The first round had some surprises, but all-in-all teams were making solid choices and improving their roster. That was until the very late 1st round, where it seemed that the teams were competing on who could get the worst value for their draft position. There were two picks in particular that we will go over that are simply inexcusable as a front office.
However, we will first start with the bright side. There were some amazing picks out of the NFC North that will help shape that division. If Aaron Rodgers leaves, the North is up for grabs, and both of these teams helped their chances at winning it with these fantastic first-round moves.
Minnesota Vikings Pick #23
Christian Darrisaw – OT – Virginia Tech
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the top moves of the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The team was eyeing Justin Fields; however, the team was not sold on trading up. When Fields and Slater both went off the board, the Vikings decided to look for a trade-down partner. They found one in the New York Jets. They moved back to pick 23 and collected two third-round selections.
The Jets then took Alijah Vera-Tucker, which concerned many fans as he was one target that analysts fully believed the Vikings wanted. However, Christian Darrisaw, the next best offensive tackle prospect, fell all the way to 23. This was a god-send as it allowed the Vikings to draft a top player at a position of need, nine picks later. Darrisaw most likely would have been the selection if there was no trade partner at 14, so to get him after trading back was a fantastic move.
The Vikings would go on to use those third-round picks that they acquired on Kellen Mond, QB out of Texas A&M, and Wyatt Davis, OG from Ohio State. Two fantastic selections as the Vikings secure a backup QB and maybe a future starter, as well as getting a startable LG/RG for this season, barring Davis’ health.
Chicago Bears Pick #11
Justin Fields – QB – Ohio State
Ryan Pace, General Manager of the Chicago Bears, was gifted a lifeline on Day One of the NFL Draft. Justin Fields, who many argue was a top-3 quarterback prospect, fell to number 11 overall. This gave the Bears the opportunity to trade up using next year’s first-round pick. The Bears landed a QB that could have easily gone 1st overall if this was another year. Instead, they grabbed him at 11th overall. This is in and of itself a great value. However, this roster needed a quarterback, and they got one.
While the team still lost quite a few pieces due to cap trouble, the Bears can be a solid team this year with Fields at quarterback. If he develops like people think he can, then the Bears might have landed their quarterback of the future. I truly believe that Fields is a great player and have no idea how he lasted so long in the draft.
However, to land a great prospect and to do so at the most crucial position in sports cannot be understated. The Bears won the first round with this selection, as it did not even take much for them to trade up. A Fields-type prospect should have taken multiple first-round picks, similar to the 49ers trading up for Lance, but they got him at a massive discount.
Jacksonville Jaguars Pick #25
Travis Etienne – RB – Clemson
The Jaguars had a ton of selections in this draft, but grabbing Travis Etienne at #25 was by far the worst one. I get it, this is a luxury pick, and Etienne played with their new rookie quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, at Clemson. However, you do not waste first-round picks on running backs. On top of that, you do not pay a rookie running back 1st round money when you have an undrafted free agent in James Robinson, who is exceptional. This is not only a slap in the face to Robinson, who was one of the best players returning on the team, but it was also a waste of a first-round selection.
The Jaguars could have addressed literally any other position, and it would have made more sense. Even going best player available at this point is not a bad move. However, if Etienne was the best player on their board, then Jaguars fans are not going to be very happy with coming drafts. He was not even the best running back available! Javonte Williams is a better all-around back, and it would at least be more understandable as to how you justify a first-round wage to a running back.
The selections I would have made instead include a pass rusher in Payton Turner or even a receiver in Rashod Bateman. Since the team grabbed Tyson Campbell at 23, the team could have gotten an infinitely better CB prospect in Greg Newsome. Even Jevon Holland made a lot more sense to help out the safety spot.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pick #24
Najee Harris – RB – Alabama
Stop drafting running backs in the first. If you want to improve your run game, you need to improve the atrocious offensive line that you are throwing out there. Najee Harris is going to have a rough time having a stable career getting hit in the backfield on every single play. You get an offensive line first, and then you address running back.
The Steelers have glaring holes all over, including the line and cornerback. Both of these spots would have made a ton more sense to fix. Najee Harris is an absolute luxury pick. If you are a team like the Bucs who returned every player from a Super Bowl roster, then you can make that pick. The Steelers are not that. This is simply a bad play.
The Steelers instead should have drafted Teven Jenkins or Landon Dickerson, two great offensive line prospects that would have solidified the line just a bit more. They also could have gone Greg Newsome II and helped out that secondary that needed depth and some young talent.