The latest on the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night. (all times EDT):
National champion Alabama is dominating the NFL as well. At least in the first round of the draft.
The Crimson Tide’s fifth player selected in the top 17 is tackle Alex Leatherwood to Las Vegas. His choice is a bit of a surprise, unlike the previous ’Bama picks: receivers Jaylen Waddle to Miami and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith of Philadelphia; cornerback Patrick Surtain II to Denver; and quarterback Mac Jones to New England.
Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins joins Arizona after going 16th; the Cardinals lost LB Haason Reddick in free agency. edge rusher Jaelan Phillips of Miami, Fla., is staying home as he goes to the Dolphins; linebacker Jamin Davis of Kentucky is headed to Washington; and Florida receiver Kadarius Toney becomes a New York Giant.
The Dallas Cowboys have gotten some needed defensive help with Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons after making their trade down.
A third straight Big Ten player to go is Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater to the Chargers. Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert has to be smiling at the added protection he will receive.
The Jets are the first club with a second selection by trading up from No. 23 to Minnesota’s 14th spot for USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. He played tackle for the Trojans, but figures to switch to guard in the pros.
And the fifth quarterback projected to go in the first round, national champion Alabama’s Mac Jones, is now a New England Patriot. He is the fourth Crimson Tide player taken in the first 15.
After the Eagles-Cowboys deal where Philadelphia moved up two spots to No. 10 and selected DaVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy-wining receiver from Alabama, Chicago moved up from No. 20 to the 11th spot, then thrilled its fans by choosing quarterback Justin Fields of Ohio State.
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith became the sixth player from the Southeastern Conference, and third from Alabama, to be taken in the first 10 selections of the NFL draft.
Smith, the first receiver to win the Heisman since 1991, went No. 10 to the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded up to get quarterback Jalen Hurts’ former college teammate.
Smith was the second receiver on his team to be taken in the draft. Crimson Tide teammate Jaylen Waddle went No. 6 to the Miami Dolphins, after LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase was selected by Cincinnati at five and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts went No. 4 to Atlanta.
The first two defensive players taken were from the SEC, too. South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn went No. 8 to Carolina and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain went ninth to Denver.
The first offensive lineman chosen in the NFL draft is Penei Sewell of Oregon. The tackle who opted out of last season has been taken seventh overall by Detroit and should be an immediate starter.
The run on offensive players ends at the eighth slot with Carolina taking perhaps the fastest player in this group, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn.
And next up is another son of a former NFL starter, Patrick Surtain II. The Alabama All-America cornerback winds up in Denver, which took Crimson Tide wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round a year ago.
The first trade of the draft has Philadelphia moving up two spots to No. 10 and selecting DaVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy-wining receiver from Alabama. The Eagles made the deal with division rival Dallas and also jumped ahead of another NFC East team, the Giants. The Cowboys get a third-round pick and move back to No. 12.
Six of the top 10 picks are from the SEC, three from Alabama.
Miami has drafted Jaylen Waddle, the game-breaking receiver from Alabama, with the sixth overall pick.
The first player chosen from the national champions, Waddle is as versatile as any wideout in a draft very deep in pass catchers. He has blazing speed and elusiveness and also can return kicks.
Waddle joins his college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, in Miami.
Waddle played in only six games last season because of a broken left ankle.
LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who sat out last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been chosen fifth overall in the NFL draft by Cincinnati.
Desperate for a playmaker to team with Joe Burrow, the quarterback who teamed with Chase to lead LSU to the 2019 national title, the Bengals found him in a guy who makes all the contested catches. An All-American in 2019, Chase set SEC records with 1,780 yards receiving and 20 TD catches.
There were strong indications as the draft approached that the Bengals would eschew taking a blocker to protect Burrow and go for the top wideout.
Kyle Pitts is considered by many the most dynamic player in this year’s draft. The Atlanta Falcons certainly thought so and have selected the Florida tight end with the fourth overall pick.
He was the first non-quarterback taken after Jacksonville drafted Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the Jets got BYU’s Zach Wilson, and San Francisco went for North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
Pitts figures to be more of a hybrid tight end/wide receiver in the pros, with few blocking assignments. So what when Pitts is 6-foot-6, 245 pounds and presents an intimidating matchup for even the best defenders. Pitts has sure hands, speed, reach, elusiveness and intelligence. He should be an instant starter in Atlanta, maybe an instant star.
Trey Lance, a quarterback from FCS school North Dakota State who started 17 games in his career, has been chosen third overall in the NFL draft by San Francisco.
Lance was chosen after Jacksonville took Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and the Jets grabbed BYU’s Zach Wilson. Three QBs to start proceedings matched 1971 (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini) and 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith) as the only drafts with such a lineup. Only Plunkett won a Super Bowl among those QBs, and he didn’t do it with New England, which drafted him.
Even though Jimmy Garoppolo took the 49ers to the Super Bowl two years ago, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan felt they needed new blood at the position. They traded up to the No. 3 slot, paying a high price to Miami, so they could select Lance.
Yet Lance is not the highest North Dakota State quarterback chosen in a draft. Carson Wentz went second overall to Philadelphia in 2016.
In what has been billed a “quarterbacks draft,” at least for the first round, Zach Wilson of BYU is the second straight passer to go at the top of the selections.
The New York Jets chose Wilson after Jacksonville grabbed Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. At least three other signal callers are expected to go in the first 32 picks — and likely early in the round.
New York dealt Sam Darnold, the third overall selection in 2018, to Carolina earlier this month to clear the job for Wilson. The Jets were so impressed with Wilson’s pro day, which was attended by their GM, coach and offensive coordinator, that it became clear Wilson will be the next Jets attempt at finding the franchise quarterback they haven’t had since Joe Namath.
No suspense at the top of this NFL draft: Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The star quarterback who led Clemson to a national title and generally is considered the best prospect at the position since Andrew Luck in 2012 has had his name called first by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Lawrence, a junior, 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.
As Jaguars owner Shad Khan said earlier this week, without specifically mentioning Lawrence:
“It’s unbelievable. If this isn’t a moment to enjoy for me and for all the Jags fans, you need more coffee or you need something else. This is a great-to-be-alive kind of moment, frankly.”
Many around the NFL felt that way simply because there are 12 prospects (not Lawrence) and thousands of fans joining Goodell on the shore of Lake Erie. Last year’s draft, scheduled for Las Vegas, was instead a totally remote affair because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the NFL took the draft on the road, most teams in the league have sought to host it.
The road trip for the selection process began in 2015 with the first of two consecutive drafts held in Chicago. That came after the event was held in New York from 1965-2014 at various venues.
Philadelphia hosted in 2017, drawing massive crowds to the Museum of Art. Then the league headed to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for yet another new sort of location.
Probably the most popular draft festivities occurred in 2019 in Nashville, with more than a half-million people attending along Lower Broadway for draft picks and country music (Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley).
Las Vegas was planning to outdo all previous drafts before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to go virtual last year. Sin City will host next year, followed by Kansas City.
And now, it's Cleveland, along the Lake Erie shore and by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
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