The 2021 NFL draft began Thursday and continues through Saturday (ABC/ESPN/ESPN App). With quarterbacks going 1-2-3 — Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers — the rest of the draft promises to be just as exciting.
If you missed any of it — or just want to catch up on deeper analysis — read on for insights on every team from our crew of reporters and check out updated depth charts for all 32 teams.
Selecting linebacker Zaven Collins out of Tulsa was a safe pick for the Cardinals, that’s pretty clear. Collins is a talent and he’s versatile, which will leave defensive coordinator Vance Joseph dreaming about where to line him up — much like he did with Isaiah Simmons last season. But the Cardinals are facing a make-or-break season, and it seems like it would’ve made more sense for them to either trade back to gather more picks — even some for next year’s deep draft — or to take a chance on a wide receiver or cornerback, both of which are positions that could help them win this season. Collins, who won both the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Bednarik Award as the defensive player of year, isn’t the issue here. It’s the decision to take him. Collins will be someone Arizona can groom at inside linebacker and play outside in a pinch. But with those positions already established, the need to win seemed like it was put on the back burner. Analysis of every Cardinals pick from Josh Weinfuss
Kyle Pitts is the best non-quarterback in the draft and a player new coach Arthur Smith can use all over the field — in-line, in the slot and out wide if necessary. He may be listed as a tight end, but that’s perhaps an antiquated description for a player like Pitts, who projects to be a dynamic pass-catcher on the Falcons. Consider, too, he’ll be paired at least with Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst next season (we’ll see about Julio Jones), and teams won’t be able to focus solely on him. It’s a pick that makes all the sense in the world for a coach who came up in the NFL working with tight ends. Analysis of every Falcons pick from Michael Rothstein
A week after general manager Eric DeCosta said he was “insulted” by the criticism of the team’s current wide receivers, Baltimore showed its commitment to upgrade the weapons on the outside for Lamar Jackson by selecting a wide receiver (Rashod Bateman) over replacing Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle or filling the biggest need at pass-rusher. Analysis of every Ravens pick from Jamison Hensley
The Bills continued to add young talent to their front seven, grabbing Miami pass-rusher Gregory Rousseau at pick No. 30. He joins recent high picks AJ Epenesa (No. 54, 2020) and Ed Oliver (No. 9, 2019) on Buffalo’s defensive front. Analysis of every Bills pick from Marcel Louis-Jacques
By taking Jaycee Horn, the Panthers showed how confident they are in quarterback Sam Darnold and that they believe they are very close to becoming a contender this season. In Horn, they selected a player who could make the biggest impact on the roster, since Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell were already gone. Carolina passed on quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones for a press corner, which was a huge missing piece last season. With injury-plagued Donte Jackson entering the final year of his rookie deal, look for Horn to step right in as a starter opposite Jackson. Horn is much bigger than Jackson at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds and has a long wingspan, which the coaching staff wanted since they face so many big receivers in the NFC South. He was just too good to pass up. Analysis of every Panthers pick from David Newton
Bears general manager Ryan Pace had to swing for the fences with Justin Fields available at No. 11. The Bears paid a hefty price (including next year’s first-round pick) to move up nine spots for Fields, but the payoff could be enormous. Finally, the Bears gave their fan base reason to be excited.Analysis of every Bears pick from Jeff Dickerson
The built-in chemistry between Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow could help fix the Bengals’ deep-ball woes. But it also gives them another dynamic outside receiver that could turn the Bengals’ offense into one of the most potent in the NFL. Analysis of every Bengals pick from Ben Baby
The Browns entered the offseason aiming to upgrade every level of their defense. Grabbing a premier corner like Greg Newsome II with the 26th pick was the finishing touch on the revamping of a defense that should be much improved in 2021. Analysis of every Browns pick from Jake Trotter
The Cowboys have made no secret about their desire to add defenders during the draft, and they had their eyes on cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. When those choices went off the board Thursday night, Dallas traded the No. 10 pick within the NFC East to the Eagles and selected at No. 12 linebacker Micah Parsons, who has plenty of talent but also opted out last season at Penn State. Analysis of every Cowboys pick from Todd Archer
The Broncos have proved throughout the offseason they like quarterback Drew Lock more than many others do. They largely sat out free agency at the position until they made a trade for Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday. Hours after Bridgewater was in the Broncos’ facility to take a physical and meet the coaches, the Broncos passed on quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones to take cornerback Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama. Surtain will be an immediate contributor on a defense that signed cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency and signed safety Justin Simmons to a long-term extension. Welcome to life in the Patrick Mahomes-led AFC West. Analysis of every Broncos pick from Jeff Legwold
All of the signs say that Penei Sewell was the safe pick in Detroit under the new regime. Detroit first-year head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes were searching for toughness, and Sewell definitely fits the mold. He won the 2019 Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman and is expected to contribute immediately. Analysis of every Lions pick from Eric Woodyard
Should it really be any surprise that the Packers went defense in the first round? This is the ninth time in their last 10 first-round picks they’ve addressed that side of the ball, with the lone offensive player being quarterback Jordan Love last year. The selection of cornerback Eric Stokes says Mike Pettine wasn’t the only problem with the Packers’ defense last year. Analysis of every Packers pick from Rob Demovsky
Given the uncertainty around the quarterback position in Houston, it made sense for the Texans to invest in Davis Mills, a player they feel they could develop at the position. Yes, more will be known about Deshaun Watson future after the season and there’s a good possibility that the Texans still trade Watson and/or target a top-tier quarterback in the 2022 draft, but adding Mills now gives Houston an opportunity to take another shot at the position. The biggest reason this move was surprising? The Texans have so many holes on the roster coming off a 4-12 season and a lot of turnover, and went into the draft without a pick in the first or second round. Analysis of every Texans pick from Sarah Barshop
The Colts have their anchors on defense in lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard. Buckner’s presence is felt in the middle of the defensive line, but they have a hole to fill when it comes to finding a pass-rusher off the edge. The hope is that Kwity Paye will help make up for the departures of Denico Autry (7.5 sacks) and Justin Houston (8.0 sacks). General manager Chris Ballard has been steadfast about wanting his teams to dominate the defensive and offensive lines, especially in December and January. Using a first-round pick on Paye is a possible indication that the Colts aren’t sold that Kemoko Turay, who has battled injuries the past couple of seasons, and Ben Banogu are ready to step up. Paye incredible physical skills will fit in with defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ aggressive and fast defense. The knock against Paye is that he had only 11.5 sacks while at Michigan. Analysis of every Colts pick from Mike Wells
Trevor Lawrence was a no-brainer for the Jaguars, who have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Mark Brunell led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances (including two AFC title games) from 1996 to ’99. Lawrence is the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, and he has lost just four games as a starting QB since he began high school. Lawrence steps into a situation with a 1,000-yard rusher (James Robinson), a veteran receiver (Marvin Jones Jr.) and an offensive line that returns all five starters. He’s also got an experienced offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, so things are in place for him to have success as a rookie. Analysis of every Jaguars pick from Michael DiRocco
The Chiefs lost Damien Wilson — one of their top linebackers last season in terms of playing time — to free agency. Second-round pick Nick Bolton out of Missouri could immediately claim at least some of Wilson’s snaps. He’ll have it earn them, though. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is notorious for making rookies prove they’re ready for any game action they get. Bolton’s ability to hit will be useful for the Chiefs and he will join veteran linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay, a second-round draft pick last season, as the main candidates for playing time. Analysis of every Chiefs pick from Adam Teicher
Um … yeah, the Raiders had a huge hole at right tackle, but Alex Leatherwood probably could have been taken 20-plus picks later, and defense is still the biggest hole on the team. Is this a reach? Taking a defensive player here or trading back from 17 to get more picks and still being in position to draft Leatherwood, the fourth O-lineman selected but not a consensus top-five O-lineman, seemed a more profitable move. Unless there were no takers or the Raiders simply loved Leatherwood that much. Perhaps the Raiders move Leatherwood, who played guard to start his college career, to right guard and slide Denzelle Good, who played right tackle and left guard last season, to right tackle. Analysis of every Raiders pick from Paul Gutierrez
The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Rashawn Slater is considered the best OT in the draft by many scouts, even over Penei Sewell, who went No. 7 to the Detroit Lions. He has NFL-ready technique and good movement at the point of attack. He’s a steal for an offensive line that needs a left tackle badly to protect second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is coming off an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season in 2020 that saw him set an NFL rookie record with 31 touchdown passes. Herbert did this despite being pressured 217 times last season, the most for a rookie quarterback since 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Slater can play right tackle, too, and the Chargers love his versatility and think he’s the real deal. Analysis of every Chargers pick from Shelley Smith
Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead acknowledged this offseason that they lacked a wide receiver last season who could consistently stretch a defense. With their first pick in the draft, they wasted no time addressing the need by selecting Louisville’s Tutu Atwell. The small — he weighed only 155 pounds at his pro day last month — but speedy Atwell could immediately be that deep-threat playmaker, especially since trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Atwell has the tools to line up in several positions and be used in multiple ways in McVay’s offense. Analysis of every Rams pick from Lindsey Thiry
Much of the Dolphins’ offseason goal was to continue the franchise’s rebuild while finding playmakers to build around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Miami made some headway in accomplishing those goals Thursday by drafting Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle at No. 6 and Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips at No. 18. Analysis of every Dolphins pick from Cameron Wolfe
The Vikings couldn’t have done any better for the value they got out of their first-round pick, Christian Darrisaw. Minnesota tried to trade up in the first round and get in contention for one of the top two offensive tackles in the draft. When that didn’t work out, the Vikings traded back nine spots and drafted the same player general manager Rick Spielman said they were considering taking at No. 14. Analysis of every Vikings pick from Courtney Cronin
The Patriots entered the draft with a glaring need for a long-term solution at QB. Despite speculation they would trade up to fill the need, Bill Belichick sat still at pick No. 15 and landed Alabama QB Mac Jones, a player New England had been linked to since early in the draft process. Analysis of every Patriots pick from Mike Reiss
This pick raised eyebrows since Payton Turner wasn’t widely graded as a Round 1 prospect by many analysts — and since other needs were viewed as more pressing. But New Orleans definitely needed more defensive line depth after parting ways with DE Trey Hendrickson and DTs Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins this offseason. And it should come as no surprise that the Saints’ brain trust values bigger, longer DEs like the 6-foot-6, 268-pound Turner more than some other teams and analysts might. That has always been their prototype at the position ahead of smaller, “tweener” OLB types, and he could potentially play DT in some packages. Analysis of every Saints pick from Mike Triplett
Dave Gettleman made the first trade back in his nine drafts as a general manager, dropping from pick No. 11 to No. 20, and still accomplished his goal of adding a playmaker for quarterback Daniel Jones. Florida receiver Kadarius Toney can be used all over the field and should give the offense a jolt. Analysis of every Giants pick from Jordan Raanan
For a team that finished 2-14 last season and needed help at most every position, the Jets started off the draft’s Round 1 by drafting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson in a seminal moment for the franchise. And general manager Joe Douglas stayed the course on offense by moving the Jets up from No. 23 to No. 14 to draft USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, who can protect the team’s rookie QB. Analysis of every Jets pick from Rich Cimini
The Eagles didn’t let size scare them off of the most productive wide receivers in this draft, and the reward for that leap of faith in moving up to select Alabama’s DeVonta Smith (6-foot, 166 pounds) yield a rather large return. Smith also reunites with former Crimson Tide teammate Jalen Hurts, who is vying for Philadelphia’s QB1 job. Analysis of every Eagles pick from Tim McManus
In a draft full of surprises, Najee Harris and the Steelers was a predictable fit. Harris was Pittsburgh’s target all along, the team’s first first-round running back selection since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. Many teams considered the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Harris the best tailback in the class. Analysis of every Steelers pick from Jeremy Fowler
After taking a big risk to trade up to this spot, it’s only fitting that the 49ers took the biggest risk on the most unknown player — North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. And it’s an inspired choice. Who knows whether Lance will reach his tremendous upside but every player coming into the league via the draft comes with risk. What we do know is Lance has everything you need to become a superstar in this league and the 49ers offer the ideal situation to help him reach that ceiling. Analysis of every 49ers pick from Nick Wagoner
For all the surprises the Seahawks tend to pull off early in the draft, taking D’Wayne Eskridge wasn’t much of one. A third receiver is a need for Seattle and Eskridge carries obvious appeal with his speed and big-play ability. He’s small (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) but ran a 4.39 40 and averaged around 19 yards per catch over five college seasons. His return ability might have added to his value in the Seahawks’ eyes as they’ve tried to take some of those duties off Tyler Lockett‘s plate. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Eskridge averaged 213 all-purpose yards per game in 2020, second in the FBS, and was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. Analysis of every Seahawks pick from Brady Henderson
By returning every starter on offense and defense from their Super Bowl LV win, plus key contributor Antonio Brown this week, the Bucs positioned themselves to take the best player available in Joe Tryon, who can bolster their rotation with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, who has one year left on his contract. Tryon can also contribute on special teams right away. Analysis of every Buccaneers pick from Jenna Laine
Caleb Farley is a classic high-risk, high-reward player. The Titans felt the opportunity was too good to pass up just like when they selected Jeffery Simmons in the first round of the 2019 draft. A healthy Farley, who opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, will be able to line up on the outside and be trusted in man coverage. He is more than willing as a tackler and can create turnovers. Adding Farley allows the Titans to use second-year cornerback Kristian Fulton on the inside as a nickel corner in sub packages. Farley finished his 2019 season with four interceptions and 12 passes defended. Analysis of every Titans pick from Turron Davenport
After focusing on the offense during free agency, Washington used it’s first pick in the draft to continue building a defense that has a chance to be special. Athletic Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, selected with the No. 19 pick, could flourish behind the team’s stout defensive line. Analysis of every Washington pick from John Keim
Jimmy Garoppolo first to text Trey Lance after San Francisco 49ers made pick, John Lynch says
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In the moments after the San Francisco 49ers selected quarterback Trey Lance with the third pick of the NFL draft on Thursday night, one of the first things incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo did was reach out to the rookie who is expected to eventually replace him.
“One thing that was really heartwarming to me, I heard last night that Jimmy reached out [to Lance],” general manager John Lynch said Friday night. “Trey was here today and Trey told us that the first text he got was from Jimmy Garoppolo. So, that’s pretty special. I think it speaks to his class.”
That the Niners took Lance was no surprise to Garoppolo, who had been informed by Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan that they intended to take a quarterback on March 26, the day the team traded with the Miami Dolphins to move up from No. 12 to No. 3.
Since then, the Niners have been holding videoconferences as part of their offseason program, and Shanahan said Friday he has kept Garoppolo abreast of the team’s plans. Because of that, Shanahan and Lynch did not need to reach out to Garoppolo after making Lance’s selection official.
“Jimmy knew what the deal was,” Shanahan said. “We have Zoom meetings every day. I got to see him on Zoom earlier that day and we had meetings and stuff. Jimmy has been great. … Jimmy is taking it as a business approach. I think he’s excited for right now, just talking to him, and he’s ready to come here and get back to being healthy and playing with our team. And if we have him compete, I know he’s ready to compete.”
The Niners have been adamant that Garoppolo will remain in the fold despite the fact they traded up to select Lance. Although there has been speculation about a possible trade, Shanahan reinforced that message on Thursday, and, for now at least, it seems Garoppolo will be back, possibly as part of a competition if things develop that way.
Lance arrived in the Bay Area with his family on Saturday and spent a little time with Shanahan and Lynch before he went to look for a place to live. Lance is slated to meet with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello on Saturday to get a head start on learning his new playbook before heading home with his family on Sunday.
From there, Lance will return to the Bay Area the Wednesday before May’s rookie minicamp and will then be back for good. For his part, Lance said Thursday he’s looking forward to working with Garoppolo.
“I’m just focused on getting there, learning as much as I possibly can, getting to know Jimmy and the guys in the room and learning and getting to know him and becoming close with him,” Lance said. “And just learning as much as I can and at that point, obviously competing.”
Green Bay Packers draft Amari Rodgers amid ongoing questions about Aaron Rodgers’ future
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Before this year’s NFL draft, Amari Rodgers called the Green Bay Packers his “dream scenario,” in part because of the opportunity to catch passes from reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
The former Clemson star still hopes that’s the case even though things have deteriorated between the quarterback and the organization.
But it doesn’t sound like general manager Brian Gutekunst picked Rodgers as peace offering to his franchise quarterback.
“I hope everybody on our team and within our building is excited about adding Amari,” Gutekunst said Friday. “I think it was something we wanted to add — we’ve wanted to add for a few years — that guy that can play inside and do some returning. So yeah, I hope everybody’s pleased with it.”
It was the first time since his inaugural draft in 2018 that Gutekunst picked a receiver, and by trading up to take the 5-foot-9, do-it-all slot receiver in the third round (No. 85 overall), it became the highest spot the Packers have drafted a receiver since Davante Adams in the second round (53rd overall) in 2014.
Adams set the franchise record with 115 catches last season — 82 more than any other Packers receiver to account for the largest gap between team No. 1s and 2s in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
For his part, Amari Rodgers said he was aware of the news that broke Thursday, when ESPN detailed Aaron Rodgers’ desire to move on and not play for the Packers again.
“Of course I want to catch passes from the reigning MVP, future Hall of Famer,” Amari Rodgers said. “So I know for sure I would love to have the opportunity to play for somebody like him on the field and also Davante, too, so I’m looking forward to that.
“We’ve got the same last name, so of course that’s pretty cool that we have the same last name. He’s an amazing quarterback. I’ve been watching him my whole life. It’s actually amazing and surreal that I get the opportunity to play with a quarterback like him.”
Amari Rodgers’ father, Tee Martin, played quarterback in the NFL and is the Baltimore Ravens receivers coach. But Martin also coached former Packers receiver Randall Cobb in college at Kentucky, and the Packers may be looking to use Rodgers in a similar role to what Cobb played in Green Bay.
“Since Randall Cobb left, everybody in my family felt like they haven’t had a slot player like him,” Rodgers said. “They just felt like it was a good fit for me to go there with Aaron Rodgers, him being the prolific quarterback that he is, and with Davante, being that he is a prolific receiver that he is, to bring me in to take a little attention off of him.
“I feel like that’ll be perfect. My skill set and what I’m able to do in the offense, I feel like it’s something that will be able to help the offense for sure.”
In his last season at Clemson, 86% of Rodgers’ targets came in the slot, while just 31% of Aaron Rodgers’ attempts in 2020 were targeting the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He fills so many holes for us,” Gutekunst said. “That’s one of the reasons why we traded up for him was because not only as a punt returner and a slot receiver, but as you guys have seen over the past couple years the creativity that [coach] Matt [LaFleur] has within his offense, some of the jet sweeps and screens.”
As for the other Rodgers, Gutekunst said he did not speak with his unhappy quarterback on Friday in part because of the business of the draft. A day after saying he received one call about a trade but reiterated that he would not trade Aaron Rodgers, Gutekunst said he received no calls about it on Friday.
The trade for the receiver, however, became an early priority. Gutekunst said he considered taking Amari Rodgers in the second round but instead took Ohio State center Josh Myers at No. 62.
“After I got off the phone [with Myers], I turned around to see if we could get back up to get Amari,” he said. “A couple of my guys had gone down to get something to eat, so we had to get everybody back on the phones fast. But we were trying pretty significantly to get up to go get Amari. It took us a little while longer than we wanted to. We paid a little bit of a price but I thought it was important because of the value of the player I wanted.”
Gutekunst gave up the first of the Packers’ two fourth-round picks (No. 135 overall) to the Tennessee Titans to move up from 92 to 85.
Los Angeles Rams select Tutu Atwell in NFL draft, not worried about speedy WR’s size
The Rams picked Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell with their first selection of this year’s draft Friday in the second round at No. 57 overall.
The 5-foot-9 Atwell, who weighed 155 pounds at his pro day last month, is the lightest player drafted into the NFL since at least 2006.
“I see a player who plays a lot bigger than that,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I’ve been around some of these guys that don’t measure as big, but they play big.”
Shortly after he was drafted, Atwell was unfazed when asked by reporters about his stature.
“I just come with a chip on my shoulder at all times, no matter was the situation is,” said Atwell, who caught 140 passes for 2,307 yards and 20 touchdowns in three seasons at Louisville. “I’m a go-getter.”
The Rams signed veteran receiver DeSean Jackson to a one-year, $4.5 million contract in free agency but entered the draft with the priority of adding another speedy, deep-threat receiver.
Atwell is expected to be a reliable target on intermediate and deep routes, and McVay says the rookie also has some similarities to Jackson.
“The ability to stretch the top shelf of the coverage, I think he really does an excellent job of tracking the ball effortlessly down the field,” McVay said, adding that was among traits that made Jackson “so special.”
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