The 2021 NFL Draft has finally come and gone and the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all officially off the clock. So here are my picks for the best and worst selections made by each team.

When considering best and worst picks, I look into:

  • Team needs (what position needs to be addressed most via draft)
  • The value of the pick (could a selection have been taken later, did a team reach?)
  • The biggest potential impact from a draft pick

The NFC South Champion Saints franchise quarterback retired. The reigning Super Bowl Champion Bucs returned all 22 starters. The Falcons and Panthers both had 10+ losses.

Did Scouts, GMs, and Head Coaches make the right moves this weekend? Let’s find out!

Atlanta Falcons (4-12 record)

Selections: TE Kyle Pitts. S Richie Grant. OT Jalen Mayfield. CB Darren Hall. C Drew Dalman. DT Ta’Quon Graham. DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji. CB Avery Williams. WR Frank Darby.

Needs: Cornerback, Quarterback, Tight End, Outside Linebacker, Running Back

Best Draft Pick: The Falcons are coming off a season where nine of their 12 losses were by a touchdown or less! Their defense definitely had holes to fill. But picking at fourth overall, no defensive player warranted a pick that high. Fortunately for the Falcons, tight end was a need. With arguably one of the best football players on the board, they selected tight end, Kyle Pitts, out of Florida.

This is hands down the Falcons’ best selection of the draft. A generational talent, Pitts will pair well with Calvin Ridley and give Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense a big, reliable weapon. With great size (6’6, 245 lbs.) and speed (4.44 40 yard dash), Pitts is primed to make an immediate impact. He will no doubt be a nightmare for NFL defenses for years to come.

Worst Draft Pick: We didn’t have to wait long for the Falcons to make their worst selection of the draft. With their next pick, the Falcons selected safety Richie Grant out of Central Florida.

Grant is a playmaking safety that will eventually help the Falcons, however, they selected him over higher-rated defensive backs (Trevon Moehrig, Asante Samuel Jr.) and it did not fill a need as safety was a position that was addressed in free agency with the signings of safeties Erik Harris and Duron Harmon.

The Falcons definitely could’ve gotten more of a need out of the 40th overall selection.

Carolina Panthers (5-11 record)

Selections: CB Jaycee Horn. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. OT Brady Christensen. TE Tommy Tremble. RB Chubba Hubbard. DT Daviyon Dixon. CB Keith Taylor. OG Deonte Brown. WR Shi Smith. LS Thomas Fletcher. DT Phil Hoskins.

Needs: Tight End, Guard, Defensive End, Quarterback, Cornerback

Best Draft Pick: The departure of Mike Davis in free agency makes the selection of Oklahoma State RB Chubba Hubbard in the fourth-round a sneaky good pick. Hubbard rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019. Hubbard’s skill set allows Carolina to feature a prominent 1-2 running back tandem.

If he’s able to take care of the football (7 collegiate fumbles), I expect the Panthers to utilize him and give Christian McCaffrey a lighter workload. The Panthers need McCaffrey healthy and available if they’re going to compete in the NFC South. The Panthers addressed multiple needs prior to this selection, so although running back wasn’t a need it’s good value on day three of the draft.

Worst Draft Pick: The Panthers moved around a good amount on day 2 of the draft, often trading out of their spot to add picks. However, they made a blunder in the third-round selecting Brady Christensen with the 70th pick. This allowed the Miami Dolphins to grab tight end Hunter Long with the 81st pick.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has wanted a big pass-catching tight end on his offense and Hunter Long would’ve fit in nicely. The Panthers then doubled down on this mistake by selecting a pass-blocking tight end two picks after Long was taken. Tremble doesn’t quite fit the mold of what Rhule had in mind.

These picks should have been flipped. Christensen wasn’t one of the top three or four offensive tackles available at the time he was selected and wasn’t an immediate need.

New Orleans Saints (12-4, NFC South Champions)

Selections: DE Payton Turner. LB Pete Werner. CB Paulson Adebo. QB Ian Book. OT Landon Young. WR Kawaan Baker.

Needs: Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker, Safety, Guard

Best Draft Pick: With only six selections made in this year’s draft, New Orleans needed to maximize those picks’ value. Which they did on day two of the draft when they selected Stanford cornerback, Paulson Adebo. A former wide receiver, Paulson has great ball skills and at 6’1″ can match up well with taller receivers in the NFC South.

Cornerback was a major need for the Saints and to get one in the middle rounds who has the ability to make a difference immediately is huge for them. I can’t help but think about a different tall and lanky former wide receiver turned cornerback from Stanford when I see this selection.

Worst Draft Pick: When you reach in the first round, you’re more than likely going to be graded poorly for that selection. Former Houston defensive end Payton Turner may develop into a disruptive pass rusher but he is a project. Defensive end was not a huge need for the Saints, not to mention there were higher ranked ends (Rousseau, Ossai) and pass-rushing linebackers (Oweh, Tryon, Ojulari) still on the board.

Eric Stokes, the speedy cornerback from Georgia, was taken with the very next pick. With cornerback being a major team need, it makes the Payton Turner selection that much more questionable. We may see Turner become a solid starting end in the NFL, but if he doesn’t, the Saints will definitely want this one back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5, Super Bowl Champions)

Selections: OLB Joe Tryon. QB Kyle Trask. OT Robert Hainsey. WR Jaelon Darden. LB K.J. Britt. CB Chris Wilcox. OLB Grant Stuard.

Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Tackle, Quarterback, Defensive End, Outside Linebacker

Best Draft Pick: It seems silly that a championship team returning all of its starters would have any team needs, but the Bucs managed to address all five of their needs in the draft. Outside Linebacker/Edge Joe Tryon out of Washington is a great selection for the Bucs.

With Jason Pierre-Paul getting up there in age, Tryon can become an instant contributor to the Buccaneers pass rush and potentially take over as a starter if they move on from JPP in the future. One of the faster edge players available in the draft, Tryon has the best hands out of the first and second-round edge talent.

Buccaneers had the luxury of being able to reach a bit, but they also knew Tryon wouldn’t be there for them in the second round. Now the Bucs get a great edge product who will help their pass rush this season.

Worst Draft Pick: Former Florida Quarterback Kyle Trask is a definite project. Most veteran quarterbacks enjoy helping younger teammates develop and turn into the pro that they have the potential to be. Tom Brady is not one of those veterans.

With Arians and Brady focused on winning another Super Bowl and the likely re-signing of veteran Blaine Gabbert as Brady’s backup, Trask won’t have many chances to grow into an NFL-ready quarterback. There were a lot more starting-caliber players available to the Bucs at the 64th pick.

Looking to 2021-22

There will be a good amount of Rookie contributors from this NFC South 2021 draft class and I can’t wait to see them in action this season! Can wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. turn the Panthers receiving core into a formidable trio with Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore? Will linebacker Pete Werner leapfrog Zack Baun and man the starting defense for New Orleans? We’ll get a better idea as camps get going this summer.

And although these rookies have left their Universities behind, one thing is certain… class is now in session!

Thanks as always for reading! Tell me your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!

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