From the Bleachers: Recapping the NFL Draft
In his latest installment of “From the Bleachers,” Baily Deeter ’22 analyzes the NFL draft results.
The most important position in professional sports is quarterback, and this weekend’s NFL draft proved just how important the coveted position is. In one of the most exciting drafts in recent memory, quarterbacks were chosen with the first three picks, giving many new organizations hope that their savior has arrived.
We knew Trevor Lawrence would be picked first overall since the draft order was set in January, if not since Lawrence stepped foot onto the field for the first time as a Clemson Tiger. The bona fide superstar has Hall of Fame potential, and the Jaguars are lucky to have him as their new leader. Hopes are high in Duval County; if the Jaguars manage to screw up with Trevor Lawrence, they may truly be cursed.
The second overall pick was also no surprise, with the Jets taking Zach Wilson. Wilson had a tremendous collegiate season last year, but the question remains whether the baby-faced kid from BYU can handle the media pressure of the Big Apple. We'll find out come September.
From that point, the excitement began. The San Francisco 49ers had traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 a few weeks prior to the draft. Many feared they made that bold move in hopes of selecting Mac Jones, who didn’t end up being picked until No. 15. Instead, the 49ers picked Trey Lance, adding an intelligent playmaker into the fold. More importantly, this pick prevented at least one of my Bay Area friends and Mac Jones haters from throwing his TV out the window.
While Lawrence proved to be the most talented of the bunch and Wilson had the best 2020 season, Lance will enter the best situation. His head coach, Kyle Shanahan, is an offensive genius. His team is one year removed from a Super Bowl run characterized by dominance in the trenches; Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play a huge role in the team’s success. Injuries derailed the 2020 season, but the future offers lots of hope. If Joe Montana won four Super Bowls as a third-round pick, Lance should win at least 12 as a first-round pick. The sky’s the limit.
This marked the third time in NFL history that quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks. The first was in 1971, when Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini went 1-2-3. Plunkett had a rough start to his career but bounced back with two rings in Oakland, while Manning was the one bright spot in the anemic Saints franchise. In 1999, Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith went consecutively, with only McNabb panning out. Jaguars fans, don’t worry — Trevor Lawrence is different.
After the run on quarterbacks, the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins drafted an arsenal of elite prospects for their signal-callers. Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts was selected fourth overall, making him the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. Many first-round picks at tight end — including T.J. Hockenson, Cole Kmet, Noah Fant and O.J. Howard — have proven to be unremarkable, but Pitts is more talented than them all.
The Bengals then drafted JaMarr Chase fifth overall, providing Joe Burrow with what could be one of the best receiving corps in the league. Burrow and Chase wreaked havoc on SEC defenses during LSU’s legendary 2019 campaign, and the chemistry between the two will surely carry over to Paul Brown Stadium. With Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, look for Burrow to return from his ACL tear and make a huge leap in his sophomore season. If there’s ever a time for the Bengals to win a playoff game, it’s now.
The Dolphins thought it was such a great idea to reunite a college quarterback and receiver that they did it themselves, selecting Jaylen Waddle at No. 6 to complement Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa struggled in year 1 and Waddle missed most of 2020 with an injury, so the risk factor is high. But so is the upside: Waddle is arguably the best playmaker in the draft and has lightning speed.
I don’t have time for every pick, so I’ll hit on the important ones from there. Detroit nabbed Penei Sewell, a potential Hall of Fame lineman, at No. 7. Defensive players were finally selected with Nos. 8 and 9, as the Panthers and Broncos snagged corners in Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain. The Eagles then traded up for Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, which may not bode well for him based on the team’s recent history drafting receivers.
The next pick saw an even bigger trade, with the Chicago Bears moving up nine spots to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. From the early days of Elite 11 passing competitions in high school, Fields and Lawrence were always the top two prospects in the class. Yet Fields dropped off, partially because of two bad games in 2020, concerns about his size and the recent failures of Ohio State quarterbacks. Nonetheless, he was always stellar under pressure and has drawn a lot of Russell Wilson comparisons. In my view, the Bears made a tremendous move. The Chiefs had to trade up 17 spots to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017, and look how that turned out.
The last quarterback taken in the first round was none other than Mac Jones. After drawing comparisons to Tom Brady for his flabby stomach and slow 40 time, it’s only fitting that the New England Patriots made this pick. Jones was knocked for only succeeding due to Alabama’s incredible system and talent, but he now joins an incredible offensive system in New England — the talent part, maybe not so much. There’s no better place for a young quarterback to end up.
There was only one crucial aspect missing from draft night: an Aaron Rodgers trade. As the quarterback becomes more and more disgruntled and as he continues to leverage the threat of taking over as host of Jeopardy, the odds of him starting Week 1 in a new city continue to grow. My Denver Broncos have expressed interest in trading for Rodgers, and while I’m sure every team is interested, Denver appears to be an especially attractive location for the MVP. Let’s not forget that his fiancee is from Colorado. Happy wife, happy life.
Usually, the draft is the last we hear about football until August, but I feel it may be different this year: Aaron Rodgers draws attention everywhere he goes. I have a feeling he will continue that trend throughout this offseason, and I predict he will be in the orange and blue by the start of 2021. It worked for Peyton Manning, didn’t it? Not only that, but I predict he will win a Super Bowl and retire off into the sunset, exclaiming “This one’s for Peyton!” And then 10 years later, the Broncos will trade for Patrick Mahomes and let him finish off his glory days in the Mile High City. And then Trevor Lawrence another five years later. You get the idea.