Now the the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, we naturally wondered what the 2021 NFL draft might look like. And it’s impossible to look ahead without considering the worst-case scenario — both the NFL and college football seasons being canceled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
We decided to do a mock exploring what that might look like. In this situation, everything is paused. The draft order remains the same and teams have to make decisions without the benefit of another season of college football to evaluate, weighing rising seniors and juniors against players they’ve just drafted.
Ultimately, this is just a way-too-early exercise in speculation. But what else do you have going on?
2021 NFL Mock Draft
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Oregon OT Penei Sewell
With No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow in the fold, the Bengals are certainly out of the running for Trevor Lawrence. Instead, they can look to build around their new franchise quarterback, and that includes fixing an offensive line that still looks shaky. Sewell would have been the top tackle if he was draft-eligible this year and it’s hard to find a weakness with his game.
2. Washington Redskins: LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
If HC Ron Rivera is willing to give Kyle Allen a chance to compete with 2019 first-round QB Dwayne Haskins, then would Washington consider taking Trevor Lawrence? It’s a fascinating question, and it would officially kick-start a trend of teams dumping first-round quarterbacks for more high-profile options like what Arizona did with Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray. Rivera tends to be more conservative, though, and taking Chase to add weapons around Haskins would be the more conventional path. While he’s not physically overwhelming like past receivers taken this high, Chase was almost unstoppable and had nearly 1,800 yards receiving last season.
3. Detroit Lions: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
For a talent billed as generational as Lawrence, slipping to the third pick is a steep fall. Even so, there’s a case for Detroit to pass on the top quarterbacks again like they did this year. Matthew Stafford would still just be 33 and moving on would create $19 million in dead money. However, he’s ended the past two seasons with back injuries and opportunities to seamlessly transition franchise quarterbacks are rare.
4. New York Giants: Miami DE Gregory Rousseau
The Giants skipped out on free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney because of a belief that they can manufacture pressure schematically. But if a talent like Rosseau is available, he would be hard to pass up. As just a redshirt freshman, the 6-6, 260-pound edge rusher had 15.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 13 games.
5. Miami Dolphins: Clemson WR Justyn Ross
Like the Bengals, the Dolphins have a brand-new franchise quarterback to build around. Miami took a number of offensive linemen this year to protect Tua Tagovailoa, here they get him another player to throw to. The rangy Ross is poised for a huge season as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood
The Chargers traded away LT Russell Okung this offseason and will apparently rely on Trent Scott or Trey Pipkins to replace him if free-agent addition Bryan Bulaga stays at right tackle. Leatherwood was a candidate to join 2020’s loaded tackle class before deciding to go back for his senior season.
7. Carolina Panthers: Penn State LB Micah Parsons
The Panthers could take a swing at finding their next franchise quarterback here, but they didn’t pay Teddy Bridgewater for nothing and could elect to wait another year. They still need to replace the heart of their defense after LB Luke Kuechly retired and Parsons would do just that. He’s been a force since stepping on campus and should test extraordinarily well to boot.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
The final year of Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson‘s deal is in 2020 and he’s been the subject of trade rumors the past two years. Even if he comes back, he’ll be 31 before the start of the 2021 season. Surtain has strong NFL bloodlines and proved himself against some of college football’s best week in and week out at Alabama.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ohio State QB Justin Fields
While the Jaguars have said they want to give former sixth-round QB Gardner Minshew a shot at the starting job, it would be hard to pass up a talent like Fields. After transferring to Ohio State and winning the starting job as a sophomore, Fields put up a scintillating 41 passing touchdowns to just three interceptions while also rushing for 10 touchdowns and 484 yards on the ground.
10. Cleveland Browns: Wake Forest DE Carlos Basham
It appears the Browns will keep DE Olivier Vernon for another season but a long-term pass rusher across from Myles Garrett is a need for Cleveland. Basham cracked double-digit sacks as a junior at Wake Forest and elected to return for his senior season to try and better that output. He’s the cousin of Jets edge rusher Tarell Basham.
11. New York Jets: Purdue WR Rondale Moore
The good news for the Jets is the 2021 draft class looks as good if not better than the 2020 class. New York is determined to put playmakers around QB Sam Darnold and Moore was one of the biggest playmakers in college football as a true freshman. Injuries prevented him from following up on his electric 2018 season last year but he’s still very much on the radar as a player who’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field with the ball in his hands.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Georgia QB Jamie Newman
The Raiders do their homework every year on the top quarterbacks in the class despite publicly insisting they’re content with current starting QB Derek Carr. But Las Vegas isn’t really tied financially to Carr going forward and the big-armed Newman could be compelling for HC Jon Gruden to take advantage of the downfield weapons he’s amassed. Newman seized the full-time starting job at Wake Forest last year and was impressive, accounting for 32 total touchdowns.
13. Indianapolis Colts: Stanford OT Walker Little
Little was one of college football’s highest-regarded tackles but missed the bulk of the 2019 season due to a knee injury. That pushes him down the board to the Colts, who are thrilled to snare a long-term replacement for Anthony Castonzo at left tackle after the veteran mulled retirement this offseason.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Alabama DT LaBryan Ray
The offense around Tom Brady is pretty much set, as the Buccaneers got their new quarterback weapons and protection. No team is hoping more that the 2020 season goes on than Tampa Bay. Going forward, the Buccaneers can take a little bit of a longer view, and they add the next Alabama defensive lineman in the pipeline to groom as a replacement for Ndamukong Suh. Ray won a starting job for the Crimson Tide before an injury ended his 2019 season after just three games.
15. Denver Broncos: Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg
Good news for the OL-starved NFL, 2021’s class also looks fairly strong at the position. Denver needs a long-term replacement for the penalty-prone Garett Bolles and there’s a variety of tackles they could choose. Eichenberg has started the past two seasons at left tackle for the Fighting Irish and received some draft buzz before electing to return for a fifth season.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Alabama LB Dylan Moses
Had Moses not suffered a season-ending knee injury before the start of his junior season last fall, it’s very possible he would have been the top linebacker in this past draft. As is, he should be one of the top players in 2021 provided there are no complications with his rehab. After letting De’Vondre Campbell leave via free agency, Atlanta could add a more dynamic replacement as GM Thomas Dimitroff continues to add playmakers to that side of the ball.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
Dallas has no shortage of options at center but they showed this year they’re not afraid of taking the best player available even if it’s at a deep position group. Here they dip back into the Oklahoma well to draft Humphrey, who should be able to maintain the elite level of play Dallas was accustomed to having from C Travis Frederick before he retired.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Oregon State LB Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
With fellow edge rusher T.J. Watt approaching his time for a major extension, Steelers LB Bud Dupree might be looking at his final season in Pittsburgh on the franchise tag if the team decides allocating big money to both isn’t a smart use of cap space. The Steelers can find a cost-controlled replacement here, adding one of the contenders for best name in the draft. Rashed can play, too. His 14 sacks tied for third-best in the nation last year.
19. Chicago Bears: Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield
After going two years without a first-round pick due to the Khalil Mack trade, Chicago makes its return to the first round by giving some resources to the offensive side of the football. The Bears were disappointed with the level of play from their tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in 2019, but are locked in contractually in 2020. That changes in 2021. Mayfield showed tremendous potential, starting the entire season at right tackle as a sophomore.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida State DT Marvin Wilson
Jacksonville has another first-round pick as a result of the Jalen Ramsey trade and can use it to continue to rebuild the defense, particularly the interior defensive line. The Jaguars tend to like players from Florida and Wilson would have been a contender to be an early-round pick had he declared for the draft this past year.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: TCU S Trevon Moehrig
The Eagles need a replacement for do-everything S Malcolm Jenkins and that could prompt them to select a rare first-round safety. There’s not a clear frontrunner for top safety in the class like there was last year, but Moehrig jumps off the screen when TCU’s on defense. As a sophomore, he was all over the field with 62 total tackles, two forced fumbles, four interceptions and 11 pass defenses. Listed at 6-2 and 208 pounds, he appears to have the size and skillset to replace Jenkins.
22. Buffalo Bills: Clemson DE Xavier Thomas
Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and Trent Murphy will all be 30 or older by the end of 2020. Buffalo just drafted A.J. Epenesa, but a greater infusion of youth into the pass rush is needed. Thomas has worked as a rotational defensive end for Clemson the past two seasons and was named to the freshman All-American team. It didn’t work out with Shaq Lawson but maybe Buffalo is ready to take another swing on a Clemson pass rusher.
23. New England Patriots: North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
The Patriots still need a quarterback and in this scenario, they’re nowhere near high enough to get one of the established top guys. So they take a swing on potential. As a redshirt freshman in his first season as a starter, Lance led the Bison to an undefeated, 16-0 championship season, throwing for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. As if that wasn’t enough, the 6-3, 221-pound Lance added 1,100 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Scouts are already eyeing him as an early entrant in 2021 and Eagles QB Carson Wentz has paved the way from North Dakota to the top of the draft.
24. New Orleans Saints: Ohio State CB Shaun Wade
Ohio State has become an NFL pipeline for cornerbacks and Wade was almost an early entrant into this year’s draft. As is, he’s projected to be among the top options in 2021 and might not be available for the Saints. Obviously New Orleans isn’t complaining about the chance to add Wade to a secondary that already features former Buckeyes Marshon Lattimore and Malcolm Jenkins.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Washington CB Elijah Molden
Mike Zimmer loves corners, and even after drafting Jeff Gladney in the first round last week it doesn’t rule out the Vikings addressing the position again. Molden was one of the best defensive backs in the PAC 12 last year, intercepting four passes and knocking down 12 others.
26. Miami Dolphins: Texas OT Samuel Cosmi
After tearing their offensive line down to the studs, the Dolphins threw a plethora of picks and free agency dollars at the problem, signing G Ereck Flowers and C Ted Karras while drafting LT Austin Jackson, OL Robert Hunt and G Solomon Kindley. However, there’s still room for improvement, and Cosmi has been a starter for the past two years at tackle since he was a redshirt freshman.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Tennessee G Trey Smith
Seattle took a number of low-cost swings at upgrading their offensive line in free agency this year. But often when teams go bargain bin shopping, they get what they pay for. Smith would have been one of the top guards in this past class, which was seen as not particularly strong, before he elected to return for his senior season.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Miami DE Quincy Roche
Roche has been a star at Temple since stepping on campus as a freshman, recording 26 sacks the past three seasons. As one of the hottest transfers on the market, Roche picked Miami and might push his stock even higher with a strong senior season. As is, he offers great value for Baltimore as they still could use some long-term help for their edge rushing group.
29. Tennessee Titans: Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman
Tennessee seems poised to decline former top-10 WR Corey Davis‘ fifth-year option, meaning the Titans will need to find a new complement for budding star WR A.J. Brown. Bateman built upon a strong freshman season with a breakout sophomore year, topping 1,200 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns for the Golden Gophers. He’s a big, athletic deep threat who would thrive in Tennessee’s play-action driven attack.
30. Green Bay Packers: Miami TE Brevin Jordan
Green Bay passed on adding weapons for Aaron Rodgers as they appear to be moving toward a more run-centric offense. But you still need tight ends for that, and Jordan is a huge value at this point. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he’s proven himself to be an athletic mismatch since his freshman year. He has a lot of similarities to former Miami tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Clemson RB Travis Etienne
The future of the running back position in San Francisco is murky after 2020. They just traded away Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman will be a free agent in 2021. 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan could get a juiced-up version of Coleman in Etienne, who makes defenders look like they’re moving in slow motion when he kicks into gear. Some evaluators thought Etienne would have been a first-round pick in this class if he hadn’t made the surprising decision to return to Clemson.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
There were rumors about the Chiefs considering a trade up to get WR Henry Ruggs and add to what is already an embarrassment of riches when it comes to speed on that side of the ball. If they wait a year, Ruggs’ Alabama teammate Waddle could get pushed down the board to them — and he might be just as fast. Replacing Watkins with Waddle would continue to give the rest of the NFL headaches when trying to defend QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.