NFL Draft 2021: First Round Grades
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
It’s finally back. With a sold-out and vaccinated crowd, drafted players hugging the commissioner, and some big draft day trades, it finally feels like football is back. Last season was just not the same. This sport needs its fans. We won’t waste more time talking about how excited and happy we are, we have 6 more rounds to go this weekend, so let’s get right to our first round grades:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB Grade: A+
Lawrence was a can’t miss prospect and now Urban Meyer gets a chance to coach a true generational talent.
2. New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB Grade: B
After trading away Sam Darnold in the offseason, the Jets sealed their fate as a franchise looking to reset the clock. Time will tell if Wilson is actually the second best QB in this draft.
3. San Francisco 49ers – Trey Lance, QB Grade: C+
Kyle Shanahan and the Niners gave up two first round picks to get their guy in this draft. Now, they will let him sit the season behind Jimmy G. That’s a steep price for a developmental project.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE Grade: A+
They do things differently in Atlanta. While some teams leave their veteran quarterbacks to elevate young players around them, the Falcons went and grabbed another massive weapon for Matt Ryan. Huge win.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR Grade: C+
Burrows gets to throw footballs to an old college teammate, but this team has bigger needs to fill. They need to protect their QB. Chase joins a WR group that already has some quality players.
6. Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR Grade: B
Miami really needed a pass catcher to help Tua and they got just that with this pick. Waddle is a dynamic playmaker.
7. Detroit Lions – Penei Sewell, OL Grade: A
When you look at what new head coach Dan Campbell is trying to accomplish, ripping off knees and such, Sewell fits in perfectly.
8. Carolina Panthers – Jaycee Horn, CB Grade: B
Horn is a solid CB, who immediately fills a position of need, but the Panthers could use more protection for their newly acquired QB, Sam Darnold.
9. Denver Broncos – Patrick Surtain II, CB Grade: B+
We like Surtain as the best CB in this draft. The Broncos could have risked going after one of the remaining QBS, but instead they got a player who will make an immediate positive impact.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith, WR Grade: B+
Interesting trade here, with the Eagles dealing with the Cowboys to move up two spots, with another division rival, the Giants, waiting in-between. Philly needed a weapon for their young QB and Smith could be the best WR in this draft.
11. Chicago Bears – Justin Fields, QB Grade: B
Loved seeing the Giants get four picks back for this one. Now, the Bears and Matt Nagy have a young QB with high upside. This could be Nagy’s last chance to get it right.
12. Dallas Cowboys – Micah Parsons, LB Grade: A+
The Cowboys moved back two spots, picked up an extra third round pick, screwed over the Giants, and still got their guy. Parsons is a special talent. Jerry Jones must be smiling right now.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OL Grade: A+
Slater will plug in immediately at LT and provide much needed protection for last year’s sensational first round pick, Justin Herbert. Love this pick for this team.
14. New York Jets – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL Grade: A
The Jets were aggressive to move up and get this interior lineman who will be a key piece in their new offensive scheme. Teams not protecting their young QBs should learn something from these last two picks.
15. New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB Grade: A+
Belichick has not had much success with drafting QBs early, but he waited patiently and gave up nothing to get Jones, who was in the conversation of being a top 5 pick. This is a great fit for both sides.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Zaven Collins, LB Grade: B+
This defense was not so great last season. Now they add J.J. Watt and Zaven Collins to their front seven. The Cards are moving in the right direction.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Alex Leatherwood, OL Grade: C+
Every year, the Raiders big board looks entirely different than the rest of the league. They definitely drafted a position of need, but Leatherwood might have been available when the Raiders pick again in the second round.
18. Miami Dolphins – Jaelan Phillips, DE Grade: B+
After grabbing one of the big three WR in this draft with their first pick, the Dolphins improved their defense with the best pass rusher in the draft. Phillips just needs to stay healthy.
19. Washington Football Team – Jamin Davis, LB Grade: B+
Who is the quarterback in Washington? It doesn’t matter. Davis is a special talent that will bolster this Ron Rivera defense.
20. New York Giants – Kadarius Toney, WR Grade: B
Giants fans should be happy about their day. Picking up a first rounder next year is huge. Looking at this pick puts the Eagles-Cowboys trade into some perspective, but missing out on Smith and settling for Toney feels underwhelming.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Kwity Paye, DE Grade: B-
Paye is a talented edge rusher with loads of raw ability. He just needs to show it more often, but the Colts plugged a hole.
22. Tennessee Titans – Caleb Farley, CB Grade: B-
There is no doubting Farley’s talent, but his multiple back surgeries are cause for concern, including one in March. Hopefully Farley can get healthy and fulfill his potential.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Darrisaw, OL Grade: A+
Darrisaw is among the best offensive lineman in this draft. Minnesota got a great player that fills a big need late in the round.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB Grade: B
Harris is the best pure RB in this draft class. He will be a good fit on a physical Pittsburg team.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travis Etienne, RB Grade: B
Etienne could have been available when the Jags pick again with the first pick in the second round, but the Jags get a solid player and Lawrence gets to enter the league with a college teammate.
26. Cleveland Browns – Greg Newsome II, CB Grade: C+
Newsome is a talented CB, but the Browns have more glaring holes in their defensive front seven.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Rashod Bateman, WR Grade: B
Baltimore needs help at WR and its good to see that they even know what those guys Lamar rarely throws to are, but Bateman does not jump of the page as an exciting pick.
28. New Orleans Saints – Payton Turner, DE Grade: C+
New Orleans definitely drafted for need, but better options were available.
29. Green Bay Packers – Eric Stokes, CB Grade: A+
Another Packers pick offering no offensive support for their MVP QB. Now, Rodgers wants out and he made that very clear yesterday. Yikes.
30. Buffalo Bills – Greg Rousseau, DE Grade: B
Fans in Buffalo need to be proud that the team earned the right to pick this late. The Bills ended up with a solid edge rusher that will improve an already elite defense.
31. Baltimore Ravens – Jayson Oweh, DE Grade: C+
Another underwhelming pick for the Ravens. Oweh has raw skills, but his talent does not always shine through on the field.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joe Tryon, DE Grade: A+
The reigning Super Bowl Champs did an excellent job of retaining their starters and did not have any glaring needs heading into this draft. Tryon will get to develop as a situational edge rusher behind an aging JPP.