The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner and oh boy is this a great draft class. Headlined by Trevor Lawrence, who many have called one of the best QB prospects of all-time, this group of players is full of guys who can turn franchises around. Here are my picks for what will happen in the first round (projected trade included!):
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
This pick should come as no surprise. Lawrence is the best player in this draft.
2. New York Jets
QB Zach Wilson, BYU
Since the season ended, the Jets have been on the clock. Lawrence is a lock in Jacksonville and now that the Jets have moved on from Sam Darnold, Wilson at No. 2 is virtually sharpied in.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Dolphins via Texans)
QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
San Francisco certainly watched Wilson’s pro day and knew there was no chance of him falling past the second pick. Fields is the next best option, it will certainly be interesting to see what San Fran has in store for Jimmy Garoppolo, who makes $27.5 million per year. Oh yeah, he also has a no-trade clause.
4. Atlanta Falcons
TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Falcons have needed an offensive revamp for quite some time now and Pitts is definitely a great first step. It has been reported that the Falcons have taken calls for this pick but I think No. 4 will stay in Atlanta and they will use the pick to draft Pitts who is a matchup nightmare for both LBs and safeties.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Sewell would most definitely be the better pick here, but recent reports suggest that the Bengals QB Joe Burrow has been pushing the GM to select Chase with the fifth pick. The Eagles trading down may also suggest that the Bengals are locked in on Chase.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Eagles)
OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Miami would have certainly preferred to pick Ja’Marr Chase here considering their need for a stud WR, but Sewell will help just as much in the development of Tua Tagovailoa. Sewell is by far the best offensive lineman in this draft and I cant see him dropping past this pick, barring a Laremy Tunsil esque debacle on draft night.
7. Detroit Lions
OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
I am fully aware that Detroit needs wideouts to help out Jared Goff, but the offensive line in Detroit is awful. Detroit refused to help Matthew Stafford in any way on offense over his tenure with the Lions, so let's hope they can turn over a new leaf and help out their young, expensive quarterback.
8. New England Patriots (projected trade w/ Carolina)
QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State University
Now that the Panthers have Sam Darnold, they have no real use in this pick so I see them trading it to a team like New England that seems anxious to trade up.
9. Denver Broncos
QB Mac Jones, Alabama
John Elway has been reluctant to exert confidence in Drew Lock as Denver’s QB1, which has led many to believe that they will try to take a QB in this year’s draft. Jones had a great season at Alabama, headlined by a National Championship. The Broncos are in a great spot here. If Lance or Jones are available at 9, a team drafting in the teens will certainly be interested in trading up, which could come with great value for Denver.
10. Dallas Cowboys
CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Many names have come up recently in terms of the best cornerback in this draft. I don’t think it is Farley, but many reports have linked the Cowboys and Farley together at the 10th pick.
11. New York Giants
WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Even though Smith won the Heisman last season, he is heavily considered to not be the best WR in this class. No. 11 is the absolute lowest I think Smith will fall and the Giants would certainly rather have him than play against him, knowing the Eagles pick right behind them.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins via 49ers)
CB Patrick Surtain
After making a questionable trade and now landing at the 12th pick, the Eagles need to take a defensive back. The best part about picking here is that the Eagles cannot be dumb and take yet another QB, since they will be gone by this point in the draft. Surtain is a great pick here as he is considered by many to be the best defensive player in the draft class.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Horn was already projected to be a first round pick, but his pro day shot him into consideration for the first CB taken off the board. I still think the Eagles and Cowboys have their guys in Surtain and Farley, so Horn will fall to a team that will be a contender for years to come.
14. Minnesota Vikings
OLB Micah Parsons, Penn State
Parsons was once considered a top-8 pick in this draft before QB-mania took over about a month ago. Parsons is a great linebacker who checks every mark on defense. The Vikings have struggled at the LB position over the last few years for many different reasons and Parsons would be the perfect guy to build around.
15. Carolina Panthers (projected trade w/ Patriots)
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
After trading down, the Panthers get a chance to recollect and really think about this pick rather than being forced to take the best player available, which in this case would be a QB that they don't need. Owusu-Koramoah is a great prospect that would fit right into a defense that is quietly becoming one of the best, young cores in the league with safety Jeremy Chinn and linebacker Brian Burns.
16. Arizona Cardinals
WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Waddle is certainly the odd-man-out when it comes to the top four WR’s in this draft, but that is no discount to his skills. Waddle is an amazing wideout and was overshadowed by DeVonta Smith, the eventual Heisman trophy winner which should make the Cardinals very happy with him still available at 16.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
Derek Carr has struggled to stay on his feet over the last few seasons even after the Raiders invested heavily in their offensive line. After losing Trent Brown and Rodney Hudson already this offseason, it seems perfect that the Raiders take Darrisaw here. Darrisaw is a powerful and explosive tackle who will fit like a glove on an offensive line that needs to do a much better job of protecting their QB and make holes for Josh Jacobs.
18. Miami Dolphins
OLB Azeez Olujari, Georgia
Olujari may be the biggest question mark in the first round on the defensive side of the ball, but that should not discourage the Dolphins from taking him at 18. Olujari is by no means a great coverage linebacker, but he was arguably the best pass-rushing LB in college football last season. Miami had a great secondary, a decent linebacking core and a middle-of-the-road defensive line so don’t be surprised to see them take more than one defensive player early in this draft.
19. Washington Football Team
G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Washington has struggled mightily on offense over the past few seasons due to their linemen never being healthy. Vera-Tucker is a very versatile player as he has slotted in at both guard and tackle over his last two seasons at USC. With no real need for defensive players or skill position players on top of the top QB’s in the draft being gone, this pick is the next best thing and will pay off for years to come.
20. Chicago Bears
OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
It is no secret that the Bears need help on their offensive line. Regardless of their poor quarterback play for the last 20 years, the Bears have struggled to find an impact O-Lineman outside of Kyle Long, who retired last year. Jenkins is 6’6”, 320 lbs and should be able to survive in this league for a long time based solely on his size. Picking at 20 guarantees nothing in terms of longevity and NFL talent, but Jenkins should get the job done in Chicago.
21. Indianapolis Colts
S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
Moehrig is the only safety in this draft class with a first round grade and it works out perfectly that he falls to Indianapolis, a franchise that has done great in developing safeties like Malik Hooker, Bob Sanders and now Julian Blackmon.
22. Tennessee Titans
WR Rondale Moore, Purdue
Moore is super undersized at 5’7” but makes up for it in his pure talent at the WR position. Moore’s name has floated all over the internet this offseason for his spectacular catches against bigger defenders and his vertical jump of 42”. The Titans absolutely need a WR and Moore will definitely make a difference in Tennessee.
23. New York Jets (from Seahawks)
DE Gregory Rousseau, U Miami
Rousseau comes off the board as the first DE taken in this draft and will help bolster a defensive line that surprisingly had a 48% pass rush win-rate last season.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
After losing Maurkice Pouncey to retirement, the Steelers need to replace him as soon as possible. Humphrey is the best C in this draft and one of three players with grades inside the top three rounds at the position. With an already old Big Ben under center, Pittsburgh needs to protect him if they want anything productive out of him.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams)
CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
It is no secret that Jacksonville needs defenders. Outside of Sidney Jones, the Jaguars did not have a single defensive back with a PFF grade over 61, that's pretty bad. Joseph has begun to soar up draft boards, so if he falls due to teams not being CB-needy, Joseph would be a must-have for Jacksonville at pick 25.
26. Cleveland Browns
DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
In a weak DT class, the Browns may be forced to reach on this pick. Barmore had excellent showings in the playoffs against two good teams, which certainly raised his stock. Barmore is expected to be a second round pick, but the Browns don't pick again until pick No. 59.
27. Baltimore Ravens
LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Collins may end up being the best defensive player in this draft, but the fact that he played at Tulsa may drop him to the end of the first round. The Ravens have weapons all over their offense, so don’t be surprised to see them pick a defender in the first round like Collins who they can pair with Patrick Queen.
28. New Orleans Saints
WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Even before losing Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints receiving core was below average. After investing in both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill this offseason, the Saints would be crazy to not take a receiver in the first round to compliment Michael Thomas. Bateman will need to quickly prove that he can make an impact against talented CB’s however if he wants to stick around.
29. Green Bay Packers
DE Kwity Paye, Michigan
The rag-tag receiving group, outside of Davante Adams, that the Packers surround Aaron Rodgers with has paid off enough to make me think they will not take a QB in round one this year. Paye is an athletic machine coming off the edge and would help make the Packers defense even better than it was last season. Paye and his former UMich teammate Rashan Gary would make for a great, young DE duo.
30. Buffalo Bills
G Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
Josh Allen is an amazing quarterback that can truly do it all, but we all would like to see him scramble less and use that big arm even more. Davis can do just that and is a great pick for a team that is taking their first selection at the end of the first round.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
OT Sam Cosmi, Texas
It is no secret that the Chiefs need offensive linemen. After Patrick Mahomes signed his mega deal, Kansas City has already struggled to retain franchise players. Cosmi is a very consistent player and has done an excellent job at protecting his QB at Texas over the last three seasons which could earn him a trip to a team in Kansas City that has a stranglehold on the AFC.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Not that the Bucs need anyone to fill holes on their roster as they have top players in every position, but the Bucs could play spoiler with the last pick of the first round. Harris and every other RB in this draft class are expected to go in the second round or later, which is a good thing for those teams that pick the best player available early on in the first round. However, the Bucs could throw a wrench in those plans by taking a back late in the first round and send many teams back to the drawing board for their second round choices.