July 26, 2021


NFL mock draft: Hub Arkush version 1.0

The only sure thing about a mock draft is that it will change multiple times between now and the end of April.

But what won’t change is the strength of this year’s crop with six wide receivers, five quarterbacks and five edge rushers in my first crack at the first round.

Every team in the NFL wants to throw the football and rush the passer these days, so it’s no surprise those three positions make up half of my first mock draft.

The biggest surprise here is I only have three offensive linemen – all tackles – going in the first round, in part because more teams are looking for guards and centers, and there just aren’t many with first-round grades.

But if I’m right, there will be at least three more tackles with first-round grades waiting for new homes until Day 2.

Let the fun begin.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

It feels as if Lawrence has been locked into this spot forever. He’s the surest thing at QB since Andrew Luck in 2012.

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

It’s unclear whether Joe Douglas and Bob Saleh are Sam Darnold fans, and this pick is prime for a trade. But Wilson has become the consensus No. 2-rated QB behind Lawrence on most teams’ boards.

3. Miami Dolphins (via the Texans): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

After taking him at No. 5 last year and a pretty decent rookie year, why quit on Tua already? It makes more sense to get him the best wideout in a draft loaded with really good ones.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

QBs tempt Atlanta here, but there’s no indication Matt Ryan can’t play at a very high level for another few years. Cornerback was a disaster last year, and Farley is hands down the best in this draft.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

The Bengals got a taste of what can happen last season when you don’t protect the franchise. Franchise left tackles don’t come along often, and Sewell ticks off the No. 1 item on Joe Burrow’s wish list.

6. Philadelphia Eagles: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Philadelphia’s defense needs a difference-maker and a leader in the middle of the field. Parsons is on everybody’s list as the next NFL star out of “Linebacker U.”

7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

The Lions need defense, but CB Jeff Okudah was a top-five pick last year, and there are no more front-seven defenders worthy of a top-10 pick this year. So Detroit gets Goff a top target.

8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Lance is a bit of a gamble here after the Carson Wentz experience in Philly, but Teddy Bridgewater is just a guy, and Lance has franchise traits.

9. Denver Broncos: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Fields is another phenomenal prospect under center who was right behind Lawrence going into the 2020 season. Fields eventually could be the best of the bunch, but he also may take the longest to get there.

10. Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

This is not a screaming need, but there are no defensive tackles or safeties worthy of this pick. Pitts is one of the top tight end prospects in years who would have gone top five if there weren’t so many QBs.

11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

This is a little too high for the pass rushers and guards on the board, but the Giants are mediocre at best at wide receiver. Waddle looks like a ton more than that.

12. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Cornerback haunted the 49ers last season. Richard Sherman will be 33 and a free agent. Surtain has the size and tools to be the next Sherman.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

There is some debate whether Slater’s best fit at the next level will be left tackle or guard, but the Chargers need one of each. Slater looks like a perennial Pro Bowler at either spot.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami (Fla.)

There are a number of edge rushers with late first-round grades, and although this is a bit of a reach for Rousseau, he probably has the highest ceiling of any in this draft.

15. New England Patriots: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Toney’s big-play ability is off the charts. This is way too high for QB No. 5, and a stud wideout is something the Pats have been in need of for years.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington

The Cardinals have to upgrade their defensive front. This may be a slight reach, but with the top four receivers already off the board, it makes perfect sense.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

The Raiders need playmakers on defense at every level, and a number of scouts think Paye, who can line up in several different spots, can be the most explosive pass rusher in this draft.

18. Miami Dolphins: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

They got Tua the best receiver prospect in this draft, so why not get him the top running back, too? We know Miami’s priority is finding guys who can find the end zone.

19. Washington Football Team: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

This is pretty rich for Jones, but he’s better than anyone Washington has under center right now. The drop-off from here to the next best QB is like falling off a cliff compared to the gap between Fields and Jones.

20. Chicago Bears: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC

Vera-Tucker had outstanding seasons at tackle and guard in college, but he projects here as the Bears’ Week 1 starter at left tackle and an instant upgrade.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami (Fla.)

Indy’s defense is outstanding, but it is a big-time pass rusher away from being special. Like his college teammate, Rousseau, Phillips has some special pass-rush skills.

22. Tennessee Titans: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Horn is the next best corner prospect this year after Farley and Surtain. Like them, he has excellent size and ball skills.

23. New York Jets (via the Seahawks): Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State

There are a lot of teams looking for edge rushers, and a few will get over-drafted this year. Oweh has some special traits. He is very disruptive, but he’ll need to learn how to finish.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Not sure if the Steelers are an 11-0 team or a 1-5 team, but their struggles in the ground game were consistent all season.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via the Rams): Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington

Tryon isn’t so much an edge bender as much as a complete 4-3 defensive end who might grow into a five-technique with another 15 or 20 pounds of bulk.

26. Cleveland Browns: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

Moehrig probably is the top safety prospect this year in a less-than-stellar group. He’s an excellent value this far down in the first round. He’s not quite as big as you’d like, but he’s always around the ball.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville

Atwell is an explosion waiting to happen. He’s smaller than you’d like, but the Ravens need a lot of help at receiver, and if they want size, they also can add free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster.

28. New Orleans Saints: Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

The Saints have been looking for a complement to Michael Thomas for several years. Although not a burner, he still could be the perfect pairing with Thomas.

29. Green Bay Packers: Nick Bolton, LB, Missorui

Bolton is an excellent value in this spot at the end of the first round and a perfect fit for what ails the Packers’ defense. He is a dynamic run stuffer who will need to grow in coverage.

30. Buffalo Bills: Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa

It isn’t a great draft for interior defensive linemen, but Nixon is exactly what the Bills are looking for at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame

This kid is a top 20 prospect who falls this far because at 6-1, 215 it’s not clear where he’ll fit at the next level.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa

Collins is a unique prospect, a 6-4, 260-pound linebacker who’s better in coverage than he is against the run, but no slouch there, either.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media