Open Rants by NoHeroes94




2021 1st Round Grades For Each Pick
Published at 2/25/2022
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UPDATE: 12 January 2022 - I have now updated this with my 1 year regrades. Up next, my first mock draft for 2022.

Welcome to my draft grades for Rounds 1 of the NFL draft.  Will add Rounds 2 – 3 later.

This is purely subjective article I'm posting for fun, similar to what Walt does. I like leaving it a few days so I can take out any immediate knee-jerk reactions or biases. Obviously, we won’t know for sure how well these players will do for several years, so these grades on how well teams did based on players available, value, and teams needs. Any constructive criticism or debate welcomed in the comments.

This year, I managed to get 13/32 picks correct in my mock (1 - Lawrence, 2 - Wilson, 3 - Lance, 4 - Pitts, 5 - Chase, 8 - Horn, 13 - Slater, 14 - Vera-Tucker, 15 - Jones, 16 - Collins, 24 - Harris, 31 - Oweh*, 32 - Tryon)

https://walterfootball.com/mocks/publishedmock/72404

1-1                         

Jacksonville Jaguars                              Trevor Lawrence                            QB                          Clemson

1 Year Re-Grade: C+

It was pretty surprising to see just how much Lawrence struggled as a rookie. He has put up miserable stats, and has been a non-factor in many games. Equally, I believe in Lawrence’s physical skill-set to allow him to become a bonafide starter within the next year or so – the final game against the Colts showed that he does possess a lot of talent. It also cannot be overstated how terrible the Jaguars’ coaching staff has been, and how little they have set him up for success. 2021 was a waste of a season for Jacksonville, and provided no development for Lawrence. The Jaguars have to get the next hire right to salvage this pick. Rumours are that they are looking for an ‘experienced’ head coach, interviewing Doug Pederson and Jim Caldwell, which make me nervous. Both have had decent runs in the NFL, but I believe the Jaguars should be looking towards a Byron Leftwich/Kellen Moore type hire. Let’s see if Lawrence’s ability comes through.

Stats:17 Games Played (All Starts) |3641 Passing Yards, 12 TD, 17 INT, 59.6 CMP% | 73 Rushes, 334 Rush Yards, 2 Rush TD | PFF Grade:59.6

Grade: A

Lawrence was always the no-brain pick and for my money is the best quarterbacking prospect since Peyton Manning. Lawrence is a truly special player who has every physical and intangible gift you could ask for. The Jaguars are not a good football team, but the Jaguars should win with Lawrence even though the talent needs to continue to improve. Lawrence has very little bust potential and will likely be one of the future superstars of the league. I never give A+ grades to 1st overall picks, but this is a very strong A.

1-2                         

New York Jets                                   Zach Wilson                                   QB                          BYU

1 Year Re-Grade: C-

Similar to Lawrence, Wilson had a bad rookie year, although he was even worse than Lawrence so I am going to be harsher on this re-grade. He has been a bit better since his return, but overall, Wilson was rawer than I expected. He showcased some terrible habits in the pocket,was careless with the ball, and his field vision has not seemed to develop. With improved weaponry (Moore/Carter/Davis) and a talented, if inexperienced coaching staff, Wilson should have tools to succeed long-term (although his OL still has a ways to go, despite 2 premium picks spent their). I won’t completely sink this pick, as there is some hope that Wilson could improve, but for now, I think this is the most like QB bust of the bunch.

Stats:13 Games Played (All Starts) | 2334 Passing Yards, 9 TD, 11 INT, 55.6 CMP% | 29 Rushes, 185 Rush Yards, 4 Rush TD | PFF Grade:59.3

Grade: A-

The Jets did the right thing taking a new franchise QB and resetting the clock. Darnold is still talented but did nothing in his rookie deal and were gifted an opportunity at taking another great prospect and wiping the slate clean. I personally prefer Trey Lance and Justin Fields to Zach Wilson, but the margin is really slim. All 3 are great prospects. Wilson is a great scheme fit for Matt LeFleur’s 49ers’esque scheme. Wilson is a good pocket passer with great footwork and some really nice athletic ability. He has a truly beautiful deep ball and is great throwing off balance. He has some minor character concerns, but seems a natural leader and switched on, so I think he’ll win over a locker room. The Jets would have made a good choice with Wilson, Fields or Lance, so this deserves to be graded well.

1-3                         

San Francisco 49ers                               Trey Lance                                      QB                          NDSU

1 Year Re-Grade: Incl.

I originally graded this a B, as early signs were promising - if confirming what we know about Lance being a raw project who will need patience and time. However, being pragmatic, Jimmy Garoppolo started the grand majority of the season (all but 2 games), so it feels contradictory to give this anything other than Incl. (see Horn, Farley). I think Lance has confirmed what was advertised - talented, and has had some good to great flashes, but is raw and needs development. Redshirting Lance was the right decision.

Now, the elephant in the room – Mac Jones. I was one of the 49ers fans hoping we didn’t take Jones. I’ll go more into Jones’ successes later. Overall, I don’t think Jones’ early success precludes this from also being a good pick (at all), and I don’t think the 49ers should have no buyer’s remorse as Lance has shown some potential. If I was to call it now, I think Lance and Jones are likely to both be hits. For the long-term picture, I still think Lance was the right choice. We’ll see in a few years....

Stats:5 Games Played (2 Starts) |603 Passing Yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 57.8 CMP%| 38 Rushes, 168 Rush Yards, 1 Rush TD | PFF Grade:59.9

Grade: A-

Turns out it was Trey Lance along. I spent much of the process with Fields as my favourite, and Lance as a close runner up, but since mid-April Lance has become my favourite. Why? Incredible intellect, arm strength, a beautiful touch to his passes and great intangibles/character. I won’t downgrade this because of the trade, either. I was due to give it a B or B+ until the past week, but it became increasingly obvious this past week that Lance was likely gone No. 4.  I believe, as do others, that if we took Mac Jones – or Justin Fields – then the Falcons would have taken Lance. Thus, the trade did feel highly necessary.

I’ve spoken to others on here who think Jones would have been the better pick, but based on projection and ability, I disagree. Lance is raw, inexperienced, and needs to develop his accuracy but he is a truly special talent and a good fit for Kyle Shanahan. Based off various analysts/scouts I trust, including Charlie Campbell, Lance interviewed far better than Justin Fields and is deemed the most intelligent QB in the draft, with a roughly equal physical skill set. I think that in of itself raises his floor substantially. Like the Jets, the 49ers made one of two ‘right’ choices. I think Mac Jones will be a good pro, likely best rookie, but in terms of upside in the top-5, I prefer Lance.

1-4                         

Atlanta Falcons                                  Kyle Pitts                                         TE                            Florida

1 Year Re-Grade: A+

To the surprise of no-one, Kyle Pitts was elite as a rookie. He becomes only the 2nd rookie tight end to eclipse 1000 yards, and played as their No. 1 receiving threat in the wake of Julio Jones’ trade, and Calvin Ridley opting out of 2021. Pitts was slightly slow to start but showed what he showed in college. Too fast for linebackers, too strong for safety, and technically refined. Pitts isn’t a huge red zone threat yet, but he is going to be an elite player and would be my odds-on bet to be a Hall of Famer one day, if I had to pick a single player out of this class to become one.

Stats:17 Games Played |68 Receptions, 1026 Receiving Yards, 1 TD | PFF Grade:79.7

Pro Bowler

Grade: A

This was the right pick for Atlanta with Lance gone. The Falcons apparently loved Trey Lance, but with him off the board, I am glad the Falcons stayed and picked Pitts. He’s a generational talent who you simply can’t pass on. I would have downgraded the Falcons for trading down. Yes, they need defensive talent, but how often can you draft a Kyle Pitts? He is a supreme talent who could be an elite tight end or wide receiver, with incredible physical ability and intangibles. Pitts can be used in many ways and gives the Falcons flexibility to trade Julio Jones for much-needed cap relief. The Falcons can spend the remainder of the draft padding their defense.

1-5                         

Cincinnati Bengals                         Ja’Marr Chase                                     WR                         LSU

1 Year Re-Grade: A+

Ja’Marr Chase always projected as No. 1 NFL receiver, but his rookie year has been truly elite and – similar to Justin Jefferson in 2020 – has already made his case as a top-5 NFL wide receiver. Breaking the Bengals single-season receiving record as a rookie (over Chad Johnson and AJ Green…) Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase has become one of the best 1-2 punch in the NFL, with both players playing elite football in 2021 similar to Rodgers/Adams, or Mahomes/Hill. Ja’Marr Chase will win Offensive ROTY, and deserves it. Sewell has also ended up playing very well, but Chase has been special so in hindsight, either pick would have been good.

Stats:17 Games Played |81 Receptions, 1455 Receiving Yards, 13 TD | PFF Grade:83.1

Pro Bowler

Grade: B

I personally would have taken Penei Sewell over Ja’Marr Chase, as protecting Joe Burrow was a huge priority. Sewell is a generational OT talent. Equally, so is Chase, and this isn’t a negligent pick with lots of stellar OL talent on Day 2. The Bengals addressed their RT position with Riley Reiff – a solid tackle option, so they entered the draft with an improved RT and the option to still significantly invest in their OL. Even with a good WR duo in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, the Bengals needed a killer No. 1 option, and they have that in Chase. He is the best WR prospect of the last few years and could be an elite player in the NFL with every physical tool you could ever want. The Bengals clearly felt they couldn’t turn down the potentially lethal Burrow-Chase connection and might have just found their next A.J. Green. 

1-6                         

Miami Dolphins                                Jaylen Waddle                                 WR                         Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: A

This receiver class in general has been exceptional, with Waddle quietly approaching the rookie record for receptions. Waddle is exactly what the Dolphins needed – an electric, smooth playmaker with great YAC ability. Similar to Pitts and Chase, Waddle has brought a new element and has become a legit No. 1 receiver for his new NFL team.

Stats:16 Games Played |104 Receptions, 1025 Receiving Yards, 6 TD | PFF Grade:78.6

Grade: B

I was gutted, because I flipped Waddle and Sewell right before the draft. Had I left it, I would have gone 15/32! C’est la vie. Onto the pick, I feel similar with this pick as I did the previous. I would have taken Sewell but understand the selection and still like it. Waddle was expected to go in the top-10, so this pick is appropriate value. Whilst I prefer DeVonta Smith as a pure football player, I understand the rational in taking Waddle over Smith from Miami’s perspective. Firstly, they have a true burner in Kyle Fuller. Secondly, Waddle’s frame and YAC ability makes Waddle the safer pick and the one that better compliments their current receiving threats. With Denver out of the QB stakes, trading down seemed less plausible, so that doesn’t factor into this grade.

1-7                         

Detroit Lions                                      Penei Sewell                                    OT                           Oregon

1 Year Re-Grade: A

Penei Sewell started his NFL career a bit out of his depth in pre-season, but came along very well as the season went on. Finishing with an impressive 77.4 grade on PFF – despite swapping OT positions due to Decker’s injury – Sewell looks to be, as advertised, a dominant future franchise OT. He’s allowed a few sacks, but many of those came earlier in the year. In many of his recent games, he’s locked down opposing edge rushers and avoided pressures. Rashawn Slater had the better and more consistent rookie season (although not by lightyears), but all in all I think Sewell had a good rookie year and has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro at the position. Still a ‘steal’ at No. 7 overall.

Stats:17 Games Played |1039 Snaps, 5 Sacks Allowed |PFF Grade: 77.4

Grade: A+

I would have called you crazy if you were to tell me Sewell would have fallen outside the top-5 a month ago. However, with QB’s going 1-2-3, a blue-chip player was bound to fall just a little bit, and Sewell was the guy. I am gutted I flipped Waddle and Sewell on draft day, because I originally predicted this would happen, but doubted my judgement last minute. Oh well! Regarding the pick, Sewell is the 3rd best prospect in this class behind Lawrence and Pitts, in my opinion. The Lions have a good offensive line with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, but Sewell was just too good to pass up. He’s an elite talent and a generational prospect, who could form a truly dominant bookend similar to Jason Peters/Lane Johnson.

1-8                         

Carolina Panthers                          Jaycee Horn                                       CB                           South Carolina

1 Year Re-Grade: Inconclusive

I’ll leave this as inconclusive – Horn played decently in his 3 games – snagging an interception – before missing the remainder of the year with a foot injury. I’m highly optimistic this will turn out to be a good pick.

Stats:3 Games Played |5 Tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass Deflected |PFF Grade: 77.4

Grade: A

Some people in the media didn’t like the pick, but they clearly didn’t watch Horn in 2020. He was elite, and completely took No. 1 receivers out of the equation. Horn blankets receivers and didn’t give them room to compete in the air. Horn is slightly less athletic than Surtain, and he would have also been a great pick, but he is a special and well-rounded cornerback who I had rated as my No. 1 cornerback in this class, so I think the Panthers made the better of two good options. A brilliant pick that could turn into a franchise lockdown cornerback for the Panthers.

1-9                         

Denver Broncos                               Patrick Surtain II                              CB                           Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: B

I still think the Broncos would have been better taking Rashawn Slater or Justin Fields – two very feasible, available options. Their OL struggled in 2021, and Fields may have elevated this talented roster to a wildcard spot. Still, Pat Surtain has been good. He’s been both productive and although he allowed 49 receptions over the season, he did a good job at limiting the damage of potent quarterbacking threats in his division/conference. In the long-term, Callahan, Ojemudia and Callahan could form a formidable trio. I also feel like I was wrong in my original assessment of their cornerback corps. Fuller and Darby did nothing, so in retrospect, a C-grade was probably too harsh in the first place. Live and learn.  

Stats:16 Games Played |59 Tackles, 4 INT, 14 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 65.5

Grade: C

I don’t like this pick, and it has nothing at all to do with the player. Surtain is a great cornerback who I had going No. 10, and he is a potential No. 1 cornerback with good tape and athleticism. However, I don’t like the pick for two reasons.

Firstly, the Broncos need a franchise QB. They reportedly loved Justin Fields and found themselves in a position to take him without trading up. However, they let him pass them by. I am more sceptical of the trade rumours than others, and unless they are damn certain they are acquiring Aaron Rodgers, I think it was a mistake to pass on Justin Fields at No. 9.  He is a great pocket passer with athleticism, poise and good IQ. He has some field vision issues, but is extremely talented.

Secondly, this pick seems incompatible with their free agency moves. The Broncos acquired Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby in free agency, and they offered a multi-year deal for the latter. Bryce Callahan is also a great cornerback – albeit injury prone. Presuming all 3 are healthy, where is Surtain going to play? I understand Fuller/Darby may not be long-term, but I don’t understand why the Broncos took a cornerback over other range-worthy prospects who would be of more help, namely Rashawn Slater and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Their OL also needs a lot of work outside of LT, yet they opted to address their secondary despite expensive acquisitions in this area. I won’t bomb this pick, but I think it was foolish to take Surtain over Fields, Slater or Vera-Tucker.

1-10                      

Philadelphia Eagles                       DeVonta Smith                                 WR                         Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: A

The fourth receiver out of four to have an excellent rookie season. Unlike his peers, Smith (just) missed out on 1000 yards. However, he did an excellent job and proved he is a dangerous No. 1 receiving threat. With a limited passing attack, Smith showed his big play potential countless times. He has also currently dispelled most concerns about his physicality, physically competing well in most instances.

Stats:17 Games Played |64 Receptions, 916 Yards, 5 TD PFF Grade: 77.2

Grade: A+

The Eagles made a mistake last year not trading up for CeeDee Lamb and then passing on Justin Jefferson for the vastly inferior Jalen Reagor. They didn’t make the same mistake this year. They knew divisional rivals the New York Giants were primed to take Smith, so made a trade with the Cowboys to move up two spots to get him. They gave up a 3rd rounder, but for a player like Smith, that is a small price to play to avoid having to deal with him twice a year. Smith is very slight, but a supreme football player and talent who I think has WR No. 1 potential. The Eagles needed to improve their receiving weapons, and now have two 1st round picks to help Jalen Hurts. Even with the trade, its an A+ and showed great foresight from the Eagles’ front office stopping the Giants getting their guy.

1-11                      

Chicago Bears                                   Justin Fields                                     QB                          Ohio State

1 Year Re-Grade: C+

I feel very similarly about this pick to Trevor Lawrence. Field struggled mightily at times as a rookie, also showing some flashes – also on the ground. Between battling injury – and the sheer ineptitude of his offensive coaching – it’s hard to think Fields wouldn’t benefit from far superior coaching and development time. There are causes for concern, but equally, I’m not going to over-react to his rookie season, but it’s safe to say there are a lot of question marks surrounding this pick also.

Stats:12 Games Played (10 Starts) | 1870 Passing Yards, 7 TD, 10 INT, 58.9 CMP % | 72 Rushes, 420 Rush Yards, 2 Rush TD | PFF Grade:64.2

Grade: A+

Another pick I’m going to award an A+, even with the trade up. Fields should have never made it to No. 11. Whilst I’m glad we ultimately settled on Trey Lance, I would have been very happy with Justin Fields at No. 3 as well. He is a winner with an elite physical skill-set and fixable mechanic issues. The Bears are in a position where they will lose their front office if they don’t make the playoffs this year, and their incumbent starter was Andy Dalton, so they simply had to make a move like this. Despite being burned by moving up for Trubisky, Fields is a different calibre of talent that was falling. The Broncos may end up regretting passing on Fields, and the trade was very necessary for the Bears. The Bears are giving themselves the best chance at finally rectifying their lacklustre QB situation with a very talented prospect.

1-12                      

Dallas Cowboys                               Micah Parsons                                                  LB                            Penn State

1 Year Re-Grade: A+

This obviously has to be upgraded to an A+, as Micah Parsons has not only been the runaway DROTY, but – like Bosa in 2019 – an outside contender for DPOTY. Interestingly, he has played more as a Von Miller/T.J. Watt type edge-rushing OLB than the traditional off-ball linebacker he was expected to become (although he’s still utilised in this role). In his off-ball role, Parsons has been good, not great, but as an edge rusher he has been dominant. He has put up a ridiculous sack and pressure total and is truly dangerous of the edge. The Cowboys have utilised Parsons wonderfully, and he’s matched his skill-set. Much of my concerns around him have not yet come to light; based off his rookie season, Parsons has elite potential and if he stays clean, could be a perennial All-Pro.

Stats:16 Games Played |84 Tackles, 13.0 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles, 3 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 88.5

Pro Bowler

Grade: B-

I am indifferent o this pick. Micah Parsons is a very talented linebacker with a top-10 skill-set, so I think the value is fine, but according to a couple of sources, some team source felt he was also one of the most overrated prospects. The media ran away with Parsons, but I personally preferred Zaven Collins. Parsons also has very concerning character issues, which factors into this grade. Whilst the Cowboys needed to have a contingency plan for Vander-Esch, I’m not sure they were best doing so with another 1st round investment. I’ll give this a B-, as Parsons will likely be their best linebacker soon - they also acquired a 3rd round pick for free in the process of taking him - but I’m not entirely sold on this pick.

1-13                      

Los Angeles Chargers                  Rashawn Slater                                OL                           Northwestern

1 Year Re-Grade: A+

Penei Sewell has been really good, but Slater has been the best OT in this class based off his rookie season. Much like Wirfs last year (interestingly enough, drafted in the same spot) he was a monstrous presence immediately, sacrificing just 4 sacks his entire year. 2 of these came against Myles Garrett, who is arguably the best defensive end in the NFL. Slater had length issues, leading many including myself to believe he’d be a better IOL in the pros, but I was sorely mistaken. He has been a LT for the Chargers, and an outstanding one at that. Slater could be a perennial Pro Bowlers in the NFL.

Stats:17 Games Played |1116 Snaps, 4 Sacks Allowed |PFF Grade: 83.7

Pro Bowler

Grade: B+

The media slightly over-valued Slater. Slater is fantastic, in my opinion, but I always found odd some had Slater higher than Sewell on their big boards, as Sewell is probably the best OT prospect in several years. I feel this is Slater's ceiling, but this is a very good pick. I love Vera-Tucker, but I always found that fit a weird one in various mock drafts. He a great lineman, but is too short armed to play LT in the NFL. Meanwhile, Slater is also slightly undersized, but he has a much better chance at playing LT in the NFL than Vera-Tucker does. Don’t mistake me, though – Slater is a tremendous prospect who is a true 5-position starter and gives the Chargers some flexibility over the duration of his contract. I think Slater would be better as a guard or center, but recent history has favoured undersized prospects played well as athletic LT’s and his measurable are ‘good enough’ compared to AVT. I wouldn’t have criticised Denver, New York or Philadelphia if they took Rashawn Slater in the 9-12 range, so I think this is also reasonable value.

1-14                      

New York Jets                                   Alijah Vera-Tucker                      OL                           USC

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

Needle doesn’t change here. People criticised the trade-up, but the Jets needed (and still need) OL help, and Vera-Tucker was the best player on the board at the time in my opinion. On the field, Vera-Tucker mildly struggled to start with, but was a dominating force in run protection. The Jets have stuck with him at guard, and he’s quickly shown that he could potentially be one of the better guards in the NFL in a few years. Powerful, and a great athlete, I actually think Vera-Tucker would be an upgrade at RT for the Jets, if they were to entertain drafting a guard, and can see him excelling there, much like Elgton Jenkins did for the Packers in relief of Bakhtiari after being drafted as a guard.

Stats:16 Games Played |1027 Snaps, 2 Sacks Allowed |PFF Grade: 67.2

Grade: B+

I like this move a lot more than most seem too. The main criticism I’m seeing is that the Jets gave up a lot for ‘just a guard’. However, I think Vera-Tucker has a legitimate shot at being a superb RT in the NFL. He’s not quite as versatile as Slater, but Vera-Tucker can play either guard position or RT, so the Jets have a lot of options with him. Vera-Tucker is strong, athletic and has great tape inside and at LT. He’s too undersized to play LT in the NFL, but he won’t need to in New York with Mekhi Becton excelling as a rookie. At RT, Vera-Tucker could form a very strong tandem with Becton. Additionally, it’s not like they traded up ‘another’ offensive lineman. Vera-Tucker was my 2nd rated OL in this draft, and a vastly superior talent to anyone else.

I think Vera-Tucker could be the Tristan Wirfs of 2021, and even if Vera-Tucker is ‘just a guard’, he will be an exceptional one. If you are taking a QB 2nd overall, you will need to ensure he’s aptly protected, especially after what happened to Sam Darnold. This is not an A-range grade because of the trade, but otherwise, this is a great pick going all-in on the best offensive lineman available.

1-15                      

New England Patriots                  Mac Jones                                      QB                          Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: A

This has to be re-graded highly. Mac Jones did really well as a rookie, and there is absolutely no denying that he was the best rookie QB in this class. He played really well for much of the year, and was a marked improvement from Cam Newton. Ultimately, I feel pretty confident in my original analysis. It shouldn’t shock people Mac Jones – out of the gate – was the best, as he was the most pro ready player. I believe Jones entered the best situation, playing under the best coach in NFL history, and much of his success has pertained to a solid run game. Would he have done much/any better in New York, or Chicago? That, I’m not sure of and is a part of the puzzle so many people miss. I do question whether in 5 years’ time, we still deem Mac to be the best QB in this class. Even so, Mac Jones has played at a very high level this year, and outside of Ja’Marr Chase, could be an OROTY candidate.

Stats:17 Games Played (All Starts) | 3801 Passing Yards, 22 TD, 13 INT, 67.6 CMP % | 44 Rushes, 129 Rush Yards, 0 Rush TD | PFF Grade:79.3

Grade: B-

I’m not sure about Mac Jones. He was a very, very good college player, but his upside is limited for the NFL and he seems more the product of an exceptional scheme, surrounding talent and coaching staff rather than because of his talent. The media is obsessed with Mac Jones, and the 49ers-Jones media speculation is one of the most bizarre draft storylines I’ve ever witnessed, as the ‘inside information’ of Shanahan loving Jones in spite of his FO being completely false. Jones has some natural ability, is accurate and has good footwork. Equally, I feel Jones is more likely to be a Cousins-level player in the NFL than a Brees like the media proclaims. His off-field judgement is also questionable.

I'm conflicted. Ultimately, I don't love Jones, but he will likely succeed because he’s going to be a good fit in New England because of scheme fit and his pro-ready style, much the reason he was so good for Alabama. It wouldn't shock me if Jones had the best rookie season of all the QB's. Hver time, I think Jones will be an above average starter, rather than a Superstar. This is fine, especially with the Patriots, but I also think Fields, Lance or Lawrence - maybe more than one - could become superstars. The Patriots didn’t trade up, and Jones was the best QB on the board. With these factors – and his high floor – I don’t hate the selection, but I agree with WF/Charlie on their scepticism.

1-16                      

Arizona Cardinals                           Zaven Collins                                   LB                        Tulsa

1 Year Re-Grade: B

There is a clear trend of using defensive talent sparingly and increasing that utilisation after rookie seasons. We saw it last year with Isaiah Simmons, and we saw it this year with Collins. Collins didn’t play very much, but played well in flashes. We’ll clearly see more of him as time goes on.

Stats:17 Games Played |25 Tackles, 0.0 Sacks, 3 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 69.3

Grade: A

I love this pick for Arizona. I’m really bullish on Collins (my No. 1 rated LB), and think he’s a very versatile off-ball linebacker who also has edge rusher potential. Collins is a good character, sideline-to-sideline linebacker and a superb talent who still has room for growth. He fits the Cardinals’ M.O. as a slightly raw but supremely talented and athletic linebacker who has positional versatility. I liked the Simmons pick, and I like this one.

1-17                      

Las Vegas Raiders                           Alex Leatherwood                               OT                           Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: D-

I need to stop going out on a limb to defend Raiders picks. I defended the Arnette pick, preferring it to the Ruggs selection (what I considered huge reach), as on paper Arnette had the 3rd best CB skill-set in last year's draft. However, Arnette was terrible, and subsequently dropped for off-field conduct. Leatherwood doesn’t have the latter problem, but he was truly abysmal at RT for the Raiders. Leatherwood was a turnstile in pass protection, played like a Day 3 selection. Leatherwood has since improved since kicking inside to guard, although more by default than anything, but the Raiders will be disappointed that they weren’t able to laterally replace Trent Brown. There is hope for Leatherwood – Andrew Thomas, who was bad as a rookie, had a good sophomore season for the Giants – but so far, this is one of the poorer picks of the first round.

Stats:17 Games Played |1104 Snaps, 8 Sacks Allowed |PFF Grade: 44.9

Grade: B+

I think the Raiders’ front office is incredibly mediocre, but in fairness to them, I think they were criticised for this pick without due reason. I prefer Darrisaw to Leatherwood, but the latter was the far better fit due to his aggressive playstyle and physicality, so Darrisaw would have been a weird pick. Leatherwood should be a plug and play RT to pair with Kolton Miller, so the Raiders have nicely replaced Trent Brown. Leatherwood also has some versatility to play guard. This is Leatherwood’s ceiling, but I wouldn’t call it a reach – I had him going No. 21 to the Colts, and Charlie Campbell reported other teams in the top. 25 would have taken him had he gotten there.

1-18                      

Miami Dolphins                                Jaelan Phillips                                                   DE                           Miami

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

Jaelan Phillips was the first edge rusher taken, and played to that status. He started the season off a bit slow, and in general was a bit inconsistent (only had sacks in 5 games) but caught fire as the season went along, gaining all but 0.5 of his sacks in November-December. Played the 3-4 OLB role, Phillips showed his natural ability in getting to the quarterback, and will likely be a key piece of the Dolphins’ defense for years to come. In my opinion, he played much better than his PFF grade reflects.

Stats:17 Games Played |42 Tackles, 8.5 Sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles, 1 Pass Deflected |PFF Grade: 53.7

Grade: B+

The Dolphins made the right call with the edge rusher they took with this pick. Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau are the bigger media names, but Phillips was terrific in 2020, and tested really well. He is raw and is a one-year wonder, but Phillips is the most talented of the bunch by some margin, in my opinion. This is a weak draft class at DE, so I like the Dolphins being aggressive and taking the best player at the position.

1-19                      

Washington Football Team      Jamin Davis                                      LB                            Kentucky

1 Year Re-Grade: C-

Jamin Davis was disappointing as a rookie, and personally, the biggest disappointment for me as he showed a lot of potential coming out of college and was a big advocate for him in the 1st round. He looked like a deer in the headlights a lot of the time, not looking ready to be that leader in the middle of Washington’s impressive on paper defense. I think Davis showed some flashes, and could become an intriguing player time, but he looked painfully raw in his debut season.

Stats:16 Games Played |76 Tackles, 1.0 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflected |PFF Grade: 43.3

Grade: A

I’m annoyed at myself, because I took Jamin Davis out of this pick the night before the draft, because I had Christian Darrisaw falling. I absolutely love Jamin Davis, and anyone who says he’s a reach here didn’t watch him play. He’s the 3rd best LB on my draft board, and is the 3rd off the board. Davis is a super athletic player and very talented, and 15-25 is the perfect range for him. He’ll be the anchor of their front seven for some time to come, and Washington fills their biggest defensive need with a stellar talent.

1-20                      

New York Giants                             Kadarius Toney                                WR                         Florida

1 Year Re-Grade: C+

Toney was just okay as a rookie. Toney flashed immense potential at times, including a monstrous 189-yard game against the Cowboys. Otherwise, he was pretty quiet in many games. Much of this has to do with the Giants’ putrid quarterbacking, as all Giants receivers struggled, so I won’t be too harsh. They also traded down, and I like the fit – Toney has a ‘Deebo Samuel’ quality to his game, which matches up well with Kenny Golladay and Sterling Sheppard in the long-term.  Toney could get much more productive if Daniel Jones improves with new coaching, or if they get a more capable starter.

Stats:10 Games Played |39 Receptions, 420 Yards, 0 TD |PFF Grade: 72.8

Grade: B

David Gettleman moved down in the draft for the first time ever after losing out on DeVonta Smith. That string will be mitigated by the fact they acquired an additional 1st rounder in 2022 for their troubles. Kadarius Toney is a fine consolation prize for the Giants. I had Toney as a fringe 1st round prospect, so I wouldn’t love the value normally, but they are both addressing a position of huge need and traded down in the process. Toney is a great YAC receiver, so will greatly compliment Kenny Golladay to give the Giants a far more potent passing attack than they had in 2020.

1-21                      

Indianapolis Colts                           Kwity Paye                                        DE                           Michigan

1 Year Re-Grade: C+

I basically feel the same about this pick now as I did during the draft. Paye has been decent player, if unspectacular at times, but I don’t think he’ll turn into an elite pass rusher. I actually think Dayo Odeyingo (2nd round pick) possesses more natural ability! With this pick, believe they should have drafted Christian Darrisaw – taken 3 picks later – instead of relying on the Eric Fisher, who was at best average, and at other times a liability.  Darrisaw wasn’t perfect as a rookie, but showed a lot of upside considering he had limited playing time. Paye was just fine, as is the respective grade.

Stats:15 Games Played |32 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Pass Deflected |PFF Grade: 69.7

Grade: C

I had Paye going No. 12 overall, but not because I think he was a great prospect, more because of rumours of the Eagles love for him. I’m not in love with this pick. Pass rush help was a need, but with Christian Darrisaw available I am really surprised they passed on a potential successor to Anthony Castanzo. I wasn’t expecting Darrisaw to still be available. Secondly, I am a bit of a critic of Paye. I consider him a 2nd round talent. He has some great physical tools but never put it together in his 3 year career for Michigan and was a non-factor at times. He reminds me of Rashan Gary with better character traits, so perhaps he’ll improve, but I don’t like the decision to pass on Darrisaw for a defensive end who isn’t elite.

1-22                      

Tennessee Titans                            Caleb Farley                                    CB                           Virginia Tech

1 Year Re-Grade: Inconclusive

Similar to Jaycee Horn, I’m not going to grade this. He again only played 3 games, before tearing his ACL. Unlike Horn, I’m more pessimistic about Farley playing out. His health was a huge factor in leading him to drop, and knee issues on top of reported back issues could be troublesome. Wait and see for this pick.

Stats:3 Games Played |4 Tackles, 0 INT, 1 pass Deflected |PFF Grade: 45.4

Grade: B

Based purely on talent alone, this would be the pick of the 1st round. If Farley had a clean bill of health he’d be my top-rated CB, perhaps top-rated defender in this draft, and a top-10 pick. However, his medical is a huge red flag and his neck injuries concerning. If he stays healthy, this is a monumental steal for the Titans. Equally, Farley could struggle to stick in the NFL if he cannot stay on the field. This is a feast or famine pick, but I love the upside of it, and the Titans didn’t trade up for him.

1-23                      

Minnesota Vikings                         Christian Darrisaw                        OT                           Virginia Tech

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

Darrisaw’s mild fall was attributed to weakly reported health concerns, and Darrisaw’s injury impacted him up until the mid-point of the season. When Darrisaw played, though, he did so to a reasonably high level. He was by no means flawless – sacrificing 5 sacks in 10 games – but the Vikings offensive line was markedly improved when he was playing. Between him and O’Neill, the Vikings figure to have a good OT tandem. Darrisaw should only get better with more experience, and as he gets healthier.

Stats:10 Games Played |652 Snaps, 5 Sacks Allowed |PFF Grade: 71.8

Grade: A+

This is tremendous work from the Vikings. I had Darrisaw going to the Vikings at NO. 14 in several updates. That was high ceiling, but for the Vikings to trade down 9 picks and take the player they would have probably reverted to had they not been able to secure a trade is superb. Darrisaw was the best remaining tackle in the draft and should have been a top-20. This isn’t a ridiculous steal, but its great value. Darrisaw should be a day 1 starter at LT for the Vikings.

1-24                      

Pittsburgh Steelers                       Najee Harris                                     RB                           Alabama

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

I agree with Walt’s general stance that drafting RB’s in the opening round is seldom a good idea. However, this gets a notable uptick, as Najee Harris was outstanding this season, accumulating 1200 rushing yards and being a big reason they made the playoffs (although not as a big as T.J. Watt, naturally). Harris excelled on the ground and in the pass game, and appears to be of good character in the locker room also.

Stats:17 Games Played |307 Carries, 1200 Rush Yards, 7 Rush TD |74 Receptions, 467 Receiving Yards, 4 Receiving | PFF Grade: 71.2

Grade: C+

Najee Harris is the top-rated RB on my board, and in terms of talent I get the value. I don’t think it’s a reach and given the fact the Steelers are in a win-now position, I think this sort of selection is acceptable. Equally, I would have preferred the Steelers to trade down for a RB, and if their option(s) were gone, maybe take Teven Jenkins instead. Their OL is not in great shape and they won’t be able to go all-in for the Super Bowl one more time in 2021 without improving their offensive line substantially. I’m more forgiving of these sort of picks for competitive teams, but they could have done better and I’m not a fan of taking RB’s in the 1st round unless they are elite prospects.

1-25                      

Jacksonville Jaguars                     Travis Etienne                                                  RB                           Clemson

1 Year Re-Grade: Inconclusive

Travis Etienne missed the entire season with a Lisfranc injury.

Stats: N/A

Grade: D+

Much colder on this pick. In fact, I think it’s the worst pick of the 1st round up until this point. The Jaguars are talent-dry in virtually every position BUT running back. They could have taken a cornerback, defensive tackle or wide receiver. They have a pick in just 8 picks time to address one of these needs, but the same could be said for running back with Javonte Williams or perhaps even Etienne himself being available. I won’t give this an F, as he and Lawrence have chemistry – this also isn’t a reach, as such – but I don’t like the taking of a RB given their situation at all.

1-26                      

Cleveland Browns                          Greg Newsome II                        CB                           Northwestern

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

This grade stays the same. Overall, Newsome played very well for Cleveland. He tailed off slightly as the season went along, but formed a strong pairing with Denzel Ward. Although he wasn’t productive in terms of picks, he was able to shut down many opposing receivers and was disruptive – forcing 9 pass breakups. He missed 5 games, and their secondary was noticeably worse when he was injured. Newsome and Ward should be a formidable corner duo for some time to come.

Stats:12 Games Played |37 Tackles, 0 INT, 9 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 68.1

Grade: B+

Cornerback wasn’t my first instinct for the Browns, but it makes sense. Denzel Ward is exceptional, and Greedy Williams talented, but both players are injury prone. The Browns struggled when both weren’t healthy, and most teams run 3 CB’s on 60-70% of snaps. Newsome is a great young cornerback going at the perfect range. Owusu-Koromoah was my gut instinct, but his draft stock is falling, so I think Newsome is probably the best defensive player left on the board. Like the pick a lot.

1-27                      

Baltimore Ravens                           Rashod Bateman                              WR                         Minnesota

1 Year Re-Grade: C

Bateman was solid as a rookie. After missing the first few weeks through injury, he became a nice No. 2 receiver to Hollywood Brown. Equally, Bateman didn’t disprove his separation concerns, and I don’t think he’ll develop much more than a 700-800 solid No. 2 option. That’s fine, but I believe that Bateman – or someone equivalent – could have been taken after trading into the early 2nd round. Still don’t love this selection that much.

Stats:12 Games Played |46 Receptions, 515 Yards, 1 TD |PFF Grade: 64.9

Grade: D+

The Ravens usually draft extremely well, but a blind-spot for them always seems to be wide receiver. Bateman isn’t a player I expected to be drafted until the middle of the 2nd round. I have concerns about his ability to separate at the next level, and I think he may be limited to the slot. I think Bateman was one of the most overrated prospects by the media entering this draft and personally had Elijah Moore and Terrance Marshall Jr. a lot either than him. I won’t give this isn’t an F, because they are at least addressing a position of need, but this is a reach in my opinion.

1-28                      

New Orleans Saints                       Payton Turner                                   DE                           Houston

1 Year Re-Grade: Inconclusive

This was borderline as Turner did play in 5 games, before going on IR. He was rotational in those contests, however, so it was hard to get any real assessment of where he was at so I’m going to render this inconclusive. I’d say Turner played like the Day 2 prospect he should have been in those games. Perhaps he’ll improve if he gets more playing time once a decision has been made on Marcus Davenport.

Stats:5 Games Played |9 Tackles, 1.0 Sacks, 0 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 64.6

Grade: F

I thought I’d escape this 1st round without an F for the first time ever, but alas that is not the case. This is similar to the Texans pick of Tytus Howard where they completely panicked with options A and B off the board. The Saints wanted Jaycee Horn and Mac Jones according to reports, but failed to trade up for either. Greg Newsome was then snatched off the board 2 picks earlier.

This is the worst pick of the 1st round for me. They needed to take a pass rusher at some point after losing Trey Hendrickson, but Turner was not that player. This is a massive reach. Turner is a nice prospect who has been rising up draft boards – as reported by Charlie Campbell – so this isn’t an indictment on him, but I didn’t expect him to go THIS early. 1st round is a huge reach, as I think

Turner is more of a low 2nd rounder, possibly even a 3rd rounder. He is a consistent and technically sound player for a college prospect, but is an average pass rusher with limited explosiveness who bullied bad opposition. Oweh, Tryon, Rousseau and countless others were better prospect than Turner at DE/OLB. Equally, Tyson Campbell and Trevon Moehrig would have both be far, far better choices to address their weakened secondary. The reach and miss on these players equates to this being the only F of the first round.

1-29                      

Green Bay Packers                        Eric Stokes                                    CB                           Georgia

1 Year Re-Grade: B+

I’ll keep upgrade this slightly. Out of the two, I was more impressed with Tyson Campbell in 2021. Equally, Stokes had to take on a much bigger role earlier than expected, as Jaire Alexander missed the majority of the season with an injury. Stokes made mistakes, but he played pretty well overall and was an upgrade over Kevin King. He was highly disruptive, batting 14 passes, and bounced back from his errors. Overall, Stokes’ athleticism and strength will likely render him a high-quality starter for the foreseeable future.

Grade: B-

The Packers need a wide receiver, and an interior lineman or two, but neither has any range-worthy options really available. The Packers, meanwhile, were burned at times in the playoffs. Kevin King was re-signed, but he is typically a sub-par cornerback who will be there solely to maintain some depth. I like the move for a cornerback and repeatedly mocked cornerbacks to them. I actually ended up mocking Stokes’ team-mate Tyson Campbell, who I think would have been a better pick, and also prefer a few other cornerbacks on the board, but I had Stokes as a high-to-mid 2nd rounder so this isn’t a big reach. Stokes is extremely fast and athletic, with a good 2020 season. This is not great value, but the Packers were addressing the correct need with a talented player, so I won’t be too harsh.

Stats:12 Games Played |55 Tackles, 1 INT, 14 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 66.3

1-30                      

Buffalo Bills                                          Gregory Rousseau                             DE                           Miami

1 Year Re-Grade: A-

Rousseau went from being an overrated college player, to an underrated NFL player. I think Rousseau had a really good rookie year, getting to the quarterback well and being surprisingly effective on the ground, accumulating 50 tackles as a defensive end. Although they had the same sack total as Paye (4), I’d say Rousseau played better than him, and was taken 9 later. He was right to go in this sort of range, and was a good pick for the Bills who – although lacking double digit sack monsters – vastly improved their pass rush this season. Once again, the Bills do well in the opening round.

Stats:17 Games Played |50 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumbles, 1 INT, 4 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 70.2

Grade: B

Rousseau was my very early favourite to be the 1st defender off the board in my mid-season mock draft, but hiss tock fell of a cliff due to athletic limitations and a reputation as a one-year wonder. I thought Rousseau would fall a bit further than this, but Rousseau has a 1st round skill-set and a productive sole year in college, so I’m fine with this value (although it isn’t a home run, either). This mirrors the AJ Epenesa pick from last year, taking a productive but athletically limited edge rusher to help pad a rotation that needs help. The Bills’ roster is in very good shape overall so I’m fine with a luxury pick like this.

1-31                      

Baltimore Ravens                                Jayson Oweh                                     OLB                        Penn State

1 Year Re-Grade: A

The Ravens’ pass rush massively regressed after losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. However, Oweh (who confirmed he goes by Odafe Oweh) played well as a rookie and will go a long way towards fixing that. Oweh showed that unproductive, raw but immensely gifted athletes can become better pros than college players, and has helped me re-evaluate the extent to which I look at production when evaluating draft prospects. Oweh was a good pick, who I mocked to the Ravens (albeit at No. 27, not No. 31).

Stats:15 Games Played |33 Tackles, 5.0 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles, 1 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 67.9

Grade: B+

I am usually not that high on unproductive college defensive lineman, but Oweh is absolutely brimming with potential. He is a physical freak who has tremendous burst, length and incredible work ethic. Oweh won’t be an amazing player as a rookie but has more upside to develop throughout his rookie contract than other raw but talented players we’ve seen like Rashan Gary and this draft’s Kwity Paye. I like the move a lot as the Ravens really needed an athletic OLB to replace Ngakoue and Judon, who they both lost.

1-32                      

Tampa Bay Buccaneers                         Joe Tryon                                            DE                           Washington

1 Year Re-Grade: B

Similar to the previous pick, both in terms of my commentary and a name change. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was – as predicted – used in rotation as a rookie, playing a bit more when veterans like Shaq Barrett missed time. Tryon-Shoyinka did well as a rookie, albeit not quite as well as Rousseau or Oweh. He was raw and a bit unclinical (could have easily has more sacks than this), but he was able to apply a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and showed his athletic upside. After opting out of 2020, Tryon was another example of a playoff team stocking up on rotational premium edge rushers that will play fuller roles in time.

Stats:17 Games Played |29 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles, 3 Passes Deflected |PFF Grade: 51.9

Grade: B+

The Bucs were so stacked that any player who is range-worthy would have made sense. Tryon was more of a mid-2nd rounder in my opinion, but similar to Oweh, he is an incredibly athletic player with tremendous upside who won’t be an immediate impact. That doesn’t matter for the Bucs, as they can slowly introduce Tryon into their rotation for the first half of his rookie deal. This will get the same grade as Oweh, as they are similarly themed selections.

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