Here we are, as Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and it was executed without a hitch. We saw a pretty solid return to normalcy after sleepwalking through yesteryear’s lame affair. (Thanks, COVID!) And it would not have been complete without the classic Roger Goodell handshakes and hugs. Even the boos are back!
Most of last night’s results were as expected, but some raised an eyebrow and others that made you gawk at your TV. Let’s take a look at which team got its pick the most right, which one put itself in a third-and-long position, and which ones totally fumbled the ball.
Best pick of the Night (First Down): Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There was no surprise here at all. Last night’s No. 1 pick was, far and away, the stud of his class. At 6’6″ and 213 lbs., Lawrence’s size gives him great field vision. Furthermore, his consistently improved decision-making will offset the fact that Lawrence is really still a drop-back QB in an ever faster-moving league. The word “generational” has been thrown around a lot about him, and analysts are eager to compare him to Peyton Manning. While Lawrence was certainly a class above his college peers, it will be interesting to watch how his talent translates to the pros. He should be regular Pro Bowl material, though.
Sleeper Pick (Second Down): Chicago Bears (from New York Giants): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields was the most top-flight dual-threat QB in the draft so that he slipped down to 11th was somewhat disappointing. While he may not possess the kind of clean throwing mechanics that would make Tom Landry salivate, Fields stands as tall as the average NFL wideout but weighs more than the average running back. His combine numbers mean that Chicago now has one wrecking ball of an athlete as its passer and expects a lot of teams to regret not choosing him. But hopefully, Fields also isn’t forced to succumb to the “curse of the Black quarterback.”
Pick ‘Em (Third Down): New Orleans Saints: Payton Turner, DE, Houston
At 6’5″ and 270 lbs., Turner is massive enough to barrel over plenty of offensive linemen and frustrate a lot of offensive coordinators. But Turner’s overreliance on his raw athleticism and an inconsistent technique has also shown he can be undone by cleverer, more savvy linemen, too. Turner does have a lot of upside, but New Orleans is taking a risk on potential and could have used the pick for a wide receiver or cornerback instead. This will be a toss-up.
Worst Pick of the Night (Fourth Down): Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
So how’d the team that made the best pickup in last night’s draft also make the worst one, right? Well, this one wasn’t so “bad,” per se, as much as it was simply odd and maybe a tad mawkish. We’re talking about long-term utility here. Yes, Etienne is a steady running back, and he and Lawrence had great chemistry during their careers at Clemson. However, Jacksonville has a greater need for a tight end, and there were some other players available Urban Meyer could have chosen. But perhaps Tim Tebow knows something we don’t?