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BYU’s Zach Wilson is the 2nd quarterback off the board in Mel Kiper’s 1st 2021 NFL mock draft

The ESPN draft expert has the Cougars star becoming the eventual replacement for a former NFL MVP, while Penei Sewell is also a top 5 draft selection

SHARE BYU’s Zach Wilson is the 2nd quarterback off the board in Mel Kiper’s 1st 2021 NFL mock draft
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BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) warms up before the game against UTSA at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

There will be plenty of debate over the next several months over where BYU quarterback Zach Wilson will be taken in the 2021 NFL draft.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. weighed in with his first mock draft for 2021. He had Wilson coming off the board to the Atlanta Falcons with the fourth overall pick.

“It’s time for the Falcons to think long term on offense under new general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith. Quarterback Matt Ryan turns 36 this summer. Wide receiver Julio Jones will be 32 next month. Center Alex Mack is 35 and a free agent,” Kiper wrote. “They can build around Wilson, who had a phenomenal season for the Cougars, throwing 33 touchdown passes and only three picks, and give him at least a year to learn from Ryan and adjust to the NFL.”

Ryan has been the Falcons’ starting quarterback since 2008 and led Atlanta to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season, the same year he was named the NFL MVP. The four-time Pro Bowler has thrown for more than 55,000 yards and nearly 350 touchdowns in his career. 

The debate for the No. 2 QB

Kiper joined ESPN’s “Get Up” on Tuesday morning to talk about the battle to be the second quarterback selected in this year’s draft, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence expected to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Behind Lawrence, the next tier of quarterbacks expected to be taken includes Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. 

Kiper said he changed the order of who would go first between Wilson and Fields about six times while crafting this mock draft.

“Zach Wilson, right now, I think has just a slight, slight edge over Justin Fields to become the No. 2 quarterback coming off the board,” Kiper said.

In Kiper’s mock draft, five quarterbacks went in the first round, all in the top 15 picks. In addition to Lawrence at No. 1 to Jacksonville and Wilson to Atlanta, Fields went to the Detroit Lions with the No. 7 overall pick, Lance at No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers and Alabama’s Mac Jones to the New England Patriots at No. 15. 

What about Penei Sewell?

Former Desert Hills High and Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell was also a top 5 pick in Kiper’s mock, as he had the linemen going to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5.

“This is all about protecting quarterback Joe Burrow, who will spend the offseason recovering from the torn left ACL and MCL he suffered in November,” Kiper wrote of the pick. “Burrow started 10 games, but it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable behind a mediocre offensive line. The Bengals can take a step toward improvement by picking Sewell, an opt-out who was the 2019 Outland Trophy winner. He’s the clear top offensive tackle in this class.”