2021 NFL Draft order: Jets, Giants in top two spots

This is a look at the first-round order for the 2021 NFL Draft heading into Week 6 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). Keep in mind — teams 19-32 would make the playoffs if the season ended today and are marked as PL (short for playoffs) in the order below. The draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.

Biggest needs: WR, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: at Dolphins

While Sam Darnold isn’t to blame for the Jets’ problems, we all realize they’re likely to start over at QB if they end up with one of the first couple picks in the draft. Right now, their two remaining games against the Dolphins — the first of which is on Sunday — look like their best opportunities to avoid an 0-16 season. Aside from those contests and a November date with the Chargers, every other remaining Jets opponent has a record of .500 or better.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, WR

This week’s game: vs. Washington Football Team

This is still the NFL’s worst offense, even after showing some signs of life against the atrocious Dallas D on Sunday. Part of the problem is the offensive line — currently the league’s worst pass-blocking unit — and Daniel Jones‘ continued struggles, but so is constructing a team with so little explosiveness at the skill positions beyond Saquon Barkley.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, S, CB

This week’s game: at Vikings

If Atlanta goes full-blown rebuild under a new head coach and GM in 2021 — and that appears to be a real possibility — the needs list for this team could look very different come March. For now, it’s worth noting that the Falcons rank second-to-last in pressure rate since the start of last season (22.5%) and three of their top five producers in QB hits (Takk McKinley, Charles Harris, Steven Means) are scheduled to hit the market this offseason. This pass defense, which failed to sack Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday, is going to need an infusion of talent no matter what the future holds for Matt Ryan.

Biggest needs: OT, CB, DL

This week’s game: vs. Lions

Cornerback replaces receiver on the needs list this week because while the looming 2021 free agency for Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook is a concern for a team that has scored 14 points or fewer in two of the last three weeks, there’s more of a foundation at that position than there is at CB. Only one Jaguars CB (2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson) is rated in PFF’s top 85 players at the position.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, TE, WR

This week’s game: On bye

Are the Bolts bound to draft inside the top 10 for the second year in a row? It’s possible given their struggle to close out games, but I wouldn’t go there yet. This badly beat-up group keeps battling with Justin Herbert’s sensational play as a spark, and it has some highly winnable contests coming up against the Jaguars (Week 7), Broncos (Week 8) Dolphins (Week 10) and Jets (Week 11).


Texans’ record: 1-4 (.583)

This week’s Texans game: at Titans

See Pick No. 14 for analysis of the Dolphins’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Texans’ needs.

Biggest needs: QB, WR, interior OL

This week’s game: at Giants

Forcing a young quarterback to play for three different head coaches with one good wide receiver over 11 career starts isn’t exactly fair to the passer, but Ron Rivera believes Kyle Allen gives Washington a better chance to win than Dwayne Haskins, which tells me this team is going to be back in the QB market this offseason. 

Biggest needs: OL, DT, S

This week’s game: vs. Falcons

There’s no denying the Vikings have a problem at cornerback right now, but I’m not sure getting even younger at the position is the way to fix it. We are discussing draft needs here, after all. Such a move might be a necessity (from a cap perspective) at safety, however, with starters Anthony Harris (2021) and Harrison Smith (2022) scheduled to reach free agency in consecutive years.

Biggest needs: OT, CB, S

This week’s game: at Patriots

Safety moves up a spot on the needs list this week after Denver shored up its D-line a bit by signing Mike Purcell to a three-year extension last week. Justin Simmons, playing on the franchise tag in 2020, is due to hit the market this offseason, and fellow starting safety Kareem Jackson is just a year away from doing the same.

Biggest needs: WR, DL, LB

This week’s game: at Jaguars

The only team that has pressured QBs at a lower rate than the Falcons since the start of last season? It’s the Lions! Matt Patricia’s defense has a league-worst pressure rate of 19 percent over that span, per Next Gen Stats. If Detroit isn’t able to get its season back on track with games against the Jaguars and those woeful Falcons in the next two weeks, ownership might join Atlanta in pondering a full teardown.

Biggest needs: OT, WR, CB

This week’s game: at Colts

Bengals fans just have to hope outings like Sunday’s don’t have a negative long-term impact on first overall pick Joe Burrow. He was sacked seven times by the Ravens in his worst performance thus far. Cincinnati has allowed more sacks this season (22) than any other team. Fix. The. O-line.

Biggest needs: WR, OG, LB

This week’s game: vs. Ravens

Former practice-squad member Travis Fulgham has emerged as Carson Wentz’s go-to guy. It’s undoubtedly a welcome development for the Eagles to see their struggling QB have success connecting with one of his wide receivers, but it’s also a statement about Philadelphia’s continued desperation at the position.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, S

This week’s game: vs. Rams

The Niners weren’t expecting to flirt with a top-10 pick five weeks into the season, but here we are. It’s not going to get any easier for this squad, either. Each of San Francisco’s next seven opponents has a winning record, and an O-line that ranks 29th in the league must tangle with NFL sack leader Aaron Donald on Sunday. 

Biggest needs: WR, ILB, interior OL

This week’s game: vs. Jets

There was premature talk just a few weeks ago, when the Dolphins and Texans were both 0-2, that Miami could end up with two picks in the top five next year. While that’s still a possibility, the Dolphins are a win over the 0-5 Jets away from going into their bye week at .500, which is a heck of an accomplishment for a team with the 27th-ranked defense and 28th-ranked offensive line.  

Biggest needs: Interior OL, DL, WR

This week’s game: vs. Broncos

Of the six Patriots defenders who have recorded more than two QB hurries this season, only one (Chase Winovich) is under contract beyond this season. Bill Belichick is going to have some interesting decisions to make this offseason when it comes to building in the trenches.

Biggest needs: OT, interior OL, WR

This week’s game: vs. Bears

Carolina has a good thing going with Teddy Bridgewater, but who’s going to be protecting him in 2021? Center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman under contract beyond this season.

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, OT

This week’s game: vs. Bengals

We’re getting dangerously close to moving QB onto the needs list for the Colts, and I understand why some might feel it should already be included. Can Philip Rivers bounce back against the Bengals and Lions in his next two outings (with a bye week wedged between them)? If he doesn’t, Frank Reich has to be prepared to turn to a different option under center.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DT, WR

This week’s game: vs. Packers

The Bucs’ D-line depth is being tested after the massive loss of Vita Vea, and this will be a storyline that follows them into the offseason. Vea’s replacement, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, is due to become a free agent, as is starting DL Ndamukong Suh.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, S

This week’s game: vs. Cardinals

While there’s plenty of intrigue about Dallas’ long-term plans at quarterback, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones says Dak Prescott is still the team’s future even after his ankle injury. As for the team’s recent past, the defense was slightly less bad against the league’s worst offense in Week 5. Going to be a fascinating several months ahead in Big D between rebuilding the defense and rehabbing the star QB.

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, interior OL

This week’s game: at Cowboys

Arizona’s need for a pass-rushing complement to Chandler Jones was already impossible to miss, but barring some magical scheming from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, it could sink the Cardinals’ season. Jones, who is signed through next season, might not play again in 2020 after injuring his biceps during Sunday’s rout of the lowly Jets.

Biggest needs: QB, S, DL

This week’s game: On bye

Trey Hendrickson picked a good time to break out. The fourth-year defensive end, in the final season of his rookie deal, already has matched a career high with 4.5 sacks. He could price himself out of New Orleans.

Biggest needs: DT, OL, S

This week’s game: On bye

The Silver and Black have allowed 30 or more points in all but one game and the only teams keeping the Raiders from having the league’s worst coverage grade are the Jets and Cowboys, per PFF. Mike Mayock still needs more playmakers on D.

Biggest needs: QB, OG, S

This week’s game: at Panthers

We’ve now had a chance to see Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky for roughly the same amount of snaps in 2020, and … neither player is a top-20 QB according to PFF, DVOA and ESPN’s QBR. Is the QB the problem in Chicago or is it the offense itself? Or is it a combination of both?


Rams’ record: 4-1 (.340)

This week’s Rams game: at 49ers

See Pick No. 4 for analysis of the Jaguars’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Rams’ needs.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, WR, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Bills

While it’s not on the needs list for now, Kansas City has to get better play from its backend. The Chiefs don’t have a safety graded within PFF’s top 50 players at the position this season.

Biggest needs: LB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Steelers

One of the biggest challenges for the Browns this offseason might be evaluating their own secondary. Safety Grant Delpit — a second-round pick in this year’s draft — won’t play a snap this season after suffering an Achilles tear in August and cornerback Greedy Williams — a second-round pick in 2019 — has yet to play this year due to a shoulder injury.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DL, interior OL

This week’s game: at Eagles

The most pressing need for Baltimore is finding a fix for the passing game. Lamar Jackson has a 34.8 percent completion rate and 74.7 passer rating on throws of 10 air yards or more in the last two weeks, per Next Gen Stats.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, OT

This week’s game: vs. Chiefs

The Bills’ vulnerability on defense was exposed on Tuesday night, especially at cornerback with Tre’Davious White sidelined by a back injury and Levi Wallace on injured reserve. Improving the depth at the position figures to be a priority for GM Brandon Beane in 2021.

Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: vs. Browns

Kevin Colbert keeps finding gems in the draft, so maybe there’s no reason for Steelers fans to worry. All I know is the cap situation for next season seems like it’s going to present him with some very difficult choices with seven starters ticketed for free agency.

Biggest needs: WR, interior OL, CB

This week’s game: at Buccaneers

With Allen Lazard on injured reserve after undergoing surgery, two of the four wide receivers on the Packers’ active roster have three career catches or fewer. I know; R-E-L-A-X. This team is 4-0. The franchise has to do better at the position for Aaron Rodgers next year, though.


Seahawks’ record: 5-0 (.292)

This week’s Seahawks game: On bye

See Pick No. 1 for analysis of the Jets’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Seahawks’ needs.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, TE, WR

This week’s game: vs. Texans

Four members of Tennessee’s starting front seven are in a contract year. That includes Jadeveon Clowney, who will be looking to cash in on the multi-year deal he’s long sought this offseason.



Biggest needs: WR, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Titans

Yes, Houston won the first game of the Romeo Crennel era. Cheer up, Dolphins fans hoping for this to be a top-five pick. The Texans’ next two opponents have yet to lose this season.


Biggest needs: OT, interior OL, edge rusher

This week’s game: at 49ers

The defense is beating up on overmatched units right now, but it will be interesting to see what GM Les Snead does on that side of the ball this offseason with four starters headed for free agency, limited draft capital and a very dicey cap situation to navigate. 


Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: On bye

This defense, while allowing yardage at a historic rate, keeps making just enough plays to come out on top each week. It’s worth noting in this space that several of the guys making those plays are impending free agents, including starting cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter @TheDan_Parr.

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