By Jacob Ochoa —
Draft Edition Part 1- Day 1
The NFL Draft continues to be far and away the best draft in all of sports. Speculation leading up to the draft, the drama that takes place throughout the weekend, and the hope or despair fans come out of the draft with is unparalleled. Seasons change, players come and go, but one thing that remains the same is the draft is impossible to predict. Here is one coach’s perspective on Day 1 of the NFL draft.
There were some definite highs and lows, winners, losers, and plenty of surprises throughout night 1 of the draft. There was, however, no surprise with the first two picks in Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson being taken 1-2 to the Jaguars and Jets, respectively. All the drama surrounded the 49ers and the third overall pick leading up to the draft, and Trey Lance was ultimately the guy they traded up for. For weeks, so much hate was spewed at the possibility of Mac Jones going at that spot.
Still, don’t feel too bad for Jones–the 6-time champion Patriots took him. It will be interesting to see if the “experts” were right or if Bill can hit on another quarterback with a 3 letter first name.
The biggest winner of night 1 may have been the Chicago Bears. The Bears traded up to select their franchise quarterback in Justin Fields. No player had as much support and speculation as Fields. The Bears have been looking to solve the QB riddle for quite some time now. Fields checks off all the boxes and is pro-ready. The biggest loser of the night might have also been Fields. If being taken 11th overall and the 3rd quarterback off the board was not bad enough for a player many thought would go to the 49ers, the Bears might have been the second worst possible destination for a quarterback behind the Jets. Time will tell if Fields can be the savior the Bears are looking for.
Other Day 1 winners were the Falcons, Lions, Cowboys, Chargers, and Steelers. Atlanta landed a potential generational talent in Kyle Pitts. Detroit landed the best offensive lineman in the draft, Penei Sewell, and the Dallas Cowboys landed the best defensive player coming out of college. The Chargers were able to take the second-best lineman coming out in Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick. Some would argue that Slater might be the best lineman coming out. The Steelers landed their starting running back in Najee Harris. Harris was one of only two Running backs taken on night 1.
If there was a theme song of the night, it would have been “Reunited (Feels so good).” The Jaguars took teammates, Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. The Dolphins reunited their quarterback Tua with his top target in Jayden Waddle. The Bengals reunited quarterback Joe Burrow with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The Eagles reunited QB Jalen Hurts with Devonta Smith from Alabama, and Bama teammates Jerry Jeudy and Patrick Surtain II will battle again in practice at Denver.
There were a few questionable moves on the first night, and leave it to the Raiders to take the biggest potential reach in Tackle Alex Leatherwood, who most thought was a Day 2 selection. It appeared the Raiders wanted Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC, whom the Jets traded up to get.
The Raiders, in desperate need of a lineman, then took Leatherwood. The Giants, in a similar situation, after losing out on Devonta Smith to their NFC East rival Eagles, traded down and took Kadarius Toney. The Giants fan base was not happy, Toney was probably a second-day selection, and receivers Rashod Bateman and Elijah Moore were still on the board. The Jaguars also made a questionable pick with running back Travis Etienne. The Jags had so many holes to fill, so drafting a running back when they already had several options had some scratching their heads. As a few have mentioned since the draft, “this is why bad teams stay bad.”
Speaking of bad teams, the Bengals made a questionable move of their own in drafting Ja’Marr Chase to reunite him with Burrow. The move was not questionable because of talent, as Chase is one of the most talented players coming out of the draft. The move was a head-scratcher because Burrow is coming off an injury, and the Bengals’ biggest need was a lineman to protect their franchise quarterback.
Three teams, the Rams, Texans, and Seahawks, did not have first-round picks and had to watch the party as outsiders. The Rams have not had a first-round selection since 2016.
It was a successful night for the NFL, and the first round of the draft made sure that the King of the Hill would remain on top. There is simply no equal to the NFL when it comes to the draft, and there are still 6 more rounds and two more days of drama, surprises, and intrigue to go. I have my popcorn ready and will be there for it all.
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