How did teams do? As always, it’s virtually impossible to say which players will turn into stars and which will be recalled as draft busts. But it is possible to try to determine which teams maximized the value of their picks, based on the information available, and which didn’t.
Dallas Cowboys: B-
The Cowboys used their first six picks, five of them in the top three rounds, to attempt to rebuild their defense. That was understandable. Being able to get LB Micah Parsons, perhaps the top defender in the draft, after trading down two spots from 10th to 12th, was fortunate. Adding two CBs in the top three rounds, Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright, addressed a major need. But it’s questionable whether the Cowboys chose wisely on their CBs and got the most out of their Day 2 selections. Perhaps one of those picks on the first two days should have been devoted to the offensive line.
New York Giants: A-
Who said GM Dave Gettleman couldn’t trade down? He had never done it before, but he did it twice in the first two rounds and thrived. The Giants moved down nine spots in the opening round and took WR Kadarius Toney. They traded down again in the second and still got a top pass rusher, Azeez Ojulari, at No. 50. Gettleman upgraded the roster significantly while stockpiling 2022 picks.
Philadelphia Eagles: B+
The Eagles traded up two spots in the first round for WR DeVonta Smith. The addition of the Heisman Trophy winner provides second-year QB Jalen Hurts with a dynamic playmaker at receiver. Getting another Alabama product in the second round, C/G Landon Dickerson, fortified the interior of the offensive line.
Washington Football Team: B
Coach Ron Rivera and his handpicked front office addressed big needs at LB and along the offensive line. First-round LB Jamin Davis could thrive while playing behind Washington’s talented defensive line. Second-round T Samuel Cosmi came off the board a bit earlier than some draft analysts had projected but is a potential starter. Will Rivera regret not making a move for a QB on one of the draft’s first two days? Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick was a stopgap measure, and there’s no prospective long-term solution on the roster.
Chicago Bears: A
The Bears made a bold move to trade up nine spots, from 20th to 11th, to get QB Justin Fields in the opening round. Getting Fields was well worth the cost. The team that so infamously passed up Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to draft Mitchell Trubisky four years ago now has a more viable franchise QB candidate, and Fields’s arrival could end up saving the jobs of GM Ryan Pace and Coach Matt Nagy. It also helped that the Bears strengthened the offensive line by getting T Teven Jenkins in the second round.
Detroit Lions: B
The Lions focused early on their offensive and defensive lines, and they did well. The draft’s top offensive tackle, Penei Sewell, fell to them at No. 7. They added DTs Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill on Day 2. There were plenty of other needs here that didn’t get addressed with premium picks. But Coach Dan Campbell has stressed a team-building mind-set that emphasizes toughness, and this approach reflected that.
Green Bay Packers: C-
The picks, taken individually, were fine. But this was about the bigger picture. If ever there was a moment for the Packers to attempt to mollify QB Aaron Rodgers by using a first-round choice on an offensive player, this was it. The Packers didn’t, instead going with CB Eric Stokes. They did get a replacement at center for the departed Corey Linsley with second-rounder Josh Myers, and they added a WR in the third round in Amari Rodgers. But it may have been far too little, far too late for the Packers to repair their relationship with the NFL’s reigning MVP.
Minnesota Vikings: B
The Vikings put Kirk Cousins on notice by taking Kellen Mond early in the third round and then talking about him being on par with the draft’s top QBs. Cousins clearly remains the starter, but the Vikings now have an alternative for the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, they added potential immediate contributors with first-round T Christian Darrisaw and third-round LB Chazz Surratt.
Atlanta Falcons: B
The Falcons made the right choice with the No. 4 pick by taking TE Kyle Pitts. He’s a uniquely talented player, and the need to get a QB to succeed Matt Ryan was not all that pressing. Ryan is young enough, at 35, for the Falcons to make one more push to return to prominence with him. Second-rounder Richie Grant will help, although it’s debatable whether the Falcons took the right safety. Getting T Jalen Mayfield early in the third round was a reasonable move. He could begin his NFL career at guard.
Carolina Panthers: B-
Making CB Jaycee Horn the first defensive player taken, at No. 8 overall, was questionable. But the Panthers rebounded with a series of solid Day 2 picks to provide assistance to recently acquired QB Sam Darnold. The additions of WR Terrace Marshall Jr., T Brady Christensen and TE Tommy Tremble represent the kind of roster-building support that Darnold never received during his Jets tenure.
New Orleans Saints: C
There was plenty of speculation about the Saints trading up in Round 1, maybe even into the top 10, but it didn’t happen. They stayed put at No. 28 and took a pass rusher, Payton Turner, who had been projected by some as a second- or third-round prospect. Second-round LB Pete Werner is talented but also came off the board perhaps too soon. Third-round CB Paulson Adebo could have an immediately prominent role on defense. Fourth-round QB Ian Book arrives in the Saints’ first draft class after Drew Brees’s retirement. He becomes Coach Sean Payton’s next QB project.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B
The Buccaneers kept their Super Bowl-winning roster intact during free agency. So they could afford to look to the future by taking QB Kyle Trask with the final selection of the second round. Tom Brady won’t play forever. It only seems like it. The Bucs also added to their already formidable pass rush — just ask Patrick Mahomes about that — with the first-round choice of Joe Tryon.
Arizona Cardinals: B-
The 16th selection was perhaps a little too soon to take LB Zaven Collins. But he still should be an immediate contributor. Second-round WR Rondale Moore provides another receiving option for QB Kyler Murray.
Los Angeles Rams: C
The Rams didn’t have a pick until No. 57, and GM Les Snead didn’t get to enjoy the comforts of the Malibu mansion the team used as its draft headquarters, working from home after a positive test for the coronavirus. Snead and Coach Sean McVay took a second-round chance on diminutive WR Tutu Atwell. Despite his size he has the capability to be a big-play difference-maker for new QB Matthew Stafford.
San Francisco 49ers: B
If the 49ers really were down to Trey Lance or Mac Jones for the No. 3 pick, taking Lance was the proper move. He has star potential and reasonably could develop into the sort of QB who would justify that king’s ransom that the 49ers surrendered in the pre-draft trade that landed them the third selection. But should Justin Fields have been included more prominently in the deliberations as the 49ers contemplated their QB choice? This was the kind of decision that determines the on-field fortunes of a franchise for a decade or so. Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch better have been right.
Seattle Seahawks: C-
The Seahawks had a dearth of picks and apparently weren’t listening when QB Russell Wilson expressed his weariness with being hit so often. Their lone selection during the first two days of the draft yielded WR D’Wayne Eskridge. They didn’t take an offensive lineman until the sixth round.
Buffalo Bills: B
The Bills are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and acted exactly like that during this draft, zeroing in on addressing a major need that could be the finishing touch for a championship roster. They doubled down on pass-rush help by taking Gregory Rousseau in the first round and Carlos Basham Jr. in the second. Third-round T Spencer Brown provides some down-the-road offensive-line security.
Miami Dolphins: B
There was little doubt that the Dolphins would take a WR at No. 6. But did they take the right one by choosing Jaylen Waddle and passing over DeVonta Smith? Miami had five of the draft’s first 81 selections and added plenty of promise — as one would expect — with Waddle, pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, T Liam Eichenberg and TE Hunter Long. One possible quibble was the decision to make Holland the first safety drafted over Trevon Moehrig.
New England Patriots: A
It has been a bountiful offseason for the Patriots, from their uncharacteristic spending spree in free agency to this highly productive draft, as they attempt to bounce back from their miserable 2020 season. Trade up for QB Mac Jones? Why? There was no need, as the Patriots stayed put at No. 15 and landed the QB believed to have been in the running for the No. 3 choice by the 49ers. The Patriots then got tremendous value with their Day 2 selections of DT Christian Barmore and DE Ronnie Perkins.
New York Jets: B+
If the Jets picked the right QB at No. 2 overall in Zach Wilson, this is a transformative draft class. They settled relatively early in the evaluation process on Wilson and ended up bypassing Trey Lance and Justin Fields. The fact that the Jets were so committed to the pick does not necessarily mean they were right. Whatever the case, GM Joe Douglas immediately provided the sort of support for Wilson that the Jets never managed for Sam Darnold, trading up to get G Alijah Vera-Tucker later in the first round and adding WR Elijah Moore early in Round 2.
Baltimore Ravens: B-
The Ravens’ seemingly never-ending search for help at WR led them to use a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman and a fourth-rounder on Tylan Wallace. They did address their pass-rush need with first-rounder Odafe Oweh and fifth-rounder Daelin Hayes but could have done more along the offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals: C-
There’s little doubt that Ja’Marr Chase was the top WR prospect in this class. Reuniting Chase with former LSU teammate QB Joe Burrow revs up the Bengals’ passing game considerably. But that doesn’t mean the Bengals were right to take Chase over the draft’s top offensive tackle, Penei Sewell, at No. 5. Burrow absorbed far too many hits last year and had his rookie season cut short by a knee injury. The Bengals should have prioritized safeguarding Burrow and should have taken Sewell. When the Bengals got around to taking an offensive tackle in Round 2, their choice was Jackson Carman, who was projected as a third-round prospect by some observers and could begin his NFL career at guard.
Cleveland Browns: A-
There is plenty to love about what the Browns did. Their picks drew cheers from the local fans gathered at the draft site. And those cheers were justified. Getting versatile LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 20 choices into the second round was one of the best picks of the entire draft. He was worthy of being a mid-first-rounder. That selection came after the Browns used their first-round selection on CB Greg Newsome II. The Cleveland defense was upgraded significantly.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
The Steelers didn’t give themselves a young-QB option for the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, which can’t be far off. But they did a lot to help Roethlisberger by getting RB Najee Harris and TE Pat Freiermuth and then bolstering the offensive line. Running backs generally aren’t worth first-round picks in today’s NFL. But perhaps Harris could prove to be one of the rare exceptions.
Houston Texans: B-
With Deshaun Watson’s future uncertain, it was intriguing that the Texans used their first pick of the draft on a QB when they took Davis Mills early in the third round. He becomes a developmental QB while Tyrod Taylor would be the short-term alternative if Watson does not stay or is not available to play. New GM Nick Caserio simply did not inherit many resources for this draft from former roster architect Bill O’Brien.
Indianapolis Colts: C-
There was nothing wrong with the Colts using the 21st choice on pass rusher Kwity Paye. But GM Chris Ballard opted against using resources early in the draft to address the offensive line. That could be an issue as Carson Wentz arrives to take over at QB. Wentz’s mistakes under pressure were his undoing with the Eagles, and the Colts could have done more to prevent a post-trade repeat in Indianapolis.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B
You’re supposed to get really talented players when you have the picks that the Jaguars had. So the bar is high for evaluating whether they got sufficient value out of their selections. Taking QB Trevor Lawrence first was obvious. His development will determine whether Urban Meyer has NFL coaching success. Did Meyer and GM Trent Baalke do enough with their other picks to properly support Lawrence? It’s borderline. It’s easy to question using a first-rounder on RB Travis Etienne, but he’s versatile enough that he just might be able to justify the choice.
Tennessee Titans: B
The Titans did some good things. They needed CB help and got it with first-rounder Caleb Farley and third-rounder Elijah Molden. Second-round T Dillon Radunz becomes a candidate to start at right tackle after last year’s misadventure with first-round pick Isaiah Wilson.
Denver Broncos: B-
The Broncos were said to still be a candidate to take a QB at No. 9 even after they traded for Teddy Bridgewater to pair with holdover Drew Lock. Perhaps that was pre-draft subterfuge; Denver used the ninth pick on CB Patrick Surtain II. He’s a promising cornerback and worthy of the ninth choice. But the Broncos, again, have failed to resolve their QB issues, unless a trade for Aaron Rodgers is forthcoming. Second-round RB Javonte Williams and third-round G/C Quinn Meinerz were sensible picks.
Kansas City Chiefs: B
The Chiefs’ remaking of their offensive line continued with their second-round selection of C Creed Humphrey. That’s after the pre-draft trade for T Orlando Brown Jr. that sent a package of picks, including a first-rounder, to the Ravens. The most important offseason issue for the defending AFC champs has been suitably addressed, it seems.
Las Vegas Raiders: C-
It’s not so much that this is a bad draft class for the Raiders. It’s just that their draft decisions seem so topsy-turvy. If they had gotten S Trevon Moehrig in the first round and T Alex Leatherwood in the second, that would have made perfect sense. Instead, they illogically took Leatherwood in the opening round and benefited from Moehrig’s mini-drop to get him in the second. Coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock focused on overhauling the secondary with this draft class, to the exclusion of practically all else.
Los Angeles Chargers: B+
Justin Herbert should be pleased. The second-year QB was the prime beneficiary when the Chargers were able to get T Rashawn Slater at No. 13. Herbert was a record-breaking passer as a rookie, and now he will have his blind side protected by a marquee left tackle. Getting CB Asante Samuel Jr. 15 picks into Round 2 also was a very sound move for the Chargers.