They always say stars can be found on the first day of the draft, but contenders are made on days two and three. Great general managers identify starters and contributors throughout the draft and despite it being a unique year, there were plenty of gems found on the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
- New York Jets Running back Michael Carter/ Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen- I decided to combine these two selections into one here, but the Jets killed this draft to say the least, especially on day three. Grabbing Carter, one of the best receiving backs in the draft in the fourth round was a steal. I expect the former Tar Heel to form a good ole thunder-and-lightning duo with last year’s fourth round pick La’Micael Perine. As for Nasirildeen, he’s a perfect compliment to star safety Marcus Maye. Nasirildeen could have been a day two or even first round selection had injuries not hampered his final year at Florida State. As the perfect linebacker-safety hybrid for the modern NFL, I expect Nasirildeen to be playing a role for the Jets on day one.
- Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jabril Cox- I thought Cox would have been a great pick for any team in the second day of the draft. He’s played across multiple levels of college football and has proven to be a star at each one. The LSU standout is a great compliment to first-round pick Micah Parsons and already established star Jaylon Smith. I was one of the biggest Jabril Cox believers in this draft and getting him in the fourth round is fantastic value.
- Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown- Throughout his entire career at USC, St. Brown was as consistent as it gets. He doesn’t have many glaring problems that should hold him back from being a competent NFL receiver. In all honesty, many receivers slipped in the draft this year, it just so happens that St. Brown slipped more than most. The 21-year-old should be able to find a role pretty quick on a Lions team that lacks talent at receiver. Don’t be shocked if St. Brown and new signal caller Jared Goff form a connection that ends up being a problem for NFC North opponents.
- Cincinnati Bengals Kicker Evan McPherson- This may be a cop-out, and I hate selecting kickers in the fifth round, but this kid can smash the hell out of a football and pretty accurately too. This was an overdraft, but McPherson has the potential to be one of the league’s elite kickers. Special Teams can win games, but more importantly, it can also lose them pretty quick too and the Bengals need to do everything possible to not drop winnable games in Zac Taylor’s third season as Head Coach.
- Minnesota Vikings Cornerback/Safety Camryn Bynum- Bynum was one of my favorite cornerbacks in this year’s draft. With decent athleticism, a high I.Q. and a willingness to hit, I expected him to find a role in the league, it just turns out it may be as a safety. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive backs specialist and with the SKOL family losing longtime free safety Anthony Harris this offseason, there’s some snaps up for grabs in Minnesota. The Vikings signed Xavier Woods this offseason, but I think they drafted a lot of high-upside players who are raw in this draft because they are committed to building for the future. If this move to safety happens, I don’t expect it to be too long until Bynum is cutting into Woods’ snaps.
- Houston Texans Tight End Brevin Jordan- The Houston Texans haven’t done too much correctly this offseason, but selecting Jordan in the fifth round was one of the few things they did right. Jordan is a unique player at the position who offers a lot after the catch and is a more complete player than given credit for. The Texans lack talent everywhere and grabbing a player of Jordan’s qualities, who can be an asset as a safety blanket and on screens will be a saving grace for whoever is unlucky enough to be under center for Houston this season.
- Baltimore Ravens Cornerback Shaun Wade- Yep, the Ravens struck again, the NFL’s best drafting organization had another stellar performance and that shows with drafting Wade in the fifth round. There is real star potential with Wade, he just needs a lot of refining, but at the very least, the Ravens grabbed a well above average blitzing corner, who can be one of the best nickels in pro football, a role that is increasing in importance every year. Will Shaun Wade be a stud many hoped he’d be? Probably not, but this kid can come in and be a starter in the nickel role and that is great value for the fifth round.
- Pittsburgh Steelers Edge Quincy Roche- With Bud Dupree now gone, the Steelers need some sort of edge rusher presence opposite of T.J. Watt. And even if you are an Alex Highsmith believer, the team needs some kind of depth behind him and Roche gives them that. Don’t let the sixth round draft slot fool you, Roche has real abilities, forming college football’s most formidable pass rushing duo with Jaelan Phillips at Miami last year. Roche’s 30.5 career collegiate sacks and good pass rushing technique suggest a player that will find a role in the NFL and I expect that to happen fairly quickly with the Steelers.