2021 NFL draft preview: what to expect on Thursday


Since 1936, the NFL has had an annual draft of the best and brightest amateur players. This year, the 86th NFL Draft will take place in Cleveland, Oh. from Thursday, April 29 – Saturday May 1.  It will be in parts of downtown Cleveland, FirstEnergy Stadium (home of the Browns), Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

NFL fans and the media like to speculate about who will be selected with the first overall pick but this year is almost a unanimous agreement. For the last three years, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been the general consensus No. 1 pick in 2021, even as a true freshman.  The Jacksonville Jaguars finished with the NFL’s worst record this past season and will have the first overall pick this year, almost guaranteed to take the highest-rated quarterback in years. According to NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper via USA Today: “Lawrence is at No. 4, trailing only John Elway, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning,” in terms of best quarterback prospects in NFL draft history.

At number two it is believed the New York Jets will be taking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. He seems to be their top choice and can’t be swayed to take anyone else. After the first two picks is where the draft really becomes a mystery. It will be interesting to watch it play out throughout the night.

The debate starts with the 49ers selection at the third overall pick, which they traded up in the draft to land. Head coach Kyle Shannahan said: “we felt we needed to get a starting quarterback this year and add that to our team.” Initially it sounded like the 49ers were going to let current starter Jimmy Garoppolo play one more year and develop a quarterback behind him,  but now it sounds like they want to get a starter for this season.  When pressed about the current quarterback Garoppolo (who has been hurt in half of his games in the NFL) Shannahan said, “I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday.” That is not exactly a glowing endorsement of their current quarterback.

The 49ers are rumored to be interested in quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama. The knock on him is that he is not very mobile, but Shannahan has had lots of success with pocket-passer quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, and Garoppolo. The general manager of the 49ers, John Lynch, is rumored to like quarterback Trey Lance out of North Dakota State. He is more of a “project,” meaning it will take a few years for him to reach his full potential. Lance is very mobile and is rumored to be one of the smartest players in this draft.  It sounds like head coach Kyle Shanahan calls the shots so expect Jones to be the third overall to San Francisco.

As for the rest of the draft, questions still remain where standout quarterback Justin Fields from Ohio State will land. He could potentially go fourth to the Atlanta Falcons, or perhaps fall in the draft to a team like the New England Patriots at the 15th pick.

Another star player to watch is tight end Kyle Pitts out of the University of Florida. He is the best tight end prospect in over twenty years and with rumors the Falcons could take him with their fourth pick have led to rumors about other teams looking to trade for a generational talent like Pitts.

The entire NFL Draft lasts for three days. Much of the excitement of the draft is on the first day, which is just the first round. Rounds two and three take place on Friday and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds end the draft on Saturday. It will be televised on ESPN, ABC and the NFL Network.