2021 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper projects blockbuster trades for top QBs

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Luke Easterling
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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has been doing mock drafts longer than I’ve been alive, but his latest first-round projections for the 2021 NFL draft have a wrinkle he’s never used before: Trades.

Yes, Kiper’s latest mock delivers blockbuster trades early and often, starting with the Atlanta Falcons trading up from No. 4 to No. 2 to grab their quarterback of choice, which Kiper projects to be BYU’s Zach Wilson.

The next big move comes at No. 7 overall, where Kiper has the San Francisco 49ers trading up from No. 12 overall for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Then at No. 9 overall, Kiper projects another move up the board for a quarterback, with the New England Patriots jumping up from No. 15 for North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

Those moves are all intriguing, but they aren’t the only big surprises in Kiper’s top 10.

At No. 8 overall, Kiper has the Carolina Panthers taking Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, ahead of Lance. Kiper also has the Miami Dolphins opting for Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith at No. 3 overall, over LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase. And after trading back with the Falcons, Kiper sends Florida tight end Kyle Pitts to the New York Jets instead of one of the remaining quarterbacks.

One trend that Kiper’s mock illustrates is the potential for a top 10 that doesn’t include a defensive player. The first one in this projection comes off the board right at that No. 10 overall spot, as Kiper sends Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II to the Dalals Cowboys.

To check out Kiper’s full first-round mock at ESPN.com, click here.