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Michael Rossi’s 2021 Draft Position Rankings

          In one of the wildest and most unprecedented football seasons we’ve ever seen, the players proved their resilience and commitment to the game every week. While there are far fewer draft declarations this year than we’ve seen in previous times, this class does not lack for talent or depth. This is not a list of how I think the draft order will play out, it is a ranking of which prospects I think have the best chance of success in the NFL. There is never a consensus on how people rank their prospects and everyone has their own opinions. The list and rankings you will see here are the culmination of countless hours watching film, studying future trends, patterns of the past, reading professional scouts’ takes, and developing my own system and preferences. I truly loved creating this and I hope you enjoy reading it just as much. Thanks for giving it a shot. Let’s get ready to rumble. Offense up first.

 

Quarterbacks:

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Lawrence is the number 1 overall prospect in the 2021 Draft because of his combination of arm talent, athleticism, decision making and resume. He lost his top 2 receivers this year (one to the draft, one to injury) but he still asserted his will throughout the season and proved his status as QB1. Lawrence’s talent makes him one of the best prospects since Andrew Luck and there is no need to overthink the pick if you’re Jacksonville.

2. Zach Wilson, BYU

Wilson has decent size and athleticism, but his arm talent is off the charts. He can sling the ball to any spot on the field with velocity and accuracy. What makes him even more special, he can do it off platform and from different arm angles. He routinely makes plays outside the pocket and extends plays with his feet which is a must-have for young QBs in today’s NFL. The knocks against Wilson are that he can get a little greedy sometimes and makes some questionable pre-snap decisions. I don’t see level of competition as a big minus because of how dominant he was. That being said, BYU was far better than most of their opponents and there were times when the Cougars could pull any play out of a hat and be successful. I expect to see some growing pains, but Wilson has all the necessary talent to lead a franchise.

3. Justin Fields, Ohio State

Justin Fields had one of the most impressive stat lines in Big Ten history in 2019 throwing for 3,273 yards 41 TDs to just 3 INT’s and added another 9 TDs on the ground despite being taken out of the game early almost every week. He led the Buckeyes to a Semifinal game and came up just short against Lawrence and Clemson. Then, in 2020, he took his team back to the CFP and beat Lawrence and Clemson handily. In fact, he outplayed Lawrence in that game while playing through injury. Fields’ issues are with the mental processing of coverages and timing which can be fixed. While I like his arm talent, he doesn’t have the extra ability to make off platform throws easily or change up his release and still be accurate. Overall, Fields is as tough as they come, he’s physically gifted, and he’s a proven winner making him QB3 in this draft.   

4. Trey Lance, NDSU

Lance came out of nowhere in 2019 to lead the Bison to yet another National Championship, throwing 28 TDs and 0 INTs which is unheard of, especially for a redshirt freshman. His stat line is impressive but the physical tools he possesses are equally eye catching. His arm strength allows him to drive balls to the sideline accurately and his physical running style should remind people of Jalen Hurts. The biggest concerns I have are the competition level he faced and the fact that he will only have one true season of college football under his belt come Draft Day. I’d also like to see him be quicker to get through his passing progression and be more aggressive pushing the ball downfield. There were times he didn’t pull the trigger when he could’ve had big plays. Most of the time accuracy fine but he had some bad misses on tape that could turn into interceptions in the NFL. Ideally, Lance gets to sit behind a veteran and learn before taking the field as the franchise quarterback.

5. Mac Jones, Alabama

6. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

There is a lot to like about Kellen Mond. Physically, he has a great arm, his throwing mechanics are clean and consistent (which makes for good accuracy), and he is good athlete with his legs. His intangibles are also impressive with 3.5 years of SEC starting experience, high football IQ, leadership, and command of the offense. He finished his Texas A&M career with 93 total touchdowns and had his most efficient year as a senior. Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher raves about his love for the game, work ethic, and mental makeup. Mond needs to clean up the timing on some of his throws, decision making, and overall consistency. I don’t expect Mond to ever become an elite NFL quarterback because I don’t see great creativity or the “It” factor with him, but I still like him. I think he could possibly quarterback a lower-end playoff team with the right pieces to support him.

7. Davis Mills, Stanford

8. Kyle Trask, Florida

9. Feleipe Franks, Arkansas

10. Ian Book, Notre Dame

Running Backs:

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama

Take one look at Najee Harris and it’s clear that he is built for the NFL game. He is a big back at 6’2, 230 but he still can make some moves in space and pulls off some highlight reel hurdles. He has exceptional feel for the situation developing in front of him, allowing him to maximize every touch. He can also change his style of running from play to play and even within a single play, going from elusiveness to power in a blink. He also showed that he is a weapon in the passing game posting 10 career TD receptions. He doesn’t offer game breaking speed at the second level, but he still rips off big gains when he finds open grass. Like all of Alabama’s prospects this year, Harris had the best offensive line and the best passing game in college football so things will not be as perfect around him as a pro.

2. Travis Ettiene, Clemson

One of the most dynamic players in the country, Travis Ettiene is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. He can make people miss in space, run around people with his speed, and has also shown that he can run through guys for extra yards. He fights for every yard and is a proven workhorse who can handle 20+ touches per game. He is a special athlete that will add tons of pressure on opposing defenses.

3. Javonte Williams, UNC

Williams is one of the nastiest runners to come into the league in recent years. He can beat tacklers in so many ways which is part of what makes him an intriguing prospect. He possesses high-level burst, contact balance, and cutting ability, and he is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He is a former linebacker, and it shows when he decides to lower his pads into defenders. He is definitively the hammer, not the nail. He can still fine tune his understanding of blocking schemes, but his well roundedness and play demeanor should be instant impact traits that will have him pushing for starter reps as a rookie.

4. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

5. Michael Carter, UNC

6. Khalil Herbert, VT

7. Trey Sermon, Ohio State

8. Chris Evans, Michigan

9. Rhamondre Stevenson, OU

Stevenson’s calling card is his impressive size (6’0, 230+ lbs.) and physicality, but he also shows surprising acceleration, and a nose for the endzone. He is not just a short yardage back either, he shows decent instincts and can break tackles in space, although nobody expects this to be his niche. He isn’t a home run threat, but he can handle an NFL workload and will catch defenders off guard with his subtle feet and burst. He should be a good mid-late round value pick and take meaningful reps in a backfield rotation if he protects the ball.  

10. Chuba Hubbard, OKST

Hubbard is another home run threat like Ettiene. He led college football in rushing in 2019 mostly due to his speed and vision. However, he had a hard drop in production in 2020 and never really found a rhythm. When he has holes to run through, he is dangerous, but he doesn’t have the footwork or center of gravity to drop his weight and change direction to create extra yards. He also lacks the receiving chops that NFL teams covet from every-down backs. I think Hubbard will need to find the right scheme fit to play to his strengths, but I am concerned that he relies too much on straight line speed and will not be able to find the same space at the next level.

 

Wide Receivers:

  1. J’Marr Chase, LSU

Chase had one of the best seasons ever by a receiver in 2019 and took home a Biletnikoff Award for it. I love his acceleration, body control, and game speed. When the ball is in the air, Chase goes up and wins it with his leaping ability, strong hands, and physicality at the catch point. He has also show that he understands how to shield defenders with his body on catches in traffic underneath. That, coupled with his ability to beat DBs off the line and win his route put him in the conversation to be at the top of a loaded receiver class in 2021. Let’s not forget, Chase was Joe Burrow’s #1 target when the Tigers lit up college football. His running mate from that team, Justin Jefferson, had one of the best rookie seasons ever for a wideout. Chase could be even better.

2. Devonta Smith, Alabama

Devonta Smith is a route artist who puts DBs on their heels and creates separation consistently. He was one of the only players to give All-Everything freshman Derek Stingley nightmares in coverage, beating him for a pair of deep touchdowns in 2019. All he did in 2020 was win the Heisman, dominate the National Championship game, and complete his career as the most decorated receiver in Alabama and SEC history. He has great hands, quick acceleration, and fantastic competitive instincts. The knocks on Smith are his stature (6’0, 175) and his timed speed. However, he is one of those few players where you just run out of reasons not to bet on him despite below average build, strength and speed.

3. Jaylen Waddle. Alabama

Waddle’s calling card is his speed and elusiveness. He may be the fastest player on Alabama’s roster this year and it translates to the field. He only had 33 catches in 2019 but those were good for a 17 YPC average. He is also a major weapon on special teams and can contribute there immediately. He suffered a fractured ankle this season, but he is electric with the ball in his hands and has the clean routes and acceleration to create separation at any level of the field.

4. Kadarius Toney, Florida

5. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

Bateman is an impressive outside receiver because of his size (6’2, 210) and ability to go and get the ball. If you throw it in his area, there’s a good chance he comes down with it. He is not a burner, but he has good enough speed to threaten DBs over the top and, he is a savvy route runner who has a knack for creating separation. He does not have top end athleticism which could slow him down in the pro game but his natural feel for the game shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

7. Rondale Moore, Purdue

An electric playmaker, Moore forces misses tackles at a crazy clip (37 as a freshman). He has speed, wiggle, strength, and route running. Unfortunately, he has struggled with injuries the last two seasons and missed 11 of the last 18 games for Purdue. Not to mention he came in at just 5-foot-7, below NFL standards even for a slot receiver. On the flip side, he was one of the best players on the field in every game he played and there’s no reason to believe he can’t be dynamic as a pro. He will most likely get drafted later than some of the receivers below him, but I think he is going to find a way to be successful.

8. Terrance Marshall, LSU

9. Dyami Brown, UNC

10. D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

11. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC

12. Tylan Wallace, OKST   

13.  Nico Collins, Michigan

14.  Amari Rodgers, Clemson

15.  Tutu Atwell, Louisville

 

Tight Ends:

  1. Kyle Pitts, Florida

One of the best athletes in the country, Kyle Pitts has all the physical tools to be a star in the NFL. He moves like a receiver and can be a weapon from anywhere on the field. He was clearly Florida’s most dominant offensive player in every game he played, and frankly it wasn’t close. Tight ends don’t often take over games, but Pitts did it week in and week out. He can win the jump balls, he can win by outrunning you, and he can shake you at the top of his route to separate. He may not be the traditional blocker that mashes in the run game, but his dynamic play making is better served in a more modern flex role.

2. Pat Friermuth, Penn St.

A classic all around tight end. He can block, he can catch, and he’s got a pro-ready body. He fits well in a more traditional run-first and play action type of offense because of his ability to block, which will set up play action opportunities for him. He’s a really good athlete but he isn’t as dynamic as some of his peers who can line up and play like a receiver. That makes him less of a fantasy/statistical star, but his role can be just as valuable in the right system. He likely faces a learning curve at the next level where he’ll need to improve his route running to separate from man coverage against higher level athletes.

3. Brevin Jordan, Miami

Brevin Jordan is a playmaker and fantastic athlete like Pitts (although Pitts is in a realm of his own). He is undersized for a true Y tight end, but he fits as more of an Evan Engram “big receiver” mold. He has great run-after-catch ability and is too fast for most linebackers, which creates opportunities for other guys around him. I love his effort as an inline blocker, but I don’t envision this ever being his forte. He does show some promise as an edge blocker with the speed to take on DBs and quicker linebackers in space. Does have injury history. Jordan also did not test as well as I thought he would at his pro day which could hurt him.

4. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame

Tremble has the frame, the athleticism, and the competitive edge to do the dirty work as a true tight end. He really gets after people as a blocker and could be a weapon in the passing game with some refinement and dedication. He didn’t have great production and he has a tendency to be over aggressive and forget technique. He is also a tad small and not very long by position standards.

5. Hunter Long, Boston College

6. Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss

7. Tre McKitty, Georgia

8. Jacob Harris, UCF

Harris is a really just a jumbo receiver with off the charts athletic testing numbers. He ran a 4.39 40, hit a 40.5 inch vertical, 11’1” broad and 15 reps on the bench. NFL scouts believe his future is at tight end but there will be a longer than average learning curve for him because of the position switch. Tight end is already one of the hardest positions to transition into from college so whoever drafts him should have a development plan in place for him.

9. Zach Davidson, Central Missouri

10. Nick Eubanks, Michigan

 

Offensive Tackles:

  1. Penei Sewell, Oregon (6’6, 330)

What makes Sewell so dominant is his violent strength and his short area change of direction. He maximizes his length and width to make it nearly impossible for pass rushers to find a path to the QB and once he gets his hands on to them, they usually stall. He’s not a perfect prospect though. He needs to be better at placing his hands when he makes contact and keeping his feet moving on contact. He also tends to go for the kill shots in the run game rather than settling his feet and driving with a good base. Overall, Sewell is incredibly naturally gifted, but he is not a polished All-Pro level player right now like Quenton Nelson was a few years back.

2. Rashawn Slater, OG/OT, Northwestern (6’3, 305)

3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech (6’5, 314)

Darrisaw is a man that should not be able to bend and move the way he does at his size. He bends extraordinarily well through his knees and hips allowing him to tap into all the power in his lower body. He is also a quick mover with the ability to get out in space, pull across the formation from the tackle spot, or get up to the second level. He sometimes struggles in pass protection with letting his edge get softened because he can stop his feet on contact and let his outside arm get pinned. He can also stop his feet in the run game which makes him less of a mauler than he could be. These issues can likely be coached up and his athletic ability is worth betting on.  

4. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State (6’6, 320)

Jenkins an absolute mauler when he gets his hands locked onto people. He has natural power to drive people into the ground with his upper body torque and core strength. Despite his short arms, he rarely allowed sacks on the edge. However, he will struggle with explosive speed rushers due to his tendency to bend at the waist and letting his technique break down when he gets rushed to his spot. He prefers to engage rushers near the line of scrimmage, rather than taking a traditional pass drop, allowing him to get his hands on them before they build up speed. Overall, I love Jenkins violent finishing skills and explosiveness and I think he can play either guard or tackle.

5. Samuel Cosmi, Texas (6’7, 309)

Cosmi has great length and is a nimble mover for his size. He does a great job of mirroring the rush and getting his hands on people. He struggles when people get their hands into him and can lose ground to power rushes, so he needs to work on punching and keeping pass rushers off his body. Strength concerns could keep him out of the first round despite being a very athletic mover. He isn’t much of a people mover in the run games and can fall off blocks at times. This is nit-picking but he on the thinner side compared to some of his classmates. I love his length, athleticism and feet but he needs to get stronger first and foremost before he can be trusted on the blindside.

6. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame (6’6, 302)

7. Brady Christensen, BYU (6’5, 302)

8. Stone Forsythe, Florida (6’8, 307)

9. Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa (6’8 ½, 311)

Brown is an athletic freak show with his mountainous size and outstanding strength, explosiveness, and quickness. Brown put up 33 reps of 225 (although 4 were not “officially” counted), ran a 4.88 in the 40, broad jumped 9’9”, and performed exceptionally in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills. As a football player, Brown explodes into defenders and drives them out of the play or into the ground. Despite his extreme height, he plays with good bend and pad level, sinking his hips to create leverage. The level of competition and the advanced techniques of the NFL may give him trouble during his transition because he is still relatively new to playing tackle. The only physical trait that I see as an area to improve is his grip strength. Too often he will get his hands into the shoulder pads of a pass rusher, only to lose his grip when they fight to get loose. There were concerns about his functional strength because he added so much weight so quickly at UNI (90 lbs. in three years), but I think that has died down during the draft process. I still see him developing into a starting caliber swing tackle because of his superior athleticism and because he has proven to be coachable and has the weight room work ethic to continue his ascension.

10. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State (6’4, 305)

 

Interior O-Line:

  1. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC (6’4, 315)

Vera-Tucker is a powerful, balanced, street fighter of a lineman. He is able to get into pads and dictate where his matchup is going with his strong hands and strength. He is agile enough to mirror defenders in pass pro and balanced enough to reset himself when he gets knocked back. He doesn’t have great length and can get caught playing too high sometimes which allows defenders to push the pocket on him. He can also be more consistent with his hand placement as there are reps where he will fall off a block because his hands get outside the defender’s frame. Overall, he is powerful, balanced and coordinated which makes for a high ceiling on the interior but there are several aspects to his game he needs to clean up before he gets there.

2. Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama (6’6, 325)

I love the way Landon Dickerson plays football. The number one trait he brings to the table is his tenacity. He works hard and he works violently to put defenders where he wants them to go, and he wins these battles almost every time. He has a huge frame for a center, and he uses that length well to get his hands into people’s chest and lock out. Once he locks out, he is in control with high end grip strength and a solid anchor. He’s not going to be confused with the athletic freak shows of the world, but he moves well enough to play in any scheme. Dickerson’s mental makeup is top notch, and his presence would be a boost to whatever locker room he ends up in. The only thing standing in his way is his brutal injury history which includes two torn ACL’s and two season-ending ankle injuries. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall into Day 3 of the draft, but his talent is worthy of a Day 1 pick.

3. Alex Leatherwood, OG, Alabama (6’6, 312)

Leatherwood was the Left Tackle for the National Champs and the Joe Moore Award winning, top O-line in the country. He plays with a solid base, good hand placement and the lower body power to uproot linemen and drive them out of the hole. He has the length and know-how to play tackle as a pro, but he can be outmatched by twitchy edge rushers. He has a hard time recovering if his initial punch gets beaten and will take penalties when this happens. I think his best position is at guard, but he deserves a chance at tackle. Positional versatility is valued along the O-line in the NFL and Leatherwood could play anywhere in a pinch. An underrated part of his game is just how steady of a player he is both mentally and physically.

4. Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma (6’5, 320)

5. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan (6’5, 320)

Mayfield is young and only has one true year of playing under his belt, but his demeanor and strength makes him a great prospect. He excels at getting himself to the right spot and he showed improvement from game to game. He dictates where the defenders are going to go and that allows him to win his 1-on-1 matchup. He can improve his targeting and his pad level, and I would’ve liked to see him have better testing numbers at his pro day.

6. Quinn Meinerz, OG/C, Wisconsin-Whitewater (6’3, 320)

7. Josh Myers, C/OG, Ohio State (6’5, 312)

8. Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame (6’5, 330)

9. Jackson Carman, OG, Clemson (6’5, 335)

Trevor Lawrence’s blind side protector the last two years, Carman has big game experience and has seen a lot of different defenses as teams tried to get pressure on #16. He is a little stiff which makes his pass sets and change of direction more labored. His tightness forces him to drop his hands outside his frame to cover a wider area, allowing defenders into his chest. He also struggles with his punch timing, getting caught lunging, and will take holding penalties when he gets beat to his edge. Guard plays to his strengths because Carman is a bully of a run blocker with a wide frame and a club bouncer mentality. He is strong enough to anchor against other large humans and quick enough in a straight line to pull around the formation. He may not be ready to start right away but he could end up being this year’s Damien Lewis of the Seahawks who came on late in his rookie year.  

10. Kendrick Green, OG/C, Illinois (6’2, 305)

 

Defensive Tackles:

  1. Christian Barmore, Alabama

Barmore is someone who I think took a massive jump in 2020. He played limited snaps as a redshirt freshman but flashed dominance that has only become more consistent as a sophomore. He is too strong and athletic to handle 1-on-1 on the interior and he is always active with his hands and his feet. He can walk opposing linemen back on a bull rush or he can beat them with his hand swipes and quickness. He needs to work on maintaining his rush lane as he can get out of position while trying to make the sack. Barmore should go in the first round because his talent is too good to pass up, especially because he is well ahead of his DT classmates at this point.

2. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington

Onwuzurike is a force in the middle for the Huskies defense. At 6’3 and 290 lbs. he has exceptional explosive quickness in his get off and does an excellent job of using it to get into the O-lineman’s chest and reset the line of scrimmage. He can bull rush straight into the QB’s lap or swim around his blocker, but right now he lacks the nuance to turn his rushes into sacks. Part of his development will be to add more hand fighting techniques and learning how to have a pass rush plan while maintaining his lane. His hustle and big man athleticism stand out on tape, but he has a lot of room for improvement still.

3. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

Super instinctive and athletic, Nixon has the quick reactions and vision to wreck a play on any given snap. He has a certain balance and patience that allows him to explode at the right time and aggressively hunt the ball. He is an Iowa product so he obviously well coached, but his athleticism makes him stand out. He would be a valuable 3-down interior presence with the versatility to take on double teams or shoot gaps and penetrate up-field. He does not always play with urgency and needs to develop a better understanding of how to attack blockers. He also needs to get stronger in his upper body to match the power he plays with in his lower half.  

4. Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech

Williams has been a late riser because of his explosive athleticism and ability to cause chaos in the backfield. He is strong and uses his hands well to shed blockers and plays with good leverage. He is a bit of a tweener at 6’3 and 284 lbs. with shorter arms but he should be viewed as a high upside chess piece on the defensive line.

5. Alim McNeil, NC State

6. Jay Tufele, USC

Tufele is big and athletic and plays like a bull in a china shop with his relentless energy and eagerness. He is relentless with his hands and shows great effort to get to the ball. On tape he looks like he has the explosive physical traits the NFL covets, but he didn’t back that up at his pro day. I have to wonder if opting out of the 2020 season hurt him because he looked slow going through the drills. Still, the tape shows someone who plays with great speed and effort and that still has value.

7. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State

8. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA

9. Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M

10. Marlon Tuipolotu, USC

 

Edge:

  1. Kwity Paye, Michigan

From being a refugee of a war torn Liberia to a low 3-star recruit from Rhode Island, Kwity Paye has one of the more incredible back stories in the draft. Paye also has freak-level athleticism at 6’2, 260 pounds that his production is just beginning to catch up to. He was rated the #1 “Freak” in the nation because of his short shuttle time of 6.37, which would’ve been #1 for any position at the 2020 NFL Combine. On top of that, he runs a 4.52 in the 40, has a 35.5 inch vertical, and benches 225 lbs. 36 times. His incredible athleticism and strength have him generating top 20 buzz in a draft that doesn’t have a definitive headliner at Edge like the Bosa brothers or Chase Young were. His strength, ability to play the run and pass rush, and freakish athletic traits give him an exceptionally high floor and an even higher ceiling.

2. Jaelan Phillips, Miami (FL)

A former #1 recruit, Phillips athletic ability has never been in question. Neither has his football ability. It’s been injuries that have set him back and it’s injuries that make him a terrifying investment from an NFL perspective. He was told by UCLA doctors that he should medically retire from football due to his concussion history. In an attempt to resurrect his career, he transferred to Miami, sat out a year because of transfer rules, and came back in dominant fashion. He took a few games to shake off the rust but after that he was nearly un-blockable. His elite athletic traits, violent hands, and instincts are high 1st round level, but medical evaluations will be critical for him. My ranking airs on the talent and potential side but the risk involved might push him lower on NFL draft boards.

3. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

At 6’2, 249 pounds, Ojulari is a quick twitch edge rusher with the length and strength to be a 3 down presence. Ojulari led the Bulldogs in sacks by using violent hands and a high level dip-and-rip move to turn the corner off the edge. He can rush standing up or with a hand in the ground, but he needs to add some diversity to his pass rush and develop counters for when his first move is taken away. I like his scheme versatility and athletic ability, but he needs to show he can use other moves to get to the quarterback or he will get swallowed by NFL tackles.

4. Jayson Oweh, PSU

Another legit “Freak”, Oweh might be the most outstanding athlete in the entire draft, at any position, because of his speed. At Penn State’s pro day, he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.36 seconds at 6’5 and 257 lbs. That alone will get him picked in the top 32. He is a classic case of “traits over production” at this point with zero sacks in 2020. Oweh needs to add upper body power to lock out on the edge and be able to get a tackle’s hands off his body. He can get knocked around by more powerful players. Overall, the physical talent he possesses is off the charts and he will probably be a 1st round pick, but whoever drafts him will need to be patient while he puts the puzzle pieces together.

5. Joe Tryon, Washington

6. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)

From his measurables (6’6 ½, 265 lbs., with 34 ¾ inch arms) and sack numbers (15.5) alone Rousseau screams 1st round pick. He wins with his length and motor right now and hasn’t shown a need for having a plan or complex moves and counter moves. Having opted out of the 2020 season and starting his journey to the NFL, he should have plenty of time to add the technique to his game that will make him more dangerous as a pro. However, he suffered from a little bit of “out of sight out of mind” and then his pro day testing numbers were nothing special. He has likely fallen out of the first round, and some sources don’t even have him as a top 75 player anymore. Still, there are some good things to work with and he could find himself a nice career in the right situation.

7. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest

8. Payton Turner, Houston

9. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma

10. Joseph Ossai, Texas

 

Linebackers:

  1. Micah Parsons, Penn State

Another legit freak of an athlete from Penn State’s defense, Parsons is considered potentially the top defensive talent in the entire draft. Like most freakish athletes, he is still coming along with the mental pieces of the game. Although he opted out of the 2020 season, he flashed the dominance to single-handedly take over games in just his second year as an off-ball linebacker. With more experience and coaching, Parsons could become a game changer for whoever picks him up. Some people have questioned his maturity but after looking into it, I’m not personally worried about it affecting him long term.

2. Jeramiah Owusu-Koramoah, ND

Owusu-Koramoah is a hybrid type of nickel/linebacker/safety with his blazing speed and ability to cover downfield. He covers a lot of ground in a hurry which allows him to shoot gaps or beat the ballcarrier to the edge and blow up plays in the backfield. He also arrives with bad intentions. He is pretty good in man coverage especially on tight ends and running backs but can also match up on receivers.

3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Zaven Collins is not your typical off-ball linebacker. He is 6’5 and 260 pounds with over 33.5 inch arms. He runs the 40 in 4.67 seconds and has a 35 inch vertical. He is a smooth mover in coverage and a sure tackler in the run game. He has the tackle production and coverage skills to be a 3 down linebacker and he can be used as a pass rusher off the edge or blitzing from depth. He needs to get better at taking on blocks and being violent with his hands. While he plays with high effort, he can still be more aggressive on the field. Collins should be looked at as a highly versatile hybrid athlete that can flourish in the rights scheme making him worthy of Day 1 consideration.

4. Jamin Davis, Kentucky

One of the fastest post-season risers in the whole draft class, Jamin Davis is a spectacular athlete who finally started putting things together for the Wildcats in 2020. He is 6’3 ½, 234 pounds, runs a 4.37 (unofficial) 40, jumps 42 inch vertical, and hit 11’0” (132 inches) in the broad jump. Those are certified Freak numbers. He is still scratching the surface of his potential and has a lot to improve on, but his rare athleticism is worth betting on.

5. Nick Bolton, Missouri

Despite being short and not very long, Bolton is a tackling machine in the middle of the field who loves to run and hit. He is much more affective as a run defender and may be limited to a 2-down role, but boy is he good at it. He can shoot gaps or go through blockers with surprising strength and violence, and he strikes ball carriers the same way. His physical limitations will hold him back from being a Day 1 option but his ability to pile up tackles and set the tone in the run game should allow him to find playing time in a rotation. He would also make a great special teams option.

6. Jabril Cox, LSU

7. Chazz Surratt, UNC

8. Baron Browning, Ohio State

9. Pete Werner, Ohio State

10. Derrick Barnes, Purdue

 

Safeties:

  1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU

The better half of a very good safety tandem, Moehrig is the top overall safety on my board because of his smooth athleticism, range, and ability to read the offense. He has great ball skills and is a true defensive playmaker. He is a good but not great tackler, and his build can be described similarly. Moehrig is not an elite height, weight, speed athlete, and his play strength is slightly below average. Overall, I think he can man the back end of a defense at the NFL level and use his natural athletic instincts to create plays for his team.

2. Richie Grant, UCF

Richie Grant used the 2020 season to fly up draft boards by showcasing his high end explosiveness, ball skills, tackling, and overall physical nature. When he is hunting ball carriers, he looks like he is shot out of a cannon and he has a superb batting average with very few swings and misses. He plays faster than he tests and covers a ton of ground from the back end, but he is below NFL size standards. One thing he needs to work on is getting through his mental processes quicker as he can be late to react to certain route combos. At the end of the day, Grant possesses the play speed, tackling ability, leadership, and ball hawking skills to compete for a starting spot as a rookie.

3. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State

Nasirildeen has a hybrid body type (6’4, 215) and could play linebacker or safety, or work in a hybrid role. He is much smoother and better in coverage than his counterpart and is an accomplished tackler with over a hundred in 2019 before he tore his ACL. That injury limited him to just two games in 2020 but it shows a lot about the man behind the helmet that he didn’t opt out of the season completely. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did with how bad the ‘Noles were. His coaches rave about his leadership in the film room, locker room, and on the field. The biggest thing he needs to work on is how he plays with his eyes and seeing the play develop in front of him. He can truly play anywhere on the field, similar to former Seminole Derwin James. Finding a team that will maximize his skills could have this young man in a pro bowl sooner rather than later, IF he can stay on the field.

4. Jevon Holland, Oregon

5. Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech

Like his ACC counterpart, Nasirildeen, the Virginia Tech product is more of a hybrid linebacker/ box safety than a traditional last line of defense. He had a reputation as a workout warrior coming into the draft process and he backed that up at his pro day. Deablo measured in at 6’3 and 226 pounds, running a 4.42 40-yard dash, and broad jumping 10 feet 9 inches. He also had good shuttle times and put up a solid 19 reps on the bench with 33 inch arms. He is a former receiver who attacks the ball like he owns it, nabbing four interceptions in 2020. He is a good tackler and has taken on a linebacker’s physicality. Despite his impressive testing numbers, he should not be used to cover receivers man-to-man because his transitions are slow and he is a build-up runner who isn’t particularly explosive. With some fine tuning and a scheme that fits his skillset, Deablo’s athletic gifts and ability to learn should make him a key chess piece that can be deployed all over the field. He projects as a run and hit box defender with the ability to cover tight ends and make plays on the ball in zone coverage.

6. Jamar Johnson, Indiana

7. Andre Cisco, Syracuse

8. Tyree Gillespie, Mizzou

9. Talanoa Hufanga, USC

10. James Wiggins, Cincinnati

Wiggins is known for his wild numbers in the weight room and the track, which were enough for him to be on the aforementioned “Freaks List”. He was a first team All-AAC selection in 2020 and was a big part of the reason his team made it to the Sugar Bowl. He and his running mate, Darrick Forrest (who was also considered for this spot), were the erasers in the back end of the Bearcats defense and they were rarely tested. Wiggins has a natural feel in coverage, and the athletic ability to match feet downfield. He is a great tackler and coaches praise his intelligence, toughness, and work ethic. The factors working against him are his lack of ideal length and size and durability concerns from a torn ACL and later a torn meniscus that forced him to miss all of 2019. He was also unable to fully participate at his pro day and didn’t compete at the Senior bowl due to injury. Overall, he is not lacking from a football ability perspective, but the injury narrative will cause him to drop down the draft board. He could be a draft diamond like Julian Blackmon was for the Colts in 2020.

 

Cornerbacks:

  1. Patrick Surtain, Alabama

Another long, physical, Alabama corner that shuts down one side of the field. Surtain is the next one in the line that will likely find himself in the first round. His hand fighting and physicality allow him to stick on receivers’ hips down the field despite not having elite speed. He is quick to read the play and react appropriately. He is not shy in the run/screen game either, often making strong tackles behind the line. I love that he gets his head around and plays the ball instead of the man.

2. Jaycee Horn, SCAR

Horn has the physical and mental makeup of a great corner. He loves to go right at his matchup and mix it up, testing how tough you are. At 6’1 and 205 he is long and strong enough to match up well with bigger receivers. He is also explosive and can match deep speed. His aggressive nature can get him in trouble with penalties, but it is also what sets him apart from others in this draft class. I don’t know how well he matches up with route technicians who will challenge his footwork and technique so he may be limited with his assignments. Overall, He is a physical specimen at the position with the demeanor of an Aqib Talib type of corner who has no issues challenging receiver’s mentally and physically.

3. Greg Newsome II, NW

Greg Newsome is a top-tier athlete with exceptional man coverage skills and a knack for getting his hand on the ball and disrupting the catch point. He is super sticky in coverage and rarely allows separation. He runs a sub-4.4 in the 40, has the short area foot quickness and the explosive burst teams covet at corner to go along with above average length. There is a good chance Newsome becomes a Day 1 pick and a Day 1 NFL starter.

4. Caleb Farley, VT

An exceptional athlete, Farley was a quarterback for most of his life and just started playing corner in college. In that time, he has shown the instincts and tools to be an incredibly sticky defender. He eliminates separation in a hurry with his athletic burst and length, which also gives him an advantage in jump ball situations. He can get better within the first 2 seconds of a play with work on his press/hand technique and activating his feet. He is a good enough athlete to recover but it would take him to the next level to win right from the snap. Farley does have some serious injury concerns that will hurt his draft grade but when healthy he has unlimited potential. From a pure talent standpoint, he is the best CB prospect in the draft, but injuries hurt his stock.

5. Eric Stokes, Georgia

6. Asante Samuel Jr., FSU

7. Tyson Campbell, Georgia

8. Elijah Molden, Washington

9. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse

A fast riser in the draft process, Melifonwu checks every box athletically for the position with outstanding measurables (6’2 ½, 210), explosiveness (41.5 Vert, 11’2 Broad), and speed (4.48 40-yd). He could play either corner or safety and can match up with an Evan Engram-like Tight End. He greatly improved in his senior season, but he has to get better at finishing the play and not making the big mistakes that show up on his film.

10. Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky

11. Paulson Adebo, Stanford

12. Aaron Robinson, UCF

13. Ambry Thomas, Michigan

14. Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas

15. Zech McPherson, TTU

 

Sleepers: These are guys who didn’t make the top-10 lists at their respective positions, but that I believe could end up out-performing their draft position. The order of this list is not important, just keep these names in mind.

  1. Dayo Odeyingbo, DL, Vanderbilt
  2. Elerson Smith, Edge, Northern Iowa
  3. Drew Dalman, C, Stanford
  4. JaCoby Stevens, LB/S, LSU
  5. Shi Smith WR, South Carolina
  6. Sadarius Hutcherson, G, South Carolina
  7. Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (OH)
  8. Taquon Graham, DT, Texas
  9. Tony Fields, LB, West Virginia
  10.  Trill Williams, S, Syracuse
  11.  Larnell Coleman, OT, UMass
  12.  Ben Mason, H-Back/TE/FB, Michigan
  13.  Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
  14.  Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
  15.  Chauncey Gholston, DL, Iowa

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