2021 NFL Draft: Grades for all 32 first-round picks | NFL Draft | PFF

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2021 NFL Draft: Grades for all 32 first-round picks

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Mac Jones (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the New England Patriots as the number 15 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft lived up to the hype. We finally found out the San Francisco 49ers’ guy was Trey Lance, we witnessed multiple top 10 trades and a historic move by the Chicago Bears to go up and grab quarterback Justin Fields. 

Over at PFF's Live Draft Tracker that is also broadcasting our draft show (tune in a 6:00 p.m. EST tonight), we analyzed every single pick in real time and gave a grade for each selection. Here is a quick recap of all those instant reaction thoughts for all 32 first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft:

R1 (1) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: QB TREVOR LAWRENCE, CLEMSON

Pick Grade: Elite

The Jaguars kick things off with the no-brainer decision to take Trevor Lawrence with the first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft — a selection roughly five years in the making. The 21-year-old produced three 90.0-plus season grades at Clemson, starting with a breakout true freshman campaign in which he led the Tigers to a national championship.


R1 (2) NEW YORK JETS: QB ZACH WILSON, BYU

Pick Grade: Elite

One year ago, no one could have foreseen Zach Wilson being the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But here we are. The BYU quarterback had a breakout 2020 campaign that saw his PFF grade shoot up from 80.5 as a freshman and 76.2 as a sophomore in 2018 and 2019, respectively, to a stunning 95.4 mark.


R1 (3) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: QB TREY LANCE, NORTH DAKOTA STATE

Pick Grade: Very Good 

After weeks of speculation, the 49ers find their quarterback of the future with dynamic North Dakota State playmaker Trey Lance. In his one full season at the helm for the Bison, Lance posted a 90.7 PFF grade and didn’t throw a single interception on 288 passing attempts. He gives the 49ers a live arm to go along with his explosive running ability.


R1 (4) ATLANTA FALCONS: TE KYLE PITTS, FLORIDA

Pick Grade: Elite 

The Falcons take the best non-quarterback in the draft with their selection of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. He is going to be faster than any linebacker or safety and bigger than any cornerback. He enters the NFL as already one of the biggest matchup nightmares for a defense. His 96.1 receiving grade, 0% drop rate and above-average run-blocking grade in 2020 make him one of the best all-around pass-catchers we’ve seen in a while.


R1 (5) CINCINNATI BENGALS: WR JA’MARR CHASE, LSU

Pick Grade: Elite 

The Bengals bring in former LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, reuniting him with national championship-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Chase dominated the 2019 season, posting a 91.1 PFF grade to go along with 20 touchdowns, all thrown by Burrow. Cincinnati passes on an offensive lineman to bolster a receiving corps that was lacking a contested-catch monster. They now have one.


R1 (6) MIAMI DOLPHINS: WR JAYLEN WADDLE, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Very Good 

Like the Bengals, the Dolphins reunite their starting quarterback with a former wide receiver teammate. Jaylen Waddle arrives in Miami with experience catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa. He is an explosive play waiting to happen, whether it’s on a bubble screen or a post route. He is the elite burner receiver of the entire draft class and rounds out the Dolphins’ receiving corps.


R1 (7) DETROIT LIONS: OT PENEI SEWELL, OREGON

Pick Grade: Very Good 

Penei Sewell slid a bit but falls right to the Lions, who find someone to protect new quarterback Jared Goff. Sewell is a hyper-athletic tackle who gobbles up pass rushers and moves in the open field like no one at his size should. His 95.8 PFF grade in 2019, the last season he played college football, is even more impressive because he was only 19 years old at the time. Sewell could be a Lions tackle for the next decade.


R1 (8) CAROLINA PANTHERS: CB JAYCEE HORN, SOUTH CAROLINA

Pick Grade: Average 

Jaycee Horn is the first defensive player selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, is a truly elite press-man coverage cornerback. He is a physical nuisance who gets under the skin of receivers across from him. His press-man skills aren’t quite a scheme fit with the Panthers, who like to play their cornerbacks in off positions, something Horn will have to improve on quickly at the next level.


R1 (9) DENVER BRONCOS: CB PATRICK SURTAIN II, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Average

This is a curious pick considering how loaded the Broncos’ defense already is on paper and the team’s clear need at quarterback. But head coach Vic Fangio has a sure-thing lockdown cornerback. Surtain II, the son of former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, is a truly elite technical player at every facet of the cornerback position. He can press receivers out of the game and also play zone at a very high level. Surtain is a complete player.


R1 (10) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: WR DEVONTA SMITH, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Elite 

The Eagles need elite players at many different positions, and they get one by initially trading down but then trading up to take DeVonta Smith. The Heisman Trophy winner immediately becomes the best receiver on Philadelphia’s roster. All Smith did last season was produce a 94.9 PFF grade with 23 touchdowns. He can play either wide or in the slot — it doesn’t matter. His diminutive size may have scared some teams off, but he has shown he can get open against anyone.


R1 (11) CHICAGO BEARS: QB JUSTIN FIELDS, OHIO STATE

Pick Grade: Elite 

The Bears underwhelmed when they settled for Andy Dalton earlier in the offseason, but they redressed the situation with an aggressive move for Justin Fields, the No. 3 player on PFF’s Big Board. Fields has special talent and back-to-back seasons with a 91.0-plus PFF grade. His ceiling is as high as any passer in this draft, and he’s a real threat in the run game.


R1 (12) DALLAS COWBOYS: LB MICAH PARSONS, PENN STATE

Pick Grade: Average 

The Cowboys seemed destined to take a cornerback at No. 10 overall, but the Panthers starting a mini-run at the position allowed Dallas to trade back and reassess. Linebacker isn’t an obvious need, with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch already there, but Parsons is the best linebacker prospect we have seen in years and could provide some versatility to the Cowboys’ defense.


R1 (13) LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: T RASHAWN SLATER, NORTHWESTERN

Pick Grade: Elite 

Some draft analysts had Rashawn Slater as the No. 1 offensive tackle on their boards. A player who had outstanding performances against Chase Young in college, Slater allowed only five total pressures on over 350 pass-blocking snaps in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. The Chargers have done a fantastic job of rebuilding their offensive line since the end of the season. Slater completes that job for quarterback Justin Herbert.


R1 (14) NEW YORK JETS: IOL ALIJAH VERA-TUCKER, USC

Pick Grade: Average 

The Jets have thrown a lot of resources at their offensive line already, but they haven’t come close to completing the rebuild yet. And they were smart to acknowledge that with another first-round pick. Trading up to make it happen harms the grade on this pick, but Vera-Tucker is an excellent player, ranking 21st on PFF’s Big Board. He was an excellent tackle at USC, earning an 89.2 PFF pass-blocking grade on true pass sets last year. He could potentially play right tackle or guard for the Jets.


R1 (15) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: QB MAC JONES, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Elite 

The narrative surrounding Mac Jones for the past few weeks was focused on whether he was worth not just the No. 3 overall pick, but the three first-round selections the 49ers invested in that draft slot. At No. 15 overall, it’s an entirely different conversation. Jones led the nation last season in overall PFF grade (95.8) and was the most accurate college quarterback in terms of adjusted completion rate (84.2%) PFF has seen. This is an outstanding pick.


R1 (16) ARIZONA CARDINALS: LB ZAVEN COLLINS, TULSA

Pick Grade: Average 

A true physical throwback, Zaven Collins is 6-foot-5 and weighed in at 270 pounds in Indianapolis during medical checks. Despite that 1990s size, Collins had the highest PFF career coverage grade (93.6) of any linebacker in the draft class and continues the trend of Arizona drafting athletic and versatile players on defense. He allows them to implement some very interesting-looking defensive fronts in 2021.


R1 (17) LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: T ALEX LEATHERWOOD, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Poor 

The Las Vegas Raiders have a glaring need at right tackle and made a point to revamp their offensive line this offseason, but there won’t be many who have Alex Leatherwood ranked ahead of Christian Darrisaw and a few others still on the board. Leatherwood comes from a blue-blood program, and that may be coveted more than usual in this unique draft, but he was the No. 9-ranked tackle on PFF’s Big Board and had major issues in pass protection.


R1 (18) MIAMI DOLPHINS: EDGE JAELEN PHILLIPS, MIAMI (FL.)

Pick Grade: Very Good 

Jaelan Phillips boasts the best production of any edge rusher in this class, and if medical concerns weren’t a factor, he could have come off the board much earlier. He recorded 42 quarterback pressures on 542 snaps last season for Miami but has already had to walk away from the game once due to concussion issues. As a result, he has less than 1,000 career college snaps to his name. There are concerns, but Miami is playing with house money with all of their draft capital and can afford to take that kind of gamble.


R1 (19) WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: LB JAMIN DAVIS, KENTUCKY

Pick Grade: Below Average 

Washington definitely had a need at linebacker, but Jamin Davis comes with significant projection. He ranks No. 41 on PFF’s final Big Board but was impressive in his first season as a starter. On top of that, his workout numbers were phenomenal, and he flashed real talent in coverage, which has become the single most important trait in today’s NFL. Linebacker is a tough position to play at the next level, and Davis has the tools to get it done.


R1 (20) NEW YORK GIANTS: WR KADARIUS TONEY, FLORIDA

Pick Grade: Above Average 

Kadarius Toney is still learning to play wide receiver, but his development in 2020 was impressive to watch if you cued up his tape chronologically. Plus, there is no more electrifying playmaker in this draft. Toney is a tackle-breaking machine, and while he was primarily a slot receiver in college, he has the size and moves to develop into more than that at the next level.


R1 (21) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: EDGE KWITY PAYE, MICHIGAN

Pick Grade: Above Average 

Paye is one of the many physically gifted but unrefined edge rushers in this draft class. He has generational tools for the position and clocked a sub-6.5-second three-cone time, but his pass-rush plans are a bit reckless. He still managed to record a 77.8 pass-rush grade in 2019 before raising it to 87.1 on a smaller sample in 2020. With the right coaching, he can be a dominant NFL player.


R1 (22) TENNESSEE TITANS: CB CALEB FARLEY, VIRGINIA TECH

Pick Grade: Very Good 

If Farley had a clean medical report, he would have gone within the first 10 picks. He suffered a torn ACL in 2017, had a back operation in 2019 and then had another surgery in late March. That makes this a risky bet, but if he stays healthy, this is a huge steal. His 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame with 33 ⅜-inch arms is ideal for an NFL corner. Farley is also capable of running a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash and boasts the production to back those traits up. He earned a 90.5 coverage grade in his final college season in 2019.


R1 (23) MINNESOTA VIKINGS: T CHRISTIAN DARRISAW, VIRGINIA TECH

Pick Grade: Elite 

rading back from No. 14 and still securing Christian Darrisaw — a top-15 prospect on PFF’s Big Board — is a massive win for Minnesota. Darrisaw is fresh off a season in which he recorded the second-best single-season PFF grade by a Power Five offensive tackle in the PFF College era. He oozes power and plays with the physicality that NFL scouts and coaches dream of.


R1 (24) PITTSBURGH STEELERS: RB NAJEE HARRIS, ALABAMA

Pick Grade: Poor

This pick was not a surprise at all, and it also shouldn’t be shocking to hear that we at PFF wouldn’t pound the table for such a selection; any running back in Round 1 is a reach. Harris isn’t much of a breakaway threat, but he does bring value as a receiver, which is a requisite in today’s NFL. With the help of his massive catch radius, Harris dropped just two passes on 75 catchable targets since 2019.


R1 (25) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: RB TRAVIS ETIENNE, CLEMSON

Pick Grade: Poor

Back-to-back running backs in Round 1 is not a recipe for success. Jacksonville hit a home run by landing Trevor Lawrence but struck out here by taking Etienne with its second first-round pick. Unlike Harris, Etienne is an explosive play waiting to happen; he racked up 37 runs that resulted in a gain of 25-plus yards since 2018, nine more than any other FBS back. He also greatly improved as a receiver, grading out as the best running back in that facet last season. Still, he won’t generate the value of a true first-round pick — no running back will.


R1 (26) CLEVELAND BROWNS: CB GREG NEWSOME II, NORTHWESTERN

Pick Grade: Elite

The Browns are one of the NFL’s smartest teams, and they attacked one of the most valuable positions in the game here. Newsome is also a very good prospect, representing incredible value here at No. 26. He was battle-tested on a small sample of snaps in 2020, facing 34 targets through his first four games. He held his own, allowing just 93 yards and five first downs while making eight plays on the ball. His feet are easily the best in the class. Whether Newsome is playing off-coverage or press-man, he’ll make plays.


R1 (27) BALTIMORE RAVENS: WR RASHOD BATEMAN, MINNESOTA

Pick Grade: Elite

Rashod Bateman may not be an elite all-around athlete, but he has an incredibly high floor and should have been the fourth wide receiver off the board. His route-running chops and release package are NFL-ready. Bateman was a productive receiver from the slot in 2019 despite dealing with COVID-19 before the start of the year and losing 10 pounds. And from an outside alignment, he recorded 3.60 yards per route run that year, the fifth-highest mark by a Power Five wide receiver in the PFF College era. Lamar Jackson gets his WR1.


R1 (28) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: EDGE PAYTON TURNER, HOUSTON

Pick Grade: Below Average

Turner might be the biggest surprise first-round pick thus far. He broke out on a small sample in 2020 against subpar competition with a 90.0 pass-rush grade across four starts but has a coveted physical profile. He’s 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds with 35-inch arms and plays a physical game. Turner is also a versatile piece with impressive bend for his size. It’s a risky bet that could pay off big for the Saints, but there were other directions they should have gone here.


R1 (29) GREEN BAY PACKERS: CB ERIC STOKES, GEORGIA

Pick Grade: Poor

Stokes is one of the fastest players in this class, regardless of position. He’s not particularly fluid or instinctive, though. That’s why we viewed him as a third-round product at best. He does play the catch point well, has press experience and won’t get beat deep, but this is still a major reach. Stokes may have a bit of a learning curve getting used to the NFL illegal contact penalty, too.


R1 (30) BUFFALO BILLS: EDGE GREGORY ROUSSEAU, MIAMI (FL.)

Pick Grade: Below Average

Rousseau is a physical freak at 6-foot-7 with 34.75-inch arms and 11-inch hands. He opted out of the 2020 season and carries with him concerns about how he’ll fare as a true edge defender, though. Rousseau rushed the passer just 283 times in his college career, anywhere from 0-technique to stand-up outside linebacker. He earned a 71.3 pass-rushing grade from outside of the tackle in 2019, but when he rushed from the interior, it spiked to 85.1.


R1 (31) BALTIMORE RAVENS: EDGE JAYSON OWEH, PENN STATE

Pick Grade: Very Good

Oweh is a freak athlete. At 6-foot-5 and 257 pounds, he posted a 40-inch vertical, 134-inch broad jump, 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.15-second pro agility and 6.84-second three-cone at Penn State’s Pro Day. All of those marks rank at or above the 95th percentile among edge defenders historically. However, Oweh’s pass-rush move arsenal is sorely lacking, and his rushes tend to die on contact. He produced just 10 pressures in his last six games in 2020. He’s only scratching the surface of what he can become.


R1 (32) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: EDGE JOE TRYON, WASHINGTON

Pick Grade: Poor

We were lower on Joe Tryon than most other outlets and analysts. He boasts ideal size, length and explosiveness and features a menacing bull rush. We just didn’t see those dominant reps on a consistent basis, and that bull rush was about all he had to his name. He posted a middling 71.9 pass-rush grade in 2019 (opted out in 2020), and nearly half of his 41 pressures that year were unblocked or clean-ups. He’s a work in progress, but the reigning Super Bowl champions can afford to take a chance on him.

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