Three-round NFL Mock Draft: 49ers trade up for Lance, Eagles still get help for Hurts
By Rob Rang
FOX Sports NFL Draft Analyst
The NFL draft is a little more than a month away but don’t tell that to the San Francisco 49ers, after general manager John Lynch orchestrated a blockbuster trade up from No. 12 overall to three with a new, young quarterback clearly the target.
In our initial mock draft for FOX Sports, we anticipated that Miami would trade out of the third spot to allow some aggressive team to take a quarterback. That is precisely what occurred. In a subsequent move, Miami traded back up to No. 6 overall with Philadelphia, assuring that the Dolphins are in an excellent position to get the No. 1 receiver last year’s top pick – quarterback Tua Tagovailoa - needs to take the next step.
The talent available is obvious and clearly slanted toward offense. This year’s quarterback class is one of the best I’ve seen in 20-plus years in the business, and the draft will likely kick off with a run on the most important position in sports. The talent is very nearly as good at wide receiver and on the offensive line. There are gaps on the defensive side of the ball – namely along the line of scrimmage – but strong classes at off-ball linebacker and defensive back will mean these positions are featured throughout the first three rounds of the draft.
Anyone can throw a few darts at the board with the first round. It takes a stronger sense of the unique talent of a draft class and the current needs of all 32 NFL teams to dig deeper at this still-early point in the process.
With free agency changing things by the hour, here is our first extended projection of the 2021 NFL Draft, covering Rounds 1-3.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Rocket-armed, highly mobile and poised beyond his years, Lawrence is quite simply the elite talent in the 2021 draft. Further, he is an ideal schematic fit in Urban Meyer’s offense. With the Houston Texans unlikely to trade Deshaun Watson to a division rival, few teams have the firepower to entice the Jaguars to move out of the pick, making Lawrence a virtual lock for Jacksonville.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Sam Darnold has shown flashes, but they haven't come frequently enough to justify the massive jump in salary he’ll soon be due. With all due respect to the bigger, stronger-armed Lawrence, Wilson is the most accurate passer in this draft, giving him a good chance of unseating Darnold in open competition (or leading to Darnold being traded).
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
With all due respect to Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers would not have given up three first-round picks in their trade with Miami for any position other than a young quarterback. A remarkable talent but one who started just 17 games at the FCS level before forgoing his remaining eligibility to head to the NFL, Lance is the ultimate gamble. However, Kyle Shanahan is one of the league’s best at developing signal-callers and with Garoppolo in place, the 49ers can take their time and develop Lance the right way.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Micah Parsons, OLB, Penn State
The Falcons could opt to start all over and look to Trey Lance as a possible Matt Ryan replacement, but the dynamic Parsons makes more sense for a roster seemingly just a difference-maker on defense away from competing for the playoffs again.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
He is coming a year too late to save Joe Burrow from the gut-wrenching knee injury that ruined his impressive rookie season, but Bengals fans (and Burrow) can take solace that Sewell is a generational talent well worth a top-five selection.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
By trading out of the position to guarantee access to one of this year’s top quarterbacks, the Dolphins appear to be committing fully to Tagovailoa. If he is to take the next step, Miami will need to surround him with playmakers. A bully after the catch, Chase would be an ideal No. 1 target.
7. Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
New quarterback Jared Goff will need playmakers to live up to the trade of the stronger-armed Matthew Stafford, and the Lions’ top targets are all free agents. Waddle possesses the elusiveness and speed to immediately become Goff’s favorite target.
8. Carolina Panthers – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The smart money is on the Panthers making splashy move to land a young quarterback, but the club should not over-spend with star running back Christian McCaffrey quite capable of helping Teddy Bridgewater enjoy a much stronger second season in Carolina, especially if complemented by a future All-Pro pass-catcher in the versatile Pitts.
9. Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Few recognize the value of talented cornerbacks better than a Hall of Fame quarterback like the Broncos’ John Elway, especially given the defensive mentality of head coach Vic Fangio and the passers in the AFC West, most notably Patrick Mahomes. Surtain has his father’s speed, awareness and ball skills, making him an ideal match.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Cowboys allowed 34 passing touchdowns in 2020 with just 10 interceptions, one of the worst ratios in the NFL in 2020. With Dak Prescott re-signed and the Cowboys seemingly in a position to compete again for the division title, it is hard to imagine Jerry Jones passing on an opportunity to give Demarcus Lawrence a potential running mate.
11. New York Giants – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The addition of former Titans first-round pick Adoree Jackson gives the Giants options here but don’t be surprised if Dave Gettleman falls in love with the upside of Horn, an NFL legacy. Horn has the length, speed and confidence to match up with the splashy receivers in the NFC East and his stock is soaring after a terrific Pro Day workout.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Trading out of the sixth pick might limit the Eagles’ options for finding presumptive starting quarterback Jalen Hurts a true No. 1 overall wide receiver but general manager Howie Roseman’s gamble pays off with the defending Heisman Trophy winner, Smith, still on the board. An elite route-runner with sticky hands and graduate-level understanding of defenses, Smith would be an ideal complement to last year’s speedy top pick, Jalen Reagor.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Given the flashes of brilliance shown by Justin Herbert, the Chargers would be foolish not to take advantage of this year’s stellar offensive line class, with Slater’s versatility and character likely to earn high marks by the front office.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
In part due to the loss of star pass rusher Danielle Hunter to injury, the Vikings were plundered defensively in 2020. Mike Zimmer will push to make sure reinforcements arrive via the draft and Rousseau, while raw, has a terrific upside.
15. New England Patriots – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Bill Belichick showed his willingness to think outside of the box a year ago with Cam Newton, however, and Fields has as much upside as any quarterback in this class.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
DeAndre Hopkins was an immediate hit in the heat of Arizona, but no one else truly stepped up as a secondary target for Kyler Murray. Toney is a future No. 1 target in his own right. Dynamic after the catch, he would be an ideal complement to the bigger (but slower) Hopkins.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah, OLB, Notre Dame
Quite frankly, the Raiders lacked difference-making speed in the back half of their defense in 2020. General manager Mike Mayock, a former NBC announcer for Notre Dame games, will likely know and appreciate Owusu-Koromoah’s game as much as anyone.
18. Miami Dolphins – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
It isn’t just that reuniting Tagovailoa with former All-SEC standouts might make his development as a franchise quarterback that much easier, Harris - and previously projected All-American, Ja’Marr Chase - really are that good.
19. Washington Football Team – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Give Washington credit for rallying up front following the trade of stud Trent Williams to the 49ers during last year’s draft, but reinforcements are needed. Darrisaw is a potential future Pro Bowler, himself, who would qualify as a potential steal at this point.
20. Chicago Bears – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
General manager Ryan Pace needs to hit on a quarterback to save his job. While he is bringing in veteran Andy Dalton, that is not a long-term solution. Jones is not a special athlete, but his intelligence and quick trigger could make him a nice fit in Matt Nagy’s offense.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Colts need pass rushers and pass protectors and this year’s stellar tackle class could help make the first-round decision easy. Eichenberg is not an elite athlete but he’s smart, tough and reliable – just like his predecessor in Indianapolis, Anthony Castonzo.
22. Tennessee Titans – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The addition of Janoris Jenkins helps but after moving on from former first-round pick Adoree Jackson, as well as Malcolm Butler, the Titans will be looking hard at cornerbacks in this year’s draft. Farley is viewed by some as a top 10 talent. Tennessee won big gambling on the recovery of defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons two years ago and may not be as concerned with the back injuries which could push Farley down the board.
23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Regardless of who is throwing the ball for the Jets, this team needs more reliable pass-catchers. Bateman silenced critics of his speed with a blazing sub-4.40 40-yard dash during workouts. Better yet, his route-running savvy and sticky hands make him an ideal complement to splashy free-agent addition Corey Davis.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Bringing back Ben Roethlisberger on a one-year deal means that the Steelers recognize their window to compete could be closing fast. Even with James Conner a pending free agent, Pittsburgh has plenty of other backs on the roster. Who among them, however, is a difference-maker? Williams is viewed by some scouts as this year’s best back and would offer immediate impact potential.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Jaguars were pretty toothless against the run in 2020, surrendering 2,452 yards on the ground (31st in the NFL) and 23 touchdowns (30th). Surprisingly quick at 6-5, 310 pounds, Barmore has the bulk, power and athleticism to play up and down the line, giving the Jaguars plenty of options as they decide whether to feature a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment.
26. Cleveland Browns – Azeez Ojulari, OLB/DE, Georgia
On paper, the addition of former first-round pick Takk McKinley would seem to fill the void for an established pass rusher opposite Myles Garrett but the relatively light contract signed with Cleveland suggests that the Browns aren’t sure he is the long-term solution. Ojulari is a bit of a gamble as just a redshirt sophomore but he has legitimate burst off the edge and should only get better.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa
Having already lost Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency, expect the Ravens to address the need for a pass rusher early in the draft. A size-speed freak like Collins simply makes too much sense at this point.
28. New Orleans Saints – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The March 11 release of Janoris Jenkins frees up some money for New Orleans, but it also created a significant hole opposite young, shutdown corner Marshon Lattimore. The Saints could see Newsome as an ideal replacement.
29. Green Bay Packers – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
As long as Aaron Rodgers is in town, protecting the league’s MVP should be priority No. 1. With the Packers losing Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley to free agency, the club should take advantage of this year’s underrated group of interior blockers. Humphrey’s grit and experience in a heavy shotgun scheme should make his jump to the NFL a relatively smooth one.
30. Buffalo Bills – Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, Southern California
Even with the surprise addition of guard Joe Thuney, the Chiefs have big concerns up front given the release of tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Athletic, strong and highly versatile, Vera-Tucker could be an ideal addition.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
With Jason Pierre-Paul aging, the Bucs will be looking for a boost along the defensive line. Phillips struggled with durability during his time at Miami (and UCLA) but offers the blend of length, get-off speed and flexibility to warrant a gamble by the defending champs.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State
An elite athlete just scratching the surface of his potential, Oweh is the perfect gamble to start Day Two.
34. New York Jets – Asante Samuel, Jr., CB, Florida State
The Jets need to reload in the secondary and Samuel has the ball skills and bloodlines to prosper.
35. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans) – Landon Dickerson, C/OG, Alabama
The Crimson Tide pipeline continues with the most talented interior lineman in the class – a possible plug and play option should current starter Ted Karras leave in free agency.
36. Atlanta Falcons – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
With the pro-ready Parsons and Etienne as their first two picks, the Falcons should be expecting immediate impact.
37. Cincinnati Bengals – Carlos Basham, DE, Wake Forest
"Boogie" may lack ideal traits but his production and versatility are outstanding.
38. Philadelphia Eagles – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Boasting terrific instincts and ball skills, Moehrig – the Thorpe Award winner this past season as the nation's top defensive back – should help the Eagles fly immediately.
39. Detroit Lions – Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Expiring contracts for several defensive linemen the next two years will have Motown looking for both muscle and disruption. Onwuzurike offers both.
40. Carolina Panthers – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
A throwback tight end who can block, as well as catch, Freiermuth could be an ideal security blanket for a young quarterback.
41. Denver Broncos – Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
Slapping the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons won’t do much good without more juice for a running mate.
42. Dallas Cowboys – Payton Turner, DE, Houston
Adding a twitchy edge rusher to pair with Demarcus Lawrence would do wonders for Dallas’ defense.
43. New York Giants – Joe Tryon, DE, Washington
44. San Francisco 49ers – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
While Trent Williams may, in fact, return, Jenkins plays with the physicality and nastiness to help up front for a team that loves to run the ball.
45. Los Angeles Chargers – Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas
46. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Minnesota Vikings) – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
While skill position players earned most of the attention, Meyer boasted some of the best secondaries in college football. He’ll need to mimic that to be as successful in the NFL.
47. New England Patriots – Josh Myers, C/OG, Ohio State
With several interior offensive linemen among their free agents, the Patriots may be looking to address this position early in the draft.
48. Arizona Cardinals – Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
The Cardinals boast plenty of juice on the outside but few interior penetrators. Nixon – one of the year’s biggest breakout stars – would help fix that.
49. Las Vegas Raiders – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Cornerback will always be a need in the AFC West as long as gunslingers Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert are around, and the Raiders didn’t get enough out of first-rounder Damon Arnette a year ago.
50. Miami Dolphins – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
A quality athlete building up steam as the draft approaches, Davis could be a perfect replacement for the recently released Kyle Van Noy.
51. Washington Football Team – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Washington needs to find a playmaker to help out Terry McLaurin and whoever is throwing the passes in 2021.
52. Chicago Bears – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
With only 15 career starts, Mayfield is a gamble but he has the bulk, power and tenacity to project as a longtime NFL starter.
53. Indianapolis Colts – Keith Taylor, CB, Washington
Flying up draft boards after a terrific week at the Senior Bowl, Taylor has the length and speed to project as a starter.
54. Tennessee Titans – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
55. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
56. Seattle Seahawks – Samuel Cosmi, OL, Texas
A three-year starter at left tackle who some see as a better fit inside, Cosmi would give Seattle much-needed youth, flexibility and durability upfront.
57. Los Angeles Rams – Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State
Incredibly, Andrew Whitworth appears ready to suit up for his 16th NFL season. The Rams would be wise to start grooming a replacement, however.
58. Baltimore Ravens – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Should Orlando Brown Jr. want out of town, this draft offers the tackle depth for the Ravens to replace him.
59. Cleveland Browns – Talanoa Hufanga, SS, Southern California
An instinctive, physical player, Hufanga could add a different element to one of the league’s better, young defenses.
60. New Orleans Saints – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
61. Buffalo Bills – Jabril Cox, OLB, LSU
A.J. Klein is the only linebacker on the Bills’ roster signed past 2021.
62. Green Bay Packers – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
The Packers do not have a single WR signed past 2021 and Marshall jumped to the forefront as LSU’s best weapon in 2020.
63. Kansas City Chiefs – Jay Tufele, DT, Southern California
Flying under the radar a bit after sitting out last season, Tufele would likely be a welcome addition in Kansas City, where a tight cap could force tough decisions.
64. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
65. Jacksonville Jaguars – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
66. New York Jets – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
67. Houston Texans – Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
68. Atlanta Falcons – Trey Smith, C/OG, Georgia
69. Cincinnati Bengals – Chazz Surratt, OLB, North Carolina
70. Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Bolton, ILB, Missouri
71. Denver Broncos – Quinn Meinerz, OG, Wisconsin-Whitewater
72. Detroit Lions – Patrick Jones II, DE, Pittsburgh
73. Carolina Panthers – Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
74. Washington Football Team – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
75. Dallas Cowboys – Osa Odighizuwa, DL, UCLA
76. New York Giants – Thomas Graham, CB, Oregon
77. Los Angeles Chargers – Demetric Felton, WR, UCLA
78. Minnesota Vikings – Kendrick Green, OG, Illinois
79. Arizona Cardinals - Kary Vincent, CB, LSU
80. Las Vegas Raiders – Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU
81. Miami Dolphins – Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
82. Washington Football Team – Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
83. Chicago Bears – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Southern California
84. Philadelphia Eagles – Drake Jackson, C, Kentucky
85. Tennessee Titans – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
86. New York Jets – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
87. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson
88. Detroit Lions – Benjamin St. Juste, CB, Minnesota
89. Cleveland Browns – Barron Browning, OLB, Ohio State
90. Minnesota Vikings – Dylan Moses, ILB, Alabama
91. Cleveland Browns – Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M
92. Green Bay Packers – Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
93. Buffalo Bills - Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee
94. Kansas City Chiefs – Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
95. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
96. New England Patriots – Wyatt Hubert, DL, Kansas State
97. Los Angeles Chargers - Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
98. New Orleans Saints – Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
99. Dallas Cowboys – Hamsah Nasirildeen, SS/OLB, Florida State
100. Tennessee Titans – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
101. Los Angeles Rams – Drew Dalman, C, Stanford
102. San Francisco 49ers – James Hudson, OL, Cincinnati
103. Los Angeles Rams – Hamilcar Rashed, Jr., DE/OLB, Oregon State
104. Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
105. New Orleans Saints – Chartarius "Tutu" Atwell, WR, Louisville
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others.