The first round is in the books, and as expected we had a quarterback-heavy opening to the 2021 NFL Draft. What we didn’t predict, however, is some of the reaches and stunning trades that left a vacuum in the draft itself. So often a player’s selection has less to do with their talent, and more to do with where they are in relation to the rest of the board. We can see a player plummet, solely because their best fit went in another direction.
In the end we were left with a round in which 17 players were selected on offense. This might seem like a fairly even split, but the propensity of quarterbacks and receivers left a lot of talent on the board on defense.
The 2021 class has always been regarded as day two deep, with dozens of players who will end up being NFL starters, and even some potential Pro Bowl talent left in the mix. If you’re fan of a team with a top 10 pick you’ve got to be happy some of these guys are still left on the board.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
I had to double, then triple check the first round to make sure I didn’t miss this one, because I’m floored he’s still available. An ultra-athletic hybrid defensive player, Owusu-Koramoah to me is the defensive variant of No. 4 pick Kyle Pitts.
Technically listed as a linebacker, he’s equally comfortable dropping back in coverage and covering a big receiver, or tight end. The idea of “ideal size” gets muddy when the NFL gets leaner and speedier. While he might not fit the mold we’ve seen for decades at the position, he could become a prototype for what teams look for in linebackers in years to come.
Not only is Owusu-Koramoah a great athlete, he’s a leader, and teams in need of more of an identity on defense will get a player who can help organize the defense.
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
I thought Moehrig would be a lock for the Ravens at the back end of the first round. This is not a great draft for safeties, but Moehrig is the best of the bunch by a mile. I’ve seen knocks on him not catching interceptions he should have brought down while at TCU, and while fair, my feeling is that you’ve got to be in the position to make a play like that already with your athleticism and play diagnosis.
There’s also this catch phrase we’re going to be hearing a lot: Versatility. Moehrig can mix it up as a blitzer, drop back in coverage, or jump into the box in run support. I love that kind of player at the safety position, and am more than a little surprised other teams didn’t feel the same way.
Azeez Olujari, LB, Georgia
Another guy with first round potential, the knock on Olujari has been his lack of ideal size. Still, in a 3-4 front I don’t see how a 6’3, 240 pound linebacker is too slight for the position. There’s definitely things he needs to work on in order to succeed at the next level, especially developing a wider array of pass rush moves, but I think the upside is too great to look at him sitting on the board day two and not taking a jump.
With a little coaching Olujari could be a gem.
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
What we saw on Thursday night was just cruel. Mel Kiper Jr. had Moore incredibly high on his board, which led to cutting to his family numerous times while they waited to hear his name called, to no avail.
Personally, I wasn’t as high on Moore as the other receivers in this draft, but it’s not like he isn’t close enough in skill that he should be far removed from back-end receivers like Rashod Bateman and Kadarius Toney, both of whom were taken in the 20s.
Moore is a small, shifty slot receiver ideally suited for a more traditional offense that hasn’t yet made the jump to the big-play, big body slot archetype. Plenty of teams will find a way to use Moore, who’s also electric in the return game.
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
The last of the top-end tackles in my book, I really thought Jenkins would go to a team like Jacksonville or New York who needed to add protection to their new franchise QBs. Instead he’s still available, and I think we could see Jenkins go in the first five picks of the second round.
While not as polished as the first round blockers, Jenkins is an excellent right tackle option at the next level who has a bit of a nasty streak in him that you want to see in the run game. Jacksonville is a logical landing spot at No. 33 here with both Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne loving their new big man up front.
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Barmore is a bit polarizing. On the one hand he has every physical tool you’d want from a defensive tackle his size, but at times his production has been a little lackluster considering his dominant frame.
Many believed he’d go in the teens of the first round, but now in the second he’d be an absolute steal. Considering his teammate Alex Leatherwood went in the first, it’s hard to believe Barmore would need to sit. Both share similar concerns, albeit on different sides of the line, and in the end I think someone will get a gem here.