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2021 NFL Draft Grades: Final analysis for all 32 teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, and it did not disappoint.
The five quarterbacks taken in the first round and the abundance of trades on Day 2 were two of the many aspects of what became a very exciting draft in Cleveland.
Which teams made the best picks?
With all seven rounds completed, let's hand out draft grades for all 32 franchises.
The Cardinals bolstered their linebacker corps with the selection of Tulsa star Zaven Collins in the first round, and then got quarterback Kyler Murray a reliable slot receiver in Rondale More in Round 2. A couple cornerback additions on Day 3 added needed depth to the secondary.
You don't often see tight ends drafted in the top five, but Florida's Kyle Pitts is a rare exception. He has the potential to be a dominant pass-catcher in a Falcons offense that also includes star wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta also made a sneaky good fourth-round pick in acquiring cornerback Darren Hall, who has tremendous upside.
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman was a good first-round pick and gives quarterback Lamar Jackson another playmaker in the passing attack. Baltimore might regret not addressing the offensive line with one of their first-rounders after trading left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs earlier in the week. The Ravens drafted Penn State linebacker Odafe Oweh at No. 31 overall in Round 1, and he didn't tally a single sack last season.
The Bills know games are won in the trenches, so it wasn't surprising to see them select pass rushers (Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau in Round 1 and Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham Jr in Round 2) with their first two picks and offensive linemen with their next two picks. Buffalo dominated the line of scrimmage last season, and that trend should continue in 2021.
Jaycee Horn fills a need for the Panthers at cornerback, and his coverage skills and physicality will help him make an immediate impact in the Carolina secondary. That said, offensive line was a more glaring need for the Panthers, who need to keep newly acquired quarterback Sam Darnold standing in the pocket next season. The Panthers didn't address the offensive line until the third round when they took BYU tackle Brady Christensen.
The Bears traded up to No. 11 to get Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. It was a bold move, but a risk worth taking when you consider that lackluster QB play has been an Achilles heel for this franchise for a long time. Chicago's best pick came at No. 39 overall in the second round. The Bears took Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins, who was a first-round talent and will help protect Fields.
Reuniting LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with his college quarterback Joe Burrow was a good pick at No. 5 overall, but the primary need for the Bengals was finding a franchise left tackle. The Bengals missed their second opportunity when they traded the No. 38 pick in Round 2 to the Patriots with Teven Jenkins, Dillon Radunz and other good offensive linemen still on the board. When Cincy was on the clock at No. 46 overall, they took Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman, who was ranked 96th on NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah's Big Board.
Good luck to Burrow, who's coming off a major knee injury.
The Browns had a solid draft and added some nice pieces to a rapidly improving defense, including the selection of Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second round.
Here's what our Patriots insider Phil Perry said about the pick:
The Cowboys went heavy on defense in this draft, which was an excellent choice after last season's struggles on that side of the ball. First-round pick Micah Parsons was the top linebacker in this class, and the former Penn State star has all the talent to be an impact player early in his pro career.
The Broncos selected the best cornerback in the draft in Alabama star Patrick Surtain II at No. 9 overall, and then selected UNC running back Javonte Williams in Round 2. Both players should make immediate impacts as rookies, particularly Surtain. He was dominant in coverage for the Crimson Tide.
The Lions were intent on upgrading their offensive and defensive lines, which they addressed with their first three picks. The most notable selection was Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell -- the highest-rated offensive lineman in this draft class. He has the potential to be an All-Pro tackle for the Lions and give new quarterback Jared Goff plenty of pass protection.
Green Bay Packers
A flurry of reports and rumors involving Aaron Rodgers' uncertain future with the Packers were the top stories for Green Bay during the draft, but they actually made some really good picks.
Their first three picks addressed important positional needs -- cornerback Eric Stokes in Round 1, center Josh Myers in Round 2 and wide receiver Amari Rodgers in Round 3.
The Texans only had five picks and none until the third round, but they made the most of their two selections on Day 2. One of them was Stanford quarterback Davis Mills, who was arguably the highest-rated player at his position after the first round. He might be under center sooner than expected depending on what happens with Deshaun Watson. Houston's other third-round pick, Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins, also was an underrated selection. Collins has excellent speed and showed off big-play ability with 19.7 yards per reception for Michigan in 2019.
The Colts zeroed in on pass rushers early in the draft by selecting Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye in the first round and Vanderbilt defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo in the second round. These two rookies, in addition to veteran DeForest Buckner, should give Indy a much-improved front seven in 2021.
The Jaguars had two picks in both the first and second rounds. The headliner, of course, was selecting Clemson star Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick. Lawrence is a generational talent and a potential superstar, which the Jaguars have never had at quarterback. Later in the first round they selected Lawrence's Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had a great draft, particularly in the second round where they selected two players who could be starters for a long time in Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton and Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders secondary got torched too often last season, so it wasn't surprising that Las Vegas aggressively worked to address it. Jon Gruden's team selected three safeties and a cornerback in its first five picks. The Raiders added much-needed speed and coverage skills to their secondary.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers got a left tackle for franchise QB Justin Herbert with the selection of Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater in the first round. They also added a talented wide receiver for Herbert's passing attack in Tennessee star Josh Palmer.
One of the best picks in the second round was Los Angeles drafting Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. at No. 47 overall. He has great instincts and athleticism, just like his father.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams didn't have a first-round pick as a result of the Matthew Stafford trade. Their first pick came in Round 2, and the selection of Louisville wideout Tutu Adwell didn't address a glaring roster weakness. Secondary was perhaps the weakest area on the Rams roster entering the draft, and yet L.A. selected just one defensive back -- Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell in the fourth round. The Rams better hope Jalen Ramsey plays a full season in 2021, because the depth chart after him doesn't look good.
Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle has star potential and should have instant chemistry with his former college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leading the Dolphins offense. Taking edge rusher Jaelan Phillips at No. 18 overall in the first round was a little risky given his injury history, but he has special pass rushing talent and that was arguably Miami's biggest need entering the draft.
Second-round picks Jevon Holland (S, Oregon) and Liam Eichenberg (OT, Notre Dame) were excellent choices, too.
Overall, the Dolphins absolutely dominated the draft and used their abundance of early-round picks to select a couple players with very high upside.
Taking Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the second round didn't make a ton of sense when there were better players and positions of need on the board. That said, the Vikings made one of the best picks in the first round when they traded down to No. 23 and still got Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw.
New England Patriots
The Patriots did very well in this draft.
Mac Jones was a terrific pick at No. 15 in the first round and gives the Patriots a real long-term option at quarterback. Trading up for Alabama star Christian Barmore at No. 38 in the second round was tremendous value. Barmore was the top-ranked defensive tackle in the 2021 class. Oklahoma defensive lineman Ronnie Perkins was a good pick in the third round, too.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints reached in the first round for Houston defensive end Payton Turner, who was projected to be a Day 2 selection in many mock drafts.
New Orleans' first three picks were on the defensive side of the ball, and the best was Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner in Round 2. The Saints clearly feel that improving defensively is the path back to the Super Bowl, and that makes sense when you look at some of the quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc.) they could face in the NFC playoffs.
New York Giants
The Giants finished last in the league in receiving touchdowns last season with 12, which made the first-round selection of Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney a logical choice.
New York also added much-needed pass rushing skill to their linebacker corps with the selection of Georgia's Azeez Ojulari in the second round.
New York Jets
No, we're not joking. The Jets actually had an awesome draft.
The Jets took a potential franchise QB in Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick, and then they went to work surrounding him with high-end talent. New York traded up to No. 14 to select USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and with the No. 34 pick in Round 2 the Jets took Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. Moore has game-breaking speed and will give Wilson an excellent downfield threat. He easily could have gone in the first round.
The Jets also found a quality running back in North Carolina's Michael Carter in the fourth round.
New York has struck out in the draft quite often over the last 10 years, and the franchise has lost more games than any other team over that span as a result. The tide seems to be turning, though, which is exciting news for Jets fans.
It's hard to criticize a team for targeting Alabama players in the early rounds. The Eagles traded up to select Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who had one of the best seasons in college football history at Alabama in 2020. In the second round, the Eagles took a future starter in Alabama guard Landon Dickerson, who only slid to the second round because of injury concerns. If he's healthy, the Eagles got a massive steal.
Najee Harris dominated at Alabama and should have a productive career as an NFL running back. And the Steelers were the league's worst rushing team last season. However, the reason for those struggles on the ground were rooted in the offensive line, and the Steelers didn't address that area until the third round.
The secondary also needed a lot of help and Pittsburgh didn't add to that group until the sixth round.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers selected their quarterback of the future in North Dakota State's Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick. There will be immense pressure on Lance to be a great player after San Francisco gave up three first-rounders and a third-rounder to move up from No. 12 to No. 3.
Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks was a good pick in Round 2. He adds great size (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds) and physicality to the 49ers offensive line.
The Seahawks only had three picks in this draft because of previous trades. They did, however, add a special talent at wide receiver in D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round. Eskridge's excellent speed will give Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson a reliable deep threat in the passing attack.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs first-round pick Joe Tryon is a raw talent with exciting upside, and he's going to the perfect place to realize his potential. The University of Washington linebacker won't be thrust into the lineup if he's not ready. The Bucs have great depth at linebacker and can afford to develop Tryon at an ideal pace.
Tampa Bay's most intriguing pick was the second-round selection of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, who could be Tom Brady's successor, if he ever retires.
Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley was worth the gamble at No. 22 in the first round, despite his durability concerns. He has the potential to be a star cornerback. Getting a really good left tackle in North Dakota State's Dillon Radunz in the second round was a nice pickup for Tennessee, too.
Washington Football Team
Washington already had one of the best defenses in the league, and it upgraded the group even further with the first-round selection of Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis and the third-round selection of Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. If veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can give Washington competent play at the most important position, this team will be right back in the mix for the NFC East title.