2021 NFL mock draft 1.0: Tennessee Titans take an edge rusher. But which one?
NFL mock draft season really is the best season. At least, I think so.
Everyone has their thoughts on what will happen during the first round on April 29. So do I (see below). Expectations will change between now and then. Meanwhile, I'll be among those watching highlights and conducting my own online drafts (here's a good one to simulate all seven rounds).
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There’s always some drama, but this is just too easy a call for the Jags to nab a talent like Lawrence. He is hands-down the best prospect in this year’s draft and perhaps the past few drafts. He’s the biggest piece in the Jaguars’ rebuild under Urban Meyer.
2. NEW YORK JETS: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets are also in the market for a top quarterback, and Wilson should be the next-best choice for a team that might end up regretting those two wins in 2020. Side note: Look for Sam Darnold to pop up elsewhere and succeed once given a legitimate shot with a decent team.
3. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Before opting out in 2020, Chase had a ridiculous 2019 and was LSU’s best receiver in an offense that also featured Justin Jefferson, who had a spectacular rookie season in Minnesota.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Anyone who’d be surprised if Pitts went this high probably didn’t watch him much in college. He was on another level. As we know in Nashville, Arthur Smith likes to use his tight ends a lot, and Pitts is the most gifted to enter the league in a while.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
If Sewell lasts this long, he isn’t getting past the Bengals, who need him.
6. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Who knows what the Eagles will do this pick? They could take a QB (if they don’t trust Jalen Hurts). They could trade down. Or they could take the best player available and a nearby star such as Parsons.
7. DETROIT LIONS: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Lions will want a QB. Don’t know why I feel so strongly that Fields is going to end up with Detroit, but I do.
8. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (mock trade with Carolina): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trade! And the only one I’m forecasting in this mock draft. After Fields is selected, the Patriots might be compelled to make a move and swap first-round picks with the Panthers in order to grab their future QB.
9. DENVER BRONCOS: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
If the Broncos can get the draft’s best cornerback at No. 9, they’ll need to do it. Only question is whether Farley will be viewed as the best — or is it Alabama’s Patrick Surtain?
10. DALLAS COWBOYS: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Slater’s versatility — he could play tackle or guard — makes him a nice fit for a Cowboys offensive line that shuffled through an unfortunate 2020.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I know, I know. I’ve gotten to pick No. 11 before getting to an Alabama player. And it’s Waddle? Hey, don’t sleep on Waddle. His injury last season overshadowed how dangerous he is with the football and how special a talent he can be in the NFL.
12. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Surtain could easily be a top-10 selection, and if he’s there at No. 12, it’d be an easy call for the 49ers.
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, Southern Cal
Not a sexy pick for the Chargers, but a solid one that should help them immediately.
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
Tough blow for the Titans, Part 1, as a coveted edge rusher is off the board.
15. CAROLINA PANTHERS (mock trade w/NE): Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Tough blow for the Titans, Part 2. Another edge rusher with a lot of interest, so much that I just don’t see a player of Rousseau’s caliber lasting all the way to pick No. 22.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
It’d be like winning the lottery for the Cardinals to land Smith at No. 16. Just imagine — talking to you, fantasy footballers — what the Heisman Trophy winner could do in that offense.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Safeties have to be special to go in the first round, and by most accounts, Moehrig is that. Long considered college football’s best safety, he should go on the first night.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
If the Dolphins can pair Etienne with Chase (see above) and Tua Tagovailoa, they’d be developing an offense that could be nasty for the next decade. Etienne is a solid pick for anyone. His stellar Clemson career left no question about his potential in the NFL.
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Several teams in need of a QB would have to pass on Jones for him to fall this far, but if it happens, Washington’s patience would be rewarded. Not so much for …
20. CHICAGO BEARS: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
With so many QBs off the board, the Bears could do a lot worse than adding a playmaker like Toney to liven up a dreary offense.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Check another important box for the Colts. Here’s the left tackle they need.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia
The Titans’ biggest need is so obvious, that you have to believe they’ll go with an edge rusher, and they should be thrilled if Ojulari is still available. There are legit concerns about his size at 240 pounds, but here’s what I like about Ojulari for the Titans: He plays very hard, and he was consistently productive. That matters at No. 22. While the Titans are picking too late to be able to count on landing a sure-fire star, they sorely need an edge rusher they know will at least get after it, take to coaching and earn his way onto the field and make an impact as a rookie. Ojulari gives them that. He can play immediately, and he has upside, too.
He had 15 sacks the past two seasons. In the Bulldogs’ bowl win over Cincinnati, he had one of the most dominant individual defensive performances of the season, totaling three sacks and two forced fumbles, including a play that swung the game in the fourth quarter. Perhaps as impressive was that Ojulari chose to play in that bowl as a highly rated draft prospect.
23. NEW YORK JETS: Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
This draft might lack an elite edge rusher that’s among the top picks, but it’s deep in potential standouts who are worthy of a pick as the first round develops. Here’s another one.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Remember Derrick Henry lasting until the second round? Harris is another Alabama running back good enough to make a lot of teams feel silly for not grabbing him sooner. A case could be made that he was the best player on the Tide’s national championship team.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State
Davis was one of the nation’s top high school prospects when he signed with the Buckeyes. Who recruited him? Urban Meyer.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Personally, he’s one of my favorite prospects in this draft. And just ask new Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea about him.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
There are some outstanding wide receivers in this draft, so many that the first and second round will be deep in potential stars, but what separates Marshall from others is his 6-foot-4 height.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Couldn’t you see the Saints drafting former receiver Joe Horn’s son?
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa
Collins is a really good player to still be on the board this far into the first round. You don’t have the success he did on the field last season without having NFL chops.
30. BUFFALO BILLS: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
That’d make six for Alabama in the first round, and Barmore figures to be an immediate D-line contributor at the next level.
31. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
Phillips transferred to Miami from UCLA and could be an outstanding player if healthy.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
A solid pick by the Super Bowl champs to help restock that defense.
Reach Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.