With the 2021 NFL Draft behind us and undrafted free agents signed, let’s take a look at how each team graded out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs came out the gate and drafted the best available player at pick 32 (Joe Tryon, OLB, Washington), adding depth to an already elite Linebacker core. Last year, Devin White led that group and was arguably the best player in the 2019 draft class. Tryon recorded eight sacks in his sophomore season at Washington, and he fits the defensive scheme run by Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles during last year’s Super Bowl run. Will Tampa hit again with their First Round pick? Kyle Trask was the 64th pick by the Bucs, and is in the best possible situation for a back-up QB: sitting behind Tom Brady for a couple of seasons. Trask comes with a lot of criticism, but he did break records and performed in some big SEC games. In the rest of the draft, the Bucs addressed depth issues, drafting a Defensive Back, an Offensive Lineman, and a Wide Receiver. This team is built for a repeat run this year, and their additions this past weekend will certainly aid in their cause.
Overall Grade: B+
After sending Teddy Bridgewater to Denver, there were many routes Carolina could have gone with the eighth overall pick in the 2021 Draft. Many analysts had Cornerback Jaycee Horn going later in the 1st Round, but the Panthers used this pick to add immediate help to a lackluster defense and surprise fans and analysts alike. The rest of Carolina’s draft was spent acquiring players on the other side of the ball (offense), as they selected a WR, an O-lineman, a TE and a RB. The steal of the weekend for the Panthers may have been the selection of Running Back Chuba Hubbard out of Oklahoma State, who led the nation in 2019 in nearly every rushing stat. Pairing him with Christian McCaffrey will lead to an interesting Panther backfield, which is why I think that Carolina could be a sleeper team next season!
Overall Grade: B-
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans left many fans scratching their heads after using the 28th overall pick on Defensive End Payton Turner from University of Houston. Many fans were hoping for a Quarterback, but that position wouldn’t be addressed until later. Turner wasn’t a 1st Round pick in analysts’ eyes, but the Saints clearly see something in the 6’6″ Edge Rusher who will look to prove himself this upcoming season. Pete Warner, Linebacker out of Ohio State University, was a good pick in the Second Round. Warner was a leader on defense for one of the nation’s best teams, and he would have been ranked higher if he was bigger. Once the QB flurry calmed, the Saints selected Ian Book in the 4th Round of the Draft. He won’t be looking at a starting job at the start of the season, but he will certainly bring competition to the Quarterback room in New Orleans. A new era has just begun for the Saints.
Overall Grade: C+
Possibly the best player in the draft, Kyle Pitts was drafted with the fourth pick by Atlanta. Most analysts hit this pick right on the head, and the Falcons get a superstar TE to add to an already talented WR core. Atlanta filled in team needs with the rest of their picks, drafting Defensive Backs, Linemen and other skill positions. After being the 40th pick in the Second Round, UCF Safety Richie Grant has big shoes to fill with the loss of defensive leader Keanu Neal to Dallas during free agency. After the draft, the Falcons signed Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks as a possible back-up for Matt Ryan (in addition to the recently signed A.J. McCarron). Recently, trade rumors have circulated about Julio Jones possibly being traded, so the addition of Pitts gives the team security at with their pass-catching core. Matt Ryan, and new Head Coach Arthur Smith, will have high hopes this season.
Overall Grade: A-