A Review of This Year’s NFL Draft: The Winners, the Losers, and Everything in Between

The draft brought lots of excitement to fans, players, and coaches alike, along with new talents who will impact the league for years to come.

FirstEnergy+Stadium+in+Cleveland+is+home+of+the+2021+NFL+Draft.

Erik Drost / Wikimedia Commons

FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland is home of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“With the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson.”

Beginning with those words, this year’s NFL Draft began. In the annual affair that excites football fans and players alike – all of our expectations were shattered. 

Trevor Lawrence is widely regarded as one of the best players ever to be drafted, with ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranking him as the fourth best quarterback (QB) he has ever rated, behind John Elway, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning. I would agree with that take. Lawrence has incredible ability, from his mobility and poise, to having excellent command of the football with his throws. The Jaguars have a star in the making. This was a no-brainer pick.

The New York Jets picked second, selecting QB Zach Wilson from BYU. Many expected this pick as well, as reports suggested the Jets were infatuated with Wilson’s talent and ability. The team even traded Sam Darnold, the QB who they drafted in 2018, to the Carolina Panthers. Wilson clearly has potential—he is 6’2, 215 pounds, and is quite mobile. However, I believe Wilson’s greatest asset is his arm, as he has great throwing power unlike any QB in this draft, along with his extremely quick release. The Jets have put their hopes in Wilson, and as a lifelong Jets fan, I hope this pick is as great as general manager Joe Douglas believes it to be.

The third pick was where the fun started. The San Francisco 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins, as they sought to take a QB to replace injury-prone starter Jimmy Garoppolo. After trading up, it was widely expected the 49ers would take Alabama’s Mac Jones, but they went another direction, instead taking Trey Lance from North Dakota State. Lance, in my opinion, has the highest upside of any QB in this draft – but he is also a project who needs to develop after only starting 17 games in college. While Lance is a risky selection due to his boom-or-bust potential, he is a versatile athlete who can enhance head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, even though it normally relies on QB’s who dominate as pocket passers.

Two other QBs headlined this year’s class: Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones. The Chicago Bears traded up to the #11 pick to select Fields, while the New England Patriots took Jones at #15 after he fell down the board. Although the Bears gave up a lot of draft stock to trade up for Fields, it was, arguably, absolutely worth it. The Bears needed a QB, and now have a guy with star-potential. As usual with the Patriots, they lucked out – not even needing to trade up. Jones has been compared to Tom Brady, and while his play style is similar, I would not count on him playing at that level.

Good Selections:

After looking through the draft board, it is clear that some teams definitely scored high with some of their selections.

One notable pick was the Cowboys selecting linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th pick. The Cowboys traded back with their rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, and still got who I would argue is the best defensive player in this class. Parsons is a ballhawk, and he can play both inside and outside in Dan Quinn’s defense. And, while I cannot stand the Cowboys, I cannot criticize this pick.

Continuing on with linebackers, the Cleveland Browns hit the jackpot with their second round pick, taking Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame. As a hybrid linebacker/safety – a combination that has emerged in recent years – he is definitely a special pick that fans and opposing players alike should keep an eye on. Owusu-Koramoah dropped due to a potential heart issue, but nonetheless, the many fans in Cleveland who went to root for their hometown team were beyond excited with this pick.

Some other picks I really liked include the Chargers taking Rashawn Slater, an offensive tackle from Northwestern, who fell right into their laps. The Raiders, while having a questionable draft, definitely got one pick right, taking top safety Trevon Moehrig with the 43rd pick. And, while I mentioned them earlier, I cannot say enough how much I loved the Justin Fields and Mac Jones picks.

Bad Selections:

Some teams just made bad selections on certain picks, either reaching for players or picking players who did not address needs.

While I like Travis Etienne, I think the Jaguars made a mistake picking him at #25. Etienne, a running back from Clemson, played with Trevor Lawrence in college – which might explain why he was selected – but the Jaguars should have learned from last season. They already have a great running back in James Robinson, who went undrafted, and have history with failing first round running backs. They had bigger needs here.

The same thing applies for Patrick Surtain II, the cornerback from Alabama, selected #9 overall by the Denver Broncos. I love Surtain as a player, and he is my favorite defensive back in this draft. But the Broncos have a strong group of cornerbacks, including two they gave big contracts to this offseason. In a draft filled with talented defensive backs, the Broncos should have taken one of the QBs or Micah Parsons with this pick.

Some other picks that were not very impressive included the Raiders taking tackle Alex Leatherwood from Alabama, who could have been available later on. The Saints reached for pass rusher Payton Turner, when other options like Odafe Oweh and Azeez Ojulari were still available. And, the Packers took cornerback Eric Stokes early on, when they should ha taken a wide receiver, especially with star QB Aaron Rodgers wanting out. But if they think Allen Lazard is good enough to be their second best wideout, so be it.

The Winners:

New York Giants: I liked what they did in rounds 2 and 3, taking pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and defensive back Aaron Robinson. But hands down, their best move was trading down with Chicago, while picking up a future first-round pick in the process.

New York Jets: I am biased, but the Jets had an amazing draft. While they paid a hefty price to move up for offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, it was worth it. They also picked up Elijah Moore, who is extremely fast and will provide great speed for an offense that was non-existent the past few years. They will come into 2021 as a greatly improved franchise.

Chicago Bears: They gave up a lot to grab Justin Fields, but it was well worth it. They also got Teven Jenkins in round 2, who will bolster that offensive line significantly.

Cleveland Browns: They addressed the defense, which is exactly what they needed to do. With the selection of a cornerback in the first round, and a linebacker in the second, the improvement of their defense looks promising; they also picked up great value in the later rounds, like speedy receiver Anthony Schwartz and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai.

Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers got Rashawn Slater, who will be a huge body to protect franchise QB Justin Herbert. In the second round, they got cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who had first round value, and later on, addressed need, but also skill. It was a great draft for the Chargers this year.

The Losers:

Houston Texans: I cannot really blame the Texans for their poor performance. They only had 5 picks, the first being a third round selection which they wasted on a QB who will probably never play. You can expect them to be drafting near the top next time around, all thanks to the many awful decisions of former head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.

Las Vegas Raiders: It seems that the Raiders will forever be on this list. They always seem to draft for need, but never pick up the best available players. They reached in the first round as usual, and later selected three safeties. The need for safeties is understandable, but they failed to address other positions of need.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints reached in the first round, and then took a QB in the fourth round. I generally do not mind fourth round QB picks, but they currently have two semi-decent options on the roster; Ian Book is not any better. Either way, the team’s winning days seem shuttered for now.

Seattle Seahawks: They only had three picks, and did not address the offensive line until the sixth round. Overall, they had a very poor draft, probably the worst in the league. Nonetheless, the team is still very strong and will likely contend for the playoffs this upcoming season. 

From surprise trades to surprise proposals, this year’s NFL Draft did not fail to excite. While next year’s draft in Las Vegas is still nearly a year away, – the fans, coaches, and players know – it has already begun.

In the annual affair that excites football fans and players alike – all of our expectations were shattered. 

 

 

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