Winners and losers from the 2021 NFL Draft

The+Chicago+Bears+made+themselves+winners+in+the+2021+NFL+Draft+when+they+traded+up+to+select+Ohio+State+quarterback+Justin+Fields+with+the+11th+pick+of+the+first+round.

The Chicago Bears made themselves winners in the 2021 NFL Draft when they traded up to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th pick of the first round.

With the NFL Draft is in the books, let’s see how much each team improved heading into next season by assessing the biggest winners and losers:

WINNERS

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace – The Chicago Bears’ head coach and general manager can rest easy knowing that their jobs are safer now than they were before the draft. They made a splash in round one, trading up to select Ohio State’s highly regarded quarterback Justin Fields. It’s unlikely he’ll start in week one, but he definitely gives Chicago’s football team, who was 26th in total offense last season, a very bright future. In rounds two and three, they drafted protection for their new franchise QB in offensive tackles Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State and Larry Borom out of Missouri. Jenkins, who the Bears selected after trading up in round two, was projected as a first-round pick in many analysts’ mock drafts, and should slot in at right tackle for whoever plays QB throughout this season for the Bears, whether it’s Fields or veteran free-agent acquisition Andy Dalton. Despite not addressing their need on the interior of the offensive line, the Chicago Bears were easily one of the biggest winners of the 2021 draft.

Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow – It’s very true that the three quarterbacks listed here don’t have much in common at first glance. However, there’s something very important that all three of these guys have that was made evident in this draft: The respect and support of their respective front offices. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta addressed Lamar Jackson’s lack of receiving weapons by drafting Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman in round one and then Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace in round four. DeCosta also selected Ben Cleveland, an interior offensive lineman out of Georgia, in round three for extra protection for Jackson. 

The Chargers, by some miracle, landed Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater at pick 13 overall, then proceeded to use four out of their next eight picks on offensive players. One of those players was former Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who the Chargers hope can make up for the loss of Hunter Henry sometime in the future. 

Finally, this take may come with some hate, but let’s take a look at the facts. The Bengals needed protection for Joe Burrow – there’s no doubt about it – but people tend to forget that there are seven rounds in the NFL draft. Just because they didn’t use their first-round pick on an offensive lineman, doesn’t mean they won’t later in the draft, which is exactly what the Bengals did. They started with Burrow’s former teammate: LSU wide receiver JaMarr Chase, the player Burrow was likely vouching for, and then used three of their last nine picks on offensive lineman, including one in the second round: Clemson OT Jackson Carman. So, the Bengals didn’t get the best lineman in the draft, but the front office, and Burrow especially, got everyone they wanted, and that’s all it takes to keep your starting QB happy (someone needs to get that message to Green Bay STAT). 

Trey Lance – Finally, the Trey Lance-or-Mac Jones question has been answered! The 49ers selected the North Dakota State prospect, Lance, with the third overall pick which they paid a hefty price to acquire from the Miami Dolphins. This makes Lance a HUGE winner as he is going into possibly the best situation for a rookie quarterback since Patrick Mahomes back in 2017. 

Let’s not forget this is a 49ers team that was playing in the Super Bowl just two years ago. They’re a well-coached team under Kyle Shanahan, they sport a strong offensive line, and a unique but good pass-catching duo of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Not to mention arguably the league’s best tight end, George Kittle and a defense headlined by stars like Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. 

Lance will likely sit behind current starter Jimmy Garoppolo for his rookie season, similar to Patrick Mahomes, who sat behind Alex Smith in his rookie season. Lance’s strengths are also similar to that of Mahomes: They have similar sizes, Lance is just two inches taller, and both have great arm strength, footwork, and a calm pocket presence. The one thing that makes Lance standout in this draft class, however, is his ability to run the football, which is unlike many of the other QBs in this class. He prioritizes ball security, while also playing physical, quick, and agile. He’s not afraid to truck a defender, but he’s also not reckless with the ball in his hands, and that kind of rushing upside makes any QB dangerous in today’s era of the game. 

Kyle Shanahan can definitely have a lot of fun with the offense once Lance enters the mix, and it’ll be exciting to see his creativity and offensive genius put to work with this new-school arsenal. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings

LOSERS

Aaron Rodgers – It is unbelievable that Aaron Rodgers is in the “Losers” column of this article, but the Packers really messed up the draft AGAIN. Last year, they TRADED UP to draft Aaron Rodgers’ replacement, QB Jordan Love, in the first round without communicating with Rodgers first. This year, hours before the draft started, it was officially announced that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay. Surely, a major headline like that would motivate the Packers front office to pick someone in the first round that will make their MVP QB happy. WRONG! They went with Georgia CB Eric Stokes instead. To add insult to injury, both Elijah Moore AND Terrace Marshall Jr. were still on the board. Two different wide receivers that many experts mocked to be picked in the first round made it out of the first round. Stokes is someone many experts DID NOT mock to be picked in the first round. In Rodgers’ 16 years as starting quarterback at Green Bay, the  Packers have never picked a wide receiver in the first round of any draft. Rodgers has every right to be furious.

Kirk Cousins – Moving on to fellow NFC North QB Kirk Cousins, his job security took a huge blow after the Vikings selected Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond in the third round. Cousins got off to a bad start last year, but had a solid second half of the year to get his team back near .500, finishing at 7-9 on the season. The problem with Cousins is that he’s never proven to be anything more than mediocre in terms of winning. In his six seasons as an NFL starter, he’s only made the playoffs twice, but he’s never lost more than nine games in a season. He’s also never made it past the divisional round in the playoffs. So, even though Kirk Cousins is not a BAD quarterback going into his age 33 season, it’s clear he’s not the Vikings QB of the future. It also stands to reason that if Cousins doesn’t play well early in the season like last year, Mond may take over as the starter in his rookie season and get some quality NFL experience on a Vikings team that really is heading in no particular direction. 

Las Vegas Raiders – Mike Mayock, Jon Gruden, and company have once again stuck to their unconventional wisdom and made a first-round selection most NFL enthusiasts viewed as a “reach,” or player who was selected higher than they should’ve been. This is not the first time the Raiders have “reached” in the draft either. In 2018, they drafted defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell fourth overall and he’s had just 6.5 sacks in two seasons. Last year, they spent a first-round pick on Ohio State CB Damon Arnette, who played in just seven games last season. This year, the “off-the-wall” pick was Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood, who was picked while higher-ranked offensive tackles, such as Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins, were still on the board. They went on to select TCU Safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round, which was a steal and would’ve been regarded as one of the best picks in the draft had they not picked two–yes, TWO more safeties in the later rounds. Mayock and Gruden’s use of unconventional wisdom in draft seasons has yet to come to fruition for them, and the poor city of Las Vegas is now dealing with their exciting new football team heading in the wrong direction. The “R” word is not one to be used lightly, but a rebuild is starting to appear more and more likely in the future for these Raiders.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguar

Print Friendly, PDF & Email