NFC Free Agent Draft Grades

PML 21 has officially started! PML kicked off the league with a free agency draft that allowed each team to select one player that they thought would make an impact on their team immediately or in time through on and off the field training. There were a lot of coaches that made solid selections that made sense and there were some coaches that skipped over a better overall player in order to fit a need. I’m going to break down each team’s free agent selection and give them a grade based on a few key categories; team fit, overall selection, and caliber of the player’s still available at their specific pick.

Chicago Bears: B+

The Bears selected SS Tony Jefferson with the 19th pick. The Bears have an aging secondary and despite Jefferson’s age of 28, he instantly became the team’s starting strong safety opposite Eddie Jackson. Jefferson was the 2nd safety selected in the draft but getting an 82 overall starting safety was a steal for the Bears this late in the draft. Jefferson is lacking in speed but his play recognition and hit power makes him formidable against the run. The only negative that the Bears have going for them with this pick is the length of time that Jefferson will be on the team. Jefferson’s age and possible regression make him realistically only a one year player for the Bears, who then will address the safety position in the off-season. 

Week 1 Impact – 3 tackles (1 solo), 1 deflection, and 52 snaps played.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A-

The Buccaneers stole the show as FS Earl Thomas fell to them with the 4th selection in the draft. Thomas was the highest rated player in free agency and hits on every marker for this team. Thomas is the 8th best player on the Buccs, but he is their best defensive back. The Buccs drafted FS Antoine Winfield Jr in the 2nd round in the real life NFL draft, so the PML Buccs moved their free agent selection to SS. The duo of Thomas and Winfield Jr should give the Buccs an edge against the run and in coverage. Earl Thomas is 31, so he will inevitably regress in physical attributes but his time on the team isn’t limited to only 1 season. Through PML’s regression system, Coach DLloyd could have Thomas ballhawking on the field for seasons to come. 

Week 1 Impact – 5 tackles (2 Solo), 2 deflections, and 74 downs played. 

Arizona Cardinals: C+

Breeland Speaks is a LE that was one of the more promising free agents and the Cardinals selected him with the 7th selection. The Cardinals defensive line is full of young talent similar to Speaks. The need for this selection was definitely warranted and Speaks is going to be a full-time starter for the Cardinals. Coach Goose wants to build Speaks throughout the PML Madden cycle but with higher caliber talent still in free agency, you have to wonder if an older veteran with this pick would help him more in season 1. Jabaal Sheard was still available and despite his age, would have brought a more fearsome edge threat opposite to Chandler Jones. I know Coach Goose has a plan for Speaks and I’m excited to see how he will develop him. 

Week 1 Impact – 1 tackle and 55 downs played. 

Dallas Cowboys: A 

The NFL Cowboys released Ha Ha Clinton-Dix just a few weeks ago and so came the rumours that the team was going to sign Earl Thomas. The PML season has started and Thomas was still a free agent, however there was no way he was going to last all the way to pick 31 where the PML Cowboys were picking. Coach CEO was able to draft SS Reshad Jones. This was one of the more surprising falls of the draft but it was to the benefit of the Cowboys. The Cowboys do have star safety Xavier Woods on the roster but their FS position is currently filled by two safeties that don’t have starting caliber talents. Jones gives the Cowboys a safety tandem that can tackle, disrupt the run, and defend the pass. Jones is 32 years old, so he’s more of a bandaid style player in season 1, but the sky’s the limit with this Cowboys team and Jones will help them make a deep run this season. 

Week 1 Impact – N/A

Philadelphia Eagles: B+

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was released by the Cowboys just before the season started and you have to wonder if his decision to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles comes with the satisfaction that he will face off against his former team twice a season. The Eagles hit on an immediate need with this selection. Dix was passed on by other safety needing teams presumably in part to his speed and coverage skills but he became an immediate starter for the Eagles. The Eagles will have to finagle their cap situation if they want Dix to play for longer than one season. Coach Burn adds a talented safety to a team with talent on both sides of the ball. This Eagles team is set up for success this season before Coach Burn will have to dismantle it due to falling into the negative cap wise in season 2. 

Week 1 Impact – 4 tackles ( 1 solo) and 59 downs played. 

Atlanta Falcons: C

The Atlanta Falcons selection of SS Eric Reid with the 17th pick is a bit of a confusing one. Reid was middle of the pack in terms of players at his position and when considering the free agents that were still available, this selection has me confused on the direction that Coach Antdog was trying to take. Reid is the 3rd best SS on the roster and this selection ‘could have been used to address a different part of the team. The linebackers on the Falcons are very young but could use a year to develop, so addressing that position may have been better suited for the team. Coach Antdog did put SS Keanu Neal on the block, so the thought process could be to let Neal walk in the off-season or to trade him and to re-sign Reid at a cheaper price. Reid has the ability to start for the Falcons. His speed, jumping, and hit power make him an excellent choice to user on defense to try and force turnovers, especially at the sub linebacker position.

Week 1 Impact – N/A

San Francisco 49ers: N/A

The San Francisco 49ers selected wide receiver Taylor Gabriel with the 5th selection. Unfortunately for Coach Blvdtalk, Gabriel opted out for the 20-21 season. It was stated that Taylor said that he wanted to make sure that his friends and family were safe despite receiving offers to play this season* (Per Taylor on his twitter.) There was a lot of talent left this early in the draft and Gabriel would have helped the 49ers on offense, but you have to wonder if this decision to pass up the other premier talent and pursue Taylor will impact his season. Coach Blvdtalk did have the ability to choose another free agent after the PML free agent draft, but he ultimately chose not to. 

New York Giants: A+

Gerald Mccoy suffered a season ending quad injury in real life and was released by the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Que and the PML Giants selected Mccoy with the 22nd pick and because PML doesn’t start with pre-existing injuries, this selection was the best of the draft. McCoy has star talent and is going to be the Giant’s starting defensive tackle. He is 32 years old, but as we’ve seen in the past, defensive linemen can still perform at a high caliber level when they’re older. Mccoy is sitting at 85 overall and he has a lot of juice still left. Coach Que will have a decision to make at the end of the season when resigning McCoy but with the Giant’s available cap space, it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t re-sign him for at least one more season. 

Week 1 Impact – 3 tackles (2 solo) and 62 downs played. 

Detroit Lions: B+

Clay Matthews was one of the more older players signed in the PML free agency draft, but coach Cookieboy was ecstatic to see Matthews fall this late in the draft. The Lions are riddled with low rated players on high contracts, but Matthews will be a plug and play for this first season, so his $5.65 Million dollar contract will be off the books when he needs to resign more important players next season.  He is the 2nd highest rated linebacker on the team and will predictably be a three down player on defense. His speed, strength, pursuit, and hit power make him a force defending the run. His blockshed and power move is high enough to rush the passer when needed. Matthews will regress in the off-season, but during the season, Coach Cookieboy will be able to build his younger linebackers in the background and get them 

ready for Matthew’s inevitable release next season.

Week 1 Impact –

Green Bay Packers: B+

The Green Bay Packers former owner was rumoured to have been colluding with former PML20 members that are not in PML21. Those former members allegedly humiliated the selected Packer’s owner for PML21 for still being in the league and he ultimately couldn’t handle the pressure and didn’t show up for the free agency draft and is no longer a part of the league. New Packer’s owner UncleSamsReject will step in and look to compete in what should be a very difficult division. OLB Cameron Wake was selected at the end of the draft and he was one the best free agents remaining. Wake will find himself on a snap count more than likely because the Packer’s defensive line and pass rushing group is one of the best in the league. Wake is 38 years old, so his retirement is imminent, but the Packers will hope that Wake can be dominant for just one more season.

Week 1 Impact – 4 tackles (3 solo) and 29 downs played. 

Carolina Panthers: D

Was using the 6th overall selection in the free agency draft on a 57 overall QB a smart decision on behalf of Coach JT? Tyree Jackson has all of the mechanics of a starting caliber quarterback. His 95 throw power and 85 speed are desirable traits but his accuracies are all very low. Jackson will need a lot of development before he will be able to routinely deliver the ball accurately to his intended receiver. I would have liked to see Colin Kaepernick be selected in this spot as an alternative. Although, with Jackson, the Panthers are getting a bargain at quarterback salary cap wise. He is making less than $1M compared to Kaepernick’s asking price of $17M. I hope that JT makes me eat my draft grade for this selection and is able to develop Jackson into a superstar caliber player. If somehow JT is able to get Jackson to perform above his ratings than this grade could easily turn into a more positive one at the end of the PML cycle. 

Week 1 Impact – 19/27, 374 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 134.4 QBR, and 51 downs played.

Los Angeles Rams: A

I absolutely love this selection by coach 9xRazzchamp. Sidney Jones fell to the 14th overall pick and gives the Rams a nice trio of young corners to build upon. Jones will line up opposite Jalen Ramsey and it is expected that opposing offenses will target Jones over Ramsey. Jones has star development and if he’s able to have an amazing game, he’s just one breakout story from superstar development. The Ram’s cap situation is limited going into season 2, but I expect it to be a priority for coach 9xRazzchamp to resign Jones. He’s a corner that will last the lifetime of the PML M21 cycle. 

Week 1 Impact – 5 tackles (3 solo), 2 deflections, and 39 downs played.

Washington Football Team: B

The average age for Washington’s starting offensive line is 27. Coach Tbandit drafted the third offensive linemen in the draft and Cordy Glenn is the team’s third highest overall linemen. Glenn was the highest rated linemen at the time of this pick and this selection does fit a need for this team but Glenn’s age doesn’t make him a candidate for resigning with the team after season 1. This Washington team is young but is in win now mode, so Glen should be able to provide Dwayne Haskins protection in the pocket. Glenn struggles with his run blocking, so I expect Tbandit to direct his runs more towards the right side of the field. LG Wes Martin sits behind Glenn and is a potential candidate as his replacement, but I think Coach Tbandit will seek to address this position again in the off-season. 

Week 1 Impact – 0 sacks given up and 59 downs played. 

New Orleans Saints: A

Coach Cornell addressed a major need with his selection at 8th overall. Ron Leary was the highest rated offensive linemen in free agency. Leary excels with his run blocking but will have to improve against the pass. The Saints drafted RG Cesar Ruiz in the first round in the most recent NFL draft, but with the selection of Leary, this will allow Ruiz to sit a year and develop. Leary’s $6M contract is a hefty price to pay moving forward, but with his replacement already on the team, Coach Cornell is prepared to let him go after the season. The Saints are a team that was already in a position to compete and despite Leary’s future up in the air, this one year rental should be able to help the Saints make a run in season 1. 

Week 1 Impact – 0 sacks given up and 74 downs played.

Seattle Seahawks: C

Coach Malirojo was the benefactor of the first overall selection in the PML draft. Earl Thomas and Jamal Adams could have made the best safety tandem in PML history. The thought of the Seahawks adding Thomas to that already forceful defense was going to propel the team into contendership. Despite this match made in heaven, coach Malirojo decided to draft a team favourite in Shaquem Griffin. He was most recently cut by the NFL Seahawks and placed on their practice squad. Coach Malirojo decided to reunite his virtual counterpart with the team again. The decision to draft Griffin isn’t a horrible one, but the Seahawks are already loaded at the linebacker position. In fact, Griffin is currently the 5th rated linebacker on the team. Griffin is one of a kind though. His speed is unmatched at the position and he is only 25 years old. Coach Malirojo can have Griffin rush the passer on his own or use his speed as a user player. Despite the controversial decision not to select Earl Thomas, I think Coach Malirojo’s decision to draft Griffin will help his team over the entire cycle. If Griffin is able to help his team and develop accordingly, this draft grade could skyrocket in time. 

Week 1 Impact – N/A

Minnesota Vikings: B

Coach Zstar and his Vikings had the 29th pick in the draft where they selected rookie cornerback Javelin Guidry. The Vikings corner group has an abundance of youth at the position but it is lacking speed. Guidry has blazing speed (96) and acceleration (93) but his coverage ability is awful. He is only 22 years old, so Coach Zstar has plenty of time to develop Guidry into a starting caliber corner. Guidry’s change of direction (89), jumping (85), and agility (88) ratings all make him the perfect slot corner to user. In Madden 21, it is difficult to cover multiple routes at once, but Guidry’s speed gives Coach Zstar the ability to shutdown more of the field than if he had a slower corner. There were higher rated players still available at this spot in the draft, but Guidry will be able to make an immediate impact even if he isn’t an every down player. 

Week 1 Impact – N/A

*N/A – Player wasn’t on the roster in time for their week 1 game.

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