The 2021 NFL Draft gets underway this evening with the Jaguars going on the clock at 8 p.m. ET. The first round should last roughly 3.5 hours, ending at or before 11:30 p.m. During that time, we can expect multiple trades, a few surprises, and at least one outright head-scratching pick.
There’s been extensive discussion about the five quarterbacks expected to go in the top half of the draft. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson appear to be locks for the first two picks. Mac Jones seems a likely candidate at No. 3 to the 49ers, and then we’ll see Trey Lance and Justin Fields likely go in the next handful of picks in the top 15.
One thing that has not seen as much discussion is the end of the first round. ESPN’s Mel Kiper put together his final mock draft of the offseason and it includes a move into the back end of the first round. He has the Chargers moving up from No. 47 in the second round to No. 31 in the first round to grab Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.
Aside from the value of a player slipping to the end of the first round is the importance of the fifth-year option. All drafted rookies sign a four-year contract, but the contracts for all first-round picks include a fifth-year team option. It’s not a cheap fifth year, but compared to what a new contract can cost, it can be a more reasonable dollar figure for a team to buy some time before needing to work out an extension.
The big question is at the quarterback position. There’s value at all the positions in getting that fifth year option, but getting it for the most important position on the field is that much more useful. After those first five quarterbacks, the remaining group are more developmental in nature. It seems unlikely we see a sixth quarterback go in the first round, but if a Davis Mills or Kellen Mond strikes a team’s fancy, maybe they roll the dice to get that extra year.