The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books. All 257 selections have been made, and teams are off to the races signing undrafted free agents. Just as we did on Day 1 and Day 2, we're here to break down the winners and losers of Day 3, yet another wild day in the NFL.
Winner: RB Michael Carter
What a great spot the other running back from North Carolina landed in. He was drafted No. 107 overall by the New York Jets. He lands in a system that repeatedly churns out quality running backs (the Shanahan-style offense Mike LaFleur is bringing over from San Francisco makes stars of pretty much every back), and he has very little competition for carries in New York. Tevin Coleman was brought in as a free agent, but he's now three years removed from his most recent effective season. Carter should have a chance to be the lead back for the Jets, behind an improved offensive line and with other weapons to spread the field for him.
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Loser: Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch
The writing was on the wall for these guys when the Cowboys landed Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round, but it's blinking neon lights after Dallas added LSU linebacker Jabril Cox in the fourth. It's entirely possible that both Smith and Vander Esch are off the roster by this time next year, which is pretty crazy considering it wasn't that long ago that they looked like one of the best linebacker tandems in the league. Smith's dramatic drop-off and LVE's injury issues caused the Cowboys to move aggressively to replace them.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending champs did not enter the draft with many real needs, which allowed them to do things like drafting a pass rusher on Thursday who can develop behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, and a quarterback on Friday who can develop behind Tom Brady. On Saturday, they used some of their draft capital to move up and land Jaelon Darden, who really should not have lasted until the fourth round. Darden caught 31 touchdown passes during his final two seasons at North Texas, including 19 this past year. Bruce Arians said Darden reminds him of Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown -- both of whom he coached -- and if they get anything close to that type of production out of Darden down the line, he'll end up being a huge steal.
Loser: Raiders' 2019 first-round picks
The then-Oakland Raiders had three picks in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. They used the No. 4 overall pick on Clelin Ferrell, the No. 24 pick on Josh Jacobs, and the No. 27 pick on Johnathan Abram. Ferrell wasn't even the best edge rusher the Raiders drafted in 2019 (Maxx Crosby), and the team ended up using a third-round pick on Malcolm Koonce this year. The now-Las Vegas Raiders spent $14.5 million on Kenyan Drake to complement Jacobs, and also dramatically downgraded along the offensive line by moving on from four of their five starters. Oh, and they drafted not one, not two, but three safeties this weekend, indicating an extreme lack of confidence in what they have at the position.
Winner: Browns Executive VP/General Manager Andrew Berry
First of all, Berry had a fantastic weekend, adding a boatload of talent to a rapidly including defense. That included landing Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai and Georgia safety Richard Lecounte in Rounds 4 and 5. (Cincinnati tackle James Hudson was also good value in Round 4.) More importantly, though, Berry and his wife had their first child on Thursday, and it produced the best (photoshopped) picture of draft week.
Loser: RB Raheem Mostert
The 49ers came into the weekend with not all that much in the backfield alongside Mostert, with only Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty joining him on the depth chart. San Francisco then traded up for Ohio State's Trey Sermon in the third round and snagged Louisiana's Elijah Mitchell in the sixth. Mostert will be 29 years old next season and has zero guaranteed money on his contract. He could be on the way out sooner rather than later.
Winner: QB Ian Book
If you're a quarterback, there aren't many better landing spots than New Orleans, where you get to play for Sean Payton. Book also wins here because Payton had said coming into the draft that quarterback was not a "must-add" position for the Saints, yet they added one anyway. Payton has also shown his willingness to add packages to the playbook for athletic players who can pass, like Taysom Hill, so perhaps Book can get on the field some even if he's not immediately a starting-caliber quarterback.
Loser: Houston Texans
Let's just leave this one right here.
Let's put these trades in context.— Lee Sharpe, ⛓️ @ 🏠 (@LeeSharpeNFL) May 1, 2021
Texans while #161 is on the clock trade up with the Bills into #174, giving up two picks.
Clearly they want someone. But how will they know he's available 13 picks in advance?
Turns out they can't and TRADE UP AGAIN.
Horrible mismanagement. pic.twitter.com/s2521DJr5c
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens routinely crushed the draft under Ozzie Newsome, and they continue to do so under Eric DeCosta. They got off to a strong start on Thursday and Friday, and continued adding quality prospects on Saturday. Wideout Tylan Wallace makes a ton of sense as a complement to Hollywood Brown and Rashod Bateman. Cornerback Shaun Wade was thought of as a potential first-round pick coming into this season, but a move to outside corner cratered his stock. The Ravens have plenty of perimeter corners, so they can stick him back in the slot, where he was one of the best defensive backs in the country. Edge rusher Daelin Hayes, meanwhile, is basically a prototype Ravens edge rusher who can develop along with Odafe Oweh, as the Ravens have developed so many edge rushers before.
Loser: QB Carson Wentz
Wentz was, to put it kindly, not thrilled the last time his team took a quarterback in the draft. Well, his new team just did it again, with the Colts selecting Texas passer Sam Ehlinger at the tail end of the sixth round. Hopefully now that he's back with Frank Reich and company, Wentz can keep his composure and not let the selection of a developmental quarterback behind him throw his entire game off the rails.
Winner: RBs Mike Davis and Chase Edmonds
The Falcons and Cardinals were widely expected to add running backs with one of their picks this weekend, but didn't. Instead, they added talent at other positions on offense that should help put them in position to succeed. Talented players who have succeeded in timeshare roles now may get a chance to shine as full-time backs.
Loser: Green Bay Packers
"I bumped into one of the VIPs here who just happens to be the biggest news name in sports right now. That's Aaron Rodgers. He didn't want to talk on camera," Tirico said before noting what Rodgers had to say about the current drama in Green Bay. "I can tell you, I can characterize Aaron as disappointed that news has come out on this rift with the Packers. He expressed a couple of times how much he loves Green Bay, loves the fans, loves the franchise."
"There is fissure, there is a chasm between management and the reigning NFL MVP," Tirico said. "We're just not sure how this is going to play out. I'll watch closely over the next couple of weeks to see what we hear from the Packers side and when Aaron does speak. Interesting times ahead for sure."
Things are not going well with this franchise at the moment, and Saturday's report that Rodgers isn't going to return to the team as long as general manager Brian Gutekunst is in charge does not help things one bit.
Winner: Denver Broncos
I love the secondary the Broncos are building. Not only did they sign Kyle Fuller in free agency and drafting Patrick Surtain II with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round, they added safeties Jamar Johnson and Caden Sterns on Saturday, along with cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. Kareem Jackson is heading into his age-33 season, and Johnson in particular makes for a fun long-term pairing with Justin Simmons at safety. Surtain should be able to slide in as a starter, and the Broncos can try to develop Vincent Jr. behind them.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs did not have a first-round pick after sending it to the Ravens in the trade for Orlando Brown Jr., but they did extremely well on Days 2 and 3. They continued beefing up their offensive line on Friday night, adding Creed Humphrey to help on the interior. Their first pick of the draft, Nick Bolton, was excellent value at No. 58, but they landed still more value on Saturday by getting Florida State edge rusher Joshua Kaindoh in the late fourth, Duke tight end Noah Gray in the fifth, and both Clemson receiver Cornell Powell and Tennessee guard Trey Smith in the sixth. They filled their biggest defensive needs (linebacker, edge), added more depth on the interior of the offensive line, and got themselves a nice developmental prospect behind the best offensive weapon (Travis Kelce). Not bad for a weekend's work.