After the 2020 NFL draft was held at remote locations early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL world has converged on Cleveland for this year’s draft — and the league is ready to put on a show.
Former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and former Desert Hills High offensive tackle Penei Sewell headline a handful of Utah ties who are expected to be selected, as the next generation of talent enters the pro ranks.
Here’s the latest updates and analysis from the draft.
|Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
|New York Jets
|Zach Wilson, BYU QB
|San Francisco 49ers
|Trey Lance, North Dakota State QB
|Kyle Pitts, Florida TE
|Ja'Marr Chase, LSU WR
|Jaylen Waddle, Alabama WR
|Penei Sewell, Oregon OT
|Jaycee Horn, South Carolina CB
|Patrick Surtain II, Alabama CB
|DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR
|Justin Fields, Ohio State QB
|Micah Parsons, Penn State LB
|Los Angeles Chargers
|Rashawn Slater, Northwestern OT
|New York Jets
|Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC OG
|New England Patriots
|Mac Jones, Alabama QB
|Zaven Collins, Tulsa OLB
|Las Vegas Raiders
|Alex Leatherwood, Alabama OG/OT
|Jaelan Phillips, Miami DE
|Washington Football Team
|Jamin Davis, Kentucky ILB
|New York Giants
|Kadarius Toney, Florida WR
|Kwity Paye, Michigan DE
|Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech CB
|Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech OT
|Najee Harris, Alabama RB
|Travis Etienne, Clemson RB
|Greg Newsome II, Northwestern CB
|Rashod Bateman, Minnesota WR
|New Orleans Saints
|Payton Turner, Houston DE
|Green Bay Packers
|Eric Stokes, Georgia CB
|Gregory Rousseau, Miami DE
|Jayson Oweh, Penn State OLB
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Joe Tryon, Washington OLB
Top-end backs go back-to-back
Pittsburgh selected the first running back of the draft, taking dynamic back Najee Harris out of Alabama. He’s the sixth Crimson Tide player to be taken in the first round, tying a draft record for first-round players taken in the first round from a single school. The Steelers were looking for a starting running back after James Conner left in free agency.
With the next pick, Jacksonville added to its backfield by selecting Clemson running back Travis Etienne. He joins first overall pick, and former Tigers teammate, quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Pass rushers finally get selected
It took awhile, but a pair of pass rushers came off the board when Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips went to the Miami Dolphins at No. 18, and Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye went to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 21. It’s not projected as a great pass rushing draft, but the pair represent the best at getting pressure on the quarterback.
A fifth quarterback is gone
The New England Patriots didn’t need to make a trade to get themselves a QB, as Alabama’s Mac Jones fell to them at No. 15. He’s the fifth QB off the board, and the Patriots have their young franchise signal caller.
Jets trade up for offensive line help
Zach Wilson has some some in the trenches, as the New York Jets traded with Minnesota to move up from the No. 23 pick to the No. 14. With that selection, the Jets brought in USC offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, one of the top interior linemen on the board. The Jets gave up the No. 23, 66 and 86 picks to the Vikings for the No. 14 and 143 to Minnesota to get Vera-Tucker, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Another stunner at No. 11
The Bears traded up with the New York Giants to move from No. 20 to No. 11, and they made some noise by going with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Fields, who some argued was the best QB prospect after Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, slid out of the top 10, but it’s an intriguing pick for a Chicago team that is looking for a franchise quarterback.
Penei Sewell comes off the board, to the Detroit Lions
The former Deseret Hills High product becomes the second Utah high school product to be selected in the 2021 NFL draft, as the Detroit Lions bolster their offensive line with their selection of Penei Sewell.
Some thought Sewell may go to Cincinnati at the No. 5 pick, but it didn’t take much longer for Detroit to end his wait. It’s the first time that two Utah high school products have ever gone in the top 10 in the same draft.
Rounding out the top 5
It didn’t become a run of four quarterbacks to start the draft, which would have been a record, but the draft did begin with three signal callers, as the 49ers went with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance at No. 3. In recent weeks, San Francisco had been associated with Alabama’s Mac Jones a lot at that selection after trading up with Miami for the No. 3 pick, but the 49ers instead go with the dual-threat Lance.
At No. 4, the Atlanta Falcons bring in Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, seen by some as the best overall player in the draft, and the Cincinnati Bengals go with LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5.
Zach Wilson breaks records as No. 2 pick
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson became the highest Cougar ever selected by going second overall to the New York Jets. He’ll be the man in New York, after the Jets traded former starter Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers earlier this offseason.
He also became the highest Utah high school football player ever taken, besting former Utah State and Logan High defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1962 NFL draft. Olsen was taken by the Los Angeles Rams.
Trevor Lawrence goes No. 1 to Jacksonville Jaguars
The top pick is no surprise, as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1. Lawrence has long been associated with the Jaguars, where he will team up with former Utah coach Urban Meyer, now the head coach in Jacksonville.
There’s expected to be a run of quarterbacks to start the draft, including No. 2 with the New York Jets and No. 3 with the San Francisco 49ers.
Zach Wilson arrives on the red carpet
BYU’s quarterback is one of 13 players who are in Cleveland at the event. He conducted an interview before the draft, talking about being able to share the moment with his family, as well as what it means to represent BYU and the state of Utah.
Kalani Sitake gushes about Zach Wilson’s maturity, hard work
BYU coach Kalani Sitake is in Cleveland along with Wilson, as the former Cougar quarterback prepares to get drafted Thursday.
Sitake joined Andrew Siciliano on the NFL Network Thursday morning and talked about Wilson’s maturity level — despite his boyish looks — and what kind of player his future team is getting.
“You knew he had this rocket arm, but he had this maturity level that was unbelievable and when he started connecting with all his teammates as a true freshman — he graduated early, came to BYU in spring ball — you could just sense he had a great connection with a lot of guys that were older than him. He had that respect because he worked hard,” Sitake said.
The consensus is that Wilson is headed No. 2 overall to the New York Jets, a sentiment that’s held strong since he showed off at BYU’s pro day at the end of March. Can Wilson handle New York?
“He’s built for this. The main thing is, he’s a learning machine, so he’s always going to get better. I’ve seen it firsthand. We’ve seen that he’s got something special, and that’s why a lot of NFL coaches and GMs are excited about his arm strength,” Sitake told Siciliano. “He’s got the total package. I’m just waiting for him to get out there and show everyone.
“New York City is going to embrace him, because that’s what BYU fans did. They just love him for the things that he does and the person that he is. I think New York is going to be a great spot for him, if that’s who chooses him.”
More about Zach Wilson
- BYU’s Zach Wilson: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of a future first-round NFL draft pick
- Humble, driven and a ‘neat freak’: What is Zach Wilson really like?
- Zach Wilson’s skill set speaks for itself, but is there anything that may concern NFL execs?
- Why NFL scouts, social media raved about Zach Wilson’s pro day throw
- How does Zach Wilson compare to the top QBs in this year’s class?
- How and where Zach Wilson started turning heads — even before arriving at BYU
- Even as a youngster, Zach Wilson could sling the football
- How those closest to Zach Wilson — Ute fans to the core — influenced his football trajectory and played a hand in landing him at BYU
More about Penei Sewell
- Who is Penei Sewell? Oregon and Desert Hills High lineman on faith and football
- Where could Penei Sewell be headed? These teams are top suitors for the offensive tackle
- What are the odds Penei Sewell will have a successful NFL career?
More about other BYU prospects
- Our predictions on how Zach Wilson and other BYU Cougars fare in the NFL draft
- Brady Christensen didn’t think he was good enough to play for BYU. Now he’s headed to the NFL
- How Dax Milne is following in his dad’s footsteps — in a different sport
- BYU’s Matt Bushman on his Achilles injury, his new foundation and his decision to move forward
More about other Utah high school prospects
- Beyond Zach Wilson and Penei Sewell, what other Utah ties should expect to be drafted?
- Why this could be the best NFL draft for Utah prep-developed talent
- Who is Jay Tufele? The former Bingham High and USC star ‘parlays high energy with explosive brute strength’
- Who is Simi Fehoko? Former Stanford and Brighton High wide receiver is ‘an ascending talent’