2021 NFL draft first round recap, surprises, scores, fails

2021 NFL draft first round recap, surprises, scores, fails

Derek Raridon, Sports Editor

The first round of the 85th annual National Football League draft was yesterday in Cleveland, Ohio, and it did not disappoint.

The unofficial start to the draft began with the third pick. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zac Willson were drafted, which belonged to the San Francisco 49ers. Much debate was had as to whether the 49ers should draft Alabama quarterback Mac Jones or Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. However, the organization surprised everyone by drafting South Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, kicking off the wild night.

The rest of the top ten picks ensued as most experts predicted. The following four main position players of the draft: Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith all wound up getting picked up by the Atlanta Falcons (4th), Cincinnati Bengals (5th), Miami Dolphins (6th), and Philadelphia Eagles (10th) respectively.

Appalling to many, was that Fields and Jones were both left out of the top ten picks. This quickly changed, however, as the New York Giants traded their 12th pick with the Chicago Bears, who drafted Fields with their new pick position. Jones wasn’t left out for long either, as the team who was predicted to draft him–the New England Patriots– took him with the 15th pick.

Five teams (the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings) all used their mid-to-late round picks to pick up offensive linemen. Antithetically, 14 teams in the same pick region all went after defensive players, with nine of them coming from the secondary (Cornerbacks, Linebackers, Safeties).

The rest of the league went after positions where their team desperately needed more production out of. The Giants picked up Michigan wide receiver Kadarius Toney, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars drafted running backs Najee Harris (Alabama) and Travis Etienne (Clemson).

The rest of the draft will be disclosed over the weekend. Rounds two and three will occur tonight starting at 7 pm EST and rounds four through seven will happen on Saturday, May 1st at the same time.




Jones falling into the Patriots lap

With all of the debate going on about who the 49ers should draft, I was under the assumption that either Jones or Fields were going to San Francisco, with the other going to the Patriots after they trade their 15th overall pack and whatever else to one of the remaining first ten teams. Surprisingly, none of that happened, and Jones stayed in the green room as he continued to fall down the draft list until he landed in the Patriots lap at number 15.

Jones is like Tom Brady, except with more mobility. While head coach Bill Belicheck said quarterback Cam Newton is their starter going into the 2021 season, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the organization calls Jones up, especially if Newton has a season similar to last year.


The Bears trading up for Fields

When the 49ers passed on Fields for Lance, I was expecting other organizations to switch up their draft boards and maybe grab Fields when they could. When the Giants were up to draft, I thought they would surely pick up the young stud. Don’t get it wrong, Daniel Jones is a decent quarterback, but statistically speaking, Fields is just better. As one could assume, I was very surprised when it was announced that the Giants had traded their pick to the Chicago Bears, and that Fields would be their pick.

Fields is a massive upgrade from Mitchel Trubisky and Nick Foles. The Bears do have the problem of a lackluster offensive line, but with his mobility, accuracy, and positional players to lean on, Fields can move around those issues while the organization addresses it. Granted, nothing happens to solve the issue in the rest of the draft or offseason.




Eagles drafting the Heisman winner

Last year, the Eagles drafted Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Despite going 1-3 in his four starts last season, Hurts put up some monster numbers, putting up over 1,000 yards (952 passing, 325 rushing) with six touchdown passes and three touchdown rushes (ESPN). He did all of this with a less than spectacular positional player core that did not feature any potential pro bowlers.

Adding Smith to the team instantly gives Hurts a new and reliable target to throw to. The Heisman winner had 1856 receiving yards through his 117 catches last year with 23 receiving touchdowns (Sports Reference). Of course, being the first option all while being in Mac Jones’ receiving core helped, but those numbers helped Smith become the first position player since Derrick Henry in 2015 to win the Heisman trophy (Wikipedia). All of the stats and accolades indicate Smith will help Hurts turn the organization around.


Chase goes to the Bengals

Although Chase did not play in the 2020 season as he opted out due to the pandemic, he has the ability to help the organization get back to their playoff contending level. Through his 84 catches in 2019, Chase had 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns (NFL.com). This level of production with his quarterback Joe Burrow helped LSU win the 2019 title against the Clemson Tigers.

Despite taking last season off, Chase doesn’t seem to have lost his stride. According to NFL.com, Chase had a 7.12 prospect rating going into the draft, marking him a potential pro bowler. With his talent and already established bond with Borrow, I believe the rookie wide receiver has what it takes to push the Bengals to higher places.




The Packers mess things up again

The Green Bay Packers have a notorious reputation for not getting their potential hall of fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers some all star level help either in the draft or free agency. Despite the position they were in (29th), one would think that news about Rodgers not liking his current situation and potentially even wanting out of the organization would guarantee the Packers getting an offensive weapon for him in the first round. However, this was not the case.

The Packers wound up drafting cornerback Eric Stokes from Georgia. While Stokes is a good defensive weapon for the team, the Packers are in need of offensive personnel (wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive line) more than defensive personnel. There are still six rounds for the team to get Rodgers some new talent, but with their picks coming at 29th almost every round, it may be hard to get someone worthwhile.


Falcons drafting on the wrong side of the ball

Pitts is an amazing pick up for almost any team. In his last season at the University of Florida, Pitts put up 770 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns through 43 receptions (Sports Reference). Mixed with his athletic ability not seen much in tight ends, and you’ve got a monster of an athlete that can help any offense become better.

However, this is not what the organization needed. During the 2020 season, the Falcons’ offense put up over 6100 yards of offense while giving up almost 6600 yards of offense (ESPN). The organization drafted based on who was the best available, instead of going after what they needed; defensive presence. Again, there are still six rounds left of the draft, and they are in a position in the draft to get some of the better talent. Everything else rests in the organization’s hands to do better.