2021 NFL Draft: Reviewing the NFC East
With the AFC complete, Kevin Sayer now begins his tour around the NFC, starting with the East. Check out all of Kev’s post-NFL Draft wrap ups across the four AFC divisions here: AFC South, AFC East, AFC West, AFC North.
As part of the 35 episode journey we started on the NFL Draft Punk Podcast we covered a lot and it only feels fitting to give my own opinions on this year's picks per division in a staggered article that will be regularly updated. There will be no grades here, they can only realistically be evaluated further in the future, but we can all have opinions, right?
So, without further ado let's run through by division in order of draft hauls I liked, taking into account the UDFA market also...let’s get into it.
Editor’s note: Links above will become active as divisional articles are published.
R1 (10): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
R2 (37): iOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
R3 (73): DI Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
R4 (123): CB Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech
R5 (150): RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
R6 (189): DI Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
R6 (191): EDGE Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina
R6 (224) S JaCoby Stevens, LSU
R7 (234): EDGE Patrick Johnson, Tulane
Fave Pick: DeVonta Smith; The Eagles did not overthink the receiver selection this year. We all know what happened in 2020, however this year they jumped above a divisional rival (who gave them the tip off?) giving away minimal value to take the best route runner in the draft. What more can be said about the Heisman Winner? Sharp routes, great hands, lively twitch in his hips in route stems and attacks the ball well above the publicised light frame. History tells us there are few receivers who make it at Smith’s size, but few have his talent. The landing spot suits with Jalen Hurts who will have immediate chemistry.
Least Fave Pick: Not Addressing Corner Earlier; Let’s be clear I thought the Eagles were among the best draft hauls this year which is why I’ve not stated a player here. They let Jalen Mills and Nickell Robey-Coleman walk in Free Agency and feel light at the position. They signed Anthony Harris from the Vikings which was a shrewd move, but I expect a veteran to be brought in post June 1st. Texas Tech’s Zech McPherson has potential to be an eventual starter but lacks true top end speed.
Late Round Steal: Patrick Johnson; The Green Wave boasted two impressive pass rushers and I think the Eagles got an absolute steal here. Johnson boasts quick sudden hands and has a developed pass rush plan with secondary counters. Tulane used him in a variety of ways as an end in a 3-man front, a wide-9 rusher and he’d occasionally drop into coverage as a “Joker” outside linebacker. His coverage skills were adequate and has had pass break ups in his career that show a true understanding of short zone coverages. The conditioning staff may ask him to add weight if he is to hold up against the run in the 4-3 defensive end position, but I expect him to show enough to contribute in passing situations in Year 1.
UDFA To Make The Roster: Kayode Awosika; The Eagles offensive line is going through a retooling and their selection of Awosika may see him achieve a practice squad spot as he was part of the record breaking Buffalo Offensive Line that ploughed holes for Jaret Patterson last season.
Summary: The Eagles’ draft haul is one of my favourite classes of 2021. The trade down in the first to get a pick next year and still take the player you coveted is great board manipulation. Landon Dickerson, if he can put his injuries behind him is going to be monstrous on the offensive line. I think he fits more at guard at the pro level with his stout anchor and plenty of “sand in his pants”, his power at the point of attack is just unfair.... The selections of Tuipulotu and Williams on the defensive line showed a desire to get younger. The former shone in the absence of Jay Tufele and provided a pocket pushing presence for USC. Williams saw his draft stock rise later in the process as true pass rusher potential on the interior at the next level. He’s very raw in his game but showed excellent athleticism scores which shows on film with his lateral quickness down the line. Tarron Jackson may be tweener size but has bat wings for arms and bags of effort which saw him finish his career with this season’s College Football “darlings” Coastal Carolina as the all-time sack and tackle for loss leader. Finally, Kenneth Gainwell could bring an X-Factor to the offense similar to the way that Antonio Gibson has done for Washington having come from the same Memphis offense. The Eagles front office were under pressure coming into this draft and won the division with their selections.
Washington Football Team
R1 (19): LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
R2 (51): OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
R3 (74): CB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota
R3 (82): WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina
R4 (124): TE John Bates, Boise State
R4 (163): S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
R6 (225): LS Cameron Cheeseman, Michigan
R7 (240): EDGE William Bradley-King, Baylor
R7 (246): EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State
R7 (258): WR Dax Milne, BYU
Fave Pick: Jamin Davis; I may have to eat my words on the pre-draft evaluation of Davis. I could see the speed, short and long area quickness with easy movement skills but was wary of the one season of production. He gave as good as he got against Kyle Pitts and could be seen making plays all over the field, but I thought he looked raw in play processing. The selection for Washington under Rivera really makes sense here, Rivera was around Kuechly with the Panthers and with Jack Del Rio coming in to be the Defensive Coordinator they’ll put him in favourable positions to win and showcase his talent. It may be a brave early selection, but he was obviously high on their board and has a huge athletic upside as a run and chase linebacker.
Least Fave Pick: Early picks on projections; I liked all of the day one and two selections for Washington but Picks one to three rely on the development of that player into a role at the next level. To hit on three athletic players in a single draft and have them fulfil their potential is a rare thing so it makes it more surprising that it was the first three picks in this instance. I certainly trust the coaching staff to develop this pool of talent, but they may regret not taking a player more NFL ready with a slightly lower ceiling. St Juste will need time to adjust to NFL schemes coming from the run heavy BIG10 but shows physical press technique. Cosmi has all the potential and is one of the most athletic tackles to come out of college in some time, but he cannot start right away with some fundamental flaws in his game with footwork in pass sets and leaning into his opponent. If they get their development right, in three years they will have three cornerstone pieces to their team.
Late Round Steal: Shaka Toney; Whilst he may not have the potential or size and strength of his former teammate Odafe Oweh, Shaka Toney is a dangerous edge rusher from wide alignments. He’s super-fast off the snap and can have linemen dangerously back pedalling as his light frame allows him to change direction so rapidly. He’ll find a home as a pass rush specialist in an already loaded Washington front.
UDFA To Make The Roster: Jaret Patterson; The Buffalo man’s record breaking season didn’t appear to have impressed NFL teams as he went undrafted, whether this was due to less than ideal height weight size in a year where we saw teams refer to their standard measurement ranges in drafting or was his success a product of the offensive line he played behind. Patterson was a hard willing runner at Buffalo but lacks any dynamite in his lower half with regard to breakaway speed, but he can cut laterally and will be an interesting third down weapon as a receiver.
Summary: The Football Team drafted for potential upside throughout the entire three days. The selection of Dyami Brown as a downfield receiver to open up space was sorely needed, and you know Ryan Fitzpatrick will take a chance on a deep ball. The mid-round selection of Darrick Forrest will provide rotational depth from a successful Bearcats team, and they have future potential at tight end with John Bates ticking all the boxes for an inline player at the position. Dax Milne was Zach Wilson’s favourite target at BYU and despite being a seventh-round dart throw should not be overlooked in making a roster spot. Whilst he may lack top speed, he can high point the ball and be a bully at the catchpoint. Overall a really successful draft, which has the promise to solidify their position as the best team in the division.
R1 (12): LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
R2 (44): CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
R3 (75): DI Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
R3 (84): EDGE Chauncey Golston, Iowa
R3 (99): CB Nahshon Wright, Oregon State
R4 (115): LB Jabril Cox, LSU
R4 (138): OT Josh Ball, Marshall
R5 (179): WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
R6 (192): DI Quinton Bohanna, Kentucky
R6 (227): CB Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
R7 (238): OG Matt Farniok, Nebraska
Fave Pick: Jabril Cox; We were a big fan of Cox on the pod – a rangy long athlete at the linebacker position who’s shown excellent coverage skills at North Dakota and was a rare shining light in his transfer season at LSU in 2020. Uses his long arms well in the tackle and shows excellent anticipation to get a jump on the ball. He is an easy mover in space and is more than capable of running with tight ends in stems down the field. He’ll need to work on being more physical in run fits, but this is excellent value if the Cowboys intend to keep three linebackers on the field.
Least Fave Pick: Kelvin Joseph; The Cowboys went back to the same well as last year by drafting a raw corner with huge upside. However, with only nine starts to his name and maturity concerns after his time at LSU this is a risky selection opposite Trevon Diggs, who himself had plenty of ups and downs in his first season. Joseph had four interceptions in his season with Kentucky and shows excellent plant and drive to the ball in zone coverage. He’ll need to improve his man coverage at the next level and needs to avoid unnecessary penalties. This pick seemed like a lack of a plan after the run on corners yet I feel there were better corners available selected after him.
Late Round Steal: Quinton Bohanna; A thick heavy frame with long 34’’ arms, Bohanna arrived late to draft recognition. A no nonsense run stuffer who won’t “wow” with any movement skills but understands his role in the team. He won’t show on the stat sheet often, but his massive size enables him to manhandle underwhelmed interior lineman.
UDFA To Make The Roster: Nick Eubanks; The Cowboys opted not to add depth in the draft and picked up the Michigan tight end who projects to be a pass catching option for the offense. Has a good combination of size and speed but had underwhelming production in college. However, he was a team captain in 2020 and may make a roster spot as a third string TE.
Summary: The Cowboys draft at times looked like it lacked a backup plan. I believe they firmly believed a corner would be on the board for them and it was pure convenience with Philadelphia trading up. Parsons is a fantastic player with impressive instincts, and they’ll love his pass rush ability. The quality of linebacker play and availability has been an issue for Dallas but maybe not a primary need. They then selected another one with Cox, and whilst I have said I like the player I question the need again. Nobody had Nahshon Wright as a Top-100 player, his tall lean frame still requires bulking up and his instincts are raw. The Cowboys then took another tall raw corner in Israel Mukuamu, although the range of selection was not as controversial. Simi Fehoko is yet another player who needs refinement but is an athletic freak with a muscular build who can sit and learn in a crowded but talented receiver room. The Osa Odighizuwa pick is one I do like, a former wrestler who went undefeated in his time in the sport. He’s long and understands leverage and body control and attacks a lineman's outside shoulder with the ability to get under blocks. On the field Josh Ball is a talented lineman, off the field there are troubling reports, much like other “red flags” with selections Parsons and Joseph. Outside of one or two players the draft is talented but either requires a lot of coaches projection and some fingers being crossed that everyone behaves!
New York Giants
R1 (20): WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
R2 (50): EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
R3 (71): CB Aaron Robinson, UCF
R4 (116): EDGE Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa
R6 (196): RB Gary Brightwell, Arizona
R6 (201): CB Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State
Fave Pick: Azeez Ojulari; The Giants’ draft in rounds one and two is slightly backward. Ojulari’s talent in a weak edge class was legitimately pushing the back end of the first round. Rumours of a degenerative knee issue surfaced, and his stock slipped. The Giants own pass rush in 2020 predominantly came from the interior and were in desperate need to get better at the edge position, they took full advantage of a player who put up numbers in a full SEC schedule last season. Ojulari has excellent get off and threatens the lineman's outside shoulder. He may not have elite bend and dip but he’s a threat going inside or outside. He needs counters to accelerate his game to the next level and despite being less than the ideal weight required holds up well with functional strength in the run game.
Least Fave Pick: Kadarius Toney; Firstly, the team trading back in any trade should be the ones coming out of it better off; there has to be an incentive to move down. The Giants’ incentive was “our player got taken” and I don’t believe they got the right value when they could’ve taken Chicago for more considering they were coming up for a QB. Who doesn’t like watching Kadarius Toney in his time at Florida? A one man highlight reel of open field carnage and video game style moves. How this translates to the next level is anyone’s guess under Jason Garrett. They attacked Free Agency bringing in high-profile signing Kenny Golladay to play alongside Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard, alongside Evan Engram and a returning Saquon Barkley. You wonder what formation they are going to roll out to scheme Toney touches and how many he’ll get per game as he works on becoming an all-round receiver, showing the need to improve his route running and general concepts of “selling” routes to empty out space for teammates. A first round selection seems a lot to give up, but like I said above, coming away with these two players as your round one and two selections is okay in hindsight.
Late Round Steal: Rodarius Williams; I wasn’t a huge fan of the Giants’ day three selections, but Williams was a 4-year starter at Oklahoma State and has NFL bloodlines with his brother Greedy playing for the Browns. He will turn 25 as a rookie but may find a roster spot in sub packages and Special Teams.
UDFA To Make The Roster: Raymond Johnson III; A physical pass rusher with adequate strength at the position. Johnson led the Sun Belt with 14.5 tackles for loss for Georgia Southern and offers something different than Ojulari as he works directly through blocks rather than being an outside shoulder attacker.
Summary: I can’t help but feel underwhelmed at the Giants draft. Whilst their roster contains weapons enough for Daniel Jones in a make-or-break year for him, outside of Ojulari, I don’t see difference makers added to this team in an open division. Elerson Smith has impressive length and reach at edge but lacks any true burst or strength to play through physicality and there were players with higher upside available. With depth needed at corner they chose one who struggles with consistency and on field positioning. It’s not a surprise to see running back depth added but Barkley or Devontae Booker won’t be fearing for their jobs anytime soon. The whole draft just feels as if depth players were added, yet I don’t feel the Giants roster is ready to compete.
Check out the rest of Kev’s article reviewing the 2021 NFL Draft classes of the AFC: