Every NFL Team's Most Dangerous New Weapon in 2021

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2021

Every NFL Team's Most Dangerous New Weapon in 2021

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    The NFL offseason provides a time for hope because teams add new pieces through free agency, trades and the draft. Many of those additions are weapons that get a fanbase excited about the coming season.

    While quality offensive linemen, hope-opening fullbacks and block-eating defensive linemen are valuable pieces for a franchise, they don't excite casual fans. Fans are looking for players who produce yards, interceptions, sacks and touchdowns.

    Every NFL team has added at least one player who can be considered a weapon this offseason. Using factors like physical potential, proven production, scheme fit and projected role, we'll examine each of those new weapons.

    To keep this from being a quarterback-centric list, we won't consider signal-callers as we did last year. While the additions of quarterbacks like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Matthew Stafford were some of the biggest moves of the offseason, they're also obvious. Instead, we'll focus primarily on offensive and defensive skill players, sack artists and mismatch machines.

Arizona Cardinals: LB Zaven Collins

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    With Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to lead the charge, the Arizona Cardinals had the league's sixth-ranked offense in 2020. Arizona's 13th-ranked defense received less attention but was solid and could be even better in 2021.

    Rookie first-round pick and linebacker Zaven Collins is a big reason.

    "Collins has versatility at the linebacker position that will make him sought out by every team," Justis Mosqueda of the B/R scouting department wrote. "Off size and speed alone, he has upside as a pass-rusher or blitzer, while he has shown on film he excels as a stack backer, even in coverage."

    Collins, who racked up 53 total tackles, four sacks, four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns for Tulsa last season, is a do-it-all defensive playmaker. He's a second-level weapon in every sense and will force opposing offensive coordinators to game-plan for him.

Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    While the Cardinals selected a defensive weapon in Round 1, the Atlanta Falcons took the top offensive skill player in the draft. They made Florida tight end Kyle Pitts the first non-quarterback off the board with the No. 4 overall selection.

    Pitts is considered a generational talent who plays more like a big wideout than a tight end. Think Mike Evans and the role he has played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the years.

    The 6'6", 245-pound Pitts is extremely fast and fluid for a player of his size. Capable of both stretching out defenses and winning jump-ball situations, he is a unique weapon who should make an immediate impact in Atlanta's passing attack.

    Pitts may emerge as Matt Ryan's new No. 1 target with Julio Jones on the trade block. In eight games last season, he caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a strong candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman

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    While quarterback Lamar Jackson has been unstoppable at times for the Baltimore Ravens, he hasn't operated with a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. That'll change in 2021 after the first-round selection of former Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman.

    The 6'0", 190-pound Bateman has the physical tools to be Jackson's new top perimeter target. Fast and physical with tremendous hands, he was not a prospect the Ravens were willing to lose. They used their first of two first-round selections to secure him.

    Baltimore is thrilled to have landed him at No. 27.

    "I think he brings a style that's really going to complement the guys that are here right now," offensive coordinator Greg Roman told reporters.

    While Bateman only played in five games last season, he had a monster year in 2019 with 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Buffalo Bills: Edge Gregory Rousseau

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    Despite a solid defense—ranked 14th in yards allowed—and the league's second-ranked offense, the Buffalo Bills only managed a good-not-great 38 sacks in 2020. The addition of rookie first-round pick Gregory Rousseau could change Buffalo's pass rush.

    The Bills feature an explosive offense that will frequently force opponents into pass-first mode. Quarterback Josh Allen can put up points in bunches, leaving the opposition to play catch-up. Rousseau is a high-upside pass-rusher who can take advantage of such situations.

    While Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, he put his explosiveness and game-wrecking ability on full display the previous season. In 2019, he had 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and 54 total tackles.

    Buffalo can unleash havoc by getting ahead on the scoreboard and turning Rousseau loose as a rotational edge-rusher. That'll lead to a lot of blown-up plays courtesy of Buffalo's newest defensive star.

Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn

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    This was a tough decision because free-agent addition Haason Reddick could make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher. Still, the Carolina Panthers made former South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn the first defensive player drafted for a reason. He's a game-changer, and he'll be a fantastic weapon on the back end of Carolina's defense.

    "He has the ability to move inside and cover bigger slots or follow the best receiver around the field. Although he is rarely tested downfield, he has shown the ability to run with most receivers," Cory Giddings of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    The ability to take away an opponent's best receiver cannot be valued enough. It's why cornerbacks like Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey have become defensive centerpieces and why the Panthers were willing to use the eighth overall pick on Horn.

    Horn, who had 15 passes defended and two interceptions over the past two seasons, could be a lockdown defender in Carolina's defense for years to come.

Chicago Bears: WR Damiere Byrd

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    The additions of quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields will be huge for the Chicago Bears. Fields is the future face of the franchise, while Dalton should be a serviceable bridge to that future.

    However, neither Dalton nor Fields can be successful if Chicago doesn't have the right pass-catching pieces in place. Wideout Damiere Byrd is an underrated free-agent addition who can help the Bears passing attack.

    While Byrd is a complementary receiver, he emerged as a significant piece of the New England Patriots' passing offense last season. He appeared in all 16 games and finished second on the team with 604 receiving yards on 47 receptions with a touchdown.

    Running back Damien Williams also got some consideration, though with David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen on the roster, he may not see a big role. Byrd could replace Anthony Miller as Chicago's No. 3 receiver alongside Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney.

    Miller, who was the subject of offseason trade discussions, seems to have an uncertain future in Chicago.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja'Marr Chase

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    For the Cincinnati Bengals, the benefits of adding Ja'Marr Chase are twofold. For one, the LSU product has the physical tools to be one of the best receivers in the NFL within his first few seasons.

    The 6'0", 201-pound pass-catcher has his sights set on rewriting the Cincinnati record books.

    "I'm going to break every record they have," Chase told reporters. "That's my goal, and I'm telling you right now. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but it's going to get done."

    He also has chemistry with quarterback Joe Burrow from their time together as Tigers. During Burrow's Heisman-winning campaign of 2019, Chase racked up 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.

    While he may not have that level of production as a rookie, he should be a viable candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Cleveland Browns: S John Johnson III

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    Several candidates were on the table for the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland reloaded its defense by adding Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley, Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. It also drafted speedy wideout Anthony Schwartz in the third round.

    Free-agent signing John Johnson III hasn't received as much attention as, say, Clowney and Owusu-Koramoah. However, he is one of the top safeties in the league and may represent one of the best additions of any team this offseason.

    A difference-maker on the back end, Johnson can become the centerpiece of Cleveland's secondary. In 2020, he produced 105 total tackles, eight passes defended and an interception. He also allowed an opposing passer rating of just 71.9.

    While Clowney has proved to be a game-wrecker at times and Owusu-Koramoah can develop into the ultimate chesspiece, Johnson can help take away the deep ball. This was arguably the Browns' biggest weakness in 2020 as the pass defense ranked 25th in touchdowns surrendered and 22nd in yards allowed. Johnson can have the biggest initial impact.

Dallas Cowboys: LB Micah Parsons

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Speaking of players who address weaknesses, let's examine the Dallas Cowboys' selection of linebacker Micah Parsons. Dallas took the Penn State product with the 12th overall pick in the draft, and he should immediately improve the team's 31st-ranked run defense.

    Parsons opted out of the 2020 season—as many of this year's top prospects did—but he was phenomenal in 2019 with 109 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and five passes defended.

    The Cowboys defense was gashed on the ground last season, which made it difficult to match points without quarterback Dak Prescott. Parsons is a fast, physical and instinctual run-stuffer who can help turn a major weakness into a strength.

    Parsons isn't only a chase-and-tackle linebacker, though. He has enough coverage and pass-rushing ability to be a true three-down linebacker right out of the gate.

Denver Broncos: RB Javonte Williams

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    This was another difficult decision, as first-round cornerback Pat Surtain II should make an immediate impact on the Denver Broncos defense. However, second-round running back Javonte Williams may be even more valuable early. He can boost the ground game and support whichever quarterback emerges from the Drew Lock-Teddy Bridgewater competition.

    "Williams has a solid overall combination of traits at the running back position," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "He has good size and physicality, and he's not just a bruiser, showing footwork, vision and patience to get the most out of his blockers."

    A tough, physical inside runner, Williams can be a dangerous threat in tandem with versatile running back Melvin Gordon III. While Gordon brings more shiftiness and receiving ability, Williams can punish defensive fronts while still providing breakaway potential.

    Last season, the 5'10", 212-pound Williams posted 1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging an impressive 7.3 yards per carry. He added 305 yards and three more scores on 25 receptions.

Detroit Lions: RB Jamaal Williams

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    The Detroit Lions have a budding star in running back D'Andre Swift. The 2020 second-round pick had 521 rushing yards, 357 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie despite only making four starts.

    However, the addition of running back Jamaal Williams this offseason is still huge for the Lions. One of the most underrated role players in the league, Williams is a dangerous dual threat who should complement Swift perfectly.

    While splitting time with Aaron Jones in Green Bay last season, Williams racked up 505 rushing yards, 236 receiving yards and three touchdowns. In his three starts, he totaled 162 rushing yards, 18 receptions and 159 receiving yards.

    Detroit is visiting with free-agent running back Todd Gurley, so the Lions backfield may become a three-headed attack by training camp. However, the Lions have a tremendous tandem in Williams and Swift.

Green Bay Packers: WR Amari Rodgers

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    The Green Bay Packers famously didn't select a wide receiver in the loaded 2020 draft class. They avoided repeating that mistake when they grabbed former Clemson wideout Amari Rodgers in the third round this year.

    Rodgers, who is close with former Packers slot specialist Randall Cobb, should become the sort of weapon Green Bay has lacked since Cobb's departure in 2019.

    "Since Randall Cobb left, everybody in my family felt like they haven't had a slot player like him," Rodgers told reporters. "They just felt like it was a good fit for me to go there."

    Rodgers, a speedy pass-catcher with a running back's build (5'9", 212 lbs), can be a game-changer in the Packers offense. He's tough to tackle in space and has home run ability, as evidenced by his 1,020 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games last season.

Houston Texans: Edge Shaq Lawson

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    This season, plenty of attention will land on the Houston Texans offense, where Deshaun Watson is likely out and either Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills will start at quarterback. However, it would be unwise to overlook trade acquisition Shaq Lawson.

    A tenacious pass-rusher, Lawson can have a significant impact on Houston's defense—a unit that ranked 30th overall and produced 34 sacks last season.

    In Lawson's lone season with the Miami Dolphins, he had four sacks and 25 quarterback pressures while playing 55 percent of the defensive snaps. Over the past two seasons with Buffalo and Miami, Lawson put up 10.5 sacks and 53 quarterback pressures.

    With J.J. Watt's departure, the Texans needed a new pass-rushing threat. Lawson can be that threat, and while he may not notch double-digit sacks, he'll be a dangerous addition to Houston's defensive front.

Indianapolis Colts: Edge Kwity Paye

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Edge-rusher Justin Houston was responsible for eight of the Indianapolis Colts' 40 sacks in 2020. However, the Colts have yet to re-sign Houston. As of now, rookie first-round pick Kwity Paye looks to replace him as Indy's primary pass-rusher off the edge.

    While Paye isn't the proven NFL standout that Houston is, he could be just as disruptive as DeForest Buckner's edge complement.

    "No edge defender in this draft class has the upside of Kwity Paye, who could walk into most NFL buildings right now and be the most athletic pass-rusher," Justis Mosqueda of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    While Paye only appeared in four games last season, he produced 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2019. At 6'2" and 261 pounds, he is a compact but explosive edge defender who will be a handful for offenses that are concerned with slowing Buckner up the middle.

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Travis Etienne

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars made former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. While Lawrence will be the player opposing defenses game-plan for the most, fellow Clemson product Travis Etienne will create plenty of mismatches.

    Lawrence loves what he has in his former and current teammate.

    "I'll say from my experience playing with Travis, from my first year to my third year, he just improved so much catching the ball," Lawrence told Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm. "So much. Just put the film on, you'll see him making plays. As each year went on, he was making more and more plays in the passing game. More confident and more dangerous."

    Etienne's versatility will be a major asset for the Jaguars, as will his chemistry with Lawrence. He had 914 rushing yards, 588 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns last season and could see similar production as a rookie.

    With running back James Robinson set to return after his own impressive rookie campaign, Etienne may not see as much backfield work as he did in 2020, but 1,000-plus scrimmage yards and double-digit touchdowns aren't out of the question.

Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jerick McKinnon

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs spent much of their offseason retooling the offensive line. Players like Orlando Brown Jr., Joe Thuney and Kyle Long can have a significant impact, but they don't fit the definition of "weapons."

    Running back Jerick McKinnon, on the other hand, does.

    While McKinnon's three-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers was hampered by injuries, he is a dangerous dual-threat back when healthy. He had 319 rushing yards, 253 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season. In 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings, McKinnon amassed 991 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns despite making just one start.

    McKinnon should step into a complementary role alongside Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams and can provide an offensive boost as Kansas City's new third-down back.

Las Vegas Raiders: RB Kenyan Drake

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Like the rival Chiefs, the Las Vegas Raiders added a running back in free agency who can be a difference-maker in 2021.

    In the Raiders' case, that back is Kenyan Drake, the former Dolphin and Cardinal who rushed for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago. While Drake has never established himself as a workhorse starting back, he was more than serviceable as part of a committee in 23 games with the Cardinals.

    During an eight-game stretch in 2019, Drake racked up 814 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns.

    In Las Vegas, Drake will again split time in the backfield. The Raiders have a quality starter in Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs, though Drake should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. Jacobs shared the load last season with Devontae Booker, who rushed for 423 yards and three scores.

    Pairing Drake and Jacobs could give Las Vegas one of the most potent ground attacks in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers: WR Josh Palmer

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    Year two is shaping up to be a huge one for Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year was gifted an All-Pro center in Corey Linsley and a premier tackle prospect in Rashawn Slater. In the third round of the draft, the Chargers also got Herbert a new target in former Tennessee wideout Josh Palmer.

    While Palmer didn't compile gaudy statistics in college—he never topped 500 receiving yards in a season—he was a four-year contributor with a polished skill set and impressive size (6'1", 210 lbs).

    Palmer shined at this year's Senior Bowl where he matched up against other future NFL competitors.

    "The former Vol star helped himself as much as any prospect on Tuesday," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote after the opening practice of Senior Bowl week. "He looked smooth and fluid in one-on-ones. He was able to get over the top of coverage and tracked the ball well."

    While Palmer may not have the raw impact of additions like Slater, his pro readiness could make him a dangerous complementary target from day one.

Los Angeles Rams: WR DeSean Jackson

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams are betting big on quarterback Matthew Stafford, but they don't expect him to carry the offense alone. This offseason, L.A. added veteran wideout DeSean Jackson to an offense that featured Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Cam Akers and Tyler Higbee.

    While Jackson is 34 years old and was hampered by injuries over the past two seasons, he remains a dangerous deep-threat receiver.

    Jackson proved as much in Week 16 of the 2020 season, catching an 81-yard touchdown pass from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Jackson, who has led qualifying NFL receivers in yards per catch in four different seasons, remains a threat to score any time he touches the ball.

    A lot will depend on Jackson's ability to stay on the field, but his addition could be massive for the Rams. Combined with the cannon-armed Stafford, he can add another explosive element to a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Like the Bengals, the Miami Dolphins used their first pick in the 2021 draft to reunite a second-year quarterback with one of his top college targets. They grabbed former Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle to give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a new No. 1 target.

    Waddle, who had 591 yards and four touchdowns on 28 receptions last season, is a deep threat who can break open a game. Tagovailoa only averaged 6.3 yards per pass attempt as a rookie, but that number should jump with Waddle on the roster.

    "I think he's going to be a perfect fit for Tua," ESPN's Todd McShay said on NFL Live (h/t Jaylon Thompson of 247Sports). "The RPO game they like to run and what they like to do, get him the ball in his hands, whether it's vertically or in that short game and let him go create."

    The Dolphins added another speedy receiver in free agent Will Fuller V, but Waddle should form the more potent long-term connection with Tagovailoa in Miami. The two already have chemistry and can grow together as developing NFL stars.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Patrick Peterson

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    New Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson may be 30 years old and coming off back-to-back seasons without a Pro Bowl nod. However, he is still a reliable starter who can hold his own against another team's No. 1 receiving target.

    Peterson is also durable. He hasn't missed a game because of injury in his NFL career, only sitting out six games in 2019 for a suspension. He played 99 percent of the defensive snaps in 2020 and finished the year with 61 tackles, eight passes defended and three interceptions.

    Peterson was a major get for the Vikings, who ranked 25th in passing yards allowed and 29th in points allowed last season.

    While Peterson may not be the shutdown defender he was early in his career, he's an eight-time Pro Bowler who doesn't miss games. The instant-impact starter will likely make a few quarterbacks pay for testing him in 2021.

New England Patriots: Edge Matt Judon

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    The New England Patriots had several candidates after going on a massive spending spree in free agency. However, it's hard not to consider pass-rusher Matt Judon the most dangerous addition.

    While the Patriots may have overpaid to land Judon—giving him a four-year, $54.5 million deal—there's a reason they did so. Judon can be a disruptive defender who should provide New England's pass rush with a significant boost.

    Over the last two seasons in Baltimore, Judon amassed 15.5 sacks and 63 quarterback pressures. He also had four forced fumbles, 23 tackles for loss and a safety.

    This isn't to discount offensive additions like Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith, who will bolster an offense that ranked 30th in passing yards and 27th in scoring last season. Judon, though, could transform a pass rush that produced just 24 sacks in 2020.

New Orleans Saints: LB Pete Werner

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The story of the New Orleans Saints' 2021 season will revolve around their attempt to replace the retired Drew Brees at quarterback. However, it's worth remembering New Orleans had the league's fourth-ranked defense in yards allowed and fifth-ranked scoring defense last season.

    If the Saints can get average-to-good quarterback play from Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill while again dominating defensively, they can remain contenders in the NFL.

    The addition of second-round rookie Pete Werner should go a long way toward assuring the latter part of that scenario. Though a bit raw, Werner is an athletic sideline-to-sideline defender who can thrive against both the run and the pass.

    "If he can tap into that athleticism and improve his level of violence, he has the potential to be a starting linebacker in the NFL," Justis Mosqueda of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "On paper, he has the upside of a Fred Warner type of 4-3 outside linebacker, but he has not reached his final form yet."

    Last season, Werner produced 54 total tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a batted pass for Ohio State.

New York Giants: WR Kenny Golladay

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    The New York Giants are likely to get early contributions from first-year wideout Kadarius Toney and rookie edge-rusher Azeez Ojulari. However, free-agent addition Kenny Golladay is a proven threat in the passing game and New York's new No. 1 receiver.

    Did the Giants pay too much to land Golladay? Sure, four years and $72 million might be expensive for a wideout coming off an injury-plagued season. Still, Golladay is one of the toughest receivers in the league to contain when he's at 100 percent.

    The former Northern Illinois standout had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before missing 11 games in 2020. He also led the league with 11 touchdown receptions in 2019.

    A physical mismatch on the perimeter at 6'4" and 214 pounds, Golladay is the sort of go-to target that quarterback Daniel Jones has lacked in his pro career. Adding Golladay should benefit both New York's offense and Jones' development as a signal-caller.

New York Jets: WR Corey Davis

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    This was a close call between rookie wideout Elijah Moore and former Tennessee Titans standout Corey Davis. While rookie quarterback Zach Wilson should benefit from both, Davis is a proven NFL commodity and one of the top 32 pass-catchers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

    "Enter, Corey Davis—a former first-round pick coming off a career season with the Titans in which he finished eighth at the position in receiving grade (87.2) and fifth in yards per route run (2.58)," Anthony Treash of PFF wrote.

    Davis never lived up to being the 2017 fifth overall pick in Tennessee, but he showed a lot of growth after the arrival of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Despite missing two games in 2020, Davis finished with 984 yards and five touchdowns.

    Moore has a ton of potential as a long-term slot solution for the Jets, but Davis should step in as Wilson's No. 1 wideout and a massive addition for a long-struggling offense.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR DeVonta Smith

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Based on the 2020 numbers, new Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith might be the most dangerous new weapon for any team at any position.

    The reigning Heisman winner racked up an astonishing 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He added touchdowns as a runner and as a punt returner. Smith is a weapon in every sense and should immediately impact the Eagles offense and special teams.

    Though undersized at 6'0" and 170 pounds, Smith makes up for his lack of mass with quickness, elite change-of-direction skills and savvy route running. He was virtually uncoverable throughout the 2020 season despite playing against some of the best competition college football had to offer.

    Smith will bring the added benefit of familiarity with quarterback Jalen Hurts. While Hurts finished his career at Oklahoma, he spent two seasons with Smith at Alabama.

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Najee Harris

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't had an elite running back since Le'Veon Bell sat out the 2018 season. Pittsburgh did get one good season out of James Conner—who was a Pro Bowler in 2018—but it ranked 29th and 32nd in rushing in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

    The selection of former Alabama running back Najee Harris should again bring a premier running back to the Steel City. Harris is a versatile back capable of battering defenses both as a runner and as a pass-catcher.

    In 2020, he finished with 1,466 rushing yards, 425 receiving yards and 30 total touchdowns.

    Not only will Harris be a dangerous weapon on his own, but he will also take pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who may be entering his final NFL season. Roethlisberger struggled late in the 2020 season as he was forced to carry the offensive load.

    By bringing more balance to the Pittsburgh offense, Harris should make all aspects of it more potent in 2021.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Trey Sermon

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is the headliner of the San Francisco 49ers' 2021 draft class. However, former Buckeye Trey Sermon may have a more immediate impact. The bruising 6'0", 215-pound ball-carrier has a running style tailor-made for San Francisco.

    "When I was making the transition to Ohio State, I was looking at a lot of outside zone," Sermon told reporters of his transfer from Oklahoma in 2020. "The 49ers were definitely one of the teams that I looked at. Just going through the progressions and the reads because I knew when I got to Ohio State we were going to run a lot of that."

    Sermon should quickly develop into a dangerous piece of San Francisco's rushing puzzle. Coach Kyle Shanahan likes to utilize multiple backs, and Sermon should be a fine complement to Raheem Mostert and free-agent addition Wayne Gallman. Jeff Wilson Jr. is also in the mix, though he recently underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will likely miss significant time.

    Last season, Sermon had 870 rushing yards and four touchdowns while averaging an impressive 7.5 yards per carry for Ohio State.

Seattle Seahawks: WR D'Wayne Eskridge

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks only made three picks in the 2021 draft and only one in the first three rounds. However, they landed a potential home run threat in Western Michigan wideout D'Wayne Eskridge.

    Taken with the 56th overall pick, Eskridge is a low-floor, high-upside prospect with little polish and a ton of potential.

    "D'Wayne Eskridge stepped back into a primary role on Western Michigan's offense after moonlighting as a two-way player in 2019," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "Despite his undersized frame, Eskridge consistently produced on the outside with his competitive and explosive play."

    Eskridge is on the smaller side at 5'8" and 190 pounds, but he can burn defenders with his straight-line speed. Last season, he totaled 784 yards and eight touchdowns on 34 receptions.

    Adding Eskridge to a receiving corps with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf may make Russell Wilson the league's most dangerous quarterback in 2021.

Tennessee Titans: CB Caleb Farley

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Free-agent addition Bud Dupree got some consideration, as the Titans desperately needed to boost a pass rush that had 19 sacks in 2020. However, Dupree is coming off a torn ACL and may not have the immediate impact Tennessee can get from rookie corner Caleb Farley.

    While Farley is also recovering—he had back surgery this offseason—he says he'll be cleared by training camp.

    As previously mentioned, shutdown cornerbacks are a valuable commodity, and the former Virginia Tech star can be one for the Titans. Farley opted out of the 2020 season but was remarkable in 2019 with 20 total tackles, 12 passes defended, four interceptions and a defensive touchdown.

    Tennessee's pass defense, which ranked 29th in the NFL last season, should see a significant improvement from Farley's presence. He becomes the new centerpiece of the Titans secondary.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Giovani Bernard

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need more offensive firepower? Probably not. While key players like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette were new to the team in 2020, the Bucs finished with the league's third-best scoring offense.

    With the entire starting lineup of the reigning Super Bowl champions set to return—with a full offseason of preparation, no less—Tampa should again have one of the NFL's best offensive attacks.

    The Bucs added another weapon anyway, signing former Bengals running back Giovani Bernard in free agency. While he has mostly been a complementary back during his eight-year career, he's been a valuable one.

    A dangerous dual-threat back, Bernard has averaged 820 scrimmage yards per season as a pro. Last season, he logged 416 rushing yards, 355 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Along with Fournette and Ronald Jones II, Bernard will provide Tampa with a ton of versatility in the backfield.

Washington Football Team: WR Curtis Samuel

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    Last season, the Washington Football Team lacked receiver depth behind No. 1 target Terry McLaurin. Washington helped remedy the situation by signing former Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel this offseason.

    A hybrid running back and receiver, Samuel has developed into a steady and dangerous weapon over the past couple of seasons. He topped 1,000 scrimmage yards in 2020 while averaging 11.1 yards per catch and 4.9 yards per carry.

    Samuel should become Washington's top option in the slot and a valuable complement to McLaurin in the passing game.

    Adding to his 2021 potential is the fact that he is familiar with offensive coordinator Scott Turner and head coach Ron Rivera. Samuel played under Rivera for three seasons and spent two years with Turner when he was Carolina's quarterbacks coach.

    With Samuel as a new second option and Ryan Fitzpatrick to pull the trigger at quarterback, Washington's passing attack—ranked 30th in yards per attempt last season—should be in store for a dramatic improvement.

                     

    Contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

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