It is time to tackle the 2021 NFL Draft Day 1 recap after a long wait. We knew where some of the picks were going, like Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, but after that, things were still up in the air. There were some shocking picks, including a major trade-up and a typical Raiders pick. There is also a lot to break down with fantasy implications as this class was bringing plenty of offensive weapons to the table. With Day 2 and 3 still to go, you can follow along with the action with our live tracker that features grades and analysis in real-time.
First Round Picks
|1||Jacksonville Jaguars||Trevor Lawrence||QB||Clemson||A+|
|2||New York Jets||Zach Wilson||QB||BYU||A|
|3||San Francisco 49ers (from MIA via HOU)||Trey Lance||QB||North Dakota State||A|
|4||Atlanta Falcons||Kyle Pitts||TE||Florida||B+|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Ja'Marr Chase||WR||LSU||A+|
|6||Miami Dolphins (from PHI)||Jaylen Waddle||WR||Alabama||B|
|7||Detroit Lions||Penei Sewell||OT||Oregon||A+|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Jaycee Horn||CB||South Carolina||C|
|9||Denver Broncos||Patrick Surtain II||CB||Alabama||C-|
|10||Philadelphia Eagles (from DAL)||Devonta Smith||WR||Alabama||A|
|11||Chicago Bears (from NYG)||Justin Fields||QB||Ohio State||A+|
|12||Dallas Cowboys (from PHI via SF)||Micah Parsons||LB||Penn State||A|
|13||Los Angeles Chargers||Rashawn Slater||OT||Northwestern||A|
|14||New York Jets (from MIN)||Alijah Vera-Tucker||OG||USC||A|
|15||New England Patriots||Mac Jones||QB||Alabama||C|
|16||Arizona Cardinals||Zaven Collins||LB||Tulsa||B+|
|17||Las Vegas Raiders||Alex Leatherwood||OT||Alabama||C+|
|18||Miami Dolphins||Jaelan Phillips||EDGE||Miami||B|
|19||Washington Football Team||Jamin Davis||LB||Kentucky||A-|
|20||New York Giants (from CHI)||Kadarius Toney||WR||Florida||C+|
|21||Indianapolis Colts||Kwity Paye||EDGE||Michigan||B+|
|22||Tennessee Titans||Caleb Farley||CB||Virginia Tech||A-|
|23||Minnesota Vikings (from New York Jets)||Christian Darrisaw||OT||Virginia Tech||A+|
|24||Pittsburgh Steelers||Najee Harris||RB||Alabama||C+|
|25||Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR)||Travis Etienne||RB||Clemson||F|
|26||Cleveland Browns||Greg Newsome II||CB||Northwestern||A-|
|27||Baltimore Ravens||Rashod Bateman||WR||Minnesota||A|
|28||New Orleans Saints||Payton Turner||EDGE||Houston||B|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Eric Stokes||CB||Georgia||C|
|30||Buffalo Bills||Gregory Rousseau||EDGE||Miami||B+|
|31||Baltimore Ravens (from KC)||Jayson Oweh||EDGE||Penn State||B|
|32||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Joe Tyron||LB||Washington||C|
First Round Winners
We can certainly look towards the Jets and Jaguars as winners for likely establishing a franchise quarterback within this draft, but we will go deeper than that. Chicago, after missing on numerous quarterback picks, made a move to trade up with Dallas to take Justin Fields. This was after Denver and Carolina both passed on him to take corners. Given Dallas was really the first team we could easily mock a corner to, and they traded back due to how the draft went. Chicago desperately needed to make a move, and so did this front office and staff. Fields was viewed as the QB2 a few months ago, and some still have him in that spot.
The Minnesota Vikings come to mind as real winners because they were able to acquire more draft picks and still land Christian Darrisaw. This is someone they planned on drafting at 14, so this is a big win. We should expect them to address an EDGE and further their line depth needs later in the draft. They will have plenty of picks and players available to work with.
Sticking with the theme of the NFC North, Detroit saw Penei Sewell fall to them. This is a terrific franchise building block to start with. Sewell is a generational line prospect, and they will hope he can be protecting Jared Goff and then whoever their franchise quarterback will be later on. The Jets traded up with the Vikings to get Alijah Vera-Tucker. The versatile guard out of USC is a great fit within this line and is a pick that brings added stability to a young quarterback.
After the Orlando Brown trade, Baltimore picked up another late pick in the first round from Kansas City. Rashod Bateman was their pick at 27, which brings a much-needed possession wide receiver for this offense. Instead of replacing Brown, they took Jayson Oweh, the insane athlete out of Penn State. I like this landing spot for him, and Baltimore gets a true athlete to mold into what will likely be an above-average outside piece for their defense.
First Round Losers
While it is tough to bash Carolina for the Jaycee Horn pick, given their recent history of drafting year one ready talents on that side of the ball, I don’t love passing on Justin Fields. The same can be said for Denver, who took the other corner, Patrick Surtain. Now, of course, all this would change if there is anything to those rumors of getting Aaron Rodgers. Both these teams passing on Fields puts them in this section, even though the picks are going to be helpful.
The Raiders taking Alex Leatherwood would have been a fine pick if they traded back in the first round. Instead, they stayed put and took Leatherwood at 17. Odds have shown Leatherwood would have been there at a later round, making this a tremendous reach that has already put the front office in scramble mode.
New York wanted Devonta Smith, which resulted in Philadelphia trading up ahead of them to get their guy as well. The Giants then traded back, but only to take Kadarius Toney. They passed on a top-three offensive lineman, which they could still have used, and then Kwity Paye, who is also a major need. While Toney has the potential to be special, a lot rides on this team using him in the right ways. I have my doubts given Jason Garrett is behind the play-calling, and this team has not made great decisions of late.
Quick Fantasy Reactions
For the quarterbacks, we knew Trevor Lawrence was headed to Jacksonville, and Zach Wilson was headed to New York. Both will be Year 1 starters and have good enough help around them to make an impact right away. Trey Lance and Justin Fields are the ones we can dive a bit more into as Lance goes to the 49ers, which is just a terrific landing spot with the weapons around him and Kyle Shanahan. There have been some murmurs of Fields or Lance possibly sitting for this year or at least a part of it, but I am not buying it, really. Both their ceilings are going to be highly sought after in dynasty, but if Lance starts, he is going to be a late-round QB option that could even see the hype take him into mid-rounds.
We saw two running backs go in the first round. Jacksonville decided Travis Ettiene was the guy to go with, which feels like a reach given the fact they had other pressing needs and struck gold on James Robinson, who wasn’t even drafted. Robinson’s fantasy value takes a hit, and so does Ettiene’s upside. That is the case for at least this upcoming season. However, Ettiene is still a threat to surpass Robinson, especially if you factor in making that draft capital look worthwhile. It would be hard to take a running back at 25 and use him as a third-down option, and hopefully, Urban Meyer was just talking out of his ass.
Najee Harris goes to a great spot in terms of workload, but if they don’t address the offensive line, there won’t be a ton of room for him to run behind. I am staying optimistic that it will work out and they can solve this still, but if they don’t, Harris might have an inefficient start to his career.
As for the pass-catchers, Ja’Marr Chase going to Cincinnati gives him alpha WR1 upside and was a better spot for fantasy than Miami, where Jaylen Waddle went. Waddle’s long-term outlook could still be okay, but the Year-1 numbers likely won’t be as high. His teammate Devonta Smith going to Philadelphia is kind of similar, and we need to hope the Eagles and Dolphins QB situation does pan out despite some bumps so far. Kyle Pitts went to a great landing spot even though there are other weapons. For fantasy, Pitts was going to a few teams to thrive on but getting the end of Matt Ryan’s career and Arthur Smith coming in is a plus.
Kadarius Toney was someone who I viewed as needing the perfect landing spot to provide big fantasy numbers. The New York Giants was not it. Daniel Jones has yet to prove an option, and upcoming quarterback classes are not looking great, although that could change with time. There are also other pass-catchers ahead of him. As mentioned above, Jason Garrett and this organization overall is not one I would bank on turning a prospect like Toney into what he could be.
The last wideout to go in the draft was Rashod Bateman. Baltimore was in on him before the draft, and this was a guy who would serve as a better real-life wide receiver for the Ravens compared to putting up big fantasy numbers, which he had the potential to do elsewhere. The ceiling is lower coming to Baltimore, given the volume is very low, and Jackson’s passing ability still isn’t great. We will hope Terrace Marshall, Javonte Williams, and Elijah Moore head to better spots so we can get some clear-cut production early. Otherwise, this class took a big hit with their landing spots.