Listen, we all know that whatever I say here is simply going to fuel screenshots and @OldTakesExposed tags, in both good ways and bad.
We obviously don’t know anything about how the 2021 NFL draft class is going to turn out for each of the 32 teams, and we won’t for a few years.
But, we’re here to have fun. So that’s what we’re gonna do.
Based on my own player evaluations, and how value met need at every selection, here are my way-too-early grades for every team’s 2021 draft class:
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Zaven Collins felt like a bit of a reach at No. 16 overall, and it gives the Cardinals back-to-back first-round picks spent on defenders with no clear-cut position fit at the next level. Rondale Moore will be fun to watch in this offense, but he was a luxury pick when there were talented prospects at bigger positions of need. Marco Wilson went a couple of rounds too early, but a couple of late-round bargains (Victor Dimukeje, James Wiggins) keeps this grade from the basement.
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Kyle Pitts was the best non-quarterback in this draft, so getting him at No. 4 overall was a steal. Richie Grant over Trevon Moehrig and Jevon Holland was an odd choice, but Jalen Mayfield was a good match of need and value in the third round. Darren Hall came way out of left field, but Drew Dalman could quickly become their starting center. Their best value came in the sixth round with one of the best special-teamers in the entire draft, Avery Williams. Some question marks here, but Pitts carries the day.
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Brandon Stephens was a head-scratcher in the third round, but I love everything else about this group. Rashod Bateman was a steal at No. 27 overall, and exactly the receiver Lamar Jackson needs. Odafe Oweh has as much upside as any edge rusher in this draft, and Ben Cleveland fits their smashmouth style up front. Tylan Wallace was another bargain pick at receiver in the fourth round, and Shaun Wade was well worth a flyer in the fifth-round if he can return to his 2019 self. Daelin Hayes was an underrated stash in the fifth, as well.
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The talent and overall value at the top of this class is undeniable, but the position choices were puzzling. Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. were both great picks on their own, as was Sheldon Brown, but double-dipping at both defensive end and offensive tackle to start the draft left the Bills without starting-caliber prospects at key positions of need. They did their best to play catch-up in the late rounds at wide receiver (Marquez Stevenson) and corner (Rachad Wildgoose Jr.), but didn’t land a tight end at all.
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The Panthers moved all around the board this weekend, and they kept hitting on both value and need just about every time they finally made a pick. Jaycee Horn is the big, physical corner they needed, and Sam Darnold got a ton of help up front (Brady Christensen, Deonte Brown), as well as at the skill positions (Terrace Marshall Jr., Tommy Tremble, Chuba Hubbard, Shi Smith). Daviyon Nixon was a steal in the fifth round, and Keith Taylor Jr. gives them another big corner with length and athleticism. Plenty of quality and quantity with this group.
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This class had a strong chance of earning a strong grade after the first pick, but the Bears made back-to-back bold moves to steal top talent with Justin Fields in the first round and Teven Jenkins in the second. Without a pick in the third or fourth rounds, it was important for them to find value in the sixth and seventh, and they did just that with four straight bargain picks (Khalil Herbert, Dazz Newsome, Thomas Graham Jr., Khyiris Tonga). This all comes back to Fields, though, as the Bears got the steal of the entire first round with this year’s second-best quarterback.
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Taking Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell will be debated for years, but if Jackson Carman pans out at either guard or tackle, the argument will die down. Joseph Ossai was absolute robbery in the third round, while Cam Sample and D’Ante Smith were worthy sleeper picks, even if they were a round earlier than expected. Tyler Shelvin is a mountain of a man who could be a two-down starter, and Trey Hill can absolutely be their starting center sooner than later. Chris Evans is a viable replacement for Gio Bernard, and Wyatt Hubert was a solid final pick. Oh, and they had the guts to draft the kicker they needed.
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There are a couple of classes that look like I hand-picked them myself, and this is one of them. Greg Newsome II is a polished, pro-ready corner, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah should have been long gone by No. 52 overall, and Anthony Schwartz brings a dynamic this offense just doesn’t have with his Olympic speed. James Hudson was great value in the fourth round, kicking off a Day 3 full of bargains. The biggest steal was their last pick, and one of my favorite players in the entire draft, Demetric Felton.
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If you watched this team play at all last season, you know why they spent their first six picks on defense. Trading back and still getting the best defensive player in the draft (Micah Parsons) was a good start, and they got even better value at linebacker in the fourth round with Jabril Cox. Kelvin Joseph was a solid pick at corner, while Nahshon Wright was a late-rounder picked on Day 2. Israel Mukuamu is a massive cover man who should have been long gone in the sixth round, but Josh Ball’s off-field problems should have made him undraftable for every team, instead of being Dallas’ fourth-round pick.
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There were a couple of needs left unaddressed here, but it’s hard to argue with the value at just about every pick here. Passing on Justin Fields might come back to haunt them, but Patrick Surtain II was a bargain as the second corner off the board. Trading up for Javonte Williams gives them a bright future at running back, and Quinn Meinerz is the most underrated offensive lineman in the entire draft. Baron Browning filled a need and was a solid value at the end of Day 2, and a strong Day 3 was highlighted by big steals in Seth Williams and Jamar Johnson.
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When you’re a new regime trying to establish your identity, this is how you do it. Penei Sewell gave them a franchise left tackle and a huge steal at No. 7 overall, the defensive line got disruptive 1-2 punch with Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill, and Ifeatu Melifonwu went a round later than he should have. Speaking of value, landing Amon-Ra St. Brown and Derrick Barnes with back-to-back picks in the fourth round meant Day 3 was already a success, but Jermar Jefferson gave them a nice cherry on top in the seventh. Could have used some safety help, though.
Green Bay Packers
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While the Aaron Rodgers situation stole all the headlines, the Packers quietly put together a solid class here. Eric Stokes has rare physical traits, and Josh Myers gives them a starting-caliber center to replace Corey Linsley. Amari Rodgers could excel in a Randall Cobb role, and the Day 3 picks were all solid values that added quality depth. Their last pick was the best value, landing one of the most underrated running backs in the class with Kylin Hill. Who knows what happens at quarterback, but the Packers got better this weekend on both sides of the ball.
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They didn’t have much to work with, not picking until the third round, but the Texans made the most of it. Davis Mills gives them starter upside at quarterback and insurance for the Deshaun Watson situation, while Nico Collins gives them a big, physical target they need in the passing game. Brevin Jordan was a huge steal in the fifth round, giving them another athletic pass-catcher. Garret Wallow should make an immediate impact on special teams, and Roy Lopez is a massive presence for the defensive front.
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Kwity Paye was a steal at No. 21 overall, and he filled their biggest need on defense, but things went downhill fast after that. The Colts spent their only Day 2 pick on another edge defender in Dayo Odeyingbo, and the rest of their entire class didn’t do a great job of hitting their big needs or giving them great value at other positions. Despite a glaring need at left tackle following Anthony Castonzo’s retirement, they waited until their final pick in the seventh round to address a premium position. Sorry, Carson Wentz.
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It’s hard to screw this up when you start with Trevor Lawrence, and the Jags did a solid job of surrounding him with young talent and hitting most of their big needs in the subsequent rounds. Travis Etienne wasn’t a need pick, but he’ll be fun to watch paired with James Robinson. Walker Little was a risky reach, but they made up for passing on the safeties available at that pick with Andre Cisco in the third. Jay Tufele was a huge steal and addressed a big need in the fourth round, while Jordan Smith was one of this year’s best sleeper edge rushers. Luke Farrell will be a more productive tight end in the NFL than he was at Ohio State, and Jalen Camp is one of the league’s more intriguing seventh-rounders.
Kansas City Chiefs
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When you’ve already got Orlando Brown Jr. as your first-round pick, basically, it’s a big help. Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey were stellar value picks that filled needs on Day 2, while Joshua Kaindoh and Noah Gray were solid depth picks with starter potential. The AFC champs finished things off with a pair of steals on offense, giving Patrick Mahomes an underrated pass-catcher (Cornell Powell) and a starting caliber blocker with guard/tackle versatility (Trey Smith) if he can stay healthy.
Los Angeles Chargers
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After their first two picks, anything else was just gravy. Rashawn Slater was a steal outside the top 10, and gives Justin Herbert the franchise left tackle he needs. Asante Samuel Jr. was another bargain, and filled their biggest need on defense. Josh Palmer and Tre’ McKitty both bring tons of athleticism and potential to the passing game, while Chris Rumph II has tons of upside as a pass rusher. Brenden Jaimes and Larry Rountree II were their best picks on Day 3.
Los Angeles Rams
I just don’t get this one at all. Tutu Atwell is explosive, but might be the lightest player in NFL history, which makes him quite the risky second-rounder (especially when you don’t have a first-rounder). Ernest Jones was a solid value that filled a need, and Jacob Harris is as intriguing as any prospect in this draft, but not much else makes sense. Hopefully, Robert Rochell can play safety.
Las Vegas Raiders
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This was a roller-coaster. Alex Leatherwood was a reach in the first round, but at least he filled a massive need. Trading up to steal Trevon Moehrig was a huge win, but while Divine Deablo and Tyree Gillespie are solid prospects, spending three of your seven total picks on safeties is an odd strategy, to say the least. Malcolm Koonce was a big reach at defensive end when they needed interior help, but Jimmy Morrissey is an underrated center who gave them great value in the seventh.
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Jaylen Waddle is the most explosive pass-catcher in this draft, and Jaelan Phillips could be a bargain if he’s able to stay healthy. Jevon Holland is solid, but taking him over Moehrig was puzzling. Liam Eichenberg is a polished, pro-ready tackle, even though there were higher-upside prospects at that position available. Hunter Long should pair well with Mike Gesicki, but waiting until the seventh round to take a running back made absolutely no sense.
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Trading back and still getting Christian Darrisaw in the first round was a huge win, and loading up on value with four-third round picks made up for not having a second-rounder. Kellen Mond is everything exciting that Kirk Cousins isn’t, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II are perfect fits for this defense with tons of upside and athleticism, and Wyatt Davis is a first-round talent at full health. Day 3 was full of high-upside picks like Janarius Robinson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Jaylen Twyman.
New England Patriots
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Another class with a strong blend of need and value, the Pats went heavy on defense after loading up on offense in free agency. Their patience was rewarded with Mac Jones in the first round, then they pounced up the board for one of this year’s top interior defenders in Christian Barmore. Ronnie Perkins was a steal at the end of the third round, and both Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe are great upside picks for the defense. Rhamondre Stevenson is a fun back, but that felt like a luxury pick after coming out of this draft without a single cornerback.
New Orleans Saints
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Payton Turner was a bit of a reach, but he’s got the upside to make it pay off if they can develop him. Pete Werner was a round too early, but he’s got starter upside at a position of need. Their patience at corner paid off with a third-round steal in Paulson Adebo, but Ian Book should have been a late-round flyer instead of a fourth-rounder. There’s some potential here, but if feels boom-or-bust, without much of a sure thing anywhere.
New York Giants
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Another team that reached in the first round, but made up for it with a second-round steal. Dave Gettleman traded down in both rounds, evening out the value with an explosive pass-catcher (Kadarius Toney) and the most polished edge rusher in the draft (Azeez Ojulari). Aaron Robinson is a ready-made nickel corner, and Elerson Smith was one of the best sleepers in this year’s EDGE class. Rodarius Williams was a sneaky good pick in the sixth, too. Good balance of addressing needs, and getting long-term upside with instant-impact potential.
New York Jets
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After what the Jets did with their first four picks, the rest might not matter. I would have taken Justin Fields over Zach Wilson, but the Jets did great job of building around their new quarterback with their next three picks. Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter were all fantastic picks that could immediately transform this offense with Wilson. The rest of the draft was a bit odd, with five defensive backs in a row, but Hamsah Nasirildeen in the sixth could end up being a huge steal. If the early ones hit, those Day 3 picks won’t be an issue either way, though.
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Jumping the Giants for DeVonta Smith was a smooth move, and I guess the Cowboys knew they’d have to deal with the Heisman winner either way, so they might as well get a third-round pick out of the deal. Landon Dickerson was a risky pick with his injury history, especially with the other centers who were still on the board. Milton Williams was the most underrated interior defender in this draft, and deserving of all the fist-bumps. Kenneth Gainwell was the best of multiple bargain picks on Day 3 that should help their depth on both sides of the ball.
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Najee Harris felt like a foregone conclusion, but I’m still surprised they prioritized running back and tight end over offensive line. Harris is a rare playmaker, though, so if Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. pan out, it should work just fine. Pat Freiermuth is solid if unspectacular, but defense would have made more sense there if they weren’t going offensive line. Quincy Roche in the sixth round was a bargain, and there’s some intrigue with their other Day 3 defenders. Extra points for having the guts to draft a punter, too.
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It’s hard to do much with three picks, but bless their hearts, they tried. D’Wayne Eskridge is explosive, but the Seahawks had way bigger needs on both sides of the ball, and opted for a luxury pick instead. Thankfully, they got a steal with Stone Forsythe in the sixth round to help the offensive line. Tre Brown will have big shoes to fill as a fourth-rounder after the departure of Shaquil Griffin.
San Francisco 49ers
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I still would have taken Justin Fields at No. 3, but the 49ers made the right choice between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. They flooded their need areas at corner, running back and interior offensive line with multiple picks each, but the first one was a bit of a reach (Aaron Banks). Talanoa Hufanga is a sleeper of a Day 3 pick at safety, and there’s plenty to like about the depth and upside they added on both sides of the ball here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Super Bowl champs have no starting spots open, so this draft was all about depth, special teams and the future. Joe Tryon is a high-upside edge rusher with a rare size/length/athleticism combo, and while Kyle Trask felt like a reach, the subsequent run on second-tier quarterbacks says otherwise. Robert Hainsey gives them versatility, toughness and depth along the offensive line, and trading up for Jaelon Darden gives them a dynamic return man who can make splash plays for the offense, too. The rest of Day 3 was all about rebuilding their special teams units with athleticsm, speed and competitiveness (K.J. Britt, Chris Wilcox, Grant Stuard).
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Caleb Farley was a top-10 prospect before he opted out and had back surgery, so he could prove to be a huge steal at No. 22 if he returns to full strength. Dillon Radunz was another bargain in the second round to fill the hole at offensive tackle, but Monty Rice instead of an earlier wide receiver or even a tight end might prove to be a miss. Elijah Molden at the end of the third round was another steal, giving them the ideal nickel corner. Rashad Weaver is a sneaky sleeper pick as an edge rusher.
Washington Football Team
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Jamin Davis is a high-upside defender who fills their biggest need on defense, and they had a pro-ready left tackle fall into their lap in the second round with Samuel Cosmi. Benjamin St-Juste has a promising blend of size, length and athleticism, while Dyami Brown was a big steal for the passing game in the late-third. Day 3 was full of bargain picks (and even a long-snapper named Cheeseman), with Darrick Forrest and Shaka Toney highlighting promising depth for the defense.