The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and with it comes instant analysis and grades. We’ll have wall-to-wall coverage over the next several weeks recapping each team, their approach to the 2021 class, and, of course, grades.
For now, let’s get started with the best and worst picks from the first round.
Best Pick: Justin Fields (Bears, No. 11 overall)
The dream scenario for the Chicago Bears occurred on Thursday night with the slide of Fields, who was arguably the second-best prospect in the entire class, to the 11th pick. GM Ryan Pace made an aggressive trade from No. 20 overall to No. 11, swapping picks with the New York Giants and sending next year’s first- and fourth-rounders to GM Dave Gettleman.
The entire narrative around the Bears organization shifted with this pick. For the first time in franchise history, Chicago has a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect on the roster. While Andy Dalton is expected to remain the team’s starter in 2021, there’s a very good chance Fields will eventually overtake him. It could happen as early as training camp.
The Bears’ future is extremely bright after the 2021 draft.
Worst Pick: Alex Leatherwood (Raiders, No. 17 overall)
Look, Leatherwood is a solid prospect. He profiles as an NFL starter — likely at guard — but you’d be hard-pressed to find any draft analyst who had him ranked as a first-round player, let alone a top-20 pick. He was a top-50 guy on our board with a firm second-round grade.
Regardless of which set of rankings you use, Leatherwood was a big-time reach by GM Mike Mayock, who’s quickly earned a reputation for making off-the-wall picks in the first round.
Leatherwood was drafted as an offensive tackle, and sure, there’s a chance he’ll be a competent starter there. But he’s more likely to kick inside to guard at some point in his career, making this pick even worse. There were better interior offensive line prospects on the board — even in the second round — than Leatherwood.