Grading drafts and declaring winners shortly after the draft instead of waiting three years is always a foolish exercise. It does not make it any less fun or entertaining though to try and shoot your shot early on, instead of having revisionist history down the road. As always, this is more of just picking drafts that I liked (or did not like in the case of the losers post). This year, more than most, are going to be more difficult to choose than in year’s past. With all of the opt outs, the shortened season for some teams and the lack of a Combine/medical history, it seems as though there are far more unknowns than usual. That’s not going to stop us from making snap judgements on classes now is it?
Check out the 2021 NFL Draft Losers here
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers did a fantastic job of letting the board fall to them. They needed offensive line help and got the second best offensive lineman in the class. I think that Slater is a going to be a fine tackle even though others think he will be best suited as a guard. No matter where he slots in, he’s going to be a day one starter for the Chargers. Then they hung around and waited and let Asante Samuel Jr. fall right into their laps. Samuel should have gone in the first round but he fell to almost the mid-2nd round and gave the Chargers tremendous value. Samuel should hop right in and provide immediate value.
I like the Josh Palmer pick in the third round and think he was an undervalued wide receiver at Tennessee and had to deal with poor quarterback play. Tre’ McKitty might have gone a little early in the third, especially with Jared Cook and Donald Parham on the roster. I’m not sure I would have drafted a blocking tight end in the third, but McKitty still has physical tools he could develop. Rumph should be an immediate contributor on special teams and Jaimes could develop into an eventual starter on the offensive line. I’m not a big fan of Larry Rountree, but when it comes to pick 198, you’re throwing darts as it is. This was a strong draft class that did a great job addressing needs.
A year after taking only defensive players, the Carolina Panthers started off with Jaycee Horn right out of the gate and made you wonder if they were going to continue that trend. Horn was a great pick and should be a day 1 contributor for them, he’s tough and he has underrated physical attributes. In the second round they took Terrace Marshall, who is a first round talent that managed to drop because of medical questions. Had there been a Combine this year, it’s possible those results would have gotten hashed out and he would not have fallen. He gets to reunite with his former college OC and I think he’s going to do very well in the slot. Christensen is a potential starter at tackle and Tommy Tremble has a high ceiling, but a history of mostly being a blocker.
Looking at Chuba Hubbard, I do not expect much other than being a handcuff to CMC, but he had a productive collegiate career. Daviyon Nixon was a guy that I thought would go earlier in the draft, but the fact he only had one year of production probably concerned some teams. Looking at some of their later darts, Deonte Brown is a guy that could definitely start for them if he keeps his weight under control and Shi Smith was a tremendous value that late. Smith could take over at slot receiver, with Marshall moving outside, after Robby Anderson’s contract is up. This was a great class with some immediate contributors and a lot of potential late. I cannot say I endorse drafting a long snapper, but if he is an immediate starter then it is well worth it.
I thought about excluding Denver because they could have taken Justin Fields, but it is hard to dismiss this class when you look at all of the value they got. Surtain was an excellent pick at cornerback, which was a major position of need for them. They traded up for Javonte Williams after letting Phillip Lindsay walk and Melvin Gordon only has one year left on his contract. I’m a major Javonte Williams fan, he’s an absolute bowling ball and I think he will take over the starting job later this season.
Quinn Meinerz is a guy that will provide depth along the interior and should develop into an eventual starter. It is a bit peculiar they took him with such capital invested in Graham Glasgow, Lloyd Cushenberry and Dalton Risner, but it’s possible for them to shuffle Risner to the outside and adjust the interior.
They then went ahead and started throwing darts at the defense, all of whom will be on the two-deep. They don’t need Sterns or Johnson to be starters at the moment and both of them have a great deal of talent. Seth Williams was also a sneaky good pick in the 6th round and gives Drew Lock yet another weapon. The Broncos WR/TE group is absolutely absurd and littered with some great pass catchers. If he cannot get it done this year, it will be time to move on from Lock.
Kansas City Chiefs
Oh look, the rich get richer…woo hoo. The Chiefs made a monster trade leading up to the draft trading the 31st pick, a 3rd, a 4th and a 2022 5th for Orlando Brown, pick #58 and a 2022 6th. They desperately needed to re-make their offensive line and that is what they did.
Orlando Brown is a far better tackle than they would have gotten at pick #31 and then they added an additional 2nd rounder that let them draft a starting linebacker and then they added Creed Humphrey with their original 2nd rounder. Bolton is a very productive tackler and will help their defense immediately and Humphrey is a phenomenal center prospect that I cannot believe the Steelers passed on.
Gray was good at the Senior Bowl and I’m a big Cornell Powell fan…both of which will provide depth on offense and I think Powell could end up starting/contributing big time as a rookie. The best value pick may have been Trey Smith though. He fell because of medical issues but he is supremely talented and is far better than most (if not all) prospects that were going at that point in the draft
Man, this Miami Dolphins’ team has gone through an absolutely incredible re-build in a short amount of time. They managed to trade down from 3 to 12 and then back up to 6. All the while they grabbed the player they coveted the entire time and added a 2023 first round pick. A truly masterful use of resources. I do not think that Jaylen Waddle is the next Tyreek Hill, but he is an absolute stud playmaker. Throwing him in the mix with Davante Parker and Will Fuller is going to give defenses absolute fits. Jaelan Phillips is a great pick (provided he can stay healthy)…he truly re-made himself at The U and could be a force for them. I fully expecte Jevon Holland to start at safety for them and Liam Eichenberg should be their starting right tackle. They get to move Bobby Hunt back inside to guard and solidify their offensive line.
The Hunter Long pick was a bit of a surprise to me with Mike Gesicki on the roster, but he is a talented player that is on the rise. The weapons around Tua right now are absolutely absurd and the pressure could start to ramp up on him if he does not start to produce. I will say that I think people were far too hard on Tua last year. He was coming off of a major injury and did not have a real offseason to actually develop and learn.
Boom or Bust: Cleveland Browns
This is a draft class that is littered with talent, potential and question marks. Greg Newsome is talented but has a very checkered injury history. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is another supremely talented player, but he also fell in the draft because of medical issues. Anthony Schwartz might be the fastest player in the draft, but I’m not sure they needed a third round wide receiver. I like the James Hudson pick, but he’s another guy that is inexperienced and needs to still develop as a tackle.
Now those are the negatives….all of these players have a massive amount of talent. If Newsome stays healthy, he is an immediate starter opposite Denzel Ward. If JOK’s red flags on his heart end up being nothing, he could be the steal of the draft. Schwartz could become a major down the field mismatch and give them another weapon for Baker. And if James Hudson continues on his developmental trajectory, he will be a starter for them in short order. Definitely a boom or bust class here for the Browns and it could very well end up being the best one if everything breaks right.
Honorable Mention: Both New York Teams
I actually really like the Jets draft but wanted to try and limit this to a Top 5 and a boom or bust team. The Jets showed that they have a plan in place and worked to get Zach Wilson help, something they absolutely never did for Sam Darnold. The Giants also did a tremendous job trading down and adding future capital while drafting talented players. I’m not sure why they took Kadarius Toney, but at least they added a future first round pick along the way.
Image via: SB Nation
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