The NFL Draft is officially a wrap and we’re on to undrafted free agency. 259 picks were selected Thursday through Saturday and the next step for these rookies will be rookie minicamp in the coming weeks. Offseason programs are underway, but OTAs are not quite as exciting as training camp later this summer.
In the meantime, NFL teams will continue assessing how they’ve improved themselves and where they still need to improve. Some teams did a great job, others struggled. Some players are in a better situation and some are left shaking their heads. Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers from three days of the 2021 NFL Draft.
2021 NFL Draft winners
The Browns finished the 2020 NFL Season with a bang, securing a trip to the divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs and a near victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They continued to beef up their defense with the additions of safety John Johnson and corner Troy Hill, formerly of the Rams, and the recent signing of Jadeveon Clowney. They continued to build on the defensive side of the ball through the draft, grabbing corner Greg Newsome with the No. 26 overall pick and came back to snag LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second — one of the biggest steals in this year’s draft. NFL Draft Analyst ranked Owusu-Koramoah as the second-best linebacker in the class, his No. 15 overall player, who’s able to play all over the field. Add in the addition of Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz, and it’s really, really difficult to find any remaining holes in the roster. Watch out, AFC.
After a rather disappointing end to the Mitchell Trubisky era, the pressure was on both GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy to find the next franchise quarterback for the Bears. Well, to the surprise of everybody, the Pace-Nagy tandem delivered with the selection of quarterback Justin Fields.
The Bears had to give up a few picks to move up for Fields, but it was worth it, especially with the immense talent he has. Now, it’s just a matter of when Fields will start. He’ll likely be the backup behind Andy Dalton to start the season, who was signed in the offseason.
Todd McShay & Mel Kiper’s Dynamic
The two lead draft analysts for the Worldwide Leader in Sports have had in the past a complicated relationship. But it seems they’re getting along better than ever.
A major reason why you’re watching the draft is because of Mel Kiper, who took a newsletter he wrote about college draft prospects, and parlayed it into being the most well-known expert of the biggest events on the American sporting calendar. But McShay’s “The War Room” (later Scouts, Inc) was acquired by the four-letter in 2006, and he’s been there ever since.
I don’t know if these guys are going out for a beer afterwards, or if it’s just years of working together and some team-building exercises at the annual retreat, but they’re able to needle each other effectively nowadays. Whether it’s McShay questioning how Kiper grades kickers (he watches the film himself), or a gentle dig about past predictions that went awry, we’ve arrived at minimum at gracious respect for each other.
The Baltimore Ravens made it a point of emphasis to give their former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson some more help in the receiving game. The days of Dez Bryant and Willie Snead are over as they drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round and Tylan Wallace in the fourth round. This is the third-straight year that Baltimore has invested into receivers, but it could pay huge dividends in 2021. Hollywood Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay Bateman, and Wallace is not a bad wide receiver unit.
The Panthers could have taken Justin Fields, as they hadn’t guaranteed his fifth-year option yet, but they passed and went with cornerback Jaycee Horn instead. Now Darnold is the no-doubt starting quarterback with a much, much better set of offensive playmakers around him.
woooooow— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 1, 2021
Sam Darnold's 2020 vs 2021
RB Frank Gore
WR Jamison Crowder
WR Braxton Berrios
WR Breshad Perriman
RB Christian McCaffrey
WR D.J. Moore
WR Robby Anderson
WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
The Jets drafted North Carolina running back Michael Carter in the fourth round. They followed up by drafting Duke defensive back Michael Carter II in the fifth round. Prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, two people named Michael Carter had played in the NFL — Packers wide receiver Michael Carter drafted in 1970 and 49ers nose tackle Michael Carter drafted in 1984. The Jets have doubled the number of Michael Carters in NFL history, and it led to this glorious tweet:
Mac Jones’s walk
Jones dropped further than many thought he would on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he did not disappoint when he was selected by the New England Patriots with the No. 15 pick. The former Alabama quarterback’s iconic walk to the stage gave the world a ton of great content. Here are some of the best tweets describing his gait.
Mac Jones walking like a high school administrator who needs to break up a fight in the cafeteria pic.twitter.com/03f7OkBnjm— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) April 30, 2021
Mac Jones walking in like he’s about to ask for $100,000 from the sharks in exchange for 10% ownership in his company. pic.twitter.com/9zmndokh98— Micah Larson (@MicahDLarson) April 30, 2021
2021 NFL Draft losers
The Broncos always were going to go after a replacement running back for Phillip Lindsay, but they ended up going after one of the best in the draft, with Javonte Williams. That shows they aren’t looking to just complement Gordon, but instead find his replacement. Williams is good enough to cut deep into Gordon’s workload and make him expendable sooner than later.
The front office decimated its draft capital with awful trades, leaving them with no first or second round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. They then used their first pick — in the third round — on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. He’s got intriguing upside, but this move also indicates Houston doesn’t have answers yet for the quarterback position.
Sanity of Packers fans
We’ve lost it. With the overwhelming evidence from reports that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, the collective of Cheeseheads must be losing it. If ever an A-Rod trade were to go down, it would have been this weekend during the draft. It seems Rodgers will remain a Packer through the weekend. This means the Packers “brain” trust is ready to dig in as the QB holds out. This feels like it could only get uglier and dragged out through the Summer. Hey, at least GB took a WR in the third round! The Packers have an “A-Rod” replacement ready to go in Amari Rodgers.
The Seahawks signal-caller gets another pass catcher in D’Wayne Eskridge, but Seattle did nothing of significance to improve the offensive line. Wilson has been asking for improvement there, and all the draft netted was sixth round pick Stone Forsythe. The Seahawks were limited in their draft capital, but it remains a concern for their star quarterback’s well-being.