The first round of the NFL 2021 Draft has been billed a “quarterback’s draft”, with the top-three spots secured by straight passers.
Here’s a list of the top 10 picks.
No. 1 pick — Trevor Lawrence
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
Lawrence will be looked on as the saviour by Jacksonville fans, and is the team’s first choice under new head coach Urban Meyer.
The runner-up for college player of the year went 34-2 as a starter at Clemson and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018. He passed for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and tacked on 18 rushing scores.
This was the first time Jacksonville held the No. 1 selection after the team finished with an NFL-worst 1-15 record in the 2020 season.
No. 2 — Zach Wilson
The New York Jets selected Brigham Young University quarterback Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in the NFL draft.
Wilson had been linked to the Jets for the last few months, and New York made him the blond, blue-eyed face of a frustrated franchise that has gone 10 seasons without making the playoffs — and 52 without reaching the Super Bowl.
Wilson made a massive jump in his development — and on teams’ draft lists — while throwing for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdown passes and just three interceptions last season for BYU. He also broke San Francisco 49ers legend Steve Young’s school record for completion percentage with an eye-popping mark of 73.5%.
No. 3 — Trey Lance
Speaking of the 49ers, they have picked the man they hope will be their franchise quarterback of the future, taking North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the NFL draft.
After trading the 12th pick, two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-rounder to Miami for the No. 3 selection last month, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch decided on Lance as the eventual successor to the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
While many 49ers fans were worried Shanahan would take a pocket passer like Mac Jones with the pick, the Niners instead went with a more unproven quarterback who possesses all the physical tools necessary to succeed in the modern NFL.
Lance started only 17 games at North Dakota State, where he displayed a strong arm, mobility and mastery of a pro-style offence against lesser competition.
Lance played only one game in 2020 because the FCS, the highest level of college football in the US, moved its season to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. But his production in 2019 was off the charts as he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and no interceptions and ran for 1,159 yards.
No. 4 — Kyle Pitts
The Atlanta Falcons selected the Florida tight end with the fourth overall pick.
Pitts was the first non-quarterback taken and is considered by many the most dynamic player in this year’s draft.
Pitts figures to be more of a hybrid tight end/wide receiver in the pros, with few blocking assignments. He’s an intimidating match-up for even the best defenders with sure hands, speed, reach, elusiveness and intelligence. He should be an instant starter in Atlanta, maybe an instant star.
No. 5 — Ja’Marr Chase
LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who sat out last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was chosen fifth overall in the NFL draft by Cincinnati.
Desperate for a playmaker to team with Joe Burrow, the quarterback who teamed with Chase to lead LSU to the 2019 national title, the Bengals found him in a guy who makes all the contested catches. An All-American in 2019, Chase set records in his college conference with 1,780 yards receiving and 20 TD catches.
There were strong indications as the draft approached that the Bengals would eschew taking a blocker to protect Burrow and go for the top wideout.
No. 6 pick — Jaylen Waddle
Miami drafted Jaylen Waddle, the game-breaking receiver from Alabama, with the sixth overall pick.
The first player chosen from the national champions, Waddle is as versatile as any wideout in a draft very deep in pass catchers. He has blazing speed and elusiveness and also can return kicks.
Waddle played in only six games last season because of a broken left ankle. He joins his college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, in Miami.
No. 7 pick — Penei Sewell
The Detroit Lions selected Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft.
Sewell will likely start at right tackle to potentially make Detroit’s offensive line a strength with left tackle Taylor Decker and Pro Bowl centre Frank Ragnow.
The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Sewell did not play last season after starting his first two years at Oregon, opting out of last year’s delayed Pac-12 season.
No. 8 pick — Jaycee Horn
The Carolina Panthers wanted to add size at the cornerback position to keep up with the NFC South’s big wide receivers, including those from defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So the Panthers selected 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback Jaycee Horn from South Carolina with the eighth pick.
The Panthers passed on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to help upgrade their defence instead. Horn was the first defensive player selected in the draft.
Horn appeared in 30 games during his career for the Gamecocks and had 101 tackles and two interceptions while playing mostly in bump-and-run coverage. He is known for being an aggressive, attacking cornerback and fills an immediate need for the Panthers, who struggled in pass defence a year ago.
No. 9 pick — Patrick Surtain
The Denver Broncos bypassed quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones and selected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the ninth pick of the draft.
Instead of grabbing a quarterback to counter Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr in the stacked AFC West, new general manager George Paton picked a cornerback who can help curtail those passers.
Surtain is the second consecutive Alabama alum selected in the first round by the Broncos, who drafted wide receiver Jerry Jeudy with the 15th overall pick last year.
No. 10 pick — DeVonta Smith
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith became the sixth player from the Southeastern Conference, and third from Alabama, to be taken in the first 10 selections of the NFL draft.
Smith, the first receiver to win the Heisman since 1991, went 10th to the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded up to get quarterback Jalen Hurts’s former college teammate.
Smith was the second receiver on his team to be taken in the draft. Crimson Tide teammate Jaylen Waddle went sixth to the Miami Dolphins.