2021 NFL Mock Draft – Ideal Picks For Every Team
We watch a lot of analysts and insiders predict what they believe each NFL team will do once the draft comes around, but what about suggesting what we think they should do?
Before writing my final mock draft next week, I wanted to put together something different. I wanted to write about what I’d do for every team if thrown in the General Manager’s chair. I’ve combed through each team’s depth chart. I know who they added in free agency. I watched the film from their games last year. I’m prepared to talk about what I believe to be the best-case scenario for every team in the draft.
Now, to be fair, because I’m doing this for every team, a lot of my favorite players will come off the board quicker than expected, and that’s going to hurt the teams later in the round. During the actual NFL Draft, there will be multiple players who fall much later than expected, giving your team to have a shot to snag them, only for you to grit your teeth in disappointment when they pass on said player. But again, today I’ll be making the best pick I can for each team based on who’s available when they get on the clock.
1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence (QB – Clemson)
There is no overthinking this one. Lawrence is the franchise quarterback team’s will mortgage their future to get. He’s the best prospect to come out since Andrew Luck due to his large sample size of his success at the collegiate level. The Jaguars can become a competitor almost immediately if they nail some of their other early-round picks.
1.02 New York Jets – Justin Fields (QB – Ohio State)
Fields is the No. 2 quarterback on my board, and I’d take him here as the Jets GM. Does he recognize coverages as quickly as Zach Wilson? No, but he’s better at just about everything else and he played against better competition. I don’t believe any of the remaining quarterbacks come without some sort of concern, but Fields’ ability to create on the ground while maintaining precision accuracy down the field is what you build a team around.
1.03 San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance (QB – North Dakota State)
If we had a larger sample size on Lance, he’d be my No. 2 quarterback in this class, but we have to exercise some caution about a player who has just one season (that had 287 pass attempts) of elite production under his belt. I’d have no issue if you wanted to take Zach Wilson over him here, but pairing Lance’s upside with Kyle Shanahan’s creativity, and you have a massive ceiling.
1.04 Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts (TE – Florida)
I want to be clear here… I would be trading out of this pick as the Falcons GM. After they restructured Matt Ryan‘s contract, he’s going to be on the team in 2022, so drafting a quarterback and wasting his rookie contract for two years on the bench is pointless. I don’t believe the Falcons are in a position to compete, but if they believe they are, they have to build on their strengths, which is offense. Having a core of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Pitts, you give the opposing defense all sorts of issues.
1.05 Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell (OT – Oregon)
There was no hesitation with this pick. You almost never find offensive tackles on the free agent market and for good reason. The Bengals need to protect their investment in Joe Burrow, and while they did snag Riley Reiff in free agency, he’s on what’s essentially a one-year deal. Sewell and Jonah Williams give the Bengals one of the best tackle combos in the league.
1.06 Miami Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase (WR – LSU)
The Dolphins need to remove any excuses that can be used for Tua Tagovailoa to not succeed. Having Chase out there with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki gives him a solid group of pass catchers to throw to, and they still have two of the next 30 picks in the draft to select maybe an offensive lineman and a running back.
1.07 Detroit Lions – Zach Wilson (QB – BYU)
This is where things get a bit tough for me, as there are certainly reasons to go Wilson, but there are some to go elsewhere. The Lions roster is far from competing and will likely be towards the top of the draft next year. If you select Wilson, they’re almost certainly going to make him sit behind Jared Goff for a bit, and on top of that, they don’t have a great group of options to throw to. Think about it like this: If Goff struggles and they go to Wilson who also struggles, they’re in a weird spot in the 2022 draft. Even worse is that you don’t know if Wilson’s a bust because he was playing for a first-time head coach with one of the worst group of skill-position players. But still, quarterback is the most important position on the field, so they need to snag Wilson.
1.08 Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater (OT – Northwestern)
With the way the draft board has played out, I’d be looking to trade out of this pick with a team who wants to jump the Broncos for Mac Jones. But we’re saying ideal picks “if” they stay where they are, so we have to make the best pick at this spot, though. The Panthers need help on the offensive line, period. They lost multiple starters this offseason and you don’t want Sam Darnold seeing any more ghosts.
1.09 Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons (LB – Penn State)
We haven’t seen Vic Fangio have a season with a healthy defense, and because of that, everyone underestimates them. Adding Parsons to a healthy defense who should have a nasty pass rush with solid cornerback play out of Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby would complete the unit. Many will wonder why I wouldn’t go quarterback, and it’s because I’m not convinced Mac Jones is better than Drew Lock. If Lock doesn’t develop and struggles again this year, they’ll have another chance to draft one in 2022.
1.10 Dallas Cowboys – Caleb Farley (CB – Virginia Tech)
The back injury to Farley is likely going to hurt his draft stock but he was my No. 1 cornerback in this class, and his back procedure was a microdiscectomy, which is minor. The Cowboys need to add some talent on the defensive side of the ball and Farley is the best player on my board. Offensive line is also under consideration, but the top two linemen are gone.
1.11 New York Giants – Devonta Smith (WR – Alabama)
While I love Sterling Shepard as a player, he’s best cast in the slot. Drafting Smith here would move him back there, while having Kenny Golladay as the big-bodied receiver, Darius Slayton as the rotational field stretcher, and Smith as the do-it-all receiver for Daniel Jones. With the weaponry they’ve surrounded Daniel Jones with, it’s now or never. I’m actually shocked that no one’s talked about the Giants being a surprise team that could potentially take a quarterback should one of the top-tier options fall.
1.12 Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Surtain (CB – Alabama)
The Eagles snagged Darius Slay in free agency last year, but I’ve always preferred him to play sides rather than shadow. Snagging Surtain to play opposite him would allow that to happen. On top of that, I don’t believe Surtain is ready to handle opposing No. 1 wide receivers but should be able to comfortably play on one side. Playing against the Cowboys and Giants (who drafted Devonta Smith a pick before them) twice per season requires plenty of cornerback talent.
1.13 Los Angeles Chargers – Samuel Cosmi (OT – Texas)
This is certainly higher than most would expect Cosmi to go, but I have him as one of the top tackles in the draft and he’s a left tackle, which is where the Chargers need him to play. While Christian Darrisaw is also an option, I have Cosmi higher on my board. The objective for the Chargers should be to protect their franchise quarterback.
1.14 Minnesota Vikings – Christian Darrisaw (OT – Virginia Tech)
After releasing Riley Reiff, the Vikings created an instant need at offensive tackle. They also have a massive need at edge rusher, a position I debated going here, but there’s no “can’t-miss” prospect in this year’s class, so we play it safe and snag a blocker.
1.15 New England Patriots – Jaylen Waddle (WR – Alabama)
The Patriots signed quite a few wide receivers this offseason. They still don’t have the guy. Waddle changes that. They do need a quarterback, but I’m not particularly high on Mac Jones, and I believe Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels may reunite with Jimmy Garoppolo before long. We take the best player available instead of taking a chance on Jones.
1.16 Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn (CB – South Carolina)
The Cardinals have been investing in their offense over the last few years, and because of that, the defense has suffered. They’ve lost both of their starting cornerbacks from last year (Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick), and though they signed Malcolm Butler, they need another playmaker who’ll be around for years to come.
1.17 Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB – Notre Dame)
He’s tailormade for a lot of the Raiders’ issues on defense, as they could use improved safety play (where Owusu-Koramoah used to play), help in coverage against tight ends (has the athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs), and overall help at the linebacker position. This should be their pick in the actual draft.
1.18 Miami Dolphins – Najee Harris (RB – Alabama)
I know not many analysts like taking running backs in the first round, and while I’m generally on board with that, taking one in the second half of the round is a lot easier of a pill to swallow, especially when it’s Harris, a running back who reminds me of Adrian Peterson.
1.19 Washington Football Team – Mac Jones (QB – Alabama)
This is where I’d feel confident selecting Jones, as he’s far from a sure thing. Strictly pocket passers, like Jones, must be incredibly good to survive in today’s NFL, and while Jones was great at Alabama in 2020, he was playing with the most talented team in the country. My concern is that he sees ghosts in the pocket at times, a problem that will only be magnified in the NFL. Still, he’s worth the risk at this point in the draft for a team who currently has a stop-gap quarterback.
1.20 Chicago Bears – Jalen Mayfield (OT – Michigan)
For those who don’t know, I love Mayfield. He plays with the perfect mentality for an offensive lineman, a position of need for the Bears after they cut Bobby Massie. The reason Mayfield won’t go as a top-10 pick is due to him playing right tackle, a position of lesser value than left tackle. But make no mistake about it; Mayfield will be a force in this league for a long time.
1.21 Indianapolis Colts – Alijah Vera-Tucker (OT – USC)
The Colts were hoping there’d be a tackle they’d be able to start available with this pick, so they’re lucky to see Vera-Tucker fall. He’s someone who could go as high as 13 to the Chargers, though some may not view him as a tackle, but rather a guard to start. Unlike the teams before them, the Colts don’t have the luxury of other options, as they need to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo.
1.22 Tennessee Titans – Jaelen Phillips (EDGE – Miami)
The Titans need to get an edge rusher and they get to pick their top one in this exercise. While Gregory Rosseau might have a higher ceiling, there are more question marks surrounding him after just one year of dominant play, then a year off from the game. Phillips took advantage of his opportunity in 2020 and might go ahead of Rosseau in the actual draft, too. Wide receiver is a real problem, but they can find one later in the draft.
1.23 New York Jets – Asante Samuel Jr. (CB – Florida State)
This was a spot where I debated pairing Justin Fields with Travis Etienne, but cornerback is too much of a problem and they can find a running back in the future rounds (they might take Etienne with the second pick in the second round). Samuel may not be the cornerback you’ll have shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers, but he’s a sturdy presence who can start right away.
1.24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Gregory Rousseau (EDGE – Miami)
The Steelers are picking too late in the round to expect an immediate starter at offensive tackle fall to them. Because they’ve missed out on some of the top names, we opt to replace Bud Dupree with Rousseau, who’s oozing with upside. There are some suggesting he’ll be gone in the top-15 picks, and while I can certainly see that happening, there’s only one year of dominant play on film.
1.25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig (S – TCU)
The Jaguars can be a good team in the near future if they simply take best player available. Moehrig is my favorite safety in this class and would provide them with an immediate impact player. He’s the highest player on my big board at this point and it just happens to be a position of need.
1.26 Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore (IDL – Alabama)
The Browns are a young team that’s set to be good for a long time. I thought they had a need on the interior of the defensive line before they released Sheldon Richardson, so snagging Barmore to put in between Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney makes too much sense. He’s not a complete player just yet but being between those two should accelerate his learning curve.
1.27 Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman (WR – Minnesota)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bateman reminds me of Keenan Allen so much. When he measured in a 6-feet-tall rather than his 6-foot-2 listed height, it might affect his actual draft stock, but his play on the field is what truly matters. Bateman complements Marquise Brown perfectly, as he’ll primarily work the intermediate part of the field whether that be in the slot or on the perimeter.
1.28 New Orleans Saints – Greg Newsome (CB – Northwestern)
Not only did the Saints lose Janoris Jenkins this offseason (cap casualty), but they also now have to worry about Marshon Lattimore getting disciplined, who was charged with a felony for possessing a stolen gun a few weeks ago. Newsome is a borderline first-rounder on my big board, so selecting him here makes plenty of sense in a division that is littered with superstar wide receivers.
1.29 Green Bay Packers – Daviyon Nixon (IDL – Iowa)
There are some not projecting Nixon to go until late on Day 2, but I’m not sure what they’re watching. He’s an impact player where the Packers need serious help. He has the speed to win, uses his hands extremely well, and understands where plays are designed to go. He would improve their pass rush and run defense immediately.
1.30 Buffalo Bills – Jayson Oweh (EDGE – Penn State)
The Bills are a team who have a pretty complete roster, so they’re able to go with best player available here. Edge rushers that come with the upside of Oweh are hard to come by later in the draft. He’s not a polished product just yet, but the traits are there. I’ve said that he could put on 15 pounds on muscle and still be fast enough to hit the edge. When we found out he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds, that was confirmed.
1.31 Kansas City Chiefs – Teven Jenkins (OT – Oklahoma State)
When the Chiefs released Eric Fisher and lost Mitchell Schwartz in free agency, they had a massive need at offensive tackle. Even worse, they have to wait around to see who’s available at the end of the round, unless they were to trade up, which is certainly a possibility. I almost went with Dillon Radunz here, who I have in the same tier as Jenkins, though it’s tough to pass on a guy who’s 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds with crazy long arms.
1.32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marvin Wilson (IDL – Florida State)
There’s a reason the Bucs won the Super Bowl… they have a complete team. They’re also the first team to retain all 22 starters following a Super Bowl win, so they have the luxury of taking best player available. I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to select Travis Etienne, but them re-signing Leonard Fournette and signing Giovani Bernard erased any sort of need at the position. Instead, we go with Ndamukong Suh‘s eventual replacement.