The 2021 NFL Draft is over and now we get to snap to judgment and determine with 100% certainty the fate of the young men who heard their names called this weekend. You picked up on the sarcasm there, right? If not, the fact of the matter is it is way too soon to say whether or not any of these picks will hit. But when has that ever stopped us? So let’s get into the five best classes.
We can circle back to the classes that left a little something to be desired. This is a quick look at the best draft classes (or at least our favorites) from the 2021 NFL Draft. There were trades up, trades back, and even non-trades that made the list.
The 5 Best Classes From the 2021 NFL Draft
Honorable Mention: New England Patriots
Anytime there was tons of speculation on what you were going to do, and you do nothing but still land the predicted prospect, it’s a good draft. Bill Belichick has made a habit of psyching out the competition to get what he wants. This year’s top prize was Mac Jones. There was tons of speculation that the 49ers traded up to third overall in order to get Jones. But when they took Trey Lance instead, it set off a chain of events that saw The Hoodie stay the course.
Chicago traded up for a quarterback, but it ended being the guy the Patriots didn’t want all the way until they somehow did. Maybe that was another part of the smokescreen. At any rate, there isn’t a more perfect match and it’s debatable if Jones would have much of a chance in many other situations.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, the Bengals could have opted to take a tackle here and protect Joe Burrow; an idea we came around on in our final mock draft. But can anyone really fault them for appeasing their face of the franchise? Especially when they landed a player in Ja’Marr Chase that has true number-one receiver traits.
Cindy was also able to shut up the haters by taking offensive tackle Jackson Carman in the second round. He protected Trevor Lawrence‘s blindside in college but projects as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. They also added nice pass-rushing help in Joseph Ossai and Cameron Sample and other quality depth in the later rounds.
4. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers set out on a mission to rebuild their offensive line and better protect Justin Herbert next season. Selecting Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick goes a long way in that direction. He was the top tackle prospect on many boards and has the versatility to play anywhere along the offensive line.
They added Asante Samuel Jr. in the second round, adding some teeth to their depleted group. He should start alongside Chris Harris and Michael Davis. Josh Palmer of Tennessee in the third-round and Tre’ McKitty in the fourth offer future solid pass-catching options with McKitty even having some blocking chops. They too found good depth later on.
3. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers managed not being able to trade out their draft slot better than most, snagging Jaycee Horn, the top corner on many boards thanks to his superior fluidity in coverage and speed. He joins a retooled secondary after the Panthers ranked 18th in pass defense last season. His father was right, the pick should have gotten more coverage because the Panthers nailed it.
They added versatile receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. to their corps with Robby Anderson in the final year of his contract. Several medical red flags caused him to slip but he’s a first-round talent. Brady Christensen and Tommy Tremble are a pair of hard-nosed players at tackle (or guard) and tight end, respectively. And it’s hard not to like Chiba Hubbard as a backup to Christian McCaffrey. As is the theme with all the teams on this list, Carolina found nice value in later rounds.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Christian Darrisaw was the top tackle prospect on our board. We had him going 11th to the Giants. Not only did the Minnesota Vikings not have to trade up to land him, but they were able to trade back out of the 14th pick and still get him. He should go a long way towards strengthening a line that allowed Kirk Cousins to be sacked 39 times last season.
Getting Kellen Mond in the third was a steal. Many had him projected for a second-round selection while there were even some (far-fetched) rumors he could sneak into the first round. He comes in with a ton of experience and all the time in the world to learn while Cousins is still in town. Both Chazz Surratt and Wyatt Davis could have gone in the second round and, while many may not like the pick of Patrick Jones II, the Vikings took another toolsy player in Danielle Hunter and turned him into one of the best in the business. Camryn Bynum, Janarius Robinson, and Imhir Smith-Marsette all have a chance to contribute
1. Chicago Bears
We’re talking generational shortcomings when discussing the Chicago Bears and the quarterback position. So you’ll have to understand why media and fans alike for gushing over the Bears move up to grab Ohio State’s Justin Fields at 11th overall. Many had him ranked as the second-best passer in this class. It ended months of speculation over whether they would really roll into a season with only Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. Fields shouldn’t see the field in meaningful action this season. But the future is bright in Chicago.
They didn’t stop there in re-tooling their moribund offense, trading up once again to select Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins 39th overall. He projects as a plug-and-play right tackle and brings some much-needed nastiness to their line. They added Larry Borom in the fifth for some added line depth and did the same for the wide receiver room with Dazz Newsome. Pundits are high on 2020 opt-out Thomas Graham Jr.of Oregon and, though running back wasn’t a position of need, Khalil Herbert is an intriguing late-round flier. Khyiris Tonga gives them an actual nose tackle behind the returning Eddie Goldman.
Best of the Best 2021 NFL Draft Classes
These are just our picks for the best classes from the 2021 NFL Draft. Surely there are others that could make a strong argument to crack this list. We’ll address the worst at a later time For now, take a moment to admire the skillful wheeling and dealing (and, in some cases, non-moves) that landed these teams terrific classes. Which do you think has the best chance to pan out?