By Logan Franz
The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting days on the season’s calendar. However, some teams get a lot better in the draft while some don’t. Not all draft picks are created equal. So who won Round 1 of the draft and who lost?
The Bears are clear winners of Round 1. They took advantage of a talented player falling and moved up to get him. The Bears traded the 20th overall pick, their 2022 first, their 2021 fifth rounder and 2022 fourth rounder to move up to pick number 11 and select Ohio St. quarterback Justin Fields. Fields was thought by some to be the second best quarterback in the draft and continued to slide as teams such as the 49ers, Panthers and Broncos passed on him. Justin Fields isn’t the perfect quarterback prospect but his efficiency in both the running and passing game as well as his toughness make him a very likeable quarterback. The Bears needed to take a big swing at quarterback if coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace wanted any chance to save their jobs and this trade could prove to be the career saving move they needed.
It’s easy to “win” the first round of the draft when you have two first round picks but they still have to be good picks. The Ravens selected Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman 27th overall and Penn St edge rusher Odafe Oweh 31st overall. Bateman is a wide receiver with true number one potential. His route running ability makes up for his lack of top end speed and should be able to separate and he can win at the catch point which is crucial against top corners in today’s NFL. Odafe Oweh is more of a developmental prospect but the Ravens want to groom him to be a Matthew Judon replacement. He has all the physical tools to be a top-end pass rusher, he just needs to be developed. He only played 20 games in college before being selected in the draft but if the Ravens are willing to be patient, the pick could pay off in spades.
New York Jets
The Jets also had two first round picks in the 2021 draft. They took BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the 2nd overall pick and traded up to select USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall.The Jets traded picks 23, 66 and 88 for picks 14 and 143. Wilson was a pick that had been projected 2nd overall for months before the draft and he’s a prospect with elite playmaking ability and an ability to improvise. Vera-Tucker can play tackle but also has the potential to be an All-Pro at guard. The Jets leave the first round with a quarterback as well as protection for the new quarterback
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders selected Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood 17th overall. Leatherwood was projected as a second round pick and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah had him ranked as the 62nd overall prospect. With tackle prospects like Christian Darrisaw, Teven Jenkins and Liam Eichenberg still available, Leatherwood was a head-scratching pick. The Raiders could’ve traded down from this spot and still have gotten Leatherwood although Mike Mayock’s tenure with the Raiders has been defined by first round picks that come out of left field so it’s not entirely surprising.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints selected Houston edge rusher Payton Turner 27th overall. This is another pick that could’ve waited. Turner needs to clean up his game more to be an impact defender. The ceiling just doesn’t seem worth it in the first round. There are risks worth taking in the first if there’s elite upside but Turner doesn’t seem to have that type of potential and he likely would’ve been there with the Saints second round pick as well.
The Cardinals selected linebacker Zaven Collins with the 16th overall pick. Collins isn’t a bad player but he’s not worth the 16th overall pick. He’s viewed as a sort of “chameleon” on defense just like Isaiah Simmons who the Cardinals took the year prior in the first round. There were better options available for the Cardinals at this pick. Collins wasn’t even the best player available at his position. Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah projects as a better player than Collins despite the medical issues.
Edited by Emma Moloney