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NFL Draft Grades

Daigle's 2021 AFC Draft Grades

by John Daigle
Updated On: May 4, 2021, 6:00 pm ET

NFC Draft Grades can be viewed here.

 

Baltimore Ravens

 

1 (27) - WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

1 (31) - EDGE Odafe Oweh, Penn State

3 (94) - G Ben Cleveland, Georgia

3 (104) - CB Brandon Stephens, SMU

4 (131) - WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State

5 (160) - CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State

5 (171) - EDGE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame

5 (184) - TE Ben Mason, Michigan

 

Overview: If Lamar Jackson targets a wide receiver in the forest and no one is there to see it, did it actually happen? It’s the age-old story of OC Greg Roman's prolific run-heavy attack, which has cancelled out even the most explosive athletes from the boundary to date. The good news is both Bateman (6’0/190) and Wallace (5’11/194), albeit quiz answers as the fourth consecutive year GM Eric DeCosta selected multiple receivers, were hyper productive in their respective conferences. It’s still concerning the team lost Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, and Jihad Ward (and a combined 12 sacks between them) in free agency and responded with a developmental EDGE (Oweh) who recorded three career sacks against Big 10 competition. Cleveland (6’6/354) is the favorite to start at left guard with Bradley Bozeman sliding to center. It’s not a question of if this class will deliver so much as when it will.

Grade: B+

 

Buffalo Bills

 

1 (30) - EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL.)

2 (61) - EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest

3 (93) - OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

5 (161) - OT Tommy Doyle, Miami (OH)

6 (203) - WR Marquez Stevenson, Houston

6 (212) - S Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh

6 (213) - CB Rachad Wildgoose, Wisconsin

7 (236) - OG Jack Anderson, Texas Tech

 

Overview: The smoke was rumored to clear and reveal an absolute disastrous approach in trading up for RB Travis Etienne. Brandon Beane and Co. instead stayed the course, securing two physical freaks in Rousseau (6’6/266 with 34-inch arm length) and Basham (4.64 40 at 6'5/285) that offer versatility both around the edge and as 3-tech tackles. Trading its fifth-round pick to Houston in exchange for two sixth-rounders whenever a competent cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White was (and still is) a necessity was an odd move. Sean McDermott and Beane have proven everyone should simply #TrustTheProcess no matter how underwhelming their day three selections were.

Grade: B

 

Cincinnati Bengals

 

1 (5) - WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

2 (46) - OT Jackson Carman, Clemson

3 (69) - EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas

4 (111) - EDGE Cameron Sample, Tulane

4 (122) - DI Tyler Shelvin, LSU

4 (139) - T D'Ante Smith, East Carolina

5 (149) - K Evan McPherson, Florida

6 (190) - C Trey Hill, Georgia

6 (202) - RB Chris Evans, Michigan

7 (235) - EDGE Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State

 

Overview: Bengals owner Mike Brown had a choice from the very beginning: reunite Joe Burrow with his former collegiate teammate or vacuum-seal the left side of the line for the next decade-plus with Oregon’s Penei Sewell. The organization landed on Chase (6’3/201), who produced 84/1,780/20 and 21.2 yards per catch as a 19-year-old sophomore in 2019, and Carman (6’5/317), who offers more questions than answers in transitioning to left guard. The decision to trade back from No. 38 for the latter (and capital that would eventually become Shelvin and Smith) when both Teven Jenkins and Liam Eichenberg were widely available is a controversial one. Ossai (6’4/256) had 10 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss over the last two years in Austin and at the very least offers a motor among a trench that needs it. Any time this front office escapes with multiple league-ready contributors should be considered a win.

Grade: B-

 

Cleveland Browns

 

1 (26) - CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

2 (52) - LB Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah, Notre Dame

3 (91) - WR Anthony Schwartz, Auburn

4 (110) - OT James Hudson, Cincinnati

4 (132) - DI Tommy Togiai, Ohio State

5 (153) - LB Tony Fields II, West Virginia

5 (169) - S Richard LeCounte, Georgia

6 (211) - RB Demetric Felton, UCLA

 

Overview: With depth at every position and no imperative needs, Kevin Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry poured Mai Tais while other front offices frantically scrambled through all seven rounds. Newsome (6'0/192) offers 4.38 40-speed in DC Joe Woods’ ideal six-DB base defense. ‘JOK’ plays a devalued position as an off-ball linebacker in today’s NFL but, simply put, should not have been available in the mid-second. Schwartz (6’0/186) is the prettiest of one-trick ponies that Stefanski should have no issues hiding in specific packages for concerted touches. Togiai (6'1/296) offers shades of a lesser Vita Vea with bull-rushing strength (40 bench reps) as an interior wrecking ball. Cleveland essentially landed help it didn’t need, getting stronger in the process.

Grades: A

 

Denver Broncos

 

1 (9) - CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

2 (35) - RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina

3 (98) - iOL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin- Whitewater

3 (105) - LB Baron Browning, Ohio State

5 (152) - S Caden Sterns, Texas

5 (164) - S Jamar Johnson, Indiana

6 (219) - WR Seth Williams, Auburn

7 (237) - CB Kary Vincent Jr., LSU

7 (239) - EDGE Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State

7 (253) - EDGE Marquiss Spencer, Mississippi State

 

Overview: Whether it’s ignorance or hubris, George Paton took to his first draft with the Broncos as if the team already had a competent player under center, even passing on Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater to instead bolster the defense with Denver’s only pick on day one. The rest of the board practically fell into Paton’s lap, landing a tier-one RB in Williams — simultaneously signaling the end of Melvin Gordon’s tenure once his contract expires in 2022 — immediate versatility on the interior o-line with Meinerz, and an athletic OLB who played out of place inside the box with Ohio State in Browning (6’3/245). Johnson had a second-round grade as the second- or third-highest regarded safety in this class, and Seth Williams was a luxury pick who may not even see the field. This roster is prepared to play deep into the postseason if Aaron Rodgers does arrive via trade.

Grade: A- 

 

Houston Texans

 

3 (67) - QB Davis Mills, Stanford

3 (89) - WR Nico Collins, Michigan

5 (147) - TE Brevin Jordan, Miami (FL.)

5 (170) - Garett Wallow, TCU

6 (195) - Roy Lopez, Arizona

 

Overview: Your guess is as good as mine.

Grade: F

 

Indianapolis Colts

 

1 (21) - EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan

2 (54) - EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt

4 (127) - TE Kylen Granson, SMU

5 (165) - DB Shawn Davis, Florida

6 (218) - QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas

7 (229) - WR Michael Strachan, Indianapolis

7 (248) - OL Will Fries, Penn State

 

Overview: Rarely does GM Chris Ballard miss, but this collection of players should be chalked up as that. Paye (6’3/261) doesn’t lack for upside but failed to make a significant impact (11.5 sacks in 38 games) in two years with the Wolverines at a position of immediate need following the departures of Justin Houston and Denico Autry. Odeyingbo is coming off an Achilles’ tear from January and won’t be ready for the start of training camp, bringing his availability for his entire rookie season into question. Left tackle remains unresolved despite Carson Wentz’s timidness and league-highs in interceptions (15) and sacks taken (50) from under center just last year. There is serious doubt any of Indianapolis’ 2021 class make a year-one difference, and that should not be ignored.

Grade: D+

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

 

1 (1) - QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

1 (25) - RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

2 (33) - CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia

2 (45) - OT Walker Little, Stanford

3 (65) - S Andre Cisco, Syracuse

4 (106) - DI Jay Tufele, USC

4 (121) - Edge Jordan Smith, UAB

5 (145) - TE Luke Farrell, Ohio State

6 (209) - WR Jalen Camp, Georgia Tech

 

Overview: Jacksonville hit it out the park in kicking off the night with Lawrence but tripped rounding third in selecting his teammate Etienne No. 25 overall. This isn’t commentary on Etienne’s talent: he’s the far superior player among this backfield and only took a step back last year because Clemson’s o-line couldn’t find the right combo after losing John Simpson and Tremayne Anchrum in the draft. But it’s not a move that should be commended given the production UDFA James Robinson delivered both on the ground (240/1,070/7) and through the air (49/344/3) for $611,000 against the cap. Campbell received numerous first-round grades and will certainly help DC Joe Cullen lean on more man-to-man coverage but is admittedly a tricky fit with C.J. Henderson and Shaquill Griffin in nickel packages since he played only 68 career snaps from the slot. Little is merely a project OT who hasn’t played since Stanford’s 2019 regular season opener and shouldn’t be depended on in his rookie year. Tufele (6’2/305) opted out in 2020 after his family was plagued with COVID-19 but never dealt with injury issues and showed great strength (30 bench reps) and speed (4.98 40) at his pro day as a potential two-down gap-shooter from Week 1. Same outlook for Smith, who ranked top-10 nationally in quarterback pressures in both 2019 (56) and 2020 (47 in nine games). The Jaguars still lack a(ny) receiving tight end but upgraded both its secondary and d-line in Urban Meyer’s first crack at the NFL Draft.

Grade: B

 

Kansas City Chiefs

 

2 (58) - LB Nick Bolton, Missouri

2 (63) - C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

4 (144) - Edge Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State

5 (162) - TE Noah Gray, Duke

5 (181) - WR Cornell Powell, Clemson

6 (226) - G Trey Smith, Tennessee

 

Overview: Brett Veach made it a point to overhaul Kansas City’s o-line the moment Super Bowl LV came to an end, outbidding the market for iOL Joe Thuney (five-year, $80 million contract) and persuading OG Kyle Long to suit up for his age-33 season. That approach carried into draft week, returning stalwart OT Orlando Brown for the No. 31 overall pick (and a third- and fourth-rounder) and stopping C Creed Humphrey’s avalanche at the end of the second. Humphrey himself was regarded as either the first- or second-ranked center in this class — he didn’t allow a sack in his 37 career starts with the Sooners — and allows Thuney to stay at left guard where he was previously named an All-Pro. Nick Bolton (5’11/237) offers a high floor and is a fair pairing with Willie Gay Jr. but there are legitimate Ins about his size and coverage skills translating against NFL tight ends. Joshua Kaindoh (6’6/260) remains a development pass-rusher who failed to stack counting stats at Florida State but was recruited behind only Washington EDGE Chase Young and No. 18 overall pick Jaelan Phillips in 2017. Cornell Powell didn’t emerge until he was a fifth-year senior and will be 24 years old (with limited speed) throughout his rookie year. Trey Smith slid down the board due to blood-clot issues. As long as continuity in the trenches isn’t a hang up, though, the Chiefs drastically improved that unit while returning at least three potential starters on days 2-3.

Grade: B+

 

Las Vegas Raiders

 

1 (17) - T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

2 (43) - S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

3 (79) - EDGE Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo

3 (80) - S Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech

4 (143) - S Tyree Gillespie, Missouri

5 (167) - CB Nate Hobbs, Illinois

7 (130) - C Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh

 

Overview: There’s no need to sugarcoat this: Las Vegas hired a draftnik as general manager and yet somehow can’t comprehend the draft. Whether it’s Jon Gruden having too much power behind the scenes or Mike Mayock losing his touch through osmosis, the Raiders have consistently overdrafted and incorrectly valued prospects all the while keeping stagnant and behind in their team-building philosophy. The organization ousted Pro Football Focus' No. 8 C, No. 52 G, and No. 53 LT during the pre-draft process only to reach for Leatherwood, a terrific second-round option, with the No. 17 overall pick. Moehrig was far and away the best available player at No. 43 but would become one of three safeties the team drafted with its first five selections. Koonce (No. 79) was nearly ranked outside the top 200 of Arif Hasan’s Consensus Big Board. Bill Parcells, who would never mince words, had a saying: “To stay the same is to regress.” And nearly four years into Gruden’s 10-year, $100 million agreement, the Raiders have stayed the same each and every season.

Grade: F

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

 

Los Angeles Chargers

 

1 (13) - T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

2 (47) - CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

3 (77) - WR Josh Palmer, Tennessee

3 (97) - TE Tre’ McKitty, Georgia

4 (118) - EDGE Chris Rumph II, Duke

5 (159) - T Brenden Jaimes, Nebraska

6 - (185) - LB Nick Niemann, Iowa

6 (198) - RB Larry Rountree III, Missouri

7 (241) - CB Mark Webb, Georgia

 

Overview: Los Angeles’ priority has been very clear this offseason: protect Justin Herbert at all costs. And Slater (6’4/304), who was dominant at both right (2017-18) and left tackle (2019) throughout his collegiate career, will do just that, allowing the team to bring OT Trey Pipkins off the bench and fortify Herbert’s blindside opposite RT Bryan Bulaga. Pro Football Focus charted Samuel Jr. with three picks and five pass breakups on only 32 targets defensed last year, qualifying him as more than capable (and a steal at No. 47) to start alongside Chris Harris, Michael Davis, Derwin James and Nasir Adderley in coach Brandon Staley’s staple man-to-man coverages. Palmer (6'1/210) went overlooked for his poor production from Tennessee’s gaggle of quarterbacks but has the ideal frame and speed (4.51 40) to ‘Moss’ NFL cornerbacks a la Mike Williams in 11 personnel from Week 1. McKitty isn’t a threat to Jared Cook/Donald Parham so much as he is a lantern to guide Austin Ekeler through lanes as the former failed to eclipse 70 receiving yards across 42 collegiate games but stood out as a pro-ready blocker in Georgia’s run scheme. Rumph (6’3/244) totaled 92 pressures on just 440 pass-rushing snaps the past two years. Chargers to win the AFC Championship (+1600) stands out following a successful weekend.

Grade: A+

 

Miami Dolphins

 

1 (6) - WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

1 (18) - EDGE Jaelen Phillips, Miami (FL.)

2 (36) - S Jevon Holland, Oregon

2 (42) - OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame

3 (81) - TE Hunter Long, Boston College

7 (231) - OT Larnel Coleman, Massachusetts

7 (244) - RB Gerrid Doaks, Cincinnati

 

Overview: It’s been both fun and impressive to watch GM Chris Grier maneuver Miami’s blitzkrieg tank-and-rebuild from afar. While most pundits will debate whether Tua Tagovailoa is truly a franchise cornerstone, the front office wasted no time in doubling-down on its initial assessment and securing this class’ most explosive slot receiver (and Tua’s college teammate), a potential starting tackle in the second round (Eichenberg), and Long (6’5/254), who led all FBS tight ends in targets (88) and receptions (57) last year. The latter also offers competent run-blocking skills compared to that of Mike Gesicki. Phillips wowed with 42 pressures, eight sacks, and 45 tackles across 10 games in 2020 and would have landed inside the top-10 were it not for his lengthy history of concussions. It's an impressive haul that should only drive the Dolphins further as AFC East contenders.

Grade: A

 

New England Patriots

 

1 (15) - QB Mac Jones, Alabama

2 (38) - DI Christian Barmore, Alabama

3 (96) - EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma

4 (120) - RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

5 (177) - LB Cameron McGrone, Michigan

6 (188) - CB Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri

6 (197) - OT William Sherman, Colorado

7 (242) - WR Tre Nixon, UCF

 

Overview: Patriots hadn’t traded up beyond the No. 13 pick in 20 years under Bill Belichick’s tutelage as head coach, so to think it would actually make a substantial move in this year’s draft was reserved for click-bait pieces. New England instead wisely stayed put at No. 15, continuing its friendship and pipeline with Nick Saban in adding Jones behind Cam Newton. Stopping Barmore’s (6’4/310) slide to start day two should be lauded. Bypassing multiple receivers only to eventually settle on Nixon (6’1/187) was a surprising move. At the end of the day, this draft will boil down to whether or not the Patriots landed its quarterback of the future. For better or worse, the front office didn’t have to sell the farm to commit to him.

Grade: B+

 

New York Jets

 

1 (2) - QB Zach Wilson, BYU

1 (14) - iOL Alijah Vera- Tucker, USC

2 (34) - WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

4 (107) - RB Michael Carter, North Carolina

5 (146) - S Jamien Sherwood, Auburn

5 (154) - CB Michael Carter II, Duke

5 (175) - CB Jason Pinnock, Pittsburgh

6 (186) - S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State

6 (200) - CB Brandin Echols, Kentucky

6 (207) - DI Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas

 

Overview: Projecting rookie signal-callers to succeed/fail is a fool’s errand that front offices, scouts, and analysts alike whiff often. Maximizing said rookie deals should be applauded, though, and Joe Douglas got it right in trading up for Vera-Tucker, this class’ No. 1 guard, to create a game-changing left side of the offensive line along with LT Mekhi Becton. Moore (5’9/178) adds another gear — elite 4.35 forty, flat 4.0-second shuttle, and 91st percentile three-cone — from the slot over Jamison Crowder, who will likely be cut to save $10.375 million against the cap. Carter (5’8/201) offers elusiveness and soft hands (82 career receptions) to potentially carve a role ahead of Tevin Coleman in OC Mike LaFleur’s deceptive outside-zone offense. Darts on Carter II, Pinnock, and Echols were necessary. Again, the jury’s out on Wilson since he played against negligent competition at the collegiate level and had five-lane highways to peer through behind Panthers third-round LT Brady Christensen, Titans UDFA RG Chandon Herring, and new Jets teammate Tristen Hoge. But this blueprint was a terrific start to a new era.

Grade: A

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

1 (24) - RB Najee Harris, Alabama

2 (55) - TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State

3 (87) - C Kendrick Green, Illinois

4 (128) - OT Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M

4 (140) - LB Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M

5 (156) - DI Isaiahh Loudermilk, Wisconsin

6 (216) - EDGE Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)

7 (245) - S Tre Norwood, Oklahoma

7 (254) - P Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech

 

Overview: Pittsburgh’s front office blindly ignored its o-line on Thursday, opting to “fix” its running game with the first back off the board instead. While Harris (6’2/230) is a tremendous player and the only three-down archetype in his class, the selection can’t possibly be regarded as anything more than a reach. Green at least projects to help create lanes for him at center from day one. Freiermuth (6’5/258), who stems from Penn State’s long list of All-World athletes, was an unnecessary luxury with Eric Ebron under contract for one more year. Loudermilk arguably would have been available once the draft ended. Steelers will still enter the regular season without CBs Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson while Joe Haden, 32, plays out the final year of his deal; this draft didn’t improve that situation long-term in the slightest.

Grade: C-

 

Tennessee Titans

 

1 (22) - CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

2 (53) - OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State

3 (92) - LB monty rice, Georgia

3 (100) - SCB Elijah Molden, Washington

4 (109) - WR Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville

4 (135) - EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh

6 (205) - WR Racey McMath, LSU

6 (215) - S Brady Breeze, Oregon

 

Overview: Titans are no strangers to taking on injured players, and Farley arguably would have been the third corner drafted had he not had two back surgeries the past two seasons. The 22-year-old (along with third-rounder Molden) fills a pressing need after Tennessee moved on from Adoree' Jackson, Malcolm Butler, and Desmond King this offseason. Radunz (6’6/301) bounced back from a torn ACL in 2017 to permit a mere 24 pressures on 715 career pass-blocking snaps and is ideally the fit that last year’s first-round OT Isaiah Wilson should have been. Rice (6’0/238) lost his starting spot with the Bulldogs to Nakobe Dean but has the athleticism (83rd percentile) to help exclusively as a downhill crasher. Fitzpatrick and McMath are rotational players among a crop of them behind A.J. Brown. If Farley’s injuries linger, I question if this class offers any year-one improvement on what the Titans were prepared to roll out following free agency.

Grade: C-