Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Ja'Marr Chase (LSU) poses with a jersey after being selected by Cincinnati Bengals as the number five overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

SEC sets record for draft picks

The Southeastern Conference had a record 65 players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, breaking its own record of 64 set two years ago.

SEC players accounted for 12 of the 32 first-round picks and six of the first 10.

The first SEC player off the draft board was Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, the fourth selection by the Atlanta Falcons, followed in succession by wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) of LSU and Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins) of Alabama.

In all, 10 members of the Crimson Tide were selected.

Second on the list was the Atlantic Coast Conference with 51 selections, headlined by No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected the Clemson quarterback.

Among the other Power Five conferences, the Big Ten saw 44 players drafted, including Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, selected No 11 by the Chicago Bears. The Pac-12 was next with 28 players, followed by the Big 12 with 22.

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, OH, USA; North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance appears on the Red Carpet  at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before the first round of the 2021 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland.  Mandatory Credit: David Dermer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

49ers knew Trey Lance was the guy in January

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch celebrated a decision kept under wraps for more than three months: bringing quarterback Trey Lance to San Francisco.

“You know how it is when you meet someone who kind of has ‘it,’” Lynch said in a joint interview with Shanahan on ESPN late Thursday. “From the first experience we had with him via Zoom to the pro day where we got to go be around him a little bit, it just got better and better.

“I’ll never forget the night Kyle called me up on a Sunday night about 9 o’clock and said, ‘I’m getting kind of obsessed with this guy. You’ve got to watch him.”

Lance was chosen third in the 2021 NFL Draft, following fellow quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars) and Zach Wilson (Jets) off the board.

Shanahan said he knew Lance would be the guy in January. He didn’t know if the 49ers would be able to get him holding the No. 12 pick.

By the time Lynch caught up with film study, they were in lockstep on which quarterback fit the 49ers best. The GM made a trade with the Miami Dolphins to acquire the No. 3 pick in March with eyes firmly locked on Lance.

But Lynch and Shanahan didn’t even share their preference with scouts and assistant coaches. They wanted all evaluations to be independent of any influence of knowing the bosses wanted the small-school product.

And as pundits pointed in other directions, namely at Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, it was the North Dakota State quarterback with limited game reps the 49ers felt was the only option.

“All of that stuff is a concern,” Shanahan said. “The people who are the best in the world at (drafting) are still taking their best guess.”

Shanahan said the Lance pick isn’t an exact science and no pick can be. However, he said the team was very thorough in watching film of Lance, which helped override any worry about the number of games and reps he had in college.

Lance went 17-0 in college — the same number of starts Jones had with the Crimson Tide — but his 318 college pass attempts are the lowest total for a first-round pick in the last 40 years.

He’ll enter the offseason program as a backup to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lynch said when Lance “is ready, he’s ready” but deferred to Shanahan and the coaching staff on the pecking order at quarterback.

“With Jimmy, if he’s healthy, he’s working his butt off. It’s going to be very hard to come in and beat Jimmy out,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy’s our quarterback right now. The day it looks like Trey can compete with him and he’s ready to go, we’ll see that and we won’t hesitate. We have a very good backup now, he comes in at No. 2.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton takes off his mask to yell to his players in the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Saints trying to trade into top 10 of draft

The New Orleans Saints, owners of the No. 28 overall pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft, are seeking a trade partner to move into the top 10, Fox Sports and ESPN reported.

“The primary reason isn’t for a QB, it’s actually for another position,” ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweeted. “Although, there is 1 QB (not named Trevor) who would change their minds if he was still available.”

Longtime Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired this offseason, so New Orleans re-signed 2020 backup Jameis Winston heading into next year. The Saints also still have Taysom Hill on their roster, but they have used him more as a utility knife than as a quarterback.

As many as five quarterbacks could be taken in the top 10 of the draft Thursday. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson are expected to go No. 1 and 2, with Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance all in the mix atop the board.

Non-quarterbacks widely projected for the top 10 include Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Oregon tackle Penei Sewell and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II.

Moving from No. 28 to No. 10 or better is not unheard of, but a leap that big would require New Orleans to fork over a haul of assets in return.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons confounding oddsmakers at No. 4

Pundits and sportsbooks alike are being confounded by one team near the top of the draft: the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4.

As mock drafts and even general managers drafting in the near vicinity of the Falcons and their new brain trust flail for answers surrounding which player Atlanta wants with the fourth overall pick, oddsmakers are walking a similar line.

That is to say — they aren’t sure whether Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or a trade might be coming. First-time general manager Terry Fontenot cut his teeth with the New Orleans Saints, and no trade or decision was ever too aggressive for his boss, Mickey Loomis.

Fontenot said Wednesday all options are open for Atlanta, and there was no reason to make a decision until Thursday night to allow for teams to make their best possible bids for the pick.

Pitts, the beast mode tight end who moves like a wide receiver, is the heavy favorite at FanDuel. At -210, he’s well ahead of Lance (+380), Fields (+430) and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (+1900).

PointsBet took one $500 bet on Pitts to be the No. 3 pick, which offers a potential return of $25,000.

DraftKings offers a chance to predict the exact order of picks 3-4-5. At +200 is the sequence of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (3), Pitts (4) and Chase (5). Jones (3), Fields (4), Chase (5) is +550.

DraftKings went away from the pick market after the top three picks. The book does rate Chase (-200) well ahead of Pitts (-400) to be a top-five pick, with Jones at -305. Jones is the favorite at DraftKings to go third overall to the 49ers.

However, DraftKings has a market on the position played by the team’s top pick in the 2021 draft, and tight end is the runaway favorite at -305

Looking to bet on the @Falcons? Here’s a look at their available markets and futures:

2021 NFL MVP
Matt Ryan is +10000 to win the award via BetMGM. That’s even with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.

Super Bowl LVI odds
After going 4-12 last season, the Falcons opened with +5000 odds to win Super Bowl LVI.

Falcons win total (via William Hill)
over-under 7 wins
(-143 over)
(+118 under)

–Field Level Media

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) his Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) after Harris' late touchdown against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.


Crimson Tide, QBs headline 2021 NFL Draft

Perhaps only a transcendent quarterback class could shift the spotlight away from Alabama football when the 2021 NFL Draft opens Thursday night in Cleveland.

The national champion Crimson Tide are set to challenge the record for first-round picks in a single draft. Quarterback Mac Jones, Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, explosive fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and running back Najee Harris lead the wave of Nick Saban’s former charges expected to be selected among the top 32 picks. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II, defensive lineman Christian Barmore, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses are also potential first-rounders.

As is customary in the NFL draft, the quarterback in the conversation is rising as draft night approaches. Oddsmakers project Jones to be the No. 3 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers when only six weeks ago he was widely projected to be selected around No. 20.

The Miami Hurricanes’ 2004 draft class produced the standing record of six first-round picks.

Saban said last month teams began showing greater interest in Jones late last season and after the national championship game. In conversations with teams, Saban reminds them where Jones started — on the scout team and then behind a slew of talented players, including projected 2021 NFL starters Jalen Hurts (Eagles) and Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins). And, perhaps most importantly, of Jones’ perseverance in an environment where the transfer portal has become an instant gratification eject button.

“I think that the team that picks me is going to realize they don’t have to worry about me being the first guy in and the last guy out,” Jones said. “I’m going to sit and watch as much film as I can and do all the right things. And then obviously the tape speaks for itself.”

Saban has had 96 players drafted since he became coach at Alabama, including four first-round picks in 2020. Overall, Saban has produced 35 first-round picks between his time at LSU and Alabama. Tagovailoa was the fifth overall pick in 2020 — one of four Alabama players in the top 15 — and sat early as a Miami rookie while recovering from hip surgery.

He’s expected to start from the jump this season and many pundits project Waddle or Smith to join him in South Beach. Smith’s size has been a pressing question in scouting circles and he officially weighed 166 pounds at Alabama’s pro day. Waddle is 5-10, 180, but is one of the fastest players in the draft.

They’re both expected to be on the board when the Dolphins pick sixth overall.

“You always evaluate,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. “You always talk about size. But each player is their own case. Those guys have shown they’ve been good players at a high level of play in the SEC. That goes for a lot of players around the country. I just think the game has changed and these smaller players are given more room and freedom to showcase their talents.”

In 13 games last season, Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Some argue he was a product of a system that thrived with a rugged offensive line and elite playmakers everywhere.

Harris is the top-ranked running back on the board of many teams, while some are leaning toward Clinton Portis clone Travis Etienne (Clemson).

Saban-coached backs have done well in the NFL, from Mark Ingram (Saints, Ravens) to Titans All-Pro Derrick Henry.

“He’s got great size. He’s a really good receiver. He’s instinctive as a runner. He’s tough,” Saban said, calling Harris exceptional. “He’s hard to tackle. He kind of gets better as the game goes on.”

Miami’s 2004 draft class was a headliner even without a quarterback in the mix.

Free safety Sean Taylor (5th overall, Washington), tight end Kellen Winslow II (6th, Cleveland Browns), middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (12, New York Jets), outside linebacker D.J. Williams (17th, Denver Broncos), offensive tackle Vernon Carey (19th, Miami Dolphins) and nose tackle Vince Wilfork (21st, New England Patriots) all started and had successful to tremendous NFL careers.

LSU produced five first-round picks in 2020.

Odds from FanDuel set the over-under on Alabama players drafted in the first round at 5.5.

Five quarterbacks are projected to be selected in the top half of the first round.

Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU), Jones, Trey Lance (North Dakota State) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) are likely to be part of a record haul.

If the Jaguars select Lawrence first overall, he’ll be the 26th quarterback to go No. 1 since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Quarterbacks have gone first each of the past three drafts.

Lawrence is listed as a -10000 favorite to go No. 1 at PointsBet.

Twice in NFL draft history quarterbacks have gone 1-2-3, most recently in 1999 when Tim Couch (Browns), Donovan McNabb (Eagles) and Akili Smith (Bengals) were the top players drafted.

Only one time in draft history (2018) were four quarterbacks selected in the top 10, and never with picks 1-4. The Falcons hold the fourth overall pick and choosing an heir apparent to Matt Ryan is under consideration.

Atlanta could also fetch additional picks by dealing the No. 4 pick to a quarterback-hungry team such as the Patriots, Denver Broncos or Chicago Bears.

The record for quarterbacks drafted in the first round is six, set in 1983 by the ballyhooed crop of John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Tuesday wondered aloud if his team would have a shot at the top defensive players in the draft and hinted none might go in the nine picks before his team is on the clock.

Surtain II and South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn are in the mix. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, almost universally ranked as a top-eight player in the 2021 class, could entice the Detroit Lions (seventh) or Carolina Panthers (eighth).

Not since cornerback Champ Bailey was picked seventh by Washington in 1999 has a draft gone beyond No. 7 without a defensive player selected.

The Dolphins own four of the top 50 picks in the draft and the Jaguars have four of the top 45, and the teams have a combined 18 total picks (10 for Jacksonville).

The Jets, Patriots, Vikings, Packers, Cowboys and Ravens all have 10 picks.

Don’t look for the Houston Texans on Thursday. Their first-round pick went to the Dolphins in the Laremy Tunsil trade and new general manager Nick Caserio won’t have a pick until 67th overall barring a trade into the first two rounds.

The Chiefs, Rams and Seahawks are also without a first-round pick entering the proceedings.

–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Pitts intrigue growing as NFL draft approaches

The future NFL home of Kyle Pitts continues to be one of more debated topics leading up to Thursday’s start to the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound former Florida Gators tight end who sports a 4.5-second 40-yard dash is viewed as a generational talent, drawing lofty comparisons to San Francisco 49ers All-Pro George Kittle.

Quarterbacks are widely expected to go with the first three overall picks Thursday. After that, the draft intrigue ratchets up with the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4.

Do the Falcons draft Matt Ryan’s heir apparent? Do they provide Ryan with a weapon like Pitts for the back side of his career? Or do they deal the pick to a team eager for Pitts or one of the remaining top quarterbacks?

The various scenarios have led to a slew of action on the prop market.

The Falcons have been backed by 47.5 percent of the money and 86.3 percent of the bets at BetMGM to select Pitts. The next highest figures belong to the Dallas Cowboys at 27.9 and 6.0 percent, respectively.

Currently with the 10th overall pick, Dallas would almost certainly have to move up in order to land Pitts.

The Miami Dolphins, owners of the sixth pick, have received 8.2 percent of the money and 4.3 percent of the bets to select Pitts. No other team has received more than 3.3 percent of the action in either market.

Pitts’ stock has continued to gain momentum as the draft has approached.

He is now being offered at +110 to be selected in the top 5 at DraftKings, a prop that is being backed by 43 percent of the money and 26 percent of the total bets.

Meanwhile, PointsBet reported a $500 wager on Pitts at +5000 to be selected third overall that would pay out $25,000. It’s a long shot wager, with Pitts owning the fifth-shortest odds at the book to go No. 3 overall behind quarterbacks Mac Jones (-400), Trey Lance (+220), Justin Fields (+700) and Zach Wilson (+4000).

Where Pitts will wind up on Thursday night is just one of the hundreds of draft-related prop bets being offered by sportsbooks.

“BetMGM has taken significant action on the NFL draft,” said BetMGM sports trader Darren Darby. “So far, action has been equivalent to a NBA game but expectations are that by Thursday there will be more handle than an average NFL game.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 27, 2021; American quarterback Mac Jones of Alabama (10) throws during American practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, USA;  Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones favored as Trey Lance to 49ers draws support

The San Francisco 49ers are keeping the NFL draft community abuzz with constantly changing reports about what the team will do with the No. 3 overall pick on Thursday.

With the NFL Network reporting the 49ers are now deciding between quarterbacks Mac Jones and Trey Lance, savvy bettors could stand to take advantage.

San Francisco acquired the third pick on March 26. Three days later, Lance was being offered at +175 by DraftKings to be selected by the 49ers.

That put him behind Jones (+150) and slightly ahead of Justin Fields (+200). However, those odds shifted dramatically as buzz picked up steam that San Francisco was strongly considering Fields after attending both of the Ohio State quarterback’s pre-draft workouts.

By April 5, Fields (+150) had pulled close to Jones (+125), with Lance’s odds of landing in the Bay Area lengthening to +250. Those odds moved to +400 by April 15 with San Francisco reportedly whittling its decision down to Jones and Fields.

Sunday’s report contributed to another massive swing at DraftKings, where Jones is now the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 3 overall pick at -200. However, Lance’s odds have shortened to +150 while Fields is now a +700 long shot.

Jones is the -250 favorite to go to San Francisco at BetMGM, where the former Alabama star opened at +185 to be the third overall pick. Those odds had shortened to -160 by last week.

Lance is second at +190, followed by Fields (+800).

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the overwhelming favorite at all sportsbooks to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A BetMGM bettor placed a $50,000 wager on Lawrence at -1250 that would pay out $4,000 if he indeed goes with the first pick.

“The sportsbook has adjusted the line on many props due to sharp wagers,” BetMGM sports trader Darren Darby said. “The book has taken significant action on Trevor Lawrence to be the first overall pick.”

Lawrence is now being offered at -10000 by the book, with BYU quarterback Zach Wilson listed at -2500 to be the second pick, currently held by the New York Jets.

–Field Level Media

Trevor Lawrence (from left), Justin Fields, Zach Wilson


Odds swing, favor Mac Jones over Justin Fields at No. 3

Odds for the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft are on the move again with Mac Jones and Justin Fields trading places once more.

Fields revealed to NFL teams that he managed epilepsy as the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Reports surfaced with that medical information on Wednesday.

Since then, odds for the No. 3 pick by the San Francisco 49ers swung dramatically in favor of Jones. The Alabama quarterback and national champion held the lead over Fields until a second pro day, with head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch of the 49ers in attendance, gave him a bump with oddsmakers.

Fields was +175 to go third overall with Jones favored at -150 before he held his second pro day workout based on DraftKings and PointsBet odds.

Following the pro day, Fields was the favorite (-121) and Jones dipped to +100.

Now one day after his epileptic condition became public, books are heavily favoring Jones (-145 at FanDuel) to go third and Fields’ (+165) over-under for where he will be picked is leaning to the over (3.5).

At DraftKings, Fields is +175 to be the No. 3 pick behind Jones (-167).

Betting the over on Fields being drafted before pick 3.5 is -230 at FanDuel and the under is +184.

DraftKings moved the over-under pick selection market on Fields to 4.5. The over is +150.

The Atlanta Falcons own the No. 4 pick behind the 49ers, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars. The first three picks are all expected to be used on quarterbacks.

If Fields slips according to oddsmakers measurements, another team could move up to acquire the fourth pick. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears are considered likely partners with the Falcons if a trade is consummated for Fields at No. 4.

DraftKings is offering a special prop with -150 odds the top four 2021 draft picks will be quarterbacks.

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2021; Clemson, SC, USA;  Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence works out as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer (right) looks on during Pro Day in Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars GM will ‘hold tight’ to No. 1 pick, ignore trade offers

Try as teams might, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not planning to part with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Jacksonville is expected to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall next Thursday when the draft begins with Jacksonville on the clock for the first time under the power structure of general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Urban Meyer.

“We’ve fielded a couple of calls, but I think we’re going to hold tight,” Baalke said of trade interest in the No. 1 pick. “Again that decision is made organizationally and our ownership is involved with that as well.”

Meyer claimed Wednesday in the joint video conference the Jaguars haven’t finalized plans for the top pick. He said that could come this week during a meeting with owner Shad Khan.

“Ultimately, the owner is going to pull that ticket on that one,” Meyer said. “We’re going to have a great meeting and I imagine we’ll get closer to a decision.”

The rest of the world expects Lawrence to go No. 1, including oddsmakers.

Lawrence is a -10000 favorite at PointsBet to be the top pick, odds that were much shorter one year ago — a mere -305, in fact. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has the next-best odds to be the first pick at +1300.

Seemingly pre-ordained for the No. 1 slot since his fantastic freshman season, Lawrence passed for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns with 17 interceptions for the Tigers. He ended his college career at 34-2, third-best all-time among quarterbacks with at least 30 starts (Ken Dorsey and Matt Leinart are first and second).

Meyer was coaxed out of retirement and Baalke joined the franchise after previously serving as a scout and general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

They’ve spent hours with Lawrence and evaluating his game, while also tapping into those closest to him, former teammates and coaches, to erase any hidden concern about his future.

“No negatives,” Baalke said of what he found researching and scouting Lawrence. “You’re always looking for the stars to align when you’re looking at prospects — whether that be from a physical, mental, character … whatever the case may be. With his situation, like many others in this draft, the stars all align. And that’s what you’re looking for.”

The Jaguars have 10 picks in the 2021 draft. They also pick 25th in the first round — compensation for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was traded to the Rams — and 33rd, the top pick in the second round, which begins Friday.

Meyer said his focus is on speed and “immediate value” as the Jaguars attempt to climb from the AFC South basement.

Jacksonville has drafted quarterbacks in the top 10 before, dating to Byron Leftwich (seventh overall in 2003), but the Jaguars’ recent history in this territory is dicey.

They took Blake Bortles third in 2014, Blaine Gabbert 10th in 2011 and will be selecting in the top 10 for the 13th time since 2008.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In big odds shift, Ohio State QB Justin Fields favorite for third pick

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields jumped ahead of Alabama’s Mac Jones and is the heavy favorite to be the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The San Francisco 49ers hold the No. 3 pick after a trade with the Miami Dolphins and had previously been connected to Jones, the quarterback who led the Alabama Crimson Tide to the 2020 national championship.

But DraftKings Sportsbook pulled a 180 on Thursday and Fields is now the favorite to be picked third at -121.

Fields was +175 to go third overall with Jones favored at -150 on Wednesday before he held his second pro day workout. The 49ers were in attendance and a photo of Fields laughing with San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan was widely circulation on social media.

Jones is the second favorite for the third pick. His odds are now +100, ahead of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (+300).

FanDuel made a similar move Thursday, slotting Fields at -125 and in the favorite’s role with Jones +105 and Lance +650.

–Field Level Media