Home Early Winners From the 2021 NFL Draft: Dolphins Hit Home Run, Lions Set Foundation

Early Winners From the 2021 NFL Draft: Dolphins Hit Home Run, Lions Set Foundation

by killyp

Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins

The NFL Draft is always a fun three days, and this year was no different.

Between Dave Gettleman finally trading down (twice in the first two rounds, no less!) and Chicago getting aggressive for its quarterback, the drama and glamour of the event wasn’t lost.

Picking winners just hours removed from the NFL Draft is never an easy task. Value is subjective to everyone and the gap between two prospects could be marginal. That, however, won’t stop us from still doing it.

Big Winners: Miami Dolphins

Draft Picks: WR Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), EDGE Jaelan Phillips (Miami), DB Jevon Holland (Oregon), OT Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame), TE Hunter Long (Boston College), Larnel Coleman (Massachusetts), Gerrid Doaks (Cincinnati)

It’s not hard to draft well when you end up with five picks in the first two days, but the way Miami got value and worked the draft board should be a case study for other NFL teams to follow.

The Dolphins started with pick No. 3, before swapping with the San Francisco 49ers for pick No. 12. Then, just minutes removed from the last trade, the Dolphins moved up from No. 12 to No. 6, swapping with the Philadelphia Eagles. In all, the Dolphins end up with an extra 2023 first-round pick from the 49ers and an extra third-rounder in 2022 (more on that pick later).

With two first-round selections, general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores chose to swing for the fences, taking guys with big-time potential and some medical concerns.

Jaylen Waddle is one of the most explosive players in the draft, and he’s the closest thing the NFL has seen to Tyreek Hill coming out of the NFL Draft. That doesn’t mean he’ll be Hill but the potential is there. Waddle only played in four games last season but he was good in those games.

Miami had one of the worst wide receiver rooms when it came to creating separation, so going out there and getting a fast wide receiver just makes sense. Waddle still needs some refinement in his route running but he’ll be an immediate impact player for the Dolphins. Expect Waddle to start in the slot alongside Will Fuller and DeVante Parker to begin his NFL career.

The Dolphins, however, weren’t done in the first round. EDGE Jaelan Phillips, selected with the 18th pick in the first round, is a solid pass rusher who faces some concerns with his medical history, forcing the tumble down the draft. Phillips struggles sometimes defending the run but his pass rush traits are really good. There’s some TJ Watt in his game – even if Watt is better right now – but there’s a lot to like about him.

On day two, the Dolphins did more of the same. The Dolphins selected safety Jevon Holland with the 36th pick, and he should play everywhere for Miami. He has experience playing safety and nickel corner and that versatility should help Holland get on the field early. Expect him to play a lot of slot corner and safety, likely filling in for Eric Rowe, early for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins then manipulated the board again, trading a 2022 third-rounder to move up and take offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg. Eichenberg is as reliable as they come at the position. He rarely makes mistakes and should fit in nicely at either guard or tackle for the Dolphins.

In all, the draft cycle was a masterclass on gaining and flipping assets. Take notes, NFL teams.

Winners: Detroit Lions

Draft Picks: OT Penei Sewell (Oregon), DL Levi Onwuzurike (Washington), DL Alim McNeil (NC State), CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse), WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), ILB Derrick Barnes (Purdue), RB Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State)

Dan Campbell wants to bite kneecaps, and this is a good start to the toughness that Detroit wants to have.

Penei Sewell is likely the best offensive tackle in this class, and the Lions get him at No. 7 overall. Even though he’s still young, Sewell is an immediate upgrade to Halapoulivaati Vaitai. If he develops as he should, Sewell has the potential to be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

The Lions continued to build in the trenches on day two. Defensive linemen Alim McNeil and Levi Onwuzurike are both mammoths of men, and you can never have enough linemen on either side of the football. Both should make immediate impacts for the Lions.

Ifeatu Melifonwu is a tall, lengthy corner with some really good tape, especially when playing in zone coverage. The value (late round 3) is great for Ifeatu, who will probably make an immediate impact for Detroit.

Detroit’s next two picks are more of the same. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown won’t pull the top off the defense but he is great at pulling in the 50-50 balls. With how bad Detroit’s wide receiver room is, there’s no question that he should make an immediate impact on the outside alongside Tyrell Williams and Breshard Perriman, who will be featured in the slot.

Similarly, linebacker Derrick Barnes has a great burst and should feature inside for Detroit. There is a great base to work with, and the upside in coverage makes him an intriguing player for Detroit. This ability to rush the passer is also underrated.

Detroit won’t be good next year but they’ll be tough to beat, and that’s a good start for the Lions.

Winner: Cleveland Browns

Draft Picks: CB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern), LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame), WR Anthony Schwartz (Auburn), OT James Hudson (Cincinnati), Tommy Togiai (Ohio State), LB Tony Fields II (West Virginia), S Richard LeCounte (Georgia), RB/WR Demetric Felton (UCLA)

The Cleveland Browns’ draft is textbook for a team that didn’t have many holes going into the draft.

They addressed a need with cornerback Greg Newsome (Northwestern) and did so late in the first round. Some believed Newsome, who rose up the boards during the pre-draft cycle, could’ve gone even earlier, so Cleveland does well to get him so late. Newsome will slot in perfectly next to Denzel Ward and help provide both solid depth and high-level production.

In the second round, the Browns selected Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame), a tweener with some really good athletic traits. It’s hard to project where he plays at the next level but his talent is too good to pass up. Like Newsome, Owusu-Koramoah helps solve a major problem Cleveland had last season, which was pass coverage. Expect Owusu-Koramoah to slot in as a linebacker early on for the Browns.

The Browns also got good value later in the draft in James Hudson (Cincinnati), and track-star Anthony Schwartz (Auburn), who will inject so much speed into the Cleveland offense that it should be illegal (he is really, really, really fast).

Keep an eye on Demetric Felton, as well. Felton is probably a wide receiver at the next level but he has some experience as a running back. He’s an intriguing chess piece for any offense, including Cleveland.

Kevin Fielder can be reached on Twitter (@TheKevinFielder) or via email ([email protected])

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