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2021 NFL Draft instant reactions and grades

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My instant thoughts on each NFL draft pick as they happen.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Today is the day. We’ve finally made it. After weeks of smokescreens and wild mock drafts—make sure you tune into our 100% accurate NFL mock draft—we’ve finally made it to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Throughout the first round tonight, I will be updating this page with my instant reactions for each pick made tonight.

Will I do grades? Maybe. It does say it in the title. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of grades but the people like it. Maybe I’ll come up with a different scale than the old A,B,C scale. How about grading each pick on a scale of how much sense each pick makes? I like that. So I’ll grade each pick from Makes Total Sense, Makes Some Sense, I Guess I Get It, Not Really Seeing The Vision, What The F*ck Is Bill O’Brien Doing? (I know Bill O’Brien isn’t in the NFL anymore but he really is the perfect poster boy for WTF moments.)

Make sure you bookmark this URL or just keep the window constantly open starting 8:00 PM EST tonight when round one of the NFL Draft begins!

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson — We’ve known this pick was happening for basically all of 2020 and now it’s officially official. The Jaguars have their franchise quarterback and Lawrence instantly makes the Jags offense much more exciting for 2021.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU Another pick we knew was going to happen. Obviously with trading Sam Darnold the Jets were going QB at No. 2 overall. Personally, I don’t quite get the love with Wilson and why he’s the CLEAR pick at 2 but hey, Jets gonna Jets. They got who they wanted so good for them I guess.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

3. San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State — KYLE SHANAHAN DIDN’T DRAFT MAC JONES! IT’S TIME TO PARTY! Lance in Shanahan’s system is going to be so much fun to watch. He can sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo or let him start Week 1, I don’t care. All I care is that Shanahan made the right call. Also if Lance does play in 2021, he’s going to have REAL fantasy value.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

4. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida — Pitts is a monster and I have a hard time believing he’s not going to have an instant impact in 2021. The pick makes sense with the Falcons’ commitment to Matt Ryan; stock pile on weapons and give this squad one more shot. Even though tight ends tend to struggle their rookie year in fantasy, I don’t see that happening with Pitts. He’s too good and too unique a player. He’s going to be a top 10 tight end no problem.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSUThe Bengals gave Joe Burrow his birthday wish, reuniting their franchise quarterback with his star college receiver. I think Penei Sewell would have been the better choice given how keeping Burrow heathy and upright is pretty important but hey, a top notch receiver is cool too. Fantasy-wise, I’m going to be way too hyped on him this year. Like, WR1 hyped.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

6. Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama — The Bengals got their QB his college star wideout, the Dolphins just did the same thing giving Tua Tagovailoa his old college teammate to pass to. Waddle has game breaking speed that will pair nicely in the slot with DeVante Parker and Will Fuller on the outside. The Dolphins passing game is loaded and the hope is Tua lives up to his hype this year.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

7. Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon — The Lions offensive line is hot garbage and with Sewell falling into their lap at seven, the pick makes total sense. The Lions just got their franchise left tackle. Great pick by them.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

8. Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina — Eight feels rich for Horn but he’s a terrific corner. The Panthers went all defense last year and are clearly sticking to that side of the ball. Horn will be a great addition to what was a not-great pass defense but I’m not in love with the move here.

Grade: I Guess I Get It

9. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama — Broncos snag my top corner but NOT a quarterback. I’m taking that to mean they are wildly in the Aaron Rodgers race. The Broncos continue to tool their defense and with a good quarterback (cough, Rodgers, cough) could be true contenders in the AFC. But Denver better be in the Rodgers sweepstakes because they can NOT go into 2021 with Drew Lock as their starting QB.

Grade: I Guess I Get It/Not Really Seeing The Vision

10. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Dallas Cowboys): WR Devonta Smith, Alabama — LOVE THIS! Smith is my top receiver in the class and he now is the No. 1 option in Philly. The Eagles finally get themselves an elite No. 1 receiver to give Jalen Hurts his best chance to succeed. Eagles weren’t going to get laughed at again for drafting the wrong receiver. Fantasy-wise, this is a perfect landing spot for Smith.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

11. Chicago Bears (trade with New York Giants): QB Justin Fields, Ohio StateThe Bears traded up and got their quarterback of the future. Wow. The Bears did something right. Fields is going to make the Bears offense so much more explosive and is going to have a great time throwing darts to Allen Robinson. As much as it pains me to say this, the Bears just nailed this pick.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

12. Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State — The Cowboys defense was a dumpster fire last year so adding whatever they can to it is a good move in my opinion. Parsons brings another hyper athletic linebacker to pair with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

13. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern — Perfect pick for the Chargers. The second best tackle in the draft falls neatly into their lap at 13 and now Justin Herbert will have a new franchise left tackle.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

14. New York Jets (trade with Minnesota Vikings): OL Alijha Vera-Tucker, USC — Now that the Jets have their QB of the future, they have to protect him. Mekhi Becton was fantastic for New York last year and Vera-Tucker is another great addition. He can play inside or outside and will help continue to build the Jets’ O-line.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

15. New England Patriots: QB Mac Jones, Alabama — As a Patriots fan, I’m not wild about the pick but it makes almost too much sense for the Patriots. Jones is a perfect QB for Bill Belichick: someone who can deliver the ball on the spot right where it needs to be. This is a great pick for the Patriots.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

16. Arizona Cardinals: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa — Collins is a playmaker for sure who can line up at linebacker and safety and just all over the defensive formation. But isn’t that exactly what Isaiah Simmons, the Cardinals No. 1 pick last year, was suppose to be?

Grade: Not Really Seeing the Vision

17. Las Vegas Raiders: OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama — The Raiders had to go O-line after dismantling the position this offseason so I guess good for them for doing that. Leatherwood can play inside and outside which is great for a team that needs help all over the line.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

18. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami — Phillips has all the potential in the world and instantly gives the Dolphins an elite edge defender who can get after the quarterback. His injury history is worrisome, but if he can stay healthy and on the field, the Dolphins got a stud.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

19. Washington Football Team: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky — Great length, an excellent tacker, Davis will instantly improve Washington’s linebacker group and will thrive behind their stout defensive line. This defense is going to be a PROBLEM yet again.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

20. New York Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida — Toney has home run speed, is impossible to tackle, and can make plays all over the field and will certainly be a great gadget piece for... Jason Garrett? Consider me nervous. Not sure I love the idea of adding another inside receiver to an offense filled with inside receivers.

Grade: Not Really Seeing The Vision

21. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan — Paye can get after the quarterback, set the edge against the run, and be a force on the outside. All things the Colts defense can certainly use. Little surprised Colts didn’t go OT with Christian Darrisaw still on the board, but adding a strong presence on the edge isn’t a bad move either.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

22. Tennessee Titans: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech The Titans’ secondary took a big hit this offseason after not really being great last year so going corner here makes a lot of sense. Farley comes with health risks but if he can stay on the field, he’s a lockdown corner and a big addition to Tennessee’s defense.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

23. Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech — Great pick by the Vikings. I’m surprised Darrisaw made it this far down the board but the Vikings snag a great tackle prospect who will step in and improve their line in 2021.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama — Yes, the Steelers need a running back to improve their ground game and yes Harris is the best back in the class. But it’s really hard to run when you don’t have an offensive line in front of you. Hopefully that’ll be the Steelers’ goal the rest of the draft because Harris with a good offensive line in front of him is going to be trouble for NFL defenses.

Grade: I Guess I Get It

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson — Looks like Lawrence and Etienne will still be teammates in the NFL. Etienne has home run speed and can do damage in the passing game. Fantasy-wise, this is a big blow to James Robinson stock as the Jags backfield just got even more crowded.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

26. Cleveland Browns: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern — Newsome is big, long, physical, and will be a great complement to Denzel Ward in the Browns’ secondary. Cleveland’s pass defense was towards the bottom of the league last year in DVOA so improving that side of the football makes total sense.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

27. Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota — LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS. The Ravens needed to come away from this draft with a wide receiver and they did just that, snagging one of the top pass catchers in the class in my opinion. Bateman gives Lamar Jackson a big receiver on the outside to pair with Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

28. New Orleans Saints: DE Payton Turner, Houston — Ok. The Saints lost Trey Hendrickson this offseason so I guess they just drafted his replacement? Ok. Sure. I’m sure he’ll be good for them.

Grade: I Guess I Get It

29. Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia — The Packers definitely need help in their secondary and Stokes has both the size and elite speed to be a top tier guy. But this isn’t a pick that’s made to appease Aaron Rodgers, that’s for dang sure. That bridge might already be burnt to a crisp.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

30. Buffalo Bills: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami — Rousseau comes with bust worries but landing in Buffalo is an ideal spot for him to allow him to develop into his high potential. He might not have an impact in 2021, but Rousseau could be a guy who becomes a dominant force in Buffalo for years to come.

Grade: Makes Some Sense

31. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State — The Ravens lost their two top pass rushers in free agency and adding Oweh helps fill that void. Oweh has a ton of potential but will take some coaching up to refine his pass rush moves. Lucky for him, that’s something the Ravens have in spades. Great landing spot for him.

Grade: Makes Total Sense

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington — Tryon can do a little of everything on defense but particularly can get after the quarterback. With a lot of the Bucs pass rushers on one-year deals, adding young depth here makes plenty of sense.

Grade: Makes Total Sense