Brendan Donahue's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
BY BRENDAN DONAHUE (@donnycasino)
Updated: Monday, March 29th
NFL Mock Draft - Round 1
It feels as if this pick has been three years in the making, ever since Lawrence burst onto the scene as a freshman at Clemson and led them to a national championship. At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with mobility, he is the type of prospect that scouts have compared to the likes of John Elway and Andrew Luck as a once-in-a-decade type talent. With a new regime in Jacksonville headlined by Urban Meyer, they aren't going to begin their tenure by passing on a talent like Lawrence.
MORE: This is the first No. 1 pick in Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Draft History
His pro day certainly did not hurt his draft status, as one of his throws went viral and had scouts claiming that Wilson is the pick and the draft really begins at pick No. 3. Wilson has seen the biggest rise up draft boards in the past year both due to his "wow" throws but also his accuracy and mobility. His 2020 season justifies the praise he has been receiving as he threw for 33 TDs and only three interceptions while completing 73.5% of his passes.
And we have our first trade of draft season! Yes, I have seen the speculation that this move is for Mac Jones, I'm not buying it. I don't believe that the Niners would give up that type of draft capital a month in advance to target a player that may have been available to them at 12 -- or if not 12, somewhere after the third pick on draft night, so that they wouldn't have to give up as much. So to me, this is between Lance and Justin Fields and I think Shanahan wants the opportunity to mold someone like Lance.
At his pro day, Lance reminded scouts that he is a unique talent and got them buzzing about him again. Turn on NFL Network or ESPN and you hear comps to Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. While there are questions about his competition and total number of games started, there is no questioning his physical tools and athleticism. To quote Daniel Jeremiah "it's a limited body of work, but the foundation is outstanding."
Like I said last week in Mock 2.0, I do think the No. 4 pick in the draft will ultimately be a QB. Whether or not Atlanta is the team making the pick, I'm not 100% sure of yet. I do think Atlanta needs to either take a QB here or trade out because this pick has just increased in value with three QBs expected to already be gone but since I am still not projecting trades a month out, I will keep the Falcons here for now.
Due to Chase opting out of the 2020 season and combining that with the Heisman winning season from DeVonta Smith, it's easy to forget the type of player Chase was as a true sophomore at LSU in 2019. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the best WR in college football while putting up 84 catches for 1,720 yards and 20 TDs and that was all with an older Justin Jefferson on the team. And who was throwing him the ball that year? None other than Joe Burrow, who I'm sure would be thrilled to be reunited with his former LSU teammate.
In the last iteration of the mock, I had predicted the Dolphins would potentially trade down, which I got right. What I did not foresee coming was the Dolphins already trading back up to sixth overall, which makes me think they strongly believe a player they would have considered at No. 3 will still be here at No. 6.
PFF had the Dolphins ranked as the 20th best pass blocking and 30th ranked run blocking unit in the league last year so they could use an immediate upgrade there. Even though Sewell sat out all of last season, he has been long thought to be the best offensive tackle in this draft and has all the characteristics of a cornerstone tackle in the NFL.
I thought Detroit at No. 7 may have been a logical target for a team to move up for a QB, but with San Francisco moving all the way up to No. 3, that might have changed the calculus a bit unless someone wants to jump up to take Mac Jones. So instead, they can not only fill a glaring need at WR with Waddle but also add someone who exemplifies the toughness that head coach Dan Campbell preached about in his introductory press conference.
If I were to predict trades this draft, Carolina is the team I would project to move up to try and secure Fields. I'm not sure the Falcons will be willing to work with a team in the division, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Instead, the Panthers go with maybe the most talented pass-catcher in the draft with Pitts to surround whoever is playing QB with more weapons. Pitts wowed scouts by running an unofficial 4.46 and showed he should be able to line up anywhere on the field and still be a mismatch even at the NFL level.
Another major shakeup in this week's mock. Now that we have more certainty that the QBs will be going off the board early, I don't think Jones goes outside of the top 10. Denver, somewhat under the radar, has one of the most talented rosters on offense and the only thing holding them back was their inconsistent QB play last year. A team with this kind of talent doesn't want to waste another year of it so they go with a QB that fits more of John Elway's typical profile at the position.
There is a clear distinction in who the top three cornerbacks are this year, but it is not as clear which one will go off the board first between Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley and Jaycee Horn. Dallas goes with the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year even while opposing offenses typically avoided throwing at him. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he has the prototypical size and speed combination NFL scouts covet at the position.
Now that the Giants have officially signed their new WR1 in Kenny Golladay, I expect them to turn their attention to the offensive line. The Giants ranked 31st in the league in pressure rate allowed last year. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Slater may not be the biggest or strongest offensive lineman in the draft but he may be considered the safest because he could move inside. That's exactly what a team needs that is trying to protect what they believe to be their franchise QB.
Eagles fans may be disappointed that they lost out on their shot at Kyle Pitts but have to feel good about getting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who is coming off one of the most impressive seasons any college WR has ever had. Smith posted 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs and was on his way to a historic national championship game with 12 catches for 215 yards and three TDs before being knocked out of the game early due to injury. This is another spot where a college QB-WR duo are able to reunite at the next level and I am sure Jalen Hurts will be thrilled at the opportunity to once again throw to Smith.
The Chargers at least addressed the offensive line last week and made a big upgrade by signing Corey Linsley and Matt Fieler, but that didn't solve all their issues along the line. Darrisaw is widely considered one of, if not, the best pure blocker in this class as he consistently got better during his three years as a starter at Virginia Tech. Blocking for franchise QB Justin Herbert should be the Chargers' top priority.
Nobody in the league had a lower pressure rate on opposing QBs last year than the Vikings. Edge rushers, at this point in the draft process, have not distinguished themselves yet and may push each other down the draft boards as a result. Rousseau sat out last season but in 2019, he had 15.5 sacks while lining up all over the defensive line showing his ability to get pressure not just from the edge which Minnesota desperately needs.
The 49ers trade all the way up to three had ripple effects not only throughout the draft but possibly in the QB market as Jimmy G. may now be on the move and if so, I fully expect Bill Belichick to be in line for his services. So with that said and all five QBs gone at this point, Belichick does what he has a propensity of doing and drafts a player a year before the team has a perceived need at that position. There are rumblings, however, that they may move former South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore this offseason, which would open up an immediate spot for Horn, but either way Belichick takes Horn as Gilmore's eventual replacement.
If the draft plays out this way, the Cardinals will feel fortunate that one of the top three cornerbacks actually fell to them, especially after Patrick Peterson officially left for Minnesota. Farley only falls down to 16 because of his recent back surgery that kept him from performing at his pro day but all reports say he should be cleared by training camp so I don't think he falls much further than this.
Continue to 2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Picks 17-32
Also, check out Kevin Hanson's 2021 NFL Mock DraftMock Draft Databases:
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