NFL Draft 2021: Express Sport’s mock draft predicts the Top 10 picks ahead of draft day

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As we count down to NFL Draft Day in Cleveland, Express Sport takes a look at how the crucial first 10 picks of the first round of the NFL Draft could potentially play out.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars select TREVOR LAWRENCE, Quarterback, Clemson

As easy a pick as you could wish to have at No. 1.

Lawrence has been touted as one of the best quarterback prospects to come through the collegiate system in more than a decade, and with the Jaguars in desperate need of a star man under centre, the uber-talented Clemson man fits the bill perfectly.

He’ll prove a big hit with fans both in Florida and here in the U.K., where fans will flock to Wembley later this year to watch the Lawrence-led Jags in action during the NFL International Series.

2. New York Jets select ZACH WILSON, Quarterback, BYU

With Lawrence a guaranteed pick at No. 1, the Jets had their pick from the rest of the draft class and seem to have locked in on BYU passer Wilson, whose boyband looks and cannon-like arm make him a dream fit for the New York market.

The Jets have been crying out for a superstar at quarterback for years, and there have been plenty of false dawns at the position over the years.

Fans of Gang Green will be hoping Wilson finally brings the quality they so desperately need at the position to turn around their ailing fortunes.

3. San Francisco 49ers select MAC JONES, Quarterback, Ohio State

Prepare for a backlash in San Francisco.

The 49ers offloaded a raft of future draft picks to secure the No. 3 selection in this year’s draft, and all signs seem to be pointing to Kyle Shanahan selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to go down well with the Niners faithful.

The more athletic Justin Fields and the more talented Trey Lance are both likely to be available, but it seems the 49ers have been sold on Jones for a while and, unless there’s an 11th-hour change of heart, it seems San Francisco will pick Jones, who looked solid, composed and accurate through his college career.

But he wasn’t an eye-catching gamechanger like Fields or Lance, and that fact may mean that, despite drafting a talented quarterback, it might not be considered enough for the fans in San Francisco.

4. Atlanta Falcons select JUSTIN FIELDS, Quarterback, Ohio State

The big question with Atlanta concerns whether they’re ready to move on from quarterback Matt Ryan.

In our mock draft, two talented quarterbacks remain on the board, and Justin Fields would make for a very interesting pick for the Falcons indeed.

The Georgia-born quarterback initially played for the University of Georgia, but eventually transferred to Ohio State and enjoyed huge success.

It’s a toss-up between Fields and tight end Kyle Pitts. But, despite being able to get a “win now” player in Pitts, the chance to snap up their quarterback of the future could prove too much to resist.

Most have the Falcons taking Pitts, so Atlanta taking Fields could shake up the whole first round.

5. Denver Broncos select TREY LANCE, Quarterback, North Dakota State (via trade with Cincinnati)

With the Falcons shocking the draft by taking Fields, rather than Pitts, the Cincinnati Bengals would receive a deluge of phone calls from teams looking to trade up to snag the remaining top-rated quarterback prospect, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

The Broncos, already nicely placed with the No. 9 pick, are the perfect trade partner, and beat off a spirited bid by Washington to nick the No. 5 pick and draft their quarterback of the future.

6. Miami Dolphins select KYLE PITTS, Tight End, Florida

With the key quarterback talent already off the board, the potential for trades will be reduced, but the Dolphins have amassed a ton of draft capital, so have no immediate need to trade down to pick up more.

It means they’re free to take their pick of the players from their draft board, and the temptation to reunite their star quarterback Tua Tagovaiola with one of his key receivers at Alabama, Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, will certainly be strong.

But with the man considered by many to be the best pass-catching talent in the draft, tight end Kyle Pitts, still on the board, the Dolphins have a man to give their offense an extra game-changing dimension.

What’s more, he’s a University of Florida man, too. The perfect pick.

7. Detroit Lions select JA’MARR CHASE, Wide Receiver, LSU

With the key early trades made ahead of their spot, it means the Lions have a broad range of potential selections to choose from at No. 7.

They’re likely to have had their eyes on the Alabama wide receiver duo of Devonte Smith and Jaylen Waddle, but LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase is likely to be the top wideout on most teams’ big boards, and would be a great addition for new quarterback acquisition Jared Goff in the Motor City.

8. Carolina Panthers select PENEI SEWELL, Offensive Tackle, Oregon

The quarterback scramble above them in the draft order will have been a joy to watch for the Panthers, who traded for quarterback Sam Darnold mere weeks before the draft.

The battle to snap up the top passing prospects means the Panthers have a free run at the top offensive lineman in the draft as they add a vital piece to their offense to buy Darnold more time in the backfield for this season and many more beyond.

9. Cincinnati Bengals select JAYLEN WADDLE, Wide Receiver, Alabama (via trade with Denver)

The Bengals’ key needs going into the draft were additional offensive weapons for second-year quarterback (and last year’s No. 1 draft pick) Joe Burrow, or additional blocking talent for the offensive line to protect their franchise passer.

With the top tackle (Sewell) off the board, there’s still plenty of talented options waiting to be selected.

Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater could be a strong consideration if the Bengals target protection rather than a pass-catcher, but Alabama’s lightning-quick wide receiver Jaylen Waddle could prove to be a steal at No. 9.

10. Dallas Cowboys select KWITY PAYE, Edge Rusher, Michigan

While the rest of the Top 10 have gone big on offense, the Cowboys’ immediate needs lie on the other side of the ball, with additional defensive talent high on their list of priorities.

Linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive back Patrick Surtain II are both likely to be strong options for Dallas, but edge rusher Kwity Paye may provide the most immediate impact to a defence in real need of up-front oomph in 2021.

Expect him to be the first of a flurry of defensive picks for “America’s Team.”

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