Friday featured a MAJOR shakeup to the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, with the 49ers moving from No. 12 to No. 3 in a deal with the Dolphins. Miami then turned around and immediately jumped from No. 12 up to No. 6 in an ensuing trade with Philadelphia. Is your head spinning yet? I'm here to help!
Below you'll find a four-round mock draft that reflects Friday's trade frenzy, with San Francisco pouncing on a quarterback in its new draft slot. And actually, I don't see the Niners being the last team to move up for a signal-caller -- not when there's a fifth QB shooting up draft boards. And before we get to the picks, I want to quickly explore that emerging storyline ...
The X-factor in Round 1 is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
I've seen former NFL executives say Jones' draft-position floor is No. 8 overall, as Carolina worked well with the 'Bama product at the Reese's Senior Bowl. I've also seen projections of Jones going to the Patriots in the mid-first and the Saints/Buccaneers late in Round 1.
It's truly unknown at this point how high he will be selected.
In this mock, I project Chicago moving up from the 20th spot to No. 11, snatching Jones from underneath other teams looking for a young starter. The organization that picked up Andy Dalton as a bridge quarterback and previously acquired Mike Glennon and Nick Foles will not be dissuaded from looking at Jones despite his average athleticism.
That average athleticism actually surprised some at the Heisman Trophy finalist's pro day on Tuesday. His measurements and test results came in very similar to the numbers Raiders starter Derek Carr posted when he came into the league out of Fresno State -- and Carr has no issues operating an NFL offense. Jones' 32-inch vertical exceeded expectations, and his other tests showed he is at least a passable athlete for the position. He threw well, displaying a tight, accurate ball to all levels of the field. Jones playfully interacted with his teammates, but was still business-like in his approach. There's a lot to like about the 22-year-old's intelligence, attitude and work ethic.
Jones is clearly not a quick-twitch athlete in the pocket, even though he can move around to find space to operate. His ability to efficiently operate an NFL offense and deliver well-placed throws on time, however, portend a long NFL career. Though some scouts will consider Jones "maxed out" -- as they do many Alabama prospects because of the excellent coaching they receive in Tuscaloosa -- he has areas of his game on which he can improve. His arm strength will grow as he works in an NFL strength and conditioning program, as will his overall physique so he can be strong working through traffic in the pocket. Jones will also continue to work on his foot quickness within the pocket to quickly shift his frame and find passing lanes.
Until I hear something more concrete, I'll roll with Jones to go in the top 15 selections. Finding a quarterback with his intangibles and productivity should not be taken for granted by teams needing a young player at the position -- especially given the team-building benefit of having a solid starter in place during his affordable rookie contract.
OK, enough dilly-dally. I know what you came here for. On to the picks!
There's really not much to say about this pick, as Lawrence has been the presumptive top choice since he led Clemson to a national title two-plus years ago. New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer took the job, at least in part, because he had access to this pick. Now the rest of the team must support Lawrence's great talents.
It's still unclear whether the Jets will keep Sam Darnold or trade him to another franchise in need of a young starting quarterback. Wilson's accuracy, mobility and confidence will likely entice Jets general manager Joe Douglas (who didn't pick Darnold) and coach Robert Saleh to select the BYU product at No. 2 and deal Darnold so he can start over in a new city.
The 49ers pulled off a major trade with the Dolphins on Friday, moving up nine slots to presumably land their quarterback of the future. We're not sure which quarterback they love enough to give up two future first-round picks and a third-rounder, but for now, I'll run with Lance. His athleticism and arm strength could be an excellent fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
The Falcons might be in the quarterback market. However, if they're waiting to find a replacement for Matt Ryan until at least next year, then picking the top pass catcher in the draft makes sense. Pitts is a unicorn who will create mismatches inside and outside for the Falcons.
Veteran Riley Reiff was brought in to replace waived right tackle Bobby Hart. If Sewell is available, it wouldn't be surprising for the team to move Reiff or former first-rounder Jonah Williams inside to put their best five linemen on the field. Joe Burrow's injury in the pocket last year simply confirmed the team's need to improve the line.
The Dolphins really shook up the league Friday by immediately following up the 49ers trade with another deal with the Eagles, getting Miami back in the top six. At that slot, the Fins land the draft's best wideout. Chase will make plays inside and outside, helping the development of second-year starter Tua Tagovailoa.
Parsons should be Dan Campbell's type of player: aggressive, fast and tough, whether chasing down quarterbacks in the pocket or ball-carriers trying to get to the sideline.
The Panthers get a new quarterback without having to make a move. Fields will be an excellent NFL starter because of his toughness and athleticism -- and he can step in right away if needed.
The Broncos brought in veteran cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller as free agents, so they use this selection to solidify their offensive line. Slater's pro-day athleticism test results were similar to those of eight-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams. Slater could easily play right tackle for the Broncos to go with Garett Bolles on the left side. That said, GM George Paton made it clear he's not ruling out bringing in another quarterback to compete with Drew Lock, so it won't be a shock if they're in the mix to move up and nab a signal-caller.
GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy bring in Jones to learn behind consummate pro Andy Dalton in 2021. Jones' athleticism is average, though he performed better than expected at his pro day. His pocket feel and accuracy are something the Bears lacked the past few seasons. They give up a third-round pick this year and a 2022 first to make this deal, which represents the last chance for Pace and Nagy to jump-start Chicago's fortunes.
The Eagles could pick one of the Alabama receivers here but Horn's outstanding pro day and game tape may force their hand. Philly needs his size, speed and tenacious attitude on the outside in a bad way.
Smith might weigh 170 pounds, but he will be a dangerous playmaker at the next level. Justin Herbert would love to have the Heisman Trophy winner working in the slot with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Smith owns the foot quickness and tenacity to win off the line versus press coverage, so he could play outside as a rookie -- and eventually take over for Williams, who is a free agent after the 2021 season.
The Vikings released starting left tackle Riley Reiff before free agency began, so finding a new blind-side blocker for Kirk Cousins appears to be on the draft menu. Vera-Tucker's arm length (32 1/8 inches) might force teams to rate him as a guard, but Indianapolis right tackle Braden Smith has showed arm length isn't everything -- he measured 32 1/4 inches at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and he has since established himself as a successful member of one of the NFL's top O-lines. Even if Vera-Tucker has to slide inside eventually, the Vikings could really use help there. If the Vikings find value in another tackle later in the draft (as I project in Round 4 of this exercise), they could push Vera-Tucker inside right away and play the team's best five linemen.
Patrick Peterson's departure for Minnesota via free agency leaves a hole in Arizona's secondary. Farley's back surgery -- combined with Horn's pro day -- might cost the former Hokie a few draft slots, but his size, agility and ball skills on the outside should allow him to be a quality NFL starter. The signing of Tennessee cap casualty Malcolm Butler to a one-year deal will not prevent the Cardinals from taking advantage of Farley's value at the 16th pick.
Miami has its pick of edge defenders with its scheduled first-rounder. Paye played with his hand down at Michigan, but has the speed and agility to play as a stand-up defender. He should make the adjustment quickly and force quarterbacks into hiding during his rookie campaign.
Collins presents excellent physical attributes for stopping run plays between the tackles, blitzing off the edge and making plays in coverage. Washington has one of the top defensive lines in the NFL, which will keep Collins clean so he can maximize his talents early on.
The Giants get a couple of premium picks from this trade with the Bears and still select a much-needed pass rusher who best fits their scheme. Ojulari's a good athlete and plays bigger than his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame portends against the run. He could remind Giants coaches of Markus Golden, who had 10 sacks for the G-Men in 2019.
The Packers have been aggressive finding talent in the first round recently, trading up in two of the last three drafts. They move again to grab this Wildcat, giving up both of their fourth-round picks as they did in 2019 to select safety Darnell Savage. Newsome showed out at his pro day in early March, where Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst was in attendance. Re-signing Kevin King to a one-year deal should not affect the team's interest in the young corner, who can play inside or on the perimeter, allowing Jaire Alexander to line up against the league's top slot receivers when needed.
Tennessee signed Josh Reynolds as a free agent to help replace departed free agent Corey Davis, but the Titans still need another pass catcher. Bateman can play in the slot to replace the released Adam Humphries, with Reynolds and A.J. Brown on the outside. He's also capable of lining up outside, using his speed and body control to win down the seam or along the sideline.
The Steelers haven't selected a running back in the first round since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. GM Kevin Colbert isn't afraid to break historical trends, however; after years of staying put in the first round, he made a large trade up for linebacker Devin Bush two years ago. Harris compares well to Le'Veon Bell as a big-bodied dual-threat back worthy of this selection, joining former teammate Josh Jacobs as No. 24 overall selections.
Andy Reid was apparently so affected by what happened during the Super Bowl that he wanted to start over at tackle, releasing veterans Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, whose absence due to injury hamstrung Patrick Mahomes and the offense. Reid also saw first-hand how the Buccaneers benefitted from trading up in last year's draft to grab rookie starter Tristan Wirfs. Getting a tackle is of paramount importance for the team to return to the title game, whether it's Jenkins (who has played left and right tackle) or someone else.
Cleveland has a solid all-around roster because of previous administrations' ability to grab extra picks and the current leadership's ability to maximize those selections. Davis brings an athleticism to the Browns' linebacker corps that it has lacked. He could be a Fred Warner-type defender in the middle.
The Ravens will look at edge rushers of value here despite re-signing Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee to go with 2019 pick Jaylon Ferguson, as they lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue to free agency. Phillips possesses the length, strength and short-area quickness to be an excellent stand-up rusher -- as well as an asset for Baltimore's run defense.
Anthony Castonzo's retirement was expected, so the Colts have probably been watching left tackles with great interest since the fall. Cosmi has grown into a strong lineman, in addition to being the athlete we've all seen on the field since his redshirt freshman season in Austin.
Atlanta trades into the first round to grab an edge rusher to replace Takk McKinley. The elite size/athleticism combo that Oweh displayed at his pro day might force teams to pick him in the first round despite the fact he had zero sacks this past season (he did have five in 2019, however). The Bills are in a prime position to trade out of Thursday night's proceedings because of their solid roster; they receive a fourth-round pick from the Falcons in the deal and will likely send back a late fifth-round selection in return because it's only a five-spot move.
The Jaguars gave Cam Robinson the franchise tag despite his uneven play because they did not want to be left without a viable starter. Leatherwood could compete with Robinson for playing time this year, or maybe just take over in 2022. He has the versatility to play guard or right tackle, as well, in case injuries decimate the line.
Rousseau should already be off the board, but one of the top edge rushers will likely fall to this spot. Tampa Bay would love to find this long, versatile defender available, as he would fit in well as a 5-technique (he lined up at the 3 and 5 spots for Miami in 2019) or as a backup edge rusher. William Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh will be free agents in 2022, and Rousseau could fill in for any of them.