As expected, Day 1 of the 2021 NFL draft was eventful. It had a little bit of everything: a massive trade request before the event, some surprising picks and a few interesting trades.
Let’s look at the NFL Draft’s winners and losers after Day 1.
NFL Draft Winners; Jaguars Fans
No other pick in the NFL Draft so suddenly changes a franchise's overall direction than this one. The Jaguars were a laughing stock last season as the team lost FIFTEEN!!! Straight games. The Jags had the 30th ranked offence in terms of points scored and the 31st ranked defense in terms of points allowed. For all that suffering, Jaguar fans are gifted with the most hyped-up QB prospect in over a decade. Trevor Lawrence is said to have a more polished version of Justin Herbert, which could mean the Jags Super Bowl window could open sooner rather than later.
NFL Draft Losers: Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson is walking into probably the worst situation of any QB taken in this NFL Draft first round. The Jets O-Line is weak, the Jets lack dynamic weapons, the Jets head coach is defensively minded, which means his offensive coordinator could be hired away if he does too well, derailing his development. Zach Wilson looks slated to start despite coming from a weak conference and playing a cupcake schedule on a powerhouse. The best thing for Wilson is to sit down and adjust to NFL speed, but the New York market will probably force him to be a starter way too early.
NFL Draft Winners; Trey Lance
Kyle Shanahan is the best offensive mind in the NFL after Andy Reid. Trey Lance is a blank slate and Shanahan can be the scheme artist to bring the best out of Trey Lance. No quarterback in this current class has a higher ceiling than Lance, who at his best could be one of the better dual threat QBs to ever enter the league. He has been praised for his ability to process information and he has rare physical traits. The Niners could be one of the most explosive offenses of the decade.
NFL Draft Losers: Joe Burrow’s Knees
The Cincinnati Bengals took WR Ja’Marr Chase over OT Penei Sewell. This is despite only recently losing their star QB and former #1 pick Joe Burrow to a gruesome knee injury this past season. The Bengals believe they can find value in the offensive line later on in the draft but that’s not really guaranteed, unlike Sewell, who many have penciled in as a future HOF talent. NFL Draft analysts are already questioning the Bengals' front office pick, but only the future status of Burrow’s health will truly decide who is right.
NFL Draft Winners: Alabama Receivers
Over the last 2 drafts the Alabama Crimson Tide have put 4 wide receivers in the top 15 of the NFL Draft. An unreal stretch of brilliance from Bama. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and De’Vonta Smith are all projected to be Pro Bowl caliber receivers and they all once lined up together on the same field, unreal.
NFL Draft Losers: Green Bay Packer Fans
For the first time in 29 years the Green Bay Packers fans are staring down QB purgatory. Aaron Rodgers wants out and unless Jordan Love is another HOF QB, the Packers' Super Bowl window may suddenly be closing.
NFL Draft Winners: Denver Broncos Fans
When the Denver Broncos selected Patrick Surtain II, many NFL draft analysts were shocked. Quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones were on the board. This either means two things: coach Vic Fangio is going to be fired for placing the franchise's future in Teddy Bridgewater's hands or he knows they are getting Aaron Rodgers.
NFL Draft Losers: Mac Jones
Speculation leading up to the NFL Draft had Mac Jones going 3rd to the 49ers as a near lock. Jones went from potentially taking over a Super Bowl-ready roster under a brilliant offensive schemer to being a back-up option on a defensive first team. Jones has tremendous potential to be a high-level game manager but he is going to have to wait to show that.
NFL Draft Winners: Lamar Jackson
The Baltimore Ravens had one major need: To give Lamar Jackson an elite playmaker on the outside. If Rashod Bateman fills that need, he will provide the Ravens with an intriguing weapon opposite Marquise Brown. The Ravens got great value for their draft position in Bateman.
NFL Draft Losers: Oakland Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders repeated a mistake they have made in a few drafts now. They certainly filled a need with the selection of Alex Leatherwood but Leatherwood was not the best remaining tackle and divided opinion. Leatherwood definitely has potential but was the rawest tackle selected in the first round. True Boom or Bust.
NFL Draft Winners: Chicago Bears
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears took the now-released Mitchell Trubisky 2nd overall, years of memes, torment and countless what-if articles the Bears suddenly have Justin Fields, who is arguably the second most complete QB in this draft after Trevor Lawrence. Fields has the size, athleticism, speed and arm strength to fully unlock coach Nagy’s playbook. In a similar fashion to Kyle Shanahan, coach Nagy may have his very own Mahomes project.