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2021 NFL draft: Round 3 instant grades

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1) Jacksonville Jaguars: S Andre Cisco, Syracuse — Cisco is a gambler with a serious nose for the ball (13 interceptions in 24 college games). He can be undisciplined and is still rehabbing a torn ACL from last fall. If he learns a little patience and play recognition, Cisco could be a very interesting addition to a revamped Jacksonville secondary. Grade: C+.

2) Minnesota Vikings: QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M — An interesting dart throw here, as Mond brings experience (44 college starts), athleticism and a strong arm. The problem? He rarely showed much consistency or improvement since 2018. But perhaps a change of scenery will help take his game to the next level. This Colin Kaepernick-ish talent is a sneaky option to steal Kirk Cousins’ job one day. Grade: B-.

3) Houston Texans: QB Davis Mills, Stanford — Mills, unlike Mond, is highly inexperienced — only 11 college starts. But there was enough intrigue in those starts over the past two years to interest teams in this range. Mills once was rated higher as a recruit than Tua Tagovailoa, so he has talent. But injuries and the inability to beat out K.J. Costello in 2019 mar his ledger. With Deshaun Watson’s status in limbo, Houston adds another QB. Grade: C+.

4) Atlanta Falcons: OT Jaylen Mayfield, Michigan — We see Mayfield fitting in well inside for Atlanta. He played tackle at Michigan and offered some real promise in his smaller sample size of play. Mayfield was never quite the dominator some expected in Ann Arbor, but his mean streak could really play inside in time. We like Mayfield’s upside more than some others do. Nice pick here. Grade: B+.

5) Cincinnati Bengals: EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas — Great value here from the Bengals. They added Trey Hendrickson in free agency and now get Ossai, an all-gas-no-brakes rusher with great length and athletic upside who really rounded into form after a position switch before his bowl game in 2019. Ossai needs pass-rush refinement, but he is the type of player who will not fail because of effort. He’s a relentless worker and a humble young man — the kind of kid you root for. Grade: B+.

6) Carolina Panthers (from Philadelphia Eagles): OT Brady Christensen, BYU — An older rookie who turns 25 in September, Christensen benefitted from Zach Wilson’s breakout season to cast a lot of scouting eyes on this smoother-moving pass protector. Christensen is light and lacks great length, but his durability (38 straight starts) and reliability factors can’t go overlooked. Grade: C.

7) New York Giants (from Denver Broncos): CB Aaron Robinson, UCF — A tough-minded nickel, Robinson will play with his hair on fire and battle with every slot receiver who dares try to cross his face. He’s got a smaller frame, doesn’t have great hands is a bit on the older side (turning 24 this fall), and Robinson might not be an option outside. But he’s a fantastic competitor who will take on all comers. Grade: B-.

8) Detroit Lions: DT Alim McNeill, N.C. State — Detroit is beefing up this weekend. McNeill is a smaller-framed nose tackle who lacks great length or mass, but he possesses intriguing athletic traits to be an interior disruptor. His power and quickness are unusual, and he teams with Levi Onwuzurike to give the Lions some new blood and depth on the defensive line. Grade: C+.

9) Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina Panthers): DT Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech — Williams destroyed his pro day with an absurd workout, and it’s nearly impossible to find a comp for his body style and traits — maybe Solomon Thomas is close? Williams is a tweener but could be an interior penetrator who wins with effort and burst. Can he add weight? He’s a bit on the light side and might need to be slanted into gaps to be effective. Grade: C+.

10) Washington Football Team: CB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota — A long corner who is best in press coverage and can add to a pretty solid secondary. At 6-3 with 33-inch arms, St-Juste can lock with bigger receivers but is taxed by great speed. He’ll need some time to adjust to the quickness of the NFL game and has a leaner build but is an interesting long-game play. Grade: C-.

11) Dallas Cowboys: DT Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA — His older brother played for the Giants, but now he’s with their rivals in Dallas. Odighizuwa is an undersized 3-technique who can make up for his lack of height with 34-inch arms, but he was up and down in his career with the Bruins despite playing a lot the past three seasons. He’s not a special specimen but has impressive flashes and could be solid in a rotation. Grade: C.

12) New Orleans Saints (from Denver Broncos): CB Paulson Adebo— Had he played last season, Adebo had a chance to make a run at the top 40 or 50 picks, we suspect. His ball production (34 pass breakups, eight picks in 22 games) is pretty shocking. Adebo had some hiccups in man coverage and could use some technique refinement, but there is a talent here waiting to be developed. The Saints needed a corner and they found one. Grade: B.

13) Los Angeles Chargers: WR Josh Palmer, Tennessee — We low-key love this pick and love what the Chargers are doing. Palmer suffered from horrific QB play with the Vols, but he had some great tape against the strong secondaries of Alabama and Georgia (beating first-rounder Patrick Surtain II and second-rounder Tyson Campbell for TDs last season). Palmer isn’t a burner, but he has natural separation ability. He’ll give Justin Herbert a nice weapon for the next several years. Grade: B.

14) Minnesota Vikings: LB Chazz Surratt, North Carolina — A converted QB (who started seven games there as a freshman for the Tar Heels), Surratt made the highly unusual QB-to-LB change and acquitted himself really well for the most part. Missed tackles remain a bugaboo, and he’s still learning the trade of his new role. But Surratt is a terrific athlete with hair-on-fire intensity and great traits who should at the very least be a star on special teams and likely will carve out a role on defense. Grade: B-.

15) Las Vegas Raiders (from Arizona Cardinals): EDGE Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo — Pretty rich here for us, but Koonce is a revved-up rusher with a physical style of play. Could he be the next Maxx Crosby? Maybe, but that feels like a stretch to us now. Koonce’s lack of bulk and length could hinder him against longer tackle, and his play can be sloppy and unrefined at times. Grade: D+.

16) Las Vegas Raiders: S Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech — A makeup selection here by the Raiders. Deablo really grew on us during the draft process, making plays all over the field as a king-sized safety. It appears he’ll be moved to weakside linebacker in Las Vegas, and it’s a good spot for him to unleash his speed and hard-nosed attitude. He also will be a special-teams demon and could be a team captain in time with his no-nonsense approach. Grade: B.

17) Miami Dolphins: TE Hunter Long, Boston College — Brian Flores taps his alma mater for a tight end who made some circus grabs last season and who competes well as a run-blocker. Long has a natural feel for finding soft spots in the defense and using his body to shield defenders with his above-average athleticism. He needs work as a pass-blocker and never will be a true people-mover in the run game but is a strong TE2 with starter potential in time. Grade: B-.

18) Washington Football Team: WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina — We’re a bit surprised to see Brown still on the board even though we had him at No. 63 overall. Brown is a speed merchant with a lean frame and a passing tree that will need to be expanded. But he can fly and gives Ryan Fitzpatrick a 9-ball target to add another dimension to this offense. His best football might be ahead of him. Grade: A+.

19) Carolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears): TE Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame — We’re getting a bit excited about some of the Panthers’ options on offense. They lacked a quality receiving option at tight end last season and could have a sleeper in Tremble, who was not targeted much but showed some surprising skill in his limited opportunities. And even if he never develops into a great pass-catcher, Tremble already is a top-shelf blocker who can line up in-line, as a wing, or as a fullback. A fun, useful player for Joe Brady’s offense. Grade: B-.

20) Dallas Cowboys (from Indianapolis Colts via Philadelphia Eagles): EDGE Chauncey Golston, Iowa — More defensive help for Dallas in Golston, a hard-nosed end with great length and some power to his game. When moving in a straight line, Golston looks pretty quick at times. But when asked to change direction and turn the corner, he looks stiff. A base end with rotational value. Not an exciting pick, but he could carve out a solid career. Grade: C+.

21) Green Bay Packers (from Tennessee Titans): WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson — Cue the A. Rodgers/wide receiver jokes here. The 5-9, 210-pound Rodgers is a squarely built slot receiver in a running back’s body who took his game to another level in 2020 as Trevor Lawrence’s best receiving option. Rodgers might never be a star, but like Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery before him, he fits Green Bay’s profile and could be tried as a receiver or possibly a back. He plays hard, has sneaky quickness and speed and could be a really useful addition. Grade: B+.

22) Minnesota Vikings: OG Wyatt Davis, Ohio State — The Vikings are good at the draft. Davis is the son of the actor who played Alvin Mack in “The Program” and a gritty performer with some real strength in his play. Although he’s likely a guard only, Minnesota found itself a strong-handed blocker who blocks out pain and plays hurt. He’s not special athletically and didn’t dominate in 2020 like he did in 2019, but Davis has a lot of admirable traits to carve out a nice career. Grade: B.

23) Pittsburgh Steelers: OG Kendrick Green, Illinois — Pittsburgh’s first two picks look better now that they landed what likely is their starting center in 2021 this late in the process. Green has played guard and center and moves extremely well in tight quarters, making up for his lack of ideal length and textbook power. He’s a riser who could be a sleeper. Grade: B-.

24) San Francisco 49ers (from Los Angeles Rams): RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State — Interesting move here, with the Niners moving up for Sermon. He could grab a starting role before long in San Francisco as a really intriguing fit in their inside- and outside-zone scheme. Sermon has power and surprising burst that was on display in a brilliant Big Ten title game, as well as at various other points at both Oklahoma and Ohio State. What held him back were consistency and health. Fantasy folks, keep an eye on this match. Grade: B-.

25) Houston Texans (from Carolina Panthers): WR Nico Collins, Michigan — We actually mocked Collins to Houston in the second round previously, so this is good value here. Collins profiles as a potentially better pro than college player if he can fully harness his rare gifts. He might be best used as a big-bodied deep and intermediate threat, lacking great short-area separation. But Collins can thrive with good QB play. Does Houston have that if Deshaun Watson is not around? Grade: B.

26) Minnesota Vikings (from Baltimore Ravens): EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh — Going before his Panthers teammate Rashad Weaver surprises us a bit, but Jones does have some solid virtues. He plays hard, has some good linear burst and brings some leadership qualities to his new team. But there is a blind-dog-in-a-meathouse quality to his game. With better recognition and savvy in his play, Jones could be a nice rotational rusher. Grade: C.

27) Cleveland Browns (from New Orleans Saints): WR Anthony Schwartz, Auburn — Perhaps the fastest man in the draft, Schwartz was robbed of a chance to make a run at the NFL combine 40 record. He ran a 4.25 at his pro day, which is as fast as it sounds, but Schwartz was more urban legend in college than reliable weapon. We considered him for our top 100 prospects list, but ultimately his body of work was just a little too lean. Injuries held him back, as did a lack of development as a well-rounded receiver. Right now he’s a big-play specialist with home-run ability who might never be a full-time contributor. Grade: C-.

28) Tennessee Titans (from Green Bay Packers): LB Monty Rice, Georgia — Just missing our top 100, Rice has a smallish frame to play the middle in the NFL. But he is surprisingly strong and athletic and hits like a truck. Rice is hit or miss in coverage and lacks the ability to be a stack-and-shed linebacker who can sort through the trash effectively, so the challenge will be to find the right role for him. Grade: C+.

29) Buffalo Bills: OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa — A long, shockingly athletic left tackle, Brown will struggle with power and can be knocked back too easily. But his light feet, stunning length (6-8 with nearly 35-inch arms) and strong effort are all traits you typically don’t find at the end of Round 3. When FCS canceled football in the fall, several big-name programs tried to vulture him as a transfer; Brown, however, stayed loyal to UNI. Keep an eye on this guy if he can learn to anchor. Grade: B-.

30) Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City Chiefs): OG Ben Cleveland, Georgia — A massive-framed bar room bouncer with surprising athletic traits, Cleveland is headed to … well, Baltimore. Geographic confusion aside, he’s a brawny battler in the run game and a question mark as a pass blocker. A few teams we spoke with about Cleveland worried about his medical evaluation, with a slew of injuries in his past. But as a power-blocking guard, you can do a lot worse. Grade: C.

31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from San Francisco 49ers): OT Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame — A possible five-position backup, Hainsey has strong intangibles and quality technique that could make him a 10-year pro. He played right tackle for the Irish, but his lack of length likely would push him inside more naturally. Some teams considered him a developmental center, where his smarts would pay off and his bump-and-steer style could work well. Grade: C+.

32) New England Patriots (compensatory): EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma — This is one of our favorite Day 2 picks. Perkins in no way, shape or form should be going this late. A failed drug test and a so-so pro-day workout likely led to his fall, but this value is absurd. In the Patriots’ system, he might need to learn to play on his feet, but Perkins has pass-rush juice with a great long-arm go-to move and can develop into a really good player in time. Grade: A.

33) Los Angeles Chargers (compensatory): TE Tre' McKitty, Georgia — This is the first Chargers pick we haven’t loved. McKitty showed some intriguing pass-receiving ability at Florida State but wasn’t featured at all in his grad transfer year at UGA (six catches on 10 targets in seven games). He’s a functional blocker and pass-catcher with some juice after the catch. But it’s a bit steep to take a reserve tight end at this stage. Grade: C-.

34) Denver Broncos (compensatory): C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater — Lloyd Cushenberry struggled as a rookie starter in Denver — could Meinerz supplant him? If not, he could be tried at guard, which was the position he played in college. The self-made player lost his senior season but put on a show at the Senior Bowl with great one-on-ones against big-school defenders. He’s tough and nasty and very smart. Meinerz should have gone sooner, we suspect. Grade: B+.

35) Dallas Cowboys (compensatory): CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State — A shockingly long corner (over 6-foot-4) but painfully lean (182 pounds) corner who opened eyes in two years after a junior college stint. Wright works well as a press-man corner and could be effective in the Cowboys’ cover-3 looks, but he’s still raw and too easily pushed around if receivers can get off his jam. Grade: C-.

36) Tennessee Titans (compensatory): CB Elijah Molden, Washington — We amend our Ronnie Perkins/Patriots statement. This could be our favorite Day 2 pick. Molden is small and not especially fast for his size, but we don’t care one bit. His highly competitive and instinctive style will work one way or another in the NFL, certainly on special teams but either as a nickel or a safety on defense. He will outplay his draft standing. Grade: A+.

37) Detroit Lions (compensatory): CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse — Another shock, Melifonwu should have come off the board before now. His length and athletic traits are top-50 worthy, even if Melifonwu needs to start turning his pass breakups into interceptions. Still, he’s a rare specimen to find at this stage of the draft and a fine addition for Detroit at this point. Grade: A.

38) San Francisco 49ers (compensatory): CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan — A favorite of ours, Thomas’ past health worries and his opt-out season were the only thing keeping him out of our top 100 prospects. He’s not all that thick or long, which makes him a slightly curious fit for the 49ers’ system. But his tenacious approach, physicality and competitiveness are infectious. He’s also got the ideal temperament for special teams duty. Grade: C+.

39) Los Angeles Rams (compensatory): LB Ernest Jones, South Carolina — Turn on the LSU game and you see a player who is full-tilt toward finding the ball and delivering a message. Jones is a big hitter with strong football instincts and a player who never gives up on the ball. He’s not special in coverage, has had some injuries and will overrun some plays, but Jones could be a defensive leader in time. Grade: C+.

40) Baltimore Ravens (compensatory): CB Brandon Stephens, SMU — A converted running back at UCLA, Stephens moved to the defensive backfield at SMU and showed some intriguing ability after changing positions. He got his hands on some passes over the past two seasons and will make receivers remember him with his hard-tackling style. But Stephens might need to move to safety to unlock his best potential, likely as a box defender who can cover the slot and match tight ends and backs. Grade: C-.

41) Denver Broncos (compensatory): LB Baron Browning, Ohio State — Really nice pick here. Browning is still more strapping athlete than refined linebacker. But his blitzing ability and pursuit skill make him a fascinating projection. Can he show enough instinct for Vic Fangio? That’s the question, but we are bullish on his upside. Browning took a while to develop with the Buckeyes but has some real ability that can be further unlocked. Grade: B.

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