compiled by Vincent Verhei
For this special NFL draft edition of Audibles, as with our regular Audibles feature, the FO staff sends around e-mail comments about the draft. We share information, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed as we watch. We then compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site. While these e-mails are written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of the draft. That means we aren't going to discuss every pick, or every talking point. We watch the draft as fans as well as analysts, so the discussion may be colored by our rooting interests and aspects of the draft may not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all.
Bryan Knowles: So, uh, that Aaron Rodgers story, huh? Apparently, the Packers said they were going to trade him, then didn't, and now Rodgers is saying he won't play for the team in 2021.
I'm still betting heavily on "Rodgers plays for the Packers in 2021," but I suppose today was never going to be boring.
Scott Spratt: The irony is that the Packers are better equipped to play chicken with their star quarterback if he threatens to sit than most teams would be with theirs since they drafted Jordan Love last year, setting off this debacle. But the thing that makes this crazy is that the Packers have driven the possible breakup with their disinterest in keeping Rodgers rather than their mismanagement of the team. I need someone to explain that one to me. Rodgers can't be that weird, and head coach Matt LaFleur can't have that big of an ego. So why wouldn't you want to ride out Rodgers' prime?
Rivers McCown: Well, Rodgers' 2019 was not exactly dominant. I can understand the thought that he may have been headed for a decline in the moment of that draft. But it feels like more than anything it's Football Brain Guys and Owners running into problems communicating with players and setting proper expectations, and instead just expecting everything to be fine because they're "in charge."
Bryan Knowles: It was noted on Twitter that the Packers are the one team without a specific owner; someone who could theoretically come down and work things out. I don't know how much I agree with all that—there are certainly owners out there who would hinder rather than help—but it does mean that there's not really anyone above LaFleur/Gutekunst to go "uh, what are you guys doing, again?"
Tom Gower: Mark Murphy is team president. He's the guy who oversees Gutekunst and LaFleur and makes sure they don't screw everything up without his approval. He's not the owner, but he's basically the "owner"'s representative.
Rob Weintraub: Booger already falling for the "Bengals will commit malpractice by not picking Sewell!" trope—I'm off to NFLN...
Rivers McCown: "They have been installing the Jags offense with Lawrence since February" but it took 13 minutes to make the pick...
Bryan Knowles: I assume the reason the Jaguars used the full 10 minutes on the clock was to try to squeeze all of Trevor Lawrence's golden locks under an official team hat. Or maybe Trent Baalke was triple-checking to see if Lawrence had ever torn his ACL, but resigned himself to taking him anyway.
I'm amazed how little I have thought of Lawrence this draft season. He has been such an obvious first pick for ... well, 18 months, at minimum, that most people just kind of skipped over him to debate all the other quarterbacks.
Aaron Schatz: My girlfriend would like to vote against Trevor Lawrence's olive green suit.
Rob Weintraub: It's a TV show, gang. The clock is just there for show.
Scott Spratt: Well that's chalk for picks 1 and 2. Anyone have strong feelings about who the 49ers will take?
Bryan Knowles: I have MANY strong feelings. Panic's a feeling, right?
Bryan Knowles: Oh, thank goodness. The 49ers take Trey Lance—I had a whole write-up, 24 hours in advance, on the five stages of grief and the Mac Jones selection. And it's stupid to celebrate over this; it's a decision we can't possibly evaluate for at least 18 months.
I would have taken Lance, so that makes ME happy, at least.
The one bit of the prewrite that does survive is this:
Trading three first-round picks? So you could ensure you got Lance instead of Jones or Justin Fields? To have that much confidence in your evaluation just isn't backed up by historical data. I'm a big believer that you trade up to get a quarterback, not one quarterback. If Shanahan really did have five guys he liked, as he has said in press conferences, then he should have waited and been happy with whoever guy No. 5 was, and traded if necessary to get that last guy. What, was it going to cost more than it took to get up to 3?
Rob Weintraub: The Niners take Trey Lance! And thus, the first three picks are all quarterbacks with two first names!!
Vincent Verhei: It makes much more sense to keep Jimmy Garoppolo and draft Trey Lance than it would have to keep Garoppolo and draft Jones.
It actually makes more sense to draft Lance than Jones anyway, but very much so under their circumstances.
Dave Bernreuther: I too switched to NFLN from Booger, just in time to hear "Zach's Fifth Avenue." He spent months on that line too. Groan. What's the coach's tape equivalent for this broadcast?
I'm the last person to ask about quarterbacks (I'm pessimistic about all of them, and that's hardly a contrarian take), especially this year (I didn't even realize that they were playing college ball last year till November), but man am I unimpressed by Wilson and the presumptive third pick, Jones. This feels very much like 2017 to me so far, except in that draft I wasn't nearly as high on Lamar Jackson as I am on Justin Fields.
One of my coworkers floated the idea that San Francisco would surprise us all and take Kyle Pitts here and then trade back up, Cleveland-style, into the later first round to still get their quarterback. Part of me REALLY wants to see that, just because of what Shanahan could do with that tight end tandem (plus Deebo Samuel) in the middle of the field, sort of like the 2010 Pats, but bigger and harder to tackle.
Alas, it's the quarterback. But not the one everyone agreed it would be! We have our first surprise.
Rivers McCown: I think Justin Fields is probably a better prospect from what I've gathered but Lance is a much more reasonable No. 3 overall pick than Jones and I think you can argue the ceiling is higher, so good for the 49ers.
Aaron Schatz: I think the most important fact is that honestly, we don't know much about who's going to be the best between Lance, Jones, and Fields. We all have strong feelings about which was the right pick but in reality there's too much randomness to know for sure.
Scott Spratt: My favorite Trey Lance stat is that Trevor Lawrence threw more touchdowns in high school (161) than Lance threw passes period (113). It's alarming, but I think in truth it echoes Bryan's sentiment that we aren't going to be able to judge this anytime soon.
Tom Gower: One of the ways to think about prospects is what about if you misevaluate a particular aspect of a player. Misevaluating Mac Jones' ability at any particular aspect leaves his ceiling at an average-plus starter in the NFL. I'm not remotely convinced the same thing is true of Trey Lance or Justin Fields. They could still fail, but their profile gives them ability to fail to reach their maximum potential and be different in a way different than Jones seems likely to. That's the sort of profile that could be worth a significant trade up to No. 3. And Lance is a guy where keeping Jimmy Garoppolo makes sense for 2021. It was the way to square the circle, and made sense for San Francisco. But this is the NFL, so making sense is sometimes optional.
Carl Yedor: I mostly tried to avoid getting too into the weeds on the quarterback conversation this year, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Fields was not seen as being on the same level as the top guys. The "processing" concerns were obviously raised throughout the pre-draft period, but at some point, a track record of production against top college competition should matter, no? You can't really say that for Lance or Wilson, and Jones has a relatively short one. Tools are important for sure, but it's not like Fields is lacking for those.
Dave Bernreuther: Kyle Pitts to Atlanta was too easy. Still, they have had embarrassments of riches at receiver before and somehow still managed to struggle, so it's hard to get too excited about this pick, especially with Julio Jones on his way out.
Anyone else finding the verbal overusage of "Jimmy G" really grating? In print, I get it; it's hard to spell. But it isn't hard to say his name out loud.
Now we get to an interesting one—protection for your quarterback or toys? My thoughts on how to approach this have changed a lot since Andrew Luck was picked (and I thought "play to your strengths and make his job easy"). These days? I'd take Sewell every time.
But why do I feel like it's a near certainty they go with Joe Burrow's former teammate?
Bryan Knowles: So Kyle Pitts is the highest-drafted tight end in the common era. Kind of a simple "take the best guy on the board" pick from Atlanta. Does Pitts break the "first-year tight ends never produce" curse? Jeremy Shockey has the common-draft era record for yards by a rookie tight end with 894; Mike Ditka's 1,076 from 1961 remains the all-time record.
Rob Weintraub: So all those "close to Shanahan" insider types who put this "Mac Jones at 3" thing into the wild were just lining up to be BS'd then I guess? And that's kind of their job description?
Rivers McCown: Kinda depends on if Julio Jones is still there, right? I know that they were rumored to be shopping him.
Scott Spratt: Following the Falcons' selection of Kyle Pitts at No. 4, I'll just remind everyone that the team had to restructure Matt Ryan to even fit their draft picks under the salary cap, and now Ryan has a more than $40 million dead cap figure for 2022 (as in, the year after 2021). Yikes.
That said, Pitts may be really, really good, and new head coach Arthur Smith may be the actual quarterback whisperer. The Falcons are definitely interesting.
Scott Spratt: I know that Playmaker Score preferred DeVonta Smith, but it's way more fun that Ja'Marr Chase is rejoining Joe Burrow. Here's hoping Smith goes to play with Tua Tagovailoa again in Miami.
Rob Weintraub: Yes, Virginia, the draft lasts more than one round...
Tom Gower: I can't see the No. 4 pick being worth it for a pure tight end pick. The non-pass-route snaps, and what Arthur Smith tight ends primarily did in Tennessee, there's just not enough of a difference between a Hayden Hurst-type player and a truly elite prospect such as Kyle Pitts who could do a lot. But we shall see.
Bryan Knowles: I sign off on Chase over Penei Sewell for the Bengals. I'm more concerned about their interior line than their tackles, and there are a lot of solid offensive line prospects on Day 2. Let's have some fun out there.
Scott Spratt: Or the other Alabama wide receiver I guess.
Bryan Knowles: Wrong Alabama receiver, Scott! It's Jaylen Waddle, Playmaker's WR5.
I think that falls more under "...huh. Really?" rather than "What?!?!" It also makes me wonder if they couldn't have just stayed at 12 rather than bouncing back up to six for him.
Rob Weintraub: "How could they ignore their dire need on offensive line just to reunite the quarterback with his college wideout!!??"
I refer of course to Miami and Tua/Waddle...
Aaron Schatz: I think the scouts thought Waddle was better than Smith, despite what Playmaker Score and their college production said. I know Sports Info Solutions had Waddle as their No. 1 wide receiver. I'm betting Waddle would not have been there at 12.
Rob Weintraub: Waddle has always been seen as a better prospect than Smith, in my opinion. Can score from anywhere, is super sudden. He was also the No. 1 target at Alabama before he got hurt, over Smith, whose weight scares the old-school general manager types, for whatever that's worth.
Scott Spratt: Also interesting in their pairing, Robert, the Bengals and Dolphins ranked ninth- and 10th-best in offensive pressure rate in 2020 according to Sports Info Solutions charting. Those offensive lines aren't as bad as their reputations.
Tom Gower: One of the themes of last year's draft was that, with less information getting out to the media than in a normal year because of that whole pandemic thing, the NFL would be significantly off from the conventional wisdom. And that didn't turn out to be true at all, with most picks being incredibly chalky based on what we outside the NFL thought based on our evaluations and the leaks we did get. And through the Lions' selection of Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick, the NFL is being incredibly not weird and fairly predictable again this year.
(The Carolina Panthers are on the clock.)
Scott Spratt: Please take Fields, please take Fields.
(The Carolina Panthers select South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn.)
Scott Spratt: Awww.
Dave Bernreuther: Dan Campbell, football guy, celebrates like he just hit the lottery because the second-best quarterback in the draft fell to him, right?
Ha. Of course they take Sewell. Who is pretty awesome. (And WOW is his family gigantic—as in, they were carved from Sequoias, not as in there are a lot of them.) And while it's hard to fault that pick ... well, you can celebrate all you want, but your quarterback is still Jared Goff.
Aaron Schatz: Jaycee Horn instead! Goes seven spots before where he went in our final mock draft.
Bryan Knowles: Horn to the Panthers is probably the biggest surprise of the night so far, and even then, it's not a huge reach or anything. Someone needs to trade up for Najee Harris or something!
Rob Weintraub: OK here's a hot future take—Penei's younger bro Noah Sewell, a linebacker, will be an even better pro than the tackle...
Rob Weintraub: Scott—absolutely. Plus, I can tell you the upgrade from talent suppressor Jim Turner as offensive line coach to Frank Pollack will help enormously in Cincinnati.
Scott Spratt: So, Fields to the Patriots at 15 I guess? I would not have guessed CB-CB for the Panthers and Broncos with, I think, the two least compelling starting quarterbacks in football.
Rob Weintraub: Ja'Marr Chase comp: Steve Smith minus the teammate-punching.
Bryan Knowles: One of my favorite stupid things to follow in the draft is the Boo-Meter, which scans Twitter to see how fans are feeling about their picks.
Panthers and Broncos fans, on the whole, are not happy right now.
Aaron Schatz: I still think somebody is trading up to take Fields, and I hope it is the Patriots because they need to get him before Chicago or Washington can trade up for him.
Rob Weintraub: Woah, Philly and Dallas trade! Cats and dogs, living together!
Scott Spratt: Or could it be the Eagles?? They just traded with the Cowboys, which is awesome.
Scott Spratt: The Cowboys may need some time to think about what they're going to do since they couldn't have possibly guessed Horn and Surtain being unavailable.
Aaron Schatz: The Dallas-Philadelphia trade makes some sense because if Philadelphia specifically wants a player that the Giants also want, then Dallas knows that player is going to be in the NFC East either way. They might as well get some extra picks for going down two spots.
Aaron Schatz: Change that to "one extra pick." Dallas picks up selection 84 in the third round in this trade to go down two spots.
Bryan Knowles: TRRAAAAAAADDDE!
So the Eagles have gone from six to 12 to 10, with the Cowboys giving them an assist so they can steal a player from the Giants? Fun, if a bit disorienting.
I don't know if the Giants would have taken DeVonta Smith either way; that'll be interesting to hear about in the next few days. But more weapons for Jalen Hurts is not a bad grab for Philly here.
Rob Weintraub: I can't believe a team that desperately needs offensive line help would pick a wideout just because he played in college with their quarterback!"
I refer of course to Philly and Smith/Hurts...
Bryan Knowles: And now Dave Gettleman trades down? Here's the chaos I wanted to see.
Bears gonna get a quarterback now, right? And they have to take Fields over Jones, yeah?
Scott Spratt: Well your Pats just got jumped by the Bears, Aaron.
Bryan Knowles: No. 22, No. 164, and future first- and fourth-round picks. Well, that's apparently what it takes to get Gettleman to slide down.
Scott Spratt: I'm surprised that package wasn't enough for the Panthers, who reports suggested were trying to trade down.
Rob Weintraub: Everyone talking like Fields can possibly beat out Andy D...
Rivers McCown: If the Bears don't hit on this trade they're all getting fired anyway so I understand the trade cost.
Carl Yedor: The unstoppable force (Ryan Pace's desire to get his guy) defeated the immovable object (Gettleman's hatred of trading down) here. Chicago gets Fields, and Gettleman clearly does not get fleeced in terms of value.
Tom Gower: Well, we finally know what it takes to get Dave Gettlemen to trade back, and it's a significant amount. And the Bears got a quarterback. If Justin Fields is as good as we think he can be, the compensation doesn't really matter. But it's bizarre to see the Bears draft a good quarterback prospect. I wasn't really paying enough attention in 1987 to judge the draft, so I can't say if he's the first quarterback I've really liked since the Bears took Jim Harbaugh back then, or if it's even before that (OK, Dan LeFevour was a vaguely interesting college quarterback, but he was a sixth-round pick). We'll see if he avoids the jinx. And, oh, boy, does Ryan Pace like trading up to get his guys.
Bryan Knowles: Is Fields the best quarterback prospect the Bears have ever taken (at least in the modern era)? I think QBASE had him over Mitchell Trubisky, and I can't imagine Rex Grossman or Cade McNown would have ranked higher.
Dave Bernreuther: Safe to say that Gettleman did not get fleeced.
That haul is a very nice consolation prize for not getting the player he probably wanted (who wouldn't have really helped them win anyway).
I'm sad about Fields going here because I too hoped he would slide to the Patriots. Also, the Bears are where quarterbacks go to die. But I know a lot of Bears fans (lived in Chicago for eight years) and this is the most excited I've ever seen them, so I guess I'm really not that sad about it after all. It's about time they had a quarterback to be excited about.
Aaron Schatz: I don't understand Dallas taking Micah Parsons. I don't think he's the best player available given the value of the off-ball linebacker position. And the Cowboys already have two good off-ball linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. I guess the idea is that Vander Esch has struggled with injuries and the Cowboys won't give him the fifth-year option? Otherwise, the Cowboys don't have room for all three unless they plan on playing a bunch of base defense.
Scott Spratt: Don't forget about Kyle Orton, Bryan. Legend.
Tom Gower: Based on everything I saw last year, Jaylon Smith is not good. So I get the pick from that perspective. But Parsons has some off-field maturity concerns and I'm not sure he has a ton of experience in coverage, and between Smith, Vander Esch, and Sean Lee, when do you stop investing in linebackers as the way to solve your defense? This feels like a pick that needs to hit its upside potential to be good, and I'm not a huge fan of that.
Aaron Schatz: Lee retired but they did sign Keanu Neal from Atlanta and they're moving him from safety to linebacker.
Tom Gower: Yup, so it's wheel of linebacker as the solution to defensive problems. I get not going with defensive tackle because of the lack of depth/quality of that grouping, but wouldn't have been surprised had they gone with a Kwity Paye or traded back. Maybe Parsons will be better than I'm expecting, by which I mean have more of a significant impact on how good the overall defense is. I'm just a bit skeptical.
Scott Spratt: I'm not sure who would want to trade up to that point. This is just where the talent level falls off in this draft, right?
Bryan Knowles: Love, love love Rashawn Slater ending up with the Chargers. Build a wall in front of Justin Herbert; it feels like the Chargers have needed line help for five years running now.
Bryan Knowles: The Jets seem to disagree, Scott! They've traded with Minnesota and are back on the clock.
Scott Spratt: Well let me go ahead and eat those words because the Jets just traded to 14th right after I made that comment.
Scott Spratt: The Jets should double down on quarterback and draft Mac Jones. I mean, they can't both be bad, right?
Vincent Verhei: Not to be that guy, but, uh, it's the Jets. Scott may well still be right about the talent falling off.
Rivers McCown: Trading up nine spots for a non-quarterback is an interesting play—Alijah Vera-Tucker must have been their last elite tackle on the board.
Dave Bernreuther: Did Roger Goodell call him a junior? His dad is Reginald. That makes no sense. Maybe I misheard.
But speaking of giant family members ... this was especially noticeable from the perspective of the NFLN camera, but WOW is Reginald a big man. Imagine dwarfing an elite NFL tackle prospect. At first I thought he must have been standing on an ottoman or something.
I know we've seen basketball stars produce (or convert to) football players, but have we ever seen one spawn an NFL tackle before?
Bryan Knowles: I don't know if I would have traded back up for a guard, considering the depth on Day 2, but I am 100% here for the Jets using all their picks on the offensive side of the ball and hoping Robert Saleh and company can just scheme up defense for a year.
Dave Bernreuther: Again, I'm a horrible pessimist and my opinion shouldn't matter ... but yes, Scott, they can absolutely both be bad.
And even if they're not, they're the Jets. They'll find a way to screw it up. (TM)
Rivers McCown: And here goes Mac Jones to the Patriots...
Scott Spratt: The Jets have some talent on defense, too. They were 21st in defensive DVOA last season even with C.J. Mosley opting out, and they added Carl Lawson this offseason.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, AVT is supposed to be a guard in the NFL. Mekhi Becton is solid at left tackle for the Jets.
Bryan Knowles: Upon learning the details, I definitely would not have given up No. 23, No. 66, and No. 86 for 14 and 143. The Jets need roughly two of everything; they need more picks, not fewer.
And the Pats are gonna get Mac Jones now, as the quarterbacks are done coming off the board now.
Vincent Verhei: Since I just ripped on the Jets, I will point out that making a bold move to protect your new franchise passer is very wise. Paying that high a price to move up is still very Jets-like, but there are worse ideas than investing too much capital into your offensive line right now.
Scott Spratt: Would it be more on brand for Bill Belichick to skip Mac Jones and draft Kellen Mond or someone on Day 2?
Aaron Schatz: At least we know that Mac Jones comes with a good review from his college coach, because Belichick would never have selected him if Nick Saban didn't love him and tell Belichick to take him.
Scott Spratt: Well the collection of offensive skill talent the Patriots added in free agency makes a lot more sense with a quarterback like Mac Jones under center versus Cam Newton.
Rob Weintraub: Why would the Pats take Mac Jones if he didn't go to Rutgers?
Vincent Verhei: Zaven Collins to Arizona. Linebacker is a definite weakness for the Cardinals, but with their corners they're still going to give up a zillion passing yards.
Scott Spratt: Maybe Belichick did some deep scouting of Jones' dad's tennis career?
Tom Gower: Well, uh, (a) I'm not sure how you build an offense to operate well with your quarterback being either Cam Newton or Mac Jones; (b) New England at least was the best in the league at completely switching the game plan from week to week; and (c) NFL Network is emphasizing the downside of Mac Jones is Andy Dalton, so having a player have to hit the upside to be a good pick, that doesn't really excite me. But I go back to the basic dilemma of NFL quarterback drafting, the split between "don't elevate bad prospects" and having even a decent quarterback on a rookie contract creates so much value relative to paying even an average starting quarterback a post-rookie deal salary, so I get it even though I don't get it.
Bryan Knowles: Gonna quote Derrik's Futures piece on Collins here:
"Perhaps a top-15 pick at linebacker should be a bit flashier, more athletic, and come from a system with a clearer picture to project with. ... Collins slots comfortably into that next tier, though, and would be a nice addition to any number of teams in the back half of the first round."
Well, Collins wasn't a top-15 pick, at least! I still think it's a reach, though if Arizona really, really liked him, he was never going to last to No. 49.
Bryan Knowles: They just announced Alex Leatherwood as a tackle; I thought he would be a guard. They also announced him as a Round 1 pick; I thought he'd come off the board tomorrow.
Other than that, good pick, Las Vegas.
Rob Weintraub: When you have Jon Gruden's contract you only bother to watch the college championship game so I guess it makes sense...
Rivers McCown: SackSEER strikes again!!!! Jaelan Phillips to Miami.
Tom Gower: Oh, c'mon, after taking Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) at No. 4 and Damon Arnette (Ohio State) at No. 20, Mike Mayock needed to get the achievement of overdrafting in the first round a player from every college football championship playoff by taking an Alabama player, and Alex Leatherwood fits their need at offensive tackle.
I admit I haven't watched him in detail, and I don't necessarily know what I'm looking at even if I do watch offensive linemen, but that's the first real "what on earth are they doing?" pick tonight for me.
Rob Weintraub: I like Phillips, but he's the guy who we look back on in three years and say "of course he's always injured—he was in college too."
Scott Spratt: The top defensive tackles are still available for the Giants here at 20.
Bryan Knowles: As was Kadarius Toney, whom Playmaker serenaded by calling him a "dangerous prospect because he so closely fits the profile of past wide receiver busts."
Tom Gower: I'm sure Jason Garrett and Daniel Jones will be able to unlock his potential.
Scott Spratt: At least the Giants brought in wide receivers with different skill sets this offseason. The Golden Tate/Sterling Shepard/Evan Engram overlap was pretty rough.
Rob Weintraub: I don't love Toney, but he fits as a complement to Kenny Golladay and Shepard and Engram. Less bustola potential as speed/YAC guy in that corps than the defensive linemen available.
Tom Gower: Also, taking Toney strongly suggests that the Giants would have taken DeVonta Smith had he been available at No. 11, so the Eagles were correct to trade up to No. 10 if they wanted Smith that much.
Rivers McCown: Kwity Paye feels like a pretty obvious need pick for the Colts
Scott Spratt: That makes sense Tom, although I'll point out that Toney is close to 30 pounds heavier than Smith. I suspect some teams may have been scared off of Smith by his weight.
Bryan Knowles: As Tanier pointed out in the liveblog, Smith is under the Pop Warner weight limit. Some teams may have been scared off, others may have seen Smith blown away from them by a slight gust of wind.
Rivers McCown: Caleb Farley for the Titans, another pretty solid fit. Thought they might go tackle here to replace Isaiah Wilson, but with Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson at corner, the future was not at all secure there.
Rob Weintraub: My literary agent is named Farley Chase and somehow Caleb Farley is even more of an obnoxiously pretentious name...
Kidding F.C.! Love ya, babe!
Tom Gower: I thought the Colts would go with Christian Darrisaw to fill their glaring need at left tackle and prioritize that over pass rush, but Paye also makes a ton of sense.
The Titans take Caleb Farley. The question for him was whether Tennessee would be comfortable enough with his medical evaluation to take him. This isn't quite as straightforward as the Jeffery Simmons pick a couple of years ago; ACL injuries are now mostly predictable enough that teams feel comfortable with managing him. Heck, the Titans gave Bud Dupree a ton of money coming off one this offseason, to name a particularly pointed example. But with stuff like Kevin Dyson saying "this is the kind of back injury that ended my career" about Farley, that's an ask of a different order. While the late noise was all about Elijah Moore, going cornerback was not a surprise and we had heard enough about Farley I thought he was the most likely name even if I couldn't reduce the uncertainty. As I've said in other contexts, some risks can only be accepted or rejected. The Titans decided the upside was big enough to accept this risk. As a fan, I hope they're right. As an outsider, I can't competently evaluate just how good a decision this was.
Dave Bernreuther: As a Colts fan I am thrilled that they have chosen pass rush over offensive line, even as release times get smaller and after Anthony Castonzo retired. I am also thrilled to get to say the name "Kwity Paye" for years to come.
I remain un-thrilled by their quarterback situation, however, which is part of why I was so oddly disinterested in the draft this year and almost fell asleep before this pick.
Still, from what I have read (I haven't seen this kid play a down), this is a great value and pick, and it fits a position of need, so this feels like a win.
Bryan Knowles: Get out the analytics booing machine—the Steelers take a first-round running back, Najee Harris. I mean, they needed someone in the backfield ahead of Benny Snell/Anthony McFarland, but there are still tackles on the board, there's cornerback help out there...
Scott Spratt: Harris is an awesome fit though. The Steelers ranked dead last in adjusted line yards in 2020. Harris can make up for some of that with yards after contact, plus he can catch passes.
Rivers McCown: If there were an obvious Saquon Barkley situation (running back who is a consensus top-five talent in the draft, checks all the physical/statistical benchmarks you want, etc.) in 2021, what is the highest you'd feel comfortable picking that back?
Rob Weintraub: I mean, the Steelers totally took Najee Harris to get that Franco Harris 2.0 vibe going, right?
Bryan Knowles: I just think if I was trying to boost my adjusted line yards, I'd grab a tackle such as Tevin Jenkins or Liam Eichenberg and add a Trey Sermon or someone tomorrow.
Aaron Schatz: I'm just not comfortable taking a running back before the second round at this point.
Rivers McCown: Well, here comes another running back.
Aaron Schatz: Did the Jaguars not show last year the value you could get out of an undrafted running back?
Tom Gower: I'm blaming Urban Meyer coming from a level of the sport where running back can be significantly more important.
Bryan Knowles: Rivers, it depends on what other positions my team would need, and who was left on the board. Like, if my big needs now were running back, center, defensive tackle, and tight end, sure, I'd take Harris or Travis Etienne right now. But with useful linemen and cornerbacks and receivers out there, it's hard to justify prioritizing running backs here.
Rob Weintraub: Etienne scored four touchdowns in the two semifinal games against Ohio State the last two seasons, so we know the game Urban Meyer was watching...
Rob Weintraub: By the way, it just dawned on me that the Patriots now have added Alabama's Mac Jones to their all-Auburn quarterback room...
Gonna be some static in there...
Rob Weintraub: Why would a team with obvious offensive line needs take the running back just because he played with the quarterback in college?!
Might have to be some shared Alumni Awards coming in the near future...
Bryan Knowles: Never believe coaches, but Urban Meyer just came out and said that Etienne will be his third-down back, with Carlos Hyde and James Robinson as a one-two punch.
No. No, do not do that, Urban Meyer. If you're going to draft a first-round running back, play them and play them a lot.
Tom Gower: I admit I haven't listened to Urban Meyer's public statements in Jacksonville, but this is a pretty remarkable thing to say about a guy you just drafted in the first round when you're coming off a season where the team earned the No. 1 pick by virtue of being really bad at multiple positions.
Urban says he sees J-Rob, Carlos Hyde as the 1-2 punch, Etienne as a third-down back.
“We wanna be Top-8 in the league... and with James Robinson, Hyde and Etienne, we think we’re there” #Jaguars
— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) April 30, 2021
Bryan Knowles: To sooth their aching quarterback, the Green Bay Packers select ... cornerback Eric Stokes, who was a second-round prospect on most of the boards I have seen. Well, he'll provide more of an impact than their first-round pick last year.
Tom Gower: Ten first round picks. Nine on defense and one on a quarterback. I respect Green Bay's commitment to their apparent philosophy, that if you have a quarterback that's all you need on offense and you can spend all your premium picks on the other side of the ball. And the next quarterback for when the one you have gets tired of you spending all your first-round picks on the other side of the ball.
Tom Gower: First round is done, with Joe Tyron going to the Bucs, who brought everybody back and can afford to plan for losing a defensive end after this season.
The names that stand out to me as surprises to be available after 32 picks are Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Notre Dame LB/SAF Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins. Dane Brugler, to name one, is pretty plugged in and had Ojulari 16th and JOK 15th, so it's not like we're completely off the board here. Ojulari reportedly has medical issues that were flagged at the Combine, which explains that. JOK does somewhat fit the profile of hybrid defenders that have fallen a bit in recent years. Jenkins wasn't great, but with Christian Darrisaw falling all the way to No. 23 with Minnesota, maybe the NFL doesn't love offensive tackles as much as we think they might.
Vincent Verhei: Just a late note to add that I think the clear winners of the night were the Bears—Fields was my second-favorite quarterback in the class, and they got him at a great spot, Even if it cost them two firsts and two later picks, that's easily worth it for a quarterback.