NFL mock draft 2021: Jets finish tank for Trevor Lawrence; Patriots, Falcons, Vikings pass on QBs

The NFL is past the midseason point with Week 9 underway for the 2020 season. The college football season finally ha sall of the Power 5 in action with the return of the Pac-12.

That makes it another good time for an updated Sporting News first-round mock draft for 2021. The winless Jets go into Monday night with a strong hold on the No. 1 overall pick, but there are plenty of one- and two-win teams jockeying for prime positions.

Here’s how we see the picks from 1-32 playing out now. The top 18 picks are based on the current draft order, according to Tankathon. The bottom 14 is based on SN’s projected finish of the current playoff teams through Super Bowl 55.

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NFL mock draft 2021

1. New York Jets (0-8)

With Sam Darnold breaking down and not living up to his first-round promise, even with limited help, the Jets will find it hard to pass on this generational talent, a can’t-miss QB prospect in the echelon of Andrew Luck and Joe Burrow. Lawrence isn’t just a great passer and athlete, he’s an accomplished leader and winner, just like those other two. He can last in New York as long as Eli Manning with greater success. The question is, would the Jets need to get rid of Adam Gase to make Lawrence want to play for them? He’s also hinted he could return to Clemson for another season.

2. New York Giants (1-7)

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)

The Giants may consider QB, too, namely Georgia’s Justin Fields, but are less likely to do so with Daniel Jones only in Year 2, despite his ball-security issues. Sewell’s strong, sturdy presence would fit nicely operating opposite 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas at right tackle, helping to better block for Saquon Barkley and better protect Jones. New York’s pass protection has fallen apart with Thomas playing the left side and Cameron Fleming on the other edge.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Fields is getting his desired second college starting season to help build his stock and push Lawrence, confirming the dynamic dual threat has his eyes on the draft. The Jaguars are starting to see signs that Gardner Minshew isn’t truly the franchise guy with his struggles against defenses that are better prepared for him and now an injury is keeping him out of action. Fields finds a good fit with the Jaguars’ solid skill players, led by undrafted rookie feature back James Robinson.

4. Miami Dolphins (from Texans for Laremy Tunsil)

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

The Dolphins gave DeVante Parker a new deal and like Preston Williams working opposite him in Chan Gailey’s spread offense, but they are thin behind those players after not investing their ample draft capital at the position in 2020. Chase, opting out of LSU’s action, is coming off a big final season with Joe Burrow (84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs) and would be an excellent additional big playmaker to pair with Tua Tagovailoa.

5. Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown player. The Cowboys’ secondary has been awful without Byron Jones and Surtain’s style would be a good complement to his former Crimson Tide teammate Trevon Diggs. Jerry Jones needs to focus on shoring up the back end.

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6. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

With the demise of Matt Ryan greatly exaggerated, the Falcons do the smarter thing for the short term and try to fix their defense again. They keep having issues rushing the passer so they should want an upgrade for whoever is coaching them in 2021. The ACC and the Hurricanes are playing, but Rousseau, who opted out, didn’t really need to play to boost his stock after posting 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his lone significant and final season under defensive-minded head coach Manny Diaz.

7. Washington Football Team (2-5)

This team may also think quarterback again, but Washington, with many needs, should also think about waiting another round for that position. Ron Rivera added a game-changing defensive disruptor in Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young for his rebuild at No. 2 in 2020, and now taps into the Big Ten again for Parsons, a rangy, hard-tackling and well-covering cleanup man in the Luke Kuechly mold. Ahead of his opt-out from conference play, which stands through the Big Ten returning. Parsons had 109 total tackles, including 5 sacks, last season for the Nittany Lions.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 pounds)

Cornerback has gone from strength to weakness quickly for the Chargers with Casey Heyward (31) showing his age, Chris Harris Jr. (also 31) on the shelf with a foot injury and Desmond King traded. Farley can be good support to Derwin James and feed off the pressure of Joey Bosa.

9. New England Patriots (2-5)

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 246 pounds)

The Patriots should be in the market for a quarterback early, but they could also go for the best player available, a real difference-making tight end a la Rob Gronkowski to help whoever is passing for them in 2021. Pitts is dominating SEC play this season with 22 catches for 355 yards and 7 TDs in only 4 games.

10. Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

The Vikings have been hurting at guard next to first-round center Garrett Bradbury without Pat Elflein, who’s also a free agent in 2021. Humphrey, an ideal fit for their zone-blocking scheme, combines athleticism with a mean hand punch. He has become a mightier first-rounder after opting to return to school.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)

Wade has nice size and like former Buckeyes teammate Jeffrey Okudah, is active and instinctive in coverage. He reversed his opt-out and will use it to build his stock into top-10 status. The Bengals added former Vikings Trae Waynes (who was lost for the season) and Mackensie Alexander (who is their slot corner) to their secondary in free agency but need to consider a replacement for disappointing 2016 first-rounder William Jackson, unsigned for 2021.

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12. Carolina Panthers (3-5)

Teddy Bridgewater has fared pretty well as their bridge QB, but there’s also an indication they have a limited ceiling with him and should think about replacing him by 2022 with a longer-term solution. Despite Lance’s one-game showcase for the Bison not going as planned in 2020, one cannot ignore the impressive physical and athletic skills he displayed in his first full season of action (2,786 yards passing, 28 TDs, zero INTs, 1,100 yards rushing, 14 more TDs). His name is only a few letters different from Trevor Lawrence and he carries an extremely high ceiling.

13. Detroit Lions (3-4)

The Lions are unllikely to re-sign Marvin Jones Jr. in 2021 and will need a reliable playmaker to complement Kenny Golladay. Smith has picked up from he left off last season, posting 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 TDs, making his big share of big plays all over the field in another loaded receiving corps. He has 56 catches for 759 yards and 8 more TDs in six games this season.

14. Denver Broncos (3-4)

Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

Garett Bolles is a first-round bust and along with Demar Dotson, a pending free agent in 2021. The Broncos may stick with Drew Lock but need to upgrade his pass protection. Leatherwood would be a fine replacement and upgrade. He is an elite athlete who can become a top overall blocker should he keep working on his strength and technique.

​15. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

The 49ers have five cornerbacks going into unrestricted free agency in 2021, including Richard Sherman, as well as safety Jaquiski Tartt. Secondary should be the primary target, followed closely by offensive line. Campbell is a very quick, athletic prospect for his frame with the ability to develop into a technically sound shutdown type.

16. Miami Dolphins (4-3)

Nasirildeen has great size like an extra linebacker, tackles well and has some upside in coverage, too. He is just returning from an injury he suffered at the end of last season, when he racked up 101 tackles and 2 interceptions.

17. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3)

The Raiders drafted well at defensive end and cornerback and invested heavily in linebacker in free agency. The missing ingredient is a linchpin up front against the run. Wilson easily could have come out and gone in the first round this year coming off a highly disruptive 5-sack season for the Seminoles. He has one sack and 11 tackles in six games this season.

18. Chicago Bears (5-3)

It’s getting clear Allen Robinson won’t be re-signing with the team in 2021. The Bears then need more pop in their offense and it would be hard to pass on up Waddle as they likely try push their offense forward with a new QB. He should be well recovered from his season-ending fractured ankle to hit the NFL running as a rookie.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)

The Eagles need to desperately upgrade the second-level play all over  Moses, rangy, instinctive and ideal for Jim Schwartz’s defense, easily would have gone in the 2020 first round without the knee injury that wiped out his entire 2019 season in Tuscaloosa. This season, Moses has picked up where he left off in 2018 with 50 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception in six games.

20. Cleveland Browns (5-3)

The Browns will need to look to upgrade their pass rush for Joe Woods opposite re-signed stud Myles Garrett with Olivier Vernon heading into free agency. The explosive Basham is building on his 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Demon Deacons last season with 5 sacks in the first six games this season.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams for Jalen Ramsey)

The Jaguars have some of the worst safety play in the NFL, not far removed from the great combination of Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church. Holland is coming off a very impressive season where he had 4.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He has nice size and a well-rounded skill set to play either spot.

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22. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Jones is having himself a big season replacing Tagovailoa in Tuscaloosa. Jones has been the complete package in leading the Tide, having a Joe Burrow-style breakout with his accuracy, big arm and downfield production, racking up jaw-dropping passing totals in the process. His prototypical strong pocket passing should have great appeal after one year of Philip Rivers as the bridge QB.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

The Cardinals need to replace J.R. Sweezy, a pending 2021 free agent, to further upgrade the offensive line in front of Kyler Murray and their running game. Davis is ideal to be an elite right guard next to rookie right tackle Josh Jones and already has showed plenty in the way of paving the way for the Buckeyes’ prolific rushing attack before deciding to opt in back into the season.

24. Tennessee Titans (5-2)

The Titans may not be able to retain Jadevon Clowney opposite Harold Landry after his one-year contract so here’s another path they can follow for pass-rush help. Roche can give them solid every-down play, too. The transfer had 13 sacks in his final season at Temple. He is proving himself more without Rousseau in Miami with 2.5 sacks in six games. Roche also has a nose for the ball and coverage when needed.

25. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

The Ravens have too many speedy deep threats and not one consistent, reliable route-running go-to guy all over the field. Marquise Brown needs a better complement. Bateman, who opted back in for 2020, put up 60 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 TDs working opposite Buccaneers draft pick Tyler Johnson in 2019. Without Johnson, he’s helped out Tanner Morgan with 14 catches for 163 yards in two games this season.

26. New Orleans Saints (5-2)

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (6-5, 230 pounds)

Trask has been up to the task leading a sizzling Gators passing game confidently with his arm, accuracy and athleticism to get into the first-round conversation. He’s raised his efficiency and looks like a good fit in Sean Payton’s offense as Drew Brees’ true successor over Jameis Winston and, yes, Taysom Hill.

27. Green Bay Packers (5-2)

Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (5-9, 180 pounds)

The Packers have a big, dominant No. 1 in Davante Adams but they could use a more reliable threat they can line up all over the field to further help Aaron Rodgers. Moore, who opted back in to make more big plays for the Boilermakers but has yet to hit the field in 2020, is a versatile athlete and an explosive catch or carry waiting to happen.

28. Buffalo Bills (6-2)

The Bills need to beef up their defensive line for Sean McDermott with opt-out Star Lotulelei aging and Vernon Butler struggling. They could also think about end with Trent Murphy headed to depart as a free agent. Twyman, with some Aaron Donald upside out of Pitt, too, ripped through offensive lines for 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2019 before opting out in 2020.

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29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5-10, 205 pounds)

The Bucs tried their best to solve running back woes in the passing game by adding Leonard Fournette, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and LeSean Mccoy behind Ronald Jones, but Tom Brady really could use a more versatile weapon in the James White mold for his second year with the Buccaneers. Etienne, who surprised by returning to Clemson, has racked up 1,040 scrimmage yards and 11 TDs in seven games, adding to his dazzling career numbers with the Tigers. He’s a special back for the modern NFL offense, with some of both Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook in his game.

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30. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0)

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 205 pounds)

The Steelers need to think about addressing cornerback with Stephen Nelson and Joe Haden breaking down in downfield coverage. Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner for Will Muschamp’s defense. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field in that game. Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality 

31. New York Jets (from Seahawks for Jamal Adams)

This is a strong class for receiving tight ends with Pitts, Freiermuth and Miami’s Brevin Jordan. Freiermuth decided to return to school and didn’t opt out of the 2020 season and has produced 10 catches for 106 yards and a TD in two games. He’s got ideal size and strength and can also be a powerful in-line presence in the running game.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)

Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU (6-3, 200 pounds)

With Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson hitting free agency in 2021, this would a coup for Patrick Mahomes. LSU keeps churning out the big-time NFL wide receivers, with Chase going earlier and Justin Jefferson being an instant first-round hit for the Vikings. Marshall has a great combination of size and speed and can line up anywhere as a big-time complementary route runner to Tyreek Hill. With Chase not playing, Marshall has boosted his stock with 31 catches for 540 yards and 79 TDs in only five games.

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