But the draft will go on, and as always there will be plenty of intrigue as to which players will end up where. Here’s our first mock draft for 2021, with a projection of all 32 first-round picks.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence staged his pro day Friday, the first workout of a major prospect, and he looked very much like the No. 1 pick in the draft. Jaguars Coach Urban Meyer suggested to Lawrence that he should have an early workout, and he listened. He is facing a five- to six-month recovery from surgery on his left shoulder, but there’s little doubt he will be the first player selected this year.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets might not be totally convinced Wilson is the second-best player in the draft, but they appear to like him more than Ohio State’s Justin Fields. The Jets still could decide to build around Sam Darnold, but in this scenario, they will trade him and take Wilson to be his replacement.
3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Dolphins would consider taking Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, but they need to get second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa more weapons on the outside. It will be a close call between Chase, who is 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and Heisman winner Devonta Smith, who is 6-1, 175. They’re both really good, but Chase’s size could give him the edge.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Falcons might be tempted to take a quarterback, but unless they’re sold on the quarterbacks available with this pick, it will be hard to pass on the best offensive lineman in the draft. New coach Arthur Smith knows the value of great blocking for his offense, which is in the Kyle Shanahan mold, and 35-year-old Matt Ryan is still a capable quarterback.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Bengals are going to have to consider drafting linebacker Micah Parsons here to help their defense, but it’s more important to build an effective offensive line around 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow, who took a lot of sacks as a rookie and had his season ended by a torn ACL.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles are expected to let wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Marquise Goodwin go to free up salary cap room. They have gotten little production out of their wideouts the past two seasons, so adding either Smith or Chase would be a major upgrade.
7. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Lions traded longtime franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams, and it’s not out of the question they could trade quarterback Jared Goff, whom they acquired from Los Angeles. Coach Dan Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes have to rebuild Detroit’s offense, and they can start by installing Fields at quarterback.
8. Carolina Panthers: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
This could be where North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance gets picked, but the Panthers have been so active in quarterback trade talks, I’m going to predict they address the position by trading for or signing a veteran. Getting better on defense remains a priority for the Panthers, and Parsons brings a ton of speed and playmaking ability at linebacker.
9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
There’s some debate over whether Surtain or Caleb Farley is the draft’s best cornerback. There’s no debating that the Broncos need cornerback help. They cut A.J. Bouye and might cut Kareem Jackson, and Bryce Callahan is hitting free agency.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn knows the value of big cornerbacks, and Farley fits the bill at 6-2, 207. He is a perfect fit for Quinn’s defensive scheme, which relies on a lot of cover-one and cover-three.
11. New York Giants: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Tight end Evan Engram could be a cap casualty, but even if he stays, he and Pitts would fit well together in two tight end alignments. Pitts, at 6-6, 240 pounds, is extremely athletic and in some ways plays more like a wide receiver.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, Southern California
The 49ers will be tempted by Lance here, or they could try to trade up a couple of spots to get a cornerback. But they also have holes on the interior of their offensive line, and having played left tackle last season, Vera-Tucker would provide a backup plan behind left tackle Trent Williams (whom the team is hoping to re-sign) or right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech
The Chargers might make guard Trai Turner a cap casualty, and the offensive line is one of the team’s weakest units. Darrisaw could help to fix things at guard or tackle in front of second-year quarterback Justin Herbert.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
General Manager Rick Spielman and Coach Mike Zimmer know the value of good edge rushers, and Paye is one of the best in the draft. He would fit well opposite Danielle Hunter.
15. New England Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Bill Belichick has failed to improve the Patriots’ wide receiver group the past two years, and Waddle has a ton of playmaking ability. Belichick might be tempted to take quarterbacks Lance or Mac Jones here, but I think he will lean toward adding veterans at the position and drafting one in a later round.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The Cardinals would love to add Waddle to their wide receiving corps, but with that option gone, they should try to fix their secondary. Cornerback Patrick Peterson isn’t likely to re-sign, and Dre Kirkpatrick is a free agent. Stokes can start the team’s rebuild at the position.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Raiders need help at just about every defensive position. Owusu-Koramoah is a great athlete who would be an upgrade at linebacker.
18. Miami Dolphins: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
The Dolphins’ main needs are at wide receiver, edge rusher and guard. They could address wide receiver early with Chase and shore up the pass rush with Rousseau here.
19. Washington Football Team: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Lance is one of the biggest unknowns in this draft class, having played just one game this past season after a stellar 2019 campaign at the Football Championship Subdivision level. He could go as early as the top five, but it’s too early to know how teams will view him. Washington is one of the most active teams in the quarterback market and could take Lance or Jones here if they don’t find a suitable option via trade or free agency.
20. Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Bears might have to place the franchise tag on wide receiver Allen Robinson to keep him for another season, but regardless, getting another wide receiver will be important. He has great ability and good size at 6-2, 210.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Zaven Collins, DE/LB, Tulsa
Justin Houston is getting older, and the Colts want to maintain a quality pass rush. Offensive tackle is another need, but Collins is a long, angular rusher who can help at defensive end.
22. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, DE/LB, Georgia
The Titans spent more than $22 million last year on one-year contracts for Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley and didn’t get a single sack. They could sign J.J. Watt, but their draft priority is a linebacker who can rush.
23. New York Jets: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
New coach Robert Saleh knows the importance of a shutdown cornerback, and the Jets have very little at the position. Horn is 6-1, 200 pounds and fits the profile of what Saleh needs for his defense.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers were the worst running team in football, and they might not bring back James Conner. Harris is considered the best back in this class, and the Steelers need to get more balanced on offense — whether Ben Roethlisberger returns at quarterback or not.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Jaguars have lost a lot of defensive talent the past few years. Barmore is a force at 6-5, 310 pounds and would help in Jacksonville’s likely transition to a 3-4 defense.
26. Cleveland Browns: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
The Browns need help at linebacker as they continue to improve their defense. Bolton would be a nice fit.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Baltimore knew they needed another wide receiver as the season played out last year, and that became even more apparent during the playoff loss to Buffalo. Toney is an explosive playmaker.
28. New Orleans Saints: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Drew Brees is likely to retire, and Jones could sit and watch for a year behind Taysom Hill and/or Jameis Winston, or compete for the starting job right away.
29. Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t happy the Packers didn’t get him some help at the wide receiver position last year, instead drafting quarterback Jordan Love, who didn’t play a down all season. Selecting Moore, an undersized but dynamic target, could please the MVP.
30. Buffalo Bills: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
General Manager Brandon Beane is always trying to make the offensive line better, and Mayfield’s arrival would shore things up in front of quarterback Josh Allen.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
The Chiefs couldn’t block Tampa Bay in their Super Bowl defeat. Even though starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz will be back next season, this unit needs better depth.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jaelan Phillips, DE/LB, Miami
The Bucs might not be able to re-sign Shaquil Barrett in free agency, and Jason Pierre-Paul is getting older. Grabbing a pass rusher wouldn’t be a bad idea.