The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, and there was plenty to like and plenty to dislike, depending on who you’re rooting for.
The Browns, hosting the NFL draft in Cleveland, put on among the most dominant performances while the New England Patriots were made three great picks over the first two days. The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, reached a bit in the name of defense, while the Houston Texans may have just admitted defeat in the Deshaun Watson drama.
So without further ado, here are our winners and losers from the three-day NFL draft:
The Browns had home-field advantage, and it looked like it. Cleveland continued their offseason pursuit in bettering the defense by adding first-round Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome. The Browns then benefitted from getting their second first-round talent with Notre Dame linebacker/edge rusher/slot corner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He may prove to be the steal of the draft.
The Browns shifted gears and pursued an unpolished bolt of lightning with third-round receiver Anthony Schwartz and added great value picks with defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, safety Richard Lecounte as well as tackle James Hudson on Day Three.
New England Patriots‘ start
The Patriots put together a very good opening three rounds by selecting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at No. 15 overall, trading up for Crimson Tide defensive tackle Christian Barmore at No. 38 and getting high-risk high-reward Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins at No. 96.
General manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy know their jobs are on the line, and they drafted like it. The Bears traded up for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the first round and then traded up again to select Oklahoma State offensive tackle Tevin Jenkins in the second round. Jenkins was thought to be a first-round talent, so Chicago making a move to get Fields some protection was very wise.
Trader Dave (Gettleman)
The Giants general manager broke his mold of never trading back and liked it so much he did it twice… and both resulted in absolute steals for New York.
First, the G-Men grabbed Florida wideout Kardarius Toney at No. 20 while picking up a future first-rounder and then got Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari at No. 50 overall. Ojulari was widely considered a first-round talent, and the Giants did so while getting another 2022 third-rounder, too.
The ex-New York Jets quarterback must be feeling something unfamiliar seeing how his current team actually tried to help him. The Panthers, who spent their first-round pick on cornerback Jaycee Horn rather than drafting arguably the best offensive tackle on the board, used all three Day Two picks on players to benefit Darnold. First, Carolina selected big-bodied LSU wideout Terrace Marshall, Jr. then went after offensive tackle Brady Christensen and selected tight end Tommy Tremble.
There were not many teams that had a better first-round than the Dolphins with the selections of Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle and Miami pass rusher Jaelan Phillips. Brian Flores and Co. then added to the defensive side of the ball with Day Two safety Jevon Holland and grabbed tight end Hunter Long to add to it.
New York Jets
J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!
First-round quarterback Zach Wilson, who went No. 2 overall, now has been surrounded by talent. The Jets traded back up into the first round and selected Alijah Vera-Tucker, one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the draft, and then added a steal in the second round with Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore. New York picked up North Carolina running back Michael Carter in the fourth round, which was great value. Not a bad weekend for the AFC East.
The Cowboys made a first-round heist when they traded back and still selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 12 overall while picking up an Eagles third-rounder in the process. But while Dallas went heavy on defense, and for good reason, the Cowboys stretched quite a bit on Day 2. Defensive end Chauncey Golston and cornerback Nahshon Wright, specifically, were not the value Dallas has coveted in the past. The Cowboys would’ve looked even worse if they didn’t have LSU linebacker Jabari Cox fall to them in the fourth round.
No disrespect to first-round talent Najee Harris, but it just feels like the Steelers opting to go running back over the offensive line in this situation was a puzzling and, at the very least, short-sighted. Then the Steelers somewhat doubled down with the selection of tight end Pat Freiermuth, a good player at his respective position, but again not one that filled their most glaring need. Pittsburgh finally did so in the third round with center/guard Kendrick Green and the fourth-round offensive tackle Dan Moore. We can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed with those selections, though.
Melvin Gordon/James Robinson fantasy owners
Gordon, the Denver Broncos running back, finally was not set to split carries with anyone seeing as Phillip Lindsey left in free agency, right? Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore given the fact the Broncos selected North Carolina running back Javonte Williams in the second round.
Robinson, the Jacksonville Jaguars rookie sensation after a breakout campaign, probably had dynasty owners thinking they found a long-term steal, too. Urban Meyer and Co., though, have other plans with the Jags selecting Clemson’s Travis Etienne at No. 25 overall.
Houston Texans fans
The Texans did not have a first- or second-round pick and then proceeded to spend their first Day Two pick on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. The pick obviously heightens the Watson drama in the short term, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday how “people in league circles” don’t think the franchise signal-caller will play this season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders got exceptional value with safety Trevon Moerig in the second round, but besides that it was a very underwhelming draft, especially the selection of first-rounder Alex Leatherwood. Malcolm Koonce, who the Raiders grabbed in the third round, was widely viewed as a fifth-round talent while and Divine Deablo, the second safety in four picks, was another reach.