2021 Draft Pick-by-Pick Analysis: Picks 1-10

Clemson Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence
Clemson Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Welcome to Football Outsiders' pick-by-pick coverage of the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL draft! Over the next 29 hours or so, we'll provide you with…

  • Laser-accurate quarterback comparisons (only Football Outsiders dares to compare one of this year's prospects to Drew Stanton);
  • Heartwarming tales of offensive linemen destroying their childhood homes with their siblings and preteen quarterbacks getting publicly shamed by their fathers;
  • Lots of statistical nuggets about teams and prospects (this is Football Outsiders after all);
  • Visits from special guests like Emo Howie Roseman and Death Metal Shanahan;
  • Actual scouting observations, occasionally; 
  • Tons of insights, analysis, asides and fun.

This is my 20th draft providing some form of live pick-by-pick coverage for outlets from Bleacher Report to The New York Times, but it's my first time doing so for the home team here at Football Outsiders. I'm thrilled to be able to spend the next two nights with you. Welcome aboard what's always a wild ride! Refresh often for updates!

If you're looking for the usual "Open NFL Draft Discussion Thread," there isn't one this year. Feel free to get the discussion going in the comment thread below.

And don't forget to check out the first-ever Football Outsiders Draft Recap Twitch Livestream, tonight starting at 11:30 p.m. Eastern on the Football Outsiders Twitch channel. Aaron Schatz will be hosting the discussion along with Scott Spratt, Derrik Klassen, and Benjamin Robinson of Grinding the Mocks, plus I'll be joining the discussion once the first round of the draft is fully in the books.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Clemson Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Upside: Aaron Rodgers
Downside: Mid 2010s Alex Smith
Best Comparison: Andrew Luck

Lawrence has the worst quarterback hair of the last decade.

Lawrence has great hair for the typical 20-something dude, mind you: luxurious locks of radiant, insouciant youthfulness. But the Mitch Kramer look doesn't sit well with NFL evaluators, whose favorite scene in any Vietnam War movie is when the filthy hippie recruits are dragged before the bootcamp barber. (NFL evaluators, it should be noted, still watch and enjoy Vietnam War movies while always misreading the subtext. Or text, for that matter.)

Lawrence, like Joe Namath and Robert Griffin before him, is a college quarterback prospect gifted enough to overcome his hairstyle. He's also unique among modern prospects in that he has no peers, even among a crowded quarterback class. Andrew Luck had to compete with Griffin, Peyton Manning with Ryan Leaf, but efforts to create a horse race between Lawrence and Justin Fields (from their high school days through Fields' trip through the gossip sewers this offseason) or Zach Wilson (from about February on) fizzled. Lawrence has been too much better than the competition for three seasons for such comparisons to be taken seriously. And the 11th-hour attempt to wring a maybe he's not driven enough controversy from Lawrence's Sports Illustrated profile came across as desperately manufactured.

It's tempting to assign the Jaguars a grade, not for this no-brainer selection, but for the decade of futility that led to the risky hire of Pope Urban Chip Spurrier Petrino Meyer I as organizational pontiff. That would be unfair. The Jaguars just drafted a quarterback prospect good enough to provide them some margin for error and potentially transcend his surroundings. They deserve credit for making the easy decision.

Tom Coughlin, after all, would have found it impossible to get past the haircut.

Grade: A

2. New York Jets

BYU Cougars QB Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Upside: Tony Romo
Downside: Kyle Boller
Best Comparison: Andy Dalton

Wilson almost led BYU to victory over Coastal Carolina. He drove them to the 1-yard line at the final gun after making a few Houdini plays as the clock ran down. Alas, the Chanticleers' pressure had him rattled for much of the game, many of his passes sailed high or arrived at the same time as the coverage, and Wilson struggled to move the Cougars offense for most of what turned out to be a 22-17 defeat.

It was BYU's only loss of the year, in part because Coastal Carolina—a Sun Belt Conference program in its fourth FBS season—was the Cougars' toughest foe of the year.

BYU was supposed to face Michigan State, Stanford, Mizzou, and other power-conference foes last season. Then COVID happened. BYU cobbled together a schedule full of Troy, Western Kentucky, North Alabama, and University of Texas-San Antonio. Boise State was forced to start a freshman scout-team quarterback against BYU due to a COVID outbreak. UCF was without much of their secondary (including likely Friday draft picks Aaron Robinson and Richie Grant) in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Wilson's breakthrough 2020 season came against a stunningly weak schedule. He spent the year stepping up into whistle-clean pockets and playing catch with open receivers. He looked like an elusive scrambler against defenders who wouldn't cut it in an XFL training camp. His entire 2020 season looked like one long pro day.

The creamy schedule doesn't make Wilson a bad prospect. QBASE 2.0 accounts for it in various ways, and Wilson still grades out just below Trevor Lawrence. Wilson snaps off some gorgeous throws, particularly on the run, and appears to have a full NFL toolkit.

Still, the Jets just drafted a quarterback who couldn't lead his high-profile Independent program past Coastal Carolina.

The Dalton comparison above may look like an insult, but Dalton would have been the best Jets quarterback in decades. (Dalton might not have been as good as even-year Chad Pennington but blows odd-year Pennington away). Like Dalton, Wilson will probably look great given strong weapons, clean pockets, and a sound structure. Those are three things the Jets are not known for, but so far the Joe Douglas/Robert Saleh/Mike LaFleur regime appears to know what it's doing.

In short, the Jets will need to elevate Wilson, because despite his high draft status and gaudy 2020 results, he is probably not good enough to elevate the Jets.

Grade: B

3. San Francisco 49ers

North Dakota State Bison QB Trey Lance

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Upside: Donovan McNabb
Downside: Blaine Gabbert
Best Comparison: Matt Schaub with rocket skates

Darn it: could have gotten Lance at about +350 this morning at my favorite sportsbook. On the plus side, I don't have to process the thought of a franchise trading up to select Mac Jones, which has been having a Cthulhu-like effect on my psyche for weeks.

I don't know how to adjust my scouting impressions to account for a quarterback playing only one full year at the FCS level and then losing nearly all of his final season to a pandemic. You don't know how to do that either. QBASE is just making an educated guess when it gives Lance a solid 30.3% chance to be an upper-tier or elite starter. Every single NFL evaluator and Twitter tape junkie, from Kyle Shanahan down to the wannabe expert with 275 followers on Twitter, is also guessing.

A year of isolated workouts, Zoom conferences, and precisely one actual game (which had the look and feel of a scrimmage) almost surely set Lance's development back a bit, if only temporarily. And we don't have enough FCS data points to be certain how far along Lance was in the first place. After all, Jimmy Garoppolo was an FCS marvel who was mostly hidden within a Patriots mystery box when Shanahan's 49ers first traded for him. Garoppolo, like Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco, maxed out at the "doesn't deserve that much credit for his team's success" level.

Lance certainly appeared to be a fine prospect when he played: a fleeter-footed Wentz, or a Josh Allen with less velocity but better accuracy who also provoked far less irrational reactionary disgust.

The McNabb comparison above comes from the fact that Lance looks great when taking a seven-step play-action drop and stepping into deep bombs. He appears to be a Gary Kubiak-system quarterback (Shanahan, of course, is a Kubiak system nephew) with added rushing capability. But he's going to need a long NFL onramp; otherwise, he'll become a cross between 2020 Wentz and 2018 Allen instead of the cross between 2020 Allen and 2017 Wentz the 49ers hope to see someday soon.

49ers Draft Grades by DEATH METAL SHANAHAN: There's no guarantee that Lance will be worth all the picks I traded to acquire him. But there's also no guarantee that a primordial evil will not emerge from the deepest pits of the earth to devour our souls next Tuesday. That's right: I'm a total nihilist. Just not enough of a nihilist to want to try to coach Aaron Rodgers when he is on a power trip.

Grade: B+ (Graded on an "at least this isn't Jones" curve.)

4. Atlanta Falcons

Florida Gators TE Kyle Pitts

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Pitts looks like he could be the next Shannon Sharpe. Every other tight end in this class looks as though they would be lucky to max out as Jacob Hollister. That makes Pitts a unique individual in 2021: any team hoping to acquire an impact tight end had to either draft Pitts or do something ridiculous like overspend for both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. And what organization would be silly enough to pursue that second option?

Pitts is the best tight end prospect since Vernon Davis. Davis had an up-and-down career for a variety of reasons, from injuries to bad quarterbacks to clashes with his coaches. As I wrote for Pro Football Network in March, most tight ends drafted among the top 10 went on to less-than-superlative careers.

My favorite story from that feature was the tale of Ken MacAfee, drafted seventh overall by the 49ers in 1978. MacAfee may have been the best Notre Dame tight end ever, which is saying something. He finished third in the Heisman voting in 1977. He caught 46 passes in his first two NFL seasons; pretty good numbers for the era. And he was about to be reunited with Joe Montana, his quarterback when the Irish were the consensus National Champions. But Bill Walsh wanted to move MacAfee to guard! Walsh may have been irked that MacAfee spent his offseasons studying dentistry instead of his playbook. So MacAfee called Walsh's bluff, retired from the NFL, and became a successful dentist.

Pitts is unlikely to go all Hermey the Elf on the Falcons, so the MacAfee story has little relevance. At the same time, it's fascinating to discover that the tight end position always seems to have just become "revolutionized" and "more receiving-oriented" about five years before the present. MacAfee, Riley Odoms, and Charle Young merited high draft picks in the 1970s because they were part of a new breed of pass-catching tight end. Rickey Dudley was selected for the same reason in the mid-1990s. Now Pitts is part of some "new breed" featuring Travis Kelce, Andrew Waller, and George Kittle, even though that "breed" has been around for 50 years, if not longer.

Pitts has 100-catch potential. The Falcons weren't going to draft Matt Ryan's replacement—they just aren't emotionally ready—so this pick was as good as it was going to get. And while he might not be a dentist, Pitts does have a talent for causing opponents some pain.

Grade: B+

5. Cincinnati Bengals

LSU Tigers WR Ja'Marr Chase

Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Ja'Marr Chase is…

a. A more compact version of D'Andre Hopkins;
b. Allen Robinson, with more playmaking ability and without the Ancient Olmec Bad Quarterback Curse following him around;
c. Juju Smith-Schuster, but without the Instagram-influencer personality and residual Antonio Brown radiation damage; or
d. All of the above.

The answer is D. Chase has great hands and concentration, outstanding bad-ball and contest-catch capability, and excellent YAC potential.

Chase also ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at LSU's pro day. Based on this year's slightly inflated nationwide pro day results, that puts him in the 74th percentile among relatively spry 60- to 70-year-olds. Kidding! Chase can fly.

I should probably make some wisecrack here about Joe Burrow taking over as the team's general manager. But really, how bad would that be?

Penei Sewell would have been the better choice, in my opinion. But Chase can obviously play.

Grade: A-

6. Miami Dolphins

Alabama Crimson Tide WR Jaylen Waddle

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

One Team. One Tua. One ton of draft capital. One chance to finally return to relevance. THIS is DolphinQuest 2021.

The Problem: The Dolphins receiver corps is headlined by inconsistent DeVante Parker, injury-plagued Will Fuller, and erratic/injury-plagued Preston Williams. Their cycles of health and productivity are scheduled to sync up in a harmonic convergence sometime in 2029.

The Solution: Waddle.

Here are Alabama's all-time leaders in yards per catch among receivers who caught more than 100 career passes for the Tide:

Ozzie Newsome: 20.3
Jaylen Waddle: 18.9
Jerry Jeudy: 17.2
DeVonta Smith: 16.9
Keith Brown: 15.9

First of all: holy crap, Ozzie Newsome. The list above is skewed toward recent players (in part because the 100-catch plateau was hard to break until recently), but there's old Ozzie topping the list as a king-sized soon-to-be tight end in the mid-1970s.

Waddle's big-play capability as both a receiver and a return man may be one reason why some draftnik outlets ranked him above both teammate DeVonta Smith and Ja'Marr Chase. Waddle may also benefit from some "the cool bands play the side stage" reasoning after playing second- to fourth- fiddle behind DeVonta, Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs over the last two seasons.

Also, there's the Alabama halo factor. Waddle looks like Tyreek Hill when blasting away from collegiate slot cornerbacks while his quarterbacks relax in surgically clean pockets, but it's hard to tell how he would do if he had to get open against No. 1 cornerbacks or do more of the dirty work over the middle that his teammates usually handled.

The best comp for Waddle may be former Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley, who is coming off an excellent season for the woebegone Falcons. Like Ridley, Waddle has some impressive soft skills, like an ability to work back for the ball late in a play. Ridley has benefitted from playing across from Julio Jones for three seasons, which both reinforces and complicates the comparison.

Waddle should be pretty darned good once separated from the Crimson Tide offense, but I'm not certain he will be great.

Grade: C+

7. Detroit Lions

Oregon Ducks T Penei Sewell

Penei Sewell, T, Oregon

When he was the Dolphins interim head coach, Dan Campbell came across as a heap of quick-drying cement mixed with liquid testosterone. Now that he is the face of the latest Lions reboot, Campbell comes across as a heap of quick-drying cement mixed with liquid testosterone that attended a few workplace sensitivity seminars.

Progress? Definitely, especially in contrast to the toxic mound of powdered mashed potatoes Campbell replaced. And the Lions definitely got the job done with this selection.

When Sewell and his three brothers were in middle school, they once rearranged the living room furniture into a makeshift WWE ring so they could work off a little preteen steam. Their parents came home to find a Penei-sized hole in the living room wall. That was a sign that they might be raising one or more future football players.

Cute story (and a very Dan Campbell kind of story). Three thoughts:

  • Please don't leave middle schoolers unsupervised long enough for them to do things like rearrange furniture. Kids mature so quickly these days that you may come home to preteen Burning Man.
  • My pals and I used to play "over the top" in my family room as preteens. The sectional sofa was the pile-up at the goal line, two guys were the offense, two were the defense, and we would design all manner of options and belly plays to try to leap over the sofa for a touchdown. None of us became NFL players, and the sofa was ruined. Testosterone is a helluva drug.
  • If one of the Sewell siblings threw Penei through a wall, I want to draft that dude, not Penei. (The other Sewells all played defense at FBS schools, though none became a serious NFL prospect).

Sewell grew up shuttling between American Samoa, where he was born and his father coached high school football, and Utah, where the family lived during the preteen makeshift Smackdown demolition years. When Penei's father realized that all of their Utah neighbors were elderly, the siblings were instructed to rake leaves for their entire neighborhood. The chore taught the children humility. Also, one of Penei's first purchases when he signs an NFL contract will likely be a leaf blower.

All the charming tales of youth can only mean one thing: there's little to say about Sewell as a player. He's the best pure tackle prospect since the pre-bongmask version of Laremy Tunsil , a master technician for such a young lineman who also possesses ideal quickness and play strength.

Sewell was the best player available. The Lions have needs elsewhere, but they won't be solving all of their problems this weekend. Drafting Sewell was the right call.

Grade: A

8. Carolina Panthers

South Carolina Gamecocks CB Jaycee Horn

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

And there came a day, around the tail end of the 20th century, when Earth's mightiest football champions got busy and produced a new generation of heroes to cover threats that no single cornerback could withstand. Young Cornerback Avengers: Assemble!

Name: Jaycee Horn

Son of: Joe Horn, a member of the Greatest Generation of high-maintenance wide receivers, best remembered for whipping a cellphone from the goal post padding for a touchdown celebration. Want to feel extra old? IT WAS A FLIP PHONE.

Scouting Report: Horn is long, lean, fast, and athletically fluid. He's tall enough to hold his own against bigger receivers but quick enough to handle most sub-Tyreek-level slot assignments. He plays the ball in the air like a wide receiver, with the anticipation to jump routes and excellent hands. He's a little grabby in coverage (like many collegiate cornerbacks) and an inconsistent tackler, but these are nitpicks.

Horn should develop quickly into a versatile, dependable, starting NFL cornerback. That said, any team that needs a quarterback but passes on Justin Fields from now on gets automatically dropped one letter grade.

Grade: C

9. Denver Broncos

Alabama Crimson Tide CB Patrick Surtain

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

And there came a day, around the tail end of the 20th century, when Earth's mightiest football champions got busy and produced a new generation of heroes to cover threats that no single cornerback could withstand. Young Cornerback Avengers: Assemble!

Name: Patrick Surtain II

Son of: Patrick Surtain, Pro Bowl cornerback for great Miami Dolphins defenses which also featured Hall of Famer Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, and Sam Madison. Tragically, those teams never got far in the offense because coach Dave Wannstedt's idea of a great offense involved Jay Fiedler throwing to Oronde Gadsden.

Scouting Report: Writing a scouting report on Surtain actually feels like a waste of time and energy. He's 6-foot-2 with long arms, ran an unofficial 4.46-second 40 at his pro day, and was a three-year regular for the best program in the nation. Do you really need details?

Fine, here are some details. Surtain excels in press coverage but also has the awareness and quickness to drop into off coverage or a zone. He flips his hips effortlessly to turn and run. He also does a lot of little things well, like squeezing his receiver against the sideline on deep routes.

Surtain can get beaten by receivers with an outstanding release and isn't suited to covering slot jitterbugs, but you would have guessed that based on his measurements.

Surtain is a safe pick with Pro Bowl potential at a high-leverage position. The problem is that the Broncos are in Year 6 of being one year away from the playoffs, and they just passed up a chance at a franchise quarterback to settle for Teddy Bridgewater (whom I like, but it is still settling) and Drew Lock (who is awful).

But then, maybe Aaron Rodgers will crash the party by midnight. But until then…

Grade: C+

10. Philadelphia Eagles

Alabama Crimson Tide WR DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

In a darkened room, with Anna Nalick's Wreck of the Day playing on endless loop and payment notices piling up on the coffee table, wearing the bulkiest of sadness sweaters, the Philadelphia Eagles sit forlornly watching the spring rain trace meandering paths down their windowpane and wondering how it all went so wrong.

The Eagles are not rebuilding. They're adrift in a sea of revolving debt and melancholy. They traded down from sixth to 12th, the draft equivalent of texting your friends not to worry if you are out of touch for a while. Then they drafted up moments ago, not so they can win again, but so they can feel again.

And now to the pick…

After avoiding scales all offseason the way a vampire avoids mirrors, Smith weighed 166 pounds at his scouting combine physical, per Albert Breer. For contrast, my 14-year-old son weighed precisely 170 pounds at his sports physical, which took place around the same time as Alabama's pro day. He is now one of the smallest lads on the junior varsity high school tennis team.

At 165 to 170 pounds, Smith may well be too small to be much more than a role player in the NFL. DeSean Jackson (169 pounds at his combine) is the only player in Smith's weight range to enjoy a successful (though one-dimensional and injury-checkered) career. Here's a full list, so you can see for yourself.

T.Y. Hilton and Marvin Harrison are sometimes mentioned as DeVonta-sized receivers who went on to great careers. Hilton powered down the Waffle House hashbrowns and bulked up to 183 pounds at his combine. Harrison also cracked 181 pounds. Smith is either unwilling or unable to load up at the buffet, drink a gallon of water, step onto the scale with a Costanza wallet in his pocket and shut nitwits like me up with a 180-plus-a-TicTac-pound result. That leads me to think that if he did all of those things he would max out at or below 170 pounds.

Folks on Twitter scoff about Smith's weight issues, because scoffing on Twitter is the easiest thing in the universe to do. I wonder what the weight threshold for Twitter scoffing would be. If a 150-pound wide receiver had great film, would the draft hipsters claim "weight doesn't matter; check the film?" The certification weight for Pop Warner Varsity is 165 pounds. If Smith is light enough to play Pop Warner, why is it ridiculous to be worried about his size when entering the NFL?

I loved Smith as a prospect from the time I watched him upstage teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs when I was prepping for the 2020 draft until the moment he declined to step on a scale at the Senior Bowl. Smith himself sure seems to think his weight is an issue. Shrouding a basic measurement in mystery doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Of course, the moment Smith makes a big catch come September, Twitter will erupt with oh-so-clever "bUt hE's tOo sMAlL" takes. No one is saying he cannot play. But there's a real risk he becomes like Paul Richardson, who always appeared to be poised on the verge of a breakout in Seattle before the next knee, ankle, shoulder, or hamstring injury struck. Or perhaps he becomes Marquise Brown, who is playing well for the Ravens: so well that Ravens fans spend each offseason clamoring for more receiving help. Or Jackson, who both elated and exasperated Eagles fans many times over the last decade or so.

Playmaker Score adores Smith (777 yards per season) because of his monstrous final season. There are plenty of signifiers that he's an exceptional case. I remember getting told by many smart people that Donnell Pumphrey was an exceptional case.

I don't hate this pick, but I hate the idea of the Eagles trading up to make it. They're a team with too many needs to have taken this kind of risk.

Grade: B-

Looking for the rest of the draft? Click here for:

  • 2021 Pick-by-Pick Coverage: Picks 11-20
  • 2021 Pick-by-Pick Coverage: Picks 21-32
  • 2021 Pick-by-Pick Coverage: Round 2
  • 2021 Pick-by-Pick Coverage: Round 3


107 comments, Last at 02 May 2021, 12:01pm

1 Bring Me the Head of Greg Schiano!

Ha! Off to an excellent start! Even managed to play some of your old hits with the Coughlin shot in the opening volley. I sense a Greg Schiano dunking on the horizon.

Underrated Vietnam movie whose theme would be lost on Coughlin, Schiano, Dan Campbell: Tigerland

Looking forward to the large-adult-son OL home-wrecking stories:

I'm calling my shot now, barring injury Chiefs win this year's SB.

2 Tempting Fate.

Will posting the first pick now become Tanier's "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment? Tune in tonight, same Bat time, same Bat channel!

3 We've known since like 1995…

We've known since like 1995 that the Jags are going to take Trevor Lawrence. The team with the first pick used to sometimes announce they had reached agreement with their selection well prior to the actual draft. Is that outlawed now for some reason, or has Urban Meyer just not gotten around to talking to Trevor yet?

6 I think the NFL frowns on…

I think the NFL frowns on teams (or the insiders with league-sanctioned access) leaking things like "the contract is already 90% done) like they did in years past. There is also less impetus to race into contract talks with the #1 pick than there was before the rookie salary cap, when there was a risk of a protracted holdout. 

7 At one point the cap holdout…

At one point the cap holdout was so bad that there were rumors that one team (Dolphins with Long, maybe? Not sure?) preferentially chose one player because they knew they could sign him. It's hard to remember just how expensive top picks were then. That era was nuts.

8 Not staying up to watchh the…

Not staying up to watchh the draft (I'm not crazy), but will have a very non-productive morning reading this tomorrow.

Welcome home Mike! And have you prepared your "49ers draft Kittle" text yet?

12 Look on Twitter, the world…

Look on Twitter, the world has already stolen "Gigakarens" from Tanier. 

I only hope Tanier managed to trademark and negotiate some sort of novelty book deal around the term before he unleashed it into the wild.

13 Naive Question Regarding Rodgers

So, I have a naive question regarding Rodgers, could an interested team put a package together given so little time before the draft? It seems the timing is bad and teams are already preoccupied with getting their draft right let alone putting a package together for a MVP QB.

Will Rodgers be traded tonight or is it something that would more likely happen post draft?

14 This, to me, is why it's…

This, to me, is why it's unlikely that he actually wants a trade. It's a terrible time to request a trade both logistically like you suggest and because the Packers aren't going to take anything but current assets. What team has the ability to fork over multiple 1st rounders this year plus future picks plus be able to take on Rodgers' contract? Post-draft is even less likely.

It doesn't make any sense for the Packers to do anything but wait Rodgers out and give him the extension he wants because that to me is the clear driving factor here. They'll make it so his choices are retire or return to Green Bay on an extension. They're never gonna trade him.

15 If someone offered the…

If someone offered the Packers three first rounders for Rogers I think they should consider it. Rogers is not Russell Wilson's age he's 38. And while Brady has seemingly warped that QB age curve there's a real danger that Rogers suffers severe declines in the future. If someone was prepared to offer three first rounders and a player or two I would seriously consider it

17 Packers do. Rodgers is an…

Packers do. Rodgers is an actual HoFer right now, Lawrence is a great prospect who is a complete unknown in the league. Packers already have a potential QB of the future on the roster right now (at least in their eyes), they won't trade for another.

20 I think theres a chance that…

I think theres a chance that Rodgers declines this next season. At this point, you can just count on Rodgers being Rodgers for the next 4-5 years. It sucks because you are losing a title window by making the Lawrence trade, but you are betting on an extended title window down the road. 

21 From Jags perspective it…

From Jags perspective it makes sense to want Lawrence given team situation, and from Packers makes more sense to want Rodgers given *their* team situation. They invested in a bunch of people and did a bunch of extensions to make a run at a SB, not to have a developmental QB running the show. There is no trade that makes sense for the Packers, imo, at least not one that is actually on the table. They won't want a super high pick or another team's QB because they've already got a QB worth trying out on the roster on the cheap; and then the value of a late top-10 pick plus future 1sts probably doesn't do it for them. Especially not right now in the middle of the chaos.

22 I think you'd rather keep…

I think you'd rather keep Rodgers than not. But if he forces the issue, this isn't the same situation as the Texans or the Seahawks. You have a young qb of the future on the roster. Rodgers is at an age where there are real downside risks to his future career trajectory. If you can get a kings ransom for him, I think the Packers might come out ahead dealing him.

And if its Lawrence thats being offered, I absolutely do the deal; Jordan love be damned. 

27 Oh I think there's virtually…

Oh I think there's virtually zero chance he gets traded tonight. No team is going to make a trade of that magnitude on such short notice, and if something had been in the works for sufficient time, there's little reason to execute it at draft time, when rosters and resources are in the most flux of the league year.

That said, I'm not so sure he isn't serious, at least inasmuch as he genuinely wants to play for a different team. There've been rumblings about this for awhile, and honestly 16 years is a long time to spend in one place. Is he so serious he'd actually hold out, and watch those weeks (and checks) disappear at this stage of his career? I'm skeptical but wouldn't rule it out completely.

Team says they've offered him an extension. He says he's set on going somewhere else. Posturing? Could be, of course. But he's never struck me as someone who'd claw and scratch for every last dollar; he's more about rings and glory. Maybe he's mad Dak Prescott makes more than him now. Who knows?

Wild-ass guess, though: he sees the end of his career coming up on the not-too-distant horizon, he saw Brady go to a team that was solid everywhere but QB and win it (beating him in the process), he remembers getting blown out by the Niners twice with Jimmy Frickin' Garoppolo at the helm (who also came close to bringing it home even with him), and hey, he's got roots there to boot - he specifically wants to go to San Francisco. It explains their somewhat-shocking move up for #3, if they were in fact targeting Rodgers instead of the 3rd-rated QB in the COVID draft. They could offer Jimmy G to keep the seat warm for Love, plus #3 to get whichever receiver (or tackle, or Pitts) they want, plus presumably a pile of later/future picks. It makes some sense. But the Packers weren't biting, and today's announcement is a sort of desperate attempt to jumpstart stalled talks.

As a fan, I've made my peace with the fact that I'm going to see him in a different jersey before his career is up. But they're so close right now, and even for a successful franchise these peaks don't come that often, it would be insanity to blow it up unless the offer were just mindblowing - and Jimmy G + #3 + some presumably late-firsts in the next couple years ain't it. Toss in Bosa and Kittle, maybe...

23 Kinda excited in Atlanta

But I'm sure that excitement will pass with alacrity and disappointment. Been reading you for years, MT.

24 When is Tanier going to post…

When is Tanier going to post the Jets' pick? The Jags pick has been up for like forever. How much time on the clock does he need? This is the Tanier-mindreads-NFL-GMs forum, right?


The event kicked off with peak nfl draft cringe with the King of Leons song number 10minutes in and then the whole chair ceremony and having people come up and sit in it for each pick is such a degree of nfl draft cringe it feels like parody... but it is completely real as was Joe Thomas' pre-draft rally.

29 I'm sure Kings of Leon were…

In reply to by coboney

I'm sure Kings of Leon were like "I beg your pardon, sir, we are *musicians*, we have integ...you're gonna give us how much money?!"

31 I tuned in late, did they…

In reply to by coboney

I tuned in late, did they explain wtf the chair is? I thought it was going to be a fan with cancer announces the pick or something, but it was just, like, some rando guy?

94 I differ on the chair.  I…

I differ on the chair.  I would have preferred a dedicated feed of just the fans getting into and out of the chair and their interactions with Goodell.  Would have happily watched that over the filler puff pieces.  Except for the live reactions of the family after the picks are made - those are great! 


33 They did - its the chair…

They did - its the chair Goodell did the draft from last year - and each pick they are picking a random fan from that team in the area near stage to sit in it for that time - the area is all vaccinated people.


84 I'm so friggin relieved that…

I'm so friggin relieved that they didn't pick Mac Jones that I'm okay with Lance. 

I have no idea what makes him a better prospect than Justin Fields, though.  He's not as fast or as accurate.  He's less experienced.  He hasn't had to deal with pressure.  Why him over Fields?  And shoot, man, they could have traded up one single spot and landed Fields. 

34 Have to say, I'm SOOOO…

Have to say, I'm SOOOO disappointed SF didn't announce a trade of pick 3 as part of a package to get Rodgers. I was really liking the idea of that scenario.

35 Discord

Anybody have a link to the chat?

40 I like Lance and I'll be…

I like Lance and I'll be rooting for him to succeed, but that is a heck of a gamble to trade all the way up to 3 to make.

41 Bad on Atlanta

Getting the highest drafted TE of all time instead of the in state QB.

43 I don't understand why teams…

I don't understand why teams like Wilson and Lance more than Fields. I feel like Fields will make all these other teams pay for passing on him, kinda like Rodgers did.

54 One game

Huh...weird how the other B1G doesn't count. Weird how he owned Greg Newsome and other talent a year before and it apparently doesn't count.

Not to mention he then torched Clemson in front of everybody.

But that one game...(as if Lance's last game was fire)

62 I like Lance

But he's not nearly as accurate as Fields but maaaaybe slightly more athletic (even though OSU just didn't run the same system as NDSU, Fields could've ran it well).

57 Not arguing whether he…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Not arguing whether he should be above Lance or Wilson or anyone else. Simply saying there are on field reasons to be hesitant. 

And they were down 21-7 to Wisconsin at the half of the 2019 game, he had completed half of his passes, taken 3 sacks, and had a fumble. Kudos for the comeback, but Wisconsin (and Northwestern) aren't the most athletically gifted football teams. What they have in common are good DCs.

60 Stoooop

The nitpicking is exactly the problem. Yall only look at a small percentage of plays and run with it instead of just saying, "hey teams do stupid things (NFL and OSUs scheme)" 

On field...pffft get outta here asking for perfection.

46 Analytics wins

Good on Cincy for listening to their franchise QB (and selecting the more valuable position).

DO NOT BECOME MY PACKERS. Thinking one good WR is enough and pissing him off (there needs to be an entire thread for me to vent btw).

49 So in the WR versus LT…

So in the WR versus LT debate, Cincy comes down on the side of WR.

I'll leave it to each of you to decide which side of the debate this boosts.

51 And there it is

Henry Ruggs over Jerry Jeudy redux

Oh well...

61 That comparison occurred to…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

That comparison occurred to me too, but DVOA actually rated Ruggs quite a bit better than Jeudy last year, so I'm not sure it's cut-and-dry. I didn't see much of Ruggs but I did see Jeudy, and man, he'll be one of the best around if he ever remembers how to catch. Last year was pretty grim, though.

That said, drafting a guy #6 based on his athleticism when you didn't even get direct measurements of said athleticism is a special kind of stupid. At least Al Davis insisted on actually getting the 40 time before drafting a guy based on his 40 time.

63 Carr>>>>>>>Lock and company

He and Reagor and the highest rate of uncatchable balls (poor Reagor thought he could escape bad QB play leaving TCU).

I'm sure most here and in the NFL would take Jeudy over Ruggs still with the knowledge of their rookie years.

53 It's a pleasure to see you…

It's a pleasure to see you here (and a pleasure I wasn't the only person who thought picking Jones at #3 would be lunacy). Thanks for showing me how I could blend my interest in math with my interest in sports way back in the day, and let's pray the Eagles draft BPA.

56 Side note:

Restructuring contracts have Atlanta and Detroit making mistakes (Goffs was especially weird). At least trade back.

We'll see if trades stop Denver and Carolina.

64 Mixed opinion

Miami got the WR I wanted, but I thought the LT dropping to them was too good not to take. He would have made Tua's life easier. Wilson, Grant, Fuller and Waddle is a lot of speed. They also have too many WR to make the team. Another trade coming?

67 Bridgewater and Darnold

over Fields (not even trading up!) The NFL maaaaaan

Note to self: dont hire defensive HC (they seem to hate young QBs).

70 Or trading down. If the one…

Or trading down. If the one of the next few picks is traded to someone who wants to pay for Fields and Broncos turned it down that would just be icing on the cake.

I actually like Bridgewater as a functional QB, but Fields had a decent chance to be a lot more than that and QB is the most obvious hole on the roster. Not worth staying up to 02:30 for. 

106 Rivera?

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Why did you include Rivera on that list?  He started Cam Newton as a rookie during his first year with CAR.  Are you referring to him giving up on Haskins?  Haskins was terrible as a rookie and wasn't much better his second year, so I don't think you can blame him being a defensive coach for that.  

107 They just signed Fitztragic...

In reply to by Joey-Harringto…

Casual observation after going with checkdown Smith as if his job depended on it and didn't care about getting one of the top one young QBs this year. After passing on them at #2 last year. Might not want to deal with non QB1 young elite guys, since they arent experts in developing them. 

68 I guess Fields isn't Elways…

I guess Fields isn't Elways cup of tea so of course why not go defense. I guess the plan has always been to build a defense heavy roster and find the next Peyton Manning. Good thing Elway has that neverending cache

69 In division

1st round trade! Must be rare.

It's for Smith...maybe Fields? Probably Smith

71 Mac Jones

Ten picks and Mac Jones is still available. Are the Patriots going to get Jones?

72 I am a Bears fan. Never…

I am a Bears fan. Never could I have imagined today that the Bears would end up with Fields. Holy shit, I am speechless. I hope Dalton never sees the field.

88 I'm a Jets fan, but my boss…

I'm a Jets fan, but my boss at work is a Bears fan.  I was lamenting that the Jets would win a game and not get Lawrence weeks before they actually did it.  He told me Fields was good too and lamented that the Bears wouldn't get him.

I texted him congrats after I saw the pick.


75 The Bears did the right thing

By making the Dalton signing absolutely dumb.

Congrats Bears fans. Yall got a good one. I'm having a rough day as a Packers fan. Times like these I wish I drank

77 Dallas LBs

LVE, Smith and Parsons

79 Sad Face

I am sad Tanier will not be able to finish this, since his head will blow up when NWE gets a QB without spending three or four first round picks.

80 I could maybe be excited…

I could maybe be excited about Fields if a new front office and coaching staff had chosen him. It is absolutely ludicrous that Ryan Pace survived going all-in on Trubisky to get to trade up for a QB again. Has any GM ever gotten a second chance like that? It’s laughable.

82 Believe it or not, I am…

Believe it or not, I am surprised and pleased to see the Bears not being gun shy about drafting a new QB. Usually when you bust out at QB, you pull a Jaguars and spend heavily on Nick Foles.

100 Yeah, the problem with the…

Yeah, the problem with the Bears is that they did that, and more, before just trying again in the draft. If they would've just stuck with Trubisky for a while (looking for a trade partner, I guess, since somehow teams are able to draft mediocre QBs for real return nowadays), they would've been way better off!

Kinda crazy that whiffing on a top-5 QB pick isn't even that bad anymore due to the massive cost savings.

93 It's crazy that Shanahan and…

It's crazy that Shanahan and Lynch think they can confidently pick which college qbs will be good in the NFL, without ever having seen the qb play against a defense with even average athletic ability and scheme sophistication. The Niners, have a much better roster than is typical of a team that picks in that spot, so they can better withstand, for now, wild assed guesses that cost a lot of draft value to buy the right to guess. Still better than picking Jones, of course, but that is damning with the most faint praise imaginable.

95 Supply and demand.  Lots of…

Supply and demand.  Lots of QB-needy teams meant a run on anybody perceived as having a chance to be a good one.  

I get taking a chance on Wilson and Lance, but I don't personally understand why you pass on Fields to do so, and these seem more like mid-first round gambles rather than top of the table gambles.  And Jones seems more like a mid-second rounder, maybe a third-rounder, not a mid-first rounder - outside chance at being great, decent chance at being so-so, high probability of being a clipboard-carrying professional backup.  But knowing that others are waiting to snap these guys up pressured teams into taking them earlier than they may have gone in other years.

JAX blew up their draft with their second pick of the first round, so I refuse to give them credit for not blowing their first pick.  I love CHI's move, though, and am really surprised by how little it cost them.  So while this take will no doubt age poorly over the next 3 years, right now I think CHI is the only winner from the 2021 QB-wars, as they're the only team who got prospective value in line with the draft capital they used to get him.

96 People who get paid 7 or 8…

People who get paid 7 or 8 figures to evaluate football players are loathe to admit to themselves, to say nothing of other people, how limited their powers really are. So you get a wild-assed guess on a guy, after trading up to the 3 spot, who had his toughest test as a qb, out of a whopping sample size of 319 collegiate attempts, come against that noted source  of NFL defensive talent, James Madison University, about16 months ago. 

I think the Bears made an intelligent pick, grounded in observable reality, which is no guarantee of success, of course.

101 People who get paid 7 or 8…

People who get paid 7 or 8 figures to evaluate football players? Guys in fan boards are loathe to admit to themselves how limited their powers of prediction are. It's a psycho-social phenomenon worthy of study.

102 Of course. Now imagine your…

Of course. Now imagine your multimillion dollar salary was based upon your reputation for picking which college football players would be good pros. I know I'd likely never candidly admit to anyone to what degree I was just guessing.

97 As a leader of Team Fields for the last month, I can see it

I spent the last 2-3 weeks trying to figure out why you would take Mac Jones or Trey Lance over Justin Fields by scouring the internet draftnik content and I think I figured out why Kyle wanted Trey over Justin. Trey had the most snaps under center among the top 5 QBs by a large margin, he has the strongest arm of the top 5, he and Wilson seem to have the best throwing motion (least wasted motion), and he seems way more inconsistent than inaccurate. Whenever his mechanics were really good, about half of the time, he looked like the best QB in the draft with incredible accuracy and touch. I still love Fields as a prospect but I just don't think he was a good fit for Kyle because of that elongated throwing motion. Fields needs to be in a Russell Wilson style stab and gouge offense where he can point and shoot with that huge, accurate arm. Based on what I have seen if Trey goes from 50/50 great mechanics to 75/25 he is probably the best QB in this class.

103 Yes, I know Shanahan and…

Yes, I know Shanahan and Lynch managed to buy one of those lottery tickets that says on it, "Scratch here to win a franchise QB for the next fifteen years," but it sure seems that they could have bought a *cheaper* lottery ticket. 

104 Devonta Smith

Love reading your writing as always, Mike

Regarding Devonta Smith, I think the question that needs to be asked about weight with Smith is exactly *what* the concern is. It's not really enough to respond to critics saying that this is a silly criticism to point out "well, he's VERY skinny, look how skinny he is compared to other players!" Merely being a size outlier on its own doesn't tell us much. When Calvin Johnson was drafted, there weren't any 240 lb WRs who'd had any real success (Vincent Jackson was drafted the year before and would go on to have some success later on).There has to be some football-related consequence to that that you're worried about.

The two most plausible worrisome consequences that get brought up are beating press coverage and durability, so let's look at those.

Smith wasn't playing opponents who were just giving him free releases all the time (cough, Big 12). He was notably outstanding against not only press coverage in general, but more specifically press coverage from players that we either know or believe to be NFL-caliber: Jaycee Horn, Derek Stingley, Eric Stokes, Cam Dantzler, Noah Igbinoghene, He had success against all of them, and dominated Horn, Stingley, and Stokes. It's not witchcraft. Smith is very good at winning with his releases, is hard to get hands on cleanly, and understands how to create separation through deception, varying speeds, adjusting his body on the move, etc. I don't see any reason for any of those things to not translate to the NFL. Probably the only player with a comparable resume against top tier press CBs is Chase. The college game is, if anything more favorable to press CBs because of the lack of illegal contact calls. If anything, I'm MORE confident about Smith's ability vs. press than I am about bigger receivers who've barely faced it.

As for injury, I think there’s this weird habit where we chalk up injuries to small players to their size but assume injuries to big players are just random flukes. Here are games missed with injury over the first 6 years for some notably small and notably big receivers:

DeSean Jackson: 9
Tyreek Hill: 6 (5 years)
Antonio Brown: 3
Tavon Austin: 14
T.Y. Hilton: 2
Travis Benjamin: 12
Marquise Brown: 2 (2 years)

Julio Jones: 17
Calvin Johnson: 4
AJ Green: 9
Mike Evans: 6
Kenny Golladay: 16 (4 years)
Alshon Jeffery: 17
Brandon Marshall: 5
Marques Colston: 10
Courtland Sutton: 15 (3 years)
DK Metcalf: 0 (2 years)

Obviously, that's super unscientific, and after doing all that, I found a much better actual study from FO that addresses this specifically: https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2018/weight-and-injuries and it looks like, no, WR weight isn't particularly predictive of injury risk.

105 Good post.

In reply to by AlanSP

Not sure why you looked at 6 years (5th YO + 1 tag?) but none the less, informative. 

And as I stated somewhere else thiccer Waddle missed a higher % of games than Smith. Same team, doctors, etc. so that can't be used as an excuse some way somehow. He's essentially the Kyler Murray of WRs. A body type with unprecedented draft capital that really doesn't fit peoples biggest perceived fears. Oh and look Kyler has yet to miss a start in his NFL career, regardless of reason. They played all the way through college and not only survived but thrived unlike so many others. They've learned how to protect themselves. No real reason to worry about it when you break it down like that.