The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and there were some pretty big surprises. Now it's time to review and analyze, so here are our big winners from the first round.
Yes, the Jaguars had the No. 1 pick and took the top player on the board, so they just did what they were supposed to. In any other year, it would be really difficult to label them a "winner" but they just landed the best quarterback prospect I've ever scouted, so yeah, that's a win. Lawrence is a franchise-changing talent and the sky is the limit for any offense he commands. He has every tool you could want in a starting quarterback and he's won at a high level. The kid isn't just a great prospect, he's a winner and will give Urban Meyer a huge boost as he makes the transition to the NFL.
With their second first-round pick, the Jaguars took Lawrence's running back from Clemson in Travis Etienne. While running back wasn't a huge need, Etienne can do everything and will give Lawrence a weapon to use out of the backfield. He'll be a change-of-pace guy to pair with thumper James Robinson. It's a nice start for Meyer & Co.
Trey Lance played one full year of college football and now he's the future of the San Francisco 49ers, a storied NFL franchise. He's a massive draft night winner. It's worth noting, the Niners are ready to win now, but Lance only has 17 FCS starts to his name. He dominated at that level, but it's unlikely he'll be ready to start right now. That's fine, San Francisco has Jimmy Garoppolo to keep the seat warm for now while Lance learns. I'd expect this to play out like Patrick Mahomes' path in Kansas City behind Alex Smith.
Penei Sewell is a beast and, frankly, I can't believe the Cincinnati Bengals passed on him at No. 5. The Lions got him at No. 7 and, judging by their reaction, they were fired up about it:
Sewell is a stud at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds. He dominated college football in the two seasons he played before opting out in 2020. He's a beast and the Lions likely have their franchise tackle secured for the next decade. Given Jared Goff's limited mobility, that should help in both the short and long-term. Sewell is a solid rock the Lions can build the rest of the offense around. He's a great pick and a great fit.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick got his franchise quarterback and he didn't have to trade up to get him. Once projected as a top-three pick, Alabama's Mac Jones dropped like a rock on draft night and wound up falling into the warm embrace of Belichick and the Patriots. Jones is regarded by many as the most accurate and smartest quarterback in the draft, which fits exactly what Josh McDaniels' offense needs. He's also an underrated athlete that is ready to start now. New England shouldn't hesitate to turn the offense over to him. The post-Tom Brady era will finally start in New England. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
Yes, even when he's not involved, Nick Saban is stacking Ws. The Crimson Tide had six players selected in the first round Thursday night. If that wasn't enough, Alabama's 2017 recruiting class has produced eight first-rounders in the past two years, all of them on offense:
That tweet has a typo, as DeVonta Smith went 10th to the Eagles, but the point still stands. At this point, I don't know why any top high school kid with an offer wouldn't go to Alabama.
Chicago Bears fans
The Chicago Bears started the night with Andy Dalton as their quarterback for 2021 and no succession plan. They ended it with a new franchise quarterback in Justin Fields. Talk about a massive change in fortunes for Bears fans. Fields had an incredible career at Ohio State, accounting for 78 touchdowns in 22 starts while going 20-2 as a starter and has a ton of tools. He's exciting, smart, poised in the pocket and is the kind of guy you can build around. Mitch Trubisky he is not.
Enjoy it Bears fans. You've earned it with all the horrid quarterback play you've been forced to endure.
The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed put at No. 24 and landed Alabama running back Najee Harris, which should help lengthen Ben Roethlisberger's career. Harris can do everything out of the backfield, he's a helmeted dump truck at 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds. He has the speed and athleticism to get outside and run away from defenders, can catch the ball out of the backfield and plows defenders head on. He is the rare running back who is worthy of a first-round pick, while also being a great kid and a leader on and off the field.
Adding Harris will help Roethlisberger. He gets another weapon out of the backfield, while also adding a workhorse who can pound the rock, reducing the amount of passes Big Ben needs tot throw. It's a great pick and a phenomenal fit in Pittsburgh.