The 2021 NFL Draft started with three quarterbacks in three picks, and a surprise in that group. More surprises followed.
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson finished 1-2 as expected, but then the 49ers surprised by taking North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with the third pick. Did San Francisco make the right decision?
The quarterback’s surprises didn’t stop there. The Bears traded with the Giants to get Ohio State’s Justin Fields with the No. 11 pick. That gave the Bears another trade quarterback on draft day. Did Chicago make the right decision?
Alabama’s Mac Jones, the fifth quarterback selected in the first round, fell to the Patriots at No. 15. That was the only decision at the time.
Those quarterback decisions weren’t the only source of entertainment in Round 1. Sporting News breaks down the winners and losers from the first night:
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2021 NFL Draft Winners and Losers
Winners: Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones
The 49ers quarterback debate was a mystery until the pick came along, and Lance was his final answer ahead of Fields and Jones.
The North Dakota State star was one of the top three despite playing in a game for the Bison last fall, and of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round, he is in the best position to win now with what it should be a healthier San Francisco. team that is a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance.
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Lance will have to win the starting job from Jimmy Garoppolo, and there could be a period of preparation in 2021 considering that Lance made only 17 starts in college, all at the FCS level, but Lance’s dynamic talent was enough for coach Kyle. Shannahan will take a chance. .
The Bears traded to grab Fields, who faced the most scrutiny of any quarterback in this draft. Fields enjoyed a prolific two-year stint as the starter at Ohio State, but continued questions about his work ethic, his ability to interpret defenses, and the revelation that he is managing epilepsy led him to drop from the top 10. The manager Chicago general Ryan Pace needs this. choose to get results; Fields is a double threat talent with a huge advantage.
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Then there’s Jones, who was the last quarterback selected in the first round. He slipped to No. 15, but the good news for him is that he landed with the Patriots and Bill Belichick. Jones will have to beat Cam Newton to be the starter, but Alabama’s record-breaking offensive driver in 2020 is in a winning position.
New England could have gone back in time and traded for Garoppolo. Instead, he will look to the future with Jones, whom he got halfway through.
Losers: Jimmy Garoppolo, Andy Dalton and Cam Newton
These veteran quarterbacks will likely fall into backup roles in 2021 as a result of the corresponding three first-round picks.
Garoppolo started in a Super Bowl two seasons ago, but the 49ers reportedly tried to achieve box office success in the draft with the Packers for Aaron Rodgers before drafting Lance.
Dalton, who was signed by the Bears to a one-year deal in the offseason, will now likely be a placeholder at best for Fields. It’s a good bet that the “Red Rocket” will be moved to a backup role like he was with the Cowboys to kick off 2020. Newton signed an incentive-laden deal with the Patriots last offseason, but Jones might be a better fit in the season. New England offensive. .
The 49ers, Bears and Patriots will face pressure to make the postseason in 2021. It’s a good bet that the rookies lead the respective positions.
Winners: Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith
Both Alabama receivers landed in the top 10 and will meet former Alabama quarterbacks.
Waddle, who averaged 18.9 yards per catch in three seasons with Crimson Tide, will be a vertical threat to second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the Dolphins. Waddle was the most explosive player in the FBS before sustaining a leg injury last season.
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Smith took advantage of Waddle’s absence to convert a record season that saw him become the first Heisman Trophy-winning receiver since 1991. The Eagles traded with the Cowboys to get Smith, and will now pair him with second. year-old quarterback Jalen Hurts.
This marked the second year in a row that two Alabama receivers were selected in the first round, and it was part of a night in which six Crimson Tide players were selected in the first round.
Losers: Defensive Tackles
What happened to the defensive tackles? A talented crop that included Christian Barmore from Alabama, Marvin Wilson from Florida State and Daviyon Nixon from Iowa was ignored in the first round.
This comes just two years after six defensive tackles were taken in the first round. Barmore, Wilson and Nixon will be among the most interesting picks on Day 2, but the position dropped in value with this class.
Dallas worked up the draft table by trading two spots with Philadelphia and choosing a third-round pick.
Dallas then grabbed Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, the best linebacker on the table. Parsons, who opted out of the 2020 season, should help a defense that allowed 29.6 points per game last season. Linebacker Sean Lee retired.
Parsons should step in as a starter immediately after owner Jerry Jones resisted the urge to switch to make an eye-catching offensive pick. Give Dallas credit for making the right choice and working with an NFC East rival to make it.
The Raiders are no strangers to wacky picks. They took Clelin Ferrell in 2018, and he has had 6.5 sacks in two seasons. Henry Ruggs was selected last season and had an uneven rookie year as a catcher.
This year, Las Vegas selected Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood, who was projected as a second-round pick in most simulations. General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden continue to go against the grain, and in this case they fell off their tackling streak in the first round.
Pittsburgh got its running back back. Alabama’s Najee Harris should have an instant impact in a running game that was missing in 2020. Pittsburgh averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and the offense flopped in the second half of the season.
However, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back, and Harris’s ability to get close in the red zone and catch the ball out of the backfield will be a huge advantage for a unit looking to keep up with the AFC North favorites. , Baltimore and Cleveland. This is a pivotal year for coach Mike Tomlin, and tackling the running game was a priority.
Let’s be honest. It didn’t matter who the Packers selected after the firestorm that emerged from Adam Schefter’s report that Rodgers wants to get out of Green Bay. The Packers could have traded for a catcher, but once Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman was off the board, they settled for Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes.
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To be fair, the cornerback was another urgent need, but the drama with Rodgers is far from over. Green Bay needs to find more immediate contributors on day 2; it’s time to address the receiver. Elijah Moore from Ole Miss was there for the shot. What did Rodgers want?