Photo courtesy of Clemson athletics
Don’t look now, but the NFL Draft is coming and it’s coming fast.
One week currently separates teams from meeting their newest members. In what will be a 3-part series, we’ll be putting together a mock draft for the first round.
The series begins with a look at pick Nos. 1 through 11:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
No brainer. We’ll get at least one pick correct.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The pick here should be Justin Fields. He has a longer track record against better competition than Zach Wilson; however, all signs from New York seem to point to Wilson. Wilson burst onto the scene in 2020 and caused many college football fans to tune in to watch BYU on a weekly basis. He’s an immensely talented quarterback, around whom the Jets will build their franchise.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
There is buzz that the 49ers will take Alabama’s Mac Jones. Until we hear the iconic NFL Draft chime and watch “Mac Jones” flash across the screen, we have to believe that Fields is the pick. Fields has better arm talent, better accuracy, and he’s more mobile. The 49ers will be hard to stop once Fields learns Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.
4. Denver Broncos (from Atlanta Falcons) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
MOCK TRADE: Denver Broncos send two 2021 picks (Round 1, pick 9, and Round 2, pick 40) for the fourth overall pick in 2021.
The Atlanta Falcons will attempt to trade back. That means the Broncos, desperate for a quarterback, will trade up. Trey Lance is raw, but has so much potential. With the plethora of weapons that he would inherit in Denver, Lance will succeed in the NFL.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, LT, Oregon
There is buzz that the Bengals will draft Ja’Marr Chase, but this is a deep wide receivers class. There are still plenty of Round 2 pass-catchers that quarterback Joe Burrow could throw to. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are already the start of an above-average wide receiver corps. Burrow suffered a gruesome injury last season, and they have to protect the future of their franchise. Penei Sewell can be the Bengals’ left tackle until 2030 and beyond.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Dolphins land a unique weapon for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who thrived with several elite weapons at Alabama. Kyle Pitts is an elite tight end, who has the upside to compete with Travis Kelce and George Kittle for the best tight end in the league within a few years. Pitts can line up on the outside as a receiver or on the line as a tight end, creating an endless matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. The No. 84 Pitts jersey is going to be a very popular one in Miami for the next decade.
7. Detroit Lions – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
After losing Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to free agency, the Lions pick up a the centerpiece of their new wide receiver corps. Ja’Marr Chase is the best wide receiver in this draft and will immediately be the best wide receiver for the Lions. He will come alongside T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, as another young, talented weapon for quarterback Jared Goff.
8. Washington Football Team (from Carolina Panthers) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
MOCK TRADE: Washington Football Team sends one 2021 pick (Round 1, pick 19) and their 2022 first-round pick for the eighth overall pick in 2021.
The Carolina Panthers are actively looking to trade back, and the Washington Football Team are a quarterback away from being a real problem. Mac Jones is NFL-ready and is an immediate upgrade over Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen as the future at the position in Washington. 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick would give Jones a little buffer to learn the system, but Jones would take over the reigns within the first few weeks of the season.
9. Atlanta Falcons (from Denver Broncos) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
MOCK TRADE: Atlanta Falcons send one 2021 pick (Round 1, pick 4) for the ninth overall pick and the 40th overall pick in 2021.
The Falcons are able to trade back, accumulate an extra pick, and still grab the best cornerback in the draft. Patrick Surtain II is going to be a lockdown cornerback in the NFL and will immediately upgrade a position of concern in Atlanta. Surtain II will match up with the likes of D.J. Moore, Mike Evans, and Michael Thomas for six weeks of the season, but he has the mental makeup to take on the challenge.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Cowboys just missed out on the best cornerback in the draft, but quickly pivot to the second-best cornerback in the draft. Jaycee Horn has the confidence to thrive in a large market like Dallas. Horn is a gritty defender with an unrelenting work ethic. He’s going to give Dallas his all and then some.
11. New York Giants – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants are in a unique position here that the second- and third-best wide receivers (Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith) and the second-best offensive tackle (Rashawn Slater) are atop of most draft boards when they pick. These are not necessarily positions of need. Their wide receiver corps is solid (Golladay, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard), but they may take a look at Waddle or Smith.
They drafted the left tackle of the future last season (Andrew Thomas), who showed steady improvements throughout the year. They may still take Slater for the interior of the line and for backup if Thomas doesn’t continue to improve. “Trade back” is not in general manager Dave Gettleman’s vocabulary, so they’ll stay put and take the best linebacker in the draft. Micah Parsons is an elite talent, who has the athleticism to stuff the run from sideline to sideline like Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gettleman saw the value of an elite linebacker during his years with Luke Kuechly in Carolina. The Giants add to their defense with a run-stopping weapon.