As the 2021 NFL Draft quickly approaches, it’s come time for me to stop sitting on the fence and stick my neck out with some bold predictions.
Even seasoned NFL insiders will tell you that the draft is somewhat of a lottery, you never really know how the player is going to pan out. Sometimes you hit the jackpot with your first-round pick - Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice. Sometimes you select a bust - Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Jake Locker.
This year’s draft looks like it is going to be top-heavy with teams selecting quarterbacks, so the pressure to succeed is only heightened.
Who will look back on the 2021 NF Draft fondly and who will be regretting their decisions?
Here are my predictions for who will be the winners and losers in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.
This year's NFL Draft Winners:
This one is the easiest prediction to make. The Jags have the number one pick in the draft and will pick the best quarterback (and player) available, Clemson star Trevor Lawrence.
The Khan family has made many mistakes since taking ownership of the Jacksonville franchise, but this is a lay-up. They need a franchise quarterback and they don’t come much more guaranteed than Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence did nothing but win during his time at Clemson. He led the Tigers to the National Championship in 2018, winning the game’s MVP award and he was named the ACC Rookie of the Year.
In 2019, he again marched Clemson to the title game before succumbing to the mighty LSU team. Trevor Lawrence has an unbelievable record of 86-4 as a starter dating back to high school.
The 21-year-old is poised to have a long and successful NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
New York Jets
I've gone back and forth over this prediction. The New York Jets have been a complete mess of a franchise for the past decade. They haven’t had a winning season since 2010 under Rex Ryan.
They have the second pick in this year’s draft and after trading away recent first-round draft pick QB Sam Darold, they are sure to choose a quarterback.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson looks to be the Jets' pick as the new face of the franchise. Wilson had a break-out season in 2020 at BYU, completing 247 of 336 passes for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions while rushing for 255 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While there are concerns about his gunslinger mentality, Wilson has all the physical attributes to become a quality NFL QB.
The reason I have predicted the Jets as winners is simply that they can’t be any worse than last year. They have a new head coach in Robert Saleh and I’m predicting that Wilson will help the Jets succeed immediately.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have struggled with their draft picks in recent years. However, there are many reasons to believe they will emerge as winners after the first round this year.
Bill Belichick is famous for moving back in and acquiring more draft picks, but this year I don’t think that will be the case.
They have the number 15 pick in the first round and many Patriots fans want to see them draft a QB. Cam Newton is under contract for 2021 but he is not a long-term solution.
To get one of the top five quarterbacks in the draft, the Patriots may have to try and trade up. However, one of the reasons I’m predicting the Patriots to be winners is that one of the premier QBs may fall to them at 15. Trey Lance, for example, would be an exciting pickup for New England.
The wild card in this draft is the future of Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco. The 49ers may trade him on draft day or simply cut him afterward. If Jimmy G was to become available, his former team, the Patriots, would be an ideal landing spot.
A return to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo would make the Patriots winners of the 2021 NFL Draft, in my eyes.
This year's NFL Draft Losers:
Las Vegas Raiders
I’m sorry Raiders fans but I just don’t have any faith in your front office. If you look back at their recent draft history, it is not great. The Raiders did pick both Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper in the first round, but neither of these stars is with the team anymore.
The Raiders should be looking for a defensive player with the 17th pick but with offense-focused coach Jon Gruden running things, they could easily select another wide receiver.
This is the franchise that gave Jon Gruden a ten-year $100 million contract. So far he has produced a mediocre 11-21 record as head coach while trading away stars Mack and Cooper.
Until the Raiders show they can build a winning team culture, I’m always going to predict them to be draft day losers.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers made the bold move of trading up to number three in this year’s draft. They have indicated that they will be selecting a quarterback.
So it seems the Jimmy G era in the bay is over. The quarterback, who led the 49ers to the Superbowl in 2020, is still under contract for two more years. But with no more guaranteed money remaining on his deal, the Niners can simply cut him and not suffer any cap issues.
Now all the signs point towards the 49ers picking Alabama’s Mac Jones as their new franchise quarterback. Most NFL insiders have Justin Fields ranked higher on their draft boards, but Kyle Shanahan seems set on picking Jones.
While Jimmy G has been injury-prone during his 49ers run when healthy he’s been a winning NFL quarterback. I don’t see how replacing him with Jones will help the 49ers in the near future.
That’s why I’m predicting the Niners will be first-round losers in this year’s NFL Draft.
Green Bay Packers
As a Green Bay Packers fan, it pains me to have to put them in the losers category. As a franchise, they do have a solid drafting record.
Last year, Packers fans were expecting to see a wide receiver chosen in the first round, but to everyone's shock, they picked Utah State QB, Jordan Love, who didn't play a single snap last season.
The Packers' management has confirmed that they see Aaron Rodgers as the team's quarterback for the foreseeable future. So it would make sense to add another offensive weapon
I predict that instead the Packers will draft another cornerback in the first round and once again frustrate their fanbase and star QB Rodgers.