On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the NFL will hold the first round of its annual draft. The day will have the brightest stars in college football – Trevor Lawrence, Justin Field, DeVonta Smith, and Patrick Surtain, among others – find new homes in the NFL. But where will these athletic studs land? This is our mock-up of the first round of the NFL Draft!
Some Big Prospects Are Returning To School
Looking for one last shot at college glory, not every NFL Draft eligible athlete decided to take the plunge. Iowa State QB Brock Purdy headlines the class of college juniors returning to their school’s for one more year.
Other major names returning to school include D’Eriq King, Chris Olave, Jordan Davis, and Justyn Ross. For most of these players, the hope is that they can increase their daft stock with one final great college season
With The 1st Pick, The Jacksonville Jaguars Select Trevor Lawrence, QB
This is about as “no-brainer” of a pick as you can go. After finishing the 2020 season going 1-15, the Jaguars cleaned house. New head coach Urban Meyer now has the keys to the car, and his first order of business is obvious – draft a franchise QB.
Since the first game he started at Clemson, Trevor Lawrence has been viewed by scouts as a can’t-miss talent. Will he turn the rain into sunshine in Duval County? Fans won’t have to wait too long to find out!
With the 2nd Pick, The New York Jets Select Zach Wilson, QB
With the failed Sam Darnold era likely coming to an end in the meadowlands after three years, look for the New York Jets to have an eye on a QB. And no prospect is climbing up draft boards faster than BYU standout Zach Wilson.
Wilson doesn’t have an arm that will blow anyone away, but he’s smart with the ball and athletic enough to gain yards with his legs. New head coach Robert Saleh might want to strengthen his defense with this pick, but won’t be able to say no to Wilson after watching the tape.
With The 3rd Pick, The San Francisco 49ers Select Justin Fields, QB
After a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers moved up to the 3rd pick in the draft. The move means they will almost certainly be drafting Jimmy Garopollo’s replacement, and the best arm available here is Justin Fields.
Fields struggles sometimes to make decisions quickly enough, but he is mobile and showcases refined accuracy. Watching highlights, his ability to hit wide receivers in stride is one of the reasons he can be seen as an upgrade over Jimmy G.
With The 4th Pick, The Atlanta Falcons Select Devonta Smith, WR
In a perfect world, the Atlanta Falcons would have used this pick on Justin Fields to find Matt Ryan’s successor. The 49ers made sure that wasn’t possible, so the Falcons grab a young WR here, DeVonta Smith.
The bottom line is Julio Jones isn’t getting younger, and while he still plays at an elite level, injuries have limited how often he can suit up. Complimenting Calvin Ridley with Smith here will help Matt Ryan immensely as he tries to lead the Falcons back to the Super Bowl.
With The 5th Pick, The Cincinnati Bengals Select Penei Sewell, OT
Franchise QB Joe Burrow needs protection in Cincinnati, and with the 5th pick, the best offensive lineman in the draft has fallen into their lap. Penei Sewell recently liked a picture that Burrow posted on Instagram, indicating his interest in becoming a Bengal.
But is the team as interest in him as he is with them? Externally, execs in Cinci are keeping their mouths shut, but it would be hard for them to pass on this pick after watching Burrow get carted off the field in his rookie season.
With The 6th Pick, The Miami Dolphins Select Kyle Pitts, TE
The Dolphins have major holes to fill in their receiving corps to help out second-year QB Tua Tua Tagovailoa, and they snag TE Kyle Pitts here.
Pitts, of course, is a WR in sheep’s clothing. His size makes him an ideal tight end, but his speed, route-running ability, and sure hands make him a true receiving threat. After trading down with the 49ers, the Dolphins get more than they could have asked for here.
With The 7th Pick, The Detroit Lions Select Azeez Ojulari, DE
The Detroit Lions, similar to the Eagles, have more holes than Swiss cheese when it comes to roster needs. With a new QB under center, taking an offensive lineman would make sense, but we have a sneaking feeling the Lions will look to address their lack of pass rush at this spot.
Defensive end Azeez Ojukari is not only a great pass rusher, but he will also be the best available player at this point in the draft.
With The 8th Pick, The Carolina Panthers Select Trey Lance, QB
Built in a similar mold to Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers take the younger model here by drafting NDSU QB Trey Lance. After a year with a serviceable but uninspiring year with Teddy Bridgewater under center, having a possible franchise QB fall into their laps is too tough to pass on.
Lance comes from a Division II college, meaning he won’t be as polished as other rookie QBs, but his ceiling is sky-high.
With The 9th Pick, The Denver Broncos Select Patrick Surtain II, CB
With the 9th overall pick, the Denver Broncos were hoping to have a QB fall to them. With the four best prospects already taken, the team instead looks to sure up its leaking pass defense here with cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
In college, Surtain was praised for his patience at the line of scrimmage, allowing WRs to reveal their routes instead of jamming them at the line.
With The 10th Pick, The Dallas Cowboys Select Rashawn Slater, G
The Dallas Cowboys desperately need to address their defense in the draft but also understand that protecting their QB might be more important. Coming off a gruesome ankle injury, the goal in 2021 need to keep Dak Prescott from getting sacked, and offensive lineman Rashawn Slater will help do just that.
Slater can be plugged into multiple positions on the line and should be a start from day one. His most impressive college tape came against Chase Young, a former first-round pick by the WFT.
With The 11th Pick, The New York Giants Select Jaylen Waddle, WR
The wide receiving corps for the New York Giants in 2020 was disappointing, to say the least. In the draft, the team will look for upgrades, landing on Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama.
Waddle started his final season at ‘Bama hotter than fire before an injury struck. Thankfully, he was able to return for the National Championship Game, showing off his NFL-ready skillset on tape one last time before declaring for the NFL Draft.
With The 12th Pick, The Philadelphia Eagles Select Ja’Marr Chase, WR
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of roster holes and could take this pick in several directions. If the team’s history in the draft tells us anything, though, it’s that they will go wide receiver here, leading them to grab Ja’Marr Chase.
Why keep stocking up on wide receivers, though? Well, the simple answer is that the team hasn’t found one that has stuck. And after releasing Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson, their receiving corps is spread incredibly thin, too.
With The 13th Pick, The Los Angeles Chargers Select Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT
The Chargers have a huge hole to fill on the left side of their offensive line in 2021. To fill the gap and make sure second-year QB Justin Herbert stays healthy, the team grabs Alijah Vera-Tucker, an offensive tackle from USC.
Vera-Tucker has become a surprise first-round candidate after originally opting out of the 2020 college football season. He changed his mind, and his play on the field changed scouts’ minds about his NFL potential.
With The 14th Pick, The Minnesota Vikings Select Jaelan Phillips, DE
With so much offense being taken already, the Minnesota Vikings get lucky here and basically have the pick of the defensive litter to pull from. Needing the most help on the line, they select defensive end, Jaelan Phillips.
If his tape doesn’t lie, Phillips should be able to step in as a starter for the Vikes from day one, instantly replacing former key pieces such as Yannick Ngakoue. Pictured here at UCLA, Phillips transferred to Miami for his junior year of college football.
With The 15th Pick, The New England Patriots Select Caleb Farley, CB
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves replacing expensive players with cheap alternatives. With Stephen Gilmore now 30-years-old and entering the final year of his five-year, $64 million deal, Belichick could look to cut ties and replace him with Caleb Farley.
Farley opted out of the 2020 college football season, so he’s a bit of an unknown commodity, but most scouts have him as a first-round/top ten talent. The risk of taking Farley here for the Patriots will end up being worth the reward.
With The 16th Pick, The Arizona Cardinals Select Jaycee Horn, CB
After starting the 2020 season 5-2, the Arizona Cardinals nosedived, winning three of their final nine games. The defense, which looked like a strength early was exposed late. With franchise CB Patrick Peterson expected to be on the move, Arizona will replace him in the draft, taking Jaycee Horn here.
If Horn makes it to pick 15, the Cardinals will be ecstatic. Several analysts have called him the best cornerback in the draft, and here he falls, not even being the first cornerback selected.
With The 17th Pick, The Las Vegas Raiders Select Eric Stokes, CB
The Las Vegas Raiders would be wise to draft an edge rusher here but instead, fall in love with the size and speed combination that cornerback Eric Stokes offers. Expected to blow teams away with his 40-yard-dash time, Stokes has been climbing draft boards since the college football season ended.
The Raiders have missed on several recent defensive picks and may be reaching with this pick, too. If Stokes delivers on the promise of his potential, though, he will be a steal in the bottom half of the draft’s first round.
With The 18th Pick, The Miami Dolphins Select Micah Parsons, LB
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Miami Dolphins’ defense in 2020 was the linebacking corps. Micah Parsons at one point was considered a top ten talent at the position, but character concerns that have surfaced have sent him reeling down draft boards.
The Dolphins take the risk here with their second pick of the first round. As long as Parsons’ legal issues clear, it should be easy sailing for the start of his NFL career.
With The 19th Pick, The Washington Football Team Selects Mac Jones, QB
After completing 77 percent of his passes during the 2020 college football season, QB Mac Jones has seen his draft stock skyrocket. With the big four already drafted, the quarterback-needy Washington Football Team takes a flyer on the Alabama standout.
While the idea of Jones under center is sure to excite fans, he’s definitely going to have some rookie struggles. Alabama rand a screen pass-heavy offense, which doesn’t always translate as effectively at the NFL level.
With The 20th Pick, The Chicago Bears Select Christian Darrisaw, OT
The Chicago Bears have problems all over the roster. There is no nice way to put it. The offensive side of the ball is the most talent-starved, and one quick way to help is by drafting offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw.
If the Bears were drafting higher, we would expect them to take a QB here, but after barely squeaking into the playoffs in 2020, the team finds themselves in the bottom half of the first round.
With The 21st Pick, The Indianapolis Colts Select Zaven Collins, LB
The Colts would love to take an offensive lineman here to help protect oft-injured QB Carson Wentz. The talent available doesn’t dictate the move, so unless the Colts trade back, they would be wise to grab a linebacker like Zaven Collins right here.
Collins would immediately make an impact playing alongside Darius Leonard. Noted for his pass-rushing and coverage skills, there is nothing not to like on tape about his game.
With The 22nd Pick, The Tennessee Titans Select Gregory Rousseau, EDGE
The Tennessee Titans are extremely close to being a perennial Super Bowl contender under head coach Mike Vrabel. All they need is to find a pass rush, something they hope to solve by taking edge rusher Gregory Rousseau here.
Rousseau has been inconsistently graded this draft season, which some scouts labeling him a top-ten talent, and others saying he’s not draftable. The Titans take the chance, knowing that if they can’t find a way to bring the opposing QB down, they won’t be going past the first round of the playoffs very often.
With The 23rd Pick In The Draft, The New York Jets Select Najee Harris, RB
With a new QB already drafted, the New York Jets will want to find a player to take some pressure off. That person should be running back Najee Harris. A strong running game will give Zach Wilson more time to develop, making this a perfect pick.
The only thing the Jets need to worry about is the track record of running backs taken in the first round of the draft. Still, we think this one will work out just fine.
With The 24th Pick, The Pittsburgh Steelers Select Kyle Trask, QB
Ben Roethlisberger won’t play in the NFL forever. There were even questions this offseason about whether or not he would return to Pittsburgh for 2021. The Steelers cannot wait to draft his successor, leading them to reach here for QB Kyle Trask.
Trask came out of nowhere in 2020 to toss 60 touchdowns and become a Heisman Trophy contender. With only one impressive year as a starter under his belt, most scouts believe Trask could be taken in the 3rd or 4th round. As we said, Pittsburgh can’t afford to wait and see if he’s free then.
With The 25th Pick, The Jacksonville Jaguars Select Christian Barmore, OT
The Jacksonville Jaguars, like the New York Jets before them, used an early pick in the first round to grab their franchise QB. With the luxury of another first-round pick, the Jaguars now pick offensive lineman Christian Barmore to help keep Trevor Lawrence standing.
The last thing the Jags will want is for their young QB to get happy feet. This extra pick on extra protection is just the logical choice.
With The 26th Pick, The Cleveland Browns Select Ronnie Perkins, EDGE
Playing in the AFC, it’s one thing to get to the playoffs, it’s another to find a way to beat Patrick Mahomes. The best way to do that is to sack him, and the Browns can add extra pressure by drafting edge rusher Ronnie Perkins here.
Imagine, for a second, the Cleveland Browns having one side of the defensive line covered by Myles Garrett, and the other by Perkins. Mobile QBs would have nowhere to run.
With The 27th Pick, The Baltimore Ravens Select Rashod Bateman
The Baltimore Raven have one of the most exciting QBs in the NFL in Lamar Jackson. But ask yourself, what weapons does have to throw to? Aside from tight end Mark Andrews, the answer is none.
Expect the Ravens to add a wide receiver here, possibly Rashod Bateman. Bateman opted out of the 2020 college football season, but his 2019 tape is enough to justify the pick here. In his sophomore year at Minnesota, he scored 11 touchdowns while catching 60 passes for 1219 yards.
With The 28th Pick, The New Orleans Saints Select Tyson Campbell, CB
The Saints need help in their secondary. Malcolm Jenkins is starting to show his age, and with Drew Brees likely retiring, having a strong defense is going to be vital to win games moving forward.
By drafting a CB here, not only do the Saints find a replacement for Malcolm Jenkins, but they also improve an already strong defensive unit. Under the direction of Dennis Allen, New Orleans’ defense has been one of the best in the league the last several years.
With The 29th Pick, The Green Bay Packers Select Creed Humphrey, C
In 2020, the Green Bay Packers had Corey Linsley as their center. He was one of the best in his position, and will likely earn a big payday somewhere else as a free agent. This will lead the Packers to draft his replacement
Creed Humphrey is the best center available in the draft and should help keep QB Aaron Rodgers standing upright. Coming off of two straight 13-3 seasons, keeping an aging Rodgers is going to be very important in 2021.
With The 30th Pick In The Draft, The Buffalo Bills Select Levi Onwuzurike, DT
The Buffalo Bills were one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 NFL season. Not only did QB Josh Allen become an elite talent, but the defense proved to be quite remarkable, too. Except when it came to defending the run, that is.
The Bills can improve their run game by drafting Levi Onwuzuriki, a gap stuffing defensive tackle. The position won’t fill the stat sheet, but his impact will be felt on the field as opponents are held to long 3rd downs more often.
With The 31st Pick In The Draft, The Kansas City Chiefs Select Wyatt Davis, G
Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows exactly what the Kansas City Chiefs need to address – their offensive line. QB Patrick Mahomes was running for his life from the Bucs linebackers and defensive lineman as the o-line resembled more of a turnstile than a wall.
The Chiefs need offensive line depth. It can’t be denied. While they should get some people back on the line healthy next season, history has now shown them that depth is also essential.
With The Final Pick, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Select Daviyon Nixon, DT
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a luxury pick here, and they use it to add depth to their defensive line. The pick of Daviyon Nixon here provides that depth, as well as a replacement for an aging Ndamukong Suh if he retires or leaves via free agency.
Entering the 2021 season, Tampa Bay will be poised to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Tom Brady will be returning under center, Bruce Arians will still be the team’s head coach, and the already stout defense will only get better with one more year under Todd Bowles’ direction.
Sam Bradford Could Never Stay Healthy
Taken with the first overall pick by the then St. Louis Rams in 2010, Sam Bradford signed a huge rookie contract worth $78 million. After a successful rookie season, injuries started mounting and the Rams were forced to start over.
Since then, Bradford has bounced around the league. He last played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. And while he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, he has seemingly disappeared from the public eye and can officially be labeled a draft bust.
EJ Manuel Became An College Analyst
The Buffalo Bills surprising some fans in 2013 when they made EJ Manuel the 16th overall pick in the draft. His scouting report read, “Scouts appreciate his leadership qualities and toughness, and hope he can improve on his consistency.”
Manuel went on to start ten disappointing games as a rookie. Over the next three seasons, he started another seven games before ultimately calling it a career. Today he works as a college football analyst for the ACC Network.
Patrick Mahomes Is A Superstar
With how fast Patrick Mahomes became a superstar, it’s hard to believe he was only drafted by the Chiefs in 2017. A gunslinger with a big arm at Texas Tech, Andy Reid liked what he saw from the college standout and moved up in the draft to take him with the 10th overall pick.
In 2018, Mahomes became the team’s starting QB, threw 50 touchdown passes, and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. The next season he won the Super Bowl. Did we mention he was only 24 years old?
Paxton Lynch’s Career Was Doomed From The Beginning
Looking to move on from Peyton Manning and find the next great Denver Broncos’ starting QB, John Elway drafted Paxton Lynch with the 26th overall pick in 2016. At the time, Sporting News wrote, “Based on film and projecting for the future, Paxton Lynch is the best quarterback in this NFL Draft. Period.”
Lynch started four games in two seasons and proved to be a poor decision-maker. Denver cut him loose in 2018 and he has since caught on as backup QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lamar Jackson Is The Next Patrick Mahomes
When Lamar Jackson declared for the NFL Draft in 2018, he was told he should change positions from QB to WR. He refused, and the Ravens traded up to take him with the last pick in the first round.
Jackson became the team’s starting QB midway through his rookie season, winning a slew of games to get Baltimore in the playoffs. In 2019, Jackson continued to ascend, proving he was more than just a running QB. At the end of the year was named the league’s MVP. Could a Super Bowl trophy be due for him soon?
Brandon Weeden Should Have Stuck To Baseball
Originally a baseball player in the Yankees farm system, Brandon Weeden went back to college late to change careers. The Cleveland Browns were hoping that Brandon Weeden’s advanced age and maturity would turn him into a stud starting QB right away.
The team took him with the 22nd overall pick in 2012 despite one noted drawback: “there are concerns about his ability to make sound decisions under pressure.” Two years later he was released, destined to finish his career as a backup QB.
Johnny Manziel Took His Talents To Canada
Known as a hard-partying rock star in college, Johnny Manziel’s scouting report entering the draft was a bit concerning: “He’s no guarantee, he’s a wild card.” That didn’t stop the Browns from taking a chance on him in 2014.
Two years into his NFL career, Manziel checked himself into rehab. With no teams in the United States interested in his services, he attempted to resurrect his career in Canada. When that flamed out he took a chance on the now-defunct AAF.
Teddy Bridgewater Worked His Way Back From Disaster
The Minnesota Vikings found their franchise QB in 2014 when the took Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. Known for his football IQ, Bridgewater was exactly the kind of game manager the run-heavy offensive scheme demanded.
Then disaster struck. Bridgewater’s knee blew up in practice and he spent several years rehabbing from the injury. During that time, Minnesota was forced to move on, and Bridgewater ended up as Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans. When Brees tore a ligament in his thumb in 2019, Teddy stepped in and went 5-0. The next year he was the starting QB for the Carolina Panthers.
Tim Tebow Moved Onto Baseball
The legend of Tim Tebow in the NFL was as miraculous as it was short-lived. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 25th overall pick in 2010 and although his stats were never good, he found ways to win games.
After two years in Denver, Tebow bounced around the league and even tried to learn other positions. Nothing seemed to work, though, and Tebow left the game to become an analyst. Most recently, Tebow returned to sports, signing a contract with the New York Mets to join their farm system.
Christian Ponder Is Living A More Private Life
The 12th overall pick of the Minnesota Viking in the 2011 NFL Draft, Christian Ponder spent four seasons in purple. His second season was his best as he led the team to a 10-6 record. The next two years of his career was interrupted by injury.
Today, Ponder lives a more private life as a husband and father. He posts to social media about his family a lot but has not revealed his next professional endeavor yet.
Deshaun Watson Proved His Critics Wrong
After winning a national title with Clemson, scouts had this to say about Deshaun Watson, “[interceptions] are worrisome…. At 6-2, 221, Watson doesn’t have ideal size, but he has the arm strength, toughness and athleticism to play for a long time.”
The negative outlook didn’t stop the Houston Texans from taking Watson the 12th overall pick in 2017. Since then, all he’s done is prove the critics wrong and become one of the league’s younger elite quarterbacks.
Mitchell Trubisky Is In “Prove It” Mode
The Chicago Bears historically have not had the best luck with starting quarterbacks. In 2017, the team was hoping to change the narrative when it drafted Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick.
Three years into the Trubisky experiment and the jury is still out. While his second season was strong, the third was injury-filled and disappointing. Heading into year four, the Bears put him in competition with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
Kyler Murray Will Be Just Fine
After an up and down rookie season in 2019 learning the ropes, Kyler Murray’s future in the NFL is looking bright. At the end of the season, GM Steve Keim did everything he could to add talent around the young gunslinger, including trading for WR DeAndre Hopkins.
Heading into year two will tell us a lot about where Murray’s ceiling as a player is. Arizona clearly trusts him. After all, they traded away another former first-round just so they could take him!
Josh Rosen Fell To The Wayside
It’s hard not to feel bad for former first-round pick Josh Rosen. Drafted by the Cardinals, the team didn’t like their investment and upgraded to Kyler Murray after just one season.
Looking for a fresh start as a Miami Dolphin, Rosen instead lost the starting QB job to aging veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rosen appears to be a career back up at this point, and most recently signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
Jake Locker’s Body Failed Him
The eighth overall pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2011, Jake Locker had the talent to play in the NFL, he just lacked the durability. Locker played for four injury-riddled seasons with the Titans and started 23 games before announcing his retirement from the NFL.
Today, Locker puts his family and faith above all else. He’s settled into a new life, although he hasn’t stayed away from football entirely. When he has time, he enjoys coaching.
Blake Bortles Is A Backup
Drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014, Blake Bortles had an up-and-down career that didn’t match his potential. After five seasons and one AFC Championship Game appearance (that fans blame him for losing), the team cut him loose.
Bortles then spent the 2019 season as the backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. With Jared Goff entrenched as the starter in LA, we don’t see Blake having a career resurgence any time soon.
Jared Goff Turned Into A Franchise Star… Then Got Traded
Taken with the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams, Jared Goff appeared in over his head as a rookie. At the end of that season, the team fired head coach Jeff Fisher and brought in offensive wunderkind Sean McVay.
McVay instantly turned the career trajectory of Goff around. With his newfound skills, Goff helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl, where they lost 13-3 to the New England Patriots. That offseason, Goff signed a $134 million extension. Just a few years later, Los Angeles traded him to Detroit.
Carson Wentz Has Trouble Staying Healthy
Taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Carson Wentz has been great when he’s healthy, which has not been often. The year the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Wentz tore his ACL before the playoffs, and Nick Foles stepped into the starting job.
That didn’t stop the Eagles from giving Wentz a big contract, showing they had faith in him. In 2020, however, that faith was tested when the team drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round of the draft. After the 2020 season ended, Wentz was traded to the Colts.
Marcus Mariota Lost His Job To Another First-Rounder
Taken with the second overall pick by the Titans in 2015, Marcus Mariota never blossomed into the franchise star the team hoped he would. Prior to the 2019 season, the team traded for Ryan Tannehill, another former first-round pick.
Tannehill consequently took over as the team’s starting QB midway through the season and nearly led them to the Super Bowl. Mariota was then released and signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Cam Newton’s Future Is In Question
Taken with the first overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2011, Cam Newton ascended to become a star. In 2015, he not only led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, but he was also named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Sadly, fortune has not shined on Newton in recent seasons. Because of his physical style of play, he has become injury-prone. A shoulder issue sidelined him for most of 2019, leading the team to release him and casting doubt on his NFL future. In 2020, he spent an underwhelming year as the starting QB for New England.