Welcome Back / First 2021 Mock

Hello friends! It’s been a long time. My jobs took me away from writing for Zone Reads, and then we had some web hosting issues, but now we’re back. I don’t have a football writing job anymore (or any job at present), so I have more time to write about the draft and such.

I’m gonna take some time at some point this draft season to get into some of the metrics I’ve started using for player evaluation and how I think they’ve improved on our old methods, as well as some reasons I think our old methods didn’t work. Right now, I don’t have a lot to say about a lot of positions, unfortunately, but one thing I will touch on in this article is my increased use of Market Share and Dominator Rating to evaluate wide receiver prospects.

Anyway, here’s a mock draft I wrote a couple of weeks ago– so it’s before free agency, and before a couple of details like the Pouncey brothers retiring. I’ll have commentary on most picks in the first round and some in the second where I had thoughts; keep in mind I still haven’t evaluated a lot of players, so for parts of this mock I sourced other draft boards, mostly DraftTek. Also, no trades, which seems incredibly unlikely in a year such as this, but we’re keeping it simple. I wrote up all the round 1 picks and selected round 2 picks.


1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

This one’s a no-brainer. Nitpick Lawrence all you want; he has one of the best prospect pedigrees we’ve seen in years, going back to high school, and has done absolutely nothing on or off the field to make me doubt that evaluation. Stepping in to lead your team to a national title as a true freshman isn’t something you see every day.

2. New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

I have no idea which QB they prefer, or, honestly, which of Justin Fields or Zach Wilson is the better prospect. But I can’t see them sticking with Sam Darnold, and when in doubt I’m gonna draft the guy who was a consensus top prospect for longer, even going back to high school.

3. Miami Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Chase is my WR1 this draft and I don’t think it’s particularly close. Everyone rushing to crown Devonta Smith after his 2020 season seems to forget Chase was just as dominant in 2019 at a significantly younger age and competing with two legitimate WR prospects in their own right for targets (one of whom just had a 1,400-yard season as a 21-year-old NFL rookie). I think it’s a close call talent-wise between Chase and Penei Sewell, but Miami invested so much into their offensive line last year that I think they’ll give Tua Tagovailoa a sure #1 target.

4. Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

I don’t think Matt Ryan is finished, but I also don’t think you can roll the dice on being able to pick this highly in the draft again when a talented QB is available to you, and Atlanta certainly isn’t one player away. Wilson will be their QB for the future.

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

A no-brainer. One of the best offensive line prospects in years falls to a team that put together an execrable o-line even by “bad NFL team” standards. Cincinnati needs to make sure Joe Burrow doesn’t get murdered again, and now they’ve got a stud who doesn’t even turn 21 until October.

6. Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

I don’t know if they’ll go to this well twice in a row– and I wouldn’t draft Smith this high– but between DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery’s ages and injury histories, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside not having it, and Jalen Reagor not being Justin Jefferson, I think they’ll be adding pass-catching talent for their QB (increasingly looking like Jalen Hurts). I could see Kyle Pitts here, too, especially with the news that they want to move Zach Ertz.

7. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

If they’re serious about Jared Goff, and they can’t re-sign all of their free-agent wideouts, they gotta add someone. I wouldn’t draft Waddle this highly, either, but his speed could prove ideal after the catch or to catch up to some inaccurate Goff deep balls.

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

They were seriously in on Matthew Stafford, so they clearly want to upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater. This ends up being kind of perfect for them: Lance is the youngest QB of the top four, with the least starting experience (although with the 2020 season that’s really no fault of his own). Bridgewater has two more year on his contracts, so they can let Lance sit and learn until he takes over the reins in 2022, with Bridgewater as either a more-than-capable backup or a cap casualty.

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

I hear rumors about Parsons’ off-field but I don’t know anything about that and I don’t know that much about linebackers, either. If he’s as much of a stud as the reports say, Denver just decides to take the BPA and upgrade their defense.

10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

I don’t know which of Surtain or Caleb Farley is better. I do know Dallas’ defense sucked and several of their cornerbacks are free agents. They should have retained Byron Jones over some of the players they extended, but since they didn’t, it’s time to try rebuilding the secondary again.

11. New York Giants – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

Testing will be a big factor here in determining if Paye is as freakish an athlete as he seems. If he is, well, the Giants haven’t had consistent edge pressure for some time, so they get a huge-upside guy to fill that role.

12. San Francisco 49ers – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia

Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett are both free agents, so the 49ers pick a potential #1 guy to replace them.

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

The Chargers have tried investing in the offensive line, but between injuries and missed picks, it hasn’t totally worked out. Some folks think Slater projects to guard better than tackle, but wherever he plays, he’ll be an upgrade over what they have now (or don’t have, with retirements and free agents).

14. Minnesota Vikings – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami-FL

They tried adding Yannick Ngakoue to complement Danielle Hunter, but then Hunter missed the entire season and the pass rush tanked. They’re going to try again here, with another high-upside athlete at the position, like Hunter was.

15. New England Patriots – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

I increasingly see Pitts mocked in the top ten, so this feels a little silly here, but if he’s here, I think the Patriots jump on the chance to draft one of the most unique and highest-upside talents in the draft. Pitts is a monster receiver and very young (21 in October) who could be damn near unguardable in his prime.

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

Patrick Peterson may be gone, although Peterson himself disputes that report. Even if he isn’t, the data I can find seems to indicate that the team has moved Byron Murphy to nickel and is playing Dre Kirkpatrick on the outside, so it’s time to look for a long-time starter there.

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

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock love drafting from big, successful programs, and they need help at linebacker (well, most of the defense, but they’ve already invested a lot at other positions). Seems like a perfect match.

18. Miami Dolphins – Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech

Okay, this kinda contradicts what I said at #3. Nevertheless, I felt at this point that Darrisaw was too good value for them to pass up, and wherever he slots in, he’ll prove an upgrade, even if it means moving Austin Jackson to right tackle and/or Robert Hunt inside.

19. Washington Football Team – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

The Football Team could use help on the left side; they still haven’t adequately replaced Trent Williams. Even if Vera-Tucker has to move inside, he could still be a replacement for free agent Brandon Scherff or an upgrade from journeyman Wes Schweitzer.

20. Chicago Bears – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

One of my favorite players in the draft. I don’t know who’s going to be throwing to him, but it looks like they’re going to lose Allen Robinson in free agency, so here they try to draft someone who can fill that role.

21. Indianapolis Colts – Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas

Anthony Castonzo just retired. The Colts draft a guy with significant experience at left tackle. Seems pretty straightforward. (And nearly a mirror image of what they did ten years ago, when they drafted Castonzo #22.)

22. Tennessee Titans – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

Another player whose evaluation I’m not sure on, but I am sure that the Titans were a disaster in pass-rushing last season. Jeffery Simmons is a stud on the inside and Harold Landry is a very good #2, but they need that high-end talent to really get after the QB.

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

Might be a little high to go running back, but I feel pretty solidly that the Jets will want to put their new QB in the best situation possible, so here they decide to take the top player on the board at running back. (Yes, who that is is still a matter of debate, but I think it’s fine to have Etienne #1.)

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

Maurkice Pouncey retiring makes me wish Leatherwood could play center, but the left side of their line is also hitting free agency. Even if Leatherwood isn’t a left tackle, he’ll slot in just fine somewhere and upgrade the line.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

I have no idea who the top safety in this class is, and I could probably get you five different answers from five different people. But as far as Jacksonville goes, can you even name who their starting safeties were last year? This team needs a full rebuild, and the only sure part in their secondary is C.J. Henderson. Let’s back him up with a rangy free safety.

26. Cleveland Browns – Christian Barrmore, DL, Alabama

I wasn’t really sure what the Browns need– they’re pretty solid everywhere, with a few studs here and there. So I took the best player on the board at a position where they might be able to use some help– Larry Ogunjobi is a free agent, and Sheldon Richardson only has so many miles left.

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

They have to add a top-end wide receiver for Lamar Jackson. I feel like it’s more likely they go that route in free agency, but since we can’t count on that here, I give them the big, fast, five-star target who dominated once he was out of the shadow of Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson.

28. New Orleans Saints – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

One of my favorite draft fits and one I’d personally like to see. The Saints have to add more speed on offense– Deonte Harris took major steps this year, but he’s their only truly fast guy, and his projection as a receiver is still unclear. Plus, he’s always hurt. Whoever is playing QB for the Saints in 2021 will have a better deep ball than Drew Brees; a guy with field-stretching speed, who was an explosive playmaker in college, a 4.33 40 time in high school, and a stud since he was a true freshman, is a perfect fit.

29. Green Bay Packers – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

After watching the NFC Championship it’s hard to believe they won’t upgrade / move on from Kevin King. Here’s hoping their son-of-an-NFLer pick works out as well as Antoine Winfield Jr. did for the Buccaneers last year.

30. Buffalo Bills – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

Seems like a talented guy with lots of upside by all accounts. Buffalo gives Tre’Davious White a true running mate.

31. Kansas City Chiefs – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

The Chiefs have not had a great defense, and their linebackers in particular are almost completely anonymous. They go for the upgrade here.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State

What do you get for the team that has it all– a Hall of Fame QB, a strong offensive line, a great receiver group, a highly-drafted young secondary, and a great pass rush? Well, with Shaq Barrett being a free agent after playing on his franchise tag, and Jason Pierre-Paul already being 32, how about more pass rush?


33. JAX – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State

34. NYJ – Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

Jamison Crowder might be a cap casualty, and I love Moore’s production profile, so the Jets take a guy of similar size to Crowder (I don’t want to say they’re similar players without doing more research).

35. ATL – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma

Alex Mack is 35 and a free agent (and already talking about playing elsewhere). They got a new quarterback; now they’ve got the new guy to snap him the ball.

36. MIA – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

37. PHI – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

38. CIN – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee

Yes, I think double-dipping on the offensive line would be smart. It was really that bad.

39. CAR – Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina

They didn’t really try to replace Luke Kuechly last year. Now they’ve got a pretty good, athletic group at the position.

40. DEN – Elijah Molden, CB, Washington

No idea if he’s the best CB fit for Denver, but I do think CB is a need for them.

41. DET – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas

42. NYG – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

43. SF – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

44. DAL – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State

45. JAX – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

Might seem odd to go to this well again after hitting on D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault, but all three guys have different skill sets I think will complement each other very well for Trevor Lawrence– Chark’s downfield speed, Shenault’s toughness and playmaking after the catch, and Wallace’s high-pointing ability and ability to win difficult and contested balls.

46. NE – Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina

A deep-threat stud. Hell, Cam Newton might actually look good again if he has Brown and Pitts to throw to in 2021.

47. LAC – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

48. LV – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Another guy I’m not nearly as high on even as he rises in The Draft Process. Toney’s off-field concerns might keep him out of round 1, but I mentioned Gruden and Mayock love their big-school picks, and I think they want a guy like Toney, given their selection last year of Lynn Bowden (whom they gave up on before the season even started).

49. ARI – Richie Grant, S, UCF

Can’t really keep playing Chris Banjo as the second safety, can you?

50. MIA – Jay Tufele, DL, USC

51. WAS – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

They have to upgrade here, unless they really want Taylor Heinecke to start. I’m not sure about Jones at all, but even if his upside is limited he might still be better than anyone on roster.

52. CHI – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

I’m even less sure on Trask than I was on Jones, but unless they do something like trade for Carson Wentz (ed. note: Wentz was traded as I was editing this), they’re currently set to go into 2021 with Nick Foles, and no one wants to see that.

53. TEN – Carlos Basham Jr., DL, Wake Forest

54. IND – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

55. PIT – Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

Williams is a Draft Twitter favorite; with James Conner a free agent, the Steelers look to get younger and more explosive in their lead back.

56. Seattle Seahawks – Ben Cleveland, G, Georgia

57. Los Angeles Rams – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

58. BAL – Deonte Brown, G, Alabama

I just love the idea of this huge guy bashing lanes open for Lamar Jackson and company.

59. CLE – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami-FL

60. NO – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon

They might not be able to afford to keep Marcus Williams in free agency, and even if they can somehow, Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t exactly what they hoped for in free agency (and he’s 33 to boot). Holland gives them a versatile coverage guy (I think).

61. BUF – Walker Little, OT, Stanford

This allows them to keep Cody Ford inside at guard and, if Little is good enough, maybe even move Dion Dawkins to right tackle. Either way it’s an upgrade at a key position where it’s hard to find talent.

62. GB – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn

I don’t see him mocked this highly anywhere, but he’s another guy with a great production profile when you account for his quarterbacking and the relative lack of production of the passing offense. This team simply has to get Aaron Rodgers a second reliable guy.

63. KC – Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville

Sammy Watkins is a free agent. Mecole Hardman ain’t it. The Chiefs go back to the small-but-speedy well, but this time they draft someone who was actually very productive in college.

64. TB – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa

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