With the draft quickly approaching, it is time to publish the first mock draft of the offseason.
Disclaimer: These picks are a prediction of what I think teams will do based on the information I have heard from reporters around the league and not my personal preference. I combined the available information with my evaluation of each team’s depth chart and offseason moves to determine what prospect best fit.
I tend not to include trades in mock drafts, as they are extremely difficult to project, since it is almost impossible to know what is going on inside each team’s front office. However, I did include one trade in this mock through connecting the dots of team needs. There will likely be more draft day trades than just this one, as teams after the 20th pick tend to move around quite frequently, but again, these are difficult to project.
In this mock there is an early run on quarterbacks, a large amount of offensive linemen taken, and five cornerbacks selected. Here is my Mock Draft 1.0:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Very little explanation is needed for this pick. Lawrence has been the top QB prospect in this class since he was a freshman. He will immediately help new head coach Urban Meyer jumpstart the struggling Jaguars franchise.
2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
The Jets have been linked to Wilson throughout the offseason, with some around the league believing that it is a foregone conclusion that Wilson ends up in New York. While Wilson is talented, I do not buy the comparisons to Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. The Zach Wilson hype train has gone a bit off the rails, but he is a good quarterback prospect nonetheless and might be able to be the franchise quarterback for the new regime.
3. San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The Niners sent the 12th overall pick, their first round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third round pick next year to the Dolphins for this selection. Even though reports say that current QB Jimmy Garroppolo will remain on the team, this trade was clearly made to ensure that the 49ers would have their choice of QBs. No team dedicates that much draft capital to any position other than quarterback. With that being said, I believe that the Niners will opt for more of a developmental quarterback prospect in Trey Lance, giving him the opportunity to learn behind Garoppolo for a while. I believe that Lance fits this mold more than Mac Jones, as the 49ers could have sat at 12 and had a chance at Jones sliding to them. Lance is more of a wild card whose ranking could vary around the league due to his impressive raw skills, leading the 49ers to feel the need to make such a large jump.
4. Denver Broncos: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Falcons receive #9 pick, 2021 2nd round pick, 2022 2nd round pick, 2022 4th round
Broncos receive #4 pick, 2021 6th
The Broncos made a sizable offer for Matthew Stafford before he was ultimately traded from the Lions to the Rams. They were also rumored to be in on the Deshaun Watson and Sam Darnold sweepstakes, but as of now neither the Texans nor the Jets appear to be motivated to make a move. It certainly appears that new GM George Paton is not satisfied with Drew Lock’s production over the last two years and wants a fresh start. With three quarterbacks already selected, Paton could get aggressive to move up and grab Fields, who is the second best QB in this class in my opinion. The price appears to be steep, but Justin Fields could give the Broncos the stability at the QB position that they have not had since Peyton Manning. The Broncos have not been shy about making draft day trades in the past and I do not anticipate that to change this year.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
After an injury shortened rookie year for QB Joe Burrow, I believe that OT Penei Sewell would be the best pick for the Bengals here. However, reports have surfaced that the Eagles traded down because they strongly believe that the Bengals will take Chase. Rumors that Burrow is petitioning for the team to select Chase have circulated as well, as the two developed great chemistry on their way to a National Championship victory at LSU in 2019. A trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd would certainly rank among the best in the league.
6. Miami Dolphins: OL Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Dolphins had a very active day this past Friday, trading down from 3rd to 12th with the 49ers and then back up from 12th to 6th with the Eagles within the span of an hour. The trades equated to:
Dolphins give #3 pick, 4th round pick
Dolphins receive #6 pick, 5th round pick, 2022 3rd round pick, 2023 1st round pick
General manager Chris Grier has done a great job of acquiring draft picks to build the Dolphins roster from the ground up in the past two years, almost reaching the playoffs last year with a 10-6 record. Rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa struggled at times last season, so selecting the best offensive lineman in this class will allow him to be more comfortable in the pocket. Although the Dolphins selected LT Austin Jackson in the first round last year, Sewell is an instant upgrade and offers more flexibility for the whole offensive line.
7. Detroit Lions: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Lions traded away longtime QB Matthew Stafford this season in exchange for Jared Goff and draft picks, marking the beginning of yet another rebuild in Detroit. They have many holes in the roster, so I would not be surprised to see them trade out of this spot for more future assets. However, I have them staying put for this mock draft and selecting do-it-all tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft due to his versatility; He can line up on the outside and in the slot, and can block in the running game. The Lions offense is largely devoid of weapons due to the departure of Kenny Golladay in free agency, so adding a player like Pitts could help Goff in his transition.
8. Carolina Panthers: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
The Panthers, like the Broncos, have also been very active in their search for a new quarterback. It is no secret that they are not satisfied with Teddy Bridgewater, who signed a 3 year, $45 million contract last offseason. The Panthers were linked to Matt Stafford, Deshaun Watson, Sam Darnold and Russell Wilson at various points this offseason. If Watson, Darnold and Wilson are all not dealt before the draft, which at this point in time seems to be the case, I think Mac Jones can be a perfect fit for the Panthers. Much like Alabama’s offense, the Panthers have dynamic weapons across the board. Christian McCaffery, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, in combination with offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s scheme, will help to ease the transition for Mac Jones. However, the Panthers must improve the offensive line or no quarterback will have success with the team, regardless of the weapons at their disposal.
9. Atlanta Falcons: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
TRADE: Falcons receive #9 pick, 2021 2nd round pick, 2022 2nd round pick, 2022 4th round
Broncos receive #4 pick, 2021 6th
In this mock trade, the Falcons take advantage of the early run on quarterbacks and add premier draft picks from the Broncos. While some believe the Falcons will select a quarterback at the 4th pick, the restructure of Matt Ryan’s contract suggests otherwise, as it extends his dead cap hit into 2023 if they were to cut him. Instead, the Falcons choose to improve one of the biggest holes in their roster with a late-rising corner. Horn was not as highly touted of a prospect early in the draft process because he went to South Carolina and did not receive the national attention that he deserved. If Jaycee Horn had gone to a school like Alabama, Ohio State or Clemson, he would be universally considered to be the top cornerback in this class.
10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
I debated having the Cowboys select Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater here, but the hole at corner is too blatant not to address, especially with the talent on the board. Pairing Patrick Surtain with former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs will be beneficial for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme. Surtain played very well at Alabama, and while he did have some struggles against the likes of Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts, he is still one of the best corners in the country.
11. New York Giants: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
I think that the Giants should select an offensive tackle or edge rusher here. However, each of the top edge rushers have question marks in this draft class. I also believe that Parsons just feels like a Giants pick. He is a versatile player that can cover and rush the passer and has a connection to the Giants, as defensive line coach Sean Spencer coached at Penn State from 2018-19, and can offer some insight on some of the off the field issues surrounding Parsons. Head coach Joe Judge was seen speaking with Parsons at the Penn State pro day and Parsons later re-posted a mock draft that had the Giants selecting him on his Instagram story. Micah Parsons is an interesting chess piece for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to utilize.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Devonta Smith, Alabama
The Eagles likely should draft an offensive lineman, as Carson Wentz was sacked 50 times last season, second most in the NFL. However, the Eagles seem intent on drafting another wide receiver in order to correct their error of drafting Jalen Reagor ahead of Justin Jefferson last year. Their trade down was motivated by the fact that they believe that their top target, Ja’Marr Chase, will be off the board by #6. Trading down allowed the Eagles to add a first round pick for next season and still choose between the next best receivers, both of whom were teammates of Jalen Hurts at Alabama. The Eagles opt to select the Heisman trophy winner for his blazing speed and unbelievable play this past season.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The Chargers luck out in this mock draft, as the second best offensive tackle in the class falls right into their lap. They struck gold with Justin Herbert last year, so protecting him and ensuring his longevity will be extremely important for them. In order to do so, the Chargers need to bolster their offensive line. They have already signed C Corey Linsley and G Matt Feiler this offseason, and Slater will be the perfect addition to this unit as he has the ability to play guard and tackle.
14. Minnesota Vikings: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
The Vikings desperately need to upgrade their offensive line, especially now that Riley Rieff has signed with the Bengals. Vera-Tucker is a versatile player, as he has had extended reps at both guard and tackle at USC. This can allow the VIkings to plug and play their personnel to find the best possible combination. Vera-Tucker’s physicality will also be an asset in the run game, as he can create space for RB Dalvin Cook, who doesn’t need much room to make a big play.
15. New England Patriots: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
In this scenario, the Patriots miss out on all of the draft’s top 5 QBs. While they have been active in the quarterback market, I believe they may be out of range to make a trade up in the draft unless one slides out of the top 10. Here, they stand pat and take the best player available in Jaylen Waddle, who I have ranked as my WR 2. Waddle broke his leg this past season, but was able to battle back to play in the National Championship game, where he caught 3 passes for 34 yards while still visibly hampered by his injury. If he had remained healthy this season, Devonta Smith likely does not win the Heisman, as Waddle is arguably the better receiver. Belichick adds another weapon for Cam Newton in their effort to get back to the playoffs.
16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley was considered to be neck and neck with Patrick Surtain for the CB1 in this draft class early in the offseason. However, back surgery and a late surge by Jaycee Horn have dropped Farley’s draft stock. The Cardinals lost CB Patrick Peterson to the Vikings in free agency, and while they did add Malcolm Butler on a one year deal, the Cardinals need a long-term starter at corner. Farley has great length and ball skills and can be the answer for the Cardinals on the perimeter if he can stay healthy.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
The Raiders made drastic changes to their offensive line this offseason by trading long time starters Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, surprising many around the league. The Raiders then gave LT Kolton Miller a 3 year extension worth $18 million, re-signed LG Richie Incognito and added former Texans C Nick Martin. The right side of the offensive line is still weak, however, so Darrisaw can help to fill this hole. This draft class’ offensive tackle rankings are fairly mixed around the league, with Sewell and Slater 1a and 1b, followed by everybody else. Do not be surprised to see the Raiders draft an off-the-board tackle here, as GM Mike Mayock has a tendency to make controversial draft picks, highlighted by the selection of DE Clelin Ferrell 4th overall in 2019 and CB Damon Arnette at 19th overall in 2020.
18. Miami Dolphins: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
The Dolphins add to the offense again, this time adding a dynamic running back and former teammate of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Harris is a strong and shifty runner that can also catch passes out of the backfield. While the Dolphins were able to get production out of RBs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, Najee Harris can add an explosive element to the offense that was not there last season. An offense with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Mike Gesicki and Najee Harris will give the Dolphins a full evaluation of Tagovailoa. If he cannot succeed with these weapons, they will need to replace him next offseason.
19. Washington Football Team: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
The Washington Football Team overachieved last year, making the playoffs at 6-10, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Round. With their defense essentially set as one of the scariest front 7’s in the league, Washington needs to build the offense in order to compete with other playoff teams. They have started to do that with the additions of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and WR Curtis Samuel. However, they have yet to fill the hole that was created when Trent Williams was traded to the 49ers before last season. Washington needs to draft an offensive tackle, like Jenkins, if they plan to break their QB injury curse.
20. Chicago Bears: OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
The Bears defense has consistently been amongst the best in the league since the addition of Khalil Mack. However, their offense has not been able to keep them competitive. Ever since Cody Parkey’s infamous “double-doink” to lose to the Eagles in the playoffs, the Bears have been on a downward trajectory. GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have bungled the handling of their QB room since the decision to draft Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes and continued the pattern by signing Andy Dalton to be their starting quarterback this season instead of drafting a new QB. For Dalton to be successful, the Bears will likely need to add weapons, but they also need to protect Dalton, and Cosmi fits that role. At 6’7, 309 lbs, Cosmi is the ideal size for a starting tackle in the league. This might be slightly early for Cosmi, but many teams need help on the offensive line, and the Bears are no exception.
21. Indianapolis Colts: DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Rousseau’s draft stock has steadily slid in recent weeks due to questions about whether he can effectively develop at the next level. He opted out of last season following a 15.5 sack 2020 season. He is an effective pass rusher that can get downhill quickly and could operate better in a 4-3 scheme, which the Colts run. It is very possible that the Colts draft an offensive tackle here, as LT Anthony Castonzo retired earlier this offseason. However, I think the value is right for Rousseau here, allowing GM Chris Ballard to address the one position he has failed to find top-tier talent for in his tenure with the Colts.
22. Tennessee Titans: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
The Titans lost both of their starting cornerbacks, Adoree’ Jackson and Malcolm Butler, in free agency this offseason. They signed Janoris Jenkins to fill the hole, but the Titans could use more help at the position. Draft analysts aren’t sold on Newsome because he only had one interception in his college career, but they put far too much weight into interceptions instead of actually watching the film. Newsome is a lockdown corner that contributed to making Northwestern the top ranked defense in the nation. His draft stock has slowly risen following his pro-day, making him a deserving Day 1 prospect.
23. New York Jets: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia
The Jets, who desperately need a cornerback, narrowly miss out on Newsome here, but instead add Eric Stokes. Stokes has blazing speed, running a 4.25 second 40 yard dash at his pro day, the fastest time we’ve seen this offseason. Stokes also showed he has good ball skills by grabbing 4 interceptions last year, returning 2 for touchdowns. He would be a valuable addition to Robert Saleh’s defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
The Steelers have been forced into a tough spot with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract this offseason. The departures of two offensive linemen, RB James Conner and CB Steven Nelson have left Pittsburgh with holes at multiple positions. I had this selection pegged as a running back for a few months, but the Steelers no longer have that luxury. They need to upgrade the offensive line or Big Ben will get hurt yet again, leaving them in a precarious position. Jalen Mayfield is a physical blocker that can contribute in a run heavy scheme, which the Steelers need in order to have an effective and balanced offense.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: OL Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
After drafting their franchise QB in Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars need to make sure he is protected. The Jags franchise tagged LT Cam Robinson this offseason in order to retain protection for Lawrence’s blind side. However, the Jaguars need a long-term answer at multiple positions, which Leatherwood can be. He is capable of playing any position on the offensive line, so this is at worst a depth addition for the Jags.
26. Cleveland Browns: DE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
With the additions of S John Johnson and CB Troy Hill, the Browns have put themselves in a position to make a deep playoff run this season. They have been looking to add a premiere pass rusher opposite of Myles Garrett for two seasons now, reportedly offering Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt contracts on separate occasions. Phillips can fill that role. Following his transfer to Miami, Phillips tallied 8 sacks last season, flashing his speed and physicality. However, Phillips carries major injury concerns with him, as he retired from football following the 2018 season because he had suffered multiple concussions before his transfer to Miami for the 2020 season. The Browns have the luxury of taking a risk on Phillips, but this is definitely a high risk-high reward pick.
27. Baltimore Ravens: DE Kwity Paye, Michigan
The Ravens lost defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon to free agency this offseason, so reloading that unit is very likely. The Ravens need to add a wide receiver as well, but the WR class is very deep so they can afford to pick one up in a later round. Kwity Paye is a physical end that fits the Ravens scheme well. The Ravens also can get an inside scouting report on Paye from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Paye does have some injury questions, but he can be a key contributor to the defense.
28. New Orleans Saints: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
The Saints end Koramoah’s slide here, adding a position of need. The Saints had to perform some cap gymnastics to get under the cap this offseason, cutting LB Kwon Alexander as part of the process. Owusu-Koramoah is a versatile linebacker that can play inside or outside linebacker and even safety. The Saints are entering a key transition period with the retirement of QB Drew Brees this offseason, so the defense will be important to keep Jameis Winston and the offense in close games.
29. Green Bay Packers: OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
Year after year people say that the Packers need to draft a wide receiver in the first round to help Aaron Rodgers. While I agree that the Packers need to help Rodgers, I think offensive line is the way to do that this year. They lost starting center Corey Linsley to the Chargers in free agency and should add at least one offensive lineman. The Packers have multiple versatile pieces on the line, so they can pick the best lineman available. I have them selecting Eichenberg, who comes from a pedigree of successful offensive linemen at Notre Dame. He can protect Rodgers’ blind side or right side.
30. Buffalo Bills: DE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
This is a bit of a slide for Ojulari, as some believe he is the top defensive end prospect in the class. However, I am not completely sold on him as a prospect. He is somewhat undersized to be a defensive end at the NFL level. However, his value is too good for the Bills to pass up this late in the first round, as their pass rush has been lackluster for the past few seasons.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
The Chiefs most glaring need was on full display in the Super Bowl this year. Patrick Mahomes barely had time to breathe while dropping back to pass and was forced to make spectacular plays just to make a simple completion. They added guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long this offseason, but released starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. While the Chiefs likely would have liked to get a higher tackle prospect, the run on OTs has limited their options. Radunz is 6’6, 299 lbs and could be a consistent starter at the NFL level and offers an instant upgrade over what the Chiefs have on the roster now.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DL Levi Onzuwurkie, Washington
The defending champs have very few holes on their roster, as they have retained every starter from last season’s championship team. I have them selecting Onzuwurkie because he is a versatile defensive lineman that can upgrade from William Gholston and be the eventual successor to Ndamukong Suh. The Bucs may also draft a wide receiver here to replace Antonio Brown, but their depth pieces of Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson could probably be starters on other rosters.