The 2021 NFL Draft will be defined by quarterbacks going off the board early and often. For the eighth time since 1967, QBs are set to go 1-2 to start the selection process. San Francisco is expected to make it three in a row and there’s a chance either Atlanta (or another team trading up) take a fourth consecutive QB to open the night.
There’s little mystery on who will go right off the top, with the Jaguars locked into their pick and Jets just as set. But from the 49ers on, it gets a lot harder to figure out where every QB will land. There’s also quantity with that quality, as there’s a chance as many as 12 quarterbacks in all get drafted over seven rounds.
Here are Sporting News’ projections for those dozen QB selections:
NFL QB mock draft 2021
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Jacksonville’s league-worst record won it the lottery for new coach Urban Meyer. Lawrence already has endeared himself to his new fan base, who are excited to see his rare arm talent, athleticism and championship pedigree go to work as a pro. The Jaguars may have left this door ajar a few months ago, but now the case is slammed shut. They should be thrilled about his high floor and endless ceiling.
Zach Wilson, BYU
Wilson is also close to a sure thing for the Jets, short of a 100 percent guarantee. There was speculation New York would try to make it work with Sam Darnold using a new coaching staff, scheme and personnel, but his trade to Carolina confirmed the team’s love for Wilson’s blend of accuracy, arm and character. There’s a miniscule chance the Jets change to another QB and Wilson falls a pick later to the 49ers.
Mac Jones, Alabama
The 49ers’ quarterback choice has been hard to figure out ever since they made the aggressive move up with the Dolphins. The reason is that Kyle Shanahan’s offense can set up any QB to succeed in different ways with a passing-friendly baseline. Jones falls more in line with early prized pupils Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan, with the dash of underrated athleticism Jimmy Garoppolo has.
But Shanahan may also see a chance to bring in addditional rushing element on top of quick, accurate passing with Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Jones’ high floor and San Francisco’s antsy feeling to upgrade from Garoppolo right away suggests he’s the preferred choice over the boom-or-bust Fields and the more developmental Lance.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The Falcons are enamored with two luxury picks who aren’t immediate needs in Lance and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Lance would be a nice young stash, groomed to suceed Matt Ryan in a season or two. Pitts would give Ryan a more dangerous receiving corps with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta should think about trading down to attract another team to trade up for Lance or Fields. The Patriots and Washington should be Lance-leaning; put the Broncos and Bears more in the Fields camp. In some way, there’s a solid chance a QB goes here to some team.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
The Broncos need to watch how things develop after Lawrence and Wilson go to know whether to jump up and assure they will have their remaining choice of the five first-round quarterbacks. As they need more an immediate upgrade of a young starter over Drew Lock, Fields makes more sense than Lance, assuming Jones goes to the 49ers. Fields also fits with the current structure and scheme of Denver’s offense under Pat Shurmur.
Kyle Trask, Florida
There are some who think Trask will sneak into the bottom of Round 1 as the sixth QB taken. Others think he’s a borderline second-rounder with one or two prospects ahead of him. Another group thinks he’s a Day 3 guy. Trask’s knock, much like Jones, is the lack of dynamic athleticism, but he’s a confident, strong pocket passer who maximized premium weapons, led by Pitts and wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Trask can develop well for Scott Turner with Ryan Fitzpatrick serving as the ideal bridge mentor. The Bears, who pick one spot later, should also be interested in Trask after missing out on the first-round run.
Jamie Newman, Georgia
With Newman and some of the sleeper quarterbacks to follow on this list, all it takes is one team liking their developmental upside enough to take a round or two or three earlier. Minnesota also has picks at Nos. 78, 90, 119, 125 and 134 to consider this stash behind Kirk Cousins transitioning between Days 2 and 3. Newman once was thought to have first-round potential before, but with him not playing another year after his Wake Forest transfer, he couldn’t boost his stock. He can go this high because of an intriguing size, strength and athleticism mix, but he needs plenty of work to be trusted in an expanded passing capacity.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond is an experienced college starter with a good baseline of accuracy and efficiency. He also is good enough of a runner to be a dual threat in the NFL. He just needs to develop his throwing motion and arm strength to have a chance at developing into a starter. Should the Patriots not get a QB in Round 1, he would be the ideal mid-to-late round target based on their adjusted slyle of offense with Cam Newton.
Davis Mills, Stanford
Mills has seen a meteoric late rise on some boards, to the point some think he’s worthy of a late first-rounder to mid second-rounder. The Buccaneers have flexibility in the draft and it wouldn’t be surprising if they stashed his upside behind Tom Brady in Round 3 (No. 95) or Round 4 (No. 137). Mills is built like Brady and looks the part of a confident pocket passer. MIlls is short on playing experience coming off injury, however, and needs time to develop the mental aspects of his game to match his physical tools, including an arm with which he can make all the throws.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
Franks, a big and tall passer, flashed again for another SEC program after losing the starting job to Trask at Florida. Franks has a strong arm and knows when to put zip or touch on the ball. He can also extend pass plays as a mobile QB and run well, too. Franks needs to sharpen his decision-making and settle better when seeing the field. The physical skills are there to merit consideration for a team such as Chicago that misses out on QBs earlier.
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Dallas should be in the market to develop a new QB behind Dak Prescott after seeing the limitations of Cooper Rush, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert behind him, especially with Andy Dalton gone to the Bears. Ehlinger was an experienced and productive starter in Austin, using his toughness, quickness and smarts to efficiently make plays as a passer and runner. He needs find balance of knowing when to check down but also improving as a deep passer in the NFL.
Shane Buechele, SMU
Buechele, the son of former MLB third baseman Steve, who played for the Rangers, was Ehlinger’s teammate at Texas before losing the starting job and looking for signficiant playing time elsewhere in the Lone Star State. The Steelers need to think about a QB stash, but they can wait until later for a developmental backup with Ben Roethlisberger hoping to play a couple more seasons. Buechele doesn’t have Big Ben size and doesn’t stand out in one area, but he does many little things well as a pocket passer with his smarts in reading defenses.
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