TOP 5 DRAFT PICKS
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Clemson quarterback Trevor Wilson
2. New York Jets – BYU quarterback Zach Wilson
3. San Francisco 49ers – North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance
4. Atlanta Falcons – Florida tight end Kyle Pitts
5. Cincinnati Bengals – LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase
Quarterbacks are on the menu at the NFL Draft in Cleveland on Thursday night, as the Jacksonville Jaguars made Clemson star Trevor Lawrence the first pick, the New York Jets followed with BYU’s Zach Wilson, and the San Francisco 49ers picked North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with the third-overall selection.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts went fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons while LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was picked fifth and will reunite with his college quarterback, last year’s top pick, Joe Burrow, with the Cincinnati Bengals.
After going all virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-day draft, which has grown into one of America’s biggest, non-game sporting events, returns with an outdoor event on the shores of Lake Erie this year. Thousands of fans will be separated by their loyalties – and whether they’ve been vaccinated.
Back on the road in Cleveland, this draft is unlike any other.
Forced to cancel last year’s event in Las Vegas, the league is using lessons learned while plowing through an unprecedented, socially distanced 2020 season and holding the Super Bowl in Tampa, to have a draft that will look much more like normal – well, the new normal – with fans wearing their favorite team’s colors and required masks.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a positive step.
‘It feels very good to stand outside at an event site, and it comes at a time where I think we need to do this,’ Jon Barker, NFL head of live event productions said as workers put the finishing touches on a 95-foot-high temporary outdoor theater along Lake Erie and next to FirstEnergy Stadium and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
‘We have to do this,’ he said. ‘We need to get people out and back to live events and to experience things like this, and the draft is one of those great events that can bring everybody together and do that.’
Goodell, who cozily hosted last year’s draft from his basement in New York, will again be at the podium starting Thursday. And yes, to personally deliver one of his hearty hugs or a fist bump to the 13 attending top prospects, all of whom will be tested again for COVID-19 on Wednesday.’
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over video call after being selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the number one overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Zach Wilson holds a jersey onstage after being drafted second by the New York Jets during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a Jacksonville Jaguars jersey as he announces that the Jaguars had chosen Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the NFL football draft
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts went fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons
Detroit Lions fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Green Bay Packer fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
An overall view of the stage before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are expected to be the top two picks, to Jacksonville and the New York Jets, with the Niners likely choosing among Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Justin Fields at No. 3.
That would match 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.
A record could be set with four QBs going in the top four if Atlanta drafts the successor to Matt Ryan or trades down to a quarterback-needy team.
If Fields, Jones and Lance all get taken in the top 10, that would also be a first, beating the four top-10 QBs taken in the 2018 draft when Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all went off the board quickly.
All five of those QBs are almost assuredly first-round picks, something that also happened in 1999 when the five came off in the top 12, and in 2018 when Lamar Jackson was picked 32nd to join the four top-10 QBs.
If somehow, Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond or Davis Mills go off the board late in the first round, the 2021 draft could match the 1983 class with six first-round QBs.
That class that featured Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, along with Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O´Brien, is widely considered the best ever for quarterbacks.
Unlike the 2020 NFL Draft, which commissioner Roger Goodell hosted from his basement (pictured), this year’s event was held in Cleveland where fans, players, and officials were required to be vaccinated in order to get anywhere near the stage
With Lawrence set to be the 26th quarterback to be picked first overall since the merger, quarterbacks will account for exactly half of the top picks since 1970.
This will be the sixth time in the past seven years that a QB went first overall, with Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett the only other player to break through in 2017.
It wasn’t always this way, with a stretch from 1994-97 when the top picks were defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, running back Ki-Jana Carter, receiver Keyshawn Johnson and tackle Orlando Pace.
There was even an 11-year stretch from 1976-86 when Elway was the only QB to go first overall.
The most popular position besides quarterback to go first overall since the merger is defensive ends with 11, followed by running backs (six), offensive linemen (3), receivers (2), linebackers (2) and defensive tackles (two). There has never been a tight end or defensive back drafted first.
WAITING FOR D
With most of the teams at the top of the draft appearing to be targeting quarterbacks and other offensive players, this could be the longest wait ever for a defensive player to come off the board.
The latest the first defensive player has gone in the common draft era beginning in 1967 was seventh overall in 1999, when Hall of Famer Champ Bailey was taken by Washington.
As recently as 2019, four of the first five players drafted came on the defensive side, with Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell and Devin White following top pick Kyler Murray that year.
This could also mark the first time since 2012 that a defensive lineman didn´t get picked in the top 10. Dontari Poe was the first one off the board that year at No. 11 to Kansas City.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts could make some draft history this week. If Atlanta picks Pitts at No. 4 overall, he will be highest drafted tight end in the common draft era.
The only time a tight end was picked in the top five came in 1972, when Denver took Riley Odoms fifth overall. Odoms was a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler with 396 catches in 12 seasons.
Just 15 tight ends in all have gone in the top 10 in the draft since 1967, with the players doing it in the past 25 drafts being T.J. Hockenson (eighth to Detroit in 2019), Eric Ebron (10th to Detroit in 2014), Vernon Davis (sixth to San Francisco in 2006), Kellen Winslow Jr. (sixth to Cleveland in 2004) and Ricky Dudley (ninth to the Raiders in 1996).
Alabama is set to have a pair of receivers picked in the first round for the second straight year, with DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle set to follow 2020 first-rounders Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy.
The only other colleges to have a pair of receivers picked in the first round in the common draft era are 2007 LSU (Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis), 2007 Ohio State (Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez), 2001 Miami (Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne) and 1997 Florida (Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony).
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan speaks at EverBank Field in Jacksonville in this March 8, 2017, file photo
It’s easy to see owner Shad Khan’s excitement and enthusiasm for the Jacksonville Jaguars these days. He’s smiling, cracking jokes, taking subtle shots at his previous coach/general manager regime.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best weeks of his 10-year tenure, right up there with playing in the AFC championship game in January 2018.
‘It’s unbelievable,’ Khan said Tuesday, two days before Jacksonville selected Lawrence with the first pick in the NFL draft. ‘If this isn’t a moment to enjoy for me and for all the Jags fans, you need more coffee or you need something else. This is a great-to-be-alive kind of moment, frankly.’
Khan was downright giddy knowing the Jaguars will land Lawrence, widely considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Khan was a wide-eyed NFL owner back then, with little more than a notion about how the league worked.
He’s since learned enough that he kept coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell in place an extra year in 2020 to have them clean up their mess. That decision, which came shortly after Khan fired top executive Tom Coughlin, was the moment he felt he was ‘ready to take the training wheels off.’
He hired Urban Meyer to replace them, bringing in one of the most decorated coaches in college football history and giving him full reign to change anything and everything he wants within the organization.
‘Nine years ago, buying the team, it was like the great journey, the first step on a 1,000-mile journey and looking to the horizon,’ Khan said. ‘And what it is now? We’ve been through ups and downs, mostly downs, and now you’re looking at a great upside.’
Although Khan declined to tip the obvious top pick, he didn’t balk at or even try to deflect any questions that mentioned Lawrence by name or alluded to him as the choice.
‘We’re looking at hope, optimism,’ he said. ‘I want to enjoy the moment. I want all the fans, all of us in Jacksonville, to enjoy this moment and our time in the national spotlight. If we have hope and we’re winning, obviously, that’s a lot better for the city and it’s a lot better for the Jags.’
The team went 41-106 in Khan’s first nine years, including 2-1 in its one playoff year. The owner has endured eight seasons with double-digit losses while failing repeatedly to find a franchise quarterback. The Jaguars gave Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon chances during Khan’s tenure.
‘It’s that one player (who) is the hardest thing to (find),’ he said.
Urban Meyer recently accepted the head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are counting on Lawrence solving a decades-old problem for the small-market franchise. Lawrence comes off a stellar college career at Clemson, going 34-2 as the starter and leading the Tigers to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and the 2018 national championship.
He completed 66 percent of his passes for 10,098 yards, with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Lawrence also ran for 18 scores.
He finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting to Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith last season. Lawrence threw for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions while missing two games after testing positive for COVID-19 in October.
He’s expected to be the face of Jacksonville’s franchise, along with Meyer, for the foreseeable future.
Khan sat in on several video calls involving prospective quarterbacks in recent weeks, including at least one with Lawrence. The owner, who plans to be more involved with decision making than during previous regimes, also has been on hand for a few mock drafts.
He insists this draft will be different from previous ones in Jacksonville that ‘still had surprises in the draft room.’
No one will be shocked when Jacksonville takes Lawrence, who will step into an immediate leadership role on a team still trying to make sense of all Meyer’s methodologies. Even Khan is learning more and more about them every day.
‘The coaches have to have accountability if the players aren’t developing,’ Khan said. ‘I think that sense of accountability is really kind of refreshing. You do that in normal walks of life. … We’ve always said, `Well, everything is about talent.’
‘Well, if they don’t have the psyche to blend into the team, it’s not a good thing. And then if the coaches aren’t developing them, then we’re going to have what we have had.’
IS IT SAFE TO ATTEND SPORTING EVENTS YET?
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Not yet, but there are ways to make it safer if you go.
‘Yelling, chanting, hugging and generally pouring out our sports enthusiasm is still not the safest activity,’ noted Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of population health at University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of Dear Pandemic, a website that offers expert opinions.
If you do decide to go to a game, outdoor stadiums are safer than indoor arenas, which won’t be as well ventilated. Venues that limit attendance and require masks are safer as well. Some teams are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the coronavirus.
Detroit Lions fans cheer before the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium
Rick Dermer, a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, points out his ‘Terrible Mask’ as he waits for potential draftees to appear on the Red Carpet at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland
Once at the stadium, avoid indoor bars, restaurants and box seating, Dowd said. ‘Spaces that are indoors with lots of people eating and drinking without masks are still among the riskiest,’ she said.
Going to a game is much safer if you’re fully vaccinated, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the agency advises wearing masks at crowded sports events regardless of whether you’ve had your shots.
Evidence on the safety of big games is mixed. The NFL says it safely hosted 1.2 million fans at 119 games during the 2020 season. Some studies that haven’t yet been vetted by outside experts have reached differing conclusions about whether the football season led to more infections. The study findings can’t be certain, since they were based on disease rates in counties, not on contact tracing investigations.
Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said enough Americans will likely be fully vaccinated by June or July to see significant declines in transmission of the virus.
‘The risk won’t go to zero,’ Hotez said, but it will drop enough that sporting events, restaurants and larger gatherings may be much safer.
The CDC offers additional guidance to help sports fans make decisions as the pandemic continues, such as checking with event organizers about what safety measures are being taken. An important reminder: If you have symptoms, are waiting for a virus test result or have been exposed to someone who’s infected, you should stay home, the CDC says.
– Associated Press
Fans enjoy the Bud Light Legends Bar at the NFL Draft Experience on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Cleveland
Reigning NFL MVP and Jeopardy host Aaron Rodgers has reportedly become dissatisfied in Green Bay and has told Packers officials that he doesn’t want to return to the team
Rodgers has been busy this off-season. In addition to a stretch hosting Jeopardy, he revealed his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley (near right) when he accepted his third MVP award back in February
The draft wasn’t the only major NFL news on Thursday.
Reigning NFL MVP and part-time Jeopardy host Aaron Rodgers has reportedly become dissatisfied in Green Bay and has told Packers officials that he doesn’t want to return to the team.
The 37-year-old is frustrated by contract extension negotiations, according to NFL Network. Rodgers is reportedly seeking ‘contractural security’ in a deal that would prevent the need for any future restructuring – a common practice by NFL teams with their highest-paid players.
As ESPN reported ahead of Thursday’s NFL Draft, the Packers are aware and concerned about Rodgers’s displeasure. Sources told ESPN that Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have all met with Rodgers privately this off-season, and outwardly, the team remains committed to the former Super Bowl champion.
‘As we’ve stated since the season ended, we are committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond,’ Gutekunst told ESPN. ‘Aaron has been a vital part of our success and we look forward to competing for another championship with him leading our team.’
NFL Network reported there’s ‘zero percent chance’ he’s traded, but ESPN says the Packers are open to a deal.
Rodgers’s agent did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
According to ESPN, he’s been upset in Green Bay dating back to the 2020 NFL Draft, when the team selected Utah State QB Jordan Love (pictured) as Rodgers’s heir apparent
According to ESPN, he’s been upset in Green Bay dating back to the 2020 NFL Draft, when the team selected Utah State quarterback Jordan Love as Rodgers’s heir apparent in the first round.
Rodgers also made cryptic comments before the 2020 NFC title game, saying his future is a ‘beautiful mystery.’
The Packers have shown no interest in trading him, and according to ESPN, turned down offers from the Los Angeles Rams, who ultimately dealt for the Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Rodgers has played his entire 16-year NFL career with the Packers, winning three MVP awards and Super Bowl XLV over that time.
He is signed through the 2023 season, but has an out clause in his contract that could allow him to become a free agent in the summer of 2022. Rodgers has earned more than $240 million in salary over his 16-year career.
Rodgers has been busy this off-season.
In addition to a stretch hosting Jeopardy, he revealed his engagement to actress Shailene Woodley when he accepted his third MVP award back in February.
Rodgers’s trade value is buoyed by his own recent success after leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.7) and touchdown passes (48) in 2020, while throwing just five interceptions.
As ESPN reported, the Packers are aware and concerned about Rodgers’s displeasure. Sources told ESPN that Packers president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst (pictured) and head coach Matt LaFleur have all met with Rodgers privately this off-season, and outwardly, the team remains committed to the former Super Bowl champion
Back in Jax? NFL QB-Turned-Minor League Baseball Player Tim Tebow ‘Works Out for Jaguars as a TIGHT END’ and Could Reunite Urban Meyer in Jacksonville
After stints as an NFL quarterback and a minor league baseball player, Tim Tebow is reportedly attempting a professional football comeback as a tight end, and his former college coach Urban Meyer may be willing to give him a chance.
Tebow, 33, starred at the University of Florida under Meyer, who’s entering his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach. Although he was born in the Philippines, Tebow grew up in Jacksonville before enrolling at Florida.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that ‘there has been at least some discussion’ of Jacksonville signing him.
Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries, is still an on-air analyst for ESPN’s college football coverage. He recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (right), the 2017 Miss Universe winner
Tebow played in the New York Mets’ organization from 2016 to 2019, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2019, but announced his retirement from baseball in February. In 2019, which turned out to be his final season due to the pandemic, Tebow batted .163 in 77 games at Triple-A – the highest level of minor league baseball – before suffering a season-ending pinky injury. He finishes his career with a .223 average over 287 minor league games
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was a dual-threat quarterback who ran for 57 touchdowns over four seasons at Florida, while also passing for 88 TDs. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Tebow has a frame that could translate to the tight-end position despite not playing there at any point since high school. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is 6-5, 260, while San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is 6-4, 250
Denver selected Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. After only lasting three seasons in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets, Tebow changed focus to professional baseball.
He played in the New York Mets’ organization from 2016 to 2019, reaching as high as Triple-A in 2019, but announced his retirement from baseball in February.
In 2019, which turned out to be his final season due to the pandemic, Tebow batted .163 in 77 games at Triple-A – the highest level of minor league baseball – before suffering a season-ending pinky injury. He finishes his career with a .223 average over 287 minor league games.
‘I want to thank the Mets, Alderson, the fans and all my teammates for the chance to be a part of such a great organization,’ Tebow said in a statement released by New York Mets. ‘I loved every minute of the journey, but at this time I feel called in other directions.’
Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries, is still an on-air analyst for ESPN’s college football coverage. He recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, the 2017 Miss Universe winner.
‘My prayer is that God will bless him & his wife in this next chapter,’ tweeted preacher Franklin Graham. ‘I’m sure He has great things in store. Thank you Tim for your friendship—& your consistent witness for Jesus Christ.’
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was a dual-threat quarterback who ran for 57 touchdowns over four seasons at Florida, while also passing for 88 TDs.
At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, Tebow has a frame that could translate to the tight-end position despite not playing there at any point since high school. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is 6-5, 260, while San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is 6-4, 250.
Accuracy issues limited Tebow’s potential as a quarterback and he ultimately failed to win the starting job with the New York Jets in 2012. He went on to have brief stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, but never officially played for either team in a regular season game.
There remains some debate over how good Tebow really was in the NFL, but the numbers are not on his side.
In 2011, the only season he played regularly, Tebow completed 46.5 percent of his passes. For comparison, no qualifying NFL passer had a lower completion mark than 57 percent in 2020.
– Reuters and Alex Raskin, sports news editor for DailyMail.com
Tebow, a former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback, worked out for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a tight end, NFL Network and ESPN reported Thursday. Tebow, 33, starred at the University of Florida under Meyer (right), who’s entering his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach. Although he was born in the Philippines, Tebow grew up in Jacksonville before enrolling at Florida