If you were ready to play a little football in Thursday’s National Football League draft, it took a long time to get it.
Before the selections began, there was Heart’s Ann Wilson hoarsely shouting the National Anthem, then two songs by rockers Kings of Leon. There was a lot of discussion, speculation, and shots of fans screaming with excitement and then joining in the traditional boo from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
There was the introduction of some stars of the Cleveland Browns of yesteryear. There were multiple guarantees that all attendees, green room guests, and fans in attendance had been vaccinated.
Then finally, 27 minutes after the ABC / ESPN draft coverage began, there was one pick, the main reason everyone had tuned in to the show, and then another.
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Unfortunately for impatient fans, the two teams – Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence for Jacksonville and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson for the New York Jets – had known each other for weeks, if not longer. At the time, the Kings of Leon looked pretty good.
It took until the third pick in the draft for a little drama to emerge. Earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers quarterback and former Jeopardy! Host Aaron Rodgers was rumored to want out of Wisconsin. Would the San Francisco 49ers reach a deal for the No. 3 pick? The answer, for now at least: No. But they did pick the third quarterback in a row, selecting Trey Lance from North Dakota state, a slight surprise because they selected someone who has played all 17 college games.
In general, the NFL Draft returned to normal after a year in which it was carried out through Zoom, thanks to the pandemic. Held this year in Cleveland, fans brought in the energy that was missing with last year’s remote show. The teams they selected were still remote, with the local Los Angeles Rams hiding in a Malibu beach house as a war room for the weekend.
Commissioner Goodell indicated that the league was grateful for the return to semi-normalcy.
“We all agree that last season, the only thing we all missed was you, the fans.” Goodell said at the beginning of the draft. “We can’t wait to have them back at First Energy Stadium (home to the Cleveland Browns) and in every stadium in the league this season.”
To honor fan loyalty, the NFL had a fan for each team sit in a chair on stage while their team choice was made. The chair was one used by Goodell in his basement during last year’s remote draft.
Two first-round trades spiced up the first part of the draft. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys traded picks so the Eagles could catch Alabama wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.
Immediately after that, the NY Giants and Chicago Bears traded their picks, allowing the Bears to take Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback.
The draft continues tomorrow with Round 2-3 on Friday at 7 pm ET, followed by Rounds 4-7 on Saturday beginning at noon ET. There will be 259 picks in the draft.
Top 10 Draft Picks
- Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Clemson (Jacksonville)
- Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (New York Jets)
- Trey Lance, QB, State of North Dakota (SF 49ers)
- Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (Atlanta Falcons)
- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (Cincinnati Bengals)
- Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (Miami Dolphins)
- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (Detroit Lions)
- Jaycee Horne, CB, South Carolina (Carolina Panthers)
- Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (Denver Broncos)
- DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (Philadelphia Eagles)