The first round of the 2021 NFL draft was action packed to say the least, with three big trades being made and two quarterbacks falling out of the top ten. While there’s still six more rounds to go, there also a lot of action to unpack from the first round so far. Let’s take a look at three teams that came out of the first round as winners, and three that came out as losers.
Winner – Dallas Cowboys
Although Dallas didn’t necessarily need a linebacker, Micah Parsons was too good of a player to pass up, especially after Sean Lee retired just a few days before the draft. The Cowboys got their own version of Ryan Shazier with this pick, as Shazier was targeted by the Cowboys in 2014 but was picked one spot before them by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also picked up an extra third round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles, as they traded out of the 10 pick to the 12, and still ended up with Parsons. Parsons features a unique mixture of speed and physicality, and is a true athlete who has a nose for the football. Now the Cowboys walk away with a top ten prospect in the draft and an extra pick on day two which now gives them four selections in rounds 2 & 3.
Loser – Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders needed offensive line help amongst other needs, and they elected to get some blockers for Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs. However, this pick for Alex Leatherwood certainly feels like a reach, as he certainly would have been available on the second day of the draft. It’s not as if there was a lack of offensive linemen other than Leatherwood available, as Christian Darrisaw and Tevin Jenkins were both ranked much higher than Leatherwood and still on the board when Las Vegas was up to pick. Nothing is totally wrong with the Leatherwood pick, but compared to other tackles in the draft he has struggled with pass protection, allowing more hits, hurries, and sacks then guys like Darrisaw and Jenkins. Leatherwood can obviously develop over time, but this move is definitely a head scratcher by Jon Gruden and company.
Winner – Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins chose to reunite Jaylen Waddle with his former college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which seemed to be a trend throughout the first round last night. Adding Jaylen Waddle to a receiving core that already welcomed deep threat Will Fuller from free agency will certainly benefit Tagovailoa come next season. Waddle not only adds depth and familiarity to the Miami offense and Tua, but he is another receiving threat that opposing defenses will have to worry about. If he is able to maintain full health next season, Waddle could easily develop into the top wideout in Miami. Miami also added local edge rusher Jaelan Phillips with the 18th pick to help strengthen up an already strong defense. Phillips has been painted as the best defensive player in the entire draft if he can manage to stay healthy, as he is explosive, versatile, fast, smart, and plays tough football. He will join players like Jerome Baker, Christian Wilkins, Xavien Howard, and Byron Jones on the Miami defense, making it seem stronger than it was last year.
Loser – New Orleans Saints
The Saints were known to be looking to add a cornerback in the first round, and even tried to break into the top 10 to have a shot at Jaycee Horn or Patrick Surtain II, but ultimately ended staying where they were. Even with corners Eric Stokes, Asante Samuel Jr., and Tyson Campbell still available at pick 28, they elected to get an edge rusher in Houston’s Payton Turner, who was certainly not expected to a first round selection. Turner is a reach for many reasons, as he was never a starter during his time in college and has missed a ton of games throughout his four years at Houston. Turner doesn’t even have 10 career sacks after four years in the NCAA, finishing with 9.5 career sacks after a 5 sack senior season. One upside is he does get behind the line of scrimmage fairly often, showing a knack for blowing up plays. Turner hasn’t done anything extremely well at Houston and seems to be a panic pick for the Saints because there were certainly better options and fits available for them at 28 that they failed to recognize.
Winner – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings traded the 14th overall pick as well as a 4th rounder to the Jets in exchange for the 23rd overall pick and two 2021 third round picks, and they still ended up picking up a top rated lineman at the 23rd spot in Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw can not only create running lanes for Dalvin Cook, but can also give Kirk Cousins some time in the pocket from the left side, assuming he is placed at left tackle. Darrisaw will become an automatic day one starter for the Vikings, and help shore up their offensive line that struggled at times last season. The Vikings maneuvered the first round brilliantly by moving back and accruing picks, while still getting their guy in the first round as well. They now have four picks in the third round alone, giving them some flexibility to move up or down the board as they see fit for the rest of the draft.
Loser – Green Bay Packers
To clarify, the Packers are not losers for picking Eric Stokes with the 29th pick of the draft, they are losers for not selecting a wide receiver with that pick. Reports came out earlier in the day about Aaron Rodgers informing the team that he does not want to play for them next season, causing chaos among the Packers front office. The Packers have picked one offensive position player in the first round in the last ten years, and that was Jordan Love, who appears to be Aaron Rodgers future successor. Green Bay had a small chance to salvage their relationship with the 2020 league MVP by drafting a receiver like Elijah Moore, but instead they completely ignored the events that transpired earlier in the day, and decided shoring up their secondary was a better idea. With Love having no NFL experience, Rodgers getting traded would be a worst case outcome for Green Bay. And if that ends up happening, they will have no one to blame but themselves, as this selection shows a lack of awareness on how dire their situation currently is.
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