NFL Draft 2021: Day 3 Grades for Every Pick
The heart of the 2021 NFL draft is still beating in Cleveland.
Day 3 serves as the outro for the league's three-day festival of talent acquisition. It's also when each team's scouting department earns its money, which is especially true this year.
Overall, this class may be the thinnest crop of talent in the event's history, with team boards likely smaller than typical years because of so many mitigating factors.
As such, the goal is simply sticking to the remaining talent found among each organization's rankings and taking a big-picture approach, rather than addressing significant needs.
"It's sometimes those players are there and sometimes they're not," New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters. "Sometimes they're there and you can really use them and sometimes they're there and maybe you don't feel it's as necessary, but then when you get good players on your team inevitably you use them."
Follow along as Bleacher Report provides analysis and grades for every selection based on talent, fit and the team's decision-making process.
Strengths: Short-area explosion, consistently works to reestablish line of scrimmage, agile and easy move
Weaknesses: Balance, reaction to keys, opted out of last season
USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele decided to opt out in 2020.
"It was more things that happened that were out of my control in terms of my family—COVID really affected my whole family and my sister especially," Tufele told reporters after USC's pro day. "She ended up being in the ER basically on her bed, and everyone around me I was able to speak to them and they really were counseling me the right way in terms of having this opportunity and also just believing in myself and knowing what I'm able to do."
On the field, Tufele earned first- and second-team All-Pac-12 honors in back-to-back seasons. The 3-technique exploded up the field with 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his two seasons in the lineup.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer wants his team's identity to revolve around the defensive line.
"I always believe you build your team around the defensive line, and then you move backwards—so that's what we're going to do. ... There is one commonality of great teams: They have great defensive lines,” Meyer told reporters. "You can't avoid that. There are ways to hide other things, but you have to have a strong defensive line. We're committed to do that here."
Tufele joins Roy Robertson-Harris and Taven Bryan to strengthen Jacksonville's defensive interior.
Strengths: Best vision in the class, cuts on a dime, ball security
Weaknesses: Lacks top gear, does not accelerate through contact, marginal size without ever handling full-time load
Running the football is sometimes more about feel than natural ability. Elite runners also have the vision, patience and decisiveness to exploit holes that close much faster at the NFL level.
North Carolina's Michael Carter isn't on the same spectrum as Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb. He's much closer to last year's only first-round running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, in size and the way he runs. Carter is almost 5'8" and 201 pounds. His change-of-direction ability while setting up defenders at the second level can be absurd.
While the Tar Heels also had Javonte Williams in the backfield, Carter led the team the last two seasons with 344 carries and 2,248 yards. In fact, he led the ACC with 1,245 rushing yards in 2020.
Williams runs hard for a back his size, and his vision and cutback ability will help create chunk plays, but he's not a typical home run threat for a smaller back.
Still, the New York Jets may have just landed by the best running back in the class with the 107th overall pick. Carter can immediately enter the lineup as the Jets' starter, even over Tevin Coleman. His vision and decisive cutting ability will allow him to bend runs back and create chunk plays in the team's incoming zone-stretch scheme
The secondary overhaul continues for the Atlanta Falcons. In the second round, the team chose Richie Grant, who immediately becomes a physical tone-setter for the entire group.
Darren Hall will have an opportunity to compete with Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver and Fabian Moreau to play opposite last year's first-round pick, A.J. Terrell.
109. TITANS (F/HOU, CAR)
The Tennessee Titans lost Corey Davis in free agency. Someone will have to replace his 92 targets and 984 receiving yards.
Josh Reynolds' acquisition helps, but he's not the entire solution.
Desmond Fitzpatrick, 6'2", adds another big body to work outside the numbers and down the field.
110. BROWNS (F/PHI)
Kevin Stefanski may have won the NFL Coach of the Year last season, but Bill Callahan is arguably the best coach on the Cleveland Browns' staff. Callahan molded the Browns' offensive front into the league's best and got the most out of last year's 10th overall pick, Jedrick Wills Jr., and right guard Wyatt Teller.
Cincinnati's James Hudson is a developmental offensive tackle. He provides depth and should eventually replace Chris Hubbard as the team's sixth lineman when the veteran's contract ends after the 2021 campaign.
Cincinnati went with back-to-back defensive ends. Joseph Ossai and Sample are different types of edge defenders, though.
Ossai is quicker, more fluid and absolutely relentless. He can play off the edge either from a two- or three-point stance. Sample is more stout and brings the versatility to rush from the defensive interior.
Both of them join a front that already featured Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader and Larry Ogunjobi. That group will come at opposing quarterbacks in waves
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
Strengths: Complete and precise route-runner, doesn't gear down through stem, creative runner after the catch
Weaknesses: Underneath target, not a deep threat, lacks physical component, press coverage will be a problem
USC's Amon-Ra St. Brown entered the 2021 class as one of its top route-runners. The Green Bay Packers drafted his older brother, Equanimeous, in the sixth round of the 2018 class, but the two siblings couldn't be further apart as receiving threats.
At 6'5" and 214 pounds, Equanimeous St. Brown is a physically imposing target who averaged 17.8 yards per catch during his three seasons with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Amon-Ra St. Brown is 5'11" and 197 pounds. He doesn't have the same straight-line speed with an average of 12.8 yards during his USC career.
(If you're wondering, yes, a third brother, Osiris St. Brown, currently plays for the Stanford Cardinal. They're the children of two-time Mr. Universe John Brown.)
Amon-Ra St. Brown can work from the slot or outside the numbers. He knows how to sell routes and utilize different gears depending on play design. He projects as an excellent possession target.
The Detroit Lions finally pulled the trigger on a wide receiver prospect. After two days of fortifying the trenches, the Lions filled their biggest need. St. Brown can immediately step in as the slot receiver, with Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman working outside the numbers.
113. LIONS (F/CAR, CLE)
Strengths: Old-school linebacker, pass-rush versatility, strong tackler
Weaknesses: One-on-one coverage, still developing linebacker instincts
How about adding a three-year starter from a Power Five program who brings significant production and some sub-package versatility? Most teams would sign up for that type of prospect.
Strangely, Purdue's Derrick Barnes didn't receive the type of recognition he deserved through the evaluation process. It doesn't mean he went unnoticed.
"He can play three downs," a scout told The Athletic's Bob McGinn. "He's going to be more of a zone coverage guy than a man coverage guy. He can go sideline to sideline. Considering he's a one-year starter (inside), he did exceptionally well. He has added value because he can rush the passer from the outside."
Barnes' biggest issue stems from the fact that he's more of an edge defender than a true off-ball linebacker. As such, he's a straight-line athlete and not a fluid in space.
The Lions can keep Barnes at middle linebacker, while Jahlani Tavai can be moved all over the front seven to fully capitalize on his skill set.
Whatever the Lions decide to do with their second line of defense, Barnes is yet another example of Detroit prioritizing toughness with this new regime.
114. FALCONS (F/DEN)
Strengths: Makes blocks on the move look easy, plays with leverage, strong hands, NFL bloodlines
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk, often driven into quarterback's lap in pass protection, doesn't fit all schemes
Quietly, the Stanford Cardinal moved away from the "intellectual brutality" identity it once established under the direction of Jim Harbaugh and carried through with David Shaw leading the program. The Cardinal adapted to a more wide-open game, and the hosses up front changed in some ways as well.
Not every Stanford blocker is a snarling gap blocker ready to exert his will over an opponent and drive defenders of the ball. Center Drew Dalman falls on the opposite side of the spectrum.
The 6'1", 299-pound pivot is a tailor-made option for an outside zone-predominant scheme. The first-team All-Pac-12 performer consistently reaches defenders and works to the second level. He can be the vital component of a zone-heavy squad in need of a center who executes crucial interior blocks.
The Atlanta Falcons moved on from Pro Bowl center Alex Mack this offseason. New head coach Arthur Smith now has options at the position. Previously, Matt Hennessy was projected as Mack's replacement. Dalman is an excellent schematic fit, though. It's no coincidence he landed with a team that will employ an outside-zone system.
Strengths: Range, matches up well with tight ends, comfortable in space, easily made the transition from FBS to SEC
Weaknesses: Not much of a physical or downhill defender, struggles working through traffic, will overpursue
Typically, stories of an offensive transfer, particularly a quarterback, emerge about the new addition walking onto campus and immediately taking on a leadership role. Not at LSU, where defense tends to reign supreme.
Linebacker Jabril Cox transferred from North Dakota State—where he helped the Bison win three national championships and was even named the 2018 MVFC Defensive Player of the Year—and stuffed the stat sheet in SEC play.
Cox finished his only season in the Bayou with 58 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, five pass breakups and four quarterback hits. His real value lies in defending the pass.
"He understood spacing," NDSU head coach Matt Entz told The Advocate's Brooks Kubena. "He understood route concepts. He understood field awareness. And some of those are intangibles... He was able to translate that into defensive football for us."
Cox's inclusion on the Dallas Cowboys indicates how the team will employ its first-round pick, Micah Parsons. This year's 12th overall pick will likely serve as a blitzer and pass-rusher, while Cox can be utilized in sub-packages as a coverage linebacker.
The New York Giants aren't going to go without edge pressure for another season. In the second round, the Giants got one of the better value picks in Georgia's Azeez Ojulari. Now, Smith will join Ojulari as their outside linebackers.
The second-rounder brings the speed, while Smith is a long and raw developmental option with significant upside.
117. RAMS (F/SF)
Strengths: Outstanding athleticism for his size, difficult to move at point of attack, can shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield
Weaknesses: Very little pass-rush capabilities, balance issues, lacks consistency and motor
In a defensive tackle class considered the worst in recent memory, a prospect with significant upside automatically becomes one of the most intriguing options.
Texas A&M's Bobby Brown III brings as much upside as anyone in the position group, but he's arguably the furthest away from realizing what he can truly become.
At 20 years old, Brown is already a 6'4", 321-pound space-eater with outstanding natural athleticism. The defensive lineman ran a 4.98-second 40-yard dash at Texas A&M's pro day. His relative athletic score ranked 24th among all defensive tackle prospects since 1987, according to Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte.
When the underclassman flashed, he looked like a potential game-wrecker. But those moments occurred too few and far between.
Aaron Donald now has a new best friend. Brown is the big, physical nose tackle who should hold the point of attack and give Donald a little more room to operate.
Sebastian Joseph-Day and Greg Gaines are capable space-eaters, but Brown has the potential to be even more.
Strengths: Full pass-rush repertoire, consistently works pass-rush plan with multiple counters, consistent effort
Weaknesses: Undersized, lacks top-end explosive traits, will he be forced to convert to off-ball linebacker?
Duke's Chris Rumph II does one thing and he does it very well: rush the quarterback. In fact, no one has been better over the last two seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, the second-team All-ACC performer ranked first among defensive linemen with a 21 percent quarterback pressure rate and 26 percent pass-rush win rate.
Normally, such a capable pass-rusher would be counted among the class' elite prospects. In Rumph's case, he may be forced to take on a part-time role at the professional level because of a lack of size or change positions.
At 6'2" and 244 pounds, Rumph doesn't have the frame to be an every-down defender, at least not as a true edge defender. He's more likely to be valuable as a subpackage defender brought in as part of pressure packages.
Even in limited opportunities, Rumph can affect a game as a slippery pass-rusher who clearly displays a premium skill.
The Chargers needed someone to provide pressure opposite Joey Bosa since Melvin Ingram III remains a free agent. Rumph can come in as a pass-rush specialist who can double as an outside linebacker in Brandon Staley's 3-4 base. Think: Leonard Floyd.
Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa St.
Kene Nwangwu is used to operating outside the spotlight. Breece Hall served as the Cyclones' lead back, while Nwangwu never managed more than 339 rushing yards in a season.
He provides depth in the Vikings backfield and could eventually replace Alexander Mattison, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
Strengths: Thumper, fights for more yards, better-than-expected cutting ability
Weaknesses: No third gear, little experience as a receiver and blocker, failed drug test for marijuana/subsequent suspension
Not all running backs are geared toward today's style of play. Some simply aren't natural receivers out of the backfield and big contributors in the passing game. That's OK. The nice part is the general usage of running back-by-committee allows space for those who have more of a throwback approach.
Oklahoma's Rhamondre Stevenson is a throwback. He's 5'11" and 231 pounds with a penchant for rumbling through would-be tacklers. According to Pro Football Focus' Andrew Erickson, Stevenson's 4.7 yards after contact per attempt over the last two seasons ranked second overall among draft-eligible backs.
Stevenson pounded his way to 1,180 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns over the last two seasons. And he's not an incapable receiver—it's just not where his value lies.
The New England Patriots love having all kinds of skill sets in their backfield. The 231-pound Stevenson is bigger than any back on the roster.
He'll become another option in Josh McDaniels' toolbox. More importantly, he can help when Damien Harris wears down a bit and the Patriots still want a physical option to set the tone.
121. JAGUARS (F/SF, LV, LAR)
The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to prioritize the defensive front in Round 4. The team went with defensive tackle Jay Tufele at the top of the frame and then circled back to UAB's Jordan Smith 15 picks later.
Meyer is more than talk. He believes in building the defensive front. Smith is a developmental edge defender, but he brings significant pass-rush potential behind K'Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen.
122. BENGALS (F/NE, HOU, ARI)
Strengths: Gargantuan nose tackle, stonewalls blockers at point of attack, top run defender
Weaknesses: Weight fluctuations, non-existent pass rush, opted out of 2020
At 6'2" and 350 pounds, LSU's Tyler Shelvin is a mountain of a man in the middle of a defensive front. The problem stems from the fact he really never became anything more than a big body before he opted out of the 2020 campaign.
Shelvin battled weight issues during his time at LSU. Academics became a struggle. From an NFL perspective, he doesn't provide much as an interior presence.
He knows exactly what issues will continue to hound him.
"There's two main questions from almost every team that I usually get and am ready to answer," Shelvin told The Athletic's Brody Miller. "One, obviously, is about my weight, and two, if I'm a good pass rusher."
A potential star simmers just below the surface. Shelvin must do all the right things for that player to emerge.
The Cincinnati Bengals are serious about building up their defensive front, with three straight selections at the position. Shelvin will be a two-gap option when Larry Ogunjobi inevitably struggles at the point of attack.
123. EAGLES (F/MIA)
Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech
The Philadelphia Eagles landed one of the class's best coverage corners with the 123rd pick. According to Pro Football Focus, McPhearson finished top-four in zone coverage since 2019 and top-four in single coverage last season.
McPhearson and Avonte Maddox both provide inside-out versatility to play alongside the Eagles' No. 1 corner, Darius Slay.
124. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Strengths: True Y-tight end, in-line blocking, can be a threat in the passing game
Weaknesses: Doesn't have the speed or burst to create mismatches, basic route-runner, balance upon contact
This year's tight class is one of the weaker position groups. Beyond the all-world Kyle Pitts, questions abound.
Boise State's John Bates intrigues for three reasons.
First, he's a true in-line option. At 6'5" and 260 pounds, he's one of the class' better blockers when attached to the line of scrimmage. In-line blockers aren't sexy, but the skill has a place.
Secondly, Bates showed improvement each year as a receiver. Obviously, he's not the type of mismatch that demands constant attention. But he is a capable target to work the middle of the field and seams for his quarterback. He will also become a core contributor on special teams.
Bates may not wow anyone, but he's perfect for doing the dirty work needed from the position.
Washington tight end Logan Thomas is a former quarterback who's developed into quite the pass-catcher. At the same time, Bates can be the in-line option when head coach Ron Rivera wants an extra blocker on the field.
125. VIKINGS (F/CHI)
The Minnesota Vikings' announcement set the tone for this particular selection. Bynum played cornerback at Cal. The Vikings front office envisions him becoming a safety.
Minnesota's secondary does need help along the back line after Anthony Harris left in free agency. Furthermore, both Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods will be free agents after the 2021 campaign.
126. PANTHERS (F/TEN)
At one point, Hubbard looked like a future early-round draft pick. He led major college football with 2,094 rushing yards in 2019.
Now, the slashing runner enters a situation where Christian McCaffrey is the first, second and third option in the offense. However, Hubbard provides a legitimate alternative if the Panthers staff actually gives McCaffrey a breather.
Kylen Granson is more of a wide receiver than an actual tight end. His contributions will come detached from the line of scrimmage. Over the last two seasons, he caught 78 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Don't ask him to win at the point of attack as a blocker, though.
The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't go into the season assuming Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner would settle in as their starting offensive tackles. Granted, previous left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains available in free agency.
They drafted Kendrick Green earlier as a new starting center option, followed by Moore, who can compete at offensive tackle, which enhances the Steelers' weakest unit.
129. BUCCANEERS (F/SEA)
Strengths: Slot machine, can create separation in a phone booth, impossible to contain in open space
Weaknesses: Doesn't provide outside receiver flexibility, tiny target with small catch radius and provides little in way of contested catches, one year of elite production
Don't let Jaelon Darden's lack of size fool you. He's a difference-maker working from the slot.
According to Pro Football Focus, his 26 touchdowns catches while working from the slot are eight more than any other receiver since the start of the 2019 campaign. He finished second, behind only Alabama's DeVonta Smith, with 571 yards after catch last season. His 23 forced missed tackles ranked second as well, and he had a higher missed tackle rate per touch than even Florida's Kadarius Toney. At 5'8" and 174 pounds, Darden posted the highest career red-zone grade among all draft-eligible wide receivers.
Darden is lightning-quick working and nearly impossible to cover. Like others in this class, his size isn't a major concern.
Now imagine that type of talent in an offense that already features Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are loading up for another run toward the Super Bowl.
130. RAMS (F/LAR, JAX)
Strengths: All-around athlete, deep and recovery speed, quick reactions and burst, ideal length
Weaknesses: Work-in-progress, bites on fakes, better in press than working off his man
Central Arkansas' Robert Rochell is a small-school product with big-time traits. But don't tell the defensive back he's small-school anything.
"I don't like being frowned upon or doubted," Rochell told Draft Wire's Justin Melo last year. "This is why I work my tail off every single day. I'm always working. I don't want them to doubt me because I went to a small school. I want to take that thought right out of their minds."
The wide receiver convert became a three-year starter and 2019 first-team All-Southland Conference selection. He went to the Senior Bowl and competed for a short time before an injury knocked him out of the week's festivities.
Physically, he can easily hang with any target. Rochell is a 6'0", 193-pound cornerback with 32 ½-inch arms, 4.39-second 40-yard speed and a 43-inch vertical.
The Los Angeles Rams already have Jalen Ramsey and brought back Darious Williams to serve as their outside corners. But the team lost Troy Hill to the Cleveland Browns in free agency. Rochell should compete with safety Terrell Burgess to become the team's new nickel back.
Strengths: Highly productive, super competitive, goes up and gets the ball, vertical threat
Weaknesses: Can be manhandled a bit, limited route-running, average athlete
Not every wide receiver stands 6'2" or taller, runs a 4.3- or low 4.4-second 40-yard dash or creates a ton of separation because of their quickness.
Others, like Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace, find different ways to win. And Wallace won a lot of routes during his time in college.
During his final three seasons, Wallace amassed 3,316 receiving yards and averaged 103.6 yards per contest. The two-time All-Big 12 performer is more than capable of stacking defensive backs and playing much bigger than his 5'11", 194-pound frame might indicate.
Wallace displays excellent body control, especially along the sideline, and ball skills to win 50-50 attempts. He will compete for every pass thrown in his direction.
The question is whether Wallace can win the same way against professional defensive backs, who will be more physical through the receiver's release, after not running a complete route tree in the Cowboys offense.
And here we go again. Even though general manager Eric DeCosta said he was insulted when local media insinuated the Baltimore Ravens needed to get better at wide receiver, he's selected two new targets in the first four rounds.
Wallace and Rashod Bateman aren't the burners that Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins are, but they're more physical, reliable options for quarterback Lamar Jackson to exploit.
Strengths: Power at the point of attack, bull rush, lateral quickness
Weaknesses: Stocky build, balance, block disengagement
A defensive tackle's true value is built upon how many downs he can play. Teams are always searching for interior defenders who can A) win consistently against the run and B) collapse the pocket on passing downs.
Ohio State's Tommy Togiai is a powerhouse. He can easily hold the point of attack, reset the line of scrimmage and maintain his gap responsibility. There's absolutely no question about his strength after the 296-pound defender posted 40 bench reps during Ohio State's pro day.
His bull rush is a weapon on passing downs. Against the Indiana Hoosiers, Togiai registered 10 quarterback pressures. The 21-year-old isn't a polished pass-rusher by any means and will need to develop more moves, but the capabilities of getting into opposing backfields is present.
"Everyone thinks of me just strong and big and that's it. But I've got the speed along with it, and I can move," Togiai told reporters after Ohio State's pro day. "Just kind of wanted to put that on a showcase today."
The Cleveland Browns had one somewhat glaring hole to address at defensive tackle after the organization released Sheldon Richardson following Jadeveon Clowney's signing. Togiai is a ready-made 3-technique to rotate with Malik Jackson and Sheldon Day.
The New Orleans Saints have their quarterback of the future! OK, that may be a bit much. But Book's inclusion to the roster is quite interesting.
Jameis Winston is operating under a one-year deal. Taysom Hill clearly isn't the answer behind center as a full-time quarterback.
Book brings a Drew Brees-like skill set. He's undersized at 6'0" but highly competitive. Obviously, the rookie shouldn't be held to the Brees' standard. At the same time, he could very well develop into the team's starter since head coach Sean Payton won't be hung up on his physical limitations.
134. VIKINGS (F/BUF)
The addition of Pitt's Patrick Jones II in the third round didn't seem like enough when the Minnesota Vikings had to deal with Danielle Hunter coming back from a season-ending neck injury and didn't really have a legitimate bookend to pair with their star pass-rusher.
Robinson creates even more depth and competition at defensive end, and brings an outstanding athletic profile, even though he never fully realized his potential as part of the Florida State Seminoles program.
135. TITANS (F/GB)
Strengths: Powers with ideal size and length, sets edge with authority, advanced pass-rush plan
Weaknesses: Lacks explosivity off snap, more of a straight-line pass-rusher, pad level
Pittsburgh defensive end Rashad Weaver has never quite been in the right place at the right time.
As a sophomore in 2018, Weaver played well. He recorded 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. A year later, the 6'4", 259-pound defensive lineman didn't play a down after tearing an ACL. During his time off the field, Jaylen Twyman emerged as a force along Pitt's defensive front. Twyman opted out of the '20 campaign only to see defensive end Patrick Jones II rank among the nation's best with nine sacks.
Despite Jones' production, Weaver returned to the lineup and became a consensus All-American. Even then, he's not an ideal fit for most teams because his game is predicated on power and winning at the line of scrimmage instead of being a fluid and explosive edge-rusher.
Weaver is very good, but he's not the type of defensive end most teams prefer in today's game.
The Tennessee Titans' investments to improve their pass-rush last season turned into a disaster. Jadeveon Clowney didn't register a single sack, while Vic Beasley Jr. didn't finish the season with the team.
Yet, the Titans waited on the position before they chose Weaver in the fourth round. He is a more physical edge-setter than he is a true bookend to Harold Landry. At the very least, Tennessee finally addressed one of its biggest needs.
136. CARDINALS (F/KC, BAL)
Strengths: Speed to close any gap, fluid through his backpedal, four-year starter in SEC
Weaknesses: Risk-taker, bites on double-moves, non-existent tackling form
"Who throws a shoe? Honestly." — Austin Powers.
Florida defensive back Marco Wilson does, and the momentary lapse in judgement cost the Gators in a 37-34 loss to the LSU Tigers.
"I don't run away from it," Wilson told reporters after Florida's pro day. "It's part of my life, and things happen."
Once you get past the memorable mistake, a quality performer emerges. The 5'11", 191-pound cornerback started from the moment he stepped onto Florida's campus. Wilson also tested well at the Gators pro day with a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and 43.5-inch vertical.
A single moment doesn't define Wilson as an NFL prospect.
The Arizona Cardinals are identifying and selecting high-end athletes. General manager Steven Keim started in the first round with linebacker Zaven Collins. He followed that selection with wide receiver Rondale Moore. Wilson and his electric athleticism now enter the chat.
He also makes the Cardinals' cornerbacks much younger, with Malcolm Butler, 31, and Robert Alford, 32, serving as the projected starters.
137. SEAHAWKS (F/TB)
Strengths: Mentality to not give up a single inch, smooth backpedal and transition, three-year starter
Weaknesses: Smallish outside corner, very little experience covering slot, doesn't rely on technique and gets called for too many penalties
Oklahoma's Tre Brown is simultaneously one of the class' stingiest corners and best return specialists.
Two stats immediately jump off the page when researching the defensive back. First, he forced more incompletions throughout his career than any other prospect in the class, according to Pro Football Focus. Second, only one player in the draft class bettered his 20.7 forced incompletion percentage over the last two seasons, per NFL Network's Ben Fennell.
Brown knows how to stay in phase and make plays on the ball (31 career defended passes). He also clutches and grabs far too much.
The cornerback doubled as Oklahoma's primary kick returner in 2018 and '19. He also played gunner on the punt team. If Brown doesn't immediately crack the defensive rotation, he can be a very big part of the special teams plan.
How the Seattle Seahawks deploy Brown will be fascinating. He is best working outside the numbers, so he could push Ahkello Witherspoon for a spot. If the rookie moves inside, he'll have to contend with Ugo Amadi. Still, competition is a good thing.
Strengths: Natural mover with requisite size and length, left or right tackle potential, pop in his hands
Weaknesses: Significant off-field red flags, not patient in pass set, can get top-heavy
Marshall's Josh Ball is a prospect who will be highly regarded by some teams and completely off boards for others.
As a blocker, the 6'7", 308-pound Ball became a starter at Florida State as a redshirt freshman. He transferred to Marshall and showed a fluid pass set, strong hands and the ability to finish.
Problems stem from what caused the transfer, though.
Florida State suspended the offensive tackle after he was accused of "dating violence," per the Tallahassee Democrat's Wayne McGahee III. The Athletic's Tashan Reed reported Ball allegedly slapped his then-girlfriend, Sandra Sellers, pushed her in a closet and threw her down to the floor on three separate occasions.
Organizations are free to decide whether someone facing those kinds of allegations belongs in their locker room, but they also have a responsibility to not enable violent behaviour.
Background checks on Ball will have been an important part of the scouting process.
Clearly, the Dallas Cowboys don't care about character concerns after drafting Ball and Micah Parsons. No one can deny either prospect's natural ability, though. Ball becomes an insurance plan for Tyron Smith after the All-Pro left tackle's season ended with neck issues.
139. BENGALS (F/NE)*
Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals selected an offensive tackle. Yes, the team already has Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff. But Reiff will operate under a one-year deal this season, and the 32-year-old isn't a long-term solution.
Smith has the length and movement skills to eventually become a starter. He needs a lot of development, though. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack, who returned to the organization this offseason, has his work cut out for him.
Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't go without drafting a linebacker. The position is part of the franchise's DNA despite its devaluation over the years.
Johnson could replace Vince Williams, who re-signed with the organization two weeks ago. The 31-year-old inside linebacker may be beloved in the Steel City, but Pittsburgh needs to move away from limited options at the position. Ironically, Johnson is more of a traditional thumper at inside linebacker.
The Los Angeles Rams want weapons for new quarterback Matthew Stafford. Despite not having a first-round pick yet again, the team has still manipulated the draft and made sure it could get playmakers.
In the second round, receiver Tutu Atwell became L.A.'s selection. General manager Les Snead then chose Jacob Harris two rounds later. Harris is the exact opposite of the 5'9" Atwell. The fourth-round pick is 6'5" and 219 pounds.
The Green Bay Packers have a long history of developing middle-round offensive line selections into quality starters. General manager Brian Gutekunst already chose Ohio State's Josh Myers in the second round.
Ole Miss' Royce Newman will join Jon Runyan Jr. as young developmental interior blockers to play behind Elgton Jenkins, Lucas Patrick and possibly Myers.
143. RAIDERS (F/NYJ, MIN)*
The Las Vegas Raiders have gone safety-heavy in this year's draft. Granted, the team absolutely needed help at the position. But Missouri's Tyree Gillespie is the third defensive back Mike Mayock selected through four rounds.
Trevon Moehrig can play a traditional safety role, whereas Divine Deablo projects better as a sub-package linebacker. Gillespie falls between those two points a single-high safety who may be better served at strong safety behind Johnathan Abram.
Strengths: Size, length, bend, sets edge, effectively utilizes multiple pass-rush moves
Weaknesses: Limited experience, extensive injury history, not a natural reactor
Potential is both a great blessing and burden. Joshua Kaindoh chose to play for the Florida State Seminoles, but the former 5-star recruit never emerged as a dominant force.
In four seasons, the 6'5", 260-pound Kaindoh managed only eight sacks, and none of those came in 2020. Injuries defined his career. As a sophomore, a balky hamstring limited Kaindoh. He suffered a serious leg injury in 2019. A knee issue bothered him last season. As such, the high school standout became a collegiate misfire.
But a healthy Kaindoh could realize his immense upside as a professional. His size, length and pass-rush capabilities are obvious. His selection is definitely a risk. At the same time, it's a calculated risk based on what he could provide at a premium position.
Kaindoh goes to the perfect situation with the Kansas City Chiefs, where the staff knows how to properly develop talent. Four years ago, the organization drafted Tanoh Kpassagnon, and he eventually became an integral part of the defense. Kaindoh could experience a similar career arc.
Order subject to change via draft day trades.
Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
You just knew Urban Meyer couldn't resist going an entire draft without selecting an Ohio State product.
The ties that bind are strong, but the 6'5", 251-pound Farrell brings a big body and another option at tight end, where Jacksonville lacks a true threat. Chris Manhertz and James O'Shaughnessy are the league's worst starting tight end options. Farrell helps despite a lack of production at the collegiate level.
The New York Jets hired Robert Saleh to be their new head coach. Saleh built his reputation as a defensive coordinator. Yet, the Jets refrained from selecting a defensive player until the fifth round.
The 6'2", 216-pound Jamien Sherwood can be Saleh's version of Jaquiski Tartt, whom the coach worked with in San Francisco, in the Jets' defensive scheme.
Strengths: Yards after the catch, underneath security blanket, improving route-runner
Weaknesses: Contested catches, small catch radius, blocking balance
In an odd twist to typical draft bravado, Miami's Brevin Jordan knows he's not the best tight end in this year's class.
"I offer everything to the table. A lot of people get caught up in hype, but I offer production," Jordan said during an interview on Glenn Clark Radio. "This past year I missed three games and I still put up seven TDs. … Kyle Pitts is without a doubt the best in this draft...but after him, I feel like there's no debate."
Well, there's definitely a debate, but it's refreshing for a prospect to understand a pecking order exists.
For Jordan, he does bring receiving skills to the table. Through three seasons, he caught 105 passes for 1,358 yards despite not playing more than nine games in any of those campaigns. He's more of an oversized receiver or running back than a true tight end.
At 20 years old, the 6'3", 247-pound prospect is still maturing into the player he'll eventually become.
When a team lacks draft assets like the Houston Texans did, the best path toward finding quality is simply by taking the best available talent each time it's on the clock. The Texans have been relatively successful without first- or second-round picks this year.
Davis Mills might be the team's future starting quarterback. Nico Collins brings immense potential to the wide receiver position. Now Jordan enters the mix as yet another weapon who many thought would be drafted much, much earlier.
Texas' Ta'Quon Graham is an enigma. At 6'3", 292 pounds, he's an undersized interior defender who happens to be excellent against the run. In some ways, Graham fits the profile of what Atlanta likes at defensive tackle.
Grady Jarrett was considered undersized when he came into the league in 2015. Marlon Davidson and John Cominsky played defensive end in college. Graham doesn't have great size, but he can definitely hold the point of attack.
Evan McPherson, K, Florida
An argument can (and should) be made that teams need to avoid drafting kickers altogether. However, the Cincinnati Bengals' kickers missed seven field goals last season.
In three years at Florida, McPherson missed nine total field goals.
Strengths: Significant receiving threat, smooth in and out of cuts, vision to bend runs all the way back, nifty in space
Weaknesses: One-year starter, not built like a feature back, doesn't bring much physicality to position
No one could walk away from evaluating Kenneth Gainwell and assume he will enter the league as a lead back in some offense. His value derives from the versatility he brings to the scheme.
In most cases, a decision to opt out of this past season brings extra question marks. For Gainwell, the choice helped in that he still has plenty of tread on the tires.
As a redshirt sophomore, Memphis rode the all-conference performer. His 2,069 all-purpose yards ranked fourth overall. Certainly, 1,459 rushing yards is nothing to sniff at. However, Gainwell's biggest asset comes in the passing game.
He caught 51 passes for 610 yards in 2019. He's more than a dump-off option, too. Gainwell can line up as a receiver and run routes commensurate with the alignment. He's also a strong blocker despite his 191-pound frame.
Today's backfields are built around skill sets. Very few backs are every-down options anymore. Gainwell is a ready-made third-down back who can contribute more if given the chance.
Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman loves his running backs. The team is loaded at the position with Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. Add Gainwell to the mix.
He is a sneaky good pick because he's yet another receiving threat to help quarterback Jalen Hurts.
151. BEARS (F/CAR)
The Chicago Bears are doing it the right way. They're going all-in with their young quarterback. Too many franchises make the mistake of not properly protecting their first-round investment, and the signal-caller's development doesn't go as planned.
Once Justin Fields became the face of the franchise Thursday, the Bears spent their next two picks on blockers to protect him. Teven Jenkins will take over at right tackle, while Larry Borom adds depth along the interior.
The Denver Broncos' Kareem Jackson is 33 years old. The organization already made a significant investment in Justin Simmons, but he'll need a running mate in the coming years.
In 2018, Texas' Caden Sterns led Big 12 defensive backs with a 21.4 forced incompletion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. Sterns can play both safety spots and has enough flexibility to bump out to corner if needed.
153. BROWNS (F/DET)
The Cleveland Browns continue to load up with defensive talent. With a detour in the third and fourth rounds, general manager Andrew Berry got back to work on his defense in the fifth. This time, Berry fortified middle linebacker behind Anthony Walker Jr.
Walker signed a one-year deal. West Virginia's Tony Fields II could realistically take over as the team's starting middle linebacker a year from now. In four seasons between Arizona and West Virginia, Fields amassed 375 total tackles.
154. JETS (F/NYG)
We've officially entered The Twilight Zone portion of the NFL draft.
In the fourth round, the New York Jets chose Michael Carter. In the fifth round, the Jets chose...Michael Carter II.
No, this isn't a repeat of when teams mixed up Cameron Jordan and Jordan Cameron 10 years ago.
The Jets now have Jamien Sherwood to play strong safety, while Carter is a much smaller defensive back who's far better served as a single-high safety.
Strengths: Extremely quick off the snap, makes difficult reach blocks look easy, glides through his pass set
Weaknesses: Weight distribution/balance through block, strong hands but inconsistent aiming points, can struggle with stronger defenders
Western Michigan has developed into a mini-pipeline for offensive line prospects. Willie Beavers, Taylor Moton and Chukwuma Okorafor were selected within the last five years. Jaylon Moore is next in line.
All four had something in common: Each presented outstanding physical traits but weren't polished products with defined positions.
Moore arrived in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as a tight end and made the full-time conversion to offensive line. The 6'4" athlete added bulk—he's now 311 pounds—yet retained his foot quickness.
However, his erratic technique signals a developmental prospect who's still learning the nuances of the position. As a result, Moore might be better at guard where his technical deficiencies can be hidden to a degree.
The San Francisco 49ers made a head-scratching move with Aaron Banks' selection in the second round simply because his skill set doesn't necessarily translate to the team's zone-heavy approach. Moore is completely different. The Western Michigan product is an outstanding athlete who could flourish if he improves his technique.
156. STEELERS (F/PHI, DAL, MIA)
Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE, Wisconsin
At this point, one has to wonder why the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't invested in a cornerback after releasing Steven Nelson earlier this offseason.
Instead, the organization took a massive, albeit athletically limited, defensive lineman in Wisconsin's Isaiahh Loudermilk with its fifth-round pick. At best, the 6'6", 274-pound Loudermilk projects as a depth piece behind Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward.
Strengths: Deep threat, instant home run capabilities whenever he touches the ball, ace returner
Weaknesses: High drop rate, won't win physical matchups or contested catches, underneath route running needs improvement
Statistically, Iowa's Ihmir Smith-Marsette won't wow anybody. He registered only 1,615 receiving yards in four seasons.
Smith-Marsette grew from being the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year into the Hawkeyes' No. 1 receiver. Iowa simply doesn't have a prolific passing attack and suffered from poor quarterback play.
The 21-year-old showed an aptitude for getting open, particularly as a vertical threat, but lacked the proper supporting cast to take full advantage of his capabilities.
The cliche about being a better professional than a collegian exists for a reason. A player's situation matters. Smith-Marsette can immediately contribute as a returner (28.7 yards per kick return) while potentially thriving in a downfield passing attack.
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen form a fantastic receiving duo for the Minnesota Vikings. Yet, neither would be considered a true vertical threat, at least not in the traditional sense. Smith-Marsette gives the offense yet another dimension. Plus, the wide receiver can contribute as a core special teamer.
158. PANTHERS (F/HOU, NE)
Strengths: Violent disruptor, quick initial step, excellent on the move with stunts
Weaknesses: Primarily a one-gap penetrator, struggles at point against double-teams, one year of production
While the lines have blurred, defensive tackles are generally separated into two categories. Either the individual in question is a 1-technique (a powerful shaded nose tackle capable of eating up blocks) or a 3-technique (often smaller but more athletic and disruptive).
Iowa's Daviyon Nixon falls into the latter category. His game is predicated on shooting gaps and working in an opponent's backfield. He did so with gusto as a redshirt sophomore, though his overall performance proved to be up and down throughout the season.
Still, the 6'3", 306-pound interior defender emerged as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after registering 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in eight games played. Prior to 2020, Nixon played in 13 games as part of the Hawkeyes' defensive line rotation.
Quality defensive tackles, especially those who can make defensive stops and collapse the pocket, are held at a premium. Nixon certainly flashed the ability but has yet to put it all together.
His tumble down draft boards mercifully ended in the fifth round. The reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year landed with the Carolina Panthers, with whom he can do plenty of damage at 3-technique. A Nixon-Derrick Brown pairing could be devastating.
Strengths: Iron man, left-right versatility, moves well in pass set
Weaknesses: Lacks physicality, anchor strength, leans when trying to get movement
Not all teams are looking for immediate starters when searching for offensive linemen. Some are in need of a swing tackle or a development prospect. Nebraska's Brenden Jaimes fits both qualifiers.
He proved himself as one of college football's steadiest blockers, particularly in pass protection. He set a Nebraska record by an offensive lineman with 40 consecutive starts. Think about that stat for a moment. The Cornhuskers program may not be what it once was, but the likes of Dave Rimington, Dean Steinkuhler, Will Shields, Zach Wiegert and Aaron Taylor—all of whom won the Outland Trophy—once wore the red and white.
The incoming tackle prospect mirrors really well in pass protection, but his functional strength is a question.
The Los Angeles Chargers weren't content with what they already accomplished along their offensive front, and that's an awesome approach. The team knows the future lies in Justin Herbert's hands. Building a strong front five is only part of the equation. Even as a fifth-round pick, Jaimes should take over as the team's swing tackle and give Los Angeles yet another quality blocker.
160. RAVENS (F/ARI)
Strengths: Length and size everyone wants at position, quality nickel defender, strong and physical tackler
Weaknesses: Exposed as outside corner, falters in press coverage, lingering question about top speed
Ohio State's Shaun Wade may have experienced the biggest tumble down draft boards throughout the 2020 campaign. Wade was being billed as a first-round prospect and possibly the first cornerback selected, an idea that hinged on him making a smooth transition from nickel to outside corner. It didn't happen.
Opposing offenses exploited Wade's coverage—which, essentially, confirmed he'll line up over the slot at the next level. In that regard, there's still value to be had in Wade as an NFL starter. While his inability to adequately play outside the numbers is a concern, he enters the league with a defined role.
The consensus All-American may not have developed into the caliber of prospect many expected before the 2020 season began, but he can still be a quality addition to a secondary.
The Baltimore Ravens saw value and pounced despite taking SMU's Brandon Stephens two rounds earlier. Wade can challenge Stephens as a nickel option. Or, the Ohio State product could even convert to safety.
161. BILLS (F/LV)
Apparently, the Buffalo Bills are fans of developmental offensive tackle prospects. Amazingly, Brandon Beane had four picks through the 161th overall selection and only added to the defensive and offensive lines.
Like the earlier choice of Spencer Brown, Tommy Boyle is another massive tackle prospect.
The 6'6", 320-pound blocker will now compete with his classmate to eventually take over for Daryl Williams down the road. Or, one could become the team's right tackle while the other serves as Buffalo's long-term swing tackle.
162. CHIEFS (F/MIA, NYJ, LV)
It may not seem like it, but Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is getting older. The All-Pro turns 32 later this year. Eventually, he'll start to slow down, and the Chiefs will need someone to replace his production.
Noah Gray is a natural receiving tight end who can be slowly worked into the offensive rotation and possibly help once Kelce does start to decline.
163. FOOTBALL TEAM
As the draft enters the latter portions, teams are usually willing to bet on big-time athletes. The Washington Football Team did just that in the fifth round with the selection of Cincinnati safety Darrick Forrest.
According to Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte, Forrest's relative athletic score ranked 25th out of 772 safeties over the last 34 years.
Landon Collins is a defensive leader at safety, while Kamren Curl became a revelation as a rookie. Forrest can immediately be a core-four special teamer until he earns playing time as part of the secondary.
164. BRONCOS (F/NYG, CHI)
Strengths: Instinctive, always around the ball, scheme versatile, safety and corner experience
Weaknesses: Average athlete, inconsistent tackling effort, one-year starter
Nothing about Indiana safety Jamar Johnson will pop off the screen when looking at his athletic profile. Yeah, he's 6'2" and 205 pounds. However, he's not exceptionally fast with a 4.58-second 40-yard dash or quick with somewhat disappointing times of 4.41 seconds in the short shuttle and a 7.22-second three-cone effort.
But Johnson plays with his hair on fire and consistently finds ways to make plays. He finished second on the Hoosiers last year with 43 total tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions.
More importantly, the 21-year-old can play all over the field as a split safety, down near the box and even over the slot. Johnson also came up huge in his team's biggest game of the season. Against Ohio State, top quarterback prospect Justin Fields targeted the safety only two times, while Johnson snagged a pair of interceptions during the contest, per Pro Football Focus.
Sometimes, underwhelming workout numbers shouldn't overshadow actual performance.
The Denver Broncos chose back-to-back safety prospects in Texas' Caden Sterns followed by Johnson. The beauty of those picks is both are extremely versatile and can be used in several different ways. Plenty of big nickel usage should be expected.
A disclaimer before going any further: Shawn Davis is a physical safety who flies all over the field and will help provide depth in the Indianapolis Colts' defensive backfield.
But what exactly is general manager Chris Ballard doing? At this point in the draft, a team shouldn't be forcing picks. However, the Colts have used four selections without addressing left tackle.
The team addressed pass-rusher. It hasn't done the same with its other biggest need.
166. PANTHERS (F/TEN)
The Carolina Panthers have done one of the best jobs in this year's draft of finding value in every round.
From the second round through the fifth frame (and all the trading of picks in between), the Panthers chose a prospect generally considered as a much better talent than where they were selected.
Keith Taylor is no different. He's a long corner who goes out and competes on a down-by-down basis. He was as good as any cornerback at the Senior Bowl.
167. RAIDERS (F/SEA)
Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois
The Las Vegas Raiders stay in the secondary with yet another defensive back addition. It's not a safety this time, though.
Nate Hobbs is a 6'0", 195-pound cornerback who can immediately slide over to the slot and serve as the team's nickelback.
The Raiders are identifying defensive backs with very specific skill sets who will have defined roles once they enter the lineup.
168. VIKINGS (F/BAL, PIT)
The Minnesota Vikings moved on from Kyle Rudolph this offseason. Irv Smith Jr. will take over the position, and he's ready for an expanded role.
Zach Davidson brings something completely different from the Division II ranks. He's a 6'7" target with 4.6-second 40-yard-dash speed who also punted during his career. Coaches love versatility.
169. BROWNS (F/LAR)
The Cleveland Browns signed the top safety in this year's free-agent class. John Johnson III will be the team's starting free safety, though he'll be used all over the field. Behind Johnson, the Browns don't have much.
Ronnie Harrison is a strong safety. Grant Delpit will move all over the field as well, especially since defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants to utilize plenty of big nickel.
Richard LeCounte III is a true single-high safety who can play over the top and provides a different skill set from those defensive backs already on the roster.
170. TEXANS (F/CLE, JAX, LAR)
General manager Nick Caserio has reshaped the Houston Texans roster in a rather short amount of time. As of now, Zach Cunningham is an integral part of the defense. But his $14-plus million salary-cap charges over the next three seasons likely mean this is his last year in Houston.
Garret Wallow could turn out to be Cunningham's replacement. Over the last two seasons, the linebacker racked up 215 total tackles.
Strengths: Converts speed to power, works hands well, team captain
Weaknesses: Lacks length, disappears during games, history of shoulder injuries
Notre Dame edge defender Daelin Hayes managed nine sacks in five years on campus. From that point of view, he shouldn't deserve more than a late-round look or undrafted free-agent signing.
From an athletic standpoint, the 6'3", 253-pound defender shows good burst and change-of-direction skills. At the Senior Bowl, Hayes became one of the most difficult pass-rushers to block. Finally, the 22-year-old is an experienced prospect, who sets the edge and can drop in space if needed.
Maybe being in a place where defense is valued helps.
"So it's cool to be out there with a defensive-minded head coach," Hayes told reporters of working with Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during Senior Bowl week. "The vibe is a little bit different. You accidentally hit the quarterback and it's like, all right, all right. Coach [Brian] Kelly might have bust a vein, man."
In Hayes, the Baltimore Ravens chose yet another edge defender who didn't post much sack production during his career. The difference between Hayes and the team's first-round pick, Odafe Oweh, is the fifth-round pick is much further along in his development.
172. 49ERS (F/NO)
The San Francisco 49ers had to rally to fill out their secondary this offseason. They did so by re-signing Jason Verrett (one-year deal), Emmanuel Moseley and Jaquiski Tartt (one-year deal). Change is coming.
The eventual transition started when the 49ers chose Ambry Thomas in the third round. Oregon's Deommodore Lenoir adds yet another option at cornerback. Lenoir is a former elite high-school recruit who may be best served playing nickel corner.
Tedarrell Slaton is a massive human being who will man the middle of the defensive line. Nose tackle Kenny Clark is fantastic. But the Packers have wanted a major space-eater as part of the rotation for some time. After all, the organization did claim Damon Harrison for last year's playoff run. At 6'4", 330 pounds, Slaton certainly fits the mold.
174. RAMS (F/BUF, HOU)
Earnest Brown IV, EDGE, Northwestern
Leonard Floyd finally realized his first-round potential last season with the Los Angeles Rams. But he needs help. Obviously, Aaron Donald is a human wrecking ball along the interior. The Rams don't have much in the way of a pass-rush presence opposite Floyd, though.
Northwestern's Earnest Brown IV didn't post huge sack numbers during his collegiate career (seven in four years). At this juncture, the promise of development based on his hand technique and quickness off the edge is enough.
175. JETS (F/KC)
Jason Pinnock, CB, Pitt
The New York Jets held three fifth-round picks in this year's draft. All three were spent on defensive backs. Initially, the team chose back-to-back safeties with differing skill sets. General manager Joe Douglas followed by finally addressing cornerback.
Jason Pinnock is a size-speed prospect who struggles at identification and route recognition. When the cornerback group is as young as the Jets', throwing more talent at the position is never a bad idea.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers came to play during Super Bowl LV. Amazingly, general manager Jason Licht found a way to retain Lavonte David, who could have tested the free-agent waters. Meanwhile, Devin White has developed into a difference-maker.
They're set at the position, but a physical, downhill thumper like Auburn's K.J. Britt will be a welcome addition to provide quality depth behind those two championship-winning linebackers.
Strengths: Sideline-to-sideline range, strong form tackler, only 20 years old
Weaknesses: Smallish second-line defender, fluidity doesn't translate to coverage, lacks ball skills
Today's linebacker preferences involve two specific traits: range and comfort level playing in space. A team will sacrifice size and downhill physicality at the position, as long as the linebacker is capable of flying to the ball without being exploited in the passing game.
Cameron McGrone didn't finish among the top four tacklers at Michigan in either season he started at linebacker. Even so, the range he shows working sideline to sideline is exceptional.
His closing speed on ball-carriers easily ranks among this year's best. According to Pro Football Focus' Jon Macri, his average depth of tackle against the run ranked second only to Penn State's Micah Parsons.
Interestingly, McGrone didn't excel in pass coverage despite his on-field speed and range. While he certainly displayed the requisite athleticism to perform well in this area, he didn't show much playmaking ability on passing downs. In two seasons, he registered one pass breakup and no interceptions.
The New England Patriots continue to collect quality prospects, who could be viewed as excellent values, with every selection. McGrone brings the type of athleticism the Patriots lack among their second-line defenders.
Thought of Kevin King being burned by Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers has to be permanently seared into the memories of the Green Bay Packers' fanbase.
Yet, King re-signed this offseason.
On one side, the Packers feature arguably the game's best cover corner in Jaire Alexander. The team has to get it right by finding a legitimate bookend. Eric Stokes will get the initial look as this year's first-round pick.
But Green Bay made sure it has more at the position by choosing Shemar Jean-Charles in the fifth round to compete for playing time.
The Dallas Cowboys are already loaded at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Still, the allure of a premium athlete tends to the siren's song for NFL evaluators.
Stanford's Simi Fehoko is a 6'4", 222-pound target with 4.44-second 40-yard-dash speed. Quarterback Dak Prescott can throw it up and let the massive receiver go and get the ball. Fehoko won't really need to do anything more, considering the talent already found in Dallas' wide receiver room.
Strengths: Tone-setter over middle of the field, downhill thumper, takes good angles toward ball-carriers, excellent blitzer
Weaknesses: Significant medical concerns, not much of a space player, undersized linebacker?
From a football standpoint, USC's Talanoa Hufanga is one of this year's most enjoyable evaluations. The reigning Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year flies all over the field and plays with reckless abandon.
But two significant red flags hold back the safety's status as one of the class' better defensive prospects.
Medically, Hufanga had difficulty making it through a full year healthy. As a true freshman, he broke his right collarbone. He repeated the injury the following spring and required surgery. When a safety's game is predicated on striking and being a physical box presence, a bum shoulder heightens concern.
Hufanga is limited because of his lack of top-end speed and lack of lower-body flexibility. Overall, the consensus All-American can play multiple roles within a defense, but he's probably best suited as a box safety or subpackage linebacker after running a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at USC's pro day.
The San Francisco 49ers' overhaul of the secondary continues with their defensive back additions over the last two days. A healthy Hufanga was one of college football's best players. He may not have tested as well as expected, but he could easily take over at strong safety for Jaquiski Tartt next season.
Strengths: Does all the little things to get open and serve as a reliable target, strong working his way through coverage, excellent body control
Weaknesses: Not much juice, struggles to gain separation, little production until senior season
Certain teams around the league believe players who produce earlier in their careers are more likely to find success once they join the professional ranks. Being a late bloomer isn't a positive.
Clemson's Cornell Powell, who's already 23 years old and will turn 24 in October, failed to produce more than 122 yards in a single season until his fifth year on campus. It's not entirely his fault since Clemson had receivers like Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Hunter Renfrow and Deon Cain on the roster.
Still, Powell basically emerged only when he was a full-grown man against younger competition. The wide receiver used his size and strength to his advantage, too. He's a well-put-together target who wins through his physicality and nuanced route running.
Basically, Powell doesn't look like a typical Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver. He doesn't have the speed the team usually covets at the position. Even so, the Chiefs chose Powell with this year's 181st selection. At 6'0", 204 pounds, the incoming rookie is a big body who will complement Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman.
The Atlanta Falcons waited far longer than expected to address their edge pressure. Dante Fowler Jr. managed only three sacks during his first season wearing the black and red.
Notre Dame's Adetokunbo Ogundeji wasn't a premium pass-rusher during his career with the Fighting Irish. He did improve over time, though. He set a career high with six sacks during his final season on campus.
Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
Sometimes a selection is more than it seems. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons needed more help at cornerback even after selecting Darren Hall in the fourth round. Avery Williams will help there, of course.
But Williams' immediate value lies in his capabilities as a special teams demon. He can block punts and serve as Atlanta's punt and/or kick returner. He became a consensus All-American as an all-purpose player.
Fullbacks haven't been completely forgotten, especially in Baltimore with the Ravens' ground-and-pound approach.
The Ravens already have two-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard. Mason adds yet another lead blocker, who doubles as a standout special teams performer. If there's someone in front of Mason, he'll try to take their soul.
Order subject to change via draft day trades.
185. CHARGERS (F/TEN, JAX)
A little brotherly competition will ensue in the AFC West since Nick Niemann's brother, Ben, plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Hopefully, I can beat him up a little bit," Niemann told reporters when discussing his sibling Saturday.
From a roster standpoint, the Chargers now have some depth behind Kenneth Murray Jr. and Kyzir White at inside linebacker.
Strengths: Defensive weapon, reliable and prolific tackler, slices through traffic once he sees it
Weaknesses: Instincts and reaction speed, gets lost in coverage, played in only two games in 2020 because of torn ACL
The best way to describe Hamsah Nasirildeen as a defensive back prospect is someone taking a normal safety prospect and upgrading him to the Megazord version.
At 6'3" and 215 pounds—down from his listed size of 6'4" and 220—Nasirildeen is a monstrous backline defender. The size isn't a hindrance, either.
Years ago, bigger safeties became targets because they weren't as fluid working in space. Today's game is different. Nasirildeen brings plenty of versatility to the field. He can work both safety spots, in the box, over the slot or as a linebacker in subpackages.
If properly utilized, he morphs into a defensive chess piece.
"Being versatile is an important part of football and an important part of the game," Nasirildeen told the Tallahassee Democrat's Antwan Staley. "You can't just line up and do the same thing all the time."
Nasirildeen may not be a traditional safety, but he can be so much more. In New York, he will almost certainly be a linebacker hybrid after the Jets already chose Jamien Sherwood a round earlier.
The Atlanta Falcons didn't really need any more weapons, but what could it hurt to select one of the class' best deep-ball receivers in the sixth round?
According to Pro Football Focus, Darby's 15 receptions of 40 or more yards downfield was the tied for the second-most since the start of the 2018 campaign.
188. PATRIOTS (F/HOU)
Bill Belichick builds his defenses from back to front. He prefers flexibility in his secondary to expand his coverage schemes.
The Patriots are relatively set at safety with Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger and Jalen Mills flexing between the position and cornerback.
Missouri's Joshuah Bledsoe joins the team as its fourth or fifth safety. But that's OK. The Patriots don't necessarily select prospects based on immediacy. He looks like a long-term addition.
The Philadelphia Eagles chose a pair of interior defenders in this year's class, and the two should be wonderful complementary pieces.
Milton Williams in the third round gives the team an athletic tackle with defensive end flexibility. USC's Marlon Tuipulotu is different as a player who can hold the point of attack yet provides some pressure along the interior.
The Eagles clearly saw value in a defensive tackle position group seen by some as one the worst ever.
The Cincinnati Bengals' version of Choose Your Own Adventure may not have started well, but they went back to what works and found their way.
Jackson Carman will come in and start at guard. D'Ante Smith is a developmental offensive tackle. Georgia's Trey Hill, meanwhile, is a bulldog in the middle of the offensive line and provides depth at center.
191. EAGLES (F/CAR, DEN)
Stop me if you heard this before: The Philadelphia Eagles added to their defensive line.
Coastal Carolina's Tarron Jackson isn't an afterthought, even as a sixth-round selection. The defensive end finished first in the class with 59 total pressures and had the third-best grade, per Pro Football Focus.
When the Eagles defense was at its best, the unit went eight or nine deep. General manager Howie Roseman is trying to recreate that approach.
192. COWBOYS (F/DET)
The Dallas Cowboys made a couple of suspect defensive line additions earlier in the process. There's nothing suspect about taking Quinton Bohanna, who's a massive space-eater at 6'4" and 327 pounds. He'll help stop the run.
"Going into high school, nobody knew me. I became an SEC college player," Bohanna told reporters. "I went to Kentucky and nobody expected anything out of me. I became an All-SEC player. I can keep on building and growing. I know my best ball is most definitely ahead of me."
Strengths: Hulking presence, drive-blocker, three-year starter
Weaknesses: Phone-booth blocker, lack of patience in pass set, weight concerns
Massive, overwhelming offensive linemen aren't all the rage anymore. Most teams look for more streamlined, athletic options instead of people-movers.
Alabama's Deonte Brown is a bulldozer personified. The Crimson Tide listed the guard at 350 pounds. The first-team All-SEC performer weighed 364 pounds when he showed up in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Brown then dropped around 20 pounds for Alabama's pro day.
"Most of the questions I got [from teams] at the Senior Bowl were about my weight," Brown told reporters. "As y'all know, I weighed 364 at the Senior Bowl, and I'm now 346. That showed a lot of discipline."
Significant weight loss in a short amount of time does show discipline. But it's a double-edged sword. One can easily question whether his weight will fluctuate throughout his professional career.
Brown is a powerhouse at guard. He uproots defenders and drives them off the ball. As long as he stays in manageable football shape, he can be a force up front.
And if Brown keeps his weight in check, he should emerge as a starter at guard for the Carolina Panthers. He's easily a better option than Pat Elflein or Cameron Erving.
Apparently, Kyle Shanahan wasn't happy with his backfield. The San Francisco 49ers selected a pair of ball-carriers.
Trey Sermon and Louisiana's Elijah Mitchell could develop into a two-headed monster while playing in San Francisco's running back-friendly scheme.
Over the last three seasons, Mitchell ran for 3,010 yards. He might be a sixth-round pick but shouldn't be ruled out as the back who emerges as the 49ers' lead runner.
195. TEXANS (F/NE, DAL)
Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona
Amazingly, the Houston Texans didn't touch either side of the line of scrimmage before the sixth round. Granted, the organization found value along the way (once it finally had picks, beginning in the third round).
Roy Lopez likely had a preferred free-agent grade on most boards. But teams have reached the point where they might draft one of those targets instead of giving them the option to sign elsewhere.
Gary Brightwell, RB, Arizona
A healthy Saquon Barkley will completely change the New York Giants offense this fall when he returns from a torn ACL. Obviously, Barkley is mega-talented, but he's not invulnerable.
Devontae Booker provides depth but is limited. Arizona's Gary Brightwell can come in and get the tough yards. He's an angry runner who will slam it between the tackles.
Barkley is the guy, whereas Brightwell can deliver some body blows to soften up the defense.
Ten years ago, Bill Belichick invested a first-round pick in a Colorado offensive tackle. Nate Solder became a staple during two Super Bowl runs.
Belichick returns to the scene in this year's sixth round with the selection of William Sherman. Aside from the round differential, Solder was a long, lean blindside protector. Sherman started at right and left tackle, but he likely projects to guard.
Still, this choice sounds familiar because the Patriots did something similar a year ago when they drafted Michael Onwenu in the sixth round.
Missouri's Larry Rountree III ran for 3,720 yards over four years in the SEC. He's a legitimate running back prospect.
But the Los Angeles Chargers are deep in the backfield.
Rountree's true value will come on special teams. He told reporters that he takes special teams "very personal" because it was the "only way" he could get on the field as a freshman.
Does a change-of-pace defensive lineman actually exist? If one does, Jaylen Twyman fits the bill now that he's part of the Minnesota Vikings' defensive front.
Dalvin Tomlinson and Brandon Pierce are massive defensive tackles and bullies in the middle of the Vikings defense.
The 6'2", 301-pound Twyman is a one-gap penetrator. His draft stock took a hit when he opted out of the 2020 campaign, and he wasn't a fit for every team. With the Vikings, he fits as the perfect changeup to those who already man the middle.
200. JETS (F/LV)
After four straight offensive picks to start Robert Saleh's tenure as head coach, the New York Jets turned their attention to reshaping their secondary.
Brandin Echols is the fifth consecutive defensive player drafted by the Jets and the second corner in the last two rounds.
Like Jason Pinnock earlier, Brandin Echols is another talented, young body to throw into the mix to compete and create depth.
201. GIANTS (F/ARI)
Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
As Greedy Williams' older brother, Rodarius Williams should know exactly what to expect in the NFL. Age almost certainly played a part in Williams' drop to the sixth round. He turns 25 later this year.
Williams provides another skill set after the New York Giants invested Aaron Robinson in the third round. This year's 201st overall pick is a true outside corner, while Robinson will likely play over the slot.
202. BENGALS (F/HOU, MIA)
The Cincinnati Bengals decided to release Giovani Bernard last month. In doing so, the roster didn't have much depth behind the team's featured back, Joe Mixon.
Like Bernard, Michigan's Chris Evans can be a threat in the receiving game. The Wolverines staff didn't ask him to take on a big role as a receiver, as he caught 49 career passes. However, he played receiver in high school.
203. BILLS (F/HOU, MIA, LV, WAS)
Andre Roberts served as the Buffalo Bills' primary kick and punt returner last season. He signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent this offseason.
Marquez Stevenson's selection gives the Bills a replacement, as he averaged 26.1 yards per kick return.
Anything the Bills get from Stevenson as a receiver—and he has legitimate potential as a target for Josh Allen—is secondary to what he can do early in his career as a returner.
204. PANTHERS (F/CHI)
The Carolina Panthers have now selected a pair of wide receivers in the 2021 class. In the second round, Terrace Marshall Jr. provided exceptional value and gave the Panthers another vertical threat opposite Robby Anderson.
South Carolina's Shi Smith is better from the slot. He is a smooth operator who showed he can ditch any cornerback in coverage at the Senior Bowl. The Panthers coaching staff's experience in Mobile certainly helped this year's draft process.
Racey McMath, WR, LSU
The Tennessee Titans are building up their options among outside wide receivers. A.J. Brown is a dominant force working out of the slot, though he can do both. In the fourth round, Desmond Fitzpatrick (6'2", 208 lbs) joined Josh Reynolds as one of the Titans' bigger options outside the numbers.
LSU's Racey McMath (6'2", 211 lbs) adds to the number. According to Pro Football Focus, 86.5 percent of the receiver's snaps came when working out wide.
206. SAINTS (F/IND)
Hope for the best and expect the worst. The New Orleans Saints appear to be operating with this in mind when it comes to their studly offensive tackle duo. Both Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are entering the final year of their contracts.
Normally, general manager Mickey Loomis finds a way. The Saints are better at manipulating the salary cap than any other franchise. However, Landon Young provides a little insurance just in case one or two of their starting tackles leave after next season.
207. JETS (F/KC, MIA, PIT)
An investment in Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall in the sixth round is the ultimate lottery ticket. His athletic upside is immense.
According to Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte, Marshall's relative athletic score among defensive tackles ranked second since 1987.
208. SEAHAWKS (F/MIA, SEA, CHI)
Strengths: Uses size and length to advantage in pass set, powerful hands and quick to re-establish, left-right versatility
Weaknesses: Pad level, athleticism to redirect, top-heavy in run game
Offensive linemen are overlooked in general. The previous statement is doubly true when you're Florida left tackle Stone Forsythe and your college offense features a Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Kyle Trask, the best tight end prospect in recent memory with Kyle Pitts and one of the class' shiftiest wide receivers in Kadarius Toney.
"I think Stone has done a very good job this year and hasn't gotten a whole lot of credit for the way he's playing this season," Trask told reporters during the season. "And I think he really should because he's pretty much been locking it down there on the left side this whole season.
Even as big as Forsythe is—he's 6'8" and 307 pounds—he was overlooked and didn't receive enough credit for his level of play. Forsythe's performance rate increased with each passing season. He converted from right to left tackle as a junior and became one of college's football best pass protectors during his final season on campus.
Seattle Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown turns 36 at the end of August. He can't play forever, and the Seahawks understand quarterback Russell Wilson isn't happy with his protection in general. So, the idea of setting up a proper succession plan on Wilson's blind side is smart business.
209. JAGUARS (F/LAR)
Jalen Camp, WR, Georgia Tech
Jalen Camp heard his name called despite being in one of the oddest situations among this year's wide receiver prospects. Camp spent most of his collegiate career playing in a triple-option offense. Georgia Tech finally opened up the offense in 2019 yet struggled to establish a passing game.
Camp managed 786 receiving yards in four seasons. Jacksonville must see something in the receiver's potential.
210. CARDINALS (F/BAL)
Victor Dimukeje's addition to the Arizona Cardinals somewhat resembles the organization's decision to select Zach Allen in the third round of the 2019 draft. Neither showed much explosivity as edge-rushers. Yet, they set the edge and handle their duties at the point of attack.
As such, Dimukeye's usage should parallel Allen's current role.
Demetric Felton enters a situation where he knows without a doubt he won't get much playing time as a running back behind the Cleveland Browns' Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
"I hope they recognize I'm someone who can be used in a lot of different ways and take advantage of that," Felton told reporters.
The running back is a natural receiver and could make a permanent transition there. He can also be of help as a returner on special teams. Basically, one more weapon for an already potent Browns offense.
212. BILLS (F/NO, HOU)
Micah Hyde turned into one of the best free-agent signings in Buffalo Bills history. But the veteran safety turns 31 later this year. Also, the franchise can save $7.2 million by releasing him after the 2021 campaign, per Spotrac.
The Bills are forced to look toward the future based on financial realities.
Like many prospects selected in the sixth round, Hamlin can build a reputation on special teams before he gets a chance to become a significant contributor a year or two from now.
Rachad Wildgoose, CB, Wisconsin
Cornerback was a concern for the Buffalo Bills entering the offseason. Yet, general manager Brandon Beane waited until the sixth round before addressing the position with Wisconsin's Rachad Wildgoose.
Levi Wallace signed a one-year, prove-it deal this offseason. He'll need to provide solid play opposite Tre'Davious White. If not, another option must step into the role.
Cole Van Lanen, OT, Wisconsin
The Green Bay Packers already invested in a pair of interior blockers. Wisconsin's Cole Van Lanen gives the team a new offensive tackle option.
David Bakhtiari tore an ACL less than five months ago. He may not be completely ready for the start of the 2021 campaign. Billy Turner's salary-cap hit escalates to $8.9 million next season, per Spotrac.
Tackle is far from settled in both the short and long term. The idea of the team going into its backyard and grabbing a Wisconsin offensive lineman is smart business.
215. TITANS (F/KC)
This year more than any other, the on-field evaluation trumped every other part of the scouting process. Mitigating circumstances prevented some of the traditional techniques teams use to gain information. So, the idea of a prospect just being a good football player is a major positive.
"He's a fun guy to watch on defense, and in [the] kicking game," Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson told reporters about Brady Breeze. "He's instinctive, finds the football, and is a good tackler."
216. STEELERS (F/TB)
Strengths: High-end production, master at setting up pass-rush moves, stays skinny and reduces contact area
Weaknesses: Undersized, lacks elite burst off snap, likely a situational pass-rusher and nothing more
Jaelan Phillips is the draft class' most natural pass-rusher. Gregory Rousseau presents as much upside as any edge defender. Quincy Roche was better than both.
"Overall of the three [pass rushers], his technique is the most superior," tight end Brevin Jordan said during an interview on Glenn Clark Radio. "He doesn't get the hype. … Give Quincy two more inches, I think he's going to be the No. 1 pass rusher [from Miami]."
Phillips and Rousseau gave one year of exceptional performance.
Roche, who transferred from Temple after being named the 2019 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has the highest career passing-rushing grade in the draft class and the most pressures (101) since the start of the 2019 campaign, per Pro Football Focus.
But he won't be an every-down defender because of his size (6'3" and 245 pounds).
Roche is a prototypical Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker. Don't be surprised if he pushes Alex Highsmith for the starting job opposite T.J. Watt.
217. BEARS* (F/TB, SEA)
Strengths: Contact balance, ball security, decisive cuts, toughness between the tackles
Weaknesses: Lacks suddenness in small spaces, one year of rushing production, minimal contribution as a receiver
What does it mean when a running back prospect is described as a bowling bowl? More often than not, the term is meant lovingly based on a runner's lower center of gravity, power through would-be tacklers and ability to slam the ball into difficult situations.
Basically, the description aptly fits Virginia Tech's Khalil Herbert.
Herbert transferred to the Hokies program after graduating from Kansas and emerged as a true feature back. The 5'9", 210-pound ball-carrier finished fifth last season 1,183 rushing yards. According to Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle, Herbert averaged 6.6 yards per carry against a loaded box (eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage).
The second-team All-ACC performer is a decisive one-cut runner. Plus, he can scoot too. Herbert ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at Virginia Tech's pro day.
The Chicago Bears now have a quality one-two punch in David Montgomery and Herbert. They made sure to fortify their offensive front before building up the backfield. All of these things will help quarterback Justin Fields.
218. COLTS* (F/NO)
The Indianapolis Colts hitched their wagon to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback. His standing with the team isn't in question. The 28-year-old has a well-documented injury history, though.
Thus, Wentz's backup becomes one of the most important positions on the roster. Sam Ehlinger can take that job from Jacob Eason, because the former Longhorn is more athletic and highly competitive.
219. BRONCOS (F/ATL)*
Strengths: Size, catch radius, body control, downfield and red-zone target
Weaknesses: Limited route tree, very little separation, lacks fluidity, inconsistent effort
Auburn's offensive scheme under previous head coach Gus Malzahn limited what it asked of its wide receivers. Either the targets ran vertical routes or the staff manufactured touches near the line of scrimmage.
As such, some prospects, like Sammie Coates and Ricardo Lewis, never made the transition. Others, like Darius Slayton, began to flourish when they were actually allowed to do more in a professional system.
Seth Williams falls between those two points.
The 21-year-old brings quality size (6'3", 211 lbs) and vertical speed (4.49-second 40), but he's very much a straight-line athlete. Williams excels primarily in the red zone and bodying off defenders with the capability of making some spectacular catches. Don't expect him to run precise routes or shake loose from defenders at the top of his stem.
The Denver Broncos didn't need another wide receiver, but they took one anyhow. With Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler already on the roster, very few targets are left for anyone else. Still, Williams was too tempting and adds yet another deep threat to help in Drew Lock's development.
Strengths: Nonstop energy and pursuit, three-down capabilities, comfortable working in space and locking up with targets, fantastic recognition
Weaknesses: Undersized, struggles to disengage from blocks, can be overaggressive
Normally, a prospect should never be judged based on the helmet he wears. But it's hard to deny Boston College's success with linebackers over the last decade. Luke Kuechly, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Matt Milano all had a nose for the football—which seemingly translated to Isaiah McDuffie.
"I live around the ball. I make plays for my team. That's how I carry myself," McDuffie told The Draft Network's Justin Melo.
Over the last three seasons, the second-team All-ACC performer accumulated 222 total tackles in 27 games. More importantly, McDuffie experienced playing a hybrid role in Boston College's defensive scheme. This allowed him to work more in space and placed a greater emphasis on coverage.
By traditional standards, the 6'1", 227-pound McDuffie is undersized. But that's OK. His traits translate as a potential three-down linebacker who can be used all over the field. As such, his skill set will allow him to follow in the footsteps of the previously mentioned BC linebackers.
He has the perfect skill set to initially enter the Green Bay Packers lineup as a sub-package linebacker before potentially growing into more.
Anthony Miller's name surfaced as a potential trade candidate this draft season. If the Chicago Bears eventually make a deal and ship Miller out of town, they have his replacement in Dazz Newsome.
Newsome is a super-tough slot receiver who consistently creates separation in small spaces. He's an ideal interior option between Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney.
Thomas Fletcher, LS, Alabama
Yeah, a long snapper. According to Pro Football Focus, Alabama's Thomas Fletcher had a 93.8 percent snap rate accuracy last season.
223. CARDINALS (F/MIN)*
Strengths: Taller corner with speed to handle X receivers, battles at catch point, excels in both off and press coverage
Weaknesses: Limited starting experience, thin for his height, not much of a tackler
Cornerback Tay Gowan entered this year's draft class with only nine career starts as part of a non-Power Five program.
The UCF product made the difficult decision to opt out of the 2020 campaign after a standout junior campaign because he tested positive for COVID-19 and wanted to protect his young daughter during the pandemic.
"It was very tough on me to announce the news because I love football, and this is all I've been doing all my life," Gown told The Spun's Chris Rosvoglou. "But I had to look myself in the mirror and put my daughter first."
Gowan is long (6'1" with 31 ⅛-inch arms) with 4.44-second 40-yard-dash speed. As a junior, the defensive back defended eight passes and snagged a pair of interceptions.
The Arizona Cardinals didn't jump on a cornerback early in the process. Still, general manager Steve Keim understood he needed to address the position. Gowan is the team's second corner choice, as it took Marco Wilson in the fourth round. Wilson is an exceptional athlete, while Gowan brings length and size to the position.
JaCoby Stevens may be listed as a safety, but he's so much more than a typical defensive back. He played free safety, strong safety, nickelback, inside linebacker and edge-rusher. He's the perfect hybrid defender to create flexibility within the Philadelphia Eagles defense.
225. FOOTBALL TEAM* (F/PHI)
Camaron Cheeseman, LS, Michigan
Yeah, another long snapper. In this case, Michigan's Camaron Cheeseman is fascinating, not only because of his unique name, but also because he's an aspiring dentist.
226. CHIEFS (F/NYJ, CAR)*
Strengths: Powerhouse with heavy hands, rocks defenders, strong anchor, tackle and guard experience
Weaknesses: Significant medical red flag, looks for knockout blow and loses balance, recovery after being beat
Trey Smith's ability has never been in question. His medical reports became the biggest component to the offensive lineman's evaluation.
Smith entered Tennessee as a 5-star recruit and immediately became a starter as a true freshman. He played games at left tackle and guard. He continued on the blind side as a sophomore until a discovery of blood clots in his lungs ended his season.
Doctors cleared Smith the following summer when he returned, albeit at left guard, and started 22 of 23 possible games during the 2019 and '20 campaigns. He earned first-team All-SEC status for his performance in both seasons, which shows how talented Smith really is.
The 6'5", 321-pound blocker is an absolute load with All-Pro potential. His care management remains the biggest question since the risk hasn't gone completely away, per Tennessee team physician Dr. Chris Klenck.
Clearly, Smith's medical concerns caused him to fall all the way to the bottom of the sixth round. The Kansas City Chiefs, who already invested so much into their offensive line this offseason, were willing to take a chance on an exceptional talent. Smith adds yet another name to a growing list of acquisitions that will make the Chiefs' offensive front significantly better in 2021.
Well, the Dallas Cowboys didn't land South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn in the first round. They settled for his teammate, Israel Mukuamu, in the sixth frame. A theme emerged with Dallas' final pair of cornerback selections. Like Nahshon Wright, Mukuamu is an oversized cover corner at 6'4".
Strengths: Highly competitive, consistently attacks the catch point, slot potential
Weaknesses: Loses some ground due to tight hips, gets grabby
Despite the understandable health concerns at the time, the decision to opt out of last year's college football season can be viewed as a negative since the individual in question missed a year of football. What if it was actually a positive?
Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. thinks so.
"I've been putting in so much work, and it shows," Graham told The Draft Network's Justin Melo. "I've already seen the positive changes to my body. This process has me in the best shape of my life. I'm bigger, faster and stronger than I've ever been."
The sleek version of Graham showed up at the Senior Bowl and performed as well as expected after two standout campaigns as a sophomore and junior. Prior to the cornerback's trip to Mobile, his 31 defended passes tied for the second-most among draft-eligible defenders despite not playing last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Graham can compete with Duke Shelley to serve as the Chicago Bears' nickel corner.
229. COLTS (F/JAX, NO)
The Indianapolis Colts love those wide receiver-tight end tweeners. In the fourth round, general manager Chris Ballard chose SMU's Kylen Granson. Charleston's Mike Strachan, a 6'5", 226-pound target, became the 229th overall pick.
"I'm a playmaker. I'm coachable and I'm going to give championship effort," Strachan told reporters.
230. RAIDERS (F/SF, NYJ)
The Las Vegas Raiders surprisingly dealt All-Pro center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. General manager Mike Mayock signed Nick Martin to serve as Hudson's replacement. Pitt's Jimmy Morrissey will be Martin's primary backup.
231. DOLPHINS (F/HOU)
With the Miami Dolphins' selection of Liam Eichenberg in the second round, the team's offensive tackles are set. Austin Jackson is already entrenched at left tackle. Eichenberg will move to the right side. The seventh-round selection of Larnel Coleman gives the team an intriguing developmental option who has excellent movement skills and long arms as a former basketball player-turned-tight end-turned-offensive lineman.
232. PANTHERS (F/MIA, ATL, TEN)
Phil Hoskins, DT, Kentucky
In an unexpected twist, the Carolina Panthers had an opportunity to draft Iowa's Daviyon Nixon in the fifth round despite his being viewed as an early-round option. Nixon is a tailor-made 3-technique. Kentucky's Phil Hoskins, meanwhile, is better served as Derrick Brown's backup at 1-technique.
233. RAMS (F/CIN, HOU)
Jake Funk, RB, Maryland
Maryland's Jake Funk overcame ACL tears during his junior and senior seasons yet still became a seventh-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams. Intrigue lies in his athletic profile after the 205-pound back posted a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical.
“It's just something that I've been waiting for, waiting for the opportunity. And obviously, the results are something that I was very happy with, something that I was not surprised about and something that everybody in this building knew but I just needed the opportunity to show," Funk told reporters after his standout pro-day performance.
Strengths: Sets up full range of pass-rush moves, uses hands extremely well, stays low and bends the edge
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and length, not much of an edge-setter, fluid but lacks explosive initial burst
Name the individual who led the class in sacks this past season. It's OK if you need a minute.
No, the person in question wasn't Miami's Jaelan Phillips, Michigan's Kwity Paye, Georgia's Azeez Ojulari, Penn State's Jayson Oweh, Wake Forest's Boogie Basham or Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins—all of whom entered the draft as first- or second-round projections.
Tulane's Patrick Johnson tied for third overall with 10 sacks during his final season on campus.
In some ways, Johnson isn't even considered the best edge-rusher coming out of Tulane in this draft. Cameron Sample is a little more explosive and built like a traditional NFL defensive end. Johnson played primarily from a two-point stance, though he's a little smoother around the edge. Of the two, Johnson produced more.
Johnson will join fellow rookie Tarron Jackson as those expected to provide more pop for the Philadelphia Eagles' edge rush. Essentially, the Eagles drafted two pass-rushers in an attempt to replace veteran Vinny Curry, who signed with the New York Jets as a free agent.
235. BENGALS (F/SEA, DET)
The Cincinnati Bengals didn't let up on improving their defensive front once the third round started. The team added Texas' Joseph Ossai, Tulane's Cameron Sample and LSU's Tyler Shelvin, and then finished the class Kansas State's Wyatt Hubert.
Draft slotting may differentiate them, but each will come in as rookies capable of carving out roles, because the Bengals brass clearly wanted to change the look of the team's defensive line.
236. BILLS (F/CAR)
Two offseasons ago, the Buffalo Bills prioritized their offensive line and loaded up on free agents to try to provide a stable front for quarterback Josh Allen. This year's draft class has a similar feel.
Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle give the team depth at offensive tackle. Texas Tech's Jack Anderson will do the same at guard.
The Denver Broncos used the ninth overall pick to select Patrick Surtain II. Whether they actually did so despite having Justin Fields highly rated is another issue entirely. Surtain is in tow and the Broncos will find a way to best use him, Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby.
Kary Vincent Jr. can sneak in the picture as the perfect nickel or dime corner.
The Cowboys once featured the Great Wall of Dallas. Those days are long gone. Travis Frederick retired. Tyron Smith has battled injuries. Even Zack Martin and La'El Collins ended last season on injured reserve.
The unit needed to be replenished. Dallas started with Josh Ball in the fourth round. Ball could very well be Smith's eventual replacement. In the seventh frame, the team added Nebraska's Matt Farniok. He'll provide fresh talent to develop along the interior.
239. BRONCOS (F/NYG)
Jonathan Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State
Jonathan Cooper joins former Ohio State teammate Baron Browning with the Denver Broncos. Now, the two will be playing the same position. The Buckeyes used Browning more as a traditional linebacker even though he excelled as an edge. Cooper is an edge and will stand up in Denver's scheme.
240. FOOTBALL TEAM (F/PHI, SF)
Strengths: Comes with a pass-rush plan, dips and rips past offensive tackles, long and lean
Weaknesses: Lacks juice off snap, doesn't have requisite bulk, didn't perform as well against higher level of competition
William Bradley-King took advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule by going to a higher-profile program.
During his final season at Arkansas State, the edge defender earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference recognition by recording 13.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Bradley-King then chose to attend Baylor.
"The jack position, I love it. It's fun," Bradley-King said after his transfer to play for Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, per the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton. "You really get to show your versatility and toughness. Sometimes you're playing true defensive end and sometimes you're [playing] true outside linebacker."
The edge-rusher wasn't quite as effective against a higher level of competition, but he does bring a plan as a pass-rusher with enough athleticism to drop into space if needed.
The Washington Football team couldn't resist once the seventh round started. Its defensive front is already the team's strength. Another quality pass-rusher in Bradley-King creates even more quality depth.
The more a player can do, the more valuable he becomes.
The Los Angeles Chargers may have a Swiss utility knife in Georgia safety Mark Webb.
"My ceiling is super high," Webb told reporters.
The rookie has the potential to play nickel, deep third and some linebacker. He could develop into a mini Derwin James.
Tre Nixon, WR, UCF
The New England Patriots found value round after round. Surprisingly, the organization didn't draft a wide receiver until its very last selection.
Tre Nixon enters the Patriots lineup after 1,671 career receiving yards between Ole Miss and UCF. Nixon may have a shot at becoming New England's fifth wide receiver.
Strengths: Uber-athletic, play speed from sideline to sideline, plays downhill and aggressive against run, slot experience
Weaknesses: Injury red flags, over-aggressive, will take poor angles, hip fluidity
Not many safeties are made quite like Cincinnati's James Wiggins.
The 209-pound defensive back runs a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, registered a 38-inch vertical jump and posted 22 reps on the bench. As The Athletic's Bruce Feldman noted before the 2020 campaign, Wiggins has a 725-pound squat, too. His relative athletic score makes him one of the most athletic safeties of the last 34 years, per Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte.
Wiggins has been dominant working the slot and effective over the top as a single-high safety.
Injuries serve as Wiggins' bugaboo. He initially tore an ACL prior to the start of the 2019 campaign then injured a meniscus later in the same year. He suffered another leg injury toward the tail end of the 2020 season.
The Arizona Cardinals landed a safety prospect who's much better than the seventh-round pick he ultimately became. Wiggins' skill set should beautifully complement Budda Baker's usage in the Cardinals defensive scheme.
244. DOLPHINS (F/WAS, LV)
Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati
The Miami Dolphins became a popular destination for running backs in many predraft projections. Yet general manager Chris Grier passed on those options in the opening frame. In fact, he passed on every single running back until the seventh round.
Cincinnati's Gerrid Doaks will join Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed in the Dolphins backfield after the 230-pound ball-carrier ran for 1,712 yards during his Bearcats career.
245. STEELERS (F/MIA)
Tre Norwood, S, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Tre Norwood isn't exactly a safety or a cornerback. He's a hybrid, and he excelled covering the slot for the Sooners. According to Pro Football Focus, Norwood allowed the lowest passer rating to the slot among safeties last season.
With Mike Hilton gone, Norwood's skill set fills a major hole in the Steelers secondary.
246. FOOTBALL TEAM
Strengths: Burst off the snap, pass-rush plan, lateral quickness, field general
Weaknesses: Size limitations, lacks physicality, can he play off the ball?
Certain traits play well for NFL coaches. First, defensive coaches love individuals who have natural pass-rushing instincts. Second, every coach loves a player who communicates on the field and understands assignments.
Penn State's Shaka Toney brings both to the table.
"He's got tremendous quickness, and he's got an unbelievable football IQ," Penn State head coach James Franklin told reporters. "He's one of those guys you don't see very often on the defensive line, where he was making a lot of the calls and communication up front."
But a lack of bulk will hold Toney back. At the Senior Bowl, the edge defender weighed 242 pounds on a 6'2" frame. Yes, he's a capable pass-rusher but he's also a limited sub-package option if he can't hold up against professional offensive tackles.
The Washington Football Team did it again. Six picks after the team's selection of William Bradley-King, Washington chose Toney. The rookie duo joins Chase Young and Montez Sweat to form one of the league's most exciting groups of edge-rushers.
247. CARDINALS (F/LV, CHI)
The Arizona Cardinals are set at center after trading for veteran Rodney Hudson earlier this offseason. Penn State's Michael Menet can play behind and learn from Hudson over the next few seasons.
Another opportunity should exist. Right guard isn't settled for Arizona. A wide-open competition could give Menet a chance to take the spot if he's up to the task.
OK, the Indianapolis Colts finally chose an offensive tackle in the seventh round. Whatever the reasoning behind the team's approach isn't good enough.
The Colts can't go into the season with Sam Tevi as their starting left tackle. Tevi may be experienced, but he was a below-average right and left tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Penn State's Will Fries can come in and compete. He's just been placed in an unfair situation brought on by poor organizational decisions.
249. RAMS (F/TEN, JAX)
Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame
Despite Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson already being on the roster, the Los Angeles Rams drafted three wide receivers in this year's class.
Tutu Atwell is a speed demon. Jacob Harris is a tight end/wide receiver tweener. Notre Dame's Ben Skowronek brings a big body (6'3", 220 lbs) who's a solid option in the red zone.
250. BEARS (F/SEA)
Strengths: Clogs interior, difficult to move at point of attack, stacks and sheds, can push pocket
Weaknesses: Limited interior pass-rush capabilities, lacks flexibility, early-down option
A decade or more ago, gargantuan run-stuffers roamed the gridiron clogging the defensive interior. These guys became vital based on completely shutting down run lanes between the B gaps.
A pass-first league pushed those ambling space-eaters out of fashion. Today's nose tackles must do more, and BYU's Khyiris Tonga knows this.
"I feel confident that I can definitely be a pass-rusher and not just a run-stopper. That's definitely something I would love to work on," Tonga told reporters.
Working on a skill that's a necessity in today's game is completely different than stepping in and immediately contributing. Tonga is a powerful 320-pound run-stuffer and should be viewed as such.
For the 250th overall pick, the Chicago Bears know exactly what they're getting in Tonga, and that's far more than most teams can say about their seventh-round draft choices.
251. BUCCANEERS (F/PIT)
Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU
BYU's Chris Wilcox will bring a rare combination of speed and physicality to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Statements like the previous one aren't usually made about seventh-round selections. Wilcox may be a work-in-progress, but he has legit 4.3 speed and knows how to drive on the ball and blow up underneath routes. Not much more a team can ask for near the end of the draft.
Chris Garrett, EDGE, Concordia-St. Paul
The following are Chris Garrett's unreal stats during his last two seasons at Concordia-St. Paul: 39.5 tackles for loss and 30.5 sacks.
The 6'4", 250-pound Garrett may be a small-school product, but he knows how to be a disruptive force.
253. BRONCOS (F/CLE)
After addressing edge-rushers earlier in the draft, the Denver Broncos added some bulk to the defensive front. The 6'4", 301-pound Marquiss Spencer will provide depth behind Shelby Harris and Dre'Mont Jones. Spencer can play base end and did so for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but he's much more effective working along the defensive interior.
254. STEELERS (F/BAL)
Pressley Harvin III, P, Georgia Tech
The following are interesting stats about the Pittsburgh Steelers' new punter, Pressley Harvin III, per The Ringer's Rodger Sherman: Pressley is the first African American to win the Ray Guy Award, and he's the heaviest punter (256 pounds) ever drafted.
Kawaan Baker, WR, South Alabama
South Alabama's Kawaan Baker brings another weapon to the New Orleans Saints offense. The wide receiver can carry the ball (376 career rushing yards) and serve as a returner on special teams. He contributed 2,748 all-purpose yards during his four seasons with the Jaguars.
Kylin Hill's final season at Mississippi State didn't go as planned. After posting a 1,350-yard campaign in 2019, the running back didn't see eye to eye with new head coach Mike Leach and his staff. Hill left the program and decided to prepare for the NFL draft. Obviously, his decision didn't help his draft stock. Still, Hill is a quality runner with proven production in college football's toughest conference.
Why the Packers need him behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon is confusing, though.
257. LIONS (F/BUF, CLE)
The Detroit Lions' decision to draft a running back with their final pick in the 2021 NFL draft may be just as bad as the pick that preceded them.
With D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams already on the roster, Jermar Jefferson probably won't get many carries in the Lions offense. Maybe the Lions will move on from Williams after this season. At best, Jefferson will be stuck as the team's third running back.
258. FOOTBALL TEAM (F/MIA, KC)
Nothing in particular sticks out about Dax Milne's skill set. However, he finished top-10 among draft-eligible wide receivers with an 89.6 receiving grade, 3.75 yards per route run and 2.8 percent drop rate last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Milne is the antithesis of the Washington Football Team's other incoming rookie wide receiver, Dyami Brown. But those contrasting traits create a more well-rounded receiving corps.
Houston's Grant Stuard may be the 2021 Mr. Irrelevant, but his game certainly has relevance.
According to Pro Football Focus, Stuard ranked eighth among all collegiate linebackers with an 88.9 run defense grade.
The former Cougar plays hard and is tough as nails. He could easily find a home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a core-four special teamer.