clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

32 things I think I think about the first day of the NFL Draft

Who made the right picks? What will happen on Day 2?

Florida vs Alabama
Did the Broncos make the right pick?
Photo by /Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The first round of the NFL Draft is now in the books, but six rounds remains. Every team enters tonight hoping they drafted a foundational player yesterday. But we know better. History has shown that roughly half of the first 32 picks in a draft fail each year. Scheme fit, injury luck, and supporting cast matter a ton.

This is why I try to approach my big board with risk as such a central factor. I couldn’t help but consider it as every pick came in yesterday and it certainly influenced my immediate feelings about the first round. What follows are some early thoughts on every pick as well as a few other musings on team’s needs going forward.

If you have questions about the team needs as I see them, you can read more here.

1&25. Jacksonville Jaguars want Trevor Lawrence to be comfortable

Needs: QB, S, OT, WR

Everyone knew the Jags would draft Trevor Lawrence, but it was a bit of a surprise to see Urban Meyer draft Travis Etienne. He’s a speed back who plays faster than he times, but his limitations as a pass blocker could hurt him on third down. There were more pressing needs than a running back if the goal is to build a Super Bowl contender. Keeping the Clemson teammates together should make both happy, at least.

2&14. New York Jets trade up for a guard

Needs: QB iOL, RT, CB, RB, TE

We can debate Zach Wilson vs. Trey Lance vs. Justin Fields ‘til we’re blue in the face and hardly get anywhere. What surprised me is Joe Douglas gave away draft capital to secure a guard. There’s little doubt Alijah Vera-Tucker fills a need, fits the scheme, and should be a good player. My issue stems from the fact New York’s roster has plenty of holes; guards are easier to find than tackles and cornerbacks.

3. San Francisco 49ers draft the right quarterback after all

Needs: QB, DL, CB, WR, OL depth

It still blows my mind we let Chris Simms’ tattoo bond with Kyle Shanahan turn draft season into an unrelenting debate about Mac Jones.

4.Atlanta Falcons don’t move off of four

Needs: Edge, CB, S, RB, WR, TE

I have no idea what Terry Fontenot was offered to move off of four and how far he had to fall down the board, but that the cap strapped Falcons took a tight end instead of picks or a quarterback is peculiar, at best.

I have little doubt Kyle Pitts will become a unicorn if health luck favors him, for all it’s worth. It’s simply difficult to get excited about the end result. Atlanta’s extremely dependent on their draft class to lift the ceiling on last year’s roster if the hope is a real playoff run. They were also very healthy in 2020 and will probably regress there.

5.Cincinnati Bengals add another Tiger

Needs: WR1, OL, ED, CB

Like the Jags’ Tigers, the decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell is a way to make sure the franchise quarterback is happy. The Bengals bet on the depth of this tackle class holding up to the first round and they may have a chance at Teven Jenkins, Sam Cosmi, and Liam Eichenberg.

6&18. Miami Dolphins gamble on Jaelan Phillips

Needs: WR, iOL, ED, RB, TE, LB, OT? QB?

Trading away 12 and a 2022 first for Jaylen Waddle is chasing a unicorn and history suggests that’ll be tough to justify. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to live up two to two first round picks to become a very good receiver. His athletic ability and separation quickness will mesh perfectly with Tua Tagovailoa’s accuracy and help turn 12-yard throws into a 40-yard gains.

Phillips’ medical history is so scary that I hoped the Broncos wouldn’t consider him. At the same time, he has the tools to become the best edge from this class.

7. Detroit Lions draft a foundational player without ruining their timeline.

Needs: WR, OT, iOL, DL, DB, QB?

Brad Holmes is in the first year of yet another monumental rebuild. Sewell should immediately compete for playing time along the offensive line and eventually settle in as a very good right tackle. Most offensive lineman need a couple years of seasoning, which is perfect for a team gunning for the first overall pick in 2022.

8. Carolina Panthers pass on the best corner in the draft

Needs: Pass rush, OT, DB, WR, QB?

Jaycee Horn gives Matt Rhule’s defense an identity while Denver got the better corner. It’d make sense to continue adding talent to the secondary.

9. Denver Broncos pass on Justin Fields for Patrick Surtain II

Needs: QB, CB depth, LB, OT depth, S depth

All these things are true simultaneously:

  1. Right before the draft there was a ton of reports tying the Broncos to Aaron Rodgers. If that still looms on the horizon, George Paton had no reason to take a quarterback at nine. He already has a backup and starter.
  2. I love Patrick Surtain II and think he’ll become a Pro Bowl corner who can erase most assignments. He’s so refine at the line of scrimmage that he makes it look easy. So easy, it’s become easy to take his ability to mirror and match for granted. It’s elite. He also makes a ton of sense if Paton knows he won’t have another first round pick for awhile because of a trade for Rodgers.
  3. Paton should have turned Justin Fields into extra draft capital. He chose Surtain II over picks because he knew Jerry Jones would take him. I respect that. I simply disagree with the decision because that extra draft capital could prove so valuable.
  4. There’s no guarantee Aaron Rodgers is walking through that door. Deshaun Watson isn’t going to happen while allegations and investigations hang over him. That’s why the Broncos acquired Teddy Bridgewater yesterday. He provides a hedge as well as competition against Drew Lock in case no alternative emerges.
  5. If the quarterback battle is Bridgewater vs. Lock we should probably root for Lock to win a hard fought legitimate competition. It’d mean he’s improved off of last season.
  6. All the reports from Dove Valley will now treat Lock and Bridgewater as the final option because it does them no good to talk about alternatives anymore.

10. DeVonta Smith lands with the Philadelphia Eagles

Needs: WR, RB, OL/DL depth, ED, LB, QB?

The Slim Reaper winds up with the worst quarterback situation in the league. R.I.P.

11. Chicago Bears land their franchise quarterback

Needs: QB, OL, WR, TE, CB

It took a few desperate turns and a failed trade for Russell Wilson before Ryan Pace won the draft. Andy Dalton and Nick Foles means Justin Fields doesn’t have to see the field until he’s ready or Nagy’s job security forces it.

12. Dallas Cowboys are left with Micah Parsons

Needs: DL, ED, CB, S, OL depth

I think Jerry Jones got caught drafting the best remaining defensive player on his board when the corners went back to back. They didn’t enter the draft with a pressing need for a linebacker, but his ability to rush the passer will help on passing downs.

13. Los Angeles Chargers select Rashawn Slater

Needs: CB, iOL, LT, S, LB, WR depth

The most remarkable part of Justin Herbert’s rookie year is how he performed under pressure. Whether Rashawn Slater plays outside or inside early, he’ll upgrade a spot. Tom Telesco probably isn’t done grabbing linemen.

15. Mac Jones lands with Josh McDaniels and the New England Patriots

Needs: QB, WR, DL, DB

Cam Newton hasn’t played a 16-game season since 2017 so it made sense to grab a backup.

16. Arizona Cardinals pass on premium positions for a linebacker

Needs: CB, ED, TE, G, RB, WR

Vance Joseph loves base personnel and Zaven Collins should contribute as a pass rusher, but the Cards probably should have addressed a bigger need. Taking a linebacker is what a staff on the hot seat does.

17. Las Vegas Raiders replace their old RT with a younger RT

Needs: RT, FS, WR, iOL, LB, Pass Rush

Surely the hope is Alex Leatherwood can solve the hole at right tackle Gruden created when he traded Trent Brown to the Patriots. I like Leatherwood, but it has to be uninspiring that the Raiders approach to this offseason was to strip costs and replace it with cheaper talent.

19. Washington Football Team draft the wrong linebacker

Needs: QB, X-WR, LT, LB, S

Washington’s been an obvious fit for Jereremiah Owusu-Koramoah for months because their linebacker corps. consisted of Jon Bostic and day three guys. Davis gives them a rangy coverage backer with size, but he’s a one year wonder from Kentucky who will flinch at contact. It won’t surprise me if Martin Mayhew takes a swing on a day two quarterback. There’s also a rather dire need for a left tackle in DC.

20. New York Giants collect 2022 first and gamble on Kadarius Toney

Needs: OL, ED, LB, WR, QB?

The Giants are a notoriously leaky organization, so it came as no surprise when the Eagles moved up to grab New York’s Alabama receiver. What did shock me is when Dave Gettleman’s first ever trade down helped him secure the ammo to replace Daniel Jones if the sixth overall pick fails to deliver. The move was a good one, even if I’m low on Toney.

21. Kwity Paye lands with the Indianapolis Colts

Needs: LT, ED, WR, DB

Paye was one of the first players I watched during the pre-draft process and left me conflicted. He didn’t look like a great scheme fit with Fangio, but the tools and upside are tremendous. There are few spots that look like as good a landing spot for him as the Colts, where he’ll get a chance to play next to DeForest Buckner in a defense that will capitalize on his ability to crash inside.

22. Tennessee Titans gamble on Caleb Farley

Needs: CB, ED, WR, RT, S, TE

Jon Robinson doesn’t hesitate to take a prospect with injury concerns and tantalizing potential. So far it looks like it’s worked out with Jeffrey Simmons and I do hope Farley makes me eat my words. It’s just hard to ignore how scary his back looks from afar. His 2019 came to an end because of it and then he missed his Pro Day because of it even after opting out of 2020. We don’t yet know if he’ll be able to play early this season.

This Titans’ roster has more needs than you’d expect because they were so cap strapped this past offseason. They’ll need to find immediate contributors at receiver and tackle before the draft is over or suffer for it.

23. Minnesota Vikings trade down and still land the best tackle on their board

Needs: Pass rusher, OT, iOL, S, WR depth

Landing Christian Darrisaw should allow Ezra Cleveland to continue playing guard. Vikings lurk as a potential trade up team in the second round if an edge starts to slide. They badly need to bolster their pass rush.

24. Big Ben’s retirement tour with the Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs: QB, RB, OL, DL, ED, CB

Rather than fix the Steelers’ pressing issues along the offensive line or swing on a talented edge prospect or corner, Kevin Colbert replaced LeVeon Bell and James Conner with a first round pick. Najee Harris is a well rounded power back with good vision and natural hands, which should help him make the most of all the short passes he’ll receive in 2021.

26. The Cleveland Browns’ Super Bowl hopes

Needs: ED, DL, CB, OL depth, S?

The secondary is defined by the weakest link, which makes it a position group where smart teams will constantly add pieces. Newsome gives Joe Woods a corner who excels in coverage and shows promising ball skills. Cleveland lurks as a team that should address their defensive front on day two.

27&31. Baltimore Ravens take scheme fits who strengthen strengths

Needs: ED, DL, WR, QB2/3, DB, RT?

So far in his NFL career, Lamar Jackson’s shown a clear preference for passing in the middle of the field and a tendency to make something happen with his legs if the play breaks down. It’s made surrounding him with adequate weaponry a bit tricky and the Ravens had a tough time signing a veteran in free agency. Rashod Bateman should help as he’s an inside/outside receiver who wins with his savvy route running and ball skills.

Jayson Oweh is a toolsy project who could surprise in a Wink Martindale scheme that schemes up free rush lanes better than any in the league. I’m excited to see what the Ravens do on day two, as they have a ton of flexibility.

28. Payton Turner lands with the New Orleans Saints

Needs: TE, WR, DL, CB, S, QB?

Given the way Mickey Loomis had to manipulate the books to comply with the depressed salary cap this year, there were a number of directions New Orleans could have gone with this pick. Turner gives them an edge who could play up and down the line of scrimmage once he refines his rush plan. I expect them to chase receivers and defensive backs across the rest of the draft.

29. Green Bay Packers grab a size/speed guy who’s a shaky scheme fit

Needs: WR, DB, LB, ED, OT? iOL?

With 4.2 speed, Eric Stokes has the tools to blossom into an elite coverage player. Where I get stuck with this pick is how he won in press and being overly physical in coverage with the Bulldogs. He’s a willing tackle who lacks play strength, and supposedly Green Bay is moving towards a Fangio-inspired defense.

The fact Aaron Rodgers looks like he’s going to force his way out of town doesn’t help.

30. Buffalo Bills overdraft an edge because of sack production

Needs: ED, CB, NT, TE, WR depth

Gregory Rousseau hasn’t played football since 2019, had a disappointing Pro Day, and his sack production was inflated by coverage sacks and exploiting overmatched guards. He’s a risky pick that could pan out if he grows into his frame. At least it wasn’t a running back.

Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers find heir to J.P.P.

Needs: DL, DB, iOL, EDGE, RB, QB2, WR depth

After opting out of 2020 it seems foolish to count on Joe Tryon to contribute early. The last tape we have of him shows the flashes you’d expect from a first round player and a need for polish. Landing in Tampa should buy him a little time because Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre Paul have the starting jobs locked down. Tampa Bay is a wildcard in every round because age makes developmental depth the biggest need for their roster.

Seattle Seahawks watch five edge rushers go in the first round

Needs: ED, DL, CB, WR

Pete Carroll has the makings of a very good defense if he can pressure the quarterback.

Los Angeles Rams’ staff get a night off

Needs: LT, LB, ED, S, CB depth, DL depth, OL depth

That beach house is sweet. Time will tell if the lack of first round picks cost Sean McVay more than Rocket Mortgage is willing to pay.

Kudos to the Houston Texans who endured the draft

Needs: Dang near everything but left tackle.

It’s got to be hard to watch a first round go by without any action as the Deshaun Watson saga continues to play out. The allegations make a potential trade for him extremely unlikely, which has also thrown a significant wrench into what the Texans could have received for him.

Kansas City Chiefs will still have plenty of opportunities to chase needs

Needs: WR, OL depth, LB, DB, ED

Outside of edge rusher, this draft remains quite promising at receiver, offensive line, linebacker, and defensive back.