The first round of the 2021 NFL draft continued Thursday night according to the league’s strict hierarchy: the quarterbacks came first, followed by those who catch passes from them and protect them, with the defenders tasked with stopping them from bringing back.
And just to add some extra drama to the procedure, a member of the league’s quarterback aristocracy did his best to perform the newcomers.
Quarterbacks went 1-2-3.
For the first time since 1999, quarterbacks were selected with the top three picks: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1, Brigham Young’s Zach Wilson of the Jets at No. 2 and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers at No. 3.
The election of Lawrence and Wilson was dismissed weeks ago. San Francisco’s choice of Lance over Alabama’s Mac Jones or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, on the other hand, had been a closely guarded secret.
Lance led Bison to the Football Championship subdivision national championship in 2019, throwing 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions against a much lower competitive caliber than Fields and Jones faced at their Power 5 conferences. He only played one game in 2020 due to coronavirus-related delays and cancellations before declaring the draft. However, a coach for Kyle Shanahan’s insights can no doubt accurately evaluate a minor program outlook with limited playing time.
Lance will replace Jimmy Garoppolo, the small program prospect with limited playing time that the Shanahans 49ers traded for in 2017, lavishly overpaid and eventually became unhindered with.
Fields, who led the Buckeyes to consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, fell to the Chicago Bears, who traded up to draft him with the 11th pick. He is expected to quickly replace Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, the NFL’s versions of Art Garfunkel and John Oates.
The New England Patriots later selected Jones with the 15th overall pick. Jones led Crimson Tide to the national championship in 2020 under near-ideal conditions; five of his college teammates were selected from the draft’s first 24 picks. Now he is joining one of the most successful American sports franchises of the 21st century. Some guys have luck.
Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith were the last quarterbacks to be selected with the top three picks in an NFL draft. Only McNabb had a remarkable career, which is a reminder that the prospects for top quarterback usually end up being merciful to multi-year dysfunctional franchises like the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Or in this year’s case, the Jaguars and Jets.
Recipients large and small were embraced.
After quarterbacks came a run of passers-by.
The Atlanta Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts, who caught 12 touchdown passes in eight games for Florida last year, as No. 4. The highest drawn tight end in history, the Pitts are expected to revolutionize the way NFL offenses use tight ends , just as Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, George Kittle, Travis Kelce and many others revolutionized the position over the past 50 years. Apparently, the tight end position has undergone as many revolutions as 19th-century Italy.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Louisiana State receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth pick and reunited him with Joe Burrow, Chase’s college quarterback and top pick in last year’s draft. If the Bengals turn into an LSU alumni team, it will at least give them an identity for the first time since Boomer Esiason left in 1993.
Fast-paced Alabama-wide receiver Jaylen Waddle joined the Miami Dolphins with the next pick, No. 6 overall, and jumped ahead of the more talented teammate DeVonta Smith, who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 10th pick.
Smith is nicknamed the Slim Reaper, which sounds like the world’s only Eminem / Iron Maiden tribute band, but instead refers to the fact that Smith reportedly weighs around 166 pounds, a couple of Waffle House breakfasts that are afraid of the minimal NFL. threshold. Smith should have carried the 45-pound Heisman Trophy he won last season on a scale with him to put evaluators more calm.
Like Chase, Waddle and Smith will be reunited with their college quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa (in Miami) and Jalen Hurts (in Philadelphia). But it’s not really remarkable when that kind of thing happens to Alabama players.
Cornerbacks: The next generation.
When the NFL teams were ready to draft some defenders, their best choice turned out to be corners of famous fathers.
The Carolina Panthers selected Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) with the eighth choice. Horn’s father, Joe Horn, was a uniquely wide receiver who was best known for using a cell phone as a prop at a touchdown party against the Giants in 2003. Horn used a flip phone, which retroactively turned the trick into a “” farjoke “.
Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) joined the Denver Broncos with the ninth pick. His father played for the great Miami Dolphins defenses in the early 2000s, which are not well remembered mostly because their offenses were horrific.
Other second-generation cornerbacks will be drawn in later rounds, including Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., whose father allowed an Eli Manning bug to jump off his hands in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII, making him the only New England Patriots. player eligible for the Giants’ Honor Ring.
Jumps forward and acts back.
The Jets traded up to the 14th pick from the 23rd pick (acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in last year’s Jamal Adams deal) to select Southern Cal offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who will provide some assurance against Wilson’s endurance for many early career hits like the last fifteen Jets quarterback prospects did.
As for the Giants, General Manager Dave Gettleman chose to trade down the first round for the first time in his long career and slip down from the 11th pick to get an extra first round in 2022 plus change. In their adjusted No. 20 spot, the Giants selected Florida’s versatile rusher receiver Kadarius Toney.
Said Gettleman last week that he had always been able to trade down, but the price was never right. “I do not want to be fleeced,” he said.
No NFL personality sounds more like a sharp uncle talking to a used car dealer than Gettleman, but he seems to have hit a smart deal this time around.
Rodgers, Nag and Green Bay.
A report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that a disgruntled Aaron Rodgers does not want to return to the Green Bay Packers sent shock waves across the league in the hours before the draft. Rodgers, the reigning most valuable player and a recent “Jeopardy!” guest host, was not so secretly miffed when Packers drafted his potential replacement, Jordan Love, in last year’s first round and by other organizational decisions.
The Packers could have chosen a wide receiver with the 29th choice, which would have been the draft equivalent of the day with a diamond buckle and a tearful apology. Instead, they selected Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes.
While the Rodgers situation is still evolving, only a few teams have the resources to act for him. And if Rodgers chooses to retire, “Jeopardy!” would be better to hire LeVar Burton.