2021 NFL Draft Grades For Every Team

After months of speculation, the 2021 NFL Draft is officially in the books. Every team had the chance to grab players from the next generation of potential pro football legends, but some decisions will end up yielding much better results than others, as is always the case in the draft.

We’ve looked at what every team did during the draft, with a particular focus on their moves in the first three rounds, and given each franchise a grade. So, how did your team perform on the first major test of the 2021-22 NFL season?

Arizona Cardinals

Draft Grade: C

Many of the elite prospects in the 2021 class were off the board by the time Arizona’s first pick came at No. 16 but they landed a potential stud with Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins. Where things got weird was in the second round, when the team grabbed a 5-foot-7-inch wide receiver in Purdue’s Rondale Moore. Given that the Cardinals will field one of the deepest offenses in the NFL this season, with three potential Hall of Famers at wide receiver alone, it felt like a wasted pick, especially since they didn’t get another selection until the fourth round.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Atlanta Falcons

Draft Grade: B+

We were thrilled to see that the Falcons didn’t do what some pundits were predicting they’d do in this draft, which was seek out Matt Ryan’s replacement. The former MVP has been as prolific as ever in recent years and the team sent him an emphatic vote of confidence by staying away from quarterbacks and instead bolstering his weaponry and protection in the first three rounds. The selection of Florida’s superhuman tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall — the highest anyone at that position has ever been drafted — should have fans salivating at the thought of him, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley lining up on every snap.

Atlanta’s defense was a weak spot last season and they addressed that by taking three-time All-AAC safety Richie Grant in round two, as well as four other defensive players in the later rounds.

AP Photo/John Raoux

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Grade: A

After trading away offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City before the draft, the Ravens found themselves with two picks late in the first round. The franchise, which is renowned for its prowess at evaluating prospects, used those picks to address its two biggest needs on night one. We expected Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman to be taken before Baltimore’s first choice at No. 27 but the team stole one of the nation’s best route runners when he fell to them.

Snagging Penn State defensive end Odafe Oweh at No. 31 also looks like a brilliant choice, as Pro Football Focus named him the second-best edge rusher in the draft class. Throwing 6-foot-6 Ben Cleveland onto the offensive line in the third round showed that the team knows what it has in quarterback Lamar Jackson and it isn’t trying to waste that potential.

AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King

Buffalo Bills

Draft Grade: B+

The Bills didn’t have any desperate needs coming into the draft but the team made some bets that could bolster their place among the AFC elites for another few seasons. In rounds one and two, Buffalo went all-in on the pass rush, snagging ACC standouts Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season at Miami, which dinged his draft stock, but coming out of 2019, he was looked at as arguably the best defensive end in the nation. Grabbing back-to-back offensive tackles in rounds three and five showed the Bills knew which positions they wanted and were willing to hedge their bets to land the right player at both spots.

AP Photo/Steve Luciano

Carolina Panthers

Draft Grade: B-

Carolina added a remarkable 11 players in the draft, including four in the first three rounds. The team spread those picks out over a wide range of positions, using a scattershot strategy to fix numerous issues. The trade for Sam Darnold in the offseason had an immense impact on Carolina’s draft, as they were in a position to take Justin Fields at No. 8 but decided to address their lackluster defense by taking South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. Their next four picks went to the offense, with LSU’s 6-foot-2 wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. giving Darnold an attractive option.

AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

Chicago Bears

Draft Grade: A-

Everyone loves when a team trades up during the draft and the Bears did that twice in the first two rounds. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was a top-five prospect whose draft stock fell for reasons that are unclear to us, allowing Chicago to give away next year’s first-round selection to the Giants to grab him at No. 11. Fields has the kind of skills to be a franchise quarterback, which is exactly what this team has been searching for. Their further additions to the offense with their following four picks show Chicago knows exactly why the 2020-21 season was such a bust for them.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Grade: B

We were in the camp of thinking the Bengals taking offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 5 was a no-brainer but the team’s decision to take star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase made perfect sense, too. Many people thought Chase was the best receiver in the class this year and the fact that he’ll be paired up with his former LSU teammate, Joe Burrow, in Cincinnati is thrilling for anyone who saw them light up the turf together in 2019. However, the fact that they then traded down in the second round before ultimately addressing that offensive line issue, missing out on Teven Jenkins and Liam Eichenberg in the process, was admittedly puzzling.

AP Photo/Steve Luciano

Cleveland Browns

Draft Grade: A+

It had been more than a decade since the Browns made their first pick after the No. 20 spot in a draft but the team handled that placement with real smarts. The team snagged two defensive players that were good enough to be first-rounders across rounds one and two, taking Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II and Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The latter was the 2020 Butkus Award winner and should be a day-one starter, which made him a steal for a franchise that’s still trying to fill the hole left by Joe Schobert after the 2019 season.

If that wasn’t enough for you, the team’s selection of Auburn wide receiver and track star Anthony Schwartz late in the third round could end up being another case of grand larceny.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Dallas Cowboys

Draft Grade: B

Of the 11 players the Cowboys picked during this draft, eight of them play defense, including the team’s first six selections. It makes sense when you consider that the team’s offense will be loaded with talent once again. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, whom Dallas took at No. 12 overall, represents a major gamble but if he lives up to the on-field potential he showed in 2019, before sitting out the 2020 slate, he could be a star for a long time. Their second-round pick, Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph, led the SEC in interceptions last season, which was a stat category the Cowboys sorely lacked in 2020-21.

AP Photo/Barry Reeger

Denver Broncos

Draft Grade: D

If there was one position the Broncos sorely needed coming into the draft, it was a franchise quarterback. They had the chance to grab Justin Fields or Mac Jones at No. 9 but passed on them to add another cornerback to what many would say is already a loaded secondary. Alabama’s Patrick Surtain is unquestionably a stud but he was one that Denver didn’t necessarily need. Trading up to take running back Javonte Williams in round two, a talented player but a notoriously low-payoff position, was another head-scratcher for a team that currently has no identity.

AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

Detroit Lions

Draft Grade: C

While swapping Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff in a blockbuster offseason trade can be viewed as a lateral move at best, the Lions gave their new quarterback a huge piece of armor in drafting Oregon’s Penei Sewell in round one. Sewell was viewed as unquestionably the best offensive lineman in a rich class of them and Detroit got him as a steal at No. 7. We expected the team to bulk up its receiving corps in this draft but they didn’t take a receiver until the fourth round, focusing on defense in rounds two and three. Detroit really beefed up its o- and d-lines in this draft but this doesn’t feel like a class that will get them out of the NFC North cellar.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Green Bay Packers

Draft Grade: B

Amid reports of Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay, the Packers didn’t panic and make any wild moves during the draft. We would’ve liked to see them take Alabama’s Landon Dickerson at center in the first round since Corey Linsley was their biggest loss this offseason, but the patience they showed in getting Ohio State’s Josh Myers in round two was admirable. This draft class was loaded with good cornerbacks and the Packers selected two, with first-rounder Eric Stokes being the headliner. He was first-team All-SEC in 2020 and the crop at that position was rapidly thinning out when Green Bay picked at No. 29, which explains the move.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Houston Texans

Draft Grade: D+

This draft was destined to be a meager one for Houston, as they were without a selection in the first two rounds. It was unfortunate because this is a franchise whose identity is way up in the air and whose future is uncertain at this point. Ultimately, the Texans made a bet on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills with their first pick at No. 67. The book on Mills is short and somewhat uninspiring but he was the last notable QB prospect on the board and the brass likely felt they couldn’t pass on him. As for the rest of the picks, third-rounder Nico Collins could be a steal at wide receiver but none of the team’s six picks jump off the page.

AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn

Indianapolis Colts

Draft Grade: C

Pro Football Focus named Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye the best edge rusher in the 2021 draft class and the Colts were able to grab him at No. 21 without making a move. The team then doubled down on pass rushing and took Vanderbilt’s Dayo Obeyingo in round two, which was a bit more puzzling given the strength of their defense overall and the fact that he recently tore his Achilles tendon.

Indy’s offense will be the major liability this season and they didn’t do much to bolster it in this draft, with the sixth-round pick of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger representing solid value but likely not giving them their long-awaited replacement for Andrew Luck.

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Jacksonville Jaguars

Draft Grade: B

It’s hard to believe that we are only three years removed from the Jaguars barely losing in the AFC Championship Game but the team is in a full rebuilding mode at this point. They led off the 2021 draft and took Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall, which was exactly the right choice. Having locked up the draft’s top prospect, the Jags made a much riskier choice with the No. 25 selection by grabbing Lawrence’s college teammate, running back Travis Etienne.

Etienne was the best rusher in the crop but that position is notoriously low-reward in the first round and there were so many outstanding players left on the board. Instead of using that second pick on a day-one starter at cornerback or offensive tackle, they used later picks to address those positions and had to settle for guys that had injury issues in college.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Kansas City Chiefs

Draft Grade: A

The Chiefs jettisoned their first-round pick to get Orlando Brown from the Ravens, giving their 2021 crop less star power. But when you’ve already got arguably the most talented roster in the game, the draft isn’t quite as important. Still, Kansas City got not one but two guys that had first-round talent in the second round. Snagging Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton at No. 58 and Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey at No. 63 was the kind of one-two combination that general managers dream of.

Bolton averaged about 100 tackles per season over the past two years and Humphrey was arguably the best center in the entire draft class, anchoring a line that helped produce some of the most prolific offenses in college football in recent years.

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Las Vegas Raiders

Draft Grade: C

A weak defense was what kept the Raiders from being a playoff team last season, so we were surprised to not see them address that in the first round. Instead, they opted to shore up an offensive line that already ranked in the top 10 for sacks allowed. Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood got their selection at No. 17, which was surprising since he hadn’t been talked about much as a first-round talent. Pass rusher Kwity Paye and o-line giant Christian Darrisaw were both still available and seemed like better calls but Las Vegas made a bet.

We’ll give general manager Mike Mayock big credit for taking TCU safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round but it was odd to grab two more safeties in the next three picks. All in all, this felt like an aimless showing from the Raiders.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Los Angeles Chargers

Draft Grade: B+

After the incredible rookie season Justin Herbert had under center for the Chargers, the team went all-in on making his life easier during this draft. At No. 13, they snagged a player with top-10 talent in Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater. He will make an immediate difference on a line that was rated in the bottom half of the league last season by Pro Football Focus. Taking first-team All-ACC cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. in round two was another great choice and they followed that with a pair of pass-catching options out of the SEC for Herbert to add to his rotation.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Los Angeles Rams

Draft Grade: C

The Rams made nine picks in the draft but not a single one screams day-one playmaker. To be fair, they were without a first-round selection because of their trade for Jalen Ramsey in 2019, which makes it tough to get blockbuster prospects, but when they did hit the podium at No. 57, their selection of Louisville wide receiver Tutu Atwell was puzzling. This is a guy who is 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds soaking wet who was taken strictly for his all-out speed.

With Terrace Marshall still waiting to be taken at that point, this will be a selection Rams fans are watching closely for the next couple of years. The addition of South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones with a late third-round choice could end up being a steal but this was a weak crop overall.

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Miami Dolphins

Draft Grade: A+

There’s a lot to like from what the Dolphins put together in this draft class. While there are still some people doubting Tua Tagovailoa’s potential as the long-awaited heir to Dan Marino, the front office is putting a stacked roster together around the talented young quarterback. In the first round, Miami added two legitimate top-tier prospects in Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips. The connection Tagovailoa and Waddle had when both were playing at Alabama was explosive and their reunion should make both immediately more comfortable at this level.

Their second-round pick, safety Jevon Holland, led Oregon in interceptions two seasons ago before sitting out last year and Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg, whom the Dolphins took later in round two, was a consensus All-American who didn’t miss a start the last couple of seasons.

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Minnesota Vikings

Draft Grade: A

The Vikings played the long game by trading back in the first round and making off with 11 total players from the draft. Despite that move backward, the team landed a monster offensive tackle in Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, who comes in at 6-foot-5 and more than 320 pounds. The team stunned many by grabbing Oklahoma quarterback Kellen Mond in the second round, who has a cannon arm and takes great care of the ball. This could light a much-needed fire under veteran starter Kirk Cousins this year.

In round three, Minnesota continued its robbery spree by getting two-time first-team All-ACC linebacker Chazz Surratt and unanimous All-American guard Wyatt Davis, both of whom could start immediately.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

New England Patriots

Draft Grade: A

The Patriots got a lot of value for their position in the draft this year. Selecting Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones in the middle of the first round answered their biggest question going forward. Jones, who led the nation in passing and passer rating last year, will get time to sit behind returning veteran Cam Newton while he’s groomed as the franchise’s next starter. In round two, they landed Jones’ Crimson Tide teammate, defensive tackle Christian Barmore, whose brilliant performance in the national championship game made him a potential first-round selection.

The fourth-round selection of up-and-down Oklahoma rusher Rhamondre Stevenson could end up being one of those no-name steals that the Patriots built their dynasty on.

AP Photo/Steve Luciano

New Orleans Saints

Draft Grade: C+

The Saints needed to shore up their pass rush in this draft and they did it in the first round, albeit with a surprising pick. Top-tier edge-rushing prospects like Gregory Rousseau and Odafe Oweh were still waiting around at No. 28 but New Orleans opted for Houston’s Payton Turner, who has great size but spent some of last season banged up. The second-round selection of Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner also felt a bit like a reach but he led the Buckeyes in tackles last season and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, meaning he should do great in the film room. Still, the Saints feel like a franchise in flux right now and this draft class doesn’t jump off the page.

AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

New York Giants

Draft Grade: B

The Giants stunned many by trading backward in the first round but they still had a look at some great prospects at No. 20 overall. We were shocked they didn’t address their awful pass rush by taking Kwity Paye, but general manager Dave Gettleman opted to reach for Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who doesn’t seem like a No.1 wideout at this point. The Giants did throw in a pair of pass rushers in the second and fourth rounds, with Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari potentially being a steal at No. 50. Their selection of UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson in the third round represented another pick that may result in a starter but doesn’t feel that exciting just yet.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

New York Jets

Draft Grade: A+

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson became the hottest riser of this draft class during his remarkable final season in college and proved to be too tempting for the Jets to pass on. As the team once again saddles a rookie quarterback with its hopes of future greatness, Wilson reportedly has all the weapons that could take them there. The real coups of the Jets draft class came in the next two picks, however, as Gang Green snagged two more elite offensive prospects.

USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker was a steal at No. 14 overall and ditto for Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. Moore somehow fell to the second round despite leading college football in receiving yards and catches per game last season.

AP Photo/Steve Luciano

Philadelphia Eagles

Draft Grade: A

Despite moving down a few spots after a pair of trades, the Eagles made a killer grab by taking Heisman winner DeVonta Smith at No. 10. The Alabama star has immediate Pro Bowl potential and his pairing with former college teammate Jalen Hurts makes the Eagles offense look the most exciting it’s been since the McNabb-to-Owens days. Landing fellow Crimson Tide standout center Landon Dickerson after he fell to round two following a late-season injury was another nice touch.

The majority of Philadelphia’s other picks were defensive additions but the fifth-round gamble on Memphis rusher Kenneth Gainwell, who had been one of the most exciting running backs in the nation, has serious upside.

AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Grade: B

The Steelers could’ve been primed to select the heir to Ben Roethlisberger in this draft but they went a different direction, which didn’t necessarily surprise us. We predicted the team would gamble on a running back in the first round, but we didn’t think Najee Harris would still be available at No. 24. He’s got the makings of the kind of tough runner Steelers fans worship but the risk in taking a rusher that high has been well documented. The selection of Penn State Pat Freirmuth in round two was potentially a great move, as his playstyle makes him destined to fit into that culture and will give the aging Roethlisberger a solid target in short-field situations.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

San Francisco 49ers

Draft Grade: B

The word “upside” comes up a lot in analyses of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, which makes San Francisco’s selection of him at No. 3 the biggest bet of the 2021 draft. His team only played a single game in 2020 but his 2019 season was the stuff of legend, as he threw nearly 300 passes without a single interception — albeit against low-tier competition. The team followed that bombshell pick with Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks and Ohio State rusher Trey Sermon, showing they are trying to build the long-term future of their offense right now. This is one of those draft crops that could take a while to reveal its full value.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Seattle Seahawks

Draft Grade: C

Seattle only got three picks in this year’s draft and they came in rounds two, four and six, making this a meager haul to analyze. The biggest addition came in wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge out of Western Michigan, who was both the best receiver and kick returner in the MAC last season. In the fourth round, they got a second-team All-Big 12 selection in Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown, who is a bit on the seasoned side at 24 years old. In the end, the Seahawks are already a loaded team that didn’t need this draft class to turn them into championship contenders.

AP Photo/Al Goldis

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft Grade: C

After their surprise win at the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers’ front office did a great job of re-signing virtually everyone from that championship team in trying to make another deep run. That made their draft crop less imperative and they seemed to treat it that way. No big moves or blockbuster picks came from Tampa Bay’s war room, with Washington outside linebacker Joe Tryon, who opted out of the 2020 season, their first-round selection. The team’s second-round selection of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask was bit more head-turning but he’ll obviously be relegated to backup duties at least until the human aging process finally catches up with Tom Brady.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Tennessee Titans

Draft Grade: A-

After his offseason back surgery, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley was destined to be a gamble in this draft and it was Tennessee that put their money down. There’s a lot to love about the pick because this is already a great football team, which should ease the pressure on him a bit. He was a brilliant cover corner at his peak and was ranked as the second-best cornerback in the nation on ESPN’s pre-draft board in the winter. The Titans brass hedged that bet by taking two-time first-team All-Pac 12 cornerback Elijah Molden out of Washington at No. 100, which was a steal. Selecting North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz, who helped make Trey Lance the elite passer he was there, was another solid choice in round two.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Washington Football Team

Draft Grade: B

We didn’t expect Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis to be a first-rounder but his performance in college is tough to argue with. He was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2020 after leading the Wildcats in tackles with more than 100. We love the selection of Texas offensive lineman Samuel Cosmi in round two, as he helped sustain one of the most prolific offenses in the nation last season, using his 6-foot-7-inch, 300-pound frame to protect Sam Ehlinger. Grabbing him at No. 51 was a steal and will give his quarterback some serious armor — whomever that may be.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak