2021 NFL Draft Review: The Biggest Steals And Worst Mistakes

Football | 5/17/21

The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, leaving fan bases both full of hope and scratching their heads. Did the Raiders get the steal of the draft taking Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick, or should fans find a new team because of it? Was the risk for the Bears worth the reward to trade up for Justin Fields? These are the best and worst picks of the NFL Draft!

Steal: CB Tay Gowan, 6th Round – Arizona Cardinals

tay gowan of the UCF knights
Justin Berl/Getty Images
Justin Berl/Getty Images

With the 223rd pick in the draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected cornerback Tay Gowan. The talented defender saw his draft day stock tumble thanks to a lack of game tape.

Gowan played one season at UCF in 2019, where he was one of the highest-rated cornerbacks in the country. He then decided to opt out of the 2020 season, which turned him into a bit of an unknown come draft day.

No Brainer: TE Kyle Pitts, 1st Round – Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons’ best pick in the draft was Kyle Pitts. Graded by many analysts as the best player in the entire draft, it wasn’t dumb luck that he fell into the laps of the Falcons with the fourth overall pick.

The first three picks were QBs, leading to this selection. Atlanta didn’t overthink it, taking a hybrid tight end that significantly upgrades QB Matt Ryan’s targets in new head coach Arthur Smith’s offense.

Mistake: WR Rashod Bateman, 1st Round – Baltimore Ravens

rashad bateman baltimore ravens
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens needed help in their wide receiving core, the 2021 NFL Draft was deep with pass catchers, and they chose to take Rashod Bateman? Bateman is talented, but grabbing him in the first round was a stretch.

The Ravens made up for the pick with the sneaky good selection of center Ben Cleveland in the third round – a great value for a highly rated player with injury concerns

Mistake: DL Carlos Basham Jr., 2nd Round – Buffalo Bills

carlos basham clemson
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills may very well have struck gold drafting Carlos Basham Jr. in the second round of the draft. The problem is that the team had other needs it could have addressed.

After using their first-round pick on an EDGE rusher, it just doesn’t make sense to us that they would double down one round later. The pass rush was probably the team’s biggest offseason need, but trusting two rookies to carry the load won’t be easy.

Steal: CB Jaycee Horn, 1st Round – Carolina Panthers

jaycee horn carolina
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers made it clear by selecting CB Jaycee Horn with the eighth overall pick in the draft that Sam Darnold is the team’s starting QB. Horn fills a massive need for the Panthers in secondary and should help improve their defense in 2021.

Horn is also an A+ fit for head coach Matt Rhule, who likes physical players that aren’t afraid of hard contact. If Horn is the missing piece for the Panther’s defense, the team should be playoff bound.

Steal: QB Justin Fields, 1st Round – Chicago Bears

This pick, for our money, might be the best pick in the entire draft. Desperate for a franchise QB, the Chicago Bears saw Justin Field slipping down the first round and made their move to trade up and take him.

At one point in the lead-up to the draft, Fields was considered the second-best QB available, and he ended up being the fourth QB taken. Now head coach Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have no more excuses if the team continues to fail under their guidance.

Questionable Call: WR Ja’Marr Chase, 1st Round – Cincinnati Bengals

jamarr chase warming up for LSU
Marianna Massey/Getty Images
Marianna Massey/Getty Images

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with the Bengals taking Ja’Marr Chase with their first-round selection. In reality, they passed up on drafting an offensive lineman in the draft when their starting QB is coming back from a major knee injury.

Protecting Joe Burrow should have been priority number one for the Bengals in the draft. Instead, they chose to add a receiving threat while taking more developmental offensive line prospects later in the draft.

Steal: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, 2nd Round – Cleveland Browns

A luxury pick for the Cleveland Browns that could not have been any luckier. Looking to pair Myles Garrett with another pass rusher, the Browns arguably nabbed one of the top five players at his position in the draft.

Owusu-Koramoah played at Notre Dame and likely fell out of the first round because of weight concerns. His listed weight in college did not match his weight at his pro day.

Time Will Tell: LB Micah Parson, 1st Round – Dallas Cowboys

micah parsons nfl draft
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys went against type for the first several rounds of the draft, restocking their defense. One of the worst defensive teams in the NFL, the idea was good, but taking a raw linebacker like Micah Parsons with their first pick is hard to evaluate right now.

Parsons is fast and hits like a truck, but just about every part of his technical game needs work. The Cowboys will have to patient with his development, which might not be possible with the expectations that come with his draft spot.

Mistake: S Caden Sterns, 4th Round – Denver Broncos

patrick surtain ii taking a knee during a  game
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

If the Denver Broncos had waited, they might have been able to sign Caden Sterns as an undrafted free agent. His college tape was unimpressive, to say the least. He also battled injuries throughout his college career.

Why then, did the Broncos take him in the fourth round? The move is even more baffling considering they took CB Patrick Surtain II in the first round, essentially filling their draft needs in their secondary.

Steal: G Penei Sewell, 1st Round – Detroit Lions

penei sewell at oregon
Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions didn’t make the popular choice with their first-round pick in the draft, but they did make the right choice. Penei Sewell, who should have gone to the Bengals, fell to the Lions, who now might have the best offensive line in the NFL.

Protecting the QB in Detroit will be vital as new starting QB Jared Goff settles into the system of new head coach Dan Campbell. Just about everything in Detroit in 2021 is new!

Wait And See: CB Eric Stokes, 1st Round – Green Bay Packers

eric stokes of the green bay packers
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers entered the NFL Draft with drama at the QB position. Last year they drafted Jordan Love in the first round, upsetting franchise signal call Aaron Rodgers. This year, instead of drafting Rodgers a WR, they turned to the defensive side of the ball to grab CB Eric Stokes.

Stokes might have been a good pick, though – hear us out. The Packers didn’t fail to make the Super Bowl because of their offense. Tom Brady scorched their secondary in the NFC Championship Game, meaning we’ll have to wait and see, but this could be a sneaky good pick!

The Right Choice: QB Davis Mills, 2nd Round – Houston Texans

davis smills at stanford
Bob Drebin/ISI Photos/Getty Images
Bob Drebin/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Houston Texans have spent the offseason trying to convince fans that QB Deshaun Watson isn’t going anywhere. The problem is, even if he’s not traded, his current legal situation could prevent his career from continuing.

Without a first-round pick, the Texans made the right choice by drafting a QB with their second-round pick. Fans might not like the pick, or even Davis Mills (the player), but that situation in Houston is clear, making this the right choice.

Mistake: QB Sam Ehlinger, 6th Round – Indianapolis Colts

sam ehlinger of texas
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Colts started the draft on fire, taking two edge rushers, before settling into some questionable calls. Most notably, the team took Texas QB Sam Ehlinger in the sixth round when it’s possible they could have signed him as an UDFA.

Ehlinger, according to scouts, lacks the arm talent to make him a starter, but could settle into the NFL as a career backup. With the team already taking a chance with Carson Wentz under center, a future career backup seems like a mistake to draft, even in the late rounds.

Best Pick: QB Trevor Lawrence, 1st Round – Jacksonville Jaguars

trevor lawrence of the jaguars
Logan Bowles/NFL via Getty Images
Logan Bowles/NFL via Getty Images

Is there really a debate about this pick? The Jacksonville Jaguars were the worst team in the NFL last year, hired a new head coach in the offseason, and desperately needed a new signal-caller.

The consensus best QB in the draft was Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, a player considered a “can’t-miss talent.” That means if he fails in Florida, blame needs to be placed squarely on freshman head coach Urban Meyer.

Sneaky Steal: G Tre Smith, 6th Round – Kansas City Chiefs

tre smith of tennessee
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

It can be argued that the Kansas City Chiefs largely lost the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because the offensive line failed to protect Patrick Mahomes. As a result, the team has spent the entire offseason renovating the line, and taking Tre Smith in the sixth round of the draft was a great choice.

Smith graded much higher than a sixth-round pick but had several medical concerns. Taking a flyer in a late-round on a high ceiling player is never a bad idea.

Mistake: T Alex Leatherwood, 1st Round – Las Vegas Raiders

alex leatherwood of the las vegas raiders
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders needed help on their offensive line, so it wasn’t surprising to see them take a lineman with their first-round pick. What was surprising was the player they chose – Alex Leatherwood.

It’s likely the Raiders could have waited for the tackle later in the draft. Instead, they fell in love with their “guy” and refused to take that chance, passing up on higher graded and more polished offensive linemen on the way.

Head Scratcher: WR Tutu Atwell, 2nd Round – Los Angeles Rams

tutu atwell college
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Did the Los Angeles Rams really need help at wide receiver? With one of the better defenses in the league and solid offensive weapons for Matthew Stafford, we guess this was more of a luxury pick than anything else.

The problem with Atwell is his size. While wide receivers can be small, weighing in at 155 pounds is tiny. There will be questions of how many hits his body can take from 200 plus-pound defenders now that he’s no longer in college.

Steal: CB Asante Samuel Jr., 2nd Round – Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers needed help defending the pass and took the best player available when Asante Samuel Jr. fell to them in the second. The bottom line is when you play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, you can never have too many defensive backs.

Most importantly, with the team already okay rushing the passer, adding depth that could start right away in the secondary is a blessing that should pay dividends.

No More Excuses: WR Jaylen Waddle, WR – Miami Dolphins

jaylen waddle wide receiver
UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images
UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Leading up the draft, there was talk about whether or the Miami Dolphins were really committed to second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa. After trading down in the NFL Draft from the third spot to the twelfth spot, they made their commitment clear.

Jaylen Waddle, who the Dolphins moved back up into the sixth spot to grab, gives the team a speed threat who has been compared to Tyreek Hill. With a weapon like that, there will no excuses for Tua to not succeed in his second year under center.