2021 NFL First Round Draft Rookie Early Updates

Wagerallsports

Moderator
Staff member

Which first-round NFL picks are drawing rave reviews? What we learned about all 32 this offseason​

ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)

Which first-round picks from the 2021 NFL draft have stood out during offseason workouts?

No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence has already made a positive impression on his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates and has shown improvement from practice to practice. Quarterback Zach Wilson (No. 2) has the New York Jets excited after flashing the ability to make throws on the run, and tight end Kyle Pitts (No. 4) has given the Atlanta Falcons early indications that he will be a playmaker right away.

Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II (No. 9), Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (No. 12) and Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (No. 29) also look ready to push for early playing time.

Quarterbacks Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers, No. 3), Justin Fields (Chicago Bears, No. 11) and Mac Jones (New England Patriots, No. 15) have shown flashes, but they are expected to enter training camp as backups.

As teams enjoy a break before returning for training camp next month, here's a look at what our NFL Nation reporters have seen from all 32 first-round picks during offseason workouts, using the final first-round selection order from April 29:

i

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence has had the expected ups and downs all rookie quarterbacks experience in their first months on the job, but he really looked good in his last practice -- especially in red zone work. That's significant, because he struggled in that area in a previous open workout but clearly has learned and adjusted. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin said he's been impressed with Lawrence's release, ball placement, improving patience and how he continues a steady improvement.

"It's just insane to see that so early in a quarterback," Griffin said. "You're talking about coming in the league with so much high hopes and he's proving it." -- Michael DiRocco


i

2. Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets

Wilson, the presumptive opening-day starter, worked exclusively with the first-team offense in 12 offseason practices. Coach Robert Saleh described him as "unflappable," referring to the way he handled all the information and verbiage thrown at him. Wilson had a couple of shaky practices, but never really had a total meltdown -- and that's encouraging. He displayed his arm talent and ability to throw on the run, a key ingredient in the new offense. The Jets believe he's developing as scheduled; all he needs is reps, lots of reps. -- Rich Cimini


i

3. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Lance only had a rookie minicamp and seven OTAs to make an impression, but he looked comfortable with what the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan gave him. Lance worked with the second team but got plenty of reps and quickly earned praise from teammates for being advanced beyond his years. Shanahan didn't make any sweeping conclusions about Lance but was pleased with how the rookie adapted to all that was thrown his way.

"I don't really ever say whether it was good or bad because just going through it, to me, is good," Shanahan said. "Even if you didn't do that well, which I thought he did, but it's just experience of how it affects you in camp, at least what you've got to work on when you're away, and really helps you get your mind right and your body right for what's ahead of us." -- Nick Wagoner


i

4. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Pitts is going to be a player -- early -- in the Atlanta offense. He worked with quarterback Matt Ryan throughout minicamp and OTAs and looked the part of a difference-maker. He also had more of a chance to develop a rapport with Ryan because receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage and running back Mike Davis were largely absent from offseason workouts, so that meant more opportunities for Pitts to catch passes. He made some rookie mistakes -- first-year coach Arthur Smith had him run a lap for an error during one minicamp practice -- but so far, Pitts is exactly what the Falcons expected: a playmaker. -- Michael Rothstein


i

5. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

The final 7-on-7 session of the offseason showed what Chase can do for Cincinnati's offense. He was quarterback Joe Burrow's go-to target during one stretch of a drill that featured zero incompletions. Chase will have adjustments and improvements to make this offseason, but the Bengals are banking on him to become an immediate playmaker. The rookie seems up to the challenge.

"I'm excited about where he's at," Burrow said after the team's minicamp. "He's a really smart player that understands what we're trying to do in the offense." -- Ben Baby


i

6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

Waddle's speed is for real. We've only seen a small sample size of him catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa in NFL uniforms, but a 40-yard deep connection in mandatory minicamp when Waddle turned on the jets and ran away from defenders was a glimpse of what could be a fun pairing in Miami. Coach Brian Flores gave Waddle a positive review after a month and a half of work: "He's come in, he's worked hard. He's gotten to know his teammates. He's learned the playbook. From a health standpoint -- I think you saw him run (last week) -- I'm looking at him run and it looks like he's running pretty well to me." -- Cameron Wolfe


i

7. Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions

Sewell's Detroit tenure got off to a rocky start after he tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to miss the entire rookie minicamp. However, since his return, he's been everything the Detroit front office envisioned he would throughout OTAs and summer training -- possibly even better. Sewell is enduring growing pains as he switches from left tackle to right tackle entering his rookie season, but the new Lions regime doesn't have any concerns thanks to his athleticism, previous experience at the position in high school and overall work ethic. He's been practicing with the starters, and has fit in well. His personality and charisma help boost an offensive line in Detroit that is considered a team strength. -- Eric Woodyard


i

8. Jaycee Horn, CB, Carolina Panthers

Let's just say the former South Carolina cornerback is the real deal. As advertised, Horn is a lockdown cornerback who will allow the Panthers to play more man-to-man coverage than they could a year ago when they had no corner that could stick with a top receiver one-on-one -- particularly in the NFC South, which is loaded with big, top-tier receivers. Horn is an automatic starter with rookie of the year potential.

"Versus the quarterbacks we're facing, to play zone on third down is really hard," coach Matt Rhule said. "We weren't able to play much man on third down last year. Even within our zone coverages, there's a lot of man components that, when you have a guy who can do it, really unlocks the coverages and allows you to do more." -- David Newton


i

9. Pat Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos

When the Broncos selected Surtain at No. 9 they not only believed he was the most talented defensive player on the board, but also the one with the most football maturity. He has shown every bit of that is true. The team's veteran players have largely dispensed with the usual prove-it-before-I-learn-your-name stuff, because they already know Surtain is going to play and play a lot. He has consistently worked with the starters, and there were times when he lined up at left cornerback, right cornerback and in the slot on both sides of the formation in the same practice, sometimes switching spots in the formation on consecutive plays. They piled the information on him, and he handled every bit of it. -- Jeff Legwold


i

10. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Smith has a very real chance of being the Eagles' lead receiver as a rookie. He and Jalen Reagor worked as the starting wideouts during the portion of offseason training open to the media. Coach Nick Sirianni opted not to conduct any 7-on-7 or team drills during OTAs after speaking with his veteran players, but Smith still managed to impress, making one-handed grabs and acrobatic sideline catches look routine. There's an ease to his movement and flow to his game that stand out even when surrounded by world-class athletes. -- Tim McManus


i

11. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears

Fields worked as the Bears' No. 2 quarterback behind veteran Andy Dalton throughout the entire offseason program. In terms of physical ability, Fields can do it all, and he showed off his powerful (and accurate) arm on multiple occasions during OTAs and minicamp. The Bears, however, are taking it slow with the Ohio State product. Fields still needs to work on taking snaps from under center and calling plays from inside the huddle -- something he rarely did in college. Overall, Fields had a very good offseason program, but not quite good enough for Chicago to start him over Dalton in Week 1 -- not yet. -- Jeff Dickerson


i

12. Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys

If Parsons is a Week 1 starter, the Cowboys will make him earn it. By the way he performed in the OTAs and minicamps, he will push for a lot of playing time wherever the Cowboys use him. He has played middle linebacker and has rushed the passer from the outside. He might have been something of a surprise in coverage.

"The pass-rushing part of him, he has really picked up where he left off," coordinator Dan Quinn said. "He really had good speed off the edge. That part of the game is intact. Now we are working on behind the ball things: Man to man, playing zone, blitzing from off the ball. Those are things we can feature and assess." -- Todd Archer


i

13. Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers

Slater is solid, if not a bit smaller than you would expect. Nicknamed "The Wall," he opted out of the 2020 season at Northwestern, but in 2019 he allowed zero sacks and was awesome against Ohio State's star pass-rusher Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick last year. There were some pre-draft questions about Slater's arm length, which didn't seem to pose a problem in shorts and cleats. -- Shelley Smith


i

14. Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, New York Jets​

They haven't anointed him yet as the starting left guard, but that's a fait accompli. He took all the first-team reps in 12 offseason practices, demonstrating the balance, agility and smarts that prompted the Jets to trade up. There's a sense around the organization that he could be the best offensive lineman on the team in 2021. Vera-Tucker has "plug-and-play" written all over him. -- Rich Cimini


 

Wagerallsports

Moderator
Staff member
i

15. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots

Jones took No. 2 reps behind Cam Newton throughout the team's three-day mandatory minicamp, and he accounted well for himself throughout all spring practices. The Patriots are throwing a lot at him, and seeing how he responds. Teammates are impressed.

"He's a young guy, but you can't really just refer to him as a young guy. You can tell he's been at a place where he's got some coaching," offensive tackle Trent Brown said. "I think he's going to be special here in the future." -- Mike Reiss


i

16. Zaven Collins, LB, Arizona Cardinals

Collins was installed as one of the Cardinals' starting inside linebackers before offseason practices began, and he's taken his role and newfound responsibility and run with it. There will undoubtedly be growing pains, especially since he'll be paired with second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons, last year's first-round pick. But Collins has held his own as he learns the way of running an NFL defense. -- Josh Weinfuss


i

17. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Las Vegas Raiders

Leatherwood looked perhaps a tad uneasy at right tackle at the start of OTAs, maybe because he was a career left tackle at Alabama, where he was a team captain for a national champion and won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman. But by the end of minicamp, he appeared to be settling in as a starter.

"Well, he's very smart, very athletic, he's long," said Raiders coach Jon Gruden. "He's a talented player; that's why we took him. We had him ranked high on our board. We're glad he fell to us." -- Paul Gutierrez


i

18. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami Dolphins​


There's a clear road for Phillips to become a Week 1 starter with a strong training camp, and he should step in as a hybrid edge rusher who plays both 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end. But don't be surprised if he sees most of his time as a stand-up rusher, and Dolphins linebacker coach Anthony Campanile is excited to have him: "Just a really high-level competitor. He played really, really hard. Great motor. And when you get to know him, just a really good person. Good kid. Fits in well because of those qualities. That's what we value here -- team-first guys, unselfish guys that run around, have a love and a passion for the game -- and he checked all those boxes." -- Cameron Wolfe


i

19. Jamin Davis, LB, Washington Football Team

Davis worked as the middle linebacker all spring, a role he also filled at Kentucky. But there's more involved with the position here, so Washington wanted to see if he could handle the responsibilities of calling signals, making adjustments and taking control. They liked how Davis handled himself in this role in OTAs and minicamp. He did not look lost on plays, rarely hesitating. It's hard to accurately gauge linebackers when there are no padded practices, but Davis showed his athleticism, whether in coverage or on a blitz. He will start. They would really like his athleticism inside, but they also made it clear that in August, as there's more to learn, if he can't handle the middle, then he has the flexibility to play outside. -- John Keim


i

20. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants

When Toney was on the field you could see the talent that made him a first-round pick. He was explosive and has the ability to change directions and accelerate at a moment's notice. The only problem is we didn't see it often. He couldn't find a cleat that fit at rookie minicamp, skipped OTAs because his contract wasn't signed (an extremely unusual approach) and then had a family emergency during minicamp. The Giants better hope this isn't a sign of things to come. -- Jordan Raanan


i

21. Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Paye, who had 11.5 sacks in his four seasons at Michigan, worked with the starters at defensive end during offseason workouts (the Colts didn't hold minicamp). He will likely be the starter along with Tyquan Lewis on the other side in Week 1, barring poor play during training camp.

"You can tell when you ask him questions about a particular defense, he can dive into the detail and absorb that in a quick manner and be able to give it back out to us on the practice field," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. "Not really a surprise, but really a good thing to notice for him, because he can pick up a big amount of scheme in a short amount of time. That's going to accelerate his play and accelerate him even faster, so we are excited about that." -- Mike Wells


i

22. Caleb Farley, CB, Tennessee Titans

Farley hasn't been on the field with the team as he continues to rehab from the back procedure he had in March. He is primarily working with lead strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino. The plan is for him to be ready for the start of training camp. Coach Mike Vrabel said Farley is coming along well as far as grasping the playbook thanks to rookie walk-throughs that allow him to get on-the-field learning as opposed to just time in the classroom. -- Turron Davenport


i

23. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Minnesota Vikings

Darrisaw missed time this spring while recovering from a groin strain and the offseason surgery he had to repair a core muscle six months ago, but the Vikings aren't too concerned about the reps he didn't get.

"He's exceeded expectations because he's very bright," offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said. "He just has to get more reps. ... He missed a few of them, but he's going to get them back and we'll get our money out of him come fall camp. He just needs to go do it against the best pass-rushers in the world. He's going to see Danielle Hunter every day, and that's really going to help him get better."

Minnesota brought both of its rookie offensive linemen along slowly, putting Darrisaw and guard Wyatt Davis on the second-team in OTAs and minicamp. By training camp, Darrisaw should be starting in place of Rashod Hill at left tackle, because that is what will be expected of him come Week 1 of the season. -- Courtney Cronin


i

24. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers drafted Harris to be the new face of their run game, and he took over that role from the second he arrived in Pittsburgh. His burst and talent is hard to miss. And his desire to learn and get better in the classroom has impressed the Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said running backs coach Eddie Faulkner had to all but kick Harris out of the facility one night during OTAs.

"He is a really hard worker. He is in here extra-long," Roethlisberger said. "I think the other day the running backs coach told him, 'Hey Najee, I have to go home now.' It just shows he is still in there watching film and he is constantly asking questions and that is good. He doesn't seem lost. It's not too big for him." -- Brooke Pryor


i

25. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars​

Etienne has looked like what he was at Clemson: A guy with quickness who can make defenders miss, even in small areas. He has lined up at receiver in addition to running back -- a move that somehow garnered a lot of national criticism during rookie minicamp despite coach Urban Meyer being clear about that plan during the draft -- and the hope is Etienne will provide the big-play threat the team has been missing. He had 61 runs of 20 or more yards and catches of 30 or more yards in four years at Clemson. The Jaguars had an NFL-worst 16 of those plays last season. -- Michael DiRocco


i

26. Greg Newsome II, CB, Cleveland Browns

Newsome more than stood out during the Browns' minicamp. He nearly intercepted Baker Mayfield for a pick-six at the beginning of the week. Then near the end of camp, he picked off Mayfield in a red-zone drill, after which his defensive teammates went ballistic. Newsome already has the look of a difference-maker in the Cleveland secondary. -- Jake Trotter


i

27. Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

The way Bateman runs routes, he looks like a No. 1 wide receiver. This offseason, he had some drops and missed some practices with muscle issues. But, when he was on the field, he got open more consistently than any other Baltimore receiver. After guarding Bateman this spring, Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey told GM Eric DeCosta: "I think we got a pretty good one in Bateman." -- Jamison Hensley


i

28. Payton Turner, DE, New Orleans Saints

The Saints didn't hold traditional practice sessions during the spring while focusing on conditioning and classroom work. But Turner already sounded enthusiastic about the finer points he has been learning from standout defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen -- especially when it comes to his get-off on pass rushes.

"When you're in college, you might just 'out-athlete' people," said Turner, who pointed out that he was just getting to learn the defensive end position at Houston over the past couple years after switching from defensive tackle. "But everything's so much more detailed once you get to this point." -- Mike Triplett


i

29. Eric Stokes, CB, Green Bay Packers

How does a pick-six in your first NFL minicamp rate as far as strong starts to a career? That's what Stokes did on Day 3 of the Packers' mandatory minicamp. Drafted in part because of his speed in the 4.2s at his pro day, Stokes showed that off when he broke on an out route and picked off Jordan Love during an 11-on-11 period. Even though the Packers re-signed Kevin King, don't be surprised if Stokes is the opening-day starter opposite All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander. -- Rob Demovsky


i

30. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills

The 2021 season will not be another year away from the game for Rousseau -- he will be ready to contribute in some capacity by the time the regular season comes around. Buffalo drafted him with its future in mind, but the former Miami Hurricane will be relied on to help set the edge and spell starters Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Rousseau looks the part, and although he's been somewhat outplayed by second-round pick Carlos Basham throughout minicamp, he's not far behind. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques


i

31. Odafe Oweh, DE, Baltimore Ravens​

Oweh's effort and competitiveness have jumped out at outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins. Oweh often chases down plays 30 yards down the field and looks fast doing it. He'll be an instant contributor on the Ravens' third-down packages because of his explosiveness. His lateral movement is rare and just can't be coached. -- Jamison Hensley


i


32. Joe Tryon, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tryon missed rookie camp and OTAs after having a knee scope, but was able to participate in mandatory minicamp. He's got really impressive size and athleticism, which you could see in the way he stopped and accelerated in ball drills with outside linebackers coach Larry Foote. You don't really appreciate his length until you see him standing next to Anthony Nelson, who is 6-foot-7. Tryon might not be able to start right away because of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, but he'll still be able to make an impact.

"I thought he got around the quarterback pretty good and he's just going to continue to get better and better as Todd [Bowles] finds roles for him in the defense," coach Bruce Arians said of Tryon. "He's everything we thought he would be." -- Jenna Laine
 
Top