NFL beat writers mock draft: Will it be a historic year for QBs?

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ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A video board displays the text "THE PICK IS IN" for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Who will the Jacksonville Jaguars select with the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NFL draft? (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Are we heading for a historic NFL draft?

Quad QBs?

That’s what is prognosticated in the 2021 version of the Los Angeles Times’ annual beat writer mock draft, in which writers who cover teams on a day-to-day basis make the picks. This scenario projects the first four teams selecting quarterbacks, which would be a first in the Super Bowl era.

Quarterbacks went 1-2-3 in 1971 and ’99, but four in a row is mind-boggling. But we’ll find out when the first round kicks off Thursday night in Cleveland.

Here's how beat reporters from across the country see the first round of the 2021 NFL draft unfolding:

1. Jacksonville | QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence looks to pass during a game.
Trevor Lawrence (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

He’s the best on the board and this is a club that hasn’t had a franchise QB since Mark Brunell. This is the reason why Urban Meyer came out of retirement. When you’re a franchise that has had 10 losing seasons in 11 years, you have to go with the sure thing. He’s the surest of sure. — John Reid, Florida Times-Union

2. New York Jets | QB Zach Wilson, BYU

BYU Zach Wilson warms up before participating in his school's pro day.
Zach Wilson (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

This has been the Jets’ obvious choice for weeks. After trading Sam Darnold, the team starts over at quarterback with Wilson, who put up huge numbers against weak competition in 2020. Can the Jets finally get it right at QB? — Brian Costello, New York Post

3. San Francisco | QB Mac Jones, Alabama

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones of Alabama throws during Senior Bowl practice.
Mac Jones (Matthew Hinton / Associated Press)

Kyle Shanahan feels that all that’s missing from a Super Bowl offense is someone who can run his system. The way Jones parachuted in and took Alabama to a national championship in Year2 is a lot like what the 49ers will expect from their next quarterback. — Matt Barrows, The Athletic

4. Atlanta Falcons | QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields passes against Clemson during the second half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football.
Justin Fields (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

With Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones going 1-2-3, the best player left on the board arguably is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, but because teams overvalue the quarterback position, the Falcons select their quarterback of the future and have the team set up for success over the next decade. — D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

5. Cincinnati Bengals | WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

Ja'Marr Chase points skyward during a game.
Ja'Marr Chase (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

The Bengals need to upgrade their below-average offensive line, but the opportunity to get Chase is something the team doesn’t want to pass up. Chase and Joe Burrow were an explosive 1-2 punch at LSU during the Tigers’ 2019 national championship run. The Bengals want to ignite that same fire power in Cincinnati and bolster their receiving corps. — Tyler Dragon, Cincinnati Enquirer

6. Miami Dolphins | TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts tries to get past Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine.
Kyle Pitts (John Raoux / Associated Press)

Pitts is the type of dynamic weapon that creates matchup nightmares for any defense. Paired with Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins have two dynamic weapons in the seams that can’t be defended by linebackers. And Pitts has the versatility to line up at receiver, which means he becomes the ultimate chess piece for Tua Tagovailoa. — Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel

7. Detroit Lions | OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell looks on as Oregon plays Auburn.
Penei Sewell (Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

This pick probably comes down to a receiver or offensive lineman. This is a deep receiver class. Sewell would start immediately at right tackle, and along with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow would provide solid protection for Jared Goff. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

8. Carolina Panthers | CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II looks on during a game.
Patrick Surtain II (Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

The Panthers’ first preference here would be to see if they could get a team to trade up for Trey Lance, giving Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule more picks to work with as they continue their rebuild. Failing that, they take the most polished corner in the draft in Surtain. — Joe Person, The Athletic

9. Denver Broncos | QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance rushes against Central Arkansas.
Trey Lance (Bruce Kluckhorn / Associated Press)

If Fields and Surtain are off the board, the expectation is new general manager George Paton trades down. But the Broncos were one of only a few teams that attended both of Lance’s pro days. — Ryan O'Halloran, Denver Post

10. Dallas Cowboys | CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

South Carolina defensive back Jaycee Horn plays against Vanderbilt.
Jaycee Horn (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

With Surtain gone, this creates a possible trade-back scenario for the Cowboys. But the need at cornerback is clear. Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater is also a possibility here. — Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star Telegram

11. New York Giants | WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith runs with the ball against Notre Dame.
DeVonta Smith (Roger Steinman / Associated Press)

The additions of Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph and even John Ross in the free-agency spending spree means the Giants do not have to grab an offensive playmaker early in this draft. But it doesn’t preclude them from doing so either. Smith gives them even more options and diversity for Daniel Jones to use. He’s a polished route runner and electric with the ball in his hands. As for his lack of weight, well, there are plenty of great restaurants in the New York area to help with that. — Tom Rock, Newsday

12. Philadelphia Eagles | WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle carries the ball against Auburn.
Jaylen Waddle (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Cornerback and wide receiver are the Eagles’ most obvious needs, and with Surtain and Horn gone, I predict they would turn to Waddle and look for a corner in the second round. — Les Bowen, Philadelphia Inquirer

13. Los Angeles Chargers | OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater participates in the school's pro day workout.
Rashawn Slater (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The Chargers are rebuilding their offensive line in front of Justin Herbert and will have four new starters there in 2021. Slater slots in as the team’s immediate and — they certainly hope — future at left tackle. — Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times

14. Minnesota Vikings | OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

Christian Darrisaw runs a drill at Virginia Tech's pro day.
Christian Darrisaw (Matt Gentry / Associated Press)

The Vikings need a left tackle to replace Riley Reiff, and they’ve been intrigued by Darrisaw, who’d give them a capable pass protector for Kirk Cousins’ blind side. — Ben Goessling, Minneapolis Star Tribune

15. New England Patriots | LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins celebrates after scoring a touchdown.
Zaven Collins (Mark LoMoglio / Associated Press)

I do think the Patriots will be in play for one of the quarterbacks, and I do think one or two of them may fall down the draft a bit. But the Patriots need depth on defense, and Collins looks like a great fit. — Ben Volin, Boston Globe

16. Arizona Cardinals | CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

Northwestern defensive back Greg Newsome II plays against Stanford.
Greg Newsome II (Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

The Cardinals address what’s been a weakness for a few years. Newsome has the size and skill to play the press, man-style that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph prefers. — Kent Somers, Arizona Republic

17. Las Vegas Raiders | LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons plays against Purdue.
Micah Parsons (Barry Reeger / Associated Press)

Parsons comes with some red flags thanks to some maturity issues that have surfaced during the evaluation process. But the Raiders desperately need a defensive playmaker and game-changer and Parsons is the one player in this draft that provides that possibility. Furthermore, they feel comfortable their infrastructure is sound enough to smooth over any potential rough edges. — Vincent Bonsignore, Las Vegas Review Journal

18. Miami Dolphins | RB Najee Harris, Alabama

Alabama's Najee Harris walks to the sideline during the Senior Bowl.
Najee Harris (Rusty Costanza / Associated Press)

Harris is the second coming of Le’Veon Bell, a big back who runs with vision and has phenomenal hands. He’ll be the perfect complement to Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ RPO-based offense, helping the Dolphins usher in a new era. — Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel

19. Washington | LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah plays against Alabama.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)

It’s tempting to add another receiver, like Kadarius Toney, to Washington’s remade offense. But linebacker is on its few glaring needs on defense, and Owusu-Koramoah’s range — along with his explosiveness, ability to tackle in space and instincts — gives the WFT plenty of options. — Nicki Jhabvala, Washington Post

20. Chicago Bears | OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins looks on during a game.
Teven Jenkins (Brody Schmidt / Associated Press)

The Bears are as desperate for a quarterback as any team in this draft. But this first-round chessboard did not unfold in their favor. The good news is they have other major needs on offense, including one at tackle where Jenkins can come in and compete for a starting role from Day 1. — Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune

21. Indianapolis Colts | Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami

Miami's Jaelan Phillips celebrates a defensive stop against Virginia Tech.
Jaelan Phillips (Matt Gentry / The Roanoke Times via AP)

The Colts would have happily grabbed one of the top offensive tackles, but with Sewell, Slater, Darrisaw and Jenkins all gone, they go with a high-risk, high-reward pick in Phillips. His upside is tantalizing and he feels like a player ready to contribute on Day 1. The medical concerns (concussions) might be a deal breaker, but if the Colts clear him, he would add more disruption on a defensive line featuring DeForest Buckner. — Stephen Holder, The Athletic

22. Tennessee Titans | DT Christian Barmore, Alabama

Alabama defensive lineman Christian Barmore celebrates a sack against Western Carolina.
Christian Barmore (Vasha Hunt / Associated Press)

There are so many options for the Titans here that match up nicely with their needs at receiver, corner and edge that a trade back would work nicely. I see six players I could see them taking and corner Caleb Farley would probably be the best selection. But with injury concerns about his back, can a team be sure enough? That brings me to the penetrating Barmore. — Paul Kuharsky, PaulKuharsky.com

23. New York Jets | G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker participates in his school's pro day workout.
Alijah Vera-Tucker (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Every NFL team loves versatility and Vera-Tucker is a perfect-plug-and-play prospect. He played both guard and tackle at USC and, according to scouts, is NFL-ready. The Jets need to do for their new QB Zach Wilson what they failed to do for Sam Darnold, which is build around him with strong, young talent. Vera-Tucker, a favorite among almost every draft analyst, is a player who can do nothing but help the development of Wilson, the Jets’ latest franchise QB hopeful. He projects likely as a guard in the NFL based on his skill set and his 6-4, 308-pound frame. — Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Clemson running back Travis Etienne runs for a touchdown against Notre Dame.
Travis Etienne (Brian Blanco / Associated Press)

The Steelers were the worst running team in the league last year and have been near the bottom for the past three. Ben Roethlisberger is 39 and is no longer going to carry the team. The Steelers need balance, and a great running back is a more pressing concern than an offensive lineman. — Ed Bouchette, The Athletic

25. Jacksonville Jaguars| Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari celebrates after a sack against Mississippi State.
Azeez Ojulari (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Many have the Jaguars taking TCU safety Trevon Moehrig at this spot, but Ojulari was the most productive pass rusher in the SEC. — Gene Frenette, Florida Times-Union

26. Cleveland Browns | CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley returns an interception for a touchdown against Georgia Tech.
Caleb Farley (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Farley likely slipped because of back surgery on March23. But he’s due back for training camp, and if the Browns are comfortable with the medicals, he’d be an excellent addition to outside corners Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who missed all of 2020 with nerve damage in his shoulder. — Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer

27. Baltimore Ravens | Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan

Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye plays against Michigan State.
Kwity Paye (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

The Ravens lost their top two edge rushers, Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, in free agency and they’ve targeted this draft as a good place to get much-needed help on the edge. Paye is a dynamic athlete who brings pass-rushing juice and holds his own against the run. John Harbaugh knows somebody at Michigan who could give him a good scouting report too. — Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

28. New Orleans Saints | Edge Joe Tryon, Washington

Washington's Joe Tryon kneels with a tackling dummy during practice.
Joe Tryon (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

The Saints are in need of either a cornerback, a linebacker or an edge rusher here, and Tryon would fit the need. His playing style been compared to current Saints DE Marcus Davenport, meaning Tryon hasn’t quite reached his ceiling yet. — Amie Just, Times-Picayune

29. Green Bay Packers | ILB Jamin Davis, Kentucky

Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis rushes UT Martin quarterback John Bachus III.
Jamin Davis (Bryan Woolston / Associated Press)

The Packers could go in a lot directions — tackle, cornerback, interior defensive line and receiver are among their biggest needs. But they haven’t had a dynamic player in the middle of their defense since forever, and Davis would provide badly needed explosiveness. — Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette

30. Buffalo Bills | Edge Jayson Oweh, Penn State

Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh plays against Michigan.
Jayson Oweh (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Oweh did not have any sacks during the 2020 season, but a closer look reveals he applied plenty of pressure. The Bills can bring him along slowly behind Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, banking on his physical skills and NFL coaching turning him into a better pro than college player. — Jay Skurski, Buffalo News

31. Baltimore Ravens | OT/G Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood prepares to block against Notre Dame.
Alex Leatherwood (Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)

Ideally, the Ravens could trade back here until early in the second round and pick up another Day2 pick in the process. However, they can’t take any chances in losing out on a potential Day1 starting tackle after trading Orlando Brown Jr. Some believe Leatherwood might be better off at guard than tackle and that’s fine too, because the Ravens have a need there as well. Either way, he should be a Day1 starter. — Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | DL Gregory Rousseau, Miami

Miami defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau celebrates a turnover with teammates against Central Michigan.
Gregory Rousseau (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

The Bucs have 22 returning starters, so they can take a chance on a developmental player here who can provide depth in two areas of need. Rousseau can play inside in a rotation with Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston, both of whom are in the final year of a contract. He also can be used to rush off the edge as a stand-up outside linebacker in Todd Bowles’ defense. — Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.