2021 NFL Mock Draft: Who each team should take in the first round
A mock draft of who each team should take in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
By Stone Lexington
Updated: April 23, 2021 • 5:00 PM ET
Trevor Lawrence - Wikimedia Commons
The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, and teams are preparing for what should be an exciting event in Cleveland. With the draft order set, below is a look at who each team should draft with their first-round pick.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence - QB - Clemson
This is a no-brainer and seems to already be solidified, so let’s move on…
2. New York Jets - Justin Fields - QB - Ohio State
It wasn’t entirely his fault, but the Jets were putrid during the Sam Darnold era. In Darnold’s three seasons with the team, the Jets went 13-35, but other factors also played to their detriment. Terrible draft picks, a misstep at head coach and a severe lack of talent around him also hampered Darnold from finding success in New York. Nevertheless, Darnold didn’t produce much in his three seasons with the Jets, averaging just 15 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season. His 59.8 completion percentage and at least three missed games per season didn’t help either. And although Darnold may find success in the future after being traded to the Carolina Panthers, it was best that he and the Jets parted ways.
Now, the Jets need to find Darnold’s replacement. Fields is a dual-threat quarterback who seems to have all the tools to find success at the next level. In two seasons as a starter at Ohio State, one severely compromised due to the pandemic, Fields threw 67 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions. He also has supreme running ability (4.44 40-yard dash), something that should help him find success in today’s NFL. Fields also completed 68 percent of his passes in college and should display the leadership skills needed to lead a team at the next level. If he reaches his full potential, Fields could wind up being the best quarterback in this class.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami via Houston) - Zach Wilson - QB - BYU
After trading a haul of picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up to the No. 3 spot in the draft, it’s apparent the 49ers are in the market for a new quarterback. If only Jimmy Garoppolo had completed that throw to Emmanuel Sanders in the 2020 Super Bowl, you wonder if San Francisco would be looking for a new man behind center. Nevertheless, the 49ers have committed to upgrading the position and the only question now is: who should that upgrade be?
With two quarterbacks already off the board in this mock draft, there’s another quarterback who seems to have unlimited potential. With the third pick, the 49ers should select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson may never reach Patrick Mahomes levels, but he seems to have similar traits to the best quarterback in the league. The BYU product has the arm talent to make any throw on the field and enough mobility to get out of danger. Questions surrounding Wilson are the competition he faced in college and the fact that he only produced one stellar year in his three seasons in Provo, Utah. Wilson’s best opponent this past season was Coastal Carolina, and he didn’t produce a supreme performance against the Chanticleers. In that game, which was BYU’s only loss in the season, Wilson completed 19 of 30 passes for 240 yards. He also threw only one touchdown and had an interception in that game, nothing that screams can’t miss. The defenses in the NFL will certainly be better than Coastal Carolina’s, but if Wilson reaches his full potential, he could be a star in the league.
4. Atlanta Falcons - Micah Parsons - LB - Penn St.
First, trading down would be ideal here, but if that doesn’t happen, the Falcons have several needs to fill. Matt Ryan hasn’t been a bad quarterback the past three seasons, actually posting very good stats. The issue is that the Falcons have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, failing to win more than seven games in each campaign. Most of this isn’t Ryan’s fault, as the Falcons have annually had one of the worst defenses and rushing attacks in the league.
Picking No. 4 overall in the draft is a prime position to select a quarterback with so many projected to be taken early. However, the Falcons restructured Ryan’s contract in the offseason with stipulations that would make it difficult to see another quarterback under center any time soon. Per ESPN, the restructuring leaves Ryan with $40.525 million as dead money in 2022 and $15,612,500 in dead money in 2023. It also jumped his cap number for 2022 to $48,662,500 and his 2023 cap hit to $43,612,500. Hence, why not add to a defense devoid of superior talent before adding a quarterback that likely won’t see the field for several seasons?
The Falcons have ranked in the bottom half of the league in total defense every year since 2017. If Micah Parsons is truly the best defensive player in this draft, the Falcons should run to the podium to get him. At his pro day last month, Parsons blew away general managers and scouts when the 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker ran a blistering 4.39 40-yard dash and posted a 34-inch vertical jump. Although he opted out of the 2020 season, Parsons could be the defensive cornerstone Atlanta needs to improve its struggling defense.
5. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Pitts - TE - Florida
Considering the Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, an offensive lineman is something to think about at this spot. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t make it through the season, taking the second-most sacks in the league (32) and the fifth-most quarterback hits (42) over the first 11 weeks of the season. What’s worse is that 10 different players played at least 200 snaps along the Bengals’ offensive line last season, but the offseason addition of Riley Reiff, who only allowed one sack last season, should help.
The Bengals have two solid, young receivers in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, and adding a weapon like Kyle Pitts should be too good to pass up. Pitts looks like he could be in the mold of a Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller, some of the league’s best tight ends. If Pitts reaches that potential with what looks like to be a stud young quarterback, No. 5 to select him isn’t too high. The Bengals, though, should look to bolster their offensive line with later picks.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles) - Ja’Marr Chase - WR - LSU
While the offensive line is still an issue in Miami, they attempted to address the position group before last season when they drafted three lineman in the first four rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Aside protection, the Dolphins’ young quarterback also needs weapons, and it may appear that he has two solid receivers on the outside in DeVante Parker and Will Fuller. However, when you look a little closer, that may not be the case.
In six seasons in Miami, Parker has finished a season with more than 800 receiving yards only once (2019). And after posting his best season in 2019 (1,202 receiving yards, nine touchdowns), Parker regressed back to form with 793 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. Meanwhile, free agency acquisition Fuller spent his first five seasons in Houston with the Texans, none of which he reached 900 yards receiving, mostly due to injury. Fuller hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season since his rookie year in 2016.
Hence, Ja’Marr Chase, who could be the best receiver in the draft, is the obvious choice here. Before opting out of the 2020 season, the former Biletnikoff Award winner had an outstanding 2019 year, catching 84 balls for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns with star receiver Justin Jefferson also producing a big season. If the offensive line improves and the Dolphins draft Chase, they could be in line to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
7. Detroit Lions - Trey Lance - QB - North Dakota State
Lions fans are in desperate need of hope and excitement, something they haven’t had since the team last reached the postseason in 2016. In fact, the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, which is the second-longest postseason victory drought in the league. Insert dynamic North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
Lance is a mystery in this draft, but his potential is undeniable. Not playing last season, Lance only played one full season in college (2019), but what a season it was. In 2019, Lance threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions, while also rushing for 1,100 yards and ultimately leading his team to an FCS national championship. Lance also didn’t play great competition, but he helped the Bison dominate almost every opponent on its 2019 schedule. Lance appears to have the arm and mobility to be successful at the next level, and the Lions shouldn’t pass on a player that could turn out to be a star. The ideal plan would be to let Lance sit behind Jared Goff for a season and unleash him the year following.
8. Carolina Panthers - Penei Sewell - OT - Oregon
After trading for Sam Darnold earlier this month, the Panthers are in a position to take the best player on the board. They’re also in a position to give Sam Darnold something he never had in New York, elite protection. The Panthers were a disaster at left tackle last season, as injuries allowed Russell Okung to play in only five games, and Greg Little didn’t show the progression the team wanted to see in year two. Hence, Penei Sewell would be the perfect fit for the Panthers at No. 8. If Sewell, who by most accounts is the best offensive lineman in the draft, falls to No. 8, the Panthers would be making a massive mistake if they passed on him.
9. Denver Broncos - Rashawn Slater - OT - Northwestern
While the Broncos could be in the market for a new quarterback, the four prospects with the highest potential are already off the board in this mock draft. So, why not add more protection for a young quarterback still attempting to find his way in the league?
Right tackle is a position the Broncos have yet to shore up. The team thought it had filled the position in 2019 when it signed free agent Ja’Wuan James to a massive, four-year, $51 million deal, but that signing hasn’t worked out. James missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury and opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over the pandemic. With left tackle seemingly set with Garrett Bolles in place, the Broncos need to steady the other side of their offensive line. Rashawn Slater played both left and right tackle at Northwestern, and some say he could be the best offensive lineman in the draft. If the Broncos slid him into the right tackle spot, they may see some improvement from Drew Lock, who could be in his final year as a starter in Denver if that improvement doesn’t come.
10. Dallas Cowboys - Gregory Rousseau - DE - Miami
The Cowboys had the second-worst rush defense in the league last year, giving up nearly 160 yards on the ground per game. And while they need a cornerback in the draft, Dallas’ pass defense last season wasn’t as bad as some may think, allowing 227.6 yards per game (11th in the NFL). This draft is also loaded with plenty of good cornerbacks the Cowboys could select with later picks, and stopping the run is essential in the NFL, something Dallas needs to dramatically improve at.
Let’s face it, DeMarcus Lawrence hasn’t lived up to the five-year, $105 million deal ($65 million in guarantees) that the Cowboys gave him in 2019. Lawrence recorded only five sacks in 2019 and 6.5 sacks in 2020, production that isn’t in line with being one of the top paid defenders in the league. Clearly, he also did little to help Dallas from stopping any running back with a pulse last season. Miami defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau could help a Dallas defensive line in desperate need of talent. Before opting out of the 2020 season, Rousseau seemed to be on his way to having a historic college career for the ‘Canes. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he recorded an eye-popping 15.5 sacks (second only to Chase Young) and 19.5 tackles for loss in 13 games. Production like that is nearly impossible to find in the draft. Although he opted out of the 2020 season, the 6-foot-7 Rousseau could be a game wrecker at the next level.
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11. New York Giants - Alijah Vera-Tucker - OL - USC
With Saquon Barkley returning from injury and the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph, the New York Giants should see what Daniel Jones’ true potential can be within their franchise this season. Jones had an up-and-down rookie season, throwing for 3,027 yards with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also fumbled a distressing 18 times in his rookie campaign. Jones, though, seemed to regress in season two, throwing for just under 3,000 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Another 11 fumbles in his second season didn’t help either, but with weapons returning and new ones added to the fold, the Giants may not be able to truly evaluate their third-year quarterback unless he is adequately protected.
The Giants lost their best offensive lineman in the offseason, as Kevin Zeitler became a cap casualty. The team signed guard Zach Fulton, but the seven-year pro didn’t impress at his last stop with the Houston Texans. And despite selecting Andrew Thomas No. 4 overall last season, the Giants are still in need of offensive linemen, particularly at guard and right tackle. Alijah Vera-Tucker may be a good fit for either of those roles. After opting out of the 2020 season, Vera-Tucker opted back in when the Pac-12 announced it would have a fall football season. He went on to start all six of USC’s games and earned first-team all-conference honors. Vera-Tucker seems to be one of the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft, and adding him to the roster could go a long way in helping Jones take the jump Giants fans want to see.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami via San Francisco) - DeVonta Smith - WR - Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles also have a young quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who the team needs to evaluate this upcoming season. However, the receiving group of Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, John Hightower and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside isn’t overly inspiring. Last year’s first-round pick, Reagor, had a subpar rookie season to say the least. The former TCU wide receiver played in just 11 games and caught 31 balls for 396 yards and one touchdown, far below the production you want to see from a receiver selected in round one. What makes Reagor’s season look even worse is the fact that rookie Pro Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who set an NFL rookie record for receiving yards with 1,400, went one pick after Reagor to the Minnesota Vikings. Passing on Jefferson looks like one of the worst mistakes in draft history, and the Eagles still need to address the wide receiver position in this year’s draft.
The talent of Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith may be too much to pass up here. Often compared to Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, Smith became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991 last season. In his senior season with the Tide, Smith caught a staggering 117 balls for 1,856 yards and a stupefying 23 touchdowns. If Smith can come anywhere near the level Harrison did in his NFL career, the Eagles would be ecstatic with selecting him in the upcoming draft.
13. Los Angeles Chargers - Christian Darrisaw - OL - Virginia Tech
The Chargers’ signing of center Corey Linsley in the offseason was big for the team, as he should help in protecting young stud quarterback Justin Herbert. Los Angeles also signed guards Oday Aboushi and Matt Feller in the offseason, while bringing back Brian Bulaga, who is best suited at right tackle. The Chargers, however, still need to fill the most important position on their offensive line, a left tackle who can protect Herbert’s blind side. At 6-foot-5 and roughly 320 pounds, Darrisaw could slide right into the Chargers’ most pressing need. In his junior season at Virginia Tech, Darrisaw earned second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-ACC honors, highlighting his talent and potential to be a stalwart at the next level.
14. Minnesota Vikings - Jaelan Phillips - DE - Miami
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season and were in the bottom five of the league in sacks per game, registering just 23 sacks as a team and averaging less than two sacks per game. Phillips recorded eight sacks in 10 games last season with the Hurricanes and posted an impressive 15.5 tackles for loss. He also hauled in an interception for good measure. The Vikings are in desperate need of players that can get after the passer, and Phillips should be able to help in that endeavor.
15. New England Patriots - Mac Jones - QB - Alabama
There is plenty of mixed analysis regarding Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, as some see him as a top talent in the draft, while others don’t see him as worthy of a high selection. Albeit with only one outstanding season in college, Jones’ final season with the Crimson Tide was impressive. The junior quarterback threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions, but his detractors point to his lack of elite mobility and only one season as a starter. The Patriots won a surplus of Super Bowls with a quarterback who wasn’t particularly mobile, so Jones could be a good fit in New England. Whether he ever reaches a level that even comes close to Tom Brady remains to be seen, but Jones undoubtedly has some potential.
16. Arizona Cardinals - Caleb Farley - CB - Virginia Tech
The Cardinals would be giddy if when their pick rolled around, every cornerback was still on the board for them to choose from. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that Farley won’t suffer any setbacks from the surgery he underwent in late March to clean up discs in his back, but if he doesn’t, he could turn out to be the best cornerback in the draft. The Cardinals lost Patrick Peterson in free agency, while cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph, Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Peterson still remain free agents. At 6-foot-2, Farley is a big corner who seems to have all the skills needed to cover top receivers in the NFL. As a sophomore in 10 games with the Hokies in 2019, Farley intercepted four passes and defended 12, showing exceptional ball skills. He opted out of the 2020 season, citing COVID-19 concerns, and health concerns may cause him to fall in the draft. Farley, though, could be the player the Cardinals need to bolster a suspect secondary.
17. Las Vegas Raiders - Jaylen Waddle - WR - Alabama
With so many needs on the team, this may be a spot for the Raiders to simply take the best player available. If Waddle is still available here, the Raiders would be selecting an Alabama wide receiver in the first round for the second year in a row. It also may give the Raiders the fastest duo of receivers (possibly Kansas City with Hill and Hardman) on the outside. The Raiders selected Henry Ruggs with the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft, and adding another speedy receiver to the offense may not be a bad idea. Waddle only played in six games last season due to an ankle injury, but his speed and playmaking skills are undeniable. If the Raiders truly believe Derek Carr is firmly entrenched as their quarterback for the foreseeable future, they should surround him with as many weapons as possible and look for offensive line help with their remaining picks.
18. Miami Dolphins - Najee Harris - RB - Alabama
The Dolphins already helped their young quarterback by getting him a weapon with their first pick in this mock draft, so why not add another? Myles Gaskin certainly contributed in the rushing and passing games last season, but he doesn’t appear to be a No. 1 feature back, which is a role Najee Harris can handle. Harris looks like the clear-cut best running back in this draft, regularly dominating college defenses. Harris rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of his final two seasons at Alabama (1,466 in his senior season) with 39 rushing touchdowns (26 as a senior). He also showed that he’s a capable receiver out of the backfield with 43 catches and 425 receiving yards in his final year with the Tide. If Harris reaches his full potential, he could quickly become one of the best running backs in the league.
19. Washington Football Team - Zaven Collins - LB - Tulsa
The Washington Football Team needs to find a young quarterback to groom, but this may be too high to select one of the remaining throwers on the board. The Team also has a pressing need at linebacker, as Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic are solid players in need of more help in their position room. Zaven Collins would be an ideal player to add to a stout defense that only seems to be improving. With a spectacular junior season at Tulsa, Collins won the Bronco Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards as the nation’s best defensive player, not to mention earning first-team Associated Press All-American and AAC Defensive Player of the Year accolades. In his final season with the Golden Hurricane, Collins recorded 54 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions, displaying his versatility from sideline to sideline. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound prospect should only improve an already fearsome Football Team defense.
20. Chicago Bears - Jaycee Horn - CB - South Carolina
The Bears should also be in the market for a quarterback, but No. 20 overall seems a bit high for those remaining on the board. Chicago also released standout cornerback Kyle Fuller in the offseason, leaving a major void in their secondary. There are several good cornerbacks left on the board in this mock draft, but Jaycee Horn could be the best fit in Chicago. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Horn is a big cornerback who contributed immediately as a true freshman with the Gamecocks. He has no issue getting physical on the field, recording more than 40 tackles in each of his first two seasons with South Carolina. In his final year in college, he recorded 16 tackles and two interceptions in seven games. Despite opting out after those seven games when the Gamecocks fired head coach Will Muschamp, SEC coaches voted him second-team all-conference.
21. Indianapolis Colts - Teven Jenkins - OL - Oklahoma State
The Indianapolis Colts lost a major piece of their solid offensive line when left tackle Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement in the offseason. To fill that void, a player like Teven Jenkins could slide right in. Voted by Big 12 coaches first-team all-conference in 2020, Jenkins is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-6 and 317 pounds. Although he spent most of his time at right tackle in college, he has experience at left tackle and seems to have the size needed to play the position.
22. Tennessee Titans - Patrick Surtain II - CB - Alabama
Tennessee had a bottom-five passing and total defense last season and need help on that side of the ball. It may be unlikely that Patrick Surtain is on the board at this point, but for the purposes of this mock draft, he has fallen to this spot. The Titans cut cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson in the offseason and signed Janoris Jenkins, but Jenkins is 32 years old and the team needs youthful depth. Surtain is touted as one of the best cornerback prospects in this draft and has a good pedigree with a father who previously played 11 seasons in the NFL. Standing 6-foot-2, Surtain recored 37 tackles at Alabama last season, but only totaled four interceptions in three seasons with the Tide. That may be because teams didn’t throw his way much, but Surtain still has the potential to be a top cornerback in the league.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) - Jalen Mayfield - OL - Michigan
Almost assuredly taking a quarterback with their first pick in the draft, the Jets need help along the offensive line to protect whoever that quarterback is. Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis underwhelmed at guard last season, and the Jets still need to solidify the right tackle position. New York seems to have found their left tackle of the future with the drafting of Mekhi Becton last season, and they could do the same for the right side with the selection of Jalen Mayfield. The 6-foot-5, 326-pound Mayfield was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection at right tackle for the Wolverines in 2019 and played well in two starts before a high ankle sprain cut his junior season short.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Javonte Williams - RB - North Carolina
No team in the league is in more need of a running back than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers haven’t had a running back rush for 1,000 yards since Le’Veon Bell accomplished the feat in 2016, and the team parted ways with starting running back James Conner in the offseason. North Carolina running back Javonte Williams could be the immediate starter in Pittsburgh after producing an outstanding junior season in which he rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns with the Tar Heels. His 7.3 yards per carry average last season also shows his explosiveness, while 25 catches for 305 yards (12.2 yards per catch average) in his final season doesn’t hurt either.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) - Christian Barmore - DT - Alabama
After selecting their quarterback of the future with the No. 1 overall pick and filling several holes on their roster in free agency, the Jaguars could be in an enviable position of being able to select a player without many pressing needs. And while Jacksonville has depth at defensive tackle, Christian Barmore’s talent may be too much to pass up. Barmore is a mammoth defensive tackle (6-foot-4, 310 pounds), who seems to have the agility needed to get after the passer. In his final season at Alabama, Barmore recorded eight sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, often shown his ability to disrupt opposing backfields. Despite the Jaguars’ depth at the defensive tackle spot, Barmore could be a starter when Jacksonville’s first game rolls around next season.
26. Cleveland Browns - Kelvin Joseph - CB - Kentucky
While the Cleveland Browns added Troy Hill to their cornerbacks corps in the offseason, the position is still a question mark. Star cornerback Denzel Ward has never played more than 13 games in a season, while 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams didn’t play a single snap last season due to injury. Cleveland also lost Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson in the offseason, leaving a significant lack of depth at the position.
In Kentucky’s secondary last season, Joseph had the second-most interceptions in the SEC (four in nine games) and showed why he had offers out of high school from powerhouses like Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame. He ultimately chose LSU and transferred after one season to Kentucky. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Joseph has the size to compete with NFL receivers, while also seeming to have the ball skills to make plays on the next level.
27. Baltimore Ravens - Terrace Marshall Jr. - WR - LSU
The Baltimore Ravens receiving corps is nothing to write home about. And if the Ravens are unable to find more weapons on the outside for dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson, they may never unlock his full potential. Free agency acquisition Sammy Watkins has only reached 1,000 receiving yards in his career once (2015) and hasn’t reached that plateau in any of the last five seasons, often finding himself on the injury report. First-round pick in 2019 Marquise Brown showed some improvement from year one to year two, but he doesn’t appear to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the league, and no other receiver on the Ravens roster has more than 300 yards receiving in a single season. Baltimore is desperate for receiving help, and Terrace Marshall Jr. could be a good addition to a subpar receiving group.
Part of a ridiculous receiving corps in 2019 that included Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, Marshall still caught 13 touchdowns and hauled in 671 receiving yards on 46 catches. Despite Joe Burrow leaving before the 2020 season and a rotation of players at quarterback, Marshall only upped his yards per catch average in 2020, catching 48 balls for 731 yards in seven games with 10 touchdowns. If the Ravens draft him, Jackson could finally have the No. 1 receiver Baltimore desperately needs.
28. New Orleans Saints - Elijah Moore - WR - Ole Miss
The Saints’ leading receiver last season was running back Alvin Kamara, something that can’t be overly joyous for the team. In a normal season, Michael Thomas would have likely led the team in receiving, but he only played in seven games due to an ankle injury. Second-leading receiver Emmanuel Sanders left the team in the offseason, and the Saints need to find more receiving help around Thomas. There was hope that Tre’Quan Smith could be the guy to complement Thomas, but he has yet to reach 500 receiving yards in a season during his first three years in the league. Meanwhile, Elijah Moore only improved every season he was on the field at Ole Miss. Moore went from 36 catches for 398 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2018 (11 games) to 67 catches for 850 yards and six touchdowns in 2019 (12 games). And despite only playing in eight games in 2020, Moore was fantastic, catching a school-record 86 balls for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns. With Jameis Winston likely at the helm next season, stepping in for the retired Drew Brees, it wouldn’t hurt to add a weapon like Moore to see if Winston can be their quarterback of the future. However, if the Saints decide to start Taysom Hill, receiver may not be the way to go with their first pick.
29. Green Bay Packers - Elijah Molden - CB - Washington
While there may be issues with not taking a wide receiver at this spot, the Packers have other needs, namely at cornerback. Superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers has always seemed to find success with the receivers he’s had on the field, even winning his third NFL MVP last season. And aside Jaire Alexander, the Packers are fairly thin at cornerback, as none of the other players at the position overly impressed last season. Not to mention, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan and Josh Jackson will all have expiring contracts after 2021.
Molden was a turnover-forcing machine in 2019, intercepting four passes and forcing three fumbles. Those stats looked even better next to the 79 total tackles he produced, which led the team on his way to earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. In a shortened four-game season in 2020, Molden intercepted one pass but totaled a very impressive 26 tackles and earned first-team all-conference honors for the second straight season. Although he’s not as big as some of the other cornerbacks in this draft at roughly 5-foot-9, he makes plays on the field and could be a good fit in Green Bay.
30. Buffalo Bills - Paulson Adebo - CB - Stanford
Running back could be an option here, but the Bills could have their guy already in the fold in Zack Moss if they give him more carries next season. In his rookie year last season, Moss only carried the ball 112 times, but he averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which isn’t bad for a rookie. If he gets more carries and shows improvement next season, Moss could be the guy to spearhead the Bills backfield. Another need for the Bills is cornerback, which should be the position they target with their first pick in the draft.
Buffalo needs a starting-caliber cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White, and Paulson Adebo could be the player to fill that position. After redshirting his first year at Stanford, Adebo started 12 of 13 games as a redshirt freshman and immediately made an impact, tying the FBS lead with 24 passes defended. He also recorded four interceptions and forced a fumble that season, eventually earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He intercepted four more passes in 2019 on his way to a second-straight All-Pac-12 selection, despite missing three games with an injury. And despite opting out of the 2020 season, the 6-foot-1 Adebo could immediately compete for a starting job in the NFL.
31. Baltimore Ravens (From Kansas City Chiefs)- Alex Leatherwood - OL - Alabama
After trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs roughly a week before the draft to acquire the 31st overall pick, the Ravens need to solidify their right tackle spot. And although they’ve been linked to signing former Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva after the draft, nothing is a sure thing. Leatherwood played multiple positions on the offensive line while at Alabama, and he could presumably fit in at right tackle for the Ravens. Even if Baltimore signs Villanueva, it’s unclear what the length of the contract would be and how much longer the 32-year-old intends to play. Meanwhile, Leatherwood earned first-team All-SEC honors his junior and senior years at Alabama, helping the Tide win a national championship in January. That, however, wasn’t where the awards ended for Leatherwood. In his final year at Alabama, Leatherwood also won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best interior lineman, while also earning first-team Associated Press All-American honors.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kyle Trask - QB - Florida
Returning every starter on offense and defense, the defending Super Bowl champions don’t have many pressing needs. And while Tom Brady isn’t showing any signs of retiring any time soon, the 43-year-old can’t play forever (I think). If there’s any quarterback in the league you would want a young prospect to sit behind and learn from, that quarterback would be Brady. And, it may not be a bad idea to draft a quarterback at the end of the first round to ensure that the team would have a fifth-year option on the player. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask could be that player.
Trask showed plenty of improvement in this final two seasons at Florida, upping his passer efficiency rating from 140.5 in a limited sophomore season to 156.1 his junior year and 180 his senior year. After throwing for 2,941 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his junior year (respectable), Trask exploded in his senior season, throwing for 4,283 yards and leading the FBS with 43 touchdown passes (school record for touchdowns). The 6-foot-5 passer could be the perfect succession plan for whenever Brady decides to hang up his cleats.