Outside of the first two overall picks, there was plenty of suspense during Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft. While Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were selected by the Jaguars and Jets, respectively, to kick things off, the 49ers surely wrecked some mock drafts by taking Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick. Things only got more surprising from there. Justin Fields fell out of the top 10, while the Dallas Cowboys — a team many felt would select a cornerback with the 10th overall pick — missed out on the chance to take either of the top two cornerback prospects in the draft. Dallas was part of one of three trades that took place during the first day of the draft.Let’s take a look at the five biggest surprises from Day 1, starting with the night’s most surprising trade. 1. Heated division rivals make a dealThe Cowboys, who need help on defense, appeared to be sitting pretty after watching six skill players go off the board to kick off the draft. But after the Lions took Penei Sewell with the seventh pick, the Cowboys watched as Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II — the top-two cornerback prospects in the draft — were selected by the Panthers and Broncos in consecutive picks. With both of those players off the board, the Cowboys decided to trade back two spots — with their NFC East rival Eagles, of all teams! — while also receiving the 84th overall pick. The Eagles used the pick to select DeVonta Smith, as Philadelphia has given Jalen Hurts a new weapon to work with as he enters his first season as the team’s starting quarterback.
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2. Bears move up to take Justin Fields After watching 10 other teams pass on him, Chicago quickly moved up to take Fields at No. 11. The Bears traded the No. 20 and 164th picks in this year’s draft along with next year’s first and fourth-round picks to select Fields, who never lost a regular season game as Ohio State’s starting quarterback. The only player in Big Ten history to throw for 40 touchdowns and run for 10 more in a single season, Fields threw for a school bowl game record six touchdown passes in Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl victory over Clemson this past January. In Chicago, Fields will work alongside Andy Dalton, who led the Bengals to five consecutive playoff appearances from 2011-15. 3. Pats stand pat, but still land a QBThere was significant speculation that the Patriots would trade up in order to select a quarterback. But after the Panthers and Broncos drafted cornerbacks, that opened things up for the Patriots to be patient before selecting Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick. “He’s a guy we spent a lot of time with,” Bill Belichick said shorty after picking the former Alabama quarterback. “Felt like that was the best pick at that time for us. He’s a smart kid. He’s been in a system that’s similar to ours. We’ve had good conversations. We think he’ll be able to process this offense. It’s obviously going to take a lot of time, [we’ll see how it goes].
“Cam’s our quarterback. Whatever time Jarrett [Stidman] or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, we’ll see how that goes.” 4. Urban Meyer brings Clemson backfield to Jacksonville While seemingly everyone had the Jaguars taking Lawrence with the No. 1 pick, not many draft analysts had Jacksonville using the No. 25 overall pick to select fellow Clemson standout Travis Etienne. Just moments after the Steelers selected the first running back taken in the draft (Najee Harris), Urban Meyer and the Jaguars selected Etienne, who scored 78 touchdowns while amassing over 6,100 total yards during his time with the Tigers. Etienne will share a backfield in Jacksonville with James Robinson, who led all rookie running backs with 1,070 rushing yards in 2020. 5. History is madeThursday tied the mark for the the most offensive skill players selected to start a draft since the beginning of the common draft era in 1967. Lawrence, Fields, Lance, tight end Kyle Pitts (Atlanta) and receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati) and Jaylen Waddle (Miami) tied a record that was initially set during the 1999 draft. That year, the draft started with the selections of quarterbacks Tim Couch (Cleveland), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia) and Akili Smith (Cincinnati), running backs Edgerrin James (Indianapolis) and Ricky Williams (New Orleans) and receiver Torry Holt (St. Louis).
Pitts made even more history on Thursday night, as he became the highest-selected tight end in league history at No. 4 overall.