2021 NFL Draft First Round Analysis

2021 NFL Draft First Round Analysis

Carter Landis, General Assignment Reporter

The first round of the NFL draft has come to a conclusion. 

We saw a run on quarterbacks, a couple of big trades and a few surprising slides. Trevor Lawrence headlined the highly-revered quarterback class that saw five QBs go in the first round. 

With the second and third rounds set to start on Friday night, here are some thoughts on every first-round pick from Thursday night. 

1. Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

We all knew this was going to be the pick for a long time and a new era of Jaguars football is underway in Jacksonville. Lawrence is arguably the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning and should bring a winning culture to a team that desperately needs it. 

2. Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Another team that needed to find a new face to lead their franchise, the Jets got a great leader in Wilson who can make every throw with accuracy and extend plays with his legs. He ushers in a new era of Jets football under Robert Saleh. 

3. 49ers (from Dolphins) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The first semi-surprise of the draft, as the Niners were linked with Mac Jones for a short time. Lance has the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks in the draft, and he goes to a system with head coach Kyle Shanahan that will be easy for him to learn. Home run pick for the 49ers here.

4. Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

The consensus-best player in the class, the Falcons land another weapon who is more than just a tight end. He can line up on the line or match up out wide, and he didn’t drop a single pass in 2020 at Florida. The Falcons will now turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball for the rest of the draft. 

5. Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

This was the way the Bengals were going to go if they didn’t select an offensive lineman. Chase was teammates with current Bengals QB Joe Burrow at LSU when they had the best season in college football history. The Bengals still need to find some protection for Burrow, but it doesn’t hurt getting the best wide receiver in the class. 

6. Dolphins (from Eagles) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

The Dolphins get a true No. 1 wide receiver in Jaylen Waddle, who drew comparisons to Tyreek Hill. He’s probably not Tyreek Hill, but he’s still good in his own ways. He’s got elite speed and lateral quickness and can be the best player on the field for the Dolphins eventually. 

7. Lions – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

The Lions land the draft’s best offensive lineman, and the best offensive line prospect since Quenton Nelson. Some Lions fans were upset that they didn’t go with a playmaker or a quarterback, but Detroit gets their franchise left tackle for the next decade. Big time first pick from GM Brad Holmes. 

8. Panthers – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Horn has been viewed as the best cornerback in the class, and the Panthers needed to address their secondary badly. Horn has incredible upside with elite athleticism to bother opposing receivers. He locks in as the Panthers’ new No. 1 cornerback. 

9. Broncos – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

A team that was the center of a lot of rumors on draft night, the Broncos stayed put at No. 9 and drafted the next best corner in the class. Adding Surtain to their secondary bolsters their defense which desperately needs it. They could have gone quarterback with this pick, but that seemed unlikely after trading for Teddy Bridgewater. 

10. Eagles (from Cowboys) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

The Eagles traded two spots up to get the Heisman Trophy winner in DeVonta Smith. They added an electric playmaker for young quarterback Jalen Hurts to reunite with, as they were teammates on Alabama’s National Championship team in 2018. There are concerns with Smith’s size, weighing in at only 174 pounds, but his elite football talent should do away with those concerns. 

11. Bears (from Giants) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

In the biggest move of the night, the Bears moved up with the Giants to get Justin Fields to be their new franchise quarterback. The last time the Bears traded up for a quarterback was in 2017 when they took Mitchell Trubisky, and that experiment didn’t go very well. GM Ryan Pace was not shy to do it again, though, and it looks like it will pay off for him this time. Fields is an incredible athlete with a strong arm and high football IQ. The Bears gave up a lot of draft capital for him, but they are hoping it works out. 

12. Cowboys (from Eagles) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

After moving back with the Eagles, the Cowboys get one of the better defensive players in the class. Parsons can be a traditional middle linebacker in Dan Quinn’s defense, and he can rush the passer as well. There are off-the-field concerns with Parsons, but the talent was too much for Dallas to pass up. 

13. Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

The Chargers played it safe and landed an elite offensive line prospect. Some thought that Slater was better than Sewell and that he has day one All-Pro talent. Slater can play any position on the line, and he’s the perfect pick to protect their new quarterback Justin Herbert. 

14. Jets (from Vikings) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC

The Jets moved up with the Vikings to get offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, adding a big body to protect new quarterback Zach Wilson. Vera-Tucker will most likely slide back to a guard position, where he played last year at USC before moving to tackle. Pairing Vera-Tucker with Jets left tackle Mekhi Becton makes for a solid offensive line. 

15. Patriots – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The Patriots didn’t have to move up to get the quarterback they wanted, instead, they stayed patient and let Mac Jones fall to them. Jones put up monster numbers last season with the National Champion Crimson Tide, and he’s capable of making every throw in the pocket. Being in New England is perfect for him to sit behind Cam Newton for a year and then take over as the starter. 

16. Cardinals – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

The Cardinals addressing their defensive needs was the right move. They add the disruptive linebacker from Tulsa in Collins, who won the Nagurski Award for the nation’s best linebacker. The Cardinals pair him with last year’s first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, making for a nightmare duo in the defensive backfield. 

17. Raiders – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

A questionable pick by the Raiders, they add an offensive lineman who many thought would be there in the second or third round. Despite his draft grade, he’s a decent lineman and he’ll do a good job of protecting Derek Carr. 

18. Dolphins – Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

Jaelan Phillips had a lot of red flags due to his past injuries, but the Dolphins decided not to pass on the elite talent he possesses. Phillips lives in the backfield, and the Dolphins add a relentless pass rusher to a defense that is already in the top half of the NFL thanks to Brian Flores. 

19. Washington Football Team – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

Washington adds a linebacker that perfectly fits the model of current NFL LBs. He’s big, fast, can tackle, and makes plays on the ball. Ron Rivera’s defense was already good last year, but now they add another defensive player to bolster it even more. 

20. Giants (from Bears) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

The Giants are absolutely loaded at wide receiver now. They add the fast and talented Toney to the core of Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton. Toney will be another elite weapon for Daniel Jones, due to his ability to get open and shake tacklers. Something great is being built in New York. 

21. Colts – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

Paye was projected to go higher than this, so the Colts got good value at No. 21. Chris Ballard drafts great players year in and year out, so adding Paye to their defense makes them easy AFC South favorites. Paye is an athletic freak who will develop into a star under Matt Eberflus. 

Michigan State offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs against Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye (Photo: MSU Athletic Communications)

22. Titans – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Another reach of a pick, Farley’s medicals were enough for a team to be hesitant to take a third-round flyer on him. The talent is there, no doubt, and the Titans need help in the secondary after letting Malcolm Butler walk, so it was worth the shot rolling the dice on Farley. 

23. Vikings (from Jets) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

A bit of a surprise that he was there at No. 23 as Darrisaw was one of the premier offensive line prospects in the draft. Regardless, the Vikings add a mauler at right tackle to protect Kirk Cousins and allow more running room for Dalvin Cook.

24. Steelers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

The easiest pick to predict outside of Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the Steelers add an elite running back prospect in Najee Harris. The Steelers lacked a real running game last season, ranking last in the NFL in rushing yards, so they added Harris who has the potential to be a star in the NFL. 

25. Jaguars (from Rams) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

A bit of a surprising pick, the Jaguars reunite Trevor Lawrence with his college running back in Etienne. Some thought that this was a reach and a waste of a pick, but adding a good running back who has elite downhill speed and agility never hurts.

26. Browns – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

Nobody is going to be throwing on the Browns. Adding another shutdown corner to a team that has Denzel Ward and Troy Hill, with John Johnson III and a healthy Grant Delpit at safety, the Browns are now in the argument for best secondary in the NFL.

27. Ravens – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

The Ravens finally get Lamar Jackson a pass catcher, and they get him a very good one. Bateman can do it all on the field, including making catches in open space or going downfield and catching the deep ball.

28. Saints – Payton Turner, DE, Houston

Another pick that was considered to be a big reach, the Saints go with the elite pass-rushing athlete in Payton Turner. Some had a fourth-round grade on Turner, but Sean Payton clearly did not. Turner has high upside, good athleticism and a great motor. 

29. Packers – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

The Packers were rumored to be looking for a wide receiver for this pick, due to the rumors that Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. They instead go with Georgia corner Eric Stokes, which, in a vacuum, is a pretty solid pick. Stokes is a speedy playmaker with good instincts.

30. Bills – Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

Rousseau’s stock fell hard after opting out of the 2020 college football season, and it showed here as he almost wasn’t picked in the first round. The Bills take a chance on him, though, and they are getting a big pass rusher with quick inside moves. 

31. Ravens (from Chiefs) – Odafe “Jayson” Oweh, DE, Penn State

There are concerns over the fact that Oweh didn’t record a sack last season, but his upside is through the roof. He is a freakish athlete with a high motor and has all the tools to develop into a premier pass rusher in the NFL. 

32. Buccaneers – Joe Tryon, DE, Washington

The Super Bowl champs decide to take a powerful edge rusher to add to their already dominant defensive line. Tryon won’t have to play too much, but once he gets on the field, watch out. He’s got the size and athleticism to dominate.