Texans earn B-minus in 1-year later assessment of 2021 NFL draft class

The Houston Texans’ draft grade for the 2021 NFL draft class improved to a B-minus after a one-year evaluation.

The Houston Texans’ 2021 NFL draft class was paltry, and didn’t get started until the No. 67 overall pick in Round 3. The fact Houston earned C’s from general manager Nick Caserio’s first draft is understandable.

However, the Texans may have nailed their five picks after a one-year reassessment. Quarterback Davis Mills, receiver Nico Collins, tight end Brevin Jordan, linebacker Garret Wallow, and defensive tackle Roy Lopez may be better than initially realized.

According to Michael Renner from Pro Football Focus, the Texans’ 2021 class upgraded from a C-minus in their evaluations to a B-minus.

The Davis Mills pick saves the Texans to a degree, as he flashed in enough games that he’d go considerably higher in a re-draft today. He earned overall grades of 85.9, 76.3 and 78.0 in three separate starts last season despite finishing with a 58.8 overall grade. That was enough to make him the starter this season and bump this re-grade up a touch.

While the Mills’ pick may have saved the Texans’ grade, Lopez deserves credit. For Houston to take a sixth-round pick and he starts 15 of 16 games on the defensive line is a testament to what type of value the Texans found in Lopez.

The general agreement is the Texans at least had a B-plus grade when it came to the 2022 NFL draft class. If the Texans can similarly improve the grade of that draft class by a full grade point, then Houston should be primed to contend by the start of the 2023 season.

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4 Things to know about new Dallas Cowboys OL Tyler Smith

A walk through Tyler Smith’s journey to the NFL and he he’ll fit in with the Dallas Cowboys, from @TimLettiero

The addition of Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith shocked the system of Dallas Cowboy fans across the nation. While some had strong opinions one way or the other about the selection, some were left asking who this player is, similar to the reaction of former All-Pro center Travis Frederick back in 2013.  The Cowboys’ brass can only hope Smith’s career has some measure of resemblance to what Frederick carved out.

While a collegiate tackle who will play guard at the next level is far from the sexiest pick, especially given the man-made holes Dallas has created for themselves this offseason, there is a lot know about Smith the person and the player. Here are some interesting background tidbits about the Ft. Worth native.

Poll: What draft selections outside of 2021 are Jags fans most excited about from past 5 years?

The Jags recent draft classes haven’t been great, but there are some players from them who could blossom. Excluding 2021’s class, what selections are you all the most excited about from recent drafts?

The Jacksonville Jaguars have selected 42 players over the last five drafts. Most of the high draft choices excluding the 2021 draft class haven’t panned out for the franchise. However, there are still a select few who have been successful and remain with the team.

For the sake of getting another fun post up, we wanted to poll the fanbase on the draft pick from the past five drafts who they are most excited to watch besides those from the 2021 class. The choices we’ll offer are cornerback Tyson Campbell, defensive end Josh Allen, defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, and defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot.

Finding four players for this poll was difficult because the Jaguars made so many stumbles in the 2020 and 2018 drafts that include busts like C.J. Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Taven Bryan. However, the four players we’ve centered this poll around have a chance to be key pieces for the defense.

Allen should be the runaway favorite because in three seasons he has compiled 20.5 sacks, 128 total tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 48 quarterback hits. And while the team has yet to pick up his fifth-year option, it would be unwise for the Jags to not continue forward with Allen in 2023 as he’s been a standout on the defense.

But fans shouldn’t sleep on Campbell because of how much potential he flashes down the stretch last season. Last season, he was second among rookies in interceptions and incompletions caused (11).

Hamilton is an interesting player because he hasn’t had any standout seasons two years into his career. In his first two seasons, he only acquired grades of 53.9 (2021) and 52.8 (2020) according to Pro Football Focus, but an X-factor for his career could be new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner. Buckner, a former player in the NFL, is a highly respected coach in the NFL and has coached players like Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Maxx Crosby.

As for Smoot, he’s mostly been a rotational player in his five seasons with the Jags and only has 17 starts. However, an argument could be made he’s one of the better rotational players in the NFL. He ended the 2021 season second on the team in sacks with six and led them the year before with 5.5. He also garnered a 73.9 pass-rush grade last season, which was the highest of any defensive lineman on the team with significant snaps.

Now, with all the cases we’ve made for each of these four players, we’d like to hear from our readers at home in terms of who excites the fanbase the most heading forward. Vote in the poll below.

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Titans select CB Eric Stokes in B/R’s 2021 NFL re-draft

The Titans would, at the very least least, consider going in a different direction if the 2021 NFL draft was re-done.

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The Tennessee Titans selected cornerback Caleb Farley in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, but that pick has yet to pay dividends after Farley’s rookie campaign ended early due to a torn ACL.

With Farley now having knee and back concerns moving forward, and after not showing much last year, the Titans would probably, at the very least, consider doing things over if they could.

And that’s what Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox has them doing in his 2021 NFL re-draft. Knox picks cornerback Eric Stokes, who went to Green Bay at No. 29, at No. 22 overall for Tennessee. Here’s his take:

Stokes had a terrific rookie campaign, finishing with 14 passes defended and an opposing passer rating of just 71.3. While he might not possess the raw upside of a player such as Jaycee Horn—who went higher in the redraft despite his own season-ending injury—his dependability would be huge for the Titans.

Tennessee ranked just 25th in passing yards allowed last season and surrendered 348 passing yards in a three-point playoff loss to Cincinnati despite logging nine sacks. Having Stokes in that one might just have pushed Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game.

Ryan Tannehill not throwing three picks against the Cincinnati Bengals would have pushed Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game, but I digress…

After seeing the first-year impact Stokes made in Green Bay, it’s hard to argue with the logic behind this decision.

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Granted, Farley has a ton of upside if he can remain healthy, but Stokes is a more sure thing at the moment after having already proven he can hang at the next level following a successful rookie season. Farley, on the other hand, has not, and his injury issues remain a major concern.

Looking ahead to 2022, the Titans are depending on Farley to step into a starting role and will hope he can make the kind of second-year leap that teammate Kristian Fulton did.

Whether or not that happens in any form or fashion remains to be seen. As a result, Farley is arguably the biggest question mark Tennessee has on an otherwise set defense for 2022.

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Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth was expecting to be selected by the Jaguars in 2021 NFL Draft

Pittsburgh Steelers Pat Freiermuth was this close to becoming a Jaguar in the 2021 NFL draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth almost became a Jacksonville Jaguar in the 2021 NFL draft. He told Adam Breneman on his new podcast that Jacksonville called him on Day 2 of the draft, saying it would take him in the second round.

“I really thought I was gonna go to Jacksonville really with [my former tight ends coach Tyler Bowen],” Freiermuth said. “They called me and they were like, ‘Hey, we’re going to draft you at this spot (45).”

Freiermuth wasn’t the only one who thought the pairing would happen as many fans connected the dots and several mock drafts sent him to the Jags, too. After all, Bowen, who Urban Meyer hired last February, coached Freiermuth dating back to his time as a freshman at Penn State.

However, the Jags ultimately took former Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little with their pick in the second round.

Freiermuth added that he thought he was going to the Tennessee Titans after the Jags went in another direction. However, they also took a left tackle and selected Dillon Radunz of North Dakota State.

That allowed the Steelers to take him two picks later. He finished his rookie season, hauling in 60 catches for 497 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 8.3 yards per catch.

Freiermuth finally said that he’s thankful that he didn’t end up with the Jaguars.

It’s hard to not blame him after the dysfunctional season the franchise had under former head coach Urban Meyer. The Jaguars finished 3-14 and hold the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight draft.

However, it’s also a shame Jacksonville didn’t select him because Freiermuth was considered the second-best tight end in last year’s class behind former Florida star Kyle Pitts and the organization desperately needed a player like him.

Cardinals want to bring back Chandler Jones but not expected to use franchise tag

Chandler Jones, 32 years old and coming off a 10.5-sack season, could hit the open market next week.

Beginning Feb. 22, the Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the NFL were able to use the franchise or transition tags on one player scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the new league begins March 16.

The deadline to place such a tag on a player is Tuesday, March 8. One particular candidate for the tag is outside linebacker Chandler Jones, whose five-year contract with the Cardinals is set to expire.

However, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, while they do with to sign Jones and have him return for at least another season, they are not expected to use the franchise tag on him like they did in 2017.

Jones had 10.5 sacks in 2021, but only 5.5 after Week 1, when he tied a franchise record with five sacks in a game. He is the Cardinals’ franchise record-holder for sacks in a career.

He made $15.5 million in salary last year but because his cap hit was over $20 million, his 2022 salary under the franchise tag would be nearly $25 million because of the rule that requires the player to get 20% more than their cap hit the previous year.

He is 32 years old and likely still wants a high-paying, multi-year deal. The Cardinals want him back but also know they need to get younger at the position.

He may begin to negotiate with other teams on Monday next week if he and the Cardinals fail to agree on anything before then.

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Giants nab two Day 1 starters in latest CBS Sports mock draft

The New York Giants end up with a new starting right tackle and new starting edge rusher in the latest CBS Sports mock draft.

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Now that the 2022 NFL Combine is coming to a close and we have seen the underbelly of this year’s draft class, we have a better idea now when it comes to all of these mock drafts.

The New York Giants hold the fifth and seventh overall selections in next month’s draft and is great position to address some of the many holes on their roster.

Kyle Stackpole of CBS Sports has them doing just that in his latest mock.

Round 1, Pick 5 – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The Giants must do a much better job protecting Daniel Jones, and drafting Cross to complement Andrew Thomas on the edges would be a big step forward.

With Evan Neal and Ikem Ikwonu of the board, Cross is the next best lineman in the draft. The Giants almost have to take him here if they intend to beef up this flagging unit.

Cross should give them solid bookends at the tackle position and then there will be no more excuses for this offense to keep failing.

Round 1, Pick 7 – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Excellent haul for the Giants, who pair a potential cornerstone offensive tackle with a potential cornerstone edge rusher. Thibodeaux has all the physical tools to wreak havoc off the edge.

Strong, sleek, quick and confident, Thibodeaux is the perfect player to jumpstart the new Giants defense under coordinator Wink Martindale. Finally the Giants will have a player that offenses around the league will actually fear.

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Giants still searching for returns from 2021 rookie class

The New York Giants need a lot more from their 2021 rookie class, which is littered with potential, next season.

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Shortly after the 2021 NFL draft had concluded, the New York Giants saw a wave of positive reviews for the job general manager Dave Gettleman had done. Not only had the team compiled additional future draft assets, they maximized a negative situation and appeared to find quality talent.

But the positivity would be short-lived.

Out of the gate, cornerback Aaron Robinson and edge rusher Elerson Smith endured injury issues, while wide receiver Kadarius Toney couldn’t stay on the field for a variety of reasons. Then, early in the season, cornerback Rodarius Williams suffered a torn ACL, ending his promising rookie season.

The theme of the draft class was and remains the same: Tons of potential, but no solid returns.

Nick Shook of NFL.com recently graded each NFC East draft class and although he gave the Giants a solid letter score (B-), he came to the same conclusion.

The Giants’ entire 2021 season can be summarized by Kadarius Toney’s rookie season. The first-rounder struggled to stay on the field due to multiple injuries, but when he was available, he occasionally exploded, as in his 10-catch, 189-yard performance in Week 5. He just wasn’t available enough to make a significant difference for a struggling offense that saw its coordinator fired during the season. Toney could still make this pick look like a home run, but there’s a lot of boom-or-bust potential.

The Giants nailed the selection of Azeez Ojulari, who led the team in sacks with eight and figures to be a key part of this defense for years to come. Aaron Robinson played nearly a quarter of New York’s defensive snaps and might fill a bigger role in 2022, with James Bradberry potentially headed elsewhere due to cap constraints. Elerson Smith’s season was shortened by injury, but he did force a fumble in his limited action.

Gary Brightwell spent most of his season on special teams, getting just two touches in 13 games. Rodarius Williams’ season ended due to a torn ACL suffered in Week 5. Raymond Johnson played a rotational role as an undrafted signee and will have to fight to stick with the Giants in 2022.

Of the group, Toney is obviously the most important. The Giants desperately need a game-changing playmaker to emerge and he certainly has the athletic talent, but can he stay on the field?

And for the reasons Shook alluded to, Williams and Robinson may also become extremely important pieces for the Giants in 2022.

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NFL.com gives Texans B-plus grade for 2021 draft class

The Houston Texans had an underwhelming 2021 with a 4-13 record, but NFL.com gave them a B grade for their recent draft class.

The Houston Texans may have had a horrendous season that got another coach fired with a 4-13 record in 2021, but their draft class wasn’t that bad.

According to a recent evaluation from NFL.com’s Gennaro Filice, the Texans had a B-plus grade for their 2021 draft class.

The Texans drafted quarterback Davis Mills and receiver Nico Collins both in the third round. In Round 5, Houston also got twin selections in tight end Brevin Jordan and linebacker Garret Wallow. The Texans’ draft topped off with sixth-round defensive tackle Roy Lopez.

The bulk of Filice’s evaluation comes from the quarterback play with Mills, who went 2-9 as a starter but had an optimistic finish with a 2-3 record in the final five games, including a 41-29 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 that kept them out of the playoffs.

Let’s begin where everything begins in this league: at the quarterback position. In January of last year, Deshaun Watson requested a trade. A few months later, he was facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. Suddenly, the Texans had to start over at the most important position in the sport. They scrambled to acquire Tyrod Taylor in free agency and Ryan Finley via trade, then grabbed Mills with their highest draft pick. A five-star recruit out of high school, Mills was plagued by injuries during his four years at Stanford, starting just 11 total games before deciding to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft. The eighth quarterback off the board, Mills entered Year 1 as the anonymous backup to the emergency starter. But the Football Gods continued their relentless smiting of Taylor, who injured his hamstring in Week 2, forcing the rookie into action. Mills flashed promise in his first two months of NFL action — remember when he nearly slayed Bill Belichick’s Patriots with a 312-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece? — but Taylor regained the starting job upon return from injured reserve. Houston eventually went back to Mills in mid-December and the 23-year-old produced some sparkling numbers in his final five starts of the season: 68.4 comp%, 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio, 102.4 passer rating. He even outdueled quarterbacking darling Justin Herbert in a shocking upset of the Chargers. It remains to be seen what the rebuilding Texans do this offseason, but having an intriguing second-year option at quarterback is something no one saw coming at this time last offseason.

The Texans had the best draft class of the AFC South as the Jacksonville Jaguars were given a C-minus and the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts were each given a D-plus.

With four picks in the top-100, including No. 3 overall, if the Texans are able to have another B-plus draft or better, it could be the finishing touch to complete the rebuild in the second year of Nick Caserio’s tenure as general manager.

What to expect from Titans’ 2021 draft class in 2022

Here’s what we want to see out of each member of the Titans’ 2021 draft class in 2022.

For the second straight year the Tennessee Titans didn’t get much out of a draft class. Just like the 2020 group, the 2021 class saw some players deal with injuries, while others showed they needed more time to develop.

The exception to the rest was cornerback Elijah Molden, who worked his way into the role of the team’s primary slot cornerback — and from Week 3 on, he performed as arguably the best rookie at his position in the NFL.

Edge rusher Rashad Weaver, cornerback Caleb Farley and linebacker Monty Rice each saw their seasons end early, although Rice did show enough to give us hope.

Offensive lineman Dillon Radunz and wide receivers Dez Fitzpatrick and Racey McMath simply weren’t ready for prime time, and Tennessee’s last pick of the 2021 NFL draft, safety Brady Breeze, isn’t even with the team anymore.

While things are no doubt off to a rocky start for this group as a whole, there is hope things can turn around in 2022. Here’s a look at what we expect from each member of the Titans’ 2021 draft class in their second season.