N.F.L. Draft Picks and Analysis: How Round 1 Unfolded

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The Super Bowl champions drafted a versatile defensive player in Joe Tryon.
Credit…Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

In one year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired Tom Brady in free agency, won the Super Bowl in their home stadium and retained all 22 starters despite a tricky salary-cap situation.

Without an obvious, glaring need, the Buccaneers concluded the first round of the N.F.L. draft by adding to their strength, selecting Washington outside linebacker Joe Tryon with the 32nd pick. He’ll join a stout defense that features pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. Opposing quarterbacks will need ice after they play against Tampa Bay.

Jayson Oweh will give Baltimore a big, athletic edge rusher.
Credit…Barry Reeger/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens took Jayson Oweh from Penn State with the 31st pick, strengthening an already daunting defense. Oweh (6-foot-5, 257 pounds) is an athletic freak and is an explosive and powerful rusher.

The Ravens, who had the seventh-best defense last season, acquired the 31st pick from the Kansas City Chiefs in return for offensive tackle Orlando Brown. Baltimore took Rashod Bateman, a receiver from Minnesota, with the 27th pick.

I root for chaos so I was hoping the Bucs were going to take Kyle Trask there.

The Buccaneers pick Joe Tryon at edge rusher.

College: Washington | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 259

The Ravens take Jayson Oweh at edge rusher.

College: Penn State | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 257

Gregory Rousseau will help the Bills pass rush.
Credit…Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Fresh off their first A.F.C. Championship Game appearance since the 1993 season, the Buffalo Bills selected Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau with the 30th pick.

Equipped with a solid offense, the Bills elected to add to their pass rush with Rousseau, who opted out of the 2020 college season. In 2019, Rousseau finished second in the nation with 15.5 sacks. He will be expected to tackle star quarterback Patrick Mahomes if the Bills again meet Kansas City in the conference’s title game. Good luck!

Eric Stokes is one of the more athletic defensive backs in this draft class.
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So much for pleasing Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers used the 29th pick to take Eric Stokes, a defensive back from Georgia. Stokes (6 feet, 194 pounds) has track-star speed and held up well in the SEC, where he faced quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones and offenses with receivers like Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase.

The Packers’ decision to focus on defense with this pick came just hours after stories surfaced that Rodgers, the reigning M.V.P., wants to play elsewhere next season. Rodgers was unnerved last year when the team chose quarterback Jordan Love in the first round without consulting him. He was also angered that the team would not give him a contract extension. Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said Rodgers will be the team’s quarterback in 2021 — unless he is traded in the coming months.

The Bills choose Gregory Rousseau at edge rusher.

College: Miami (Fla.) | Height: 6-7 | Weight: 266

Payton Turner was the No. 28 pick.
Credit…Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

The Saints lost lots and lots of depth this off-season — not to mention that Drew Brees fellow — as they strove to comply with the salary cap. One of those indirect casualties was sackmaster Trey Hendrickson, who left in free agency. To replace him, New Orleans took Payton Turner of Houston, who appeared in a grand total of zero of the eleventy billion mock drafts this week.

The pick came the same day the team announced it had picked up the fifth-year option on Marcus Davenport, the end who plays opposite Pro Bowler Cam Jordan, fully guaranteeing his 2022 salary of $9.553 million. Turner may be meant to challenge Davenport to produce.

The Packers select Eric Stokes at cornerback.

College: Georgia | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 194

The Saints take Payton Turner at defensive end.

College: Houston | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 270

Rashod Bateman will be a welcome receiver for Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore offense.
Credit…Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

This off-season, the Baltimore Ravens addressed their most glaring need: wide receiver. After signing former Kansas City receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency, the Ravens took the speedy Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota with the 27th pick on Thursday. Quarterback Lamar Jackson now has another weapon to stretch defenses down the field, and still can lean on tight end Mark Andrews for short and intermediate routes.

The Ravens choose Rashod Bateman at wide receiver.

College: Minnesota | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 190

Greg Newsome II will help bolster the Cleveland secondary.
Credit…Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns took cornerback Greg Newsome II from Northwestern with the 26th pick in a bid to strengthen their middling defense. Newsome (6 feet, 192 pounds) allowed only 12 catches, on 34 targets, for 93 yards last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He was the second Northwestern player taken in the first round, the first time the school has had two players chosen so early.

The Browns had the 17th-best defense in the N.F.L. last season, but they were 22nd-best at defending against the pass. Cleveland upgraded its defense during free agency, adding safety John Johnson, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Troy Hill.

Can anyone tell me why there’s a dude wearing an Eagles hat and a Carson Wentz jersey in Rashod Bateman’s draft party?

They’re dancing in the streets of Evanston tonight!

The Browns select Greg Newsome II at cornerback.

College: Northwestern | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 192

Travis Etienne, the No. 25 pick, led college football in forcing missed tackles.
Credit…Brian Blanco/Associated Press

Siri, how do you make your just-drafted franchise quarterback happy? By taking his college running back, too. What a move by Jacksonville, drafting Travis Etienne of Clemson, the most dynamic running back in the class. He’s drawn — blasphemy alert! — comparisons to Alvin Kamara of New Orleans for his pass-catching skills and absurd acceleration, making him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Curious to see how James Robinson and Travis Etienne share carries in Jacksonville’s backfield. An interesting pick, for sure.

The Jaguars take Travis Etienne at running back.

College: Clemson | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 215

Najee Harris was a dynamic running back for Alabama and could help the Steelers establish a ground game.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers burst out to an 11-0 start last season but exited in the first round of the playoffs. Defenses learned how to stop their offense, which lacked a potent running game and used passing concepts with short and intermediate routes.

The Steelers tried to fix one of those problems by drafting Alabama running back Najee Harris, the first rusher to be taken on Thursday and the sixth Crimson Tide player. Harris will replace James Conner, who joined the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. In his final two seasons at Alabama, Harris rushed for 2,688 yards and 39 touchdowns.

Christian Darrisaw will be adding to the offensive line of the Vikings.
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The Minnesota Vikings took Christian Darrisaw, a left tackle from Virginia Tech, with the 23rd pick to plug the team’s porous offensive line. Darrisaw (6-foot-5, 313 pounds), played 668 snaps — 293 pass-blocking — last season and didn’t allow a sack or a quarterback hit.

The Vikings had the fourth-best offense in the N.F.L., thanks in part to running back Dalvin Cook. But they also had only the 28th best pass-blocking offensive line. With the focus on quarterbacks and receivers early in the first round, the Vikings traded their 14th pick to the Jets, receiving this pick and two more tomorrow.

With Najee Harris off to Pittsburgh, that’s now a record five (!) offensive players from Alabama taken in the first round.

The Steelers pick Najee Harris at running back.

College: Alabama | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 232

The Vikings choose Christian Darrisaw at offensive tackle.

College: Virginia Tech | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 322

Caleb Farley was the No. 22 pick.
Credit…Matt Gentry/Associated Press

All along, a cornerback made sense for the Tennessee Titans, who had released Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson. And so they picked Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech, who was the first big-name player to opt out of the 2020 college football season, moved by the loss of his mother, Robin, to breast cancer in January 2018.

Farley’s talent isn’t disputed; he has superb short-area quickness and ball skills. It’s his health that raises concerns. Farley — who played quarterback in high school and started out as a receiver with the Hokies — had a microdiscectomy in late March to clean up a back injury he aggravated in February. “If a team wants the best corner in the draft,” Farley said after Virginia Tech’s pro day, “they’ll come find me.” The Titans have.

The Titans select Caleb Farley at cornerback.

College: Virginia Tech | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 197

Kwity Paye will help Indianapolis’ pass rush.
Credit…Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Already set at quarterback after an off-season trade to acquire Carson Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts added a defensive threat by selecting Kwity Paye. Boasting a solid linebacker corps and secondary, the Colts’ pass rush will be expected improve with Paye on the line. If he contributes at a consistent level, he will boost an already playoff-caliber roster.

Paye was born in Guinea after his mother, Agnes, fled Liberia’s civil war and the family later immigrated to Providence, R.I. In 28 games at Michigan, he had 11.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss.

Kadarius Toney was an excellent tackle-breaker at Florida.
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The Giants took receiver Kadarius Toney of Florida with the 20th pick to bolster the league’s second-worst offense. Toney (6 foot, 193 pounds) gives quarterback Daniel Jones an additional target downfield. Toney averaged 14 yards on his 70 catches last season, scoring 10 touchdowns. He is an elite tackle-breaker once he has the ball.

The Giants felt comfortable trading their 11th pick to the Chicago Bears in return for the 20th and additional picks later in the draft. General Manager Dave Gettleman, who’s been on the hot seat because of picks in previous years, had signaled his willingness to trade down: “Honest, I’ve tried to trade back, but it’s got to be value,” he told reporters last week. “I’m not getting fleeced. I refuse to do it. If somebody wants to make a bad trade back, God bless them.”

Giants fans seemed perplexed by the pick, but they can check the video to get up to speed on their new receiver.

The Colts take Kwity Paye at edge rusher.

College: Michigan | Height: 6-2½ | Weight: 261

Giants fans, soothe yourselves by watching Kadarius Toney highlights. I promise, they’re worth it.

The Giants pick Kadarius Toney at wide receiver.

College: Florida | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 193

Jamin Davis was the No. 19 pick.
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The Footballers took one of the draft’s total athletic freaks in 6-foot-4, 234-pound linebacker Jamin Davis of Kentucky. He destroyed his pro day, finishing in the 99th percentile in the 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds) and the broad jump (11 feet) and in the 100th in the vertical jump (42 inches). Another reason he’s a good fit for Washington? He harbors dreams of becoming a NASCAR driver. It just so happens that the former Washington coaching icon Joe Gibbs owns a NASCAR team.

Jaelan Phillips, center, was an elite defensive player at Miami but has an injury history.
Credit…Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Associated Press

After filling its need for an offensive weapon with the No. 6 pick, the Miami Dolphins added to their defense by choosing end Jaelan Phillips at No. 18. Coach Brian Flores, a disciple of New England Coach Bill Belichick, is known for his aggressive mind-set on defense, sending constant blitzes. Phillips, who will not have to move far from his college campus in Miami, will give Flores options with exotic pressures, or by allowing the team to simply rush four down linemen. But Phillips will need to stay healthy. Injuries forced him to medically retire at his first college, U.C.L.A.

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