Draft grades are in as the 2021 NFL draft comes to a close. The season kicked off with a ton of frantic action as star players were implied in trade rumors and the experts submitted their final mock drafts. Then, the draft began, with teams trading up and down the whole first day. Day two featured plenty of steals, as teams began to separate their draft grades from their competitors. The third day, saw many teams strengthen their benches and shoring up their weakness. Today, I’ll take a shot at assigning draft grades to the 16 NFC teams.
Before I start randomly assigning draft grades to each team I will fill you all in on some of my criteria for the grading system. I will be looking at how well the picks fall into each of the following categories: draft starting talent, fill needs, maximized draft position, built for future, player fits the system, and fills the greatest need with elite talent.
Dallas Cowboys: Draft Grade B+
Before Dak suffered a season-ending ankle injury last year, the Cowboys were the number one offense in the NFL. With Dak feeling ready to come back now and Dallas retaining most of their offense that side of the ball is no problem. The defense, however, is a much different story. They were the worst in the league last year.
Not anymore. The Cowboys devoted most of their draft to repairing their much-maligned unit. They started this off in a big way by selecting the best defensive player in the draft. LB Micah Parsons. They immediately backed that move up with a physical CB in Kelvin Joseph and the giant Osa Odighizuwa to clog the center of the line. They did drift away with a pair of reaches but solidified their defense by stealing Jabril Cox in the fourth.
New York Giants: Draft Grade B-
I don’t really agree with the Giants selecting a WR at all in the draft, let alone them wasting their first-round pick on one. I’m not saying Kadarius Toney isn’t a great talent, but that WR room is very talented.
They more than made up for it with one of the best steals in the draft, selecting DE Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari may be the most talented ER in this class, but mild arthritis made many teams decide to pass on him. Their loss is the Giants’ gain, as he joins both a DL and defense that will devastate opponents next season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Draft Grade A-
I love what the Eagles did with their draft. For an offense in transition, they did a lot to help settle in QB Jalen Hurts in his first full season as the starter. None of these was bigger than jumping up in the draft to select the Heisman trophy, WR DeVonta Smith. After that, they added a strong C in Landon Dickerson who should be their opening day starter. Kenneth Gainswell joins the backfield, filling out a one-two punch with Miles Sanders.
They also got help some decent help for their defense. Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu should bring a strong presence to the center of the defensive line.
Washington Football Team: Draft Grade B+
Quietly, Washington had an incredibly strong draft. Their first pick yielded LB Jamin Davis, who should clean up nicely after Chase Young and the rest of that DL. Benjamin St-Juste adds some good rotational help at CB. These moves alone are enough for Washington to become the number one defense this year.
They also added two strong weapons on offense, too. Dyami Brown adds a great downfield threat for Fitzmagic to get the ball to. Meanwhile, TE John Bates should make Antonio Gibson and the rest of that backfield happy with the blocks he’s going to throw
Chicago Bears: Draft Grade A
By moving up in the first round to select Justin Fields, the Bears not only secured their draft grade but also their franchise’s future. I personally believe that at the end of their careers, Field will be the best QB of this class. This is no disrespect to Lawrence, Wilson on Lance, Fields just has the qualities of a mega-star QB.
And what do the Bears do in the following round? They secure a guy in Teven Jenkins who will keep Fields both upright and healthy. After that, the Bears didn’t have a 3rd or 4th rounder, but the picks they did have they maximized to support Fields.
Detroit Lions: Draft Grade C-
Clearly, Dan Campbell cares more about being a tough guy than he does about winning games. This feels like Rex Ryan 2.0 to me. Many praise his selection of elite OT Penei Sewell, but I just shake my head. Jared Goff didn’t have a WR to throw to before the draft began and he still doesn’t have one now. This is made so much worse by the fact that EVERY WR was still on the board at the time of this selection. They really dropped the ball.
And yes, I am aware that the Lions secured great talent through the first four rounds of the draft, that’s why I didn’t completely tank their grade (I did give out 3x D+ or lower in the AFC grades). Sewell, DT Levi Onwuzurike, DT Alim McNeill, and CB Ifeatu Melifonwu could all very well be opening day starters but combined they might only add one win to the Lions total.
Green Bay Packers: Draft Grade D
Finally, a draft that we can all dump on equally. Aaron Rodgers declares four hours before the draft that he wants out of Green Bay because of the lack of support they have given to him, especially in the last few drafts. For heaven’s sake, last year, instead of getting a great WR with their first pick they traded up in the first round to draft his backup. This is made that much worse by how talented last year’s WR class turned out to be.
So you think that they would respond with some support, right? Nope, they overreach to draft a CB the first round and follow it up with an overreach with a C in the second round. There was still elite WR talent available at their pick in the first and the best C in the draft was still available at their pick in the second. To be fair, they did get a nice WR in Amari Rodgers in the third, but that was too little, too late.
Minnesota Vikings: Draft Grade C+
The Vikings traded back in the first round and still ended up with OT Christian Darrisaw in the first round. Darrisaw is the player that best fits their needs at the time of their original pick. He goes down as one of the steals of the first round. And they ceased to capitalize on seven combined picks in the third and fourth rounds.
I’m not saying their draft was bad, I am saying it was disappointing. In those rounds, they overlapped positions they probably didn’t need to touch, but go talent nonetheless. Wyatt Davis and Patrick Jones should help to bring stability to the offensive and defensive lines respectively. Chazz Surratt gives insurance if Eric Kendrick does not rebound well from injury. All in all, decent draft even if they minimized both pick total and position.
Atlanta Falcons: Draft Grade D+
Going into the draft it was going to be interesting to see which way the Falcons would go. With the fourth overall pick, they could have easily selected one of the big five QB and began preparing for the future. They also could have gone with one of the two truly elite lockdown CBs in attempts to make a final run with this group. Instead, they draft a TE.
Don’t get me wrong, Kyle Pitts is absolutely amazing and in my opinion both the best player in the draft AND the next monster TE in the league. However, he does not address the issues of truly rebuilding for the future, nor being able to complete now. That is unless the Falcons think they’re going to win every game 45-42.
With how elite a talent Pitts will be this would be forgivable if they addressed elite CB, RB, or QB of the future with their next pick. They got a deep ball S. As a matter of fact, they did not address RB or QB at all this draft, and the CB they got was less than impressive. I did appreciate their pickup of OT Jalen Mayfield in the third.
Carolina Panthers: Draft Grade A
I loved the Panthers’ draft. Every move they made was the best possible move they could have made for them. They needed an elite shutdown CB to give Brian Burns and Hasson Reddick more opportunities on the line. They got future superstar CB Jaycee Horn. They needed more weapons and protection for Sam Darnold. They picked up large possession WR Terrace Marshall Jr and explosive OT Brady Christensen.
Want some help for CMC? Christensen provides that, as does Tommy Tremble, the number one blocking TE in college football. Even DT Daviyon Nixon could provide Burns and Reddick help on the DL opening day. There is a chance that six of these rookies carve out a role for themselves by mid-season.
New Orleans Saints: Draft Grade D
During my draft day articles, I didn’t give the Saints much heat for their picks. A few people who know pointed that out and showed how much most of the experts were criticizing them. I was wrong, they were right, the Saints had a bad draft. I liked their first-round pick, Payton Turner, but upon re-evaluation even I have to admit it was a drastic overreach.
I loved their second-round pick, Pete Werner, but even now I have to admit that they didn’t need him, especially in the round they got him.
And then, there were the inconsistencies. The way the Saints drafted the first three rounds it was clear that they believed in Taysom Hill, or else they would have done something to make his life easier. Then, the fourth round hits and they draft a backup QB, for their young QB who already has a proven backup. At the very least that shows indecision if not outright cluelessness. Not the look you want to be showing after your HOF QB retires.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Draft Grade B+
What are you supposed to do when you are the defending Super Bowl champions and have retained all of your key players? You draft for value at your position and find backups to mold for your aging positions. The Bucs did exactly that.
Tom Brady and JPP are getting older. No problem, QB Kyle Trask and OLB Joe Tryon were their first two selections. I really love the Tryon pick and believe that he more than any other Bucs pick will have an opening day impact. As a result of this unique skill set, he could easily fill in anywhere in the front seven. This will help keep guys like Vea, Suh, JPP, and David fresh.
Arizona Cardinals: Draft Grade B
I really question them using their first-round pick to draft into a surplus at LB, especially when they could have used a guy like Elijah Moore who was still on the board. The fact that they backed up that pick with WR Rondale Moore in the second round does make me feel a little better. That and Zaven Collins being the elite talent he is. Who knows, maybe they trade from their extra LBs to get something they need.
This still left their secondary in need of improvement, without a pick in the third round. Yet somehow that was no problem. They got absolute steals in the fourth and sixth rounds, adding CBs Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan to the team. The Cards sneakily put together a strong draft.
Los Angeles Rams: Draft Grade B-
I graded the Rams very poorly during my draft day articles, but upon re-evaluation, I can admit I was harsh. With that said, I still believe that they could have gotten better value out of their first two picks, but I also now believe that those players fit their system nicely. WR Tutu Atwell will join a passing game that is going to throw a lot this season, and though he reassembles teammate Cooper Kupp in a few ways they are a very different player.
I thought adding LB Ernest Jones was too much, but then I realized that the Rams are a team that still uses three LBs fairly regularly. They also were able to add some deceptively strong talent in the later rounds with DT Bobby Brown and CB Robert Rochell.
I do need to comment on one last thing. I am not sure if I am more horrified or amused by the fact that they had a portrait of Roger Goodell hanging in their draft day HQ.
San Francisco 49ers: Draft Grade B
I struggled with this one a bit as a result of Justin Fields not being in consideration to be selected number three overall. As a Jets fan, I would have like Fields over Zach Wilson, however, I understood anyone who had him and Trevor Lawrence ranked ahead. The whole time going into the draft day we hear that the 49ers were making their decision between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. No Fields even mentioned. In the end, I came to my conclusion: I dropped the 49ers from an A- to a B solely because of the third overall pick.
Beyond Fields not being the selection really like the Niners’ draft. Trey Lance is still an incredible talent at QB and will be an asset to that team moving forward. The offense as a whole will thrive this season with the addition of Gs Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore. The run game gets another shot in the arm as Trey Sermon provides strong depth for the oft-injured RB core. I would not be shocked to see him seize the lead role by the end of the season.
Seattle Seahawks: Draft Grade D+
They had three picks. They may have maximized one in speedy WR D’Wayne Eskridge. They did not address their number one need in OL. They did little to keep their franchise QB Russell Wilson safe or happy. Yet somehow, Wilson is still a class act and welcomes Eskridge on Twitter.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 1, 2021
The NFC East should be much improved and in for another brawl near the season’s end. Only this time the winner will have a record over .500. Dan Campbell is a tough guy who is going to live or die playing a “beat ’em up” style, even if it means being last in the league in scoring.
The Saints seem to be wandering cluelessly after the loss of Drew Brees, hoping that Roger Goodell gives them good luck. Meanwhile, the Bucs have done everything they can possibly do to repeat in 2022.
The 49ers with this draft class and full recovery from last year’s injuries could represent the class of the NFC. Russell Wilson continues to stay humble while the Seahawks spit on him. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay are about to go to war.
The Panthers gave Sam Darnold everything he needed to prove the Jets wrong. The Bears both threw themselves into contention this year and the next ten.
On a final note, I was informed that I made mistake on my butt count in yesterday’s article. Goodell’s lazy boy saw at least 264 rear ends in the course of 72 hours. Let that sink in (pun intended).
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