2021 NFL Draft: B1G takeaways from the first round
When the first round of the NFL Draft came to an end, seven players out of the B1G had been selected. It was the second-most productive conference on the first night of the event, behind the SEC’s 12 picks.
There’s plenty to talk about from the B1G’s night at the NFL Draft, but let’s narrow it down to just a few key takeaways from the first night of the weekend-long event, shall we?
Northwestern makes program history
For the first time ever, Northwestern had multiple first-round selections in the NFL Draft. Offensive tackle Rashawn Slater was the first off the board, taken No. 13 overall by the Los Angeles Chargers. He was the first Wildcat selected on Day 1 since 2005. Later in the night, cornerback Greg Newsome II was picked at No. 26 by the Cleveland Browns.
Not only is this a first in Northwestern’s history, but the Wildcats tied Penn State for the most first-round selections out of the B1G. That’s not a bad recruiting tool for head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who’s led the program to a pair of B1G titles in the past three seasons.
Justin Fields is out to prove something
It’s still hard to believe that Fields slipped outside the Top 10 and was available at the No. 11 spot for the Chicago Bears. What’s even more surprising is he was the fourth quarterback to be selected, behind Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. Sure, pundits like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay warned us it could happen, but Fields is too talented to be taken so low.
Fields might actually think that, too. After finally hearing his name called on Thursday night, the former Ohio State star sent a subtle message to the teams that passed on him through the first 10 picks.
“I’ve gone through situations where I haven’t been chosen,” Fields said, per Nathan Baird of Cleveland.com. “I think the world has seen the outcome of that.”
Remember how Fields got revenge on Clemson in last season’s Sugar Bowl after falling to the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl the previous season? He’s talented enough without the extra motivation. Those 10 teams just added even more fuel to his fire.
Micah Parsons really didn’t fall at all
A few days before the draft kicked off, McShay said that some teams were concerned about “off-the-field issues” regarding Parsons. He expected the former Penn State linebacker to fall a few spots because of that, but was reluctant to say how much.
Maybe because Parsons didn’t really fall at all. No, he wasn’t the first defensive player off the board and he didn’t crack the Top 10, but going No. 12 to the Dallas Cowboys is still a pretty good situation. If Parsons would’ve still been available after the No. 15 pick, it would’ve been fair to say he slid. That wasn’t the case on Thursday night.
This was Ohio State’s worst first round since 2015
Ohio State will probably still dominate the rest of the B1G in this draft by the time the seventh round closes out on Saturday, but this wasn’t the best showing the Buckeyes have had on Day 1. The Buckeyes had produced multiple first-round selections in each of the last five drafts. That streak has ended.
If you’re a glass half-full person, then Ohio State’s streak of producing at least one first-round pick extends to six straight years. Plus, Fields is the second first-round QB the Buckeyes have produced in the last three seasons, joining Dwayne Haskins (No. 15 in 2019).
Kwity Paye had the best moment of the night
Put your fandom aside for a few seconds and just enjoy what Paye said he’ll be doing for his mother after he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 21st pick on Thursday. It was easily the pinnacle for the draft, and the reaction was priceless.
Shortly after his name was called, Paye said on national television that his mother, Agnes, is “done working” and that “she’s retired.” Everyone surrounding the former Michigan defensive end erupted with joy.
Paye’s mother sacrificed everything to bring her children to the United States from war-torn Liberia and worked endlessly to support her family. Now, Paye says it’s time for him to pay her back for all she’s done.
Moments like that are what make the NFL Draft so special every year.
Penn State had multiple first rounders for the first time in almost 20 years
This is hard to believe, but with Parsons and defensive end Jayson Oweh (No. 31, Baltimore Ravens) being selected Thursday night, Penn State has produced multiple first-round picks for the first time since 2003. The Nittany Lions certainly haven’t lacked recruiting prowess or talent on the field, so it’s somewhat shocking the gap extended 18 years.
James Franklin probably doesn’t want that kind of drought to stretch across two decades again.
Rashod Bateman was the biggest surprise of the night
B1G wide receivers didn’t seem to get as much attention as their SEC counterparts during the draft process. That played out on Thursday night as well, with the first four receivers off the board coming out of the SEC.
Bateman had been tabbed as a firm second-round selection, but the Baltimore Ravens had enough tape on the former Minnesota star to pull the trigger with the 27th pick. He was probably the most surprising player from the B1G to have his name called during the first round of the NFL Draft, but he’s proven to be a big-time playmaker who could make a quick impact at the next level.
It should be a lot of fun to see what Bateman can do in an already-explosive Baltimore offense.