Here’s a look at the best picks and the most questionable selections of Round 1:
San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Jones was a great fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense because of his accuracy and ability to get rid of the ball quickly, but the North Dakota State standout beat him out because of his throwing and running talent, his personality and his long-term potential. Lance did a smart thing by taking Shanahan’s suggestion to train with John Beck. Beck is tight with Shanahan and kept him informed of Lance’s progress. His selection allows the 49ers to keep Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter this season.
Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
I thought they would draft Penei Sewell to improve an offensive line that has allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked 131 times over the past three years, but taking the Florida star is a great move. He’s one of the best tight ends ever to enter the draft, and he’s even more valuable if the Falcons trade star wide receiver Julio Jones after June 1 for salary cap reasons. In my top 50, Pitts was the No. 1 non-quarterback.
Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
You could argue they should have taken Fields with the No. 9 pick because there’s uncertainty at quarterback with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, but you can’t argue with the talent of Surtain, the Alabama standout who might be the best defensive player in this class. The Broncos are loaded at cornerback with Surtain joining Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan, but keep in mind that Fuller and Callahan are free agents next year. In a division with Patrick Mahomes’s Kansas City Chiefs, you can’t have too many good cornerbacks.
Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
The Bears were aggressive enough to beat out Washington and any other team that might have wanted to move up, jumping nine spots to draft Fields, the Ohio State standout whom some evaluators had as the third-best quarterback in the draft. They were smart about what they gave up, only surrendering first- and fifth-rounders this year in addition to next year’s first- and fourth-rounders. They can let Andy Dalton, who is on a one-year deal at $10.5 million, start while Fields learns the NFL game. The Bears really needed a quarterback for the future, and they did well to get one.
New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
The Patriots waited and got Jones anyway. He will be the quarterback of the future — and maybe the quarterback of the present, too. He’s smart enough and accurate enough to challenge Cam Newton for the starting job. He played for Alabama’s Nick Saban, who knows Bill Belichick well, so you can be sure the Patriots had plenty of information on him. Patience paid off.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Some will criticize the choice of a running back in the first round, and the Steelers will need to address their offensive line later in the draft. But the Steelers desperately need to improve what was the worst rushing offense in football last year, and they were able to stay put at No. 24 and land the Alabama star, who was the draft’s best running back. The Steelers got lucky that the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets didn’t take him first.
Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
The first question is whether South Carolina’s Horn is a better cornerback than the man drafted one spot after him, Surtain. But the Panthers obviously felt he was, and he fits what they want to do on defense. It would have been a better move, though, if they could have dropped back four spots in a trade with Philadelphia and then taken Horn.
Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
The question isn’t taking Parsons, the very talented Penn State standout, even though it could create a logjam at linebacker and might mean the Cowboys don’t pick up Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option. The bigger issue is making a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, a division rival, that allowed them to take a game-breaking wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, at No. 10. It’s possible he would have gone to the New York Giants or Eagles even if Dallas hadn’t traded back (and Dallas did get a third-round pick for its trouble), but Smith is going to drive Cowboys cornerbacks crazy.
New York Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
The Giants aren’t experienced in trade-downs, and that showed in their swap with the Bears. They ended up getting a decent wide receiver in Florida’s Toney with the 20th pick, but some evaluators thought he was more of a second-round talent. And the fifth-round pick they added is unlikely to contribute much this year.
Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia
This is much less about Georgia’s Stokes, even though it was something of a slap in the face for Rodgers to see the Packers draft another defensive player instead of a wide receiver, and more about the price Green Bay is still paying for trading up in last year’s first round to take Jordan Love. Rodgers reportedly doesn’t want to return to the Packers, and even though the team is saying it won’t trade him, this is going to get messy.
Las Vegas Raiders: T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
The Raiders needed a right tackle to replace Trent Brown, who was traded to the Patriots, but Alabama’s Leatherwood was seen as more of a late-first-round talent than the 17th pick. The choice also does nothing to help a defense that has needs at just about every position.
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
Am I missing something? Undrafted running back James Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie. Now the Jaguars take the Clemson running back late in the first round instead of a defensive tackle for their new 3-4 defense (Christian Barmore) or the best safety in the draft (Trevon Moehrig)? I don’t get it.