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NFL Draft: Analyzing the Premiere Talent Headed to the NFC

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone. How did the NFC teams fair in Cleveland? Take a look at our full NFC breakdown.

San Francisco 49ers

Pick No. 3 – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Trey Lance has all the physical tools to play quarterback at the next level. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds and is an incredible athlete. As a sophomore in 2019, Lance dazzled the FCS level with 2789 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He led NDSU to a perfect 16-0 season to win the FCS National Championship in his lone year as the starter. 

The major risk for Lance is his lack of experience. After doubts about his readiness to play QB at the FBS level, he comes to the NFL with just 16 collegiate starts. Now, Lance steps into the QB of the future role in San Francisco.

Grade: A-

Lance was the third consecutive quarterback off the board in this draft; it is only the 2nd time in the common era that three quarterbacks led off the draft. Time will tell if this class of QB’s can live up to the hype. However, Lance seems to be a great fit in San Francisco if his athleticism can translate to a pro game. 

Atlanta Falcons

Pick No. 4 – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Pitts was hailed as the best non-QB player in this draft and was the first position player off the board. He is the most unique athlete in this class; combine his 6’6” 245-pound frame with his 4.44 40-yard dash time and you have a one-of-a-kind receiver/tight end hybrid.

With a crack at the top quarterbacks left, the Falcons showed their commitment to current starter Matt Ryan. Rather than draft his replacement, they give him a young target to bolster the offense.

Grade: A

Detroit Lions

Pick No. 7 – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

The first tackle off the board was no shock as Penei Sewell went to the Lions. Sewell was the top tackle on every draft board following his impressive pro day. At 6’5”, 331 pounds, he fits the frame of a prototype tackle at the NFL level. Scouts question his explosiveness, but there is no doubt Sewell has the chance to be a cornerstone tackle.

With needs at almost every position on the field, the Lions could not miss with the 7th pick. They broke the trend of the night as every other top ten pick was a skill position player. The Lions move forward into another rebuild with a building block for the future.

Grade: B+

Scouts were not high on the crop of lineman in the draft this year. Meanwhile, passing on Justin Fields meant a division rival was able to scoop him up. As Fields and Sewell progress in front of our eyes, will the Lions regret passing on Fields?

Carolina Panthers

Pick No. 8 – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The Panthers had the choice between the Horn and Patrick Surtain II and chose Horn. He stood out as an impressive man coverage defender with a chance to play immediately at the next level. Scouts noted Horn’s tendency to hold receivers and rely on physical play rather than footwork. Still, he has a high upside and can contribute to a team immediately. 

The Panthers’ defense was in need, so picking up the first corner off the board was not a shock. Still, passing on a guy like Surtain II will be looked skeptically at as both players’ careers progress.

Grade: B+

With the trade for Sam Darnold, the Panthers could afford to pass on the QBs left on the board. If the organization feels they can win with Darnold, shoring up the defense immediately makes sense.  

Philadelphia Eagles 

Pick No. 10 (via DALLAS) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

A rare inter-division trade brought the 2021 Heisman winner to Philly. Smith had a record-breaking final season in Tuscaloosa, leading his team to a CFP National Championship. Smith is #1 in SEC career receiving Yards (3,965), SEC single-season receiving TDs (23), and Alabama single-season receiving yardage (1,856).

What Smith lacks in size (6’1”, 175 pounds), he makes up for in explosiveness. He posted a 4.49 40-yard dash time and consistently put SEC defenders in the dust. Still, trading up to get the 3rd WR off the board may not seem great when the deal was with the Cowboys.

Grade: B+

Smith reunites with his former college QB Jalen Hurts in Philly. Giving their QB a familiar target bodes well for a team coming off their worst season since 2012. Time will tell if the deal if the Cowboys regret giving Philly the opportunity to move up.

Chicago Bears

Pick No. 11 (via GIANTS) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The Bears moved up to take the 4th QB off the board, Justin Field of Ohio State. After being slated as the No. 2 QB two years ago, his draft stock fell as the draft process moved forward. His production in college could not be questioned; he posted 5701 passing yards and 67 TDs in three college seasons and just two as the OSU starter.

The Bears replace Mitch Trubisky with arguably the best athlete at QB in this draft. Fields posted an astonishing 4.44 40-yard dash time at his pro day and made spectacular throws. Still, his mechanics left scouts looking for more, especially on deep passes.

Grade: A-

Fields may be a No. 1 overall pick in a less QB-heavy draft. His blend of accuracy and athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the new style of NFL quarterbacks. With turmoil in Green Bay, Fields may become the top QB in the NFC North in the coming years.

Dallas Cowboys

Pick No. 12 (via EAGLES) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

After the top defensive backs went at picks 8 and 9, the Cowboys traded back to pick up Parsons. The linebacker wowed scouts at his pro day, posting a 4.39 40-yard dash time at the Penn State pro day. He lacks experience as a one-year starter in college but was dominant in his lone season. 

Grade: B

While the Cowboys would have preferred a corner at No. 10, Parsons is certainly a good backup plan. He looks to be a day one starter for a depleted Cowboys defense. Day two will certainly look to bring help to the secondary.

Arizona Cardinals

Pick No. 16 – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

The Cardinals picked up a raw linebacker in Zaven Collins from Tulsa. After switching from QB to tight end to linebacker in college, he found his home on defense. He earned multiple accolades as a three-year starter at Tulsa including winning the Bronko Nagurski Award in 2020.

Grade: B-

Collins still has to prove he can compete with top-caliber athletes. When matched up with Chuba Hubbard and Oklahoma State, Collins showed a lack of awareness on cutbacks. He also showed a lack of aggression in certain situations, especially when rushing off the edge. Still, he has a high ceiling and can grow into an elite player at multiple spots.

Washington Football Team

Pick No. 19 – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

Nobody improved their draft status late in the process like Jamin Davis did. He posted eye-popping numbers at the Kentucky Pro Day: his 4.47 40-yard dash time ranked 5th among linebackers, while his 42-inch vertical led the position. He jumped from a potential 4th round pick all the way to day one.

Grade: B

Davis has all the physical traits to be a star at the next level. With Davis and Chase Young, Washington is set up with two young stars for years to come. On the flip side, the offense still has holes that need to be addressed. 

New York Giants

Pick No. 20 (via BEARS) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Toney was the 4th wide receiver off the board, all from SEC schools. He fits as a Swiss-army knife in any offense as his speed makes him a potent weapon. In 2020, he amassed 70 receptions, 984 yards, and 10 TDs as the lead receiver in the Gators’ offense. With his speed, the Gators used him in the run game and the return game efficiently; that resulted in him earning 2nd-team All-American honors as an all-purpose player.

Grade: C+

After moving back in the draft and watching the top three receivers go, the Giants should have looked elsewhere. Toney was a late 1st round pick at best, and the Giants needed to address the offensive and defensive lines. Toney has the tools to be a solid pro, but the Giants missed on opportunities to improve bigger needs. 

Minnesota Vikings

Pick No. 23 (via JETS) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Darrisaw was projected to go somewhere between 10 and 20 but fell a bit to the Vikings at 23. He was arguably the best athlete of all the offensive lineman in the 2021 class. Scouts note that Darrisaw can be ‘as good as he wants to be.’ He has all the physical traits to be an elite lineman but can lack the effort necessary at times.

Grade: A-

With Darrisaw falling to No. 23, the Vikings get – day-one starter with a high ceiling. The Vikings get great value after trading back in the draft.

New Orleans Saints

Pick No. 28 – Payton Turner, DE, Houston 

Turner was one of the best-kept secrets in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most mock drafts had the edge rusher as a 2nd round pick at best; however, the Saints pick him up late in the 1st round. As a three-year starter at Houston, Turner earned 2nd-team All-AAC despite playing in just 10 games in 2020.

Grade: C+

The Saints failed to find a trading partner to move up in the draft, so they stayed put at No. 28. Turner was a reach in the 1st round but possesses a high ceiling. Hopefully, he can grow into an elite pass-rusher at the NFL level.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pick No. 32 – Joe Tryon, LB, Washington

Another raw linebacker prospect went in the 1st round; this time, it was Washington LB Joe Tryon to the Super Bowl Champions. His lack of experience is overshadowed by his physical traits, and he will have a chance to grow under Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles.

Grade: B+

Tryon will need time to develop into a full-time backer at the next level. However, he will have the perfect chance to do that in Tampa Bay. The defending champs are returning all 22 starters and possess the most feared defense in the NFL. 

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