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Winners and losers from the 2021 NFL Draft

We take a look at the biggest winners and losers from the 2021 NFL Draft.

A fan holds a jersey after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Justin Fields being selected 11th by the Chicago Bears during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft at the Great Lakes Science Center on April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The NFL Draft is officially a wrap and we’re on to undrafted free agency. 259 picks were selected Thursday through Saturday and the next step for these rookies will be rookie minicamp in the coming weeks. Offseason programs are underway, but OTAs are not quite as exciting as training camp later this summer.

In the meantime, NFL teams will continue assessing how they’ve improved themselves and where they still need to improve. Some teams did a great job, others struggled. Some players are in a better situation and some are left shaking their heads. Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers from three days of the 2021 NFL Draft.

2021 NFL Draft winners

Cleveland Browns

The Browns finished the 2020 NFL Season with a bang, securing a trip to the divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs and a near victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They continued to beef up their defense with the additions of safety John Johnson and corner Troy Hill, formerly of the Rams, and the recent signing of Jadeveon Clowney. They continued to build on the defensive side of the ball through the draft, grabbing corner Greg Newsome with the No. 26 overall pick and came back to snag LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second — one of the biggest steals in this year’s draft. NFL Draft Analyst ranked Owusu-Koramoah as the second-best linebacker in the class, his No. 15 overall player, who’s able to play all over the field. Add in the addition of Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz, and it’s really, really difficult to find any remaining holes in the roster. Watch out, AFC.

Chicago Bears

After a rather disappointing end to the Mitchell Trubisky era, the pressure was on both GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy to find the next franchise quarterback for the Bears. Well, to the surprise of everybody, the Pace-Nagy tandem delivered with the selection of quarterback Justin Fields.

The Bears had to give up a few picks to move up for Fields, but it was worth it, especially with the immense talent he has. Now, it’s just a matter of when Fields will start. He’ll likely be the backup behind Andy Dalton to start the season, who was signed in the offseason.

Todd McShay & Mel Kiper’s Dynamic

The two lead draft analysts for the Worldwide Leader in Sports have had in the past a complicated relationship. But it seems they’re getting along better than ever.

A major reason why you’re watching the draft is because of Mel Kiper, who took a newsletter he wrote about college draft prospects, and parlayed it into being the most well-known expert of the biggest events on the American sporting calendar. But McShay’s “The War Room” (later Scouts, Inc) was acquired by the four-letter in 2006, and he’s been there ever since.

I don’t know if these guys are going out for a beer afterwards, or if it’s just years of working together and some team-building exercises at the annual retreat, but they’re able to needle each other effectively nowadays. Whether it’s McShay questioning how Kiper grades kickers (he watches the film himself), or a gentle dig about past predictions that went awry, we’ve arrived at minimum at gracious respect for each other.

Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens made it a point of emphasis to give their former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson some more help in the receiving game. The days of Dez Bryant and Willie Snead are over as they drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round and Tylan Wallace in the fourth round. This is the third-straight year that Baltimore has invested into receivers, but it could pay huge dividends in 2021. Hollywood Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay Bateman, and Wallace is not a bad wide receiver unit.

Sam Darnold

The Panthers could have taken Justin Fields, as they hadn’t guaranteed his fifth-year option yet, but they passed and went with cornerback Jaycee Horn instead. Now Darnold is the no-doubt starting quarterback with a much, much better set of offensive playmakers around him.

“Michael Carter”

The Jets drafted North Carolina running back Michael Carter in the fourth round. They followed up by drafting Duke defensive back Michael Carter II in the fifth round. Prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, two people named Michael Carter had played in the NFL — Packers wide receiver Michael Carter drafted in 1970 and 49ers nose tackle Michael Carter drafted in 1984. The Jets have doubled the number of Michael Carters in NFL history, and it led to this glorious tweet:

Mac Jones’s walk

Jones dropped further than many thought he would on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he did not disappoint when he was selected by the New England Patriots with the No. 15 pick. The former Alabama quarterback’s iconic walk to the stage gave the world a ton of great content. Here are some of the best tweets describing his gait.

2021 NFL Draft losers

Melvin Gordon

The Broncos always were going to go after a replacement running back for Phillip Lindsay, but they ended up going after one of the best in the draft, with Javonte Williams. That shows they aren’t looking to just complement Gordon, but instead find his replacement. Williams is good enough to cut deep into Gordon’s workload and make him expendable sooner than later.

Houston Texans

The front office decimated its draft capital with awful trades, leaving them with no first or second round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. They then used their first pick — in the third round — on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. He’s got intriguing upside, but this move also indicates Houston doesn’t have answers yet for the quarterback position.

Sanity of Packers fans

We’ve lost it. With the overwhelming evidence from reports that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, the collective of Cheeseheads must be losing it. If ever an A-Rod trade were to go down, it would have been this weekend during the draft. It seems Rodgers will remain a Packer through the weekend. This means the Packers “brain” trust is ready to dig in as the QB holds out. This feels like it could only get uglier and dragged out through the Summer. Hey, at least GB took a WR in the third round! The Packers have an “A-Rod” replacement ready to go in Amari Rodgers.

Russell Wilson

The Seahawks signal-caller gets another pass catcher in D’Wayne Eskridge, but Seattle did nothing of significance to improve the offensive line. Wilson has been asking for improvement there, and all the draft netted was sixth round pick Stone Forsythe. The Seahawks were limited in their draft capital, but it remains a concern for their star quarterback’s well-being.