2021 NFL Pre-Draft Predictions & Analyst For First 15 Teams

Micah Partee, Co-Editor

With the NFL Draft fastly approaching, I think it is more than appropriate to give a glimpse of what exactly we should expect from the first 15 teams drafting this year, and the situations surrounding their franchises.

Arizona Cardinals

There has been much speculation behind what exactly the Arizona Cardinals’ plan to do on draft day after coming off of their best football in three years.

In multiple mock drafts, the common assumption is that Arizona will be pursuing one of the top receiver prospects on the big boards. Even with a top three wide receiver in Deandre Hopkins along with a serviceable Christian Kirk, this is the prediction by a couple of analysts.

Well, I do not think so. I do, however, believe the Cards will take a slot receiver in the later rounds to perfectly compliment their two locked in receiver positions. But not in the first.

So who exactly do I think Arizona wants? After picking up Isaiah Simmons in the first round last year, who himself is considered to be positionless on this defense, my guess is the Cardinals will pursue another playmaker on the defensive side to help out Simmons and the newly acquired All-Pro edge rusher in J.J. Watt.

Potential Future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson has left the Cardinals in free agency after a decade of legendary cornerback play. The cardinals need a cornerback, and my guess is that the electric Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech will be that guy.

Atlanta Falcons

Trey Lance/Justin Fields or Kyle Pitts? Those are undoubtedly the two options for the Falcons with the fourth pick this year.

This might be the toughest decision in the draft considering Pitts from Florida is rated the second best prospect out of all positions, and both Lance and Fields have been receiving tons of praise after their second pro days.

The first three picks are basically locked in with the only question mark being which Quarterback the 49ers decided to go all in for giving away two first round picks in two consecutive years.

Whichever quarterback is left for the Falcons, whether it’s Fields or Lance, will not matter, because the Atlanta Falcons are gonna take a generational talent in Pitts with the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While Matt Ryan, who is a MVP quarterback for the Falcons, is on a slight decline due to age, when there is a draft class loaded on receiving talent, you stick it out and ignore this problem.

Ryan is still a serviceable quarterback in this league, and it is important to note that great quarterbacks can be found all over the place, but guys like Pitts certainly are not.

Pitts is a positionless receiver that is drawing parallels to NFL greats already. Even the most seasoned NFL analysts are having trouble making a sensical comparison due to the unicorn-like player Pitts is.

Ryan will have a lot of fun airing the football out to Pitts, who will no doubt, in my mind, be a star for years to come regardless of who is distributing the ball.

Carolina Panthers

After trading for Darnold, the Panthers have temporarily halted their need for a QB. Even after this move, other mock drafts are still guessing that Carolina will select Fields or Lance (as if they are even going to slide that far).

I assure the general population that the Carolina Panthers will not take a Quarterback in the first round. They are planning to protect Darnold, in a way the Jets could not, and that will be with Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater.

After the Panthers selected not one offensive player in the entire 2020 draft, my guess is that they will continue to help Darnold with a couple offensive weapons in the early rounds. Slater will be a huge key for both Darnold’s future success, and the success of the Panthers.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengal’s biggest need is on the offensive line. With this in mind, the obvious choice would be the highest rated tackle in the draft, Penei Sewell out of Oregon, who is already believed to still be there at pick five.

Despite Joe Burrow’s wishes to draft his former teammate Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals immediate need is up front.

After Burrow’s season ending injury, the idea of Cincinnati taking anything other than a lineman with the fifth pick is nothing short of comical.

Burrow was having an impressive rookie season and actually seemed to be a front-runner for Rookie of the Year in the earlier games. That is until his offensive line crumbled and allowed backbreaking hits to happen on their star quarterback. Good receivers come and go, but in the evolving NFL, a solid offensive tackle is a hot commodity.

I advise the Bengals to select Sewell, the projected best offensive lineman in recent years, if they truly believe in building around the former first overall pick, they must obtain Sewell.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is infamous for his continued overreach on the teams daily decisions and acquisitions. Such intrusion has also been noticed on draft day. While the Cowboys have probably the worst defense seen in the past five years, rumors have been circulating that Jones is “infatuated” with Pitts. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing.

The power struggle between Jones and the Cowboy’s selection staff will tip in the staff’s favor this year, as there is no possible way the Cowboys can give up enough to even get the chance of taking a player like Pitts.

The Cowboys have a top five offense without Pitts, so it is time they finally address this horrid embarrassment of a defense. How exactly can you fix such an eyesore on the field? By taking the best cornerback in the draft, and that is Patrick Surtain.

Yes, I said Horn was the best, but that is just in terms of man coverage. Surtain, who is the son of a former NFL cornerback himself, is the best zone corner, slot corner, and then second man in my opinion.

Horn is an amazing pass breaker, but Surtain offers such a complete game that as soon as he puts on the helmet, the Cowboys defense immediately goes from a joke to a force.

Surtain will be a solid corner as soon as he enters the league, and this is something even Jones can be satisfied about.

Denver Broncos

Lance, who will slip not because he isn’t deserving of a high draft selection, but because of the amazing players in other positions, will be selected by the Broncos at nine.

If no one trades up for Lance, the Broncos will happily solve their quarterback problem. The 8-10 Drew Locke will simply not cut it if you want to compete with Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, and Derek Carr, and those are just the quarterbacks in your own division.

If the Broncos really want to compete with these high scoring offenses, they need a quarterback who can actually help their team score. Locke was unbelievably disappointing in 2020.

A replacement with North Dakota State’s Lance will not just add the Bronco’s to the league’s list of serious contenders, but it is completely possible Lance, who has possibly the highest upside of anyone in this draft, could lead the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.

Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford was easily the most underrated quarterback in the league for the Lions. Stafford almost single-handedly carried the whole Detroit franchise on his back ever since his selection in 2009.

He became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to ever throw for 40,000 passing yards, led the Lions to multiple playoff runs, and did all of this with little to no help at all from other teammates.

The Lions have not just completely failed to surround their former first overall pick with talent, but they have wasted possibly one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time for 12 very difficult years. Thankfully, Stafford was finally given the chance to shine somewhere else after a blockbuster trade sent him to the LA Rams and brought another lottery quarterback in Jared Goff to the Lions.

This will be a very weird season not seeing Stafford in the silver and blue, but with Goff, who helped lead the Rams to a Super Bowl in just his third year in the league, the Lions do not seem to be that bad off.

They received multiple first round draft picks in this deal, and with the Lions having so many holes in their team, picks were just more valuable than one Stafford. After selecting cornerback Jeff Okuda out of Ohio State in 2020, the Lions are looking to actually get the most out of their pick this year.

Okuda had a terrible season and may have given Lions fans everywhere a reason to be upset about selecting him with the third overall pick.

I am sure Lions fans everywhere will be very pleased with this year’s pick, though, as their new quarterback will have a certified weapon for many years with Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama.

Waddle will make this transition from a contending team to a surefire rebuilding situation that much easier, as Waddle is projected to be the next Tyreek Hill in terms of his speedy playstyle.

Who knows who really won the Lions-Rams trade, but with Goff and Waddle in Detroit together, Stafford and Golladay could be a distant memory for Detroit fans.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence. There is not much else to elaborate on. The Jacksonville Jaguars have not ever possessed a franchise quarterback as far as I know (Blake Bortles was serviceable in my eyes), and Lawrence is as good as it gets in the quarterback position.

Lawrence, who has been the nation’s top prospect since his days in high school, will continue to live out every football player’s dream when he is selected at number one on Thursday.

How am I so sure Lawrence will be a Jaguar? The team literally gave him their playbook already. With a presumably solid quarterback, a brand new coach with a track record for success, and ten picks in this year’s draft, it seems Duval finally has something to look forward to after 26 years of misery.

That is if Lawrence does not suddenly decide he has had enough football for the day.

Los Angeles Chargers

Of course, I have a lot to say for this very special team. As a huge Los Angeles Chargers fan, wanting the best for my team is of the utmost importance when predicting and analyzing this franchise heading into this year’s draft.

With that being said, the Chargers are either taking a Left Tackle or Cornerback; two of the team’s biggest needs. It seems the consensus of Chargers fans yearn for Sewell and Slater, who will unfortunately not be at 13 unless we plan on trading up in this draft (with little resources to offer a team in return).

Luckily, this year’s draft possesses an abundance of amazing tackles, meaning the chargers can shift focus on somewhere else before worrying about protecting the Rookie of the Year quarterback in Justin Herbert.

This is one of the most unpredictable picks considering Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco has a track record for draft secrecy and, honestly, just picking whoever he wants. He also has a long history for reaching in the draft, meaning selecting prospects who might be lower on analysts lists, and selecting them with higher picks.

While Telesco has had his ups and downs while managing the team, it seems the somewhat recent firing of head coach Anthony Lynn was one of the greatest ideas he has had. It is now Brandon Staley’s chance to possibly win the Chargers their first Super Bowl ever, while he has never been a head coach in the NFL.

One important factor to consider before predicting the Bolts pick is that Brandon Staley is known for his defensive prowess and prodigy-like knowledge when attempting to stop offenses. This is why I am predicting Staley will continue to build the Chargers defense with the 13 pick when he takes the best cornerback in the draft, Jaycee Horn out of South Carolina.

This decision has kept me up at night, and I will say as a Chargers fan, I would be ecstatic if the Chargers took Horn. He is a certified ball hawk, and is the best man corner in the whole draft, which is exactly what the Chargers need. While I would not be surprised if Telesco let us down again, I really believe Jaycee Horn would be a great compliment to pro bowlers Derwin James and Joey Bosa and will help the Los Angeles Chargers finally gain some much deserved respect as a franchise.

Miami Dolphins

With a couple of trades, the Dolphins currently stand at pick six. After last year’s selection of Tua Tagaviola, the Dolphins are going to need weapons to give to him. A pretty good weapon would be Pitts, who will undoubtedly be off the board by then, so it looks like the highest rated true wide receiver this year will have to do for the Phins.

Jamar Chase, out of LSU, will probably slip right through the hands of his former teammate Burrow and the Bengals, right into the grasp of his longtime rival in Tagaviola. Only time will tell if Tagaviola is the real deal, but with a receiver like Young to pass to, it is pretty difficult to underperform.

New England Patriots

Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time. He sticks to his guns and uncommonly strays from the routines that have solidified him as one of the greatest. With that being said, Belichick is not going to trade up for a quarterback despite the beliefs and rumors of NFL analysts. Because he has had one of the most successful NFL coaching legacies by doing the same thing–sticking to his spot in the draft, and never trading up for quarterback talents.

With this in mind, it leads me to my next point. Bellichick has, in fact, moved up for defensive studs. So, considering Parsons is the best defender in this year’s class, a deal just might be made to make him a Patriot.

Belichick usually prioritizes athletic defenders above prolific offenders. This has brought him to multiple Super Bowl victories. So, when the Patriots select Micah Parsons, no one should be surprised.

Parsons, a former all-American linebacker out of Penn State, has all the tools necessary to be a top defender in this league pretty early. He has a pretty cool name, as well, if I do say so myself.

New York Giants

The Giants have had a pretty stellar offseason with the notable acquisitions of two top tier players in football with Adoree Jackson and Kenny Golladay in free agency. After filling a lot of holes in their roster, there is really only one huge need, and that is at edge rusher.

With this year’s draft being so saturated with offensive weapons, I truly think the Giants could and should trade back to get more bang for their buck. After all, they can move back a couple slots in the drafting order and still end up getting their guy, and that is Jaelan Philips out of Miami.

The 6”5 DE was one of the most dominant defenders in just about one year. He recorded eight sacks after transferring to Miami from UCLA, and his massive wingspan helped him to get 45 tackles in five games. This year’s edge rushing prospects lackluster in numbers, but Phillips might be the shining star.

I do truly believe the Giants will trade back from their first round pick and acquire a future pro bowl talent on the edge. And that player will be Philips.

New York Jets

After the Jets former third pick Sam Darnold was abruptly shipped to play in Charlotte, the Jets future plans are pretty obvious. Since they do not have the first overall pick, they cannot get the highly praised Lawrence.

But it seems that New York is totally fine with this, as the majority of mock drafts have projected Zach Wilson, the Quarterback out of BYU, to be selected with the Jets second overall pick.

Wilson has drawn comparisons to some of the greats in the league such as Rodgers and Mahomes with this insane arm strength.

Wilson may not have the most complete set of all-around skills, and his lack of true competition has raised many questions, but there must be some reason as to why the Jets gave up their former QB in Darnold for an unproven quarterback. And, one day, that reason might even be revealed. But that day is not today.

Philadelphia Eagles

With the loss of Carson Wentz still fresh in Philadelphia, the Eagles are looking for a solution to help this offense stay afloat. Heisman winner Devonta Smith has all the capabilities to not just do this, but to bring the Eagles back to glory.

The Eagles defense needs a lot of help, no doubt. But, after the Eagles chose Wideout Jalen Reagor, instead Rookie of the Year finalist Justin Jefferson, in a move that evidently increased the tension between the front office and their passionate fan base, it is very likely the front office will attempt to mend the broken relationship with a receiver that is believed to be better than both Reagor and Jefferson.

Smith broke just about every college receiving record, all while playing at the best college football team in the nation, meaning he would have to split catches with other top prospects in the whole country.

Smith made the most of every reception that came his way, and he will continue this in Philadelphia.

San Francisco 49ers

With the twelfth pick of the Draft in their possession, the 49ers ultimately decided it was not enough, and moved all the way up to third after trading away multiple future first round picks. It is easy to forget how close this same team was from defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl not too long ago.

Jimmy Garropolo is 36-12 in his career when he is the starting quarterback. But it seems after his unfortunate injury in 2020, that Kyle Shanahan and his 49ers are ready to move in a different direction under center. And that will be with Justin Fields. Fields has been a top two quarterback in the nation since coming out of high school, only second to, of course, Lawrence.

This pick will not just be worth it, but Fields will give the perfect chance for Shanahan’s Niners to evolve with the new mobile quarterback era, while also opening up countless possibilities on the offensive side of the field.

With a lot of speculation behind a potential Mac Jones selection, which I will assure is not going to happen on the night of April 29, Fields has star potential, and if the 49ers really intend on winning a Superbowl, Fields is the guy you would want to help your team do this.