NFL DRAFT PICK BY PICK: DAY ONE
By Simon Carroll
Deciding who ‘won the draft’ is a fools errand. Most analysts say it will be at least three years before we truly know whether a draft pick was a success or not, and history tells us that a 50% strike rate is par for the course when it comes to scouting prospects.
What we will do is add some context to each pick – whether it fills a team need and how, schematically, a franchise’s latest star will fit into their system. We can also look at the value of each selection in relation to common perception, i.e. was he a steal or did a team reach for him? And if there was a trade involved, what was the cost of doing business?
We start with round one:
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Colour me surprised. The sheer audacity to take the full ten minutes to try and drum up some drama was more interesting than the selection itself. Regardless, Trevor Lawrence is a transcendent talent who will make the Jaguars better – and with the weapons at his disposal, maybe even immediately.
2. NEW YORK JETS
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Another heavily predicted selection came to fruition as the Jets took the ‘Mormon Manziel’. Wilson is an incredibly exciting talent with more than enough arm strength and accuracy to be a star in the NFL. A prospect who can make things happen out of structure, Wilson should thrive under the tutelage of new Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur. Expect a West Coast, short drop, quick passing attack for Gang Green next season.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
After all the smoke regarding Mac Jones, Shanahan and Lynch plump for the upside of Trey Lance. The fit here has always felt like a perfect one – despite the easy narratives Lance has a high floor, but there’s no denying the jump from FCS football to the NFL will be a tough one. With his excellent ball security, plus arm strength and ability to move the chains with his legs he’s an ideal fit in Shanahan’s offense. The plan might be to start Jimmy G this year, but the 49ers won’t be shy in throwing their new guy in if things start turning sour…
4. ATLANTA FALCONS
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Kyle Pitts is a phenomenal talent and was #2 on my big board. A man who catches everything thrown his way, he had zero drops on his resume last year in Florida. He’ll provide another excellent target down the seam, on the outside or in the red zone for this offense – not many enter the league with this level of playmaking ability.
That being said, you can’t help but feel like they missed an opportunity to secure their future QB here. If things go the way Arthur Smith & Terry Fontenot hope they won’t be picking in this range again, and with Matt Ryan on the back nine of his career it won’t be as easy to find his successor in future drafts.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Bengals don’t subscribe to popular convention, and pictures of Joe Burrow’s impressive scar was hardly going to sway them into taking a lineman. They stick to their guns and pair their franchise QB with his favourite target from LSU’s Natty season. Chase is an absolute animal at the catch point, outplaying his size and dominating cornerbacks. And when you couple that with his elite burst and acceleration you have a dangerous weapon to go alongside Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I’m not buying in to the whole ‘Pitts or Chase or bust’ storyline for the Dolphins here. They may have had those guys higher on their draft boards, but there’s no way they orchestrate that three-way trade if they’re not comfortable taking Waddle at this juncture. And for good reason too – not only do they reunite Waddle and Tua who combined to devastating effect at Alabama, but they inject some serious playmaking speed into their receiving corps headlined by two possession recievers in Devante Parker and Preston Williams. They wanted an elite target for Tua, and they got one.
7. DETROIT LIONS
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The new regime in Detroit get off to an excellent start with the selection of Penei Sewell here. The Lions have promised a high work ethic, physical culture and Sewell epitomises just that; he has a certain nastiness to his game that belies his beaming smile. He’s a mauler at the point of contact and can move when out in pass protection. The clear #1 tackle in this class and should bookend that o-line opposite Taylor Decker for some time.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Maybe a little surprising, but the fit makes perfect sense. Jaycee Horn is the best press corner in this draft class and is extremely sticky with playmaking ability. Matt Rhule showed in the draft last year that he targets athletic, aggressive, feisty guys who have a nose for the football. Bringing in Horn allows them to move Troy Pride into the slot corner role which he better suits.
9. DENVER BRONCOS
Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
After acquiring Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller this offseason I must admit this pick surprised me, but Surtain is a phenomenal football player who comes ready made for the NFL. He’s the most polished corner who is proficient in all schemes and coverages, and you can put him out on an island against #1 receivers from day one. In a tough year for scouting, Surtain is as safe a prospect as there is in this draft class.
10. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles moving up for DeVonta Smith is a tacit admission thy got it badly wrong in the first round last year. 2021 already feels like a mulligan for Philly, so using this draft to surround Jalen Hurts with talent and see what theu have makes total sense. An ultra-smooth route runner, separation comes easy to Smith, and his familiarity with Hurts should help him hit the ground running in an emerald green jersey.
11. CHICAGO BEARS
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
What a moment for Bears fans as the perfect scenario sees an elite quarterback fall down far enough for them to execute a trade to go and get him. Justin Fields is a stud – the biggest arm and most accurate quarterback in the draft, and he has the ability to move the chains with his legs when needed. His acquisition likely buys Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy a bit more breathing room, and whilst I imagine they start week one with Andy Dalton, Fields might be the first franchise quarterback Chicago has ever had.
12. DALLAS COWBOYS
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Has there ever been a more Cowboys fit? Jerry loves the big name, and with his linebacker corps showing signs of ageing and injury it’s a smart move too. Micah Parsons is a physical and atheltic freak with a nose for the football and can be moved around a defense and fulfil a number of roles. Sliding him in with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith gives them an elite linebacker unit once again. An excellent trade down to add draft capital and still get a blue chip piece for their defense.
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chargers couldn’t have asked for a better scenario as the second best tackle falls into their laps. Slater is a monster of a man who has shot to fame for social media videos of him moving parked cars and chest pressing 500lbs. Possessing extraordinary quickness and elite footwork, Slater excels in pass protection, helping the Bolts to keep Justin Herbert upright. He has positional versatility but should drop straight in at the blind side on this Chargers offensive line.
14. NEW YORK JETS
Alijah Vera-Tuker, OL, USC
Joe Douglas hails from the Baltimore Ravens scouting tree, where building the trenches is the golden rule. And when you’ve just found your franchise quarterback, protecting him at all costs is the priority. So it was no surprise to see them move up nine spots to go and get one of the best playrs in the draft. AVT may be slightly undersized but he can still move bodies and is so quick across the turf. Likely starting at guard in New York the former Trojan possesses positional versatility to drop in wherever needed on that offesnive line.
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The 31 other franchises need to make it harder for the New England Patriots. Heading into this draft with just one clear need, they found their quarterback of the future fall to them at fifteen. Mac Jones might not have the upside of the three QB’s ahead of him, but he’s extremely reliable, accurate, and throws with anticipation. That’s a skillset that Josh McDaniels has had experience working with before to devastating effect. Cam might be this year’s QB1, but McCorkle is the long term successsor to Tom Brady.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The next Brian Urlacher, Zaven Collins has demonstrated proficiency at every facet of the linebacker position. A dominant run defender who loves to meet ball carriers in the hole, he also has the range and ball skills to be a facet in pass protection and the speed to chase plays down from the backside. A hard hitter and turnover machine, Collins has even lined up as an edge rusher for the Golden Hurricanes. Arizona will love his versatility and add him to a defense that is bristling with talent.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
A head scratcher, but should we be surprised? The Raiders saw a mass exodus across the offensive line, and we know they love prospects from the elite football programs such as Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. Much like Clelin Ferrell in 2018 and Damon Arnette in 2019, Leatherwood feels like a reach here. But he’s a big dude with impressive athleticism for his size who demonstrates good hands. His positional versatility will also be a bonus for Mayock & Gruden, who have more than one hole to fill on that o-line.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
A risky pick but one that could pay huge dividend for the Dolphins. Jaelen Phillips brings a history of concussions to the NFL and nearly medically retired from football altogether in 2019. But a change of scenery seemed to do wonders for Phillips, whose game reached the heights promised as a high school recruit. Insanely quick with ideal length and size for the position, the former UCLA Bruin replaced Gregory Rousseau for the Hurricanes and they didn’t miss a beat, I think you’ll see him operate out of a five tech in the Dolphins’ odd front.
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Many had linebacker as the priority for Washington, and they duly obliged. Jamin Davis is very much a Ron Rivera type of guy – insanely competitive team leader who matched up with the best the SEC had to offer. Hard-hitting and a dynamic athlete in coverage he put himself on the map with that pro day, and should line up as the SAM linebacker in Jack Del Rio’s defense from day one.
20. NEW YORK GIANTS
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Daniel Jones is out of excuses. Adding Kadarius Toney to a stacked receiver group that also has Saquon in the backfield seems like an abundance of riches in this Giants offense. It’s not particularly a Dave Gettleman pick, but it could be a very good one – Toney has Percy Harvin vibes with the all in his hand, and is a dynamic playmaker from a variety of alignment. Just give him the ball in space and watch him go. As for trading down, the Giants get an excellent return including a 1st rounder next year.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Kwity Paye is my #1 edge rusher in this draft class, and whilst he’s not the finished article just yet, he’s just a few tweaks from being on his way. The traits are off the charts – a dense ball of muscle with crazy athleticism and a non-stop motor that makes him a problem for offensive linemen on every snap. When he develops his hand usage to aid his path into the backfield he will be a nightmare to stop. For the Colts, lining him up on that d-line with DeForest Buckner gives them a terrifying amount of pass rush.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley’s fall down the draft was always going to be stopped by a team with a front office & coaching staff with good job security who can take a longterm approach to his career arc if necessary. The Titans fit the bill – Farley has barely played as a cornerback but has shown unreal levels of playmaking ability – he recorded two picks in his first ever game at the position. With Malcolm Butler gone Farley should eventually line up opposite Kristian Fulton and be a problem for the quarterbacks of the AFC South.
23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
What a move by Rick Spielman; move nine spots down the board and still land Christian Darrisaw, who they may have taken at 14 anyway? Darrisaw comes ready made for the NFL and can play either end of the line. Very quick out of his stance and into his pass set he plays with composure and the ability to adjust on the move. He should slide straight in on the blind side for the Vikings and give Captain Kirk some much needed protection.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Like Adrian Peterson but with better hands, Najee Harris is as close to the complete back as I have ever scouted. The Steelers have a number of holes on their roster and running back is without doubt one of them with James Conner leaving for Arizona. Harris is a major upgrade to their backfield, and Kevin Colbert obviously thought the dropoff to the next tier of ball carrier was too steep to wait until day 2. Their focus should shift to the offensive line if they want to see if Big Ben has enough left in the tank for one last Super Bowl run.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Well this was a surprise. Pairing Trevor Lawrence with his Clemson teammate Travis Etienne didn’t feel like a priority for the Jaguars, but it does give this offense another playmaker for their new franchise quarterback to benefit from. Certainly the quickest of the top three running backs, Etienne has been a production machine for the Tigers and is a dangerous threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield too. Adding him to a group with the North-South James Robinson gives them a diverse and talented backfield. If the protection holds up, Jacksonville’s offense looks dangerous.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
The Browns had done a good job in free agency to be flexible in the draft, and taking Greg Newsome gives them an elite secondary as they prepare to take the next step in 2021. Newsome is an extremely talented cornerback who mirrors receivers with ease and jumps on breaks to attack the football at the catch point. An unfortunate injury history gives you concerns about his longevity in the league, but you cannot deny the upside. A fit in any scheme, Newsome should start outside immediatley opposite Denzel Ward, and with Greedy WIlliams and Troy Hill in the mix, Cleveland are stacked at cornerback.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Depending on the landing spot, I always felt that Rashod Bateman had the potential to be this year’s Justin Jefferson – eclipsing the elite trio of receivers that went ahead of him in the draft. Heading to Baltimore very much gives him that opportunity. A true technician and elite route runner, Bateman makes separation look easy, yet when it comes to being physical and going up and getting the football he is not found to be wanting. Whether it be on the outside or across the middle he has proven to be effective, and he gives Lamar Jackson a real receiving weapon for the Ravens.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
Seeing all the cornerbacks come off the board, The Saints add another pass rusher to their ranks. Peyton Turner saw his stock rise steadily throughout the draft process, so much so that his inclusion on day one was mooted throughout the duration of the first round. Great length and upper body strength is matched with a stout anchor against down blockers, and he also has sneaky athleticism. The loss of Trey Hendrickson is mitigated with this pick as Turner steps in to offer pass rushing rotation behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Despite all the drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers throughout the first round, Green Bay stuck to their guns and kept the disgruntled quarterback. And much like last year they made a move that was hardly likely to appease him, selecting a cornerback. Eric Stokes is an eraser who can match up with the quickest receivers stride for stride. Excelling in off-man coverage he will undoubtedly challenge Kevin King for the right to play opposite Jaire Alexander and should give the Packers an elite cornerback tandem.
30. BUFFALO BILLS
Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
I’ve been mocking Gregory Rousseau to Buffalo for some time, and for good reason – the Bills were probably an edge rusher away from winning the AFC Championship Game last year. Rousseau fits the mould of a Bills defensive end; long and athletic with the size and ability to kick inside and offer interior pass rush. His sack numbers were off the charts for Miami in 2019, and after opting out of 2020 comes to upstate New York fresh and ready to compete for snaps with Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and AJ Epenesa.
31. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Not everyone’s cup of tea, Jayson Oweh polarises opinion. With little production at Penn State you can understand the concerns, but turn on the tape and you can see the traits that should allow him to develop into a fearsome pass rusher. Elite size and speed with a incessant attacking mentality, Oweh needs better discipline and dedication to his fundamentals and pass rush moves. But much like Jason Pierre-Paul who enetered the league without a sack in his final year in college, if he puts it all together the sky is the limit. Lining up opposite Calais Campbell should see him avoid double teams and help him settle into the NFL.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Another edge rusher who was something to prove, Joe Tryon has the traits and showed some excellent promise before opting out of 2020. Quick and aggressive, Tryon barrels into contact and loves to find the pads of his opponent and dictate terms at the point of engagement. He plays tall and struggles to flatten the arc, but he reminds me of Melvin Ingram and I can see him developing into the ‘leo’ hybrid linebacker role that Shaq Barrett has revelled in under Todd Bowles.
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.