NFL Power Rankings: Where 49ers sit after 2021 draft


Finally, the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, and now, the long wait begins.Five teams, including the 49ers, found their franchise quarterback in Round 1. Trey Lance is headed to the Bay, Trevor Lawrence is a Jaguar, Zach Wilson is taking up shop on Broadway in New Jersey, Mac Jones is Bill Belichick’s choice to replace Tom Brady and the Bears got their man in Justin Fields.The Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins all had impressive drafts, while the Raiders once again left people scratching their heads and the Dallas Cowboys allowed their rival to secure the Heisman Trophy winner.Meanwhile, it appears the New York Jets are now, dare I say, competent?With the draft behind us and summer approaching, let’s see which teams are primed for a Super Bowl run in 2021 and which teams should start getting their draft boards ready a year out.

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Deshaun Watson’s future both with the Texans and in the NFL remains up in the air due to the 22 sexual assault lawsuits that have been filed against him. Second-round pick Davis Mills has talent but needs time to develop. It’s going to be a long year in Houston. 


The Lions' looooong rebuild got off to a good start with a draft class anchored by all-world left tackle Penei Sewell and Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. A competent Jared Goff could make the Lions frisky, but the glaring hole at receiver will be a huge problem. 


The Urban Meyer-Trevor Lawrence era is off and running. The addition of running back Travis Etienne should give the offense an added dimension. It’s a new day in Duval, but it will take time for Meyer and Lawrence to compete for an AFC South title. 


With the first-round selection of Florida’s Kadarius Toney, the Giants have fully rebuilt their offense and given Daniel Jones everything he needs to succeed. The only problem is … he’s still Daniel Jones.


Giving Jalen Hurts a true No. 1 weapon in DeVonta Smith is a big win, but the Eagles still have massive issues in the secondary and in the trenches. I like Landon Dickerson as a player, but the Eagles probably should have gone a different way in Round 2. New coach Nick Sirianni has a tough task ahead of him.


Man, the Jets being competent has me questioning my reality. Gang Green knocked Robert Saleh’s first draft out of the park. Franchise quarterback? Check. Stud O-lineman? Yep. Electric slot receiver? You bet yah. Do-everything backfield weapon? Oh yeah. The Jets are set up to be a thorn in the AFC East’s side. But they are still the Jets, so let’s pump the brakes a bit. 


I agreed with the decision to select Ja’Marr Chase instead of Sewell in Round 1. But the Bengals reached on their tackle of choice in Round 2, which means Joe Burrow still will be under fire in Year 2. Burrow and Chase will be electric, but the semi-rebuilt O-line has to hold up for the pairing to reach its true potential.


Sam Darnold gets a fresh start in Carolina and is shocked to find out that a team is, in fact, allowed to give its QB real weapons. With Terrace Marshall, Chuba Hubbard and Shi Smith joining Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, there will be no more excuses for Darnold, especially with Adam Gase’s stink washed away. 


You have to respect Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock’s drafting strategy. They take their guys, value be damned. It hasn’t been super successful so far. On the field, I can’t trust the Raiders defense to get a stop and now I have concerns that the re-jiggered offensive line can keep Derek Carr upright. The arrow is trending the wrong way in Sin City.


Last year’s Steelers season was all sorts of fools gold, and the return of Ben Roethlisberger’s corpse doesn’t give me much confidence 2021 will be successful. If the Steelers prove me wrong, it’ll be because Mike Tomlin remains one of the best coaches in the NFL.


After decades of searching, the Bears found their franchise QB in Justin Fields. If Fields starts, the Bears could once again threaten for a playoff spot. If it’s still Andy Dalton’s time, then I wouldn’t book your postseason tickets.


Trading back and still landing Christian Darrisaw was a massive win for the Vikings. The offense should once again be a potent attack, but Mike Zimmer’s defense has to return to respectability if they want to contend. If the defense is below average, Kirk Cousins will need to up his game to carry the Vikes to the postseason.


The Football Team has a chance to build a really special defense. It honestly might be one of the best defenses in the NFL next season. The receiving corps with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown has big upside, but can Ryan Fitzpatrick play smart, winning football for 17 games? Or will he turn into a pumpkin at some point? The Football Team’s 2021 hopes hang on the magic they hope resides in his beard and right arm.


If the Falcons trade Julio Jones and rob us of an offense with Jones, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts, we should riot. I still have major questions about the defense in the ATL, but the offense should be among the best in the NFL. 


Arthur Smith, Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith all are gone, and the Titans haven’t been able to adequately replace their production. Can Derrick Henry carry them to another AFC South title? I’m not so sure.


With Drew Brees set to broadcast Notre Dame games in the fall, Sean Payton will have to prove he can do it without the Hall of Fame quarterback. I’ve never understood the Taysom Hill fascination and last time we saw Jameis Winston play a full season he was throwing as many interceptions as touchdown. It’s going to be a high-wire act for Payton to walk in 2021.


Dak is back and the offense is LOADED. The Cowboys are going to score points, but can they stop anybody? New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn isn’t a miracle worker. 


The Broncos had a great draft but passed on Justin Fields for an inexplicable reason. If that reason is they think they can secure a trade for Aaron Rodgers, then it makes sense. If not, then I can’t get it. Either way, the roster is stacked and Teddy Bridgewater gives them a reliable veteran QB who won’t turn the ball over.


Let the Mac Jones era begin? Probably not in 2021. Cam Newton wasn’t as bad as he showed post-COVID infection and I expect the former MVP to win the starting job and show he’s not done yet. After a free-agent haul, the Patriots had a stellar draft with Jones, Christian Barmore, Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson.


First-round pick Zaven Collins will fill in for the departed Haason Reddick, and Rondale Moore can give the Cardinals the dynamic, consistent slot receiver they wanted Christian Kirk or Andy Isabella to become. Expect Kyler Murray to take a leap in Year 3 and have the Desert Birds in the playoffs. All Coach Cool has to do is not mess it up.


Kwity Paye will give the Colts a much-needed pass-rushing boost, but their failure to replace recently retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo worries me. We’ve seen what happens when Carson Wentz feels the heat.


Another great draft for a smart organization. The Dolphins grabbed Alabama speedster Jaylen Waddle, Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, Oregon safety Jevon Holland and Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg in the first two rounds. If Tua Tagovailoa can prove his rookie year struggles were an aberration, the Fins will be a problem in the AFC. 


The Chargers had the best offseason of any team in the NFL. They rebuilt their offensive line to keep Justin Herbert upright after he was pressured on 37 percent of drop backs in 2020. The draft was the icing on the cake for the Chargers as they plugged their two biggest holes with stars in offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. Add in a coach who knows how to manage a clock, or at least knows the clock exists, and the Chargers should be a playoff team next year.


Russell Wilson hasn’t changed addresses yet: As long as he’s a Seahawk, they’ll be a threat in the NFC West. The addition of D’Wayne Eskridge will give Wilson another speedy deep threat who can take the top off of defenses.


Lamar Jackson has to love the addition of Rashod Bateman, giving him a true No. 1 receiver and moving Marquise Brown to the more appropriate No. 2 spot. Add in Odafe Oweh, Tylan Wallace and Shaun Wade, and the best-drafting organization in the NFL did it again. The Ravens need to take some pressure off Lamar’s shoulders if they want to be a real Super Bowl threat.


The Browns had a very impressive draft, adding cornerback Greg Newsome, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah and offensive weapons Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton. I’ve bought all the Browns stock and am ready to be hurt again.


A fully healthy 49ers team should be right back in the thick of the Super Bowl race in 2021. The 49ers finally found their QB of the future in Trey Lance, but don’t expect him to factor into the real Revenge Tour. It’s still the Jimmy G Show, for now.


Palace intrigue surrounds Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers is unhappy and reportedly wants out, or wants to send general manager Brian Gutekunst shivved and thrown overboard. Times are dicey in Green Bay. But it’s May, and I put money on Rodgers being the starting QB come Week 1. If not, make sure to tune into Jeopardy tonight at 8 p.m.


I’m still all the way in on the Matthew Stafford-Sean McVay combo. The Rams don’t have the best roster in the NFC West, but I’d still pick them to win it right now.


Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham should give the Bills more burst off the edge. As long as Josh Allen’s incredible uptick in accuracy last season wasn’t a fluke, the Bills will be back in the thick of the AFC championship race.


The Bucs brought the entire band back together for a repeat bid. They also drafted Kyle Trask who gets the privilege of sitting behind Tom Brady for the next three to 10 years. (This is only partly a joke.)


The Chiefs’ Super Bowl repeat dream was dashed by a bad offensive line. So, they did what smart organizations do and totally overhauled their weakness, adding Joe Thuney, Kyle Long and Mike Remmers in free agency, trading for Orlando Brown Jr. and drafting Creed Humphrey. Safe to say Patrick Mahomes and Co. are out for blood.

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