NFL Draft recap: Teams, players, picks – who came out on top?

 

A new feature here on TideFans.com, we take a look at the 2021 NFL Draft by team, covering all SEC schools’ picks (with an emphasis on Alabama players taken, of course). Picks are rated in the following ways:

  • Draft grade (per NFL team): An overall grade and summary of all the team’s draft picks

  • Player fit: We rank a player’s fit on his new team; how likely will he be to make an impact?

  • Team value: Purely a ranking of whether there was value in this pick, judged against where internal analysis deemed the player should have gone per his pre-draft evaluation

With that, here’s the breakdown, listed alphabetically by each NFL team.

Arizona

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: The Cardinals didn’t do a good enough of filling team needs early on, going linebacker when the need was more at defensive back. Appropriately enough, the Cardinals may have righted the ship with its fourth-round (and first SEC) selection, Florida CB Marco Wilson. The big value pick, though, was fifth-round CB Tay Gowan out of UCF, who could have gone as high as the early third round but fell here.

SEC Picks

  • Marco Wilson, CB, Florida (4th round, No. 136); Player fit: B+; Team value: A-

    If Wilson can clean up his mental game (among other things, Wilson was responsible for the infamous shoe-throwing incident against LSU), he has a quick path to playing time and athleticism to spare. When he was on, he was Florida’s best defensive back, but he didn’t play at that level often enough.

Atlanta Falcons

Draft grade: A

Analysis:The Falcons probably reached a bit in both the second and third rounds given the solid depth of the safety and guard choices present in the middle rounds, but team officials really won the day on the back end. Starting with CB Darren Hall in Round 4 and going through the end of the draft (with the exception of C Drew Dalman), Atlanta got great value in each slot and added players that can help the team quickly.

SEC Picks

  • Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (1st round, No. 4); Player fit: A-; Team value: B+

    Taking tight ends inside the top five can be chancy, especially when it’s a non-traditional hybrid like Kyle Pitts. Pitts’ impact will almost solely be determined by Atlanta’s quarterback play, which is not exactly assured of being great anymore in regards to Matt Ryan. The other questions for Pitts are the same ones he’d face anywhere else – size, blocking ability on the line, durability in the face of NFL front sevens. The initial and intermediate success of this pick will be determined by how Atlanta can help Pitts make an impact schematically.

Baltimore Ravens

Draft grade: A-

Analysis: Much like Atlanta, the Ravens ho-hummed the second and third rounds but really hit their stride later in the draft. Top pick, WR Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota, is one of the hardest analyses in this year’s draft class, alternatively showing skills rare to NFL wideouts and then at other times, looking too slow to play the position. He and second-round pick, OLB Odafe Oweh, were both drafted with an eye squarely on future potential, and both carry more risk than their draft peers. SMU CB Brandon Stephens, the fourth-round pick, has played defensive back a total of one year and may have to move to safety, but the Ravens’ last four picks each could have gone a round or two ahead of where they were taken.

SEC Picks

  • Ben Cleveland, G, Georgia (3rd round, No. 94); Player fit: C+; Team value: C

    Georgia watched roughly its entire secondary and get drafted, a phenomenon which is a staple of NFL drafts. Evaluators come to town to take a look at one player and end up becoming enthralled with all his position-mates. In Cleveland’s case, injuries and an overall lack of standout athleticism had him pegged in the fourth or fifth rounds, but Baltimore took him in the third. He probably looked better than he was at times, surrounded as he was by a veteran OL that played with good technique. If he can stay healthy, he has the chance to have a nice, solid career, but there were better players available at this slot.

Buffalo Bills

Draft grade: A-

Analysis: This was a meat-and-potatoes draft for the Bills, and it looks to have worked. Only the team’s seventh-round selection, Texas Tech G Jack Anderson, looks to have been a reach or a throwaway. Whether Buffalo needed to defensive ends in its top two picks is a question up for debate, but Miami’s Greg Rousseau and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr. will certainly make opponents think twice before running wide or letting the tight end go out in a pattern. Fifth-round pick, Pitt S Damar Hamlin, could have gone as high as the second round and no one would have blinked. The real diamond in the rough could be Houston WR Marquez Stevenson, who has the tools to be elite.

SEC Picks – None

Carolina Panthers

Draft grade: A-

Analysis: Someone told the Panthers that drafting SEC players was a winning strategy, and Carolina listened, nabbing six players from the conference. Having said that, it reached for both its top two picks and was bailed out by the second and third thirds of its draft.

SEC Picks

  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (1st round, No. 8); Player fit: B+; Team value: C+

    The Panthers liked the physical Horn over the more technique-oriented , and as such, this pick carries risk. Horn projected to be a late first-rounder at best on our board and he will be a walking pass interference penalty in the SEC unless he can learn to back off the receiver when the play gets deep downfield. Having said that, he is a strong tackler, good against the run and durable.

  • Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU (2nd round, No. 59); Player fit: C+; Team value: C

    All about the potential here. Marshall was one of the few, true big receivers available in this draft and that elevated his draft stock beyond where it probably should have been. Marshall was not a high-effort player at LSU and has limited versatility, never playing much on special teams and often going through the motions. His talent says late first/early second but the rest says mid-round pick. Carolina obviously believes he can be coached up, and Joe Brady certainly knows Marshall from his LSU days and thinks there’s something there.

  • , G, Alabama (6th round, No. 193); Player fit: B+; Team value: A+

    How Brown was still on anyone’s board in the sixth round is a mystery. All negatives about his play center on struggles with weight, which is a phenomenon that happens to afflict about two dozen other NFL guards yearly. If he responds to conditioning regimens, the only question about his on-field abilities is whether he can improve his pull blocking. Outside of that, we expect Brown to start for Carolina soon, if not immediately.

  • Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina (6th round, No. 204); Player fit: B; Team value: A

    Questions about his size pushed him down, but Smith was a consistent playmaker for the Gamecocks and always showed up. He’s a lunchpail player who projects primarily as a slot receiver only at the next level, but he has enough athleticism to stick around for a few years. Durability is a concern, but Smith probably should have gone a round or two ahead of this regardless.

  • Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama (6th round, No. 222); Player fit: C+; Team value: C

    Drafting long snappers is always a case of a need pick, and all long snappers are low-value in the draft on general principle. Having said that, Fletcher was an invisible man for four years, which is about the highest compliment you can pay a long snapper. The fact he’s also willing to hustle down on punts and cover is a bonus.

  • Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky (7th round, No. 232); Player fit: B-; Team value: A

    One of our favorite second-tier SEC players in this draft, Hoskins may end up spending some time on a practice squad initially but the potential is there. He is a high-motor, raw player, hampered by poor technique but buoyed by his can-do effort. His measurables were off the charts until he was asked to bench press and then his stock sunk. Two shoulder surgeries in his past probably had something to do with it. Carolina made a good take here and this one could pay off in spades.

Chicago Bears

Draft grade: B

Analysis: Analysts fell in love with this draft class on the strength of the trade-up to get QB Justin Fields, and if the draft had stopped there, they would have been right. But other than ’s G Larry Borum, in Round 5, there are significant questions about all Chicago’s picks. None are bigger than those that surround the tackle the Bears chose, Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, whose arm length screams future guard – a position for which he was not drafted. Oregon CB Thomas Graham Jr., the Bears’ sixth-round pick, could wind up being a steal, but he never developed at the collegiate level and is a technical mess.

SEC Picks

  • Larry Borom, G, Missouri (5th round, No. 151); Player fit: B+; Team value: B+

    Borom is plug-and-play, an explosive inside player who potentially has the ability to play right tackle in a pinch. He won’t need much to be game-ready but as a pure guard, he has lower limits than some others (including Alabama’s Deonte Brown). Missouri is becoming known as a place that can launch red-chip recruits into the league, and Borom is the latest of those.

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: It isn’t that LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase is a bad receiver or undeserving of being taken fifth overall; it’s that Cincinnati needed an offensive lineman in that slot and didn’t take one. Another disastrous season from the Bengal OL and Cincinnati runs the risk of ruining QB Joe Burrow, who suffered a serious knee injury last season following getting beaten to pieces every week leading up to it. The Bengals opted for Chase, perhaps because the one true gold-chip offensive lineman in this draft, Oregon’s Penei Sewell, is more at home at guard. So the play would have been to trade back and pick one of the tackles, but instead the Bengals opted for Clemson’s Jackson Carman in the second round, who will likely have to move inside himself. The Bengals’ best value pick was Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai, who is snap-bean green and will need a ton of technique work.

SEC Picks

  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (1st round, No. 5); Player fit: B+; Team value: B

    Chase should have been the No. 5 pick – to someone else. With all the wideout depth in this draft, Cincinnati could have traded back and landed a good one. Chase opted out of the 2020 season and was one of the few opt-outs who didn’t hurt his stock by doing so. Time will tell whether he’s a better player than Alabama’s or Jaylen Waddle, but his speed is unquestioned. What needs work is his physicality; press corners get him off his game with relative ease for a player taken this high. For that reason, he may take some time to develop, which further leads to the question of why Cincinnati didn’t pass on him for an offensive lineman.

  • Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU (4th round, No. 122); Player fit: B-; Team value: C

    Shelvin went right where he was expected to go – the middle rounds – thanks largely to him being a one-trick pony. He’s a first-/second-down player only, unable to generate much heat in the pass rush game. Still, it’s uncommon to watch a 350-pounder move like this, and there are some who believe he can be taught to do more.

  • Evan McPherson, PK, Florida (5th round, No. 149); Player fit: A-; Team value: B

    The Bengals needed a kicker; McPherson is a kicker. Not much more to say than that. He has a powerful leg and kicked well under pressure at Florida. This is about where strong-legged, reliable kickers go in the draft.

  • Trey Hill, C, Georgia (6th round, No. 190); Player fit: C; Team value: C

    Hill didn’t exactly win raves for technique as a senior, and a history of knee trouble conspired to send him into the later rounds. Pick No. 190 was probably a bit of a reach for him.

Cleveland Browns

Draft grade: B+

Analysis: This was a blue-collar haul for the Browns, with a strong finish that landed two players (Georgia S Richard LeCounte, UCLA WR Demetric Felton) who could both make the team in contributing roles. First-round pick Greg Newsome II was our No. 2 corner behind Patrick Surtain II, so there was value there, but the best overall pick was getting Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second round. The most intriguing pick, given his speed, is Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz, who will finally get some actual wide receiver coaching now that he’s away from the Gus Malzahn philosophies regarding the passing game.

SEC Picks

  • Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn (3rd round, No. 91); Player fit: B+; Team value: C

    Most analysts had Schwartz going in the fourth round or later, thanks to having to overcome Malzahn’s oddball offensive scheme at Auburn. But Cleveland took one look at the raw speed and decided to jump in. Schwartz has almost no technique, so he’s a blank canvas for Browns coaches to work with. He doesn’t really run routes, and doesn’t adjust well to balls in the air. Still, that speed. This is a boom/bust pick all the way.

  • Richard LeCounte III, S, Georgia (5th round, No. 169); Player fit: B-; Team value: B

    Who knows where LeCounte may have gone had he not been involved in a motorcycle accident and then run a 4.8 at his pro day? In retrospect, LeCounte probably should have come out a year ago, as his 2020 season was erratic, but what’s done is done. He’s a strong run support safety with good instincts and tends to come up big in crucial situations. Overall, however, he lacks recovery speed and isn’t a good one-on-one cover guy. He needs to play with more confidence, and if he can’t learn to do that, he’s in for a short NFL career. If Cleveland gets the LeCounte of 2019, though, this was a great pick.

Dallas Cowboys

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: Commentators loved the “Dallas defense” draft for the spectacle, but get down in it and you realize the Cowboys reached badly for at least three of its picks. A solid back end of the draft ended up saving this from being a much lower-rated affair. Top pick Micah Parsons, a linebacker out of Penn State, was a pick anyone in Dallas’ position would have made, and filled a great need. Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph could wind up being a steal in the second round. But the Cowboys then took tweener DT Osi Odighizuwa, DE Chauncey Golston and CB Nahshon Wright in the third round. Odighizuwa is a 4/5 at best, Golston a 5/6, and Wright wasn’t even draft-worthy on some analysts’ boards. The best pick of all was getting LSU’s Jabril Cox in the fourth round; he was the best coverage linebacker available this year. Stanford WR Simi Fehoko and Kentucky DT Quinton Bohanna were solid pickups.

SEC Picks

  • Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky (2nd round, No. 44); Player fit: A-; Team value: B-

    Typical Jerry Jones pick, as Joseph is an explosive athlete who also has an explosive nature and hasn’t yet rounded off all the sharp edges. His career at Kentucky was marked by jaw-dropping plays mixed in with jaw-dropping lapses in judgment. He’s physical to the point of abusive and has the raw talent to do whatever he wants to do on the field, but he’s going to have to be tightly managed. We had a third-round grade on him due to the risk factors.

  • Jabril Cox, LB, LSU (4th round, No. 115); Player fit A+; Team value: A+

    If you can’t tell, we loved this pick, and considering the value point, it might have been the pick of the draft by any team. Cox could be an instant starter in Dallas if he can speed up his ability to diagnose running plays and where they’re headed early. As a coverage linebacker, he becomes the best one the Cowboys have the day he steps into camp. Cox was often the only LSU defender doing his job in 2020. He never quit, nor got discouraged. In our estimation, he had high second-round talent.

  • Quinton Bohanna, DT, Kentucky (6th round, No. 182); Player fit: B-; Team value: B+

    Bohanna is going to have to work to make the team. He wasn’t productive enough at Kentucky, certainly not to the degree that his potential could be considered realized. He’s too easily controlled by offensive linemen and doesn’t make a lot of plays laterally, but up the field, he’s a load.

  • Israel Mukuamu, CB/S, South Carolina (6th round, No. 227); Player fit: A; Team value: B

    Few players had such a wide range of analyses as did Mukuamu, who was listed as a cornerback but will most likely end up moving to a safety spot. He’s 6’4” and nearly 220 pounds, a physical player with impressive measurables, but one that struggled against slot receivers and didn’t do a fantastic job keeping up with quick-cut wideouts outside, either. He’s a perfect fit for the Dallas defensive scheme, and depending on which analyst you follow, this is either an extreme value pick, or just about where he was supposed to go in the first place.

Denver Broncos

Draft grade: A-

Analysis: How well you think Denver did is probably dependent on whether you think the Broncos should have drafted QB Justin Fields. If you were OK with the Broncos passing on Fields, this draft haul looks like one of the best of 2021. You have to get all the way to the fifth round, and Denver’s pick of Texas safety Caden Sterns, before a questionable pick is found. First-round pick, CB Patrick Surtain II, immediately makes Denver stronger in the back end of its defense. Ohio State OLB Baron Browning, a third-round selection, was one of the few Buckeyes to jump off the screen in the Football Championship Game. If Auburn’s Seth Williams can be coached up, Denver may have its answer at wide receiver.

SEC Picks

  • Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (1st round, No. 9); Player fit: A; Team value: B+

    Surtain was projected to go right around ninth or tenth, and Denver obliged. In a class deep with cornerbacks, there were many solid options but few standouts, and Surtain was one of those. He was, somewhat surprisingly, the second corner taken after Carolina opted for South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn; Surtain’s advantage in technique over Horn is substantial. Physicality was an issue early in his Alabama career, but he seemed to correct it the last season and a half. He’s an instant starter in the defensive backfield.

  • Seth Williams, WR, Auburn (6th round, No. 219); Player fit: B-; Team value: C+

    Williams has elite potential but lacked consistency at Auburn and had questions about his makeup. On his best days, he’s a second-round talent with the potential to go higher, but too many times, he looked the part of where he was eventually drafted. There are questions about his motor and his willingness to take coaching, along with his ability to overcome adversity. He’s likely to get one chance in one team’s camp to prove that his frustrations at Auburn were something he can get past. If he can, no one has seen his ceiling yet.

  • Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU (7th round, No. 237); Player fit: C+; Team value: A-

    Few players were hurt by the decision to opt out of the 2020 season more than Vincent, who saw his stock plummet from around the third round to the back end of the draft. Vincent needed the 2020 season in a bad way, because he’s a technique-light player who has gotten by so far on his immense natural athletic skills. Whether he can even play cornerback on this level is not known. Vincent tends to grab at receivers, get lost at the top of the route and his physicality waxes and wanes. His best bet may be to use a practice squad assignment to shake off the rust.

  • Marquiss Spencer, DE, Mississippi State (7th round, No. 253): Player fit: C-; Team value: B-

    Low motor, lack of aggressiveness and iffy conditioning led to this. Spencer has mid-round raw talent, but didn’t capitalize on it while at MSU and failed to impress scouts during film review. He had a better 2019 season at State than 2020, and his 2019 work combined with his potential out of high school led to Denver buying a lottery ticket. We’ll see if it hits.

Detroit Lions

Draft grade: C

Analysis: The Lions had a curious draft overall, failing to fill some important needs, and giving up a future fourth-round pick to take a player (Purdue LB Derrick Barnes) at least a round ahead of where he was projected. Detroit did manage to snag two of the biggest potential-positive players in the draft – Syracuse CB Ifeatu Melifonwu and Washington DL Levi Onwuzurike – but both have high bust potential, as well. Melifonwu could end up being the second- or third-best corner behind Patrick Surtain II when everything is said and done, but his developmental curve will be longer than Surtain’s. The weirdest moment for Detroit, if not the trade that spurred the Barnes pick, was doubling up on defensive tackles and taking NC State’s Alim McNeill – especially considering the Lions brought Michael Brockers in on trade over the offseason. Top pick Penei Sewell, who the Lions will likely try at right tackle first, is potentially a future guard – and if so, the Lions overpaid. Kudos to Detroit for thinking about the draft differently under a new regime, but it doesn’t look like the front office delivered.

SEC Picks – None

Green Bay Packers

Draft grade: C

Analysis: Everything about Green Bay’s draft is a reach until you get to the fifth round, which doesn’t bode well for the future of this draft class. Top pick Eric Stokes could have gone in either the second or the third round; he was covered up by superior complementary talent at Georgia, and his shortcomings likely glossed over. Second-round pick, Ohio State center Josh Myers, was a need pick and one taken way too high. Green Bay did its best work when it took Florida DT Tedarrell Slaton, a physical freak who needs technique work, and Appalachian State CB Shemar Jean-Charles, a smart and feisty cornerback who plays much bigger than his listed size. Green Bay’s biggest failing may have been that it didn’t move QB Aaron Rodgers before the draft and collect picks, choosing instead to continue its futile attempt to keep Rodgers in the fold long-term.

SEC Picks

  • Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia (1st round, No. 29); Player fit: B+; Team value: C-

    Green Bay needed a cornerback badly, but this looked like a reach at the position. Granted, Green Bay didn’t have much choice at the time, and the No. 29 pick is sort of a sandwich pick anyway, but trading back would have been preferable at this point. Stokes has elite speed, his greatest asset, and he was a PBU machine for Georgia, but he also got away with more contact than NFL referees will allow. He looks more like a third or slot corner in the NFL and that’s not what he was selected to do.

  • Royce Newman, OL, Ole Miss (4th round, No. 142); Player fit: B-; Team value: C

    Another reach, and maybe a bigger one than Stokes. Newman didn’t stand out at Ole Miss in any way other than versatility, as he can play four different positions on the line and won’t embarrass Green Bay at any of them. He wasn’t substantially better on tape than Cole Van Lanen, the guard Green Bay took two rounds later.

  • Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida (5th round, No. 173); Player fit: A-; Team value: A+

    Boom-bust pick that will pay dividends if he’s properly motivated and managed. Slaton could look like an all-American at any time on tape, or he could disappear for long stretches and get controlled by even subpar offensive linemen. He landed about where you would expect, in the later rounds where the projects are found. Green Bay has a need that Slaton seems apt to fill, so this ends up being a high-value pick both ways.

  • , RB, Mississippi State (7th round, No. 256); Player fit: C; Team value: C

    Hill was a beast in Joe Moorhead’s offense, but once Mike Leach arrived in Starkville, Hill’s weaknesses were exposed. In truth, there is no evidence on the board yet that he’s a pro-style back in any way. Still, he has good ball security traits and did put up at least one solid season in the SEC, something a lot of backs would have trouble saying. His biggest weakness on the field is a general lack of feel for what’s going on around him, which is not insignificant.

Houston Texans

Draft grade: C-

Analysis: This one takes some explaining, because when the Texans were actually able to draft, they got good value. The problem was a lack of picks, which Houston then compounded by making draft-day moves that further lessened its haul. Houston lost its first- and second-round picks during the trade for OT Laremy Tunsil, a trade that never should have been made in the first place. Then, it suddenly found itself in damage-control mode when QB Deshaun Watson became embroiled in an alleged sexual misconduct scandal. Houston finally got on the board in the third round, taking Stanford QB Davis Mills about where his draft grade had him pegged, and Mills could wind up being the answer to the question of which 2021 quarterback draftee starts first. Getting big WR Nico Collins in the third round was nice, and the next two picks – Miami TE Brevin Jordan, TCU LB Garret Wallow – both look like steals. Still, there were only five picks overall, and sixth-round selection DT Roy Lopez is going to be a long shot to make the team. We love the energy Wallow brings, but that’s not enough to offset the multiple issues with this class.

SEC Picks – None

Indianapolis Colts

Draft grade: D+

Analysis: This is a tale of two drafts – basically first-round pick DE Kwity Paye, and everything else. While the selection of Paye at 21 was solid and should pay immediate dividends, the Colts more or less botched the rest of its draft. It wasn’t until Indianapolis got good value in the seventh round with the picks of Charleston WR Mike Strachan and Penn State G Will Fries that it managed to keep this grade out of D-minus territory. Strachan is one of the few true big receivers in this draft class with some upside, while Fries has the look of a 10-year sixth man at the very least. The rest of the draft was defined by missed opportunities – Indy badly needed a left tackle but didn’t draft one – or reaches. Fourth-round pick TE Kylen Granson doesn’t seem to have an NFL position, while taking Texas QB Sam Ehlinger did little more than confuse the issue of the Colts’ . There are also significant questions about the Colts’ two SEC selections, covered below.

SEC Picks

  • Dayo Odeybingo, DE, Vanderbilt (2nd round, No. 54); Player fit: C; Team value: D

    It’s a head-scratcher why Odeybingo was picked by anyone in the second round. He’s considered a very raw talent at best, not particularly productive at Vanderbilt while being largely unsound from a technical standpoint. Then, he tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason, meaning he will likely not play at all in 2021. For some reason, the Colts jumped up and took him in the second round; meanwhile, Alabama’s Dylan Moses had to go the undrafted free-agent route. This one just doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially given how Odeybingo’s game was already under plenty of scrutiny prior to the injury.

  • Shawn Davis, S, Florida (5th round, No. 165); Player fit: C+; Team value: C

    Arguably the least of the Gator secondary members up for consideration during this draft, Davis displayed SEC-level athleticism but not the instincts nor the production necessary to carry him up many draft boards. He is considered a deep bench player at best, possible a special teams contributor, but anything more than that would be considered gravy at this point.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Draft grade: B+

Analysis: A solid draft in Urban Meyer’s first year, the pick of QB Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft was the very definition of a no-brainer. Lawrence is Meyer’s next Tim Tebow, except this time, Meyer has a QB who can throw people open and work a progression. We don’t agree with some analysts that he’s head-and-shoulders over other recent quarterback prospects, but there was little argument against him being the top QB in this class. The selection of Lawrence’s teammate, RB Travis Etienne, later in the first round was a feel-good story, but Etienne’s 2020 season exposed some flaws in his game that he must yet address, and he has mileage issues. Getting Georgia CB Tyson Campbell and especially Stanford OT Walker Little in the second round were good value picks, but aside from UAB DE Jordan Smith in the fourth, the rest of the Jaguars’ draft was unimpressive.

SEC Picks

  • Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia (2nd round, No. 33); Player fit: A+; Team value: A+

    Take the Alabama tape out of the box and Campbell probably goes in the first round. It seems like Campbell was more critically judged than some of his other cornerback mates, but there are a few things that tend to show up multiple times on tape. Campbell is average at best in run support, but his primary negative trait seems to be that he’s slow to locate the ball at times. His length allows him to cover up the latter issue somewhat, but NFL scouts obviously sniffed it out anyway. Regardless, he’s a day-one starter for Jacksonville at corner, and to get him in the second round was a coup for Meyer.

Kansas City Chiefs

Draft grade: B+

Analysis: We almost gave this an A-minus grade, and it’s basically going to come down to what happens with fourth-round selection DE Joshua Kaindoh. Kaindoh, a highly sought-after recruit who ended up part of the Florida State mess, has incredible ability – when he wants to show it. Kansas City had to give up some picks during the Orlando Brown trade, so that return must be figured in; once the picking started, the Chiefs got far more value than they gave up from that point forward. Missouri’s Nick Bolton is the definition of “football player” but he does have some speed issues. The Chiefs got the second-best center in the draft in Creed Humphrey, but the big win was getting Tennessee G Trey Smith in the sixth round. There was once a time when Smith was a threat to be a first-round pick. The skill position picks won’t wow anyone, but Kansas City acquitted itself well, especially with the Brown trade eating up a few selections.

SEC Picks

  • Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri (2nd round, No. 58); Player fit: B+; Team value: B

    Bolton plays mean, a compliment for a linebacker if there ever was one, but he’s going to be one of the slowest starting inside linebackers in the league. The Chiefs are obviously hoping his instincts and toughness are enough to win out, but if pursuit becomes an issue, Kansas City will have to have another solution ready to go. Despite his speed limitations, Bolton is a good coverage linebacker, owing mostly to his instincts. He’s also a born leader and an enforcer.

  • Trey Smith, G, Tennessee (6th round, No. 226); Player fit: A; Team value: A+

    Smith’s career was put in jeopardy – and is arguably still there – when he began developing blood clot issues, primarily in his legs. Especially in the age of -19, blood clots are nothing to ignore. Unfortunately for Smith, one of the SEC’s best offensive linemen the past few years, those concerns torpedoed his draft stock, allowing Kansas City to pick him up in the bargain bin in exchange for a sixth-round pick. If Smith has moved past those concerns, and if they can be controlled in the future, the Chiefs have just landed themselves a decade-long starter for next to no investment.

Las Vegas Raiders

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: The Raiders’ draft room has been nothing if not entertaining with Mike Mayock running things, and this year’s haul was a mixture of extreme value and … the opposite of that. Mock drafters hammered the Raiders for taking Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood in the middle of the first round, but Leatherwood had several teams interested in him in the 20-30 range of the first round, making his selection at No. 17 a much more understandable reach. Where the Raiders really caused heads to itch was in taking three safeties out of seven total picks, and in stretching to take Buffalo DE Malcolm Koonce in the third round. The biggest get for the Raiders was probably ’s Divine Deablo in Round 3; he’s a hybrid player who could be the next Kam Chancellor. Neither of the Raiders’ last two picks look likely to break camp with the team, however. It’s such a mixed bag.

SEC Picks

  • Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama (1st round, No. 17); Player fit: A; Team value: C

    The Raiders needed a left tackle, and they got one. Leatherwood will be expected to start from the outset. As far as draft value, though, Leatherwood ranks pretty low, as he was the second-biggest reach in the first round on our board (Jacksonville taking RB Travis Etienne at 25 being the biggest reach of all). None of that will matter if Leatherwood steps into the void and plays well. Most of the negative analysis of Leatherwood centered on minor issues in technique that should be correctable, although given the level of coaching he received while at Alabama, the real question is why hadn’t Leatherwood been able to correct them sooner.

  • Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri (4th round, No. 143); Player fit: B-; Team value: B+

    Arguably the leader of the Tiger secondary in 2020, and one of those players who puts up his best performances against the toughest opponents. It’s somewhat inconceivable that he finished his college career with no interceptions. Gillespie isn’t necessarily undersized, but he plays his best when he plays with the mindset that he’s undersized. He’s going to have competition from two or three other rookies who have the ability to play safety, but it would be a shock if he didn’t make the team and have a significant role.

Los Angeles Chargers

Draft grade: B-

Analysis: Lots of picks, headed by a solid tackle selection in Rashawn Slater, but there were a lot of reaches in the Chargers’ draft. Second-round selection CB Asante Samuel Jr. was a fourth- or fifth-rounder on a lot of boards due to his lack of technique, and overall, the Chargers reached for six of its nine picks, getting value only three times (Slater, R5 OT Brenden Jaimes, R6 RB Larry Rountree III). Of those three, Jaimes looks to be the most likely to make a big impact, as he has the versatility to play several different positions on the line. Duke DE/OLB Chris Rumph II has potential but also has a huge bust probability factor due to his tendency to get controlled by offensive linemen. In general, it felt like the Chargers oversampled athleticism and went underweight on technique and polish.

SEC Picks

  • Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee (3rd round, No. 77); Player fit: B-; Team value: C+

    Palmer’s collegiate stats were forever sabotaged by terrible quarterback play, mediocre coaching and multiple injuries to surrounding personnel, but when he got the chance to make a play on his own, he also didn’t always take it. Palmer is either at or near the top of Tennessee’s what-should-have-been list. He’s talented but raw, and didn’t seem to receive much technique work from his coaches in Knoxville. He certainly has the potential to break out, now that he’s working with a legitimate quarterback.

  • Tre’ McKitty, TE, Georgia (3rd round, No. 97); Player fit: B; Team value: C

    McKitty is an athletic tight end with good hands, but he’s too one-dimensional at this time and could end up being a situational tight end on clear passing downs, rather than the every-down tight end Los Angeles needs. McKitty got dinged by several analysts for his blocking ability (i.e., his lack thereof), and he isn’t sharp enough on his routes. He was a reach at this spot in the draft, but he also has more upside than most.

  • Larry Rountree III, RB, Missouri (6th round, No. 198); Player fit: C+; Team value: A-

    There are a lot of SEC teams happy to see Rountree exit the conference. Rountree was a team leader, not to mention a hard running back to bring down, and one with the speed and flexibility to be a force in the passing game. If he were just an inch or two taller and about 20 pounds heavier, he would have been a second- or third-round selection. As it is, he’s somewhat of a tweener, without being the typical third-down back. We like this pick a lot based on Rountree’s aggressiveness, but he’ll need to develop a more complete skillset in order to stick on a roster.

  • Mark Webb, S, Georgia (7th round, No. 241); Player fit: C-; Team value: C

    Webb projected as an UDFA. He was mostly a useful piece of the Georgia secondary puzzle last year, not really standing out in any way. The Chargers obviously wanted to ensure they would be the ones to have him in camp, but he will be a long shot to make the team.

     

Los Angeles Rams

Draft grade: B

Analysis: This class looks a bit light until you consider that established CB Jalen Ramsey is essentially part of it, due to the pre-draft trade that acquired him. The first pick the Rams had, 57th overall, went to Tutu Atwell, a tinymite receiver who makes a ton of sense in some packages but absolutely none in others. The fact Los Angeles went for him this early in the draft is intriguing by itself. After picking two SEC stalwarts next, the Rams finished up their draft the same way they started it, by taking projects or players that fit specific goals. Having said that, none of the team’s seventh-round selections look pro-ready.

SEC Picks:

  • Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina (3rd round, No. 103); Player fit: B-; Team value: C

    Jones doesn’t look versatile enough to justify this placement, not when more complete players were on the board. He’s strong enough, but his stocky, squarish build and lack of a top make him a situational inside linebacker, and that’s something not typically taken around the pick-100 mark. What won the day for Jones is his productivity and smarts, but he will labor to keep a job long-term unless he can improve his agility and speed.

  • Bobby Brown, DT, Texas A&M (4th round, No. 117); Player fit: A-; Team value: A

    Brown struggled to make a mark at Texas A&M until the 2020 season, when he got serious about his conditioning and stopped taking plays off. Brown was considered first-round talent when he signed with the Aggies, and there’s not been anything substantive over the years to suggest the evaluation of his raw talent was in error. Everyone has been waiting for the motor to crank, and it did last year. If Brown can continue across that plateau, he’ll be fine. If he thinks he’s made it, he’ll be in trouble again. This is a huge value pick for L.A. if it’s the former and not the latter.

Miami Dolphins

Draft grade: A+

Analysis: Our pick for the top draft class of 2021, Miami did everything right on draft day and could go deep into the playoffs as a result. All the talk, rightfully so, has been about what Jaylen Waddle will bring to the table as both a wide receiver and a return specialist. But Miami also made solid picks in the late rounds. The Dolphins added an elite edge rusher, Jaelan Phillips, with the 18th overall pick, then took hybrid safety-corner Jevon Holland in the second round. Holland’s versatility drew raves from analysts in the run-up to the draft. While Miami didn’t pick in the fourth through sixth rounds, the other two second-round picks the Dolphins got – LT Liam Eichenberg and TE Hunter Long – are both early contributors. Seventh-round OT Larnel Coleman had a mid-round grade and RB Gerrid Doaks is better than his tape. There wasn’t a misstep anywhere.

SEC Picks:

  • Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (1st round, No. 6); Player fit: A+; Team value: A

    The only questions with Waddle surround his ankle injury and subsequent rehab, and how he compared to Bama stablemate DeVonta Smith. By all reports, Waddle is healed and ready to compete for a starting job, which he’ll get easily based on the weakness of the Dolphin WR room. The comparisons to Smith will continue for years, but they’re different players and what Smith does in Philadelphia has no bearing on what Waddle will do in Miami. Waddle’s previous familiarity with QB Tua Tagovailoa won’t hurt in the least. Miami was able to do a lot of pre-draft maneuvering and still ended up with the best fit for what it needed.

Minnesota Vikings

Draft grade: B

Analysis: Too many reaches in this class, but the numbers helped make up for it a bit, and the first-round draft of LT Christian Darrishaw cures a lot of ills. Other than the Vikings’ final choice, Pitt DT Jaylen Twyman, every pick the Vikings made was at least one round ahead of projection. We’ll talk more about the pick of Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond below, but just as we’ll say in a moment about Mond, there is way too much boom-bust in this draft class for our liking, and the Vikings seemed to draft for a blend of need along with getting too many “our guys” at the expense of seeking value. The one player that could make the critics go away quickly is fourth-round selection DE Janarious Robinson out of Florida State, because all FSU players are having to recover a bit from the circus that was the Seminole program over the last five years or so. Twyman is a fourth-round talent who fell into the sixth, but all three of the Vikings’ third-round selections would have been better taken in the fifth round.

SEC Picks:

  • Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M (2nd round, No. 66); Player fit: C+; Team value: D+

    Way too early for Mond to come off the board, as there’s no way he’s the 66th-best player in this draft. Mond’s career was three years of erratic struggles capped by one year of erratic success, but the majority of that success was due to improvements across the board in the Texas A&M program, not because he led the cavalry to pull the program out of the doldrums. Mond’s calling card is his mobility, but other mobile quarterbacks in the NFL right now aren’t stars until they can begin to throw for the win. Mond has many technical shortcomings in throwing the football, but the biggest hump to overcome will be the way he has struggled in the past with complex defenses. To his credit, he’s a hard worker and is capable of picking up new things and improving his game, but this was a reach.

Draft grade: A

Analysis: With the exception of getting better talent at wide receiver, the Patriots checked all the boxes in this draft and wound up with two difference-makers at the top in Alabama’s QB Mac Jones and DL Christian Barmore. As a whole, the Patriots had begun to look like a team finally slipping from its perch, but if Jones hits, this draft could set New England up for another decade of dominance. A lot will be riding on Oklahoma DE Ronnie Perkins, who alternately looked like a top-of-Round-2 talent, and then at other times, just a guy. For that matter, the entire middle of the Patriots’ draft tracked pretty well along projections, but that also means each pick has a “yeah, but” quality to their skill sets. The only max value pick the Patriots got besides Barmore was its seventh-round selection, UCF WR Tre Nixon, but the Patriots probably should have eschewed taking Colorado OT Will Sherman or Missouri S Joshuah Bledsoe and added another receiver in one of those spots as well.

SEC Picks:

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (1st round, No. 15); Player fit: A+; Team value: A

    For Jones, it all comes down to volume of work. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t beat out Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, but regardless, NFL teams only had a season of tape to work with, and the crucial question is whether Jones’ success was more of his own making, or a sum of the parts he had around him. Much has been made about his similarities to former Patriot legend Tom Brady, but some of those similarities are of the humorous kind: pear-shaped build, lack of athleticism outside the pocket, good-but-not-fantastic arm. However, it’s Jones’ (and Brady’s) ability to process the defense in front of him that has everyone in New England excited. Jones won’t hammer any throws in against NFL cornerbacks, but he might not need to. His ability to play within himself, work through progressions and make smart decisions will endear him to Patriots brass. Jones will have to show critics that there is still room in the NFL for a quarterback who is strictly pocket-based.

  • Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama (2nd round, No. 38); Player fit: A; Team value: A

    This would have been A-plus value had New England not had to spend heavily to get into this spot to take Barmore, but Barmore was as high as 20th on a lot of draft lists. The reason he dropped, though, is his reliability as a team player. Barmore never was a consistent starter at Alabama, in large part due to Alabama coaches not knowing whether they could count on him week to week. His draft analysis paints the picture of an immensely talented defensive lineman – the only, and we mean the only true difference-maker among the available defensive tackles in this draft – but one who frequently gets off-script and has trouble containing his fire. If New England can keep him focused, the Patriots potentially got top-10 or top-15 talent at No. 38, and they’ll be rewarded for their vision. If Barmore allows himself to get frustrated, however, he’ll be a what-might-have-been player rather than the dominant force inside he has shown he can be.

  • Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri (6th round, No. 197); Player fit: C+; Team value: C

    Bledsoe will face challenges in making the Patriots’ roster, as he had issues in one-on-one coverage and made a lot of mistakes his final year at Missouri. He is strong, with a build that will allow some additional mass, but at this time he would be considered a back-of-the-bench player and possible special teamer at most.

New Orleans Saints

Draft grade: D+

Analysis: The Saints’ best value pick was their last one, and their next-best value pick was the one who preceded him in the sixth round. This was a disappointing draft overall for New Orleans, full of questionable moves and reaches. First-round pick DE Payton Turner out of Houston would have been available well into the second round, while second-rounder LB Pete Werner out of Ohio State is just an average athlete, and third-rounder, Stanford CB Paulson Adebo, has the look of an NFL corner but not much more than that right now. The Saints took Notre Dame QB in the fourth round, which was a big reach, and heading into the 2021 season, New Orleans might have the worst QB room in the league. Kentucky OT Landon Young could be a steal out of the sixth round if he can play up to the potential he brought with him out of the high school ranks, while seventh-rounder WR Kawaan Baker out of South Alabama should have been off the board two rounds prior.

SEC Picks:

  • Landon Young, OT, Kentucky (6th round, No. 206); Player fit: B; Team value: A

    Young had a solid senior season, but didn’t seem to get the credit for it after earlier struggles. He has a wrestling background and was considered one of the top tackle prospects of his signing class, but he struggled with technique early on at Kentucky. This is a common complaint of Kentucky linemen, raising the question of whether UK’s prospects are getting the best coaching. Young’s best football is likely in front of him, but he needs to keep his composure when faced with top edge rushers, who seem to fluster him.

New York Giants

Draft grade: A-

Analysis: New York hit home runs in its first three picks, then reached for the rest of its draft. Florida WR Kadarius Toney, selected in the first round, has as much upside potential as anyone at the position in the draft. Second-rounder, Georgia DE Azeez Ojulari, was the most explosive of the edge rusher prospects. Former Alabama signee, Central Florida CB Aaron Robinson, had a first-round grade from some analysts and was a steal in Round 3. But New York fell off its game a bit after that. Fourth-rounder Elerson Smith is a long-term project as an edge rusher, as he does not possess anything close to an NFL body at this time. The Giants’ two sixth-rounders, Arizona RB Gary Brightwell and Oklahoma State CB Roadarius Williams, were both rated as UDFAs. If you’re going to pick a half of a draft to hit, though, pick the top half like the Giants did.

SEC Picks:

  • Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida (1st round, No. 20); Player fit: B+; Team value: A

    The Giants may have had greater needs than wide receiver, but they couldn’t afford to pass up on Toney. Toney’s running back-esque ability with the ball in his hands is as good as anyone in the draft, Jaylen Waddle included. He doesn’t have the ideal wideout’s body, and he needs to find a way to stay healthy, but he gives 100 percent effort on every down, and he plays mean. Toney won’t shy from contact, and his give-me-the-ball attitude makes him similar to Odell Beckham Jr., which should make Giants fans happy. There’s a little bust potential here if he can’t become more of a vertical threat in isolation, as New York’s offensive scheme won’t allow him the ability to catch the ball in space as much as he did at Florida, but it was a solid pick nonetheless.

  • Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia (2nd round, No. 50); Player fit: A; Team value: A

    One of the most unique edge prospects in this draft, Ojulari is shorter than ideal and when an offensive lineman gets the best of him, he hasn’t been able to figure out how to cut free. But when the play is coming at him, he is one of the best edge-setters in the game today, and he was highly productive as a pass rusher. He’s also a high-character player and good teammate, the kind of player you like to pull for. His future success will be determined by how well he accepts coaching relative to his issues getting off blocks, but that’s about the only significant hole in his game. There’s a lot about him that screams typical New York Giant.

Draft grade: B+

Analysis: This was the strangest class to evaluate, because the Jets found value several times over, yet didn’t address some of its most glaring needs. The Jets needed pass rushers and multiple offensive linemen; they drafted just one of the latter and none of the former. New York took the lowest-rated of the five top quarterbacks on our board, BYU’s Zach Wilson, who benefited greatly from weak competition and will have to undergo substantial re-education on some of the most basic quarterback mechanics. They paid heavily for the right to also draft USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round, but the price wasn’t as steep as some analysts made it out to be, and Vera-Tucker was the best pure guard available. He’s the equal of Penei Sewell as a guard; Sewell was selected higher due to also being able to play tackle. North Carolina RB Michael Carter, drafted in the third round, has the potential to be a breakout performer. Virtually all the Florida State prospects were undervalued, and New York got a steal in Round 5 with Hamsah Nasirildeen. Arkansas DT Jonathan Marshall, taken in the sixth, could wind up being a hidden gem, as he was played out of position at Arkansas in the name of necessity.

SEC Picks:

  • Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss (2nd round, No. 34); Player fit: A; Team value: A

    Moore probably should have been taken in the first round, although pick No. 34 is practically the first round anyway. He had some mental gaffes while at Ole Miss, but seemed to mature greatly in his final year and his explosiveness was bested only by Jaylen Waddle. Moore should be a good fit for Zach Wilson, and he ought to start out of the gate as the Jets’ slot receiver.

  • Jamien Sherwood, S/LB, Auburn (5th round, No. 146); Player fit: B; Team value: B

    What you think of of this pick is probably driven by whether you think Sherwood is a safety or a linebacker at the NFL level. If Sherwood sticks at safety, the Jets got third-round ability in the fifth round. If he must move to linebacker, however, Sherwood is a seventh-rounder or UDFA. Most analysts think he’ll start out at safety, then transition later, mimicking the path taken by Alabama’s Mark Barron a decade ago. Sherwood’s primary problem is he’s not fast enough at his current size to play safety in the NFL. But he is a disruptor in the box, a nightmare for tight ends in the pattern and providing good run support. New York will need to manage his exposure through schemes, but he could be successful with the right handling.

  • Brandin Echols, CB, Kentucky (6th round, No. 200); Player fit: D+; Team value: C

    Echols just doesn’t have the size or physicality for the NFL. He’s slim and not aggressive enough in coverage. But he does have good ball skills, owing to his background as a wide receiver before changing positions. He’ll need to add weight without sacrificing speed, or he’ll need a lot of technique work to cover up the holes. He’s a secondary corner only, and we think a long shot to make the roster.

  • Jonathan Marshall, DT, Arkansas (6th round, No. 207); Player fit: C+; Team value: B+

    This is what the later rounds are for. Marshall started only one year at Arkansas, and often at nosetackle, which is not his primary position, He’s strongside tackle in a 4-3, and when he can line up there, he is disruptive. He’s got the body and enough raw talent to stick around on the back end of a roster until he’s more polished, but it wouldn’t surprise us in the least to see Marshall break camp with the Jets and play quite a bit as a rookie.

Philadelphia Eagles

Draft grade: A

Analysis: The Eagles put together one of their most solid drafts in years, although outside the top of the draft (and in seventh-round pick DE Patrick Johnson out of Tulane), the Eagles clearly were drafting for future potential over established results. The Eagles went Alabama-Alabama in their first two selections, getting WR DeVonta Smith and C . Smith is about the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles could have found in the 10th slot, while Dickerson immediately nasty-fies the Eagle OL – provided he can stay upright. Beyond those two, the next two picks, Louisiana Tech DT Milton Williams and Texas Tech CB Zech McPhearson, are tweener physical types who probably were each selected a round ahead of projections. Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round and LSU S JaCoby Stevens in the sixth are both one-dimensional, but superior athletes who might break out at the next level. Tulane’s Johnson, who closed out the draft, went three rounds behind projections and was an incredible value at that point.

SEC Picks:

  • DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (1st round, No. 10); Player fit: A+; Team value: A+

    Smith could have been the top pick of the draft and would have been worth it. He’s arguably the most complete receiver The University of Alabama has ever produced, which is a feat given the school counts , Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as alums. Smith’s hands are near perfect, his route-running better than nine-tenths of the NFL already, and his clubhouse demeanor and leadership abilities are solid. He also has value in all forms of special teams, and could probably even play cornerback for Philadelphia in a pinch.

  • Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama (2nd round, No. 37);Player fit: A+; Team value: A-

    Dickerson has legitimate and serious health concerns, and probably should have gone in the mid- to late second round, but it’s hard to argue with the intangibles he brings and what his spirit means for team-building. Dickerson was a big reason why Alabama’s offensive line came together as one in 2020, and his influence was felt in the Playoffs even after his season had been ended by a knee injury. Dickerson is the type that gets in the heads of defenders and gets them off their game even before he puts his massive hands on them. If he can stay healthy, he brings the perfect attitude to a franchise that prides itself on having one.

  • JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU (6th round, No. 224); Player fit: B-; Team value: C

    Philadelphia tends to draft with an eye to athleticism, and Stevens certainly has that. Originally a wide receiver, he made the transition to defense in college and at times, showed incredible ability. Having said that, he has virtually zero defensive instincts, and has gotten by on raw talent ever since he got to LSU. It was good enough to allow Stevens to free-wheel as a centerfielder in LSU’s scheme, but this is the NFL. Philly coaches will have plenty of skill to work with, but they’ll need to get Stevens up to speed mentally, as his peers all have a few years on him in that regard given his late move to defense. If the light does go on, watch out.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft grade: B+

Analysis: The first third of the Steelers’ draft was vintage, but the next six picks looked a bit scattered. The selection of Alabama RB Najee Harris in the first round solidified a position in transition for the Steelers, and second-round pick TE Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State is a typical Steeler pick to the core. Third-rounder G Kendrick Green out of Illinois is a run-blocking specialist who will need to diversify his skillset in order to be an NFL starter, but he has one of the best makeups of any OL prospect in this draft. Outside of this group, though, the Steelers hit for value on Texas A&M LB Buddy Johnson, taken in the 4th round, and sixth-rounder DE Quincy Roche out of Miami, who has second- or third-round ability. Even the punter Pittsburgh took, Pressley Harvin III, weighs 260 pounds – true Steeler stuff. But overall, the Steelers reached for a couple of picks that they couldn’t afford to. They’ll have to hope everything breaks their way.

SEC Picks:

  • Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (1st round, No. 24); Player fit: A+; Team value: B+

    Once Pittsburgh got comfortable with the idea of taking a running back in the first round, the Steelers took the only one that could really be a fit there, Alabama’s Najee Harris. Pittsburgh football demands a physical, punishing running back, and Harris certainly gives the Steelers just that. Harris has no real weaknesses, and even mild criticisms sound almost contrived. His ability to support the passing game as well as drop the hammer as a running back makes him even more valuable.

  • Dan Moore Jr., OL, Texas A&M (4th round, No. 128); Player fit: C+; Team value: D+

    This was a reach, and a big one. Moore was a sixth-rounder at best that the Steelers seemed to fall in love with as the evaluation process went along, and it’s sort of a mystery why. Moore had one good season under his belt and struggled with physical defenders throughout his college career. He doesn’t finish blocks well and he’s not particularly a power guy. He needs a ton of work on technique and could be the rare fourth-rounder that doesn’t break camp with his drafting team. There were far better options on the board when the Steelers made this pick.

  • Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M (4th round, No. 140); Player fit: A-; Team value: A-

    We love this pick for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that Johnson just reads as a Pittsburgh Steeler from the get-go. He’s a tough guy, strong and aggressive, and his best football is ahead of him. He’s also a consummate teammate and team leader. He isn’t without areas to improve upon, however, foremost among those is that he struggles to detach from power guys in the middle of the OL. His versatility is such that Pittsburgh can move him around the formation until it finds a fit for him, which will help lessen the likelihood that he gets ridden out of plays from the inside out.

San Francisco 49ers

Draft grade: B-

Analysis: The 49ers were among the top teams at drafting in the high-middle rounds, getting Notre Dame OL Aaron Banks in the second, Ohio State RB Trey Sermon in the third and Michigan CB Ambry Thomas also in the third. Those three players each have an excellent shot to find early playing time, if not become starters. But no one is talking about those picks; instead, it’s the team’s first-round selection, North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, that has gotten all the press. We picked Lance fourth among the five available quarterbacks in this draft, thanks to his limited time under center and some very real and evident technical flaws in his game. But at the same time, he’s the best fit of any of the five to run Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which makes heavy use of boot action, and that plays right into Lance’s strengths. Outside of those already discussed, San Francisco got good value in the fifth by taking Western Michigan OT Jaylon Moore, and depending on who you listen to, USC S Talanoa Hufanga was a potential steal later in that same round. The 49ers took no SEC players in its draft.

SEC Picks – None

Draft grade: D+

Analysis: The Seahawks only had three picks in the draft, and in true Seahawk fashion, the top two picks – Western Michigan WR D’Wayne Eskridge in the second and Oklahoma CB Tre Brown in the fourth – were taken at least one round ahead of projections. In fact, the Seahawks would have been in D-minus to F territory had it not been for somehow finding Florida OL Stone Forsythe still sitting there in the sixth. The Seahawks have made a regular occurrence out of making draft analysts look foolish, proving they have a great staff for evaluations. But Eskridge is small and gets rerouted too easily, and Brown will draw too many pass interference flags at this level without some serious coaching. The Seahawks really needed to use all three picks on offensive linemen, truth be told.

SEC Picks:

  • Stone Forsythe, OL, Florida (6th round, No. 208); Player fit: A+; Team value: A+

    Forsythe very well could be a day-one starter in Seattle despite being drafted so late. He is an elite pass blocker, but struggles in run blocking. Still, that’s much easier to handle from a coaching standpoint than if the situation was reversed. Forsythe looks like the prototypical right tackle in the modern game, especially if the Seahawks will occasionally help him out with tight ends or H-backs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: Aside from some value in the late-middle rounds, Tampa Bay didn’t excite anyone with its picks. Washington DE Joe Tryon was a reach in the first round, combining questionable production with a year’s rust, having sat out the 2020 season. Florida QB went next, but his draft stock plummeted following Florida’s bowl game and offseason evaluation period. Notre Dame OT Robert Hainsey was a solid take in the third round, but the best pick of all was probably Auburn LB K.J. Britt in the fifth, who has very little to clean up before being NFL-ready.

SEC Picks:

  • Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (2nd round, No. 64); Player fit: B+; Team value: C

    Trask’s NFL hopes came somewhat undone at the end of 2020. First, there was the head-to-head matchup with Alabama’s Mac Jones in the SEC Championship Game, where Trask acquitted himself well but was ultimately outplayed by Jones. But then things really went south against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, where Trask went 16-of-28 for 158 yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Suddenly, teams were no longer willing to overlook Trask’s complete lack of mobility and tendency to be late on some throws, leading receivers into contact. In Tampa, he’ll get the luxury of sitting behind Tom Brady for awhile and soaking up pro-level quarterback coaching. And in the off-chance Brady is knocked out of a game, Brady’s own lack of mobility means the Tampa Bay offensive system will already have been tuned to Trask’s strengths. But barring something unforeseen, Trask has the look of a career backup, which means his second-round draft placement was at least a round too high.

  • K.J. Britt, ILB, Auburn (5th round, No. 176); Player fit: B+; Team value: B+

    Britt isn’t fast enough to patrol wide stretches of the field, and he tends to get caught up in the trash when pursuing, but he’s an A-plus leader, high-motor player and durable. He also is the kind of player that makes everyone around him better, so limited physically though he may be, he has several entry points to claiming a roster spot in Tampa. Britt was probably Auburn’s defensive MVP in 2020, despite playing behind a talented defensive line. The biggest knock on him is, because of the immense talent in front of him on Auburn’s line, his own skills might have been augmented beyond their realistic capabilities. Time will tell, but Bruce Arians loves players with Britt’s makeup and he should break camp with the Bucs.

Tennessee Titans

Draft grade: C+

Analysis: The Titans needed instant help at right tackle and wide receiver, but got neither. Second-round pick OL Dillon Radunz out of North Dakota State was considered a guard – and a project, at that – but the Titans took him ostensibly as the solution to the problem they created for themselves by whiffing on Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson a year prior. At wide receiver, Tennessee took a pair of bigger receivers who are both technically unsound. ’s Dez Fitzpatrick, taken in Round 4, has potential, but will need to have his game almost totally rebuilt. LSU’s Racey McMath, taken two rounds later, is in even greater need of coaching up. Tennessee also had a need at tight end, which it didn’t address, and safety, which it halfheartedly addressed by taking Oregon’s Brady Breeze late in the sixth round; he’ll only stick on the roster if he can win a special teams slot. Additionally, the team’s first-round selection, CB Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech, has durability issues and has played defensive back for only three years.

SEC Picks:

  • Monty Rice, ILB, Georgia (3rd round, No. 92); Player fit: B+; Team value: A-

    Far and away the best value pick in the Titans’ draft, Rice is a human road block in the middle of the defense and also displays strong leadership qualities. His production numbers won’t wow you, but he has all the tools and was considered a stabilizing force on the Georgia defense during his tenure there. Rice was one of the SEC’s best inside players ever since he arrived in Athens, which is worth quite a bit in the grand scheme.

  • Racey McMath, WR, LSU (6th round, No. 205); Player fit: B-; Team value: C+

    McMath was a useful spare part in the LSU offense in 2019 with QB Joe Burrow at the helm, and had a decently productive start to the 2020 season before a hamstring injury ended his year prematurely. But even though McMath looks the part of a NFL receiver, he lacks the technique and especially the urgency to be a star. He plays tentatively, and doesn’t seem to be able to translate coaching into behavioral changes on the field. He needs to sharpen up his routes significantly, and not disappear for long stretches. He’s sort of a discount Dez Fitzpatrick, who the Titans also took, and Fitzpatrick himself had significant questions surrounding his play.

Washington

Draft grade: B-

Analysis: A solid effort, but nothing spectacular, and Washington didn’t address a need at quarterback at all. Kentucky ILB Jamin Davis, taken with the 19th overall pick, fills a definite need but with so few starts under his belt, also presents a risk. Third-round receiver Dyami Brown out of North Carolina was a big reach given his inconsistency in catching the football. Boise State TE John Bates, taken in the fourth round, was labeled a reach by some evaluators but his game will need very little tweaking to translate at the next level; we think the pick was a sound one. With the exception of spending a sixth-round selection on LS Camaron Cheeseman out of Michigan – he was a clear UDFA on virtually all pre-draft lists – Washington’s second half of the draft was better than its first. Washington found extreme value twice in the seventh round, getting productive Baylor DE Will Bradley-King and then later in the round, boom-bust edge rusher Shaka Toney out of Penn State. Both of those players have a chance to become stars if they continue to hone their skills.

SEC Picks:

  • Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky (1st round, No. 19); Player fit: A+; Team value: B

    Davis was one of the most physically imposing inside linebackers available, and if his 2020 season is an accurate portrayal of his potential, he’s in for a long NFL career as a difference-maker. He’s one of the few inside linebackers in this draft that had displayed a clear affinity for coverage assignments, and his run defense is adequate enough that Washington can afford to play him on every down and let him freestyle. Davis’ ability to jump routes in the passing game is so significant already that offensive coordinators must scheme around him on middle-of-the-field routes. The only downside to Davis is his relative inexperience; if 2020 was more mirage than truth, Washington may find itself back here again next year, trying to find an anchor for the middle of its defense once again.

Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN

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