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Winners and Losers of the 2021 NFL Draft

Winners and Losers of the 2021 NFL Draft
Kyle Pitts #84 of the Florida Gators. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP

The 2021 NFL Draft is officially in the rearview mirror and we’ll get to see 259 rookies either make it or break as they transition to the NFL level

Some teams seem to have hit the jackpot in this year’s draft while others may have wasted a draft pick or two. We won’t be able to get a clear look at these guys until they eventually take the field, but until then, we will judge them based on what we know about their college resumes. 

Below we’ll take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of this year’s draft. 

Winners 

Atlanta Falcons 

The Atlanta Falcons drafted nine players this year to add to their lineup. While many projected them to take a quarterback, that wasn’t what they had in mind. Instead, the Falcons added the “unicorn” of the draft in Kyle Pitts, who is considered a generational player and joins an offense featuring Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, and Mike Davis. From there, the Falcons focused on their defense, taking underrated and top safety out of UCF, Richie Grant. Atlanta also bolstered their pass rush, offensive line and cornerback depth, leaving zero holes to fill on their roster after finding two backup QBs outside the draft. 

Round 1: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Round 2: Richie Grant, S, UCF

Round 3: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Round 4:  Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State

Round 4: Drew Dalman, C Stanford

Round 5: Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas

Round 5: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame

Round 5: Avery Williams, CB, Boise State

Round 6: Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State

Carolina Panthers 

Next, we have the Falcons NFC South foe, the Carolina Panthers.  Carolina entered this year’s draft with just seven picks, but came out in the end with 11. They did what they needed to do and added some more young talent to their already young defense right off the bat in Jaycee Horn and proved they believe in Sam Darnold by drafting him some elite targets. Terrance Marshall will join 1,000-yarders in in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Tommy Tremble comes with plenty of blocking talent while Chuba Howard is en route to filling Chrisitian McCaffrey’s shoes when needed. A complete revamp of their secondary and line depth should have Carolina as a scary contender in their division this year. 

Round 1: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Round 2: Terrance Marshall, WR, LSU

Round 3: Brady Christensen, OT, BYU

Round 4: Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame

Round 5: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

Round 5: Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa

Round 5: Keith Taylor, CB, Washington

Round 6: Deonte Brown, OG, Alabama

Round 6: Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina

Round 6: Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama

Round 7: Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky

Minnesota Vikings 

Now, we’ll head over to the NFC north. At one point it felt like this was the Minnesota VIking draft, and that was in the third round which four of their nine picks came out of. 

Minnesota really knew what they were doing when they traded back for Christian Darrisaw in the first round. They were able to add more draft capital and take a top OT at the same time. Taking QB Kellen Mond, the last top QB to go off the board, was also a smart move as he has the skills to develop into a future starter. And while many thought the Vikings would address their defense more, Patrick Jones is the missing link to their pass rush and jumps to the NFL level with a sack monster past that he can hopefully bring with him. 

Round 1: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Round 3: Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M

Round 3: Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina

Round 3: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State

Round 3: Patrick Jones II, DE, Pittsburgh

Round 4: Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa State

Round 5: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa

Round 5: Zach Davidson, TE, Central Michigan

Round 6: Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh

Losers 

Houston Texans 

You almost have to feel bad for the Houston Texans franchise crashing down with the Deshaun Watson situation. But the problem came before that when they sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for zero future draft picks. 

To make things worse, the Texans spent this draft trading up for mediocre picks and letting future picks go instead of moving back for more draft capital.  With their starting QB likely not returning next season to the NFL at all, the Texans were forced to take QB as their first pick this year in Davis Mills who will need more than training camp to turn into an NFL starter. From there, they added wide receiver Nico Collins whose college numbers are not even third-round pick worthy.

The Texans seemed to have been in panic mode and not thinking about the future of the franchise. Houston, we most definitely do have a problem. 

Round 3: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford

Round 3: Nico Collins, WR, Michigan

Round 5: Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami

Round 5: Garrett Wallow, LB, TCU

Round 6: Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona

Seattle Seahawks 

The Seattle Seahawks went into this year’s draft with three draft picks and came out with three draft picks. The bigger problem? Well, quarterback Russell Wilson made it very clear to the franchise that he is unhappy with how his offensive line looks. 

Instead of addressing the offensive line right away, the Seahawks added a wide receiver in D’Wayne Eskridge out of Western Michigan, who gives Seattle some hope alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Still, with only three picks this year, Eskridge wasn’t the right choice, he was simply a reach and the other two are not standout names whatsoever. Brown is a soon to be 24-year-old corner who doesn’t fit the mold that Seattle typically looks for in a DB. 

There’s still hope for Eskridge to be a missing link in Seattle’s offense, but it’s totally understandable as to why Wilson wants out. Also, Pete Carroll and company may have just wasted their 2021 draft selections. 

Round 2: D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan

Round 4: Tre Brown, CB, Oklahoma

Round 6: Stone Forsythe, OT, Florida

Arizona Cardinals 

The Cardinals entered the draft with obvious needs in an edge pass rusher, cornerback and offensive line depth. 

They did a good job prioritizing their defensive needs but they shouldn’t have waited until their last pick to address the O-line. Picking Zaven Collins at No. 16 overall felt more like a reach and “settling.” Rondale Moore could be a fun one to watch down the road, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy after missing most of the 2021 season. Still, the Cards should have addressed their cornerback weakness before looking for another wideout, since they already have plenty to choose from at that position. 

Their later gambles in sleepers Dimukejee and Wiggins might be their best picks to come out of  this year’s draft. 

It’s safe to say this isn’t the way the Cardinals intended their draft to go and they’ll be mediocre again this year. 

Round 1: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Round 2: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

Round 4: Marco Wilson, CB, Florida 

Round 6:  Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke

Round 6: Tay Gowan, CB, UCF

Round 7: James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati

Round 7: Michal Menet, C, Penn State

Again, we won’t get a clear picture on how the 2021 NFL rookie class performed until later down the line so until then, we can only speculate what to expect this season from some of these winners and losers.