Round one of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, which means that it’s time to write some articles that will be out of date by the time most people get around to reading them! That’s right, it’s a race against the clock to place flags on winners and losers from the first round while fighting against the clock to see who goes in round two and round three on Friday, April 30! Every second I wait is a second closer to this article getting out of date, so let’s get started with the winners and losers from the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft!
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons went out and got the best player in the 2021 NFL Draft, tight end Kyle Pitts, to add to Matt Ryan’s passing corps. Rumors swirl about Julio Jones becoming a cap casualty for the Falcons, which means that Matt Ryan faced a hideous Russell Gage: second pass-catching option future. The Falcons added Pitts which gives Matt Ryan some leeway before he has to think, “oh god I have to pass it to Olamide Zaccheus on this one again, don’t I?” Pitts gives Matt Ryan a true alpha to go with Calvin Ridley at worst until Ryan retires or shuffles off to another team like… *spins wheel* …the Denver Broncos. Ryan’s career got a bump up with the Kyle Pitts draft pick.
Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons
Speaking of the Falcons and tenuous grasps on career relevance, Mike Davis. Davis flamed out of the 49ers and the Seahawks before the Carolina Panthers fed him to the point of regurgitation last season. Then, he signed with the Falcons, a spot where everyone thought he wasn’t long for continued relevance. His stint as Atlanta’s RB1 likely ends tonight, with Javonte Williams or Michael Carter looming large on the horizon.
Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
Like Davis, Gaskin found relevance last season by becoming the de facto RB1 for the Dolphins after they cycled through Jordan Howard, Matt Breida and Salvon Ahmed around him. That all could come crashing to a halt tonight with a Javonte Williams selection. I think a Michael Carter pick throws this into a competition that Gaskin will win, but it still hurts his value. The Dolphins had the draft capital to move back up to take one of Travis Etienne or Najee Harris in the first round, but they didn’t. That gives Gaskin at least one more day as the team’s top running back. That could change but it wouldn’t shock me if he entered the season as the undisputed RB1, though.
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Since joining the NFL, Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin ranks fifth in the number of games where a running back received 20+ touches. There really wasn’t a better landing spot for a first-round running back than Najee Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They seemed to be a fait accompli in the predraft process, and nobody cared. Taking a first-round running back carries lots of risk, but the Steelers accept that risk. They’ll need to add some offensive line
New York Jets Running Backs, uh… New York Jets
The Jets running back room stays the worst in the league by a wide margin for at least one more day. But that ends tonight. There is no way the Jets can look their team in the face with La’Mical Perine and Tevin Coleman as their one-two punch headed into the NFL season. Unfortunately, they traded two prime picks (#66 and #86) to get (OG) Alijah Vera-Tucker in round one.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
I should have known that Jacksonville Jaguars’ GM Trent Baalke would make a mess of things as soon as humanly possible. He couldn’t reasonably pass on Trevor Lawrence, but as soon as he could blow up a good situation, he did. Robinson played incredibly well last year and was a productive back on a cheap, cheap deal. So, of course, Baalke takes James Robinson’s immediate competition in the first round of the NFL draft when he added Travis Etienne to the roster. Etienne is a better all-around player than James Robinson, and immediately damages J-Rob’s NFL future. Urban Meyer said he sees Travis Etienne as the RB3, and a third-down back to start off his career. He also said he sees James Robinson and Carlos Hyde as 1A and 1B on this team. Absolute insanity coming out of Jacksonville.
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
These two facts are true: Travis Etienne is the #3 running back on the Jaguars’ depth chart, and Travis Etienne is the best running back on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some people gave Travis Etienne an Alvin Kamara comp (I saw a little bit more of an Aaron Jones mold in him, but I digress), and it seems like the Jaguars seem destined to give Etienne an Alvin Kamara rookie season. If you remember back to Kamara’s rookie year, he had to force the issue because he sat behind Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram to start the year. Etienne seems destined to the same fate. It’s not the worst situation for Etienne, but it’s not the best. He’s still a big draft loser for me, unfortunately.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers & Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
As best we know, Jimmy Garoppolo lives. Kyle Shanahan was cagey enough in his press conference earlier this week that if Jimmy G ended up dead somewhere, Shanny would be the prime suspect. That having been said, he sits replaced by upcoming rookie quarterback Trey Lance. Replacing Garoppolo isn’t surprising, and it was indeed telegraphed from the moment the 49ers traded up for pick three.
Unfortunately for poor Andrew Dalton, his demise came as a major surprise. The Bears weren’t in the running for a quarterback until Justin Fields fell into their lap. Then, for the second time in three seasons, a team swept away Dalton for a better quarterback. Nobody can hurt Dalton as much as Dalton hurts Dalton. That having been said, I think it’s time for Andy to downshift his career into the “career backup” role and collect $2 million to $3 million a year to hold a clipboard.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Well, Aaron Rodgers reportedly wants out of Green Bay. And if they can’t ship him out of Green Bay, they can at least, finally, get him an offensive weapon in the first round. Right? Bzzt. Wrongo! The Packers took Eric Stokes, a defensive back, instead of a piece of offensive weaponry to place around Aaron Rodgers. It seems like the Pack wants to do literally anything and everything they can to anger Rodgers while simultaneously saying things are fine. Rodgers might be done in Green Bay, and honestly? I can’t blame the guy. The Packers refuse to draft offensive weapons for him, instead of using picks on defense, only to have a somewhat okay defense when all is said and done. If Rodgers doesn’t get his trade, he might just retire, making him the second rage-induced retirement in recent memory, following Carson Palmer and the Bengals in 2011.
Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Reagor’s NFL career started auspiciously, with injuries hampering his rookie campaign. When he finally showed up for the Eagles, he averaged a paltry 33.3 yards per game on five targets. Not exactly first-round caliber production out of the Eagles’ first-round pick. It’s doubly painful when you consider that the Vikings took Justin Jefferson one pick later, and the Vikings literally laughed at Philly for taking Reagor first. Now, the Eagles bring in DeVonta Smith, who was my favorite wide receiver in this class. This might be good for Reagor to take the pressure off of him as the team’s #1 wide receiver, but it does not bode well for the guy’s future that his team immediately replaced him as their top target.
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