- Mar 6, 2018
Which first-round NFL picks are drawing rave reviews? What we learned about all 32 this offseasonESPN 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:
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville JaguarsLawrence 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
2. Zach Wilson, QB, New York JetsWilson, 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
3. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ersLance 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
4. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta FalconsPitts 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
5. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati BengalsThe 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
6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami DolphinsWaddle'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
7. Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit LionsSewell'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
8. Jaycee Horn, CB, Carolina PanthersLet'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
9. Pat Surtain II, CB, Denver BroncosWhen 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
10. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia EaglesSmith 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
11. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago BearsFields 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
12. Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas CowboysIf 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