NFL draft 2021 cheat sheet: Draft order, mock drafts, team needs, rankings, QB class, start time, more

Round 1 of the 2021 NFL draft kicks off in Cleveland on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, and Rounds 2-7 will follow on Friday and Saturday. The Jacksonville Jaguars will pick first and have the opportunity to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, considered the best QB prospect of the past decade by many. He is one of five signal-callers in the class thought to be elite talents and future franchise starters. The class is also stacked with other offensive playmakers and impact defenders.

Whether you've been following along closely for months and have been logging time with the game tape or you're just catching up now and learning about whom your favorite NFL team might be adding to its roster, we have you covered. We'll walk you through the full 259-pick draft order and all 32 teams' needs and outlook for the three-day event. Our NFL draft analysts -- Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay -- have their latest rankings, mock drafts, evaluations and more. We will introduce you to some of the most interesting prospects with profiles and detailed looks into their skill sets. And to bring you up to speed on the latest, our insiders break down the buzz around the league.

That -- and more -- is all here for this year's draft.

ESPN Draftcast | Best available

When and where is the draft?

  • Round 1: Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

  • Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 30, at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

  • Rounds 4-7: Saturday, May 1, at noon ET (ESPN with ABC simulcast, ESPN App, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network)

The 2021 draft will be in Cleveland. There will be a select number of prospects, fans and media in attendance. Among the players who will be on-site are Alabama QB Mac Jones, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Penn State inside linebacker Micah Parsons. Teams will be working with a virtual setup, as they did during the 2020 draft, and the Rams even decided to create a Malibu beach house war room for the weekend.

When is every team picking?

There will be 259 picks in this year's draft, and the Jaguars have the first pick. The Eagles have the most picks in the entire draft with 11, while the Seahawks have by far the fewest with just three.

Top 10:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. New York Jets
3. San Francisco 49ers (from MIA/HOU)
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Miami Dolphins (from PHI)
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Dallas Cowboys

See the full 259-pick draft order

How do the prospects in this class rank?

Scouts Inc. top 10 prospects

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (Highlights)
2. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (Highlights)
3. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU (Highlights)
4. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (Highlights)
5. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (Highlights)
6. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (Highlights)
7. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (Highlights)
8. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (Highlights)
9. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (Highlights)
10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (Highlights)

See all 350 and full scouting reports (ESPN+)

Scouts Inc. top six quarterbacks

1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2. Zach Wilson, BYU
3. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
4. Justin Fields, Ohio State
5. Mac Jones, Alabama
6. Davis Mills, Stanford

Kiper's top 150 prospects, plus position ranks (ESPN+)
McShay's top 350 prospects, plus position ranks and grades (ESPN+)
Jeff Legwold's top 100 prospect ranking
Legwold's top risers in the draft class

What can we expect to happen?

All indications are telling us that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two picks in the draft, in that order. We also know the 49ers likely are drafting a quarterback at No. 3, although we don't know for sure which one. After that, there will be surprises, trades, prospect slides, reaches and all sorts of draft-night excitement. Here's the latest on what we know, what we're hearing and what we're predicting based on intel from around the league.

Mock drafts

Kiper's final mock draft (ESPN+)
McShay's final mock draft (ESPN+)
NFL Nation's mock draft of Round 1
Kiper and McShay's alternating mock draft of the first 105 picks based on what they would do if they were drafting (ESPN+)
Mike Tannenbaum's mock draft of Round 1 based on his own preferences (ESPN+)
Bill Barnwell's All-Trades mock: Deals for all 32 picks

Draft buzz

Everything McShay is hearing heading into the draft, including how the top 10 picks might play out (ESPN+)
Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler on everything they are hearing about potential picks, trades and more heading into the draft (ESPN+)

Find the perfect fit

Play our NFL draft first-round matchmaker game

More insight

Our ESPN Draft Day Predictor answers big questions about Round 1 (ESPN+)
Kiper and McShay draft dueling superteams of 22 prospects (ESPN+)

What is every NFL team's outlook?

Every NFL team has its own draft board, its own strategy and a unique set of positional needs. How might your favorite team approach Round 1 ... and beyond?

McShay breaks down all 32 teams' top draft needs (ESPN+)
Football Outsiders' draft guides for all 32 teams (ESPN+)

How good are the quarterbacks in this class?

The quarterback class is extremely talented this year, with five high-end signal-callers leading it. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones could all go in the top 10. And beyond those five, there are a handful of Day 2 quarterbacks -- including Davis Mills, Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond -- who could develop into starters in the NFL.

The throws that show off the top eight QBs' best traits (ESPN+)
The biggest flaws for the top QBs (ESPN+)
Do the stats match the tape for the top 13 QBs in this class? (ESPN+)
Bill Barnwell: Behind the first-round QB boom (ESPN+)
Which NFL teams should draft first-round QBs? (ESPN+)
Is Mac Jones underrated? (ESPN+)
Where do NFL quarterbacks come from?

What are the top prospects' best skills?

Where do the top prospects stand out? From Jaylen Waddle's elusiveness to Patrick Surtain II's press coverage, from Travis Etienne's breakaway speed to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah's versatility, this class offers a little bit of everything.

The best in the class at 50 different skills (ESPN+)
Our favorite draft class comps
Kiper's favorite prospects in the class (ESPN+)
Perfect-for-the-modern-NFL team of prospects (ESPN+)
McShay's All-Satellite team (ESPN+)
Matt Bowen's best fits for the top receivers in the class (ESPN+)
Why wide receivers are taking over the draft (ESPN+)

Projecting the draft's top players in the NFL (ESPN+)

Running backs
Wide receivers

What do I need to know about betting on the NFL draft?

Yes, you can bet on what happens at the NFL draft. Our ESPN Chalk analysts are here to help.

Best prop bets for the draft (ESPN+)
Early action on the draft at sportsbooks
Why bookmakers hate the NFL draft props

How can I play ESPN Draft Challenge?

With ESPN Draft Challenge, you can predict how the draft will play out and win prizes. And it's easy to participate.

Play ESPN Draft Challenge
Intel for every ESPN Draft Challenge question
Fantasy football lookahead: Top 80 rookies for dynasty leagues

How did COVID-19 impact the process?

It has been a very different pre-draft process this year with no combine, uneven college seasons, opt-outs, scouting limitations, Zoom video interviews and more. How did COVID-19 impact the way this class has been evaluated?

The challenges of scouting during a pandemic
How teams build their draft boards
Pulling back the curtain on pre-draft prospect interviews
Biggest takeaways from pro days
How opting out impacted prospect outlooks

Who are some of the most interesting prospects?

In addition to immense talent, this class has a lot of interesting backgrounds and paths to the NFL. Here's a closer look at some of the top names and biggest personalities in the class.

Tim Keown: Who is Trey Lance, the class' most mysterious prospect?

Dave Fleming: The magical connection between Trevor Lawrence and his brother, Chase

Martenzie Johnson: Justin Fields and the double standard

Jeremy Fowler: Why Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney will be matchup nightmares (ESPN+)

Hallie Grossman: The NFL draft's most extraordinary prospect, Kwity Paye

Kevin Seifert: Why Rashod Bateman is ready for the moment, on and off the field (ESPN+)

Adam Rittenberg: How D-III's Quinn Meinerz turned doubts into fuel

Liz Merrill: How Marco Wilson is out to convince scouts it was just one stinkin' shoe

David Hale: The Surratt brothers' journey to the NFL

Turron Davenport: Amari Rodgers' best teacher is his famous dad

Marcel Louis-Jacques: Meet 5-foot-7 RB Jaret Patterson

Josh Weinfuss: How Whop Philyor got his nickname from a burger

Harry Lyles Jr.: Meet Cameron Cheeseman, one of the class' top long-snappers

Any other nuggets to know?

We could see a handful of firsts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Here are a few more things to watch.

• During the common draft era -- since 1967 -- the earliest that five quarterbacks have ever come off the board was the opening 12 picks (1999). There is a good chance the top five QBs in this class will get drafted before the Eagles are on the clock at No. 12. Quarterbacks have also never gone 1-2-3-4 to begin a draft.

• That 1999 draft also marked the latest that the first defensive player has ever been taken, when Champ Bailey was taken at No. 7. But many mock drafts this year have the top defender getting drafted after the Lions' seventh pick.

• The earliest a tight end has ever been drafted during the common draft era was at No. 5 (Riley Odoms in 1972), but Kyle Pitts could go at No. 4.

• The fastest that two wide receivers from the same school have ever been drafted was in the first 15 picks -- last year. Alabama's Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy went Nos. 12 and 15, respectively. Their former Bama teammates DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle could beat that mark in 2021.

• The Saints drafting DE Will Smith at No. 18 in 2004 was the last time the first edge rusher didn't come off the board until the second half of Round 1. It's very possible that will happen again -- and potentially later -- this year.