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Predicting the unpredictable: 2021 NFL mock draft

Welcome to the Bradley Scout’s annual 2021 NFL Mock Draft. This has been a tradition of mine for the last four years of my college career, and I have the privilege of continuing it for what could be the final time.

This draft class is loaded with talent at quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback. Up to five quarterbacks could be taken in the first 10 picks. There will be a run on wide receivers and offensive tackles in the first two rounds for teams who have a need at those positions. 

There are some changes to this year’s mock draft. In the past, I would try to make predictions of what I thought teams would do. This year, I’m doing this mock draft based on what I believe each team SHOULD do instead. Mock drafts are nearly impossible to predict correctly, so why not start a discussion with them? So, without further ado, the Jacksonville Jaguars are now on the clock.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

This is easily predictable and pretty self-explanatory. Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. When you have the chance to draft a once-in-a-generation prospect at the most important position in football, there is no reason to think twice.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

The second pick is also a no-brainer. Zach Wilson fits offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s scheme almost too perfectly. I believe Wilson and his rocket arm will have an ample chance to succeed in a system that prioritizes play-action passing and a strong run game to back it up. If he pans out, he will be extremely fun to watch.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston via Miami): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Kyle Shanahan prefers players who fit his scheme, and his eye for talent that fits a certain scheme is unmatched. Though Mac Jones might be a better fit for his offense, Trey Lance has a chance to be the steal of the draft at number three. Lance is a much better arm talent and overall player who would be electric in Shanahan’s scheme.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

There are many different routes the Falcons can go. They could trade down, stay put and draft a quarterback, or give Matt Ryan another weapon. Kyle Pitts is the best non-quarterback prospect in this draft. Despite the unpredictability of what the Falcons will do, this is a can’t miss at number four.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

While this is likely not going to happen, it definitely should. We can figure that Joe Burrow is going to pound the table for his former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. However, the Bengals’ offensive line got him injured last season. For a quarterback to be successful, the team has to fix some glaring issues on the O-line. Drafting Penei Sewell, who I believe is a top-three non-quarterback prospect in this draft, is a great start to building around Burrow.

6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Dolphins are in a prime position to get Tua Tagovailoa help. They have the chance of landing a top-three talent in this draft. Ja’Marr Chase is the best wide receiver in this draft without a doubt. The Dolphins should sprint to the podium if the board falls this way. 

7. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

With the Lions entering another rebuild, they are going to need their quarterback of the future at some point. The Lions’ QB of the future is NOT Jared Goff. If a good quarterback like Matthew Stafford couldn’t take the Lions anywhere, then there’s zero chance Goff will be successful. With Justin Fields, a top-three quarterback in this draft without question, still on the board, you have to take him here. It might not be the safest pick, but it fills a future need.

8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern 

I could easily see the Panthers trading down from this pick come draft time, but this is too good to pass up. They solidified the quarterback position with the addition of Sam Darnold. This is the perfect opportunity to bolster the offensive line with one of the best lineman prospects in this year’s class. Slater is a plug-and-play prospect who will protect his quarterback’s blind side for the years to come.

9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Quarterback was the logical pick here, until the Broncos ruined this mock draft by trading for Teddy Bridgewater. They could easily trade down to make this selection, but this mock draft features no trades. Micah Parsons is a downhill linebacker who projects really well in Vic Fangio’s defense. This is a good first pick for GM George Paton. 

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

This draft is so loaded with offensive talent that it might take until the 10th pick for a defensive player to be selected. Patrick Surtain II is well worthy of being the first defensive player off the board. He is everything the Cowboys need to fill a huge need at corner. This is a home run pick for Jerry Jones and company. 

11. New York Giants: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

This is a prove-it year for Daniel Jones and Smith is a pick that puts him in an even better position to succeed in year three. With the signing of Kenny Golladay over the offseason, the Giants have a legitimate threat on the outside. With this pick, Big Blue adds the best route-runner in the draft with Devonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from San Francisco via Miami): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina 

Although the Eagles have a need for wide receivers, this draft class has plenty of depth available throughout . If the board falls this way, you have to sprint to the podium. You could argue that Jaycee Horn is the best cornerback prospect in the draft. He makes an immediate impact come day one. 

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

The Chargers offensive line has been among the worst in football for the last several years. With a young, up-and-coming quarterback in Justin Herbert, they can’t risk devastating injury happening. They spent a decent number of resources toward fixing their offensive line this offseason. They can put a bow on it with the selection of Christian Darrisaw.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)

There is a pressing need at cornerback, but the Vikings could also use an edge rusher. This is a particularly weak class at the position. Jaelan Phillips’ high motor makes him the perfect player to go alongside Danielle Hunter. He is a player Mike Zimmer would love in his defense.

15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

This is the year Bill Belichick finally does what we’ve been predicting for years. It makes perfect sense too. Cam Newton has been on the decline for some time. You just can’t win with him. Mac Jones, on the other hand, is easily the most polarizing quarterback in this year’s draft class. He doesn’t have the best arm and has limited mobility. However, he executes the offense at a high level, has an accurate throwing arm and has a high football IQ. That’s what New England needs in their offensive system.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The Cardinals have more pressing needs at cornerback, but with Jaylen Waddle on the board, they can’t pass up. Waddle is hands down the fastest wide receiver in the draft, and the most dynamic threat as well. Sign me up for an offense with DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Waddle. That would be straight up unfair.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC

After getting rid of almost their entire offensive line, the Raiders have some retooling to do. Alijah Vera-Tucker switched to left tackle from guard last year and was one of the best linemen in the country. He would be the perfect pick to replace the loss of Trent Brown on the left side.

18. Miami Dolphins: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)

With their prior pick, the Dolphins gave Tua Tagovailoa some help. The focus should shift to their defense. Gregory Rousseau is a raw, lengthy edge rusher who could use some time to develop. He posted 15.5 sacks in 2019, second in the nation to then-Ohio State Buckeye Chase Young. This pick has some good value due to his athletic traits, but Rousseau will need to prove that he is not a one-year wonder.

19. Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

Linebacker is the biggest weakness in Washington’s defense. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would help take their defense to another level. His versatility and explosiveness would make him a perfect hybrid linebacker/safety in an NFL defense. Ron Rivera would love to have a player like this on his team.

20. Chicago Bears: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State 

As a fan of this team, I fully expect the Bears to draft a wide receiver, cornerback, or pay a king’s ransom for a top quarterback (don’t even think about it.) Here’s the thing, with Ryan Pace’s history at wide receiver in the first two rounds, history suggests not to draft one with this selection. The team can’t ignore its need on the offensive line. Teven Jenkins is the perfect plug-and-play prospect to replace Bobby Massie. His rough and tough blocking style will be appreciated by a fanbase that loves tough, hard-nosed football. 

21. Indianapolis Colts: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

Don’t be surprised if the Colts take a wide receiver or an offensive tackle, but this is a pick that takes their already talented defense to the next level. After an outstanding pro day that featured a 4.37 40-yard-dash, a 42-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump, Jamin Davis has put himself on many team’s radars heading into the draft. It might take a few years to fully develop, but his athleticism and physicality are what you want in a modern-day linebacker.

22. Tennessee Titans: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

After totaling only 19 sacks last season, it is obvious that the Titans have a huge need at the edge rusher position. Kwity Paye has all the physical attributes to be successful in the NFL but hasn’t had the production in college to back it up, which is why he is available here. Despite his questions, he still upgrades the Titans pass rush.

23. New York Jets (from Seattle): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech 

The Jets grabbed their quarterback of the future at number two. Now, GM Robert Saleh and company turn their attention to the other side of the ball. Due to medical issues, Caleb Farley comes with some question marks. But his high upside makes him a perfect prospect for Saleh to develop. This is a great value pick for Gang Green.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

This mock draft is about what I believe teams should do, but I’m breaking the rule here. Should the Steelers draft a running back in the first round? Absolutely not! However, they are desperate for talent at the position. Their running game was among the worst in the NFL last year, finishing with less than 55 total rushing yards in seven out of their last 11 games. Najee Harris is the perfect three-down, pass-catching back who would immediately help the Steelers in their running game.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama

A wide receiver or edge rusher seems logical here, but the Jags should focus on the best player available. Christian Barmore is the best defensive lineman in this draft. Barmore fits the mold in what teams would want in a stop-gap interior defensive lineman. It may not be a flashy pick, but it works.

26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Zaven Collins’ stock has been rising over the last few weeks. Drafting him at No. 26 would be a steal in my opinion. Imagine him blasting off the edge with Myles Garrett? That is a match that needs to happen now. His athleticism and versatility would be perfect in the Browns front seven.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU 

This might not be a consensus pick for who the Ravens should draft, but it makes too much sense. Terrace Marshall Jr. is a big-bodied wideout that Lamar Jackson needs in that offense. Medical issues might cause Marshall to fall towards the late second round, but getting him at 27 would be a steal.

28. New Orleans Saints: Trevon Moehrig, S, Virginia Tech

It’s a new era of Saints football. In a post-Drew Brees world, they need to rely more on defense. Unless they trade up for a quarterback, they should focus on the best player available. Trevon Moehrig immediately fixes the team’s declining secondary. He gives the Saints a center fielder who can make plays effortlessly.

29. Green Bay Packers: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

The Packers haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round since Javon Walker in 2002. In other words, the last time the Packers drafted a receiver in the first round, some high school students weren’t even born yet. However, they do need a legitimate threat to go opposite Jaire Alexander at cornerback. Greg Newsome II alongside Alexander would be absolutely terrifying and his elite coverage instincts would help their secondary reach new heights. This is a pick that risks further alienating Aaron Rodgers, but it makes sense after Kevin King was picked on during last season’s NFC Championship game. 

30. Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

I am once again breaking the rule of this mock draft, but this pick does make a lot of sense. The Bills are in a championship window, and in that window, you need to find playmakers who will help you right off the bat. Travis Etienne is an explosive playmaker who would help the Bills in both the running and passing game. He would take a lot of pressure off of Josh Allen as well. Though I extremely dislike the thought of a first round running back, this just makes too much sense.

31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City): Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State

This fills the biggest need for the Ravens. Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are gone and need to be replaced. The team values production, and this isn’t an ordinary pick for them. Despite his lack of experience, Jayson Oweh has all the physical tools to be successful in the NFL. If given time, he could prosper.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

When looking at this Buccaneers team, there aren’t a lot of needs to fill. But the edge rusher spot is definitely a future need and Jason Pierre-Paul is not getting any younger. Azeez Ojulari is a raw prospect who needs some time to develop in the NFL. With defensive coordinator Todd Bowles track record of developing defensive talent, he has more than a decent chance to prosper.

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