2021 NFL Draft Winners and Losers: Day 1

Winners and Losers – Day 2 | Winners and Losers – Day 3

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
Published: May 4, 2021.

First-Day Winners

  • Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
    Across the league, Pitts was the consensus best player in the 2021 NFL Draft aside from Trevor Lawrence. The Falcons got tremendous value by landing him with the fourth-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

    Pitts is dynamic receiving weapon who can play X receiver – split end -, Z receiver – slot -, or tight end. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder is fast and runs superb routes. Linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks are incapable of covering Pitts, as even when they manage to run with him, his height, wingspan, and leaping ability allow him to make receptions over defenders. Pitts is the future No. 1 receiver for the Falcons with Julio Jones aging, but in the short term, Pitts gives Matt Ryan an immediate mismatch weapon who will be a nightmare to cover alongside Jones and Calvin Ridley.

  • Carolina Panthers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
    Carolina also got excellent value by landing Jaycee Horn, the best defensive prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, with the eighth-overall pick. Horn is a superb prospect who is tall, long, strong, fast and athletic. Over the past few seasons, he did a superb job of running the route and preventing separation. With a gritty attitude similar to his father, the superb Saints wideout Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn is a real fighter who doesn’t give an inch and battles receivers for four quarters.

    The Panthers had to upgrade their cornerback position after losing James Bradberry a year ago, and they did not have a corner capable of matching up against Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Kyle Pitts. Now with Horn, Carolina has a potential No. 1 corner who can really make a big difference for the defense.

  • Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
    Because the first three picks of the 2021 NFL Draft were spent on quarterbackse, a number of excellent prospects were pushed down the board. Detroit benefited greatly from those players falling, as the organizationwas able to select Sewell with the seventh-overall pick. The Lions had a hole at right tackle, and they managed to land a potentially elite player to fill it.

    Sewell (6-6, 320) is a monster who gets physical in the ground game while showing excellent speed and athleticism to cut off the edge. New general manager Brad Holmes was wise to not reach at a bigger position of need, and Sewell could give the Lions one of the best offensive lines in the league with left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow and guard Jonah Jackson. Detroit is going through long-term rebuild, and Sewell could be a phenomenal bedrock foundational pick on Holmes’ part.

  • Miami Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
                                            Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

    When you have two first-round picks, it can be easy to look good, and Miami did that. The Dolphins also enriched their future when they essentially dropped from the No. 3 pick to No. 6 while gaining a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    The Dolphins then used that No. 6 to land a playmaking weapon for their young franchise quarterback in Jaylen Waddle. The speedster could pay immediate dividends for a Miami offense that needed more speed.

    At No. 18, the Dolphins landed a defensive end in Phillips who has the skill set of a top-10 pick. He is fast, strong, athletic and explosive. Phillips only slipped out of the top 10 because of personal issues from his time at UCLA. Phillips was able to get things straightened out with the Hurricanes, so the Dolphins can be confident that will remain the case with him starting his pro career in the same place. Phillips was a great value for the Dolphins at No. 18.

First-Day Losers

  • Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
    The media had been hyping Slater throughout the draft process, but there were a lot of teams that were much lower on him. Some teams had him as a late first-rounder, and some even had him graded in the second round, so the Chargers taking him at No. 13 was a reach even though the big media doesn’t understand that.

    Slater is a 6-foot-3, 305-pounder with 33-inch arms. Those measurements say guard or center in the NFL, which is why many teams had him much lower. The Chargers drafted Slater to be their starting left tackle, but I think he is going to have some real problems with long NFL edge rushers. Los Angeles general manager Tom Telesco had a good draft in 2020 and other years, but his 2021 draft class looks terrible.

  • New Orleans Saints: Payton Turner, DE, Houston
    Team sources say New Orleans tried to trade up into the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Saints even attempted to do a trade with a division rival, as they wanted the eighth pick from Carolina in order to select Jaycee Horn. Obviously, the Panthers turned down the Saints’ offer and took Horn for themselves, but Horn was the apple of New Orleans’ eye.

    After striking out on a tradeup, the Saints made one of the most shocking selections of the first round by drafting Turner at pick No. 28. Turner is very similar to Marcus Davenport, as they both came from smaller levels of competition and beat up on some lower-quality linemen who won’t play in the NFL. Big offensive tackles are going to give Turner some problems, and he is too stiff to rush from the inside. Turner is big and quick, but he could be a pro similar to Davenport in ending up being limited in the NFL.

Go to Winners and Losers – Day 2

Go to Winners and Losers – Day 3

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