With the 2021 NFL Draft kicking off tomorrow, we thought we'd share our predictions for the first-round picks. This draft class is full of explosive talent. Will the teams make the most practical decisions, or will there be some wild cards?
Take a look at who could go where with our 2021 NFL Draft Predictions:
Jacksonville Jaguars — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jaguars were given the No. 1 overall pick because of the Jets’ incompetence. This game-changing turn of events even made the major Jacksonville thank the Jets on Twitter. This is an obvious selection for the Jaguars. While the Gardner Minshew experience was fun, it’s coming to an end. Minshew is a gutsy quarterback but is going to be assigned backup duties since he can’t throw passes farther than 15 yards.
Trevor Lawrence is definitely the number one pick for the 2021 NFL Draft. He has it all, including a big arm, accuracy, mobility, and size (6’6”, 215).
New York Jets — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets made a foolish mistake to try and beat the Rams (and the Browns). Now, they’re stuck between selecting the second-best quarterback in the class and sticking with Sam Darnold. It would probably be best to trade Darnold since he shows no signs of becoming a franchise quarterback and has admitted to “seeing ghosts.” Since the Jets would have to pay him a large contract to retain him, it would be smartest to move him for a second or third-round pick.
Zach Wilson has good arm talent and is a clever quarterback. However, there are reportedly off-the-field and injury issues. We’ve left him as No. 2, but the Jets may still go with Justin Fields.
San Francisco 49ers — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The 49ers moved up to No. 3 because of a deal with the Dolphins for a quarterback. Which one? The 49ers personnel staff wants Trey Lance, but Kyle Shanahan prefers Mac Jones. John Lynch has said he will always defer to Shanahan, so it looks like he will win this one. If he does choose Jones it would be a pretty foolish decision. They definitely didn’t need to surrender two first-round picks for an Andy Dalton with DUIs. If the 49ers do really want Jones, they should just trade down.
Atlanta Falcons — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
We think that the Falcons have realized they can’t land a franchise quarterback like Justin Fields again. They’ll probably pull the trigger on a signal caller and then trade Matt Ryan. Trey Lance would be a good choice because he has some nice physical tools and has a successful year in 2019.
Cincinnati Bengals — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals managed to win some meaningless games at the end of the year that moved them out of the Penei Sewell sweepstakes. However, there’s a decent chance that Sewell will be available at No. 5. This would be a dream come true for a team that needs to protect Joe Burrow.
The Bengals have signed Riley Reiff, but that won’t prohibit them from selecting Sewell. Additionally, Reiff had played guard in Iowa and told the Vikings that he’d move to that position if needed.
Miami Dolphins — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Dolphins traded up to No. 6 to give Tua Tagovailoa some help. However, since Penei Sewell will likely be unavailable, they'll have to draft either a wide receiver or Kyle Pitts. The issue with that first option is that they’ve already added Will Fuller to go along with DeVante Parker. Fuller did however sign for just one year, while Parker is owed lots of money for the next three years. Giving Tagovailoa as many weapons as possible isn’t a bad idea. Pitts almost has to be the pick if he makes it to No. 6.
Pitts is a matchup nightmare since he’s too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties. Some teams view him as a receiver.
Detroit Lions — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
While Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams, we don’t think the Lions are going after a quarterback. They’re probably going to give Jared Goff a try for one year and instead focus on other big issues, like their receivers. Since Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones have signed elsewhere, two new receivers are needed.
Ja’Marr Chase caught 17 passes in his freshman year. He took a huge leap forward in 2019, showing the ability of a Top 10 prospect.
Carolina Panthers — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
We originally put a quarterback in this spot, but that is no longer the case with the Sam Darnold trade. This gives the Panthers the chance to focus on upgrading the rest of their roster. They currently have one of the weakest cornerbacks in the NFL. They have some talented receivers in their division (Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin to name a few), so upgrading this position is crucial.
Jaycee Horn is a fast, fluid athlete. Team Sources have told Charlie Campbell that Horn is a better prospect than his teammate Israel Mukuamu.
Denver Broncos — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Broncos would love if one of the top four quarterbacks fell to them, and that’s the case here. They just might leap the Panthers in order to secure Justin Fields. Fields dominated his first season at Ohio State. His strong play continued well into 2020, except for the sloppy performances against Indiana and Northwestern. He did, however, seem injured in those games. After a long layoff, Fields dominated Clemson in the playoff semi-final.
Drawing comparisons to Deshaun Watson, Fields should be the second or fourth-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
While the Cowboys will be tempted to upgrade their offensive line, we think they’ll target a potential shutdown cornerback instead to fix their pitiful pass defense. Surtain II is the son of former Dolphins star Patrick Surtain Sr. Surtain II was tested early by teams but was able to punish opponents for doing so. This 6’2” cornerback projects as a Top 15 pick in the future.
New York Giants — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Giants have recently added plenty of talent to their roster. They’re now in a position to draft the best player possible as long as it's not a quarterback for running back. Even though the Giants spent a first-round pick on Andrew Thomas last year, an offensive lineman makes sense for them. Teams are usually reluctant to spend back-to-back opening round picks on the same position because of possible financial implications in the future. However, someone like Rashawn Slater can start at and spot on the offensive line, so a receiver could still be acquired despite the Kenny Golladay pick.
DeVonta Smith is an excellent route runner with great hands and an excellent run after catch ability. He rightfully won the Heisman and then embarrassed Ohio State in the national championship.
Philadelphia Eagles — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Let’s face it, Howie will most likely make the worst choice available.
The Eagles probably won’t get a blue-chip player unless one of the receivers falls to them. However, with five quarterbacks possibly being drafted in the Top 11, that's still a possibility. In this case, the Eagles are somehow lucky enough to land one of the most dynamic threats in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
When Jalen Hurts was asked which of his former Alabama teammates would be the best pro, he answered Jaylen Waddle.
Los Angeles Chargers — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
The Chargers need to protect Justin Herbert as much as possible. They have a huge hole at left tackle that must be addressed. Alijah Vera-Tucker made a great decision when he decided to opt back into the season. He has played extremely well at left tackle for the Trojans, making him a solid choice for the Chargers.
Minnesota Vikings — Rashawn Slater, OT/G/C, Northwestern
Since the Vikings cut Riley Reiff, their offensive line is a big liability right now. However, they could use this pick on a new blind-side protector for Kirk Cousins. Rashawn Slater can, truthfully, play every position on the offensive line and is some great tape against Chase Young. Still, he has had some length issues so some teams view him as a guard or center.
New England Patriots — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
With the top five quarterbacks off the board, the Patriots will probably wait until Day 2 to find a new signal-caller. They should instead focus on helping their defensive line or linebacking corps for this round. Their linebacking corps was a huge problem for them last year.
Micah Parsons is looking like the next great linebacker to come out of Penn State. He was very productive at Penn State, which isn’t surprising considering he was a highly athletic five star recruit. While Parsons does have some off the field problems, it only takes one team to fall in love with him.
Arizona Cardinals — Zaven Collins, DE/OLB, Tulsa
The Cardinals have had major defensive issues. Defeating Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford will be extremely difficult if the Cardinals can’t generate a great pass rush or cover the middle of the field. Zaven Collins can do both.
Las Vegas Raiders — Alex Leatherwood, OT/G, Alabama
The Raiders need to address every level of their defense. However, they dumped three fifths of their offensive line this off season and need to rebuild their blocking unit as well. Alex Leatherwood is a former five-star recruit. He has enough strength to be an excellent run blocker and the athleticism to block elite edge rushers.
Miami Dolphins — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The Dolphins will need to continue to collect weapons for Tua Tagovailoa. This includes a dynamic threat in the backfield, which they are currently lacking. Travis Etienne had a huge year in which he rushed for 1572 yards and has worked to become a better receiver.
Washington Redskins — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Redskins have an elite defensive line. Their offensive line is mostly solid, except at left tackle. They could fill that hole with this selection. Christian Darrisaw has an amazing 2020 season, propelling him into first-round consideration.
Chicago Bears — Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Chicago’s offensive line has declined in recent years, so that should definitely be addressed early in the 2021 draft. Given the run on tackles, the Bears could be pressured to address that position at this spot if none of the quarterbacks fall to them.
Indianapolis Colts — Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
The Colts lost some defensive linemen this offseason. They could definitely upgrade their pass rush in order to beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. Jaelan Phillips had an incredible year in replacing the opted-out Gregory Rousseau. However, injury concerns could cause him to fail.
Tennessee Titans — Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The Titans lost Corey Davis this offseason, but they did need a better receiver to pair with A.J. Brown anyway. While Kadarius Toney has big-time play-making ability, he also has an injury history.
New York Jets — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Jets have to beat the Bills and Dolphins, and both have very talented receivers. Right now, the Jets don’t have the cornerbacks to cover those wideouts. Caleb Farley opted out of the 2020 season, but he has a high upside, as well as nice speed and size. He does have some injury concerns that could cause him to drop, but he’s still a value pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers will want a bell cow back. We can’t blame them since they had absolutely no running game to speak of last year. Najee Harris would change that, but the Steelers’ offensive line needs some major overhaul as well.
In 2017, Najee Harris was one of the top recruits in the country. He showed off his talents as a freshman and has played tremendously ever since.
Jacksonville Jaguars — Kwity Paye, DE/DT, Michigan
Jacksonville’s defense has majorly declined in recent years, partially due to Calais Campbell’s departure. Campbell could definitely be replaced with this selection. Kwity Payne has a chance to move into the upper half of the first round. He has shown some upside in his only year as a starter.
Cleveland Browns — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Browns’ linebacking corps was a weak spot last year, so this is a position that the front office could target early in the 2021 draft. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a fast linebacker who has been compared to Telvin Smith.
Baltimore Ravens — Jayson Oweh, DE/OLB, Penn State
The Ravens lost both Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judin this offseason. This makes us think they’ll be considering a pass rusher in the first couple of rounds. While Jayson Oweh didn’t do too much in 2020, he has major potential.
New Orleans Saints — Christian Barmore, DE/DT, Alabama
The Saints lost Sheldon Rankins, so they could target an interior defensive lineman with this selection. Christian Barmore has nice length, quickness, and athleticism.
Green Bay Packers — Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
It seems like the Packers forgot they had a big need at receiver during the 2020 draft. They could opt to upgrade Kevin King after his awful playoff performance. Greg Newsome has great technique but isn’t listed higher due to his large injury history.
Buffalo Bills — Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
The Bills already gave Matt Milano lots of money, so they’re unlikely to do the same with Tremaine Edmunds (especially with his poor 2020 campaign). The Bills’ linebacking corps was pretty dreadful last season, except for Milano, so that could be addressed with this pick.
Jamin Davis was a tackling machine in 2020 and has good speed to cover lots of ground.
Baltimore Ravens — Jackson Carman, G/OT, Clemson
Since the Ravens sent Orlando Brown to the Chiefs, they may use this pick to replace him. They could sign a tackle, but they also need a new guard to replace Marshal Yanda. Jackson Carman has great athletic ability for a 340-pound lineman. Some believe he may be a left tackle in the pros, but he has some character issues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Azeez Ojulari, DE/OLB, Georgia
The Buccaneers re-signed Shaq Burret, but could still use another pass rusher, considering Jason Pierre-Paul’s age. While Azeez Ojulari has great potential, it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to play in the NFL yet. He probably should have stayed in school for another year.