The 2021 NFL Draft is shaping up to be one of the most memorable and intriguing drafts in recent memory. Headlined by Trevor Lawrence, a generational talent, the player selection meeting features some of the most exciting, albeit polarizing, quarterback prospects in recent memory (see Justin Fields and Mac Jones). Also, it will be interesting to see who the Las Vega Raiders take with the 17th overall pick.
The intrigue starts with the San Francisco 49ers pick at number three. Questions abound as to which quarterback the Raider’s old cross-town rivals will take. Could the Niners’ brass have really given up that much capital to take Mac Jones, a player many see as the fifth-best quarterback?
What about the Denver Broncos? Yes, they just traded for Teddy Bridgewater, but if Fields or Lance falls, do they make it past the Broncos at 9?
Adding to the mystery is the reality that this is the most ambiguous draft, probably this century. Numerous college players opted out of the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Gregory Rousseau, Micah Parsons, and Caleb Farley. Many scouts are having to rely primarily on 2019 film to evaluate top prospects. Thus, it stands to reason that there could be some major surprises in round one, with players potentially rising and falling based on the extent to which teams felt comfortable evaluating them amidst the tumult of the 2020 season.
This mock draft serves as my attempt (as best as any attempted mock drafts will be this year) in predicting who the Raiders will draft and how the first round one will play out. Let’s get started.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson.
Trevor Lawrence is the sure-fire number one pick in the draft. A generational talent with supreme accuracy, awareness, touch, and timing. The Tennessee native has been penciled in as the number one pick almost since his freshman year. Urban Meyer gets an incredible quarterback for the next 15 years.
2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Jets fans may have been hoping for the number one pick all season long, but Zach Wilson is not a bad conciliation prize. The BYU product has an amazing arm, and his athleticism enables him to make some serious big-time throws off-platform.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Kyle Shanahan scoops up the player that he thinks will best fit his system. Mac Jones is far from an athletic specimen, and in truth, he struggled on deep throws in his pro-day. However, he possesses incredible short to intermediate accuracy, he is immensely smooth in the pocket and has interviewed very well. A lot of scouts see him as the smartest quarterback in the class.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
It may come down to Justin Fields and Kyle Pitts here. Word is that Falcons owner Arthur Blank loves Fields, and believes the team might not be in a position to pick a quarterback this high in the draft for some time. The prevailing consensus is that Atlanta will likely look to build around Matt Ryan.
This may be difficult though. In signaling that they are looking to trade Julio Jones (or are at least open to the idea), that speaks to a strategy that might not see Ryan in Atlanta for much longer. Yes, Jones was injured last year, but he’s been Ryan’s partner in crime ever since he was drafted a decade ago. Fields could be the pick here. His incredible athleticism, arm strength, and toughness will energize a lachrymose fan base.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Whilst it might be tempting to reunite Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase, Sewell is the smart pick here. When your number one overall rookie quarterback tears his ACL as a result of a poor offensive line, you need to protect him. The Bengals can easily add a top pass catcher at the top of round 2.
6. Miami Dolphins
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Dolphins take the best pass catcher available to pair with Tua. Regardless of whether Tagovailoa is the long-term answer or not, Chase immediately elevates the offense with his smooth route running, top-end speed, and ability to outmuscle defenders to locate the football. A great pick.
7. Detroit Lions
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Rumors are that Detroit has been putting feelers out to trade up for Chase. That may or may not happen, but Waddle is a tremendous pick nonetheless. Having lost both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay to free agency, the Lions snag a young playmaker to help out new quarterback Jared Goff.
8. Carolina Panthers
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Carolina Panthers are a team who ideally would like to trade back. In this scenario though, they happily stay put to pick who many think is the best player in the draft. Pitts is an outstanding athlete and could have a Darren Waller-like role at the next level. His size and frame mean he can bully cornerbacks, but his speed and athleticism will leave linebackers and most safeties in his wake. A true matchup nightmare. In this instance, the Panthers also address one of their top needs.
9. Denver Broncos
Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
There’s a good chance that the Broncos go offensive line, but Lance might be too good to pass up. Yes, he might not look like the type of quarterback Vic Fangio usually likes to run his offensive (one of the criticisms of Lance has been his accuracy), but he could be a superstar at the next level.
The Broncos already traded for Teddy Bridgewater in an effort to give Drew Lock some competition, but the new brass might not see either quarterback as the long-term answer. In this scenario, they can redshirt Lance for a year, whilst also feeling comfortable knowing that he won’t be forced into action with both Lock and Bridgewater ahead of him.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
It’s Jayce Horn or Patrick Surtain here. Horn gets the edge because, as NFL Network’s Jane Slater pointed out, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy coached Horn’s father for several years, and has a good connection there. A sticky, aggressive corner, Horn will bring some moxie to the Cowboys’ secondary.
11. New York Giants
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Dave Gettleman resists the urge to put more talent around Daniel Jones and opts for the ferocious Micah Parsons. Character concerns aside, Parsons is a dynamic pass rusher, with the ability to bring the hammer on contact. Ge needs to work a bit better on processing, as he can be trigger happy when shooting an incorrect gap on occasions, but Parsons is an outstanding talent.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles snag the Heisman trophy winner and get Hurts some big-time help. Yes, some critique his size but….apart from that…what can you not like about Smith? An incredibly intelligent receiver, Smith glides through opposing secondary’s like a knife through hot butter. A great pick.
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Los Angeles Chargers look to protect their future by slotting in Rashawn Slater. A polished, plug and play starter, Slater can be moved inside if need be. Scouts have lauded his footwork and fundamentals. In an ideal world, the Chargers would love to reunite Herbert with Sewell, but this is the next best option.
Slater gives the Chargers a protection plan for their rookie of the year quarterback. Whilst AFC West rivals (Raiders especially) might not threaten too much on the defensive line front, if the Bolts are to take the next step towards the playoffs, they’ll be coming against teams who can effectively get after the quarterback. This would be an excellent step for the team’s future chances moving forward.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC
Viewed by many as one of the safest picks in the draft, Alijah Vera-Tucker manned the left tackle position for the Trojans but offers excellent potential along with the interior. He gives the Vikings some much-needed versatility on the o-line.
15. New England Patriots
Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
The Patriots are looking to trade up for Justin Fields. However, they get cornerback 1B in this draft. A long, rangy corner, Surtain would pair nicely with emergent star J.C. Jackson and give the Patriots the flexibility to move on from 30-year-old Stephon Gilmore (if they so wish).
16. Arizona Cardinals
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Cardinals take a bit of a flier on a player coming off two back surgeries in college. Farley is an exceptional athlete, with exceptional man coverage skills and an ability to high point the football like a wide receiver (he used to be one). If it weren’t for his injuries, Farley may well be the top corner on many boards. He could stand to improve in the zone as he can be a bit flat-footed, but he has interviewed very well.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
No doubt the epicenter of this article, the Raiders pick. The two greatest needs for the Raiders are offensive tackle and safety. That said, the Raiders understand that the tackle class is quite deep this year. They could target BYU’s Brady Christensen or Texas’ Samuel Cosmi in the second round to shore up the right tackle spot, leaving Denzelle Good inside at guard.
Moreover, a good safety can be found in the second round too, Oregon’s Jevon Holland is a name that has been linked to the Raiders often, as has UCF’s, Richie Grant.
The Raiders will look to add a player who can immediately help the defense, albeit in both the run and pass game. Owusu-Koramoah can do just that. The linebacker is on the skinny side at 216 pounds, but he offers plenty of versatility. He’s been used in man coverage plenty of times at Notre Dame, he can rush the passer, and he tackles like someone who is 20 pounds heavier.
The key factoid regarding the Raiders’ pick is the acquisition of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. His defenses rely on having a smart, fast, and fluid linebacker in the middle of the field. As head coach of the Jaguars, he drafted Myles Jack in 2016, whilst as defensive coordinator for the Chargers, he had a big say in selecting Kenneth Murray in last year’s draft. Owusu-Koramoah fits the bill here and will bring some much-needed talent and toughness to the Raiders’ defense.
18. Miami Dolphins
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Jaelan Phillips is a premier edge-rushing talent. Whilst scouts may not have as much game film on him as they would like, Phillips has a unique blend of speed and power, resulting in a plethora of sacks during his collegiate career. The Dolphins keep the promising defensive stud in Miami.
19. Washington Football Team
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Washington Football Team is an obvious choice to trade up for a quarterback, but they take Collins here. Linebacker is a need, and Collins is a physical specimen. A player of his unique size, speed, and physicality would wreak havoc behind Washington’s stonewall of a defensive line. Ron Rivera would love him.
20. Chicago Bears
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
The right side of the Bears offensive line was subpar last season. While many fans are screaming for Chicago to trade up for a quarterback, they take a solid offensive line prospect here. The hulking Leatherwood can play guard or tackle, giving the Bears a versatile reinforcement upfront.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired last season, so left tackle is a big priority for the Colts. Keep in mind head coach Frank Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator when Carson Wentz tore his ACL playing for Philadelphia. Now that Wentz is a Colt, Reich immediately looks to protect his quarterback.
22. Tennessee Titans
Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Titans’ previous first-round pick, Isaiah Wilson is no longer on the team, or even in the NFL after a series of off-field issues. The Titans play it safe, therefore, and pick the highly regarded Newsome. An excellent boundary corner who is physical and drives to the football, Greg Newsome will thrive under Mike Vrabel.
23. New York Jets
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Edge rusher is a need for the Jets, and new coach Robert Saleh was the defensive line coach in San Francisco before becoming the 49ers defensive coordinator. Paye is a bulked-up, twitchy athlete (despite his size). Salah would love to develop him into a ferocious threat on the edge.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
With James Conner having joined Arizona in free agency, the Steelers have a pressing need at running back. The team has been linked to Harris throughout the draft process, and Tomlin is said to love him. The bruising running back shouldn’t make it past them at 24. Harris would be a throwback to the likes of Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris. A physical, powerful back, Harris is known for his physicality, but he can just easily bounce it outside with speed and be used in the passing game too.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Urban Meyer looks to address his defense and does so with the best safety in the draft. Moehrig is a ball-hawk on the back end, and whilst he can come up against the run, he can be a bit overly aggressive. Nonetheless, his instincts and ball skills will be a valuable addition to the Jags’ secondary.
26. Cleveland Browns
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Browns lost Larry Ogunjobi in free agency, and the signing of Maliek Collins is one that comes anywhere closing to replacing him. Raiders fans will be all too familiar with Collins’ lackadaisical effort in the Silver and Black last year. Barmore is an absolute stud on the defensive line. He hasn’t always been consistent, but when he’s on, no one can stop him. He can absolutely destroy interior blockers in an instant and wreak havoc in the backfield. The key at the next level will be consistency.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Fans of Teven Jenkins will be no doubt perplexed as to why he lasts this long. A tough, bullying road raider, Jenkins is outstanding in the run game. He falls here based purely on the circumstance of teams picking earlier who needed offensive line help. Jenkins is a beast of a right tackle, but he doesn’t offer the same versatility as some other prospects. The Bears look to Leatherwood as the Alabama prospect could replace either Bobby Massie or Germain Ifedi.
Nevertheless, Jenkins would be an outstanding replacement for the departed Orlando Brown Jr. on the right side of the line. He would be immensely fun to watch in front of J.K. Dobbins.
28. New Orleans Saints
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
The Saints look to inject some playmaking talent into their offensive to help out presumptive starter, Jameis Winston. Moore would bring youth and electric playmaking ability opposite Michael Thomas (the Saints relied on the aging Emmanuel Sanders last year). The Ole Miss product can align in the slot and outside, and offers big-play potential. He’s a good bet to sneak into the first round.
29. Green Bay Packers
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Davis is a name to watch for the Raiders too, which would likely be disappointing at 17. Here, the Packers address their need at linebacker with the athletic, albeit, raw Kentucky man. Davis has good range and speed, but will likely need to be coached up in terms of play recognition.
30. Buffalo Bills
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
There’s a decent chance Azeez Ojulari falls out of the first round due to concerns regarding his knee. Thus, Buffalo selects Oweh, an explosive edge defender who might be able to contribute a bit earlier than someone like Joe Tryon, who opted out of 2020. Oweh is a little raw, but could be a nice compliment to Ed Oliver.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Having addressed their first need earlier, the Ravens take Tryon out of Washington. Whilst, as aforementioned, Tryon opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid concerns, he displayed enough athleticism and production (eight sacks, second-team all- PAC 12), to warrant a selection here.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Buccaneers recently resigned Antonio Brown, so wide receiver is no longer a concern here. The Bucs might look to bolster an already formidable defense that gave Patrick Mahomes nightmares in the Super Bowl. Jason Pierre-Paul is 32, and Ndamukong Suh is 34. Rousseau gives them youth and freakish athleticism on the defensive line.
Whilst he opted out of 2020, Rousseau recorded an eye-popping 15.5 sacks in 2019. He will likely need time to develop, but it would be an ideal situation for the Miami standout.
There we have it! My 2021 mock draft on the eve of the magical night itself. What picks make the most sense to you? Which picks made the least sense? Would you be happy with Owusu-Koramoah at 17, or would you prefer, even expect, the Raiders to go in a different direction? Comment down below!
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Top Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press