TOP 5 DRAFT PICKS
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Clemson quarterback Trevor Wilson
2. New York Jets – BYU quarterback Zach Wilson
3. San Francisco 49ers – North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance
4. Atlanta Falcons – Florida tight end Kyle Pitts
5. Cincinnati Bengals – LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase
Quarterbacks are on the menu at the NFL Draft in Cleveland on Thursday night, as the Jacksonville Jaguars made Clemson star Trevor Lawrence the first pick, the New York Jets followed with BYU’s Zach Wilson, and the San Francisco 49ers picked North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with the third-overall selection.
Thursday’s first round matches 1971 (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini) and 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith) as the only drafts with quarterbacks taken with the top three picks.
Lawrence, a junior who led Clemson to a national title, generally is considered the best prospect at the position since Andrew Luck in 2012. He joins new coach Urban Meyer, himself a major success in the college ranks, in trying to turn around a franchise that went 1-15 last season.
‘I’m just pumped,’ Lawrence said. ‘The best is yet to come.
‘I don’t what the point is … if you don’t expect to win every week. I’m going to bring the same mindset.’
It was also a banner day for the reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, who had wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith go off the board to the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles with the sixth and 10th picks, respectively.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts went fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons while LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was picked fifth and will reunite with his college quarterback, last year’s top pick, Joe Burrow, with the Cincinnati Bengals.
After going all virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-day draft, which has grown into one of America’s biggest, non-game sporting events, returns with an outdoor event on the shores of Lake Erie this year. Thousands of fans are being separated by their loyalties – and whether they’ve been vaccinated.
Back on the road in Cleveland, this draft is unlike any other.
Forced to cancel last year’s event in Las Vegas, the league is using lessons learned while plowing through an unprecedented, socially distanced 2020 season and holding the Super Bowl in Tampa, to have a draft that will look much more like normal – well, the new normal – with fans wearing their favorite team’s colors and required masks.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a positive step.
‘It feels very good to stand outside at an event site, and it comes at a time where I think we need to do this,’ Jon Barker, NFL head of live event productions said as workers put the finishing touches on a 95-foot-high temporary outdoor theater along Lake Erie and next to FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
‘We have to do this,’ he said. ‘We need to get people out and back to live events and to experience things like this, and the draft is one of those great events that can bring everybody together and do that.’
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over video call after being selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the number one overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Zach Wilson holds a jersey onstage after being drafted second by the New York Jets during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, right, holds a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the third pick in the first round
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts went fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons
Detroit Lions fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Green Bay Packer fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Picks 6 Through 10
6. Miami Dolphins – Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle
7. Detroit Lions – Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell
8. Carolina Panthers – South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn
9. Denver Broncos – Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II
10. Philadelphia Eagles – Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith
The Jaguars made the announcement that’s been expected for months official shortly after the start of the draft, setting off a raucous celebration inside TIAA Bank Field. A sold-out draft party, which included a crowd of 8,000, cheered wildly as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium to call Lawrence’s name.
Lawrence is the fourth quarterback drafted by the franchise in the first round in its 27 years of existence, joining Byron Leftwich (2003), Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014).
The chance to draft Lawrence was one of the factors that lured coach Urban Meyer out of the broadcast booth and got him back on the sideline. Jacksonville has five of the top 65 picks, including the 25th pick later in Thursday’s opening round.
No matter who else the Jaguars bring in, none of them will compare to Lawrence. He’s now the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. And Jacksonville is counting on him solving the team’s decades-old problem at the all-important position.
Lawrence enjoyed a stellar college career at Clemson, going 34-2 as the starter and leading the Tigers to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and the 2018 national championship.
Wilson was selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night after being linked to the Jets for the last few months. He’s now the blond, blue-eyed face of a frustrated franchise that has gone 10 seasons without making the playoffs – and 52 without reaching the Super Bowl.
‘There’s not another team I’d want to play for besides the Jets,’ Wilson said on NFL Network shortly after being drafted. ‘We’re going to be a special team. We’re going for the Super Bowl.’
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Wilson made a massive jump in his development – and on teams’ draft lists – while throwing for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdown passes and just three interceptions last season for BYU. He also broke Steve Young’s school record for completion percentage with an eye-popping mark of 73.5%.
Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Miami Dolphins as the number six overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Patrick Surtain II poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage after being selected ninth by the Denver Broncos during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29
Cincinnati opted for Chase over Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, a player that many speculated the Bengals would grab first as they try to beef up their moribund offensive line in front of Burrow.
Chase won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football in 2019 but opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019, he set SEC records with 1,780 yards receiving and 20 TDs.
Considered one of the best receiver prospects in recent years, the 6-foot, 201-pound Chase has sub-4.4 speed in the 40 that allows him to get separation and plays like a bigger receiver when going after contested catches.
Chase will give Burrow a dangerous weapon immediately. In Cincinnati, he´ll join a receiving corps with Tee Higgins, the team´s 2020 leader with 908 receiving yards and six touchdowns, and Tyler Boyd, who had 841 yards and four touchdowns.
The Bengals will still find plenty of offensive linemen available when they’re on the clock again with the 38th overall pick in the second round Friday.
Sewell will likely start at right tackle to potentially make Detroit’s offensive line a strength with left tackle Taylor Decker and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Sewell did not play last season after starting his first two years at Oregon, opting out of last year´s delayed Pac-12 season.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes is leading a front office for the first time, taking on the tall task of turning around a franchise that has struggled for decades. He was in charge of the Los Angeles Rams’ college scouting department the past eight years.
a’Marr Chase (LSU) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Cincinnati Bengals as the number five overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Holmes went into the draft with six picks, including an extra third-round selection acquired from the Rams in a blockbuster trade for Matthew Stafford that also gave Detroit quarterback Jared Goff, along with first-round picks in each of the next two years.
On Friday night and Saturday, the Lions will likely look to address some of their many needs such as wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker and defensive back.
Detroit seems to be set at just a few positions, including running back, tight end and center.
The Carolina Panthers selected cornerback Jaycee Horn from South Carolina with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, passing on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to help upgrade their defense.
Horn was the first defensive player selected in the draft. Carolina spent all seven picks on defensive players last year.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Horn appeared in 30 games during his career for the Gamecocks and had 101 tackles and two interceptions. He is known for being an aggressive, attacking cornerback and fills an immediate need for the Panthers, who struggled in pass defense a year ago.
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said the team was ready to entertain all trade options for the No. 8 pick but wound up keeping it.
Fields was still available when the Panthers made their selection, but the team appeared to show its confidence in quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Panthers are coming off a 5-11 season, prompting Fitterer and coach Matt Rhule to send three draft picks to the New York Jets in exchange for Darnold. The team then traded last year’s starting QB Teddy Bridgewater to Denver for a sixth-round pick.
An overall view of the stage before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
New York was also scheduled to pick No. 23 overall, marking the first time it has had two first-round selections since 2013 when cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 9) and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson (No. 13) were taken.
The Jets have been fruitlessly searching for decades for a quarterback to emerge from the massive shadow of Joe Namath, who led the franchise to its only Super Bowl in 1969. There have been flashes of individual and team success from several players under center since. But none has produced consistent enough results to solve the team’s seemingly endless quarterback quandary.
After trading the 12th pick, two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-rounder to Miami for the No. 3 selection last month, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch decided on Lance as the eventual successor to the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
While many 49ers fans were worried Shanahan would take a pocket passer like Mac Jones with the pick, the Niners instead went with a more unproven quarterback who possesses all the physical tools necessary to succeed in the modern NFL.
Lance started only 17 games at FCS-level North Dakota State, where he displayed a strong arm, mobility and mastery of a pro-style offense against lesser competition. Lance played only one game in 2020 because the FCS moved its season to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But his production in 2019 was off the charts as he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and no interceptions and ran for 1,159 yards. Lance threw his only collegiate interception last fall against Central Arkansas in a game North Dakota State played in part to give him more exposure to NFL teams.
While Lance played under center in an offense that featured plenty of play-action that should translate to Shanahan’s offense with the 49ers, he still needs work on some of his mechanics and accuracy.
Unlike the 2020 NFL Draft, which commissioner Roger Goodell hosted from his basement (pictured), this year’s event was held in Cleveland where fans, players, and officials were required to be vaccinated in order to get anywhere near the stage
It’s easy to see owner Shad Khan’s excitement and enthusiasm for the Jacksonville Jaguars these days. He’s smiling, cracking jokes, taking subtle shots at his previous coach/general manager regime.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best weeks of his 10-year tenure, right up there with playing in the AFC championship game in January 2018.
‘It’s unbelievable,’ Khan said Tuesday, two days before Jacksonville selected Lawrence with the first pick in the NFL draft. ‘If this isn’t a moment to enjoy for me and for all the Jags fans, you need more coffee or you need something else. This is a great-to-be-alive kind of moment, frankly.’
Khan was downright giddy knowing the Jaguars will land Lawrence, widely considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Khan was a wide-eyed NFL owner back then, with little more than a notion about how the league worked.
He’s since learned enough that he kept coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell in place an extra year in 2020 to have them clean up their mess. That decision, which came shortly after Khan fired top executive Tom Coughlin, was the moment he felt he was ‘ready to take the training wheels off.’
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan speaks at EverBank Field in Jacksonville in this March 8, 2017, file photo
He hired Urban Meyer to replace them, bringing in one of the most decorated coaches in college football history and giving him full reign to change anything and everything he wants within the organization.
‘Nine years ago, buying the team, it was like the great journey, the first step on a 1,000-mile journey and looking to the horizon,’ Khan said. ‘And what it is now? We’ve been through ups and downs, mostly downs, and now you’re looking at a great upside.’
Although Khan declined to tip the obvious top pick, he didn’t balk at or even try to deflect any questions that mentioned Lawrence by name or alluded to him as the choice.
‘We’re looking at hope, optimism,’ he said. ‘I want to enjoy the moment. I want all the fans, all of us in Jacksonville, to enjoy this moment and our time in the national spotlight. If we have hope and we’re winning, obviously, that’s a lot better for the city and it’s a lot better for the Jags.’
The team went 41-106 in Khan’s first nine years, including 2-1 in its one playoff year. The owner has endured eight seasons with double-digit losses while failing repeatedly to find a franchise quarterback. The Jaguars gave Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon chances during Khan’s tenure.
‘It’s that one player (who) is the hardest thing to (find),’ he said.
The Jaguars are counting on Lawrence solving a decades-old problem for the small-market franchise. Lawrence comes off a stellar college career at Clemson, going 34-2 as the starter and leading the Tigers to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and the 2018 national championship.
He completed 66 percent of his passes for 10,098 yards, with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Lawrence also ran for 18 scores.
Urban Meyer recently accepted the head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars
He finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting to Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith last season. Lawrence threw for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions while missing two games after testing positive for COVID-19 in October.
He’s expected to be the face of Jacksonville’s franchise, along with Meyer, for the foreseeable future.
Khan sat in on several video calls involving prospective quarterbacks in recent weeks, including at least one with Lawrence. The owner, who plans to be more involved with decision making than during previous regimes, also has been on hand for a few mock drafts.
He insists this draft will be different from previous ones in Jacksonville that ‘still had surprises in the draft room.’
No one will be shocked when Jacksonville takes Lawrence, who will step into an immediate leadership role on a team still trying to make sense of all Meyer’s methodologies. Even Khan is learning more and more about them every day.
‘The coaches have to have accountability if the players aren’t developing,’ Khan said. ‘I think that sense of accountability is really kind of refreshing. You do that in normal walks of life. … We’ve always said, `Well, everything is about talent.’
‘Well, if they don’t have the psyche to blend into the team, it’s not a good thing. And then if the coaches aren’t developing them, then we’re going to have what we have had.’
IS IT SAFE TO ATTEND SPORTING EVENTS YET?
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Not yet, but there are ways to make it safer if you go.
‘Yelling, chanting, hugging and generally pouring out our sports enthusiasm is still not the safest activity,’ noted Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of population health at University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of Dear Pandemic, a website that offers expert opinions.
If you do decide to go to a game, outdoor stadiums are safer than indoor arenas, which won’t be as well ventilated. Venues that limit attendance and require masks are safer as well. Some teams are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the coronavirus.
Detroit Lions fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Rick Dermer, a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, points out his ‘Terrible Mask’ as he waits for potential draftees to appear on the Red Carpet at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland
Once at the stadium, avoid indoor bars, restaurants and box seating, Dowd said. ‘Spaces that are indoors with lots of people eating and drinking without masks are still among the riskiest,’ she said.
Going to a game is much safer if you’re fully vaccinated, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the agency advises wearing masks at crowded sports events regardless of whether you’ve had your shots.
Evidence on the safety of big games is mixed. The NFL says it safely hosted 1.2 million fans at 119 games during the 2020 season. Some studies that haven’t yet been vetted by outside experts have reached differing conclusions about whether the football season led to more infections. The study findings can’t be certain, since they were based on disease rates in counties, not on contact tracing investigations.
Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said enough Americans will likely be fully vaccinated by June or July to see significant declines in transmission of the virus.
‘The risk won’t go to zero,’ Hotez said, but it will drop enough that sporting events, restaurants and larger gatherings may be much safer.
The CDC offers additional guidance to help sports fans make decisions as the pandemic continues, such as checking with event organizers about what safety measures are being taken. An important reminder: If you have symptoms, are waiting for a virus test result or have been exposed to someone who’s infected, you should stay home, the CDC says.
– Associated Press
Fans enjoy the Bud Light Legends Bar at the NFL Draft Experience on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Cleveland
Reigning NFL MVP and Jeopardy host Aaron Rodgers has reportedly become dissatisfied in Green Bay and has told Packers officials that he doesn’t want to return to the team
Rodgers has been busy this off-season. In addition to a stretch hosting Jeopardy, he revealed his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley (near right) when he accepted his third MVP award back in February
The draft wasn’t the only major NFL news on Thursday.
Reigning NFL MVP and part-time Jeopardy host Aaron Rodgers has reportedly become dissatisfied in Green Bay and has told Packers officials that he doesn’t want to return to the team.
The 37-year-old is frustrated by contract extension negotiations, according to NFL Network. Rodgers is reportedly seeking ‘contractural security’ in a deal that would prevent the need for any future restructuring – a common practice by NFL teams with their highest-paid players.
As ESPN reported ahead of Thursday’s NFL Draft, the Packers are aware and concerned about Rodgers’s displeasure. Sources told ESPN that Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have all met with Rodgers privately this off-season, and outwardly, the team remains committed to the former Super Bowl champion.
‘As we’ve stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond,’ Gutekunst told ESPN. ‘Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team.’
NFL Network reported there’s ‘zero percent chance’ he’s traded, but ESPN says the Packers are open to a deal.
Rodgers’s agent did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
According to ESPN, he’s been upset in Green Bay dating back to the 2020 NFL Draft, when the team selected Utah State QB Jordan Love (pictured) as Rodgers’s heir apparent
According to ESPN, he’s been upset in Green Bay dating back to the 2020 NFL Draft, when the team selected Utah State quarterback Jordan Love as Rodgers’s heir apparent in the first round.
Rodgers also made cryptic comments before the 2020 NFC title game, saying his future is a ‘beautiful mystery.’
The Packers have shown no interest in trading him, and according to ESPN, turned down offers from the Los Angeles Rams, who ultimately dealt for the Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Rodgers has played his entire 16-year NFL career with the Packers, winning three MVP awards and Super Bowl XLV over that time.
He is signed through the 2023 season, but has an out clause in his contract that could allow him to become a free agent in the summer of 2022. Rodgers has earned more than $240 million in salary over his 16-year career.
Rodgers has been busy this off-season.
In addition to a stretch hosting Jeopardy, he revealed his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley when he accepted his third MVP award back in February.
Rodgers’s trade value is buoyed by his own recent success after leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.7) and touchdown passes (48) in 2020, while throwing just five interceptions.
As ESPN reported, the Packers are aware and concerned about Rodgers’s displeasure. Sources told ESPN that Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst (pictured) and head coach Matt LaFleur have all met with Rodgers privately this off-season, and outwardly, the team remains committed to the former Super Bowl champion
Back in Jax? NFL QB-Turned-Minor League Baseball Player Tim Tebow ‘Works Out for Jaguars as a TIGHT END’ and Could Reunite Urban Meyer in Jacksonville
After stints as an NFL quarterback and a minor league baseball player, Tim Tebow is reportedly attempting a professional football comeback as a tight end, and his former college coach Urban Meyer may be willing to give him a chance.
Tebow, 33, starred at the University of Florida under Meyer, who’s entering his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach. Although he was born in the Philippines, Tebow grew up in Jacksonville before enrolling at Florida.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that ‘there has been at least some discussion’ of Jacksonville signing him.
Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries, is still an on-air analyst for ESPN’s college football coverage. He recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (right), the 2017 Miss Universe winner
Tebow played in the New York Mets’ organization from 2016 to 2019, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2019, but announced his retirement from baseball in February. In 2019, which turned out to be his final season due to the pandemic, Tebow batted .163 in 77 games at Triple-A – the highest level of minor league baseball – before suffering a season-ending pinky injury. He finishes his career with a .223 average over 287 minor league games
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was a dual-threat quarterback who ran for 57 touchdowns over four seasons at Florida, while also passing for 88 TDs. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Tebow has a frame that could translate to the tight-end position despite not playing there at any point since high school. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is 6-5, 260, while San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is 6-4, 250
Denver selected Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. After only lasting three seasons in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets, Tebow changed focus to professional baseball.
He played in the New York Mets’ organization from 2016 to 2019, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2019, but announced his retirement from baseball in February.
In 2019, which turned out to be his final season due to the pandemic, Tebow batted .163 in 77 games at Triple-A – the highest level of minor league baseball – before suffering a season-ending pinky injury. He finishes his career with a .223 average over 287 minor league games.
‘I want to thank the Mets, Alderson, the fans and all my teammates for the chance to be a part of such a great organization,’ Tebow said in a statement released by New York Mets. ‘I loved every minute of the journey, but at this time I feel called in other directions.’
Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries, is still an on-air analyst for ESPN’s college football coverage. He recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, the 2017 Miss Universe winner.
‘My prayer is that God will bless him & his wife in this next chapter,’ tweeted preacher Franklin Graham. ‘I’m sure He has great things in store. Thank you Tim for your friendship—& your consistent witness for Jesus Christ.’
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was a dual-threat quarterback who ran for 57 touchdowns over four seasons at Florida, while also passing for 88 TDs.
At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Tebow has a frame that could translate to the tight-end position despite not playing there at any point since high school. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is 6-5, 260, while San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is 6-4, 250.
Accuracy issues limited Tebow’s potential as a quarterback and he ultimately failed to win the starting job with the New York Jets in 2012. He went on to have brief stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, but never officially played for either team in a regular season game.
There remains some debate over how good Tebow really was in the NFL, but the numbers are not on his side.
In 2011, the only season he played regularly, Tebow completed 46.5 percent of his passes. For comparison, no qualifying NFL passer had a lower completion mark than 57 percent in 2020.
– Reuters and Alex Raskin, sports news editor for DailyMail.com
Tebow, a former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback, worked out for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end, NFL Network and ESPN reported Thursday. Tebow, 33, starred at the University of Florida under Meyer (right), who’s entering his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach. Although he was born in the Philippines, Tebow grew up in Jacksonville before enrolling at Florida