NFL

NFL Draft: Quarterbacks go 1-2-3 in opening round as draft returns to big stage

By Sports Desk April 29, 2021

Highly touted quarterbacks? Check. Oversized stage? Check. Raucous Fans? Check.

A year after holding a virtual NFL Draft in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement due to concerns over the coronavirus, the 2021 draft descended on Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, with Goodell once again sharing bro-hugs with the prospects on stage in front of thousands of vaccinated and mask-wearing fans.

Although the easy chair from Goodell’s basement did make the trip to the stage, this year’s edition of the draft felt much more normal than a year ago – and it began exactly as nearly everyone expected.

The Jacksonville Jaguars chose Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall and the New York Jets went with BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at number two.

Considered to be the most polished QB prospect in years, Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards in his collegiate career, while going 34-2 as a starter with the Tigers and winning the 2018 National Championship.

Wilson had been linked to the Jets for months after throwing for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdown passes to only three interceptions last season, and New York hopes he can be the franchise’s answer at QB and lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after the recently traded and 2018 No. 3 pick Sam Darnold never lived up to expectations.

A quarterback had also been projected to go third overall ever since the San Francisco 49ers traded up to that position weeks ago, the only question was who – Trey Lance out of FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Justin Fields from Ohio State or Alabama national champion Mac Jones.

The tight-lipped 49ers ended weeks of suspense by drafting Lance, who has only played in one game since the 2019 season but led the Bison to the FCS title that year while accounting for 42 total touchdowns without an interception.

With the surprising Lance going to San Francisco, this became just the third time in the common draft era that started in 1967 – and first time since 1999 – quarterbacks went 1-2-3 in the NFL draft.

The consensus top five QBs - Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields and Jones – had been slated to all get drafted in the top 10, but Fields and Jones were still on the board after 10 picks.

The Chicago Bears decided not to sit on their hands, trading up nine spots with the New York Giants to grab Fields, a dual-threat QB who finished his collegiate career with 5,701 passing yards and 67 TDs through the air.

The Patriots were more patient, selecting Jones with the 15th pick – a spot few believed he would still be available. Jones threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns to just four picks in leading Alabama last season, and became the first quarterback selected in the first round during Bill Belichick’s 21-year tenure in New England.

Jones also became the final QB selected in the first round, making this only the fourth time at least five QBs were drafted in round number one, along with 2018, 1999 and the famous 1983 draft, when six were selected.

Not only were QBs a hot commodity, so were their targets.

The Atlanta Falcons made Florida’s Kyle Pitts the highest drafted tight end in history when they picked him fourth overall after he had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 TDs in 2020.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins drafted who they hope will be their franchise quarterbacks in the 2020 first round, and this year they each focused on providing them with a playmaker they were familiar with.

Cincinnati selected LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth pick, teaming him 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, the quarterback who led the Tigers to the 2019 FBS title. In 26 games played together in 2018 and 2019, Burrow targeted Chase 162 times, resulting in 107 receptions for 2,093 yards and 23 touchdowns.

One pick later, the Dolphins chose Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, reuniting him with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, last year’s fifth pick. Waddle only appeared in six games last season because of a broken left ankle, but he left Alabama with 106 receptions for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns over three years.

The reunions continued with the 10th pick, when the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select 2020 Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith to get him back with former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, the 53rd overall pick a year ago. Smith, who put up eye-popping numbers in 2020 with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns, was a teammate of Hurts in 2017 and 2018.

While the Bengals, Dolphins and Eagles reunited former teammates, the Jaguars decided to go ahead and just bring aboard one of Lawrence’s teammates from this past season, selecting Clemson running back Travis Etienne with the 25th pick, making this the first time in the common draft era a quarterback and running back from the same school were drafted by the same team in the first round.

Etienne was a workhorse for the past four years with the Tigers, racking up 4,952 rushing yards and 70 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

Etienne became the second running back selected in the first round after the Pittsburgh Steelers took Alabama’s Najee Harris one pick earlier.

With the Denver Broncos nabbing Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II ninth overall and the Las Vegas Raiders drafting Crimson Tide offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood at No. 17, Harris became the sixth player from Alabama drafted in the first round, matching the University of Miami from 2004 for the most players selected from one school in the first round.

While the draft started with offensive players being selected with the first seven picks for the first time ever, the final five picks of the opening round were all defensive players, concluding with the defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting linebacker Joe Tryon out of Washington with the 32nd pick.

Related items

  • Nick Foles says he is better now than when he won Super Bowl with Eagles Nick Foles says he is better now than when he won Super Bowl with Eagles

    Nick Foles made it clear he has not had any talks with Frank Reich about a trade to the Indianapolis Colts, but he sounded distinctly like a man making his pitch for such a move on Monday.

    The Colts are in a perilous situation at quarterback after Reich confirmed Carson Wentz, whom they traded for in the offseason to be their starter, would undergo foot surgery and miss five to 12 weeks.

    Wentz is therefore in danger of missing the opening two months of the 2021 season, leaving the Colts facing up to the prospect of starting Jacob Eason, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft, under center.

    Reich was the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator when Wentz was in the MVP conversation in 2017 before he suffered a season-ending injury and was replaced by Foles, who spectacularly guided the Eagles to Super Bowl glory.

    It was hoped the reunion between Reich and Wentz could revive the latter's career after his dismal final season with the Eagles but his injury has led to talk of the Colts bringing Foles, now the third-string quarterback with the Chicago Bears, into the mix.

    Asked about that possibility, Foles told a media conference: "Frank Reich is one of my favourite if not favourite coaches of all time, he understands me as a player, he understands me as a person.

    "I haven't had any talks with him. I'm a Chicago Bear right now. You all watched the 2017 season in the playoffs where he changed the offense and built it around me and y'all saw what happened, he understood my mentality as a player and he was able to build it around me and put me in a successful position.

    "That being said they have Carson, and Carson and I have a lot of history. I have a lot of respect for Carson, he's a tremendous player, he's going through adversity once again but he'll bounce back. He might miss a few games but I know he'll be back out there, but we haven't had any talks.

    "Right now I'm a Chicago Bear and I'm going to keep slinging it with these third-stringers and we're going to dice 'em up."

    On talks with other teams, Foles added: "There was a couple of opportunities that came to me this offseason with a couple of teams but it wasn't the right time.

    "It wasn't the right time or the situation with what was going on in my life. You don't just want to go somewhere to go somewhere, you want to go somewhere where you know the people somewhat or you know someone who knows the people that can vouch for the people so you can succeed.

    "Listen, I feel great. The version of me right now is much better than the version of me that played in the Super Bowl, I'll tell you that and I'm confident in that, so put that through your mind, I know that.

    "I know what this game's about, you have to have the whole package as a team, you have to have everyone in there. Top-down has to be great, if it's not great you're going to be mediocre. I've seen it and I've been a part of it, and unfortunately when you're a quarterback you've got to go through a lot of the baloney.

    "That's part of it, that's why we play this position because at the end of the day there might be some kid that's watching this press conference and they say Nick Foles is a three quarterback and he's going out there and his mentality is to dice up that defense and help his team-mates and that's what I will continue to do until I lace up the cleats for the last time."

  • Wentz to undergo foot surgery, Colts QB could miss 12 weeks Wentz to undergo foot surgery, Colts QB could miss 12 weeks

    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is to undergo foot surgery and could be out for as long as 12 weeks.

    Colts head coach Frank Reich confirmed Wentz would have an operation on his left foot after injuring it during last Thursday's training camp practice and will need five to 12 weeks to recover.

    Reich told reporters the injury was to Wentz's metatarsal and that the pain stemmed from a previous issue that could date as far back as high school.

    The Colts traded for Wentz back in March, sending a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick that could become a first-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles to land the 2016 second overall pick.

    Philadelphia will receive a 2022 first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the offensive snaps in 2021, or if he plays 70 per cent and the Colts make the playoffs.

    However, the prospects of either scenario coming to pass now look slim, with the Colts' hopes of Reich getting Wentz's career back on track dealt a significant blow. 

    "Obviously we're optimistic and hopeful that we can be on the front end of that [five to 12 week recovery time]," said Reich.

    While Wentz is sidelined, the focus will be on getting Jacob Eason, a fourth-round pick in 2020, ready to start Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.

    "The job is Jacob's right now … and he's gotta earn it," Reich added. "But he's in the driver’s seat."

    Reich was the offensive coordinator in 2017 when Wentz was a frontrunner for the MVP award before a knee injury curtailed his campaign and backup Nick Foles improbably led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title.

    The Colts banked on a reunion with Reich helping Wentz rediscover that form following a 2020 season in which he suffered 50 sacks - the most of any quarterback in the league - and was tied-first for interceptions with 15.

    As per Stats Perform data, Wentz had the worst well-thrown percentage in the NFL last year. He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on just 68.8 per cent of his passes. He threw a pickable pass on 6.78 per cent of his attempts, with only three quarterbacks doing so more often.

    The Colts will now have to wait to see if he can bounce back and reprise his 2017 form, while Eason has the opportunity to give Reich a headache in the game's most important position.

  • Browns sign 'soul of our team' Nick Chubb to three-year extension Browns sign 'soul of our team' Nick Chubb to three-year extension

    The Cleveland Browns have officially announced running back Nick Chubb's contract extension, a move that sees them lock down a player who has quickly established himself as one of the best at his position.

    Chubb's three-year extension with the Browns was initially reported on Sunday. It is said to be a deal worth $36million, of which $20m is guaranteed.

    It is just reward for Chubb's incredible start to his NFL career, which has seen him rack up the third-most rushing yards in the league since being drafted in 2018. He has 3,557 yards in his career, a tally bettered by only Derrick Henry (4,620) and Ezekiel Elliott (3,770), as well as 28 rushing touchdowns in that time.

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (6.03) is the only player to have posted a better rushing average than Chubb's 5.23 yards per carry across the last three seasons.

    A key reason for Chubb's success has been his ability to stay on his feet through tackle attempts. He has finished in the top five in broken tackles in each of his three NFL seasons and was tied for first with Dalvin Cook last season with 14.

    Chubb was third in yards after contact per rushing attempt in both 2019 (2.37) and 2020 (2.59) and Browns executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry is excited at the prospect of him leading Cleveland's backfield in the coming seasons.

    "From the day Nick Chubb first entered our facilities, it was clear to see that he would become a pillar of our organisation," said Berry.

    "Although Nick may be a man of few words whose strong-and-silent demeanour can be easy to overlook from the outside, his actions over the past three years have reverberated within the walls of our building.

    "Nick's on-field contributions stand for themselves. He is a dynamic runner who is on pace to be one of the most accomplished players to ever don an orange helmet at the position.

    "But it's his work ethic, intelligence, toughness and selflessness that makes us proud that he represents our city.

    "Quite plainly, Nick embodies the soul of our team and we are thrilled that he will be a Cleveland Brown for years to come."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.