/NFL Draft 2021 Grades: Analyzing Every Teams Picks – Sports Illustrated

NFL Draft 2021 Grades: Analyzing Every Teams Picks – Sports Illustrated


The NFL draft has come and gone, and while we’re likely to remember this class as the first post-COVID group, controversial for the medical issues they faced, their decisions to opt out of playing another college season or their decisions to return to school, there was still plenty of high-end talent available.

Beyond the quarterbacks, this class was deep at some foundational positions like offensive tackle. Beyond Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts, beyond Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance, we may lose sight of the fact that this class will contribute some key foundational pieces of playoff rosters for years to come.

Grading immediately following the draft always feels dicey, so we try to do so on a curve. If you’re the Texans, for example, did you at least come away with something you could salvage? On the other hand, if you’re a team like the Ravens or Bills, did you secure that one last necessary piece that could elevate you into a Super Bowl contender?

Let’s get into it and find out.

Arizona Cardinals

Round 1 (No. 16 overall) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Round 2 (49) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue: 
Round 4 (136) – Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
Round 6 (210) – Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
Round 6 (223) – Tay Gowan, CB, Central Florida
Round 7 (243) – James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
Round 7 (247) – Michal Menet, C, Penn State

The Cardinals came into this draft with limited ammunition and an attractive spot in the middle of the first round where many evaluators believed the talent level was about to drop off. It seemed that first-round pick Zaven Collins was the object of their affection from moment one, despite some more potentially attractive opportunities to upgrade their offense. Collins gives the Cardinals the flexibility to unleash last year’s first-round pick, Isaiah Simmons, and helps them bolster the pass rush. The Cardinals, like other teams, seemed to have taken a cue from Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers this offseason and are strengthening their off-ball linebackers to help guard against the myriad ways teams can pick on a defensive scheme.

Adding Rondale Moore in the second round goes a short way toward mitigating the noticeably minor offensive upgrades Arizona made during the offseason. The Cardinals now have DeAndre Hopkins, an end-of-career A.J. Green and a sea of options in the slot, including Andy Isabella, whom they impulsively chose in the same round two years prior and has received just 48 targets since.

GRADE: C

AllCardinals: Don’t Call Rondale Moore Small

Atlanta Falcons

Round 1 (4) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Round 2 (40) – Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
Round 3 (68) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Round 4 (108) – Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State
Round 4 (114) – Drew Dalman, C, Stanford
Round 5 (148) – Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
Round 5 (182) – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame
Round 5 (183) – Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
Round 6 (187) – Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State

The decision to stand pat was somewhat disappointing at the outset of the draft, but after seeing how the rest of the teams evaluated the quarterbacks, especially Carolina and Denver at the end of the top 10, there was no mad rush to climb the ladder to grab one. Atlanta could hang tight and take the top player on their board. Kyle Pitts creates a weapons overload for the Falcons, which, combined with a return of the Shanahan-ian offensive system, should help Matt Ryan again resemble the efficiency machine he was back in 2016.

On defense, there is a clear pivot toward the whims of new coordinator Dean Pees, which means aggressive corners and safeties who are always around the football. Darren Hall and Richie Grant are super aggressive and can come up to the line to make forceful tackles. If the downside is that sometimes they’re caught out of position, sometimes that’s part of the chaotic beauty of Pees’s system.

GRADE: B

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1 (27) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Round 1 (31) – Odafe Oweh, LB, Penn State
Round 3 (94) – Ben Cleveland, OG, Georgia
Round 3 (104) – Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU
Round 4 (131) – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Round 5 (160) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Round 5 (171) – Daelin Hayes, DE, Notre Dame
Round 5 (184) – Ben Mason, FB, Michigan

Despite Baltimore’s recent track record of success, there have been moments where they may have outsmarted themselves and left certain position groups thin and prone to injury. As disappointing as the Orlando Brown Jr. situation was, Baltimore scored in the third round with mauler Ben Cleveland after knocking off other giant needs with their two first-round picks.

Rashod Bateman is finally healthy and should return to his 2019 form, back when he was more squarely thought of as a lock for the first round. His deceptive play speed and strong hands will provide the Ravens with the true X receiver they’ve been searching for, which has, in the past, forced them to entertain the likes of Dez Bryant and Antonio Brown.

Odafe Oweh, whose rawness was pronounced and may have forced him to drop, is in the perfect system to develop. The Ravens utilize athleticism first and foremost, and Oweh has that by the barrel full.

GRADE: B+

Raven Country: Gauging the Potential First-Year Impact of Baltimore’s Rookies

Buffalo Bills

Round 1 (30) – Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Round 2 (61) – Carlos Basham, Jr., DE, Wake Forest
Round 3 (93) – Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
Round 5 (161) – Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (Ohio)
Round 6 (203) – Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston
Round 6 (212) – Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh
Round 6 (213) – Rachad Wildgoose, CB, Wisconsin
Round 7 (236) – Jack Anderson, OG, Texas Tech

I maintain that the Bills are not done yet exploring offensive upgrades and could still make a splash on the veteran trade market before the season. This draft class may have been the franchise’s biggest vote of confidence in Josh Allen yet, largely ignoring the offense in an effort to give Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier some edge rushers to work with. 

The Bills have been flirting with this position before, tapping A.J. Epenesa in the second round last year. Now, they return to the position with both Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham; a pair of high-upside talents who Buffalo hopes can sharpen one another into a platoon that hits. A pressure element to this Bills defense, which is already led by two talented corners and two heady safeties, could lift them to the kind of place where they’re expected to compete with Kansas City instead of considering getting that far as a victory in itself.

GRADE: B

Bills Central: What Each of Buffalo’s Picks Mean

Carolina Panthers

Round 1 (8) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Round 2 (59) – Terrace Marshall, Jr., WR, LSU
Round 3 (70) – Brady Christensen, OT, BYU
Round 3 (83) – Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
Round 4 (126) – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Round 5 (158) – Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
Round 5 (166) – Keith Taylor, CB, Washington
Round 6 (193) – Deonte Brown, OG, Alabama
Round 6 (204) – Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
Round 6 (222) – Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama
Round 7 (232) – Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky

If Jaycee Horn is the kind of player who unlocks Carolina’s secondary and turns a soon-to-be-very-good Donte Jackson and a used-to-be-quite-good A.J. Bouye together, then so be it. It’s always good to have conviction. 

We’re not going to sit here and say they should have drafted Patrick Surtan because he was the top cornerback on someone else’s list. The question is whether the Panthers have, after Matt Rhule’s first two drafts, made themselves markedly better; good enough to compete in a division that (outside of Tampa Bay) is starting to wither a bit. The best pick of the weekend may have been Tommy Tremble, the chess piece from Notre Dame who will elevate Christian McCaffrey, Sam Darnold and the receiving corps. Pairing Joe Brady with a possibly more athletic Kyle Juszczyk type can alleviate various deficiencies all at once.

GRADE: C

All Panthers: Thoughts on Carolina Drafting Jaycee Horn

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Chicago Bears

Round 1 (11) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Round 2 (39) – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Round 5 (151) – Larry Borom, OT, Missouri
Round 6 (217) – Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
Round 6 (221) – Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina
Round 6 (228) – Thomas Graham, Jr., CB, Oregon
Round 7 (250) – Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU

There is a loud segment of the Bears fanbase that was wary about Ryan Pace making yet another franchise altering decision, and certainly the argument can be made that selecting Justin Fields is nothing more than the desperate flailing of someone trying to punch their way out of the scrap heap. I would argue the opposite. Pace drafted the polar opposite of Mitch Trubisky and, hopefully, refined his personal process during that time. Some of the league’s best general managers have made horrific drafting mistakes and went on to have successful careers. Playing the board like they did and landing Justin Fields, who could end up being the second-most talented player in this class, may be a springboard into a fine second act for the GM.

While Chicago finds themselves backed against the wall equity-wise for a deeper draft in 2022, they hoarded offensive line talent from the 2021 draft’s remaining strength and will turn over two outsized tackles to Juan Castillo.

The Bears, who have made the playoffs twice during the Matt Nagy era while limping offensively, now have a transformed offense with a mobility component at the quarterback position that can transform even a middling weapon set.

GRADE: A-

BearDigest: Justin Field Enrolls in Matt Nagy’s QB School

Cincinnati Bengals

Round 1 (5) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Round 2 (46) – Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
Round 3 (69) – Joseph Ossai, LB, Texas
Round 4 (111) – Cameron Sample, DE, Tulane
Round 4 (122) – Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
Round 4 (139) – D’Ante Smith, OT, East Carolina
Round 5 (149) – Evan McPherson, K, Florida
Round 6 (190) – Trey Hill, C, Georgia
Round 6 (202) – Chris Evans, RB, Michigan
Round 7 (235) – Wyatt Hubert, DE, Kansas State

Joe Burrow’s knee injury was not the fault of his tackles. You can separate that argument from the fact that the Bengals’ offensive line has been perpetually scattershot and, in 2021, is highly dependent on young players developing on schedule. Picking Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 is a fine decision in the context of a deep tackle class. Trading down in the second round beyond the wave of top second-round tackles and then nabbing Clemson’s Jackson Carman, though, was a bit puzzling. Perhaps Carman will find his own at guard, which will give the Bengals more of an interior presence. The hope, then, is that Riley Reiff can hang on as he enters his age-33 season.

I tend to agree with those who would have preferred the Bengals take Penei Sewell and then a wide receiver in the second. Among the available: Terrace Marshall Jr., D’Wayne Eskridge and Rondale Moore.

Trey Hill was one of the better picks they made. The sixth-round pick out of Georgia has guard flexibility and is fun to watch. Take a spin through his Auburn game this year and you’ll see a player with requisite size and speed who may just need a little refinement at the next level.

GRADE: C+

All Bengals: Three Down Look: Ossai of Relief Coming to the Jungle

Cleveland Browns

Round 1 (26) – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Round 2 (52) – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Round 3 (91) – Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
Round 4 (110) – James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
Round 4 (132) – Tommy Togiai, DT, Ohio State
Round 5 (153) – Tony Fields II, LB, West Virginia
Round 5 (169) – Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia
Round 6 (211) – Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA

It’s hard to think of a team that picked as late as the Browns did and filled as many needs with high-end starters over the first few rounds. Greg Newsome II could be the final bit of mortar holding together one of the best secondaries on paper in the NFL. Let me say that again three times before I get chewed apart for this: ON PAPER. ON PAPER. ON. PAPER. John Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison, Grant Delpit, Denzel Ward, Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are going to present some serious matchup issues for their opponents. Cleveland, thanks to this draft, is probably going to be one of the few teams in the NFL capable of dictating what most offenses do instead of the other way around.

At the back end of the draft, experimenting with a player like Demetric Felton out of UCLA could really pay dividends. As more teams hone in on what the Browns do well offensively in their double-tight personnel, Felton is a running back/receiver/returner hybrid who can show up in 10 or 11 personnel and scare teams as he shoots across the backfield in sprint motion.

GRADE: A

Browns Digest: What Greg Newsome Allows Cleveland’s Defense to Do

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Dallas Cowboys

Round 1 (12) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Round 2 (44) – Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
Round 3 (75) – Osa Odighizuwa, DT, UCLA
Round 3 (84) – Chauncey Golston, DE, Iowa
Round 3 (99) – Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State
Round 4 (115) – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
Round 4 (138) – Josh Ball, OT, Marshall
Round 5 (179) – Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford
Round 6 (192) – Quinton Bohanna, DT, Kentucky
Round 6 (227) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
Round 7 (238) – Matt Farniok, OG, Nebraska

I like when there is a need as deliberate as what the Cowboys have on defense right now that their personnel department doesn’t waste any time throwing all of their draft resources at the problem. Admittedly, a Dan Quinn personnel set is different than whatever the Cowboys called their defense last season, but it was still a little surprising to see them go defense with their first six picks and then another two in the sixth round.

Micah Parsons is not the perfect choice there, but with Dallas’s glut of linebackers, he can solve multiple problems given his pass rushing acumen. Kelvin Joseph is a long-ish cornerback who started his career at LSU before transferring to a starring role at Kentucky, where he picked off four passes in 2020 and seemed to be a more willing tackler than some media scouting reports might suggest.

Jabril Cox was probably my favorite pick. It was surprising, given his coverage ability, that he was available as late as he was. While corner is obviously still a concern, Quinn should be able to matchup more effectively with different teams.

GRADE: B

Cowboy Maven: The Role Will Be Key for Osa Odighizuwa

Denver Broncos

Round 1 (9) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Round 2 (35) – Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Round 3 (98) – Quinn Meinerz, OG, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Round 3 (105) – Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
Round 5 (152) – Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Round 5 (164) – Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana
Round 6 (219) – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
Round 7 (237) – Kary Vincent, Jr., CB, LSU
Round 7 (239) – Jonathon Cooper, DE, Ohio State
Round 7 (253) – Marquiss Spencer, DE, Mississippi State

I don’t think it’s possible to love a three rounds as much as Denver’s but in a very specific way. This is a Vic Fangio draft, which bolstered the team’s offensive line, added an effective, pass-protecting, three-down running back and most notably, bookended their secondary with another talented corner. A quarterback, especially a rookie, may not have made the same kind of first-year impact as someone like Patrick Surtain, who takes this Denver defense from good to great immediately.

Throw in mountain man and belly shirt enthusiast Quinn Meinerz, who will add some critical interior depth and season while the Broncos decide what to do with Graham Glasgow, who is great but entering a logical opt-out point in his contract, and Dalton Risner, a second-round pick from 2019 who could stand to improve.

GRADE: B+

Mile High Huddle: Can Browning Be Denver’s Long-Awaited Three-Down LB?

Detroit Lions

Round 1 (7) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Round 2 (41) – Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Round 3 (72) – Alim McNeill, DT, North Carolina State
Round 3 (101) – Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
Round 4 (112) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
Round 4 (113) – Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue
Round 7 (257) – Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State

Give a former NFL tight end with a penchant for inflicting pain the keys to the draft room and this is exactly what you’d expect. The Lions went offensive line, defensive line, defensive line with their first three picks and while we’re all left staring at the empty, dust-ridden shelf that is their receiver room, it represented a solid foundational maneuver going forward.

Penei Sewell gives the Lions some serious heft up front, with the talented Taylor Decker holding down the right side and former Eagles swing mauler Halapoulivaati Vaitai standing to Sewell’s left at guard. With Green Bay in the division, it makes sense to pivot toward a sturdier, ball-control type philosophy that has the Lions consistently winning at the line.

If “kneecap biter” applied to a member of the secondary, Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse might fit the bill. There’s a rolodex of plays showing the 6’3″ defensive back clobbering smaller wideouts at the catch point.

GRADE: B-

All Lions: Grading Every Lions Pick

Green Bay Packers

Round 1 (29) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Round 2 (62) – Josh Myers, C, Ohio State
Round 3 (85) – Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
Round 4 (142) – Royce Newman, OT, Ole Miss
Round 5 (173) – Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida
Round 5 (178) – Shemar Jean-Charles, CB, Appalachian State
Round 6 (214) – Cole Van Lanen, OT, Wisconsin
Round 6 (220) – Isaiah McDuffie, LB, Boston College
Round 7 (256) – Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State

The Packers continue to put together high value draft boards under Brian Gutekunst who, despite being the target of his franchise quarterback’s ire, has an exceptional sense of where good players tend to fall. Eric Stokes was one of our favorite players of the draft; a corner with long arms who has extensive experience against all the SEC talent at wideout that populated the early portion of the first round. He’s only been playing the position for a few years and has a ton of room to develop. The former Fastest Man in Georgia, Stokes is not just a typical track burner. There is a real functional element to his speed and should help the Packers modernize their secondary and prevent the kind of home run breakdowns that underlined their last two conference title game losses.

The Amari Rodgers pick was probably the most quintessential Packers selection and, at its core, makes a lot of sense. Why waste valuable draft capital on a belle-of-the-ball type receiver who has his own preferences, when everyone who succeeds with Aaron Rodgers does so after acclimating to his own preferences? Amari Rodgers isn’t going to take as long to break in, and his value will be seen early on.

GRADE: A-

Packer Central: After Weekend of Leaks, Only Adults Can End Rodgers Standoff

Houston Texans

Round 3 (67) – Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Round 3 (89) – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Round 5 (147) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (Fla.)
Round 5 (170) – Garret Wallow, LB, TCU
Round 6 (195) – Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona

Davis Mills was a necessity given where Houston is right now. If you’re going to take a swing, it’s best to look at someone like Mills, who has pro-ready traits but got lost in the shuffle due to various circumstances.

Nico Collins is one of the mid-round receivers one could see developing into a star under the right circumstances. Does Houston provide the right circumstances? Not even close. But he did beat up on some good Big Ten talent and could be a nightmare if he can develop a rapport with Mills or Tyrod Taylor on the back shoulder fade or as a third-and-long 50/50 ball prayer.

Brevin Jordan is a bit ploddy and his routes are a little mechanical but if a coach can provide him some open space, he could be another relatively low-risk, decently high return offensive player from this draft.

To be clear, we’re grading on a curve here. In his first draft, Nick Caserio does as good a job as he can.

GRADE: B-

Texans Daily: Mills Buys Texans Time on Watson Trade

Indianapolis Colts

Round 1 (21) – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
Round 2 (54) – Dayo Odeyingbo, DE, Vanderbilt
Round 4 (127) – Kylen Granson, TE, SMU
Round 5 (165) – Shawn Davis, S, Florida
Round 6 (218) – Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Round 7 (229) – Mike Strachan, WR, Charleston
Round 7 (248) – Will Fries, OT, Penn State

While the edge rushing class lacked some heft, the Colts had little choice. When Matt Eberflus runs the kind of system he runs, DeForest Buckner cannot be the only pocket-crashing presence. Kwity Paye has moves like an open-field ballcarrier sometimes in the trenches, which may or may not work at the NFL level but are fun to look at on film.

Dayo Odeyingbo might be the more interesting player long-term. He can line up at multiple positions, including the edge, but may find a future as a supercharged defensive tackle who can win athletic mismatches inside.

GRADE: B

Horseshoe Huddle: Paye Ready to Get to Work on Reputable D-Line

Jacksonville Jaguars

Round 1 (1) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Round 1 (25) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Round 2 (33) – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Round 2 (45) – Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Round 3 (65) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Round 4 (106) – Jay Tufele, DT, USC
Round 4 (121) – Jordan Smith, LB, Alabama-Birmingham
Round 5 (145) – Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
Round 6 (209) – Jalen Camp, WR, Georgia Tech

The Jaguars got Trevor Lawrence … and then the draft took a turn for the strange. Trust me, I’m ready to be proven wrong here, but this may be Urban Meyer’s collegiate sensibilities showing. Travis Etienne is a phenomenal playmaker, but is he worth allocating this much equity for, especially as a positionless third down weapon?

Similarly, the Jaguars spent a fifth-round pick on a 29-year-old who was one of Meyer’s former players at Ohio State. While blocking tight end is an integral part of the offense, Jacksonville had some run stopping issues that were not really addressed outside of Jay Tufele and could use a little more love.

Their best pick may have been Tyson Campbell, who was part of a brilliant Georgia secondary that has churned out some high-end talent over the past three years. Watching him against Devonta Smith last year, Campbell did appear at a disadvantage but didn’t look completely overwhelmed.

GRADE: C+

Jaguar Report: Meyer Reveals the Draft Target Who Got Away

Kansas City Chiefs

Round 2 (58) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Round 2 (63) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Round 4 (144) – Joshua Kaindoh, DE, Florida State
Round 5 (162) – Noah Grey, TE, Duke
Round 5 (181) – Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson
Round 6 (226) – Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee

Noah Gray, the fifth-round pick out of Duke, stands out as a noteworthy pick. After getting walloped in the Super Bowl up front, the Chiefs didn’t really have a foundation with 12 personnel and thus didn’t seem comfortable going double-tight end in order to bolster their protection. Gray is a pretty shifty route runner who could add a little bit of heft at the line but also juke out a few linebackers and gain some serious yardage after the catch.

Nick Bolton was a necessity as teams rush to gobble up off-ball linebacking help, though devoting resources there prevented Kansas City from addressing the edge rusher position until the fourth round. Joshua Kaindoh feels like a similar bet-on-the-athleticism wager that the Chiefs made a few years back at the position.

GRADE: C+

Arrowhead Report: Chiefs Opt for Safe Second-Round Selections

Las Vegas Raiders

Round 1 (17) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Round 2 (43) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Round 3 (79) – Malcolm Koonce, DE, Buffalo
Round 3 (80) – Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech
Round 4 (143) – Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri
Round 5 (167) – Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois
Round 7 (230) – Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh

I don’t have a problem with the Raiders continuously bucking the NFL consensus and turning heads with their first-round picks. When said picks are criticized the rebuttal often includes some accusation of Raider hating and the fact that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock simply have a different way of grading talent.

All of this is fine if and when we see the evidence. Yes, they’ve drafted some good players, but the Raiders have had some very high-profile whiffs with their stockpile of first-round equity. Until this roster begins to resemble the swaggering youth movement that Gruden envisioned when he dealt some of the franchise’s best players, they will be ripe for criticism.

On a bright note, Trevon Moehrig falling enough to get into trading distance was a boon. Despite some health issues, he could help get their secondary back on track.

GRADE: C

Raider Maven: Raiders Key on Defense on Day 2

rashawn-slater-northwestern

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY

Los Angeles Chargers

Round 1 (13) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Round 2 (47) – Asante Samuel, Jr., CB, Florida State
Round 3 (77) – Josh Palmer, WR Tennessee
Round 3 (97) – Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia
Round 4 (118) – Chris Rumph II, DE, Duke
Round 5 (159) – Brenden Jaimes, OT, Nebraska
Round 6 (185) – Nick Niemann, LB, Iowa
Round 6 (198) – Larry Rountree III, RB, Missouri
Round 7 (241) – Mark Webb, S, Georgia

There are times when you’re better off lucky than good, and the mad dash to collect wide receiver talent, which subsequently kicked Rashawn Slater down to L.A.’s spot at No. 13 is a stroke of tremendous luck. There were few situations where an obvious, glaring need and a day one starter crossed over as seamlessly.

Deeper into the draft, beyond the Asante Samuel Jr. pick (which seems to be a home run on the surface) the Chargers got themselves some chess pieces to help them stay afloat in the radically diverse AFC West. Chris Rumph II, the outside linebacker from Duke, can find the field on passing downs during his rookie season and, while the rest of the defense is obsessed with Joey Bosa, fly under the radar and make life for Patrick Mahomes a little more complicated.

GRADE: A-

Charger Report: Asante Samuel Jr. Coming In With a Chip on His Shoulder

Los Angeles Rams

Round 2 (57) – Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
Round 3 (103) – Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina
Round 4 (117) – Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M
Round 4 (130) – Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Round 4 (141) – Jacob Harris, WR, Central Florida
Round 5 (174) – Earnest Brown IV, DE, Northwestern
Round 7 (233) – Jake Funk, FB, Maryland
Round 7 (249) – Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame
Round 7 (252) – Chris Garrett, LB, Concordia-St. Paul

Les Snead loves him some mid- and late-round picks, which is good because the Rams pretty much only have mid and late-round picks for the foreseeable future.

Tutu Atwell was a fascinating way to kick the draft off. Like Devonta Smith, a lot of people are making a big deal out of the weight (155 lbs) but he could be a difference maker behind the line of scrimmage. Their best pick, though, may have been securing the likes of Ernest Jones, who can finally help bring some stability to the middle of their defense. Losing Brandon Staley is a massive hit for the Rams, but bringing in an off-ball linebacker who can cover and play tough against the run is a good way to start the rebuilding process.

GRADE: B

Ram Digest: A First Look at Rams’ Draft Class

Miami Dolphins

Round 1 (6) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Round 1 (18) – Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Round 2 (36) – Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Round 2 (42) – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Round 3 (81) – Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
Round 7 (231) – Larnel Coleman, OT, Massachusetts
Round 7 (244) – Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati

There were few of us out there who missed badly on projecting Miami’s first round based on their most glaring needs. Trading back into the top 10 almost locked them into a top wide receiver. Keeping the 18th pick almost guaranteed them an edge rusher. They did not disappoint.

This will be a formative draft for Chris Grier and Brian Flores, who have already transformed the Dolphins into a relevant division power player but now have to shift the gear into a team dripping with playmaking talent good enough to consistently compete with Buffalo and New England.

Their picks reflected as much; a mix of top-end skill and speed, with a high risk-reward potential (Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips) and a handful of safer bets that should be able to contribute right away. Liam Eichenberg and Hunter Long will not be as frequently discussed but could serve as foundational blocks that, if they play up to their potential, will go a long way toward rounding out the operation.

While much of the success of this team hangs in the balance of Tua Tagovailoa’s left arm, there is little else Miami could have done.

GRADE: A-

All Dolphins: Post-Round 1 Mailbag

Minnesota Vikings

Round 1 (23) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Round 3 (66) – Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M
Round 3 (78) – Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
Round 3 (86) – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
Round 3 (90) – Patrick Jones II, DE, Pittsburgh
Round 4 (119) – Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa State
Round 4 (125) – Camryn Bynum, CB, California
Round 4 (134) – Janarius Robinson, DE, Florida State
Round 5 (157) – Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
Round 5 (168) – Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri
Round 6 (199) – Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh

The Vikings nailed their first-round pick, accumulating additional assets and still landing a top three offensive tackle in the first round who can start on day one. But their heaviest lifting (and most notable) was done in the middle rounds with a pair of quarterbacks taken back to back.

The first: Kellen Mond. The Texas A&M standout had scouts buzzing after a pro day workout that showcased a slew of NFL-ready throws above and beyond what he was asked to do in Texas A&M’s offense. Add in his speed, and Mond is all-of-a-sudden nipping at the heels of the more one-dimensional Kirk Cousins, who has just two fully guaranteed years left remaining on his deal. It could be attractive for Minnesota’s staff to begin eyeing some true 11-on-11 football with Mond under center.

The second: Chazz Surratt, a converted quarterback turned linebacker who, if you tuned into any North Carolina game this year, stood out despite his pedestrian size at the position. Surratt is a ball of energy who never seems to get washed out of a play. The perfect Mike Zimmer linebacker.

GRADE: B+

Inside the Vikings: Fixing the O-Line and Five Other Draft Takeaways

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Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots

Round 1 (15) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Round 2 (38) – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Round 3 (96) – Ronnie Perkins, DE, Oklahoma
Round 4 (120) – Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
Round 5 (177) – Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
Round 6 (188) – Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
Round 6 (197) – William Sherman, OT, Colorado
Round 7 (242) – Trey Nixon, WR, Central Florida

The narrative around Bill Belichick’s laziness seems a bit confounding after just one 7–9 season. Yes, Tom Brady winning a Super Bowl with another great coach and a stacked roster leads us to believe that he was an integral part of the Patriots dynasty but equating his penchant for drafting Alabama players with a lack of zest for the job feels irresponsible.

Mac Jones can represent a youthful energy within the Patriots system, perhaps like a less toolsy Josh Allen (who is also more accurate and less turnover prone initially). Whether or not he starts right away remains to be seen, but his accuracy and the Patriots’ improved weapon set should be putting opponents on notice for 2021.

Belichick loves layering talent at the outside linebacker and edge positions. Despite signing Matt Judon and developing Chase Winovich, the Patriots added a tremendous value in Ronnie Perkins, who could help bolster New England’s pass rush and shift the balance of power a bit, from a back-end focused defense to a more balanced unit that can bring pressure without perfect coverage.

GRADE: B

Patriot Maven: Perkins is Patriots’ Best Pick of the Draft

New Orleans Saints

Round 1 (28) – Payton Turner, DE, Houston
Round 2 (60) – Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
Round 3 (76) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Round 4 (133) – Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
Round 6 (206) – Landon Young, OT, Kentucky
Round 7 (255) – Kawaan Baker, WR, South Alabama

Paulson Adebo, the 6’1″ cornerback out of Stanford, may have highlighted a ho-hum class (on paper). Sean Payton has done yeoman’s work trying to sell the football world on Payton Turner, and perhaps he’ll be proven right instantly given how talented the Saints‘ defensive line is and how quickly they should be able to generate opportunities for a young pass rusher.

Ian Book was raved about during the pre-draft process and greatly improved his stock, which seemed to be hovering in the sixth-seventh round territory before hitting the circuit.

GRADE: C

Saints News Network: Werner, Adebo Picks Reflect Saints’ Draft Philosophy

New York Giants

Round 1 (20) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Round 2 (50) – Azeez Ojulari, DE/LB, Georgia
Round 3 (71) – Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida
Round 4 (116) – Elerson Smith, LB, Northern Iowa
Round 6 (196) – Gary Brightwell, RB, Arizona
Round 6 (201) – Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State

While you could argue the merits of Kadarius Toney and whether he was worth a first-round pick, what Dave Gettleman was able to do in this draft, accumulating resources for a much stronger 2022 draft and securing the likes of Azeez Ojulari in the second round, should be lauded.

Kevin Seifert over at ESPN.com called it noble, given that there is no certainty that Gettleman will be around to utilize those picks given his track record with the Giants leading up to this draft. Still, this was an exercise in preparedness and the Giants managed to check off one of their biggest needs (and an ancillary need with high upside) in the first two picks.

It wouldn’t be a Giants draft without Gettleman falling in full bloom love at the Senior Bowl. Elerson Smith is a middle-round selection to watch, as he could find himself a quick favorite of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

GRADE: B+

Giants Country: Draft Rewind: Fits, Impact, Depth Chart and More

New York Jets

Round 1 (2) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Round 1 (14) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
Round 2 (34) – Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Round 4 (107) – Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
Round 5 (146) – Jamien Sherwood, S, Auburn
Round 5 (154) – Michael Carter II, S, Duke
Round 5 (175) – Jason Pinnock, CB, Pittsburgh
Round 6 (186) – Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
Round 6 (200) – Brandin Echols, CB, Kentucky
Round 6 (207) – Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas

Joe Douglas came under fire moving up 10 picks for an offensive lineman amid a questionable draft, but the Jets are playing by a different set of rules. Alijah Vera-Tucker goes a long way toward solving some of the issues that plagued Adam Gase and Sam Darnold and, over time, could develop into a better-than-good player at two positions.

This is a necessity when breaking in a rookie starter like Zach Wilson, who was accustomed to having plenty of pocket time to show off his arm.

Elijah Moore, though, may turn out to be the most important part of this class. The Ole Miss wide receiver is going to be a stable presence at the line, taking the short rhythm throws necessary to get Wilson into a game and putting up a ton of yardage after the catch.

GRADE: B+

Jets Country: Jets Add ‘Explosive and Fun’ Runner in Carter

Philadelphia Eagles

Round 1 (10) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Round 2 (37) – Landon Dickerson, OG/C, Alabama
Round 3 (73) – Milton Williams, DE, Louisiana Tech
Round 4 (123) – Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech
Round 5 (150) – Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Round 6 (189) – Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC
Round 6 (191) – Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina
Round 6 (224) – JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
Round 7 (234) – Patrick Johnson, DE, Tulane

Kudos to the Eagles for not leaving Jalen Hurts without a shot in 2021. The Devonta Smith and Landon Dickerson picks go a long way toward healing an increasingly veteran offensive line and diversifying a wide receiver corps that has been threadbare over the past two seasons.

Dickerson, who is coming back from an ACL injury, represents the kind of high-upside injury bet that many teams made in the upper-middle rounds this year. While some won’t hit, Dickerson is a player who can operate at any position on the offensive line in a pinch, but right away will compete for a shot at guard.

GRADE: B-

Eagles Maven: Eagles Stay True to Their Board, Adding Help in the Trenches

Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1 (24) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Round 2 (55) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Round 3 (87) – Kendrick Green, C, Illinois
Round 4 (128) – Dan Moore, Jr., OT, Texas A&M
Round 4 (140) – Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M
Round 5 (156) – Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE, Wisconsin
Round 6 (216) – Quincy Roche, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Round 7 (245) – Tre Norwood, CB, Oklahoma
Round 7 (254) – Pressley Harvin III, P, Georgia Tech

Najee Harris is already blowing up the rookie of the year betting lines. While this may be my own stubbornness, it seems like Pittsburgh should first look to alleviate some of the pressure on an older, immobile quarterback. Then again, we have not seen the Steelers with a back like Harris since their Le’Veon Bell days.

Pittsburgh eventually attacked the offensive line, taking center Kendrick Green. Pittsburgh was reportedly hot on Green’s tail throughout the process and have a vision for him as a right-away starter, which, if true, highlights some of the expert board work Kevin Colbert has done in the past. Dan Moore, the tackle from Texas A&M, also has a high ceiling for the position and could emerge in a year or two from his backup role into something more front facing.

GRADE: C+

All Steelers: Five Thoughts: Pittsburgh Goes Old School and Win Big

Lance 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

Round 1 (3) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Round 2 (48) – Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
Round 3 (88) – Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Round 3 (102) – Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
Round 5 (155) – Jaylon Moore, OT, Western Michigan
Round 5 (172) – Deommodore Lenior, CB, Oregon
Round 5 (180) – Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Round 6 (194) – Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana

Trey Lance should scare the pants off the rest of the NFL. Kyle Shanahan has had great mobile quarterbacks and great pocket passers, but never this combination of size and speed. In the past he’s admitted as much; rarely has he had the opportunity to force defenses into treating the quarterback as a rusher. Lance is powerful and athletic and could revolutionize a system that is already taking the NFL by storm.

The 49ers invested heavily in the offensive line interior, another talented running back to add to their rotation and picked up a nice mid-round cornerback in Ambry Thomas, who has great size and plenty of time to develop into a full-time starter.

GRADE: A-

All 49ers: Which 49ers RB Will Be the Odd Man Out?

Seattle Seahawks

Round 2 (56) – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
Round 4 (137) – Tre Brown, CB, Oklahoma
Round 6 (208) – Stone Forsythe, OT, Florida

While there isn’t much ground to cover here (Seattle had a league-low three picks), D’Wayne Eskridge is notable in that he adds another athletic player into the fold for Russell Wilson just a few months after some anonymous grumblings about getting some help. With a new offensive system inspired by both McVay and Kyle Shanahan being installed, Eskridge is a player who can add to the fold behind the line, in tight-catch situations on the sideline and in the return game. 

Stone Forsythe, whom the Seahawks traded up for, is worth keeping an eye on if only because John Schneider has had some success scouring late rounds for usable offensive line talent before.

GRADE: B-

Seahawk Maven: Seahawks Show Great Foresight in Trading Up for Forsythe

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Round 1 (32) – Joe Tryon, LB, Washington
Round 2 (64) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Round 3 (95) – Robert Hainsey, OT, Notre Dame
Round 4 (129) – Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
Round 5 (176) – K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Round 7 (251) – Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU
Round 7 (259) – Grant Stuard, LB, Houston

It’s always interesting to see where GMs go post-Super Bowl. Jason Licht has gotten cute before and been burned, so it was noticeable when he spent a relatively high pick on Florida quarterback Kyle Trask. At this point, there is no evidence that Tom Brady will ever retire, and the mid-round understudy turned starter is so incredibly rare that it almost doesn’t feel worthwhile.

What does make a good deal of sense is doubling up on pass rushing talent and stacking the likes of Joe Tryon behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquill Barrett. What’s better than a pair of edge rushers is a rotation at the position, much like the one Pierre-Paul entered the league under alongside Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

Left undrafted, though, were any defensive linemen who could help alleviate the heavy burden placed on Ndamukong Suh, who played more than 75 percent of Tampa Bay’s snaps last year in his mid-thirties.

GRADE: B-

All Bucs: Film Study: Bucs Land QB of the Future in Kyle Trask

Tennessee Titans

Round 1 (22) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Round 2 (53) – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Round 3 (92) – Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
Round 3 (100) – Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
Round 4 (109) – Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville
Round 4 (135) – Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
Round 6 (205) – Racey McMath, WR, LSU
Round 6 (215) – Brady Breeze, S, Oregon

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Part of this process involves teams stringing together a handful of players that we’ve heard a great deal about during the process, and the Titans’ draft seems to stand out in that we heard the term “first rounder” attached to more than one of their picks. More name recognition often results in a higher grade. I put this in a different category given that the Titans took a calculated risk. Caleb Farley may end up being the best cornerback in this class, but dropped due to recent back surgeries. GM Jon Robinson said after the draft that their medical vetting process was rigorous.

The Titans were always going to go cornerback here and did a great deal of homework on the rest of the class. Their need at the position suggests that they would not take a flier on Farley if they weren’t confident in the return.

Dillon Radunz is a promising offensive lineman who will step in and audition for the role left behind by Isaiah Wilson. But it may end up being Rashad Weaver who emerges as the darling of this class. The Titans secured the former Pitt star in the fourth round and, with so much uncertainty on the edge, could end up working his way into a regular role.

GRADE: B+

All Titans: Weaver, Dupree Already Have a Working Relationship

Washington Football Team

Round 1 (19) – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Round 2 (51) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Round 3 (74) – Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
Round 3 (82) – Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
Round 4 (124) – John Bates, TE, Boise State
Round 5 (163) – Darrick Forrest, S, Cincinnati
Round 6 (225) – Camaron Cheeseman, LS, Michigan
Round 7 (240) – William Bradley-King, LB, Baylor
Round 7 (246) – Shaka Toney, DE, Penn State
Round 7 (258) – Dax Milne, WR, BYU

This was a fun draft in Washington that ran the gamut. In a lot of ways, you have to respect their decision to take a playoff team from last year, double down on what they do well and let the quarterback situation take care of itself when the time is right.

Samuel Cosmi might have been their best pick, and while he’ll have some pressure with the left tackle vacancy hanging over his head, he’s athletic enough to make up for the inevitable rookie jitters.

Washington also ended up with Benjamin St-Juste, who was a favorite of many during the draft thanks to his backstory and origins in Canada. While players of that size can sometimes find themselves without a position, St-Juste looked more than adequate at cornerback and could be an ideal matchup piece in a division with playmakers of all shapes and sizes (but most notably, solid tight end play that could warrant a player like him stepping up).

GRADE: B+

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