The 2021 NFL Draft is officially over, and naturally NFL experts and analysts have begun grading the different draft classes selected by teams. Personally, I’m not a fan of prematurely grading players until they’ve been in the league for a few seasons, but here we are. The grades could look funny down the road, as they typically do, but it’s still interesting to see what the experts think of the new classes.
As a reminder, here’s the full class:
Round 1, Pick 4: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Round 2, Pick 35: S Richie Grant, UCF
Round 3, Pick 68: OL Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Round 4, Pick 108: CB Darren Hall, San Diego State
Round 4, Pick 114: OL Drew Dalman, Stanford
Round 5, Pick 148: DL Ta’Quon Graham, Texas
Round 5, Pick 182: DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
Round 5, Pick 183: CB Avery Williams, Boise State
Round 6, Pick 187: WR Frank Darby, Arizona State
As of the time I’m writing this, about 50% of the more than 2,000 votes here on the site went toward a B grade, with 29% voting A and 11% C, leaving just 2% split between D and F. Overall, fans seem to like the class.
Day 1: The Falcons take the best non-quarterback in the draft with their selection of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. He is going to be faster than any linebacker or safety and bigger than any cornerback. He enters the NFL as already one of the biggest matchup nightmares for a defense. His 96.1 receiving grade, 0% drop rate and above-average run-blocking grade in 2020 make him one of the best all-around pass-catchers we’ve seen in a while.
Day 2: The fourth-best safety on PFF’s Big Board, Richie Grant had exceptional run-defense grades in college and was a stud during the one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl in coverage, flashing the potential to be an all-around player at the next level. Grant has excellent numbers across the board and is an outstanding overall football player, but he was selected with TCU’s Trevon Moehrig — PFF’s top safety — still on the board.
Mayfield was garnering first-round consideration at one point. That might paint this as a value pick, but Mayfield’s 144th ranking on PFF’s Big Board still shows it as a reach. Mayfield’s upside was supposed to be his physical tools. However, his Pro Day didn’t show much in the way of that to get excited about. Mayfield will likely compete for the starting left guard spot in Atlanta — the lone hole on the team’s line right now.
Day 3: The concerns with Drew Dalman have to do with his pass protection. He has a weaker anchor and posted pass-blocking grades of 71.7, 74.0 and 68.6 in his three years at Stanford while going up against subpar competition. He is nimble, though, and his run-blocking skill set will fit perfectly into Arthur Smith’s offense. Dalman recorded a 90.1 grade in that facet in 2020.
Passing over a quarterback to load more talent onto the offense could look like a bad move for the Atlanta Falcons in 12-18 months if Matt Ryan does not come back strong. They added some good playmakers to their secondary, which was an area of serious concern heading into the draft. There is a lot to like here as the first return for this new head coach-general manager combination.
NBC Sports: B+
You don’t often see tight ends drafted in the top five, but Florida’s Kyle Pitts is a rare exception. He has the potential to be a dominant pass-catcher in a Falcons offense that also includes star wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta also made a sneaky good fourth-round pick in acquiring cornerback Darren Hall, who has tremendous upside.
Adding pass-catcher extraordinaire Pitts with the fourth overall pick gives a boost to the Falcons’ offense, especially in the red zone, where the team struggled at times in 2020. Atlanta made two excellent picks on Friday night, with Grant likely stepping into a starting role at safety and Mayfield a solid projection to guard, an area in which the Falcons needed more depth.
Hall is an athletic and competitive corner worthy of the early fourth-round selection. Dalman is an athletic center with NFL genes. He can compete with 2020 draft pick Matt Hennessy at center or allow Hennessy to move to guard. Graham has the quickness that will help him win inside next to Grady Jarrett. Ogundeji is a long, powerful rusher. He might not have elite speed, but will still get the job done. Getting a top-notch kick returner and willing defender in Williams was excellent, as was the selection of Darby, who has potential as a quick-footed deep threat.
The Falcons made the right choice with the No. 4 pick by taking TE Kyle Pitts. He’s a uniquely talented player, and the need to get a QB to succeed Matt Ryan was not all that pressing. Ryan is young enough, at 35, for the Falcons to make one more push to return to prominence with him. Second-rounder Richie Grant will help, although it’s debatable whether the Falcons took the right safety. Getting T Jalen Mayfield early in the third round was a reasonable move. He could begin his NFL career at guard.
Sporting News: A-
The Falcons were methodical in addressing needs under new GM Terry Fontenot after taking a game-changing best player available for their offense in Pitts. Grant and Mayfield can also start in critical roles for new coach Arthur Smith. Their remaining picks thought of depth everywhere on defense and a little more receiving juice on offense.