The 2021 NFL Draft runs from this Thursday to Saturday in Cleveland—the primary spherical on Thursday night time, the second two rounds on Friday, and the final 4 on Saturday—and might be televised on ESPN. This yr may have a barely extra regular really feel than final yr, because the draft is as soon as taking place in particular person quite than remotely. Extra importantly, it’s shaping as much as be an thrilling one.
The primary choose will not be unsure (former Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence is predicted to be No. 1 general), however there’s nonetheless potential for loads of surprises within the slots instantly afterward. The draft has a beneficiant handful of high quarterback prospects—greater than in most years—and it’s additionally loaded with vast receivers. Questioning what to search for this yr? These are the 4 questions that can outline a lot of how the draft unfolds.
1. Who would be the subsequent quarterbacks taken after No. 1 general choose Trevor Lawrence?
Clemson’s Lawrence would be the first general choose—that has been apparent for months. He had a dominant three-year profession at Clemson, and he has among the finest arms the draft has ever seen. You don’t have to observe Lawrence lengthy to grasp why he’ll go first:
The Jets seem poised to draft BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 general. Then issues get very attention-grabbing. The 49ers traded up from the 12th choose to No. 3, ostensibly to draft a brand new quarterback of their very own to switch Jimmy Garoppolo. Coach Kyle Shanahan has stated he likes an entire handful of QBs at that spot. The tea leaves say the 49ers will take Alabama’s Mac Jones—a reasonably stunning resolution given the superior expertise of Ohio State’s Justin Fields and, arguably, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
This draft is notable for its incredibly talented quarterbacks. If Fields falls past the No. Three choose, some crew a lot decrease on the draft order may get fortunate and scoop up an exceptional expertise at that essential place. Some are predicting that Fields will probably last till the center or backside of the highest 10.
2. Will a crew shake up the draft by buying and selling up for a type of QBs?
Maybe essentially the most chaotic doable state of affairs on this yr’s draft entails Fields or Lance falling decrease within the first spherical and a crew that isn’t on the high of the draft order making a commerce to grab them up. To try this, the crew would sacrifice additional picks later to get an early choice spot within the first spherical.
Various reports and mock drafts anticipate one crew to just do that: Invoice Belichick’s Patriots. Belichick gained six Tremendous Bowls alongside Tom Brady, however he’s now clearly on the tail finish of his teaching profession. He’d in all probability like to search out the franchise a long-term reply at QB, each so he can compete in 2021 and so he can depart the Pats in good condition when he passes the reins to a successor. The Patriots at present have the 15th choose. If Fields or Lance falls outdoors the highest 5, regulate New England.
A number of different groups decrease within the draft order want quarterbacks and is perhaps tempted to attempt an enormous commerce up. The Steelers, for instance, might want to exchange Ben Roethlisberger inside a yr, and the Bears don’t have something resembling a long-term answer on the place.
3. Who will land the highest three vast receivers on this yr’s draft?
Because the analysts at The Draft Network put it, “The vast receiver place is experiencing a increase interval proper now.” There are numerous elite wideout prospects within the 2021 draft, however three particularly will nearly definitely get picked within the high half of the primary spherical.
They’re LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase:
Alabama’s DeVonta Smith:
And his Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle:
All three gamers are outrageously expert. Chase might be one of the best of the three at going up and catching a bounce ball. Smith is perhaps the smoothest route-runner, whereas Waddle offers the widest vary of doable roles, reminiscent of the power to return punts (as you possibly can see within the video above) .
Within the draft, these gamers are uncommon catches. The groups that nab them will obtain speedy game-breakers who can completely change the dynamic of their offenses: They will probably rating on any play from wherever on the sector.
4. Will gamers who opted out of the 2020 season fall on draft boards?
Due to COVID-19, a big variety of draft prospects determined to not play within the 2020 faculty soccer season. Others opted out after the season had already began. How NFL groups deal with these gamers on draft night time might be an attention-grabbing signal for future generations of draftees. If the NFL nonetheless eagerly drafts gamers who haven’t seen a sport for greater than a yr, different gamers may view that as a sensible enterprise resolution. Why danger getting injured and ruining an expert payday if NFL groups don’t care?
Early indications present that the NFL is ready to embrace gamers who sat out their final faculty season. Oregon offensive deal with Penei Sewell, LSU receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, Northwestern offensive deal with Rashawn Slater, and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley all sat out video games amid the pandemic. All however Marshall are extremely prone to be first-round picks, and there’s an opportunity Marshall, too, may sneak in earlier than the tip of the opening spherical. If all goes properly for these gamers, anticipate their successors in future draft years to take word.
The draft begins April 29 at eight p.m. (EDT) on ESPN.
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