NFL Draft Order 2021: Complete List of First-Round Picks, Top-Rated Prospects

For the second year in a row, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft looks a fait accompli before league commissioner Roger Goodell has even welcomed fans to the event. Also for the second year in a row, the first pick is set to be a quarterback.

Twelve months ago, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow with the first pick. On Thursday night, bar a surprise of enormous proportions, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be the first name off the board, joining the Jacksonville Jaguars. Lawrence led the Tigers to a national title and two further appearances in the College Football Playoff in three seasons as a starter.

Two other signal callers should follow Lawrence at the draft in Cleveland, with the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers both expected to select a quarterback. Unless the Jets decide to surprise the entire NFL, they will use their second overall pick to select Brigham Young star Zach Wilson, whose stock has soared over a stunning 2020 season. In his junior year, Wilson passed for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Just as Lawrence is expected to spearhead coach Urban Meyer's revolution in Jacksonville, Wilson is tipped to be the man to lead the Jets in the Robert Saleh era. He should be a great fit for the play-action-heavy scheme new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will bring to the Big Apple.

If the identity of the first two names is all but set in stone, the same cannot be said about the third pick. Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance are arguably more talented players than Mac Jones, but most reports and mock drafts over the past two months point towards San Francisco selecting the Alabama quarterback Jones instead.

Zach Wilson BYU
Zach Wilson #1 of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on during the game against the Central Florida Knights at FAU Stadium on December 22, 2020 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mark Brown/Getty Images

The 49ers mortgaged a large chunk of their future by trading up to No. 3—they sent a first and third-round selection in this year's draft, along with first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, to Miami in exchange for the third overall pick—and their choice will have an enormous impact on the rest of the draft.

Although less spectacular than Fields and Lance, Jones has all the traits of a quarterback who could thrive in Kyle Shanahan's offense. A pocket passer who reads the game well, he passed for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four picks last year, as he made the most of Alabama's stacked receiving corps.

Speaking of Crimson Tide wide receivers, Jaylen Waddle and Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith shouldn't have to wait long to hear their names called. ESPN and NFL Network both have them to be selected in the top 11, while The Ringer has Waddle as high as the No. 6 pick. Last year Alabama became the first college team to have two wideouts selected in the top 15 of the NFL Draft. Waddle and Smith are both blessed with incredible speed and should be high on the list of receivers-needy teams such as the Dolphins and the New York Giants.

Neither, however, is expected to be the first wideout called by Goodell. That honor will in all likelihood fall to Ja'Marr Chase, whose stock remains sky-high despite him sitting out last season.

With the first three teams committed to a quarterback, Chase should be one of the first skill players off the board—and the Bengals could be tempted to reunite him with Burrow, his former teammate at LSU. This idea gained momentum earlier this month when Duke Tobin, Cincinnati's director of player personnel, hinted that the team consider offensive linemen projected to go in the second and third round as potential starters.

If Tobin decides pairing Burrow with a potentially elite receiver is more urgent than protecting the quarterback—who took a beating in his rookie season, which was cut short by a serious knee injury—Oregon tackle Penei Sewell could find himself joining the Los Angeles Chargers, where he will play with another second-year quarterback, Justin Herbert.

By far the best tackle in the draft, Sewell is a consensus top 10 pick and would provide a long-term solution for the Chargers at a crucial position.

The Atlanta Falcons are expected to select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts as the first player off the board after the trio of quarterbacks. The Falcons remain committed to Matt Ryan and look unlikely to draft a quarterback, a choice that should be made easier by the fact Pitts is a rare talent who should be an instant starter for them.

As for Fields and Lance, their futures remain up in the air. Once considered a shoo-in for No. 2, Fields' stock has plummeted in certain quarters, with growing concerns over his throwing mechanics. NBC's Chris Simms has Fields, who took Ohio State to the College Football Playoff last year, falling all the way down to 32 in his latest mock draft. ESPN and The Athletic have him going to the New England Patriots with the No. 15 pick and to the Falcons at No. 4 respectively.

Lance played just one game last season following his first year as starter in 2019, but is considered to have enormous upside. Both The Ringer and ESPN have him going to the Denver Broncos with the No. 9 overall pick.

Here's the complete draft order for teams picking in the first round.

2021 NFL Draft order

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. New York Jets
  3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans)
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
  6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles)
  7. Detroit Lions
  8. Carolina Panthers
  9. Denver Broncos
  10. Dallas Cowboys
  11. New York Giants
  12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers)
  13. Los Angeles Chargers
  14. Minnesota Vikings
  15. New England Patriots
  16. Arizona Cardinals
  17. Las Vegas Raiders
  18. Miami Dolphins
  19. Washington Football Team
  20. Chicago Bears
  21. Indianapolis Colts
  22. Tennessee Titans
  23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers
  25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
  26. Cleveland Browns
  27. Baltimore Ravens
  28. New Orleans Saints
  29. Green Bay Packers
  30. Buffalo Bills
  31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City Chiefs)
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts