2021 NFL Draft: Day 1 Grades, Round 2 Targetsby Alex Barbour April 30, 2021 0 comments
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft was one of the most entertaining in recent memory. Many superstars fell and extreme reaches were flying left, right, and center. Let’s delay no longer and get into grading each of the teams and their picks along with mentioning some solid targets for the second round!
Dallas Cowboys: A+
Round 1, Pick 12: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
After acquiring a third-round pick to move down with the Eagles, this pick was quite the steal. There is no denying that Parsons is one of the best talents in the class. The only reason he was here is due to his personality concerns. Dallas might have made the best pick in the draft, given the trade back. This defense needed help. With Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II off the board, this was definitely the best player available. What a steal.
New York Giants: A-
Round 1, Pick 20: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
This pick was acquired after a trade with the Chicago Bears. After acquiring an extra first-round pick for 2022 (along with other later-round selections), this selection has an amazing value. Toney is built differently: he moves in a way that not many can. Dionte Johnson and Brandon Aiyuk share this trait, so Toney is in good company. Look for him to have a major role with trick plays, even in the backfield.
Philadelphia Eagles: C+
Round 1, Pick 10: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Eagles acquired the tenth pick from the Cowboys, sending the 12th pick along with a third-round selection. Has everyone forgotten how many injuries riddle the receiving corps of the Eagles every single year? Smith has major durability concerns at his size, so this certainly does not help. There is no denying how talented the former Heisman winner is, but the best ability is availability. Losing a third-round selection on a rebuilding team hurts as well.
Washington Football Team: A-
Round 1, Pick 19: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Linebacker was certainly a major need for the Football Team. After testing out of the roof at his pro day, this selection seemed to be a favorite for the spot. Washington took advantage of the upside, and there are few as good as Ron Rivera at allowing linebackers to reach that potential.
Los Angeles Rams: N/A
The first pick was traded to the Jaguars in the acquisition of Jalen Ramsey.
Seattle Seahawks: N/A
The first-round pick was traded to the Jets in the acquisition of Jamal Adams.
Arizona Cardinals: A-
Round 1, Pick 16: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Although cornerback was by far the greater need, linebacker was certainly a target. Jordan Hicks will be an excellent mentor. Collins has excellent pass-rush and coverage skills at his weight (270 lbs). The potential is possibly the highest of any linebacker in this class. The Cardinals saw this and passed on their greatest need. It may be worth it if Collins flourishes.
San Francisco 49ers: B+
Round 1, Pick 3: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The 49ers needed a change in direction. When it came down to the wire, Lance was the best option. He is extremely raw, but Shanahan will use this to his advantage: Lance will be molded into whatever he wants. That is a major asset when Jimmy Garoppolo will be a great mentor. The sky’s the limit for San Francisco, but at what cost? Losing a substantial amount of their future draft capital certainly does not help.
Chicago Bears: A+
Round 1, Pick 11: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The Bears traded up with the Giants to select their future at the quarterback position. It cost an extra first-round pick and some later picks, so the price was expensive. Regardless, the Bears finally have a potential superstar on the roster. The Russell Wilson trade failure hurt the fan base, but this lights the fire of hope once again.
Green Bay Packers: B-
Round 1, Pick 29: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Cornerback was easily one of the top two biggest needs for the Packers. With Rashod Bateman off the board, it is understandable as to why the organization went this route. The issue is that Stokes looks like he fits best in Cover-2, which the Packers do not run. With prospects like Asante Samuel Jr. and Tyson Campbell still on the board, it is hard to understand why Green Bay chose this route.
Detroit Lions: A+
Round 1, Pick 7: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Left tackle is not a need, but right tackle surely is. Sewell is raw enough to develop into a right tackle and play for the next 15 years. Jared Goff performs best with a solid offensive line, and the Lions are giving him the best shot performing his best. The trade offers were not good enough to move out, apparently. Given Sewell’s potential, it is hard to blame Detroit for staying and protecting their signal-caller.
Minnesota Vikings: A+
Round 1, Pick 23: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
What a steal. After acquiring two third-round picks from New York, the Vikings still select a potential franchise left tackle. This was the best pick, value-wise, in the whole draft. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and the rest of the offense will be ecstatic. Minnesota finally has the chance to have a solid line, and they did it for pennies on the dollar.
Best targets for the second round: The Vikings traded their second-round pick to acquire Yannick Ngakoue from the Jaguars in 2020.
New Orleans Saints: F
Round 1, Pick 28: Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
Trey Hendrickson played a major role in this defense before leaving for Cincinnati in Free Agency. Turner fits that role, but he was far from the best on the board. There were at least three other edge rushers that fit and had more talent at that spot. With cornerback being an enormous need as well, it is hard to understand this pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
Round 1, Pick 32: Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Tampa Bay could not go wrong here. Tryon fits potentially many roles on this defensive front. That adds immense value to this pick. The Buccaneers now have a raw depth player with an extremely high ceiling. What does that mean? Tryon should start by next year and can keep the defense operational if someone were to go down. This was a great pick.
Carolina Panthers: B-
Round 1, Pick 8: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Cornerback may not be an immediate need, but it certainly will be by next year. The Panthers are getting a potential franchise cornerstone for their defense. The son of Joe Horn will be playing against his father’s team twice a year (hopefully) for the rest of his career. Carolina got a high-potential player, but the value was a bit rich for a non-day-one impact. One could wonder how Sam Darnold felt about this pick.
Atlanta Falcons: A++
Round 1, Pick 4: Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Florida
Pitts is a unicorn. The Falcons got an A+ for the pick and another plus for not trading down with anyone. Matt Ryan will have a bounceback year: just wait and see. Pitts may be used in the slot with Hurst at in-line tight end. Those two with Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones might make the best receiving core in the NFL.
New England Patriots: A+
Round 1, Pick 15: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Bill Belichick stayed put and let the board fall his way. After many believed the Patriots would try to move up to seven or four, they kept their picks and selected their starting quarterback in the mid-first. That is a steal. Jones might have been graded as a late first-round pick, but given the Patriot’s desperate need for a quarterback, it was worth it ten times over. The offense still fits a Tom Brady style, so it will be easy to revert to a less mobile option at quarterback.
New York Jets: B+
Round 1, Pick 2: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This was the pick written in stone for months now. Wilson is not a unicorn-like Pitts is, but he certainly has the potential to be one of the best in the class. With a great surrounding cast, the future looks bright for the BYU product. Wilson fits well into a Mike LaFleur offense.
Round 1, Pick 14: Alijah Vera Tucker, OG, USC
The right guard spot was vacant and was desperately needed to be filled. The selection was worth an A grade, but giving up two third-round picks in the move-up is hard to ignore. At least Wilson has another piece of the line filled. Now the center position needs to be addressed to complete the line.
Buffalo Bills: C
Round 1, Pick 30: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
This was a shocking pick. Rousseau has untapped talent, but the Bills need a day-one impact. This feels too similar to the A.J. Epenesa pick last year: someone who has potential but is extremely raw and not ready on day one. With at least two other options that fit the role better, let alone the desperate need for another cornerback, this pick is hard to grade anywhere near par.
Best targets for the second round: Ifeatu Melifonwu, Paulsen Adebo, and Levi Onwuzerike.
Miami Dolphins: B-
Round 1, Pick 6: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
With a generational tackle on the board, it is hard to digest going with a slot wide receiver. Waddle has unbelievable talent, but Tua Tagovailoa needs time to throw the ball. The offensive line needed to be a focus in this first round, but it was not. Maybe Brian Flores believes that the line will develop in year two.
Round 1, Pick 18: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Phillips only fell this far due to medical concerns. That being said, tackle or guard prospect Christian Darrisaw was on the board to fill any role that this offensive line needed. Shaq Lawson was replaced, but at what cost? The concussions are a major concern, so one would wonder how long Phillips will play. If his career is shorter than most, then does Flores believe the Dolphins are ready for a Super Bowl push?
Denver Broncos: B
Round 1, Pick 9: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Surtain will play a vital role in this secondary after this year. Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are both up for contracts, so the position is one of need. The issue is that Surtain may not have an enormous impact on day one. With a fully-loaded roster, that is hard to comprehend. Justin Fields was on the board, so in passing on him, the Broncos are showing confidence in Drew Lock. Time will tell whether that was a smart move.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City did not have a selection in the first round. The Baltimore Ravens acquired the 31st overall pick in a trade for Orlando Brown.
Las Vegas Raiders: F
Round 1, Pick 17: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Is anyone surprised that the Raiders took a reach? It is surprising, however, that Las Vegas took a player to play right tackle that never played that position. Kolton Miller is a solid left tackle and should not be moved. One would wonder if Leatherwood is a patch at right tackle until they draft another, and the Raiders’ real plan is to move him to guard. One could only wonder.
Los Angeles Chargers: A+
Round 1, Pick 13: Rashawn Slater, OT/OG, Northwestern
Left tackle was beyond a need: it was a priority. Slater fell right into the Chargers’ lap. That is a dream come true for Los Angeles: the left tackle spot was completely vacant. Not even Sam Tevi was there to play. Slater has extremely high upside as a left tackle, but it would be a disservice to not mention that he can fit any position on the offensive line. The versatility, talent, and athleticism are certainly exciting Justin Herbert, who desperately needed help on that offensive line.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A-
Round 1, Pick 24: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Everyone knew this was happening. The Steelers have shown their ineptitude to draft late-round running backs. Ben Roethlisberger showed why he could not be the focal point of this offense, so drastic changes were needed. Harris is the reincarnation of third-year Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh can address the line later, which tends to work out better when compared to drafting other positions later. A trade down would have been nice, but they stayed put and selected the future of the Steelers’ offense.
Cleveland Browns: A-
Round 1, Pick 26: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
The secondary was certainly a concern for Browns fans. With holes on the interior of the defensive line and potentially in the linebacking corps, it was surprising that this was the first pick. Newsome has amazing talent and smooth movement. With Ja’Marr Chase in the division, the Browns did need to ensure that the secondary was ready.
Baltimore Ravens: A+
Round 1, Pick 27: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman was such a steal at 27. He has the potential to be a true number one wide receiver. Lamar Jackson requires targets with a large catching radius, and he got one. Hopefully, the inability to put up respectable passing numbers leaves the Ravens’ offense once and for all. Jackson has no more excuses now.
Round 1, Pick 31: Jayson Oweh, LB/EDGE, Penn State
This was an excellent pick. Oweh has unbelievable potential, and he fits perfectly into Matthew Judon’s role. It is exciting to see how the Penn State product develops over these next few years, given his ungodly athleticism. The Ravens, per usual, are acing the draft.
Best targets for the second round: N/A: The Ravens traded their second-round pick to Kansas City in the Orlando Brown trade.
Cincinnati Bengals: A
Round 1, Pick 5: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Joe Burrow wanted a playmaker, and he got his favorite target from college. A.J. Green was replaced by Tee Higgins, but there still was a vacancy at the other boundary spot. Chase is an unbelievable prospect, but the offensive line is still a major concern. These next few rounds need to be offensive linemen. Luckily for the Bengals, many talented linemen will be there for their choosing at their second-round spot.
Indianapolis Colts: A+
Round 1, Pick 21: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Left tackle and edge rusher were both beyond needs. With Paye, the best overall edge talent, on the board, one could not fault the Colts for going that route. Given how linemen are slipping into round two, there is certainly the chance to still fill that left tackle void with a quality player. Chris Ballard has done it once again.
Houston Texans: N/A
The Houston Texans used their first-round pick to acquire Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins back in August 2019.
Best targets for the second round: N/A: The Houston Texans used their second-round pick to acquire Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins back in August 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B+
Round 1, Pick 1: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Let’s not talk much about this. Lawrence will lead this franchise well for (hopefully) two decades. Everyone knew this was coming.
Round 1, Pick 25: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
This pick was a head-scratcher. James Robinson had a terrific year last year, and the Jaguars brought in Carlos Hyde in the offseason. Etienne is not an Urban Mayer type of back, so one could assume that Trevor Lawrence made this pick. With major needs at tackle, tight end, and safety, this pick is hard to come around to.
Best targets for the second round: Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, Dillon Radunz, and Pat Freiermuth.
Tennessee Titans: B+
Round 1, Pick 22: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Cornerback was certainly a need. Farley has the best talent for this scheme out of any cornerback in this class. The issue is the medicals: two back surgeries and an ACL tear. One would hope that he can stay healthy, but the past does not project well for the future. For a team that is trying to remain playoff relevant, this pick was a bit perplexing. Farley may not even touch the field this year, so the Titans are down another first-round player for the near future.