Smalstig: The best and worst picks from the first 4 rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft
Gehrig Smalstig | Monday, May 3, 2021
A couple of months removed from the Super Bowl and a couple of months away from the start of training camps, football fans still manage to get hyped up about the NFL when the draft rolls around. Position classes were deep across the board and teams were eager to move the needle towards a winning season, a division title or a Super Bowl. But who did it best? Here are some of the best and worst picks of rounds one through four in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pick 11, Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields
There are some serious reasons to believe that Justin Fields is the second best QB in this draft behind golden boy Trevor Lawrence. The Bears were nowhere near in the right place to take him, but made a bold move to move up and get who will hopefully become the best QB in their team’s history. Yes, history. Do you really think that highly of Jim McMahon and Jay Cutler?
Pick 7, Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell
This pick gives a struggling franchise a perennial All-Pro who will make an impact from day one. A bit of luck was involved with the teams in front of them electing to take receivers instead of Sewell, but they stayed the course and got their guy. If you have seen the draft room celebration after the pick, you know it was a touch more animated than most are after picking an offensive lineman.
Pick 17, Las Vegas Raiders: OL Alex Leatherwood
The trend continues. Mike Mayock and John Gruden want to prove that they’re the smartest in the room by taking someone who everyone else thought was clearly not the pick. Leatherwood could easily become a good player in the NFL, but he could’ve easily been taken with a later pick. They did the same thing last year with Henry Ruggs and, despite being the first wide receiver taken, he landed outside of the top 5 rookie WR performers.
Pick 29, Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes
In the midst of trying to convince their Hall of Fame quarterback to not demand a trade, the Packers selected the second best cornerback from Georgia in this draft. After watching Kevin King’s performance in the NFC championship game, I certainly don’t blame them for taking a corner. But, if Eric Stokes was their guy, then why not trade back or wait until the second round and use this pick for another need?
Pick 52, Cleveland Browns: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
JOK was mocked to the Browns in the first round by many analysts, so it’s easy to see the value that they got here. They get a dynamic playmaker at linebacker/safety who is outstanding in coverage and should compliment stout run-defending linebackers like Anthony Walker very well.
Pick 57, Los Angeles Rams: WR Tutu Atwell
While I’m sure that Sean McVay is licking his chops while thinking about adding Atwell’s speed to his scheme, the second round is a bit early to be taking a receiver that weighed in under 150 pounds. I don’t see him making much of a contribution outside of special teams for the time being.
Pick 98, Denver Broncos: C Quinn Meinerz
I couldn’t help but include Meinerz, who has some of the most fascinating highlights and workout tapes in NFL history. To say he stood out at the Division III level is a dramatic understatement. He was also a standout at this year’s Senior Bowl, and his upside makes it possible for him to step in early and provide help to an offensive line unit that needs significant improvement in Denver.
Pick 72, Detroit Lions: DL Alim McNeil
McNeil is a legit athlete at 320 pounds, but he can’t do much outside of bull-rushing. Additionally, this simply wasn’t a need after the Lions drafted another defensive lineman in the second round. They’re in a rebuilding phase and you could argue they have needs at almost every position, so why would they use two of their top three picks on low-value players like interior DL?
Pick 117, Los Angeles Rams: DL Bobby Brown III
Brown is a very high upside interior defensive lineman that has the potential to keep the Rams D-Line as one of the most dominant position groups across the league if he gets the right coaching. Considering the amount of double-teams that Aaron Donald faces, he could have great numbers right away.
Pick 133, New Orleans Saints: QB Ian Book
Book has the potential to become one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but that seems like the opposite of an immediate need for the Saints. Considering the cap space nightmare that they just navigated, New Orleans needs to put players on the field that are on rookie contracts, and Book will not see the field for at least a few years.