Michael Gaither’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Michael Gaither

Over the last several days, I have been pulling out NFL draft analysis from some of the best and most commonly used sports sites in the world, including ESPN, CBS Sports and NBC Sports, Sports Illustrated, and Pro Football Focus. In my mock draft for the 2020 NFL draft, out of the first 10 picks, I got 7 of them correct. I used a site called the Draft Network to pull all of these sources into a first-round, 32-pick prediction for what NFL teams could do in the upcoming NFL Draft. So, here is my prediction for the 2021 NFL Draft. 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawerence: QB, Clemson

Barring a crazy trade, this may be the only no-brainer pick in this draft. 6’6”, 220 with a cannon for an arm and underrated mobility, he’s the best prospect to enter the NFL Draft since former Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck.

2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson: QB, BYU

Even though he has had some injury and character troubles in the past, Zach Wilson can make every throw in the book, is a very good athlete, and plays with the arrogance and the moxie of a franchise QB.

3. Miami Dolphins – DeVonta Smith: WR, Alabama

Although he’s a slender wideout who has body dimensions that are maxed out in both his upper and lower halves, he plays much bigger than his frail structure indicates. Because of his sure hands and body control, he has no trouble making catches in traffic. Smith also has value on special teams, as he proved to be a dangerous punt returner this past season. Serving as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 option in 2020, he proved to be one of the most valuable and explosive players in the country, taking home the Heisman trophy in the process. 

4. Atlanta Falcons – Justin Fields: QB, Ohio State 

Justin Fields will eventually be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw and he’s arguably the most athletic QB in this draft, even with his inconsistencies in some of his games this past season, i.e Indiana and Northwestern. Matt Ryan, the Falcons current QB, still has a couple of years left on his contract, so it’s more than likely that Ryan will stay for this year, then Fields will be the starter the year after, which will give Fields the perfect opportunity to learn from a veteran and improve his game. 

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell: OT, Oregon 

Penei Sewell is arguably the best offensive lineman in this draft, which is especially evident in the run game, and he’s not too shabby at pass blocking. The Bengals had the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft and took last year’s Heisman winner, Joe Burrow. Because of how bad Burrow’s o-line was, he tore his ACL midway through the season last year. If Sewell falls to them, this pick would make all the sense in the world.

6. Philadelphia Eagles – Jamar Chase: WR, LSU 

Ja’Marr Chase was Heisman Trophy winner and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow’s go-to target in LSU’s record-breaking offense in 2019. Although he doesn’t run all that fast, Chase has good size and he’s a good 50-50 ball catcher. He should be a valuable target for whoever starts at quarterback for the Eagles next year.

7. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle: WR, Alabama 

Jaylen Waddle is a do-it-all type of player on offense. Easily the fastest player in this draft, he plays the game with a jetpack and makes defenders look like they’re running in slow-motion. Like his college teammate DeVonta Smith, he’s also a return specialist. Even though Waddle only played in four games during the 2020 season due to a fractured right ankle, he will be back and ready to roll for this Lions offense and new QB Jared Goff

8. Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance: QB, North Dakota State 

Next to Justin Fields, Trey Lance could make an argument that he’s the most athletic quarterback in the draft. The Panthers have been involved in trade talks for both Matthew Stafford, who is now a Los Angeles Ram, and Deshawn Waston, who, as of right now, is still with the Houston Texans. If they don’t get a QB in free agency, they will most likely take the quarterback available, which in this case is Trey Lance, and have him learn under current Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater.

9. Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons: LB, Penn State 

Micah Parsons will be a dynamic player in the NFL just as he was at Penn State. His combination of size and explosiveness allow him to consistently destroy ball carriers and blockers to the football. Broncos star linebacker and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller didn’t play at all last season because of a torn ACL, and there is a possibility that the Broncos would trade him before the draft. Parsons has the ceiling to fill his shoes right away for a defense in Denver that struggled this season with a lot of young talent.

10. Dallas Cowboys – Caleb Farley: CB, Virginia Tech 

Farley brings a rare blend of size, length, quickness, and athleticism that makes him an exciting NFL prospect. His injury history is concerning, but for a team that couldn’t stop anyone on defense, I would be shocked if the Cowboys didn’t take the best defensive player available when they will make this pick.

11. New York Giants – Kyle Pitts: TE, Florida 

Although Kyle Pitts is listed as a tight end, he really should be listed as a FLEX, which means you can put him anywhere in an offensive formation. At 6’6” he plays just as big as his size indicates. The Giants are in a position where they can essentially draft the best player available, and in this case, they give QB Daniel Jones a great piece to work with.

12. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Surtain II: CB, Alabama 

Patrick Surtain II is a highly touted cornerback from the Crimson Tide. He is the son of former Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs corner Patrick Surtain, which means he has the genes of a former successful NFL player. His length and his discipline, which is a word you hear a lot from a team coached by Nick Saban, are his best attributes. Surtain will be added to an already great defense that will help the 49ers be a top contender for the Super Bowl.

13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater: OT, Northwestern

The No. 1 priority for the LA Chargers with this pick is rather simple: get your franchise quarterback his blindside protection. Rashawn Slater’s diversity as an o-lineman is what has made him a high riser on most experts draft boards, and he will be a valuable asset for this ever-improving Chargers roster.

14. Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker: OG, USC

Alijah Vera-Tucker has aligned predominantly at left tackle for the USC Trojans offense, but he can play a little guard as well. The interior of the Vikings’ offensive and defensive lines was down-right terrible this past season, so don’t be surprised if they take a player from either one of those positions within the first two rounds of the draft. 

15. New England Patriots – Mac Jones: QB, Alabama  

Even though he isn’t very athletic, Mac Jones is a clear leader and very smart player at the position, who understands right away where all of his options are. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a great relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban, and their current QB, Cam Newton, has looked like a shell of his former self, so this pick would make a lot of sense for New England.

16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn: CB, South Carolina 

The son of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn entered the NFL draft after demonstrating consistent growth at South Carolina. Horn has a long frame that is built for competing with the opposing team’s best receiver. Arizona Cardinal All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson is a free agent, so plugging in Horn will be the most ideal play for a Cardinals team that just missed the postseason this past year.

17. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB: Notre Dame

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will be an immediate impact defender in the NFL. He’s a versatile linebacker who can cover multiple positions on offense. The Raiders made some improvements this past season, but the defense could still use some more key players, which is why they take Owusu-Koramoah with their first-round pick.

18. Miami Dolphins – Najee Harris: RB, Alabama 

Harris is a versatile back that has the value as a runner and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Harris is that rare blend of power and determination, that allowed him to lead in the nation in rushing touchdowns this past season. What better way to give the Dolphins more offensive firepower than to give their starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, two of his former teammates in Harris and DeVonta Smith.

19. Washington Football Team – Christain Darrisaw: OT, Virginia Tech 

Darrisaw improved every season during his time with the Hokies and checks every box when it comes to what NFL people want from an offensive lineman. Alex Smith is getting towards his mid-30s in age and is a year removed from a catastrophic leg injury that sidelined him for the previous season and a half before this last year. Adding Darrisaw for his already solid O-line will make the Washington Football Team more likely to repeat as NFC East Champs

20. Chicago Bears – Jaylen Mayfield: OT, Michigan 

Jalen Mayfield will be a high-quality offensive lineman in the NFL. He’s got great size and athleticism and especially shows his talents in pass blocking. The Bears will essentially take the best player available with this pick if they don’t trade it, so Mayfield would be a solid pick for them.

21. Indianapolis Colts – Kadarius Toney: WR, Florida 

What is it with Florida and swiss army knives? Kadarius Toney could make the argument that not only could he be the fastest player in this draft, but could also be the most valuable chess piece. Toney, like his former teammate Kyle Pitts, can be lined up anywhere in an offensive formation. Unlike his former teammate, he is valuable in the return game. Adding Toney to a Colts team that already has solid pieces on offense makes them a QB away from super bowl contention.

22. Tennessee Titans – Azeez Ojulari: DE, Georgia 

Ojulari has great athleticism and consistently demonstrated good quickness, effort, and body control. He can play linebacker in the NFL as well. The Titans’ defense needed massive turnover on defense to be a top contender in the AFC, and Ojulari would be a great asset to this Titans roster.

23. New York Jets – Travis Etienne: RB, Clemson 

Travis Etienne enters the NFL after leaving Clemson as the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. His burst and body control make him a big-play back that is capable of scoring from any part of the field. Running back Frank Gore is in his late 30s and the Jets don’t really have anyone else behind him. Adding Etienne to this team would make all the sense in the world. 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Zaven Collins: LB, Tulsa

Collins has an extraordinary blend of size, length, power, football IQ, and versatility that makes him a dynamic prospect for the NFL and that also made him college football’s latest Bronco Nagurski award winner, which is annually given to the nation’s best defensive player. Whether it’s defending the run, covering receivers, or rushing the passer, Collins has the skill set to be the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football for the 2020 season. When reading this player evaluation, he even feels and sounds like a Pittsburgh Steeler, so this pick makes total sense.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Gregory Rousseau: DE, Miami(Fla.) 

Gregory Rosseau has tremendous production and showcased an exciting physical skill set while playing at Miami. Because he played his college football in the state of Florida, the Jags saw an awful lot of him. If Rosseau is available at this spot, it would be a great value pick for Jacksonville.

26. Cleveland Browns – Jaelan Phillips: DE, Miami(Fla.)

Even though he’s had some injury issues, Jaelan Phillips is a playmaker against the run and he can rush the passer with his blend of size, length, power, technique, and athleticism. The Cleveland Browns make some improvements this past season, but they still need help on the defensive side of the ball. Phillips is a guy that they can develop over time into an important piece to their team.

27. Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall, Jr: WR, LSU 

In 2020, Terrace Marshall Jr. was the man at LSU. He proved that he could be a number one receiver and a reliable slot receiver. He offers terrific size, physicality, hands, run after catch ability, and exceptional route-running skills. The Ravens have been looking for a number one wide receiver for a while now, and I think they find him in Marshall.

28. New Orleans Saints – Nick Bolton: LB, Missouri 

Nick Bolton will be an impact starter in the NFL thanks to his explosiveness and his ability to deliver big hits to ball carriers. The New Orleans Saints don’t really have any needs in this draft, so they take the best player available who could immediately help their team in Bolton. 

29. Green Bay Packers – Rondale Moore: WR, Purdue 

Rondale Moore should be considered one of the NFL Draft’s most electric prospects but he’s also one of the biggest wildcards because of his injury issues. When healthy, Moore is a multi-purpose weapon who can break open a football game with any touch of the football, which includes special teams plays. The main goal for the Packers should be to make their MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, the happiest man in the world. What would make him happier than to give him another weapon to this already high-scoring offense? Not much.

30. Buffalo Bills – Tevin Jenkins: OT, Oklahoma State 

Tevin Jenkins is an experienced offensive lineman who can play multiple positions of the offensive line. The Bills are another NFL team that doesn’t have a lot of needs on their roster, so they could ultimately trade out of this pick, but Jenkins would be a sold selection nonetheless.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Carlos Basham, Jr: DE, Wake Forest 

Carlos “Boogie” Basham is one of the more underrated pass rushers in this draft, who was very productive during his time at Wake Forest. The Chiefs defense has shown to be their Achilles heel at certain points during the season last year. Adding Basham to a defense that already has solid pieces would a great team even better.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jayson Oweh: DE, Penn State 

With a rare length and a surplus of amazing athletic tools, Jason Oweh has a very high ceiling. It’ll be good if he is drafted by Tampa Bay because he still needs time to develop, and why not develop with a great defensive coaching staff and an elite defense that is fresh off a super bowl victory.