49ers

NFL draft winners, losers: 49ers triumph while Raiders flop

49ers
Mac Jones, Trey Lance

Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone.

As expected, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson kicked things off Thursday night by going No.1 and No. 2, respectively.

Then, the 49ers went on the clock and finally chose their QB of the future, selecting North Dakota State star Trey Lance at No. 3 overall.

From there, things got a little out of control. Justin Fields and Mac Jones slid, the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears jumped up and the Raiders went full Raider again.

Here are the winners and losers from Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Winner: Chicago Bears

Man, Ryan Pace has nine freakin' lives, doesn't he?

The Bears' much-maligned general manager has been preparing to face the firing squad following the 2021 season in which he was planning to trot out Andy Dalton as his starting quarterback.

But as Fields slid out of the top 10, Pace saw an opportunity both to make up for his previous draft blunder and to perhaps extend his Bears tenure. Pace engineered a deal to jump up from No. 20 to No. 11 and select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields was viewed by many as the No. 2 quarterback in this draft, but has had an inexplicable fall in recent months. Did no one see him torch Clemson by throwing six touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl? That happened, right?

Clearly Pace's television still works, and the Bears, after years of wandering through the quarterback wilderness, have their man.

Loser: Denver Broncos

I want to be clear: This has nothing to do with Patrick Surtain II.

 

The Broncos selected the Alabama cornerback with the No. 9 overall pick. Surtain is a lockdown corner and will be an incredible fit in Vic Fangio's defense.

I like the pick, but the Broncos, a team that has been churning through quarterbacks ever since Peyton Manning left, passed on both Fields and Jones.

Yes, the Broncos have both Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, but it's clear neither of them is the long-term answer. Both Fields and Jones could have been.

Instead, the Broncos will continue to bring a rock to a gunfight when they take on Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice a year in the AFC West.

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers

Speaking of Herbert, the Chargers rookie phenom was pressured on 37 percent (!) of his dropbacks during Year 1 in the NFL.

Now, Herbert was incredible under pressure but that's not a formula to keep your franchise quarterback upright and healthy. The Bolts needed to address the tackle position. There were two tackles in a tier above the rest in Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater.

The Chargers would have loved to reunite Herbert and Sewell, who played together at Oregon, but the Detroit Lions snapped up Sewell with pick No. 7. No doubt the Chargers waited anxiously as teams passed on Slater, and the Northwestern stud fell right into their lap at No. 13 overall.

Priority No. 1 is to protect Herbert at all costs. Mission accomplished.

Loser: Dallas Cowboys

You're going to see a pattern with these losers.

Once again, I really like Micah Parsons the player, and it's clear that once the top-two cornerbacks in Surtain and Jaycee Horn were off the board, Dallas was going to move down and address a different area.

But I can't sign off on trading with your division rival to allow them to climb up and draft the Heisman Trophy winner. Seriously, the NFL was in galaxy-brain land trying to talk themselves out of DeVonta Smith because of his weight.

I don't care if he looks like he weighs 120 pounds soaking wet. The guy is a killer and now you have to try and stop him twice a season with no secondary. Good luck, 'Boys.

Winner: New England Patriots

One way or another, it seemed like Bill Belichick was going to get a quarterback with 49ers ties. Most thought it would be via trade to bring Jimmy Garoppolo back to New England.

But instead, Belichick watched Jones, the quarterback many believed Kyle Shanahan was targeting at No. 3, fall to No. 15 where the Patriots were more than happy to select their franchise quarterback without having to trade up to secure him.

Belichick and Alabama coach Nick Saban are good friends, so there's no doubt the Patriots coach knows exactly what he is getting in the accurate, pocket-passing machine in Jones.

Almost four years ago, Belichick traded Garoppolo to the 49ers and trudged forward with an aging Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady would win two more titles before heading to Tampa Bay to win another one.

 

Much of Garoppolo's time in San Francisco was spent being compared to Brady, especially after the 49ers entertained the idea of signing Brady last offseason.

Now, the 49ers and Patriots will be tied together once again, with Lance and Jones' careers forever being measured against one another.

Loser: Raiders

Oh no, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden went and did it again.

A year after stunning everyone by drafting Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders made another shocking selection when they drafted Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood with the No. 17 overall pick.

Leatherwood, 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, is a mountain of a man who is a strong run blocker and has the power and strength to stymie pass rushers who attack him head-on. However, Leatherwood's mobility issues give him problems getting out to block wide rushers, which could force him to move to guard if he can't get more consistent in pass pro.

In selecting Leatherwood, the Raiders passed on both Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins, both of whom are believed to be sure things as NFL tackles.

Another reach for the Silver and Black.

Winner: 49ers

In the end, Lance was the 49ers' choice. And, according to Shanahan and Lynch, he was always the choice.

RELATED: How Jimmy G fits into 49ers' plans after Lance pick

The 20-year-old North Dakota State star has a huge right arm, a brilliant mind and the athleticism that will allow the 49ers to use him in the QB run game. That elite athleticism also will give Shanahan's offense signal-caller who can get outside the pocket, make second-reaction throws and move the chains with his legs if the play breaks down.

To be clear, I liked Jones as a prospect. If the 49ers would have taken him at No. 3, I would have thought that was too high but still believe he would have been a good fit.

Lance is a better fit. He's the perfect fit. And the selection shows that Shanahan is adapting to the modern NFL. He has seen how tough it is to defend Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Having a quarterback who is bound by the pocket can limit your offense's ceiling.

Now, once Lance starts, Shanahan will have a quarterback who can do it all, and one who will be a nightmare for defenses to game-plan to stop.