Due to the thinness and overall lack of quality of this year’s draft, and a league-wide expectation that next year’s draft will be significantly stronger, I am awarding extra credit to teams that parted with 2021 capital in exchange for 2022 picks.
1 (27). Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman
1 (31). Penn State EDGE Odafe Oweh
3 (94). Georgia G/C Ben Cleveland
3 (104). SMU CB Brandon Stephens
4 (131). Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace
4 (160). Ohio State CB Shaun Wade
5 (171). Notre Dame EDGE Daelin Hayes
5 (184). Michigan TE Ben Mason
Thoughts: GM Eric DeCosta came out firing late in round one, crushing consecutive needs with versatile wideout Bateman and pass rusher Oweh, a freaky athlete who will replace Matt Judon. Cleveland can challenge for playing time at left guard and center immediately. Ex-running back Stephens is an athletic project with only two years of experience at corner. Wallace was somewhat of a surprise faller after a highly productive college career, presumably because he lacks one standout trait. The Ravens savvily acquired Arizona’s 2022 fourth-round pick as part of a fourth-round drop, at the end of which they drafted Wade, who won 2020’s Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year award but was too often exposed by top receiving competition. Hayes rang up six sacks and two forced fumbles in nine games for the Irish last season. Mason is a dirty-work tight end-fullback joining one of the NFL’s few teams that still utilizes that style of player. This was a solid, largely unsexy haul that addressed needs and didn’t sacrifice value.
1 (30). Miami (FL) EDGE Gregory Rousseau
2 (61). Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham
3 (93). Northern Iowa OT Spencer Brown
5 (161). Miami (OH) OT Tommy Doyle
6 (203). Houston WR Marquez Stevenson
6 (212). Pittsburgh S Damar Hamlin
6 (213). Wisconsin CB Rachad Wildgoose
7 (236). Texas Tech OG Jack Anderson
Thoughts: Close Bills observers should approve of GM Brandon Beane’s first- and second-round pass-rush double down after Sean McDermott’s defense struggled to generate heat throughout 2020. I did expect a greater prioritization of cornerback, but life will be easier for Buffalo’s secondary if Rousseau and Basham inject up-front juice. Already returning all five starters, the Bills suddenly boast one of the league’s deepest offensive lines after again doubling down, this time on towering tackles with their next two picks. Stevenson profiles to the slot at 5-foot-10, 180 with nifty quicks. He also returned three kicks for touchdowns at Houston. Hamlin and Wildgoose are ticketed for special teams. Anderson made 38 career starts – all at right guard – for the pass-heavy Red Raiders. I like that the Bills resisted outside pressure to overdraft a running back, instead emphasizing pass rush and the offensive line. Buffalo entered this draft with very few needs but still strengthened an already Super Bowl-contending roster.
1 (5). LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
2 (46). Clemson T/G Jackson Carman
3 (69). Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai
4 (111). Tulane EDGE Cameron Sample
4 (122). LSU DT Tyler Shelvin
4 (139). East Carolina OT D’Ante Smith
5 (149). Florida K Evan McPherson
6 (190). Georgia C Trey Hill
6 (202). Michigan RB Chris Evans
7 (235). Kansas State EDGE Wyatt Hubert
Thoughts: I personally believe Cincinnati’s never-ending offensive line woes plus Joe Burrow’s 2020 ACL tear should have dictated the organization opt for Penei Sewell at No. 5. But I can’t poke a single hole in Chase as a prospect, and his in-place rapport with Burrow is more than a cherry on top. I did view Carman as a second-round reach; he is a short-armed tackle who probably fits best at guard and is coming off back surgery, always a huge red flag for offensive linemen. Third-round value pick Ossai checks boxes for athleticism and production at a position of need. Sample is a solid if unspectacular prospect at the same position. Shelvin is a 350-pound two-gap nose. Smith may be a project but offers starting-caliber tools with long arms and impressive movement skills. Cincinnati made McPherson 2021’s first kicker drafted. I like a lot of individual players here but still wish the Bengals would have done more to improve their offensive line. I’m skeptical Carman will emerge as a year-one starter.
1 (26). Northwestern CB Greg Newsome
2 (52). Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
3 (91). Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz
4 (110). Cincinnati T/G James Hudson
4 (132). Ohio State DT Tommy Togiai
5 (153). West Virginia LB Tony Fields II
5 (169). Georgia S Richard LeCounte
6 (211). UCLA WR Demetric Felton
Thoughts: A player I thought deserved to go as early as No. 16 to the Cardinals, Newsome incredibly fortunately fell into the Browns’ corner-needy lap ten picks later. Cleveland pulled off another steal by trading up for Butkus Award winner and near-consensus first-round talent Owusu-Koramoah, climbing seven spots in round two in exchange for dropping just 24 draft slots (89 to 113) later on. GM Andrew Berry easily got the better value end of that deal with Carolina. Schwartz runs 4.27 but brings little else to the table. Hudson is a short-armed tackle-guard tweener with developmental upside. Togiai is an interior power player with more athleticism than his college sack production suggests. Fields profiles as a poor man’s JOK, LeCounte was a ballhawk who created 14 career takeaways in the SEC, and Felton was a top-125 player on Daniel Jeremiah’s board whom the Browns grabbed at pick No. 211. I included trade acquisitions of stud RG Wyatt Teller and starting-level SS Ronnie Harrison in Cleveland’s draft grade.
1 (9). Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
2 (35). North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
3 (98). Wisconsin-Whitewater G/C Quinn Meinerz
3 (105). Ohio State LB Baron Browning
5 (152). Texas S Caden Sterns
5 (164). Indiana S Jamar Johnson
6 (219). Auburn WR Seth Williams
7 (237). LSU CB Kary Vincent Jr.
7 (239). Ohio State EDGE Jonathon Cooper
7 (253). Mississippi State EDGE Marquiss Spencer
Thoughts: I’m very conflicted about this draft because I’m a huge fan of several players here but really disappointed the Broncos passed on Justin Fields at No. 9. And I’m never impressed when a team trades up for an early-round running back, especially when it isn’t remotely a need. I wonder if the Broncos convinced themselves they could pull off a trade for Aaron Rodgers and let that expectation impact their draft-day decisions. Individually, Surtain profiles as an early-career No. 1 corner. Williams is better than Melvin Gordon. I’m genuinely excited to monitor D-III phenom Meinerz’s development under Mike Munchak. Browning, Johnson, Williams, and Cooper all stand out as value picks. The Broncos’ roster undoubtedly got better here but continues to spin its wheels at the most important position in the sport. Neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Drew Lock is the answer at quarterback. Fields could have been.
3 (67). Stanford QB Davis Mills
3 (89). Michigan WR Nico Collins
5 (147). Miami (FL) TE Brevin Jordan
5 (170). TCU LB/S Garret Wallow
6 (195). Arizona DT Roy Lopez
Thoughts: LT Laremy Tunsil cost Houston its first- and second-round picks. Even as third-rounder Mills was my sixth-rated quarterback and plays a need position due to the increasing likelihood Deshaun Watson is done in Houston, my sense is Mills will prove a wasted pick. Should he find the field anytime soon, Mills will be highly likely to fail due to abysmal surrounding talent. As a severely roster-deficient team in need of more current and future picks, it was confusing to see the Texans trade up for Collins, sacrificing a 2021 fifth-rounder and 2022 fourth-round selection to climb from No. 109 to 89. Regardless of whether Collins pans out, the Panthers clearly won the value end of that trade. Jordan was my favorite pick in this haul as a catch-first tight end capable of eventually upgrading on Jordan Akins. Wallow is an undersized safety-linebacker hybrid likely to max out on special teams. Lopez is a reserve-caliber nose tackle prospect. Besides Tunsil – who came at extreme cost in terms of picks and finances – there’s a good chance the Texans see very little short- and long-term return on their 2021 draft class.
1 (21). Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye
2 (54). Vanderbilt DT Dayo Odeyingbo
4 (127). SMU TE Kylen Granson
5 (165). Florida S Shawn Davis
6 (218). Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
7 (229). Charleston WR Mike Strachan
7 (248). Penn State OG Will Fries
Thoughts: The Colts’ Carson Wentz acquisition factors somewhat into this year’s draft grade, although it should weigh more on 2022, when Indianapolis will most likely send its first-round pick to Philadelphia. Even as an ardent Chris Ballard supporter, I think this was the least impressive draft haul of his tenure. Paye is a squatty inside-outside tweener who managed 11.5 career sacks and one forced fumble in four years at Michigan. Odeyingbo will likely redshirt 2021 after tearing his Achilles’ in late January. Granson is a receiving-only tight end/H-back who Ballard notably chose directly ahead of WR Jaelon Darden and CB Robert Rochell, both superior prospects at needier positions. The Colts did nothing to solve their gaping left tackle hole, and beyond Paye are likely to see minimal first-year impact from this class.
1 (1). Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
1 (25). Clemson RB Travis Etienne
2 (33). Georgia CB Tyson Campbell
2 (45). Stanford OT Walker Little
3 (65). Syracuse S Andre Cisco
4 (106). USC DT Jay Tufele
4 (121). UAB EDGE Jordan Smith
5 (145). Ohio State TE Luke Farrell
6 (209). Georgia Tech WR Jalen Camp
Thoughts: Jacksonville followed up 2021’s most obvious pick with a dynamic multi-purpose back in Etienne, who caught over 100 passes at Clemson and has drawn loose Alvin Kamara comparisons but plays a devalued position that wasn’t a need after James Robinson’s breakout rookie season. Campbell is a gritty, high-speed cover man from the SEC, but his selection also failed to address a need with C.J. Henderson and Shaquill Griffin in place at outside corner. The Jags franchise tagged LT Cam Robinson after drafting RT Jawaan Taylor early in 2020’s second round, making Friday’s selection of pure OT Little confusing. I understand the concept of drafting best players available over reaching to fill needs, but it was almost as if Jacksonville’s new regime approached this draft with zero regard for inherited talent. Further, first-year GM Trent Baalke fell back on his wildly unsuccessful approach from San Francisco of drafting injured players; Cisco tore his ACL last September, and Little tore his ACL in 2019 before opting out of 2020. Long-term outcomes from this draft will end up looking fine because Lawrence will cover so many holes and elevate teammates, but I don’t think Jacksonville came close to maximizing their capital.
Kansas City Chiefs
2 (58). Missouri LB Nick Bolton
2 (63). Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
4 (144). Florida State EDGE Joshua Kaindoh
5 (162). Duke TE Noah Gray
5 (181). Clemson WR Cornell Powell
6 (226). Tennessee OG Trey Smith
Thoughts: LT Orlando Brown is a critical part of this class and factors heavily into Kansas City’s grade. The Chiefs hammered offensive line from Brown to first-tier C Humphrey on down to medical faller Smith. Bolton is the true three-down linebacker Kansas City has long lacked. Kaindoh is a project pass rusher who crushed his Pro Day but lacked noteworthy college production. With 4.55 speed, a 35-inch vertical, and insane 6.83 three-cone time at 6-foot-3, 240, Gray was a valid bet-on-athleticism day-three flyer. I envision Powell as a special teamer. This was a nuts-and-bolts haul for a team that needed it.
Los Angeles Chargers
1 (13). Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
2 (47). Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr.
3 (77). Tennessee WR Josh Palmer
3 (97). Georgia TE Tre’ McKitty
4 (118). Duke EDGE Chris Rumph
5 (159). Nebraska OT Brenden Jaimes
6 (185). Iowa LB Nick Niemann
6 (198). Missouri RB Larry Rountree
7 (241). Georgia S Mark Webb
Thoughts: As usual, Bolts GM Tom Telesco stood pat, shunned trade inquiries, and executed each of his allotted picks. The approach played out beautifully; Telesco stole Slater at a position of colossal need, replaced Casey Hayward with first-round-caliber ballhawk Samuel, and landed contract-year WR Mike Williams’ potential successor Palmer in round three. McKitty is a plus athlete who can block and catch. Rumph banked 25 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over his final two college seasons. I want to emphasize how quick and thorough Telesco’s offensive line rebuild has been. He added C Corey Linsley and LG Matt Feiler in free agency, returns 2020 signing RT Bryan Bulaga, and stole LT Slater on Thursday night.
Las Vegas Raiders
1 (17). Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood
2 (43). TCU S Trevon Moehrig
3 (79). Buffalo EDGE Malcolm Koonce
3 (80). Virginia Tech LB/S Divine Deablo
4 (143). Missouri S Tyree Gillespie
5 (167). Illinois CB Nate Hobbs
7 (230). Pittsburgh C Jimmy Morrissey
Thoughts: After making Leatherwood 2021’s biggest round-one reach – a recurring Raiders theme considering they similarly extended themselves for Kolton Miller (No. 15), Clelin Ferrell (No. 4), Henry Ruggs (No. 12), and Damon Arnette (No. 19) in Jon Gruden’s previous three drafts – Las Vegas traded up for Moehrig, who is recovering from a back injury. The five-slot climb from No. 48 to No. 43 cost the Raiders pick No. 121. Koonce is a smallish if productive small-school edge rusher. Deablo and Gillespie project as role players rather than potential starters. The Raiders essentially wound up drafting safeties with three of their first five picks, loudly acknowledging their 2018 first-round miss on Johnathan Abram. This was yet another underwhelming haul from a consistent cellar-dwelling franchise.
1 (6). Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
1 (18). Miami (FL) EDGE Jaelan Phillips
2 (36). Oregon S Jevon Holland
2 (42). Notre Dame T/G Liam Eichenberg
3 (81). Boston College TE Hunter Long
7 (231). UMass OT Larnel Coleman
7 (244). Cincinnati RB Gerrid Doaks
Thoughts: The Dolphins’ emphasis on passing offense and pass defense should be applauded after they landed field-flipping WR Waddle, tier-one pass rusher Phillips, versatile S Holland, and Week 1 offensive line starter Eichenberg with their first four picks. Miami did sacrifice a 2022 third-rounder in its climb from Friday’s No. 50 overall selection to No. 42. Long profiles as a useful if low-ceiling No. 2-type tight end. Coleman is a justifiable project at offensive tackle. In a top-heavy draft, we should appreciate that the forward-thinking Fins went hard early and all but opted out late. Quietly coming off just its second double-digit-win season since 2008, the Dolphins franchise’s quick ascension continues to look for real.
New England Patriots
1 (15). Alabama QB Mac Jones
2 (38). Alabama DT Christian Barmore
3 (96). Oklahoma EDGE Ronnie Perkins
4 (120). Oklahoma RB Rhamondre Stevenson
5 (177). Michigan LB Cameron McGrone
6 (188). Missouri S Josh Bledsoe
6 (197). Colorado OT Will Sherman
7 (242). Central Florida WR Tre Nixon
Thoughts: Heavily rumored to be high on Jones before the draft, the Patriots were undoubtedly thrilled when he fell into their laps at No. 15. Bill Belichick doubled down on Nick Saban pupils by trading up from No. 46 to 38 for consensus top defensive tackle prospect Barmore, sending two fourth-round picks to Cincinnati to execute the eight-spot climb. A highly productive and high-effort outside pass rusher, Perkins was a value pick late in round three. Stevenson can pass block, catch the football, break tackles, and contribute on special teams. He drew some pre-draft comparisons to old Packers power back Eddie Lacy. Potentially landing their franchise quarterback and four probable year-one contributors even after losing their third-rounder for illegal sidelines filming merits New England a rock-solid draft grade.
New York Jets
1 (2). Brigham Young QB Zach Wilson
1 (14). USC G/T Alijah Vera-Tucker
2 (34). Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore
4 (107). North Carolina RB Michael Carter
5 (146). Auburn S Jamien Sherwood
5 (154). Duke CB Michael Carter II
5 (175). Pittsburgh CB Jason Pinnock
6 (186). Florida State S Hamsah Nasirildeen
6 (200). Kentucky CB Brandin Echols
6 (207). Arkansas DT Jonathan Marshall
Thoughts: After locking in his franchise quarterback, GM Joe Douglas peeled off three straight picks on offense designed to help Wilson succeed. In a deal with Minnesota, Gang Green surrendered pick Nos. 66 and 86 to jump from 23 to 14 for Vera-Tucker, who Douglas says he assigned a top-ten grade. The plan is for Vera-Tucker and LT Mekhi Becton to anchor Wilson’s blindside for the next decade. Doug Baldwin clone Moore will make injury-riddled slot WR Jamison Crowder expendable; the Jets could save over $10 million by cutting Crowder after the draft. Carter lands on the Devonta Freeman–Giovani Bernard spectrum as a multi-purpose back with darting quickness. He’ll have a real chance to start in New York as a rookie. Gang Green threw a bunch of darts at low-probability defensive backs to close out day three. I’ve been a proponent of Douglas’ approach since he took over as GM and believe he stayed on track here. After entering on the backend of the Jets’ organizational failure of Sam Darnold, Douglas clearly understands the importance of surrounding a young quarterback with as much talent as possible.
1 (24). Alabama RB Najee Harris
2 (55). Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth
3 (87). Illinois G/C Kendrick Green
4 (128). Texas A&M OT Dan Moore
4 (140). Texas A&M LB Buddy Johnson
5 (156). Wisconsin EDGE Isaiahh Loudermilk
6 (216). Miami (FL) EDGE Quincy Roche
7 (245). Oklahoma CB Tre Norwood
7 (254). Georgia Tech P Pressley Harvin
Thoughts: I’m a fan of Harris as a prospect and realize he’s a significant upgrade over Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland, but the track record of first-round running backs is abysmal, and the position simply doesn’t move the win-loss needle. I strongly would have preferred O-Line help in the form of Landon Dickerson, Teven Jenkins, or Liam Eichenberg to bolster a broken Steelers front five. The Steelers then took Freiermuth over solid OL prospects Creed Humphrey, Josh Myers, and Jalen Mayfield in round two. Beat writers say the team envisions Green as Maurkice Pouncey’s replacement. Green started 33 games in college – only four at center – and some scouts pegged him as a workout wonder. Day-three picks in a draft this thin generally amount to blindfolded darts. Ultimately, my criticism of the Steelers’ 2021 haul can be reduced to a fundamental disagreement about the No. 1 flaw on the roster. GM Kevin Colbert must have a much higher opinion of the Steelers’ internal offensive line talent than I.
1 (22). Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley
2 (53). North Dakota State OT Dillon Radunz
3 (92). Georgia LB Monty Rice
3 (100). Washington DB Elijah Molden
4 (109). Louisville WR Dez Fitzpatrick
4 (135). Pittsburgh EDGE Rashad Weaver
6 (215). Oregon S Brady Breeze
Thoughts: Two years after bravely and successfully betting on pre-draft ACL victim Jeffery Simmons in the first round, GM Jon Robinson again shunned risk to halt top-ten talent Farley’s fall, caused mainly by two career back surgeries. Farley does sound likely to be ready well before Week 1, and, if so, his selection by Tennessee will represent a maximization of value and need at a premium position. A makeup pick for 2020’s Isaiah Wilson blunder, Radunz was considered a first-round talent in some circles as a long-armed plus athlete who dominated in Senior Bowl practices. The Titans acquired a fourth-round pick from Green Bay to drop from No. 85 to 92, swiping speedy inside thumper Rice there. Molden drew pre-draft comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker as an ubiquitous safety-slot hybrid. My favorite Titans day-three pick was Weaver, whose production-athleticism combo suggests he should have gone about 50 slots higher. I think the Titans did well to address needs and accumulate value, although Robinson needs to stay on the prowl for pass-catching help in post-draft free agency. My personal evaluation of Fitzpatrick was unremarkable. He does have near-term opportunity on his side.