- Joe Fehr
Round 1 Draft Grades: Immediate Reactions to the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft!
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone! Although there is still plenty of draft left, the first 32 picks were jam-packed with surprise and intrigue. In what has been an unpredictable year, the draft followed that trend. In this article I'll be breaking down every single pick from the first round giving grades to each pick based on talent, value and fit. Obviously, we won't know the true grades until years down the line, but who doesn't love more speculation?
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence QB, Clemson GRADE: A+
We've known since the moment the NFL season ended that this would be the pick, so the Jaguars get a great grade simply for not screwing this up. Lawrence was the number one player in the draft and a potential franchise changer. Now it's time to build around him.
2) New York Jets: Zach Wilson QB, BYU GRADE: A
Another pick that we've all known for quite sometime. Wilson is an extremely talented and uber-exciting prospect for New York. Wilson has a higher ceiling than most players in this draft. Hopefully the front office does a better job supporting him than they did with Sam Darnold.
3) San Fransisco 49ers: Trey Lance QB, NDSU GRADE: B+
The first surprise of the draft! Despite months of talk about this pick being Mac Jones, the Niners take the more exciting prospect. Lance's arm and athleticism give him a much higher upside than Jones. It may take time, but Lance in this offense could be very special.
4) Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts TE, Florida GRADE: A+
Instead of taking a potential QB of the future, the Falcons decide to double down on Matt Ryan. Pitts in this offense is a terrifying proposition for defenses. His combination of size, speed and strength is something that doesn't come around every year.
5) Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase WR, LSU GRADE: B
Chase's talent is undeniable, and teaming him back up with his college QB, Joe Burrow, is an exciting idea. He should find immediate success on an offense that is filled with play-makers. Cincinnati just has to hope that passing on a generational pass protector won't come back to haunt them.
6) Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle WR, Alabama GRADE: B-
Passing on Waddle's Heisman-winning teammate, DeVonta Smith, is not what I would've done. Waddle is the more talented of the two with speed that is unmatched in this draft. The injuries, however, scare me a little bit. Can't help but feel like the Dolphins were hoping either Kyle Pitts or Ja'Marr Chase would've fallen to them here.
7) Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell T, Oregon GRADE: A+
This is probably the best value pick in the draft. You could tell they knew it by the reaction in the Lions war-room . Sewell can be a cornerstone piece in Detroit for a decade plus. Whether it's Jared Goff or a young prospect in the future, Detroit's QB won't have to worry about blindside protection for years.
8) Carolina Panthers: Jaycee Horn CB, South Carolina GRADE: C+
Horn could end up being a fantastic pro, but after going all defense in last year's draft, this pick just kinda feels uninspired. With much more talented players still on the board this just feels like a little bit of a reach. Definitely not a pick that will fire up a fan base.
9) Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain CB, Alabama GRADE: B-
The talent of Surtain on its own would be enough to get them an A, but with Justin Fields still on the board it taints the pick for me. Denver already has decent talent at corner and going into the season with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater doesn't exactly scream excitement.
10) Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith WR, Alabama GRADE: A
The Eagles traded up with the Cowboys?! The aggression for Philly pays off getting one of the best pass-catchers in the draft. Smith will immediately become the best receiver on a team that is starving for talent at that position.
11) Chicago Bears: Justin Fields QB, Ohio State GRADE: A+
LOVE this pick for Chicago! If you have read any of my articles or listened to my podcast during the draft process, you know how much I love Justin Fields. After what was a disappointing off-season at the QB position for the Bears, this pick could end up saving GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy's jobs!
12) Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons LB, Penn State GRADE: B+
After trading down a few spots, the Cowboys take... another linebacker. Parsons is one of the best defensive players in this draft and should make an immediate impact in the NFL. I also can't help but feel like tears were shed in the Cowboy's war-room when Patrick Surtain was taken just one spot in front of their original pick.
13) Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater T, Northwestern GRADE: A
The Chargers just seem to get the best value possible every single draft. I will never criticize a team for helping their young QB with more pass protection, especially when that help is a very talented young prospect like Slater.
14) New York Jets: Alijah Vera-Tucker G, USC GRADE: A
In the same vain as what I just said about the Chargers, surrounding a young developing QB with talent at the o-line is never a bad idea, even if you gave up significant assets to trade up and get him. Adding Vera-Tucker to a line that already features rookie standout Mekhi Becton is fantastic.
15) New England Patriots: Mac Jones QB, Alabama GRADE: B-
Although I'm not the biggest fan of Mac Jones, I can't ignore the fact that New England stayed pat at 15 and got the QB they probably wanted all along anyway. Mac Jones is the polar opposite of what they have in Cam Newton, which makes sense because 'Cam' spelled backwards is 'Mac'. What a stupid, hilarious universe we live in.
16) Arizona Cardinals: Zaven Collins LB, Tulsa GRADE: B
Zaven Collins is a versatile linebacker that can make plays all over the field. The only thing that worries me is the Cardinal's inability to get consistent production out of similar players like Haason Reddick and Isaiah Simmons.
17) Las Vegas Raiders: Alex Leatherwood T, Alabama GRADE: D
Why do the Raiders always do this?! They could've probably traded out of the first round entirely and still gotten Leatherwood with their first pick. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden enjoy going off the board with their first round picks, and that's all fine and dandy, except for the fact that none of them have really worked out so far.
18) Miami Dolphins: Jalen Phillips EDGE, Miami GRADE: B
The Dolphins taking yet another player with health concerns is enough to give this Dolphins fan health concerns of his own. Jalen Phillips has all the talent to be a dominant edge presence at the next level, but you can't ignore the fact that he could be just a few years removed from retiring from football because of concussions.
19) Washington Football Team: Jamin Davis LB, Kentucky GRADE: A
Davis has received comparisons to Indianapolis Colts' stud linebacker Darius Leonard. If those comparisons turn out to be correct, adding him to a defense that features one of the best d-lines in football could make Washington a force to be reckoned with.
20) New York Giants: Kadarius Toney WR, Florida GRADE: C
I like Toney as a prospect and think he could be a fantastic play-maker, however, I have been very vocal in saying that receiver is not a pressing need for the Giants. Would've loved to see them go with one of the talented pass rushers still available here.
21) Indianapolis Colts: Kwity Paye EDGE, Michigan GRADE: A
One of my favorite picks of this entire first round! Paye was my top rated pass rusher in this draft and getting him at 21 is incredible value. Having him line up alongside DeForest Buckner could be a scary sight for opposing offenses!
22) Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley CB, Virginia Tech GRADE: B
Farley has top ten talent, but a slew of injury concerns caused many teams to take him off their boards. If he can overcome the injury issues Tennessee got an absolute steal at a position of desperate need.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Christian Darrisaw T, Virginia Tech GRADE: B+
The Vikings do not trade up for a QB as I had hoped, instead they trade down and get more protection for their current QB Kirk Cousins. A smart pick that, when packaged with a trade down, should net them great value for the future.
24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris RB, Alabama GRADE: C+
The Steelers' run game last year was virtually non-existent. Now, I don't doubt that Harris could improve that somewhat, but, in my humble opinion, the real problem lies in the o-line. It is going to be hard to find holes to run through on a line filled with tomato cans.
25) Jacksonville Jaguars: Travis Etienne RB, Clemson GRADE: C-
This is a perfect example of loving the player but hating the pick. Travis Etienne has special talent and pairing him up with his college quarterback is fun and cool. However, when you already have James Robinson and endless other holes on a rebuilding roster, drafting a running back in the first round is just flat out dumb!
26) Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II CB, Northwestern GRADE: B
Good solid pick. Nothing flashy but adding Newsome to a secondary FILLED with other young talent could be something to watch. You could argue (and I would) that a pass rusher was a more pressing need, but improving an already talented secondary could help create more pass rush.
27) Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman WR, Minnesota GRADE: A-
The Ravens are hoping that Bateman can end their woes at receiver, and I think he absolutely can. This pick just made too much sense. Bateman can be a perfect compliment to the two speedsters on the outside, Sammy Watkins and Hollywood Brown.
28) New Orleans Saints: Peyton Turner EDGE, Houston GRADE: C-
Certainly a bit of a reach. Peyton Turner has shot up draft boards these last few weeks, but in my opinion there were better pass rushers still on the board. The Saints obviously disagree and will be hoping he can develop a little faster than their last first round edge defender, Marcus Davenport.
29) Green Bay Packers: Eric Stokes CB, Georgia GRADE: C+
The news surrounding this team and their quarterback ensured that no matter who this pick was, they would be overshadowed by the complete chaos within the organization. They definitely needed corner help, but they seem set on completely ignoring the receiver position for the rest of time.
30) Buffalo Bills: Gregory Rousseau EDGE, Miami GRADE: B
This is back to back years now that the Bills have gotten an edge rusher that was once seen as a top ten pick much later than that. AJ Epenesa didn't exactly light the world on fire last year, but having two young pass rushers with high ceilings could pay huge dividends.
31) Baltimore Ravens: Jason Oweh EDGE, Penn State GRADE: C+
Jason Oweh has all the traits to be a great pass rusher at the next level. Traits, however, don't get you sacks. Oweh had great pressure numbers this past year in college but ZERO sacks, which to me is a concern. If any team can get the best out of a talented defender, however, it is Baltimore.
32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Tryon EDGE, Washington GRADE: B
The Buccaneers pass rush is one of the main reasons they're picking here at 32. You can never have to many pass rushers, so adding more young talent to a stacked d-line is a great move by Jason Licht.
Make sure to check out day two coverage of the NFL draft with @officialbudhole. Keep checking back for more draft coverage on Bluecollarmg.com.