2021 NFL draft: Round 1 instant grades

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1) Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson — First pick, top prospect. Until we have a reason to doubt him, Lawrence looks like a star in the making. How will it work with Urban Meyer? No one knows. But Lawrence has just about everything you could hope for in a franchise QB. Even Tim Tebow can’t take away from the glitz of this pick. Grade: A

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU — Surprising this heavily speculated pick hasn’t received a bit more security to this point. Wilson has a tremendous arm, matched only by his confidence. He could be a really nice fit in the Shanahan-steeped system of Mike LaFleur, but Wilson could get in trouble with his fast-and-loose style early. He’ll be compared to the QBs who go after him — namely Justin Fields — for the next several years. Grade: B-minus.

3) San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State — Our first stunner. There has never been a pick quite like it this high up in the draft. Perhaps you can go back to Steve McNair from Alcorn State for a comp. But the 49ers are banking on the tremendous upside of Lance — he of the 318 college pass attempts — over the steadiness of Mac Jones. When will Lance see the field? Another huge mystery. Grade: B.

27) Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota – This was a pick widely speculated, as Bateman is an outside receiver who will battle for balls. One thing we noticed on tape (that will work very well with Lamar Jackson): Bateman is really good at coming back to the ball on scramble drills. This pick will work, even with the need on the offensive line. Grade: B-.

28) New Orleans Saints: EDGE Payton Turner, Houston – The Saints losing Trey Hendrickson opened a void at the pass rush spot. Here they land a high-character, high-floor player who started rounding into form last season. Turner was lower on our board, but there’s a lot to like about his massive, long frame as a base end. We don’t believe he’ll provide a lot of sacks right away. Grade: C+.

29) Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia – Aaron Rodgers has to be pumped. Stokes ran a blistering 40-yard dash (4.29 seconds), is regarded as smart and versatile. But he also needs some technique work, can be grabby and isn’t yet a finished product. Stokes going ahead of Tyson Campbell, his Georgia teammate, is interesting. Other teams had it the other way around and gave Stokes mostly second- and third-round grades. He has potential but might start out in a sub-package role. Grade: C-.

30) Buffalo Bills: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami – After a 15.5-sack redshirt freshman season, Rousseau opted out in 2020 and became one of the bigger 2021 draft mysteries. He’s ultra-talented and has sky-high potential. But how fast will it come? The Bills’ pass rush metrics landed in the middle of the pack, and Rousseau can help. Even so, most of his production came when he played inside and rushed against slower guards and tackles. His edge rushing needs work but boy, he’s a gifted player. Grade: B-.

31) Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State – The offensive line can wait. Oweh is a true 1% athlete, even by NFL standards. He’s raw as a pass rusher, finding his way into the backfield with his rare traits and very hot motor. The Ravens typically put a lot of stock into sack production in their projections. Oweh had zero in seven games in 2020 and only seven in 24 college games. Will he harness his skill? Grade: C+.

32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington – The champs enter the draft with an interesting project who one day might replace Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaq Barrett. Tryon opted out in 2020 and remains raw overall (nine sacks in 25 games). But his phenomenal traits are a great starting point and his high-effort style is a fit on this defense. Grade: C+.

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