Instant Reaction – Day one of the NFL Draft

Welcome to my UK-based take on Round 1 of the NFL Draft 2021. I’ve been sitting at home six hours ahead of you watching as the picks roll in from midnight, and for what it is worth I’m giving quick hot takes as to whether I think the picks are going to be a hit or a miss.

I’m not as steeped in the game as the professional pundits or even all the knowledgeable amateurs in the USA. I’m just a UK based fan who hopes one day to see a live game at Arrowhead.

I know that in a year my hot takes may have cooled and congealed unpleasantly, but they’re my best guess based on everything I’ve seen and read about this draft class and the teams that they end up with.

So here we go. Add caffeine for instant expert.

Pick 1 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence QB – MISS Someone has to say it. Look at the Jacksonville offensive line. Trevor Lawrence will have to learn to operate under center against a full-speed NFL defense from the dubious shelter of the Jacksonville offensive line.

It is not the worst line in the world, but it certainly isn’t an elite unit. As Chiefs fans more than anybody else, we know that even a QB with a fourth dan black belt in extending plays outside of a collapsing pocket struggles when the offensive line doesn’t hold up well for him. Drafting the best QB to last year’s worst team might just be a recipe for disaster…..again. Jags games are going to be entertaining this season, but not in a good way, I think.

Pick 2 – New York Jets – Zach Wilson QB – HIT Another bright young QB cart harnessed to one of the most perennially plodding donkeys in the league. He’s an accomplished scrambler and that’s a good thing. I expect the Jets to be better next year with him.

Pick 3 – San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance QB – NOT THIS SEASON
They traded up and I can only assume that barring injury he will sit behind Jimmy G for a season whilst he learns to use his better mobility and stronger arm at the next level. It’s the 49ers, though, so who knows. Next season, with the weapons available I expect he will make a solid impact for San Francisco.

Pick 4 – Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts – TE – HIT
Welcome to the modern world following Kelce, Kittle, and Gronk showing the way. The tight end position has grown beyond extra blocker into another receiver option. He’s not the greatest blocker in the world but he’s not being picked as a blocker. He will be on the receiving end of a half decent QB with Matt Ryan, he has very sticky hands and he gets open.

Pick 5 – Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase – WR – HIT
Fast. That’s not entirely his thing, being fast. On the other hand, strong as an ox, has great hands, competes well and is very familiar to Joe Burrows. Let’s hope a season off hasn’t dimmed his stellar capabilities.

Pick 6 – Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle – WR – MISS
Fast. That is very much his thing, being fast. Miami wanted a burner and they now have a burner, but he’s not a very big fellow and out in the world of NFL he is going to run a lot of fruitless long routes and he’s going to take some big hits.

Pick 7 – Detroit Lions – Penei Sewell – LT – HIT
About where I expected in the draft and exactly what every QB wants out on the blindside. The film shows very few weaknesses. All being well he has a decade of play in him. He won’t need a lot of coaching.

Pick 8 – Carolina Panthers – Jaycee Horn – CB – MISS
He’s a great competitor but perhaps not the man you want against a burner WR. I expect him to appear on special teams rather than shoring up the Panther’s secondary.

Pick 9 – Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtian II – CB – MISS
This player has some straight-line speed but against a burner, he may well get burned. Another pick destined for limited snaps and special teams where he looks like a decent prospect as a gunner.

Pick 10 – Philadelphia Eagles – DeVonta Smith – WR – HIT
The Eagles need a WR and this looks like a good choice. Moves like a cat and hits like a snake. Good with routes. Inspector Gadget arms. He’s going to need to put on some chunk before the season starts but I can see him becoming the reliable middle yardage guy that gets free for the Eagles.

Pick 11 – Chicago Bears – Justin Fields – QB – HIT
Well done Bears. Don’t believe the anti-hype. He’s very good in the pocket, makes the throws, and can run the ball as a genuine threat. He can also play with a Brady-style chip on his shoulder after falling out of the Top 5. The Bears must be delighted and looking at what they have given up, they must be convinced as well. May spend a year behind Dalton but maybe not……

Pick 12 – Dallas Cowboys – Micah Parsons – LB – HIT
He knows the game and he’s shown that he is a quality LB in all tasks. He’s going to be useful against the pass and the run.

Pick 13 – LA Chargers – Rashawn Slater – OT – MISS
In the NFL he is going to come up against defenders who are bigger, faster and nastier than anything he has experienced. For a very few rookie tackles who are big enough and ugly enough, this isn’t an insuperable problem. For Slater I don’t think he’s big enough or strong enough to last at tackle.

Pick 14 – New York Jets – Alijah Vera-Tucker – G – HIT
A pass protector which is one of the many things that The Jets need. I expect him to fit straight in at guard somewhere on the depth chart and have one of those unflashy but very successful careers.

Pick 15 – New England Patriots – Mac Jones – QB – HIT – NOT THIS SEASON
Welcome to the Evil Empire as a development player. Likely to sit at least a season behind Newton as Coach Bill schemes how to recapture the glory days with a classic eyes forward pocket passer with (by current standards) legs of stone.

Pick 16 – Arizona Cardinals – Zaven Collins – LB – HIT
My first thought was who? No disrespect intended. It is clearly something that the Cardinals back room believe in very strongly and looking at his stats he is fast and very skilful. He looks like a coaching project with all the basics to come good and make a solid contribution.

Pick 17 – Las Vegas Raiders – Alex Leatherwood – OT – HIT
A solid and uncontroversial choice for the Raiders. Very good on pass protection and big, very big already. Should give dependable service on the line for years to come.

Pick 18 – Miami Dolphins – Jaelen Phillips – DE – MISS
Frankly I worry about the injury history but that is his and the team’s business. An edge rusher that is one concussion away from another retirement look like a huge risk to take. I wish him well but whilst I see his raw energy having some impact, I don’t see him having a long term future.

Pick 19 – Washington – Jamin Davis – LB – HIT
Another coaching project building on really solid basics and raw speed. He looks like a really versatile LB that will add strength against the pass and the run.

Pick 20 – New York Giants – Kadarius Toney – WR – MISS
If he stays healthy he has the ability to be always open. He’s a burner. He does yards after catch very well. The thing is, he hasn’t been very good at keeping healthy. I wonder if he will turn up returning on special teams for a season.

Pick 21 – Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye – DE – HIT
He will need to stay healthy and free of niggling injuries but he looks like a very solid and coachable pick that could have gone earlier. I predict a lot of Qbs and OTs being sick of the sight of him by the end of next season.

Pick 22 – Tennessee Titans – Caleb Farley – CB – HIT
Tennessee knows something. Either that or they like high stakes gambles. If his knee keeps holding up and coaching builds on his raw talent and athleticism he looks like a possible future All-Pro type of player. Its just a hunch but I think he’s going to be a good player with instant impact at Tennessee.

Pick 23 – Minnesota Vikings – Christian Darrisaw – OL – MISS
On paper he’s got all the physical things you would look for in an OL but I’m not sure that he has what it takes to prosper in the NFL. There are issues around him staying at 100% through blocks and if those continue, NFL defences will find him out. He may be one of those players that doesn’t even make it out of training camp.

Pick 24 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris – RB – HIT
Looks like the real deal. A running back with all the assets. I can see him being a starter this season and I think he’ll make a real impact.

Pick 25 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Travis Etienne – RB – HIT
Well Trevor Lawrence is going to be very happy, but Travis will still be relying on the Jacksonville O Line. However, I can see him getting the ball on run pass options and short routes a lot and no matter how bad the season gets, I do believe he will post respectable numbers. His blocking is going to get a lot of practice as well.

Pick 26 – Cleveland Browns – Greg Newsome II CB – MISS
When you arrive at the NFL somewhat banged up, no matter how good you are, it just doesn’t bode well for the immediate future. Newsome seems to be writing the proverbial physical checks that his body cannot cash. As I have said with other CBs in the draft he may get a run on special teams to bed him in but in the bigger, rougher NFL world he doesn’t seem likely to prosper.

Pick 27 – Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman – WR – MISS
Bateman looks like a gamble who will struggle to get separation at NFL level and doesn’t have the most reliable hands in the business. Those are traits that don’t endear you to coaches or fans. With so many pro-ready players still on the board, its another of those “they must see something that others have missed” picks.

Pick 28 – New Orleans Saints – Payton Turner – DE – HIT
Something of a surprise. Looks like a decent coachable prospect with a lot of upside. Hits like a train which is probably his major selling point. A season of being coached to NFL level and eased in through the depth chart may be just what he needs to become a really dangerous prospect for the future.

Pick 29 – Green Bay Packers – Eric Stokes – CB – HIT
Of all the CB prospects available, Stokes looks to be the most NFL ready of the bunch to me. I expect him to get a lot of work from the start of the season.

Pick 30 – Buffalo Bills – Gregory Rousseau – DE – HIT
The Bills are betting on potential rather than long term proven ability. He arrives with an ankle problem but if he can recover completely and stay recovered he has the size, strength and speed to be an effective edge rusher.

Pick 31 – Baltimore Ravens – Jayson Oweh – DL – MISS
There was an awful lot to like about Oweh at college level. He’s strong and fast but he might find himself being pushed around by NFL level offensive linemen and better coaching may not be enough to get him into a regular starter berth,

Pick 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joe Tryon – DE – MISS
Last for day one of the draft and another raw edge rusher. One of them will probably pan out but I believe that Tryon will find himself thwarted regularly if he is put straight into service in his first season. Maybe coaching will get him there but he doesn’t look oven ready.

So that’s the first day of the draft done and these are my takes. I’ll be back next year probably with a lot of apologies to players who have burned brighter than I expected.