by Jude Bazerman
CLEVELAND- The 2021 NFL first year player draft proved to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. Though picks one and two went as expected, with Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence landing in Jacksonville and BYU QB Zack Wilson heading to the Jets, the rest of the first round took many by surprise.
Starting at pick three, the San Francisco 49ers continued the trend of picking QBs with the top picks, selecting North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Though Lance, who was described by experts as being a boom or bust prospect, seemed to be the apple of the 49ers’ eye ever since they traded up to the third pick, many were shocked when commissioner Roger Goodell announced the selection, as Alabama QB Mac Jones was the other popular prediction for who the 49ers would draft. Luckily for Jones, he didn’t have to wait all that long before being selected. Twelve picks later, the New England Patriots chose the defending National Champion, with hopes of him filling the humongous shoes of Tom Brady. As for Justin Fields, the Ohio State QB who Jones outdueled in this year’s National Championship, he landed with the Chicago Bears, a surprise to many who thought the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos would select the dual threat QB.
As for some other notable offensive draftees, the Cincinnati Bengals made the first controversial pick of the night, selecting LSU receiver Jamarr Chase over Oregon o-lineman Penei Sewell. Though Chase is undoubtedly a transcendent player and very talented receiver, the pick puzzled fans across the country because of the Bengals desperate need for an improved offensive line. Just last year, franchise quarterback Joe Burrow tore his ACL due to the heavy pressure his lackluster o-line allowed. Sewell, a generational prospect who ended up as a Detroit Lion two picks later, would‘ve helped ease the pressure on Burrow and allow him more time to throw to his already dangerous weapons. The Bengals weren’t the only team in need of QB protection to pass on Sewell, as the Dolphins chose Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick. More notable offensive picks in the first round were Kyle Pitts, the Florida tight end going to the Falcons at pick four, Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith going to the Eagles at pick ten, Alabama running back Najee Harris going 24th overall to the Steelers, and Clemson running back Travis Etienne teaming back up with his college quarterback in Jacksonville at pick 25.
As for the defensive side of the ball, there were some surprise picks as well. The first defensive player selected came all the way at the 8th overall pick, where the Carolina Panthers surprised everyone and chose South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn over the likes of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. But, Surtain and Parsons wouldn’t wait long to be chosen, with Surtain going ninth to the Broncos and Parsons twelfth to the Cowboys. Cornerbacks seemed to be popular during the first round of the draft, with Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, Northwestern’s Greg Newsome, and Georgia’s Eric Stokes also being selected in the first round, landing with the Titans, Browns, Packers respectively.
As of right now, it is unfair to judge any team’s selection, as none of these men have played a down in the NFL yet. But, it is still fun to play around with hypotheticals and question why a certain team made a controversial move. The 2021 NFL Draft Class has the potential to be one of the best in the 21st century, and absolutely nothing is stopping them from fulfilling that narrative.