By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and while the best pick in the NFL Draft likely belonged to the Chicago Bears fleecing the rest of the NFL by selecting quarterback Justin Fields at 11 overall, the Cleveland Browns had arguably the best overall draft. Already boasting one of the NFL’s best rosters, Cleveland netted a pair of absolute playmakers for its defense in the first two rounds, adding cornerback Greg Newsome and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Newsome projects as a Week 1 contributor in the secondary, while Owusu-Koramoah is a do-everything linebacker who will carve out a role for the talent-rich Browns. Adding to the riches for Cleveland was the selection of defensive lineman Tommy Togiai, who inexplicably slid to selection 132 despite being one of the best run-defending linemen in the draft class. Togiai has the tools to be a significant contributor within Cleveland’s star-studded defensive front. The Browns are shaping up to be one of the teams to beat in 2021.
Like the Browns, Denver boasts one of the best rosters in the NFL. Unlike the Browns, Denver remains searching for a long-term answer at quarterback despite a pre-draft deal for veteran Teddy Bridgewater. However, despite failing to address its need under center during the draft, Denver had an excellent draft. In the first round, the Broncos added Patrick Surtain II, who projects to be an absolute superstar at cornerback. Joining Surtain in the draft class as a likely contributor this season is fifth-round pick Jamar Johnson. Denver remains a quarterback away from being a legitimate contender.
Staying in the AFC West, the Los Angeles Chargers opened its draft with a pair of impressive selections. In the first round, L.A. snagged tackle Rashawn Slater, who will be a Week 1 starter along the team’s wholly rebuilt offensive line. In the second round, the Chargers grabbed Asante Samuel Jr., who should have no issue staking claim to a role within L.A.’s ball-hawking secondary. Competition in the AFC West is sure to be tough with the Kansas City Chiefs leading the way, but the Chargers are building something interesting. Barring regression from second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers are ready to make noise in the AFC Wild Card race this season.
There were plenty of other exciting or noteworthy selections worthy of praise, including Tennessee’s late-first round gamble on cornerback Caleb Farley. Before reports of a pre-draft back surgery hit the wire, Farley was a possible top-ten selection. Provided there’s no reason to expect the latest surgery to be a long-term issue, Farley at selection 22 is a bargain for the Titans. Frankly, either way, it was likely a worthy risk considering the potentially massive reward.
New England generated headlines with the selection of Mac Jones in the first round. Still, the team’s move to add Jones’s college teammate, interior defensive lineman Christian Barmore, in the second round will likely have the most immediate impact. Barmore could have easily gone in the top 15 picks as the draft class’s best at his position; the Patriots got an outright steal by selecting Barmore at 38. Barmore is a pass-rushing force from the interior. It may take a season or two for Jones to make an impact in New England. Barmore will likely be making one as early as Week 1.
Though Washington over-drafted Jamin Davis in the first round, the ultra-athletic linebacker could prove to be a valuable weapon in coverage. Plus, the Football Team made up for its questionable process in the first round with a gem in the second. Offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi is a first-round talent, and Washington struck gold landing him at pick 51. The Raiders took Alex Leatherwood, who lacks Cosmi’s projection, a whopping 34 picks earlier, for example.
While Vegas’s selection of Leatherwood was poor, the failings pale compared to Green Bay’s disaster of a draft. Much like last year’s inexplicable decision to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round, the Packers added cornerback Eric Stokes at the end of the first and center Josh Myers late in the second. It has been challenging to locate anything resembling sound decision-making from Green Bay’s draft process in recent years, making it all the easier to empathize with Aaron Rodgers’s utter disdain for the franchise. Rodgers versus the Packers is a situation that is only going to broaden as the off-season wages forward.