The annual prospect-a-palooza known as the NFL Draft starts on Thursday night (5:00 San Diego time). This year we'll likely see something we haven't seen since 1983 with five quarterbacks going in the first round.
Y'all probably know three of them: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. But the other two were Tony Eason and Ken O'Brien.
So, history says there will be at least one superstar and at least one bust. The question is which will be which? Let's take a shot at figuring that out with the 2021 NBC 7 NFL Mock Draft. Commissioner Goodell has the pick and is heading to the podium ...
- Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Death, taxes, and the Jags taking Lawrence with the #1 pick. This is the biggest sure thing in the history of the NFL Draft and it should be. Lawrence is a talent that comes along once every 15 years or so. With Urban Meyer to work with, Lawrence immediately makes Jacksonville relevant, maybe even dangerous, in the AFC South.
- Jets - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Wilson has plenty of arm talent but what NY likes is the fact that he thrives when he has to improvise because things don’t work like they’re supposed to. The Jets organization as a whole is a dysfunctional train wreck. This is a match made in heaven.
- 49ers - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Jimmy Garopplo can’t stay healthy so the Niners need a quarterback. I know there’s a ton of buzz about Mac Jones going here, and even some Trey Lance rumors. I simply can’t get through my head that San Francisco would move up to number 3, giving up multiple first round picks, to take a guy who would be there at 12 when they were originally going to pick. I don’t understand the Jones hype. Fields has some work to do with his progressions but he’s physically better than Jones in literally every measurable. Kyle Shanahan might want a more polished product to try and win sooner, but John Lynch will go with the guy with a much higher ceiling.
- Falcons - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
We know quarterbacks are going in the first three picks so the Draft really starts here. Atlanta needs a bunch of defensive help and several offensive linemen. But, when a guy like Pitts is available, you don’t out-think the room. He’s got wide receiver skills in a tight end body. This Draft is deep with linemen so the Falcons take the sure things and address the blockers later.
- Bengals - Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon
I think there’s a good chance they take WR Ja’Marr Chase here, which also makes sense because Chase was a monster working with Joe Burrow at LSU. The problem is Burrow suffered a torn ACL because his line was atrocious. You can’t have a franchise QB if he’s not on the field. Sewell is a freak of nature who won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman as a 19-year-old. He anchors Cincinnati’s line for the next decade.
- Dolphins - Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
I’m not sold by any stretch on Tua Tagovailoa as an NFL QB. Getting him a weapon like he used to throw to in college will either help him grow as a pro or show you he’s not up for it. Chase has drawn comparisons to Julio Jones but he’s three inches shorter and more physical. I see him as a faster version of Anquan Boldin, who in my eyes is a Hall of Famer.
- Lions - Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Detroit SHOULD trade this pick to a team looking for a QB and get more picks because it has so many holes to fill. This franchise is too lost to do the smart thing. They added Jared Goff’s giant contract in a trade so they get Slater, the best lineman behind Sewell, which is not a bad call but in a deep o-line class not the best option, either.
- Panthers - TRADE
Carolina is in one of the pivotal spots in this Draft. They traded for Sam Darnold and don’t need a QB. There are two 1st round passers left and several teams need one. So, the Panthers can take the first (and best) defensive player in the class OR entertain trade proposals. I think they do the latter, accepting a deal with …
- Patriots – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
This works out perfectly for New England. The Pats send the 15th overall pick and a 3rd round selection this year, plus their 2022 first rounder to Carolina to grab Lance, the athletic freak who scouts say has incredible makeup. He’s a team-first guy (just what Bill Belichick loves) who needs reps after a short college career against FCS competition. He can sit in the system behind Cam Newton for a year then hit the ground running in 2022.
- Broncos – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
At this point Denver has to ask themselves: is Mac Jones substantially better than Drew Lock? The answer is probably not. Plus, I think the Broncos are in the mix to trade for Garopolo. They play in a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and (for now) Derek Carr. Taking the highest graded defensive player in the Draft is a smart move.
- Cowboys – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
JERRY JONES CANNOT HELP HIMSELF. They need defense. Badly. Like, everywhere on the defense. But he gave Dak Prescott a massive contract and loves being flashy with playmakers. There are huge concerns about Smith’s size. He’s 6’0” and 166 pounds. Will he be Desean Jackson or John Ross? Jerry doesn’t care, he needs to justify the QB contract and adds another weapon on the edge.
- Giants – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)
New York has zero pass rush. They need guys who can get in the backfield in a bad way. Phillips has a concerning list of injuries but the talent is incredible. The Giants could trade down here and still get a solid edge rusher plus some picks but GM Dave Gettleman abhors moving back in the draft so don’t expect that to happen.
- Eagles – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Philly hasn’t named Jalen Hurts their starting QB yet, sparking all kinds of speculation about the Eagles drafting another passer. It feels kind of like the Cardinals drafting Josh Rosen, hiring a new coach, and taking Kyler Murray the next year. The difference is Arizona knew Rosen was a bust. Philly needs to see what they really have in Hurts so they take the best player on their board, a shutdown corner.
- Chargers - Jayden Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Chargers need a left tackle. They need an outside linebacker. They need corners. They need a tight end. They need depth at all those spots. So, of course they’ll take a wide receiver. Waddle can play, no doubt, and he’ll be dangerous with Justin Herbert throwing him the ball … as long as the Bolts can keep their latest star QB upright.
- Vikings – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
No Mike Zimmer defense should ever finish in the bottom third in the league in sacks. Minny tries to fix that with Paye, a 270-pound wrecking ball off the edge who will pair with a healthy Danielle Hunter to make the Vikings defense fearsome again.
- Panthers – TRADE
Carolina’s biggest need is finding a tackle or two who can protect Darnold. With the top two options off the board taking one here is a bit of a reach. Luckily for them, the phone rings. On the other end is …
- Bears – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Chicago, in a moment of clarity, comes to the horrifying realization that their quarterbacks are Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. Their head coach and GM are both on the hottest of hot seats and believe Washington, picking right in front of them at 19, will snatch up Jones so they panic and go for the last available QB. The Bears send the 20th overall pick and a 6th rounder this year, plus their 1st and 4th rounders in 2022, to Carolina for this spot. Jones is probably the most NFL-ready of the QBs not named Trevor Lawrence but he also has the lowest ceiling. Basically, at his best he’s the good Matt Schaub and at his worst he’s the bad Matt Schaub.
- Cardinals – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
One of those lovely times when need meets value. Arizona is thin on impact corners and in the NFC West you are going to see a lot of heavy passing offenses. Newsome is a solid addition.
- Raiders – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
You can never be completely sure what Vegas is going to do with Gruden and Mayock in charge but they have to understand that defense is abysmal and the safety spot is a massive issue. Moehrig reminds me of Budda Baker, a guy who makes plays all over the field in pass coverage or run support.
- Dolphins – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Miami head coach Brian Flores already has the makings of an elite defense. They could get some more offensive line depth here but the size, speed, and athleticism of Collins would allow Flores to line him up at several spots. That kind of versatility is important in a division where Josh Allen and the Bills aren’t going away any time soon.
- Washington – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Washington misses out on any of the quarterbacks so they go back to what was already a very good defense. This kid just screams to me “Ron Rivera guy.” He’s a 3-down linebacker who makes plays sideline-to-sideline, much like Brian Urlacher and Luke Kuechly did in Rivera-led defenses.
- Panthers – Chrisian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech
Things work out perfectly for the Panthers, who get a very good tackle at a very good spot while adding a couple more first round selections to their future. Carolina is setting itself up nicely to build a championship-caliber roster that will be ready when Tom Brady retires in 2033.
- Colts – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Indianapolis has two major concerns: pass rush with Denico Autry gone and offensive tackle with Anthony Costanzo retiring. My guess is they grab the hyper-aggressive Ojulari first, then find someone to help keep Carson Wentz clean with the 2nd round pick.
- Titans – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Tennessee completely screwed up last year’s Draft and was still a playoff team. This year they play it safe with Vera-Tucker, a guy who is almost bust-proof as a guard and might be able to kick outside the tackle. They still need to find more weapons on the outside but this team is still heavily reliant on Derrick Henry running the ball so they smartly get a guy who can help do just that.
- Jets – Travis Eteinne, RB, Clemson
New York nearly ruined Sam Darnold’s career because they never built an offensive line like the one they had that made Mark Sanchez miraculously look like a capable NFL quarterback. They still don’t learn their lesson and go with Etienne, an extremely talented back who will be able to help their new QB with checkdowns when the pass rush inevitably gets to him.
- Steelers – Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh needs a running game. Badly. They had to rely on the rapidly aging Ben Roethlisberger to throw way too much early in the season and he was shot by late November. But, the Steelers have a tradition. They build offensive lines that are big a physical. They stay true to themselves and take Jenkins, addressing the running back spot later in the Draft.
- Jaguars – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
In terms of athletic ability, Parsons is a top-10 talent. In terms of maturity, he’s not even top-100. Parsons has been accused of inciting a riot and some fairly nasty hazing practices. He says he made mistakes as a teenager and has learned from it. Obviously, Urban Meyer has no problem surrounding himself with people of questionable character so Jacksonville takes the superior talent and hopes that he’s truly changed his ways.
- Browns – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Cleveland doesn’t have a whole lot of big holes on the roster but the largest might be interior defensive line. Enter Barmore, the latest in a long line of Alabama tackles taken in the first round.
- Ravens – Elijah Moore, WR, Mississippi
Baltimore’s trade with Kansas City gives them two first round picks. You have to figure one of them will be a pass rusher. The other is another target for Lamar Jackson. Moore is a fantastic route runner with good hands. His ability to get separation reminds me a bit of Keenan Allen coming out of Cal.
- Saints – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
While losing Drew Brees to retirement and being in salary cap purgatory are both huge issues, New Orleans can’t address either of those on Draft night (barring a monster trade up for a QB, which I don’t see happening). The Saints have a huge, giant, massive, immediate need at corner. Samuel here makes sense.
- Packers – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The last time Green Bay took a wide receiver in the first round of the Draft, Aaron Rodgers was the starting quarterback … at Butte College in Northern California (it was 2002 and the pick was Javon Walker). If they don’t get Rodgers one this year he might retire and take the Jeopardy! job on Monday. Yes, they need to replace their All-Pro center, but they need another threat on the other side of Davante Adams in a bad way.
- Bills – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Buffalo went to the AFC Championship game in 2020 and looks like a force to be reckoned with for the next several years. One of their few concerns is the defensive line getting a little long in the tooth so they grab Tryon, who opted out of the 2020 season but in 2019 showed the ability to get to the quarterback from multiple spots on the field.
- Ravens – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Baltimore could use some help in the pass rush after losing Matt Judon and Ngakoue. Oweh got to football a little later than most (junior year of high school after focusing on basketball for most of his life) but is as athletic as you could hope an edge rusher to be. With the Ravens history of developing quarterback hunters, they could have a steal on their hands.
- Buccaneers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Tampa Bay’s roster is stacked. Anyone they take here is just to show off. I flirted with another offensive lineman here but decided, hey, why not get Brady another toy? The Bucs have plenty of backs in-house but dealt with injuries at the position so putting Harris in the mix makes a lot of sense.