The best story on draft day was probably one you didn't see.
A few hours before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, former Alabama running back Najee Harris visited the homeless shelter that he and his his four siblings and parents lived in for several years.
"Just to see him as a grown man with this kind of opportunity for him today and to know that he lived in this shelter among many other places their family had to move around and lives as a homeless man just speaks to [the thought that] anything is possible," Kathleen Sullivan, executive director of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, told ABC 7 News.
Harris brought food for the current residents, who held a draft party.
"There was a time I needed a helping hand," he said. "They gave us an opportunity to get back on our feet. So it is my job to give back."
Returning brought back a lot of stirring memories for Harris and his family. He was in middle school when they stayed at GRIP before his family moved to Antioch.
"It was really emotional for my mom," Harris said. "Almost as if she was crying, in a way, because we have a lot of memories here. That was a time in my life when it was really low."
By being the 24th pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, his initial contract is expected to be for four years and approximately $13 million, with a $6.8 million signing bonus.
Jaylen Waddle, No. 6, Dolphins
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network: “Building a little bit of a track team in Miami. When you bring over Will Fuller in free agency and add the most explosive and fastest receiver in this year’s draft, that’s not my opinion, that’s what the GPS numbers tell them. This is rare, rare juice and explosiveness with Jaylen Waddle and I do think that familiarity with Tua Tagovailoa is going to help him get off to a quick start."
Here's Tagovailoa's reaction to the pick:
Patrick Surtain, No. 9, Broncos
Surtain is a Bronco because [head coach] Vic Fangio wanted him. In a make-or-break year, Fangio is now loaded for bear at cornerback on the heels of a season in which the injury bug literally decimated the position group.
Relishing the opportunity to join forces with the likes of NFL defensive stars like Von Miller, Justin Simmons, Bradley Chubb, Kyle Fuller, Kareem Jackson, and the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year wasted little time making a bold prediction.
“It’s a very stacked defense. I can’t wait to compete with those guys at a high level each and every day," Surtain said. "I’m very excited and I think when it’s all said and done, we are going to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL.” — Mile High Huddle
DeVonta Smith, No. 10, Eagles
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is off to a good start.
On Thursday night, in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he landed the prolific playmaker this team needs. And he did so by staying true to the draft board pieced together by his scouting staff and VP of player personnel Andy Weidl.
“We stuck to our board on this,” said Roseman. “This is a guy whose grade stuck out. This was one of the top players in the draft for the Eagles. We thought it was a great player and we didn't want to bypass that to fill a need.”
Roseman got it right, for one night, anyway. He didn’t overthink it. — Eagle Maven
Mac Jones, No. 15, Patriots
Now, the post-Tom Brady era in New England really begins. ...
If Jones hadn’t been there, perhaps [Bill] Belichick would have made a deal to bring back [Jimmy] Garoppolo, whose trade market four years ago was primarily stoked by Belichick’s affection for him. They also re-signed [Cam] Newton, who now has a year’s experience in the offense and presumably will not again have to fight off a COVID-19 infection in-season.
But Jones was there for the Patriots, setting a new path for the franchise. They now have a first-round QB to develop and play, and a roster newly flush with weapons like Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Kendrick Bourne. For so long, the team’s success was tied to the 199th pick who became the GOAT, but the Jones pick was the Patriots acknowledging the serendipity involved in that, and the unlikelihood of it ever happening again. They’re necessarily doing things differently in the post-Brady era—they can only hope it leads to the same results. — Sports Illustrated
Alex Leatherwood, No. 17, Raiders
General manager Mike Mayock said even though the Raiders have a lot of needs on defense, but Leatherwood was the best player on their draft board. Offensive line coach Tom Cable was all over him as well.
The plan is for him to start Leatherwood at right tackle and "see if he can hold on to the job."
Mayock said they did a lot of research on Leatherwood and liked both his "pedigree" and that he played at the Senior Bowl when he didn't have to.
"There’s a risk/reward scenario and in this case we didn’t feel it was worth it," said Mayock, noting that a team needing an offensive lineman did call to try and trade up but didn't offer much. "When we made the pick we had the TVs on and obviously, I forget which group it was but they were saying they could’ve had him in the second round and blah blah blah. So I understand that. The fan base is going to listen to that and the fan base is going to question it."
Said Leatherwood: "I’m more than excited to get to the program and prove them right, not exactly to prove the haters or the people who made the mock drafts wrong, but to prove myself and the Raiders organization right."
Najee Harris, No. 24, Steelers
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert kept using the word "excited" to describe the running back, and called the decision to select him an easy one.
"Najee is as complete a back as we could hope to get at any point in the draft and it was very exciting for him to be available for us," he said. "Najee has the size, he has the speed, he has the athleticism. He has the run skills to run inside and outside. Also, he can also play in the passing game as a receiver as a blocker. He's a three-down NFL back.
"He played in an NFL system and really his one hidden trait is he finds invisible yards at that second level. There's times where you think he should just be going down and all of a sudden he finds six, seven, eight yards. It's just really exciting to get what we think is a three-down back and add him to the team."
One of the things that stuck out with the Steelers was Harris driving overnight from Dallas after his flight was cancelled just to support his former teammates at Alabama's first Pro Day.
"That really struck a chord with coach and I," Colbert said.
"We're happy, ecstatic, about Najee."
Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral+ and on special occasions like the NFL Draft
The best story on draft day was probably one you didn't see.
A few hours before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, former Alabama running back Najee Harris visited the homeless shelter that he and his his four siblings and parents lived in for several years. Subscribe for full article
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