• Jordan Laube

2021 NFL Draft and Offseason Recap

What a great draft and what an even better offseason. Lots of steals, lots of dumb picks, lots of great pick ups, and lots of great stories for this incoming rookie class and veterans. While some teams struck gold and made savvy moves for great prospects and free agents, other teams seemed to flounder around and pass up on bigger names. Whatever the case may be, this was one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory. Let's recap and grade each team and how they fared, starting for worst to best.

Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today

32. New Orleans Saints: D-


Draft Grade: F

Free Agency/Trade Grade: D+


The Saints may end up going from one of the best teams over the past 3 seasons, to one of the worst. Yes, they had to cut a lot of veterans to get under the cap, but that isn't going to bode well for them over the next few seasons, especially with the retirement of Drew Brees. Also their draft was a joke; taking Payton Turner in the first round as Cameron Jordan's successor won't work out as well as some other pass rusher might have (Gregory Rousseau, Odafe Oweh, Azeez Ojulari, etc.)


Best Move: Re-Signing Jameis Winston


31. Houston Texans: D+


Draft Grade: C

Free Agency/Trade Grade: D


After a nightmare offseason, with the departure of JJ Watt and the possible trading of Deshaun Watson, the Texans did everything they could to stay afloat...and even that was tough to watch. Brining in David Cullen as their new head coach doesn't seem like the right answer, they lost Will Fuller in free agency, and they traded their best defender after JJ for a subpar pass rusher. Oh well, Houston is official in rebuild mode and it won't end anytime soon.

Best Move: Drafting Davis Mills


30. Green Bay Packers: D+


Draft Grade: D

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C


Another team with questions surrounding their star player and MVP QB. With Aaron Rodgers upset with the organization, they did nothing to help themselves with attempting to keep him in Green Bay. They let Corey Linsley walk, they added minimal weapons to his arsenal, and they "improved" their defense by selecting Eric Stokes with their first round pick. Green Bay continues to not help Rodgers out with first round talent, and we may have seen the last of Aaron in green and yellow because of it.


Best Move: Drafting Amari Rodgers


29. Los Angeles Rams: C-


Draft Grade: D+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C


Getting Matt Stafford was a great move for the Rams, but they didn't do much else besides this. They lost two key secondary players in Troy Hill and John Johnson, and they also lost Samson Ebukam and traded away Michael Brockers. Pair this with the only offensive addition being DeSean Jackson, and a lackluster draft class, the Rams may struggle next season.

Best Move: Trading for Matt Stafford


28. Pittsburgh Steelers: C-


Draft Grade: D

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B-


Bringing back JuJu and Tyson Alualu are going to help the Steelers more than it'll hurt them. Not re-signing Bud Dupree is tough, but his injury history made this an easy choice. With a shaky cap situation, the Steelers did a good job retaining certain players and getting rid of others. Their draft, on the other hand, wasn't as solid. I think Najee Harris is a fine pick, but adding an offensive linemen in the second round would have been a better move rather than Pat Freiermuth. Either way, Pittsburgh still has a great defense and young offensive talent.


Best Move: Re-Signing JuJu Smith-Schuster


27. Seattle Seahawks: C


Draft Grade: C-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C+


With questions looming around Russell Wilson's future, the Seahawks stayed the course and made some decent free agency moves. Brining back Carlos Dunlap and Chris Carson are good moves, as well as trading for Gabe Jackson and signing Gerald Everett to the offensive side of the ball, though the Seahawks now have an abundance of tight ends. With only 3 picks in the draft, the Seahawks did fine with their selections, they just didn't luck out with someone dropping like a certain player did for them 2 years ago.


Best Move: Trading for Gabe Jackson


Photo: Tony Dejak/Associated Press


26. Buffalo Bills: C


Draft Grade: C+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C-


Buffalo did well for themselves after having one of their best seasons in recent memory. Adding Emmanuel Sanders should help fill the void left by John Brown, and drafting two solid edge rushers in Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham were sound moves. I just feel that Buffalo could have done more, especially at the cornerback and tight end positions. With only a couple of missing pieces left, the Bills are in prime position for a Super Bowl push.


Best Move: Drafting Gregory Rousseau


25. Philadelphia Eagles: C


Draft Grade: B

Free Agency/Trade Grade: D+


Besides signing Anthony Harris to an absolute bargain of a deal, the Eagles didn't do much free agency wise. The only pre-draft big moves they made were trading down from the #6 overall spot to #12, and trading away Carson Wentz; a good move for both Carson and the Eagles. On draft night, however, the Eagles made big splashes, trading up for Heisman Winner DeVonta Smith, and eventual replacements for savvy vets like Landon Dickerson for Jason Kelce/Brandon Brooks, and Milton Williams for Fletcher Cox. They couldn't have done a better job with who was available.


Best Move: Drafting DeVonta Smith


24. Dallas Cowboys: C+


Draft Grade: B-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C


With the hiring of Dan Quinn, mastermind behind the Legion of Boom, and adding veteran safeties like Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee, the Cowboys did little to improve their weak cornerback spot in free agency. With declining play from Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys snagged Micah Parsons, arguably the best defensive player in this draft, in the first round, and cornerback Kelvin Joseph. They used their first six picks on defensive players, and even got Jabril Cox to slide to them in the 4th round. If the Cowboys did one thing right, it was beefing up the defensive side of the ball.

Best Move: Hiring Dan Quinn


23. Atlanta Falcons: C+


Draft Grade: B

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C-


The Falcons seem to have an "answer" at running back after signing Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, both of which aren't necessarily game breakers. Other than that, the only decent move they made was picking up Duron Harmon in free agency. The draft was a completely different story for the Falcons. Drafting Kyle Pitts over a QB or WR was a great decision, and adding Richie Grant and Jalen Mayfield give much needed help to their secondary and offensive line respectively.


Best Move: Drafting Kyle Pitts


22. Tennessee Titans: C+


Draft Grade: B-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C


Losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are going to be big blows for this offense, but they made up for it by adding defensive studs like Bud Dupree and Janoris Jenkins to their roster. In addition, they drafted Caleb Farley, my #1 rated CB coming out of the draft, as well as Dillon Radunz to help beef up the right tackle spot. Elijah Molden should also get solid playing time.


Best Move: Drafting Caleb Farley


Photo: Tony Dejak/Associated Press


21. Chicago Bears: C+


Draft Grade: A

Free Agency/Trade Grade: F


You couldn't ask for a more polar opposite performance between free agency and the draft, and of course the Bears are the ones to do it. Besides re-signing Allen Robinson, the Bears completely botched free agency. They didn't keep Trubisky, who went 6-3 and actually did decent throwing the ball, they signed washed up Andy Dalton to be their QB1, Nick Foles is still on the roster, they let Kyle Fuller walk, and they added second-rate players in Marquise Goodwin, Jeremiah Attaochu, and Angelo Blackson. Even with that terrible free agency performance, the Bears made the best move and pick of the draft, by trading up to #11 to select Justin Fields, while beefing up the offensive line with Teven Jenkins in the second round. Ryan Pace has done a great job as a GM, regardless of the Mitch Trubisky selection.


Best Move: Trading up and Drafting Justin Fields


20. Las Vegas Raiders: B-


Draft Grade: C

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B


The Raiders had one of the more interesting offseasons. They got rid of Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and Trent Brown, all through trades, as well as letting Tyrell Williams and Nelson Agholor walk. In return, the Raiders went all out in free agency, getting efficient pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, savvy cornerback Casey Hayward, and speedy receiver John Brown. They also added Solomon Thomas, who could end up being a big producer in Vegas. In the draft, they took Alex Leatherwood, who may have looked like a reach, but is the right pick for the Raiders. They also got a steal in Trevon Moehrig in the second round, improving a mediocre secondary.


Best Move: Drafting Trevon Moehrig


19. Denver Broncos: B-


Draft Grade: C+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B-


Denver made some big moves for their secondary in free agency and the draft. They re-signed Kareem Jackson, tagged Justin Simmons, signed Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, and drafted Patrick Surtain. If the Broncos hadn't gone so wild in free agency for secondary players, I would agree with the Surtain pick. Out of all first round picks, this one was one of the most headscratching. Regardless, Denver made up for it by drafting Javonte Williams, Quinn Meinerz, and Baron Browning with their next 3 picks. On top of that, they traded for Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Drew Lock, a solid move in my opinion.


Best Move: Signing Kyle Fuller


18. Cincinnati Bengals: B-


Draft Grade: B

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C+


I don't care what anyone says, picking Ja'Marr Chase was the right move for the Bengals. Drafting Penei Sewell would only cause more issues; what would happen to Jonah Williams, their first round pick from 2019? What about free agent veteran Riley Reiff? Would they move one of them inside to guard? Would they move Penei to guard and kill his potential? In case anyone had noticed, that's where Joe Burrow felt the most pressure; up the middle. Wasting a pick on a tackle, and hoping one of your other tackles can transition to guard is a disaster plan. They make the right move and beef up their receiving core, while still getting linemen in the draft, such as Jackson Carman, D'Ante Smith, and Trey Hill. They also got breakout edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, and stud defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi in free agency.


Best Move: Drafting Ja'Marr Chase


17. Baltimore Ravens: B-


Draft Grade: B+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C


Baltimore did what they could to pick up decent free agents, such as Sammy Watkins and Kevin Zeitler. They also added Alejandro Villanueva post-draft, giving them a much better offensive line than the season before. They also traded away Orlando Brown to achieve another first round draft pick. The Ravens used their first two rounders to strengthen their receiving core with Rashod Bateman, and improve their speed off the edge with Odafe Oweh. They also drafted Ben Cleveland, Tylan Wallace, and Shaun Wade to add depth to some shallower areas.


Best Move: Signing Alejandro Villanueva


16. Minnesota Vikings: B


Draft Grade: B+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B-


The Vikings did a solid job in both free agency and the draft. Acquiring good defenders like Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson should help out the younger guys on the roster. Xavier Woods should also be a decent replacement for Anthony Harris. The Vikings did a great job in the draft, trading back and still getting Christian Darrisaw, while also draft Kellen Mond and Wyatt Davis in the third round. These picks will prove to be huge for the Vikings future.


Best Move: Trading back and Drafting Christian Darrisaw


Photo: Gregory Shamus/GettyImages


15. Indianapolis Colts: B


Draft Grade: C

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A-


The Colts made big splashes in free agency and through trades. First off, they traded for Carson Wentz and reunited him with Frank Reich, his offensive coordinator during his MVP run in 2017. The Colts lost Anthony Castonzo due to retirement, but then replaced him with Eric Fisher, an upgrade in my mind. They also brought back Marlon Mack, TY Hilton, and Xavier Rhodes. The only solid draft pick the Colts made was Kwity Paye, who will need to work on his pass rush moves in order to make a true impact on this defense.


Best Move: Trading for Carson Wentz


14. Washington Football Team: B


Draft Grade: C+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A-


Washington had one of the best free agency periods during this offseason. They added lots of talent with Curtis Samuel, William Jackson, and Charles Leno. They also found another bridge QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be competing with playoff hero Taylor Heinicke. Their draft was a little questionable, as they took Jamin Davis over JOK. They did draft Samuel Cosmi and Dyami Brown, who should supply some offensive protection and fire power.


Best Move: Signing Curtis Samuel


13. Detroit Lions: B


Draft Grade: A-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: C+


With a new coach in Dan Campbell, the Lions chased "role players" in free agency. Some of these names include Jamaal Williams, Tyrell Williams, Alex Anzalone, Darren Fells, and Quinton Dunbar. All five of these players have the potential to start, but most likely won't. They also traded away Matt Stafford for Jared Goff, hoping for more upside with a better offensive line situation. Speaking of o-line, the Lions got a huge steal in Penei Sewell. I know I wasn't overly fond of the idea of him going to the Bengals, but he is a great fit for the Lions, giving them much needed help across the front five. They also beefed up their defense with Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeil, while drafting big receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown as well. This young Lions team could be a problem in the future.

Best Move: Drafting Penei Sewell


12. Kansas City Chiefs: B


Draft Grade: B-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B+


What did the Chiefs need? An upgraded offensive line. What did they get? An upgraded offensive line. You couldn't have asked for better players or a better offseason than what the Chiefs got. With the signing of Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Kyle Long (who came out of retirement), plus trading for Orlando Brown Jr. gave them massive updates at some old and injured spots. The Chiefs would have been fine retaining Schwartz and Fisher, but these moves are better for them in the long term, especially in regards to cap space...oh and Nick Bolton was a steal at the end of the second round.


Best Move: Trading for Orlando Brown Jr.


11. Arizona Cardinals: B


Draft Grade: C+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A


The Cardinals made another splash in the offseason, by signing 3-time DPOY JJ Watt, as well as trading for top-3 center Rodney Hudson. They drafted Zaven Collins, giving them improved athleticism at the linebacker spot. I think the pick was fine, but there were much better options on the board, especially at receiver and cornerback. Either way, Tay Gowan was a good draft pick for the 6th round, especially since he was ranked in the top-10 for corners in this class.


Best Move: Signing JJ Watt


10. Carolina Panthers: B


Draft Grade: B+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B


The Panthers have transformed into a completely new team since Matt Rhule's arrival. They snagged Haason Reddick on a one-year "prove it" deal, as well as drafting Jaycee Horn 8th overall and grabbing Terrace Marshall in the second round. With the return of CMC, a new face at QB in Sam Darnold, and an improved defense, Panthers could be a force in the NFC South for years to come.


Best Move: Franchise tagging Taylor Moton


Photo: Gregory Shamus/GettyImages


9. Miami Dolphins: B+


Draft Grade: A-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B-


Laremy Tunsil filming himself smoking through a gas mask may have been the best thing to happen to the Dolphins franchise in the past few decades. After falling to Miami in the 2016 draft, the Dolphins traded him three years later for multiple draft picks, and then used those draft picks to get even more draft picks. Over 2 offseasons, the Dolphins reworked their roster and found players that fit. They drafted speedy receiver Jaylen Waddle and athletic pass rusher Jaelen Phillips in the first round, and the additions of Will Fuller, Benardrick McKinney, and Justin Coleman should fill some of the weaker spots along their offense and defense.


Best Move: Drafting Jaylen Waddle


8. Jacksonville Jaguars: B+


Draft Grade: A-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B-


Getting Trevor Lawrence #1 overall was a no brainer, but then drafting his teammate and favorite target, Travis Etienne, at #25 overall turned some heads. I completely love this pick, as teams with running back committees succeed at a higher rate (check out my running back committee blog at the bottom of this article). With James Robinson's hard nose running, and Etienne's pass catching ability, as well as the addition of Marvin Jones, this offense looks to be in much better shape. Picking up Shaquill Griffin was huge for their defense as well, giving CJ Henderson more work and reps against #2 receivers.

Best Move: Drafting Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne


7. San Francisco 49ers: B+


Draft Grade: B+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B+


Drafting Trey Lance was a great move. If Jimmy G plays great, then they have awesome trade capital they can use. If he plays poorly, than you have a solid backup to use. Other than that, losing Robert Saleh was a big hit, but they made up for it by locking in veteran players into big contracts. Picking up Wayne Gallman and drafting Trey Sermon gives them immediately help in their backfield, which is normally the strong point of the 49ers offense.


Best Move: Re-signing Trent Williams


6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A-


Draft Grade: D

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A+


Shocker, a team with the last pick in every round had a bad draft. If the Bucs didn't have the incredible offseason that they did, they would have been at the bottom of this list. If the Bucs drafted Azeez Ojulari at the end of the first, they might have been at the number 1 spot on this list. Regardless, they brought back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl and they acquired receiving back Giovanni Bernard in free agency. That alone was enough for them to get the number 6 spot.


Best Move: Re-structuring Tom Brady's contract


5. New England Patriots: A-


Draft Grade: B-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A


For once, the Patriots actually attacked a free agency period. They acquired some big time names, including Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Davon Godchaux, and Matt Judon. They also got a steal in Christian Barmore in the second round, and drafted their future franchise QB in Mac Jones. With rumors circling around the Pats and Julio Jones, they could be adding another huge piece relatively soon.


Best Move: Signing Jonnu Smith


Photo: Gregory Shamus/GettyImages


4. New York Giants: A-


Draft Grade: A-

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B+


Big Blue had a big offseason. They gave Daniel Jones much needed weapons and beefed up the defense. With the signings of Adoree' Jackson, Ryan Anderson, and Danny Shelton, as well as Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, and John Ross, the Giants are redefining themselves in a make or break year. Oh, that was also just what they did in free agency. They traded back with the Bears to get two first round picks in 2022, and used that pick to get Kadarius Toney. They also stole Azeez Ojulari in the second round, who I had ranked as my #1 edge rusher for this class. This was one of the best offseasons the Giants have had in recent memory, and should bode well for them this season.


Best Move: Signing Kenny Golladay


3. Los Angeles Chargers: A-


Draft Grade: A

Free Agency/Trade Grade: B+


With the hiring of Brandon Staley, the defense was bound for some change. With the signing of Kyler Fackrell, the drafting of Asante Samuel Jr., and the releases of Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram, this defense will look much different. On the offensive side, they gave Justin Herbert much needed protection by drafting Rashawn Slater, as well as a signing a veteran weapon in Jared Cook. Justin Herbert should be set up in a much better position to succeed this upcoming season.


Best Move: Drafting Rashawn Slater


2. Cleveland Browns: A


Draft Grade: A

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A+


The Browns are finally a threat in the NFL for the first time in over 50 years. With a young offense, one of the best offensive lines in football, and now, a revamp defense that has a potential to be the best in the league, the only thing stopping the Browns are themselves. The Browns signed Troy Hill, John Johnson, Jadeveon Clowney, Malik Jackson, and Anthony Walker in the offseason. To improve on an already stacked defense, the Browns added Greg Newsome and JOK in the draft. They knocked this offseason right out of the park and look to be one of the most exciting teams in football next year.


Best Move: Drafting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah


Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today


1. New York Jets: A+


Draft Grade: A+

Free Agency/Trade Grade: A


The Jets get the edge on this one, solely based on terms of improvement. The Browns were already good and got better, the Jets on the other hand are the epitome of the NFL, and have been for almost a decade. They started their offseason off right by hiring Robert Saleh as their next head coach. From there, they acquired Corey Davis, Greg Van Roten, Carl Lawson, Jarrad Davis, and Lamarcus Joyner. In the draft, they got Zach Wilson, and then traded up for Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round. In the second round, they snagged Elijah Moore, giving them even more receiving threats. This Jets team has the potential to be dangerous, but hey, it's the Jets, what could possibly go wrong?


Best Move: Hiring Robert Saleh


Photo: David Dermer/Associated Press

Final Notes:


Like I said before, this was one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory. I am stoked to see how all of the moves will play out in the biggest season ever.


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