2021 NFL Draft Grades – Who Gets an “A?”

 

The NFL Draft has ended, and now it’s time to grade NFL teams on how they performed with their draft picks. You can’t truly grade a draft until three to five years have passed, but I’ll attempt to do it anyway. Seven teams earned “A” grades this year for a variety of reasons, whether it be drafting for need, finding value in the later rounds without trading picks, etc.

 

  • CHICAGO BEARS: The Bears have needed a playmaking quarterback for decades. Trading up in the first round to land Justin Fields was well worth the price. Upgrading the offensive line was also a priority, so trading up in the second round for a player of Tevin Jenkins’ caliber at a reasonable price made sense. Larry Borom was a solid selection in the fifth round because of his pure power coming off the ball. He could work his way into a contributing role. Sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert will make plays as a rusher and receiver for the Bears as a rookie. Dazz Newsome is a solid sixth-round receiver who brings toughness and elusiveness rather than pure speed. Thomas Graham, the Bears’ third sixth-round pick, could be a good third or fourth corner in 2021. When seventh-round pick Khyiris Tonga plays low, his width and foot quickness make him a tough ask for offensive linemen.

 

  • CLEVELAND BROWNS: Finding a talented cornerback like Greg Newsome at No. 26 in the first round was a big bonus for the Browns. He’ll be a stopper on the outside for a defense looking to become championship-caliber. The trade-up for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramosh in round 2 was a good move, especially considering the small amount of value they relinquished in the deal. Third-round pick Anthony Schwartz will take the top off defenses if he’s able to add consistency to his game. Cleveland found another Chris Hubbard-type prospect in the early fourth round in James Hudson. The Browns picked him a bit earlier than I had him valued because of his inconsistency. Fourth-round pick Tommy Togiai was a great pick to fill a need at defensive tackle, given his combination of strength and foot quickness. I love the Tony Fields selection in the fifth round as additional talent at linebacker and on special teams. Fifth-round pick Richard LeCounte’s film was much better than his pro-day workout. I view him as a solid find in the fifth round. Sixth-round pick Demetric Felton is a versatile weapon. He lacks elite speed but seems to always make plays.

 

  • DENVER BRONCOS: New GM George Paton took a very Minnesota Vikings-ish approach to the draft and mostly nailed his first crack at it. There was value and purpose with pretty much every pick and some tangible upside with the selections of third-round picks Quinn Meinerz and Baron Browning, fifth-round picks Caden Sterns and Jamar Johnson, and second-round pick Javonte Williams. Sterns is Justin Simmons’ insurance, and sixth-round pick Seth Williams can learn behind Courtland Sutton as he heads into a contract season. There isn’t a pick we didn’t like on some level for where they were selected. This was a strong first effort for Paton and Co. If they somehow pry away Aaron Rodgers, forget any criticism we made.

 

  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Rashawn Slater only lasted to No. 13 overall because of his average length for the tackle position. But he’ll more than overcome that, and find success in the NFL, because of his athleticism and toughness. Asante Samuel Jr’s slight frame (5-10, 180) also cost him a draft position, but again GM Tom Telesco found value by selecting the future starter midway through Round 2. Third-round picks Josh Palmer and Tre’ McKitty give Justin Herbert needed depth at pass catcher and will help negate some of the production lost by Hunter Henry‘s exit in free agency. Adding fourth-round pick Chris Rumph’s Gumby-like bend off the edge should bolster the Chargers’ pass rush, while James’ positional versatility should give the team’s O-line more flexibility. Sixth-round pick Larry Rountree looked like a third-round pick at times at Missouri. He could be a Justin Jackson-type value pick for the Bolts.

 

  • MIAMI DOLPHINS: I love their draft. General Manager Chris Grier did a great job, starting with their first-round pick Jaylen Waddle and adding a lot of quality players after that. The key will be how well edge Jaelen Phillips, their second first-round pick, shows up in the pass rush. Getting a right tackle in second-round pick Liam Eichenberg was big, too. 

 

  • MINNESOTA VIKINGS: They got a lot of picks by trading down, and they landed a lot of good players. GM Rick Spielman and the gang had three really good days. They fixed the offensive line with first-round pick Christain Darrisaw and third-round pick Wyatt Davis and added some defensive talent in the later rounds. Keep an eye on sixth-round pick Jalen Twyman. 

 

  • NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: For months, we thought Mac Jones would be a perfect fit in New England because of his similarities to Tom Brady. With the San Francisco 49ers passing on Jones at No. 3, Head Coach Bill Belichick just waited out the process and found the Alabama passer waiting for a phone call at No. 15 overall. Jones doesn’t have to be Brady to have success, just the accurate passer that the offense, needs. Second-round pick Christian Barmore flashed potential as a quality starter, but time will tell as to whether giving up two fourth-round picks to move up eight spots to get him was better than just seeing which D-linemen were available at the Pats’ original slot. They found a top-50 talent in Ronnie Perkins late in Round 3. Fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson’s power running complements Sony Michel, Damien Harris, and James White, though the team could have used another corner or receiver. Fifth-round pick Cameron McGrone is a typical Patriots linebacker prospect who could thrive under Belichick. Sixth-round pick William Sherman similarly fits the mold of other New England linemen: short, big-bodied, and tough.