NFL mock draft 2021: Deshaun Watson looms large for Jets, Dolphins; Cowboys, Patriots make luxury picks

By | February 3, 2021

Super Bowl 55 is almost here, which means the final first-round draft order for the 2021 NFL Draft will become official with either the victorious Buccaneers or winning Chiefs picking last. In the latest Sporting News mock draft edition before the big game, there are plenty of shakeups in the top 30 picks, starting right away with No. 2.

With the Senior Bowl in the books, some prospects saw their stocks improve, while others leveled out. More of that fluctuation will come when teams examine players more in depth during the heart of the pre-draft process, stamped by the satellite version of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here a complete breakdown of all the projected Round 1 selections, based on the updated draft order according to Tankathon:

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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.

MORE: How Urban Meyer, Jaguars can avoid ruining Trevor Lawrence

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)

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

The Dolphins would have a tough early decision if they keep this pick and consider taking Chase vs. reuniting DeVonta Smith with Tua Tagovailoa. They need to round out their receiving corps opposite DeVante Parker knowing they have the oft-injured Preston Williams. Parker, Chase and tight end Mike Gesicki would be a dangerous trio creating matchup nightmares. 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. 

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

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

Fields has immense natural physical talent to make new offensive-minded head coach Arthur Smith think about finding Matt Ryan’s successor for a run-heavier approach to the offense. Fields wasn’t having the most standout second season for the Buckeyes in Big Ten play, but 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.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

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

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. The Bengals will be tempted by a wide receiver and that still might be the direction should Chase, Joe Burrow’s former go-to guy remain available here, But it’s hard to pass up on Sewell with keeping Burrow upright in Year 2 and beyond being a high priority.

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6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)

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

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. The Eagles did use a first-rounder on Jalen Reagor last year, but they have plenty of other issues at wideout for Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts and could use Smith as their true go-to “X” outside to complement Reagor as a speedy “Z.”

7. Detroit Lions (5-11)

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

Waddle, like his Crimson Tide teammate Smith, is a highly skilled all-around receiver the Lions could use to run all the routes and get open everywhere outside for Jared Goff. Waddle would be a great replacement for aging free agent Marvin Jones Jr., assuming the Lions bring back big field-stretching younger free agent Kenny Golladay. Golladay, Waddle and tight end T.J. Hockenson would be a good foundation for Anthony Lynn’s new-look passing offense.

MORE: The biggest busts in NFL Draft history

8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

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

9. Denver Broncos (5-11)

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

The Broncos will also weigh their options to boost their edge pass rush to support Bradley Chubb, knowing that Von Miller is older and coming off a season lost to injury. But the outside of the secondary sets up to be a more pressing concern for defensive-minded Vic Fangio. 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.

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10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

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

The Cowboys could use some cornerback help, too, but this curveball of going for another an offensive skill luxury pick can’t be ruled out for Jerry Jones in “best player availablle” mode. Dallas figures to lock up Dak Prescott and has fine weapons for him in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and 2020 first-rounder CeeDee Lamb. But as much as Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz have flashed, neither is a matchup nightmare tight end. The Cowboys need someone as impactful as prime Jason Witten, and 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.

11. New York Giants (6-10)

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

The Giants will think about wide receiver and offensive line, too, but after relying much on inside pass-rushing for their much-improved front seven, can also go for the most reliable edge rusher in the class. 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 Patrick Graham.

MORE: The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

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, like offering up Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade for Kirk Cousins. 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)

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

The Vikings saw their edge rush become a mess without injured Danielle Hunter and could use a versatile lineman to continue the rebuild of Mike Zimmer’s defense, now more focused on the front. 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.

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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)

  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC (6-4, 300 pounds)

The Cardinals could use an interior line boost for Kyler Murray and their run-heavy attack. Vera-Tucker has separated from Ohio State’s now injured Wyatt Davis as the best such prospect in this class, as he can round out into a complete blocker, also capable of playing outside, with more polish.

17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

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

The Raiders invested in free agents Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski last year but that’s not enough on the second level, as they still had fundamental issues in former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s scheme. They need another key playmaker in the K.J. Wright molde for Gus Bradley’s scheme. Owusu-Koramoah covers like a defensive back and has room to grow into a physical run stopper.

18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

  • Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (6-2, 230 pounds)

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. The Dolphins got a good season from Myles Gaskin when healthy in a featured role, but Harris would be a considerable overall upgrade.

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19. Washington Football Team (7-9)

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

Jones was the complete package in leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship, having a Burrow-style breakout with his accuracy, big arm and downfield production, racking up jaw-dropping passing totals in the process to make the most of top receivers. Jones’ strong pocket passing should have great appeal to be Washington’s long-term solution in Scott Turner’s strong, QB-friendly offensive system.

20. Chicago Bears (8-8)

  • Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)

The Bears should avoid reaching a little for quarterback and consider both offensive tackle and defensive tackle more should the draft play out like this in front of them. Barmore, ideal as a new building block for the Bears’ 3-4, 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.

21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

  • Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech (6-5, 314 pounds)

The Colts need to find a new starting quarterback either in draft or free agency, too, but they also need to replace 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.

MORE: Most painful NFL Draft slides of last 20 years

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)

  • Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas (6-3, 245)

The Jets, after thinking offense first with their No. 2 overall pick, must address their pass defense here with either cornerback, safety or pass-rushing help, and the latter might end up being the priority based on the value of players available. Ossai has been the recent fastest riser at the position as a tremendous upfield athlete with high motor who relentlessly goes after quarterbacks.

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.

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25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)

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

This safety class is deep with a lot of similarly valued prospects but Moehrig has managed to stand out from the rest as a ballhawking presence, strong run supporter and solid single cover man. The Jaguars need to think about cornerback, too, but they had shaky safety play last season, too and could use an active, impactful cleanup man in the mold of Derwin James or Jessie Bates.

26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)

  • Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa (6-4, 260 pounds)

The Browns have Myles Garrett anchoring their defensive line and Denzel Ward leading their secondary. They could use some complementary pieces there, but they also were short on playmaking on the second level. Collins explodes as an athlete and can make a lot of plays with his agility, quickness and range. Joe Woods would love his skill set.

27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

  • Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State (6-5, 257 pounds)

The Ravens could also consider wide receiver help for Lamar Jackson here but also have a big pass-rush issue to address with Matthew Judon heading to free agency. Oweh is the classic freakish athlete in the Jason 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.

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.

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29. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

  • Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida (5-11, 190 pounds)

The Packers got plenty of big plays from Allen Lazard and Marques Valdez-Scantling to complement Davante Adams, but they have a clear need for a high-level dedicated slot receiver with Jarvis Landry-like potential to better work the middle of the field for Aaron Rodgers. Toney is dynamic after the catch and also has some middle of the field-stretching ability.

30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)

  • Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan (6-5, 319 pounds)

The Bills need to address offensive line in some form as a high priority with tackle Darryl Williams being the bigger free-agent concern over guards Jon Feliciano and Brian Winters, as Cody Ford returning from injury can shore up one of those spots. 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.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

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

The Bucs did OK to solve their 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. Etiennie 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.

32. 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. 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.