No suspense at the top of this NFL draft: Quarterback, quarterback and, yep, quarterback.
With fans in attendance, prospects on hand and commissioner Roger Goodell dispensing greetings to players being selected Thursday night in Cleveland, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence went to the Jacksonville Jaguars to get things started. Next was BYU’s Zach Wilson going to the New York Jets, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance landing with the San Francisco 49ers.
That matched 1971 (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini) and 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith) as the only drafts with quarterbacks taken with the top three picks. Only Plunkett won a Super Bowl among those QBs, and he didn’t do it with New England, which drafted him.
Two more passers went in the top 15: Ohio State’s Justin Fields to Chicago, which traded up to the 11th slot with the Giants, and Alabama’s Mac Jones to New England.
“I think I fit perfectly (with what coach Matt Nagy wants at quarterback],” Fields said.
Lawrence, a junior who led Clemson to a national title, generally is considered the best prospect at the position since Andrew Luck in 2012. He joins new coach Urban Meyer, himself a major success in the college ranks, in trying to turn around a franchise that went 1-15 last season.
“It was just a kind of a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Lawrence said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to get us back to where we need to be. I’m going to put in the work. No one’s going to work harder than me.”
Lawrence is the fourth QB taken in the first round by the Jaguars, joining Byron Leftwich (2003), Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014).
Wilson was expected to go to New York.
“There’s not another team I’d want to play for besides the Jets,” Wilson said on NFL Network shortly after being drafted. “We’re going to be a special team. We’re going for the Super Bowl.”
Lance’s selection was something of a surprise. He played only 17 games for his FCS school, but his offseason workouts sold San Francisco.
While Lance played under center in an offense that featured plenty of play-action that should translate to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense with the 49ers, he still needs work on some of his mechanics and accuracy.
“I was super blessed to have a coaching staff that trusted me and believed in me to make those decisions,” Lance said.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, considered by many the best athlete in this draft, went fourth to Atlanta, followed by wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, who sat out last season, to Cincinnati.
NFC North notes
The Bears traded up nine spots to select Fields.
The Giants received Chicago’s first-round pick this year (No. 20), the Bears’ first-rounder next year, a fifth-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2022.
The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in each of his two seasons after transferring from Georgia, Fields threw for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions for the Buckeyes.
- The Detroit Lions selected Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 7 pick.
The 6-foot-5, 331-pound Sewell did not play last season after starting his first two years at Oregon, opting out of last year’s delayed Pac-12 season.
- The Minnesota Vikings made Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw the 23rd overall selection after moving down nine spots in a trade with the Jets.
Darrisaw, a late-blooming, athletic blocker at 6-5 and 322 pounds, was a second-team All-American in 2020 who can fill a significant need at left tackle after Riley Reiff was released for salary cap savings.
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow recently worked out with the Jaguars as a tight end, sources told ESPN. Tebow, 33, hasn’t played in the league since 2012 with the Jets. ... The Panthers picked up the fifth-year option on wide receiver D.J. Moore’s contract. ... The Saints exercised the fifth-year option on defensive end Marcus Davenport. ... The Seahawks signed defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who was a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2016 but did not play last season. ... The Steelers signed backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to a one-year contract extension through the 2022 season.