The 2021 NFL draft, i.e. the league's 86th annual "Player Selection Meeting," is finally upon us, some beautiful mysteries finally about to be solved (while some others continue to deepen in Green Bay).
Outwardly, this draft will project a return to normalcy, the NFL set up with its massive stage contiguous to Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium on the shores of Lake Erie. However the pre-draft process was hardly standard, what with COVID-19 forcing the league to cancel this year's scouting combine on the heels of a season when scouts and team executives had far more limited access to college programs and the prospects whom they evaluate. Should make for an interesting calculus as teams weigh their information over the next three days and decide which players potentially fit their program.
Now, to the picks:
2021 NFL draft tracker: First-round picks
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
He becomes the fourth quarterback taken in Round 1 in franchise history – joining Byron Leftwich (2003), Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014) – but Lawrence is the first tabbed No. 1 overall. Widely regarded as a generational prospect on par with John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, it's been widely assumed for years that Lawrence would be the first player picked in this draft – the only question was which team would get him. Turns out, that's the Jags, a franchise that needs a spark on the field after a 1-15 campaign and in the seats. Lawrence's presumed arrival also likely spurred college coaching legend Urban Meyer to come aboard. (Meyer has hired veteran offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who facilitated Russell Wilson's transition to the NFL in Seattle, to do the same job in Jacksonville.)
Lawrence stands 6-6 and should add weight to his 213-pound frame as his surgically repaired left (non-throwing) shoulder heals. He went 34-2 as a starter for Clemson, bringing home a national title in 2018 and finishing with 90 TD passes (against 17 INTs) in three seasons. With a powerful, accurate arm, the ability to dissect defenses and make plays with his legs plus a steady persona indicative of a franchise quarterback, now all Lawrence has to do … is live up to the hype – in Duuuval County and the United Kingdom.
2. New York Jets – QB Zach Wilson, BYU
This franchise thought enough of Wilson to dump 2018 first-rounder (and No. 3 overall pick) Sam Darnold – making the Jets the first team in the common draft era (since 1967) to pick a passer within the top three picks twice in the span of four drafts. Though slightly built at 6-2 and 214 pounds and with a worrisome injury history that includes surgery on his throwing shoulder two years ago, Wilson does have tantalizing gifts that have drawn comparisons to Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes … which probably isn't fair to them or Wilson. Still, he's got the juice in his arm to make amazing throws with his feet set or on the move, and that may be a necessity given the general state of New York's offense, which finished last in points and yards in 2020. Wilson was the only player at the FBS level in 2020 with at least 30 TD passes and 10 scores on the ground, and his 33-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio also paced the country. Now Gang Green and their impatient fans find out if a player who feasted on non-Power Five competition can take a franchise 52 years removed from its only Super Bowl back to the promised land. GM Joe Douglas and a new coaching regime led by Robert Saleh must surely do a better job supporting Wilson than they did Darnold.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston Texans via Miami Dolphins) –
4. Atlanta Falcons –
5. Cincinnati Bengals –
6. Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles) –
7. Detroit Lions –
8. Carolina Panthers –
9. Denver Broncos –
10. Dallas Cowboys –
11. New York Giants –
12. Eagles (from 49ers via Dolphins) –
13. Los Angeles Chargers –
14. Minnesota Vikings –
15. New England Patriots –
16. Arizona Cardinals –
17. Las Vegas Raiders –
18. Dolphins –
19. Washington Football Team –
20. Chicago Bears –
21. Indianapolis Colts –
22. Tennessee Titans –
23. Jets (from Seattle Seahawks) –
24. Pittsburgh Steelers –
25. Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) –
26. Cleveland Browns –
27. Baltimore Ravens –
28. New Orleans Saints –
29. Green Bay Packers –
30. Buffalo Bills –
31. Ravens (from Kansas City Chiefs) –
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers –
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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