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.
For my AFC Draft Grades, click here.
1 (16). Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
2 (49). Purdue WR Rondale Moore
4 (136). Florida CB Marco Wilson
6 (210). Duke EDGE Victor Dimukeje
6 (223). Central Florida CB Tay Gowan
7 (243). Cincinnati S James Wiggins
7 (247). Penn State C Michal Menet
Thoughts: GM Steve Keim’s insistence on drafting middle linebacker Collins over superior prospects CB Greg Newsome and CB Caleb Farley at a greater need position adversely impacts Arizona’s grade. They get pluses for acquiring stud C Rodney Hudson and stealing playmaker Moore in round two. I wasn’t a fan of the Cardinals’ trade up for Wilson, which cost them a 2022 fourth-round pick to climb 24 spots. A toolsy underachiever like his brother Quincy, Wilson plateaued after a promising freshman year. This year’s sixth- and seventh-round picks largely equate to UDFAs. Still embarrassingly set to start Robert Alford and Malcolm Butler at outside corner, I don’t believe the Cardinals improved as much as they could have with 2021’s capital, and along the way they surrendered a valuable piece of next year’s draft.
1 (4). Florida TE Kyle Pitts
2 (40). Central Florida S Richie Grant
3 (68). Michigan T/G Jalen Mayfield
4 (108). San Diego State CB Darren Hall
4 (114). Stanford C Drew Dalman
5 (148). Texas DT Ta’Quon Graham
5 (182). Notre Dame EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji
5 (183). Boise State CB Avery Williams
6 (187). Arizona State WR Frank Darby
Thoughts: My personal preference was for Atlanta to begin the Terry Fontenot–Arthur Smith era by spending its top-five pick on Justin Fields – and all but ensuring the Falcons won’t draft in the top five again for the next five-plus years – but I can poke zero holes in MFin Mackey Award winner Pitts, this year’s true unicorn player. The Falcons added pick No. 114 by trading down from No. 35 to 40 in a deal with Denver, emerging with backend ballhawk Grant and prototypical zone-blocking C Dalman. In between, they stopped Mayfield’s somewhat surprising slip and stole underrated cover corner Hall. Atlanta also resisted outside pressure that they should spend early-round capital at running back. The Falcons improved considerably on draft weekend and are going to score a lot of points this season.
1 (8). South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
2 (59). LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
3 (70). Brigham Young OT Brady Christensen
3 (83). Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble
4 (126). Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard
5 (158). Iowa DT Daviyon Nixon
5 (166). Washington CB Keith Taylor
6 (193). Alabama OG Deonte Brown
6 (204). South Carolina WR Shi Smith
6 (222). Alabama LS Thomas Fletcher
7 (232). Kentucky DT Phil Hoskins
Thoughts: The theme of Carolina’s draft was a flurry of trades down, notably a dip from No. 39 to 52 that netted the Panthers No. 83, followed by a day-two robbery of Houston that sent Carolina a 2021 fifth-rounder and 2022 fourth-round pick in exchange for dropping from No. 89 to 109. That Texans fourth-rounder could very easily become 2022’s first overall pick of day three. First-year GM Scott Fitterer later parlayed No. 109 into pick Nos. 126, 166, and 232 in a trade with Tennessee. Even with Sam Darnold aboard, I believe the Panthers should have taken Justin Fields at No. 8. Marshall proved a value pick at a needy position after falling due to shaky medicals. Christensen turns 25 in September but is an athletic, battle-tested pass blocker who addressed another area of need. Tremble adds toughness to Carolina’s offense and is a better receiver than his college production shows. Even as day-three prospects, Brown and Smith are capable of making early-career impacts. I think the Panthers were mistaken to pass on Fields, but they improved measurably here and added valuable 2022 capital.
1 (11). Ohio State QB Justin Fields
2 (39). Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
5 (151). Missouri OG Larry Borom
6 (217). Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert
6 (221). North Carolina WR Dazz Newsome
6 (228). Oregon CB Thomas Graham Jr.
7 (250). Brigham Young DT Khyiris Tonga
Thoughts: To climb from No. 20 to 11, Thursday night’s trade up for Fields cost Chicago this year’s fifth-round pick plus next year’s first and fourth. GM Ryan Pace later sacrificed 2021’s No. 83 selection to climb from 52 to 39 for Jenkins. It shouldn’t be ignored that Fields heads to Chicago with a history of excelling in adverse-weather games. I found the Bears’ compensation surrendered to secure potential long-term solutions at quarterback and left tackle more than justified and am a fan of day-three stabs Borom, Newsome, and Graham. In a do-or-die spot with his job on the line, Pace stayed true to his aggressive nature and positioned the Bears for a short- and long-term turnaround at a reasonable price.
1 (12). Penn State LB Micah Parsons
2 (44). Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph
3 (75). UCLA DT Osa Odighizuwa
3 (84). Iowa DE Chauncey Golston
3 (99). Oregon State CB Nahshon Wright
4 (115). LSU LB Jabril Cox
4 (138). Marshall OT Josh Ball
5 (179). Stanford WR Simi Fehoko
6 (192). Kentucky DT Quinton Bohanna
6 (227). South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu
7 (238). Nebraska OG Matt Farniok
Thoughts: Determined to upgrade a decrepit defense, the Cowboys used each of their initial six picks on new DC Dan Quinn’s side of the ball. Dallas picked up No. 84 from the Eagles by dipping from No. 10 to 12, yet still emerged with arguably 2021’s top defender in Parsons. Joseph was a fringe first-round talent with 4.34 jets at 6-foot, 197 after excelling in the SEC. Odighizuwa, Golston, and Cox supplement a front seven desperate for youthful talent. Most league observers identified Wright as a third-round reach. Nevertheless, Dallas entered this year’s draft with a clear-cut plan. I think they took care of business.
1 (7). Oregon OT Penei Sewell
2 (41). Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike
3 (72). North Carolina State DT Alim McNeill
3 (101). Syracuse CB Ifeatu Melifonwu
4 (112). USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
4 (113). Purdue LB Derrick Barnes
7 (257). Oregon State RB Jermar Jefferson
Thoughts: The Lions have received resounding praise for their 2021 draft, and stealing Sewell at No. 7 gives that sentiment legitimacy by fortifying an offensive line that represents the foundation of Detroit’s rebuild. Yet the Lions’ consecutive day-two interior defensive line picks underwhelm, and moving up for off-ball LB Barnes cost Detroit a 2022 fourth-round pick. Melifonwu is a better athlete than football player. St. Brown is restricted to the slot. The Lions passed on an opportunity to draft Justin Fields at No. 7, parted with 2022 capital, and remain likely to finish near the NFL basement in 2021 point differential.
Green Bay Packers
1 (29). Georgia CB Eric Stokes
2 (62). Ohio State C Josh Myers
3 (85). Clemson WR Amari Rodgers
4 (142). Ole Miss OG Royce Newman
5 (173). Florida DT Tedarrell Slaton
5 (178). Appalachian State CB Shemar Jean-Charles
6 (214). Wisconsin OG Cole Van Lanen
6 (220). Boston College LB Isaiah McDuffie
7 (256). Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill
Thoughts: The Packers’ publicized front-office fallout with Aaron Rodgers cast a dark shadow over this draft, even as GM Brian Gutekunst made satisfactory use of Green Bay’s capital. Both Stokes and Myers project as immediate starters at the Packers’ two neediest positions. Rodgers is a Randall Cobb clone in the slot. Day three upgraded Green Bay’s depth in the trenches and on special teams. For now, the Packers deserve credit for not succumbing to Rodgers’ trade demand and playing the long game in which they can still convince Rodgers his best-scenario outcome is staying in Green Bay. Under no circumstance should Packers decision makers feel comfortable handing this team over to Jordan Love.
Los Angeles Rams
2 (57). Louisville WR Tutu Atwell
3 (103). South Carolina LB Ernest Jones
4 (117). Texas A&M DT Bobby Brown
4 (130). Central Arkansas CB Robert Rochell
4 (141). Central Florida TE/WR Jacob Harris
5 (174). Northwestern EDGE Earnest Brown
7 (233). Maryland RB Jake Funk
7 (249). Notre Dame WR Ben Skowronek
7 (252). Concordia (MN) EDGE Chris Garrett
Thoughts: Shutdown CB Jalen Ramsey and starting RG Austin Corbett warrant inclusion in 2021’s class. Atwell is an atrocious bet to become a useful NFL player at 155 pounds. Smallish and poor in coverage, Jones profiles as a reserve off-ball linebacker/special teamer. Brown looks like a young Michael Brockers as a mammoth interior presence with pocket-pushing capability. Rochell blends NFL-caliber size and athleticism with a ballhawking resume. Otherwise, I doubt the Rams will get much from their day-three picks. This was a pedestrian haul whose grade is propped up by aforementioned veteran acquisitions.
1 (23). Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
3 (66). Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond
3 (78). North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt
3 (86). Ohio State OG Wyatt Davis
3 (90). Pittsburgh EDGE Patrick Jones
4 (119). Iowa State RB Kene Nwangwu
4 (125). California CB Camryn Bynum
4 (134). Florida State EDGE Janarius Robinson
5 (157). Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
5 (168). Central Missouri TE Zach Davidson
6 (199). Pittsburgh DT Jaylen Twyman
Thoughts: For all points of contention Vikings fans may have with GM Rick Spielman, his handling of the draft shouldn’t be viewed through a negative lens. That notion was reinforced on Thursday night, when Spielman acquired the Jets’ Nos. 66 and 86 picks to drop from No. 14 to 23, yet still solved Minnesota’s left tackle problem by stealing Darrisaw at 23. Mond and Surratt were throwaway day-two picks, although Davis and Jones addressed immediate needs, and Robinson was well worthy of a third-day stab. On top of his tight end ability, Davidson averaged over 42 yards per punt in his college career.
New Orleans Saints
1 (28). Houston EDGE Payton Turner
2 (60). Ohio State LB Pete Werner
3 (76). Stanford CB Paulson Adebo
4 (133). Notre Dame QB Ian Book
6 (206). Kentucky OT Landon Young
7 (255). South Alabama WR Kawaan Baker
Thoughts: The Saints have drafted incredibly well over the past six years and deserve credit for their near-impeccable resume, but I think they blew it in 2021. Their two biggest needs – wide receiver and cornerback – were insufficiently addressed, and each of New Orleans’ initial four picks were value-based reaches. To climb from No. 98 to 76 for Adebo, the Saints desperately sacrificed No. 105 in a deal won by Denver. Turner managed 9.5 career sacks and one forced fumble over four seasons in the American Athletic Conference. Werner is a quality prospect at a low-impact position. Book is a better bet to become a coach somewhere over the next four years than finish his rookie contract with the Saints.
New York Giants
1 (20). Florida WR Kadarius Toney
2 (50). Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
3 (71). Central Florida CB Aaron Robinson
4 (116). Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith
6 (196). Arizona RB Gary Brightwell
6 (201). Oklahoma State CB Rodarius Williams
Thoughts: This was a tough haul to grade because I vehemently applaud GM Dave Gettleman’s strategy – in multiple trades down, he savvily accumulated additional 2022 first-, third-, and fourth-round picks – yet I was underwhelmed by Gettleman’s first-round player selection. Toney looks like a gadget guy whose productivity will be dictated by creativity from infamously uncreative OC Jason Garrett. And the Giants selected Toney with stud OT Christian Darrisaw on the board. I struggle to envision Toney paying year-one dividends behind Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Darius Slayton in the Giants’ pecking order for touches. Concerns over the stability of Ojulari’s knee caused his fall to No. 50, where he was well worth the risk. Robinson was a great pick and profiles as a possible early-career solution at slot corner. In many ways I appreciate what the Giants accomplished here, but the Toney pick and their de-prioritization of offensive line help damage this year’s grade.
1 (10). Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
2 (37). Alabama G/C Landon Dickerson
3 (73). Louisiana Tech DT Milton Williams
4 (123). Texas Tech CB Zech McPhearson
5 (150). Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell
6 (189). USC DT Marlon Tuipulotu
6 (191). Coastal Carolina DE Tarron Jackson
6 (224). LSU S JaCoby Stevens
7 (234). Tulane EDGE Patrick Johnson
Thoughts: Climbing from No. 12 to 10 cost the Eagles this year’s 84th overall pick, but I found it justified with the division-rival Giants heavily rumored to be interested in 2020’s Heisman and Biletnikoff Award winner at No. 11. After being leapfrogged by Philly, New York indeed traded out of the 11th overall pick. Albeit beleaguered by college injuries, Dickerson is a stud interior prospect who dominated in the SEC and appears ticketed for day-one starting duties next to C Jason Kelce after the Eagles announced Dickerson as a guard. Williams is an insane athlete on the Malik Jackson interior pass-rush spectrum. McPhearson blew the doors off his Pro Day after creating six takeaways in ten games last year in the Big 12. Gainwell is a dynamic playmaker capable of pushing Boston Scott for snaps. For better or worse, this draft reinforced the Eagles’ commitment to Jalen Hurts as their 2021 starting quarterback.
San Francisco 49ers
1 (3). North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
2 (48). Notre Dame OG Aaron Banks
3 (88). Ohio State RB Trey Sermon
3 (102). Michigan CB Ambry Thomas
5 (155). Western Michigan OT Jaylon Moore
5 (172). Oregon CB Deommodore Lenoir
5 (180). USC S Talanoa Hufanga
6 (194). Louisiana-Lafayette RB Eli Mitchell
Thoughts: The 49ers approached this draft ultra aggressively, first surrendering what amounted to three first-round picks and a third-rounder to select Lance third overall, then sending a fourth-rounder to the Rams to move up for Sermon on day two. They did steal LT Trent Williams for a 2020 fifth-round pick and 2021 third-rounder, and Williams’ acquisition improves the Niners’ grade. Considering the immense capital the 49ers sacrificed, it only made sense to target a high-upside quarterback talent like plus-sized dual-threat Lance over safe-floor, low-ceiling distributor Mac Jones. Dancing bear Banks should start at right guard immediately. I’m almost never a proponent of trading up for running backs, but Sermon is a legitimate sleeper for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Thomas best profiles to slot corner, failing to solve San Francisco’s perimeter coverage concerns. I’m viewing this as a high-volatility, boom-bust haul whose fate will be almost entirely determined by Lance’s career outcome.
2 (56). Western Michigan WR D’Wayne Eskridge
4 (137). Oklahoma CB Tre Brown
6 (208). Florida OT Stone Forsythe
Thoughts: Seattle’s 2021 draft capital was decimated by trade acquisitions of SS Jamal Adams, EDGE Carlos Dunlap, and OG Gabe Jackson – all of whom count for this team’s grade. I’m not a fan of second-round pick Eskridge, who is already 24 years old, shuttled between positions at Western Michigan, and failed to dominate much younger defensive competition in the MAC. I valued Eskridge more along the lines of a day-three gunner/return man. Brown is another undersized prospect who best projects to special teams. I liked Seattle’s day-three flyer on Forsythe, who flashed NFL-ready pass-pro ability in the SEC. Ultimately, this haul was dedicated to proven and in-place starters Adams, Dunlap, and Jackson.
Tampa Bay Bucs
1 (32). Washington EDGE Joe Tryon
2 (64). Florida QB Kyle Trask
3 (95). Notre Dame G/T Robert Hainsey
4 (129). North Texas WR Jaelon Darden
5 (176). Auburn LB K.J. Britt
7 (251). Brigham Young CB Chris Wilcox
7 (259). Houston LB Grant Stuard
Thoughts: After retaining 22-of-22 starters from last year’s Lombardi-hoisting team, GM Jason Licht kicked off Tampa Bay’s draft with high-end athlete and high-effort pass rusher Tryon to establish quality depth behind 32-year-old Jason Pierre-Paul. Trask is a big-armed, stylistic fit for Bruce Arians’ downfield passing offense. Hainsey made 34 career starts on a perennially elite Notre Dame offensive line – all at right tackle – then reportedly shined in Senior Bowl practices when tried at guard and center. Darden is a diminutive if nifty playmaker with vertical-receiver and return-man skills. I think the largely need-less Bucs executed a slew of solid picks designed to make their roster younger at high-value positions.
Washington Football Team
1 (19). Kentucky LB Jamin Davis
2 (51). Texas OT Sam Cosmi
3 (74). Minnesota DB Benjamin St-Juste
3 (82). North Carolina WR Dyami Brown
4 (124). Boise State TE John Bates
5 (163). Cincinnati S Darrick Forrest
6 (225). Michigan LS Camaron Cheeseman
7 (240). Baylor DE Will Bradley-King
7 (246). Penn State EDGE Shaka Toney
7 (258). Brigham Young WR Dax Milne
Thoughts: I entered this draft hoping Washington would hammer the shaky left side of its offensive line. Cosmi is a candidate to start there as a rookie, but I would’ve preferred a first- and second-round double down up front. Instead, The Football Team selected off-ball linebacker Davis over potential long-term left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Brandon Browner clone St-Juste didn’t intercept a single pass in college and ran 4.58 before the draft. Brown was my favorite pick in this haul as a dangerous vertical threat who topped 20 yards per reception over his final two seasons at UNC. I continue to like the direction of this franchise under Ron Rivera but believe they could have made better use of their 2021 draft capital.