Day 1 of the 2021 NFL draft was about as dramatic as anyone in recent memory.
How many preambles in the first round contain breaking news? The league MVP wants to leave the team Has he been at home for 16 seasons? And good luck digging an NFL “Player Selection Meeting” that had more quarterback drama at the start of drafting – especially considering the top two picks were botches – like this one with San Francisco at No. 3.
Insert the required number of trades and Head scratching picksand it’s no wonder the soccer player acquisition becomes such a gripping theater every year – and especially this year.
Let’s kneel down with some Thursday night champs and fools.
NFL DRAFT TRACKER:Analysis of each selection in the first round
Quarterbacks: Five went off the board in the first round, one shy of the 1983 draft record. This was also the third time (1971, 1999) when quarterbacks – Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets), Trey Lance (49ers) this year – 1-2-3 were selected.
Reunion tours: Quite a few new players will reunite with their former college teammates. The Bengals grabbed LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, who broke SEC records with QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati’s # 1 in 2020. Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith of Alabama play with former Crimson Tide QBs in Miami (Tua Tagovailoa) and Philadelphia (Jalen Hurts). After all, the Jaguars were the first team to ever draft a quarterback (Clemson’s Lawrence) and run back from the same field (Travis Etienne) on the same first round.
49ers smoke: After weeks of speculation that they would pick Alabama QB Mac Jones number 3 San Francisco paid so much, Trainers Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch invested wisely in North Dakota State’s Lancewhose upward trend seems to clearly outperform Jones. And with a motivated Jimmy Garoppolo still on the roster, Lance doesn’t have to step into action – though he could definitely use the reps, having played a soccer game for the past 16 months.
Najee Harris: The newest Pittsburgh Steeler held his Draft party at a Bay Area homeless shelter where he spent part of his youth. Just great young man.
Alabama: The college football ruling dynasty linked the 2004 Miami Hurricanes with six players – Waddle, Smith, Jones, CB Patrick Surtain II, OL Alex Leatherwood and Harris – in the first round.
Offense: For the first time in design history, the first seven players were on the offensive side of the ball. A total of 18 players were sent on the offensive on Thursday, one of them just before the record of the first round.
Jets GM Joe Douglas: His first draft came in 2020, so it could be argued that he didn’t have the time to save the franchise’s previous face. left QB Sam DarnoldDouglas did not choose. After Douglas decided to start over with BYU’s Wilson No. 2, he immediately went to work protecting his new investment. He traded in for USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, who was supposed to team up with LT Mekhi Becton from the first round in 2020 The Jets make it into an ascending offensive line in front of their baby-faced passerby.
Kyle Pitts: The newest Atlanta Falcon, voted fourth overall, becomes the most highly selected narrow end in the co-design era (dating from 1967).
Northwest: The Big Ten school had a first round selection for the first time since 2005, while two wildcats (OT Rashawn Slater, CB Greg Newsome II) fell off the board for the first time in Round 1.
Justin Herbert: Last season’s offensive rookie of the year got lucky when Slater, his new bodyguard on the left, fell 13th on the Chargers.
Cleveland: Despite the rain and chilly temperatures, it seemed everyone from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the fans in attendance was having a great time when one of the league’s marquee events returned to a non-virtual setting. Oh, and the Browns had a good corner when Newsome fell to them at number 26.
Opt-outs: Players who chose not to play or only partially play the 2020 college season due to the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be doing pretty well. Chase, Oregon OT Penei Sewell (Lions), Penn State LB Micah Parsons (Cowboys), Slater, Caleb Farley (Titans) of Virginia Tech CB, Miami Gregory Rousseau (Bills) and Joe Tryon (Buccaneers) of Washington DE were picked despite missing all of last election season.
Bear brass: Four years after smelling bad QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago GM Ryan Pace might have saved himself Justin Fields from the state of Ohio Pace and coach Matt Nagy could get another respite as they train Fields as the long-awaited temporary savior of this franchise.
Aaron Rodgers: The three-time MVP, engaged to actress Shailene Woodley, has proven himself a scene stealer. ESPN reported hours before drafting that Rodgers had told Packers Brass that he would like to leave the organization in an obvious power game that could determine the look of the 2021 season if he receives his wish.
Giants GM Dave Gettleman: Long feared that he would be “spotted” in his eight previous NFL drafts as general manager (with Carolina and New York), he finally took the plunge and traded back from 11th place, getting the bears in 20th place in a package , that also happened in the first and fourth round in 2022.
Mac Jones: After the 49ers eventually bypassed him for Lance, Jones sure looked pretty excited go to New England and the opportunity to be Tom Brady’s long-term successor – even if some will irresponsibly compare him to TB12 as they have outwardly similarities to their games … among other things.
Mac Jones: Had he finished third overall in the 49ers, his first five-year contract would have been worth around $ 34 million. Falling to Number 15 in New England, Jones will make about $ 15.6 million by 2025.
Giants GM Dave Gettleman: He’s likely not moving at all if his NFC East rivals, the Eagles and Cowboys – their picks were originally Big Blue – don’t team up and do an in-house trade, Philadelphia is coming to bring in Smith, who the Eagles clearly believed the Giants would be 11th if they didn’t switch positions with Dallas.
Aaron Rodgers: With the acquisition of Georgia CB Eric Stokes, Green Bay continued the annual tradition of not getting Rodger’s first-round support in Round 1. That being said, Rodgers risks taking on a vicious role depending on his situation – not that he mind unfolds and how it plays in the pack dressing room. Please formulate your speculation in the form of a question.
Stokes: Poor guy. His big day will forever be a footnote on Rodgers News that is sure to overshadow the players the Packers pick this year.
Justin Fields: Sure he seems to have deserved to go earlier than the 11th … and to a better offensive team than Chicago.
Collateral: Nobody was called on Thursday. Uff.
Defensive tackles: Nobody was called on Thursday. Puppy
Goodell: For the fifth time in seven years, the draft number 1 didn’t show up to shake hands with the commissioner on draft night … though Burrow can be forgiven for not getting into Rog’s basement during the pandemic.
Goodell’s lounge chair: It had become famous when the Commish announced the picks from its suburb of New York in 2020 many butts of the fans cycle through Thursday night when the league deemed it appropriate to stage them in Cleveland. Get this thing cleaned up, guys.
QBs designed in 2011: On the 10th anniversary of arguably the greatest design of all time, veteran passers-by Cam Newton (Patriots) and Andy Dalton (Bears) got bad news as their teams put Jones and Fields to the test, respectively. Expected to start 24 hours ago in 2021, Newton and Dalton are suddenly much more precariously positioned.
Carson Wentz: Did the Colts go wrong by not choosing a left tackle to protect the man who was sacked 50 times (in just 12 games) in the top division last year? Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw served on the board, but Indianapolis took over Michigan DE Kwity Paye.
‘Sweet Caroline’: What’s this? A Red Sox game? Neil Diamond’s tune stalled the draft before the Titans voted at number 22, and even Goodell got caught up in the swaying crowd. Not a song that fits the city where the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ ByNateDavis.