The first round of the 2021 NFL draft is in the books.
The Jaguars, the Eagles, and the Bears ended the night as big winners.
The Raiders and the Packers were losers.
The first round of the 2021 NFL draft is in the books.
After Thursday night, 32 players have been selected by their new teams, with plenty more talent still to come in the next two days.
Take a look below at our winners and losers of the first round of the NFL draft.
There was never a question of whom the Jaguars were taking first overall, and with good reason. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is now the Jaguars’ quarterback, helping bring the team into a new era with its new head coach, Urban Meyer.
A move doesn’t need to be surprising to be the right one.
While there weren’t any surprises through the first two picks of the night, the 49ers dropped the first shocker of the draft when they selected North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance third overall.
Many mock drafts had projected Mac Jones to the 49ers after the team was reportedly smitten with the Alabama quarterback after trading up for the third pick. Had San Francisco gone with Jones, it would have been a highly scrutinized move, as it wasn’t clear that the 49ers would have needed to move up to get him.
Instead, the 49ers took Lance, a move that is a win both for them in getting the better player and in terms of branding. If Kyle Shanahan believes Lance is the guy, he had to move up to get him, and if it works out, no one will question what the 49ers gave up to get there.
WINNER: College teammates
The first round of the draft was full of old college reunions. The Cincinnati Bengals took LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to link up with Joe Burrow in the big leagues. The Dolphins brought in Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle to play catch with Tua Tagovailoa, while the Eagles grabbed DeVonta Smith to pair with Jalen Hurts. Even the Jaguars facilitated a reunion, taking both Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne from the Clemson Tigers in the first round.
It was a good night for teammates.
LOSER: Mac Jones
After being projected as high as No. 3 only to fall down to No. 15, Jones missed out on roughly $19 million because of the way rookie contracts are drawn up in the NFL. That’s a lot of money to lose because one team chose another guy over you.
WINNER: Mac Jones
Despite the monetary loss, there’s reason to think that Jones falling to the Patriots will work out better for him in the long run than a rookie deal with the 49ers. Because San Francisco traded a boatload of picks to move up to No. 3, Jones would have been under a wild amount of pressure to be great right out of the gate through no fault of his own. It’s not hard to imagine that experiment crashing and burning pretty quickly.
With New England, Jones is going to a system that should set him up for success. Jones is accurate and gets the ball out of his hand quickly. While his limited ability as a runner was a knock compared with other quarterbacks in the class, Jones can get the ball where it needs to go in the right offense and will be in good hands with Bill Belichick.
WINNER: New England Patriots
Heading into the draft, it felt as if the Patriots might have to trade up to get their next quarterback because of a projected run at the position early in the first round. Rather than sell the farm to move up, the Patriots kept their cool and wound up having the draft fall right into their hands, picking up Jones at No. 15.
Sometimes the best move is no move at all.
The Eagles had been wheeling and dealing for some time heading into the draft.
Originally set with the sixth overall pick, Philadelphia traded back to No. 12 in a deal with the Miami Dolphins that got it an extra first-round pick in 2022. But the Birds weren’t done there, pulling off a draft-day deal with a division rival to move back up from 12th to 10th on Thursday and select the Heisman winner DeVonta Smith out of Alabama.
It was a well-executed move for a team looking for a pass-catcher. At No. 6, the Eagles would have missed out on both Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase, widely considered the top two receiving threats in the 2021 draft class, so Philly elected to trade back and add value for next year. But then, when Smith was the last of a top-tier of receiving talent left on the board, the Eagles made their move again, jumping over the Giants to take the Heisman winner.
LOSER: Las Vegas Raiders
While the first round was relatively calm, all things considered there were a few wild picks made Thursday night, none more puzzling than the Raiders’ selection of Alex Leatherwood. He is a solid talent, but taking him 17th overall felt like a pretty big reach, especially coming from a team with something of a history of needlessly overreaching in the draft. There’s a chance that Leatherwood still would have been on the board in the second round for the Raiders, or they could have traded down from No. 17 and taken him later in the first.
This is not a knock on Leatherwood, who should develop into a fine player. But given where the Raiders were on the board, the move felt like a reach.
WINNER: Chicago Bears
The Bears got their guy, moving up from No. 20 to No. 11 to secure Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. For Bears fans, Fields represents the most hope that the team has had at the quarterback position in a generation.
While it cost a hefty price to move up – including sending a future first-round pick to the Giants – if Fields can deliver for the Bears, it will all have been worth it.
LOSER: New York Giants
Giants fans were probably looking forward to drafting DeVonta Smith, only to watch one division rival (the Dallas Cowboys) help another division rival (the Philadelphia Eagles) jump in front of the G-men and steal Smith at the last moment.
It’s a tough break when your divisional opponents are teaming up against you. Maybe an alliance with the Washington Football Team is in order.
WINNER: New York Giants
While getting jumped for Smith was not ideal, the Giants made the best of a bad situation.
With their desired player unavailable at No. 11, the Giants traded down with a Bears team eager to move up, acquiring a 2022 first-round pick in the process. Then at No. 20, the Giants could snag wide receiver Kadarius Toney out of Florida, satisfying their need at receiver.
WINNER: Sam Darnold
The Carolina Panthers traded for Sam Darnold ahead of the draft. But with the team holding the eighth overall pick, it was still possible that they would decide to pick another quarterback and head into the season with a competition for the starting job.
Thankfully for Darnold, the Panthers went the other way, taking South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn and, in the process, essentially sealing Darnold in as the team’s starter for at least the coming season. While the Panthers had declined to pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option ahead of the draft, Carolina locked him in for an extra season on Thursday night.
LOSER: Andy Dalton
When Andy Dalton joined the Chicago Bears, the team announced his arrival with a tweet that proclaimed him “QB1.”
After the Bears traded up for Justin Fields, that title is now in doubt. Tough break for Dalton.
WINNER: NFL sons
In the top 10 picks on Thursday night, two sons of former NFL players were selected. Jaycee Horn, the son of Joe Horn, was taken eighth by the Panthers. He was followed by Patrick Surtain II, whom the Denver Broncos selected at No. 9.
Football is a family business.
LOSER: Green Bay Packers
Thursday was a nightmare for the Packers, and it had little to do with what happened in the draft.
Throughout the day, reports revealed that the reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers, was unhappy with the Packers and didn’t want to return to the team. Given how last year ended, it’s easy to understand his frustration.
LOSER: Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks
You can’t win the first round without a first-round pick.
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