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Green Zone League Articles

SI: 2021 Draft Grades: 1.1 - 1.19
By Bryan Laurenson
Special to gzl-football.com

Sports Illustrated

1.1 CB Rollo Salsbury
All the mocks had it right. The Falcons used the first overall pick of the 2021 Draft on the cornerback out of Beth Cookman. Salsbury has it all... size, speed, strength, and skill. It's hard not to imagine him becoming an elite shutdown corner before he hits the half way mark on his rookie contract. While the selection surprised nobody, the Falcons made the right choice in taking Rollo at 1.1.

1.2 QB Carson Wentz
Another unsurprising pick, and with good reason. The Vikings entered the draft with no quarterback on their roster that was worthy of starting a GZL game. They shipped off Nick Foles to Kansas City earlier in the offseason and presumably had always planned on taking Wentz with their 1.2 pick. Foles, while not fully developed, never clicked in Minnesota and failed to tally a QBR above 72 in his three seasons. Some critics were skeptical of Wentz being worth such a high pick, considering the amount of QB talent currently in the free agenct pool. In the end, the Vikings decided to make a long term investment at the position rather than pay a veteran. One does have to wonder, however, if the Vikings would be in a better situation had they brought in someone like Howard Christensen or Christian Ponder and used 1.2 to draft a stud in another area of need.

1.3 DE Purifoy Bolden
Some analysts had predicted that the Cowboys were targeting Bolden at 1.7, and as it turns out GM Van Wagner wasn't going to wait that long to get his guy. While 1.3 was on the clock, Dallas and Indy negotiated a trade and Van Wagner was able to land his pass rusher after all. The Tulane product highly resembles DE phenom Jadeveon Clowney who has lead the league in sacks 3 out of his 4 seasons in the league. We expect Puri to instantly make an impact on the Cowboys' DL and make a push for defensive ROTY.

1.4 HB Derrick Henry
Some say Henry is the best HB product to ever come along in the GZL Draft, and with good reason. He has no real weakness and should be a force to be reckoned with even in his rookie season. What's to say other than what's already been said?

1.5 OT Ronnie Staley
In a surprising move, the Bengals moved up from 1.15 to secure 1.5 from the Bears and acquired back-to-back picks. This is the first time in GZL Draft history that a single team has had two picks inside the Top 5. The Bengals gave up a lot to be at this 1.5 (Future 1+2 and a couple early 2nd's) but you can easily say it was worth the price for landing a cornerstone like Staley. He possess unparalleled physical attributes and the skills to start his rookie season. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Staley is not the best offensive linemen in the league a couple years from now. He will be clearing a path for Derrick Henry for the foreseeable future and I'd imagine will be protecting Josh Freeman this upcoming season as the Bengals push for the AFC title.

1.6 WR Michael Thomas
Thomas isn't 6'6". He didn't run a 4.25 at the combine. But he's about as studly as you get without being a freak. He's a scholar of the game and has all the physical attributes needed to immediately be the wideout at the top of the Texans' depth chart. We can only imagine how much Kendall Irving celebrated on draft night.

1.7 CB William Jackson
Despite moving down from 1.3, the Colts were still able to land a stud in CB Jackson. Though not as flashy as Rollo Salsbury, Jackson has all the elements of a top corner and resembles guys who have gone Top 3 in past drafts. Though what other need could the Colts have addressed here had they not let Travis Murphy walk in free agency?

1.8 DE DeForest Buckner
Buckner is unique, there's no doubting that. While he can play anywhere on the DL, you'd assume he is best suited at DT. We like unique players, but could the Niners have improved more by taking a bigger impact position?

1.9 WR Alfonso Alvarez
Alf has great size coupled with great physical attributes. While we don't see him making as quick as an impact as Michael Thomas, give him a few seasons to adapt and he should be a Top 10 receiver.

1.10 DE Shaq Lawson
Thanks to some studly other DE's taken earlier, the Panthers get solid talent at the end of the Top 10 with a guy like Lawson. Shaq can fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and could have an immediate impact depending on how he is utilized.

1.11 K Roberto Aguayo
Apparently the celebrating and partying after selecting Carson Wentz at 1.2 really did a number at the Vikings' front office. Hangover or not, you gotta make it to the podium in time... especially with a Top 15 pick. The Vikings time on the clock came and went and GM Cepparulo was nowhere to be seen. Several picks went by before Minnesota finally selected, and to everyone's shock Aguayo came off the board. There's no denying how important a solid kicker is in the GZL, and the Florida State star's stock had certainly been rising... but there was too much talent still on the board to take a kicker this early.

1.12 DT Sheldon Rankins
The Packers traded up to nab Rankins which left some people scratching their heads, mostly due to the fact that Green Bay already has a stable of athletic DT's. But with a solid roster top to bottom, GM Mullendore is in a position to do as he pleases. And Rankins will enter the league with a speed and strength combo that no other DT can claim to possess.

1.13 OT Taylor Decker
Decker is solid all around and could improve any OL in GZL. Not a flashy pick for the Redskins, but a good one.

1.14 CB Eli Apple
The Bucs didn't have a strong need at corner, but GM Fernandez is always a proponent of drafting BPA. The only thing lacking in Apple's game is perhaps strength, but it's a minor complaint. It will be interesting to see how he is used and developed in TB.

1.15 MLB DeShaun Kennedy
Some mock drafts had the Bears taking Kennedy at 1.5 to fill the hole made by Philip Bryant's departure. Chicago was able to trade down 10 spots and still land arguably the best LB in the draft, while filling a massive need in their defense at the same time.

1.16 C Ryan Kelly
The Niners had a need at Center and decided to fill it with their 1.16 pick. Kelly is about as solid as it comes at his position, so the only question here is whether Center is an important enough position to warrant a pick this high, especially with other elite OL still on the board.

1.17 OG Dewitt Ledbetter
With a deep OL class, the Rams didn't need a Top 5 pick to land extra special OL talent. Ledbetter could turn into a very unique player with his next level acceleration, along with his other solid physical and skill attributes. Perhaps one of our favorite picks of the draft.

1.18 OT Vincent Alexander
Like Ledbetter, Alexander is solid OL talent for this point in the draft. If the Bucs invest some STR training into him, he will definitely become a unique player.


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