Who were the top 10 picks in the 2021 NFL draft?
The transition from college football to NFL can often be brutal. Here we offer a break down of who the picks were and how they all did in their rookie seasons.
With the anticipation surrounding this year’s NFL Draft, let’s take a look at the top 10 picks of the 2021 Draft and how their maiden seasons went in the league.
Who were the top 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Without doubt it takes a year or two before we can have a true assessment of any new player who enters into the NFL, in fact this could be said about any rookie in any sport. None the less, time and patience are not things that are granted for long periods of time when playing at the highest level. Indeed, teams are often caught between the a rock and a hard place when determining if the way forward is to seek instantaneous results at the risk of long term failure, or the absolute opposite which is to say accept that in the short term things will be difficult, but building for the future will result in long term and more importantly sustained success. Take a look below to see who the top 10 picks were and how they’re managed in their maiden season:
No. 1 Pick: QB Trevor Lawrence - Jacksonville Jaguars
Lawrence’s situation in Jacksonville didn’t get off to the best start. Indeed, with stats that were less than impressive, the No. 1 overall pick seemed to struggle at times with the transition to a bigger stage. That being said, Lawrence showed considerable growth throughout the year. This is a player after all who went from throwing seven interceptions across his first three games, to just two in the five that followed. Most memorable perhaps was his stand out performance against the Bills when he definitively outplayed Buffalo’s QB Josh Allen. The rookie didn’t turn over the ball on a single occasion and went on to spearhead a game winning drive.
No. 2 Pick: QB Zach Wilson - New York Jets
Another quarterback who experienced a baptism of fire has got to be Zach Wilson. As was the case with the previously mentioned Lawrence, the Jets’ QB has not had any favors done by the team who picked him. That being said, it must be noted than when he was sidelined mid-season with an injury, Mike White - his replacement - produced on a level that begged a question about whether or not the Jets’ starting QB was also part of the problem. There is no doubt that Wilson is a talented quarterback, but as his coach would later state, he needs to focus on being a little more basic as opposed to only looking for the ‘showtime’ plays.
No. 3 Pick: QB Trey Lance - 49ers
While Lance suffered a sprained knee early on in the past season, it was clear from day one that he was a QB who was not afraid to go big. Comfortable in the pocket and definitely dangerous when he decides to run, the young QB has benefited from playing with a team that is decisively better than those with which the aforementioned Lawrence and Wilson play for. With that said, there is a reason why 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan moved for Lance after the Rams traded for Matthew Stafford. The kid has got game.
No. 4 Pick: TE Kyle Pitts - Atlanta Falcons
When Pitts entered the league, he did so with unbelievably high expectations, but that was seemingly not a problem for the tight end. In his first eight games he quite literally got off to a running start. The kind of yardage that the rookie registered would have been a showpiece year for any TE far less one in his maiden season. Indeed, the rookie all but decimated the normal expectations of a player in his position, such that Falcons coach Arthur Smith moved him all around the offensive formation. With long periods of time spent playing at WR, Pitts definitely made a mark in his first season in the league.
No. 5 Pick: WR Ja’Marr Chase - Cincinatti Bengals
It’s not often that one gets to go to a Super Bowl in a rookie season, but that’s exactly what chase did as the Bengals made a historic run to the big game. Granted there was a great deal of hype surrounding Chase, but the young man was still up against the likes of the aforementioned Kyle Pitts as well as Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith as he attempted to remind fans just why there was buzz about his name. That, however, didn’t take long. In seven of his first nine games, Chase has racked up at least 50 yards, with two games over 150 yards. Quite frankly, the Bengals got exactly what they were looking for. With a minimum of 20 yards on each reception, his synergy with former LSU alumni and present Bengals QB Joe Burrow is plain to see.
No. 6: WR Jaylen Waddle - Miami Dolphins
While some will point to the numbers on the board, the reality is that Waddle has been better than his stats indicate. That is not to say that the wide receiver had a bad season, but any casual viewer will be well aware that there is more he can offer. Complicating the matter in his first season was of course the idea that Miami has not stabilized their QB situation. With that Waddle faced a situation that was in flux and as such could not display exactly what he was capable of. That being said, with speed to spare and a craftiness that can win games, not to mention the addition of the lethal Tyreek Hill, Waddle looks set to turn heads this coming season.
No. 7 Pick: OL Penei Sewell - Detroit Lions
While the Lions didn’t get a lot right last season, there was in fact one thing that they did and that was the selection of Sewell. To be frank, the offensive lineman has lived up to everything that was expected of him. Initially started at right tackle, an injury to Taylor Decker forced Detroit to switch the rookie over to left tackle. Needless to say he took to it like a fish does to water. Decker would eventually return but there was definitely some head scratching as the rookie performed more than admirably in his absence.
No. 8 Pick: CB Jaycee Horn - Carolina Panthers
Where Horn is concerned, it’s more a case of what could have been rather than what was. Having suffered a foot fracture in Week 3, the corner back would unfortunately not return again for the season. It was in fact a major blow for the Panthers as their rookie had in fact got off to a sizzling start in the league, as he helped the Panthers to a 3-0 start, but in the end it was not meant to be. With reports now suggesting that Horn is up and running once again, it will be interesting to see what he can contribute in his second season.
No. 9 Pick: CB Patrick Surtain - Denver Broncos
If there’s one rookie on this list who hit the ground running it’s Patrick Surtain. The corner back came into the league at one of the hardest positions to play in any team and made his own almost immediately. Having showed no signs of uncertainty when competing against the best receivers in the league, the rookie new boy has definitely turned heads. Some would argue that it was only a knee injury that derailed his hopes of being included in the rookie of year conversation, but truthfully it doesn’t matter. The future is bright for Surtain and the Broncos and with the team having landed themselves a franchise QB in Russell Wilson, it will be interesting to see what happens this coming season.
No. 10 Pick: WR DeVonta Smith - Philadelphia Eagles
If there was one name that became household last season, it was DeVonta Smith’s. It is true that the wide receiver lacked consistency at times, but for what was lost in his ability to be constant, he returned in versatility and out right flamboyance. Week 9 was one of quite a few memorable moments when he caught five of six balls for 115 yards (23.2 yards per reception) and a touchdown. Indeed, Smith seems to be following in the Alabama tradition of great wide receivers who have put big numbers on the board in the NFL. Keep an eye on him in 2022.