The NFL Draft kicks off in just a few days. After a free agency full of moves and a few trades within the first round, let’s take a look at how the first round could play out.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

This selection is quite obvious. The Jaguars have a dire need at the quarterback position and Lawrence might be the best quarterback prospect to enter the draft since the likes of Peyton Manning. That is very high praise for a guy who has never played a professional game, but this kid has done nothing but win at every level. Jacksonville will improve dramatically on offense.

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU

The Jets very well could have had the No. 1 pick in the draft, but after winning a couple games that they had no business even trying to win, they have the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. With this selection, all signs point to Wilson. Now that the team has traded away Sam Darnold, the Jets need a new signal caller. Although there are arguments to be made for other quarterbacks, Wilson is clearly the second-best player at his position entering the draft. The Jets will enter a new era with Wilson at the helm. He should start next season.

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3. San Francisco 49ers (Trade from Miami): QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

The Niners made a surprising move to trade up to the third spot in the draft. The only reason they would do this is to snag a quarterback to take Jimmy Garopollo’s place. While I could see them taking Trey Lance, I think Fields is the better fit in Kyle Shannahan’s system. The Niners will absolutely take the third consecutive quarterback to start off the draft.

4. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

While Atlanta could also use a quarterback as we get into the waning years of the Matt Ryan era, Ryan still has enough in the tank to lead Atlanta to the postseason if surrounded by the right weapons. Pitts is probably the top prospect in this year’s draft class. The Falcons will be extremely happy to get the talented tight end out of Florida. Pitts can immediately make an impact on the offensive side of the ball.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

The Bengals need to make a decision about whether they want to add another playmaker for quarterback Joe Burrow, or whether it makes more sense to add a strong prospect who can protect the star quarterback from getting beaten and bruised. I think Cincinnati invests in Sewell, who will be the left tackle for many years for this franchise. 

6. Miami Dolphins: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

The Dolphins are in a dream scenario after moving up and down the draft board. They moved back from the No. 3 spot because they believe they can get their guy with the sixth pick. The Dolphins are in desperate need of a top wideout, and Chase is the best in this year’s draft class. He will surely help Tua Tagovailoa develop in his second year.

7. Denver Broncos (*Mock trade from Detroit): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

I am predicting a draft-night trade with the seventh pick. Expect the Lions to move down as the Broncos take the No. 7 pick and select Lance as the new quarterback of the future. Although Denver already has Drew Lock on the roster, Lock has not shown that he can be a better than average signal caller in the NFL. Expect a quarterback competition in Denver after the Broncos select the skillful Lance out of North Dakota State.

8. Carolina Panthers: OG Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

After trading for Darnold, the Panthers will simply select the best player to compliment their new quarterback. With Christian McCaffrey already in the backfield, and talented wideouts D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson on the roster, Carolina will address the offensive line by selecting Slater.

9. Detroit Lions (*Mock trade from Denver): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

The Lions have no problem moving back a few picks because they still get their man in the standout wide receiver from Alabama. The Lions lost Kenny Golladay this offseason so Waddle is the perfect replacement. It will be interesting to see how the rookie works with veteran quarterback Jared Goff in his first season in a Lions’ uniform.

10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

This seems like a no-brainer decision to me Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. They are desperate for help in the secondary and Surtain is the safest bet at his position in this draft class. Two players from the Crimson Tide go back-to-back in the 2021 NFL Draft to close out the top ten picks.

11. New York Giants: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

The Giants almost never select a linebacker in the first round, but the talent is too much to pass up with the eleventh pick of the draft. Parsons is a tackling machine and will help this defense improve to the next level. He should start right off the bat. Although some think the Giants need another skill player, the addition of Golladay filled that need. I think general manager Dave Gettleman goes with the best available player on the board.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (Trade from Miami): WR Devonta Smith, Alabama

The Eagles tried to move up in the draft but the price was just a bit too high. Instead, they moved back and will still be able to address their biggest need, which is wide receiver. The Eagles will add Smith, who should help quarterback Jalen Hurts improve in his second year as the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

The Chargers have all the right pieces at the skill positions on offense, however, the offensive line is severely lacking. Drafting the talented tackle out of Virginia Tech will allow quarterback Justin Herbert more time to hit his targets. 

14. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

The Vikings should definitely address the defense with their first pick; the question is whether they should select a pass rusher or a cornerback. In a very tough position, I expect the Vikings to go with Paye, the pass rusher out of Michigan. 

15. New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama

The Patriots have had a hectic free agency and have made plenty of moves. However, there are still many questions surrounding quarterback Cam Newton. Mac Jones would be an excellent choice here. The Pats can let Newton mentor Jones until he is ready to start himself. This would be a dream scenario for Bill Belichick and New England. 

16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

After losing Patrick Peterson to the Vikings, the Cardinals are in desperate need of some help in the secondary. Horn is the perfect guy to take the Pro Bowler’s place.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

The Raiders have a lot of needs to fill, but I expect head coach Jon Gruden to make sure his team gets a solid offensive lineman. Vera-Tucker can basically play anywhere on the offensive line, making him the perfect fit in this offense. 

18. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami (Fla.)

The Dolphins are still looking for more defenders who can help bring head coach Brian Flores’ defensive vision to life. Phillips is a solid hybrid defender who offers imposing size and is effective when rushing the passer.

19. Washington Football Team: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky

Washington needs help on the offensive line, the wide receiver position and in their linebacker corps. In an extremely tough decision, Washington selects the strong linebacker out of Kentucky. 

20. Chicago Bears: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

The Bears are absolutely looking to trade up in order to grab a talented quarterback. However, if no deal can be made, they will surely be happy if Farley falls this far. After cutting Kyle Fuller for salary cap reasons, Farley would be the perfect replacement at the cornerback position. He is arguably the best defensive back in his class, though there are plenty of question marks surrounding him due to previous injuries.

21. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

Ojulari has the explosiveness and length that should intrigue the Colts. Not to mention, his character fits exactly the type of culture that Chris Ballard has built over the years. Edge rusher is absolutely the biggest need for the Colts, and although this team does not always draft solely off of need, Ojulari is too talented to pass at this point in the draft.

22. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest

Due to the insane depth at cornerback and wide receiver in this draft class, the Titans can wait on what they need most in order to select the best available player in Basham Jr. out of Wake Forest.

23. New York Jets (Trade from Seattle): CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

The Jets gave some of their young corners the opportunity to showcase their skills in New York’s secondary last season, but none proved capable or dependable as a starter. Still, Joe Douglas didn’t sign a single cornerback in free agency. That is why Newsome is an obvious choice if he lasts this long. He should have a significant shot at starting Week 1 and should help improve New York’s inexperienced secondary.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama

Now that James Conner has signed with the Cardinals, the Steelers need a running back who can play plenty of snaps. Benny Snell is not going to get the job done. However, selecting Harris out of Alabama could turn out to be a home run pick. Running backs out of Alabama have always fared well in the NFL. And with Big Ben only able to play for a couple more seasons, the Steelers have no choice but to go all in. 

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (Trade from Rams): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

While it is very possible that the Jags could take a wideout to help out their new quarterback, Moehrig also makes a lot of sense here. Jacksonville addressed the safety position by signing Rayshawn Jenkins in free agency, however, he may be better suited to play linebacker or at least closer to the line of scrimmage. Moehrig is the best safety in this year’s draft class and would give the Jaguars a solid option in coverage. 

26. Cleveland Browns: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama

Adding Barmore to play alongside Myles Garrett creates one of the strongest defensive lines in the NFL. That is just too tough to pass up, even if there are more glaring needs in Cleveland.

27. Baltimore Ravens: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

The Ravens need a wide receiver or three if they are going to help Lamar Jackson and the offense get to the Super Bowl. While Mark Andrews and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown are fine players, Baltimore absolutely needs another playmaker to help spread the field for Jackson and the running game. Toney is the perfect fit for the Ravens.

28. New Orleans Saints: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

The Saints have one of the best offenses in the league so they should absolutely address the defensive side of the ball with their first selection. While they would love to snag an interior lineman here, there aren’t any who are quite valuable enough, so instead they will be happy with the playmaking linebacker out of Notre Dame.

29. Green Bay Packers: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

The Packers absolutely need a wide receiver to help Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams on offense. Moore will compliment the offense nicely and give Rodgers another top-tier player to target on passing downs.

30. Buffalo Bills: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State

The Bills don’t have any glaring needs, but if there was one part of the team that isn’t very deep, it would be the pass rushing. It’s unlikely that Oweh could enter the lineup on day one in 2021, however, he presents as a really solid project. If Oweh is given some Tim to fill into his 6-foot-5 frame and get used to the professional level, he could turn into a very special sack specialist. 

31. Baltimore Ravens (Trade from Kansas City): OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

The Ravens just traded Orlando Brown to the Chiefs for this pick, so it should be no surprise to see them take the talented offensive tackle out of Michigan with the penultimate pick of the first round. Mayfield is solid enough to eventually be a franchise player on this offensive line. And Lamar Jackson absolutely needs the protection.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Yes, the Buccaneers already have Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. They also signed Gio Bernard and drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round just last year. All that being said, Vaughn is the only one of those running backs under contract past the 2021 season. Adding Etienne, one of the premier running backs in this draft class, will make the Bucs’ running attack formidable for years to come. Plus, you know Tom Brady won’t be complaining about another skill player who can contribute in this offense. 

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