The 2021 NFL Draft was full of surprises and headscratchers.
Teams reached for players, while others ignored positions of need in lieu of a luxury pick.
Final NFL Draft Winners & Losers:
Winners: Ravens, 49ers, Eagles, Browns, Bears
Losers: Broncos, Packers, Colts, Raiders, Saints
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) May 3, 2021
Though there is always some rationale behind every selection, a few stood out as egregious mistakes.
But before we get started, let’s get one thing clear.
This list isn’t so much of an indictment of the player as it is a criticism of the decision-making process of the pick.
All of the athletes named below were exceptional college players that can develop into the stars of tomorrow.
And in a few years, they could make this instant reaction look foolish.
However, some franchises failed to maximize the value of their pick by taking players a little too early.
Here are the three worst draft picks of the 2021 draft.
1. Travis Etienne, RB – 25th overall
Travis Etienne is an example of a talented player going to a team with more pressing needs.
He had a brilliant career at Clemson and broke nearly every rushing record in the ACC.
🔸 ACC Rushing Record
🔸 ACC Rushing TD Record
🔸 ACC Points Record
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) January 3, 2021
The dual-threat also got reunited with Trevor Lawrence, which should be a mutually beneficial relationship as they both adjust to the NFL.
But while the logic of taking Etienne 25th overall is somewhat understandable, the decision is frustrating nonetheless.
Running back is one of the most replaceable positions in football and taking one in the first-round rarely ever returns value.
That the Jacksonville Jaguars already unearthed a gem in undrafted rookie James Robinson makes this move all the more confounding.
Robinson proved to be a legitimate threat out of the backfield last season and broke several records along the way.
Yet despite all their glaring holes on the roster, Jacksonville still decided that they needed to draft another running back.
On defense, the Jaguars gave up the third-most rushing yards and the sixth-most passing yards last season.
They bypassed several quality players that could have addressed any one of their many deficiencies.
Instead, they targeted a position that isn’t difficult to replace and didn’t even require a replacement anyways.
2. Payton Turner, DE – 28th overall
Payton Turner made waves late in the draft cycle as a potential first-round choice.
In a draft light on defensive linemen, here’s a name that could be called tonight: Houston DE Payton Turner could go in the first round due to his character, medicals and length, some NFL execs believe.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2021
While he didn’t produce gaudy statistics at Houston, he has desirable traits for a defensive end.
At 6’5″ with 35″ arms, Turner has the length and athleticism to disrupt the pocket.
He fits the New Orleans Saints’ 4-3 scheme, too, especially after 2020 sack leader Trey Hendrickson departed in free agency.
Turner still profiles as a raw talent, though, and has a long way to go before he develops into a consistent starter.
Thus, the Saints should have gone in a different direction to bolster their depth chart.
Outside of Michael Thomas, the receiver corps is underwhelming at best.
With Thomas banged up, Emmanuel Sanders, who left in the offseason, was the only wide receiver to record more than 40 catches or 500 receiving yards last season.
On defense, the cornerback is dangerously thin after Janoris Jenkin left in free agency.
Marcus Lattimore is a stud, but he can only do so much by himself.
Taking any one of the many polished wide receivers or cornerbacks available at the time of their first-round selection would have been a wiser choice.
3. D’Wayne Eskridge, WR – 56th overall
From a media perspective, players selected after the first round don’t have as much pressure to succeed.
But when you only have three picks the entire draft, you better hit on what little you have.
— Seahawks PR (@seahawksPR) May 1, 2021
The Seattle Seahawks came into the draft with obvious needs along the offensive line.
It should have been at the forefront of their wishlist, as Russell Wilson almost forced his way out of the Pacific Northwest after expressing his frustrations with the lack of pass protection.
And with such an impressive class of lineman, the Seahawks had the perfect opportunity to appease their quarterback.
Guys like Josh Meyers, Creed Humphrey, and Wyatt Davis were all still available when the Seahawks came on the clock.
They surprised everyone by taking a speedy and diminutive receiver out of Western Michigan, D’Wayne Eskridge.
Eskridge is a burner with his track background and was electric with the ball in his hands.
However, he has a limited route tree and struggles with drops.
Eskridge could leave a mark as a punt and kick returner, but investing second-round capital in a special-teams ace is a little rich, especially when the Seahawks had the chance to add some protection for Wilson.