NFL Teams Already Regretting Their 2021 NFL Draft Picks

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2021

NFL Teams Already Regretting Their 2021 NFL Draft Picks

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    With noteworthy NFL draft picks, instant regret is common for teams.

    For some, an early-round rookie hasn't produced. For other clubs, it's that plus later picks outperforming their selection. Performance versus expectations plays a factor too.

    Not all hope is lost this early into a player's career. Transitioning to the pros well right away isn't a guarantee, and besides Micah Parsons in Dallas, few members of the 2021 class have been elite upon arrival.

    However, the following selections have underwhelmed and caused some regret for teams so far.

Las Vegas Raiders: OL Alex Leatherwood

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    First-round offensive tackles are supposed to provide an instant impact.

    That was the hope with Alex Leatherwood, who the Raiders selected 17th overall. A Crimson Tide player—who won the 2020 Outland Trophy, no less—figured to have minimal issue adapting quickly and protecting Derek Carr from the right edge.

    Instead, Leatherwood has already been moved to guard after earning a 41.0 Pro Football Focus grade (the "replaceable" tier starts at 59.0) over 824 snaps, allowing seven sacks and drawing 13 flags. That has forced the Raiders to put Brandon Parker in at right tackle, and he's tied with Leatherwood for the highest pressure rate allowed leaguewide.

    Leatherwood still has a chance to rebound, but the Raiders can't afford to wait. They also made the pick with Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw still on the board, and he has looked as expected for the Vikings.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Trey Sermon

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Trey Sermon was a third-round pick for a 49ers team that often utilizes a committee approach at running back.

    Still, they probably hoped the former Oklahoma and Ohio State standout could boost the offense. Instead, he's appeared in just nine games, rushing for 167 yards and one score before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

    Elijah Mitchell, a sixth-round pick in the same draft class, leads the 49ers in rushing with 759 yards (4.6 average) and five touchdowns. He and 2018 undrafted free agent Jeff Wilson Jr. have taken snaps from Sermon even when all were readily available.

    Running back is a devalued position, and there has to be some regret by the decision-makers already.

Washington Football Team: LB Jamin Davis

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Jamin Davis, a late riser ahead of the draft, heard his name called at No. 19.

    At the time, it seemed like an already strong Washington front seven would help him learn on the fly a year removed from 102 tackles and three interceptions while showcasing good coverage skills.

    But Davis has struggled in all facets before and after moving into a starting role in Week 7. Through his first 13 games, he's played 57 percent of the defensive snaps, tallying 57 total tackles but missing nine and struggling in coverage, letting up an 86.5 completion percentage when targeted.

    That has earned Davis a 39.8 PFF grade. While there's still plenty of time for him to morph into a quality starter, it's understandable if Washington feels some regret. The next linebacker drafted was Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah by Cleveland all the way at No. 52, and he's looked solid over 10 appearances so far.

Detroit Lions: DT Levi Onwuzurike

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Ideally, a 41st overall pick like Levi Onwuzurike would provide an instant impact on one of the league's worst defenses, even if there's a lack of talent around him.

    However, Onwuzurike has underwhelmed. Before the draft, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted he was "undersized" and lacked production typically associated with interior pass-rushers who have strong NFL careers.

    Onwuzurike, who hadn't played football since 2019 after opting out in 2020, has played on just 34 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps and has registered just one sack, earning a 49.2 PFF grade.

    There's a chance Onwuzurike keeps growing into his NFL role well, especially as the talent around him improves on the 2-11-1 Lions. But they could have gone elsewhere, especially when creating pressure. Azeez Ojulari, an edge-rusher taken nine spots later by the Giants, has eight sacks in 14 games.

Cincinnati Bengals: OL Jackson Carman

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Desperately needing offensive line help in front of the returning-from-injury Joe Burrow, the Bengals banked on Jackson Carman being the answer at right guard with the 46th overall pick.

    The idea was to bring Carman in as a guard alongside veteran right tackle Riley Reiff, a free-agent acquisition. He could play guard and then transition back to his more natural position of right tackle.

    Instead, Carman has played just 38 percent of the offensive snaps in Cincinnati. He arrived at training camp overweight, didn't beat out journeyman Xavier Su'a-Filo for the starting job, and when injuries forced him onto the field, he's earned a 48.9 PFF grade.

    Since then, the Bengals have passed over Carman for 2020 sixth-rounder Hakeem Adeniji at right guard and the combo of Isaiah Prince and Fred Johnson at right tackle with Reiff out.

    Sam Cosmi, selected a handful of picks later by Washington, also looked like a solid starting right tackle. And though wideout Ja'Marr Chase has been excellent, perhaps the team still should have beefed up the offensive line with the fifth overall pick.

New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    It isn't too surprising Zach Wilson has struggled with the Jets given his predraft stock and the franchise's struggles with doing right by highly drafted passers.

    Still, throwing for just six touchdowns over his first nine starts and going 2-7 in the process isn't good enough. And he's got the fact that Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa looked solid last year as rookies despite unorthodox summer stretches and no preseason working against him.

    Wilson's inconsistent accuracy and seeming desire to hit the big play downfield while working off-script—which had evaluators such as Lance Zierlein name-dropping Johnny Manziel—has backfired. Over those nine starts, he's thrown 11 picks while completing just 56.1 percent of his attempts and registering a bad-throw percentage of 25.1.

    Both Trey Lance (third overall, San Francisco) and Justin Fields (11th, Chicago) have had limited chances, but it's fair to wonder if they'd be doing better in the Big Apple. And 15th pick Mac Jones in New England has completed 69 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns, is 9-5 and has a bad-throw percentage of just 14.1.

    This isn't to say Wilson is doomed. He's on a three-win team that has finished over .500 once since 2010 with a bad offensive line that has missed 2020 11th pick Mekhi Becton at left tackle. But his play hasn't been good enough given the draft slot, and it might have decision-makers with the Jets anxious already.

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