By Javier Ascoli
The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books. Rookie minicamps are starting, OTAs and Training Camps are getting closer, and the 2021-2022 season Kickoff will be approaching faster and faster.
Which teams got improved during the Draft? Which teams did not perform well? Well, here I present my 2021 NFL Draft Winners and Losers. In terms of winners, I will talk about some teams that I think that CRUSHED in the Draft. In terms of losers, I will talk about teams that in my opinion could have done a better Draft, teams that had a questionable performance.
Winners – Teams that crushed the Draft in my opinion.
The Panthers made a splash in the Draft. First, they started it with seven total selections and ended up with eleven total picks. The Panthers made a huge splash taking Jaycee Horn, top corner in the Draft probably, after letting James Bradberry go on the last offseason. Horn filled a big hole in this young defense, coming with a big football level, big athleticism, and a huge mentality. Got Sam Darnold help in the Offensive Line, a good blocking Tight End, and Terrace Marshall Jr., an explosive guy who reunites with Joe Brady in Carolina.
The Vikings traded down nine spots in the first round and selected the same guy they were planning to select at No. 14, OT Christian Darrisaw, to fill holes in the offensive line. Trading back, adding more picks, and still getting Darrisaw was amazing. They got more help in the Offensive Line, with a great value. Later in the Draft, the Vikings got Senior Bowl MVP, Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond. Minnesota made a great pick in Mond who a developmental player can be, learn behind Kirk Cousins for a year or two, and later be their franchise Quarterback. Got Chazz Surratt, ACC DPOY Runner-Up, a great linebacker in coverage who can help this defensive core. Finally, the Vikings got good depth players, which can be helpful additions.
New York Jets:
The Jets are a team in rebuild mode, they had enough capital to get good players. Traded QB Sam Darnold a couple of weeks before the Draft and got their next Franchise Quarterback on BYU Zach Wilson at number two overall. Traded up from number 23 on to pick 14 to get IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, the highest-graded interior offensive lineman. Filled some other mayor needs. They passed on UNC Star RB Javonte Williams but got wideout Elijah Moore, a guy who can be a playmaker, a guy who can make an instant impact on this young Jets offense, besides, they got a solid value running back in round four. Joe Douglas also targeted defensive needs in mid and late rounds.
The Cleveland Browns got themselves a great group of players, especially in their first three picks. Drafted Northwestern Cornerback Greg Newsome II, a smart player who can help this talented defensive core in coverage plays, a secure corner. Traded up to get Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second round, a first-round talent, that can be a gamechanger playmaker on this defense. Auburn receiver, Anthony Schwartz, the fastest wideout in the class, a guy that provides speed and agility to the Browns talented receiving core. After Schwartz, they got some depth players that can develop and learn from playmakers in this team in their rookie season, and breakout in the following seasons.
New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Football Team, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions.
Losers – Teams that made highly questionable selections.
In my opinion, Seahawks and Texans, who had bad drafts, are not considered losers due to the few picks they had in this Draft.
Las Vegas Raiders:
Mike Mayock and John Gruden once again. These two guys together cannot have success in the Draft. Years in a row, the Raiders have been doing questionable selections, for example drafting Clelin Ferrell, not a first-round talent, with the 4th overall pick in 2019, Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette in the first round of the 2020 Draft, and now selecting OT Alex Leatherwood in the first round, a guy that they could have selected in late second-round or early third. They had to get rid of their fourth-round pick, to trade up to get Safety Trevon Moehrig when they could have had him in the first-round trading down and get Leatherwood with the extra pick.
The Dallas Cowboys needed a big help in the offensive line to help Dak Prescott, traded down two spots in the first round with great offensive lineman available, and instead selected LB Micah Parsons, and waited until the fourth round to select an Offensive Lineman. Micah Parsons, for many analysts, was the best defensive prospect in the entire class, but some have concerns about him due to the scandals he had at Penn State, when having a good LB core with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander-Esch, and then drafting Jabril Cox. They needed support in the secondary and drafted cornerback Kelvin Joseph at pick 44. Joseph, a guy who transferred from LSU to Kentucky and did not finish seasons at either school. Better cornerbacks were still on the board. FSU Asante Samuel Jr. (drafted at 47 overall), UCF Aaron Robinson (drafted at 71 overall), Syracuse Ifeatu Melifonwu (drafted at 103 overall), Huskies Elijah Molden (drafted at 100 overall), and a couple more.
Green Bay Packers:
It all started when the Aaron Rodgers news came out, the Packers office is having trouble. And on the Draft, they showed off. Let me start with their first-round selection, Georgia CB Eric Stokes. Eric Stokes is a solid corner and everything, but offensive help was their primary need. The Packers could have easily selected a good corner in the second/third round. In my opinion, the Green Bay Packers entered the Draft without a resolution to Aaron Rodgers’ situation, so they drafted random good players, instead of focusing and getting real playmakers, who were available at their pick. They needed to fill primary holes, the departure of All-Pro Corey Linsley, help in the receiving core. Indeed, they got decent value in the Offensive Line at late rounds.
New Orleans Saints:
The New Orleans Saints looked a bit lost in this edition of the NFL Draft. The Saints were confident that they will roll with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at Quarterback but failed to add impactful players with their first selections. Payton Turner is a good player, but in my opinion, there were better players at their pick and could have still selected Turner in the third/fourth round. Stanford Paulson Adebo was a good pick, to be honest. They lost veteran Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, so they could have selected a wide receiver with their first pick to help who the starting quarterback will be. Elijah Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., Rondale Moore were all available at 28.