Zach's Draft Corner: Winners and Losers From the 2021 NFL Draft
Image Credit: Associated Press
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
The 2021 draft cycle has now come to a close, so it’s time for the way-too-early evaluations. While it’s true that real grades won’t come for years down the road, we can still trust our scouting reports to see who seemed to get the best value from their draft class. Based on these initial evaluations, here are my winners and losers from the 2021 draft.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
This was a risky draft, but this class has the potential to be an all-time great class that doesn’t include a quarterback. Jaycee Horn as the first defensive player off the board was risky, but he makes plays and could be a gamebreaker. Terrace Marshall, Chuba Hubbard, and Shi Smith give Sam Darnold some valuable skill position players, while Brady Christensen and Deonte Brown provide high upside prospects along the offensive line. Round out that class with Tommy Tremble at tight end, Daviyon Nixon and Keith Taylor in the fifth round, and Phil Hoskins in the seventh, you have yourself a class with value up and down the board. Fantastic job by Matt Rhule and company.
Loser: Arizona Cardinals
There were a few big needs for Arizona going into this draft. They needed offensive line help desperately. They filled that major need by drafting… centerMichal Menet in the seventh round. They needed help in the secondary, so they waited until Day3to take a cornerback. They needed help on the interior of the defensive line, and they just punted the position as a whole. Instead, they spent their only two early picks on a linebacker and a wide receiver. Not a great lesson in team building from Arizona.
Winner: Chicago Bears
The Bears needed to swing for the fences. With Mitchell Trubisky moving on to Buffalo and Andy Dalton signing on a one-year contract, the Bears found themselves dangerously close to quarterback purgatory. They needed to be aggressive if they ever hoped to get out before bottoming out, and they did just that. They took advantage of the depth in quarterback at this class and moved on Justin Fields when he fell to No. 11 by trading up with the New York Giants. That alone puts them in the winner category, but they took advantage of Teven Jenkins falling to the second round and grabbed a player who will add some edge to that offensive line. They didn’t have another pick until the middle of Day 3, but still found some value in Khalil Herbert, Dazz Newsome, Thomas Graham, and Kyiris Tonga. I love what Chicago did last weekend.
Loser: Green Bay Packers
They could be a loser just by ruining their relationship with their all-time great quarterback as he is coming off an MVP season. In addition, their draft was simply uninspiring. They reached on Eric Stokes in the first round, and their remaining picks were lackluster, at best. Combine the poor to mediocre draft with the destruction of their quarterback situation, and the Packers can’t be feeling great about their current situation.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
I love the Chargers moving forward. They struck gold with their quarterback last year, so they did their best to protect him by taking Rashawn Slater in the first round and Brenden Jaimes in the fifth. They made up for losing Desmond King by replacing him with the very talented Asante Samuel Jr., and they drafted a couple of my personal favorites in Chris Rumph and Nick Niemann. The Chargers are setting themselves up to challenge the Chiefs heading into the future.
Loser: Las Vegas Raiders
We can typically count on the Raiders and the Seahawks to reach terribly in the first round every year. Since Seattle traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Jets for Jamal Adams, we had to rely on Las Vegas. Thankfully, they did not disappoint, taking Alex Leatherwood about 20 spots too high. They got some good value in Trevon Moehrig in the second round, but every pick thereafter could be seen as a reach. They even spent two picks on strong safeties after spending a first round pick on a strong safety in the past couple of seasons. The value simply isn’t there.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
Because it wasn’t Mac Jones.
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