2021 NFL Draft Grades
1 (9) - Patrick Surtain II CB Alabama - A-
2 (4) - Javonte Williams RB UNC - D
3 (35) - Quinn Meinerz Wisconsin-Whitewater - A
3 (42) - Baron Browning LB Ohio State - B
5 (8) - Caden Sterns S Texas - C
5 (20) - Jamar Johnson S Indiana - D
6 (35) - Seth Williams WR Auburn - D
7 (9) - Kary Vincent Jr CB LSU - D
7 (11) - Jonathon Cooper DE Ohio State - A
7 (26) - Marquiss Spencer DE Mississippi State - C
Outside of the Surtain II pick in the first round the rest of the draft was just filled with head scratching moves. It could become even worse if Fields goes on to great things after they passed up on him with hopes of landing Aaron Rodgers. I liked Surtain more than Horn due to his higher floor and ability to be a shutdown corner right off the bat. It might seem overkill after they landed Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, but both were brought on one year deals. So who knows if either of them stay long term after next season. They followed up a solid pick with a terrible one in my opinion. They moved up four spots to land Javonte Williams when they could have easily gotten him with their initial 2nd round pick. I did not see any other team that would take him before they would. He is a solid back, but we have seen backs all throughout drafts work out so I did not see the reason to move up for him. Quinn Meinerz might be their best pick, but the small school stud might need a season of developing before he can really contribute to their offensive line. Overall the first few picks of their draft have been okay, but could have certainly been better.
Baron Browning could have easily gone much higher than this and fits Vic Fangio’s defense pretty well. He is a fast, athletic, and roving linebacker who can flow sideline to sideline very well. I can see him turning into one of their better picks in the draft along with Surtain and Meinerz. After them there draft was one big dud after another in my opinion. Caden Sterns is an in the box type safety, but he is a big work in progress after being nicked up in college often slowing down his growth. Then they doubled down with another safety who has potential in Jamar Johnson. However, Johnson was often labeled as one of the worst tackling safeties in the draft. That’s never a great trait for a safety. I also did not get the need to double down on safety with Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson still on their roster. It will be tough for either of those developmental safeties to see the field.
Same goes for talents like Seth Williams who will have to battle Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and K.J. Hamler to see the field. Williams to me is an okay prospect, but I like to bet on speed and athleticism later in the draft at receiver. Both of those areas are where he is lacking. While Kary Vincent Jr is also going to be bogged down on the roster with Kyle Fuller, Patrick Surtain II, Bryce Callahan, and Ronald Darby all ahead of him. Maybe they just see the speedy corner as a returner, but even this late in the draft they could have done better with this draft. Had they waited on running back they could have gotten a better talent in the 2nd round and gotten a better value at running back here. I do like the Jonathon Cooper pick since they do need a pass rusher to help out with the depth behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. He does need a lot of work to get to his potential and I am not sure this coaching staff will be around to help him get there.
Overall, this was a good draft with a few starters like Surtain, Williams, Meinerz, and Browning. However, much like the Panthers if Justin Fields or Mac Jones turn into a great quarterback then this pick will go down in infamy. I also question why these picks had a lot of Vic Fangio in mind with guys who fit his defense when he might no even be the coach after this season. If you ask me this was a pretty bad first draft for new GM George Paton.