COLUMN: The 2021 NFL mock draft

Photo by Adrian Curiel via Unsplash

By Matteo Venieri
Boston University News Service

With the 2021 NFL Draft just two days away, millions of fans are eager to find out who their team will select. Quarterbacks are set to steal the show this year. Many experts anticipate five quarterbacks will be selected in the early stages of the first round. With hundreds of mock drafts disseminated around the internet, I have made my prediction for the first 10 picks of an NFL draft.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence | QB | Clemson University

At this point, time is the only thing that separates Lawrence and the Jaguars. Ever since leading Clemson to a national championship as a freshman, his status as a future first overall pick seemed a foregone conclusion. In a draft class filled with plenty of talent and potential at the quarterback position, Lawrence has all it takes to become a generational player for the Jags.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson | QB | Brigham Young University

At BYU, Wilson showed he has a polished, complete skill set, making him a great candidate to become the franchise quarterback the Jets have been chasing since Joe Namath had long, luscious hair. The biggest challenge for Wilson will likely be being ready on day one, against superior competition and under heavy scrutiny. Experts say he thrives in chaos and, for better or worse, he will find plenty of that in New York.

3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones | QB | University of Alabama

Sharp accuracy and impeccable decision making helped Jones climb the QB ladder and make him one of the best prospects. Coach Kyle Shanahan has supposedly identified him as the best fit for a Niners offense that will soon need a replacement for Jimmy Garoppolo. Still, the question remains: was Jones’ impressive tape in college the product of pure talent or just a good piece of an Alabama offense filled with first-round caliber players? Given the price paid to move up to No.3, San Francisco has no room for buyer’s remorse.

4. Denver Broncos (via ATL): Justin Fields | QB | Ohio State University

Atlanta’s best option at No. 4 is to extract more value from this pick by accepting the offer of a team desperately in need of a QB like Denver. After Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Drew Lock and all the bad decisions in the QB department since Peyton Manning retired, new Broncos GM George Paton should go all-in on Fields with confidence. Quite possibly the second-best quarterback in the draft, Fields will find in Denver an excellent set of weapons that will make his transition to the pros even smoother.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase | WR | Louisiana State University

After picking Joe Burrow first overall last season, the Bengals need to give their quarterback a star wide receiver to fulfill his potential. Chase’s resume perfectly fits the job description. In addition to his unparalleled speed, size and record-breaking numbers, Chase brings an established connection with Burrow. The two had enormous success playing together at LSU.

6. Miami Dolphins: Penei Sewell | OT | Oregon University

With Chase off the boards, Miami has two viable options. Between drafting a skill player and a lineman, the Dolphins decide to go with the latter and continue to reshuffle the entire offensive line. Last year, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed that he wasn’t quick enough to go through his progressions before being pressured or sacked. At Oregon, Sewell allowed only one sack in 1,376 snaps, a stat that makes him more valuable than any other skill position player available.

7. Detroit Lions: Kyle Pitts | TE | University of Florida

It’s not easy to pinpoint one specific player for a Lions team that has holes at several key positions. However, the departure of all the starting wide receivers during free agency makes Detroit a perfect landing spot for Pitts. No matter if people want to call him a tight end or a wide receiver, he’s a special athlete with superior hands and speed who can be a mismatch nightmare all across the field.

8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater | OT | Northwestern University

No one knows if Sam Darnold is going to be a franchise quarterback in Carolina for years to come, but making sure he finally gets protection in the pocket is a good start. Enter Rashawn Slater, a 6-4, 304-pound grown man with quick hands and feet who can play multiple positions on the offensive line. He sat out last season due to safety concerns related to COVID-19, but, when last seen, he dominated Chase Young — and that’s the kind of film that makes him an early pick.

9. Atlanta Falcons (via DEN): Patrick Surtain II | CB | University of Alabama

Last season, the Falcons had the worst pass defense in the league, which led to a massive overhaul in the offseason. At No.9, Atlanta has the luxury of picking the best defender available, with Surtain arguably on the top of their list. The stellar speed and athleticism he showcased at Alabama make him a necessary piece for a team that desperately needs help on defense rather than another flashy name on offense.

10. New England Patriots (via DAL): Trey Lance | QB | North Dakota State University

In this mock draft, Dallas trades down to make room for the Patriots, who snag Lance at the bottom of the top 10. New England had a very busy free agency, but the quarterback position remains a concern, as neither current Patriots QBs Cam Newton nor Jarrett Stidham proved to be reliable solutions for the future. With only 17 starts in college, Lance will need some time to refine his skills before taking over in Foxboro in 2022.

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