There will still be plenty of changes over the next couple of months (particularly after free agency), but this mock gives a slightly different look at how things might play out in April with a couple of surprises early on.
1. JAX: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This pick can be written in stone, and Lawrence appears to be stepping into a good situation despite joining a team that went 1-15 last season (assuming Urban Meyer is up for the challenge at the NFL level). Hitting on the rest of the draft will be key for Jacksonville.
2. NYJ: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Sam Darnold—who won’t turn 24 until June—shouldn’t be written off as an option for New York, but if they aren’t sold and love one of the rookies, they’ll pull the trigger. Wilson would bring excitement to an NFL offense with his rare playmaking ability.
3. CIN (mock trade w/ MIA via HOU): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Free agency will change things significantly around the league, but unless the Bengals find a way to sign Trent Williams in free agency, Sewell is their best bet to improve the offensive line. Protecting Joe Burrow is worth a trade up if the Oregon product is their target.
4. ATL: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Falcons have a very difficult decision to make here, as they could either a) get an impact player to boost to current group, or b) secure Matt Ryan’s successor with the hopes they won’t draft if the top five again anytime soon. The playing style of Fields would be a good match with Arthur Smith’s offense if it features a play-action based passing attack like it did with the Titans.
5. MIA (mock trade w/ CIN): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
This might come as a shock, but stylistically, Waddle is arguably the best fit with Miami’s current personnel (bigger targets DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki). The ability of the Alabama speedster to do damage underneath or take the top off would be a big help to Tua Tagovailoa.
6. PHI: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Philadelphia is the biggest wild card in the first round because it’s impossible to know if the “quarterback factory” will think they should jump at the chance to get a top prospect, but hopefully Jalen Hurts gets a shot to prove himself with an improved supporting cast. Chase would step in as a No. 1 receiver and allow 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor to settle is a big-play No. 2.
7. DET: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
I bet the Lions would love to take the first defender off the board, and the violent Parsons is a definite candidate. A trade down also wouldn’t be a surprise as Detroit’s new regime looks to build things their own way.
8. CAR: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum suggested the floor for Jones is this pick, and while that might be a bit hyperbolic, owner David Tepper clearly wants a long-term answer at quarterback. An offense with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and likely a couple of new additions would be an excellent landing spot for Jones.
9. DEN: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Denver might decide to run it back with Drew Lock having a healthy supporting cast in 2021, and if so, cornerback is a huge need that can be filled with a top-ten pick. Surtain II would instantly boost the perimeter coverage of Vic Fangio’s defense.
10. DAL: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Cowboys let the board come to them last spring (including with CeeDee Lamb in the first round), and it’d be pretty frightening to have it happen again if Pitts is available here. If they draft slightly more based on need, cornerback or even offensive tackle could be in play.
11. NYG: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The possibility of Smith falling seems to come up more and more as the weeks pass, but the Giants should put an end to that mistake if given the opportunity. Saquon Barkley, Andrew Thomas, and Smith would give New York three potential superstars to support Daniel Jones on offense.
12. SF: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Richard Sherman has basically said he won’t be back with the 49ers, so the secondary could be almost completely remade this offseason. Farley has great length on the outside, but he can also take the ball away as a former wide receiver.
13. LAC: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Left tackle and maybe another wideout are the two weaknesses for a Los Angeles offense that is ready for liftoff, and Slater is thought highly enough by some in the media to rank ahead of Penei Sewell. At six-foot-three, the Northwestern product has the versatility to kick inside to guard, too.
14. WAS (mock trade w/ MIN): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Lance provides massive upside at quarterback, but having essentially one showcase game in 2020 might cause him to slip some, in which case Washington could strike to get ahead of New England. Pairing a playmaker with a strong defense is something I could see Ron Rivera wanting.
15. NE: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Patriots have gone to the Michigan pipeline for Chase Winovich and Josh Uche in recent years, and they could again by selecting Paye—who fits Bill Belichick’s defense as a versatile defensive end. New England had just 24 sacks last season and needs to take the pressure off their talented secondary.
16. ARI: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
This may seem like a bit of a luxury pick, but Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has struggled to find a consistent option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald in a receiver-heavy offense. Moore would be an explosive target that can play the slot and do a lot of damage on underneath passes.
17. LV: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Las Vegas can quickly turn things around defensively if some of the young talent starts to emerge, but it’s been a struggle over the past couple of seasons. Owusu-Koramoah would bring top-level speed, instincts, and cover ability to Gus Bradley’s side of the ball.
18. MIA: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
He had zero sacks in 2020, but the size (six-foot-five) and speed (reported 4.33 40-yard dash) makes Oweh a very high-upside edge defender. If Miami’s young, talented front can catch up to Xavien Howard and Byron Jones on the backend, watch out.
19. MIN (mock trade w/ WAS): Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Speaking of upside, Rousseau has drawn comparisons to Montez Sweat and Danielle Hunter, and Mike Zimmer won’t accept another season with Minnesota ranking towards the bottom of the league in sacks. I would say a trade down from the original pick is highly likely with the Vikings’ next selection not coming until No. 79 overall.
20. CHI: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The evaluations on Darrisaw are pretty split, but if he doesn’t end up being a top-15 pick, Chicago would have a good shot at him as their new franchise left tackle. It won’t much matter who is playing quarterback if pass protection doesn’t improve in 2021.
21. IND: James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
Colts general manager Chris Ballard isn’t afraid to gamble on tools or players from non-Power 5 schools, and Hudson fits the criteria in both regards—but more importantly replaces the hole left by Anthony Castonzo. The physicality is certainly there for the former defensive lineman.
22. TEN: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Cornerback might not be the biggest need for Tennessee if they are counting on 2020 second-rounder Kristian Fulton to earn a starting job this summer, but Horn has the aggressive play style that Mike Vrabel might covet. Whoever the pick is, the Titans better just make sure they love the game after the Isaiah Wilson pick.
23. NYJ (via SEA): Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
It’s impossible to know how Joe Douglas values the position in terms of spending premium draft capital, but Harris can immediately be a 20-touch back with the ability to play on all three downs. Free agency sounds like a real option for New York to acquire a wideout to pair with Denzel Mims.
24. PIT: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
Ben Roethlisberger will be back in Pittsburgh for perhaps one more run, but Maurkice Pouncey retiring suddenly makes them in need of a new anchor on the offensive line. Dickerson—who suited up and took a snap with a torn ACL last month—has the toughness that the Steelers would love.
25. JAX (via LAR): Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The defense has way more holes to fill for the Jags, but Freiermuth gives Trevor Lawrence a security blanket to grow with, and tight end is thought to be the most shallow position in this year’s class. Prior to the shortened 2020 season, Freiermuth began his Penn State career with 15 touchdowns over his first two years.
26. CLE: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
I don’t buy the Browns being able to lure J.J. Watt to sign with them, but they definitely need a partner for Myles Garrett—and Barmore is an elite pass rusher from the interior. The key will be turning the flashes into consistency at the next level.
27. BAL: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
This was the pick in the first mock, and it might not change considering Bateman’s fit with Lamar Jackson’s skillset and the Baltimore offense in general. Marquise Brown stretching the defense with Bateman and Mark Andrews working the intermediate level could be what’s needed to fully unlock the passing attack.
28. NO: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
The cap situation for New Orleans has led to some rumbling about Marshon Lattimore potentially being on the move, but even if they sign the former first-round pick to an extension, they need another cornerback. Samuel Jr. can begin his career in the slot before eventually replacing Janoris Jenkins (who turns 33 in October).
29. BUF: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
A crucial drop by Devin Singletary in the AFC Championship Game could be something that weighs on Buffalo this offseason, and Etienne is a top-end pass catcher with home-run ability. The late first-round has been the sweet spot for running backs that go on Day 1 in recent years.
30. GB: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Green Bay is in a similar spot to the Bills in that a weakness (cornerback behind Jaire Alexander) was exposed in their playoff loss, so look for them to be aggressive fixing it. Campbell has good size (six-foot-two) to complement Alexander, but also excellent speed.
31. KC: Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
Vera-Tucker played left guard and left tackle at a high level for the Trojans, and Kansas City could use him at both spots in Year 1 depending on the recovery timeline of Eric Fisher. I don’t buy the belief that Patrick Mahomes needs another weapon—at least not in Round 1.
32. TB: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
When you have Tom Brady at quarterback, you can make a luxury pick, and that’s what Ojulari would be as a third pass rusher behind Shaquil Barrett (if he re-signs) and Jason Pierre-Paul. He’d also be a great insurance policy to keep the train moving in case of an injury.