Welcome to the NFL Rookie

Gabriel Strasbaugh, Staff Reporter

The 2021 NFL draft saw the hierarchy of quarterbacks come first once again. From teams swinging for the fences in the first round with a franchise savior, to one of the greatest talents to ever command a huddle upstaging the rookies before they hit the field. 

Top three get their QB 1. 

For the first time in 22 years, the top three teams selected quarterbacks with the first three picks. For months, the media’s unanimous number one and two picks to bring the Jaguars and Jets back to relevance finally became a reality. 

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Brigham Young University’s Zach Wilson led the rookie class with the highest draft grades on average through the national media. The Forty-Niners’ selection of North Dakota State’s Trey Lance sent shockwaves throughout the football world. With 391 pass attempts, Lance has the least experience by a quarterback taken in the first round in 40 years.  

Classed as the next Peyton Manning, Lawrence attempts to turn around a Jacksonville franchise that lost their last 15 games last season. Lawrence graded 7.40 from NFL.com as a perennial All-Pro. With an overall record of 86-4 dating back to high school, Lawrence has yet to lose a regular season game of any level of football. Unless the Jaguars go 17-0, there will be a new statistic for the national champion. 

Along with Lance as an unknown, Wilson’s boom or bust factor was too enticing for the Jets to pass up. A sudden jump in production in 2020, Wilson impressed scouts posting an 11:1 TD-to-INT ratio. According to the Pat McAfee Show, Wilson leans more toward a bust due to his similar style of play to his predecessor Sam Darnold. 

Clips surfaced on SportsCenter’s social media of Wilson throwing passes at his pro day that prove to be a high caliber professional quarterback. Not long after, videos of Darnold completing the same passes hit the airwaves. The difference between the two: Wilson threw against no one on defense. Darnold completed the passes against an actual NFL defense in the Buffalo Bills during a game situation.

Outside of the top three, teams moving on from their “guy” pulled the trigger. Two more quarterbacks were selected in the first round, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. After whiffing on their pick of Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, the Chicago Bears took Fields, a player who the media has modeled as a bigger and stronger Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback who many have said should have been taken over Trubisky. 

With teams getting the players they wanted, New England held their guard, not trading up for a signal caller. Instead, reigning national champion Mac Jones of Alabama, fell directly to the fifteenth pick and the Patriots. Taking over for the greatest quarterback of all-time has been placed on the shoulders of the former Crimson Tide quarterback. 

In between quarterbacks came a flurry of wide receivers and cornerbacks. Speed dominated the wideouts seeing former teammates reuniting at the next level. The Cincinnati Bengals’ selection of Louisiana State’s Ja’Marr Chase matches him with Joe Burrow, both of whom won a national championship in the 2019-20 season. Miami followed suit, drafting former Heisman candidate Jaylen Waddle who dominated with former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The speedy Waddle hurdled his teammate DeVonta Smith, taken by Philadelphia at the tenth pick and whose resume far surpassed his own.

These wideouts have their work in store for them playing against the next generation of defensive backs. Carolina kicked off the night drafting locally with South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn with the eighth pick. Horn’s father, Joe Horn, was a star wideout for the division rival New Orleans Saints in the early 2000’s. 

Denver drafted Patrick Surtain II who followed his father’s footsteps playing the same position. His father made an impact during his time playing for the Miami Dolphins. 

The Los Angeles Chargers added Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. to one of the league’s youngest rosters. Samuel Sr. earned his bones in the NFL, locking down some of the league’s top targets for over a decade in Philadelphia and New England.    

The highlight of the evening came from a man who is already 16 years invested and stamped in the NFL. A report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter brought to light the future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers’ disdain for the organization’s management, saying he won’t play in Green Bay unless general manager Brian Gutekunst is shown the door prior to the season’s start. 

For now, Rodger’s season still sits in unrest with nothing set in stone. With a season expanded for the first time in 43 years and a league broadcasting stadiums at full capacity, many football lives are not set in stone. One thing that is: football will be played in September.