Final 2021 NFL draft grades

Eric Edholm
·61 min read

The picks are in, from No. 1 (Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars) through No. 259 (Grant Stuard, aka “Mr. Irrelevant,” to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and we have broken all of them down.

Here are our final team-by-team grades for the 2021 draft (picks listed by round and overall pick):

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Picks: 1-30: Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau; 2-61: Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham; 3-93: Northern Iowa OT Spencer Brown; 5-161: Miami (Ohio) OT Tommy Doyle; 6-203: Houston WR Marquez Stevenson; 6-212: Pitt S Damar Hamlin; 6-213: Wisconsin CB Rachad Wildgoose; 7-236: Texas Tech OG Jack Anderson

Favorite pick: Basham

Buffalo is taking the carpet-bombing approach to the EDGE spot, taking Rousseau in the first and Basham in the second after selecting A.J. Epenesa in Round 2 a year ago. That makes sense with prospective starters Jerry Hughes (age 32) and Mario Addison (33) as possible cut candidates in 2022. Rousseau has the higher ceiling, but Basham is a favorite of ours. He is different than some past Bills edge rushers, but his burst, effort and bulk all can work in a variety of roles. This front got better.

Least-favorite pick: Hamlin

Geez, we didn’t dislike any of the Bills' picks, and taking a sixth-round flier on Hamlin is no reach at all. We just wish they had targeted a safety with nickel potential earlier. Hamlin has a good play temperament with a nose for the ball and decent range, but our suspicion is that he likely will end up a third safety and special teamer because of his size and strength worries. We had to pick someone here, and it happened to be Hamlin.

Overall: A very workmanlike haul. The first three picks addressed the lines of scrimmage heavily and with population, helping bolster for the future. Applaud this approach. The Bills might be tantalizingly close to competing for a Super Bowl, but teams that sell out for the immediate needs tend to lose out in the end. Doyle was good late value, either as a right tackle or right guard. And Stevenson was well worth the late dart throw. Another strong, deep class for GM Brandon Beane and his staff, even with a risky Round 1 pick in Rousseau.

Grade: B
Grade in 2020: A-
Grade in 2019: B+

Miami Dolphins

Picks: 1-6: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle; 1-18: Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips; 2-36: Oregon S Jevon Holland; 2-42: Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg; 3-81: Boston College TE Hunter Long; 7-231: UMass OT Larnel Coleman; 7-244: Cincinnati RB Gerrid Doaks

Favorite pick: Waddle

Missing out on Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase hurts, and the Dolphins traded out of the third spot, where they could have had either. The tradeoff: They netted the 49ers’ first- and third-rounders in 2022, plus their first-rounder in 2023, and they had to give up only a 2022 third-rounder and a first in 2023. That’s worth it, and Waddle gives Miami another blurring wideout after adding Will Fuller in free agency. Tua Tagovailoa has plenty of weapons now. Waddle could be a blast, even if he’s not a volume receiver early.

Least-favorite pick: Holland

This is less about Holland — whom we like — and more about the fact that Miami watched as the Broncos leapfrogged them and took North Carolina RB Javonte Williams, a player who would be a perfect addition to Miami’s backfield. Will the Dolphins regret not ensuring they got Williams? Holland figures to man the nickel safety role, and he has good ball instincts, but this is a deep secondary, so he might not be a heavy contributor right away. They also took him over Notre Dame LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, which is another debate we could have.

Overall: The Dolphins’ 2020 draft had a safe feel to it. They went for fit and reached on a few picks. There were very few trades once the draft process was in motion. In 2021, however, Miami got aggressive up high. The Waddle and Phillips picks are swings for the fences. Phillips, in particular, carries big risk, but we get the upside if his character and medical evaluations were thoroughly vetted. Day 2 was more passive, and the picks were more conservative. Overall, Miami filled holes but might have left a few shells in the chamber in not grabbing one of the top four or five running backs.

Grade: B
Grade in 2020: B
Grade in 2019: B+

New England Patriots

Picks: 1-15: Alabama QB Mac Jones; 2-38: Alabama DT Christian Barmore; 3-96: Oklahoma EDGE Ronnie Perkins; 4-120: Oklahoma RB Rhamondre Stevenson; 5-177: Michigan LB Cameron McGrone; 6-188: Missouri S Joshuah Bledsoe; 6-197: Colorado OT Will Sherman; 7-242: UCF WR Tre Nixon

Favorite pick: Perkins

For all we know, Jones could be Tom Brady’s reincarnation. That, though, feels like a sucker’s bet. So we’ll go with Perkins, who is a powerful, high-energy rusher who might have enough athleticism to stand up and sometimes drop into space. There might be overlap with what the Patriots already have in Chase Winovich and Josh Uche, but they’re assembling depth and talent for a defense that was surprisingly soft last season. We thought Perkins would be a top-75 pick, so the Patriots got him at great value.

Least-favorite pick: Barmore

Talent-wise, Barmore went lower than he should have. His evaluation includes questions about his commitment and focus, along with inconsistent results on the field — white hot one game, invisible the next. In as weak a DT class as we’ve had since 2017, Barmore was the most talented … and he didn’t go Round 1. That tells you what some teams felt about him. The Patriots traded two fourth-rounders to move up to nab Barmore, and we can’t doubt the Nick Saban-Bill Belichick relationship and trust in giving New England an idea of exactly what it's getting. But we’re getting Dominique Easley vibes here.

Overall: Belichick played the hits early with the two semi-predictable Bama selections, followed by the double-dip on Sooners in Rounds 3 and 4. The one outlier for this class is the riskiness of the prospects they selected. All in all, landing a potential starting QB at 15 without having to trade up was a win, and they grabbed a few interesting projects on Day 3. This class banks on Jones following in Tom Brady’s shadow and having to make his way past Cam Newton, but if there’s a spot for Jones to make it, this is it.

Grade: B-
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: A-

New York Jets

Picks: 1-2: BYU QB Zach Wilson; 1-14: USC OG Alijah Vera-Tucker; 2-34: Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore; 4-107: UNC RB Michael Carter; 5-146: Auburn S Jamien Sherwood; 5-154: Duke CB Michael Carter II; 5-175: Pittsburgh CB Jason Pinnock; 6-186: Florida State S Hamsah Nasirildeen; 6-200: Kentucky CB Brandin Echols; 6-207: Arkansas DT Jonathan Marshall

Favorite pick: Moore

It was a tossup between Vera-Tucker and Moore, and the cost of the latter was cheaper. We think the Jets would have taken Moore at 23 had they not moved up in Round 1. Instead, Moore fell in their laps. He's a perfect inside complement to their outside receivers, Corey Davis and Denzel Mims. Moore is a blur, and he and Wilson figure to be a busy pair over the next few years. He’s more diverse and NFL-ready in a full-time role than Kadarius Toney, who went 14 picks earlier.

Least-favorite pick: Wilson

Let’s be clear: Wilson was someone we howled at last season. He was a blast to watch, more so than any other QB in this class. But he was our QB4 and our No. 13 overall prospect once we re-stacked the board. Wilson makes some brilliant throws. He’s athletic and gusty. He’s tough for a thinly built guy. But Wilson’s erratic decision-making stands out on tape, making him a player who could suffer through some lumps early. This pick will be weighed against Justin Fields and Trey Lance (and Mac Jones, we suppose) for years.

Overall: GM Joe Douglas is a great talent evaluator, and the proof is in the picks. Yes, we scrutinized the Wilson pick, and we would have liked to see some defensive help higher up in the draft for Robert Saleh’s group. Saleh got a heavy dose of defensive blood on Day 3, with a few interesting prospects in Sherwood and Nasirildeen. But insulating Wilson and continuing the build on offense took precedence. His rookie outlook might be a little tricky, and he’ll always be judged against how Lance and Fields perform, so that one pick carries a lot of weight in this class.

Grade: B-
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: C+

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Picks: 1-27: Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman; 1-31: Penn State EDGE Odafe Oweh; 3-94: Georgia OG Ben Cleveland; 3-104: SMU CB Brandon Stephens; 4-131: Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace; 5-160: Ohio State CB Shaun Wade; 5-171: Notre Dame EDGE Daelin Hayes; 5-184: Michigan FB Ben Mason

Favorite pick: Bateman

We almost went with Wade, who went lower than he should have, but his projection still remains murky. Instead, it’s their first pick in Bateman, who hopes to end the streak of so-so WR choices by the team. He might never be special, but Bateman has the competitive efficiency the Ravens will need on the outside. What stood out on Bateman's tape was how he constantly worked back to the ball in the scramble drill. That will play very well with Lamar Jackson, who routinely operates out of structure. Bateman might be a better player than his future stats suggest, but he put up monster numbers in 2019 and is more that player than what we saw in 2020.

Least-favorite pick: Stephens

A Southwest-area scout told us to check out Stephens, and we were impressed at a converted running back (he played there two years for UCLA) who changed to a corner and started for two seasons for the Mustangs. But most teams had later-round grades on him, and there will be a question as to how he fits at the next level — outside corner? Safety? Special teamer? We didn’t love the value, and wonder about the fit. Wade, taken two rounds later, is a better player.

Overall: The Ravens added more work to their plates following the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, and they came away with two interesting first-round picks. Both have star potential but also bring questions. Oweh especially is a boom-or-bust pick. This group doesn’t have the excitement of the Ravens’ 2020 draft class, but it looks like a fairly solid bunch on the whole. The Wallace, Wade and Hayes picks on Day 3 helped give it a late boost. Mason is the most Harbaugh/Ravens pick ever.

Grade: C+
Grade in 2020: A
Grade in 2019: B

Cincinnati Bengals

Picks: 1-5: LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase; 2-46: Clemson OG Jackson Carman; 3-69: Texas EDGE Joseph Ossai; 4-111: Tulane EDGE Cameron Sample; 4-122: LSU DT Tyler Shelvin; 4-139: East Carolina OT D’Ante Smith; 5-149: Florida PK Evan McPherson; 6-190: Georgia C Trey Hill; 6-202: Michigan RB Chris Evans; 7-235: Kansas State EDGE Wyatt Hubert

Favorite pick: Chase

Let’s not get cute. Chase is the alpha dog of this class, and it was the right move taking him over Penei Sewell or any other offensive lineman. The trio of Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd is among the best in the league now — we truly mean that. Joe Burrow’s protection is important, but the Bengals have done some work on the OL and could afford to take an elite playmaker who would have gone off the board with the next pick had Cincy not taken him.

Least-favorite pick: Carman

He’s a local kid, and the trade down to this spot netted two fourth-round picks, which was good value. But we’re wondering whether the Bengals might have moved themselves out of a better-caliber blocker, with Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg and Walker Little all going off the board in the space they moved down before their new pick. Carman looks to be a guard early. He could one day move to tackle. He struggled against speed rushers, so perhaps that issue is mitigated inside. Carman’s run blocking is a plus, so there’s some fit and value here. But there were other offensive linemen we liked more who were picked after this.

Overall: After the Chase pick, it was infrastructure time. The Bengals reinforced the lines of scrimmage and doubled down on positions they attacked in free agency. And while there might be too much mimic in some of their picks — Tyler Shelvin as a D.J. Reader clone — there was some real sense to their approach. The wisdom of taking a kicker early in Round 5 always invites criticism, and that’s now twice in four years they’ve done it. But the Bengals got two instant starters and a slew of contributors in what looks like an above-average class with a few really nice picks in Chase, Ossai, Sample and Smith. It’s basically like every Bengals draft: Enough intrigue to stick around and see how it turns out.

Grade: B-
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: B+

Cleveland Browns

Picks: 1-26: Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II; 2-52: Notre Dame LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah; 3-91: Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz; 4-110: Cincinnati OT James Hudson; 4-132: Ohio State DT Tommy Togiai; 5-153: West Virginia LB Tony Fields II; 5-169: Georgia S Richard LeCounte III; 6-211: UCLA WR Demetric Felton.

Favorite pick: Owusu-Koramoah

Their first two picks were really nice, adding speed and hyper-competitiveness to the defense. JOK brought silly value in Round 2, even if some people around the league we spoke with Friday indicated that there is fatigue over some hybrid players as their fits can be tricky from one scheme to another. Even still, the Browns got a top-40 prospect well into Round 2 and addressed an area of need at the same time. The cost to do so, swapping a third-rounder for a fourth in return, wasn’t prohibitive.

Least-favorite pick: Schwartz

Speed kills, and player who run 4.25 40-yard dashes typically go higher than this. But Schwartz — often called the fastest man in college football the past three years — scored more rushing TDs (seven) than receiving TDs (six) and averaged just over 12 yards a catch in his 36 college games. He’s simply a gadget player at this stage. Is that the worst gamble in the world with the 91st pick in the draft? Probably not. At his best, maybe he’s Devery Henderson. Or perhaps Aldrick Robinson.

Overall: The Browns hosted the draft party, and they didn’t let the hometown crowd down. It was a big weekend for the ascending team, coming off a playoff performance and improving the roster. The focus was on defense, as expected, but Hudson was a nice gamble and value selection at that stage of the draft. The four fifth- and sixth-rounders all looked like value stabs. General manager Andrew Berry seems to get the draft, and he and his staff pulled in a nice haul. Cleveland is going to be a fun team to watch the next few years. There wasn’t a single pick they made that got us upset, and most of them we really liked.

Grade: A-
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers

Picks: 1-24: Alabama RB Najee Harris; 2-55: Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth; 3-87: Illinois C-OG Kendrick Green; 4-128: Texas A&M OT Dan Moore Jr.; 4-140: Texas A&M LB Buddy Johnson; 5-156: Wisconsin DL Isaiahh Loudermilk; 6-216: Miami EDGE Quincy Roche; 7-245: Oklahoma DB Tre Norwood; 7-254: Georgia Tech P Pressley Harvin III

Favorite pick: Green

His Round 3 selection helped, in a strange way, even though the first two picks make more sense. Granted, Harris is our favorite pick of theirs strictly from a talent perspective, but landing a potential starting center near the end of Round 3 at least filled a major vacancy (unless you believe in J.C. Hassenauer or B.J. Finney there). Green worked at left guard and center, and was good at both spots in college, a very good run blocker who has developed very quickly for a player who started his college career at defensive tackle. He’s not big or long but has the athletic traits and a wrestler’s mentality inside to be an above-average starter in time.

Least-favorite pick: Freiermuth

With some Day 3 ammo at their disposal, the Steelers could have swung a trade up into the first part of Round 2 to snag one of the higher-graded tackles still on the board. They didn’t, and that means Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner are your starters at left and right tackle, respectively, folks. We don’t love it. Freiermuth has the looks of a very solid tight end — shades of Heath Miller, even. But the missed OT opportunity hurts.

Overall: A pretty blue-collar haul here, led by Harris, a central-casting Steeler. Will the blocking be better up front? We hope so. Only Green figures to be a new starter from last year’s unit, so the Steelers need to hope he’s ready to step in and the other four are prepared to play better. We thought they might grab an edge rusher or a linebacker (higher than Buddy Johnson in Round 5), but for the most part this is a respectable group. Harris could be a Rookie of the Year candidate, but he had great blocking at Bama. We are unsure he’ll be afforded that luxury as a rookie in Pittsburgh. Roche and Norwood, a Swiss Army knife defender, were better than their draft slots. And taking the hulking Pressley — biggest NFL punter ever at 5-foot-11, 263 pounds? — was our favorite punter pick. Massive punters are just a lot of fun.

Grade: C+
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: C+

AFC South

Houston Texans

Picks: 3-67: Stanford QB Davis Mills; 3-89: Michigan WR Nico Collins; 5-147: Miami TE Brevin Jordan; 5-170: TCU LB Garret Wallow; 6-195: Arizona DT Roy Lopez

Favorite pick: Jordan

The Hurricanes tight end was never fully healthy last season, we suspect, and injuries have sadly been a big part of his story. But somewhere in there is a very twitchy H-back or “move” tight end with great athleticism. He’s not even 21 yet and can be a better pro than he was a college player, with strong YAC ability and good speed. This was a bargain — about 60-70 picks later than we thought he’d go.

Least-favorite pick: Mills

Picking Mills gives the Texans a layer of security with the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson. With only 11 college starts and a history of injuries, Mills can spend his first year as a pseudo redshirt and start tapping into his talent. We had a higher grade on him than Kyle Trask, who went four picks earlier. Having to take a provisional QB with a top pick (with no first- or second-round picks) hurts for a team that was gutted in the offseason.

Overall: Dealing from a short deck, new GM Nick Caserio did what he could in his first crack in Houston. The Mills pick sends a big message that the Texans are prepared for life after Watson, and there’s no guarantee, of course, that Mills pans out. Collins, Jordan and Wallow were all picks we liked as the Texans started restocking the shelves. It’s a long road, and this is but a first step for Caserio, but he mostly made sound, smart choices with what he had.

Grade: C
Grade in 2020: C-
Grade in 2019: C-

Indianapolis Colts

Picks: 1-21: Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye; 2-54: Vanderbilt EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo; 4-127: SMU TE Kylen Granson; 5-165: Florida S Shawn Davis; 6-218: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger; 7-229: Charleston (W. Va.) WR Mike Strachan; 7-248: Penn State OG Will Fries

Favorite pick: Odeyingbo

It was about a round sooner than I thought he would go. The reason for that is the torn Achilles that Odeyingbo suffered in January, an injury that likely will make him a PUP list candidate and carve into his rookie season. Regardless, if we look long term, Odeyingbo is a future pillar up front. And he’s exactly what the Colts love: long, athletic and gritty. Watching him hustle his tail off late in blowouts for a winless Vandy team last season was a sight. He might never be an All-Pro, but Odeyingbo gives us some Shaun Ellis (remember him?) vibes. Be patient.

Least-favorite pick: Granson

Unable to choose “the picks traded for Carson Wentz,” we’ll pick the Mustangs’ H-back, but not because we don’t appreciate what he is. It’s just that the league value on Granson was not as high as where he was picked; the Colts could have gotten him a round or two later. Granson fits what the Colts like: He’s versatile, reliable, smart and quick for his size. He’s basically a Dan Vitale clone in some respects. But he was taken ahead of a few better tight ends.

Overall: Paye and (eventually) Odeyingbo will help shore up the pass rush, which was an area of need. Quarterback was the biggest issue, and Wentz is the hope there — with Ehlinger worth developing while he serves as the QB-sneak replacement for Jacoby Brissett and a fun possibility as a trick-play participant. The Bahamian-born Strachan is a late-round lottery ticket worth keeping an eye on; last we saw the 6-5 receiver he had a 19-TD, 11-game season at the D-II level. Overall the grade weighs heavily on Wentz and the development of two defensive linemen who might not be instant coffee in the NFL.

Grade: C
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: A-

Jacksonville Jaguars

Picks: 1-1: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence; 1-25: Clemson RB Travis Etienne; 2-33: Georgia CB Tyson Campbell; 2-45: Stanford OT Walker Little; 3-65: Syracuse S Andre Cisco; 4-106: USC DT Jay Tufele; 4-121: UAB EDGE Jordan Smith; 5-145: Ohio State TE Luke Farrell; 6-209: Georgia Tech WR Jalen Camp

Favorite pick: Lawrence

Picking anyone else would be too fatuous. Lawrence is the king of Duval County now, and we can’t wait to see him dissecting NFL defenses and pairing with Urban Meyer in one of the most fascinating chemistry experiments in recent memory. The team did a good job of giving him more help, too, with the picks of his college teammate Etienne, Little and others. It's an intriguing lot of talent already in place on offense. We have a hard time seeing Lawrence straight-up fail in the NFL, even if the expectations might be tremendous — and perhaps unrealistic.

Least-favorite pick: Etienne

He’s going to add juice to this team, no doubt. But we question the value of a lower-priority position that was already in decent hands with James Robinson and Carlos Hyde. Yes, Etienne adds a gear those two do not have and he could thrive on third downs with his improved receiving ability. But taking him at No. 33 would have sat better with us, and we’ll look back in a few years and could see one of the seven players picked in between those spots end up a better pro, perhaps at a position of greater need.

Overall: Urban Meyer has a type. You can’t take the college out of the coach, apparently, as Lawrence, Campbell, Little, Tufele, Smith and Farrell all were 4- or 5-star recruits out of high school. The Jaguars collected talent at pretty much every position of need, plus a few more that were not in dire shape. Clearly, the class centers on Lawrence, and that pick essentially was a gift. Overall, it was a solid group with one clear star.

Grade: B
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: C+

Tennessee Titans

Picks: 1-22: Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley; 2-53: North Dakota State OT Dillon Radunz; 3-92: Georgia LB Monty Rice; 3-100: Washington CB Elijah Molden; 4-109: Louisville WR Dez Fitzpatrick; 4-135: Pittsburgh EDGE Rashad Weaver; 6-205: LSU WR Racey McMath; 6-215: Oregon S Brady Breeze

Favorite pick: Molden

We’ve spilled a few pints of blood extolling the virtues of this young man, even listing him 41st overall on our top 100 list when we knew he wouldn’t go close to that high. The Titans saw some of the same things we did, we suspect, in Molden’s film: Whether he’s a nickel or a safety, our All-Juice Team selection will be a feisty, instinctive playmaker. At the very least, he’ll be a great special teamer.

Least-favorite pick: Radunz

We just were not as enamored with Trey Lance’s left tackle as others were, and if we’re wrong, we’ll admit as much. He has the grit to endear himself to any OL coach and has positional flexibility. We could see him as the starting right tackle, and Radunz will be a good fit on the outside zone series the Titans run. But he’s got a slighter build, ends up on the ground too much and can’t maul people in the run game, even with his nasty demeanor.

Overall: The first two picks are interesting gambles — Farley a big swing on talent with notable back injury concerns and Radunz a small-school prospect switching positions and needing improved strength and better balance. The Titans needed more help at receiver early on, but Fitzpatrick is an interesting dart throw. Weaver was great value in Round 4. The Titans had sub-par special teams units last season, and it appears they targeted help for those in Molden, McMath and Breeze, who could be core members of those core-four teams. We started warming to this crop the more we sat back and soaked it in.

Grade: B-
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: A

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Picks: 1-9: Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II; 2-35: North Carolina RB Javonte Williams; 3-98: Wisconsin-Whitewater C Quinn Meinerz; 3-105: Ohio State LB Baron Browning; 5-152: Texas S Caden Sterns; 5-164: Indiana S Jamar Johnson; 6-219: Auburn WR Seth Williams; 7-237: LSU CB Kary Vincent Jr.; 7-239: Ohio State EDGE Jonathon Cooper; 7-253: Mississippi State EDGE Marquiss Spencer

Favorite pick: Javonte Williams

Vaulting over the Dolphins to land Williams was an inspired move. We had him No. 25 overall on our board and expect him to supplant Melvin Gordon as the top back there at some point. He’s a tackle-breaking bowling ball who will get the fans fired up and put the offense in good downs and distances. Can he add more receiving ability? That’s the big question. He had a few balls clang off his hands, including a brutal one late in the loss to FSU. Overall, he profiles as a lead back for a team that needed more balance.

Least-favorite pick: Surtain

But wait! We love Surtain. That’s how much we liked this group. Our only gripe was taking him over Justin Fields. That’s it. The Broncos are going to roll with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater this year and keep 2022 in mind for drafting a quarterback. But getting a starting cornerback with length at the ninth pick isn’t anything close to a miss. Surtain has such a high floor and so many things he does well. If Fields balls out, however, we can question this pick.

Overall: New GM George Paton took a very Vikings-ish approach to the draft and mostly nailed his first crack at it. There was value and purpose with pretty much every pick and some tangible upside with the selections of Meinerz, Browning, Sterns, Johnson and Williams. Sterns is Justin Simmons insurance, and Seth Williams can learn behind Courtland Sutton as he heads into a contract season. There isn’t a pick we didn’t like on some level for where they were selected. Strong first effort for Paton and Co. If they somehow pry away Aaron Rodgers, forget any criticism we made.

Grade: A-
Grade in 2020: A-
Grade in 2019: B+

Kansas City Chiefs

Picks: 2-58: Missouri LB Nick Bolton; 2-63: Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey; 4-144: Florida State EDGE Joshua Kaindoh; 5-162: Duke TE Noah Gray; 5-181: Clemson WR Cornell Powell; 6-226: Tennessee OG Trey Smith

Favorite pick: Bolton

We had him No. 41 overall, and the Chiefs got him half a round below that mark. Bolton is a hard-hitting, tone-setting thumper with undersold coverage skills. He and Willie Gay Jr. could be a nice duo in a year or two, able to run, chase and hit with bad intentions. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagunolo had Antonio Pierce as an undersized “Mike” linebacker with his Giants’ defenses, and we see that type of player in Bolton.

Least-favorite pick: Gray

It says something that our least-favorite pick is a mid-fifth rounder. Gray has some soft hands and can be a safety-valve option in the passing game, but we’re unsure what the upside here is. He’s a reliable player and could factor on special teams. Otherwise it was an uninspired choice. There were a few cornerbacks still on the board who we were preferable.

Overall: Factor in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, and this crop looks nice. Landing Powell and Smith late were the cherries on top of a very solid class. Bolton and Humphrey could start as rookies, and Brown was the tackle the Chiefs needed. Kaindoh’s pass rushing potential was worth investing in at that stage of the draft, Smith can start in this league if his medical situation — two bouts of blood clots — doesn’t hold him back, and Powell flashed a little and gives the Chiefs the big receiver they couldn’t get earlier in the draft. Good group for Brett Veach and Andy Reid.

Grade: B+
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: C+

Los Angeles Chargers

Picks: 1-13: Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater; 2-47: Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr.; 3-77: Tennessee WR Josh Palmer; 3-97: Georgia TE Tre' McKitty; 4-118: Duke EDGE Chris Rumph II; 5-159: Nebraska OT Brenden Jaimes; 6-185: Iowa LB Nick Niemann; 6-198: Missouri RB Larry Rountree III; 7-241: Georgia DB Mark Webb

Favorite pick: Slater

Samuel almost was the pick here. But Slater is Justin Herbert’s new left tackle, and it makes us all warm inside to know that great tackles with short arms are still allowed to play outside until it’s proven they shouldn’t. Slater is an athletic wonder and has good recovery ability, so he should be fine. Working vs. Joey Bosa in practice every day helps, too. It couldn’t have worked out much better for GM Tom Telesco. It wouldn’t be a stunner if they liked Slater better than (or just as much as) Penei Sewell.

Least-favorite pick: McKitty

He displayed some intriguing receiving skills at one point while at Florida State, but McKitty was virtually ignored in the passing game in his final season as a transfer with the Bulldogs. One reason for that is McKitty dealt with a sore knee that some teams were iffy on during his medical evaluations. We just didn’t imagine he’d sniff the top 100 picks, with most teams forecasting him in the later Day 3 range.

Overall: The first three picks were home runs, each addressing needs to varying degrees. Samuel isn’t long, but the Chargers have had success with smaller corners in the past. He’s highly competitive and instinctive, and there’s a path for Samuel to start Day 1. Palmer is a great sleeper. Ignore his 99 catches and seven TDs in 47 college games; look instead at the tape, which shows: 1. Palmer beating first-rounder Patrick Surtain II and second-rounder Tyson Campbell and 2. the Vols’ terrible QB play. The Day 3 picks were moderately unsexy but all reasonable for where they were taken.

Grade: A-
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: B

Las Vegas Raiders

Picks: 1-17: Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood; 2-43: TCU S Trevon Moehrig; 3-79: Buffalo EDGE Malcolm Koonce; 3-80: Virginia Tech S Divine Deablo; 4-143: Missouri S Tyree Gillespie; 5-167: Illinois CB Nate Hobbs; 7-230: Pitt C Jimmy Morrissey

Favorite pick: Moehrig

We had an early second-round grade on Moehrig, who figures to be a post safety in this defense. He should help the back-end coverage that has been an issue for a few years. Gus Bradley plays a lot of single-high in his heavy Cover 3 scheme, and Moehrig is fit to handle a center fielder role with his good instincts, decent range and nice reaction time. He’s going to make a few picks in this defense. He and Deablo (who figures to be more of a box safety/weakside linebacker) are two strong picks for this team.

Least-favorite pick: Koonce

The Leatherwood drum has been beaten enough; we didn’t hate it that much. But we just can’t wrap our heads around taking Koonce that high. Perhaps if he had a strong Senior Bowl week, especially in one-on-one drills, and turned in a big pro day we could see some possible top-100 buzz. But Koonce was knocked out of those events with a foot injury, and his tape didn't warrant a semi-premium pick. We like his burst and his surprising pop on contact, but GM Mike Mayock’s comp of Yannick Ngakoue feels like a big stretch. Most teams had him as a late draftable prospect.

Overall: Their selections were a straight-up roller coaster. Hated one, then loved the next — on and on for all seven rounds. That said, Leatherwood and Moehrig could start from the get-go, and the depth on defense was addressed somewhat nicely. Overall, this feels like a hot-and-cold lot with maybe one home run in Moehrig and a glue guy in Deablo (who has the most Raiders name ever). And while we’re at it, what happened to all the low-key quarterback talk?

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: B-

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Picks: 1-12: Penn State LB Micah Parsons; 2-44: Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph; 3-75: UCLA DT Osa Odighizuwa; 3-84: Iowa EDGE Chauncey Golston; 3-99: Oregon State CB Nahshon Wright; 4-115: LSU LB Jabril Cox; 4-138: Marshall OT Josh Ball; 5-179: Stanford WR Simi Fehoko; 6-192: Kentucky DT Quinton Bohanna; 6-227: South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu; 7-238: Nebraska OG Matt Farniok

Favorite pick: Cox

Our favorite by a country mile. Every other pick seemed to be close to where we thought they would land or lower. Cox slipping to Round 4 was a shock, as his coverage ability separated him from many other linebackers (including Parsons) in this year’s class. LSU coaches raved about Cox’s leadership. He’s a perfect complement to Parsons and could be part of a good duo that supplants Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith in time.

Least-favorite pick: Joseph

There’s an interesting talent here, as Joseph has decent length, great catch-up speed and some burgeoning ball skills. On talent alone, he was well worth his draft slot. But Joseph alienated himself with two different coaching staffs (LSU and Kentucky) and likely is in need of some maturing. Sources have said he can be headstrong and self-interested, and his commitment at both schools was questioned. If he can put it all together and adopt a team mindset, there’s a very good player. Joseph is a big risk for a Cowboys staff that is trying to rebuild the culture after a brutal 2020 season. They missed out on the top two corners, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, and were unable to trade up in Round 2 for Tyson Campbell. Any of the three would have offered more stability.

Overall: The Cowboys’ patterned approach of taking character risks gives this class a frightening quality. Parsons was allegedly involved in a hazing scandal at PSU and had his maturity scrutinized during the process by multiple teams. We mentioned Joseph above. And Ball was not allowed to return to Florida State amid dating violence allegations before moving to Marshall. On top of that, things didn’t seem to line up extremely well for Dallas throughout the draft, and it adopted a carpet-bombing approach to aiding a weak defense. The Cowboys feasted on long corners such as Joseph, Wright and Mukuama, which makes sense for Dan Quinn’s defense, but the last two are major projects. Odighizuwa and Golston were not beloved by many scouts and felt overdrafted by a round apiece. We’ll say that Dallas’ scouting staff is considered one of the best talent-evaluating groups in the NFL, but we’re not sure this was their finest effort.

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: A
Grade in 2019: C+

New York Giants

Picks: 1-20: Florida WR Kadarius Toney; 2-50: Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari; 3-71: UCF CB Aaron Robinson; 4-116: Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith; 6-196: Arizona RB Gary Brightwell; 6-201: Oklahoma State CB Rodarius Williams

Favorite pick: Ojulari

We polled a few scouts mid-draft for their favorite Day 2 picks, and one with an AFC team said Ojulari might have been his favorite pick in any round. Unfortunately, his medical reports weren’t pristine, so he fell from a possible late first-round pick to the middle of the second. There's a lot of promise in the redshirt sophomore who might need seasoning but profiles as an active, disruptive pass rusher in time, sort of in the Markus Golden mold. This was great value, assuming his knee isn’t a chronic issue.

Least-favorite pick: Brightwell

It’s nothing offensive, mind you, but we don’t think the Giants needed to use a draft pick on Brightwell. He was given some undrafted grades because of his lack of third-down value — he’s neither a quality receiver nor a pass blocker — and his high fumble rate. Brightwell could wind up as a third back and possible special teams contributor, and his slashing, powerful style is fun to watch. Maybe he ends up a preseason darling. But this type of back can be found typically in the undrafted ranks.

Overall: GM Dave Gettleman trolled us when he traded down twice this year, after never having done it before. The Toney pick was a reach for some, but the Jaguars would have drafted him a few picks later and landing the Bears' first- and fourth-round selections was too good a value to pass up. The Giants also grabbed the Dolphins’ third-rounder in 2022, giving them a slew of ammo next year. Ignoring the offensive line could be a concern, but the Giants drafted three linemen a year ago and certainly have to hope at least two of them develop into starters. That’s still a worry. Overall this was a tantalizing group. The concern here is the lack of instant contributors. Toney could be a specialist. Ojulari is young and green. Robinson is a sub-package contributor. This is a down-the-line class.

Grade: B+
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: C

Philadelphia Eagles

Picks: 1-10: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith; 2-37: Alabama C-OG Landon Dickerson; 3-73: Louisiana Tech DT Milton Williams; 4-123: Texas Tech CB Zech McPhearson; 5-150: Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell; 6-189: USC DT Marlon Tuipulotu; 6-191: Coastal Carolina EDGE Tarron Jackson; 6-224: LSU S JaCoby Stevens; 7-234: Tulane EDGE Patrick Johnson

Favorite pick: Dickerson

There’s a considerable health risk here, as four of Dickerson’s five college seasons ended with injury. If he can stay healthy, the Eagles landed one of the smarter, tougher, more physical interior linemen with an early second-round pick. Jason Kelce is in the twilight of his career, and Dickerson brings intangibles — and about 50 more pounds — that are similar to the Eagles’ longtime great. We’re holding out hope that Dickerson can have a long career because he has virtually everything desirable in an offensive lineman, save for a clean medical history.

Least-favorite pick: Willams

We moved Williams into our top 100 list before the draft at No. 87 overall because of his tremendous athleticism, intriguing upside and hot motor. He remains a project whose traits outweigh his production, and his size could be a limiting factor. He’s neither massive nor long for interior duty, so he’ll have to clean up his technique and learn better balance and keep blockers from getting into his chest so often. We don’t hate this pick, but we don’t think it was their best.

Overall: After a thoroughly confusing 2020 draft effort, the Eagles rebounded quite nicely with this year’s haul. The leapfrog over the Giants to grab Smith was inspired; they wouldn’t have gotten him otherwise. McPhearson (three career blocked kicks, four INTs in 2020), Gainwell and Tuipulotu were well worth the value where they were picked. Jackson has some Hugh Douglas vibes to him, able to make game-changing plays but also the kind of player who draws a lot of attention from referees. Stevens and Johnson could vie for roster spots. They also netted a lot of 2022 draft ammo with the trades with the Colts and Dolphins. For a team supposedly wallowing in dysfunction, the Eagles appeared to make the most of this class.

Grade: B+
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: B

Washington Football Team

Picks: 1-19; Kentucky LB Jamin Davis; 2-51: Texas OT Sam Cosmi; 3-74: Minnesota CB Benjamin St-Juste; 3-82: North Carolina WR Dyami Brown; 4-124: Boise State TE John Bates; 5-163: Cincinnati S Darrick Forrest; 6-225: Michigan LS Camaron Cheeseman; 7-240: Baylor EDGE Will Bradley-King; 7-246: Penn State EDGE Shaka Toney; 7-258: BYU WR Dax Milne

Favorite pick: Brown

None of their selections blew our minds, but getting Brown midway through the third round was lower than we thought he’d land. Brown’s route tree is limited now, he has a lean frame and his hands are suspect. He remains a dangerous big-play threat who fits the DNA of this interesting offense. Brown has some untapped ability, even if it takes a little bit to develop after coming from a streamlined offense at UNC. He averaged 20-plus yards per catch the past two seasons and has 20 TDs in his past 24 games. Ideal third receiver with field-tilting ability.

Least-favorite pick: Davis

We’ll die on this hill. In our initial rankings, we placed him 99th overall — clearly way too low. Even after we spoke with multiple teams about Davis’ projection, there still were some issues in his game that prevented us from listing him higher than No. 39 on our revised list. Davis is a rangy and explosive athlete, and his big-play ability blossomed in 2020. Even so, his inability to shed blocks, lack of physicality and lack of experience in man coverage worried teams, and the ball seemed to find him almost as much as he seemed to find it. We’ve seen other physical marvels with similar traits get overdrafted (Stephone Anthony, Jarrad Davis) in the past, and we wonder if Davis wasn’t taken about 20 or so picks too early.

Overall: It was a confusing lot on the whole. For all the upside of Davis, Brown and Cosmi, we just don’t know how much immediate help WFT received here. Perhaps that’s not important in the long run. But trading up for a long snapper and not selecting a quarterback was, well, interesting. Other than maybe the two seventh-rounders and Brown, we’re unsure there was a supreme value anywhere. Perhaps in two or three years, this class looks better than it does now, but we’re skeptical.

Grade: C
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: A-

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Picks: 1-11: Ohio State QB Justin Fields; 2-39: Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins; 5-151: Missouri OG Larry Borom; 6-217: Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert; 6-221; North Carolina WR Dazz Newsome; 6-228: Oregon RB Thomas Graham Jr.; 7-250: BYU DT Khyiris Tonga

Favorite pick: Fields

We didn’t think it was possible. We entered draft weekend thinking that GM Ryan Pace would be unable to make a move up for one of the draft’s top QBs, perhaps destined to take Davis Mills or Kellen Mond in Round 2. Instead, the Bears pounced at the perfect time to take Fields in roughly the same part of the draft the Chiefs took Patrick Mahomes in 2017. Oh, the coincidence. Fields was our QB2 behind Trevor Lawrence and our No. 4 overall prospect. He’s not perfect but has the best chance to be a franchise changer of any of the other first-round QBs not named Lawrence, and it came at a far cheaper cost than what the 49ers spent to move up for Trey Lance. The Bears did it, you guys.

Least-favorite pick: No edge rusher, no CB until Round 7

Khalil Mack remains in his prime, but the Bears could have used some insurance at the position, especially with Robert Quinn coming off a disappointing season. Trevis Gipson was a provisional 2020 pick with some upside. The need remains. Corner was a bare spot with Kyle Fuller leaving, and the early trades up for Fields and Jenkins left the cupboard bare. We like Borom and think he could be a solid guard, but after taking him there was a run on corners prior to the selection of Graham. Maybe the Bears could have upgraded there. Again, it was among the few complaints here.

Overall: Pace traded Nos. 20 and 164, plus first- and fourth-round picks in 2022, in exchange for No. 11. Fields has a chance to be special, and this class could be the ultimate game-changer for this franchise, Pace and Matt Nagy. This is the most talented QB the Bears have ever had, and that's not hyperbole. The bar is low. Jim McMahon and Mitch Trubisky are the franchise's two Pro Bowl QBs. It has never had a 4,000-yard passer. We're serious: April 29 is a day Chicagoans could one day earmark as a holiday. Jenkins was an inspired choice and also worth the move up to land, assuming his hip is healthy. He reminded us a bit of former Bears right tackle John Tait before Chicago drafted him. Herbert is good Tarik Cohen (torn ACL) insurance, and Newsome is a better prospect than the Day 3 stabs the Bears have taken in recent years. Graham and Tonga have shots to make the roster for depth reasons. Maybe it wasn’t a grand slam, but this class felt like a three-run shot into the upper deck.

Grade: A
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: A-

Detroit Lions

Picks: 1-7: Oregon OT Penei Sewell; 2-41: Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike; 3-72: North Carolina State DT Alim McNeill; 3-101: Syracuse CB Ifeatu Melifonwu; 4-112: USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown; 4-113: Purdue LB Derrick Barnes; 7-257: Oregon State RB Jermar Jefferson

Favorite pick: Melifonwu

Picking our favorite Lions selection is like picking our favorite child. Forced to select one, the silly value of grabbing Melifonwu outside the top 100 takes the cake. Sewell or Onwuzurike would have made perfectly viable choices here. But we’re willing to bet that Melifonwu can earn a starting role in time. Whether it will it be at corner or safety is unclear. We do know that safety is the more immediate, pressing concern, and Melifonwu has the length, athletic traits, ball instincts and run-stopping prowess to move back to his high school position. He also could be a good zone corner. Melifonwu should have gone a round earlier.

Least-favorite pick: McNeill

We get why they took McNeill, our No. 84 overall player. The D-line needed more reinforcements after some losses at that spot, and he plays a different role than Onwuzurike, so it’s not too much overlap. But a run-stuffing nose tackle in Round 3 over some quality receivers who were on the board — Josh Palmer, Dyami Brown, Nico Collins, etc. — felt like a luxury pick. Even still, the Lions stole St. Brown a round later, which helped atone a bit, and McNeill has the look of a solid pro.

Overall: First-year GM Brad Holmes may have crushed his first crack at it. There was an emphasis on rebuilding the lines of scrimmage and adding tough, useful, highly athletic players throughout. Sewell can start at right tackle right away, and while there could be a learning curve, he looks like a future fixture. Onwuzurike will do something in this league. Day 3 netted great value and talent, especially with St. Brown and Barnes back to back in Round 4. Jefferson was good enough to go in Rounds 4 or 5, and the Lions got him with one of the final picks in the draft. All in all, a noble effort here.

Grade: B+
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: C

Green Bay Packers

Picks: 1-29: Georgia CB Eric Stokes; 2-62: Ohio State C Josh Myers; 3-85: Clemson WR Amari Rodgers; 4-142: Ole Miss OG Royce Newman; 5-173: Florida DT Tedarrell Slaton; 5-178: Appalachian State CB Shemar Jean-Charles; 6-214: Wisconsin OG Cole Van Lanen; 6-220: Boston College LB Isaiah McDuffie; 7-256: Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill

Favorite pick: Rodgers

Some wanted to make this into the ultimate troll pick by the Packers, drafting a receiver who shares the surname of the franchise’s disgruntled star QB. Good for a chuckle but not rooted in reality. Rodgers fits exactly the Randall Cobb-Ty Montgomery mold the Packers like in their slot receivers, and Rodgers could even be tried at some point as a running back. He’s a tough ball of energy who has a thick build and the ability to get behind defenders, even without top-shelf speed. His quickness, reliability, competitiveness and burst all could work in Green Bay … assuming QB1 comes around on his scorched-earth mindset.

Least-favorite pick: Stokes

When Stokes ran a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at his pro day, one NFL talent evaluator in attendance predicted: “You watch, someone will take him in the first.” We frankly didn’t believe it. For all of Stokes’ athletic gifts and his quality length, he remains quite raw. We don’t know exactly know how Green Bay’s coverages will look this year, but he might need time to sit and learn before he’s ready to be called on for extensive duty. Yes, he has makeup speed, a nose for the ball and big-play ability, but Stokes’ clunky hips and tendency to be extra grabby make this a fearful pick with a notable bust quotient.

Overall: Rodgers is a redeeming choice, and Myers could start (even though there were better center options on the board when he was picked). And we like that the Packers seem to always mine for versatile, quality Day 3 OL talent worth developing. Overall, this was a tough haul to embrace, even as some of the respectable Day 3 selections helped put a nice bow on a pig.

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: C+

Minnesota Vikings

Picks: 1-23: Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw; 3-66: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond; 3-78: North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt; 3-86: Ohio State OG Wyatt Davis; 3-90: Pitt EDGE Patrick Jones II; 4-119: Iowa State RB Kene Nwangwu; 4-125: Cal DB Camryn Bynum; 4-134: Florida State EDGE Janarius Robinson; 5-157: Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette; 5-168: Central Missouri TE-P Zach Davidson; 6-199: Pitt DT Jaylen Twyman

Favorite pick: Darrisaw

We were not quite as geeked by Darrisaw as some others but we still placed him No. 19 overall on our board. There was healthy appreciation for his experience and athletic gifts. So to land him, Mond and Davis in the trade from from 14 to 20 felt like a savvy move by GM Rick Spielman. The Vikings’ offensive line is now comprised of all first-, second- and third-round picks.

Least-favorite pick: Darrisaw

Allow us to explain here … The Vikings were in a prime spot to land Fields, who slipped to the 11th pick. They made a half-hearted effort to move up the three spots necessary before the Bears swooped in. And in moving down from 14, they also passed on Mac Jones, despite not being all in on Kirk Cousins. Again, the move paid off in other ways. But the importance of QB and the availability of Fields and Jones mitigates our feelings here. The Vikings settled on Mond and didn’t really reach for him, but the other QB options certainly were more attractive.

Overall: Once again, the Vikings had a successful run of picks, building off a strong 2020 class. The QB situation, however, left a bad taste in our mouths. It had the look and feel of a very safe approach, with plenty of dart throws as always. Surratt, Davis, Robinson and Smith-Marsette all were intriguing picks, and we urge you to keep an eye on the fascinating Davidson. But that’s 26 draft picks in a two-year span — how many of the 2020 and 2021 rookies will be on this roster in two years? Sometimes a quality-over-quantity approach is needed for a team that seemingly has been stuck in neutral for years.

Grade: C+
Grade in 2020: B+
Grade in 2019: C+

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Picks: 1-4: Florida TE Kyle Pitts; 2-40: UCF S Richie Grant; 3-68: Michigan OL Jalen Mayfield; 4-108: San Diego State CB Darren Hall; 4-114: Stanford C Drew Dalman; 5-148: Texas DL Ta’Quon Graham; 5-182: Notre Dame EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji; 5-183: Boise State CB Avery Williams; 6-187: Arizona State WR Frank Darby

Favorite pick: Pitts

Another choice just wouldn’t do. Perhaps one day there will be a discussion about the Falcons passing on Justin Fields. But landing a franchise tight end who could be a game-changer in a few years was too alluring to pass up. His hype has been unbelievable, and we suspect Pitts’ Year 1 contributions might be disappointing. But in time, he looks like a unicorn who can do for the Falcons early in his career what Tony Gonzalez did late in his. We’re banking on Pitts turning into a star before Year 3.

Least-favorite pick: Hall

Not a whole lot to get huffy about with this pick, as Hall has some good ball instincts and remains an ascending prospect who shifted from safety a few years back. He still could have some untapped ability. Hall never seemed to be healthy in college, remains scattershot in his technique — decent some plays, crummy others — and he looked stiff at times when trying to transition. Still, it was no colossal reach in Round 4, and Hall’s athleticism gives him a chance.

Overall: A nice effort from new GM Terry Fontenot in his first time in the captain’s chair. Pick after pick, we nodded along at the sensible, smart approach Atlanta took. Pitts and Grant could start immediately, and Mayfield and Dalman could be 2022 starters on the inside. For the Falcons' final two picks, Williams and Darby were well worth the value there. Williams especially looks like an instant contributor as one of the better special-teamers in college football the past few years, and he could be a starting nickel at some point.

Grade: B+
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: C-

Carolina Panthers

Picks: 1-8: South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn; 2-59: LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr.; 3-70: BYU OT Brady Christensen; 3-83: Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble; 4-126: Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard; 5-158: Iowa DT Daviyon Nixon; 5-166: Washington CB Keith Taylor Jr.; 6-193: Alabama OG Deonte Brown; 6-204: South Carolina WR Shi Smith; 6-222: Alabama LS Thomas Fletcher; 7-232: Kentucky DT Phil Hoskins

Favorite pick: Marshall

Their first two selections should help this team get better right away, but taking Horn with Justin Fields on the board will be a decision that could haunt the Panthers if Sam Darnold doesn’t improve. Medical issues knocked Marshall out of the first-round picture. He landed in great hands with offensive coordinator Joe Brady knowing exactly how to unleash him. If Marshall is healthy, he should be a fine third option behind Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore — and a nice complement to their skills.

Least-favorite pick: Christensen

His athleticism and experience should serve him well, and there is a starting opportunity to be had if he can grab it at tackle. (Otherwise, he could be tried inside.) But Christensen is a lower-ceiling prospect who will turn 25 this season, lacks length and bulk and has played only left tackle in college. We thought he’d go somewhere in the range he was picked, so it was not a reach. Christensen might not turn into much more than a solid starter but one you’re always seeking to upgrade over.

Overall: New GM Scott Fitterer approached the draft with an eye on volume, landing 11 picks (tied for the most in franchise history), which made sense after a few smaller draft classes under the prior regime. The Panthers executed five trades and moved all over the board, mostly down. Horn and Marshall have clear paths to starting roles. Tremble is a very Matt Rhule pick who should be fun to watch in Brady’s offense as a blocker and a “move” piece. Nixon and Brown had some character concerns that cropped up, but they were worth the risks on Day 3. We also had a soft spot for Smith’s competitiveness and quickness, likely projecting as a backup for Moore. Taylor’s length makes him interesting. Perhaps ignoring safety will come back to bite them. Overall, this was a worthy crop.

Grade: B-
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: A-

New Orleans Saints

Picks: 1-28: Houston EDGE Payton Turner; 2-60: Ohio State LB Pete Werner; 3-76: Stanford CB Paulson Adebo; 4-133: Notre Dame QB Ian Book; 6-206: Kentucky OT Landon Young; 7-255: South Alabama WR Kawaan Baker

Favorite pick: Adebo

For a team that badly needed a corner, according to Payton, the Saints sure did take their time landing one. Nonetheless, they made a fantastic choice here. Had Adebo played in 2020, he would have landed 30 or 40 picks higher. Adebo has a patterned track record for finding the ball (34 pass breakups, eight INTs in 22 college games) and good enough length to handle outside duty. Adebo looked to be strong value in Round 3 at a need spot.

Least-favorite pick: Turner

This was a surprise, despite some late buzz about him landing in the top 40 or 50 picks. We just viewed Turner as more of a second-round evaluation, as a late-blooming, injury-marred prospect. His length is enticing, and Turner’s 2020 tape was hot. All in all, this still felt like a reach. We also considered Werner here, as two teams we spoke with wondered whether he warranted landing inside the top 100 picks, but he might work into a role right away as a coverage linebacker with some blitzing skill.

Overall: We were teased with rumors of them trading up (for Justin Fields? A cornerback?), but that never materialized. The first two picks, in turn, lacked inspiration. And how did we not see the Book pick coming? This was the most Sean Payton choice ever. Baker feels like a typical Saints seventh-round dart throw; he’s one to keep an eye on, with myriad skills. On the whole, this was a tough one to swallow. Wide receiver and nose tackle, two other areas of need, were bypassed higher up in the draft.

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Picks: 1-32: Washington EDGE Joe Tryon; 2-64: Florida QB Kyle Trask; 3-95: Notre Dame OL Robert Hainsey; 4-129: North Texas WR Jaelon Darden; 5-176: Auburn LB K.J. Britt; 7-251: BYU CB Chris Wilcox; 7-259: Houston LB Grant Stuard

Favorite pick: Wilcox

Without the injury questions, Wilcox played more like a fourth-round prospect. His strong length and athletic skills are absolutely worth developing, and the Bucs can be patient with him. Even if he doesn’t pan out, we like the value of this pick. All of the team’s Day 3 picks — Darden, Britt and Stuard — were decent values for depth and special teams potential.

Least-favorite pick: Trask

In some ways, it makes perfect sense. Trask, like Tom Brady, isn’t going to beat teams with his legs. He also has the ideal temperament for a backup and can learn from the best. Head coach Bruce Arians typically favors stronger-armed passers, and Trask’s upside appears fairly minimal. Will the Bucs keep three QBs on the roster? If so, it could take a spot away from another possible contributor elsewhere.

Overall: The Bucs’ roster is loaded, and they were picking at or near the end of every round, slimming the pool of talent available at each spot. Tryon interests us a bit, and he’s in a good spot behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, able to develop in 2021 with a possible 2022 starting job in mind. Hainsey’s intangibles and five-position versatility make him an active-roster candidate each week, but he might never be more than a super-sub. This class’ limited appeal might not have much effect on how this next season goes, but it could be something we look back at with regret in a few years.

Grade: C
Grade in 2020: B-
Grade in 2019: C-

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Picks: 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

Favorite pick: Moore

The Cardinals appeared bent on correcting the Andy Isabella pick from a few years ago, and they might have done so with the pick of the 5-foot-7 Moore. He’s 3 inches shorter than Kyler Murray but adds some real gas to the tank with his burst and YAC and return abilities. We even see him getting handoffs in the backfield. Moore will have to show he can stay healthy after two injury-marred seasons, but he certainly looks like a great fit in this spread offense in a variety of roles.

Least-favorite pick: Wilson

Landing an experienced SEC corner with good athletic traits in Round 4 might sound like a win. But Wilson’s roller-coaster career leaves some real questions in his evaluation, beset by poor techniques, a slew of injuries and, at times, a lack of football intelligence and awareness. This is roughly where we thought he’d be taken — maybe a tad later — but it’s a tough pill to swallow when the Cardinals entered the draft with a gaping hole at corner. That likely remains the biggest worry on this otherwise interesting roster, even with Wilson and the later pick of Gowan on board.

Overall: There was a run on corners between the Cardinals' first- and second-round picks, so the draft didn’t fall into place as far as addressing that need. Collins is easy to like in a lot of respects, and his surprising athleticism and versatility can be put to good use alongside Isaiah Simmons. Even so, that felt like a luxury choice. This class didn’t offend us the way some of their division rivals’ did, but it wasn’t one of our favorites, either.

Grade: C
Grade in 2020: A
Grade in 2019: B+

Los Angeles Rams

Picks: 2-57: Louisville WR Tutu Atwell; 3-103: South Carolina LB Ernest Jones; 4-117: Texas A&M DT Bobby Brown III; 4-130: Central Arkansas CB Robert Rochell; 4-141: UCF WR Jacob Harris; 5-174: Northwestern EDGE Earnest Brown IV; 7-233: Maryland RB Jake Funk; 7-249: Notre Dame WR Ben Skowronek; 7-252: Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) EDGE Chris Garrett

Favorite pick: Rochell

The Rams have been very successful and willing to mine smaller schools for talent, and this draft was no exception. The D-II corner is not only the answer to a great trivia question — who is the only man to intercept Trey Lance in college? — but also a fine athlete with decent length and a lot of ball production. And now he gets the ideal mentor in Jalen Ramsey to emulate. Rochell’s technique is raw, but he’ll be in a great spot to develop and perhaps one day supplant Darious Williams.

Least-favorite pick: Atwell

Like many, we just didn’t get it. If there’s ever a place where his skills fit, it’s with the Rams and Sean McVay. L.A.'s system is where he can be a big-play specialist. At the 57th pick, that feels like an enormous value concern; some teams we spoke with said they would not touch Atwell (who weighed in at 149 pounds at the scouting combine medical recheck) because of his painfully thin frame. Receiver was one of the Rams' deepest positions coming into the draft, and they already have another tiny receiver with similar skills in DeSean Jackson. Nonetheless, the Rams felt the need to draft three wideouts. It’s a tough sell for us.

Overall: Perhaps the run on offensive linemen right ahead of the Atwell pick was one reason why they pivoted at that spot. But not drafting a single blocker — arguably their biggest hole(s) — feels like malpractice. The Rams can try to convince us they like their OL options better than the rest of us do, but the proof will come in training camp when we suspect they’ll be looking for outside help. Jones, Bobby Brown III and Earnest Brown IV were players we liked to help their defense, and it’s not as if we aren’t intrigued by Atwell, Harris and Skowronek as pass-catching options. It just wasn’t a position we thought needed so many bodies.

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: A-

San Francisco 49ers

Picks: 1-3: North Dakota State QB Trey Lance; 2-48: Notre Dame OG Aaron Banks; 3-88: Ohio State RB Trey Sermon; 3-102: Michigan CB Ambry Thomas; 5-155: Western Michigan OT Jaylon Moore; 5-172: Oregon CB Deommodore Lenoir; 5-180: USC S Talanoa Hufanga; 6-194: Louisiana-Lafayette RB Eli Mitchell

Favorite pick: Sermon

This class’ success will be judged primarily on how Lance performs, and it will take at least three years to get a fair barometer on that. Sermon can be a big addition, too, and he appears to be a perfect fit for the Niners' system. His inconsistency, injury history and lack of wiggle might be fair knocks against him. Even so, we love his potential in this zone running game and believe he can put up big numbers the next few seasons. The 49ers got him in a good spot, too.

Least-favorite pick: Banks

We found a spot for him at the back end of our top 100 overall (No. 99) and like Banks’ mass, strength, durability and experience. But he’s a guard-only prospect who is a bit on the older side (he turns 24 before Week 1) who struggles with speed and can’t always get to where he needs to get with his limited movement skills. The player isn’t bad, but it was about a round prior to where we might have selected him.

Overall: This all hinges on the giant risk at No. 3. Lance cracked our top 10 (No. 6 overall) with his thrilling talent, maturity and superstar potential. We also would have taken the more ready-made Fields over him as a safer projection. The comparison of their career arcs will be made for years (and you could throw Mac Jones in there, too). If Lance hits, it’s a huge win for the franchise and perhaps what puts them over the top in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title. If he doesn’t, the cost of moving up for him — at a time when they have a win-now roster — might set the franchise back five years. That’s the naked truth. Sermon and the three DBs they selected (Thomas, Lenoir and Hufanga) have our attention. Lance remains by far the biggest X-factor in this class’ success or failure.

Grade: C+
Grade in 2020: C+
Grade in 2019: C+

Seattle Seahawks

Picks: 2-56: Western Michigan WR D'Wayne Eskridge; 4-137: Oklahoma CB Tre Brown; 6-208: Florida OT Stone Forsythe

Favorite pick: Forsythe

The Seahawks swung a trade with the Bears to grab Forsythe late, and we loved the move. We shuttled him up to No. 92 overall in our final rankings and were shocked he wasn’t picked sooner than this. He has played both OT spots (more left than right) and has outstanding length and surprising pass-blocking potential, a big need seemingly every year in Seattle. This move will prove to be an excellent value selection.

Least-favorite pick: Eskridge

This one hurts because we really like the player, and in three years he could be a Tyler Lockett-type contributor. Eskridge might even win the WR3 job from Jump Street. His speed is legit, and he flashed some real return ability in his final season at WMU that could provide a lift. But the Seahawks might look back with regret at not attacking cornerback or offensive lineman at this spot, especially with multiple centers still on the board whom we felt could have been rookie starters.

Overall: This was never going to be a narrative-changing draft for Seattle, entering the weekend with three picks and ending up with the same, even after a few trades. The Brown selection went against character because of his body size and lack of length. The Seahawks are paying dearly for the cost of various trades, especially the Jamal Adams deal. If he’s not a star this season, it will officially be deemed a bad trade for Seattle; remember, the Seahawks gave up next year’s first as well.

Grade: C-
Grade in 2020: C
Grade in 2019: C+

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