Grading every team’s first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft at the midway point of the season

Half a season doesn’t make an NFL participant’s profession, however as a draft analyst it is solely pure that I examine in on the rookies on the halfway level of the common season, proper? 

Like Justin Jefferson earlier than him, Ja’Marr Chase has future famous person written throughout him, and the quarterbacks have been, effectively, awful out of the gate. 

Let’s assign grades for the play of the first-round picks from the 2021 NFL Draft midway by means of their debut seasons as professionals. And these grades are strictly performance-based. I didn’t think about value of buying and selling up/down. 

No. 1: Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Trevor Lawrence

Grade: C-

Lawrence has not performed like a once-in-a-generation prospect by means of seven video games. Simply hasn’t. Positive, the surroundings in Jacksonville is hardly serving to. And it is comprehensible {that a} No. 1 general decide takes his lumps by means of the primary half of his rookie season. We have seen it many occasions earlier than. 

Nonetheless, in September, Lawrence was routinely clanking layup-type throws and taking part in uncharacteristically panicked contained in the pocket. Towards the top of October, he began to resemble the Clemson model of himself a bit extra, but Lawrence has a methods to go earlier than he is remotely near assembly his large expectations.

No. 2: New York Jets – QB Zach Wilson

Grade: D+

Mike White’s 400-plus yard recreation in opposition to the Bengals might in the end be a monstrous aberration, nonetheless it does make Wilson’s rocky begin look worse. 

Each recreation — earlier than his harm — did function some high-end throws, a lot of which got here in rubbish time, but they have been outweighed by dangerous choices each inside and outdoors the pocket and occasional bouts of ball-placement points. Exterior of his 297-yard efficiency within the win over the Titans, it has been very robust sledding for Wilson out of the gate. 

No. 3: San Francisco 49ers – QB Trey Lance

Grade: D+

All of us kinda/sorta knew Lance wanted time, extra time than the opposite quarterbacks picked within the first spherical of the 2021 draft, and he is regarded like a not-quite-ready passer when he is been compelled onto the sphere for the 49ers this season. Lance’s lone begin in opposition to the Cardinals featured a litany of fast resorts to scrambling and late rockets over the center. 

This grade may even have been an “incomplete” as a result of Lance has solely tried 48 passes up to now.

No. 4: Atlanta Falcons – TE Kyle Pitts

Grade: B

To start his NFL profession, the Falcons saved the coaching wheels on Pitts, and I do not know why. Then, the lightbulb went on. Pitts common depth of goal went from 8.8 in Weeks 1-4 to 14.4 since, and, on the vertical route tree is the place the pterodactyl-like move catcher is only. 

He posted back-to-back 100-plus yard outings in Weeks 6 and seven however was restricted to a measly 13 yards on two receptions in Week 8 in opposition to the Panthers, in like the three,000th unusual NFC South contest of the Matt Ryan period. General, the Falcons have gotten high quality return on Pitts. 

No. 5: Cincinnati Bengals – WR Ja’Marr Chase

Grade: A+

Straightforward “A” for the Bengals, in fact. Chase is the frontrunner for the Offensive Rookie of the Yr, and he is having a Randy Moss-esque debut 12 months within the NFL. He is averaging a hefty 8.0 yards after the catch per reception — which is buoyed by a 82-yard rating in opposition to the Ravens that was of the spotlight selection after the catch — and Burrow’s passer ranking is 124.1 on throws in Chase’s path, which not directly equates to Burrow being the most effective quarterback within the NFL when he targets his former LSU teammate. 

Rattling good. 

No. 6: Miami Dolphins – WR Jaylen Waddle

Grade: C-

As my WR1 within the 2021 class, I am miffed at how Waddle’s profession has began. He is far more proficient than his unfathomably low 8.6 yards-per-catch common signifies. The Dolphins are colossally conservative, and Waddle has barely been featured down the soccer area, one of many many locations he shined beneath the intense lights in Tuscaloosa. 

A minuscule 7.6% of Waddle’s targets have been on throws 20 or extra yards downfield. That is negligent offensive recreation planning. I’ll say, Waddle hasn’t made defenders miss as continuously as he did in faculty. He does lead the workforce with 48 receptions. 

No. 7: Detroit Lions – OT Penei Sewell

Grade: C+

For somebody unfamiliar with unsteady play, it was a shaky begin for Sewell in Detroit. Over the previous month, he is regarded extra just like the prospect who landed within the prime 7 of the 2021 draft at 20 years outdated with solely two years of beginning expertise within the Pac-12 on his collegiate resume. 

Sewell is beginning to assert his will on opponents and isn’t taking part in with almost as a lot nervousness and discomfort in move safety as he demonstrated in September and early October. Additionally, I beloved that he stood as much as Aaron Donald a couple of weeks in the past. Nice signal. 

No. 8: Carolina Panthers – CB Jaycee Horn 

Grade: Incomplete

Horn’s logged simply 146 snaps throughout three video games for Matt Rhule’s membership. He broke his foot in late September, and, in fact, was positioned in IR. He did have an interception — however did permit a landing. A return later within the season wasn’t deemed to be fully out of the query, however proper now, it might be unfair to slap a grade on the Panthers collection of Horn. 

No. 9: Denver Broncos – CB Patrick Surtain 

Grade: B-

Surtain’s actually fared higher than final 12 months’s crop of first-round corners, however that is not saying a lot. Unsurprisingly, Surtain’s performed equally to how he did at Alabama. Sticky in man protection in opposition to bigger wideouts, some hiccups down the sphere and an occasional splash play — he does have a decide and 4 move breakups heading into the weekend. 

Has Surtain been absolute lock-down? No. Has he been a legal responsibility? Removed from. 

No. 10: Philadelphia Eagles – WR Devonta Smith

Grade: C

I do not understand how exactly I really feel about Smith as a result of he is been a rollercoaster within the first half of the season, and I am not accustomed to rollercoaster play from Smith. He was as regular as will be at Alabama. He is already dropped three passes with the Eagles after simply 10 in his total stick with the Crimson Tide. 

And there have been flashes — just like the seven-grab, 122-yard outing in opposition to the Chiefs and his NFL debut, an eight-catch, 71-yard, one-touchdown outing in a thrashing of the Falcons in Atlanta. But it surely does really feel just like the bodily facet of the sport is steepening his studying curve at occasions, though his silky-smooth actions do generate separation most often, they usually’re nonetheless a pleasure to observe. 

I anticipated extra consistency from Smith, I actually did.

No. 11: Chicago Bears – QB Justin Fields

Grade: C-

Fields is beginning to come alongside. He actually is. And whereas I am right here — he regarded noticeably extra comfy with out Matt Nagy on the sidelines in opposition to the 49ers in Week 8. 

However the begin was not fairly. Positively regarded in want of a redshirt….season? Yeah. Or one thing near that. Fields remains to be leaning on his supreme athletic presents greater than anything, however that is not the worst factor for a rookie quarterback to do as he is getting his bearings on the pace and complexity of NFL defenses. 

I would like to see extra vertical photographs off play-action. However there have been occasions when these large performs we noticed so continuously at Ohio State have been there in Chicago, but Fields has taken an additional second to course of that he must let it rip. He is presently probably the most sacked quarterback in soccer. That sack price of 14.1% is ghastly — however not fully unparalleled for a first-round rookie passer. 

No. 12: Dallas Cowboys – LB Micah Parsons 

Grade: A-

Parsons is a special cat. He is a 6-foot-3, 240-pound off-ball linebacker by commerce — principally — who was thrust into a job as edge-rusher within the first month of his NFL profession, and he is performed past his years as a move rusher. 

That’s not to say Parsons did not present edge-rushing capabilities at Penn State. He did. However I wasn’t of the assumption he may flourish in a predominant exterior move rusher position in his rookie season. There have been the conventional rangy sideline-to-sideline tackles all of us wish to see in linebackers. There’s a lot juice to his recreation, which is sort of wonderful given his thick body. 

Parsons has a methods to go studying the nuances of protection, and he hasn’t fairly shed blocks as effortlessly as he did within the Huge 10 — think about that — however the Cowboys ought to be pleased with their first-round decide at this juncture.

No. 13: Los Angeles Chargers – OT Rashawn Slater 

Grade: A

Philip Rivers has GOT to be saying “dagummit” in Alabama the place he is teaching highschool soccer watching the play of Slater at left sort out in a Chargers uniform. 

Slater has been the most effective rookie blocker by a large margin, and identical to he did in 2019, gave Chase Young main issues on the perimeter of their matchup in September. The previous Northwestern star is hyper athletic for a strapping offensive sort out, and never as soon as have I assumed he has a future at guard. 

No. 14: New York Jets – OL Alijah Vera-Tucker 

Grade: B-

The pass-blocking for AVT has been suboptimal. Not, “hey, possibly he ought to kick inside” dangerous however simply not encouraging. Nonetheless, the costly first-round decide had made amends for his pass-protection hiccups with superior play for the bottom recreation that is respectfully 18th in Football Outsiders run-game DVOA

Vera-Tucker is a methodical wrecking ball on pulls and by no means seems to be too anxious to search out work. He is swish out in area and has handled the power of NFL defensive tackles, that is virtually all the time overwhelming for younger blockers, effectively. 

No. 15: New England Patriots – QB Mac Jones 

Grade: B

It seems like Jones ought to be graded on a curve midway by means of his rookie season. He is operated an immensely conservative, throw-it-in-the-flat-or-check-it-down offense, however he is operated it effectively. The large-time throws have been few and much between. The improvisation has been awkward when not fully non-existent in a given recreation, however he is proven a eager sense for eliminating the soccer in a rush to the precise locations. 

Jones has regarded the a part of a passer who can efficiently handle a recreation. Has he proven, for any stretches, that he’ll ultimately be capable to elevate these round him? No. Not at this level. Both method, the Patriots ought to be ok with touchdown Jones, particularly contemplating how poorly the remainder of the first-rounders have performed. 

No. 16: Arizona Cardinals – LB Zaven Collins

Grade: C+

Collins has had an inauspicious begin to his NFL profession. Nothing horrific. Nothing really particular. The bizarre factor I’ve observed — the place are the pass-rushing reps? This can be a 6-4, 260-pound linebacker we’re speaking about right here. That is edge-rusher dimension! And he was productive in that position at Tulsa. 

Gotta ramp up that a part of his recreation, Cardinals. 

No. 17: Las Vegas Raiders – OT Alex Leatherwood

Grade: D

Being straight-up — Leatherwood has actually struggled out of the gate. He is allowed 27 pressures by means of eight video games. Not good. The run-blocking steadiness he showcased at Alabama has been virtually invisible too. Now, it is a super-experienced SEC blocker we’re speaking about right here. I cannot be shocked if he has an Andrew Thomas-esque second half of his rookie season. 

However up to now, Leatherwood has regarded like a weird choice for the Raiders, and it was a decide that turned heads on draft night time.

No. 18: Miami Dolphins – EDGE Jaelan Phillips 

Grade: D+

Phillips has one sturdy outing — in opposition to the Colts — on his NFL resume to this point. And whereas the 17 pressures on 204 pass-rushing snaps equates to a not-totally-brutal 8.4% pressure-creation price, the various pass-rush transfer arsenal and full recreation he placed on show in his one-year showcase at Miami has merely not be as efficient as Miami would’ve hoped in authentic one-on-one conditions. 

The sturdy edge-setting, block-defeating run defender he proved to be in 2020 has not often appeared on the sphere early in his NFL profession. 

No. 19: Washington Soccer Workforce – LB Jamin Davis

Grade: D

One other rocky begin for a first-round linebacker. Bear in mind final 12 months, Kenneth Murray, Patrick Queen, and Jordyn Brooks have been all abysmal. Davis’ slower diagnosing abilities, 5 missed tackles, uncomfortable reps in protection, and usually non-impactful run protection have been key in Washington’s surprisingly dangerous defensive efficiency within the first half of 2021. 

At his dimension, together with his pace, and the splashes he made in protection final season at Kentucky, Davis felt like a first-round linebacker sure to buck the latest pattern of that place struggling in Yr 1. However possibly the one-year surprise phenomenon results in an extended acclimation course of on the professional degree. 

No. 20: New York Giants – WR Kadarius Toney 

Grade: B+

Toney was initially ticked at his lack of alternatives within the Giants offense, then they listened to him in early October, and he proved to be proper with two sturdy outings at the start of the month, together with a 10-catch, 189-yard recreation within the Superdome in a win nobody noticed coming over the Saints

He is since cooled, with 52 yards mixed yards receiving in his final two outings, however he is performed like College of Florida Toney for the overwhelming majority of the season. His 7.4 yards-after-the-catch-per-reception common narrowly trails Chase for second amongst all qualifying rookies. 

No. 21: Indianapolis Colts – EDGE Kwity Paye

Grade: C

Paye doesn’t have a sack within the NFL but. And he is generated simply eight pressures on a wholesome 133 pass-rushing snaps up to now. However the rocked up edge rusher has made his presence felt in opposition to the run. Not shocking given how a lot pop he performed with in faculty when setting the sting. 

Now, the Colts would in all probability prefer to get extra pass-rushing productiveness from Paye, and he hasn’t been fully overwhelmed on that entrance. However the constructive play stopping the run signifies he is sturdy sufficient already to be, on the very least, a serviceable two-down participant on one of many league’s higher defenses.  

No. 22: Tennessee Titans – CB Caleb Farley 

Grade: Incomplete

Man, I really feel for Farley. He was a deemed a harmful harm proposition by many throughout the pre-draft course of resulting from accidents at Virginia Tech, a again ailment chief amongst them. However the Titans beloved his upside sufficient to pick him in Spherical 1, and after taking part in on simply 60 snaps within the NFL, he tore his ACL and is out for the 12 months. 

Cannot give the Titans on grade on Farley now. 

No. 23: Minnesota Vikings – OT Christian Darrisaw 

Grade: A-

It was an extended street for Darrisaw to see the sphere — a groin harm saved him off the sphere till Week 5. And he was well worth the anticipate the Vikings. Imagine me. He is allowed simply three quarterback pressures in opposition to the likes of Brian Burns and Randy Gregory on 183 pass-blocking snaps, and lots of of his wins have been seemingly easy, identical to they checked out Virginia Tech. 

Darrisaw has skilled some issues on super-speedy exterior rushes, however he is been prepared for every thing else. Perhaps most significantly, Darrisaw has dealt with these pure energy bull rush conditions, performs the place most rookies have main issues. 

No. 24: Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Najee Harris

Grade: C+

Harris himself wasn’t going to repair the Steelers run recreation. However the 2020 Doak Walker winner positive is attempting. He leads all rookies with 128 carries however averages simply 3.7 yards per carry up to now. Most of that’s on Pittsburgh common run-blocking unit. The flashy runs have been few and much between, however there’s solely a lot a ball service as large and proficient as Harris can do. 

He is been a godsend for Ben Roethlisberger within the move recreation with 37 receptions and 273 yards and two scores. Nonetheless, toting the rock behind this iteration of Pittsburgh’s offensive line is not fairly the identical as doing so at Alabama over the previous 4 years. 

No. 25: Jacksonville Jaguars -RB Travis Etienne

Grade: N/A

Etienne was misplaced for the 12 months in the summertime. We’ll have to attend till subsequent season for he and Lawrence to be reunited on a soccer area once more.

No. 26: Cleveland Browns – CB Greg Newsome 

Grade: A-

Newsome landed in Spherical 1 when everyone lastly acquired to the Northwestern tape and noticed how naturally athletic he was, and the way aggressive he performed the ball within the air. He has been the uncommon first-round rookie cornerback who has stepped in and confidently performed high quality protection down the sphere within the first half of his rookie season. 

He has 4 move breakups up to now and appears like an ascending younger defensive again. 

No. 27: Baltimore Ravens – WR Rashod Bateman

Grade: Incomplete

An harm saved Bateman on the shelf till Week 6, and the early returns have been encouraging, which is large information for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens passing offense. Earlier than Baltimore’s bye in Week 8, Bateman demonstrated his misleading field-stretching abilities with 80 yards on three grabs in opposition to the Bengals. 

His “incomplete” grade may fluctuate fairly a bit down the stretch of Bateman’s rookie 12 months, when he is sure to be a central a part of what Baltimore tries to do by means of the air. 

No. 28: New Orleans Saints – EDGE Payton Turner 

Grade: C+

Most likely probably the most shocking first-round decide in April, the outsized edge rusher has held his personal in a restricted, rotational position on the Saints defensive entrance. He has solely 9 quarterback pressures on 103 pass-rushing snaps up to now, however at 6-6 and 270 kilos, it ought to come as no shock that Turner has made his biggest impression in opposition to the run, the place he is been an immovable object. 

I like how the Saints have utilized him up and down the road of scrimmage too. 

No. 29: Green Bay Packers – CB Eric Stokes 

Grade: C+

Stokes has been up and down for the Packers, with 5 move breakups however two touchdowns allowed in his protection space. The athleticism has been noticeable in most outings. Stokes has sometimes been a contact over-aggressive — a difficulty at Georgia — but it surely’s been a nice albeit unspectacular begin for the first-round nook thrust right into a full-time position on the outset of his NFL profession. 

No. 30: Buffalo Bills – EDGE Gregory Rousseau 

Grade: B-

As my “purchaser beware” prospect for the 2021 class, the prospect I believed most wanted a redshirt season, the Payments have gotten better-than-I-expected dividends from Rousseau within the first half of the season. His two finest outings got here in opposition to the Dolphins porous offensive line, however there’ve been some splash performs in opposition to the run in opposition to different groups and a pleasant show of his size and athleticism on an interception of a Patrick Mahomes display. 

Nonetheless, Rousseau has gotten moved typically within the run recreation, and, discounting the Dolphins contests, has simply three quarterback pressures on 93 pass-rushing snaps. 

No. 31: Baltimore Ravens – EDGE Odafe Oweh 

Grade: B

Oweh acquired the ever-elusive sack early in his professional profession — after not registering one in his ultimate season at Penn State — so the monkey was off his again early. That was large. A hefty quantity of his 24 pressures have been completely schemed for him, however that is the way in which of the move rush in Baltimore beneath Wink Martindale.

The massively explosive tendencies to Oweh’s recreation have been obvious, however he is a tick stiff at occasions across the nook. General, the Ravens must be happy with Oweh’s match of their protection. 

No. 32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – EDGE Joe Tryon 

Grade: C+

Enjoying time is difficult to return by on both facet of the ball in Tampa Bay, and Tryon has performed on 222 snaps by means of eight contests. He is registered 13 pressures on 129 pass-rushing snaps — not horrible, not nice — and lots of occasions he is being utilized on twists with an inside defensive linemen. Towards the run, Tryon has typically fully offered out to get upfield that he is taken himself out of run performs in his path. 

It is early, but it surely’s laborious to get an actual really feel for Tryon’s recreation. | Grading each workforce’s first-round decide from the 2021 NFL Draft on the halfway level of the season


PaulLeBlanc is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. PaulLeBlanc joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button