Fowler's 2021 NFL Draft Grades

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we made it. 

Three days of action-packed coverage at The Draft Network has come to a close; but, now, we’re just getting started. With all seven rounds now in the books, here is how I graded each team’s draft haul.

Arizona Cardinals

Rondale Moore’s selection is one of my favorites of the entire draft class. His presence in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense could skyrocket Arizona’s efficiency. I also like the addition of James Wiggins towards the tail end, he could be a steal working behind Budda Baker.

Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts and Richie Grant headline the team’s draft class, but the selections of Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Avery Williams sell me on Terry Fontenot’s first draft as general manager. They both have the chance to develop into above-average starters. 

Grade: B+

Buffalo Bills

Gregory Rousseau has a long way to go for me—especially as a first-round selection—but the additions of Marquez Stevenson, Damar Hamlin, and Rachad Wildgoose Jr. fit the developmental arc general manager Brandon Beane shoots for in the draft. 

Grade: B

Baltimore Ravens

General manager Eric DeCosta did Eric DeCosta things this weekend. He added talent out wide, juice on the edge to fill the shoes of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, and added Ben Mason for J.K. Dobbins to run behind. 

Grade: A

Carolina Panthers

Every single selection deserves a round of applause for general manager Scott Fitterer. Each player taken has the potential to carve out major roles within an improving Carolina roster.

Grade: A+

Cincinnati Bengals

It’s hard to give anything lower than a “B” here considering the selection of Ja’Marr Chase to pair with Joe Burrow. Jackson Carman is a mauler who will develop and Tyler Shelvin is a brick wall of a defensive tackle. Don’t be shocked if Wyatt Hubert competes for snaps. 

Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

Grabbing Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as general manager Andrew Berry’s first two picks is an outstanding haul for Cleveland’s roster on the brink of dominating the AFC North. This team is going to be special.

Grade: A+

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields is going to be a stud. Stop listening to the trolls and casuals, and turn on the College Football Player semifinal game against Clemson this year and you tell me how you feel about him as a prospect. Fields slander is a lazy—and yet, unsurprising—take. Oh, and general manager Ryan Pace took Teven Jenkins? Yeah,  A+ here. 

Grade: A+

Dallas Cowboys

I—I don’t know what general manager Jerry Jones’ goal was this weekend. Two linebackers, in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, is mind-boggling, especially for a roster with so many holes. Micah Parsons is an outstanding talent who will play at a high level for years to come, but the first four rounds of Dallas’ draft is interesting.

Grade: D

Denver Broncos

I love what Denver did here. If you haven’t looked, the Broncos had one of the more impressive rosters in all of football. The only reason I didn’t give them an “A” was due to the team passing on Fields at No. 9, even with Teddy Bridgewater now in town.

Grade: B+

Detroit Lions 

Detroit is going to eat some kneecaps in the foreseeable future. Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, and Alim McNeill are maulers who will insert a nasty, physical culture for a Lions roster ushering in a new era of football. 

Grade: A

Green Bay Packers

Despite the rumors of Aaron Rodgers’ departure prior to the first round, general manager Brian Gutekunst predicated his draft on protecting his three-time MVP, as he should. 

Grade: B

Houston Texans

Davis Mills looks to be the future under center in Houston with Deshaun Watson’s ongoing legal issues, facing allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. With just five selections, it’s hard to give head coach David Culley anything higher than an average grade.

Grade: C

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 

Nothing to hate, nothing to love here with Indianapolis’ draft class. Kwity Paye’s best football is down the road, but his tools are among the best in the class on the defensive side of the football.

Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars

Head coach Urban Meyer envisions Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne will provide the 1-2 punch for the next decade, and so do I. Add in my sleeper tackle prospect in Walker Little and the uber-physical Jay Tufele, and Jacksonville is off to a great start to its rebuild. 

Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs

I’m very high on Noah Gray’s selection, who could be Travis Kelce’s running mate in head coach Andy Reid’s offense. He’s versatile, big, and has an excellent foundation of route-running traits to succeed in Kansas City.

Grade: B

Las Vegas Raiders

Alex Leatherwood was a bit of a reach, but I'm high on his skill set as a versatile lineman. Three safeties, though? Maybe general manager Mike Mayock knows something we don’t.

Grade: B-

Los Angeles Chargers

Rashawn Slater to protect Justin Herbert, Asante Samuel Jr. on the outside, and one of the rawest prospects in the tight end class to fill the tight ends room? Sign me up. 

Grade: A

Los Angeles Rams

I know head coach Sean McVay has a type, but Tutu Atwell in the second round? At 153 pounds? In a deep receiver class? There were better players there. Otherwise, I like the selections of Robert Rochelle and Jake Funk, who could develop into a fan favorite.

Grade: C

Miami Dolphins

Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips in Round 1 takes the cake for me. It couldn’t get much better for general manager Chris Grier. Hunter Long also has the potential to develop into a nice offensive weapon at 6-foot-5.

Grade: A

Minnesota Vikings

General manager Rick Spielman’s haul rivals as tops in the class. While you’re here, check out Kene Nwangwu’s player profile and get familiar with him, he’ll be around for a while. He and Ihmir Smith-Marsette provide two track stars for the Kirk Cousins-led offense. 

Grade: A

New England Patriots

I’m looking more at the backend of the draft here where Belichick snatched Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe; two scheme-specific, interchangeable prospects who will thrive in New England.

Grade: A

New Orleans Saints

Payton Turner was a riser as draft day approached, and head coach Sean Payton took the bait. I hope he proves me wrong, but his selection is similar to Rousseau’s where a lott of progression is needed for Turner to make an immediate impact. His motor will help. Ian Book in the fourth round should be a criminal offense. 

Grade: B-

New York Giants

Many consider the Kadarius Toney’s selection a reach, but the more weapons for Daniel Jones, the better. Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith will present an intriguing duo to develop within defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s 4-3 front.

Grade: B

New York Jets

Are the New York Jets back!? It sure looks like it. Maybe not in 2021, but general manager Joe Douglas had a heck of a weekend. Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter form an exciting offensive core for the future.

Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles

The lack of attention to cornerbacks and linebackers gets the “-” here, but the talent this team did add is impressive, especially considering the pure skill sets of Landon Dickerson, Milton Williams, Kenneth Gainwell, and Marlon Tuipulotu.

Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers

After the first two selections, I was skeptical of how general manager Kevin Colbert would turn around the class, but he succeeded. Buddy Johnson is a tackle machine and Quincy Roche has the pass rush prowess to develop into a five-plus sack-a-year talent.

Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers

Head coach Kyle Shanahan got his quarterback in Trey Lance, who has the traits to become a superstar in the NFL. Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell’s selections raise eyebrows, but Raheem Mostert is in a contract year and both offer unique tools at running back to replace his snaps if he departs the Bay Area after the 2021 season.

Grade: B+

Seattle Seahawks 

Yeah, the Seattle Seahawks had just three picks. However, Tre Brown is one of my favorite late-round corners. He dominated at the Senior Bowl and should serve a nice role in his rookie year.

Grade: C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers return all 22 starters next year, so general manager Jason Licht took the best-player-available approach; it must be nice. Jaelon Darden is lighting-in-a-bottle. 

Grade: B

Tennessee Titans

Caleb Farley is boom or bust, and I hope it’s the former. His fundamental talent rivals any corner in the class. Additionally, the selection of Elijah Molden with an aging Janoris Jenkins is a seamless fit. 

Grade: B+

Washington Football Team

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio asks a lot of his linebackers. Jamin Davis provides the missing piece at “WILL” with his ability to work sideline to sideline. Dyami Brown joining Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel should prove to be an excellent addition, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick slingin’ the rock. 

Grade: A

Favorite drafts (in order):

  1. Carolina Panthers
  2. Cleveland Browns
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Denver Broncos
  5. Minnesota Vikings

Written By:

Ryan Fowler

Staff Writer

Feature Writer for The Draft Network. Former Staff Writer for the Washington Football Team. Multiple years of coverage within the NFL and NBA.

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