Mel Kiper, Jr. dropped his first mock draft of the 2021 NFL Draft season Tuesday in line with the first day of the Senior Bowl. Naturally, Crimson Tide players filled out his selections, though Kiper took a different approach to his colleague Todd McShay.

ESPN's Todd McShay released his first mock draft of the new year Wednesday.

Read More: McShay Mocks Six Tide Prospects in Round One of NFL Draft

Where McShay reunited several Tide stars and hit on some fan favorite destinations, Kiper took a best player available approach early on and allowed the needs to fall creating some interesting combinations.

The one constant: both highly respected draft analysts project six Crimson Tide athletes to be selected in the first round.

Enough previewing, here's where Kiper sees the Crimson Tide prospects landing a few months ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.


2nd Overall: New York Jets - DeVonta Smith, WR

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Recently, Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams advocated for going after the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner rather than starting anew with another quarterback. Well, Quinnen, Kiper agrees.

The New York Jets are certainly in play to either make a blockbuster trade for Houston's Deshaun Watson or draft any quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence. Still, there are those who believe current Jets QB Sam Darnold isn't a lost cause, but instead deserves a chance with some talent around him. Count Kiper among the crowd.

According to Kiper, "Smith is the true No. 1 target Darnold hasn't had."

He's right, and although the situation isn't quite as favorable as reuniting with Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, being the highest draft player from Alabama and a few extra million dollars to hear his name called ten minutes sooner should smooth things over.

6th Overall: Philadelphia Eagles - Jaylen Waddle, WR

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Needless to say, scouts and analysts are not concerned with Jaylen Waddle's ankle injury. Maybe he helped his stock by playing in the National Championship game afterall.

Kiper sends Waddle to Philadelphia to help build a new Eagles offense that expects to roll with Jalen Hurts in 2021 and beyond. The Eagles have a strong, albeit aged and often-injured, receiving corp. Nonetheless, Waddle would thrive in an offense that will now center around playmaking opportunities.

Fun fact, Waddle caught Hurts's final pass attempt in Bryant-Denny Stadium for a 56-yard touchdown. No doubt the duo would connect on many more in the event Waddle is selected by the new Eagles regime.

12th Overall: San Francisco 49ers - Patrick Surtain II, CB

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The San Francisco 49ers have some big name free agents headed out the door, and as Kiper points out in his analysis, three of them play cornerback. Surtain at 12 would be considered a steal by many analysts, and taking into account the ferocious pass-rush employed by the 49ers, rival fans would look at the selection as down-right unfair.

"At 6-2, Surtain has the size and speed to play on an island and lock down wideouts," Kiper said, adding that he believes Surtain could be a starter day one in San Fran in this scenario.

Surtain may have fallen to 12 in this mock, but he's still the first corner off the board for Kiper. Fans shouldn't expect anything different on draft day.

15th Overall: New England Patriots - Mac Jones, QB

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Count Kiper as a Mac Jones believer. Jones is the fifth quarterback off the board in this mock and he lands with the New England Patriots, a fit often thought as a premiere destination for Jones.

"Jones can make every throw at every level of the field, and he's extremely accurate," Kiper said. "Plus, we know that Belichick has drafted plenty of Alabama stars and trusts Nick Saban."

Many have called Mac Jones's game style similar to that of Tom Brady, and Kiper somewhat agrees.

 

25th Overall: Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR) - Christian Barmore, DT

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Barmore is one of the leaders in a weaker interior defensive lineman class. Still he hasn't fully convinced scouts and analysts he's worthy of anything higher than a pick in the mid-20s. Regardless, the first round is still very likely where Barmore will hear his name called.

Kiper sends Barmore to Duval County to help rebuild a once proud defensive front alongside K'Lavon Chaisson. If Barmore heads to Jacksonville, a revitalized "Sacks-onville" would certainly help (presumably) Trevor Lawrence and company turn things around.

30th Overall: Buffalo Bills - Najee Harris, RB

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Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said after the AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs his team has "to run the football better." Kiper agrees, sending the all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns for the Crimson Tide to Buffalo.

Although Zack Moss and Devin Singletary are good backs, neither is one that imposes much hesitation in opposing defenses. Neither matchup to Harris's abilities as a receiver either.

Harris would no doubt serve as a critical piece to help put Buffalo over the hump in the AFC race.

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If you have an ESPN+ account, you can check out Mel Kiper, Jr.'s full mock draft here.

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