2021 NFL Draft: First Round Recap

2021 NFL Draft: First Round Recap

Anthony Malta, Staff Writer

One night.


That’s all it takes for an NFL franchise to make or break their future. Hundreds of college prospects — all of them eager to prove themselves to the fans. From a singular evening alone, the scale of the National Football League can be tipped. 


Last night, April 29, was the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft — jam-packed with trades, risks, and future stars. 


So, who won and who lost?


Chicago Bears- Winners


Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and his team had no worries about future consequences when they sent the 2021 20th overall pick, 164th overall pick, and two 2022 picks (one of them a first-rounder) to the Giants in exchange for the No. 11 overall pick where they drafted their quarterback of the future, Justin Fields. NFL writer Kevin Patra has high praise for the Ohio State product.


Fields is a high-ceiling passer with an explosive arm who can make any throw across all three levels,” Patra said. “He combines the athleticism to do damage with his feet and the accuracy to pick apart defenses. Fields is a complete package who will immediately open up Matt Nagy’s offense.”


The Bears are notorious for their lackluster quarterback play. At the beginning of last season, Chicago was fourth in pass attempts per game and only 23 in passing yards. It seems that, even after signing the starting-caliber Andy Dalton to a one-year deal, the talented wide receiving corps of the Bears will thrive with an upgraded quarterback in Fields. 


Jacksonville Jaguars – Part Winners


The Jaguars’ abysmal 2020 season earned them the first overall pick in this year’s Draft, also known as the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Lawrence did not lose a regular-season game throughout his high school and Clemson career, and his nearly flawless play allowed him to be the consensus number one pick. No surprises there. 


However, one of the only positives of the 2020 Jaguars was their 22-year-old running back stud, James Robinson. Knowing they have the running back position filled on their depth chart, why did Jacksonville draft Travis Etienne?


Etienne was a force in the Clemson backfield, and arguably one of the best running backs in all of college football. He was undoubtedly the second-best running back in the class. That said, it was an unnecessary pick. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked the Jaguars’ offensive line as 22 out of 32 teams in the league, and there were plenty of linemen prospects remaining. Jacksonville owns the 33rd overall pick, so they still have room to improve, but stacking the RB corps will not protect Trevor Lawrence. 


The Jaguars clearly achieved their goal of upgrading the offense in round one, but experts wonder if the Jaguars should have invested more resources in the offensive line, especially after they took cornerback Tyson Campbell in the next round.

Other notable winners include the New York Jets, who drafted their quarterback of the future in Zach Wilson and traded up to pick 14, where they took offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to improve their mediocre line. The Minnesota Vikings also pulled the trigger, moving up to the 23 overall pick to select Christain Darrisaw. Darrisaw is the perfect offensive tackle to do the dirty work for superstar running back Dalvin Cook.


The true victors of the NFL Draft were the fans, who were finally in attendance after last year’s all-virtual event. The audience at home was also gifted with the familiar jubilance and atmosphere of the Draft including sights of spectators in ridiculous outfits, passionately representing their teams. And of course, the iconic NFL jingle. 


With the pandemic slowing down, football enthusiasts could receive a glimpse of normalcy as fans will be in full capacity next season at most stadiums. There’s no telling what players in this class will boom or bust, or what teams will rise on the shoulders of their rookies, but that is the culture of the NFL Draft.