The 2021 NFL Draft is almost upon us.
With the big day on Friday (AEST), it’s time to have one, final look at where a bunch of college kids are going to land their first professional job.
The first two picks on the draft board are relatively clear-cut. After that? It’s anyone’s guess.
So, we’ll make our guesses — only for the first ten picks — based off the clued-in reporting of those in the know.
Here’s what the first ten picks in the 2021 NFL Draft could look like!
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — Trevor Lawrence, QB
Surprise! No, not really.
It feels like Trevor Lawrence has been forgotten about in all the chaos below him. But that’s only because the 21-year-old out of Clemson has been a lock to go No. 1 in the NFL Draft for as long as he’s had that flowing blonde hair.
Apart from what he’s done on the field — going 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers — Lawrence just looks like the sort of guy who walks into a franchise and changes the narrative immediately. And boy, does Jacksonville need that.
There are no ifs, buts or maybes here, Lawrence is going with the first pick, because that’s what was written in the stars when he arrived from whatever quarterback factory created him.
2. NEW YORK JETS — Zach Wilson, QB
Weirdly enough, there’s not much doubt over the second pick either. But you know, maybe there should be.
It’s widely reported, and accepted, that the New York Jets have landed on Zach Wilson as their chase for a franchise-altering quarterback continues.
Sam Darnold wasn’t the answer. And it looks as though general manager Joe Dougles and new head coach Robert Salah believe Wilson is.
Questions over his frame have followed Wilson into the draft, but it seems the Jets are more enamoured with his accuracy and creativity than concerned with his size.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — Mac Jones, QB
Remember when I said Lawrence has barely been discussed in the lead-up to Friday’s fun?
Well, a lot of that has to do with this pick right here.
After moving up from the No. 12 pick in a blockbuster trade last month that involved two more first-rounders going to Miami, San Francisco put themselves in a position to draft a quarterback for the future.
That’s where things get interesting.
For one, there’s Jimmy Garoppolo sitting there with his gelled here and sparkly Californian smile wondering what happened. Two, the 49ers are reportedly after a guy many believe is the fifth-most exciting QB prospect available.
With Lawrence and Wilson expected to be off the board, San Francisco has apparently narrowed it down to either Mac Jones or Trey Lance, with Justin Fields no longer a consideration, if he ever was.
Jones is the name we’ve heard heavily linked with the Niners, while Lance has emerged as another potential selection to develop behind Garoppolo.
According to ESPN, Lance is the guy the 49ers’ personnel department is pushing for, while head coach Kyle Shanahan wants Jones.
When you partner that report with John Lynch’s comments this week, Jones seems to be the pick.
“Ultimately someone’s got to be charged with making a decision, and in this case, it’s the both of us,” Lynch told media ahead of the draft.
“Everyone has in their contract ‘you do this.’ The draft is mine. But I told Kyle from the beginning that he and I are doing this together and when it comes to quarterbacks, I’d be foolish, I believe, we have a head coach who’s also our offensive play-caller. I will always defer to him.”
If Shanahan wants Jones, he’s getting Jones.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS — Kyle Pitts, TE
Even as I type this out, it feels wrong.
With Justin Fields and Trey Lance still available at this point, it feels impossible the Falcons would take a tight end. And yet, that’s what looks like happening when Atlanta makes their call to the league office.
There are basically three trains of thought for the Falcons heading into Friday: Pitts, a quarterback, or a trade back.
Pitts is a generational talent at tight end; a freak athlete will make opposition defences look silly for a long time.
But how many opportunities will Atlanta get to draft a top-quality gunslinger? According to ESPN, the ‘wild card’ could be owner Arthur Blank stepping in and calling for a quarterback.
Fields, out of Georgia, makes all the sense in the world before you remember Matt Ryan’s massive contract. Do you sit a pro-ready player in Fields for two years of his rookie deal? That’s what Atlanta needs to decide. If you have to sit your pick , then Lance could be the way to go at QB.
Otherwise, there are a number of teams who could potentially trade into the fourth spot to grab the quarterback they like. If that happens, and the Falcons move down the board, an offensive linemen could be the way they go.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS — Penei Sewell, OT
Weapon or armour?
That’s the dilemma for the Cincinnati Bengals front office.
With Joe Burrow the answer at quarterback, the question, as he enters his second year after a season-ending ACL injury, is how to get the best out of him.
If the Falcons take Pitts, then there are two widely-discussed avenues for Cincinnati: Ja’Marr Chase at receiver, or Penei Sewell at tackle.
Chase put up silly numbers with Burrow at LSU, catching 20 touchdown passes and accounting for 1,780 yards, but Sewell obviously helps avoid injury history repeating itself.
Depending on who you read, and believe, it’ll be one of those two. While Chase is the sexy pick, Sewell is the one that keeps Burrow clean.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS — Ja’Marr Chase, WR
While Pitts is apparently the No. 1 guy for the Dolphins at No. 6, in this almost-certainly-incorrect mock draft, the tight end is already off the board.
If Pitts isn’t there, Miami is said to be in for one of the top receivers with Chase the guy if the Bengals don’t snap him up. The Dolphins, in this scenario, can choose between Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith, with all three presenting as offence-altering talents.
After adding Will Fuller in free agency, the Dolphins are going all in to surround Tua Tagovailoa with the necessary talent to succeed. If they don’t go receiver, Miami could look to bolster the offensive line.
7. DETROIT LIONS — Micah Parsons, LB
Micah Parsons is one of the best defensive talents in the draft, if not the best, and while No. 7 seems like a reach, in some ways it makes more sense than new head coach Dan Campbelll going wide-out so high.
This is what Campbell said at his introductory press conference:
”We’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”
You feel that sort of bizarre intensity starts on defence.
The other widely reported route, however, involves the Lions taking either Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith to help out Jared Goff who landed in Detroit only to find their offensive weapons gone.
8. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (via Carolina Panthers) — Justin Fields, QB
Come on, let’s have some fun here.
Justin Fields went from the cool kid at school to eating lunch on his own, and no one really seems to understand why. So, it would only make sense for the Patriots to make the move that makes us all say something along the lines of, ‘Ah, of course New England did that.’
In this scenario, the Panthers decide to cash in on their position and go into the 2021 season with Sam Darnold as the clear-cut starting quarterback.
According to the NFL Network, the Patriots are looking to move up from the 15th pick into the top-10, and if the Lions hang on to their pick, New England should have a choice between either Fields or Lance at No. 8.
Belichick and Josh McDaniels had fun with Cam Newton under centre even if it didn’t translate to a super smooth offence, or too many wins.
But with Newton back for another year, Fields could represent that long-term option the Patriots obviously need.
9. DENVER BRONCOS — Trey Lance, QB
The Teddy Bridgewater trade changes things slightly, but according to reports, the Broncos are still in the market for a quarterback if the right player falls to them.
So, let’s give the Broncos what they want.
In this scenario, Denver completes the QB rush, taking a fifth quarterback in the first nine picks to grab Trey Lance, who might have gone as high as three if some in the Niners organisation got their way.
Instead, Lance lands in Denver where the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant are waiting for a quarterback who can unlock the offence.
Drew Lock is anything but a lock as a starter, with a talented roster running out of excuses for its failings, and Lance represents another option under centre.
The questions over Lance revolve around his NFL readiness and the level of competition he’s faced, but as a prospect, the 21-year-old possesses the tools to turn into a star.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS — Patrick Surtain II, CB
If he’s still on the board, Patrick Surtain II looks to be the guy everyone agrees will head to Dallas.
The Cowboys need cornerback help, and Surtain is viewed as the best of the bunch.
Jaycee Horn is another option at cornerback, while ESPN reports the Cowboys could be an outside chance at trading up for Pitts if that is at all possible.