The 2021 NFL Draft is slated to get going here soon. A ton of general managers are on the hot seat as the annual event approaches. After several misses in recent years, will Ryan Pace of the Chicago Bears turn things around come Thursday evening? Don’t bank on it.
Despite their run of dominance over the past two decades, the New England Patriots have not selected an impact player in the first round since 2015. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers are under a ton of pressure after moving up to the third pick in the draft.
Below, we look at five teams most likely to bomb out in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft once it gets going Thursday evening in Cleveland.
It’s pretty darn stunning that Bears general manager Ryan Pace still has a job. Hired back in 2015, he outlasted former head coach John Fox and is now clearly on the hot seat with Matt Nagy. It’s led to speculation that the Bears’ ownership group is unwilling to let Pace pull off a blockbuster trade for a quarterback due to the unlikelihood that he’s going to be the long-term decision-maker in Chicago.
Can you blame them? Pace’s first draft included him selecting wide receiver Kevin White No. 7 overall. He’s caught a total of 25 passes in the NFL. That’s a real thing. Two years later, and Pace traded multiple draft picks to move up from No. 3 overall to the second pick for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The former North Carolina standout just recently took a one-year deal to be the Buffalo Bills’ backup. One of the picks ultimately trade for Trubisky ended up being All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner. These are two egregious examples of Pace taking major busts in the NFL Draft. Selecting 20th overall Thursday evening and without the support of ownership, do we envision this changing in 2021?
Las Vegas Raiders
Mike Mayock is technically the Raiders’ general manager. But we all know that it’s head coach Jon Gruden who is making the decisions. Through his first three drafts in that role, the Super Bowl-winning head coach has been an unmitigated disaster from a decision-making standpoint. It really is something to behold.
Of the Raiders’ nine picks back in 2018, only Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker remain on the roster. In fact, both Arden Key and Maurice Hurst Jr. were just released. However, it’s the 2019 iteration of the NFL Draft that paints these Raiders in a bad light. Shockingly, Las Vegas selected edge rusher Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall. All he’s done is record 6.5 sacks in two seasons, acting the part of a bust in the process.
In taking Ferrell, the Raiders passed up on much better defensive prospects such as linebacker Devin White, Josh Allen, Devin Bush and Brian Burns. That can’t lead to too much confidence that Las Vegas will add an impact player at 17 come Thursday evening.
The Eagles are already going to be under a microscope during the 2021 NFL Draft after trading down from the sixth pick to 12th overall. This is magnified now that general manager Howie Roseman and Co. are now reportedly looking to trade back into the top 10 without a true position to target. Suggestions are that they could go quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and cornerback.
Sure some might conclude that casting a wide net with so many needs makes sense. The issue here is that Philadelphia traded out of a position to land a truly elite talent. Most experts see a drop-off right about where the Eagles are slated to select at 12. After bombing out with the first-round selections of Andre Dillard and Jalen Reagor over the past two years, confidence can’t be sky high in the City of Brotherly Love that the Eagles will make the right decision here.
New England Patriots
Two decades of dominance. Six Super Bowl titles. The legendary Bill Belichick. These Patriots should be beyond reproach, right? Absolutely wrong. It’s a worn-out narrative given how much New England has struggled in the early rounds of the draft under Belichick in recent years. Heck, owner Robert Kraft seemed to call out the head coach recently.
Objectively, it’s been a complete disaster. Back in 2019, New England selected wide receiver N’Keal Harry in the first round. He’s responded by tallying all of 45 receptions in two seasons and could be dealt for pennies on the dollar during the NFL Draft. The 2018 iteration of this event saw New England go with offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (18 games in three seasons) and running back Sony Michel in the first round. Both have bombed out.
In fact, the last Patriots first-round pick to make a major impact was defensive lineman Malcom Brown back in 2015. Prior to that? Chandler Jones in 2012. This can’t lead to a lot of confidence that the Patriots, potentially looking to trade up for a quarterback, will score when Round 1 of the 2021 NFL draft comes calling.
San Francisco 49ers
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over an expansion-level roster back in 2017, only to lead the 49ers to a shocking Super Bowl appearance a couple seasons later. It was among the most-surprising turnarounds we’ve seen in recent history. With that said, the power duo has had their fair share of misses in four drafts with the 49ers.
In 2017, San Francisco passed up on the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to select defensive tackle Solomon Thomas No. 3 overall. He recorded six sacks in four seasons with the 49ers. Later that draft, Lynch and Co. traded up for embattled former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round. He played in 16 games with the team before off-field issues led to his departure from Northern California.
Slated to select No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft after pulling off a blockbuster trade, recent indications are that the 49ers are going to go with former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at three. Did the team really move off two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-round selection for a mid-tier prospect that might not be much more talented than Jimmy Garoppolo? We’re also talking about a guy who has some off-field issues and is extremely limited from an athletic ability. In reality, the 49ers’ brass will be defined by this pick. If they miss on it, Lynch and Shanahan likely won’t see the end of he quarterback’s rookie contract.