in the passing game by adding Leonard Fournette, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and LeSean McCoy behind Ronald Jones, but Tom Brady really could use a more versatile weapon in the James White mold for his second year with the Buccaneers. Etienne, who surprised by returning to Clemson, has racked up 1,203 scrimmage yards and 14 TDs in nine games, adding to his dazzling career numbers with the Tigers. He’s a special back for the modern NFL offense, with some of both Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook in his game.

23. Indianpolis Colts (7-4)

  • Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas (6-7, 300 pounds)

The Colts need to think about a replacement for 32-year-dold potential retiree Anthony Castonzo, who’s now battling a knee injury that will cause him to miss time. Cosmi is a massive prospect for the position with nimble feet to match.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams for Jalen Ramsey)

  • Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame (6-6, 305 pounds)

Cam Robinson is heading into free agency after a shaky season of pass protection. The Jaguars should look to address left tackle, too, with this second first-rounder to help Fields. Eichenberger is a strong, smooth player with good technique who can keep Fields upright and also keep Robinson rolling downhill.

25. Cleveland Browns (8-3)

  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, OLB, Notre Dame (6-2, 216 pounds)

The Browns need to healthier, more active and versatile on the second level to help their defense all-around. He covers like a defensive back and has room to grow into a physical run stopper.

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26. Buffalo Bills (8-3)

  • Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest (6-5, 285 pounds)

The Bills need to replenish their pass rush for Sean McDermott with some youthful juice. The explosive Basham has built on his 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Demon Deacons last season with 5 sacks in the first six games this season.

27. Green Bay Packers (8-3)

  • Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (6-5, 311 pounds)

The Packers need to get beefier in their front three with their continued struggles against the run. Wilson easily could have come out and gone in the first round this year coming off a highly disruptive 5-sack season for the Seminoles. He had one sack and 17 tackles in six games before a season-ending leg injury.

28. Tennessee Titans (8-3)

  • Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 194 pounds)

Wade has had some struggles in his presumed final season in Columbus in giving up big plays, but he still has big potential despite his first-round slip of late. Wade has nice size and like former Buckeyes teammate Jeffrey Okudah, is active and instinctive in coverage.

29. New York Jets (from Seahawks for Jamal Adams)

  • Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State (6-5, 258 pounds)

The Jets can pair Lawrence with an unique go-to guy at the position. This is a strong class for receiving tight ends with Pitts, Freiermuth and Miami’s Brevin Jordan. Freiermuth decided to return to school until the 2020 season went awry and produced 23 catches for 310 yards and a TD in his four games. He’s got ideal size and strength and can also be a powerful in-line presence in the running game.

Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)

  • Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (6-5, 230 pounds)

Trask has been up to the task leading a sizzling Gators passing game confidently with his arm, accuracy and athleticism to get into the first-round conversation. He’s raised his efficiency and looks like a great fit in the Steelers’ offense as Ben Roethlisberger’s successor.

31. New Orleans Saints (9-2)

  • Jevon Holland, S, Oregon (6-1, 196 pounds)

The Saints will need to think about replacing Marcus Williams to boost their secondary in between their veteran cornerbacks and someone who can also help in nickel coverage. Holland is coming off a very impressive season where he had 4.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He has nice size and a well-rounded skill set to play either spot.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)

With Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson hitting free agency in 2021, this would a coup for Patrick Mahomes. LSU keeps churning out the big-time NFL wide receivers, with Chase going earlier and Justin 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 Tyreek Hill. With Chase not playing, Marshall has boosted his stock with 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 TDs in only seven games.