This past weekend, the future for all 32 NFL teams arrived. With the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft, each team drafted numerous players to be the future of their franchise. Maybe it was a quarterback. It may have been a pass rusher. Why it could have even been a running back! The bottom line is each NFL team made decisions and selections that will define them for years to come.
Except, for some teams, they may have made the wrong decision. Of course, only time will tell, however, there are some clear winners and losers from the 2021 NFL Draft. Here they are…
No, the Sam Darnold era with the New York Jets did not work out. The former third overall pick in 2018 was dealt this off-season to the Carolina Panthers, as a breakup was best for both sides. Luckily for the Panthers, they are in a much better position to help Darnold succeed with the weapons already in place.
In fact, they took things a step further during the draft. The Panthers did what the Jets failed to do for three years – help Sam Darnold. Carolina took standout LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., a first-round caliber player, in round two. He joins an already great receiving corps with Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, giving Darnold the best trio he has ever played with in the pros. The Panthers also took Notre Dame tight end Tommy Tremble, who like fellow third-round pick left tackle Brady Christensen, has starting upside as early as this year. Clearly, Sam Darnold won big during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Another former 2018 first-round quarterback is Lamar Jackson, who also got plenty of help during the draft. The former MVP has yet to have a true number one receiver, and that may finally change. The Baltimore Ravens took Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, who can line up all over the field and draw attention away from Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown. Bateman’s strong hands are going to be a huge weapon for Jackson right away. Baltimore also added protection for Jackson, taking Georgia guard Ben Cleveland in the third round.
Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, nobody viewed the Chicago Bears as a legitimate landing spot for a rookie quarterback. The team sat in the latter half of the first round and had not made much noise in the trade market. Nevertheless, the Bears pulled of a stunner in trading up to take Justin Fields from Ohio State. Despite having a costly quarterback room with Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, the Bears landed their quarterback of the future.
The Chicago Bears also looked to protect whoever is under center this season in taking Teven Jenkins. Arguably the fourth-best offensive tackle in the draft, the Oklahoma State product shockingly slid into round two, where the Bears took him. Expect him to be a day one starter on the left side for the Bears.
Another team that took advantage of a player sliding was the Cleveland Browns. Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was regarded as a top 20 player in the draft, but a heart issue caused him to slide. With sideline-to-sideline range, Owusu-Koramoah is a steal for the Browns in the second round.
Cleveland also made waves with their first-round selection, cornerback Greg Newsome II. He gives the Browns an immediate starting cornerback opposite Denzel Ward. There is no doubt that the Browns could have a top-five defense this upcoming season if healthy.
Washington Football Team
Lastly, the Washington Football Team walked away with a strong draft class. The team addressed their need for an athletic linebacker in round one with Kentucky’s Jamin Davis. Yes, it may have been a reach, but it addressed a top need for the team. Meanwhile, on day two, Washington got two steals in offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi and receiver Dyami Brown. Cosmi is a raw, highly athletic left tackle and Brown is another dynamic playmaker to join Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel in the receiving corps.
Kirk Cousins’ Future in Minnesota
One of the biggest surprises of the NFL Draft was when the Minnesota Vikings took Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the second round. Despite having Kirk Cousins under contract through 2022, the team jumped at his potential heir early. Additionally, the Vikings were also set to target Justin Fields had he still been available at 14th overall. In other words, the Vikings are preparing to move on from Cousins sooner than later.
Aaron Rodgers v Green Bay Packers
There is a reason why Aaron Rodgers was all over the news during the 2021 NFL Draft, and it was not a good one for the Green Bay Packers. The reigning NFL MVP wants out of Green Bay, as a rift with the front office has Rodgers unwilling to return to the team. Green Bay, who has lost back-to-back NFC Championship games did not draft any offensive weapons for Rodgers until day two. Things are getting ugly in Wisconsin, and even Brett Farve believes Rodgers truly is heading for a new team this season.
Earlier this off-season, the Houston Texans were dealing with their star quarterback Deshaun Watson wanting out. Now, due to ongoing investigations into sexual assault claims against Watson, the Texans are unaware of his future with the team. The investigation has dwindled his trade market, and even the team is preparing for a season without him. The Texans, rather than fixing a poorly constructed roster, took Waton’s potential heir in Stanford quarterback Davis Mills on day two. At this point, who knows if Watson will be playing in the league again.
Another quarterback who was hurt by draft weekend is San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo. Set to enter his fifth year with the team, Garoppolo’s replacement is now in line. The team traded up to the third overall pick to take North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, who may sit behind Garoppolo and learn for a year. Thus, giving Garoppolo a timeline until when he will be searching for a new gig. In essence, if he wins the starting job this season, he will be almost trying out for his next team.
One of the most curious drafts was had by the Denver Broncos. The team traded for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater days prior to compete with Drew Lock, yet some believed it did not count them out from taking one ninth overall. Instead, the Broncos took stud cornerback Patrick Surtain II from Alabama, even though they just paid Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency. Similarly, they took North Carolina running back Javonte Williams even with Melvin Gordon under contract. Therefore, leaving one to wonder, what is new general manager George Paton building in Denver?