One of my favorite draft clichés -- and there are a ton of good ones -- is when people say, “The draft really starts at this pick!” to indicate the first pick that won’t be chalk.
That pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was No. 3. There were ample rumors and reports suggesting the San Francisco 49ers would take Mac Jones, but ... it was just too hard to believe that because Jones wasn’t that good a prospect.
It wasn’t going to be a major surprise if the 49ers passed on Jones, but how many people thought it would be so they could take Trey Lance? With all the talk of Justin Fields falling, it seemed more logical that Lance -- a young, raw, FCS quarterback with one game played last season -- would tumble.
Lance going third was the first big surprise of Thursday night. Here are the others:
Carolina Panthers take Jaycee Horn at No. 8 overall
I like Horn and don’t mind him going before Patrick Surtain II, but what the hell are the Panthers doing going cornerback? They needed a left tackle, which is typically not a position worth playing by ear.
The Panthers should know that better than anyone given that they started four different players at the position last year and were a mess as a result. Penei Sewell went the pick before they were on the clock, but they still could have taken Rashawn Slater or moved down for Christian Darrisaw. Sam Darnold can't be happy. Yeesh.
Minnesota Vikings move down to get the guy they should have taken in the first place
This isn’t a “winners and losers” thing, but let’s call the Vikings a winner. At No. 14, it made all the sense in the world for them to take Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw or move down. Turns out both were possible.
They dealt the pick and a fourth to the Jets for No. 23 and two thirds. After all that, Darrisaw fell to 23, where the Vikings stopped his slide. That’s a great development for Minnesota.
Also, kudos to the New York Jets for trading up and taking USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. With 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton and Vera-Tucker, New York has a really solid left side to protect Zach Wilson.
Dallas Cowboys miss out on Patrick Surtain II
My favorite draft prop bet was the over/under on Patrick Surtain II’s selection. It was set at 10.5, with me loving the bet that he’d go earlier. Why? Because, like seemingly everyone else, I viewed Surtain to the Cowboys at No. 10 as the surest pick in the draft outside of the top two picks.
The back-to-back corner picks at No. 8 with Horn to Carolina and No. 9 with Surtain to the Denver Broncos played a key role in the quarterbacks falling. Both of those players being gone meant that Dallas would take Micah Parsons, which they did after moving down a couple spots to No. 12.
I’m not anti-reach. If you love a player, make sure you can get him. The Las Vegas Raiders, for example, loved Alex Leatherwood and showed it by taking him 17th overall when he was seen by many as a second-rounder.
Then there are the risers. Jamin Davis shot up draft boards in the offseason, with Mel Kiper putting him 19th on his final big board. Good on Kiper; the Washington Football Team drafted the Kentucky linebacker 19th overall.
Payton Turner, who had a lot of grades in the second or third round, was the subject of a complimentary pre-draft Adam Schefter tweet. The New Orleans Saints then took him 28th overall.
Now let’s project ahead to the second round…
Cincinnati Bengals need to cover their tracks
It takes a lot of gall to not have a left tackle and pass on the top-rated one while your star quarterback is recovering from an injury. This is the story of the Cincinnati Bengals.
I’ll be honest; I don’t hate the Bengals’ choice to take wide receiver (and Joe Burrow’s former LSU teammate) Ja’Marr Chase fifth overall. My logic in excusing the move was that this draft figured to have good tackles available in the 25-40 range.
One of those players, Leatherwood, is gone, but the Bengals hold the sixth pick of the second round. There are good tackles on the board in Tevin Jenkins, Dillon Radunz, Samuel Cosmi, Liam Eichenberg and Walker Little. The Bengals can make up for the massive risk they took. They absolutely have to take a tackle at No. 38.
Wide receivers still there for New England Patriots
The Patriots filled their biggest need with a quarterback in the first round. There are plenty of positions that could stand to be addressed in the second, but none are more pressing than receiver.
The Pats have the 14th pick of the second round (46th overall). Receivers still available include Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, LSU’s Terrace Marshall and Purdue’s Rondale Moore, all of whom had first-round buzz at some point.
If the Patriots don’t go receiver, other logical positions would be linebacker, defensive back or offensive line.
Cowboys still have a shot at a second-generation corner
After missing out on Patrick Surtain II, the Cowboys still badly need a cornerback. How about Asante Samuel Jr.?
Dallas picks 12th in the second round (44th overall), but they picked up an extra third from the Philadelphia Eagles in their first-round trade.
That would make it easier if Dallas wanted to part with one of its fourths to move up and make sure they don’t lose their guy again.