NFL Mock Draft 2021: Justin Fields, DeVonta Smith, Caleb Farley fall in final 3-round projections
Sporting News' final NFL mock draft for 2021 covers the first three rounds with the most updated information and rumors considered for every team's picks.The most recent SN editions were a full seven-rounder, followed by an updated three-rounder. We decided to go another three rounds one final time with the most updated information and rumors considered with all 105 picks through Days 1 and 2.
When Brad Holmes defied conventional wisdom and took a defensive tackle for the second straight pick on Day 2 of last week's NFL draft, it apparently caused caught-on-camera friction in the Philadelphia Eagles' draft room.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday in a Philadelphia radio interview that the Eagles had two defensive tackles in mind when they traded down from No. 70 to 73 for a sixth-round draft pick: Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams and North Carolina State's Alim McNeill.
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Cincinnati Bengals.Round 1 (No. 5 overall) - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU: Strong case to be made here for an offensive tackle in the aftermath of the ACL injury that prematurely ended 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow's rookie season. But apparently a more compelling case to reunite Burrow with his main weapon from LSU's 2019 title team, when Chase established himself as the best wideout in college football.
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As Roseman went around the draft room fist-bumping his colleagues in celebration, he was greeted with a tepid response and what appeared to be words of disagreement from Eagles senior director of player personnel Tom Donahoe.
Speaking on 94 WIP on Tuesday, Roseman indicated that Donahue's dismay stemmed from the Lions' selection.
"We're at pick 71, we have two guys — two guys — standing out on our board. Two defensive linemen, and they're different. They're different flavors," Roseman said. "One's a three technique, one is more of a nose tackle. And so, obviously when you have different flavors everyone likes different flavors."
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Miami Dolphins.Round 1 (No. 6 overall, from Eagles) - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: He's been compared to Tyreek Hill and will reunite with former Crimson Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. Waddle and WR Will Fuller V will give Miami speed to burn on the outside, and Waddle could also greatly enhance the Fins' return teams. The AFC East better beware double moves from a player who averaged 10 yards after the catch.
While the Eagles' trade down created some obvious tension, Holmes was effusive in his praise for McNeill, an athletic nose tackle who had 10 sacks in three seasons at North Carolina State and should play a rotational role for the Lions this fall.
Somebody (last guy) in the #Eagles draft room doesn’t seem to agree with Howie Roseman’s pick of Milton Williams at all. ???? pic.twitter.com/J2ygTHnvLl
— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) May 1, 2021
"(When you) first watched him you’re thinking of not having seen him live physically, but watching him on film, he seems like a kind of shorter, wider guy, so you’re automatically thinking, ‘OK, he’s your typical two-down anchor nose tackle,’" Holmes said. "But then you keep watching him and it’s like, ‘Wait, hold up. This dude’s got some quickness that you don’t usually see from a guy this big and this powerful,’ so he was really fun."
As Roseman explained in WIP, disagreements happen frequently on draft day and especially in the build up to the draft, it's just rare when those moments are so obviously caught on camera for the public to digest.
San Francisco 49ers draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the San Francisco 49ers.Round 1 (No. 3 overall, from Texans through Dolphins) - Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State: A pick that's changed hands three times, the Niners made their bold acquisition of it last month ... and it was quickly followed by rampant speculation that they would take Alabama's Mac Jones. But going with Lance, who has far more upside than Jones given his physical skills, seems like the better option given the franchise surrendered three first-rounders to get him.
"Discussion and debate and having these conversations, it's OK," Roseman said. "You'd rather that. You'd rather have that passion. Tom's been here for a long time. We've been together for 10 years. Extremely close relationship. It's OK to have tough conversations, and Tom and I have had a lot of them in 10 years and that's why you want people around you who aren't going to just tell you everything you're doing's OK. They're going to give you their perspective and we have that."
Jacksonville Jaguars (A+): Hard not to roll the eyes when you hear new coach Urban Meyer bloviate about all the research they invested in No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence ... but sure, cross your T's and dot your I's, coach. End of the day, even if the only prerequisite to obtain Lawrence was going 1-15, getting a generational prospect like the Clemson star pretty much makes this a near-perfect draft with the subsequent picks serving as gravy – even if the gravy here is scrumptious. As for Lawrence? He seems uniquely suited to elevate this franchise in the win column and at the gate with the persona to handle such pressure even at 21 years of age. Keeping first-round RB Travis Etienne, another Clemson product, teamed with Lawrence makes perfect sense, while second-round OT Walker Little and third-round S Andre Cisco have significant upside if fully healthy. Second-round CB Tyson Campbell has great physical traits but needs to polish his football skills ... but, again, gravy.
New York Jets (A): This draft will ultimately be defined by whatever success No. 2 pick Zach Wilson has compared to what Darnold, now a member of the Panthers, does with a bona fide supporting cast – which NYJ GM Joe Douglas could have built for his former QB by dealing the second pick for a king's ransom, which was apparently on the table. Be that as it may, Darnold is hardly a proven NFL commodity – and by going the Wilson route, Douglas maintains far more financial flexibility than if he had to speculate on the inevitable mid-tier compensation (at minimum) Darnold has coming sooner than later. And give Douglas credit – he may have hit a home run with Wilson, who has awe-inspiring arm talent which gives him the ability to make just about any throw from just about any area of the field, whether or not his feet are set. But he'll have to prove he can do it against better competition than BYU played while using his athleticism to preserve his 6-2, 214-body from NFL poundings as much as possible. Oh, and there's that Big Apple pressure cooker factor, too. However overcoming such obstacles should all be easier given Douglas has started doing for Wilson what he didn't have time to do for Darnold – namely build out a worthy supporting cast, which will include first-round OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, second-round WR Elijah Moore and fourth-round RB Michael Carter. (And Douglas already has multiple first- and second-round selections in 2022.) Given the path the Jets have chosen, you have to like how they're navigating it.
Denver Broncos (A): Ample speculation, heretofore unfounded, linking them to Aaron Rodgers. But divorce that from the assessment of new GM George Paton's first draft class – which looks awfully solid with plug-and-play first-round CB Patrick Surtain II, impressive second-round RB Javonte Williams (whom Paton moved up for) and even highly acclaimed third-round Division III star Quinn Meinerz, who will probably win a spot on the offensive line. And surrendering a mere sixth-rounder for quarterback insurance the caliber of Teddy Bridgewater seems like a deft move. (And, FWIW, this franchise remains among the few realistically positioned to acquire Rodgers ... if it comes to that.)
New York Giants (A): After eschewing trade-down opportunities in his first eight drafts as a general manager, Dave Gettleman couldn't get enough of it Thursday and Friday, parlaying deals with the Bears and Dolphins into first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2022. As for Gettleman's actual draft board – and Thursday's deal with Chicago suggests he didn't want to miss out on Alabama's DeVonta Smith – it seemed he stacked it well since he wasn't a slave to his beloved "hog mollies." Round 1 WR Kadarius Toney and Round 2 OLB Azeez Ojulari both have first-round ability, and Toney should help third-year QB Daniel Jones get going in the right direction.
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Chicago Bears (A): It's not often that NFL personnel executives survive to make two bold draft moves for a quarterback, but apparently Ryan Pace is the Rasputin of GMs. Four years after his failed gambit for QB Mitchell Trubisky, who's now in Buffalo, Pace successfully maneuvered Thursday for Justin Fields – who looks to be an infinitely better prospect than Trubisky and arguably the steal of this draft. Less notable but perhaps as important, Pace also traded up for RT Teven Jenkins in the second round. Of course Pace, now without his first- and fourth-rounder in 2022, better be right.
Philadelphia Eagles (A): If the mandate was indeed to provide direct support to second-year QB Jalen Hurts, not a much better way to do it than going to Alabama for Heisman Trophy-winning WR DeVonta Smith in Round 1 and highly regarded blocker Landon Dickerson in Round 2. Fifth-round RB Kenneth Gainwell could be a boon to a run game that hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since LeSean McCoy in 2014. And other pre-draft moves, including parting with QB Carson Wentz, mean this team is likely to have three first-rounders next year. Not bad.
New England Patriots (A-): QB Mac Jones (in Round 1) and DE Ronnie Perkins (in Round 3) fell to the Pats, and they (wisely) climbed the board to get DT Christian Barmore in the second round, the Alabama-to-Foxborough pipeline alive and well. The defense should get a nice boost after its ranking dropped to 15th in 2020, and Bill Belichick also used a dash of his draft capital to reacquire Pro Bowl OT Trent Brown. The big question here might be how New England designs an offense that both suits veteran QB Cam Newton while making it comfortable enough for Jones, whose skill set is pocket-based.
Kansas City Chiefs (A-): You're not going to find a left tackle the caliber of Orlando Brown Jr. at No. 31, so high marks for their trade with Baltimore. LB Nick Bolton and C Creed Humphrey, both late second-rounders who some thought would go earlier, seem likely to be starters no later than the midpoint of the 2021 season for a team with few job openings.
Cleveland Browns (A-): GM Andrew Berry's defense could approach elite territory after he took CB Greg Newsome II in Round 1 and then made a targeted move to rescue LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, widely perceived as a first-round talent, with the 52nd pick. Keep an eye on fifth-round S Richard LeCounte III.
Detroit Lions (A-): It wasn't sexy, but it didn't need to be given the state of this roster. The first three picks – OT Penei Sewell (Round 1), DT Levi Onwuzurike (Round 2) and DT Alim McNeill (Round 3) – replenished the trenches for an organization that wants to be tougher. New GM Brad Holmes waited until the fourth round for a receiver, but got a good one in Amon-Ra St. Brown. However the full tale won't be told until the Lions use the 2022 and 2023 first-rounders they acquired in the Matthew Stafford trade.
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Los Angeles Chargers (A-): It fell pretty nicely to the Bolts, but their top two choices, OT Rashawn Slater in Round 1 and CB Asante Samuel Jr. in Round 2, have a chance to be franchise cornerstones – Slater the bodyguard this offense needed to get for offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert. Pass rusher Chris Rumph II (Round 4) could blossom under new coach Brandon Staley.
Carolina Panthers (B+): Rookie GM Scott Fitterer was quite active before and during the draft and has already recouped some of what he spent on Darnold. Since then, Fitterer has busily gone to work in a bid to help his new quarterback – something the Jets didn't do nearly enough – WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LT Brady Christensen, TE Tommy Tremble and RB Chuba Hubbard all coming after Round 1. And that first round did net CB Jaycee Horn, the first defender picked in 2021. Fitterer will need to hope Marshall is healthy enough to contribute and that he didn't miscalculate when Fields was available at No. 8, but plenty for the people of Charlotte to be pumped about.
Los Angeles Rams (B+): Can't argue sitting out the first round – once again – because the pick was used to get All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey. Can argue spending your top selection in Round 2 on a luxury item like WR Tutu Atwell given speedster DeSean Jackson had already signed on. Can't argue using the third-rounder to get QB Matthew Stafford ... though whether he's worth a pair of future firsts remains to be seen. Can argue how well the rest of the selections were deployed given you're distracted by the dazzling sunshine reflecting off the Pacific Ocean in your Malibu "Rams House" draft HQ.
Atlanta Falcons (B+): Sure seemed like new GM Terry Fontenot's first three picks – TE Kyle Pitts, S Richie Grant and OL Jalen Mayfield, respectively – are winners and should contribute to this team heavily in 2021. Time will tell what happens with WR Julio Jones or if Fontenot should've taken Fields, who grew up in the shadow of Atlanta. But hard to argue with the approach, especially given the constraints of their salary cap.
Cincinnati Bengals (B+): Reuniting LSU star WR Ja'Marr Chase with former Tigers teammate Joe Burrow has to be exciting for Cincy fans and could make this offense really special if Chase is as good as advertised. The Bengals next went for protection for Burrow (OL Jackson Carman) before continuing to bolster a pass rush – it had a league-low 17 sacks in 2020 – with DEs Joseph Ossai and Cameron Sample. Taking a kicker (Evan McPherson) as high as the fifth round is usually a dicey proposition.
Tennessee Titans (B+): They don't seem to be garnering much national attention despite arguably procuring the draft's top cornerback late in Round 1 (Caleb Farley, who is recovering from back surgery), its top slot corner in Round 3 (Elijah Molden) while presumably – finally – stopping a revolving door at right tackle by getting Dillon Radunz in Round 2 a year after losing All-Pro Jack Conklin in free agency and then blowing a first-round choice on now former Titan Isaiah Wilson.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (B+): With a championship team effectively returning intact, GM Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians didn't need anything ... and it was worth wondering if the Bucs would try to amass assets when they're needed for future drafts. But they managed to bolster an already exceptional pass rush with Joe Tryon in Round 1 and found a potential heir apparent for Tom Brady at the end of Round 2 in Kyle Trask, who led the nation with 43 TD passes in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers (B): It likely won't be known for some time whether their investment of three first-round picks to get up to No. 3 will be worth the gamble. But it does seem selecting North Dakota State's Trey Lance was a much better decision given the freight attached to it than taking Alabama's Mac Jones, who was long rumored to be Kyle Shanahan's preference. Lance's physical skills and intangibles are off the charts – but it all has to translate from the FCS level at a time when he's been limited to one game in 16 months due to circumstances outside his control. Third-round RB Trey Sermon could be one of this draft's heists.
Miami Dolphins (B): Did they get too cute with their circuitous route from No. 3 to No. 6? TBD. But this much is sure: Despite a sensible near-term commitment to help second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, neither Pitts nor Chase is walking through that door. It will be a moot point if WR Jaylen Waddle, a teammate of Tagovailoa's at Alabama, becomes the second coming of Tyreek Hill, to whom he's been compared. And, collectively, first-round DE Jaelan Phillips, second-round S Jevon Holland and OT Liam Eichenberg and third-round TE Hunter Long could form a strong class. But the Fins' future considerations could have a hard time compensating for the immediate opportunity cost.
Arizona Cardinals (B): Imposing LB Zaven Collins (Round 1) – he might be a better NFL fit than 2020's No. 8 pick, Isaiah Simmons – diminutive but explosive WR Rondale Moore (Round 2) and the acquisition of Pro Bowl C Rodney Hudson for a third-rounder seems like a pretty good way to invest your top three selections. However waiting until Saturday to get corner help might come back to haunt them.
Buffalo Bills (B): They've also largely remained intact since January's AFC title game loss at Kansas City, a defeat that served a reminder that it's probably going to be incumbent to make Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' life miserable in the future (Mahomes was only sacked once in that game). Perhaps not coincidentally, the Bills' first two picks were pass rushers, Greg Rousseau and Carlos "Boogie" Basham, who provide a double does of heat and youth to a front that needed both given how much Sean McDermott's defense has become uncharacteristically reliant on blitzes in recent years. Worth wondering if Buffalo should've targeted another running back in the middle rounds rather than offensive line depth.
Indianapolis Colts (B): They made a more-than-reasonable investment to get Wentz, spending this year's third-rounder and a 2022 second-rounder that becomes a first ... but basically only if Wentz stays on the field. But the Colts opted for Kwity Paye in Round 1 – and the former Michigan star might be this draft's premier edge prospect – but then took DE Dayo Odeyingbo in the second round even though an Achilles injury might keep him off the field in 2021. Very curious that GM Chris Ballard didn't more aggressively pursue a left tackle replacement for retired Anthony Castonzo given Wentz was sacked a league-high 50 times in just 12 games last season.
New Orleans Saints (B): When you pick at the end of every round, it can be a little hard to get excited about players like first-round DE Payton Turner, second-round LB Pete Werner and third-round CB Paulson Adebo, all with lower Q Scores than their more high-profile peers. But all were productive in college – as was well-known Notre Dame QB Ian Book (Round 4) – and this organization has generally drafted well in recent years.
Dallas Cowboys (B-): They picked up a third-rounder on Day 1 (with an amusing intra-divisional trade with the Eagles) when the cornerback market didn't fall their way. But LB Micah Parsons – arguably the most gifted defender in this draft – dropped to them at No. 12 and has a chance to be a superstar for a defense that needs one. Many of Dallas' Day 2 picks were panned, notably third-round CB Nahshon Wright. But they did recover a bit Saturday, seemingly getting value with Round 4 LB Jabril Cox and Round 5 WR Simi Fehoko.
Baltimore Ravens (C+): They took some big swings, and first-round WR Rashod Bateman and DE Odafe Oweh both have the potential to be home runs or strikeouts – Oweh a physically gifted player who nevertheless had zero sacks for Penn State in 2020, but a man who essentially winds up being the compensation in the trade of Orlando Brown. The Round 5 roll of the dice on CB Shaun Wade could be a good one.
Green Bay Packer (C+): The news that Rodgers apparently wants out of Wisconsin becoming public Thursday afternoon cast a dark shadow over this draft class. But GM Brian Gutekunst managed to fill needs at corner (Eric Stokes, Round 1) and center (Josh Myers, Round 2), though there were arguably better ways to address those positions. Then Gutekunst moved up in Round 3 for slot WR Amari Rodgers, who might significantly benefit Aaron Rodgers ... if he's still around in September.
Minnesota Vikings (C): Can't argue with LT Christian Darrisaw in Round 1. But they lost their second-rounder in last year's Yannick Ngakoue deal and, despite coach Mike Zimmer deeming last year's defense the "worst" he'd ever fielded in his lengthy NFL career, GM Rick Spielman didn't address it until his third selection – and well after he took QB Kellen Mond at the top of Round 3. And though pass rush seems to be one of this club's weak spots, none of Spielman's first four picks were earmarked for it. Hmm.
Pittsburgh Steelers (C): Getting Najee Harris, who seems like this draft's top running back, should be a hand-in-glove fit for a team that finished last in rushing in 2020 and hasn't very good in that department since its last Super Bowl appearance in 2010. Harris should protect QB Ben Roethlisberger, 39, with pass protection and as an outlet receiver ... and better do so to make that Round 1 investment worth it given the position he plays. The big question is whether GM Kevin Colbert sufficiently addressed his offensive line by waiting until the middle rounds.
Seattle Seahawks (C-): Given they only had three picks ... pretty flabbergasting – to QB Russell Wilson and The 12's – that their highest one was used for a wide receiver, D'Wayne Eskridge in Round 2. It should be noted that G Gabe Jackson was plucked from the Raiders (and later extended) for a fifth-rounder in March. But it remains to be seen if S Jamal Adams was worth a pair of Round 1 choices – though the Seahawks tend to muck those up anyway – especially given how he was picked on by the Rams in the playoffs.
Washington Football Team (C-): They got some nice players, though first-round LB Jamin Davis must prove he's not a one-year wonder, and third-year WR Dyami Brown must prove he's not a one-trick pony – even if his "trick" is script-flipping speed. But did they err by not more aggressively pursuing QBs Fields and Mac Jones, who were both in striking distance of Washington's No. 19 selection Thursday evening?
Las Vegas Raiders (D): GM Mike Mayock used to be on this side of the velvet rope, which makes it hard not to root for him. But he's started to build a track record for first-round reaches, and his third draft with the Silver and Black was no different, OL Alex Leatherwood raising eyebrows as Mayock took him at No. 17 – weeks after trading 60% of his starting offensive line and not getting a whole lot in return. (Mayock said Saturday on NFL Network that he was unable to find a deal that would allow him to trade back and still feel comfortable he'd get Leatherwood.) A move up for S Trevon Moehrig in Round 2 might offset Thursday's tactics as Mayock – smartly – went to work upgrading his defense. But you'd think he'd need this draft to provide more ROI than his others generally have to date.
Houston Texans (D-): The new regime finishes paying off former coach Bill O'Brien's Laremy Tunsil debt ... and then follows up an offseason marred by the Deshaun Watson soap opera and the organization's own questionable handling of it by investing their top pick (67th overall) in developmental QB Davis Mills. TE Brevin Jordan might be a nice get in Round 5, and new GM Nick Caserio got a solid veteran tackle, Marcus Cannon, from New England for a song. But soup to nuts – starting with O'Brien – this looks pretty disastrous from 30,000 feet.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How Lions' pick of Alim McNeill led to awkward moment in Eagles' draft room
NFL Draft grades 2021: Complete results & analysis for every pick in Rounds 1-3 .
Follow along as Sporting News hands out live grades for each pick during the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.Going on the clock in Cleveland, the spotlight again is on the quarterbacks, starting with the first three picks. But there's plenty of franchise-changing talent at other positions both in terms of immediate impact and long-term shine.