2021 NFL Draft: Winners & Losers

So there it is, three days, 259 selections and very little sleep for us fans here in the UK… the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books.

It’s been an intense few months for everyone who loves the draft, so shout out to all of you who have read our content and those who bought the Draft Guide – we’re already looking forward to August, some college football and the beginning of the new cycle.

But before we move onto the new season and beyond, we’d better look back at the draft and pick up on who we think made the moves to propel their franchise to the next level and who’s draft looks to have been a bit of a dud.

Winners

Minnesota Vikings

Coming into the draft, everyone could see that the Vikings needed to address the Left Tackle spot on their line. So when they traded down in the first round with Christian Darrisaw sitting there at 14, it raised a few question marks. Instead, they picked… Christian Darrisaw at 23 and added a couple of third round picks to go along with him in a trade with the Jets.

One of those third round picks became another Offensive Lineman, Wyatt Davis, and it’s conceivable that the Vikings have now got one of the best long term outlooks in the league along their line. In Darrisaw Minnesota have got a powerful run blocker, with quick footwork and good length and you imagine that he’ll start from week one. Davis comes in to compete with Dakota Dozier at the Left Guard position and you imagine he’ll win that competition comfortably by the start of the season. 

Minnesota’s other three third round picks were equally exciting for Vikings fans. Every single draft report on Chazz Surratt said ‘raw but extremely gifted’. The former QB turned Linebacker (who’s ready to hear that every Sunday!?) will be able to study the play of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, before stepping into a leadership role on the Vikings defense. 

Patrick Jones II was an early draft process darling, and a guy who stood out on a Pitt defense that produced a lot of draftable talent in 2020. He’s a hand in the dirt guy, using his length and an arsenal of pass rush moves to beat his man off the edge. Give him time to develop and he will most likely leap above Stephen Weatherly on the depth chart.

The most interesting pick however, was Kellen Mond, the Texas A&M Quarterback who had a lot of pre-draft intrigue hanging around him after a solid Senior Bowl performance. Mond has always flattered to deceive as a prospect, often going from efficient, accurate passer on one drive to errant, and indecisive on the next. At the Senior Bowl he had a two touchdown game and was the best signal caller on show, and the Vikings clearly feel like there’s a chance he could be the successor to Kirk Cousins when his contract runs out after the 2022 season.

On top of all those third round picks, the Vikings capped off a draft rammed with potential, by selecting Janarius Robinson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Zach Davidson and Jalen Twyman. Smith-Marsette in particular looks like an enticing prospect and there were a lot of Stefon Diggs comparisons flying around before the draft. With smooth route running and a great versatility to his game, Minnesota may have got an immediate WR3 and a replacement for Adam Thielan in the long run.

Vikings draft Iowa receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in fifth round and a tight  end who can punt | Star Tribune
Photo: Star Tribune

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ defense stunk the NFL out last year, allowing nearly 30 points and 158 rushing yards per game on average. It’s safe to say that Jerry Jones took note and went all in to inject some life into a unit that will also benefit from the addition of Dan Quinn as the new Defensive Coordinator.

Micah Parsons has his fair share of naysayers, and with all of the character issues surrounding him it is easy to see why. However, what you can’t doubt is the explosive ability he brings to the Linebacker position as a hard hitting, sideline to sideline playmaker. Teaming him up with Leighton Vander-Esch, Jaylen Smith and fourth round pick Jabril Cox gives the Cowboys one of the best Linebacker rooms in the NFL.

After missing out on both Jaycee Horn and Pat Surtain II in the first round, Dallas then decided to dip into a loaded Cornerback class in the second round. They came away with Kelvin Joseph, who ran a 4.34s 40 yard dash at his pro day. The speed and tackling ability of Joseph would appear to complement 2020 second round pick, Trevon Diggs, leaving the Cowboys with a young secondary to face off against improved NFC East receiving rooms. 

Then there’s Osa Odighizuwa, someone who has been the main focus of attention on the Full 10 Yards’ College podcast over the last few weeks. A combination of violent hands, great wingspan and lateral athleticism will be a much needed boost to the Cowboys run defense. If you want to read more about the UCLA guy then read Kieran’s hot draft take here.  

Two further Corners (Israel Mukuamu & Nashon Wright), another character concern in Offensive Tackle Josh Ball and a Wide Receiver with all the raw attributes in the world in Simi Fehoko are amongst the other notable names of the Cowboys class. But it’s the early defensive additions which makes them a winner.

Kansas City Chiefs

The rich got richer over the last week in Kansas City, with the offensive line issues highlighted in the Super Bowl being addressed and then some. 

A really smart pre-draft trade landed them their new starting Left Tackle in Orlando Brown, sending their first round pick to the Ravens in return. Brown joins Joe Thuney and Kyle Long as new additions on the Chiefs line, the three combine for 205 NFL games and bring a ton of high level experience to the locker room.

But the Chiefs didn’t stop there, adding two more linemen in the draft, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Humphrey was ranked one of the best Centers in this draft, coming off three years as the starter for the Oklahoma Sooners. In that time he didn’t allow a single sack, emerged as a leader in the locker room and asserted non-stop aggression on the field. Smith was seemingly a steal so late in the day, with many projecting him as a third round pick. His medical history can’t be ignored but the ability is there for all to see, and he’s been an example to everyone with his charitable work off the field.

Besides the linemen, the Chiefs also added a hard hitting, run-stopping Linebacker in Nick Bolton. The Missou standout reads the game really well, allowing him to take good angles when tackling and keeping the game consistently in front of him. Pass coverage isn’t his strong point, but Steve Spagnuolo will undoubtedly know how to mask this, easing Bolton into the pro game and helping him to become a key contributor.

With the loss of Sammy Watkins, Kansas City also had a space that needed filling in the receiver room. Step forward Cornell Powell, a guy that has worked incredibly hard to get to the NFL after spending the majority of his CFB career buried on the depth chart at Clemson. A standout 2020 made Powell a lock to get drafted in the late rounds, and he’ll bring that fun after the catch ability that we see so regularly from the Chiefs’ pass catching core.

NFL Draft results: Chiefs select Nick Bolton at No. 58 - Arrowhead Pride
Photo: Wesley Hitt

Losers

Houston Texans

What a rubbish situation David Culley has walked into in Houston. How many other new Head Coaches have taken over a team with a franchise Quarterback firstly refusing to be involved with the team and secondly facing a raft of lawsuits, alongside no draft picks in the first two rounds and a roster that is devoid of star talent.

Many expected them to add strength in the trenches this year, aiming to build a team of hard hitting day three and four prospects to accompany either Watson or a 2022 first round Quarterback, letting Tyord Taylor have a run as the starting signal caller this season. Instead, with their first pick of the draft (in the third round), they added developmental QB, Davis Mills, and triggered Rich Eisen to give us one of the more memorable outbursts in the three days of coverage. It’ll be interesting to see what the long term plan is for Mills, but with the Texans likely to pick in the top five of the draft next year – will he have time to show he’s got what it takes to succeed in the NFL?

Nico Collins became the Texans’ second draft pick in the third round, adding some outside threat to their receiving core. Collins’ game revolves around the contested catch, and he excels in those situations. However, he struggles to separate without elite deep speed and has a limited route tree. Coming off the board at 89, the jury is out on whether or not this was good value for the Michigan star, but he’ll certainly get a chance to make his mark this season with only Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks sitting above him on the depth chart as it stands.  

The rest of the Texans’ draft was hit and miss, seemingly without a clear cut plan. Tight End Brevin Jordan may have been their pick of the draft, as he somehow made it all the way to the fifth round. The Miami product is a fantastic pass catcher and, like Collins, he’ll be getting significant snaps in year one, alongside Jordan Akins. In Garrett Wallow, Houston got a guy that has fulfilled a leadership role at TCU. They’ll be hoping they get the same out of him on Sundays, but for now even a fifth round pick feels like a reach.

Raheem Mostert 

Before the 2020 season Raheem Mostert backed himself as the guy to carry the 49ers to back to back playoff runs. Instead, he played just 8 games in an injury hit campaign which has triggered some significant change for the 49ers offense. 

Things may have been looking up for Mostert when the Niners decided against bringing Jerrick McKinnon back for another campaign, seemingly liking JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson as part of a committee. 

All of that was blown out of the water with San Francisco’s draft over the weekend. The 49ers took not one, but two Running Backs with decent pedigree as they moved to keep a hell of a lot of depth on the roster for a scheme that revolves around pounding the rock. After taking Trey Sermon in the third round, Shannahan and co took Elijah Mitchell in the sixth – a clear sign that they’re willing to move on from Mostert at the flick of a switch.

This section should also include fantasy football players who try and predict the San Fran backfield – face it everyone, they’ll take anyone and make them fantasy relevant for at least one week a year.

With their final selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers select RB Elijah  Mitchell - Niners Nation
Photo: Michael Wade

Cam Newton

Most people probably realised that Cam Newton wasn’t going to be the long term answer at Quarterback for the Patriots. A torrid 2020 campaign, in which he battled COVID and looked a shadow of his former self, gave way to renewed hope when he signed a $3.5m guaranteed contract in the offseason.

Step forward Mac Jones, the first signal caller that Bill Belichick has ever taken in the first round whilst with the Patriots. Not only is Jones coming off the back of a National Championship win with the Alabama Crimson Tide, he also happens to be the exact style of QB that Belichick and Josh McDaniels built the most famous dynasty in football around. That’s not to say that he’ll be a day one starter, but with Jones looking on, the pressure on Newton has ramped up even more.

The weapons the Patriots have added in the offseason initially spoke to a run-heavy offense, allowing Cam, Damien Harris and 2021 pick Rhamondre Stevenson to trample the opposition into surrender. However, could it be the case that the addition of two pass friendly Tight Ends and some track athlete speed has been put in place to best support a rookie QB? If not, then Cam needs to be at the top of his game in 2021 or the calls for Jones will start almost immediately.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know @Full10Yards. By Andy Moore – @ajmoore21.

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