The first night of the 2021 NFL Draft is almost upon us. On Thursday evening, the NFL will take over downtown Cleveland, Ohio for the annual selection meeting, which will run through Saturday.
But as the draft approaches, so too does the end of mock drafts for this year. Of course, the last few days feature a flurry of mocks as a sort of countdown to the draft’s official start, and today is our last contribution to that countdown.
As Acme Packing Company’s final entry into the mock draft universe for 2021, we now present to you our 2021 Writers’ Mock Draft. As has been the case in past years, we assigned each NFL team’s picks to one of several APC contributors (nine in total this year) to make the selections. We worked our way through the first two rounds, encompassing 64 picks, and were able to factor in the weekend trade involving the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs into the mix.
Here are the team assignments for our various writers:
- Jon Barnett: Titans, Rams, Dolphins
- Peter Bukowski: Vikings, Colts, Seahawks, Jets
- Kris Burke: Panthers, Ravens, Washington, Chiefs
- Lindsay Hansen: Bears, Steelers, Giants
- Paul Noonan: Buccaneers, Bengals, 49ers, Patriots
- Rcon14: Packers, Jaguars, Chargers
- Jordan Smith: Lions, Texans, Cowboys, Raiders
- Mike Vieth: Saints, Eagles, Broncos
- Shawn Wagner: Falcons, Browns, Cardinals, Bills
Finally, managing editor Tex Western will weigh in with some thoughts, context, and opinions on each of the first-round picks. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
1. Jaguars (Rcon14): Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There’s not much to say here. This pick is locked and loaded.
2. Jets (Peter): Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Same with the Jets — it would be a stunning surprise if they take anyone other than Wilson at #2.
3. 49ers (Paul): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The third pick is where things get interesting, depending on which quarterback the 49ers have moved up for. (I don’t believe for a moment that they still have yet to make their final decision.) Paul is betting on Fields, but recent rumblings are suggesting Trey Lance could be the pick. Fields is probably a bit more pro-ready, but both players have exciting ceilings, particularly in a Shanahan offense.
4. Falcons (Shawn): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
If the 49ers indeed take Fields, Lance would be a great fit to sit behind Matt Ryan for a year or two before taking over the reins to the Falcons’ offense. With news that Atlanta is apparently now shopping Julio Jones, this looks like a full-blown rebuild, and a new quarterback would be the right place to start.
5. Bengals (Paul): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
A bad offensive line helped get Joe Burrow’s knee shredded last year. To avoid him becoming David Carr 2.0, Cincinnati needs to rebuild up front. But will Sewell move to right tackle or would the Bengals slide over Jonah WIlliams, their first-round pick in 2019, from the left to the right side?
6. Dolphins (Jon): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
With dynamic offensive weapons to choose from at both tight end and wideout, Jon went with the tight end, keeping Pitts in the Sunshine State. I would have gone for Chase, simply because I think an elite receiver is more important than an elite tight end, but it’s splitting hairs. If Pitts ends up being a Travis Kelce or a George Kittle, it’s worth it.
7. Lions (Jordan): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
After the top 5, the Lions have to be excited to know that they’d get either Pitts or Chase. And now they don’t have to spend time figuring out how to get two tight ends on the field a lot. This is probably a best-case scenario for Detroit.
8. Panthers (Kris): Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
If the Panthers think they can make Sam Darnold into a viable NFL starter, protecting him is the way to go. Greg Little, a 2nd-rounder in 2019, hasn’t taken hold of the left tackle job, something Slater could do right away.
9. Broncos (Mike): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Vic Fangio had Patrick Willis in San Francisco, and Parsons has similar physical tools. This could be a great fit if Parsons’ past history at Penn State doesn’t affect his stock much.
10. Cowboys (Jordan): Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys were in the bottom-third in pass defense last season, and they really don’t appear to have a viable second boundary CB. This pairs Surtain with his old Crimson Tide teammate, Trevon Diggs, whom the Cowboys picked in round two last April.
11. Giants (Lindsay): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Giants have put together a solid 3-man line, but need help on the edge outside Blake Martinez. Paye gives them an athletic project to develop behind veteran additions Ryan Anderson and Ifeadi Odenigbo.
12. Eagles (Mike): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Eagles have their pick of Alabama receivers at 12, but Waddle’s pure speed wins the day. He’ll remind Eagles fans of DeSean Jackson on deep balls and he did spend one season catching passes from Jalen Hurts in Tuscaloosa.
13. Chargers (Rcon): Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
A left tackle to the Chargers just makes sense. They solidified the right tackle and center spots with former Packers over the past two years, but there are still questions on the left side after 2020 starting LT Sam Tevi left for Indianapolis. Darrisaw would probably start on day one, making this a great fit.
14. Vikings (Peter): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Like the Chargers, the Vikings have been trying to build an offensive line for some time. By grabbing Vera-Tucker, they would likely lock down a guard spot, which would be freed up if they move Brian O’Neill from right tackle to the left side and kick last year’s second-rounder, Ezra Cleveland, out from guard to RT.
15. Patriots (Paul): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
This just feels like a Patriots pick, doesn’t it? Smith falls a bit due to weight and durability concerns, but Bill Belichick is right there to scoop him up and turn him into an All-Pro. New England will still need to figure out the quarterback position, though, and Mac Jones is still on the board.
16. Cardinals (Shawn): Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Out goes Patrick Peterson, in comes Horn, another big, feisty cornerback who should lock down the boundary opposite new arrival Malcolm Butler.
17. Raiders (Jordan): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Packers’ hopes for a Farley drop are dashed by the Raiders, who stop his slide at 17. This would make three straight years that the Raiders used a first-round pick on a DB and six picks in the secondary in the first four rounds since 2019
18. Dolphins (Jon): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
After grabbing an offensive playmaker early, the Dolphins get a versatile off-ball coverage player later on. JOW can immediately play as a sub-package linebacker, covering running backs and tight ends as he bulks up a bit to take on the rigors of an every-down role alongside Benardrick McKinney and Jerome Baker.
19. Washington (Kris): Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Like JOW, Davis has excellent speed but is on the lighter side. Washington has spent plenty of resources in building up their front line, with back-to-back edge rushers in 2019 and 2020 (Montez Sweat and Chase Young) following back-to-back Alabama interior linemen in 2017/18 (Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne). It makes sense that they would now start looking back at the next level of the defense, and they’re not afraid to reach a bit for a player they really like.
20. Bears (Lindsay): Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
This match has seemingly grown recently, and Bateman would likely provide a great balance to Allen Robinson. The question remains: who’s throwing them the football? If Mac Jones were still available at 20 like he is here, I’d bet the Bears would very seriously consider grabbing him since we know neither Andy Dalton nor Nick Foles will be the long-term answer.
21. Colts (Peter): Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
Who is rushing off the edge in Indianapolis? With no Justin Houston back, I honestly can’t name another edge rusher. Hopefully Phillips’ concussion issues are cleared up; if so, he’d be an exciting sub package rusher to start as he develops.
22. Titans (Jon): Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
As much as I feel that the Packers would be a great fit for Newsome, it does feel like he’ll go off the board somewhere in this range. Tennessee signed the aging Janoris Jenkins this offseason but saw Adoree Jackson leave in free agency, so cornerback is a major need. Like a few other teams, they have invested heavily in early picks for their front seven in recent years, so it’s probably time to take another big swing on a corner.
23. Jets (Peter): Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The Jets landed Carl Lawson in free agency to rush off one edge, but they don’t really have another player to pair him with. Corner is also a major need here, but I’m with Peter here on Ojulari being a better value than the fifth corner off the board, whoever that would be.
24. Steelers (Lindsay): Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers seem desperate to cling to the notion of an old-school running game, and have been mentioned repeatedly in connection with Harris. I’m still firmly in the “don’t draft running backs early” camp, but at least Harris is capable of playing on all three downs from day one. I wouldn’t be crazy about the pick if I were a Steelers fan, but I won’t be at all surprised if it happens.
25. Jaguars (Rcon): Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The Jaguars got their QB at #1 and now turn to the defense. Moehrig would make a great safety/slot defender, which they could use; CJ Henderson and Shaquill Griffen seem like a solid boundary tandem and Rayshawn Jenkins is a nice addition at free safety, but the rest of that secondary is suspect. Moehrig can play with Jenkins if the Jags use a lot of two-high safety coverages or move into the slot in other situations.
26. Browns (Shawn): Christian Barmore, DL, ALabama
After releasing veteran Sheldon Richardson, the Browns’ roster looks pretty barren at defensive tackle. Enter Barmore, the consensus top interior defensive lineman in a poor class at that position. This is a solid fit for the Browns, who have spent plenty of draft resources in the secondary in recent years.
27. Ravens (Kris): Terrace Marshall, Jr., WR, LSU
Baltimore has two late firsts this year after sending left tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City. With the first, Marshall makes sense as a bigger receiver to play opposite Hollywood Brown. As long as his medicals come up clean, Marshall would be a great fit for this offense.
28. Saints (Mike): Asante Samuel, Jr., CB, Florida State
This certainly could be the pick if the Saints think that Samuel can hold up as a boundary corner. After all, they have a hole at one corner spot while employing a really good slot defender in C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Samuel’s competitiveness and fire will surely fit in just fine in New Orleans.
29. Packers (Rcon): Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Finally we get to the Packers’ pick, and if they go wideout, there are some intriguing options. Kadarius Toney from Florida is still available and he fits the Packers’ size preferences a bit better, standing just shy of 6 feet compared to Moore’s 5-foot-9-1/2. Both are incredibly shifty and could be great gadget receivers, but Moore actually has a better body of work as a downfield weapon despite his smaller size. At the very least, this pick would give the Packers’ offense a dimension it hasn’t had before in Matt LaFleur’s tenure.
30. Bills (Shawn): Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Buffalo probably needs corner help, but with five off the board, they look to the edge instead. Oweh is an incredible athlete who’s incredibly raw — he has 7 career sacks, but didn’t have even one in seven games in 2020. This is absolutely a projection pick for the Bills, but they should have a year or two until he needs to be a major contributor.
31. Ravens (Kris): Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Trade away Orlando Brown and acquire one of the best run-blocking tackles in the draft class. This pick is just perfect to me; Baltimore doesn’t need a left tackle with Ronnie Stanley coming back from injury (a major factor in the Brown trade), so Jenkins can step in quickly on day one and do what he does best: work forward as a run-blocker.
32. Buccaneers (Paul): Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
Much has been made of the Buccaneers bringing back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl, so one could really go in any direction here. Landing a versatile offensive lineman who could play practically any position is a valuable depth piece for a team with a solid roster top to bottom.
33. Jaguars (Rcon): Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
34. Jets (Peter): Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
35. Falcons (Shawn): Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
36. Dolphins (Jon): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
36. Eagles (Mike): Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
38. Bengals (Paul): Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
39. Panthers (Kris): Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
40. Broncos (Mike): Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
41. Lions (Jordan): Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
42. Giants (Lindsay): Jalen Mayfield, OL, Michigan
43. 49ers (Paul): Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
44. Cowboys (Jordan): Carlos Basham, Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest
45. Jaguars (Rcon): Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
46. Patriots (Paul): Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
47. Chargers (Rcon): Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
48. Raiders (Jordan): Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
49. Cardinals (Shawn): Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
50. Dolphins (Jon): Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
51. Washington (Kris): Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
52. Bears (Lindsay): Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
53. Titans (Jon): Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
54. Colts (Peter): Dillon Radunz, OT, NDSU
55. Steelers (Lindsay): Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
56. Seahawks (Peter): Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
57. Rams (Jon): Javon Holland, S, Oregon
58. Chiefs (Kris): Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
59. Browns (Shawn): Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
60. Saints (Mike): Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
61. Bills (Shawn): Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
62. Packers (Rcon): Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Don’t be surprised if Adebo is indeed a Packer after Friday night. He seems to check every single box that the Packers look for in their defensive backs — he’s big (6-foot-1), fast (4.44), has exceptional agility times (under 6.7 3-cone), and has shown tremendous ball skills (8 INTs and more than 25 PBUs in just 22 games). I’m sure it was a tough call for Rcon to make Adebo the pick over Ifeatu Melifonwu, but given the premium that the Packers tend to put on agility timing, I understand it.
Either way, the Packers get a dynamic WR and a big, athletic cornerback with their top two picks. We see that as a win.