The 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, and it did not disappoint.
The five quarterbacks taken in the first round and the abundance of trades on Day 2 were two of the many aspects of what became a very exciting draft in Cleveland.
Which teams made the best picks?
With all seven rounds completed, let’s hand out draft grades for all 32 franchises.
The Cardinals bolstered their linebacker corps with the selection of Tulsa star Zaven Collins in the first round, and then got quarterback Kyler Murray a reliable slot receiver in Rondale More in Round 2. A couple cornerback additions on Day 3 added needed depth to the secondary.
You don’t often see tight ends drafted in the top five, but Florida’s Kyle Pitts is a rare exception. He has the potential to be a dominant pass-catcher in a Falcons offense that also includes star wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta also made a sneaky good fourth-round pick in acquiring cornerback Darren Hall, who has tremendous upside.
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman was a good first-round pick and gives quarterback Lamar Jackson another playmaker in the passing attack. Baltimore might regret not addressing the offensive line with one of their first-rounders after trading left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs earlier in the week. The Ravens drafted Penn State linebacker Odafe Oweh at No. 31 overall in Round 1, and he didn’t tally a single sack last season.
The Bills know games are won in the trenches, so it wasn’t surprising to see them select pass rushers (Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau in Round 1 and Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham Jr in Round 2) with their first two picks and offensive linemen with their next two picks. Buffalo dominated the line of scrimmage last season, and that trend should continue in 2021.
Jaycee Horn fills a need for the Panthers at cornerback, and his coverage skills and physicality will help him make an immediate impact in the Carolina secondary. That said, offensive line was a more glaring need for the Panthers, who need to keep newly acquired quarterback Sam Darnold standing in the pocket next season. The Panthers didn’t address the offensive line until the third round when they took BYU tackle Brady Christensen.
The Bears traded up to No. 11 to get Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. It was a bold move, but a risk worth taking when you consider that lackluster QB play has been an Achilles heel for this franchise for a long time. Chicago’s best pick came at No. 39 overall in the second round. The Bears took Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins, who was a first-round talent and will help protect Fields.
2021 NFL Draft Highlights: Justin Fields
Reuniting LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with his college quarterback Joe Burrow was a good pick at No. 5 overall, but the primary need for the Bengals was finding a franchise left tackle. The Bengals missed their second opportunity when they traded the No. 38 pick in Round 2 to the Patriots with Teven Jenkins, Dillon Radunz and other good offensive linemen still on the board. When Cincy was on the clock at No. 46 overall, they took Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman, who was ranked 96th on NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah’s Big Board.