The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, as each team in the NFC East took place in the most important part of the team-building process. Every single team added some young talent to their squad, but which unit made the biggest improvements? This installation of the 2021 NFL Draft Grades features an in-depth breakdown of every team in the NFC East.
NFC East 2021 NFL Draft Grades
Dallas Cowboys – Grade: C
Dallas started off their draft by picking one of the best players in the entire class. Micah Parsons (12th) sat out 2020 but was coming off of being named the best linebacker in college football and the Cotton Bowl MVP in 2019. At 12th-overall, he was debatably the best-overall player on the board at the time and should find reps early on at both inside linebackers and on the EDGE.
It’s hard to disagree with good value but the Cowboys seem to be investing a little too much capital into the linebacker position. They invested the 19th-overall pick into Leighton Vander Esch just two years ago and still have Jaylon Smith on the books for up to another five years at an average annual value of $12.03 million. Their second-best value pick of the draft was also at linebacker when they selected Jarbil Cox (115th) in the fourth round. It is hard to hate the idea of keeping a strength a strength, but these picks at non-premium positions seem like an overreaction to losing one of the faces of the franchise in Sean Lee.
While the Cowboys missed out on one of the top two corners in the first round, Jerry Jones compensated by drafting three corners at different points of the draft. The crop of defensive back likely won’t be able to help right out of the gate but all three have things that are hard to teach: size and athleticism. Kelvin Joseph (44th), was the first of the three corners taken and has supreme athletic upside. He showed it off with an interception in coverage on DeVonta Smith but is still very raw in his development as just a one-year starter. The Cowboys then drafted two 6’4″ corners in Wright (99th) and Mukuamu (227th). Wright, who was projected to be a mid-to-late Day 3 pick was the biggest reach of Dallas’ draft in the third round.
Semi Fehoko was probably the Cowboys’ biggest steal of the draft after running a 4.44u 40-yard dash, with a 10’0″ broad jump at 6’4″ 222 lbs. They also added three defensive linemen in Odighizuwa, Golston, and Bohanna. The Cowboys defensive line is badly in need of pass rush help and Odighizuwa could have the second-most success of any Cowboys rookie. He showed he could rush the passer from multiple places on the line at the Senior Bowl after logging 22.0 tackles for loss in his final 29 games at UCLA.
New York Giants – Grade: A
The Giants made the fewest picks of any team in the NFC East but may have done the most with their picks than any other team in their division, earning themselves the highest mark of the NFL Draft grades. It started on day one where Dave Gettleman did something he almost never does, trade down, and acquired an extra first-round pick in 2022 from the Chicago Bear. Here they landed on the shifty Kadarius Toney (20th) who will give Daniel Jones a safe check-down option with the elusiveness and power to act as a running back in the open field.
Continuing on their stellar start, the Giants added Ojulari (42nd) to an EDGE group that was perhaps the shallowest unit on the entire team. Injury concerns about Ojulari’s knee arose late in the draft process but if healthy, he brings length, speed, and versatility to a unit in need of a game-changing outside linebacker. Now-Los Angles Charger Kyler Fackrell was the only Giants outside linebacker with double-digit QB hits. Gettleman then went back to the pass rush well and picked Elerson Smith (116th) in the fourth round. Smith is incredibly raw but has a massive 6’6″ frame for Patrick Graham to work with. He was incredibly productive in his final college season with 14.0 sacks and five forced fumbles at Northern Iowa in 2019.
Aaron Robinson (71st) was another good value pick in the third round. He played mostly from the slot, despite having outside corner size, and is incredibly physical and effective in both the run game and in coverage. Patrick Graham will find a lot of ways to deploy Robinson early. Rodarius Williams (201st) also brings a similar physical element but is perhaps just a flyer at this point after being taken in the sixth round.
Brightwell (196th) was probably the least exciting pick of the bunch but will provide extra depth behind Saquon Barkley if he misses significant time again in 2021 and beyond.
Overall, the Giants knocked it out of the park in 2021. They made a number of great-value selections who can help the team ‘win now’ and also came away with a number of extra selections for 2022. The Giants walked away with each of an extra first, third, and fourth-rounder in next year’s draft.
Philadelphia Eagles – Grade: B
Similar to the Cowboy’s move to take Ceedee Lamb at 17th-overall in 2020, the Eagles not only got a great new number-one wide receiver in DeVonta Smith (10th), but they pried him straight out of the jaws of the Giants. The move was such a big slap in the face to Gettelman that he traded back for his first time in his career as an NFL general manager. Smith’s Heisman season showed he has an absurdly large catch radius and will give whoever starts at quarterback for the Eagles a comfortable target at every level of the passing game. He is the best route runner in the class and should open up Jaelen Reagor more downfield.
Looking at the Eagles draft after their first pick, it doesn’t look like Nick Sirianni and Howie Roseman had a decisive plan. Rather, they simply took good players at appropriate positions. The Eagles have holes at almost every level of the roster and every draft pick should have a good chance at making the roster. The best picks of the bunch include center Landon Dickerson (37th), Milton Williams (73rd), and Kenneth Gainwell (150th).
Dickerson was selected to inevitably be the heir to Jason Kelce. However, he could start at left guard as early as next season. If Dickerson can limit his injuries as a pro, his destructive hands and high football IQ should make him a staple on the Eagles interior for the next decade. Williams is a wrecking ball on the defensive line and while there are questions about where he fits in the NFL, he could be another large disrupter behind Fletcher Cox in a year or two. Gainwell did not play the college football season in 2020 but has a great first cut and impressive balance. He registered 1,459 rushing yards and 610 receiving yards in 2019 at Memphis with a 7.3 yards per touch average. The Eagles lack of running back depth showed when Miles Sanders was injured last season and Gainwell has three-down potential despite being undersized.
Washington Football Team – Grade: B+
We wrap up this section of the NFL Draft Grades with the Washington Football Team. To no fault of Jamin Davis (19th), Washington has to be knocked points in the draft evaluation process for not selecting a quarterback in the first round. What makes it even worse, is that they had the chance to take one of Justin Fields (11th overall) or Mac Jones (15th overall) outside of the top-10 and still chose to stay put at #19. If that isn’t bad enough, Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew did not even consider moving up for a quarterback. The Football Team has a great overall roster and the idea that Washington brass does not feel that drafting a quarterback, IN ANY ROUND (by the way they took a long snapper in the sixth round), was a good idea is laughable. Banking on one of Taylor Heinicke or Ryan Fitzpatrick to get your team to a Super Bowl is equally as reckless.
With all of that said, Mayhew made some great picks in his first draft as general manager.
On offense, adding both Sam Cosmi (51st) in the second round and Dyami Brown (82nd) in the third round on Day 2 Cosmi is one of the most athletic linemen in the entire NFL class and also brings maybe the most starting experience. A three-year starter at Texas, Cosmi started 34 games at Texas and could be a day-one starter at either left guard. He is a very smooth mover on his feet and has some of the best hand-technique in the tackle class. Brown on the other hand is a larger target with the ability to fight for 50/50 balls downfield. He is going to need to diversify his route tree as a pro but could work himself into a deep-threat role early in his career. Adding Brown to a receiving corps with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel gives Washington playmaking wide receivers at all three levels of the field.
On defense, Davis has an ideal make for a modern-day linebacker. His pro day numbers were incredibly impressive, he’s very instinctive in coverage, and is great at working off of block on the blitz. While Davis may need some time on the bench for Washington, he has maybe the highest ceiling of any linebacker in the class.
Benjamin St-Juste (74th) is another raw prospect with limited starting time. He brings the frame of a great developmental cornerback but will likely need time to get his technique up to NFL standards. His build allows him to swallow up receivers as a tackler and his vine-like arms allow him to work towards the ball through receivers. Darrick Forrest (163rd) is maybe the meanest safeties in the class of 2021. He plays with an urgent tenacity in the run game but is polished enough as deep or as a nickel. Forrest needs to work on not being overly aggressive in man coverage but brings a mix of grit and versatility that Ron Rivera should love.
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