Regrading 2021 NFL Draft: Lions, Broncos hauls look even greater; Jets, Bears miss big on franchise QBs –

Forget all the immediate draft grades, even if I do them. The reality is they mean nothing. It’s too soon. Wait three years. You have to let the picks and decisions marinate before truly giving them a real grade.

That’s what I do here with the 2021 NFL Draft. I am regrading every team, but also regrading myself as I do so by highlighting the moves I liked and didn’t like — some of which make me look foolish now.

In this regrade, two teams killed it. One is the Detroit Lions, which we should understand after last season’s push to brink of the Super Bowl with this 2021 class as the foundation for that team. The Lions landed five starters in the 2021 draft, which is why they earned one of my A+ grades in the regrading.

The only other A+ grade goes to the Denver Broncos, a true lesson in how even a good foundation won’t work if the quarterback position is a problem. The Broncos killed the 2021 draft, yet it hasn’t translated to on-field success in large part because Russell Wilson was a flop in Denver.

That 2021 Broncos class landed the team six players who will head into training camp this year as starters, headlined by first-round pick Patrick Surtain II, one of the best in the game. Yet Denver has 20 victories in three seasons since those picks were made. Ouch.

I gave out one F in the regrade, which goes to the Seattle Seahawks. They traded their first- and third-round picks in that draft — along with another first-round pick in 2022 — for box safety Jamal Adams, who was let go earlier this year. The rest of the draft didn’t produce a starter. That’s terrible.

There are some other bad grades — like the New York Jets earning a D- in the Zach Wilson draft — but the Seahawks were the worst.

Regrading drafts can be humbling for those of us who do immediate grades. But it’s also fun to look back and see how wrong the teams were, but also how wrong I was about some of these picks.

The Skinny: They had seven picks and just two are on the roster, only one a starter, that being first-round pick Zaven Collins, a linebacker who is a solid player but didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up by the team. The other player still on the roster is sixth-round outside linebacker Victor Dimukeje. Second-round receiver Rondale Moore was traded to the Falcons this year, while fourth-round corner Marco Wilson was waived last year and is now in New England.

How I did: Not great. I thought both Collins and Moore would be productive starters and Moore is gone, although he did start games for the Cardinals. I didn’t like Wilson, so that played true.

The Skinny: They had nine picks in the draft and two will be starters in 2024, and just four are still with the team. Tight end Kyle Pitts was taken eighth overall and he hasn’t come close to living up to that lofty draft status. The best pick was fourth-round center Drew Dalman, who is a good, quality starter. Second-round safety Richie Grant has started games, but they whiffed on third-round guard Jalen Mayfield, who was let go and is now with the Giants.

How I did: I loved the pick of Pitts, but, like most, I was wrong about him so far. I said that pick would define the draft, but so far it isn’t great. I also liked the Grant pick. This will be a telling season for Pitts and this draft. Dalman helps it a bunch.

The Skinny: They had eight picks in the draft, and the top four are projected 2024 starters. They include top pick in receiver Rashod Bateman. He has just been OK considering his draft spot. They also took edge Odafe Oweh with the 31st overall pick, and he’s flashed at times. Third-round guard Ben Cleveland and fourth-round corner Brandon Stephens have started games and both will go into the season first on the depth chart. Receiver Tylan Wallace, taken in the fourth round, is a returner who had a big touchdown return last season.

How I did: I liked the pick of Cleveland, which has been a solid one. I didn’t like the pick of Bateman because I thought there were better options on the board. As a whole, I just thought their draft was OK, considering I didn’t love their two first-round picks.

The Skinny: They had eight picks in the draft and two are starters heading into this season and two are backups. The starters are first-round edge player Greg Rousseau and third-round tackle Spencer Brown. Both Rousseau and Brown are coming off their best seasons. The backup from that draft is safety Damar Hamlin. Second-round pass rusher Boogie Basham was traded to the Giants.

How I did: I liked the pick of Basham in the second more than Rousseau in the first. Oops. I also didn’t love the Brown pick in the third, which has proven to be wrong. He played really well when healthy last season after injuries limited him in 2022.

The Skinny: They had 11 picks, led by first-round pick Jaycee Horn. Of those 11, three are set to be starters in 2024. They are Horn, tight end Tommy Tremble, who was taken in the third round, and running back Chuba Hubbard, who was taken in the fourth. Both Tremble and Hubbard are expected to rotate with other players. Horn is a good starter who missed time early in his career with injuries.

How I did: I loved the pick of Tremble, but he’s just been OK. I didn’t like the pick of receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. in the second, and he hasn’t lived up to the expectations. I liked the pick of Horn and also liked offensive lineman Brady Christensen, but he is a backup now.

The Skinny: They made the move in this draft to get Justin Fields. That clearly didn’t work out since he’s now in Pittsburgh and they picked a quarterback in Caleb Williams first this year. Second-round pick Teven Jenkins is the starting left guard — and a good one. Those were the only two picks in the first three rounds they had. They did get backup offensive lineman Larry Borom in the fifth and running back Khalil Herbert in the sixth.

How I did: I loved the move to get Fields, so, like the Bears, I was wrong about that. I said getting Fields would define the draft. They also moved up to get Jenkins as well. He’s a good player. But since this draft is defined by Fields, it wasn’t good.

The Skinny: They had 10 picks, and two will be starters in 2024. One is star receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who they took with the fifth overall pick. He has been everything they expected. The other starter is kicker Evan McPherson, who they took in the fifth round. They also have six backups from this draft, some of whom have started games, including second-round guard-tackle Jackson Carman.

How I did: Not good. I liked fourth-round defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, but he is no longer with the team after being let go in 2022. I also questioned taking Chase over Penei Sewell, but they got it right for this team. I didn’t like the pick of Carman, so I got that one. Chase saves this draft.

The Skinny: They had eight picks in the draft, and two will be starters in 2024 — their first two picks. They took corner Greg Newsome II in the first and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second. Both players are good, solid players at their positions. They missed on third-round receiver Anthony Schwartz, but fourth-round tackle James Hudson and fifth-round linebacker Tony Fields II are backups.

How I did: I loved the pick of Schwartz, but he never became what I or they thought he could become. He’s now in Miami after the Browns cut him last summer. I did like their top two picks as well as Fields and seventh-round running back Demetric Felton, who flashed in his first two seasons but was cut last summer.

The Skinny: They had 11 picks, and landed two starters. One of those starters was the steal of the draft in pass-rush star Micah Parsons going 12th overall. He can take over games. The other starter is third-round defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, who is a good down player. They have four other backups from this draft. They did miss on second-round corner Kelvin Joseph, who they traded to Miami last year and he’s now with the Chiefs.

How I did: I liked the pick of Joseph, so not good with that one. I questioned taking corner Nahshon Wright in the third because it was a round too high. It’s proven to be that since he isn’t a starter. I also liked the pick of Parsons, but didn’t love it — so I was way off.

The Skinny: They had 10 picks in the draft, with six of those players scheduled to be starters in 2024. That’s a nice haul. The top pick was corner Patrick Surtain Jr., who was the ninth player taken. He’s one of the best corners in the league. The rest of the starters from this draft were second-round running back Javonte Williams, third-round guard Quinn Meinerz, linebackers Baron Browning (third) and Jonathan Cooper (seventh) and safety Caden Sterns (fifth), if Sterns is recovered from the torn patella tendon he injured in Week 1 last season.

How I did: I loved the pick of Surtain, who has proven to be well worth it. I liked their draft a lot, which is why they got such a lofty grade. I questioned taking Sterns because of injury history, but liked him as a player. I also liked fifth-round safety Jamar Johnson, but he didn’t work out and is now playing in Canada.

The Skinny: The Lions had seven picks, and five of those are starters. They nailed this draft. They started out by taking tackle Penei Sewell in the first, and he’s been everything they expected at right tackle. They landed starting defensive tackle Alim McNeill and starting safety Ifeatu Melifonwu in the third and then got star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and starting linebacker Derrick Barnes in the fourth. St. Brown is the steal of their draft and a star receiver. This draft haul is a big foundation for where the Lions are right now, which is one of the top teams in the NFC.

How I did: I liked second-round defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, but he has had some injury issues and is now a backup. I loved that they drafted big people with their first three picks, and that has played true since they are now good on both lines. I didn’t like the pick of Melifonwu as a corner, but he has become a starting safety.

The Skinny: They had nine picks, and three go into the 2024 season as starters, while two are backups. First-round pick Eric Stokes is a good player at corner, but injuries have limited him to 11 starts the past two seasons after an impressive rookie year. He will start this year. The other two starters are second-round center Josh Myers and fifth-round defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton. They missed on third-round receiver Amari Rodgers.

How I did: I loved the pick of Stokes, but he needs to be healthy. I questioned not taking an offensive tackle with any of their first three picks. I liked that they didn’t draft a receiver early to appease Aaron Rodgers.

The Skinny: They had just five picks in the draft and didn’t have a first- or second-round pick after trading it to Miami for Laremy Tunsil, who has proven to be a top-tier tackle. Their best pick from this draft came in the third round when they took receiver Nico Collins, who has developed into a big-play threat. None of their other four picks is a starter and only third-round tight end Brevin Jordan plays much.

How I did: I liked their pick of quarterback Davis Mills in the third, and he flashed some early but is now a backup to C.J. Stroud. I also liked the pick of Jordan, who really hasn’t come close to being the pass-catching tight end I thought he could be. Collins saves the draft, but this was really about getting Tunsil.

The Skinny: They had seven picks in this draft, but the only consistent starters have been first-round edge Kwity Paye and seventh-round guard Will Fries. Paye is coming off his best season with 8 1/2 sacks. Fries has 26 career starts, including 17 last season, at right guard. Second-round edge Dayo Odeyingbo, fourth-round tight end Kylen Granson and sixth-round quarterback Sam Ehlinger are backups, but Odeyingbo had eight sacks last season and flashed pass-rush talent.

How I did: I liked the pick of Paye, who I said had the tools to become a good edge player. I didn’t like the pick of Granson, but he has been better than I expected with 61 catches the past two seasons. I said the draft depended on Paye becoming a star, which he hasn’t. He’s good, not great.

The Skinny: The Jaguars had nine picks in this draft, including the top overall pick, and used that to take quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He didn’t play as well as expected last year, but he is still considered a franchise quarterback. So they got that one. They also used a first-round pick on running back Travis Etienne, who is one of the better backs in the AFC. Second-round corner Tyson Campbell and third-round safety Andre Cisco both start, but both have been inconsistent. Second-round tackle Walker Little has started games, but he’s a backup heading into 2024. Fifth-round tight end Luke Farrell plays.

How I did: I loved the pick of Lawrence and still do think he will be a big-time player. I questioned taking Etienne in the first round based on position value. I did say he was a good player and my type of “air” back. I mentioned they took risks taking injured players like Cisco and Little.

The Skinny: They had six picks, but didn’t have a first-round pick after trading it to Baltimore for tackle Orlando Brown Jr. He helped them win a Super Bowl two years ago, but left via free agency last year and left a major hole at left tackle they had to fill in this year’s draft. Of the six picks they used, three are starters. They are second-round linebacker Nick Bolton, second-round center Creed Humphrey and sixth-round guard Trey Smith. Humphrey and Smith help compose the best interior three in the NFL along with guard Joe Thuney. Bolton is a big part of their defense. Fifth-round tight end Noah Gray is a valuable backup.

How I did: My favorite pick was Smith, who I said could be a big-time steal. He has been that. I didn’t think Bolton would be great in coverage, so I dinged them some for that pick. He’s been solid, but still better against the run. I said counting Brown it was a solid draft. It’s been better than that, but they do get downgraded for trading a first-round pick to have Brown for just two years, leaving left tackle a problem for them.

The Skinny: They had seven picks, and four are starters on defense. They hit on second-round safety Trevon Moehrig, third-round picks Malcolm Koonce (edge) and Divine Deablo (linebacker) and fifth-round corner Nate Hobbs. All will go into this season as starters, with Koonce coming off his breakout season in 2023 with eight sacks. The miss in this draft was taking guard-tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round. He started 17 games as a rookie at guard, but he was waived the following season and hasn’t started an NFL game since and is currently looking for a team to sign him.

How I did: I liked the pick of Moehrig, who has been a solid starter and improved last season under Antonio Pierce. I didn’t like the pick of Leatherwood, who I said was over-drafted, which played true. I questioned taking two more safeties after Moehrig — with Deablo being one of them, but he moved to linebacker and has been a solid player.

The Skinny: They had nine picks, and the first three are all starters. First-round pick Rashawn Slater is among the best left tackles in the league. Second-round corner Asante Samuel Jr. and third-round receiver Josh Palmer are both starters heading into the season. They also landed a couple of backup linebackers in Chris Rumph II (fourth) and Nick Niemann (sixth). But it’s the top that makes this class.

How I did: I loved the Palmer pick, and he has been solid if not special. He will get more chances this season with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams gone. I didn’t like the pick of Rumph, but loved their first three picks. I also mentioned fifth-round tight end Tre’ McKitty as a player to watch. He’s now with the Bills after catching 26 passes in two-plus seasons with the Chargers.

The Skinny: The Rams had nine picks, but didn’t have a first-round pick since it was traded to Jacksonville as part of the deal to land cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Their first pick in this draft was second-round receiver Tutu Atwell, who has been mostly a backup, but is coming off his career-best year with 39 catches and three scores last season. Third-round linebacker Ernest Jones and fourth-round defensive tackle Bobby Brown III are both starters. Jones is a big part of their defense, while Brown is coming a career-best 13 starts last season. Seventh-round receiver Ben Skowronek was a backup for three seasons, but was traded to the Texans last week.

How I did: I made the Brown pick my favorite one, saying he could give them a nice down power player. I didn’t love the pick of Atwell since he was so small, but he came on last season. I said they needed to hope Brown and fourth-round corner Robert Rochell would be starters soon, but Rochell was let go and is now in Green Bay.

The Skinny: The Dolphins had seven picks, and the top four have all been starters and some have been dominant. First-round pick Jaylen Waddle has proven to be a top receiver in pairing with Tyreek Hill. His speed is a big part of their offense. Pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, the Dolphins’ second first-round pick, was having his breakout season in 2023 before suffering a torn Achilles. He is expected back early this season. Second-round safety Jevon Holland flashed star potential two years ago, but his play tailed off some last season, while second-round tackle Liam Eichenberg has started up and down the line, although he will have to win a starting job in camp this summer. That’s good drafting. They made a lot of trades in getting to their final picks.

How I did: I loved the pick of Waddle, who I said would give them a Tyreek Hill-type player. Now he’s playing with him. I liked Holland, but said I would have taken Trevon Moehrig in that spot. I said the key to the draft would be how Phillips developed. Well, he did. Now he has to show he can be the same player after the injury.

The Skinny: The Vikings had 11 picks in this draft, but only two are starters heading into next season. One is first-round pick Christian Darrisaw, who is one of the best offensive tackles in the league. The other is safety Cam Bynum, who was taken in the sixth round. After that, the draft produced little. The Vikings had four third-round picks, and one is still on the roster. They missed on quarterback Kellen Mond, linebacker Chazz Surratt and guard Wyatt Davis, while Patrick Jones II is a backup edge player. Fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu is a solid return man.

How I did: I loved the pick of Darrisaw, which has played true. He is a dominant player. I didn’t love the pick of the back in the fourth, but I did say he could become a good return man, which he has. I thought landing Darrisaw and Davis would fix the line. One out of two there. I also said Rick Spielman had a good draft. Why did I say that? It was just OK — and even he would admit that now. Or would he?

The Skinny: This is the Mac Jones draft for the Patriots, so it’s not good at the start. They took Jones 15th overall and he’s now in Jacksonville after being benched last year. That’s a major whiff. They did have some hits with their remaining seven picks, most notably second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who just received a contract extension. Fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson is expected to be their top running back and has 2,265 rushing yards in his three seasons. The only other player still on the roster is sixth-round safety Joshuah Bledsoe. They missed on third-round edge Ronnie Perkins, who is now in Denver. This was not a good draft at all.

How I did: I was almost as bad as the Patriots. I said they were smart letting the board come to them to get Jones, not that I loved him or anything. I didn’t like the pick of Stevenson, saying there were better running back options on the board, but there really weren’t as it played out. I liked the pick of Barmore, saying he would play right away, but also liked the Perkins pick. Barmore and Stevenson save this draft.

The Skinny: The Saints had six picks in the draft, and two are starters heading into this season. But one of those is not first-round pick Payton Turner. He has been a major disappointment in his first three seasons, with three sacks and no starts. He’s on his way out of town if he doesn’t play better this year. They did hit on their second- and third-round picks, landing linebacker Pete Werner in the second and corner Paulson Adebo in the third. Both are quality players on their defense. The rest of the draft produced little.

How I did: I liked the pick of Adebo, which is one I got right. But I didn’t love the pick of Werner in the second, which I missed. I thought they reached for Turner, which has played true and said taking quarterback Ian Book in the fourth was an interesting pick, but one that clearly didn’t work out.

The Skinny: They had six picks in the draft, including three in the first 71, and not one will go into the 2024 season as a starter. They whiffed on first-round receiver Kadarius Toney, who was traded to the Chiefs after just 30 catches for the Giants in five starts over two seasons. Second-round pass rusher Azeez Ojulari has 25 starts in three seasons with 16 sacks, but he will be a rotational player with Brian Burns coming over in a trade. The other backups on the roster are third-round corner Aaron Robinson and sixth-round running back Gary Brightwell. Robinson has played 11 games — none last season — as injuries have limited him.

How I did: I loved the pick of Ojulari, who I said could be a major steal. He hasn’t been that, but he’s been solid. I did question taking Robinson in the third, but medicals make that a tough evaluation now. I said I liked the way the Giants moved down and took Toney and still got a first the next year. That pick is starting right tackle Evan Neal, taken seventh overall. He hasn’t played up to expectations, but injuries have hurt his growth.

The Skinny: They had 10 picks in the draft, and two will go into the season as starters. One of those is not No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, who flamed out at quarterback and was traded to Denver this year. He can only be labeled one way: Bust. The picks who are starters are first-round tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, who will start at guard this season after battling through injuries his first few seasons, and nickel corner Michael Carter II. Of the remaining eight picks, two are backups in fifth-round linebacker Jamien Sherwood and sixth-round corner Brandin Echols. Fifth-round safety Jason Pinnock was let go 2023 and he started for the Giants last season. Ouch.

How I did: I liked the pick of running back Michael Carter in the fourth round, but after some early flashes he is now with Arizona after the Jets released him last season. I thought they gave up too much — two thirds — to get Vera-Tucker. He’s a good player when on the field, but that’s been a problem since he has just 12 starts over the past two seasons. I liked second-round receiver Elijah Moore, but he was traded to Cleveland. I did say this draft was all about Wilson. So that will impact the new grade in a big way.

The Skinny: The Eagles had nine picks in the draft, and hit big on their first two. They took receiver DeVonta Smith after trading down and then up again in the first, adding picks in the process They followed that by taking guard Landon Dickerson in the second. Smith is a big-time playmaker, while Dickerson is one of the top guards in the league. Third-round defensive lineman Milton Williams has been an underrated part of their defense and does start. Fifth-round running back Kenneth Gainwell has been a productive part of their offense. The Eagles also got a 2022 first-round pick from Miami for trading down.

How I did: I said Gainwell would prove to be a steal, and he has been a good player. I questioned the Dickerson pick because of an injury history, saying it was risky but could pay off. It’s paid off. I questioned waiting until the fourth round to take a corner (backup Zech McPhearson), and that has been a trouble spot for the Eagles.

The Skinny: They had nine picks in this draft, and three would be starters if the season started today. They are running back Najee Harris (first), tight end Pat Freiermuth (second) and offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. (fourth). Harris hasn’t come close to living up to the first-round hype, with a career per-rush average of 3.9, which makes this a questionable draft. Freiermuth is a good player, but Moore is a guy they would like to replace and could be out of a job this year after the Steelers took tackle Troy Fautanu in the first round this year. Fifth-round defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk is a backup. They missed on third-round center-guard Kendrick Green, who is now with the Texans.

How I did: I questioned the decision to take Harris in the first round, which has proved to be accurate. But I did like the pick of Green to be their center, and that certainly didn’t work. I also liked sixth-round pick Quincy Roche, but he has bounced around the league after being cut by the Steelers.

The Skinny: This is the Trey Lance draft for the 49ers. They traded up to the third spot to take Lance, who is now in Dallas after his failed time with the 49ers. That trade was a horrible move in a draft that was actually pretty good aside from that deal. They landed three starting secondary players in this draft, taking corners Ambry Thomas (third), Deommodore Lenoir (fifth) and safety Talanoa Hufanga (fifth). They also got starting guard Aaron Banks in the second, backup offensive lineman Jaylon Moore (fifth) and backup running back Elijah Mitchell in the sixth. The only real misses were the trade for Lance and taking running back Trey Sermon in the third.

How I did: I loved the pick of Banks, who has proven to be a big part of their offensive success. I questioned the move to go get Lance, especially at the price it cost them. That was a major fail. I did like the Sermon pick, but that didn’t work out. But it was a solid haul after the Lance fiasco.

The Skinny: They traded their first- and third-round picks in this draft to land Jamal Adams. Oops. That turned out to be a terrible trade — and he was released this year. He had one good year, then got hurt in two straight seasons. But trading first-round picks for a box safety isn’t good business. The Seahawks had just three picks in this draft, and none are starters. All three of the picks, receiver D’wayne Eskridge (second), corner Tre Brown (fourth) and tackle Stone Forsythe (seventh), are still on the roster.

How I did: I liked the pick of Forsythe late, but questioned taking Eskridge when they needed more offensive line help. That played out as Eskridge has done little. But the real hit to this draft was trading those premium picks — also a first the following year — to get Adams. Bad move.

The Skinny: They had seven picks in the draft, and three are projected starters in 2024. They are first-round defensive end Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, fourth-round center Robert Hainsey and fifth-round linebacker K.J. Britt. So far, Tryon-Shoyinka has 13 sacks in three seasons, five last year. Hainsey was the weak part of the Tampa Bay offensive line last season and could be replaced this season by 2024 first-round pick Graham Barton. Britt has been a pleasant surprise and will take over for Devin White. Kyle Trask, taken in the second, is their backup quarterback, but he was over-drafted.

How I did: I liked the pick of Hainsey, but saw him more as depth than a starting center. I didn’t like the decision to take Trask, while I thought Tryon-Shoyinka would give them a nice replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul.

The Skinny: They had eight picks in the draft, and just one is a sure starter in 2024. That is safety Elijah Molden, who was drafted as a corner in the third round. Second-round offensive lineman Dillon Radunz will compete for a starting job at right guard. First-round corner Caleb Farley has two career starts and missed all of last season with a back injury. Third-round linebacker Monty Rice is now with the Saints. Fourth-round edge Rashad Weaver is a backup who has 5 1/2 career sacks.

How I did: I loved fourth-round receiver Dez Fitzpatrick, but he didn’t do much of anything in his time with the team, and he’s now with the Steelers. I also liked the pick of Radunz, while I questioned the Farley pick for health reasons that have played true. I also said to keep an eye on Weaver.

The Skinny: They had 10 picks in the draft, and four of those could be starters heading into 2024. First-round pick Jamin Davis hasn’t come close to living up to where he was drafted and the team recently declined to pick up his fifth-year option. He will likely have to win a starting job in camp. The sure starters are second-round guard Sam Cosmi, third-round corner Benjamin St-Juste and sixth-round safety Darrick Forrest. They also landed backups in receivers Dyami Brown and Dax Milne and tight end John Bates. It was a solid haul.

How I did: I loved Brown, saying he will be a steal, but he’s been nothing more than a rotational player. I also thought Davis would become a star and that hasn’t happened yet. I liked their draft then more than I like it now.

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