The 2021 NFL Draft was held in Cleveland, Ohio from Apr. 29th to May 1st in front of a largely-vaccinated crowd containing varying fanbases. This draft felt somewhat like a return to “normal” as the cheers of the fans after their teams’ selections amplified through the speakers of millions of people watching at home. We got to see some draftees get cheered as heroes while walking to be greeted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but more importantly, we got to hear the thunderous boos whenever Goodell took to the stage.
Regardless of which team you root for, the return of long standing traditions was more than welcome. However, certain teams had much better draft selections in comparison to others, as a few teams made decisions that left football analysts and fans scratching their heads. The one pick that was never in debate was the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence first overall. Lawrence went undefeated as a true freshman in 2018, leading the Tigers to a National Championship victory. He’s been in conversation for every possible award and honor in the sport and is commonly regarded as one of the best quarterback prospects to ever come out of college. It was the most memorable “no-brainer” selection in recent memory. Our hometown New York Jets had the second overall pick and opted to draft quarterback Zach Wilson. The BYU product has a cannon for an arm, but he is widely criticized as overrated due to the fact he faced only four teams who had a winning record all of last season. In somewhat surprising fashion, the San Francisco 49ers selected North Dakota State’s Trey Lance third overall. Lance is an exciting prospect that has the physical tools and skills to become one of the newest breeds of quarterback that showcase an ability to throw and run. This marked the first time since 1999 that the first three picks in the draft were quarterbacks and only the third time in league history.
Next off the board was Florida’s Kyle Pitts, a dazzling athlete who can potentially become one of the best pass-catchers in the league one day. This pick by the Atlanta Falcons cements their support of longtime starter Matt Ryan instead of grooming a young quarterback like many speculated they would. With the fifth overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals selected wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Chase was current Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s old teammate at LSU. Many questioned this pick as Burrow was on pace to be sacked over 51 times last season before he got hurt; that would place him as the most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Why was the Chase pick so criticized? Penei Sewell, offensive tackle from Oregon, was available and is seen as a potential perennial All-Pro player. Sewell ended up going seventh overall to the Detroit Lions, as the Miami Dolphins elected to bolster their receiving corps with Jaylen Waddle. The Detroit front office was seen literally jumping for joy when they officially drafted Sewell.
The next notable move was when the Dallas Cowboys traded the 10th overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the 12th and 84th overall selections. With the 10th overall pick, the Eagles opted to draft Devonta Smith, the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991. Two more trades followed soon after, as the Chicago Bears traded up for the 11th overall pick and the Jets traded up for the 14th overall pick. The Bears took quarterback Justin Fields, an excellent dual-threat prospect, while the Jets took offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Both were great decisions for the future, as Fields has the potential to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL while Vera-Tucker can protect Zach Wilson for the next decade. Many other teams got their desired players, such as the Los Angeles Chargers getting offensive lineman Rashawn Slater while the New England Patriots got quarterback Mac Jones, just to name a few. So did the Jaguars when they took running back Travis Etienne 25th overall despite rostering 22 year old James Robinson who’s a borderline Pro-Bowl back. Regardless of any mishaps, the 2021 NFL Draft was an exciting one that gave fans joy and hope for the future of their favorite franchises.