The themes for the 2021 NFL draft were many, starting with the quarterbacks.
Then, of course, was an actual live draft with players and fans on hand.
And there was Alabama dominating the selections the way it overpowered college football, carrying its conference with it.
No suspense at the top: quarterback, quarterback and, yep, quarterback.
With Commissioner Roger Goodell dispensing greetings to players Thursday night, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence went to the Jacksonville Jaguars to get things started. Next was BYU’s Zach Wilson going to the New York Jets, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance landing with the San Francisco 49ers.
That matched 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. Only Plunkett won a Super Bowl among those QBs, and he didn’t do it with New England, which drafted him.
Two more passers went in the top 15: Ohio State’s Justin Fields to Chicago, which traded up to the 11th slot with the Giants, and Alabama’s Mac Jones to New England.
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.”
Players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence, QB, 6-foot-6, 213 pounds, Clemson
Breakdown: Lawrence has been the presumptive No. 1 pick in this draft since his freshman season. Prototypical size, top-notch speed and athleticism and rare arm talent. Want to pick some nits? His delivery is a little long and deep ball accuracy could be more consistent.
Facts: First overall No. 1 from Clemson. Fourth straight overall No. 1 to be a quarterback and sixth in the last seven seasons. Lawrence is the fourth QB taken in the first round by the Jaguars, joining Byron Leftwich (2003), Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014).
2. New York Jets
Zach Wilson, QB, 6-2, 214, BYU
Breakdown: Can throw accurately and with zip from multiple arm angles. Quick feet and hands made him especially effective with RPOs and play action. Made a big jump last season when BYU was playing a schedule low on top-flight competition.
Facts: Wilson is the third quarterback selected by the Jets in the top five since 2009 (Mark Sanchez, fifth overall) and the second in the last four seasons (Sam Darnold, third overall). It is the first time in NFL history a team has selected a QB twice in the top-three in a span of four drafts.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston through Miami)
Trey Lance, QB, 6-4, 224, North Dakota State
Breakdown: Athletic, with good arm strength and the ability to decipher defences before the snap. Not a lot of film. Lance is 20 years old and has played just one full season against FCS competition, a total of 17 starts.
Facts: First time the Niners have taken a quarterback in the first round since Alex Smith went first overall in 2005. Lance is the second North Dakota State QB taken in the top three in five years, along with Carson Wentz (second overall) in 2016.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts, TE, 6-6, 245, Florida
Breakdown: Became an impossible matchup last season, too big for the fast players and too fast for the big players. Rarely lets a pass he can get his hands on get away. The blocking needs work, but maybe he’s just a super-sized wide receiver.
Facts: Pitts is the highest selected tight end in NFL draft history, going one spot higher than Riley Odom to Denver in 1972. Before the merger, Mike Ditka was also drafted fifth overall by Chicago in 1961.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, 6-0, 201, LSU
Breakdown: Good burst to get separation and consistently comes down with contested catches. Plays like a bigger receiver, despite lack of great length. Opted out of last season but was an All-American in 2019, setting SEC records with 1,780 yards receiving and 20 TD catches.
Facts: Chase is the third receiver Cincinnati has taken in the top 10 since 2011, joining A.J. Green (2011) and John Ross (2017).
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, 5-9, 180, Alabama
Breakdown: Blazing speed and elusive after the catch. Was a dangerous return man with the Tide. Size could limit him to playing mostly in the slot. Played in only six games last season because of a broken left ankle.
Fact: First receiver drafted in the first round by the Dolphins since 2015 (DeVante Parker, 14th overall) joins teammate Tua Tagovailoa, who was selected No. 5 overall by Miami last year.
7. Detroit Lions
Penei Sewell, OT, 6-5, 331, Oregon
Breakdown: Elite size-athleticism combination. Gets off the ball quickly and violently and will search for defenders to block downfield. There are some technique issues, but he doesn’t turn 21 until October and has all the upside you’d want. Opted out of last year’s delayed Pac-12 season.
Fact: For the first time in NFL draft history, the first seven players taken were on offence. Sewell is first offensive lineman drafted in the top 10 by Detroit since Lomas Brown in 1985 at six.
8. Carolina Panthers
Jaycee Horn, CB, 6-1, 205, South Carolina
Breakdown: Physical cornerback who has shown the ability to play outside and in the slot. A little too physical at times and had only two career interceptions. Father is former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn.
Fact: Carolina drafted only defence with its seven picks last season, its first under coach Matt Rhule.
9. Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II, CB, 6-2, 208, Alabama
Breakdown: Technically sound, tall and fast. He moved into the starting lineup as a freshman with the best program in college football and never left. Could use to be more physical against bigger receivers. His father and namesake was a Pro Bowl cornerback who played 11 seasons with Miami and Kansas City.
Fact: First defensive back selected in the first round by Denver since Bradley Roby in 2014 and fourth Alabama cornerback taken in the first round since 2011.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dallas)
DeVonta Smith, WR, 6-0, 170, Alabama
Breakdown: The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has reliable hands, quick feet and sharp route runner. His size is far from ideal, but he’s such a good technician it helps him avoid getting locked up by defenders who want to bully him. Productive lining up inside or out.
Fact: He is the second straight receiver picked in the first round by the Eagles, who took Jalen Reagor No. 21 last year. He joins former Alabama teammate QB Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
11. Chicago Bears (from New York Giants)
Justin Fields, QB, 6-3, 227, Ohio State
Breakdown: Strong arm, blazing speed, sturdy build and willing to take a big hit to make a play. Tendency to hold the ball too long, leading to sacks, but his playoff performance against Clemson was probably the best game a college quarterback played last season.
Fact: After not taking a quarterback in the first round for 17 years, Chicago took a QB in the first for the second time in five drafts (Mitch Trubisky, 2017).
12. Dallas Cowboys (from Philadelphia through San Francisco via Miami)
Micah Parsons, LB, 6-3, 246, Penn State
Breakdown: Parsons only needed two seasons at Penn State to show off his sideline-to-sideline range and ability to disrupt an offence from all angles. A defensive end in high school, he could be deployed more as a pass rusher in the pros. He is still learning the nuances of playing linebacker. All-American as a sophomore in 2019 and opted out of last season when it appeared the Big Ten would not play.
Fact: Second time in four seasons Dallas has drafted a linebacker in the first round (Leighton Vander Esch, 2018).
13. Los Angeles Chargers
Rashawn Slater, OT, 6-4, 304, Northwestern
Breakdown: Technically sound and fluid blocker. His arms are a little shorter than usual for an NFL tackle and he never played inside during his college career. Three-year starter at Northwestern, who held up well in matchups against Ohio State star Chase Young in 2019.
Fact: Slater is the highest selected Northwestern player since OT Chris Hinton was taken No. 4 overall in 1983 and the first first-rounder out of the school since DT Luis Castillo to the Chargers in 2005.
14. New York Jets (from Minnesota)
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, 6-4 1/2, 304, Southern California
Breakdown: Strong and sturdy and consistently wins with hand placement. Can slide outside but overall athleticism is only OK and footwork needs some work. Vera-Tucker played left tackle last season after starring at left guard in 2019 for USC and being named the team’s offensive lineman of the year.
Fact: For the second straight season, the Jets picked an offensive lineman in the first round after Mekhi Becton in 2020.
15. New England Patriots
Mac Jones, QB, 6-3, 217, Alabama
Breakdown: Quick decision-maker who throws an accurate deep ball, but doesn’t have the athleticism or elite arm strength of the other top quarterbacks in this class. He was surrounded by elite talent at Alabama.
Fact: First quarterback taken in the first round by New England since Drew Bledsoe went No. 1 overall in 1993.
16. Arizona Cardinals
Zaven Collins, LB, 6-5, 259, Tulsa
Breakdown: Big, strong and quick. Run around blocks more than taking them on, but few defensive players impacted their games more than Collins did last season for Tulsa. Returned two of his four interceptions last season for touchdowns, including a 96-yard game-winner in overtime against Tulane.
Fact: Last first-round pick from Tulsa was OG Steve August in 1977 to Seattle.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
Alex Leatherwood, OT, 6-5, 312, Alabama
Breakdown: Power and athleticism are excellent, but plays a bit stiff. Outland Trophy winner last season as the nation’s top lineman.
Fact: Second offensive lineman taken in the first round by the Raiders in the last four drafts, joining Kolton Miller (15th overall in 2018).
18. Miami Dolphins
Jaelan Phillips, Edge, 6-6, 260, Miami
Breakdown: Looks-the-part pass rusher with elite traits. Stand-up edge seems to be his path to stardom. Five-star recruit out of high school who went to UCLA. His career was nearly derailed by concussions, but he returned to football at Miami last year and lived up to the hype.
Fact: Phillips is the first Miami player drafted by the Dolphins since 2013 and first Hurricane taken in the first round since OG Vernon Carey in 2004.
19. Washington Football Team
Jamin Davis, LB, 6-3, 234, Kentucky
Breakdown: Started just one season at Kentucky and it was surprising to see him enter the draft as a junior, but his upside has shone through. Tackling form is inconsistent.
Fact: Third Kentucky player taken in the first round since 2015, joining DE Bud Dupree (2015 to Pittsburgh) and DE Josh Allen (2019 to Jacksonville).
20. New York Giants (from Chicago)
Kadarius Toney, WR, 6-0, 193, Florida
Breakdown: Darting runner, who changes direction at top speed. He is not a polished receiver, but he could be best used in a versatile role instead of as a traditional route runner.
Fact: First receiver taken in the first round by the Giants since Odell Beckham in 2014, though Toney has running back skills.
21. Indianapolis Colts
Kwity Paye, Edge, 6-3, 261, Michigan
Breakdown: Explosive athlete, who can play with speed, power and agility. But it didn’t translate into consistently dominant performances as he had only 11 1/2 sacks. The best could be yet to come as he develops technique.
Fact: Paye is the first defensive end/edge rusher taken by the Colts in the first round since Bjoern Werner in 2013.
22. Tennessee Titans
Caleb Farley, CB, 6-2, 197, Virginia Tech
Breakdown: Injury concerns (back) might have cost Farley a chance to be the No. 1 cornerback in the class. He opted out of 2020, but the previous two seasons he was instinctive and explosive in man-to-man coverage. Had back surgery after the 2019 season and then underwent another procedure in March.
Fact: Second cornerback taken in the first round by the Titans in the last five drafts along with Adoree Jackson in 2017.
23. Minnesota (from New York Jets through Seattle)
Christian Darrisaw, OT, 6-5, 322, Virginia Tech
Breakdown: Solid striker, who walls off defenders with nimble footwork. Needs to finish and stay with blocks longer. Three-year starter for the Hokies.
Fact: Second time in the last four draft Virginia Tech has had two first-rounders. Second first-round offensive lineman in three years for the Vikings (Garrett Bradbury in 2019).
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris, RB, 6-1, 232, Alabama
Breakdown: A five-star recruit who steadily developed over four years. Great balance and strength to break tackles or stiff arm defenders away. Doesn’t have breakaway speed. Was used a lot in the passing game. Set an SEC record with 30 touchdowns last season.
Fact: Last running back pick in the first round by the Steelers was Rashard Mendenhall in 2008.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
Travis Etienne, RB, 5-10, 215, Clemson
Breakdown: Explosive acceleration leads to lots of long runs. Makes quick cuts and slips through holes. Improving pass catcher. Lacks shiftiness when running inside and doesn’t necessarily move piles forward. The ACC’s career rushing leader (4,952 yards).
Fact: First time a quarterback and running back from the same team (Clemson) were drafted in the first round by the same NFL team since the merger.
26. Cleveland Browns
Greg Newsome, CB, 6-0, 192, Northwestern
Breakdown: Moves fluidly and makes a lot of plays on the ball with 25 passes defended — though just one interception in his career. Wiry and lacks power as a tackler. Third-team All-American in 2020.
Fact: Two first-round picks from Northwestern for the first time.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Rashod Bateman, WR, 6-0, 190, Minnesota
Breakdown: Precise route runner who consistently catches the ball away from his body, but lacks deep speed. Opted out of last season when it looked as if the Big Ten would not play in the fall. Returned to the team and played five games before opting out again when the team was hit by COVID-19 issues.
Fact: Second receiver taken in the first round by Baltimore in the last three years with Marquise Brown in 2019.
28. New Orleans Saints
Payton Turner, DE, 6-5, 270, Houston
Breakdown: Long and quick 4-3 defensive end with a chance to be stout run defender to go with good quickness to run the passer. Is still refining his game and learning to play with balance and quick hands.
Fact: Second defensive end from a Texas school taken by the Saints in the first round in the last four drafts along with Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio.
29. Green Bay Packers
Eric Stokes, CB, 6-1, 195, Georgia
Breakdown: Speed, quickness and length should provide versatility to play inside or outside. Thin build, spotty tackler.
Fact: Second cornerback the Packers have drafted in the first round in the last four years, joining Jaire Alexander in 2018.
30. Buffalo Bills
Gregory Rousseau, Edge, 6-7, 266, Miami
Breakdown: Long and quick, but the former high school receiver is still filling out his frame and learning to play with power. Is he a future tackle, 3-4 end or super-sized speed rusher? Opted out last season, but was an All-American with 15 1/2 sacks in 2019 before opting out of 2020.
Fact: First time since 2015 that two Miami players were drafted in the first round. The Bills have picked defensive players in the first round of five of the last six drafts.
31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City)
Jayson Oweh, Edge, 6-5, 257, Penn State
Breakdown: Size-speed combination is elite. Plays with great effort, but he is still a work in progress when it comes to pass-rush moves and football instincts. Did not have a sack last season, but was still an obvious disruptor.
Fact: The last edge rusher Baltimore selected in the first round was Terrell Suggs in 2003.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Joe Tryon, Edge, 6-5, 259, Washington
Breakdown: One-year starter, and it was a big one in 2019, showing off his length, burst off the line and effort. But after opting out last season he just hasn’t played much over the past four seasons.
Fact: Third defensive player taken in the first round by Tampa Bay in the last three drafts, including DT Vita Vea from Washington in 2018.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS