The Check-Down Check-Up (2021): Post-NFL Draft Edition

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

Now that the Packers had sufficiently angered Aaron Rodgers, it was time for them to once again pass on a first round receiver, in favor of a defensive player who many people didn’t have mocked in the first round. Now, I’m sure Eric Stokes is a very talented young man, but for this team, under these circumstances, I don’t think I can do anything other than trash this pick. Green Bay did beef up their offense on day two, with additions of offensive lineman Josh Myers and Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers, but I fear it may be too little too late. Aaron Rodgers is gone.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

Chicago Bears

The Bears absolutely nailed this draft, just looking at it on paper. I’m not a Bears fan, nor do I live in Chicago, but I am so proud of this franchise for finally doing the right thing. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace washed the stench of Mitch Trubisky off of them by trading up for Justin Fields at No. 11. They waited and grabbed Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins at No. 39 overall and Larry Borom in the fifth round. Finally, they capped off their weekend-long offensive rebuild with North Carolina receiver Dazz Newsome in the sixth round. I absolutely love this class, and it seems like a lot of people around the league do, too. Be proud, Bears fans. This could potentially be a great one.

Verdict: 10/10, Check Up

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions came into the draft with the goal of finding some young kneecap-biters for the Dan Campbell era. The new regime in the Motor City wanted a tough, beefy football team, and by god, that’s exactly what they got. At No. 7 overall, the Lions got potentially the steal of the draft in Penei Sewell, who Cincinnati and Miami had both passed on, despite sorely needing him. He will, of course, be taking home my final Steal of the Draft Award, as he has the potential to be a Hall of Famer with his skillset. Beyond that, getting Levi Onwuzurike in the second round was a two-thumbs-up value pick. Ifeatu Melifonwu and Amon-Ra St. Brown were both players that I really liked on potential alone. Even Jermar Jefferson at No. 250 overall could be a contributor as a rookie. Super solid work here, Detroit.

Verdict: 9.5/10, Check Down

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings never forced the issue when it came to this draft. They stayed chill, played it safe, and were even able to slide back to No. 23 and still get a guy they liked. Christian Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech fills the seemingly ever-present need at offensive line for Minnesota. The Vikings raised some eyebrows by taking Kellen Mond at No. 66 overall. I like this pick honestly, he should be breathing down the neck of Kirk Cousins in no time. Wyatt Davis and Chazz Surratt could both be rookie contributors for the Vikes, but I’m not sure about their day three picks. Maybe Zach Davidson could be something? This class starts strongly, but it really falls off near the fourth round. It does start strongly, though.

Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Up

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys needed defense, defense, and more defense. What did they draft? Of course, defense, defense, and defense. While Micah Parsons’ maturity concerns do make me flare my eyebrows up a bit, he seems like the type of player Jerry Jones loves in spite of being a questionable human being. He’s going to make huge plays, sell tickets, and give the Dallas defensive unit an identity they’ve been sorely missing. Oka Odighizuwa might actually be able to stop a running play every once in a while, and stop Dallas from getting gashed on the ground every single game. I’m really not sure about Nahshon Wright, but the Cowboys did their part to fix their defense on all three days of the draft. It probably still won’t be great without a shutdown corner like Horn or Surtain, but this is a start.

Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Philadelphia Eagles

Much like Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, the prophecy came true for DeVonta Smith in Philadelphia. The prophecy probably never talked about trading up with a division rival, working together to leapfrog another division rival, but hey, prophets aren’t always 100% correct. After four months of waiting, Philly fans got the exact receiver they wanted all along for Jalen Hurts. A lot of the rest of this class can be classified as “just okay” but if Landon Dickerson is healthy (and that’s a big “if”), he’s a great heir to Jason Kelce. I like Milton Williams and Kenneth Gainwell, with Gainwell specifically looking like a great value pick. But a lot of this class is pretty middling, if you ask me.

Verdict: 6.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Washington Football Team

I’ll come out and say right now that especially on the defensive side of the ball, the WFT has a Super Bowl-caliber roster. They’re missing any sort of elite quarterback talent, but their receiver group is so much fun with the newly-added Dyami Brown, and their defense is so good, that it may not matter. Jamin Davis was a perfect addition at No. 19, as were Benjamin St-Juste and Darrick Forrest in the later rounds. Washington might not have drafted themselves into contention just yet, as they’re still missing that quarterback, but they have to be getting pretty close.

Verdict: 7.75/10, Check Up

New York Giants

So it’s incredibly clear to me that the Giants wanted to take DeVonta Smith at No. 11. The Eagles got wind of this, traded with the Cowboys, and so with the metaphorical gun to his head, Dave Gettleman finally traded down for the first time in his front office career. And after all that, I do not like the Kadarius Toney pick at No. 20. New York could’ve gotten him in the second round, I think. He’ll be a fun weapon, it’s just really high for Toney here. But outside of that, I think the Giants made some nice moves. Hopefully Azeez Ojulari stays healthy for them, he could be a great pass rusher. Outside of that, I think this class is just okay, but the Giants did accumulate some assets for 2022.

Verdict: 5/10, Check Back Next Week

NFC South

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have a really weird draft class this year, mostly because of their first round pick. At No. 28, New Orleans took a chance on Houston’s Payton Turner, a high-character edge rusher who, unlike most defensive ends in this class, did not have a medical history that was worrying in any way. Turner feels like a reach who snuck his way into the first round because the Saints do weird things in the first round. Their next three picks, however, I did like quite a lot. Pete Werner and Paulson Adebo are going to step in and be possible starters on defense, and Ian Book seems to be built in the mold of Drew Brees, at least physically. This class is definitely interesting; I could go either way on it.

Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week

Atlanta Falcons

Personally, I’m a Kyle Pitts supporter, especially in the offense that Arthur Smith likes to run. The addition of Pitts at No. 4 makes this maybe the most fun passing offense in football. Smith is going to have to learn to never run the ball, basically ever, considering that he won’t have Derrick Henry anymore and Mike Davis isn’t exactly an overwhelming presence at running back. I actually quite liked Atlanta’s first three picks, in Pitts, safety Richie Grant at No. 40 after a trade down, and Jalen Mayfield to shore up the offensive line in the third round. But beyond that, I fail to see the value in this class. Pitts is going to be great, though.

Verdict: 5.75/10, Check Back Next Week

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers drafted basically an entirely new defense last year, and this year’s draft was all about setting up Sam Darnold and (the Panthers as a whole) for success in 2021. The Panthers had their pick of the litter on defense at No. 8, and their cornerback of choice was South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. Beyond that, Carolina spent the meat of their draft on weapons and protection for Darnold. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Brady Christensen are both picks I like to help Darnold along in his fourth season. Not to mention that I loved Chuba Hubbard at Oklahoma State, I’m just not sure how he’ll fit in the NFL. They also drafted Alabama’s long snapper, and the video of that is wonderful.

This sure is a fun draft class.

Verdict: 8/10, Check Up

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers didn’t really have needs anywhere this offseason, considering they returned all 22 starters. So, naturally, they spent their picks beefing up their depth and maybe, just maybe, finding a replacement for Tom Brady (if he ever retires). Joe Tryon at No. 32 feels like a bit of a reach, but he won’t need to plug and play as a rookie. The same goes for Kyle Trask, who will be a project quarterback for Brady to mentor in what should be the twilight of his career. But knowing Brady, Trask will probably retire before he does. Jokes aside, this class is fine. It probably won’t see much playing time until 2022.

Verdict: 6/10, Check Back Next Week (or Year, in this case)

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

It’s the Seattle Seahawks. Much like every other year, I can’t make heads or tails of this class.

I do like D’Wayne Eskridge, though.

Verdict: 4.5/10, Check Back Next Week

Los Angeles Rams

I really don’t love what the Rams did here. That’s an aging offensive line you’ve got there in Los Angeles, and you have to protect Matt Stafford if you want to make a Super Bowl run with him. You drafted a 145-pound wide receiver instead, and I’m really not sure how he fits into your receiving corps either. I’ve been able to find at least one or two players I liked, or at least found value in, with almost every draft class this year. I can’t say that about LA’s draft class. It’s just not very good.

Verdict: 0.75/10, Check Down

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco had the best-kept secret in this entire draft: who they were going to take at No. 3 overall. The selection, after over a month of speculation, was North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Quite honestly, I love Lance. Based on pure talent alone, he’s my second-rated quarterback in this draft. Kyle Shanahan is going love grooming Lance to his offensive preferences, now that he finally has a quarterback that rivals rookie Robert Griffin III in terms of athleticism and arm talent. The 49ers also made a couple nice picks outside of Lance, namely Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks and Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, both on day two. I really like what the 49ers have building here. They made the best of their draft situation after all those injuries last year, and now they’ll be a roster to be reckoned with in 2021.

Verdict: 9/10, Check Up

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals definitely have a type at linebacker. Over the final 48 hours leading up to the draft, Arizona’s love for Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins became the NFL’s worst-kept secret, making it the opposite of the Lance selection. The Cards went with Collins at No. 16, pairing him with Haason Reddick and Isaiah Simmons in their talented yet underachieving linebacker room. Collins has a great chance to at least break the “underachiever” mold. On days two and three, Arizona focused on speed above all else, adding the electrifying Rondale Moore and lightning quick Florida cornerback Marco Wilson. In round six, they found UCF cornerback Tay Gowan, who might just thrive in their defensive scheme. It’s not truly special, like the Bears’ or the Chargers’ classes, but this is a solid group of players.

Verdict: 7.5/10, Check Up

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