The 11 best late-round steals in the 2021 NFL Draft include picks by Patriots, 49ers, Steelers
Let’s hope you didn’t sleep on the potential of impact players being taken on the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft. Although most of the picks from Round 4 through Round 7 are made by teams with the idea of improving their roster depth, some come away with prospects who have star potential.
This year, there are 11 late-round selections that stood out as great values on underrate games. Here’s a look at what teams got the biggest steals:
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Los Angeles needed a smart, productive pass rusher to boost its 3-4 under Brandon Staley and Rumph, once a first-round consideration, can be highly effective in the scheme. He’s also underrated against the run and can develop better coverage skills. He is solid support behind Joey Bosa as the team tries to replace Melvin Ingram.
Baltimore made it a point to get more technically sound with stronger, steadier more reliable possession receivers for Lamar Jackson. After using its first first-rounder on Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman, it landed a slightly different style of target, as Wallace has a little big-play burst with the capacity to help well wth quickness and toughness in the slot.
The Texans had a rough entry into the draft with third-round QB Davis Mills but rebounded well to gain needed assets for the passing game. Following up big possession receiver Nico Collins from Michigan, Houston landed Jordan, an athletic target who should have gone sometime in the second round. For whoever’s starting at QB, the Texans would be smart to deply Jordan as wideout hybrid more son than a blocker, given he has rare speed and quickness with which to stretch the field from his position.
New England has been great at recognizing the ideal Swiss Army knives for Bill Belichick’s defense over the years. McGrone, from the same program as Chase Winovich, will contribute right away as an active run stopper in their second-level rotation. At the same time, the Patriots will groom McGrone behind Dont’a Hightower with rapid development of his immense potential as a pass rusher and cover man.
The 49ers got cornerback/safety hybrid Ambry Thomas late on Day 2 as a backup and contingency plan for long-time first-round starter Jimmie Ward. They were smart to also think about the future of the position manned by Jaquiski Tartt, in essence strong safety. Hard-hitting safety turned GM John Lynch couldn’t ignore Hufanga this late. Hufanga flies upfield against the run and keeps getting better as a blitzer. He also has the effort, smarts and instincts to grow into an asset in coverage.
The Jets slow-played it with options at safety on Day 3 to help replace the lingering production void of Jamal Adams next to Marcus Maye. Their previous two picks related to the position were underwhelming, but Nasirildeen, who should have gone on Day 2, changes all of that. He is a thumping clean-up man against the run in the Kam Chancellor mode and he can also use his size and strength well in coverage, where has nice room to improve.
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The Vikings made a great pick with Twyman’s linemate, ideal 4-3 defensive end Patrick Jones, on Day 2. Tapping into Pitt’s front four again on Day 3 was another coup for GM Rick Spielman. Twyman has a quick twitch and nimble feet for a 301-pound frame. He also uses his hands and strength well. He can turn into a very disruptive interior pass rusher.
Roche lasted way too long on the board after his Hurricanes first-round pass-rushing teammates, Jaelan Phillips (Dolphins) and Gregory Rousseau (Bills). Roche tore it up for Temple with 13 sacks in 2019 before cooling off for Miami. The Steelers, who lost Bud Dupree opposite T.J. Watt, got a valuable situational rusher with Alex Highsmith promoted to a regular role. Don’t be surprised if Roche should produce well immediately on third downs.
The Bears got a strong second- or third-round value here, taking care of their need for an upgrade at slot receiver. They have been disappointed in Anthony Miller, and Newsome provides them with another big-play element for rookie QB Justin Fields to complement Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Newsome doesn’t get the job done with traditional speed, but rather quickness, smarts and burst in space after the catch.
The Chiefs capped off an impressive offseason rebuild of their offseason. After landing left guard Joe Thuney in free agency and left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in a trade, Smith is an impressive interior follow up to fellow rookie Creed Humphrey. Smith should have gone in the second round and will at first be a valuable swing backup with a chance to start at right guard down the line.
The Eagles got a good versatile playmaker made for their new-look defense with Jonathan Gannon. Johnson combines natural size and strength with high effort to go with his agility. He can handle tight ends in coverage and also get upfield quickly as a pass suher.
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