Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance were the first three picks of Thursday night’s NFL draft in Cleveland, marking just the third time the top three selections were all quarterbacks.
As expected, Lawrence went No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Wilson was chosen second by the New York Jets. The San Francisco 49ers were the mystery team over which quarterback they wanted, and they tabbed Lance.
The others times the first three selections were quarterbacks occurred in 1971 and 1999.
Jim Plunkett went No. 1 overall to the New England Patriots in 1971, followed by Archie Manning to the New Orleans Saints and Dan Pastorini to the then-Houston Oilers.
In 1999, the Cleveland Browns took Tim Couch first. Donovan McNabb was chosen second by the Philadelphia Eagles and Akili Smith went third to the Cincinnati Bengals.
It has been apparent for months that the Jaguars would select Lawrence out of Clemson with the first overall pick
The 6-foot-6 quarterback will be looked on as the savior by Jacksonville fans, and he is the team’s first choice under new head coach Urban Meyer.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up went 34-2 as a starter at Clemson and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018. He passed for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and tacked on 18 rushing scores.
“My mindset always going in is that I’m going to earn everything that I get, so coming in I don’t have any expectations from anyone else other than myself,” Lawrence said in a conference call from his draft hangout in Seneca, S.C. “I expect to perform well and to adjust quickly and be ready to go, and that’s something I expect a lot out of myself, so that’s where I’m at mentally.”
The Jets coveted the efficient Wilson of BYU. New York recently gave up on Sam Darnold, trading the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 to the Carolina Panthers to open the door to select Wilson.
“I know these guys need a good quarterback and a good leader and I think I got those qualities,” Wilson said on ESPN. “I can’t wait to go in there. I love the coaching staff, I love everything they have to offer and I can’t wait to get to New York City.”
Wilson completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. His stock soared throughout the season as his ability for firing pinpoint passes and avoiding miscues impressed talent evaluators.
He started 28 of 30 career games played over three seasons and passed for 7,652 yards, 56 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also rushed for 15 scores.
Wilson ferociously slapped high-fives with Jets fans as he approached the stage on a night in which recently vaccinated NFL commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly shared hugs with players, a sign of draft normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic turned the 2020 draft into a virtual affair.
The 49ers opted for North Dakota State’s Lance with the third pick despite the 20-year-old’s relative lack of experience.
Lance started 17 games for the Bison, playing for the powerhouse FCS program in Fargo because major-college schools didn’t think he could be a quarterback at the FBS level.
As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in FCS when he passed for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns without an interception in 16 games while leading North Dakota State to the national title. He played in just one game last fall (on Oct. 3) due to North Dakota State postponing its season to the spring, and he declared for the draft a few days later.
The 49ers possess Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback, but Lance eventually will be expected to supplant him as the starter.
“I’m excited to learn from him,” Lance said on ESPN. “Everything he does, he’s a mentor for me and I’m super excited to get there and learn as much as I possibly can.”
The Chicago Bears shook up the draft when they moved up to No. 11 to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Fields threw 63 scoring passes against nine interceptions over the past two seasons for the Buckeyes.
The Bears gave up pick No. 20 and a first-round pick in 2022 as part of the haul, also giving up a fifth-round choice in 2021 and a fourth-round selection in 2022.
A fifth quarterback was chosen at No. 15 when the Patriots selected Alabama’s Mac Jones, who passed for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions last season.
Pre-draft chatter floated the possibility Jones could be of interest to the 49ers at No. 3.
“It’s not really where you get picked, it’s what you do with the opportunity,” Jones said.
Jones was one of six Alabama players selected in the first round, matching the record set by Miami in 2004. Receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and running back Najee Harris were the others.
Miami’s six first-round picks in 2004 were safety Sean Taylor (No. 5, Washington), tight end Kellen Winslow II (No. 6, Cleveland Browns), middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (No. 12, Jets), outside linebacker D.J. Williams (No. 17, Denver Broncos), offensive tackle Vernon Carey (No. 19, Miami Dolphins) and nose tackle Vince Wilfork (No. 21, Patriots).
Harris was the first running back off the board at No. 24 when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harris scored 30 touchdowns (26 rushing, four receiving) while rushing for 1,466 yards last season.
Clemson star runner Travis Etienne went right after Harris to the Jaguars. Etienne, who rushed for an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 4,952 career yards for the Tigers, joins former teammate Lawrence in Jacksonville.
The Atlanta Falcons ended the quarterback streak at the top of the draft by plucking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick. Pitts caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. It marked the highest a tight end has ever been selected.
The Cincinnati Bengals chose LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall selection. Chase opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, but he was a major star in 2019 when he caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Dolphins also selected a receiver in the No. 6 spot, picking Waddle, who doubles as a strong return specialist. He had three return scores (two punts, one kickoff) during his three college seasons.
Waddle had his season interrupted in mid-October due to a fractured ankle before returning to play in the national championship game when Alabama routed Ohio State. He averaged 21.1 yards on 28 receptions in six games.
The Detroit Lions selected Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell — another player who opted out of the 2020 season — with the seventh selection. With the eighth pick, the Carolina Panthers tabbed South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn.
Surtain, also the son of a former NFL player, went ninth to the Denver Broncos.
The Eagles traded with the Dallas Cowboys to move up from No. 12 to No. 10 and selected Heisman Trophy winner Smith. The Alabama product had a season for the ages in 2020 with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for a score and added a TD on a punt return.
“Every day, you’re going to get the best out of me no matter what the circumstances are, no matter how things are going, you’ll always get my best,” Smith said.
Dallas, which also received a third-round pick in this draft in the trade, chose Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 12. Parsons opted out of the 2020 season.
The Los Angeles Chargers selected Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater (another opt-out) with the 13th pick. The New York Jets acquired the 14th pick from the Minnesota Vikings and chose Southern California guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins went 16th to the Arizona Cardinals, Leatherwood was the 17th choice by the Las Vegas Raiders and Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips went 18th to the Miami Dolphins.
The Washington Football team selected Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis at No. 19, and the New York Giants chose Florida wideout Kadarius Toney at No. 20.
Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye of Guinea went No. 21 to the Indianapolis Colts. Two Virginia Tech players were next off the board as defensive back Caleb Farley (a 2020 opt-out who underwent back surgery last month) went to the Tennessee Titans and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw was picked by the Minnesota Vikings.
The hometown Browns picked at No. 26 and chose Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II, the son of former NFL player Craig Newsome. The Baltimore Ravens selected Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman at No. 27, the New Orleans Saints took defensive end Payton Turner of Houston at No. 28, and the Green Bay Packers used the No. 29 pick on cornerback Eric Stokes of Georgia.
The Buffalo Bills selected Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau (an opt-out) at No. 30 and the Ravens chose Penn State linebacker Jayson Oweh at No. 31. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed the first round by choosing Washington linebacker Joe Tryon.
–Field Level Media