There will be plenty of time to analyze, and overanalyze the first round picks of the 2021 NFL Draft, making an exercise like determining winners and losers just hours after the picks are made inherently flawed. That’s just the way things go, but anyone who paid attention to the draft already has gut feelings.
Some of the picks in the first round were astounding, representing teams finding ways to maximize their draft capital and get much better in the process. Then there are others, who needed a lot of the things in the first round and still found ways to mess it up. Finally there’s Roger Goodell’s chair, which was forced into the spotlight and put under an immense amount of pressure for a chair, not only because it had 20+ different butts in it.
Winner: The Chicago Bears
Entering Thursday there was this resignation of defeat from Bears fans that everyone was going to be having fun playing with their new toys at quarterback or Friday, while they got stuck with a used, hand-me-down Andy Dalton. Now they have Justin friggin’ Fields.
The Bears took advantage of Fields falling further than he had any business going, and getting him for a relative song in a trade. Sure, it took their first this year, and next — but they got arguably the second best quarterback in this class. Fields will get to sit for a year without the pressure of needing to start right away, and he’s in a pretty great spot with offensive talent he can utilize.
I love everything about this.
Loser: The New Orleans Saints
Everything looked like it could go coo coo bananas for New Orleans on Thursday night with late-breaking rumors they might trade up into the top 10. Instead they stayed put, and with a smorgasbord of great defensive players, still wound up reaching for one.
Taking Payton Turner earned an “F” grade for me, which always feels unfair like I’m judging a kid who could still be a really good football player, it’s just that I hate reaching this far for a guy considering the amount of needs the Saints had after needing to cut or trade so many players due to cap constraints.
It’s like New Orleans were dead set on getting a defensive end, and refused to look at any other of the BPA picks available to them. I hate it.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
It was a really, really gutsy move to have Alijah Vera-Tucker on the board, at a position of need, and trade out of No. 14. It was a sign Minnesota liked a lot of the guys on the board, and their patience paid off by getting Christian Darrisaw at No. 23.
I thought Darrisaw would have been a decent pick if they stayed and selected at 14, but adding extra draft capital and STILL getting a guy at a needed position is what good front offices do. While the Vikings didn’t make out like kings by allowing the Jets to move up (picking up a pair of third round picks), it was still enough to be a really great first round where the team correctly anticipated how the draft was falling, and made the most of it.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
It was going to be near-impossible for the Jags to come away as losers considering they got Trevor Lawrence, but I kind of love the pickup of Travis Etienne more and more as I think about it.
Granted, it’s pretty hilarious how much “did they used to play together?” scouting we saw from teams, but the production of Lawrence and Etienne together was prolific. Now they get to continue doing their thing in North Florida and completely re-vamped Jacksonville’s offense in the process.
Loser: Roger Goodell’s chair.
My God the NFL tried to make Goodell’s chair a thing, didn’t they? Seriously, did anyone really care about this chair? All night long we saw butt after butt take seat in Goodell’s leather-bound chair that was shipped to Cleveland for this moment, and for all the hype I don’t know why I’m supposed to care about a wealthy man’s chair sitting on the stage like it’s the Iron Throne.
I suppose it was neat to sit in the chair if you’re a fan making a pick, but I came to hate the chair over the course of the evening. The NFL tried so hard to make this a moment, and I was left yawning.
Winner: Detroit Lions
I love that the Lions didn’t get spooked into making some big, flashy, new-coach defining move from the jump. Instead they just sat, waited and got the second best player in the draft. Penei Sewell is phenomenal, and I’m sure Detroit never believed he’d make it all the way to No. 8.
It doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t fill an immediate defensive need, or give Jared Goff a weapon at receiver. When there’s a player this good available, you take him, and worry about the rest later.
Loser: Carolina Panthers
I actually like Jaycee Horn a lot. It’s more what this pick could represent for the Panthers. If Justin Fields ends up being as good as many of us think, Carolina passed on a franchise quarterback falling in their laps in order to see if Sam Darnold has anything left on the tires.
Settling for a cornerback at No. 8 really was a worst care scenario for Matt Rhule and Co, who would have loved Sewell to fall in their laps, or trade back — and couldn’t make either happen.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
When you trade an established stud like Orlando Brown you better be sure you’re getting some great players to build around. They did it. Both Rashod Bateman and Jayson Oweh deserved higher picks based on potential, and they landed both of them.
This was a major coup for the Ravens at the end of the night, who made big time splashes to help both sides of the ball and give Lamar Jackson an even better chance of being a star in 2021 and beyond.