The 2021 NFL Draft was a wild ride.
Cleveland seriously showed out for the #NFLDraft 😍
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 3, 2021
The first two picks went as expected, but from there on, it was chaos.
Trades scrambled the order from top to bottom, providing an opportunity down the road to imagine what could have been.
Some teams unexpectedly reached for players, while others scooped up talent that tumbled down the big board.
But now that the dust has settled, we finally have a better understanding of which franchises made the wisest decisions.
Here are the three teams with the best draft classes of 2021.
1. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins came into the draft loaded with capital.
After making a slew of trades from the last couple of years, they had five selections within the top 100.
They took an electric playmaker in Jaylen Waddle and a dynamic pass rusher in Jaelen Phillips with their pair of first-round choices.
Both of these picks addressed the most crucial needs for the Dolphins heading into the draft.
Miami comes away with Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips. WHEW! That's an outstanding pair of first round picks. Premium positions. Crazy good athletes. Exceptional tape. Well done, Chris Grier.
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) April 30, 2021
Waddle’s unparalleled combination of speed and quickness provides an element that the offense lacked last season.
His familiarity with former college teammate Tua Tagavailoa should prove to be a symbiotic relationship, too.
Meanwhile, Phillips has the athleticism and motor to help turn a good pass rush unit into a great one.
The Dolphins further fortified their roster by taking both safety Jevon Holland and offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg in the second round.
Holland cements the Dolphins’ secondary as one of the best in the league and has the versatility to switch between slot corner and center field.
Jevon Holland is a terror. Ran a 4.46 with terrific instincts, violent hitter, had 9 career interceptions in just two full seasons, but spoke more fondly of the art of tackling.
Over 800 career snaps in the slot, more than 300 as a free safety and 300 more in the box. https://t.co/VfvzReeYJr
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) April 30, 2021
Eichenberg isn’t particularly flashy, even by linemen standards, but didn’t allow a single sack his whole senior season at Notre Dame.
By giving Tagavailoa the support he needs and shoring up the few holes they had on defense, the Dolphins walked away as the draft’s clear-cut winner.
2. Cleveland Browns
These aren’t the Cleveland Browns your dad used to cheer for.
Years of misery are firmly in the rearview mirror, and it felt bizarre for Cleveland to pick outside of the top 5.
Nonetheless, the front office capitalized on an offensive-heavy first round by taking elite defensive prospects who slipped through the cracks.
They reinforced their pass defense by taking Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramorah with their first two picks.
Newsome, a fluid and explosive corner, was amongst the best in the nation last year at his position.
RD 1 | PICK 26 – Browns: Greg Newsome II CB, Northwestern
Newsome's elite pro day performance (94 athleticism score) was a big reason Newsome enters the draft with the 4th-highest chance of making the Pro Bowl within his first three seasons among 2021 CBs (10%).#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/jtP4Fowu0Y
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) April 30, 2021
Owusu-Koramorah tumbled in the draft with medical concerns but is a swiss-army knife that can do it all for a suddenly scary Browns defense.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: Second-highest slot coverage grade in the FBS in 2020.
He's a linebacker. pic.twitter.com/LLG1wa7vxX
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
The Browns also drafted defensive tackle Tommy Toigiai in the fourth round, who profiles as an immediate contributor with his stout run defense.
They didn’t completely ignore the other side of the ball either, as they took the fastest player in the draft in Anthony Schwartz.
Schwartz is still raw as a technician, but his elite speed adds another dimension to an offense armed with playmakers.
The Browns’ selections on defense, though, are what can transform this team into an annual contender for the Super Bowl.
3. New York Jets
The New York Jets still have a long way to go to become a respectable franchise.
However, their draft class was a good start for Robert Saleh and the new coaching regime.
Jets, man. Did exactly what you should do in the draft. Waited on RB and got a stud in Michael Carter. Are you kidding me with their draft? Whew
QB Zach Wilson
OG Alijah Vera-Tucker
WR Elijah Moore
RB Michael Carter
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) May 1, 2021
The Jets kicked off their draft with four straight offensive players, starting with BYU’s Zach Wilson.
While he needs to improve his decision-making, Wilson has the confidence, arm talent, and improvisational skills to succeed at the next level.
To help facilitate his transition to the pros, the Jets traded up to select versatile offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Protecting their new franchise quarterback had to be of the utmost importance, something Vera-Tucker excelled at playing for USC.
Alijah Vera-Tucker at left guard in 2019:
7 pressures allowed
590 pass block snaps
1.2% pressure rate (2nd-lowest among Power 5 guards)#Jets
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) April 30, 2021
To further help Wilson, the Jets chose Elijah Moore from Ole Miss and Michael Carter from North Carolina.
Moore, a home run threat from the slot with 4.32 speed, revamps what was once a desolate receiving corps.
Carter has his limitations but can step into the starting role with his physical running style and quick feet.
Jets pick UNC RB Michael Carter🔥
Most 20+ yard runs over the last two seasons in CFB (29).
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
After their barrage of offensive players, the Jets chose six defensive prospects, five of which played in the secondary.
It was one of the primary needs for Gang Green, who gave up the fourth-most passing yards per game in the league last year.
Some of their more intriguing selections included Brandin Echols, an athletically gifted yet raw cornerback, and Jamien Sherwood, a hybrid linebacker safety.
There is no guarantee that any of them will pan out, but the Jets at least added new blood for defense in dire need of an infusion of talent.