News & Analysis

PFF’s favorite and least favorite picks from Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was an eventful Thursday on the NFL calendar. While all but four teams selected players in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, some added more talent or found better value than others.

View PFF's 2021 NFL Draft position rankings:

QB | RB | WR | TE | T | iOL | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S

The following were PFF's favorite and least favorite picks of the first round.

Favorite

Nov 13, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman (0) rushes with the ball in the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at TCF Bank Stadium. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

11. Chicago Bears – QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Fields is the No. 3 player on the PFF draft board and a player that we would have felt comfortable drafting at No. 1 overall had Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson not existed. An utter slam dunk for Ryan Pace and company as they hardly had to mortgage to the future to make it happen. Fields has passing grades of 92.4 and 92.0 the past two seasons and runs circles around Mitch Trubisky from an accuracy perspective. He was the most accurate quarterback in the class on throws 10-plus yards downfield the past two seasons.

13. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Need, fit, value: This one had it all. Slater was the No. 11 player on the PFF draft board and fell right in the lap of one of the teams most desperate for left tackle help in the draft. The Northwestern tackle allowed all of five pressures in 2019 before opting out in 2020. His presence completes the overhaul of the worst offensive line in the NFL last season.

23. Minnesota Vikings – OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

Darrisaw was OT3 on PFF’s draft board and a player we would have been applauding as the pick had the Vikings stood pat and taken him at 14 overall. Instead, they flipped back to 23 and got a pair of third-round picks in the process, then still got their starting left tackle. Darrisaw was far and away the highest-graded left tackle in the Power Five last season with a 95.6 overall grade.

26. Cleveland Browns – CB Greg Newsome, Northwestern

Newsome’s tape this past season was as good as any corner in the class, but it was only six games. He didn’t allow a single touchdown all season and only allowed five first downs in his coverage. To get that type of lock-down performance 17 picks after Patrick Surtain is excellent value.

27. Baltimore Ravens – WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

The only way the Ravens could have found Lamar Jackson a better weapon is if they were drafting in the top 10. Bateman’s combination of catch radius and route-running ability is exactly what this offense was missing in 2020.

Least Favorite

Jan 1, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) runs the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half in the Rose Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

17. Las Vegas Raiders – OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

The 40th-ranked player on the PFF draft board, many have concerns about whether Leatherwood can even stay at tackle in the NFL. He gave up the edge routinely to speed rushers on tape this past season — that's why he only earned a 73.4 pass-blocking grade. It was a recurring theme on his tape dating all the way back to his bout with LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson in 2019 and extending through the Senior Bowl, where he had a middling 50% win rate in the one-on-ones. This was a reach by pretty much any media evaluator’s board.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Najee Harris, Alabama

If you came to PFF to read this, you likely already know our opinion on first-round running backs. That’s especially true if said running back will be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The Steelers ranked 31st in team run-blocking grade last season, and center Maurkice Pouncey has retired and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains unsigned. It’s going to be a far cry from the Joe Moore Award-winning Alabama line that Harris is used to.

29. Green Bay Packers – CB Eric Stokes, Georgia

This pick was tied for the single biggest reach of the first according to the PFF draft board, as Stokes checked in at 72nd overall there. It wasn’t the help that Aaron Rodgers has been begging for and wasn’t close to the top corner on PFF’s board. It’s worth noting that Stokes is going to a vastly different scheme in Green Bay than what he ran at Georgia over the course of his career, and his prowess as a tackler (five misses on 89 attempts) should translate in more zone coverage. That might not be a good thing, though, as he only earned a 65.2 coverage grade in zone last year compared to an 81.0 in man.

NFL Draft Featured Tools

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2021 draft class.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF's Big Board for the 2021 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our latest 2020 NFL mock drafts.

  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NCAA player performance data.

    Available with

    CFB Prem Stats+
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr
College Subscriptions

Unlock College Player Grades and Preview Magazine

$7.99 / mo
$27.99 / yr

Unlock NCAA Premium Stats & PFF Greenline NCAA

$29.99 / mo
$119.99 / yr