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2021 NFL Draft Round 1 picks: Grades for all 32 teams

Trevor Lawrence was the no. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Trevor Lawrence was the no. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Mab Sidam
ANALYST
Modified 05 May 2021
Feature

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft was eventful. Draft night had a little bit of everything: a massive trade request before the event, some surprising picks and a few interesting trades.

On that note, let’s look at the picks made by all 32 teams in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

NFL DRAFT #1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

The first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft combines great size with impressive athleticism and has an already polished skillset. He brings arm strength, accuracy, and leadership traits that could take the Jaguars’ offense to the next level.

Grade: A+.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - BYU v Central Florida
RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - BYU v Central Florida

The Jets took BYU’s Zach Wilson due to his ability to make 'wow' throws and his superb ball placement on off schedule throws.

The negative with Wilson is that he played low-quality opposition, and he mostly threw from a clean pocket. The Jets are probably the least talented team in their division and had a horrible offensive line last year.

Zach Wilson is being drafted to carry a bad franchise, and he could possibly struggle early on till the Jets surround him with better talent.

Grade: B.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston through Miami): Trey Lance, QB, NDSU

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

After weeks of speculation centered around who the 49ers would take,e they choose the most raw but promising QB of the class,Trey Lance.

Lance could be to Kyle Shanahan what Patrick Mahomes is to Andy Reid. Coach Shanahan's scheme, married to the dual threat ability of Trey Lance, could torment NFL defences for years to come.

Grade: A+.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Over the last few weeks, Kyle Pitts rose to the top non-QB of the 2021 NFL Draft due to his uniqueness as a prospect.

He is greatly versatile and can line up all over the offense, and alongside Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, he would provide the Falcons with a terrifying pass-catching group. The only concern with Pitts is that he may just be perceived as an above average run blocker.

Grade: B+.


5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Selecting a wide receiver over an offensive tackle was always likely to be a controversial selection.

The selection of Ja’Marr Chase, though, will add new dimensions to the Bengals’ offense and provide an immediate replacement for former Franchise receiver AJ Green.

Chase is a YAC mobster and possesses excellent body control. He is superb at the catch point and consistently shows elite concentration as well as good hand strength. The Bengals felt there is great O-Line depth in this NFL draft class and decided to take the blue-chip WR over the blue-chip LT.

Grade: A-.


6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Jaylen Waddle could come to define the Dolphins' vertical throw game. Waddle brings game-changing explosive speed, good hands and the elusiveness to make a man miss in the open field.

The Dolphins will hope that reuniting Waddle with his former Alabama QB in Tua Tagovailoa could help light a spark in his development. The only negative with this pick is if the Dolphins may not have taken the right Bama receiver in the 2021 NFL draft.

Grade: B+.


7. Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Penei Sewell is an athletic, instinctive and powerful and is only 20 years old. Sewell is an extremely talented tackle prospect.

He’ll likely play 10 to 15 years as a franchise left tackle in Detroit. Jared Goff is not a mobile QB and does not react well to pressure. The selection of Sewell could help Goff settle as a Lions starter.

Grade: A-.


8. Carolina Panthers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Jaycee Horn is a physical, tough cornerback who brings an edge to the Carolina Panthers’ secondary.

While he's a surprising pick, there is a lot to like about this selection, as the cornerback was one of the Panthers’ top two needs heading into the draft. Coach Matt Rhule is doing a great job establishing a defensive-first identity at the Panthers.

Grade: A.

9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Denver Broncos probably made the biggest surprise pick in round 1 of the NFL 2021 draft night.

They selected Patrick Surtain II, with Justin Fields still on the board. The Broncos needed to address their need at quarterback, so this selection turned a few eyebrows.

It’s a B- for now, but if the Broncos somehow acquire Aaron Rodgers, the grade would immediately jump to an A+. The Broncos secured a long-term starter for their secondary, who could make multiple Pro Bowls.

Grade: B-.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dallas): DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

This was a great pick for the Philadelphia Eagles, as they desperately needed to put more talent around Jalen Hurts.

DeVonta Smith brings with him a bag of polished routes and releases. WR was the top need for the Eagles in offense, and DeVonta Smith solves that immediately.

He has been said to be one of the best pure technicians to come out of college in recent years. There was a lot of concern about his size coming into the NFL draft, but that ignores the simple fact that he was forever open in college last season.

Grade: A+.

11. Chicago Bears (from New York Giants): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears took the now-released Mitchell Trubisky second overall.

After years of memes, torment and countless what-if articles, the Bears suddenly have Justin Fields, who is arguably the second-most complete QB in this NFL draft, after Trevor Lawrence.

Fields has the size, athleticism, speed and arm strength to fully unlock coach Nagy’s playbook. In a similar fashion to Kyle Shanahan, coach Nagy may have his very own Mahomes project.

Grade: A+.

Also Read: Patrick Mahomes Draft

12. Dallas Cowboys (from San Francisco through Miami and Philadelphia): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Micah Parsons gets from point A to B in a blink of an eye. He’ll add more speed and talent to what is already an impressive Cowboys linebacker room.

Many NFL Draft analysts are concerned with Parsons' coverage ability, but apart from that, he has no weaknesses.

Grade: B+.

13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OG/T, Northwestern

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Many analysts felt that the Los Angeles Chargers might have to move up for Rashawn Slater.

It is perceived that Slater may have to shift to guard, but the fact that the Chargers could stay at 13 and still get the player they want who fills a huge need on the offensive line only adds to their grade.

Grade: B+.

14. New York Jets (from Minnesota): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG/T, USC

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

The Jets did the best thing for Zach Wilson by immediately trying to start replicating the clean pocket space he enjoyed at BYU.

The selection of Alijah Vera-Tucker for the Jets helps solidify what was easily one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2020. Tucker can play at a number of positions across the offensive line. The only downside to this pick is that the Jets had to trade up and give up a few assets to get him.

Grade: B+.

15. New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

On the one hand, the Patriots got a new QB without having to trade up. While on the other, they got a guy whose lack of mobility makes him a relic of the past in terms of foundational pieces to build an offense around.

Luckily for Mac Jones, the team will always center around Coach Belichick’s defensive genius, and all Jones needs to do to be successful is be a high-level game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over.

Grade: A-.

16. Arizona Cardinals: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Tulsa vs South Florida
Tulsa vs South Florida

NFL Draft analysts say Zaven Collins is capable of dropping back into coverage but is also effective in rushing the passer.

Concerns arose after reports leaked, indicating that he weighed in at 270 pounds. That is far too big to be a pure off-the-ball linebacker in the modern NFL.

If he does lose weight, though, he possesses the necessary skills to play a hybrid role. If they can work out how to use Collins correctly, this pick has potential for the Arizona Cardinal.

Grade: C+.

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

The Las Vegas Raiders repeated a mistake they have made for a few NFL drafts now.

They certainly filled a need with the selection of Alex Leatherwood, but Leatherwood was not the best remaining tackle and divides opinions. Leatherwood definitely has potential but was the rawest tackle selected in the first round.

It was a true boom or bust trade.

Grade: C+.

18. Miami Dolphins: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

For the Dolphins in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, their second-biggest need was a pass rusher. Jaelan Phillips addresses that need,

Phillips has a decent combination of speed, strength and weapons to succeed as a pass rusher in multiple ways.This pick helps the Dolphins strengthen the star unit of their team, which is Brian Flores, side of the ball.

Grade: A.

19. Washington Football Team: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

The Washington Football Team had a choice of several defensive options, but they took a chance on Jamin Davis.

While there is uncertainty surrounding Davis'overall game, his ceiling is immense. That upside makes him an intriguing pick for the Washington Football Team, who strengthen their star unit with this pick.

Grade: B.

20. New York Giants (from Chicago): Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Kadarius Toney possesses elite game-breaking vertical speed and combined for a dominant one-two punch with Kyle Pitts at Florida.

This NFL draft pick screams that the Giants are growing impatient with Daniel Jones. They are surrounding him with as many premier weapons as possible to test whether he is the future or not.

Toney completed the Giants' pass-catching rotation as they now possess a great contested catch receiver, one of the NFL’s best catch out of the backfield talents, a vertical threat and a super-athletic tight end.

Grade: A.

21. Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts got a fabulous value with Kwity Paye, 21. He adds more talent to an already elite defensive line.

Paye’s strength entering the NFL Draft was his elite play against the run, but he has the potential of developing into a terrific pass rusher with good coaching.

Grade: B+.

22. Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Prior to his microdiscectomy surgery, Caleb Farley was viewed by NFL Draft analysts as a potential top-10 selection.

Farley’s raw talent is still among the best at the position in this NFL draft class, and he could have great value for the Tennessee Titans. If he recovers well from surgery, the Titans could be getting a star.

Grade: A.

23. Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle through New York Jets): Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, many analysts pegged this as the Vikings' pick before trading down.

The selection of Christian Darrisaw is a superb one for the Minnesota Vikings. They got their guy while also trading back and picking up further assets. The Vikings had a huge need at tackle, and Darrisaw gives them a high upside player at the position.

Grade: A.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Najee Harris is a phenomenal talent and is a huge upgrade for the Steelers at the position. There is a lot of talk about the value of running backs in the NFL, but the Steelers were one of the NFL’s worst rushing units last season.

Harris is a guaranteed contributor. That allows the Steelers to take even more off a rapidly declining Big Ben’s table.

Grade: B.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

After James Robinson impressed last season, I don't see the value in this pick other than making Trevor Lawrence happy.

The Jaguars could have addressed an actual need. They are saved by the fact Etienne is a supreme level talent and an actual upgrade over Robinson.

Grade: C.

26. Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, it was well established that the Browns needed to strengthen their secondary. Opposite Denzel Ward, the selection of Greg Newsome for the Cleveland Browns gives them another high-quality cornerback to work with. Newsome brings prototypical size and a high football IQ.

Grade: B+.

27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens had one major need which was to give Lamar Jackson an elite playmaker on the outside.

Rashod Bateman fills that need. Bateman would provide the Ravens with an intriguing weapon opposite Marquise Brown. The Ravens have got great value for their NFL draft position in Bateman

Grade: A+.

28. New Orleans Saints: Payton Turner, DE, Houston

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

After losing Trey Hendrickson in the NFL free agency, Payton Turner could a solid fit for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints addressed a need when it cane to their pass rush. Turner fills that need, but it’s worth asking if he was truly the best pass rusher still on the board.

Grade: B-.

29. Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Georgia vs Arkansas
Georgia vs Arkansas

The Packers needed to do something to appease Aaron Rodgers. Instead, they took a corner. Erik Stokes is a great talent, but Green Bay had more glaring offensive needs than corner going into the 2021 NFL season.

Grade: C.

30. Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (FL)

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

Pass rush was a serious concern for the Bills in the NFL last season, so the selection of Gregory Rousseau is a great value selection made by the Buffalo Bills. The team looks prime to compete with a roster seemingly without any deficiencies.

Grade: B+.

31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City): Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft

After the Baltimore Ravens lost a huge chunk of pass-rushing talent to NFL free agency, the selection of Jayson Oweh (who is a superb athlete and could be a Day 1 starter for the Ravens) further helps them address a key need.

The tape on Jayson Oweh screams Baltimore Raven, and Oweh can only get better with time.

Grade: B+.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Tryon, OLB, Washington

Joe Tryon has the potential to be a rotational piece immediately for the Buccaneers and become an immediate contributor.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected to focus on defensive tackle or pass rush. They eventually chose a pass rusher in Joe Tryon, who is a tremendous athlete.

Grade: A-.

Published 01 May 2021
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