With the craziness of free agency behind us, NFL teams are finalizing their plans for the 2021 NFL Draft. We’ve never had a clearer idea of what teams may need than we have right now. With less than two weeks to go until the NFL’s annual selection event, it’s time for my final 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft!
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2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | Round 1, Picks 1-16
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There are absolutely no surprises to start this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus No. 1 pick of this draft class ever since he guided Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman. The pairing with the Jacksonville Jaguars has been set in stone ever since the New York Jets just couldn’t quite be bad enough, for long enough, to secure the first overall pick.
There’s no need to elaborate on this pick. However, let’s take the opportunity to dive into the rest of the selections I’ve made for them.
If you’re going to bring in a rookie quarterback, you need to ensure he’s protected. The selection of Alex Leatherwood with the No. 33 pick gives them a versatile offensive lineman.
The former Alabama offensive tackle could start at right tackle or even be the long-term answer at left tackle. Lawrence also gets supporting pieces in Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth and running back Kenneth Gainwell. The former Memphis rusher provides a lightning element in a “thunder and lightning” backfield with James Robinson.
They strengthen the spine of the defense with the best safety in the draft — TCU’s Trevon Moehrig — and a solid defensive tackle option in Osa Odighizuwa out of UCLA. With Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, it seems that an edge rusher isn’t a huge need, but if Carlos Basham Jr. is still knocking around at the top of the third come April 30 (I don’t think he will be), you can’t let his slide continue.
2) New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, Brigham Young
The trade of Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers dispelled any lingering doubt that the Jets would use the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. Throughout recent weeks, it has become apparent that the quarterback will be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Although stranger things have happened on draft night, the Jets appear to be “all-in” on Wilson, as Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline repeatedly reported.
No quarterback, actually no prospect, in this 2021 NFL Draft class has seen the same meteoric rise as Wilson over the past year. Not even considered a top-50 quarterback by some analysts heading into the 2020 college football season, he’s even generated discussion as the best QB in the class. That is insanely rich for me. However, there’s no denying his entertaining brand of football makes him a desirable selection.
The key for the Jets’ front office is to ensure they don’t fail him in the same way that the organization failed Darnold. In the end, they secure a starting right tackle in Teven Jenkins and the second-best running back in the class in Travis Etienne. The three selections over Rounds 3 and 4 are used to make significant upgrades to the defense.
3) San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The San Francisco 49ers traded with the Miami Dolphins to move up from the 12th spot with securing their face of the franchise in mind. Who that face may be has become one of the great debates of the 2021 NFL Draft. For a solid week, Mac Jones seemed — unbelievably — to genuinely be the quarterback that the 49ers mortgaged their future for.
I choose the word unbelievably because, well, it was unbelievable — inconceivable — to me that Jones would be the No. 3 overall player, let alone quarterback in this class. Teams reach for quarterbacks all the time. That’s the nature of the business. However, reaching for a quarterback when there is a better quarterback available seems just UNBELIEVABLE!
That’s why the 49ers use the third overall pick in this 4-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft to select Justin Fields. As far as I’m concerned, the Ohio State quarterback is the second-best quarterback in the class. I’ll go one step further and say I honestly believe he’s the third-best overall player in this class.
That’s how much I believe in Fields. He’s a quarterback who’s accurate, intelligent, and can drive a ball downfield while possessing incredible athleticism to be able to extend plays when everything starts to break down. Add in an existing relationship with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, and it feels like a match made in heaven.
4) Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
For many people, the 2021 NFL Draft starts with the No. 4 pick and the Atlanta Falcons. There are so many options for them here.
Do they take the best player available in Florida tight end Kyle Pitts? They’re a prime candidate to trade back with a team that is desperate for a quarterback. However, the price of coming up from the middle of the first round is potentially prohibitive. Taking Penei Sewell is also an attractive option, albeit one that doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction — certainly from a media perspective.
Instead, they create history in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft by selecting North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. Never before have four quarterbacks been selected with the first four picks in the draft.
This pairing seems almost perfect for both parties. Matt Ryan could have a good two years left in him, which would allow Lance to sit and learn. The Falcons want to hope that they’re not in the position to take a quarterback this early anytime soon.
Ignore all the nonsense you hear about level of competition and inexperience where Lance is concerned. The kid has a cannon for an arm, and his ability to create magic with his legs makes him a true dual-threat quarterback.
5) Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
If you watched poor Joe Burrow nearly have his career ended by the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line and still don’t want to use the No. 5 overall pick on Penei Sewell, I don’t really know what to tell you. Yes, there is a deep class of offensive tackle talent, but none are as good as Sewell. If you can get the second-best player in the entire draft with the fifth overall pick, you do it.
Sewell is athletic, strong, and dominant. He’s demonstrated that he is equally adept in pass protection or run blocking. Plug him in at left tackle, switch Jonah Williams to right tackle, and you’ve potentially got the bookends of a ten-year offensive line. Moreover, they need to make additions to the interior of the offensive line too. Therefore, they use their fourth-round pick in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft on Ole Miss offensive guard Royce Newman.
The biggest argument to not selecting Sewell with the No. 5 pick is that they should take a pass catcher. It’s a valid argument, but if there’s a position group deeper in talent than offensive tackle, it is wide receiver. I’ve paired Burrow with former LSU teammate Terrace Marshall Jr. in the second round here, but there are multiple pass-catching options for them throughout the seven rounds.
6) Miami Dolphins: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The 2021 NFL Draft should be about surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talent. There are multiple ways to do that, and the Dolphins have a substantial armory of picks to ensure that all bases are covered. The most pressing need is to provide their quarterback with a pass catcher, and although the temptation is to give them a wide receiver, there is a convincing argument that Kyle Pitts is the best pass catcher in the class.
No tight end had more touchdowns than Pitts in 2020, and the Florida offense was nowhere near as potent in the games when he was missing. Pitts gives Miami a player who can be utilized in many ways, helping the offense become less predictable. He also gives them options further down the line regarding Mike Gesicki’s contract negotiations, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Later picks in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft look to improve the protection for Tua. Additionally, the Dolphins use an early-round pick on a cornerback for the second consecutive year. This may seem peculiar and unnecessary. However, we reported back in March that there is an expectation that this is exactly what Miami will do.
7) Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Louisiana State
Despite receiving Jared Goff in the trade that saw Matthew Stafford depart from the Detroit Lions, there is a strong possibility that if a quarterback falls into their laps at No. 7, they pull the trigger. However, the pressing need in the first round is wide receiver. Here, they secure former Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase out of LSU.
Having sat out the 2020 college football season, it’s easy to forget that Chase led the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns as a sophomore. His ability as a pass catcher has never been in question. Still, following an incredible pro day performance, it’s safe to say that there are very few questions about his athletic ability.
With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. gone, Chase comes in and immediately is the WR1 for the Lions.
8) New England Patriots (from Panthers): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
PROJECTED TRADE: New England trades pick 15, 120, 177, plus their 2022 first-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for pick 8.
If you’ve read my 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Drafts over the last eight months, then firstly, thank you. Secondly, you’ll know that I don’t usually include trades. However, I’ve made an extra special exception for this pick right here. The New England Patriots have taken an extraordinary approach to free agency — by their standards — and I can’t help but feel that there’s something out of character coming out of New England come April 29.
Although Cam Newton has been retained for another year, it’s a fair assumption that he isn’t the franchise’s long-term future. With the top four quarterbacks already off the board — and quarterback arguably their biggest need — they strike to get ahead of teams like the Washington Football Team and Chicago Bears, who could be aggressive in moving up in the draft.
Much like BYU’s Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones has seen a phenomenal rise in his draft stock. He led a stellar Crimson Tide offense all the way to a national championship while putting up some incredible numbers. Jones lacks the ideal athletic profile that the NFL covets at the quarterback position. However, he could comfortably come in and operate a Patriots offense that has relied heavily on the run game in the last two seasons.
9) Denver Broncos: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
If you believe in Drew Lock, then the Denver Broncos’ biggest need in the 2021 NFL Draft is at inside linebacker. It could also be argued that edge rusher and safety are other defensive needs. Selecting out of the No. 9 spot, they’re in an ideal position to have their pick of the defensive talent in this class.
Micah Parsons makes a lot of sense here for Denver, and if it wasn’t for some off-the-field concerns, I think they’d sprint to the podium as fast as Parsons can complete the 40-yard dash. However, those concerns do exist, and it’s conceivable that a slide comes on draft day. It may not be far, and we’ll get into that shortly, but I think there’s enough of a concern for the Broncos to turn to another option here.
That option is Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, JOK blurs the traditional lines between safety and linebacker. Aggressive tackling while displaying excellent coverage ability, if the Broncos figure out his optimum use, he can be a leader on defense for years to come.
10) Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
One of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft seeks to give the Dallas Cowboys a complete defensive overhaul. It starts at the cornerback position, where second-year Trevon Diggs leads the depth chart. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley was my CB1 before his back surgery and would be the pick here, but that is just too risky for the Cowboys at pick 10.
I really like the fit with the Cowboys and Jaycee Horn. At 6’1″, he clearly has the ideal size that NFL teams covet, and he’s demonstrated his ability to be disruptive in the passing game. However, it’s the way that Horn plays the game that makes him a clear favorite to be the pick here. A physical cornerback who isn’t shy about initiating contact — and trash talk — Horn can be the bully that Dallas needs to boss their secondary.
Picks to address clear needs at safety, defensive tackle, linebacker, and offensive tackle come within the first four rounds.
11) New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
There was an expectation that the New York Giants would address their pass-rush issues in free agency. However, a splash signing never materialized, and it figures to be their biggest need heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. With no true standout pass rusher, the 11th overall pick feels a little early to take an outside linebacker to fulfill that edge-rush need.
I think the Giants could easily trade back from this spot to accrue some more capital. Additionally, they could take a wide receiver despite splashing the cash on Golladay in free agency. Although those eventualities are well within the realms of possibility, there’s every chance that New York takes a chance on possibly the best defensive prospect in the class.
Remove the off-field concerns, and Micah Parsons is absolutely dominant on the field. He tested out of this world at the Penn State Pro Day, and his college tape testifies to his dominant capabilities. A former high school defensive end, his ability to rush the passer would be highly valued for a team that desperately needs to create more pressure.
12) Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Whether you believe that Jalen Hurts is the future at the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback position or not, their trade down to pick 12 takes them out of the quarterback arms race. Therefore, for the second consecutive season, wide receiver figures to be their biggest need heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jaylen Waddle is the explosive, speedy, game-changing wide receiver that the Eagles hoped they were getting in Jalen Reagor. He combines speed, hands, and the ability to make a man miss in the open field to win in many ways. I honestly believe that Waddle is the best receiver in this class, but Chase’s better fit for Detroit means Philadelphia gets a steal at No. 12.
There was also a consideration to taking a cornerback with this selection. However, they manage to secure a first-round talent in the second round later in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.
13) Los Angles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Los Angeles Chargers made a smart start to their offensive line rebuild by snagging former Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley in free agency. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of work to do to ensure that they keep Justin Herbert upright in 2021. Thankfully, they’re in a good position in a draft class absolutely riddled with offensive line talent.
Despite missing the 2020 college football season, Rashawn Slater has extremely impressive tape from the 2019 season. He’s insanely strong and competitive while also being versatile and athletic. Although it isn’t my opinion, some analysts believe that Slater is a better prospect than Oregon’s Sewell.
The debate over whether he plays tackle or guard in the NFL rages on even now. Nevertheless, given the Chargers’ needs at both spots, it is a redundant argument.
14) Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The uncertain situation surrounding last year’s first-round selection, Jeff Gladney, forces a change of direction for the Minnesota Vikings. Clearly, their biggest need heading into the 2021 NFL Draft is at defensive end. However, with a secondary that struggled for large swathes of 2020 and could potentially be without a player that showed exceptional promise, they swoop to secure a replacement.
Patrick Surtain II has NFL size, bloodlines, and athleticism. He has demonstrated the ability to create turnovers in multiple ways, while the fact that teams would actively seek to avoid throwing on him talks to how good he actually is. His father was the 44th overall selection of the Dolphins in 1998 before coaching his son and several prospects in this class at American Heritage High School.
With the cornerback position secured early on, the Vikings can address the offensive line and pass rush later in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.
15) Carolina Panthers (from Patriots): Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Following the trade out from No. 8 in this 2021 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, the Panthers remove themselves from the quarterback arms race. Well, at least in the early stages. The welcome that the Panthers have afforded Darnold since his arrival in Carolina suggests that they see him as a potential long-term answer at the quarterback position.
If that is the case, they need to support him in a way that the Jets failed to do. There are already many pass-catching options, so that support comes in the form of helping Darnold exorcise ghosts. For that reason, the selection of Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw makes perfect sense. He presents a clear upgrade over current left tackle Greg Little.
The selection of Darrisaw helps more than just Darnold, however. The 6’5″ behemoth has anchored a Virginia Tech offensive line that helped the Hokies have one of the best rushing offenses in the nation. Darrisaw carving open rushing lanes for Christian McCaffrey is a truly terrifying prospect for any defense that has to face Carolina in the coming years.
16) Arizona Cardinals: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
What could be better than having your former Heisman-winning quarterback throwing passes to DeAndre Hopkins? Well, how about having him throw to Hopkins and the first Heisman-winning wide receiver since 1991? With Larry Fitzgerald likely retiring, the Arizona Cardinals need to surround Kyler Murray with the weapons to run Kliff Kingsbury’s offense to its full potential.
We could spend all day, and let’s be honest, we’ve spent the entire offseason discussing the issues that surround DeVonta Smith in terms of his slight physique. He may not have the frame of his former teammate Jerry Jeudy or the speed of another Alabama first-round wide receiver in Henry Ruggs III. Still, Smith has the catch ability to make highlight-reel plays in addition to possessing the elusiveness to make plays after the catch.