By: Michael Markoch
The NFL Draft is quite a spectacle for football fans. It is the NFL’s version of Christmas, where organizations can select new players for their rosters. And this year, more than ever, fans around the world need this draft, we all need live sports right now, and this is as close as we are going to get to that in these difficult times. Last night was the first round, 32 picks, 32 players, together at home making dreams come true, so let us break down what we saw last night and then mention some winners, losers, and surprises.
The first ever virtual draft went as smoothly as the NFL could have imagined. And for the teams picking at the top, it seemed easy. The Bengals confirmed the worst kept secret ever and took LSU’s Joe Burrow and the Redskins selected Ohio State’s Chase Young, who was arguably the best overall player in the draft.
The most interesting part of the first round was the number of positional runs that occurred. In the middle portion of the round, we saw huge runs on offensive lineman, cornerbacks, and a massive run on wide receivers, who are highly coveted this year, beginning with Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III going 12th overall to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The back part of the draft went as expected, teams filling needs with players they had high on their board, no matter if people knew the name or not. The Tennessee Titans took Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson with the 29th pick, making him the second Georgia offensive lineman taken in the first round. The Seahawks made a first-round pick for the first time in 8 years and took Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks over higher rated players such as Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. The first round ended with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs selection LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
But now for the fun stuff, because there were some huge winners and losers and of course some major surprises.
#1- Miami Dolphins: With three first round picks, the Dolphins were in great position to add some great talent to their team, and it started with the 5th pick. The Dolphins did not draft scared, they took Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa to be their franchise quarterback despite his injury concerns and selected USC’s Austin Jackson, who is a very raw offensive line talent. You cannot get better in this league without taking risk, and Tagovailoa is one, but he was the right pick for this organization, and they didn’t overthink it, took him, and did not look back. The Dolphins finished their first round by taking Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene with pick number 30.
#2- Cleveland Browns: The draft could not have shaken out any better for the Cleveland Browns. Their most glaring need was left tackle and because only one tackle was taken in the top 9, they basically had their choice of the pack and they got the guy they wanted in Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills played right tackle at Alabama but played left tackle in high school and should be able to make a smooth transition to the left side for the Browns. With this pick, the Browns have no more excuses, they officially have it all, especially on offense. But because they shored up their biggest need with the guy they wanted all along, they are big winners after Round 1.
#3- San Francisco 49ers: Talk about the rich getting richer, the 49ers traded DeForest Buckner for the 13th pick, which they turned into his replacement with South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw at 14 after trading with Tampa Bay. Kinlaw will make an immediate impact on their defensive line and fill in for Bucker nicely, while also being a lot cheaper. Then later, the Niners traded up to 25th overall to get Brandon Aiyuk, an athletic freak at wide receiver who will help the 49ers greatly in the pass-catching department.
#1- New England Patriots- The Patriots traded out of the first round, so how can they be losers? Well, whether the Patriots want to admit it or not, they have holes all over their roster, not just at quarterback. They could have used the 23rd pick on another position to simply make their team better, like a linebacker like Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen, or a pass rusher like Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos. Instead, they just sound plain stubborn. They have 13 picks in the final six rounds, but due to their actions on Thursday night, they take an L this time around.
#2- Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have glaring needs all over the defensive side of the ball, and it felt like they reached at pick 16 with Clemson’s A.J. Terrell. He is a very unpolished prospect that is going to need some development to really reach his full potential. I would’ve rather seen LSU’s Kristian Fulton or even a linebacker like Kenneth Murray or K’Lavon Chassion with their pick. It just did not feel right from the start and felt like a panic move due to the run on cornerbacks and seemed a bit high for where they were picking.
#3- Detroit Lions- They are certainly not losers because they took Jeff Okudah. Simply put, they did not want to take Okudah as high as they did. It was no secret Detroit wanted to move out of the number 3 spot, and they seemed to have suitors, but never got a deal done. The Lions need so much more help besides Okudah and the fact that they didn’t collect any more picks was a failure on their part. I love the pick but I felt they could’ve had so much more on top of it, for that they are a loser.
#1: Damon Arnette Goes in the First Round
The Las Vegas Raiders stunned everyone when they selected Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette 19th overall. Arnette had a high second round grade and was head-scratching to most because the Raiders probably could have gotten him in the second round. There were probably more talented cornerbacks still on the board, but the Raiders showed that you should always go with your guy, no matter where you are picking. Time will tell if it was a good pick for them.
#2: Packers Shock Everyone, Take Aaron Rodgers Successor…We Think?
The Packers traded up in the first round to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, and let us just say most people didn’t take it all that well. Aaron Rodgers is only 36, ironically the same age as Brett Favre when the Packers took Rodgers as the succession plan, and is still playing at a high level, so why now? What makes this pick even more surprising is that the Packers desperately need weapons on offense and there were plenty of those still on the board. Now there is no guarantee they will be able to get one with their later picks. The Packers better hope Love is what they think he can be or else this is a all-time bust.
#3: Andrew Thomas Was the First Offensive Tackle Taken
The Giants took Georgia’s Andrew Thomas with the number 4 overall pick. It’s not that the Giants took a tackle, but rather who that is surprising. Thomas was not the highest rated lineman on most experts’ boards due to his balance issues in college. It was a surprising pick considering it was expected Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr or Iowa’s Tristian Wirfs was going to be the first tackle selected. Hopefully, Danny Dimes has the protection he needs to succeed.
#4: The Eagles Take Who?
To say the Eagles needed a wide receiver is an incredible understatement. Carson Wentz was throwing the college quarterbacks next season. So with the 20th pick, the Eagles took a wide receiver, Jalen Reagor out of TCU. When he was first drafted most asked who he was, because he had a 2nd round grade on most boards. He’s a raw talent at receiver that has great potential, but it seemed the Eagles could have played it safer with LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who was still on the board, or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., who were more higher rated prospects. But they took a chance on a player with high potential to change a receiving core that desperately needs it and proved that experts’ boards mean absolutely nothing in the NFL Draft.