The NFL draft has come and gone, and while we’re likely to remember this class as the first post-COVID group, controversial for the medical issues they faced, their decisions to opt out of playing another college season or their decisions to return to school, there was still plenty of high-end talent available.
Beyond the quarterbacks, this class was deep at some foundational positions like offensive tackle. Beyond Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts, beyond Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance, we may lose sight of the fact that this class will contribute some key foundational pieces of playoff rosters for years to come.
Grading immediately following the draft always feels dicey, so we try to do so on a curve. If you’re the Texans, for example, did you at least come away with something you could salvage? On the other hand, if you’re a team like the Ravens or Bills, did you secure that one last necessary piece that could elevate you into a Super Bowl contender?
Let’s get into it and find out.
Round 1 (No. 16 overall) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Round 2 (49) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue:
Round 4 (136) – Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
Round 6 (210) – Victor Dimukeje, DE, Duke
Round 6 (223) – Tay Gowan, CB, Central Florida
Round 7 (243) – James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
Round 7 (247) – Michal Menet, C, Penn State
The Cardinals came into this draft with limited ammunition and an attractive spot in the middle of the first round where many evaluators believed the talent level was about to drop off. It seemed that first-round pick Zaven Collins was the object of their affection from moment one, despite some more potentially attractive opportunities to upgrade their offense. Collins gives the Cardinals the flexibility to unleash last year’s first-round pick, Isaiah Simmons, and helps them bolster the pass rush. The Cardinals, like other teams, seemed to have taken a cue from Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers this offseason and are strengthening their off-ball linebackers to help guard against the myriad ways teams can pick on a defensive scheme.
Adding Rondale Moore in the second round goes a short way toward mitigating the noticeably minor offensive upgrades Arizona made during the offseason. The Cardinals now have DeAndre Hopkins, an end-of-career A.J. Green and a sea of options in the slot, including Andy Isabella, whom they impulsively chose in the same round two years prior and has received just 48 targets since.
AllCardinals: Don’t Call Rondale Moore Small
Round 1 (4) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Round 2 (40) – Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
Round 3 (68) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Round 4 (108) – Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State
Round 4 (114) – Drew Dalman, C, Stanford
Round 5 (148) – Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
Round 5 (182) – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE, Notre Dame
Round 5 (183) – Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
Round 6 (187) – Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
The decision to stand pat was somewhat disappointing at the outset of the draft, but after seeing how the rest of the teams evaluated the quarterbacks, especially Carolina and Denver at the end of the top 10, there was no mad rush to climb the ladder to grab one. Atlanta could hang tight and take the top player on their board. Kyle Pitts creates a weapons overload for the Falcons, which, combined with a return of the Shanahan-ian offensive system, should help Matt Ryan again resemble the efficiency machine he was back in 2016.
On defense, there is a clear pivot toward the whims of new coordinator Dean Pees, which means aggressive corners and safeties who are always around the football. Darren Hall and Richie Grant are super aggressive and can come up to the line to make forceful tackles. If the downside is that sometimes they’re caught out of position, sometimes that’s part of the chaotic beauty of Pees’s system.
Round 1 (27) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Round 1 (31) – Odafe Oweh, LB, Penn State
Round 3 (94) – Ben Cleveland, OG, Georgia
Round 3 (104) – Brandon Stephens, CB, SMU
Round 4 (131) – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Round 5 (160) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Round 5 (171) – Daelin Hayes, DE, Notre Dame
Round 5 (184) – Ben Mason, FB, Michigan
Despite Baltimore’s recent track record of success, there have been moments where they may have outsmarted themselves and left certain position groups thin and prone to injury. As disappointing as the Orlando Brown Jr. situation was, Baltimore scored in the third round with mauler Ben Cleveland after knocking off other giant needs with their two first-round picks.
Rashod Bateman is finally healthy and should return to his 2019 form, back when he was more squarely thought of as a lock for the first round. His deceptive play speed and strong hands will provide the Ravens with the true X receiver they’ve been searching for, which has, in the past, forced them to entertain the likes of Dez Bryant and Antonio Brown.
Odafe Oweh, whose rawness was pronounced and may have…