There's a lot of hype around this year's quarterback class. That's why I have three flying off the board early in Round 1 in my first mock of the 2021 NFL Draft, while another talented signal-caller slides into the 20s. Here's my initial projection for the first 32 picks, with pro day season -- of heightened importance this year without the standard version of the NFL Scouting Combine -- set to heat up next month.
No surprise here. Urban Meyer strikes gold with franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence to start the rebuild.
The Jets ultimately decide to trade Sam Darnold and go with the highly touted rookie.
The Panthers trade up to select their potential quarterback of the future. Lance has a lot of upside but will need time to develop, and he gets it in Year 1 behind Teddy Bridgewater.
The Bengals need to protect their young, talented quarterback Joe Burrow, whose rookie season was cut short due to injury. Getting the best offensive tackle in this draft class should help.
The Lions are in desperate need of talent throughout the roster. They take the best defensive player in the draft here -- if they don't trade back.
The Falcons trade back and still get their top choice -- a dynamic running back whom Arthur Smith can build his offense around. I know we rarely see running backs go this early these days, but Todd Gurley is a pending free agent and Atlanta has to have a strong running game if it's going to get back to competing for a playoff spot.
Dallas has plenty of defensive needs, and Surtain gives Dan Quinn's unit another good young cornerback to pair with Trevon Diggs .
Big Blue's offense looks a lot different with a healthy Saquon Barkley and Waddle on the field.
The 49ers need another outside presence opposite Nick Bosa, and Paye is my top-rated pass rusher in this year's class.
The Chargers must rebuild the offensive line to protect Justin Herbert.
The offensive line is a priority in Minnesota, but pass rush is a bigger need right now.
Pitts is too good of a talent to pass on, especially for an offense lacking playmakers.
Another option for the Cardinals could be an outside linebacker/pass rusher if they let Haason Reddick walk in free agency.
He's the best guard in the draft, but the more you watch the film, the more you ask, "Why can't he play left tackle?"
The Dolphins need a legitimate pass rusher on the outside and spend their second first-round pick on one of the top prospects at the position.
A better prospect than Isaiah Simmons, Owusu-Koramoah will make an immediate impact and eventually become a star. A quarterback could certainly be in play here, depending on what Washington decides to do this offseason.
There's a chance the Jets fill this need in free agency, but if they don't, Tryon would fit well in Robert Saleh's scheme.
Even though the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are planning to continue their partnership, I don't see the veteran playing much longer. In a stunning turn of events, Fields slides all the way to No. 24 (obviously, it won't be a surprise if he goes much earlier than this) and Pittsburgh pounces at the chance to land a talented successor for Big Ben. Sitting behind a future Hall of Famer for a year is a prime spot for the Ohio State prospect.
The Jags couldn't stop the run last season, so this pick is dedicated to shoring up that weakness. I also won't be surprised if they choose to sign another defensive tackle in free agency.
The Browns need another cornerback to play opposite Denzel Ward to stop high-flying offenses in today's NFL, and 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his shoulder.
They take the best player on the board and fill a need. There's a chance Baltimore decides to trade back to acquire more picks.
Assuming the Saints lose Trey Hendrickson in free agency, they replace the 2020 breakout pass rusher with Penn State's Oweh.
Collins fills a big need for the Packers. Offensive tackle and cornerback are possibilities here, too.
The Chiefs will let a number of cornerbacks hit the market and upgrade the position with the rookie.
The Bucs have a lot of guys to pay this offseason, so my guess is Shaquil Barrett will depart in free agency. Jones would be a good fit in Todd Bowles' unit.