It’s that time of year once again. Everybody wants to know which new recruits will be going to their favourite NFL team and speculation continues to be rife with every pundit, analyst and their mothers writing a mock draft. So, why should I be any different? Behold The Jez Show’s official round one mock and tune in to the Two Minute Warning podcast on Sunday April 25th for the live, debated mock.
Pick #1 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I’m fairly certain this first pick of the draft looks the same as every other mock draft out there. Trevor Lawrence has been the #1 overall pick in the 2021 draft ever since he was recruited to Clemson in 2018. Whomever received the top pick in this draft would have been picking Lawrence, regardless of whether they actually needed a quarterback or not. The Clemson Tiger is touted as a generational talent in the same vein as Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck; although, the Jaguars are hoping that “Tanking for Trevor” works out better for them than “Sucking for Luck” did the Indianapolis Colts.
If you don’t know what’s so special about this kid by now, where have you been? Lawrence has the prototypical size, arm strength and instincts of an NFL quarterback and backs that up with golden flowing locks. Watch your back, Pat Mahomes, Trev is coming for that Head and Shoulders contract. Despite being 6ft 6ins and 220lbs, Lawrence is quick on his feet, able to evade pass rushers and even pick up yards with his feet when the situation requires it. Lawrence has a cannon and can complete all of the passes, short and deep. The only real knock on Lawrence is that sometimes his cannon can overload on the gunpowder and passes sail clear over the heads of receivers. This is something that can be addressed in training camp, in whatever form that takes, and shouldn’t give the Jaguars pause in lighting the fuse, to continue the metaphor.
In Lawrence, the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting a franchise changing talent that they can get behind. The only question now is what creative method will they find to squander that opportunity.
Pick #2 – New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
There is a certain inevitability to the second overall pick as well. This isn’t as historical as it was with Lawrence but with what has been an astounding 2020 campaign for the BYU Cougars, Wilson has raised his draft stock exponentially. Wilson is a leader on the field and in a lot of ways is a better fit for a rebuilding New York Jets team than Trevor Lawrence would have been. Zach Wilson has the kind of presence needed to stand up to the New York media, rabid Jets fanbase and pressure of joining a perennially losing team. Many have compared Wilson to 2020 draft standout, Joe Burrow, who himself went from a maybe-top-guy to the main event with stellar final college years. Wilson possesses many of the same skills as Burrow, despite playing a different style, such as patience, poise and the natural ability to concede a sack or throw the ball away rather than try and force the ball where it doesn’t belong. His deep balls can float a little but this is something you can develop over time with appropriate coaching. Media outlets that are broadcasting the draft may try and convince you that Wilson isn’t a lock for #2 but this noise should be looked upon with the scepticism it deserves, as nothing more than an attempt to artificially create drama and intrigue to a top two that is more than certain.
Pick #3 – San Francisco 49ers
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
To be absolutely clear, I do not believe Mac Jones – full name Michael McCorkle Jones – to be the third best quarterback in the 2021 draft class but I do believe that Jones is the guy that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have fallen in love with. Jones benefitted greatly from an all-star ensemble around him at Alabama and didn’t need to work quite as hard to succeed as a Trey Lance or Justin Fields. At his pro day, Jones spent more time scratching his testicles than he did completing passes. Jones looked tired and somewhat out of shape, once again relying on Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle to bail him out. All this aside, there are some positives in drafting McCorkle. Mac Jones possesses a excellent leadership skills and is arguably the best fit for the Shanahan style of offense. He is a towering presence in the pocket and goes through his progressions well, getting rid of the ball if the play isn’t there. All Mac Jones really has to be for the 49ers is more aggressive than Jimmy Garoppolo. So, maybe this will work out for them after all…
Pick #4 – Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
There has been a lot of suggestion that the reeling, rebuilding Atlanta Falcons should draft the successor to their aging “Iceman”, Matt Ryan, or trade down for more picks to bolster their ailing defense. However, the rush on quarterbacks at the top of the draft presents the Falcons the opportunity to select a generational talent of their own and I don’t think that this is an opportunity that the dirty birds should whiff on. Kyle Pitts is a tight end but he’s not any kind of tight end we’re used to watching in the NFL, or even in college for that matter. Analysts have compared Pitts’ ability to that of soon-to-be Hall of Fame Wide Receiver, Calvin Johnson. The fact that the comparison made is to a receiver, not a tight end, should be telling you much of what you need to know about the standout Florida Gator.
At 6ft 5 and 245lbs, Pitts is a handful for whoever is defending him. This in itself presents a quandary for opposing defenses; a tight end would ordinarily be covered by a linebacker but that simply isn’t effective against a guy like Pitts. You could bring up a safety to cover him but then you’d open yourself up to damage over the top from the Falcons’ traditional wide receivers. Pitts almost demands coverage by your best cornerback, which presents it’s own raft of problems.
In short, Kyle Pitts is a troublemaker is the best sense of the word. The smart play in Atlanta is making Pitts the highest drafted Tight End in the NFL since Mike Ditka in 1961 and we all know what happened to that guy.
Pick #5 – Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Last year, the Bengals got their guy in first overall pick, Joe Burrow. Burrow underwent a baptism by fire in Cincinnati and ultimately went down with an injury in week 11. This cannot be allowed to happen again and Bengals would be served well to use their fifth overall pick on some protection for Burrow in Oregon’s Penei Sewell. Sewell is an experienced tackle having started for two years in college. He’s hugely athletic and settles with a wide base while keeping his feet moving. The only knock on Sewell seems to be that he lacks the “take him to the bus” finishing power of the most successful NFL tackles. Not the end of the world in a league coming down harder and harder on action away from the play or after the whistle, in my opinion.
Pick #6 – Miami Dolphins
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Another team that have their quarterback (as much as they seem to still be on the hunt for one), is the Miami Dolphins. At 6, the Dolphins have the opportunity to take the best available wide receiver in the draft and I believe that to be Ja’Marr Chase. Chase reaches top speed very quickly and breaks effectively out of his routes. At the top of runs, Chase uses all of his body to block out defenders and put himself in position to be the only one able to make the catch. After an outstanding college career, I don’t think the adjustment will be too tough in making Ja’Marr a team’s top target in the NFL.
Pick #7 – Detroit Lions
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Crimson Tide powerhouse will be responsible for a chunk of the first round of this draft and with the Detroit Lions the, somewhat, proud owner of quarterback, Jared Goff, they’re going to need a number one guy to make him look good. Enter the gentlemen who has made Mac Jones look good for the last year in Devonta Smith. Smith bursts off the line with purpose and adapts to the pass well to place himself under the ball. Smith completes the catch throughout a big hit, which will serve him well in the bruising NFC North. The somewhat small stature for a receiver may scare some off, and is ultimately why I think he’s the second receiver off the board, but I see the fit for the Lions being nearly perfect.
Pick #8 – Carolina Panthers
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
With Sam Darnold in the building and a great deal of need still throughout the Carolina Panthers team, I don’t see them taking the chance on a rookie quarterback, as many have been suggesting throughout the media. As with some of the teams before them, I see the Panthers taking advantage of the run on quarterbacks to take the best available player of a position; in this case, the best available cornerback, Patrick Surtain II. Second generation corner, Surtain Jr. comes with a tremendous upside and is the most pro-ready defender in this year’s draft class. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s disciplined. Surtain controls his hips well to be able to change directions quickly and track to the ball. His skills have become essential in a division that contains the reigning SuperBowl champions and perennial league MVP, Tom Brady.
Pick #9 – Denver Broncos
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The Drew Lock experiment is dead and the Denver Broncos could be the beneficiary of the depth of talent in this year’s draft. Barring any crazy trade ups that see teams move ahead of the Broncos, I can see a scenario in which Trey Lance is available at 9 and the Broncos should jump at that opportunity. The main knock on Lance is his lack of experience in games but, in my opinion, Lance has shown his reward to outweigh his risk. Lance is a well rounded passer, able to make some of the toughest throws or take off on his own feet. Drafting the QB ninth overall wouldn’t necessarily pressure the Broncos into making him their day one starter in 2021 either. Lance could benefit from spending a year behind a veteran and honing his skills before taking the field at the tail end of the year or in the 2022 season.
Pick #10 – Dallas Cowboys
Micah Parsons, EDGE/OLB, Penn State
The Dallas Cowboys defense was the absolute laughing stock of the NFL in 2020 and so Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy need to show their willingness to improve this side of the ball by using the majority of their draft stock to pick up quality defensive prospects. This starts at tenth overall with Micah Parsons of the Nittany Lions. Parsons possesses an unrivalled explosiveness and athleticism that if they don’t benefit from, the New York Giants certainly will in their pick following. Do they Cowboys want Parsons’ closing speed and aggression stood over Daniel Jones? Or over their own recovering passer, Dak Prescott? I know what I’d choose.
Pick #11 – New York Giants
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The New York Giants have many needs and so it would behove them to pick the best available with their eleventh overall pick. With the depth of options available at wide receiver, I think it’s time for the G-Men to put up and provide a decent option for young quarterback Daniel Jones. Jaylen Waddle is rapid. From within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Waddle has usually left his defender in the dust and so he gets open easily. Waddle also offers options in the return game on special teams to further take advantage of his incredible speed. Jaylen Waddle may not make impact as a #1 receiver due to his inability to escape tackles but the guy is a game changer and will definitely add a whole load more sixes to the scoreboard in the Meadowlands.
Pick #12 – Philadelphia Eagles
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
To be honest, I could see the #11 and #12 picks going the other way around depending on the perceived biggest need of the Giants but whichever way around Waddle and Horn drop, they will each make an immediate impact to their teams. Jaycee Horn enters the NFL as a clear CB1, mirroring many of the skills of Patrick Surtain II that we discussed earlier. The difference between them isn’t too great with Horn possessing his own discipline and physicality and is able to streak clear across the field and make the play saving tackle. Horn would fit into the aggressive Philadelphia defense and make an impact from day one.
Pick #13 – Los Angeles Chargers
Christian Darrisaw, T, Virginia Tech
Much like the case with the Cincinnati Bengals earlier, the L.A. Chargers need to focus on keeping their young quarterback upright and doing his job so, while I believe thirteenth might be a stretch overall for another tackle, the best of this position won’t be there when the Chargers are on the clock again in round two. The need for the Chargers is too great and so that’s why I have them taking outstanding offensive lineman, Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw is effective in both run and pass blocking schemes but he is said to excel in the former which would help Justin Herbert to return balance to his offence. This pick has tremendous upside and Darrisaw can make a difference to the Chargers from day one.
Pick #14 – Minnesota Vikings
Kwity Paye, EDGE/DL, Michigan
Kwity Paye is a hardworking, American success story. As we discussed on Two Minute Warning, Paye’s journey to the NFL has not been as conventional as most in his position. Having narrowly escaped a genocide in her native Liberia, Paye’s mother escaped to the United States and settled in Providence, Rhode Island. Here Paye discovered an affinity for sports, especially football, and worked his way to a scholarship from the University of Michigan. The Minnesota Vikings can make good use of a player the calibre of Kwity Paye. Paye explodes off the snap and uses his size to leverage his way around his opponents. He is also able to shed blocks easily, including the majority of double teams. Paye would join a lineage for great edge rushers in Minnesota, should they pick him up.
Pick #15 – New England Patriots
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
There was a time in which there was a conversation as to whether Justin Fields might supplant Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft but those days are long behind us. There’s also a lot of conversation about the Patriots trading up to get a quarterback in the first round but I honestly don’t think that’s necessary. The falling stock of Justin Fields could play right into the hands of Bill Bellichick. Why has Fields fallen from grace? There have been times in which he makes the stupid play and tries to force the football where it doesn’t belong where he could have thrown it away. This is a teachable thing. Either Fields learns how and when to dispose of the ball or he’s encouraged to use his 4.46 second 40-yard dash and take off on his feet. Fields scored in the top 1% of 6500 athletes on the mental aptitude test. He is intelligent and able to learn. A perfect fit for the Patriot way, I would suggest.
Pick #16 – Arizona Cardinals
Rashawn Slater, T/G, Northwestern
I may be labouring this point somewhat but the teams who draft best in the first round are the ones that build around what they already have and make their choices according to need. The Arizona Cardinals need to continue to build around Kyler Murray and their biggest need on the offensive side of the ball is at guard. In Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, the Cardinals would be getting a player that is fresher than most in his position. A position that physical definitely comes with a play counter; there’s only so long you can play on the offensive line before your body starts to betray you. Slater sat out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19, taking a whole host of hits of his play counter. This didn’t adversely affect him, though, as Slater put in a stellar performance at his Pro Day, demonstrating that he hasn’t missed a beat since his 2019 campaign. While Slater played tackle in college, he is versatile and would slot nicely into the existing Cards offensive line at guard while providing a potential backup at tackle, if needed.
Pick #17 – Las Vegas Raiders
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Raiders, now in Sin City, have a history of drafting impactful, game changing linebackers and, in Zaven Collins, they’re getting a seasoned veteran of the college game who started at Tulsa for three years. Collins is excellent against the run and using his strength and power to shed blocks to make the play. Collins is an “old school” linebacker who can spend all three downs on the field. This is the kind of player that can fit well into Jon Gruden’s team.
Pick #18 – Miami Dolphins
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Having addressed an offensive need with their earlier first round pick, the Dolphins now look to plug a defensive hole. The Miami Dolphins have favoured fast, impactful defensive players in recent years and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fits their mould perfectly, almost playing as a hybrid linebacker and safety combined. This really speaks to his versatility and the way in which Owusu-Koramoah makes and breaks plays. While lacking in head-to-head tackling skills, Owusu-Koramoah can disrupt a run long enough for gang tackling to take place and excels in pass coverage, an increasingly essential skill in the AFC East.
Pick #19 – Washington Football Team
Teven Jenkins, T, Oklahoma State
The Washington Football Team were really screwed, albeit by themselves, by their falling out with Trent Williams a few years ago. They haven’t really been able to replace the disgruntled tackle in any meaningful way but that could change by drafting Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State. Jenkins is an extremely versatile player that can play on both sides of the offensive line, if necessary. He shows excellent adjustment to oncoming defenders but can also penetrate into the second level for running plays, an area in which the WFT have been weak in recent years but stand to do better at with the rise of Antonio Gibson.
Pick #20 – Chicago Bears
Alijah Vera-Tucker, T/G, USC
As a disgruntled Chicago Bears fan myself (also known as a Chicago Bears fan), I’ve long known the woes of the offensive line. The Bears thought they’d found the answer in Charles Leno but, if they did, Leno changed the question to ‘How many penalties can I concede per game?’ Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC should provide an answer in Chicago that’s more helpful. Tucker is another versatile lineman in a draft chocked full of them and is another player that could transition from tackle to guard, or vice-versa, if necessary. This kind of protean adjustment is essential on an offensive line that doesn’t look the same from week 1 to week 8, historically. Take the plunge, Chicago. It’s not like you’re getting any of the top quarterbacks in this draft…
Pick #21 – Indianapolis Colts
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Colts got fairly lucky in being able to trade for Carson Wentz. Following a season in which Sidearm Phil was able to make the most of the depleted receiver corps in Indianapolis, Wentz needs to be surrounded with talent in order to avoid repeating his Philadelphia fate. I anticipate Rashod Bateman falling into the Colts’ lap at #21 and making an immediate impact opposite T.Y. Hilton, if he can remain healthy. Bateman makes the difficult catches in traffic and so compliments the fly route fades of Hilton. Bateman can be a workhorse for the Colts; all they need to do it grab him.
Pick #22 – Tennessee Titans
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
An already physical defensive unit has the opportunity to become even more physical with the addition of Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech. Farley is rangy and pairs this with fantastic speed and ball skills. His backpedal is a work of art and he transitions flawlessly as receivers break on their routes. Other analysts have Greg Newsome and Asante Samuel Jr. rated higher but I believe Farley to be the better player by far. I don’t think the Titans regret drafting a player in Farley that will make an impact to their defense for years to come.
Pick #23 – New York Jets
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE/DE, Miami (The U)
The Jets are back on the clock and like the Dolphins before them (and the Jaguars after them – spoiler) I think they need to provide balance to their first round by selecting a defensive player. Gregory Rousseau was set to be a top ten pick coming out of the 2019 season but after opting out last year, Rousseau’s stock has dropped. While that means that teams lack the recent evidence that Rousseau will be a playmaker, his history of adaptability (he started out playing safety and wide receiver in high school) leads me to believe that Rousseau is simply an incredible athlete than can be applied pretty much anywhere you place him.
Pick #24 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Somebody has to be the first team to draft a running back and I don’t see a bigger need for a running back than in the Steel City. With Ben Roethlisberger out a few years ago, James Conner took on too much of the burden for the entire offense and has not been the same since. Pittsburgh is crying out for a dynamic rusher and Najee Harris, another one from Alabama, is the best prospect in this year’s class. Harris is the complete back; he’s a three-down linebacker that possesses excellent vision, quickness and elusiveness. His running is instinctual and I can’t seem him failing anywhere he goes.
Pick #25 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
Balance with defense, yada yada yada. The Jaguars need a solid outside linebacker to bolster their developing defensive unit. Azeez Ojulari is a raw, developable talent that has excellent body control and hands. He’s a traditional ballhawk linebacker that sniffs out the football. He will need some polishing but he’s exactly the kind of player that can fit into the continued rebuilding in Jacksonville.
As an alternative option, the Jaguars also hold some ability to trade up in the draft using quarterback Gardner Minshew as collateral. Exploiting the disappointment of a QB needy team that weren’t able to grab one of the top five passers could bring them back up a few places to build around their golden child and fill their needs at tackle or wide receiver. A trade with the Washington Football Team at #19 or Da Bears at #20 could net them Teven Jenkins or Rashod Bateman and isn’t an option that should be ignored by the Jags.
Pick #26 – Cleveland Browns
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE/DE, Miami (The U)
Jaelan Phillips has been on a journey. His path to the NFL has not been straightforward with a retirement already in the Miami defensive end’s rear view. This is the type of grit that suits a team like the Cleveland Browns and Phillips is back to the promise than should have made him a first round draft pick years ago. Phillips is fundamentally sound and explosive off the edge; he makes the extra effort in the backfield and chases down the play if he doesn’t make it to the ball carrier in time. There is the risk that Phillips’ injuries of the past come back to haunt him but I believe his upside is worth the risk.
Pick #27 – Baltimore Ravens
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
As the highest rated safety in this draft, Trevon Moehrig could find himself a home in one of the teams best known for solid safety play, joining the lineage of Eric Weddle, Earl Thomas, Jim Leonhard and, of course, Ed Reed. In his two years starting for TCU, Moehrig demonstrated instinctive skills and even spent time on special teams. He has rapid closing skills and can traverse the field towards the ball to assist in tackling or pass breakups. Moehrig would fit best as a strong safety, which is good because the Ravens current guy ranked terribly amongst his peers in 2020…
Pick #28 – New Orleans Saints
Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Another team looking for replenish their defensive back corps are the New Orleans Saints. I ummed and ahhed about whether Greg Newsome or Asante Samuel Jr was the better pickup and the truth is that they’re much of a muchness but I’d be much more comfortable drafting Samuel in the second round. Newsome is a go-getter; he’s happy to mix it up with receivers and get in their business. He backpedals well and reads the play effectively while he does so. He doesn’t possess the top flight speed of the corners that went before him in the draft but he more than makes up for it with aggressive play and solid tackling. He’ll fit well on the Saints defense.
Pick #29 – Green Bay Packers
Alex Leatherwood, T, Alabama
The Green Bay Packers have a baby to keep happy and the best way of doing that is with a tackle to bolster the offensive line. While David Bakhtiari continues to be productive for them, the season ending knee injury that came towards the end of their 2020 season could be a concern going forward. Even if things are fine with Bakhtiari, having depth at the position or somebody to bolster the right hand side wouldn’t hurt. While Alex Leatherwood is better suited as a left tackle, he possesses the raw skills to adapt. He gets his hands into good placement with pass rushers and keeps the pocket clean for his quarterback. Rod Gers’ll love him.
Pick #30 – Buffalo Bills
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
As a fairly balanced team, the Buffalo Bills are in a good place to just pick the best available players in the draft and Rondale Moore is the top choice based on this mock. Despite his size, standing in at only 5ft 9ins, Moore has the ability to make an impact all over the field. He can line up anywhere, including the slot and plays with a chip on his shoulder, always fighting to make up for his perceived lack of size with excellent focus on the ball. Moore also features in the return game, adding yet more value to his pickup. Rondale Moore might be the missing piece the Bills offense needs to take them all the way to the Super Bowl!
Pick #31 – Kansas City Chiefs
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Speaking of the Super Bowl, all that remains are the runner up and winner of last season’s championship game. The story of this offseason, as well as many of the Chiefs previous seasons, has been the offensive line. Missing out on the better rated tackles that came earlier in the first round, I would suggest that the Chiefs go outside the box and do something rare for the first round: draft a center. Creed Humphrey comes from the University of Oklahoma, a known NFL factory, and started there for three years; largely unheard of with the turnover of college athletes. Humphrey is the prototype for an NFL center; he sets a wide base, bends at the knees, stays square in his blocks and keeps his eyes open, looking for the next block. He won’t be there come the Chiefs second pick, and neither will the next best guy, so the Kansas City faithful should be bold and draft Humphrey while the have the chance.
Pick #32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The defending Super Bowl champs have carried forward virtually their entire roster to the 2021 season. The Bucs are in the fortunate position of being able to draft for their future while picking up best available players who could contribute immediately to a repeat campaign this season. The Bucs top, ball hawking wide receivers are in the twilight of their careers and/or at risk of being bounced out of the league for yet another indiscretion and so Kadarius Toney becomes a smart pick to stash for the future, or make his name on special teams. The biggest positive for Toney is his rapidness, his ability to put distance between himself and defenders and his ball-getting-ness, for lack of a better term. Kadarius Toney goes and gets the ball, no matter where it is or what he must do to his body to get there. In way of a tl;dr, Kadarius Toney is a player you want on your team, even if you’re the champs!
So there we have it, all 32 selections from the first round of the NFL Draft. Will they come to pass? Probably not but it’s fun to speculate. What this mock draft doesn’t really take into account is trading up to bag certain players. I have suggested in places where it might be fortuitous but have not gone so far as to actually predict the trades.
If you enjoyed this, join Jez and Matt on Sunday April 25th for the Two Minute Warning mock draft where we’ll spend two minutes on the clock drafting for each team. It could get heated! Live at twitch.tv/thejezshow from 8:30 BST or available afterwards on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.