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NFL Mock Draft 2021: Lawrence, Fields, Smith headline first round

Former Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith is expected to be an early first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. File Photo by Hans Deryk/UPI
Former Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith is expected to be an early first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. File Photo by Hans Deryk/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for more than a year, but the rest of the draft is much less predictable after that selection.

My latest mock draft, which doesn't include trade predictions, also features Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, DeVonta Smith and Penei Sewell as Top 5 selections. I also expect at least seven former Alabama players to be picked in the first round.

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The 2021 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 29 to May 1. Colleges also will hold pro day workouts for top prospects starting next week.

The sessions will be more important this year than in past years because the NFL canceled the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis as a safety precaution for the coronavirus pandemic.

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Instead, players will use their pro days on college campuses to attempt to impress NFL scouts, coaches and other decision-makers so they can be selected in the draft.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who had the worst record in the NFL last season, have the No. 1 overall pick.

The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals also have Top 5 picks. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the last pick in the first round, at No. 32 overall.

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RELATED Projected No. 1 NFL Draft pick Trevor Lawrence has shoulder surgery

2021 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

New Jaguars coach Urban Meyer attended Lawrence's pro day workout Feb. 12 and is expected to pick the former Clemson star No. 1 overall. Lawrence had shoulder surgery days after the session, but is expected to be healthy for training camp.

RELATED Injured Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence shows arm strength at pro day

"There is a vision I have about the style of offense," Meyer told reporters last week. "I have a really clear vision for what I want the offense to look like."

2. New York Jets - Zach Wilson, BYU

Quarterback Sam Darnold remains on the New York Jets roster -- for now -- but the team still needs to see improvement at the position. I see the Jets and new coach Robert Saleh making a splash move early in the 2021 NFL Draft with the selection of Wilson.

Wilson showed an ability to make a variety of throws and had minimal turnovers in 2020. He also was one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football. The Jets could trade or release Darnold in the coming weeks to make room for a new quarterback. They also could keep him on the roster and address another position, but I believe they will take a quarterback in this spot and attempt to find a new locker room leader.

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"Organizations that have long-term success have gotten the head coach [hiring] and quarterback [decision] right," Jets general manager Joe Douglas told reporters in January. "We have a lot of decisions to make."

3. Miami Dolphins - WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

The Dolphins also have a tough choice at pick No. 3, but I see the team selecting a playmaker at the slot. Wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Ja'Marr Chase are the two best options at the position. Smith has the benefit of more recent game footage. He also was the best wide receiver in college football in 2020.

Smith's skillset, stoic approach to the game and leadership abilities are a great fit for coach Brian Flores' surging Dolphins. Smith also will reunite with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa if he ends up in Miami. Tagovailoa and Smith were teammates for three seasons at Alabama.

Smith has a skinny frame, which has led to concerns about his durability as an NFL player. Dolphins coach Brian Flores did not sound concerned about Smith's stature when he spoke to reporters at the Senior Bowl.

"If you're a good player -- I mean, you can nitpick all you want about a guy's size -- good players are good players," Flores said. "I think we all can see that, and this guy's a very good player.

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"He made a lot of plays in college, he made a lot of plays in the big games - biggest games of the year. You can nitpick all day about things on people but he's a very good player. It's been good getting to know him, too. He's a good kid."

4. Atlanta Falcons - QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is one of the most-talented quarterbacks in this draft. The Jets will likely have their choice between Fields or Zach Wilson in this spot. The Falcons will likely be the next quarterback-needy team in line. I expect Fields to be the pick here with Wilson off the board.

Fields threw 41 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in 14 games in 2019. He threw 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in eight games in 2020, but was at his best in a College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Clemson. Fields threw for 385 yards, six scores and one interception in that win.

I believe that stellar performance and Fields' overall talent make him a great choice for the Falcons. He also should succeed early on because of the skill position players already in place in Atlanta.

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Fields -- a Georgia native -- also attended the University of Georgia for his freshman season. He transferred to Ohio State in 2019.

5. Cincinnati Bengals - OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

Like Chase, Sewell opted out of the 2020 college football season amid the coronavirus pandemic. He remains the top offensive line prospect in the draft despite not playing for a year. This is an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass type of pick for the Bengals, who have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL for several years.

The Bengals witnessed the consequences of not properly addressing that issue last season, when Joe Burrow -- the No. 1 pick in 2020 -- sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. The Bengals need to protect Burrow at all costs and the first purchase should be for this 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman.

6. Philadelphia Eagles - WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

7. Detroit Lions - CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

8. Carolina Panthers - TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

9. Denver Broncos - LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

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10. Dallas Cowboys - CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

11. New York Giants - WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

12. San Francisco 49ers - EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami

13. Los Angeles Chargers - OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

14. Minnesota Vikings - OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

15. New England Patriots - LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

16. Arizona Cardinals - CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

17. Las Vegas Raiders - EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

18. Miami Dolphins - RB Najee Harris, Alabama

19. Washington Football Team - QB Mac Jones, Alabama

20. Chicago Bears - OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

21. Indianapolis Colts - WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

22. Tennessee Titans - EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami

23. New York Jets - RB Travis Etienne, RB

24. Pittsburgh Steelers - OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

25. Jacksonville Jaguars - DL Christian Barmore, Alabama

26. Cleveland Browns - CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

27. Baltimore Ravens - EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State

28. New Orleans Saints - WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

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29. Green Bay Packers - OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

30. Buffalo Bills - LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

31. Kansas City Chiefs - OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - LB Nick Bolton, Missouri

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