With the 2020 NFL season close to the midpoint and the Big Ten season having kicked off to add to the Power 5 action in college football, it’s time for another new mock draft for 2021.
Since Sporting News’ previous mock draft in early October, the worst team in the NFL remains the Jets, now also the only winless team left in the league with the unquestioned No. 1 pick. There’s been a bit of a shakeup with the teams behind them, with the bottom of the NFC East set to be on the clock next.
Here’s how SN now sees the first round playing out, based on the current actual draft order going into Week 8 (courtesy of Tankathon) for the top 18 picks and predictions and then using our projected order of playoff finish for the final 14 picks.
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Chiefs unseat Seahawks; Cowboys, Patriots in crisis entering Week 8
NFL mock draft 2021
1. New York Jets (0-7)
- Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)
With Sam Darnold breaking down and not living up to his first-round promise, even with limited help, the Jets will find it hard to pass on this generational talent, a can’t-miss QB prospect in the echelon of Andrew Luck and Joe Burrow. Lawrence isn’t just a great passer and athlete, he’s an accomplished leader and winner, just like those other two. He can last in New York as long as Eli Manning with greater success.
2. New York Giants (1-6)
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)
The Giants may consider QB, too, namely Georgia’s Justin Fields, but are less likely to do so with Daniel Jones only in Year 2, despite his ball-security issues. Sewell’s strong, sturdy presence would fit nicely operating opposite 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas at right tackle, helping to better block for Saquon Barkley and better protect Jones.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)
Fields is getting his desired second college starting season to help build his stock and push Lawrence, confirming the dynamic dual threat has his eyes on the draft. The Jaguars are starting to see signs that Gardner Minshew isn’t truly the franchise guy with his struggles against defenses that are better prepared for him. Fields slips through by hometown team in the Falcons and finds a good fit with the Jaguars’ solid skill players.
4. Atlanta Falcons (1-6)
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)
With the demise of Matt Ryan greatly exaggerated, the Falcons do the smarter thing for the short term and try to fix their defense again. They keep having issues rushing the passer so they should want an upgrade for whoever is coaching them in 2021. The ACC and the Hurricanes are playing, but Rousseau, who opted out, didn’t really need to play to boost his stock after posting 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his lone significant and final season under defensive-minded head coach Manny Diaz.
5. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)
The Dolphins gave DeVante Parker a new deal and like Preston Williams working opposite him in Chan Gailey’s spread offense, but they are thin behind those players after not investing their ample draft capital at the position in 2020. Chase, opting out of LSU’s action, is coming off a big final season with Joe Burrow (84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs) and would be an excellent additional big playmaker to pair with Tua Tagovailoa.
6. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)
Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ballhawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player in Mike Zimmer’s defense after the free-agent exodus at cornerback that included Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. Their secondary has gotten roasted too much to not think about corner first if Fields isn’t on the board.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1)
- Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 194 pounds)
Wade has nice size and like former Buckeyes teammate Jeffrey Okudah, is active and instinctive in coverage. He reversed his opt-out and will use it to build his stock into top-10 status. The Bengals added former Vikings Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to their secondary in free agency but need to consider a replacement for disappointing 2016 first-rounder William Jackson, unsigned for 2021.
8. Dallas Cowboys (2-5)
- Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)
Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner for Will Muschamp’s defense. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field in that game. The Cowboys will be desperate for cornerback help after their coverage mess without Byron Jones in 2020. Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality to remind them of Jones.
9. Washington Football Team (2-5)
- Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)
This team may also think quarterback again, but Washington, with many needs, should also think about waiting another round for that position. Ron Rivera added a game-changing defensive disruptor in Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young for his rebuild at No. 2 in 2020, and now taps into the Big Ten again for Parsons, a rangy, hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man in the Luke Kuechly mold. Ahead of his opt-out from conference play, which stands through the Big Ten returning. Parsons had 109 total tackles, including 5 sacks, last season for the Nittany Lions.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama (6-6, 310 pounds)
The Chargers signed Bryan Bulaga for right tackle but are stuck with weak Sam Tevi, a pending 2021 free agent, on the left side. Bulaga is also aginig and battling more injuries. Leatherwood would be a fine replacement and upgrade. He is an elite athlete who can become a top overall blocker should he keep working on his strength and technique.
11. New England Patriots (2-4)
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (6-5, 311 pounds)
The Patriots need to get some strong, versatile defensive line help next offseason for Bill Belichick when starters Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler enter free agency. Wilson easily could have come out and gone in the first round this year coming off a highly disruptive 5-sack season for the Seminoles. He has one sack and 10 tackles in five games this season.
12. Denver Broncos (2-4)
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-3, 225 pounds)
Are the Broncos sold on oft-injured and not improving Drew Lock? John Elway should consider a true franchise QB if the passing game struggles continue. Despite Lance’s one-game showcase for the Bison not going as planned in 2020, one cannot ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills he displayed in his first full season of action (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, zero INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 more TDs). His name is only a few letters different from Trevor Lawrence and he carries an extremely high ceiling.
13. Carolina Panthers (3-3)
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-5, 239 pounds)
The Panthers’ offense is on the rise with Robby Anderson helping D.J. Moore and a healthy Christian McCaffrey makes that a dangerous receiving trio. But offenisve coordinator Joe Brady could use one more super-athletic, hard-to-cover target to help Teddy Bridgewater. Pitts is dominating SEC play this season with 17 catches for 274 yards and 7 TDs in only 3 games.
14. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
- Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh (6-5, 260 pounds)
The Dolphins also need some more help for Brian Flores’ front in getting after the quarterback. Jones, with his quickness, upfield burst and array of moves, has shot up boards with his standout start to the 2020 season for the Panthers with seven sacks in six games.
15. Las Vegas Raiders (3-3)
- Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)
The Raiders drafted well at defensive end and cornerback and invested heavily in linebacker in free agency. The missing ingredient is a linchpin up front against the run. Barmore combines strength and power with great technique and is someone to watch to keep shooting up the board.
16. Detroit Lions (3-3)
- Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (5-9, 180 pounds)
The Lions need to get another young playmaker to put with go-to big and fast wide receiver Kenny Golladay, athletic mismatch tight end T..J. Hockenson and dynamic running back D’Andre Swift to join Matthew Stafford under a probable new, offensive-minded coach in 2021. With Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola fading and set to become free agents, Moore, who opted back in to make more big plays for the Boilermakers, is a versatile athlete and an explosive catch or carry waiting to happen.
17. San Francisco 49ers (4-3)
Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia (6-2, 185 pounds)
The 49ers have five cornerbacks going into unrestricted free agency in 2021, including Richard Sherman, as well as safety Jaquiski Tartt. Secondary should be the primary target, followed closely by offensive line. Campbell is a very quick, athletic prospect for his frame with the ability to develop into a technically sound shutdown type.
18. New Orleans Saints (4-2)
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (6-5, 240 pounds)
Trask has been up to the task leading a sizzling Gators passing game confidently with his arm, accuracy and athleticism to get into the first-round conversation. He’s raised his efficiency and looks like a good fit in Sean Payton’s offense as Drew Brees’ true successor over Jameis Winston and, yes, Taysom Hill.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)
- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)
The Eagles will be ready to jump on Parsons if he falls from the other two NFC East teams picking ahead of them, even with an aggressive trade up if needed. But getting Farley to upgrade opposite Darius Slay is a pretty good fallback. Farley has developed into a sound cover man and uses both his hands and big frame well to make plays on the ball. He made a wise decision to opt out after what turned out to be a big final season with the Hokies.
20. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest (6-5, 275 pounds)
The Colts will need to address their pass rush in Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 with Justin Houston and Denico Autry as pending free agents to complement DeForest Buckner inside. The explosive Basham is building on his 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Demon Deacons last season with 4 sacks in the first 4 games this season.
21. Cleveland Browns (5-2)
- Dylan Moses, ILB, Alabama (6-3, 235 pounds)
The Browns did their best to replace Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey on the second level, but with other positions taking precedence this year, they should be in the market for an active, rangy playmaker next year. Moses, rangy, instinctive and ideal for Joe Woods’ defense, easily would have gone in the 2020 first round without the knee injury that wiped out his entire 2019 season in Tuscaloosa. This season, Moses has picked up where he left off in 2018 with 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 4 games.
22. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)
- Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State (6-4, 315 pounds)
The Cardinals need to replace J.R. Sweezy, a pending 2021 free agent, to further upgrade the offensive line in front of Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake. Davis is ideal to be an elite right guard next to rookie right tackle Josh Jones and already has showed plenty in the way of paving the way for the Buckeyes’ prolific rushing attack before deciding to opt in back into the season.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams for Jalen Ramsey)
- Jevon Holland, S, Oregon (6-1, 200 pounds)
The Jaguars have some of the worst safety play in the NFL, not far removed from the great combination of Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church. Holland is coming off a very impressive season where he had 4.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He has nice size and a well-rounded skill set to play either spot.
24. Buffalo Bills (5-2)
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami (6-4, 235 pounds)
Jerry Hughes is getting up there and fading Trent Murphy is a pending free agent for Sean McDermott. Roche can give them solid every-down player. The transfer had 13 sacks in his final season at Temple. He is proving himself more without Rousseau in Miami with 2.5 sacks in five games. Roche also has a nose for the ball and coverage when needed.
25. Chicago Bears (5-2)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)
It’s getting clear Allen Robinson won’t be re-signing with the team in 2021. The Bears then need more pop in their offense and it would be hard to pass on up Waddle as they likely try push their offense forward with a new QB. He should be well recovered from his season-ending fractured ankle to hit the NFL running as a rookie.
26. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
- Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan (6-4, 277 pounds)
Paye is back in Ann Arbor ready to start his season and build on his 6.5 sacks in 2019. He is big, strong and powerful in his moves to go with his quickness. The Ravens should be interested in an edge rusher in this range as Matthew Judon remains difficult to sign for the long term. Here, John Harbaugh gets to get a strong presence from his brother Jim’s defense.
27. Green Bay Packers (5-1)
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (6-3, 200 pounds)
LSU keeps churning out the big-time NFL wide receivers, with Chase going earlier and Justin Jefferson being an instant first-round hit for the Vikings. Marshall has a great combination of size and speed and can line up anywhere as a big-time complementary route runner to Davante Adams for which Aaron Rodgers is looking. With Chase not playing, Marshall has boosted his stock with 21 catches for 424 yards and 7 TDs in only three games.
28. Tennessee Titans (5-1)
- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Titans just hit on A.J. Brown but took a major whiff with pending free agent Corey Davis. Smith and Waddle will be next year’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III in the first round. Smith has picked up from he left off last season, posting 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs, making his big share of big plays all over the field in another loaded receiving corps. He has 38 catches for 483 yards and 4 more TDs this season.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2)
Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh (6-2, 290 pounds)
The Bucs are getting one more season from aging and still effective Ndamukong Suh but they need to think of getting a younger explosive, disruptive presence at the position. Twyman, with some Aaron Donald upside out of Pitt, too, ripped through offensive lines for 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2019 before opting out in 2020.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0)
Creed Humphrey, G/C, Oklahoma (6-4, 312 pounds)
The Steelers need to think about their interior line next to David DeCastro with Matt Feiler heading into free agency and Maurkice Pouncey aging. Humphrey combines athleticism with a mean hand punch. He remains a first-rounder after opting to return to school.
31. New York Jets (from Seahawks for Jamal Adams)
- Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State (6-4, 220 pounds)
The Jets can get their repalcement thumping playmaker for Adams in the draft after trading him. Nasirildeen has great size like an extra linebacker, tackles well and has some upside in coverage, too. This season for the Seminoles, he has 61 tackles and 2 interceptions in five games.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6-2, 210 pounds)
The Chiefs will be looking for wideout help to support Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman for Patrick Mahomes with Sammy Watkins and DeMarcus Robinson unsigned for 2021. Bateman, who opted back in for 2020, put up 60 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 TDs working opposite Buccaneers draft pick Tyler Johnson in 2019. He will look for a big year without Johnson to help Tanner Morgan in 2021.