Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft was fantastic, but these 5 things bothered me
Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?
I’ll be honest. I came into the night expecting to be more annoyed than entertained. A lot of that stemmed from the 49ers at No. 3 (more on that in a minute).
But to be honest, that draft was extremely entertaining. Having 5 quarterbacks at the top helped, as did the fact that we had 8 offensive skill-players in the first 11 picks.
That, my friends, is fun. Watching all of those SEC West reunions happen before our eyes was tremendous. We got 3 of them, with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa and then DeVonta Smith and Jalen Hurts.
Oh, and that moment with Kwity Paye getting drafted and telling his mom that she’s retired … goodness. It got dusty in here real quick.
New Colts pass rusher Kwity Paye telling his mother that she’s done working and will be retiring is an amazing moment 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Bti1MHWBmn
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 30, 2021
Round 1 was incredible, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Bears fan still riding the Justin Fields high. No gas masks were needed to make Thursday some top-notch entertainment.
But having said that, these 5 things bothered me:
1. Trey Lance going No. 3 overall ahead of Mac Jones and Justin Fields, who somehow made it outside the top 10
Baffling. Just baffling.
I can’t imagine taking someone with just over 300 attempts with the No. 3 overall pick.
I can’t imagine taking someone with just over 300 FCS attempts with the No. 3 overall pick. When those rumors first circulated on Thursday, I thought it was all a smoke screen and that Jones would still be the pick as many speculated throughout the pre-draft process. Nope. Kyle Shanahan went all in for Lance.
To be clear, Lance just stepped into the best situation of any quarterback in the NFL Draft. He could absolutely succeed in Shanahan’s offense. He should.
But man, this whole thing was just bizarre:
49ers did not tell their coaches or scouts their pick. They didn’t know the team was selecting Trey Lance until the pick was announced.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 30, 2021
Lance has the fewest attempts of a Round 1 quarterback in the last 40 years. And did I mention that all of those came at the FCS level?
I would’ve thought Jones, with his ability to process defenses and move within the pocket, would’ve thrived with Shanahan’s system. Lance felt like the biggest roll of the dice in the NFL Draft. Trading up from 12 to 3 to go after either Jones or Fields made much more sense. At least I thought it did.
Imagine watching the Playoff and telling yourself that Jones and Fields weren’t among the top 3 quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft. That’ll never not baffle me.
2. Putting my Bears bias aside, a Justin Fields-Joe Brady connection could’ve been magical
Don’t get it twisted. I celebrated Fields to the Bears as much as anything involving the franchise in the last few years. I think given my team’s history at the position, you can understand why that’d be the case.
But I would’ve absolutely loved to have seen Fields go to the Panthers at No. 8. Sam Darnold is only under contract for $5 million, and there was speculation that Carolina could go after a quarterback after trading Teddy Bridgewater to Denver. With Brady’s LSU days still fresh in my mind, I thought Fields at No. 8 would’ve made sense even after the Darnold move.
Nobody ever makes a Fields-Joe Burrow comp, but they actually like to do pretty similar things. Both are plenty comfortable going through their progressions, both are plenty comfortable sitting in the pocket, both are willing and able to take hits on the move in order to keep drives alive and both are extremely competitive guys.
Then again, maybe Brady’s days in Carolina are limited. He’s been a popular name to get a head coaching gig, and if he leaves the Panthers after 2021, who knows how much we would’ve gotten to see Fields work with the former LSU savior.
Ok, back to being fired up about Fields to the Bears.
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) April 30, 2021
3. Alex Leatherwood at No. 17 was … something
I thought Leatherwood was a late Round 2 guy. And then the Raiders did a very Raiders thing and took Leatherwood in the middle of Round 1. The fact that he went just 4 picks after Rashawn Slater was surprising, to say the least.
It’s not that Leatherwood was by any means a bad prospect. But usually when an offensive lineman comes off the board, they look like a no-doubter. There are questions about Leatherwood’s athleticism and whether that’ll prevent him from being able to play tackle at the next level.
Maybe Las Vegas thought Christian Darrisaw would be in a similar spot and that he’d be playing guard, too, which was why Leatherwood came off the board first. Who knows. Figuring out the Raiders’ draft picks has been a lost cause for years.
(Now watch Leatherwood become an All-Pro tackle.)
4. The wait for those Tier 2 receivers was too long
To be clear, I’m referring to Elijah Moore, Terrace Marshall and Rashod Bateman.
Bateman came off the board first at No. 27 to the Ravens, which was where a lot of mocks had Marshall. I thought Bateman, who had a throwaway COVID year at Minnesota after entering 2020 as one of the top receiver prospects, could’ve come off the board starting around No. 19 to the Washington Football Team, though I loved the Jamin Davis pick to line up behind that dominant defensive line. Bateman wound up in a nice spot getting to be that outside guy that Lamar Jackson desperately needs.
And Kadarius Toney at No. 20 was an interesting move to address the Giants’ need at the slot even though Moore is certainly the more polished prospect. They took a chance on Toney’s freakish athleticism and much-improved route-running instead of Moore and Marshall, both of whom played a ton of snaps in the slot this past year.
The Packers not taking Moore or Marshall and instead going with a defensive player was wild considering the Aaron Rodgers drama that began the day. Green Bay continued its streak of not drafting receivers in Round 1, which simply shouldn’t have happened in a draft this loaded with top-end talent at the position. That’s coming from someone who spent the last 4 months banging the drum for Eric Stokes.
There’s part of me who wonders if Moore and Marshall, both of whom played at an All-American level this year, also got dinged a bit for opting out late in the season. Or maybe it was more about their usage in the slot, and receiver-needy teams felt more comfortable pulling the trigger on more proven outside weapons.
Still, though. A bit odd. They’re among the best available in Round 2.
5. The Big 12 ditched the NFL Draft
I get that it’s been a weird year or so, but did the Big 12 forget the NFL Draft started on Thursday night? Not cool, man.
In all seriousness, how do you puff your chest out as a conference when you don’t have a single player selected in the entire first round? Among the non-Power 5 representatives who produced a Round 1 pick were:
- FCS (North Dakota State)
- AAC (Houston and Tulsa)
- Independent (BYU)
Yikes. Not the best night for the brand.
It’s a rough look when Alabama tied a first-round record with 6 players selected. Shoot, even Northwestern owned a 2-0 advantage on the Big 12 by night’s end.
TCU safety Trevon Moehrig was supposed to be picked in Round 1, according to the mock drafts. Instead, he’s the No. 2 player on ESPN’s “best available” list heading into Friday night.
Just a hunch? The Big 12 won’t be the conference who ends the SEC’s streak of 14 consecutive years with the most draft picks.
5A. Roger Goodell’s chair bit
We get it, guy.