NFL Draft Reaction, Round 1

2021 NFL Draft to be hosted in Cleveland

Welcome to the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. A day many fans have waited for over these first months of the year is here, and tonight we’ll finally end the speculation and see where these prospects will land. Plus, with a wild afternoon already, we could see some blockbuster trades! I’ll be posting reactions to the First Round picks as they happen tonight, so check back here for updates throughout the First Round. Enjoy the chaos!

Round One Selections

1.01 The Jacksonville Jaguars Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: As expected, Lawrence was the first overall pick. He was my top-rated quarterback pre-draft and was largely expected to be the pick at 1.01. He’s an upgrade for the Jaguars and figures to easily be the top pick in Superflex Rookie Drafts and the first quarterback off the board in all rookie draft formats.

1.02 The New York Jets Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: Also largely expected, Wilson becomes the next franchise quarterback for the New York Jets. He will be a top pick at the position in Superflex drafts, throwing for 3,692 yards and 33 TDs with only three INTs in 2020.

1.03 The San Francisco 49ers Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State: The biggest question early in the draft was answered as the 49ers, who spent a lot to move up to pick three, settled on Lance as their potential Franchise quarterback. With Jimmy Garoppolo still in San Francisco, it’s no lock Lance starts Week 1. Some have argued he has the biggest upside, but others have argued he has the lowest floor. Being in the Kyle Shanahan system in San Francisco offers wide appeal, so it will be interesting to see where Lance lands in drafts.

1.04 The Atlanta Falcons Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida: Pitts, the best tight end in the draft, falls at pick four. The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of weapons but are rumored to be trying to trade veteran Julio Jones. That gives Pitts a great deal of upside, especially as he is a matchup nightmare. He is already a Top 10 Dynasty tight end, while the value of Hayden Hurst takes a huge hit. Pitts is a Top 5 rookie draft selection for me in all formats.

1.05 The Cincinnati Bengals Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU: The Bengals opted to forgo an upgrade on the offensive line to draft Joe Burrow’s former teammate at LSU. Chase was widely regarded as the top receiver in the draft and figures to be a big weapon for the Bengals. In 2019 with Burrow, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs. He should be the first receiver taken in rookie drafts.

1.06 The Miami Dolphins Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: The Dolphins add a weapon for Tua Tagovailoa, going with his former Alabama teammate Waddle. This was the pick I thought the Dolphins would make, and Waddle figures to be a top pick at the WR position in rookie drafts. In three seasons, he caught 106 passes for 1,999 yards and 17 TDs for the Crimson Tide. He figures to be the top receiver for the Dolphins.

1.07 The Detroit Lions Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon: There were a lot of questions about where the Lions would go, seemingly a team in the midst of a re-build. With the best tackle out there, the Lions went and landed a cornerstone on the offensive line to help open holes for D’Andre Swift and keep new quarterback Jared Goff upright.

1.08 The Carolina Panthers Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: The Panthers, who took all defensive players in the 2020 draft, continued the trend by snagging arguably the best cornerback on the board. This helps the Panthers’ defense in a division that includes the Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers.

1.09 The Denver Broncos Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: The Broncos, despite signing two cornerbacks in free agency, took the second corner of the night, and second straight in the First Round. Surtain gives Vic Fangio a solid piece to build around for the future in the secondary while still having Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and Bryce Callahan at the position for 2021.

1.10 The Philadelphia Eagles DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: Smith, the MVP of the National Championship Game, becomes the newest weapon for the Eagles, who traded up two spots to secure a new weapon for Jalen Hurts. Smith had an incredible 2020, going for 117 receptions, 1,856 yards and 23 TDs. With limited competition, he figures to be a key contributor as a rookie and should be a surefire First Round pick in rookie drafts.  

1.11 The Chicago Bears Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: The Chicago Bears made a big move from Pick 20 to get a franchise quarterback as Fields’ slide ended. Fields was my No. 2 quarterback going into the draft, and he joins a quarterback group that includes Nick Foles and Andy Dalton. Fields, in 22 games with Ohio State, threw for 5,373 yards and 63 TDs. This is a big move for the Bears and could give Matt Nagy the franchise quarterback he needs.

1.12 The Dallas Cowboys Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: The Cowboys, who traded back with the Eagles from pick 10, help out the defense grabbing Micah Parsons. He opted out of the 2020 season, but in two seasons with Penn State he recorded 191 tackles, 6.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.

1.13 The Los Angeles Chargers Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: The Chargers, who found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert in last year’s draft, went and got him some protection in Slater, viewed to be one of the two best options at tackle. Slater figures to help protect Herbert and help the Chargers’ offense take a step forward.

1.14 The New York Jets Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC: The Jets move back up in the First Round, swapping with the Minnesota Vikings, and grab top guard Vera-Tucker. After taking Wilson earlier in the draft, the Jets do the work to protect him by grabbing Vera-Tucker to team with Mekhi Becton on the left side of the offensive line.

1.15 The New England Patriots Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: The Patriots wait to their spot at 15 and come away with a potential franchise quarterback in Jones. He was behind Jalen Hurts and Tagovailoa in Alabama, but Jones got his shot in 2020. He made the most of it, throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 TDs, winning a National Championship. The Patriots have Cam Newton on the roster, but Jones is the future in New England.

1.16 The Arizona Cardinals Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: The Cardinals were close to a playoff berth in 2020, and they make a move to strengthen the defense with Collins. In three seasons at Tulsa, Collins had 236 tackles, 7.5 sacks and five INTs. That included four INTs and two TDs in 2020 alone.

1.17 The Las Vegas Raiders Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama: The Raiders had a big need at offensive line, and they work to fill it by grabbing Leatherwood out of Alabama. This gives the Raiders another big body up front to help open holes for Josh Jacobs.

1.18 The Miami Dolphins Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami: The Dolphins use their second first round pick to grab Phillips to bolster the defense and add to the team’s pass rush.

1.19 The Washington Football Team Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky: Washington, a surprise playoff team in 2020, grab a defensive weapon to help as they compete for the NFC East Title.

1.20 The New York Giants Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida: The Giants, who signed Kenny Golladay and John Ross in the off-season, hit wide receiver again, grabbing Toney. Playing with Kyle Trask in 2020, Toney caught 70 passes for 984 yards and 10 TDs. He gives the Giants and Daniel Jones another weapon, but his value in rookie drafts remains murky for me.

1.21 The Indianapolis Colts Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan: The Colts, who seem primed to make a run in 2021, add to their defense with Paye, the defensive end from Michigan.

1.22 The Tennessee Titans Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech: Farley becomes the third corner to come off the board. Injury concerns dropped him a little, but the Titans needed to improve on defense.

1.23 The Minnesota Vikings Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech: The Vikings, who moved back from 14, grab Darrisaw, a solid tackle prospect. This will help shore up the offensive line as they look to get back to the playoffs in 2021.

1.24 The Pittsburgh Steelers Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: The Steelers use their First-Round pick to grab the premier running back they need in Harris. He was my top-rated RB coming into the draft, and should be a clear 1.01 option in non Superflex rookie drafts. Harris rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 TDs in 2020 and figures to be a Week 1 starter in Pittsburgh.

1.25 The Jacksonville Jaguars Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson: The Jaguars use their second pick in the first round to grab the teammate of No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence in Etienne. Etienne was my No. 3 running back coming into the draft, but this is a strong landing spot. He will compete with last year’s rookie wonder James Robinson, but figures to have a shot to be the starter in Week 1. He remains a top pick at RB in rookie drafts.

1.26 The Cleveland Browns Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern: The Browns use their first round pick to bolster the secondary with Newsome. Playing in a division with some high-flying pass offenses, the Browns moved to improve the back end of the defense as they look to make a return to the playoffs in 2021.

1.27 The Baltimore Ravens Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota: The Ravens needed to improve their passing game, so taking a receiver makes sense. Bateman was a top option available, my No. 4 receiver coming into the draft. It’s not an ideal landing spot, so Bateman will likely settle lower than No. 4 post draft, but he should still have a chance to make an impact for the Ravens.

1.28 The New Orleans Saints Payton Turner, DE, Houston: The Saints begin the post-Drew Brees era by going with a defensive pick, grabbing the end Turner from Houston. It feels like a surprise pick as Turner wasn’t ranked as highly for me, but the Saints are looking to improve the pass rush to harass quarterbacks in a loaded NFC South.

1.29 The Green Bay Packers Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia: The Packers add to their secondary with Stokes, the corner from Georgia. In a spot some thought they might add a receiver, the Packers instead bolster their secondary with Stokes.

1.30 The Buffalo Bills Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami: The Bills bolster the defense with Rousseau, another strong defensive end and pass rusher from Miami. He sat out 2020, but Rousseau had 19.5 sacks in 2019, and should be a pass rush weapon for the Bills’ defense.

1.31 The Baltimore Ravens Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State: After grabbing a wide receiver in Bateman with their first pick, the Ravens bolstered the defense by grabbing Oweh from Penn State.

1.32 The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Joe Tryon, LB, Washington: To close out the first, the Buccaneers add the linebacker Tryon. Tryon sat out 2020, but had eight sacks in 2019 and gives the Buccaneers another weapon on defense.

That’s a wrap on the first round of the NFL Draft. The second and third round will air on Friday starting at 7 p.m. EST. Look for a roundup of fantasy relevant Day 2 players on Saturday.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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