AFC Draft Grades
The 2021 NFL draft has come and gone. The undrafted free agents have been selected and continue to sign across the league. But how did draft weekend affect the AFC teams in 2021? Let’s run through the AFC and I will give my draft grades.
New England Patriots: B
The Pats were patient and grabbed Mac Jones at 15 and followed that up with Christian Barmore, a solid D tackle from Alabama and Ronnie Perkins, edge rusher from Oklahoma. The Pats did a good job shoring up the linebacker room with Cameron McGrone from Michigan, but I feel they needed more corner help which they neglected. I give them a solid B.
Buffalo Bills: C+
I think the Bills are going to regret not taking a running back early or an early corner. Both were positions of need and the Bills offense was a running back away from a potential Super Bowl run. Not that they can’t repeat their success from 2020, but they didn’t do anything early to put themselves in a better position to do that.
Miami Dolphins: A-
The Fins are reuniting Tua with a big target from his college days in Jaylen Waddle. Their receiving corps has definitely become a threat if Tua is ok with Waddle saying Mac Jones was a better QB.. The Fins also added hometown hero Jaelan Phillips from Miami on the edge and one of my favorite tackles Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame. Miami gets an A minus because they strengthened positions of need but didn’t address the defensive secondary enough.
New York Jets: A-
The Jets probably had their best draft in the last 15 years taking four top offensive players with their first four picks. A thing they haven’t done since 1983. Joe Douglas made a real statement that they will not be handling Zach Wilson the same way Darnold was handled. The Jets also got 3 players with 90+ draft grades. Something that has only happened twice before since 2004 when that began to be tracked. On the back end of the draft, Douglas essentially made the Jets defense one of the fastest in the NFL by selecting hybrid safety/LB swiss army knife players, but they didn’t get the kicker I wanted so A- it is.
Kansas City Chiefs: A
Not many holes to fill on this roster, except on the O line, and the Chiefs did just that taking Creed Humphrey, my favorite center in this draft, and Trey Smith, my 5th favorite guard in this draft. Nothing to worry about in 2021 with that O line Chiefs fans
Las Vegas Raiders: D
The Raiders completely dropped the ball here in my opinion. Alex Leatherwood at 17 was a reach, and I’m being nice about that. They waited until the 5th round to address corner needs, and they triple dipped at safety. I get drafting a safety after losing Joyner, but 3? Raiders left a lot of talent on the board at key times and they didn’t do much to improve.
Los Angeles Chargers: B+
The Chargers scored probably four day one starters in this draft in Slater, Samuel Jr., McKitty and Rumph, but the back half of their draft didn’t have anyone that I consider an asset. I love that they added protection for Herbert early in Rashawn Slater, and I love Asante Samuel Jr., I just don’t see depth on defense that I believe they needed.
Denver Broncos: A+
Denver absolutely killed it in this draft! They stole Patrick Surtain II one pick before Dallas, and we all know Jerry Jones already had the draft card filled out for Surtain II. Denver got Javonte Williams RB from North Carolina, who I had as the 3rd best RB in this class. Denver got Quinn Meinerz G from Wisconsin, probably the 2nd best guard in this class. Day 3 they got Seth Williams, burner WR out of Auburn and one of my favorite slot corners Kary Vincent Jr. out of LSU. Many issues were resolved in Denver. Well done.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
I know what you’re thinking.. How can I give the team that drafted Najee Harris a B? Well, because the other biggest need for the Steelers was a center. They chose Kendrick Green with Quinn Meinerz still on the board. Big mistake in my opinion. I love the Pat Freiermuth pick, I love the Quincy Roche pick. But outside of that, I was not impressed with the players taken.
Baltimore Ravens: A+
Like Denver, Baltimore killed this draft based on what that team does and what they needed. You can always count on the Ravens to reload on defense, and with both edge rushers finding new homes this free agency, the Ravens traded up into the first round with KC and snagged Jayson Oweh, edge rusher from Penn State. One of the best in this draft at the position, I was shocked Oweh was there at 31. Rahsod Bateman at 27 gives the Ravens and Lamar Jackson another deep threat to pair with Hollywood Brown, but the most impressive, and underrated pick if you ask me, was fullback Ben Mason from Michigan being taken at pick 184. This Ravens running attack is now even more fierce with Mason and mauler guard Ben Cleveland. Mason is not only hard to bring down, he is a freight train as a lead blocker. Look out AFC North.
Cleveland Browns: B+
It pains me to give a B+ to the Browns, as I do not like the Browns, but I have to maintain objectivity and credibility here. The first three picks from the Browns had them in A++ range. Newsome II is an elite corner. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is an elite linebacker. Anthony Schwartz is an elite slot receiver and big time burner. From there, the Browns did ok at bringing depth to the team, but there were no wow factors after their third selection. They fall into the B+ range because I don’t see as many day one starters as other teams even though there was premium talent mid to late this year.
Cincinnati Bengals: C
Yes I am going to be harsh here. Joe Burrow has just come off a season ending knee injury due to the offensive line being in desperate need of upgrades. Cincy had the best tackle prospect in the last 20+ years, some say ever, staring them in the face at 5 and they passed. Took Ja’Marr Chase. I don’t hate the receiver, I just think it was a drastically poor decision given the needs of the team and the very recent injury to their now 2nd year franchise QB. Yes, the Bengals did address the o line, with Jackson Carman, D’ante Smith and Trey Hill, but that does not excuse them from passing on about the only draft lock to play the position. The rest of their draft was average with only Joseph Ossai standing out.
Tennessee Titans: B
Tennessee needed to go WR early to bring someone in to relieve some of Derrick Henry's workload. Josh Reynolds is not enough to help AJ Brown on the opposite side so the Titans should have looked at WR in the 2nd round. They also took a BIG flier on Caleb Farley in the first round. 2 back surgeries for Farley in 3 years now. I know people who were never the same after one back surgery. That is a risk with a very high ceiling, but the lowest of the low floors. And them taking Elijah Molden later on tells me they see that risk as well. They bolstered their defense nicely, but I wanted to see more receiving weapons after they lost Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith.
Indianapolis Colts: C
After taking my favorite edge rusher 21st overall in Kwity Paye out of Michigan, the Colts draft was pretty lackluster. I see mostly depth and not many starters. Time will tell, but this was a nice average draft to plug some depth holes.
Houston Texans: D-
What could Houston do with 5 total picks in this draft? Not much. They took the QB scraps that were there in the 3rd round, since they didn’t have any 1st or 2nd round picks, they got a nice receiver in Nico Collins who will likely be the 2nd best receiver on that roster behind Brandin
Cooks, and they got a decent tight end in Brevin Jordan. Aside from that, they really did nothing. Houston fans are in for a rough go for the foreseeable future so you have my sympathies, as well as my empathy as I’m a Jets fan, I am all too familiar with long periods of struggle.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A
Of course the #1 pick overall in Trevor Lawrence and following him up with a familiar check down safety blanket in Travis Etienne is going to get an A grade. Jax also added to the O line, gave Lawrence a new receiver, albeit a late pick receiver, and they resolved some issues on defense. Solid work from the Jags.
There you have it. My AFC draft grades top to bottom. I believe the AFC did really well this draft and I believe we are going to be a very tough conference moving forward. Again, time will tell.
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