2021 NFL mock draft ... with a twist! What every team SHOULD do

Hey, everyone! Time now for an annual tradition: My NFL mock draft ... with a twist!

Per usual, this exercise explores what every team SHOULD do in Round 1. That's right. I don't sit here and try to predict what is going to happen in the draft. That's lunacy. I mean, God bless D.J., Chad, Bucky, Lance and Cynthia, but that's tough. Instead, I talk directly to the teams and tell them what they need to do. And let me tell you, they'd be wise to listen! In last year's edition, I told the Eagles to snag Justin Jefferson, which would have worked out really well for them. OK, I also told the Chargers to NOT take Justin Herbert. Nobody's perfect.

But enough chit-chat -- let's get on with it.

Pick
1
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence
Clemson · QB · Junior

Jaguars, you should totally trade this pick. Just kidding! Lawrence has been the presumptive No. 1 selection for so long. Honestly, it's hard to remember a time when he wasn't the presumed draft opener. Typically, given how much content everyone churns out in the pre-draft process, people start considering crazy fan theories. But not with this slot. No one's getting wild. And rightfully so. The Khans haven't had a decision this easy since they brought Chris Jericho to AEW. 

Pick
2
New York Jets
New York Jets
Zach Wilson
BYU · QB · Junior

You have to draft your quarterback. Look, I like Sam Darnold and still believe he could become a player in this league. But you can't just force him on Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur in their first year with the Jets. It's like moving in with someone, but their ex is still sleeping on the couch. Because if Sam doesn't work out, then you're making this new coaching staff go another year trying to find a QB. Make the tough call right now. Draft Wilson because his presence in New York would be so much fun. And because he's the No. 2 QB on my board. I'd love to see this.


UPDATE: The Jets have traded Darnold to the Panthers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. Carolina is sending New York a 2021 sixth-rounder and a 2022 second- and fourth-rounder, Rapoport added.

Pick
3
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
Mac Jones
Alabama · QB · Junior (RS)

San Francisco didn't trade up into this slot to grab Kyle Pitts. Although that would be awesome! Having him and George Kittle? I mean, it's too much to invest in the tight end position, but it's fun to think about. The 49ers are going quarterback. And I hope the ghost of duping the Bears into trading up for Mitch Trubisky in 2017 doesn't come back to haunt you here, Faithful. I'm kidding. That's on my Bears. I can't hold that against you. But I'm putting Jones as a placeholder here because he fits the Matt Ryan profile. And Ryan had his MVP season with Kyle Shanahan as his OC. But take the quarterback you want, whomever that might be.

Pick
4
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts
Florida · TE · Junior

There are a few scenarios here. First, you should trade this pick to a team that needs a quarterback. The Bears. The Patriots. The Packers. (Hey, they traded up in Round 1 for a quarterback last year. Don't get mad at me!) If you, the Falcons, keep the pick, then sure, you could go for a signal-caller. Who knows when you'll have a pick this high again. And maybe you could swap with the Jets and take Wilson. Or toss Gang Green a Day 2/3 pick in exchange for Darnold. That would be the perfect situation for him, to be a backup for a year or two and then take over a gig. But let's say you stay here. Take Pitts. You got the twilight years of Tony Gonzalez. Here, you'd get the prime. 

Pick
5
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell
Oregon · OT · Junior

Cincy, you are in a great spot right here. You may be tempted to add an offensive weapon to Joe Burrow's arsenal. And I would say to do that, if quarterbacks go with the first four picks. Then go all in on Pitts. He could be Burrow's Travis Kelce, and that would be a game-changer. But Sewell is a fine consolation prize if the Falcons take my advice after failing to move out of that No. 4 spot. Seriously, if you come out of the first with Pitts or Sewell, you've had a great evening.

Pick
6
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Ja'Marr Chase
LSU · WR · Junior

I know the Hollywood way to do this would be to select DeVonta Smith and team him up with his former QB, Tua Tagovailoa. But we're not doing that here. Chase is clearly the top receiver in this draft. And you, Miami, need more playmakers on offense. Adding Chase to DeVante Parker and free-agent signee Will Fuller gives you a pretty, pretty nice WR corps. And I know some people think you're looking at a quarterback. But if we can be serious for a moment, there is no reason to do that. You just drafted Tua last year. I mean, if you want to go QB and send Tua to the Bears for a mid-round pick, sure, do that. Otherwise, commit to getting better around last year's No. 5 overall pick. 

Pick
7
Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
Justin Fields
Ohio State · QB · Junior

THIS IS NOT A PREDICTION. MERELY A SUGGESTION.


I know you just traded for Jared Goff. But he's regressed the last couple of years ... with offensive guru Sean McVay. Maybe Goff can thrive with Anthony Lynn in Detroit. You know, the coach who was in charge during Justin Herbert's amazing rookie season? But I think we've seen enough of Goff to know what we're getting. Goff would be fine as, like, the backup in Kansas City or something. Fields could be your QB of the future. And if nothing else, start dropping hints that you want to do that and see if the Panthers would like to jump up and swap picks. 

Pick
8
Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
Trey Lance
North Dakota State · QB · Sophomore (RS)

You should really be talking to the Falcons (although they might not want to help you out) and the Bengals, to potentially move up a few spots and take a run at Fields or whoever slides down a bit. But even settling for Lance isn't going to be the worst thing. In fact, my colleague and draft ace Daniel Jeremiah has Lance ranked ahead of Fields. Teddy Bridgewater is the perfect -- wait for it -- bridge quarterback if you want to let the rookie sit for a year or two. But you guys have been openly flirting with other quarterbacks this entire offseason, so it seems like the time to make a move.


UPDATE: The Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Panthers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. Carolina is sending New York a 2021 sixth-rounder and a 2022 second- and fourth-rounder, and plans to pick up Darnold's fifth-year option. The Panthers are now looking to trade Bridgewater.

Pick
9
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II
Alabama · CB · Junior

First of all, Elway, dude. You (and new GM George Paton) need to trade up if you want a quarterback. Otherwise, you're going to have to go defense. I know a lot of people will say the Broncos filled their CB need by signing Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in free agency. But A) Fuller's only on a one-year deal, and B) you can never have enough quality corners in this AFC West.

Pick
10
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
Rashawn Slater
Northwestern · OT · Senior

Yeah, it's going to hurt if Surtain ends up going to the Broncos. I'd even investigate trading up if you really want to make sure you get him. You need defense. But if Surtain is off the board, I'd like to fix the next-biggest need for the team, and that's offensive line. Slater would be a fruitful infusion into a line (and particularly, a position) that was once one of the best in the NFL. And now it's ... not so much. The Cowboys are like Star Wars. Amazing in the 1970s, had a nice run in the '90s, but you've disappointed a lot of people recently. Still, there has been a comeback, thanks to things like The Mandalorian. Rebuilding your offensive line would be like that. 

Pick
11
New York Giants
New York Giants
Jaylen Waddle
Alabama · WR · Junior

The smart play might be to go with one of the premier edge rushers available at this spot, because it's truly a team need. You guys have already added Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph and (checks notes) John Ross to the mix on offense, so going with Waddle might be considered overkill at this point. But I'm of the mind that you give Danny Dimes every available resource to be successful in this league. You need an answer on him, and this should help provide one. Waddle has the ability to be the Giants' version of Tyreek Hill, so I say you go for it. 

Pick
12
Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
DeVonta Smith
Alabama · WR · Senior

There are really no wrong answers in this situation right here. If the Giants go defense, then take the receiver you want. Just like you should have done last year, when I told you to take Justin Jefferson. And yes, I'm going to cling to that for quite some time. 

Pick
13
Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
Gregory Rousseau
Miami · Edge · Sophomore (RS)

There are a lot of different ways you could go here. I don't mind taking a look at corner and offensive line. But you did a nice job on the line in free agency and should be set (or at least able to wait until the next couple of rounds to address the need). I really love Rousseau as a developing pass rusher. He is obviously a little bit green, but learning on the job across from Joey Bosa should speed up the process. And it'd give this L.A. team its own version of Aaron Donald/Leonard Floyd. (I know Bosa and Donald don't play the same position, but roll with me.) And yeah, I was wrong about Herbert last year. I won't be offended if you ignore me.

Pick
14
Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
Kwity Paye
Michigan · Edge · Senior

Here's another raw pass rusher who is actually coming in at a pretty good value right here. If the Chargers ignore me (again, not offended) and go with Paye, I wouldn't hesitate to rush the card up there for Rosseau. The thing is, Minnesota, you used to be really good on defense. Those days are over now. But Paye would help push you back in the right direction

Pick
15
New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Jaycee Horn
South Carolina · CB · Junior

Well, you certainly had a lot of money to spend this offseason. Like a person with a gift card that was set to expire in a few days. Which means you were probably firing in on some guys you might not have really needed, just because you had money. But look, you addressed a lot of needs, outside of a franchise quarterback of the future. And unless you guys are going to trade up to take a quarterback -- which wouldn't be a bad idea -- you can lock in a cornerback right here. Horn is the kind of tall, physical player who's perfect for the AFC East. (I don't know what that means, it just seems right to say it.)

Pick
16
Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
Alijah Vera-Tucker
USC · OG · Junior (RS)

I see you, Arizona. Bringing in A.J. Green. Some might think it's a little too late for Green, but I remember another former Bengals rescue project that turned out pretty well in the desert. So with the skill positions set for the Birds, take the safe play here and go with Vera-Tucker. And yes, I hate that linemen aren't referred to as skill players. You try blocking Aaron Donald for an entire afternoon. That's not a skill?! But this is the right pick for you, Arizona. 

Pick
17
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
Micah Parsons
Penn State · LB · Junior

This isn't a perfect need-based pick for you, Raiders. But Parsons is going to check a LOT of boxes with what he can do on defense. The Penn State product does a number of things quite well, including covering backs and tight ends. And I don't think you should spend a first-round pick just to shut down Travis Kelce. But it certainly is kind of a bonus that Parsons wouldn't let Kelce run wide open, like in this play right here

Pick
18
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
Azeez Ojulari
Georgia · Edge · Sophomore (RS)

You got the fun offensive piece at No. 6. Now you need to find some difference-makers on the defensive side of the football. I know there is going to be a sentiment to take Jaelan Phillips, who played really well for the Hurricanes in 2020. But I saw him play at UCLA (before he transferred to Miami), and I worry about his injury history. I'd go with Azeez here. Undersized, sure. But sometimes you have to stop looking at the metrics and watch some film. He's a good one.

Pick
19
Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Notre Dame · LB · Junior (RS)

Love what you guys did in free agency, adding Fitzmagic and Curtis Samuel to an offense that already had some talent. I would even tell you all to check out a potential trade for a QB prospect, too. But if you stay in this spot, I'd target Owusu-Koramoah because he can do so many things. Will linebacker. Safety. He's a good cover guy. You drop him in that already-stout defense, and you've got a player you can be creative with.

Pick
20
Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
Teven Jenkins
Oklahoma State · OT · Senior (RS)

Well, you'll want some protection for Russell Wilson when you swing a deal for him next season, right? I kid. Sort of. Cornerback or receiver can be an option here, but I would say it's prudent to settle the offensive line and try to make things as easy for Andy Dalton as possible. Also, Ryan Pace has done a great job of finding receivers outside of the first round. And since you're not moving up for a quarterback, at some point, look at my guy Kellen Mond.

Pick
21
Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
Kadarius Toney
Florida · WR · Senior

You made the move for Carson Wentz and didn't have to guarantee a first-rounder in exchange for the former No. 2 overall pick. Huge fan of that deal. Let's get him some help. I love Michael Pittman. T.Y. Hilton's back on a one-year deal. But we need a big-time playmaker like Toney to really take this up a notch.

Pick
22
Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
Terrace Marshall Jr.
LSU · WR · Junior

A.J. Brown is a stud. There is no doubt about it. But he can't be expected to do it all by himself. You guys need to go out and get a receiver. Good news: Marshall would be a perfect fit. A long, athletic receiver who can play both in the slot and outside. With your team down Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis (who was finally good last season), you're going to need some help.

Pick
23
New York Jets
New York Jets
Caleb Farley
Virginia Tech · CB · Junior (RS)

I know, Jets. You're all, "What gives?" Asking you to take a player who had to miss his pro day because he was having back surgery. But don't worry: Time is on your side. Farley will be back for the season, and you'll end up stealing one of the best values in the draft.

Pick
24
Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
Jaelan Phillips
Miami · Edge · Junior (RS)

All right, I know you already have T.J. Watt, so taking an edge rusher doesn't exactly scream "team need" right here in the first round. But if this were me, I'd look at the value you're getting here. And then go address the offensive line later in the draft.

Pick
25
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevon Moehrig
TCU · S · Junior

This is one of the picks you got from the Rams in the Jalen Ramsey trade. And while it would make a lot of sense to go with a cornerback in this spot, I really like going for Moehrig, the best prospect at his position. It's the kind of low-key great move you guys make with AEW. Like when you brought in Darby Allin. And I'd say that is really working out well for you. That's also it for the AEW references in this file. Mostly because the Jags aren't picking again.

Pick
26
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
Jayson Oweh
Penn State · Edge · Sophomore (RS)

Browns, you have done a wonderful job this offseason. But I would love it even more if you could add a pass rusher to the mix. I know corner could also be a bargain for you at this spot, too. But I like Oweh. I'm not sure he had the consistency (or stats) that you wanted in Happy Valley. But put him opposite Myles Garrett, and it's likely we will see his best football.

Pick
27
Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
Jalen Mayfield
Michigan · OT · Sophomore (RS)

Hey, you signed Sammy Watkins. You don't need a wide receiver! ... All right, I'm kidding. But seriously, Ravens, you've done as well drafting receivers as the Bears drafting quarterbacks. And if some of the top names were on the board, sure, I would say go for it. However, tackle is an even bigger need if you end up moving on from Orlando Brown. Even if you don't, depth can be an issue.

Pick
28
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
Jamin Davis
Kentucky · LB · Junior (RS)

This is probably my favorite piece of advice in this entire mock draft right here. You let Alex Anzalone leave for Detroit. I mean, you didn't let him leave; it's the business of football. However, that means you have a need for an off-ball linebacker, and Davis would be a perfect replacement. At this point in Round 1, this would be a steal. And you all do such a great job of that, getting players in spots like this. It's almost annoying.

Pick
29
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Christian Darrisaw
Virginia Tech · OT · Junior

I mean, I know you want to take Kyle Trask here, but I would say not to. Actually, do it! What do I care? I could see you being super stubborn with this whole "never drafting a receiver" thing, so I would suggest some depth on the offensive line. Because losing David Bakhtiari was a huge blow last year. I say go with Darrisaw, who will develop into a nice player for you. And maybe ask Ryan Pace how to draft a mid-round receiver.

Pick
30
Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills
Travis Etienne
Clemson · RB · Senior

Well, I do know Bills fans are mad at me for predicting they'd win nine games last year, so why not double down by suggesting they take a running back in this spot? I would like this move, too. It's kind of similar to what the Chiefs did last year with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (which might not be the best endorsement, but I digress). If you have a chance to add a guy who can solve your problems at running back and be a factor in the passing game, I suggest you do it.

Pick
31
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Liam Eichenberg
Notre Dame · OT · Senior (RS)

I really like the idea of your crew going after Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore in this spot. That would be a fun move. Even though you've already added some new pieces to the offensive line this offseason, you should go after the rock-solid Eichenberg, who can immediately start at right tackle for you.

Pick
32
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Asante Samuel Jr.
Florida State · CB · Junior

All right, nostalgia might be getting the best of me here. But I don't think it's a reach to go cornerback at this spot. Especially since there are so few needs on this team. And if I'm being honest, sons of former NFL players have done well in the Bucs' secondary. But that's only if you follow the trends.

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