This is a look at the first-round order for the 2021 NFL Draft through Week 17 of the NFL season, along with the top three needs for each team. The order is determined by record, using strength of schedule as the first tiebreaker (click here to see a full list of the draft-order tiebreakers). Picks 1-18 are set, but the draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.
The 86th NFL draft is scheduled to be held April 29-May 1, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Arrows indicate how far up or down a team has moved relative to its standing coming out of Week 16.
Biggest needs: QB, OT, CB
Jacksonville, the fourth team in NFL history to lose at least 15 consecutive games in a single season, can select a quarterback at No. 1 and add some instant-impact help for him or a defense that ranks last in the league with three other picks in the top 50.
Biggest needs: QB, edge rusher, CB
There are needs almost everywhere you look on the Jets’ roster, which is why it would make sense for GM Joe Douglas to at least consider trading down to collect more draft capital if he elects to continue riding with Sam Darnold at quarterback. The top priorities hinge on which path he chooses.
PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE HOUSTON TEXANS
Texans’ record: 4-12 (.541)
See Pick No. 18 for analysis of the Dolphins’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Texans’ needs.
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DB, QB
The Falcons haven’t held a top-five pick since 2008, when they selected Matt Ryan third overall. Now they have a chance to select Ryan’s heir apparent.
Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, CB
Building a better offense for Joe Burrow should be the primary pursuit in the months ahead. However, let’s not overlook the fact that the Bengals don’t have a player who recorded more than two sacks this season under contract for 2021.
Biggest needs: Interior O-line, CB, WR
There are more than three pressing needs here (linebacker!), but the Eagles should continue adding young pieces to a receiving corps that can’t rely on aging/declining vets DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery.
Biggest needs: WR, DL, LB
How sweeping will the changes be in Detroit? (aka has Matthew Stafford played his final game with the team?) Based on what we know right now, receiver will require attention with the Lions’ top three players at the position in a walk year. And there’s the defense, which allowed 30 or more points in most of its games.
Biggest needs: QB, OL, CB
It would seem that the Panthers agree they need to find a quarterback after benching Teddy Bridgewater to close out the season.
Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, QB
The defensive backfield, edge rusher and right tackle figure to be leading the needs list if the Broncos decide to run it back with Drew Lock, who had the lowest completion rate (57.3%) of any QB to throw at least 250 passes this season and tied for the league lead with 15 INTs.
Biggest needs: CB, OL, LB
Dallas holds a pick inside the top 10 for the first time since 2016. The Cowboys have needs at every level of the defense and must add depth on the offensive line. Quarterback could be a consideration, as well, if they don’t get a long-term deal done with Dak Prescott.
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, WR
It would be nice to add a talented young edge rusher or cornerback to a promising defense, but Daniel Jones would be well within his right to file a complaint if the Giants pass on an opportunity to give him a true WR1 with their first pick.
Biggest needs: CB, OL, QB
Restocking the cornerback position is a must with no CBs under contract for next season. Trent Williams’ free agency and Jimmy Garoppolo’s struggles prior to suffering an injury this season loom large, too.
Biggest needs: OL, TE, CB
The Chargers experienced a tumble down the board in the past month. They were holding the fourth overall pick before going on a four-game winning streak to close out the season. There’s much work to be done on Justin Herbert’s O-line, but the good news is L.A. might just be a few key pieces away from contending for a playoff spot.
Biggest needs: OL, DT, edge rusher
The Vikings were one of the worst teams at protecting their own quarterback and pressuring the opposing passer. Minnesota must improve in the trenches to be more competitive in 2021.
Biggest needs: QB, DL, WR
No matter who is taking the snaps next season, Bill Belichick has to give his quarterback better weaponry than Cam Newton had this season and Tom Brady had toward the end of his time with the franchise.
Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, WR
Unless the Cardinals are highly confident that a breakthrough is forthcoming from Andy Isabella, they should be in the market for a field-stretcher. O-line finishes a close fourth among the top needs.
Biggest needs: DT, OL, edge rusher
Atop the to-do list for the Raiders, who have one playoff berth in the last 18 seasons, is filling holes in a defense that hasn’t ranked in the top half of the league in points allowed since the last time it won a playoff game (2002).
Biggest needs: WR, ILB, interior OL
Getting blown out by the Bills with so much at stake sends the Dolphins into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths. One silver lining: They hold the third overall pick via the Texans. Let the juicy speculation about what Miami will do with that pick begin!
Biggest needs: QB, WR, OL
The Football Team won’t be in position to land one of the top-tier QB prospects. They can still pick a passer to develop behind Alex Smith early on and find a running mate for Terry McLaurin.
Biggest needs: QB, OL, WR
Does a playoff berth lock in Mitchell Trubisky’s return? It’s at least worth noting that in his three starts against defenses that finished the season ranked in the top half of the league, he posted a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 5:5 and a 78.4 passer rating.
PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE LOS ANGELES RAMS
Rams’ record: 10-6 (.494)
See Pick No. 1 for analysis of the Jaguars’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Rams’ needs.
Biggest needs: QB, CB, edge rusher
The Colts could have their fifth different Week 1 starter in as many seasons with Philip Rivers’ future (beyond the postseason, of course) uncertain and Jacoby Brissett scheduled to become a free agent.
Biggest needs: LB, CB, edge rusher
There will be plenty of time in the offseason to worry about a defense that allowed Mason Rudolph to throw for a career-high 315 yards. For the moment, Browns fans should savor the end of the league’s longest playoff drought!
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, WR, interior DL
Mike Vrabel is badly in need of edge rushers after the Titans finished the regular season ranked last in sack percentage (2.9%) and third-to-last in pressure rate (20.5%).
Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DT, WR
Keeping the band together would seem to be the order of the day with the Bucs trying to maximize the final years of Tom Brady’s career. That’s going to be a tough task, though, with players like Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin (among other starters) reaching free agency at the same time.
Biggest needs: WR, OL, edge rusher
Baltimore’s need at edge rusher will be significant or massive, depending on which free agents the Ravens are able to retain, but there are also potential losses at receiver that could leave voids.
PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Seahawks’ record: 12-4 (.447)
See Pick No. 2 for analysis of the Jets’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Seahawks’ needs.
Biggest needs: QB, DL, DB
There’s a lot to unravel here, between the future of the quarterback position and a daunting salary cap situation. We’re looking at a memorable few months ahead in New Orleans.
Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, QB
The Steelers have their starting left tackle, RB1, leading receiver and No. 2 pass rusher ticketed for the open market in 2021. They also have a declining quarterback who turns 38 in March and carries a massive cap figure next season. Just a few difficult decisions await this franchise.
Biggest needs: WR, CB, interior OL
There could be screams of horror from Packers fans if the team goes without drafting a receiver in the first round for the 19th straight year. But we can’t ignore the fact that there are other important areas of need for Green Bay (ducks).
Biggest needs: CB, OL, edge rusher
Will GM Brandon Beane elect to go with a younger, cheaper option at cornerback or run it back with Josh Norman on another short-term deal and focus on other needs?
Biggest needs: Interior OL, WR, edge rusher
Kansas City hasn’t spent a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman since 2015. This should be the year to snap that streak with a handful of the Chiefs’ O-linemen hitting free agency in 2021 and OTs Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz a year away from having their deals expire.
TEAMS WITHOUT A FIRST-ROUND PICK
TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE MIAMI DOLPHINS
Biggest needs: WR, CB, edge rusher
The next GM and coach of the Texans will be charged with building around Deshaun Watson’s rare talents and fixing a defense that broke in 2020. And they won’t have picks in Rounds 1 or 2 (both dealt away in the Laremy Tunsil trade).
TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, LB
This is familiar territory for fans of the Rams, who haven’t picked in the first round since drafting Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2016. GM Les Snead is going to want to make sure he’s giving Goff the best blockers he can, as L.A. was 2-5 in games when the QB1 was sacked more than once.
TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE NEW YORK JETS
Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher
They’ll have very little flexibility with just two picks in the first four rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Perhaps the Seahawks can find better protection for Russell Wilson or help for the porous pass defense with their selections.
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