The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and there were some pretty big surprises. Now it's time to review and analyze, so here are our biggest losers from the first round.
Green Bay Packers
This isn't just draft-specific, the Packers had a horrible Thursday. Aaron Rodgers doesn't want to play for Green Bay anymore and the team didn't make a move before the draft. That's fine, maybe team officials think they can reel him back in. But while the Packers are trying to figuring things out, the rest of the NFC North got a lot better. The Lions improved by taking a stud left tackle in Penei Sewell, the Bears found a franchise quarterback in Justin Fields and the Vikings traded down, picked up two extra third-rounders and still got stud left tackle Christian Darrisaw. The rest of the division is going to catch Green Bay if things remain dysfunctional.
The Packers wound up selecting Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with the 29th pick in the first round. Corner was a need and Stokes is an elite athlete, but that pick isn't going to impress the team's reigning MVP quarterback who apparently doesn't want to come back to Green Bay. The following tweet says everything that needs to be said:
If I was Rodgers, I'd be pissed too.
Kyle Pitts is a fantastic talent and should be a very good NFL player, but tight end wasn't a need for the Falcons. Frankly, they had to trade out of the No. 4 pick and simply couldn't get it done. We'll go ahead and assume they didn't get what they were looking for in a trade offer, but even so that makes them a loser here. Given the absolute haul the Dolphins got for the third pick, the Falcons missed out on getting a ton of assets they could have used to rebuild their awful defense. Instead they were stuck blowing things out on the offensive end for Matt Ryan.
The Falcons had no option but to take Pitts at No. 4, but they had needs at edge rushers, cornerback, safety and along the offensive line. They could have addressed them had they moved off the pick. Now they've got Pitts a year after they gave up second-round and fifth-round picks to acquire Hayden Hurst and a fourth-rounder.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders drafted Alex Leatherwood with the 17th pick in the first round, which was a shocking decision. I had him graded as a late second-rounder. He looks like a guard at the next level, but 17 is far too high for a project at the position. Vegas already has a left tackle in Kolton Miller, so they're not looking for help there. If they're looking for Leatherwood to play the right side, Darrisaw was available and a much better pick. This was a mystifying selection given the Raiders' massive needs at safety, linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback, and the fact that Leatherwood almost certainly would have been available when the Raiders were on the board in second-round pick at pick No. 48.
The Panthers were on the board at No. 8 and had a chance to take DeVonta Smith and give new quarterback Sam Darnold a go-to weapon. Or they could have filled their biggest need along the offensive line with Rashawn Slater. They did neither, and instead selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. That decisions came a year after spending all of their picks from the 2020 draft on the defensive side of the ball.
Horn is a fine player, but the Panthers desperately needed o-line and receiver help, and they ignored both needs to take a corner. Darnold has to be getting flashbacks to his time in New York when the Jets simply refused to surround him with talent or protect him. The draft has a lot of rounds left, but Carolina won't have a chance at a player like Smith or Slater again.
Owusu-Koramoah is a stud and ranked among my top 15 players in the draft. Somehow the Notre Dame linebacker fell out of the first round and is positioned to be one of the top picks in the second on Friday. In my final mock draft I had him going 19th to the Washington Football Team after the Butkus Award winner tested off-the-charts during the pre-draft process.
Owusu-Koramoah ran a 20-yard shuttle of 4.15 seconds at his Pro Day, which would have been the second-fastest among linebackers at the 2019 combine. His three-cone drill of 6.81 seconds would have been the fastest and his 36.5-inch vertical would have been among the top 10. He's elite in coverage and is an excellent blitzer. That wasn't enough to get him drafted in the first round apparently. Teams might have been turned off by his size (6-foot-1, 211 pounds), but he doesn't play small. Someone is getting a steal on Day 2.