The NFL draft is back, and so is the spectacle. A year after conducting the three-day event remotely, the league will broadcast the draft Thursday live from Cleveland — putting on a production that will resemble more of what fans were accustomed to before the pandemic. Prospects can once again bear-hug a fully vaccinated Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Here’s how The Washington Times sees the first round playing out, with staff writers Matthew Paras and Andy Kostka alternating picks. As always, keep in mind that the mock doesn’t account for trades.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Paras: This pick was practically locked in when Jacksonville finished the season with the No. 1 pick. A no-brainer.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Kostka: The Jets traded away Sam Darnold, setting them up to select a quarterback. Lawrence is gone, so Wilson is the next best thing.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Paras: Jones would be a controversial selection after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up. But the buzz for Jones to the 49ers is strong.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Kostka: The Falcons could go with Kyle Pitts here, but Matt Ryan has potential for his contract in 2022. Atlanta could plan for the future.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Paras: Bengals could use a tackle to protect Joe Burrow, but Pitts’ talent is too enticing to pass on. Some experts see Pitts, an athletic tight end, as the best player in the draft.
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Kostka: The Dolphins need to get Tua Tagovailoa playmakers on offense, and Chase is the premier receiver on the board.
7. Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Paras: Sewell played on the left side in college but has been training if a team wants to slot him in on the right side. He makes sense for the Lions.
8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Kostka: Slater could factor in immediately as the Panthers’ starting left tackle, an apparent hole on Carolina’s roster.
9. Denver Broncos, Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Paras: The Broncos acquired veteran Teddy Bridgewater from the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday for a sixth-round pick. That price shouldn’t preclude Denver from taking Fields, a solid long-term option that needs development.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Kostka: The Cowboys’ defense was shredded apart last season, allowing the most points in franchise history and the fifth most in the league in 2020. Surtain could be an immediate boost.
11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Paras: The Giants signed Kenny Golladay, but New York appears to be doing everything to surround Daniel Jones with talent. Waddle fits that approach.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Kostka: Smith’s speed on the outside could make him a dangerous threat in an offense run by former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Paras: Quarterback Justin Herbert reportedly wants the Chargers to take Sewell, his former college teammate. But with the tackle off the board, Los Angeles settles for Jenkins instead.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Kostka: The Vikings need help in the trenches, and Darrisaw could provide that, especially after left tackle Riley Reiff signed with the Bengals this offseason.
15. New England Patriots: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Paras: New England desperately needs a quarterback, but they go with the best player available here as Parsons’ slide ends.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Kostka: Patrick Peterson departed for the Minnesota Vikings after 10 seasons in Arizona, so the Cardinals need a new franchise cornerback. Enter Horn.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
Paras: Las Vegas needs offensive line help. Enter Vera-Tucker, a safe option capable of playing tackle or guard. Most teams view him as the latter.
18. Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
Kostka: The Miami Dolphins like to blitz, and while Paye didn’t produce eye-popping sack numbers in college, he’s quite an exterior presence.
19. Washington Football Team: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Paras: With the run on tackles, Washington will gladly settle for Owusu-Koramoah, a versatile linebacker capable of playing multiple spots. Washington badly needs a coverage linebacker, too.
20. Chicago Bears: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Kostka: The Bears moved on from cornerback Kyle Fuller this offseason, leaving Chicago in need of defensive back help.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
Paras: Justin Houston is a free agent, and Ojulari could be his replacement. The Colts could also go tackle here as Anthony Castonzo retired, but there’s no obvious candidate.
22. Tennessee Titans: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
Kostka: The Titans could look for a receiver following Corey Davis’s departure, but the secondary has issues. Tennessee finished 29th last season in passing yards, and completions allowed.
23. New York Jets: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Paras: The Jets will take Wilson at No. 2, so why not give him a weapon in Bateman? New York needs to learn from not surrounding Darnold with enough talent.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Kostka: With James Conner now with the Cardinals, the Steelers could find their next feature back in Harris, who put up gaudy numbers with Alabama.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Moehring, S, TCU
Paras: Moehrig is the top safety in a thin class. The Jaguars, coming off a 2-14 season, have needed all over their roster, security included.
26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Kostka: Collins broke out in 2020 for Tulsa, producing four sacks in eight games. He could help an already pass-rush-heavy Browns defense.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
Paras: Matt Judon left in free agency for the Patriots, and Baltimore has needed pass-rushing help for the last few seasons. Phillips is an intriguing prospect with real boom-or-bust potential.
28. New Orleans Saints: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Kostka: Coach Sean Payton said cornerback was a position of need, but the top four prospects are off the board, and Davis is an athletic inside linebacker to pair with All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis.
29. Green Bay Packers: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Paras: The Packers finally give Aaron Rodgers some receiving help and a weapon across from All-Pro Davante Adams.
30. Buffalo Bills: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Kostka: With Josh Norman gone, the Bills could look to bolster their secondary, pairing Samuel across from Tre’Davious White.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma
Paras: Ravens coach John Harbaugh vowed the team’s offensive line would be much better in 2021. Humphrey would fill a need on the interior.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Kostka: The Buccaneers could do just about anything here. Rousseau is an edge rusher they might find intriguing.