If you can believe it, we are only 2.5 weeks away from the 2021 NFL draft, which starts at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 29. As we get closer, more information is being revealed on where certain guys are projected to go.
Like I always say, draft season is lying season, so you have to be good at sifting through the noise to find what’s real. And the worst part is that it’s only going to get worse as we inch closer, so we have to prepare ourselves.
Since my last mock, a lot has happened. The San Francisco 49ers traded up to No. 3, while the Dolphins moved down — and then back up — landing at No. 6 overall. The belief is that Kyle Shanahan wants a quarterback, but which one will it be?
Find out below.
Note: This is the first of a two-part mock draft. Picks 17-32 will be posted on Tuesday.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Previous Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Another mock, another projection that Lawrence goes No. 1 overall. Is there a single mock draft out there that doesn’t have him going first? If so, send it to me. My Twitter DMs (@ClintRLamb) are open, and I’m curious if there’s anyone out there I should avoid. I doubt it.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Previous Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This pick brings a little less certainty than No. 1, but it should still be Wilson. That was all but confirmed once the front office traded Sam Darnold away to the Carolina Panthers. Time to hit the reset button and try again.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Previous Pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The 49ers traded up from No. 12, so you know they’re going to take a quarterback here. Don’t fall for anyone pushing Kyle Pitts. The odds-on favorite is Mac Jones, but I’m not buying it. I like Lance here more than I do Jones or Justin Fields. Good decision-maker, great arm.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Previous Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Fine, I’ll get off Atlanta taking a quarterback — at least for now. Pair Pitts with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and Matt Ryan instantly has one of the top passing weapon trios in the league. At 32 years old, Jones might have only 2 or 3 good years of football left, so Pitts also provides long-term relief.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Previous Pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
I’m not happy about this pick. I continue to stand by the idea that giving Joe Burrow more protection remains the top need. But this mock isn’t about what I want to happen, it’s about what I think will happen. Reuniting Chase with Burrow is growing in popularity, and I’m starting to buy it.
6. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Previous Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This could be Waddle or DeVonta Smith. I tend to go with Waddle, but they’re interchangeable at this point. Trading down and still getting Tua Tagovailoa another top-notch, familiar offensive weapon is huge. This franchise is setting up to have a Browns type of turnaround.
7. Detroit Lions – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Previous Pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Even though Chase and Waddle are off the board, it’s still possible that Detroit takes a receiver such as DeVonta Smith. I’m still not entirely sold that Jared Goff is the answer at quarterback though, and Fields is still a solid value. From Ohio to Michigan.
8. Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Previous Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Wait, Penei Sewell isn’t the first offensive tackle off the board? Nope, instead it’s Rashawn Slater. After trading for Darnold, the Panthers need to give their new quarterback more protection. Slater is capable of being an immediate starter at left tackle, even as a rookie.
*TRADE: Patriots make a deal with Broncos to move up.
9. New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama**
Previous Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
In my last mock, I had the Patriots trading up to No. 11 with the Giants to get Jones. This time around, I have them going up even further to ensure they get their guy. Philly could try to make another move once Jones begins to fall, but the trade partner won’t be a division rival. That means Denver at No. 9 might be the only option, forcing the Pats to go there instead of No. 11.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Previous Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Over the two years, Dallas has lost Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. That makes cornerback a pressing need, and Surtain would fit in extremely well opposite his former teammate, Trevon Diggs. This pick has to address one of the many issues on defense.
11. New York Giants – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Previous Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
After Dallas flirts with taking Paye at No. 10, Gettleman quickly pulls the trigger to address the exterior pass rush. Ryan Anderson was an underrated addition, but he isn’t known for getting after the quarterback. Sack production wasn’t there at Michigan, but Paye is an edge prospect with a lot of tools.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Previous Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Smith was once asked whether he preferred Tua Tagovailoa or Mac Jones. Well, he will end up with a former Alabama QB, just not one of those two guys. Instead, he’ll reunite with Jalen Hurts, who desperately needs more weapons in Philadelphia. There’s plus-value on Smith with this pick.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Previous Pick: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Somehow, some way, Sewell falls to the Chargers at No. 13 overall. That means the Oregon tackle will remain on the West Coast and reunite with his former quarterback Justin Herbert. With Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and now Sewell, this offensive line is ready to help the offense get to the next level.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Previous Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This selection doesn’t need fixing, but Minnesota’s offensive line is another story. There is no need to change it now, even with Christian Darrisaw still on the board. Vera-Tucker is a better fit schematically, and his position flexibility will be valuable. He’ll start out at left tackle.
15. Denver Broncos – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech**
Previous Pick: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
This is a huge win for the Broncos. After missing out on Slater, they move back six spots while 1) accumulating more draft capital and 2) still getting a highly-regarded tackle prospect. Darrisaw starts at right tackle opposite Garrett Boles, allowing the team to move on from FA bust Ja’Wuan James.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Previous Pick: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
There is so much buzz around Horn right now that I’m not entirely convinced he’ll be there at No. 16. Personally, I don’t think he should be taken in the top half of the first, but it’s certainly trending in that direction. Signing a 31-year-old Malcolm Butler won’t prevent Arizona from taking Horn.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.