2021 NFL Draft: Winners, Losers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars

Photo+captured+by+the+Chicago+Sun-Times

Photo captured by the Chicago Sun-Times

Davis Cuffe, Sports Editor

The dust has settled and the NFL draft is officially over. Here are our winners and losers of the 2021 NFL draft.

Winners

 

The Chicago Bears

For the second time in the last five years, the Chicago Bears traded up to draft a quarterback. After signing Andy Dalton in free agency and letting Mitchell Trubisky walk the Bears’ QB room looked the worst it’s been in years, and it’s been rough for the Bears recently. Moving up to get Justin Fields, a blue-chip prospect and someone I had as the second-best quarterback in the draft is a home run move for the Bears. Drafting Teven Jenkins, one of the best tackles in the draft in the second round to solidify that offensive line should help keep the Bears’ new franchise guy protected for years to come. Hopefully, this quarterback move pans out better than their last.

The New York Jets

After a few atrocious seasons for New York’s second favorite football team, it’s finally looking up for the Jets. The Jets picked Zack Wilson second overall, and while I have my own questions about his skill set you can’t deny his arm talent. Later in the first round, the Jets drafted Alijah Vera-Tucker a 6’4 315 stud offensive guard out of USC and possibly the best guard in the draft. In the second round, the Jets picked the best available player in Elijah Moore, a speedy wide receiver out of Ole Miss, adding to an already underrated receiving core. In the third round, the Jets went offense again selecting Michael Carter, a running back out of UNC, and a top-five back in the draft. This pick filled a need the Jets struggled with all year after the departure of Le’veon Bell. After a draft like this and adding key pieces like Corey Davis and Tevin Coleman in free agency, the Jets are setting up their rookie quarterback for major success in 2021 and the future.

The Miami Dolphins

Another AFC East winner here the Dolphins dominated the first two rounds. First picking Jaylen Waddle, a lightning-fast wide receiver from Alabama sixth overall and giving Tua even more weapons to work within 2021. Then later in the first, the Dolphins selected Jaelan Phillips, a defensive end from Miami and the best edge rusher in the draft. If Phillips can stay healthy this year I think he’ll compete for defensive rookie of the year. In the second round, the Dolphins continued to win grabbing Jevon Holland, a top-three safety in the draft, and tackle Liam Eichenberg, two players I expect to start day one for Miami. After the draft, I feel much better about this Dolphins roster, which isn’t something that can be said for these next teams.

Losers

 

The New England Patriots

I get it, after winning six Super Bowls in seventeen years the Patriots are supposed to be this fabulous organization that can do no wrong but picking Mac Jones 15th overall is just dumb. Ignoring my own personal thoughts on Jones as a prospect and just looking at the bare bones of this move I don’t know how that QB room will work. Cam Newton and Mac Jones are completely different quarterbacks, you’d need almost completely different playbooks to be able to swap the two out in-game. I just don’t like this pick at all.

The Las Vegas Raiders

It’s becoming a constant at this point with the Raiders reaching in the first round. Clelin Ferrel at 4th overall in 2019, Henry Ruggs at 9th overall in 2020, and now Alex Leatherwood, a player graded as a second-round talent, at 17th overall. While Leatherwood being dubbed the “meme connoisseur” by his teammates does raise his ranking for me personally Christian Darrisaw was the obvious pick at seventeen. While I liked how the Raiders chose to go almost entirely defense the rest of the draft, I would’ve liked to see the Raiders take a flyer on a receiver and take someone like Tylan Wallace with a day two pick. Not a terrible draft from the Raiders but nowhere near a good one either.

The Indianapolis Colts

Kwitty Paye, the Colts’ first-round selection is a phenomenal talent and was the second-best edge rusher in the draft, but why pick defense? After trading for Carson Wentz I assumed the Colts would grab someone like Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore with their pick. The Colts passed up on receivers again in the second round when they drafted Dayo Odeyingbo another edge who may not even play in 2021 after tearing his Achilles in the Senior Bowl. While I like the Colts’ run game I’m not inspired by the surrounding receiving weapons. Wentz is an obvious project at quarterback after his horrendous year in Philadelphia last year. Why not surround him with receiving talent or even help at tackle to help him succeed in Indianapolis? After the Colts had a top-five defense but a shaky offense in 2020 the Colts didn’t pick an offensive player until the sixth round when they drafted Sam Ehlinger, a quarterback. I just don’t understand what’s going on in Indianapolis.

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers

As the resident Steelers fan at the Falcon, I feel obligated to say the Steelers did fabulous in 2021’s draft. Sadly, that’s just not the case. While I think Najee Harris will help the Steelers run game which was pathetic in 2020, I don’t think the Steelers are going about fixing said run game the right way.  In a world where runningbacks are the most replaceable position in sports, and where the Steelers offensive line is shaky at best, picking a lineman at twenty-four would’ve been perfect.  Then in the second round, the Steelers passed up on offensive line again, selecting tight end Pat Freiermuth. While the Steelers are iffy at tight end and Freiermuth is a stud, the clear pick would’ve been to go offensive line. In a division where the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns, were all winners in the 2021 draft, the Steelers may be falling behind for the first time in years.

Losers But Trevor Lawrence is Really Good

The Jacksonville Jaguars

While I would put the Jags entirely in the losers column, Trevor Lawrence could finish as a Hall of Famer and make me look dumb, so for now, the Jaguars get their own category. I could go on and on about the greatness of Trevor Lawrence but I think that’s already been done by every other sportswriter in the world. Let’s talk about the Jaguars’ other first-round pick from Clemson, running back Travis Etienne. Yes, Etienne is the obvious second-best running back in the draft but I don’t think it’s bold to say this was the worst pick in the draft. While other Jacksonville running back James Robinson does get overrated due to his fantasy football numbers, he is a fabulous talent that produces every game and on a minimum deal. If the Jaguars wanted more runningback help why not grab someone like Kenny Gainwell with a later pick and not use a valuable first on a replaceable position. The Jaguars were the worst team in football last year and have so many needs and runningback isn’t one of them. When asked about the Etienne pick Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer’s excuse was that they expected Kadarius Toney to be there but he was picked early by the Giants. Kadarius Toney? Really? This new Jaguars regime is off to a rough start.

 

Will most of my draft grades turn out to be flat out wrong in December? Absolutely. Are they fun to make? Absolutely. The NFL is loaded with young talent and just got even more loaded last weekend. I can’t wait to see these guys ball out for years to come.