Steven Haglund’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Photo Credit: | Under Creative Commons License
Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Photo Credit: | Under Creative Commons License

With the NFL season coming to an end, another season has begun: Mock Draft season. I did a Chargers centric mock draft last month and will be pumping out some more of those throughout the offseason. But we all love the draft, so I thought it would be fun to do my first all-32 first-round mock draft. I used The Draft Network’s simulation, and will not be including trades. I’ll also go a little more in-depth at the Chargers pick than the rest of the other teams.

Let’s get started. (Draft order was set before Wildcard Weekend.)

2021 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence – Quarterback – Clemson

Lawrence took some slack on social media for his performance against Ohio State but the reality is that he’s still viewed as a lock for the number one overall pick. He’s a generational talent at the position with all the requisite arm strength and mobility any team could possibly want at the position.

New York Jets

Justin Fields – Quarterback – Ohio State

There’s a big debate going in scouting circles for who the second-best quarterback in the class is between Fields and the field. I’m still taking Fields in that argument. He’s drastically improved his ball placement this season and become a much more accurate passer, particularly on deep passes. The versatility he provides as a runner should give him the edge over the rest of the group. This pick really comes down to what the Jets and their next head coach thinks of Sam Darnold, but Fields is too good to pass on for me in this instance.

Miami Dolphins (via HOU)

Penei Sewell – Offensive Tackle – Oregon

The third overall pick has long been considered the Sewell pick, and the Dolphins could certainly move off that in favor of an offensive skill player in an effort to get Tua Tagovailoa a better collection of weapons. However, they do have their own first-round pick later in the draft and can address that need there. For now, they take Sewell – the best player available.

Atlanta Falcons

Kwity Paye – Edge – Michigan

If the third pick is the presumed Sewell pick, then this one is the presumed trade back pick, and the Falcons would be wise to explore all trade offers. If they stay put, they need to get a defensive playmaker. In this scenario, they select Paye. He is a very polished pass rusher, who had an absurd start to the 2020 season. His season ended up being wrecked by covid but he had over 20 pressures in the first three games for the Wolverines.

Cincinnati Bengals

Kyle Pitts – Tight End – Florida

The Bengals absolutely have to address the offensive line in this draft to protect Joe Burrow, but it doesn’t appear like there is another offensive lineman worth a top-five pick outside of Sewell. Instead, the Bengals pivot to finding an explosive playmaker to elevate the supporting cast around their franchise quarterback. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd make a potential selection of a pure wide receiver a little redundant. Instead, they select one of the more versatile tight end prospects in recent memory in Pitts. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Ja’Marr Chase – Wide Receiver – LSU

The Eagles are headed for a transition period and need to build around Jalen Hurts, who finished the season playing really well in place of Carson Wentz. None of the receivers they have selected over the years have panned out. The jury is still out on Jalen Reagor but they clearly need to elevate the supporting cast and will do so by picking Chase.

Detroit Lions

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Linebacker – Notre Dame

The Lions could absolutely take a quarterback with this pick, but right now it seems like their top two coaching candidates are Robert Saleh and Marvin Lewis – both of whom are defensive-minded head coaches. If whoever they end up hiring decides to run it back with Stafford, they could easily take the best defensive playmaker on the board. In this case, it’s Owusu-Koramoah – who seems like the perfect modern-day NFL linebacker.

Carolina Panthers

Zach Wilson – Quarterback – BYU

The draft order panning out like this would be the best-case scenario for the Panthers. They went all-in on the defense (literally) in the 2020 draft, and will now look to get younger on offense. That starts with finding a legitimate franchise quarterback. No prospect helped their draft stock more than Wilson this year. There will be doubts about the schedule he played this year, and I share those doubts, but scouting quarterbacks has always been about traits and Wilson has them in spades.

Denver Broncos

Trey Lance – Quarterback – North Dakota State

John Elway removing himself as general manager casts a legitimate shadow around the future of everyone on the Broncos roster and specifically Drew Lock. We now have just over a full season’s worth of game tape on Lock, and what we’ve seen has been inconsistent at best. He completed 57% of his passes this season and nearly threw more interceptions than touchdowns. A potential selection of Lance would launch the Broncos into the modern era of quarterback play that essentially requires mobility and the ability to make off-platform throws. Lance only played one game in 2020 due to covid but he rushed for over 1,000 yards and didn’t throw a single interception in 2019. 

Dallas Cowboys

Jaycee Horn – Cornerback – South Carolina

The Cowboys need to get younger on the offensive line, but the Cowboys’ defense in 2020 was an objective disaster. They have needs at all three levels on that side of the ball. Trevon Diggs is a nice piece, but they really need an alpha in the secondary. They get that in this simulation with the selection of Horn, who really helped his draft stock after dominating the 2020 season.

New York Giants 

DeVonta Smith – Wide Receiver – Alabama

Daniel Jones still has his struggles with protecting the football but the supporting cast around him hasn’t been all that good. Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard are nice receivers but the Giants need a true number one target if they truly want to maximize Jones’ talent. The 2020 Heisman winner just put together one of the best seasons of any college wide receiver in recent memory. Some will be worried about his slender frame but Smith has all the requisite skills to be an elite player at the next level.

San Francisco 49ers

Rashawn Slater – Offensive Lineman – Northwestern

The 49ers could be headed for a change at quarterback if they’re able to find an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo. Regardless of whoever is playing quarterback, they need to improve the offensive line. The 49ers’ scheme relies upon athletic and versatile offensive linemen up front, and Slater is exactly that. He opted out of the 2020 season but his status as the next best lineman behind Sewell seems like it’s been cemented since he was able to hold his own against Chase Young in 2019. Slater can start at either tackle spot or he can kick inside and play guard. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Samuel Cosmi – Offensive Tackle – Texas

The mission for the Chargers in this upcoming draft is simple: PROTECT JUSTIN HERBERT AT ALL COSTS!! The Chargers offensive line finished the season ranked 28th in the league in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency rate, 31st in ESPN’s pass blocking win rate, and 32nd in ESPN’s run blocking win rate. To put it bluntly: they were one of the worst units in the league this year.

Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney were both bottom tier starters at their positions. Each of them finished within the top three at their position in terms of most pressures given up: Lamp finished third among guards and Feeney was first among centers. The Chargers really should blow up the group and start fresh, but I expect they’ll bring back Lamp and Feeney on cheap-short term deals, and hope they improve in their second seasons at those positions. 

Guards and centers are historically easier to find via free agency (Joe Thuney anyone?) or through the draft, so the value in the first round would dictate a selection of an offensive tackle. However, there is just as much uncertainty at offensive tackle. Sam Tevi is a free agent, Bryan Bulaga will turn 32 in March and only finished five games this year, and Trey Pipkins didn’t show enough improvement to be playing down the stretch over a former XFL player. General manager Tom Telesco hasn’t invested top tier draft capital in the tackle position since D.J. Fluker in 2013 and that needs to change. This team cannot afford to be lackadaisical for Herbert with the offensive line like it was for Philip Rivers

If the Chargers were more of a power running team, Liam Eichenberg would be my pick here. However, Telesco has traditionally preferred his tackles to be a little more athletic and versatile, and that’s why the pick is Cosmi. He possesses great mobility and balance and has all the upside of being a great offensive tackle in the NFL. He’s a little bit of an unfinished product, though, and will need to be coached up. 

Minnesota Vikings

Gregory Rousseau – Edge – Miami

Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded head coach who called his 2020 unit “the worst of my career”. Translation: the Vikings will be taking a defensive player in the first round, the only question is if it will be a pass rusher or a linebacker. Rousseau is the choice here. He opted out of the 2020 season but was dominant as a Sophomore in 2019. He’s the type of raw prospect that a defensive-minded coach would love to have. 

New England Patriots

Jaylen Waddle – Wide Receiver – Alabama

Outside of quarterback, the biggest need for them is at the wide receiver position. They need to get whoever is throwing the ball more weapons. Getting Waddle to take the top off of defenses is a good first step. 

Arizona Cardinals

Patrick Surtain II – Cornerback – Alabama

The Cardinals offense is trending up with Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins, but the defense needs a lot of work. They could certainly take an edge rusher and get Chandler Jones some help, but Surtain II still being on the board is a no brainer for a team whose best corner is 30-year-old Patrick Peterson.

Las Vegas Raiders 

Azeez Ojulari – Edge – Georgia

The Raiders best defensive player is Maxx Crosby. That is a problem. They simply need to get better athletes on that side of the ball. Selecting Ojulari, who arguably has the highest ceiling of this edge-rushing class, would be a good start.

Miami Dolphins

Rashod Bateman – Wide Receiver – Minnesota 

With their second selection of the first round, the Dolphins can now get Tagovailoa a much-needed weapon. DeVante Parker is a solid deep threat option, but the Dolphins need someone who can do all the dirty work over the middle. Bateman has drawn comparisons to Keenan Allen and would be a fantastic selection for Miami.

Washington Football Team

Liam Eichenberg – Offensive Tackle – Notre Dame

Washington is another team that probably needs to draft a quarterback but taking Kyle Trask or Mac Jones here would be a reach. Instead, they take the best offensive tackle on the board and finally get the heir apparent to Trent Williams. Eichenberg is arguably the most polished lineman in the class, but he is a little limited athletically in comparison to his peers.

Chicago Bears

Wyatt Davis – Interior Offensive Lineman – Ohio State

The Bears are essentially in the same situation as Washington. Without a viable quarterback option on the board, they too will shift towards the offensive line. Davis just earned his second consecutive All-American selection and will be a plug and play selection at guard for Chicago. 

Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR)

Alijah Vera-Tucker – Offensive Lineman – USC

Similar to the Chargers, the Jaguars have a similar mission to the 2021 draft in protecting Lawrence. They have a good group of skill players headlined by James Robinson, D.J. Chark, and Laviska Shenault Jr. The next step is building up the offensive line. Vera-Tucker is a very versatile piece who has played guard and tackle for USC and could start at either spot in Jacksonville

Indianapolis Colts

Christian Darrisaw – Offensive Tackle – Virginia Tech

The immediate future of Rivers looms large over the Colts in the coming months, as does the future of longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Both of those players have hinted at retirement over the last month or so. Rivers was exactly what the Colts needed this year and it stands to reason he could do it again in 2021. The Colts would be wise to invest in Castonzo’s replacement and they do that here with Darrisaw – one of the most physical tackles in this class. 

Cleveland Browns

Joseph Ossai – Edge – Texas

The Browns were one of the better stories of the 2020 season, they ended their 18 year playoff drought and won a playoff game for the first time in nearly 30 years. They could reasonably target a wide receiver here to give Baker Mayfield another weapon to throw to, but they really need to get Myles Garrett some help in the pass rush department. Ossai is a well-rounded and explosive edge rusher who would be a great fit in Cleveland.

Tennessee Titans

Jaelan Phillips – Edge – Miami

The Titans defense was downright awful this year. The offseason additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley failed miserably. They desperately need a pass rusher. Phillips is a physically gifted player, but he’s battled through some injuries and transferred from UCLA to Miami so there is some risk here. However, the Titans cannot afford to leave the first round without an edge rusher. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Najee Harris – Running Back – Alabama

I’m generally against taking running backs in the first round, but a legitimate three-down running back is the one thing missing from the Buccaneers’ offense. Harris returned to Alabama for his senior season to squash any doubt about his ability, and boy did he have a special season. Looking at all games before the National Championship, he has totaled over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns. 

Baltimore Ravens

Creed Humphrey – Interior Offensive Lineman – Oklahoma

The Ravens are one of the most talented teams in the league. They just won 11 games and a road playoff game, despite their offensive line being ravaged by injuries. They are pretty set at the tackle spots, but they didn’t really replace what they lost as an interior presence when Marshal Yanda retired. Humphrey is a phenomenal center with a strong wrestling background, and he has the frame and athleticism to play guard if he needs to. He would be a perfect fit in Baltimore.

New York Jets (via SEA)

Caleb Farley – Cornerback – Virginia Tech

Farley was one of the toughest players to place in this simulation. He is a silky smooth cornerback prospect with a great football IQ, but as it stands, I like Horn and Surtain II more. For the Jets, this is a no brainer. They need to get more talent in the secondary, as Chargers fans witnessed first hand a little over a month ago. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jalen Mayfield – Offensive Tackle – Michigan

Alejandro Villanueva has been a great player for Pittsburgh but his best days are behind him. Mayfield is a very talented prospect but he does have some lapses in technique and awareness from time to time, which is why he’s not higher on this list. Mayfield can start at either tackle spot, or sit and learn for a year behind Villanueva.

New Orleans Saints

Kyle Trask – Quarterback – Florida

Many people around the league expect that Drew Brees will retire after this season. Taysom Hill is not a viable long term option at the quarterback spot but could serve as a bridge quarterback for a developmental prospect. Trask’s journey from high school backup to legitimate Heisman contender and NFL prospect is one of the craziest player development stories in football history. He improved dramatically between 2019 and 2020 and that trend would continue under Sean Payton’s tutelage. 

Buffalo Bills

Pat Freiermuth – Tight End – Penn State

Josh Allen took a massive step forward this season to become a legitimate MVP candidate. Everyone in Buffalo deserves a ton of credit for that, including Allen. The trade for Stefon Diggs paid huge dividends this year. The next step is giving Allen a legitimate tight end, and they get that here with Freiermuth. 

Green Bay Packers

Chris Olave – Wide Receiver – Ohio State

The Packers surprised everyone when they didn’t draft a wide receiver last April. Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers had monster seasons this year, and the Packers look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But it would be a huge mistake to not give Rodgers more help again this time around. Olave is one of the best receivers in this class and would compliment Adams perfectly. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Zaven Collins – Linebacker – Tulsa

Defense has been an issue in Kansas City for years, specifically the linebacker position. The Chiefs could certainly target an offensive lineman with this pick but pairing Collins with Willie Gay should be too tempting to pass up. Collins is an incredible playmaker and has seen his stock rise at an astronomical rate over the last few months and could easily be chosen much earlier than this.

Let me know what you think of this draft in the comments or via Twitter!

Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Photo Credit: | Under Creative Commons License

Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Photo Credit: | Under Creative Commons License