2021 NFL Draft grades: First-round pick analysis


The 2021 NFL Draft began Thursday night with the first round, where 32 players realized their dream of becoming a pro athlete.This year's class is headlined by a stellar group of quarterbacks, led by Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Alabama's Mac Jones, Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance. All of them were drafted in the top 15.We have graded every single first-round pick. Keep scrolling for analysis on each selection.

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Not even the Jaguars could have screwed up this pick. Trevor Lawrence is one of the top QB prospects of his generation. He has all of the physical tools and mental toughness you want in a franchise cornerstone.

Lawrence led Clemson to the College Football Playoff in each of his three seasons with the Tigers, including a national title in 2018 over Alabama. 

Jacksonville still has plenty of work to do before getting back into playoff contention in the AFC, but Lawrence gives them an excellent foundation to build around. 


Grade: B

The Jets are betting that Wilson is the best of the 2021 quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence. Will they be right? We'll see.

Wilson is an accurate passer who completed 73.5 percent of his attempts for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions for BYU in 2020. 

The Jets have not had an elite QB in decades. Wilson will be under immense pressure to reverse that trend.


Grade: B+

Lance is probably the biggest boom or bust QB in this draft class.

He's a very smart and athletic quarterback with a powerful arm. He was awesome at North Dakota State and didn't throw a single interception in 16 games during the 2019 campaign.

However, most of North Dakota State's 2020 season was wiped out because of the pandemic, and Lance played only one game. He also played in the FCS, which isn't exactly loaded with elite talent. Lance didn't play against top competition on a weekly basis.

The 49ers gave up three first-round picks and a third-round selection to acquire this pick from the Dolphins a few weeks ago. If Lance doesn't become a quality quarterback, this trade will go down as one of the worst in team history.


Grade: A-

The Falcons are getting an incredible tight end prospect with unreal athletic ability who runs a 4.30 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He's a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Pitts caught 12 touchdown passes for the Florida Gators last season. He will be an excellent target all over the field (and especially in the red zone) for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Atlanta's offensive attack is now loaded with excellent pass catchers in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst and Pitts.


Grade: B+

The dilemma for the Bengals was do you take an offensive tackle to protect franchise QB Joe Burrow or do you select an elite wide receiver to give Burrow a weapon down the field.

They went with Burrow's former teammate Ja'Marr Chase, the consensus top WR prospect in this class.

Chase is big, strong and fast. He's the total package physically. He tallied 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019 when him and Burrow helped lead LSU to a 15-0 season and a national title.

Chase opted out of the 2020 season amid the pandemic, but that wasn't a real concern entering this draft. He should make an immediate impact in Cincinnati.

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