Quickly, click away if you’re going to get upset by reading draft grades before the Class of 2021 even plays a snap. Still here? Good. We didn’t need those other people anyway. The 2021 NFL Draft finished a few days ago, which means we’ve had enough time to turn every selection around in our minds. Here are my initial draft grades for each NFL team.
I assigned grades based on how well a team filled their needs and the caliber of prospects they added. Reaching or failing to address significant needs hurt a team’s grade. I emphasized nailing selections in the first three rounds, but landing starters beyond Day 1 and 2 improved several scores significantly.
R1 (16): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
R2 (49): WR Rondale Moore, Purdue
R4 (136): CB Marco Wilson, Florida
R6 (210): EDGE Victor Dimukeje, Duke
R6 (223): CB Tay Gowan, UCF
R7 (243): S James Wiggins, Cincinnati
R7 (247): IOL Michal Menet, Penn State
Passing on a cornerback on Day 1 and Day 2 is a hard pill to swallow. The Cardinals ignored their most significant need until the fourth-round, when they took the volatile, ultra-athletic Wilson. Doubling down with Gowan in the sixth-round and grabbing a steal with Wiggins in the seventh saved Arizona from receiving a C grade.
Collins joins a versatile linebacker group already featuring Markus Golden, Jordan Hicks, Chandler Jones, Devon Kennard, and Isaiah Simmons. Collins is 6-5 and between 259 and 270 lbs. He was excellent in zone coverage at Tulsa. That pick could evolve into an A selection depending on how Arizona deploys the large linebacker.
Moore burst onto the scene as a freshman, catching 114 passes for 1,258 yards. Injuries limited him to seven games over the past two seasons. Despite being 5-7 and weighing 180 lbs., Moore is one of the best athletes in this class. His route tree lacks polish.
R1 (4): TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
R2 (40): S Richie Grant, UCF
R3 (68): OT/IOL Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
R4 (108): CB Darren Hall, San Diego State
R4 (114): IOL Drew Dalman, Stanford
R5 (148): IDL Ta’Quon Graham, Texas
R5 (182): EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
R5 (183): CB Avery Williams, Boise State
R6 (187): WR Frank Darby, Arizona State
Tight ends generally aren’t worth first-round selections, but Pitts is a generational prospect that compares well to Darren Waller. Pitts is a height/weight/speed mismatch for almost all defenders. He gives Atlanta the best group of pass-catchers in the NFL.
Atlanta landed another starter in the second-round. Grant had excellent ball production at UCF, intercepting ten passes over the past three years.
Mayfield is a risky selection. He’s inexperienced, and, despite playing tackle for Michigan, he probably belongs at guard. Dalman gives Matt Hennessy competition for the starting center job.
Williams was a sneakily good selection. The future slot corner dominated on special teams for Boise State, returning six punts and three kicks for touchdowns over the past four years.
R1 (27): WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
R1 (31): EDGE Odafe Jayson Oweh, Penn State
R3 (94): IOL Ben Cleveland, Georgia
R3 (104): CB Brandon Stephens, SMU
R4 (131): WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
R5 (160): CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State
R5 (171): EDGE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame
R5 (184): TE Ben Mason, Michigan
John Harbaugh’s team transformed their below-average wide receiver room into one of the league’s top-16 units through the draft. Bateman was the fourth wide receiver off the board, and his route running chops should help Lamar Jackson immediately. Wallace suffered a torn ACL in 2019, but he rebounded in 2020. The Oklahoma State product gained over 3,300 yards during the past three years.
Oweh is a developmental edge rusher, but the Ravens developed Matt Judon and Za’Darius Smith into Pro Bowl sack artists. They can do the same for Oweh. Cleveland should battle for starting snaps alongside Kevin Zeitler, while Wade can steal the slot job from Tavon Young. The Ravens might have a serious steal on their hands if Wade can get back to his 2019 form.
R1 (30): EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
R2 (61): EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
R3 (93): OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
R5 (161): OT Tommy Doyle, Miami (OH)
R6 (203): WR Marquez Stevenson, Houston
R6 (212): S Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh
R6 (213): CB Rachad Wildgoose Jr., Wisconsin
R7 (236): IOL Jack Anderson, Texas Tech
Sometimes it’s better not to second guess yourself. Rousseau to Buffalo was a pairing that got thrown around months ago but fell out of favor as a rough pro day pushed the one-year wonder down draft boards. Bills general manager Brandon Beane didn’t care about the noise and drafted Rousseau anyway.
While Rousseau is a raw, inexperienced prospect, Basham has three years of starting experience. The Wake Forest product could step on an NFL field tomorrow and be right at home. Between Basham, Rousseau, and A.J. Epenesa (last year’s second-round pick), Buffalo has a stable of developmental defensive ends.
All of Buffalo’s other selections are long-term projects, but that doesn’t make them bad picks. Anderson, Brown, and Hamlin all have future starting potential. Wildgoose is the only late-round selection with a chance to start as a rookie. He should compete with Taron Johnson in the slot.
R1 (8): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
R2 (59): WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
R3 (70): OT Brady Christensen, BYU
R3 (83): TE Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
R4 (126): RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
R5 (158): IDL Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
R5 (166): CB Keith Taylor, Washington
R6 (193): IOL Deonte Brown, Alabama
R6 (204): WR Shi Smith, South Carolina
R6 (222): LS Thomas Fletcher, Alabama
R7 (232): IDL Phil Hoskins, Kentucky
Carolina crushed the 2021 NFL Draft. I wasn’t a massive fan of taking Horn at eighth overall, but that has less to do with the elite athlete and more with Matt Rhule using all of his picks on defense last year. The defense needing more help after having so many assets thrown at it shows that Carolina failed last draft. However, the Panthers took a more balanced approach this year.
Marshall Jr., who has one of the best height/weight/speed combinations in the draft, joins a wide receiver room featuring Robby Anderson, David Moore, and D.J. Moore. That’s the best collection of receivers in the NFL. Shi Smith adds another slot option to that group.
Christensen could beat out Cameron Erving and Greg Little for the left tackle job.
All of Carolina’s selections after Christensen are depth pieces with the potential to become starters. The high-quality depth here is what makes Rhule’s second draft class so unique.
R1 (11): QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
R2 (39): OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
R5 (151): OT Larry Borom, Missouri
R6 (217): RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech
R6 (221): WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina
R6 (228): CB Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon
R7 (250): IDL Khyiris Tonga, BYU
Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace moved to save their jobs by trading up with the New York Giants for Fields. The dynamic Ohio State quarterback finished highly ranked in the Heisman race in each of the past two seasons and launched six touchdowns against Clemson in last season’s semifinals. Chicago got Fields nine spots lower than they drafted Trubisky.
Jenkins plummeted into the second-round because of medical concerns. The Bears got a franchise right tackle that might play on the left side after Chicago parted ways with Charles Leno Jr. Jenkins should dominate in the running game, assuming he stays healthy.
Everything went right for the Bears in their final four selections. They found highly productive college prospects that should start as rotational players in the NFL before battling for starting snaps. Graham and Newsome have realistic paths to the starting lineup.
R1 (5): WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
R2 (46): OT Jackson Carman, Clemson
R3 (69): EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
R4 (111): EDGE Cameron Sample, Tulane
R4 (122): IDL Tyler Shelvin, LSU
R4 (139): OT D’Ante Smith, East Carolina
R5 (149): K Evan McPherson, Florida
R6 (190): IOL Trey Hill, Georgia
R6 (202): RB Chris Evans, Michigan
R7 (235): EDGE Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State
Cincinnati passed on Penei Sewell for Chase. While the LSU wide receiver was the No. 3 prospect on my top 200 big board, plenty of fans still thought Zac Taylor’s staff made a mistake. Joe Burrow suffered a significant injury last year, and the Bengals need to protect him better in 2021. However, the team’s later selections justified pairing Chase with his former college teammate.
Carman was Clemson’s left tackle for the past two years. He has the body of a guard, but Cincinnati should give him a chance at competing for the right tackle role. Carman could begin his career at guard and eventually transition outside. The Bengals also drafted Smith, a developmental left tackle, and Hill, who amassed over 1,500 collegiate snaps as a center.
Cincinnati also made the defensive line a priority, but they went about it in a weird way. Ossai and Hubert, projected outside linebackers, join the party with Sample, a projected 4-3 defensive end. Shevin, who could start for several teams, slots in behind expensive 2020 free agent signee D.J. Reader.
Keep an eye on Evans. He didn’t see many snaps in college because of an academic suspension, but he has the skills to stick around in the NFL.
R1 (26): CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
R2 (52): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
R3 (91): WR Anthony Schwartz, Auburn
R4 (110): OT James Hudson, Cincinnati
R4 (132): IDL Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
R5 (153): LB Tony Fields II, West Virginia
R5 (169): S Richard LeCounte, Georgia
R6 (211): RB Demetric Felton, UCLA
The Browns landed two first-round-caliber players with their first selections. Adding Newsome solidified a young cornerback group already featuring Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, but Owusu-Koramoah was Cleveland’s biggest acquisition. Analysts universally viewed the versatile Notre Dame linebacker as a top-20 player. He’ll play a variety of roles in Cleveland’s defense.
Cleveland took a massive risk with Schwartz. The 6-0 wide receiver ran a 4.26 40-time at Auburn’s pro day, but he doesn’t run an NFL route tree. Schwartz’s speed doesn’t translate to his cuts, and he only hits blistering speeds going in a straight line. His lack of contact balance and play strength are also concerns. The third-round was a reach for him.
Luckily, Cleveland rebounded by selecting Fields, Hudson, and Togiai with its following three selections. All three are developmental prospects that could play significant roles in Cleveland’s future. Felton, a wide receiver turned running back, was a quality sixth-round selection.
R1 (12): LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
R2 (44): CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
R3 (75): IDL Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
R3 (84): EDGE Chauncey Golston, Iowa
R3 (99): CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State
R4 (115): LB Jabril Cox, LSU
R4 (138): OT Josh Ball, Marshall
R5 (179): WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
R6 (192): IDL Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky
R6 (227): CB Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
R7 (238): IOL Matt Farniok, Nebraska
Last year, the Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Jerry Jones responded by spending his first six picks on defenders and used eight of Dallas’ 11 selections on that side of the ball. I’m not sure how much better the Cowboys got last weekend.
Assuming Parsons, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch stay healthy, Dallas should have one of the league’s best linebacker rooms. Cox was a steal for the Cowboys in the fourth-round. He was one of the two best coverage linebackers in the draft. This is an excellent rookie linebacker duo for Dallas, but neither is a complete player yet.
I gave Joseph a third-round grade in the pre-draft process. He’s exceptionally athletic but got burned several times during his one standout college season. Odighizuwa is explosive but lacks agility for an undersized defensive tackle. Golston and Wright have NFL size, and that’s about it. They represent significant reaches, especially in the top 100 selections.
Ball is an athletic tackle that loves getting into space, but he bends at the waist and is too thin in his lower half. He was also involved in an instance of dating violence that eventually led to him leaving Florida State’s program. Fehoko is as raw as they come, but his height/weight/speed combination is elite in this class. Mukuamu is 6-4, weighs over 200 lbs., and has 34-inch arms. He’s a solid late-round pick based on physical traits.
R1 (9): CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
R2 (35): RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina
R3 (98): IOL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
R3 (105): LB Baron Browning, Ohio State
R5 (152): S Caden Sterns, Texas
R5 (164): S Jamar Johnson, Indiana
R6 (219): WR Seth Williams, Auburn
R7 (237): CB Kary Vincent Jr., LSU
R7 (239): EDGE Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State
R7 (253): EDGE Marquiss Spencer, Mississippi State
While the Broncos added depth at several key positions, I’m not sure how much better they got through the draft. Surtain was the 2021 NFL Draft’s best cornerback prospect outside of a healthy Caleb Farley, but he’s joining a deep secondary. Head coach Vic Fangio must delegate snaps between the rookie, Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, and Kyle Fuller. Vincent has almost no path to the field as a rookie despite being one of the draft’s best slot corners.
Williams was one of the three best running backs in the draft, and he offers a powerful running style Travis Etienne and Najee Harris can’t match. However, trading up for a low-value position like running back with Melvin Gordon and Royce Freeman on the roster was perplexing. I guess it’s a strong indication Denver won’t re-sign either veteran when they hit free agency next offseason.
Meinerz provides competition for Lloyd Cushenberry III at center. The LSU product is only entering his second season, but he was one of the worst centers in the NFL last year. I’m interested to see where Fangio deploys Browning. He could see snaps at inside linebacker and on the edge.
Denver selected Sterns at 152 and got a better safety 12 picks later. Johnson and his Texas counterpart give Fangio developmental safeties and quality backups. Johnson’s fall was surprising. Some analysts viewed him as a top-five safety and Week 1 starter.
The Broncos have a top-five NFL roster if not for the massive question marks at quarterback.
R1 (7): OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
R2 (41): IDL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
R3 (72): IDL Alim McNeill, North Carolina State
R3 (101): CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
R4 (112): WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
R4 (113): LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue
R7 (257): RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
The Lions have a shot at earning the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. They’re in complete rebuild mode, and Brad Holmes has his franchise off to a hot start. Sewell fell to Detroit at seventh overall. Detroit has him listed as a right tackle, with Taylor Decker manning the left and All-Pro Frank Ragnow at center. Left guard Jonah Jackson is only entering his second season. That’s a young, kneecap biting offensive front.
Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell also completely remade Detroit’s defensive line. Onwuzurike was the second-best defensive tackle on most boards, and McNeill was my top nose tackle prospect. Melifonwu has ideal NFL length but lacks high-end speed. He’s still a rare athlete that could see starting snaps in Detroit’s battered secondary.
Brown produced 2,270 yards in his 30 games with the Trojans. He primarily played in the slot and could win that starting job as a rookie. I wish the Lions added another receiving option in this deep class. Jared Goff doesn’t have many options.
Green Bay Packers
R1 (29): CB Eric Stokes, Georgia
R2 (62): IOL Josh Myers, Ohio State
R3 (85): WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson
R4 (142): OT Royce Newman, Ole Miss
R5 (173): IDL Tedarrell Slaton, Florida
R5 (178): CB Shemar Jean-Charles, Appalachian State
R6 (214): OT Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin
R6 (220): LB Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College
R7 (256): RB Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Green Bay and general manager Brian Gutekunst didn’t do much to appease Aaron Rodgers through the draft. Stokes was a good cornerback at Georgia, but his agility raised concerns in the pre-draft process. He’s still an upgrade over Kevin King. Myers is a starting-caliber center that should replace Corey Linsley, but he represents a reach in the second-round.
As a Clemson guy, I can vouch for Amari Rodgers’ explosiveness and ability to change games. He’ll begin his career as a gadget player in the slot before developing a better route tree. Newman and Slaton are developmental players with high upside that provide depth at positions of need. McDuffie is a hardworking, productive prospect that might sneak into the lineup given Green Bay’s issues at inside linebacker.
Hill was a steal for the Packers. He ran for 1,350 yards and ten touchdowns in 2019 while contributing in the passing game. Hill should develop into a significant NFL contributor.
R3 (67): QB Davis Mills, Stanford
R3 (89): WR Nico Collins, Michigan
R5 (147): TE Brevin Jordan, Miami
R5 (170): LB Garret Wallow, TCU
R6 (195): IDL Roy Lopez, Arizona
Houston’s draft revealed a franchise in turmoil. The quarterback situation is so volatile right now that the Texans don’t know who their Week 1 starter is. Deshaun Watson faces serious allegations, while Tyrod Taylor is a journeyman known for getting replaced by rookies. Mills is a serious project Houston took because of a few splash moments and arm strength.
Trading up for Collins was a great move. The 6-4, 215 lb. receiver was underdeveloped at Michigan because of a poorly run offense. He should see starting time alongside Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks as Houston rebuilds its wide receiver room. Jordan was another good selection. He fell right into Houston’s lap after a lackluster pro day that left teams questioning his proper fit in the NFL.
Wallow amassed 287 tackles over his final 34 games with TCU. He begins his career as a special teams contributor.
R1 (21): EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
R2 (54): EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt
R4 (127): TE Kylen Granson, SMU
R5 (165): S Shawn Davis, Florida
R6 (218): QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas
R7 (229): WR Michael Strachan, Charleston (WV)
R7 (248): OT Will Fries, Penn State
I doubt Frank Reich and the Colts are bringing back Justin Houston. The franchise replaced Houston and Denico Autry with its first two selections in the draft. Paye is still a raw prospect that never had outstanding production at Michigan, but he’s incredibly agile and twitchy. Odeyingbo is equally physically gifted and could see snaps at defensive tackle. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn Achilles this offseason.
Indianapolis won’t get much production from their rookies this season, especially if Odeyingbo misses significant time. Outside of the two defensive ends, there isn’t a prospect in this class that meets starting-level NFL standards. Granson has a small build for a tight end, and Strachan is an underdeveloped receiver that faced no NFL competition in college.
R1 (1): QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
R1 (25): RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
R2 (33): CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia
R2 (45): OT Walker Little, Stanford
R3 (65): S Andre Cisco, Syracuse
R4 (106): IDL Jay Tufele, USC
R4 (121): EDGE Jordan Smith, UAB
R5 (145): TE Luke Farrell, Ohio State
R6 (209): WR Jalen Camp, Georgia Tech
While Jacksonville didn’t have the best draft, the Jaguars improved more than any team by adding Lawrence. Everyone knew the former national champion was going first overall. However, very few analysts believed Jacksonville would open their draft with back-to-back Clemson products.
The Etienne selection caught many fans off guard. I thought Jacksonville might go after the ACC’s all-time leading rusher in the second-round. While I love keeping Etienne and Lawrence together, that was a terrible selection for Jacksonville from a value perspective.
Jacksonville should fire general manager Trent Baalke if the Jaguars don’t use Etienne as a feature back over Carlos Hyde and James Robinson. Spending a first-round pick on a rotational running back is inexcusable. So, we’ll assume Jacksonville’s front office is competent enough to pencil in Etienne as the bell cow.
NFL teams were higher on Campbell and his athletic traits than most analysts. The Georgia product has 4.37 speed but didn’t have much production with the Bulldogs. Taking him at 33 represents a reach, especially after drafting C.J. Henderson last year and signing Shaquill Griffin.
Little was a tremendous selection. He could start at right tackle this year and kick to the left once Cam Robinson hits free agency next offseason. Cisco has a chance to win a starting job as well, despite his undisciplined style. Even Tufele could steal snaps from Malcolm Brown and Taven Bryan.
Overall, the Jaguars left some value on the table. However, they still put together a class that should significantly raise their win totals over the next few years.
Kansas City Chiefs
R2 (58): LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
R2 (63): IOL Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
R4 (144): EDGE Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State
R5 (162): TE Noah Gray, Duke
R5 (181): WR Cornell Powell, Clemson
R6 (226): IOL Trey Smith, Tennessee
The Chiefs traded their first-round pick this year for Orlando Brown Jr. Even after that trade, Kansas City used its limited assets exceptionally well. Bolton is an aggressive downhill linebacker that makes up for his lack of size with instincts. He’s able to bounce off of blocks and track down much quicker players. Bolton should see significant starting snaps as a rookie.
Speaking of seeing starting snaps, Humphrey gives free agent signee Austin Blythe competition for the center role. Blythe signed a one-year deal this offseason worth less than one million dollars in base salary. Humphrey could play guard if Kansas City needed him to, but the Chiefs have plenty of other options there.
Kaindoh is a tall defensive end that suffered from a lack of development in Florida State’s crumbling program. He’s a three-year project but could push Taco Charlton and Michael Danna a little.
Powell was an absolute steal in the fifth-round. Despite lacking elite speed and burst, he has excellent body control and dominated contested catches at Clemson. Powell is NFL ready and will consistently produce over 500 yards per year in the league.
Some analysts viewed Smith as a Day 2 pick, but he tumbled to 226th overall because of medical concerns. Doctors diagnosed blood clots in Smith’s lungs back in 2018, and he’s followed a plan ever since to prolong his career. He might miss a practice here or there, but no one can question Smith’s production and determination to continue playing at a high level.
Las Vegas Raiders
R1 (17): OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
R2 (43): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
R3 (79): EDGE Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo
R3 (80): S/LB Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech
R4 (143): S Tyree Gillespie, Missouri
R5 (167): CB Nate Hobbs, Illinois
R7 (130): IOL Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh
The NFL was higher on Leatherwood than the media, or maybe it was just Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. Regardless of whether the Raiders reached for Leatherwood, he fills an immediate need at right tackle. Gruden’s staff traded up for Moehrig when the star safety began falling over injury concerns. He’s Las Vegas’ new starting free safety.
Koonce represented a reach in the third-round. While he was productive in the MAC, he’s not ready to face NFL offensive lines. A year in the weight room could turn Koonce into a reliable starter, but the agile Buffalo product can’t escape more powerful players yet.
The Raiders seem obsessed with safeties. They signed Karl Joseph this offseason before adding Gillespie and Deablo. Gillespie is a box safety, and Las Vegas probably views Deablo as a linebacker. Deablo had four interceptions this past season, but his testing numbers reveal a limited athlete. Gruden drafted a similar player, Clemson’s Tanner Muse, in the third-round last year.
Los Angeles Chargers
R1 (13): OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
R2 (47): CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
R3 (77): WR Josh Palmer, Tennessee
R3 (97): TE Tre’ McKitty, Georgia
R4 (118): EDGE Chris Rumph II, Duke
R5 (159): OT Brenden Jaimes, Nebraska
R6: (185): LB Nick Niemann, Iowa
R6 (198): RB Larry Rountree III, Missouri
R7 (241): CB Mark Webb, Georgia
Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco let the draft come to them, adding their first six selections without moving up or down the board. They landed the draft’s second-best offensive lineman, a shutdown corner with positional versatility, another outside wide receiver, and Hunter Henry’s eventual replacement. This was a massive haul for the Chargers.
Staley’s first draft class as a head coach vaults Los Angeles into the Super Bowl discussion. Very few NFL teams have as many offensive weapons as the Chargers. They’re one of the few teams that became Super Bowl contenders because of the draft. If Los Angeles misses the playoffs, it will come across as a complete failure by Staley’s staff.
Jaimes and Rumph have chances to contribute in a year or two. Los Angeles’ selections trailed off after the fifth-round.
Los Angeles Rams
R2 (57): WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville
R3 (103): LB Ernest Jones, South Carolina
R4 (117): IDL Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M
R4 (130): CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
R4 (141): WR Jacob Harris, UCF
R5 (174): EDGE Earnest Brown IV, Northwestern
R7 (233): RB Jake Funk, Maryland
R7 (249): WR Ben Skowronek, Notre Dame
R7 (252): OLB Chris Garrett, Concordia-St. Paul
Los Angeles had one of the more confusing drafts this year. After losing several key pieces of their secondary in free agency, Les Snead and Sean McVay took Atwell with their top pick. The Louisville product ran a 4.42 40-time at his pro day despite being known as a speed receiver. He’s 5-9 and weighs 155 lbs. This pick comes a year after Los Angeles took Van Jefferson in the second-round.
Jones is an extremely smart linebacker, but he rarely played in coverage for South Carolina. It’s unlikely he develops into a three-down linebacker in the NFL. Bobby Brown could see starting time by his second season.
Rochell was Los Angeles’ best pick this year. He’s a physically gifted corner that ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day. Rochell has the size and gifts to play outside or in the slot, but his technique is messy. He got away with a lot at Central Arkansas and developed some bad habits. It could take a year or two to retool his game.
How the Rams found a way to draft three wide receivers is baffling.
R1 (6): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
R1 (18): EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
R2 (36): S Jevon Holland, Oregon
R2 (42): OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
R3 (81): TE Hunter Long, Boston College
R7 (231): OT Larnel Coleman, Massachusetts
R7 (244): RB Gerrid Doaks, Cincinnati
Miami had three first-round selections last year, but they arguably put together a better draft class through the first three rounds in 2021. Waddle played with Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama. Now, the dynamic slot receiver joins him in Miami. Waddle is an elite athlete that creates big plays and separation with his speed and agility.
Phillips was the top edge rusher in this year’s draft, but he carries some medical concerns. The former UCLA transfer medically retired after multiple concussions before resuming his collegiate career with the Hurricanes. If he’s healthy, Phillips is already Miami’s best pass rusher.
Holland has safety/slot versatility that produced nine interceptions and ten passes defensed in two years with the Ducks. He’ll play an essential role in slowing down the AFC East’s upgrading offenses.
Eichenberg’s arrival signals a shuffling of the offensive line. Robert Hunt could find himself at guard with Eichenberg playing right tackle, or the Notre Dame product might line up inside.
Finally, Long adds even more depth to an already solid tight end room. His selection likely means the Dolphins won’t extend Mike Gesicki when the standout tight end’s deal ends next offseason.
R1 (23): OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
R3 (66): QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
R3 (78): LB Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
R3 (86): IOL Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
R3 (90): EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
R4 (119): RB Kene Nwangwu, Iowa State
R4 (125): CB Camryn Bynum, California
R4 (134): EDGE Janarius Robinson, Florida State
R5 (157) WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
R5 (168): TE Zach Davidson, Central Missouri
R6 (199): IDL Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
Minnesota had an overwhelming amount of draft capital in the mid-rounds and invested it in a wide range of positions. Trading back to 23 and still getting Darrisaw was a stroke of genius by Rick Spielman. Adding Davis in the third-round solidified the future of Minnesota’s offensive line. Once the Ohio State product gets healthy, he and Darrisaw should work alongside each other on the left side.
Drafting Mond serves two purposes. First, it gives Minnesota a legitimate backup quarterback. Second, the franchise now has a developmental prospect if Kirk Cousins can’t get the job done by the time his contract expires after 2022. Surrat is also an excellent depth addition until he’s ready for starting time.
Jones and Robinson have significant room to improve. While Jones was still a productive edge rusher despite not reaching his full potential, Robinson suffered in a shoddy Florida State program. He has the physical tools to contribute but needs a real coaching staff to reach that next level. Twyman was another value add on the defensive front. The 2020 opt out had 10.5 sacks in 2019.
Bynum, Nwangwu, and Smith-Marsette were seniors last year. They bring plenty of experience to Minnesota. Davidson is a long-term prospect that has immense potential and physical tools but isn’t ready for NFL competition.
New England Patriots
R1 (15): QB Mac Jones, Alabama
R2 (38): IDL Christian Barmore, Alabama
R3 (96): EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
R4 (120): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
R5 (177): LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan
R6 (188): S Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri
R6 (197): OT William Sherman, Colorado
R7 (242): WR Tre Nixon, UCF
Everyone let Jones fall to Bill Belichick after all. The Patriots waited patiently as 13 teams passed on Tagovailoa’s heir before snagging him at 15th overall. One round later, Belichick traded up for the draft’s best defensive tackle. After some unnecessary and excessive free agent spending, New England solidified its retooling process with a strong draft.
While opinions remain split on Perkins, he gives the Patriots another viable pass rusher. Perkins tallied 32 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks during his three years at Oklahoma. Stevenson injects some power into New England’s backfield and could fill the LeGarrette Blount role moving forward. McGrone is a rangy developmental two-down linebacker with the athleticism to become proficient in coverage.
Outside of Barmore and Stevenson, New England didn’t draft many immediate impact players. However, Jones, McGrone, and Perkins all project as future starters. The overall value of this class hinges on Jones developing into a franchise quarterback.
New Orleans Saints
R1 (28): EDGE Payton Turner, Houston
R2 (60): LB Pete Werner, Ohio State
R3 (76): CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
R4 (133): QB Ian Book, Notre Dame
R6 (206): OT Landon Young, Kentucky
R7 (255): WR Kawaan Baker, South Alabama
Sean Payton has a weird way of working through the draft process. New Orleans got burned trading up for Marcus Davenport, a raw athletic defensive end from a non-Power Five conference, three years ago. This time, Payton stayed put and took a raw athletic defensive end from a non-Power Five conference. Turner is an excellent developmental prospect, but he should’ve gone in the second-round.
Adebo and Werner are the saving graces of this class. They fill immediate needs and could see significant starting time as rookies. Werner is ready for the NFL game, while Adebo is still an inconsistent player. However, he had plenty of ball production at Stanford. In two seasons, Adebo intercepted eight passes and broke up 27.
I have no idea how Book made it into the fourth-round. Payton’s taste in quarterbacks is different than everyone else’s.
New York Giants
R1 (20): WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
R2 (50): EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
R3 (71): CB Aaron Robinson, UCF
R4 (116): EDGE Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa
R6 (196): RB Gary Brightwell, Arizona
R6 (201): CB Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys and Eagles conspired to rob their division rival of DeVonta Smith. Giants fans were left shaking their heads when Philadelphia traded up to tenth for the Heisman Trophy winner. However, the move allowed New York to trade back with Chicago and acquire an extra first-round selection in 2022. The Giants still got a dynamic receiver too, but Toney is a work in progress.
Toney didn’t run an NFL route tree at Florida, and he has more quickness than speed. However, the electric receiver gives Daniel Jones a new slot weapon. Robinson also plays in the slot. He had just one interception in college but has good burst and plays a physical brand of football. The Giants might experiment with Robinson on the outside.
Ojulari slid into the second-round over medical concerns, but he’s an excellent selection for the Giants. Some analysts even mocked Ojulari to New York at 11th overall as recently as early April. Assuming Ojulari is healthy, he’s got a case for being the steal of this draft. David Gettleman’s draft class is almost more impressive if you switch the draft positioning for Toney and Ojulari.
Williams is a solid developmental man-to-man corner, but Smith was the highlight of Day 3 for New York. He dominated lesser competition at Northern Iowa and had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. Smith doesn’t have NFL size yet. A year in the weight room should do him wonders. Smith could become a starter as soon as 2022.
New York Jets
R1 (2): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
R1 (14): IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
R2 (34): WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
R4 (107): RB Michael Carter, North Carolina
R5 (146): S Jamien Sherwood, Auburn
R5 (154): CB Michael Carter II, Duke
R5 (175): CB Jason Pinnock, Pittsburgh
R6 (186): S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
R6 (200): CB Brandin Echols, Kentucky
R6 (207): IDL Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas
Everyone knew the Jets wanted Wilson. The BYU standout had a promising freshman season in 2018 before injuries and poor play resulted in a disappointing 2019 campaign. Wilson’s 2020 season put him on the NFL map, and the Jets believe they’ve found their quarterback of the future.
New York made an unexpected move trading up for Vera-Tucker. The USC product played left tackle in his final collegiate season but projects as a guard in the NFL. While guards generally aren’t worth such high picks, Vera-Tucker has versatility and was a top-15 player on my big board.
Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh continued building around their quarterback by adding Moore and Carter. Moore should play in the slot, but he has the physicality, release packages, and speed to play outside too. Carter is a dual-threat back that should pair well with Tevin Coleman.
The Jets lost me with their three fifth-round picks. Sherwood lacks speed and will probably convert to linebacker. Carter is a slot corner that ran a 4.36 40-time, followed by an awful 4.57 short shuttle. Pinnock has physical tools but routinely got beat when forced to run with his back to the quarterback.
Nasirildeen and Marshall were great late-round selections that could prosper depending on how Saleh deploys them.
R1 (10): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
R2 (37): IOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
R3 (73): IDL Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
R4 (123): CB Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech
R5 (150): RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
R6 (189): IDL Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
R6 (191): EDGE Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina
R6 (224) S JaCoby Stevens, LSU
R7 (234): EDGE Patrick Johnson, Tulane
Philadelphia attacked the 2021 NFL Draft with mixed results. Howie Roseman is still trying to dig himself out of the pit he made last year by passing on Justin Jefferson for Jalen Reagor. The embattled general manager didn’t make that mistake again, trading up two spots for Smith. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was almost more productive over the past two years than Philadelphia’s entire wide receiver room.
Stat of the day: Over the past two years, DeVonta Smith recorded 3,112 receiving yards and 37 receiving TDs. All of Philadelphia’s wide receivers combined for 3,729 receiving yards and 25 receiving touchdowns over the past two years. https://t.co/bSuddaDUMy
— Sam Teets (@Sam_Teets33) May 2, 2021
Dickerson is an excellent leader and teammate, but his injury history is a serious question for Philadelphia. The Eagles already have Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson battling injuries. The last thing they need is for Dickerson to replace Jason Kelce in a year and begin suffering more knee issues. However, the Alabama product is a first-round-caliber talent when healthy.
Williams is a freak athlete that, along with Jackson and Tuipulotu, brings youth to an aging defensive front. Williams lacks ideal NFL length, but he had one of the best pro days in recent history. The Louisiana Tech product finished in or above the 97th percentile among interior defensive lineman in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, short shuttle, three-cone, and vertical.
McPhearson intercepted four passes last year but still represents a reach in the fourth-round. While he can play inside or outside, McPhearson lacks elite physical traits. His route recognition and anticipation skills haven’t reached NFL levels yet.
Gainwell is a dual-threat back that should displace Boston Scott on the depth chart.
R1 (24): RB Najee Harris, Alabama
R2 (55): TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
R3 (87): IOL Kendrick Green, Illinois
R4 (128): OT Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M
R4 (140): LB Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M
R5 (156): IDL Isaiahh Loudermilk, Wisconsin
R6 (216): EDGE Quincy Roche, Miami
R7 (245): CB/S Tre Norwood, Oklahoma
R7 (254): P Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech
The Steelers showed how outdated their draft model is with an old-fashioned class that could expedite the franchise’s decline at the back end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Harris is one of the most entertaining, enjoyable stars from the 2021 NFL Draft. He was also a top-20 player on my big board. However, that doesn’t make drafting a low-value position like running back over a left tackle alright.
Pittsburgh grabbed the draft’s second-best tight end at 55, once again putting a low-value position ahead of the offensive line. Clearly, Kevin Colbert didn’t watch the Super Bowl. When the Steelers finally addressed the offensive line, they opened with a haymaker.
Green was a three-year starter at guard and center for the Fighting Illini. He dominated in the running game, exploding into defenders and driving them back easily. However, Green’s sub-33-inch arms could become a limiting factor, and his pass sets aren’t nearly as good as his performances in the running game.
Moore was an egregious reach that shouldn’t have gone in the top 200 selections. Buddy Johnson is a one-dimensional downhill linebacker. He’s a leader and hard worker, but the Texas A&M product struggles in pass coverage. The Steelers traded up for Loudermilk, who many analysts viewed as a seventh-round choice or undrafted free agent.
Roche and Harvin were the only saving graces of Pittsburgh’s draft class after the third-round. Harvin won the Ray Guy Award in 2020 and should push Jordan Berry for his job. Roche offers some depth and competition for Alex Highsmith.
San Francisco 49ers
R1 (3): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
R2 (48): IOL Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
R3 (88): RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State
R3 (102): CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
R5 (155): OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan
R5 (172): CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
R5 (180): S Talanoa Hufanga, USC
R6 (194): RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
San Francisco traded up to third overall more than a month ago. Analysts debated the team’s preferred selection, which turned out to be Lance. The FCS product was only a one-year starter and is the most physically gifted quarterback in the 2021 class. However, his ball placement and accuracy raise serious questions. Lance should sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo for at least a year.
I had Aaron Banks in a similar class of guards as Ben Cleveland and Trey Smith. They’re big, full-bodied guards that aren’t very athletic but create space in the running game. He was a reach in the second-round, but San Francisco rebounded by finding value with its next six selections.
Sermon is arguably the fourth-best running back in this draft, and Thomas played plenty of press and man coverage at Michigan. Moore has incredible raw tools but lacks consistency. Hufanga and Lenoir are physical defensive backs with over 1,400 college snaps under their belts. Mitchell ran for 3,010 yards over the past three years and is a talented receiving back.
R2 (56): WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
R4 (137): CB Tre Brown, Oklahoma
R6 (208) OT Stone Forsythe, Florida
The Seahawks only selected three Pro Bowlers over the five drafts leading up to 2021. One of those prospects was a punter (Michael Dickson), and another isn’t even on the team anymore (Shaquill Griffin). The poor drafting continued this year as Pete Carroll and John Schneider reached for a slot receiver with their only pick in the first three rounds.
Eskridge is 5-9 and weighs 190 lbs. He has good speed and agility but gets bumped around too much at his size. He might serve as a perfect complement to Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf or struggle to play against NFL competition. Brown is a 5-9 cornerback that battles above his size. He intercepted three passes in 2020 and has 29 pass breakups in the last three years.
Forsythe was by far Seattle’s best selection in this draft. He was nearly a top-100 player on many draft boards. While the nimble 6-8 tackle thrives in pass protection, he struggles to create openings in the running game. Forsythe could develop into an NFL starting tackle in one or two years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
R1 (32): EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington
R2 (64): QB Kyle Trask, Florida
R3 (95): OT/IOL Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
R4 (129): WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
R5 (176): LB K.J. Britt, Auburn
R7 (251): CB Chris Wilcox, BYU
R7 (259) LB Grant Stuard, Houston
The Buccaneers and general manager Jason Licht attacked the 2021 NFL Draft with an eye toward the future. Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent next offseason. Tryon is his replacement. Trask offers a long-term project that might become a valuable piece in a few years. Taking a second-tier quarterback at 64th overall isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad value either.
Hainsey’s lack of athleticism likely means he’ll play guard in the NFL. The Buccaneers know they won Super Bowl LV in the trenches. Hainsey projects as an eventual starter.
Darden is a dynamic 5-8, 174 lb. slot receiver that amassed 74 receptions, 1,190 yards, and 19 touchdowns in 2020. He joins a loaded wide receiver room.
Licht finished the draft by adding high-character backups and special teamers with significant collegiate experience.
R1 (22): CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
R2 (53): OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
R3 (92): LB Monty Rice, Georgia
R3 (100): CB Elijah Molden, Washington
R4 (109): WR Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
R4 (135): EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
R6 (205): WR Racey McMath, LSU
R6 (215): S Brady Breeze, Oregon
Farley tumbled down draft boards after undergoing his second back surgery in several years. Some teams fear the ultra-athletic shutdown corner might need more procedures before seeing the field. When healthy, Farley is the best corner in this draft class. He blends a rare combination of agility, length, size, and speed.
Tennessee whiffed on Isaiah Wilson last year, which made landing Radunz a priority. The FCS product protected Trey Lance’s blindside in college, but he’ll play right tackle in the NFL. Rice was an athletic playmaker for the Bulldogs, but he struggled in coverage. Molden was the more impressive third-round selection. He should become an elite NFL slot corner.
Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel closed their draft with several productive Day 3 selections. Fitzpatrick is a 6-2 receiver with decent speed and average college stats. Weaver missed 2019 with a torn ACL, but he had 28 tackles for loss and 14 sacks between 2018 and 2020. The Consensus All-American lacks athleticism but is a consistent contributor because of size and anchor.
Weaver was charged with assault by the Pittsburgh Police Department on Monday.
Washington Football Team
R1 (19): LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
R2 (51): OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
R3 (74): CB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota
R3 (82): WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina
R4 (124): TE John Bates, Boise State
R4 (163): S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
R6 (225): LS Camaron Cheeseman, Michigan
R7 (240): EDGE William Bradley-King, Baylor
R7 (246): EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State
R7 (258): WR Dax Milne, BYU
Ron Rivera knew his team’s needs and attacked them with elite college prospects. Davis only had one standout college season, but he’s one of the most athletic players in the entire class. Cosmi played right tackle in 2018 before switching to the left side. He was one of the most experienced pass blockers in the draft.
Brown and St-Juste also project as rookie contributors. Brown produced over 1,000 yards in each of the past two years while averaging over 20 yards per reception. He’ll sit behind Curtis Samuel on the depth chart. St-Juste is an outside corner with a rare combination of size, length, and agility.
Washington grabbed several highly productive players on Day 3. Forrest had over 100 tackles to go along with three interceptions in 2019. Bradley-King recorded 28.5 tackles for loss and 17 sacks over the past three years, while Toney had 28.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks during his four years at Penn St. Milne caught 70 passes for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020.