The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and as always, we have to analyze what all 32 teams did over the course of three days, to improve their roster. Once again, I will outline the biggest winners and losers, steals and reaches from the eventful extended weekend, according to my draft grades, how teams deployed their resources, how they addressed needs and how it affects players, that are already in the league.
Obviously, the results will only really come in, when we know about what pro players these college prospects have turned into two or three years down the line, but in terms of the way teams operated the whole process and how good I perceive these selections to be, based on my rankings and information (some medicals and character stuff I don’t know about), I will make my judgments.
I will break down every single division in detail on my Youtube channel two weeks from now, after I talk about some of my favorite UDFA signings, and make sure to check out all my positional rankings, big board and much mere right here on this page!
Bears brass and fans
The football fans and city of Chicago finally receive some hope some hope with the selection of a potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields at 11th overall. The organization got pretty lucky to back into that pick, even though they deserve credit for moving up nine spots, in exchange for limited compensation with the Giants, as they gave up next year’s first-round selection and a fourth-rounder in this and next year’s draft each. The reaction from the fans was a lot different compared to four years ago, when they got fleeced by the 49ers, giving up a couple of third-rounders to swap the second and third overall picks respectively and selected Mitch Trubisky, who I had as a fringe first-rounder. While head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace seemingly are on the hot seat somewhat undeservedly, not having finished with a negative record in any of their three years yet, this could absolutely save their jobs, which Andy Dalton might not have done. Justin Fields is not a perfect quarterback at this point, having to work on his release mechanics and eye discipline, but he is a difference-maker at the position, with a gamer mentality. Like I mentioned in my breakdown of the quarterback class, where I had the Ohio State signal-caller third on my list, just ahead with number three overall pick Trey Lance, I expect there to be some growing moments early on in his career, but Fields’ play-making ability and competitiveness will get him over those things. And the draft obviously didn’t stop there, as Chicago got good value with a new starting right tackle in Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins (39th overall), one of my favorite running backs in Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert, potentially a starting nickel in Oregon’s Thomas Graham Jr. and a really nice backup nose-tackle in BYU’s Khyiris Tonga all in the 200’s, among others.
Last year I had Drew Lock on this list, after the Broncos selected wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler with their first two picks, plus a starting center and his former All-SEC tight-end from Missouri. So you could argue he might qualify as a “winner” once again, for his team passing on Justin Fields ninth overall, but since Denver already added Teddy Bridgewater a couple of days prior, he will at least have some competition for that starting gig. Instead, I want to talk about what George Paton did in his first draft as the team’s GM, because I thought he absolutely knocked it out of the park. Not a single one of their picks I would classify as a reach, even though you may argue they should have selected Fields, when he was on the board at the bottom of the top ten. Instead they got the top corner without any medical concerns in Alabama’s Patrick Surtain, North Carolina’s Javonte Williams was my RB3 right there at value 35th overall, Wisconsin-Whitewater standout interior lineman Quinn Meinerz at 98th overall could be a day one starter, then Baron Browning as the final pick of day three (105) presents excellent value and so do safeties Caden Sterns from Texas (152) and Jamar Johnson from Indiana (164). Auburn WR Seth Williams is the one I’m not super impressed by in the sixth, but that is fine for him, and then to get a starting-level nickel in LSU’s Kary Vincent Jr. and a nice rotational edge defender in Ohio State’s Jonathon Cooper in the seventh round is tremendous. So they should have at least three new starters and at least as many guys, who will be heavily involved in the rotation defensively. Plus, I thought they added a nice mix of floor- and ceiling-type of players.
The Alabama Crimson Tide
Ohio State and Clemson are really the only ones in the conversation with them, but no program in the country produces more NFL talent than the factory Nick Saban has built down in Tuscaloosa. For five straight years, they have now had at least nine players drafted, and three was the lowest number of first-round picks during that stretch. This year Alabama tied the record of most first-round picks by one college with six, plus they had two more prospects selected within the first six picks of the second round. Plus, they could have easily had two more players selected to add to the ten, who did hear their names called, if teams had better medical information on linebacker Dylan Moses most likely, and then tight-end Miller Forristall was certainly in the mix for a late pick in a weak tight-end class. Either way, making up 21 percent of the first 38 picks sounds pretty crazy. Saban and the Crimson Tide know how to develop high school kids into NFL pros, which includes star players like Derrick Henry, Julio Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but even more so, those quality long-term starters, especially in the trenches. And while the results are obviously supported by the level of recruits that come into their program, that success of churning out high draft picks is why they have so many four- and five-stars commit to them. When I look at this class in particular, I really believe if center Landon Dickerson is healthy by then, seven of those first eight picks will be day one starters, with quarterback Mac Jones potentially taking over for Cam Newton in New England, if that guy can’t bounce back accordingly. And the Panthers took two more starters I believe in the sixth round, assuming they didn’t draft a backup long-snapper and guard Deonte Brown mostly fell due to some concerns about him being 350+ pounds and his sub-par Senior Bowl performance. With Justin Fields being the only Ohio State player to hear his name called on Thursday, Bama also just broke the tie and is now five guys clear in terms of first-round picks since 2000 (45).
The legacy of Andrew Berry
The people of Cleveland suffered through years of disappointment, pretty much since the team was re-established in that city, outside of one brief playoff performance in 2002, before they finally defeated their demons last season, when they were a heroic moment from Chad Henne away from going to the AFC Championship game potentially. And while the talent on that roster was obviously the biggest reason they made it that far, what really turned it around for them were the hirings of head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry last year, when they had maybe their best draft and certainly their best season since this iteration of the Browns. Now this year, they put together one of the most impressive draft classes I can remember in a while across the league. While Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II was looked at as a first-round pick by most, I think considering injuries that was a little early for him, but then grabbing a top-20 overall prospect on my board in Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at that 52nd slot more than just makes up for it. Their third-round pick in Auburn receiver Anthony Schwartz is the one that I actually thought was too early, considering how raw a player he is at this point, as they are banking on that track speed he brings, but then these guys absolutely murdered day three. Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson, Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, West Virginia linebacker Tony Fields, Georgia safety Richard LeCounte and UCLA RB Demetric Felton all went about 40-50 spots later than I valued them. They addressed by far their biggest need at linebacker and built excellent depth throughout the roster. The selection of LeCounte was a particularly shrewd move, since he clocked in the 4.8s at his pro day, but they used GPS data to determine he showed 4.5 speed on the field, which I thought was more what the tape said as well. Andrew Berry may one day have a statue built for himself, the way these first two years have gone.
Injured high-caliber prospects
This year I thought there were more first-round or top-50 caliber prospects with injury concerns than I can remember in the last decade at least. And in a COVID-affected year, all the medical information we had came from the NFL’s general check-up, and teams didn’t individually get a chance to bring these young men into their facilities and have team doctors look at them. The four names that really stuck out in the first two rounds, who either had suffered major injuries recently or had concerning medical histories, that we were all familiar with, heard their names called only 10-15 spots later than they probably would have, if there were no issues at all. Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, who was forced to medically retire from UCLA due to three concussions within a year (with one of them coming from getting run into by a car whilst he was on a bike), but I thought clearly was the top prospect at the position based on last year’s tape, got to stay in South Beach, when the Dolphins selected him 18th overall. My top cornerback Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech, who sat out the 2020 season, because he didn’t want to risk potentially losing his dad due to COVID, after his mother already tragically passed away three years ago, and recently had a clean-up procedure on his back, that had flared up again, was picked 22nd overall by the Titans. Alabama center Landon Dickerson, who tore his ACL in the SEC title game and had all four of his college seasons cut short by injuries, but to me has the chance to be the best center in the league for a long time if he can stay healthy, was the fifth name called on day two. And finally, Vanderbilt’s tweener defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo, who has a crazy combination of explosiveness and power, but tore his Achilles during offseason workouts, was the 54th overall pick by the Colts. The guys who actually ended up falling, were the ones who had some medical concerns occur in the pre-draft process.
Other draft classes I liked:
Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers & Los Angeles Chargers
James Robinson & Melvin Gordon
Ever year we get reminded how replaceable the running back position is and how little teams value it when it comes to roster construction. We did somewhat surprisingly have three drafted within the first 35 picks actually, but then Trey Sermon was the only other one selected on day two (88th overall) and we saw some really good backs drafted in the late rounds – three of my top ten prospects at the position over about the final 50 picks most notably. That discrepancy just shows you how much the teams who did pick their RB up high believe in their guys and how important it was for them to upgrade/add talent to that position. The Steelers were first to grab one, when they invested their 24th overall pick in Alabama’s Najee Harris, to make him the clear workhorse in that offense, especially after letting James Conner walk in free agency, but the other two teams had their leading rushers coming back and weren’t necessarily looked at as landing spots for these top three backs. First, the Jaguars made it back-to-back selections at the positions, when they surprised a lot of people by selecting Clemson’s Travis Etienne with their second day one pick (25th), pairing him up with fellow Tiger Trevor Lawrence. The reason I, among others, was scratching my head, is that James Robinson had a Rookie of the Year-level season in most years, as an undrafted free agent, who I had as a top-ten back last year. Urban Meyer soon after made comments about how Etienne would be their third-down back, but I don’t see how you can select a running back in the first round, with the explosiveness he presents, and not at least have him share touches pretty much equally with your prior starter. The Broncos on the other hand actually traded up for North Carolina’s Javonte Williams, who I expected to go in that spot to Atlanta. I believe he pretty much immediately replaces Melvin Gordon as the starter, because he presents a similar type of physical runner, but now have more invested into him, even if the veteran will still get some work.
Los Angeles Rams
Every team gets better on draft weekend, unless they trade veterans for picks that don’t work out at all. It’s just about how talent can you accumulate with your draft picks and how much you can improve your roster overall. The value of the players actually selected is always something subjective, but even if you look at consensus boards, you can differentiate between teams that generally pick prospects where or after they were expected to go and those who didn’t maximize ressources, while adding talent they like. I have no problem with teams that believe in their evaluations and “trust their board” so to speak, when they are on the clock, but you still have to be aware of where these names would be probably picked and if you can accumulate extra capital. The Rams only made one trade on draft weekend, in part because they already had given up some of their picks in the Jalen Ramsey and Jared Goff deals. And that’s the one I actually think was a solid move, as they shipped the 88th overall pick to the division rival 49ers (Ohio State RB Trey Sermon), in exchange for two fourth-rounders, which turned out to be Texas A&M nose-tackle Bobby Brown (117th )and Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell (130th) – two high-upside, athletic projects, who I don’t expect to contribute a lot early on in their rookie seasons. While I would have taken them a little later personally, their two prior selections are the ones I have a problem – a 149-pound receiver in Louisville’s Tutu Atwell, who dramatically slid down boards for most people after his official weight was announced, at 57th overall, and South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones at 104th overall, when there were plenty of LBs I liked better. UCF receiver Jacob Harris is an interesting name, who they could convert into that undersized H-back/tight-end they lost with Gerald Everett in free agency, but I don’t love any of the other picks they made on day three either. So I just don’t see any immediate impact-players necessarily, for a team that is ready to win now, after the Stafford trade.
First-round offensive line and safety prospects
In the first round of this year’s draft, we obviously had the five quarterbacks go, somewhat surprisingly two running backs and then three straight edge rushers to end the night, to double the total amount at that position. The two positions that didn’t receive a lot of sense on Thursday were offensive line and safety. While I had a great weekend of betting on the draft, my biggest wager was “Over 6.5 Offensive Linemen selected in the first round” and we came two shy of crossing that mark, even though I had eight O-linemen go in my mock draft and nine within my top 41 overall prospects. And when you look at the individual players and where they were projected to go, as well as where I had them ranked myself, they all went later than expected – Penei Sewell could have easily gone fifth overall to Cincinnati, but went two spots later, Rashawn Slater rarely made it out of the top ten, and he fell to the Chargers at 13, that’s where I had Christian Darrisaw penciled in for, but he went ten spots later. Landon Dickerson, Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, Samuel Cosmi and Dillon Radunz could have also easily gone in the first, but went a round later. The one who actually was selected where he was projected to was USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker going 14th, even though the Vikings let the Jets select in that spot instead, and obviously we had another Raiders first-round shocker, when they went with Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood three picks later. The depth at that position certainly hurt all those guys. And the safety class lacked many elite prospects, but for Trevon Moehrig to not even go in the first was surprising and there was a bunch of guys, who went way later than I valued them, due to apparent injuries or questionable measurements, like Jamar Johnson (Indiana) in the fifth round, Hamsah Nasirildeen (FSU) in the sixth, James Wiggins (Cincinnati) in the seventh and Ar’Darius Washington (TCU) even going freaking undrafted.
Cowboys veteran linebackers
It you looked through a hundred mock drafts, you probably saw the Cowboys going with Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in at least 90 of them – heck, I even had them select him 10th overall. Well, after seven straight offensive players to start things off, we saw consecutive corners go with the Panthers selecting South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn with the eight pick and then the Broncos snatching Surtain right after. So when Jerry Jones and company were on the board, they had to look elsewhere and traded back two spots with their division rival Eagles, and get Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons – even if they claim he was their target all along. And then they came back early in the fourth round and doubled down at the position, although they offer very different skill-sets, with LSU’s Jabril Cox, who will definitely show up in my “biggest steals”. Now we have to look at who still influences the players that were already on that roster and when I take into the account how high I am these draft picks as well as the contract situation, I believe Parsons and Cox could make veterans Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch expendable in 2022. For Smith, there is a potential out next year, with 6.8 million dollars of dead cap, which I could easily see the Cowboys take, considering he hasn’t lived up to that big extensions they signed him to last August, and Dallas just declined LVE’s fifth-year option, due to the fact he simply hasn’t stayed healthy since his rookie campaign – so he would become a free agent next year anyway. My prediction at this point is that Parsons replaced LVE at WILL and Cox is more of a dime backer on third downs in 2021, and then next year, the Cowboys move on from both veterans.
First of all, I don’t wish on anybody to have to go to Houston right now, with the dumpster fire, they have turned themselves into recently. Now, the lack of knowledge about the whole Deshaun Watson situation makes it murky for the rookie quarterback, in terms of what exactly his role will be and if the Texans organization looks at him as an emergency option or whatever. At this point, it does not look like Deshaun will play anywhere this upcoming season, much less in Houston. That can still change tremendously, but it would be the most logical outcome in my opinion. So Tyrod Taylor will likely begin the season as the starter, but he always seems to lose his jobs, even if it isn’t always his fault, like a team doctor puncturing his lungs a few minutes before their week two game last season. The Texans have some kind of pseudo contract with Josh McCown to my knowledge, where they could bring him out of retirement in a worst-case scenario, but Davis Mills is really the only other QB on the roster. And while he may see this is an easy path to playing time, I really believe the former Stanford signal-caller needs time to work on being more consistently accurate and he might look a little erratic behind a below-average Texans O-line. Mills has a quick release and some sneaky elusiveness, but he doesn’t even have 500 career dropbacks in college and missed practice time as well with injuries, plus he’s very inconsistent with his release. I think outside of the five quarterbacks, that went in the first round, plus Kellen Mond maybe, he is the only one who I could see as an eventual starter, but the worst thing for him would be to get thrown out there early on. And for a team in contention for the first overall pick next year, Houston may be inclined to put him on the field rather than a capable backup.
Other questionable draft classes:
New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans & Indianapolis Colts
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – 23rd overall to Minnesota
So the top two offensive tackles in this class pretty much across all rankings you could find out there were Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, with the majority of people, including me, having Sewell at number one. I know a lot of people, who really liked Teven Jenkins after that duo, but to me Christian Darrisaw was the clear-cut number three tackle in this class, coming out of Virginia Tech. In terms of the amount of natural, almost effortless power to throw people around, the ability to pin edge defenders to the inside and make that outside zone run game work, to go with the athletic ability and grip strength to neutralize pass-rushers, even if his sets still need some work. He ended up going ten picks later than I thought, as the Chargers ended up with Slater at number 13 overall instead, and that’s also exactly where I had Darrisaw on my big board. So to trade back with the Jets, in exchange for the second pick of round three and upgrading their fourth-rounder by 57 spots, and still address their biggest position of need, with a player I thought would have been at exact value at 14 already, is just outstanding.
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia – 50th overall to New York Giants
Now we get into a couple of defensive prospects, who reportedly had some medical concerns pop up during this pre-draft process. The first one here is my number three edge rusher in the class. It would have been a little rich for me, but had they selected Azeez Ojulari with that 11th overall pick, I would not have hated it. He was my 20th overall prospect and if the Giants had one area they needed to upgrade in this draft, it was finding somebody to win one-on-one on the outside as a pass-rusher, since last season they relied heavily on defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s ability to scheme up free rushers with games up front. And people need to stop solely looking at player breakdowns (even mine) and making general statements, without watching the tape, like saying Azeez Ojulari is a sub-par run-stopper, when he plays through blocks with good extension and doesn’t shy away from throwing his body around in that regard. We’ll have to see if the knee becomes an issue at some point, but to get this guy exactly 30 picks after where I had him in my rankings is surprising.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame – 52nd overall to Cleveland
I actually had a bet on Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah being the first linebacker drafted, because I thought with the reports about Penn State’s Micah Parsons potentially dropping due to character concerns and teams maybe not knowing exactly what to do with Tulsa’s Zaven Collins, after he weighed in at 270 pounds as primarily an off-ball guy, JOK had a good chance of going somewhere in the mid-teens. I personally had him going to Denver, after trading back six spots with the Patriots, in my mock draft, and he was my 17th overall prospect, not too far off from Parsons in my linebacker rankings, even though they obviously offer different skill-sets. There was some heart issue that contributed to him dropping, but since that was ultimately cleared, I believe it was equally about shying away from these tweener-sized prospects, after what they saw from Isaiah Simmons in Arizona last season. But that’s where NFL teams go wrong, because they want to put a million different things on the plate of young players, since they offer that versatility, instead of finding a defined role early on and adding to it, to let that talent flourish If the Browns use JOK as that big nickel/overhang defender, who can help funnel Lamar Jackson back to the inside, and then move him into the box on passing downs, to match tight-ends and backs or sink down the seams, he should be a major asset.
Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma – 63rd overall to Kansas City
This guy was my top interior offensive lineman, with the injury concerns Landon Dickerson presents. I had Humphrey going to Green Bay with their 28th overall pick in my mock draft, but they actually passes on him twice, with the latter pick being used on a different center in Ohio State’s Josh Myers, who I thought was fine for that range, but the former OU standout would have been worth either the Packers or the Chiefs’ original first-round pick, which they traded to Baltimore in the Orlando Brown deal. So KC got Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton, who is a fine player in a defined role, with the Ravens’ pick they got back in that trade and used their second-rounder on a player that I would have liked when they would have been on the clock at the end of Thursday night. Humphrey is an excellent zone-blocker and has a really sturdy base in pass-pro, while having three years of high-quality starting experience, including making all the calls up front, and the fact he is left-handed won’t be as much off an issue, with how much Patrick Mahomes lines up in shotgun. I think he’ll start over Austin Blythe at the pivot right away.
Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma – 96th overall to New England
I tried to stay away from draft picks, who primarily dropped due to injury concerns and there could be something in the background with Ronnie Perkins that isn’t accessible to the general public, but I’m not aware of any current medical or other issues with in. He was my number four edge rusher, ahead of three guys that went in the first round and ten names at the position overall before the Patriots finally scooped him up within the final ten picks of day two. I believe Perkins simply fell due to a failed drug test before Oklahoma’s 2019 bowl game, some injuries limiting his playing time last season and the fact he was an average athletic tester. If there’s something I don’t know about – okay, but the tape doesn’t lie. Perkins was the best at converting speed to power off the edge in this class, he can be a weapon on games up front and I already see him leading the Patriots is sacks in this of next season. Plus, New England is the one place, where I’m not worried about him free-lancing in the run game and giving up his contain responsibilities going forward.
Elijah Molden, SAF, Washington – 100th overall to Tennessee
Unless you look at Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. as a slot corner, purely based on his size – which he will not play for the Chargers, who will most likely deploy as their field-side off corner, Elijah Molden was my top true nickel in this class. I had him on my safety list, because he did play more from deep alignments last season on a limited basis and 5’9” obviously won’t play on the outside. Last year’s starting SS Kenny Vaccaro for Tennessee is still on the open market and Molden would be in the race for replacing him, but when you look at the options at nickel that the Titans have – Kevin Johnson, Kristian Fulton and maybe Amani Hooker – he is clearly the top choice I believe, after they couldn’t re-sign Desmond King, who they traded for in the middle of last season. I liked Fulton a lot last season, but believe he fits best on the boundary. Molden is such a scrappy player, with the recovery burst to get back into phase, if he takes any false steps initially, and he is an excellent tackler, with only 22 misses on 172 career attempts.
Jabril Cox, LB, LSU – 115th overall to Dallas
I already talked about Cox, when I discussed the Cowboys potentially moving on from their two starting linebackers next year, but let me just talk about him individually. This guy was my 40th overall prospect and my fifth off-ball linebacker. It took ten picks into day three for him to hear his name called and there were eleven(!) guys at his position selected ahead of him. I get that there’s different types of stand-up backers, especially when you look at guys like Nick Bolton and Pete Werner being utilized more as blitzers in the pass-game, plus I actually like Ohio State’s Baron Browning a lot, as kind of hybrid outside backer, who I thought was a great value pick himself as the final name on day two, but there were a few guys, who absolutely should not have received a call before him. I really believe this guy has some special skills, in terms of the hip fluidity and range as a coverage defender, as he can mirror some slot receivers even, to go with the ability to avoid blocks in space.
Jamar Johnson, SAF, Indiana – 164th overall to Denver
I already talked about how much I liked the Broncos draft as a whole, but the one guy I want to point out here as well is Jamar Johnson. He was my fifth-ranked safety coming out of Indiana. I know his RAS score wasn’t very impressive, but I think there almost have to be some medical concerns here for him to make it to the fifth round, when I thought he should have gone mid-day two. Johnson is super instinctive, sees the game at an advanced level and can play really any spot in the secondary other than outside corner. He may not have the range to be a true single-high free safety, but you can rotate him there out of split-safety looks, because of his feel in coverage, and even more so, I like him closer to the line of scrimmage, where he can be one of those rare guys to be disruptive as a secondary player and you can involve him as a blitzer. I don’t think he will unseat Kareem Jackson right away as Denver’s partner for Justin Simmons in base looks, but I would expect him to be on the field for a lot three-safety looks and as like a dime backer.
Marlon Tuipulotu, IDL, USC – 189th overall to Philadelphia
We all knew this wasn’t a great defensive tackle class in terms of the talent at the top, even though there were some guys I liked, who were projected to go in the later rounds. To go along with, the strength of this group were actually the zero- and one-technique, who if they don’t stay on the field for a large portion of third downs, simply won’t be valued very highly. Still, I think Marlon Tuipulotu could have easily gone up to 100 spots higher. He was the 13th defensive tackle off the board. I know he doesn’t have the upside of guys like Texas A&M’s Bobby Brown at nose or his former USC teammate Jay Tufele, who is looked at as more of a penetrating three-technique, but in terms of a run-stopping shade nose, the only guy I put ahead of Tuipulotu was N.C. State’s Alim McNeill, who I actually really like as well, but he went 117 picks earlier and while Marlon got to line up over guards on some third downs, his pressure per pass-rush snap ratio was twice as high as McNeill’s.
Trey Smith, IOL, Tennessee – 226th overall to Kansas City
This one is tricky, because whenever you have these serious medical concerns, like Trey Smith having blood clots in his lungs, it’s always easy to say that player should have gone earlier. I have no idea about how likely it is that these issues will re-occur for the former Volunteer and if a team’s doctors don’t clear him, they should not draft him. But Smith was picked at the end of the sixth round and I can only speak on the quality of prospect he is based on the tape and information I have. He was my fifth overall interior offensive lineman, not considering these medical concerns, because he has an incredible amount of natural power to open up lanes for a power run game, his pass-sets could improve quickly with proper coaching, since the majority of his losses come due to being too aggressive with his short-sets and he offers flexibility, to kick him out to tackle. I would not be surprised at all, if he were to start on the right side of that line, depending on where they put Kyle Long.
Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State – 256th overall to Green Bay
The only thing you really need to know about Hill here, is that there were 18 running backs drafted over the course of three days – he was the 17th of them to hear his name called, when I had him as my RB6 personally. I mean he has a pretty thin torso and doesn’t blow you away with any of his measurables or testing numbers, but he displays excellent contact balance, he can make defenders miss in open space with tough moves to read, he is an advanced pass-catcher coming out of Mississippi State and one of the most impressive backs in protection, that you will see on tape, despite not being the biggest guy. With Jamaal Williams going to Detroit via free agency, I believe Hill has a chance to challenge last year’s second-round pick A.J. Dillon for the second-most running backs snaps, simply because that guy virtually has no experience on passing downs. And they got him with the fourth-to-last pick of the whole draft. That’s crazy to me.
Other value picks:
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State – 11th overall to Chicago
Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas – 51st overall to Washington
Jalen Mayfield, OT/G, Michigan – 68th overall to Atlanta
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford – 76th overall to New Orleans
Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina – 82nd overall to Washington
Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State – 105th overall to Denver
Michael Carter Jr., RB, North Carolina – 107th overall to New York Jets
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State – 131st overall to Baltimore
Tommy Togiai, IDL, Ohio State – 132nd overall to Cleveland
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis – 150th overall to Memphis
Daviyon Nixon, IDL, Iowa – 158th overall to Carolina
Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan – 177th overall to New England
Hamsah Nasirildeen, SAF, Florida State – 186th overall to New York Jets
Deonte Brown, IOL, Alabama – 193rd overall to Carolina
Victor Dimukeje, EDGE, Duke – 210th overall to Arizona
Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA – 211th overall to Cleveland
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami – 216th overall to Pittsburgh
James Wiggins, SAF, Cincinnati – 243rd overall to Arizona
Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State – 246th overall to Washington
Khyiris Tonga, IDL, BYU – 250th overall to Chicago
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama – 17th overall to Las Vegas
This has become an annual tradition for the Raiders to make everybody go “What the hell?” or “They did it again!” with at least one of their first-round picks, when they shocked everybody by selecting Clelin Ferrell fourth overall two years ago and then Damon Arnette 19th overall last year. On Thursday, they went with my OT8 and 45th overall prospect, when they were on the clock with the 17th pick. So I obviosuly still like Alex Leatherwood quite a bit, but the third offensive tackle off the board? Over guys Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw and whoever else you may like? I disagree with that already, but then even if your evaluations say that he was their top name at the position – which to me would be absolutely crazy over Oregon’s Penei Sewell in particular – and in this case reportedly offensive line coach Tom Cable really wanting him, who always pounds the table for these highly athletic guys, you have to be aware of consensus draft boards to some degree and I just don’t believe he would have been selected within the next ten picks. So if somebody wanted to trade up, they could have probably acquired a second-round in the process and still gotten Leatherwood.
Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston – 28th overall to New Orleans
Turner was just outside my top ten edge rushers and I feel like I should have probably had him a little bit higher in my overall rankings, but certainly not first-round high. I get what the Saints see in him, in terms of the physical profile of a dense frame and long arms, being able to set the edge at the point of attack or pursue from the backside in the run game, while having the power and suddenness to win in different ways as a pass-rusher. I’m sure he reminds them a lot of what they already have in Cam Jordan or even what they just lost to some degree in Trey Hendrickson, and I would not be shocked if he eventually developed into a Pro Bowl-level player, but he also needs to do a better job of attacking half the man and keep his frame clean. So to invest a first-round pick in that kind of developmental prospect, when you already used two first-rounders basically on Marcus Davenport three years ago, who was a similar type of project, is rather questionable to me.
Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville – 57th overall to Los Angeles Rams
Speed kills. I get that. When you put on the Louisville tape, there’s one guy who moves at a different gear than those other guys on the field. Tutu Atwell was a top 15 wide receiver for me purely based on my evaluations of him, but when reports came out that he weighed in at just 149 pounds at the NFL medical checks, I had to drop him down my board a little bit further. I still like what I saw on tape, but there were already issues with playing through any type of contact and at that weight, that will be kind of scary at the next level. He already did a lot of speed sweep stuff Sean McVay loses to use and the Rams clearly wanted to add some ability to the stretch the field, in order to take advantage of the vertical prowess their new quarterback Matthew Stafford brings to the table, which is why they already took a flyer on DeSean Jackson in free agency. So I get the idea of bringing in Tutu, but to use their first draft pick on a diminutive slot receiver, without even trading down to add some more capital doesn’t seem right to me.
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida – 64th overall to Tampa Bay
People who have followed my draft rankings already knew I wasn’t very high on Trask in general. I had him as the ninth quarterback on my board and talked about how I don’t think he don’t reach the thresholds in terms of arm talent and especially athleticism for an NFL starter. Instead, the reigning Super Bowl champs made him the final pick of the second round and the first quarterback off the board, after the five guys, who all went within the first 15 selections. I especially didn’t expect this, because I thought Bruce Arians would much rather getting a big-armed developmental guy like Georgia’s Jamie Newman or Arkansas’s Feleipe Franke on day three – who, by the way, went undrafted. To me, Trask wasn’t worth a top-100 selection and he wasn’t even close to Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, who went two picks later. That guy presents a much more attractive skill-set overall and while there’s more inconsistencies that he still needs to iron out, he also had to decipher much more complex looks than Trask, who had the luxury of often having pre-determined throws under Dan Mullen. And I don’t even think Trask is the greatest fit, because he can lay those deep balls out in front, but not really drive the ball into tighter windows.
Malcolm Koonce, EDGE, Buffalo – 79th overall to Las Vegas
This another player I don’t hate, but I just look at what was on the board and question if it was the right value. There are certainly things to like from Koonce – he plays with good extension and backside discipline in the run game and he displays some suddenness with his hands and dip maneuvers as a pass-rusher. However, he doesn’t consistently establish that half-man relationship as an edge-setter and kind of drifts into his rushes too much. I don’t see him as an alpha pass-rusher and if new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley looks at him as that LEO for his four-down front, I think that’s a little bit redundant, after they already signed Yannick Ngakoue this offseason. Unless they actually want to go all out with four D-ends on the field on passing downs, by moving Clelin Ferrell and Max Crosby inside, I don’t see a clear path for Koonce to log too many snaps. I had him in the early 20’s among edge rushers, and there were several guys, who went on day three, that I liked better, at much higher value.
Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn – 91st overall to Cleveland
So I actually expected Anthony Schwartz to go much earlier than I had him personally, simply because he ran in the mid-4.2’s, but I didn’t think he’d go in the top 100. Don’t get me wrong – there are absolutely things to get excited about with a guy who only recently got off the tracks, after running a 10.09 in the 100-meter rally, but he is so raw as a receiver, in terms of his route-running and ball-skills. He was the 15th receiver off the board and he barely cracked my personal top 30 at the positional. Schwartz is a fun player, as a vertical and YAC threat, who Auburn got the ball to on bubble screens, speed sweeps and stuff like that. Cleveland will probably look to use him in that type of gadget-y role, but that’s pretty rich an investment for me, considering there were a few players, who would have fit that mold, that went later and I personally would have liked better. North Texas’ Jaelon Darden comes to mind, who went to Tampa Bay 38 picks later, and South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson actually went completely undrafted. They would have both presented that speed element in the slot, with much more natural skills for the position.
Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State – 99th overall to Dallas
There’s one team every other year that has to kind of show me up by selecting a player on day two that I didn’t get to watch. In 2019 it was Quinnen Williams’ brother Quincy Williams out of Murray State going to Jacksonville for example. This year it was the Cowboys picking Oregon State corner Nahshon Wright, who went one pick before we hit triple-digits. The next prospect I didn’t watch was Florida kicker Evan McPherson 50 picks later, because I don’t evaluate specialists, and the next actual offensive or defensive player I wasn’t familiar with came at 161st overall in Miami of Ohio offensive tackle Tommy Doyle going to Buffalo. So I went back and watched Wright. I get the idea of a long press corner for this Dan Quinn defensive scheme, but other than Brandon Browner, we haven’t seen a 6’4” guy succeed at the position, and Wright’s 7.2 in the three-cone drill was the worst time I’ve seen for any drafted cornerback. His gangly frame creates issues for him, where he can get beat up at line at times and they can’t play any extended stretch of off-coverage with him, due to the wasted steps you see coming out of his transitions. And the worst thing about it – my number nine overall CB Ifeatu Melifonwu from Syracuse, who fits that mold, even if he needs to still learn press technique, went two picks later. Scheme fit is obviously important, but he was my 27th corner available.
Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina – 103rd overall to Los Angeles Rams
This is another name that I didn’t really see or hear once during the pre-draft process, even though I had at least watched him. Ernest Jones was the ninth linebacker off the board, at the end of day two. And I get what the Rams see in him, when you look at that reactionary explosiveness you see, being able to redirect in an impressive fashion and that will only get better when he plays with more sink in his hips in the pass-game. However, his coverage numbers last season were some of the worst for any off-ball backer and at this point he’s very undisciplined with his run fits, going around way too many blocks. There were at least 16 linebackers, that I think should have gone ahead him Jones. Two of the three guys that heard their names called next at that position were Ohio State’s Baron Browning and Jabril Cox from LSU. The first presents more of a presence as an edge rusher, but for his dense frame, he’s much more nimble in space than you’d anticipate, while the latter has the best hip fluidity and closing burst for any backer in this class arguably, while also impressing with his ability to evade blockers.
Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa State – 119th overall to Minnesota
I already discussed the big gap between the top three running backs selected and the rest of the class. So this guy ended up as the sixth guy taken at the position. Had you told me that before the draft, I would have asked you if you were crazy. And my RB6, who I just discussed in the “steals” paragraph was Kylin Hill, who went 137 spots later. With Kene Nwangwu, the Vikings are pretty much purely betting on the athletic upside, which he showed at his pro day, including a 4.32 in the 40. He had only 801 scrimmage yards in four years of college. I don’t think think he is the most natural runner, failing to set up blockers accordingly, and he only had seven career catches. Nwangwu does have plenty of experience returning kicks, where he averaged 26.8 yards per attempt, and that’s where I think he will mostly make an impact, but he didn’t return any punts either and he’s most likely RB4 on the depth chart for Minnesota. All but two of the 12 running backs (Jake Funk and Gary Brightwell) that went after him, I personally had ranked ahead of Nwangwu, and there were eight more guys at that position who came before him, that went undrafted – and a few of those presented very similar skill-sets.
Two freaking long-snappers – 222nd overall to Carolina and 225th overall to Washington respectively
Looking at these last 20 years – there were 13 long-snappers drafted and two of them came in this year’s sixth round. So the numbers already say that two would be too many and I’m not going to act like I evaluated these guys, because I openly state that I just don’t know enough about specialists in general to make those judgements, but I have a pretty good understanding of the value of draft picks. The guy from Alabama – Thomas Fletcher – who received the award for the top long-snapper in the country, I can still swallow, but I’m pretty sure Camaron Cheeseman (Michigan) would not have been selected by anybody else, if Washington didn’t call him. The Football Team might just want to push up their jersey sales with a name like that, but even if they wanted him that badly, they still had three more picks in the seventh round. So either way, this doesn’t seem to present the best value. Just listen to the phone call between Panthers head coach and Fletcher, who couldn’t believe he was actually drafted.
Others who went too early:
Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC – 14th overall to New York Jets
Gregory Rosseau, EDGE, Miami – 30th overall to Buffalo
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State – 31st overall to Baltimore
Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia – 33rd overall to Jacksonville
Jackson Carman, OT/IOL, Clemson – 44th overall to Cincinnati
Chauncey Golston, EDGE/IDL, Iowa – 84th overall to Dallas
Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU – 104th overall to Baltimore
Camryn Bynum, SAF/CB, California – 125th overall to Minnesota
Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame – 133rd overall to New Orleans
Evan McPhearson, K, Florida – 149th overall to Cincinnati