NFL Draft Winners and Losers
After every NFL draft, there always seems to be one circulating question: Who were the biggest winners of the draft, and who were the biggest losers? With that being said, here are three teams I believe made great selections and three teams who made some questionable decisions.
While I didn't like the hire of Motor City Dan Campbell because I don't believe he is suited to be an NFL head coach, he, alongside new General Manager Brad Holmes nailed their first draft as head coach and general manager, respectively. In his infamous opening press conference, Campbell said that "we're going to get up, and on the way up, we're going to bite a kneecap off," foreshadowing the physical play that Campbell wants to bring to Detroit. In his first draft, he indeed drafted some players who might bite a kneecap off. Let's start with their first round selection, Penei Sewell. Significantly few people believed that the Bengals would pass at Sewell at five and let him fall into Detroit's lap at 7. Sewell, who received a 95.8 grade in 2019 from Pro Football Focus, has been regarded as one of the best offensive line prospects in the last decade. He has everything you want from your offensive tackle: the size, the athleticism, the hands, and the skill set. Football Morning in America writer Peter King also had this to say about Sewell, "If I could pick one player in this draft who's got the best chance to go to the Hall of Fame, it's Penei Sewell" -- pretty high praise from a legendary writer. Another pick that I loved for the Lions was Amon-Ra St. Brown in the 4th round. St. Brown is a physical wide receiver whose yards-after-catch ability can make football fans fall in love with him. He also has body control that is out of this world. While Detroit hasn't been good in a very long time, the future looks bright after their 2021 draft.
Ok, this is the obvious choice, but I think you win the draft when you get a quarterback who has the potential to be a Hall of Famer. If I could describe new Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence in one word, it would be ‘Perfect.’ Lawrence is perfect in everything he does; he is fast, he is accurate, he has a cannon for an arm; the list can go on and on about how remarkable Lawrence can be. While many people questioned the Travis Etteine pick, I was one of the few people who liked it for two reasons. First, this pick makes Lawrence very happy to be reunited with his college teammate, someone he threw eight touchdowns to at Clemson. Next, while the Jaguars already have a superb young running back in James Robinson, you can never have enough talent at one position. While I am normally against taking a running back in round one, I believe the Jaguars got an extraordinary talent, and this selection will pay off. Watch out for the Jaguars.
Going into the offseason, General Manager Tom Telesco knew he had to prioritize one thing over everything else: getting future-star Quarterback Justin Herbert protection. While Herbert had an outstanding rookie campaign in 2020, the Chargers offensive line was dreadful. In free agency, the Chargers went out and spent big time money on all pro center Corey Linsley; in the draft, Rashawn Slater fell into their laps at pick 13. Slater, who I believe will be an All-Pro player one day, will help the development of budding superstar Justin Herbert. The Chargers also drafted Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round, someone I believe was a first round talent, so getting him in the second round was an absolute steal and can really pay off.
Honorable mentions: Jets, Browns, and Dolphins
Why does it feel like every single year we see the headline, "Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock reach for a player in the first round?" Well, that was the case again, and soon it's going to cost both of them their jobs. In the first round, they selected Alex Leatherwood, an offensive lineman from Alabama. While Leatherwood should be a viable offensive lineman for many years, there is no doubt the Raiders reached with this pick, as Leatherwood had a 60 percent chance of being open at the Raiders' second-round pick, according to ESPN. Overall, it didn’t seem as though Las Vegas really filled their needs. We listened to Mike Mayock give draft advice on the NFL Network for all those years, and he can’t draft? Soon he might be returning as a draft analyst rather than drafting for an NFL team.
The Packers are on this list more because of what happened during the week of the draft with their MVP quarterback. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Aaron Rodgers doesn't want to return to the Green Bay Packers. This was a move that many people saw coming, and it all started in 2020 when the Packers didn't inform Rodgers that they intended to take his heir apparent: Jordan Love. The Packers have also never given Rodgers a legit wide receiver not named Devante Adams in the past few seasons. Now the Packers will be forced to have to turn to Love if Rodgers stays true to his word and does not report to the team.
Don't get me wrong, I think that rookie wide receiver from LSU Ja'marr Chase is a stud, but he wasn't the right pick for the team. The Bengals have finally found their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow after he had a great rookie season before tearing his ACL. Burrow already has the weapons to be a stud; it's the lack of protection that will limit his ability to be great. In football, I am a believer in the philosophy of winning games through the trenches. Every Super Bowl champion has a great offensive and defensive line. Wide receivers are not going to be able to block and catch for Burrow. By not investing in protection for Burrow, I genuinely believe the Bengals will regret this for the next 10-15 years.
Honorable mentions: Saints and Seahawks
With the 2021 NFL Draft now wrapped up we are that much closer to the 2021 season. After an awesome draft full of trades and surprises, I expect the 2021 season to be fantastic.