- Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.
Round 1 of the 2021 NFL draft featured five quarterbacks in the top 15 picks, six Alabama prospects in the top 24 and some surprises throughout, including the Bears making a dramatic trade up for a signal-caller and the Patriots being decidedly less dramatic, standing pat and still getting a quarterback.
I said coming into Thursday night that this was a mysterious draft class, and that there would likely be many trades — and some head-scratching picks. I was 50% correct, as we didn’t see that many trades, but there were a few reaches based on how I ranked the board. Jon Gruden and the Raiders stunned me again, but that seems to happen every year now.
Below are the picks I liked and didn’t like from the first round. I’m basing these on my rankings and how I have prospects graded, along with whether teams got value with their selections. Come back Saturday night for my post-draft grades for all 32 teams. And we’ll be back for Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC and the ESPN App).
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