After 259 selections and a refreshing semblance of a return to normalcy, the 2021 NFL Draft is over. I broke down winners and losers on Thursday and Friday; now let's wrap up with one final thought on each of the 32 teams coming out of the draft.
The Cardinals could use a draft hit in second-round slot receiver Rondale Moore. He could all but replace 2019 second-rounder Andy Isabella and provide some stability at a wide receiver position where Christian Kirk is entering a contract year and signee A.J. Green feels destined to be one-and-done.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said during Saturday's draft coverage that the Falcons would still listen to offers for receiver Julio Jones, who would have to be traded after June 1 for the team to get salary cap relief. If no great offer materializes, Atlanta will move money around with restructured deals like teams always do. I'm personally pleading to the Football Gods to get to watch at least one season of Julio and Kyle Pitts on the same field. Life is too short to worry about the salary cap.
The Ravens didn't replace Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle in the draft, an indication that they'll sign former Steeler Alejandro Villanueva in the coming days. The Ravens are one of the best teams at signing free agents late in the offseason, so keep an eye on pass rusher Justin Houston after the Colts all but publicly ruled out bringing him back. The Ravens' roster-building effort isn't done, but first-rounders Rashod Bateman (selected No. 27 overall) and the uber-toolsy Odafe Oweh (No. 31) are currently slated for big roles at receiver and pass rusher, respectively.
It shouldn't have been a surprise that the Bills went with edge rushers Gregory Rousseau (No. 30) and Carlos Basham (61) with their first two picks. The Bills' defensive line has calcified and needed some fresh blood. That entire unit is probably where coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane's incredible rebuilding job has made the least progress over the last four years.
The Panthers must truly believe in new QB Sam Darnold. After being tied to Mac Jones throughout the draft process, the Panthers passed on both Jones and Justin Fields to select cornerback Jaycee Horn eighth overall. The fact that the Panthers didn't pick up Darnold's fifth-year option until after the first round indicates there was a scenario in which they could have taken a quarterback, likely Trey Lance, who came off the board five spots before Carolina picked. The risk is that Darnold's contract is now guaranteed for 2022. Guaranteeing two years of big money last year to Teddy Bridgewater -- traded to Denver this week -- proved to be an unforced error by the Panthers, and they may have made a similar mistake again with Darnold.
The draft came and went without a trade of receiver Anthony Miller, who's been on the block. The Bears need as many pass catchers as they can get in a do-or-die year for coach Matt Nagy, and they weren't able to draft one until the sixth round. I say keep Miller and give Nagy and rookie quarterback Justin Fields as much help as possible.
So much of the Bengals' season rides on free-agent pickup Riley Reiff. The addition of the former Minnesota Viking tackle freed up the team to draft receiver Ja'Marr Chase fifth overall in Round 1, then try to upgrade at guard in the second round (with Jackson Carman) instead of tackle. Reiff and 2019 No. 11 overall pick Jonah Williams are a solid tackle pair on paper, but translating best-laid offseason plans to the field has been a struggle for the Bengals' offensive line.
The Browns didn't touch their offense all offseason until selecting receiver Anthony Schwartz in the third round. Their defense, on the other hand, could include seven to nine new starters alongside Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, depending on how camp competitions go. Defensive tackle looks like the biggest concern, where 31-year-old Malik Jackson, Andrew Billings, 2020 third-round pick Jordan Elliott and 2021 fourth-round pick Tommy Togiai are the top names.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Saturday that Keanu Neal, imported from Quinn's time coaching in Atlanta, will play linebacker in Dallas rather than safety, even after the Cowboys drafted linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round and Jabril Cox in the fourth. There just don't seem to be enough snaps to go around here. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that Leighton Vander Esch or -- more likely -- Jaylon Smith is available in a trade at some point. Vander Esch's health is an open question.
Patrick Surtain II (No. 9 overall) was added to an already loaded secondary. It is no exaggeration to say that Surtain, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia comprise the deepest collection of secondary talent in football. If the Broncos aren't great at stopping the pass -- which also happens to be a Vic Fangio specialty -- something has gone seriously wrong.
The Lions couldn't fill all their needs in one draft, and it wasn't a surprise they focused on finding linemen on both sides of the ball. It's worrying to see that Jared Goff's top wideouts are Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown. Still, while Goff is not exactly set up to succeed, the offensive line does look spicy.
It's been fascinating to see how the Packers have responded publicly and otherwise to the Aaron Rodgers drama. NFL Network's Mike Silver reported that the pick of Jordan Love in the first round last year happened outside of coach Matt LaFleur's purview, and that the coaching staff remains "all in" on Rodgers. LaFleur said as much at a press conference Saturday. It's worth wondering if LaFleur remains similarly all in on general manager Brian Gutekunst and the team's personnel structure, which, according to Silver, gives "very little" input to the coaches.
Davis Mills (No. 67 overall) has a much better chance to start games as a rookie than most QBs taken in the third round. Who knows if Deshaun Watson (whose status is very much in limbo) plays for the Texans ever again? And the team will have little incentive to start Tyrod Taylor 17 times if the season goes south.
The Colts surprisingly didn't draft a left tackle to replace retired former mainstay Anthony Castonzo, meaning free agent pickup Sam Tevi, among Pro Football Focus' lowest-graded tackles in recent years, is currently slated to protect new QB Carson Wentz's blindside. Indy will probably add another veteran, but this is a major area of concern, considering how long Wentz typically holds the ball.
Urban Meyer's first draft in Jacksonville involved a lot of calculated risk. First-round running back Travis Etienne is an explosive speed threat who will start out as a third-down back, according to Meyer. Second-round tackle Walker Little was incredible as a freshman at Stanford, but he has barely played football in the last two years. Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell (taken with the first pick in Round 2) is going to be asked to move inside in Jacksonville, according to Meyer, despite not doing much of that in college. Syracuse safety Andre Cisco (picked in Round 3) is coming off a serious knee injury. That's a lot of gambling in one draft where the Jaguars need to find immediate contributors.
The laser focus on the offensive line has left the Chiefs thinner than usual at the skill positions. There are no exciting incoming rookie toys for Andy Reid to play with, in the mold of receiver Mecole Hardman in 2019 or running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020. Hardman looks like the No. 2 receiver now, with Sammy Watkins gone. This is a rich team's type of problem, but the offense could be even more dependent than it has been recently on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce staying healthy.
Second- and third-round safeties Trevon Moehrig and Divine Deablo represent GM Mike Mayock's latest attempts to fix the team's secondary. Mayock, a former safety, has drafted 10 defensive backs in his three seasons at the helm. That includes two first-round picks, two seconds, two thirds and three fourths. If the Raiders' secondary struggles again, Mayock's uneven draft record will be in the spotlight.
Asante Samuel Jr. will be one of the most important second-round picks in 2021. He doesn't have much competition for a starting job on a team that looks like a playoff contender from the jump. Samuel landed in a perfect system for his skills, with Brandon Staley -- who got the best out of the Rams' secondary as their defensive coordinator last year -- at head coach.
The Rams have a top-heavy roster, which is the natural fallout from trading away high picks and paying huge money to Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford and the ghost of Jared Goff. That approach can work, as evidenced by the Rams ranking in the top four in total wins since 2017. They may be more vulnerable to injuries than most teams, but the starting 22 looks ready to return to the playoffs.
The Dolphins had one of my favorite drafts, and they're a sneaky good underdog pick to win the AFC East. Perhaps their worst draft moment came when the Broncos traded ahead of them to select UNC running back Javonte Williams (No. 35) in the second round. Williams would have rounded out the Dolphins' offense, which still lacks a difference-making ball carrier. Duke Johnson and Adrian Peterson are two compelling free-agent names who could be added to the mix as role players.
The contract extension Kirk Cousins signed in 2020 guarantees money into 2022. That's why I don't think third-round pick Kellen Mond (No. 66) will be pushing Cousins to play anytime soon, even if Minnesota struggles this season. It is fascinating, though, that the Vikings took a quarterback with a skill set that is so different from that of their starter.
All of the attention paid to the Patriots' offensive overhaul has overshadowed the huge personnel swings taken to try to improve one of the most disappointing defenses in football last year. That effort continued during the draft with second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore and third-round edge rusher Ronnie Perkins. Barmore dominated in the College Football Playoff National Championship (five tackles, two for loss, one sack), and Perkins was a top-50 player on Daniel Jeremiah's board who went 96th overall. Both players were seen as boom-or-bust prospects with high ceilings. It's safe to say Bill Belichick is going for it.
Seventh-round selection Kawaan Baker (No. 255) was the Saints' first receiver drafted since 2018 and only the third since 2015! Virtually passing on the position in two straight deep receiver classes reflects Sean Payton's confidence he can scheme up yards out of anyone and puts more pressure than ever on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara to carry the offense. This is what can happen when your team philosophy is to trade up in the draft early and often.
The Giants have plenty of weapons for Daniel Jones to throw to after adding Kadarius Toney in the first round. I see two major challenges to the Giants finally being watchable: Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay all need to stay healthy at the same time, and coordinator Jason Garrett needs to open up the offense.
I've already written about what a great job the Jets have done to support Zach Wilson so far. That also includes the scheme Wilson will play in. Wilson told NFL Network's Kimberly Jones how the play-action, motions, shifts and fake action in the Jets' offense is "exactly what we did at BYU." Everything is in place for Wilson to hit the ground running.
It was shocking to see Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell fall to the fifth round. He profiles as a third-down back, but he may have been the best pure receiver of any running back in the draft. While the level of draft capital invested in him indicates he'll be a role player at best, it's fun to imagine what the Eagles can do with the varied skill sets of Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Jalen Raegor, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders and Gainwell. Also: Zach Ertz remains on the roster until told otherwise.
I love watching the Steelers draft, because they have such defined types. This is what happens when you keep the same general manager (Kevin Colbert) for two decades, because he's one of the best to ever do it. The complete game of first-round running back Najee Harris would fit well as the centerpiece of the 2001 Kordell Stewart-led team. Second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth was compared to Heath Miller before landing in Pittsburgh. Third-round center Kendrick Green will probably last a decade, based on the team's ridiculously good history picking pivots.
It would not surprise me if third-rounder Trey Sermon finishes with more production than any rookie running back outside of Pittsburgh's Najee Harris. Sermon has great feet for his size, and there's every reason to believe he can climb the depth chart quickly. Consider this your fantasy football kernel of goodness for making it this far in the article.
The Seahawks only had three draft picks, mostly because of last summer's Jamal Adams trade. It's a shame, because the Seahawks had more roster holes than they could possibly have filled. Adding a second-round receiver (D'Wayne Eskridge) will make Russell Wilson happy, but the team remains awfully thin at cornerback.
A team with a roster that has everything can afford the luxury of taking a backup quarterback late in the second round. I was struck during Bruce Arians' appearance on NFL Network by how much he believes Florida prospect Kyle Trask (No. 64) fits his view of a prototypical QB. Perhaps there's a greater chance than people realize that Arians could stick around even after Tom Brady is gone. (Or perhaps Trask could be part of a transition to Byron Leftwich as the head coach someday.)
The talent drain on Tennessee's offense has flown under the radar. After A.J. Brown, the Titans' best wideouts are Josh Reynolds and ... Chester Rogers? Anthony Firkser is the starting tight end, with Jonnu Smith gone. After a draft mostly focused on defense, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry could be fighting an uphill battle this season.
UNC wideout Dyami Brown is a dynamic talent for a third-round pick. He's unlikely to produce like 2019 third-rounder Terry McLaurin, but I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick throw to a receiver group that also includes Curtis Samuel, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims and tight end Logan Thomas. This looks like the most fun Washington team to watch since I was in middle school. I'm now 42.