2021 NFL mock draft: Crazy trades spark historic run on QBs, more big surprises

In our latest 2021 NFL mock draft, wild trades involving the 49ers, Dolphins and Eagles lead to something that hasn’t happened in the NFL Draft since 1999.

The countdown is on for the 2021 NFL Draft. With the 2020 season in the rearview mirror, 32 teams are dedicating the next few months to scouting prospects and finalizing their boards before the biggest day on the offseason calendar. In our latest 2021 NFL mock draft, there are huge changes after the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles blockbuster trades.

Quarterbacks define draft classes. In fact, for the first time since the 1999 NFL Draft, we will likely see three passers taken with the top-three picks. But there’s more to love about the 2021 NFL Draft. If your NFL team needs a stud edge rusher who can create pressure, a No. 1 receiver, or just more talent on both sides of the ball, it can be found here.

Let’s dive into our latest 2021 NFL mock draft, reflecting the first wave of NFL free agency and the two blockbuster trades that sent shockwaves through the 2021 NFL Draft.

2021 NFL mock draft: Latest first-round projections after blockbuster trades

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2021 NFL mock draft: Trevor Lawrence
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates after running 67 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State during the second quarter of the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl of the College Football Playoffs semi-final game, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona Saturday, December 28, 2019. Clemson Vs Ohio State Fiesta Bowl

The Jaguars don’t need to overthink this one. Lawrence may be the cleanest draft prospect in NFL history, and new head coach Urban Meyer was on the scene to keep a close eye on Lawrence’s pro day, which was earlier than anticipated. No real red flags here. Time for Jacksonville to turn in the card with Lawrence’s name on it and change the course of its franchise. — Matt Fitzgerald

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft
Dec 12, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson encourages his teammates during warmups before an NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets still have time to exhaust their internal debate about a Sam Darnold trade. Ultimately, any decision that doesn’t lead to them drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick is a mistake. Zach Wilson has earned his spot as the second-best quarterback in the NFL Draft and it seems everyone in the league, especially the Philadelphia Eagles, think he won’t make it past New York. Wilson is exactly the kind of star who could thrive in Mike LaFleur’s offense. – Matt Johnson

3. San Francisco 49ers (via MIA): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft: Washington Football Team
Jan 11, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance (5) celebrates winning the game against the James Madison Dukes at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A strong performance at North Dakota State’s pro day showed how much upside Lance has. He’s only turning 21 in May and has just one full season of college starting experience under his belt. When he did play, though, Lance was spectacular, throwing 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions and racking up 1,100 yards rushing in 2019. Ideally, Jimmy Garoppolo stays to mentor Lance as he learns Kyle Shanahan’s offense from the bench, but either way, Lance has all the tools to be a superstar. — Matt Fitzgerald

4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

2021 NFL mock draft: Atlanta Falcons: 2021 NFL Draft
Sep 26, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There’s certainly consideration that must be given for Justin Fields, but it’s very possible Atlanta gives Matt Ryan more time. With that in mind, head coach Arthur Smith loves using two tight ends in Tennessee. He might like Hayden Hurst, but that doesn’t compare to what life will be like with Kyle Pitts. We’re talking about a generational talent at the position and putting him in the Falcons’ offense with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley is a recipe for points and highlights. – Matt Johnson

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft: Cincinnati Bengals
Apr 20, 2019; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Penei Sewell (58) points the scoreboard after the Oregon spring game at Autzen Stadium. Mighty Oregon beat Fighting Ducks 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been said that Sewell is Cincinnati’s target and the only player the club has really considered taking all along. Hard to argue with such a strategy, because Sewell might be the best tackle prospect since Tyron Smith nearly a decade ago. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow would love to be reunited with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase or get another talented, young skill player to throw to. However, Sewell is the no-brainer pick to ensure a major injury doesn’t befall Burrow again as it did during his rookie campaign. – Matt Fitzgerald

6. Miami Dolphins (via PHI): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins
Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Talk about a dream scenario for the Miami Dolphins. If they didn’t find a trade partner, Ja’Marr Chase is likely the No. 3 overall pick. Thanks to Friday’s trade fest, the Dolphins slide down three spots and pick up a 2023 first-round pick and 2021 third-round pick in the process. Don’t let Chase sitting out the 2020 season make you forget he finished with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. He has the talent to be a perennial Pro Bowl receiver and will help Tua Tagovailoa’s stats soar. – Matt Johnson

7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft: Detroit Lions
Jan. 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a 42-yard touchdown behind Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tuf Borland (32) during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner just knows how to get open. No one at the highest levels of college football could guard him, and even with a slighter stature, DeVonta Smith shouldn’t have many problems adjusting to life in the NFL. He played in a complex offense at Alabama under coordinator Steve Sarkisian that featured plenty of pro-style concepts. There’s no route Smith can’t run. Jared Goff badly needs a security blanket like Smith, who’d form a nice pass-catching duo with tight end T.J. Hockenson in Detroit. — Matt Fitzgerald

8. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

2021 NFL mock draft: 2021 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) warms up before playing the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of dream scenarios unfolding, this 2021 NFL mock draft couldn’t work out more perfectly for the Carolina Panthers. Team owner David Tepper desperately wants a quarterback upgrade. The uncertainty around a Deshaun Watson trade works out, with Justin Fields falling right to Carolina. Drawing comparisons to Dak Prescott, this is a pro-ready starter with the physical tools to be a special player. In a Joe Brady offense with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, Fields could challenge Lawrence for Rookie of the Year. – Matt Johnson

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

2021 NFL mock draft: Denver Broncos
Nov 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after sacking the Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (not pictured) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Character concerns could sink Parsons’ stock, but there’s no questioning his abilities on the gridiron. He’s a vicious, violent hitter who’s a mix of old-school, throwback player and new-wave speed demon who can excel anywhere he’s asked to line up at linebacker. Broncos coach Vic Fangio would have a field day moving him around as part of a front seven that features Von Miller and Bradley Chubb screaming in off the edge. Denver is an excellent fit for Parsons if he’s there to be had. — Matt Fitzgerald

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

2021 NFL mock draft: Dallas Cowboys
Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) reacts during the first quarter during the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game against the Clemson Tigers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys made a nice move, adding Keanu Neal to the secondary. It’s a solid start, but Dallas desperately needs a CB1. Patrick Surtain II is more than ready to handle the duties of being a starter in his rookie season. In Dan Quinn’s scheme, with an improved pass rush, Surtain will help this pass defense look a lot better in 2021. – Matt Johnson