Daigle's 2021 NFC Draft Grades

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John Daigle
·16 min read
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AFC Draft Grades can be viewed here.

Arizona Cardinals

1 (16) - Tulsa LB Zaven Collins

2 (49) - Purdue WR Rondale Moore

4 (136) - Florida CB Marco Wilson

6 (210) - Duke EDGE Victor Dimukeje

6 (223) - UCF CB Tay Gowan

7 (243) - Cincinnati S James Wiggins

7 (247) - Penn State C Michal Menet

Grade - Steve Keim unsurprisingly took another swing at a rangy versatile linebacker, pairing Isaiah Simmons with Collins (6’5/270) in back-to-back years. It’s a questionable choice given that DC Vance Joseph relies on man-to-man coverage and has only Robert Alford, Malcolm Butler, Byron Murphy, and perhaps Wilson (6’0/191) to leave on an island from Cover 1. On the other hand, there isn’t a better player-to-team fit for Arizona’s ‘horizontal raid’ than Moore (5'7/181), who leveraged the nation’s highest SPARQ rating (which he flashed during his recruitment process) to shed tackles and turn upfield for 71% of his collegiate receiving yardage after the catch. Moore, 21 in June, is the team’s second-most impactful receiver the moment he takes the field.

Grade: B-

Atlanta Falcons

1 (4) - TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

2 (40) - S Richie Grant, UCF

3 (68) - OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan

4 (108) - CB Darren Hall, San Diego State

4 (114) - C Drew Dalman, Stanford

5 (148) - DI Ta'Quon Graham, Texas

5 (182) - EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame

5 (183) - CB Avery Williams, Boise State

6 (187) - WR Frank Darby, Arizona State

Overview: Pressured to begin a new era with whichever quarterback fell to No. 3, the Falcons stayed the course with 36-year-old Matt Ryan in adding Pitts (6’6/245), who led all FBS tight ends in receiving scores (12) with zero drops on 66 targets last year. The front office signed A.J. McCarron as another sign of commitment to Ryan in 2021. Grant (5’11/197) was reportedly a stud during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl but was selected over the class’ highest-regarded S Trevon Moehrig. Mayfield garnered interest inside the first round earlier in the pre-draft process and should compete with LG Matt Gono from day one. Hall (5’11/188) and Williams (5'8/187), albeit undersized, were necessary darts. Getting three Week 1 starters including one generational talent out of this group is not out the question.

Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers

1 (8) - CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

2 (59) - WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU

3 (70) - OT Brady Christensen, BYU

3 (83) - TE Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame

4 (126) - RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

5 (158) - DI Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

5 (166) - CB Keith Taylor, Washington

6 (193) - G Deonte Brown, Alabama

6 (204) - WR Shi Smith, South Carolina

6 (222) - LS Thomas Fletcher, Alabama

7 (232) - DI Phil Hoskins, Kentucky

Overview: The NFL would be competitive from the top down if every front office took to the draft like Carolina’s. Matt Rhule and Scott Fitterer recouped a 2022 fourth-round pick to essentially lock in Sam Darnold for free and instead gloss over options under center for Horn (6'1/205), who followed the opponent’s top receiver across the formation with the Gamecocks, on day one. Marshall’s (6’2/205) stock plunged for medical reasons but he arrives in Carolina as a first-round talent familiar with OC Joe Brady’s playbook from Baton Rouge. Christensen (6’6/302) highlights what the Panthers prioritize in their prospects via his versatility as a 90th percentile athlete. Same for Tremble (6'4/242), who was regarded as the nation’s best run-blocking tight end with explosion (36 1/2-inch vertical) and speed (4.65 40) to boot. All are prepared to contribute as rotational players (at minimum) from day one.

Grade: A

Chicago Bears

1 (11) - QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

2 (39) - OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State

5 (151) - OT Larry Borom, Missouri

6 (217) - RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech

6 (221) - WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina

6 (228) - CB Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon

7 (250) - DI Khyiris Tonga, BYU

Overview: Comparing Chicago’s trade up for Fields to the time it jumped the line for Mitch Trubisky is low-hanging fruit that should be ignored. The organization impressively corrected its mismanagement in free agency at that position all the while allowing Jenkins, who permitted just two sacks across 1,207 pass-blocking snaps the past three years, to fall to them in one fell swoop. (It didn’t make any sense to cut LT Charles Leno at this stage, but Ryan Pace can’t win them all.) Matt Nagy has been rumored to dumb down his play-calling in years past to make life easier for those under center, but that won’t be the case with Fields. No matter how the rest of this class shakes out, Pace and Nagy should be (gulp) applauded for buying themselves another year with a long-term mindset.

Grade: B+

Dallas Cowboys

1 (12) - LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

2 (44) - CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky

3 (75) - DI Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA

3 (84) - EDGE Chauncey Golston, Iowa

3 (99) - CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State

4 (115) - LB Jabril Cox, LSU

4 (138) - OT Josh Ball, Marshall

5 (179) - WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford

6 (192) - DI Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky

6 (227) - CB Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina

7 (238) - OG Matt Farniok, Nebraska

Overview: Thursday was a worst-case scenario for the Cowboys, which wisely traded back with Philadelphia the moment both South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn and Alabama CB Patrick Surtain were picked back-to-back inside the top 10. The plan went awry beyond that, seeing Dallas fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy in retreading MLB Leighton Vander Esch with Parsons (6’3/246). The 21-year-old will make an impact off the edge and as insurance for LVE in year one but dooms the organization to continue running in place as it simply covers up for past mistakes after the latter is inevitably allowed to walk in 2022. Dan Quinn’s fingerprints are smeared across the rest of the class, adding fresh faces on defense with 8-of-11 picks, drafting the only two corners (Wright, Mukuamu) who stand over 6’4, and reaching for Joseph (5’11/197) to make up for missing out on his position on day one. Cox (6’3/232) was a sheer value with three-down potential in the fourth round. Fehoko, a 93rd percentile athlete who clocked a 4.44 40 at 6'3/222, offers a different and unique skill set among Dallas’ elite 11 personnel. Overall the front office was far too confident in its own board, patting themselves on the back over Johnny Walker Blue rather than adjusting to who the rest of the league allowed to fall.

Grade: C-

Detroit Lions

1 (7) - OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

2 (41) - DI Levi Onwuzurike, Washington

3 (72) - DI Alim McNeill, NC State

3 (101) - CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

4 (112) - WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC

4 (113) - LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue

7 (257) - RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State

Overview: In no position to win over the next two years, Detroit sagaciously began its rebuild from the inside out, fortifying both sides of the ball with a Jonathan Ogden-type cornerstone in Sewell (6’4/331) and large disruptive penetrators in Onwuzurike (4.88 40 at 6’3/290) and McNeill, the third-heaviest interior lineman (6’1/317) in his class. St. Brown (5’11/197) was hyper productive with 77/1,042/6 as Southern California’s primary slot receiver (88%) in 2019 and could carve out a role there given the team’s negligent surrounding talent from Week 1. Most have knocked the Lions for passing on Justin Fields at No. 7, but reversing that decision wouldn’t bring the organization any closer to fielding an impactful roster long-term, especially with Jared Goff accounting for $41.7 million through 2022.

Grade: B+

Green Bay Packers

1 (29) - CB Eric Stokes, Georgia

2 (62) - C josh myers, Ohio State

3 (85) - WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson

4 (142) - T Royce Newman, Ole Miss

5 (173) - DI Tedarrell Slaton, Florida

5 (178) - CB Shemar Jean-Charles, App State

6 (214) - T Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin

6 (220) - LB Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College

7 (256) - RB Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

Overview: Packers again emphasized athleticism in the secondary, weighing Stokes' dazzling pro day enough to make him the fifth cornerback selected on day one. He'll rotate in nickel packages with Kevin King immediately after the latter was merely re-signed to a one-year deal to bridge the gap. Myers (6'5/312) was arguably a reach boasted by the school (Ohio State) on his resume, allowing six sacks and 27 total pressures over the past two seasons. While a breath of fresh air, Amari Rodgers (5'9/212) didn't lack for errors as a fourth-year breakout, rarely winning on contested catches (5-of-17 for his career) and totaling five drops in 2020. It's possible Green Bay only collected a few career rotational players through three days.

Grade: D+

Los Angeles Rams

2 (57) - WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville

3 (103) - LB Ernest Jones, South Carolina

4 (117) - DI Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M

4 (130) - CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas

4 (141) - WR Jacob Harris, UCF

5 (174) - EDGE Earnest Brown IV, Northwestern

7 (233) - RB Jake Funk, Maryland

Overview: Los Angeles honed in on fits over superior talent, most notably depending on Atwell’s (5’8/149) 4.39 40-speed and experience from the slot over Terrace Marshall in the second round, and Jones (6’1/230) to compete with ILB Micah Kiser throughout camp. Rochell (6’0/193) is a salivating flier with elite athleticism including a 4.38 40-yard dash, 3.89-second short shuttle and 11-foot-8 broad jump. Rams declared Harris (6’5/219), who profiles as Julio Jones learning the position, as a wide receiver. Failing to add any help on the offensive line remains egregious. Brownie points for upgrading Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford with the No. 31 overall pick.

Grade: C

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

Minnesota Vikings

1 (23) - T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

3 (66) - QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

3 (78) - LB Chazz Surratt, North Carolina

3 (86) - G Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

3 (90) - EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh

4 (119) - RB Kene Nwangwu, Iowa State

4 (125) - CB Camryn Bynum, California

4 (134) - EDGE Janarius Robinson, Florida State

5 (157) WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa

5 (168) - TE Zach Davidson, Zach Davidson

6 (199) - EDGE Jaylen Twyman, Pitt

Overview: No front office played its cards better on night one than Minnesota’s, which passed on Darrisaw (6’5/314) at No. 14 only to eventually collect him, Mond, and Davis with the capital accrued in trading down with the Jets. Bravo. The latter was only available in the third because he played through a lower body injury in 2020; it’s possible all are starting for the Vikings in 2022. Smith-Marsette (6’1/181) will compete with Bisi Johnson for a starting spot from 11 personnel in camp. Nwangwu is notably a Josh Norris guy. This class offers far more promise than last year’s day-three plethora of no-shows.

Grade: A

New Orleans Saints

1 (28) - EDGE Payton Turner, Houston

2 (60) - LB Pete Werner, Ohio State

3 (76) - CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

4 (133) - QB Ian Book, Notre Dame

6 (206) - OT Landon Young, Kentucky

7 (255) - WR Kawaan Baker, South Alabama

Overview: Not much to see here. Mickey Loomis avoided gifting capital for an elite corner (or quarterback) but came away with one of the riskiest selections of day one; initially profiled as a 3-tech bull-rusher, Turner (6’5/270) registered 25 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in just four full games (due to COVID and knee issues) playing exclusively as an EDGE in 2020. Adebo (6’1/198) totaled eight picks and 24 pass breakups over the last two seasons but may struggle in any man-coverage assignments across from Marshon Lattimore. Book would have gone undrafted. The organization recently exercised Marcus Davenport’s fifth-year option, which roadblocks Turner’s outlook.

Grade: D+

New York Giants

1 (20) - WR Kadarius Toney, Florida

2 (50) - EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

3 (71) - CB Aaron Robinson, UCF

4 (116) - EDGE Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa

6 (196) - RB Gary Brightwell, Arizona

6 (201) - CB Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State

Overview: Dave Gettleman finally avoided “getting fleeced” in trading back with the Bears on Thursday, gathering No. 20 and Chicago’s 2022 first- and fourth-round picks to move back nine spots. That should be commended. But the bullheaded decision to add Toney (5'11/193) was obviously an ill-advised taek-lock that creates a logjam at receiver. While Toney offers a 96th percentile burst score with sterling numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.37), broad jump (11'4) and vertical leap (39.5"), he played out wide for only 92 career snaps with the Gators and is likelier to disappear in OC Jason Garrett’s prehistoric play-calling than make a difference. Ojulari (6'3/240) and Robinson (6'1/193) immediately strengthen DC Patrick Graham’s unit even further in 2021. Needless to say, New York’s approach was good when it could have been great.

Grade: B-

Philadelphia Eagles

1 (10) - WR Devonta Smith, Alabama

2 (37) - iOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama

3 (73) - DI Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech

4 (123) - CB Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech

5 (150) - RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

6 (189) - DI Marlon Tuipulotu, USC

6 (191) - EDGE Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina

6 (224) S JaCoby Stevens, LSU

7 (234) - EDGE Patrick Johnson, Tulane

Overview: Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie yet again backed Jalen Hurts through their actions, trading No. 12 and 84 to move up two spots for 2020 Heisman Trophy winner Smith. The former Sooners star is eyeing a make-or-break season before the organization begins plotting with four picks in the first two rounds (including two firsts) in 2022. Multiple ACL injuries caused Dickerson's (6'6/326) first-round stock to plummet, allowing the Eagles to secure another area of need on day two. Having lined up at every offensive-line position at one point or another between Florida State and Alabama, the 22-year-old can be groomed as Jason Kelce's long-term replacement. Williams (6'4/278) only began turning heads with 17 pressures, 17 stops and 3.5 sacks in his last five games. The team's first two selections are ideally long-term players that carry over no matter the eventual direction under center.

Grade: B-

San Francisco 49ers

1 (3) - QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

2 (48) - G Aaron Banks, Notre Dame

3 (88) - RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State

3 (102) - CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan

5 (155) - OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan

5 (172) - CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon

5 (180) - S Talanoa Hufanga, USC

6 (194) - RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana

Overview: John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan deviated from their historical tendencies in drafting, avoiding all interior defensive players for the first time since arriving in San Francisco; locking up multiple running backs on the last two days rather than sifting for explosiveness from undrafted free agents; and selecting any number of guards, which the duo had never done prior to this year. Lance will turn 21 in May. Thomas (5’11/191) played just one full season at Michigan before opting out in 2020. Whether Sermon (or anyone else among this group) carve out a role is moot. This class hinges solely on just how high Lance flies.

Grade: B

Seattle Seahawks

2 (56) - WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

4 (137) - CB Tre Brown, Oklahoma

6 (208) - OT Stone Forsythe, Florida

Overview: Assuming 25-year-old Jamal Adams signs a long-term extension with the club, the first-rounder Seattle used to acquire him should be factored in. That doesn’t exonerate the front office for its remaining three picks, adding a lightning-fast (4.33 40-time) 24-year-old, Eskridge, who was productive exclusively against MAC competition and a 5’9 corner with 30 3/8-inch arms, Brown, to play on the boundary. As always, Russell Wilson will keep the organization competitive in spite of its decision-making.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 (32) - EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington

2 (64) - QB Kyle Trask, Florida

3 (95) - iOL Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame

4 (129) - WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas

5 (176) - LB K.J. Britt, Auburn

7 (251) - CB Chris Wilcox, BYU

7 (259) LB Grant Stuard, Houston

Overview: Infamous for failing to get out of his own way and wasting draft capital in prior years, Jason Licht was afforded the luxury of playing the lottery with high-upside players that could develop behind one of the team’s 22 returning starters this year. Tryon (6’5/259) hasn’t played in a year and a half after choosing to opt out in 2020 but offers immediate depth as he learns from Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Trask, albeit a divisive pick, offers the first glimpse into a non-Tom Brady world down the road. Darden (5’9/174) totaled an FBS-high 23 broken tackles as a vertical slot receiver (career 90.7% snaps) in 2020. None need to make an immediate impact.

Grade: B

Washington Football Team

1 (19) - LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky

2 (51) - OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas

3 (74) - CB benjamin st-juste, Minnesota

3 (82) - WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina

4 (124) - TE John Bates, Boise State

4 (163) - S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati

6 (225) - LS Camaron Cheeseman, Michigan

7 (240) - EDGE William Bradley-King, Baylor

7 (246) - EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State

7 (258) - WR Dax Milne, BYU

Overview: Washington ideally would’ve left the draft with its quarterback of the future in hand but encouragingly didn’t force the issue. Davis (6’3/234), while a case-by-case fit inside the box, offers freak athleticism (99th percentile in explosion drills) as well as proven run-stuffing and coverage skills as the consummate sideline-to-sideline player to roam behind Washington’s utopian pass rush. Cosmi (6'7/314), who soaked up 2,624 snaps as a tried-and-true hoss in three seasons with the Longhorns, received multiple first-round grades yet fell into the team’s lap — at a position of need, nonetheless. Brown’s (6’0/189) first words out the womb were “Ryan Fitzpatrick” as the former averaged an 18.4 depth of target and 20.1 yards per catch the past two years with the Tarheels. Washington is incorrectly +260 behind Dallas (+125) to take the NFC East.

Grade: B+