NFL Top 50 Draft Prospect Rankings
The draft process is never clean. Most of it is which guys stand out on film, have unique physical traits, and gut feeling. It’s far from an exact science. With last season and the offseason pro days complete, this is how I rank the prospects as we head into the 2021 NFL draft.
Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson
This one’s no surprise. He has been the next great prospect since he was 18 years old. He showed everything you want in college. Poise against prime Alabama in a national championship game as a freshman, mobility and toughness in the face of adversity the next year against Ohio State in the CFP. His ability to layer the ball over linebackers and under safeties in the seams is impeccable. The games he didn’t have his best performances in, the defenses did a lot of post snap adjusting, and it appeared to throw him off his game. Not to mention those two games were against Joe Burrow and Justin Fields going ballistic on the Clemson defense. All in all, there is a reason Lawrence is one of the top 2-3 QB prospects we’ve seen the last 20 years. If the team who drafts him (presumably the Jaguars) do a competent job putting players around him, and adequate coaching, they will be a contender for the majority of his career.
Favorable NFL Comparisons—Matt Stafford, Steve Young
Rashawn Slater OT Northwestern
I imagine I’ll get a little pushback on having Slater so high, but his film was second to none in 2019, including going head to head with Chase Young, who was considered by many the best defensive end prospect in years. Him sitting out the 2020 season due to COVID leaves the “question” of did the year off hurt or help him. At his pro day, his measurables say he was not only working hard during the off year, but that his natural athletic ability matches what we see on film. Running a 4.8 40-yard dash at 305 pounds, to go along with 33 reps on the bench matched everything we saw on the field. His floor is a “very good” starting lineman at any position. He can kick inside and be just as good as he is at tackle. He does have shorter arms at 33 inches, which can be a bit concerning for an offensive tackle going against edge rushers like TJ Watt etc in space, but his technique and athleticism leave me to believe he’ll be just fine.
Favorable NFL Comparisons—David Bakhtiari, Braden Smith
Kyle Pitts TE Florida
Wow. That’s really all that needs to be said to describe Kyle Pitts on the football field.
Standing at 6’6 and 240, while running a 4.44 40-yard dash, he is the ultimate talent as a pass catcher. If he was coming out as a receiver, he would be among the best in this class with the likes of Chase, Smith, Waddle etc. He is taller, faster and heavier than Mike Evans, who is among the best outside WR’s in the league, having hit 1,000 receiving yards every year of his career. I think in an NFL system, he’ll be even better than in college with a more sophisticated passing game, and opening up his route tree to utilize his full skillset. I do have concerns about him as an inline blocker, and in the run game. He would almost be better to have as a lone WR in a jumbo formation, or a split back tasked with blocking the second level linebackers and safeties instead of defensive lineman. Any NFL quality coach should be able to take a guy like Pitts and use him a way that leads to big plays and points on the board. He’s really the ultimate offensive weapon. His ball skills and fluidity at his size make him already a tough guard for just about every NFL defender day 1.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Jimmy Graham (Saints), Shannon Sharpe.
Ja’Marr Chase WR LSU
At 19 years old, Ja’Marr Chase terrorized all of college football with one of the best receiving seasons ever. 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019. He sat out last season due to COVID, and it did not affect his stock at all. If he could enter the draft last year, he would be the crowned jewel amongst that all-time deep receiver class. At his pro day, Chase put the stamp on his spot as WR1, running a 4.38 40-yard dash, and adding in a 41 inch vertical. His measurable match the tape, and the tape shows one of the best WR prospects we’ve seen in years. He’s got good size at 6 feet and 200 pounds, and even could get up to 210 comfortably on the NFL diet/training program. He attacks the ball in the air, and high points it like he is 6’5, and really has no weakness in his game. Future perennial pro bowler.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Davante Adams, Torry Holt
Penei Sewell OT Oregon
An absolute monster. Standing at 6’6 and 331 pounds, yet moves like he’s 270, Penei Sewell is what every coach wants in an offensive tackle prospect. He chose to sit out 2020 due to COVID, so we don’t have any recent tape from him, but his 2019 film was fantastic. As a run blocker, he can double to backer, or double to safety as good as anyone with his athleticism. On traps and counters, there are very few better or more terrifying to have lead the way. As a pass blocker, he uses his massive frame and strength to mask some of his technique. If he gets beat, he has the ability to recover using that strength. Once he gets both hands engaged with a rusher, it’s a wrap. He does get caught up leaning too far forward sometimes, and could cause him to get off balance against some of the NFL’s better pass rushers. We haven’t seen him play in a year, and is 21 years old, meaning he has plenty of time to improve and grow. Potential wise, Sewell can be the best offensive lineman in football with some technical improvements. The sky is the limit for him, and he should be a high first round pick.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Trent Williams, Tyron Smith
DeVonta Smith WR Alabama
Heisman trophy winning receiver, 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, 23 TDs, and a rushing TD on top of it. That alone should solidify DeVonta Smith in this spot. His film shows he is as good as those numbers show. He runs incredibly smooth routes, glides across the field with the ball in his hands, and catches everything from routine slants to one handed toe-taps in the back of the end zone. The primary concern is his size, at 6’1 and about 170 pounds, he is very slender. Smith has such elite quickness and technique; he is able to smoke most defenders in press coverage off the line. The question is, will that work at the next level against the best press corners? There is a lot to love about Smith, and whoever takes him will have a versatile game breaker on their side that will haunt defensive coordinators week in and week out.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Steve Smith (Panthers), Antonio Brown
Alijah Vera-Tucker OL USC
The do-it-all offensive lineman for the Trojans, Alijah Vera-Tucker is probably the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. He played LT heavily at USC, but is projected to be a guard at the next level. He has high level athleticism, quick feet, and exceptional hand technique. He moves people very effortlessly off the ball in the run game, as evident by his 36 reps on the bench press, which would have put him 3rd at last year’s combine. At 6’4 and 300 pounds, he even has a little room to bulk up a bit if he wants too. He’s athletic enough to play for any team in any scheme, and adapts very well to whatever is thrown his way in game. If a team drafts him to play guard, he’ll be an interior staple for a decade.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Zach Martin, Jahri Evans
Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama
The epitome of a burner. Jaylen Waddle has a second gear that will be among the top 10-15 players in the league the day he is drafted. I truly believe he is a sub 4.3 40 guy, and might even be as fast as former teammate Henry Ruggs. Before he went down with an ankle injury, he was actually Alabama’s leading receiver, and on pace to lead college football in yards. He is a smaller guy at 5’10 and 185 pounds, and isn’t the stoutest receiver in the class. His route running has improved each year, and has very sophisticated ball skills. He attacks it in the air, and adjusts as needed. He also offers deadly kick and punt return skills. If he is used right, he could be a problem for defenses at the next level.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Tyreek Hill, Mike Wallace when he was a Steeler
Jaelan Phillips Edge Miami
The most explosive and complete pass rusher in this draft. His blazing 4.56 40-yard dash at 6’5, 260 pounds is terrifying. Plus, add on 21 reps on the bench and a 10.5 foot broad jump. Jaelan Phillips stepped up his game last season when Gregory Rousseau opted out of the season. He has great rushing technique and quickness, while showing the lateral movement ability to be a 3-4 outside LB. He plays with leverage and a high motor. He doesn’t have the best block shedding or tackling, and can be controlled in the run game. His injury history is the major red flag. He has had several minor injuries in his Miami career, and some concussions. He could drop in the draft because of those concerns, but on the field, Phillips has all the potential to pester quarterbacks for years to come.
Favorable NFL comparisons—TJ Watt, Demarcus Ware
Justin Fields QB Ohio State
The second fastest QB 40-yard dash time in the history of the combine, only to Robert Griffin III. At 6’3 230 pounds, Justin Fields is an athletic specimen at Quarterback. He has a gun for an arm, and shows the ability to complete throws into tight windows. In his college football career, Fields has 67 passing TDs, compared to only 9 interceptions (5 of which came in two games, so the INTs are very uncommon). Then on top of that, you throw in his 1,133 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs, and you have a true duel threat QB. His knocks are that he sometimes holds the ball a bit too long trying to make a big play instead of the open play, and Ohio State QBs have struggled in the NFL. Fields is different though. Him holding the ball against Indiana doesn’t define him as a prospect. Learning from an NFL coach in an NFL system, that could be mitigated. The toughness, leadership, determination, and heart he showed in getting the BIG10 to play last season, as well as playing in that playoff game against Clemson with what looked to be a pretty big injury shows that Fields has what it takes in his head and in his heart to play at the next level, on top of his immense talent. Not to mention, in that Clemson game, he put on a passing clinic after the injury, to the tune of 6 TD passes. If he gets the chance to sit for his first season, or at least the first handful of games his rookie year, I think that will help him immensely long term. He can very easily be the best QB in this class if he goes to the right team/situation (cough cough 49ers).
Favorable NFL comparisons—Cam Newton, Justin Herbert
Zach Wilson QB BYU
One of the most effortless throwers of the ball I have ever seen. The way he causally flicks his wrist, and suddenly the ball is 45 yards down field on a line is very Aaron Rodgers esc. He’s the darling of the draft for many pundits, and this last season was his breakout moment. 33 TDs with 3 picks, 3,700 yards and an extra 10 rushing TDs, Wilson has the ability to take over any game at any time. The arm talent might actually be higher than Fields or Lawrence is. He does just about everything right you could want with manipulating the defense from the pocket and is able to complete tough throws. He is pretty slim for a QB, and his accuracy sometimes struggles when the rush gets to him. In the same vein as Fields, he would benefit to sit at least half his rookie year to learn the ropes for his long term success. His on paper talent and wow-factor is second to none.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Deshaun Watson, Donovan McNabb
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB Notre Dame
I can already hear the “how can you have him ahead of Micah Parsons?” comments. This is not an indictment on Parsons, this is just how GOOD Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is. He is a bit smaller than most LBs at only 6’1 221 pounds, but his football IQ and short range quickness is comparable to some of the best LBs in the league. He is instinctive, fills gaps, chases down plays, covers a lot of ground in the passing game, and has really good ball skills for a front 7 player. Being a smaller guy, he will struggle with getting off blocks, and isn’t the “cleanest” tackler, but his ability to be a playmaker in space far outweighs that. If a team utilizes him to his strengths, he can be a difference maker for a decade to any defense.
Favorable NFL comparisons--- Roquan Smith, Darius Leonard
Kwity Paye Edge Michigan
An absolute monster on the edge. Standing at 6’2 and 261 pounds, Kwity Paye ran a terrifying 4.52 40-yard dash at his pro day. That’s not all, he also causally threw up 36 reps on the bench press as well. Paye is an absolute marvel of size, speed and strength. Paye was a disrupter on tape, with plenty of potential to wreak havoc on QBs for years to come. His stats aren’t electrifying, in 2019 he had 6.5 sacks, but his ability to pressure the quarterback was unparalleled. In 2020, he had 25 pressures through the first few games, before injuries and COVID canceling games really shortened the season. He is a shorter edge, but his use of leverage makes it a strength for him getting underneath and bending around tackles. He isn’t the best head on run defender. Paye has the ability to seal an edge just from pure athleticism. In passing situations, he will scare tackles across the league.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Frank Clark, Dwight Freeney
Gregory Rousseau Edge Miami
Coming off of a fantastic 2019 season, Greg Rousseau was one of the elite edge defenders coming into the 2020 season, before he decided to opt out due to COVID concerns. In 2019, he had an outstanding 15.5 sacks and a couple of forced fumbles. He is a monster of a young man, standing at 6’6, 266 pounds with 11 inch hands, and an 83 ¼ inch wing span. His frame is unmatched among other edge defenders. He’s not as athletically freakish as his teammate Philips, but Rousseau still put up a respectable 4.7 40-yard dash and 21 reps on the bench press. He has quick feet and great bend around the edge. He also does show some weakness against the run, and he only has one year of real college football experience. He would do his best work as a 4-3 defensive end, and if he can put on a little size, he could be a 3-4 defensive end that moves across the defensive line on passing downs. A very interesting prospect, who has a lot of potential upside.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Nick Bosa, Justin Tuck
Trevon Moehrig Safety TCU
In my opinion, he is the best defensive back in this draft, not just safety. Trevon Moehrig stands at 6’2 and about 205 pounds, and flashes across the field. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at his pro day, with reported back pain. He’s a tough, instinctive, versatile safety who can play the run, pass, in the box, center field or two deep. A complete package on the back end of a defense. Ball skills and physicality are among the best in the defensive class. His weakness is being a bit overaggressive and can be caught out of position. He’s not an “elite athlete” but still more than athletic enough. He also has the ability to thrive on special teams from his time as a freshman. One of my highest graded safeties in the last few years.
Favorable NFL comparisons--- Derwin James, Antoine Bethea
Micah Parsons LB Penn State
An absolute athletic specimen. Not a better way to describe Micah Parsons as a linebacker. At 6’3 and 245 pounds, Parsons ran an electrifying 4.39 40-yard dash! He looks every bit as fast on tape as well. He flies across the field, and is almost always the most athletic. A thumper, who brings the boom when he reads the play and flows downhill. His speed lets him cover tight ends and running backs downfield. He doesn’t have the most natural football instincts, and isn’t always able to read and dissect the play quickly. His ball skills in coverage aren’t the best either. Parsons has arguably one of the highest upsides in this draft. If he gets the right coaching and polishes up on some of his technique, Parsons may end up being the best player in this draft.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Tremaine Edmunds, Patrick Willis
Patrick Surtain 2nd CB Alabama
Honestly, just the name alone gets Patrick Surtain 2nd a high CB grade. When you factor in his athleticism, skillset, and tape, you get CB1. At 6’2 and 205 pounds, with a 4.46 40-yard-dash time, Surtain 2nd is a fantastic athlete on the outside. He uses his large size to fight receivers at the line, and has the physical tenacity to stick with them throughout a route. He is a very disciplined corner. He is sometimes a step late reacting to the play, and I think he will do better in zone than man to man early on. His ball skills could use a bit of work, but he sticks with receivers so well that it makes up for it some instances. Big receivers who could match his physicality might give him some problems early in his NFL career. A very balanced cornerback with plenty of natural gifts and skills, he should be a high level, starting CB in the NFL for years to come.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders), Xavier Rhodes
Christian Darrisaw OT Virginia Tech
Versatile mauler is probably the best way I would describe Christian Darrisaw. He is a nasty run blocker with exceptional hands and explosion. His first punch in pass protection is like a staggering jab from Francis Ngannou. His footwork is also very good. He is sometimes a bit slow against a blitz, and can get caught overextending. He has very good use of leverage, especially for a 6’5 315-pound man. His upside isn’t quite what the top 2 tackles are in this draft, but Darrisaw is a sure fire first round pick, and can hold down either tackle spot.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Anthony Castonzo, Matt Light
Trey Lance QB North Dakota State
Arguably the most intriguing prospect of this list so far. There is a LOT to like about Trey Lance. He’s a big, strong, athletic kid with a gun for an arm. He called a lot of his own offensive line protections at the line in college, doesn’t throw interceptions, and wins. On paper, he has everything you could want in a QB. The questions come in when it comes to experience, not a lot of starts, his level of competition, and his ability to adapt at the next level. In his one full season in 2019, he only had 118 more pass attempts than rushing attempts. By comparison to other mobile QBs, Fields had 217, and old Kansas State QB, Collin Klein, had 97 his senior season. Not a big deal, but a small concern as far as his ability to beat a defense through the air. He does have some small accuracy questions, but overall I’d say his talent is still very much untapped. Raw would be an understatement, similar to Josh Allen coming out. If he goes to a similar type situation with great coaching and a team willing to help develop him, he could end up being a top notch QB.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Dak Prescott, Steve McNair
Caleb Farley CB Virginia Tech
I’m not sure if he is an alien, a science experiment gone right, or simply the pinnacle of genetics but Caleb Farley is an athletic marvel. Standing at 6’2 and weighing about 210 pounds, Farley ran an unofficial 4.28 40-yard dash!?!? He is a big, physical corner who will jam receivers for all 5 yards off the line. He uses his physical gifts perfectly, and sticks to his man like glue. Farley has really good ball skills too, and is good in run support. He can get fooled by misdirection and get lost in some regards. The injuries are a bit of a concern as well, especially with a recent back procedure. The injury doesn’t sound severe, but back injuries are always tricky. If he does slip in the draft, and the injuries aren’t a concern, somebody is going to get an absolute steal in this draft. He has an unreal skillset that should translate to him being a pro bowl caliber cornerback for years to come.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie.
Najee Harris RB Alabama
Towering over most other RBs at 6’2 and 230 pounds, Najee Harris has drawn some comparisons to former Alabama great RB, Derrick Henry. I think he has the chance to be just as good, if not better. His last two years at Alabama, Harris ran for a combined 2,690 yards and 39 TDs. What makes him potentially a better prospect then Henry is that Harris also had 70 receptions for more than 700 yards and 11 TDs during that span. He is fast, but not necessarily game breaking fast. He isn’t overly dynamic, most a run straight forward and hit it hard type of runner. His best fit would be a team that utilizes him in-between the tackles on running plays, and utilizes him on the edge or flats in the passing game. All the potential to be a feature RB at the next level, and a creative offensive mind would have a lot of fun with this year’s RB1.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Ezekiel Elliot, Deuce McAllister
Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina
NFL bloodlines continue to be a theme in this draft, this time with Jaycee Horn. Horn is a lengthy 6’1 CB who ran a smooth 4.39 40-yard-dash, and he plays like a guy who runs that fast. He has really good eyes and his feet match. Can play just about any type of coverage or defense at a high level. His production from an interception perspective could be better, and he does need to be careful with being too handsy with receivers. A bit of a boom or bust type of prospect. He has shot up draft boards this offseason, and I expect he will be a quality cornerback in the NFL. If he goes to a good situation with fundamentally sound coaching, expect him to end up being one of the better first round picks this year.
Favorable NFL comparisons, Byron Jones, Samari Rolle
Teven Jenkins OT Oklahoma State
Nasty. Tough. Physical. These are just some of the many adjectives one could use to describe Teven Jenkins. The Oklahoma State Cowboy has the meanest streak in the draft, and finishes blocks better than anyone. He has excellent get-off and gets a very wide base in pass protection. Athletic and smooth getting to the next level and leading the way on screen passes. He does have shorter arms for a tackle, and doesn’t have the best leverage. He is a bit stiff, but has really good hands and exceptional power. His offensive line versatility all but assures he will be a solid to very very good offensive lineman for many years to come.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Richie Incognito, Willie Roaf
Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama
A huge man with huge upside, everything about Alex Leatherwood screams NFL left tackle. He is explosive, technically sound, with excellent vision and football IQ. He truly sees the entire defense when he is blocking, and rarely overcommits or ends up in a bad position. He has extremely long arms, a freakish broad jump and a 4.9 40-yard-dash. Simply put, Leatherwood is an absolute freak. He is not the strongest lineman, and hasn’t displayed a nasty streak to finish blocks till the very end. An overall strong prospect who has all the tools, but still some growing to do to reach his potential.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Tristan Wirfs, Joe Staley
Greg Newsome II CB Northwestern
Technically sound with a good eye for the football. Greg Newsome II stands at 6’1 and a bit under 200 pounds. He has good footwork, switches his hips and breaks on the ball with the best of them. Newsome will get physical with receivers too; he’s not scared of contact. Always finds a way to look back for the ball when playing man to man. He isn’t the fastest, and that is some concern if he gets matched 1v1 with some of the speed demons in the NFL (I know he ran a 4.38 but on film he doesn’t seem to play like a 4.38 guy). Regardless of that, Newsome should still have a very strong NFL career ahead of him.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Kyle Fuller, Ty Law
Landon Dickerson Center Alabama
Leader is probably the best adjective to describe Landon Dickerson on the Crimson Tide offensive line. He’s very tough and physical player with very good football IQ and alertness to defensive schemes and stunts. He has a true nasty streak, and goes after defenders. Having played tackle and guard before moving to center, he is extremely versatile across the line. He isn’t overly athletic, and his ability to climb to the second level on run plays is very limited. His body is almost always square, and he’s often in the right place. His early career injury history is a bit of a concern, along with the torn ACL in the SEC championship game. If he can stay healthy, he should be a strong mauler in the heart of some team’s offensive line.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Maurkice Pouncey, Nick Mangold
Jevon Holland Safety Oregon
A versatile playmaker with great football instincts and a nose for football. Jevon Holland opted out of 2020 due to COVID. He entered this year as arguably the best safety, and nothing changes that for me. He had a really good pro day, running a 4.46 40-yard dash while cranking out 19 reps on the bench press. He has natural, cornerback-like hips and coverage skills, and ball skills similar to a receiver. He is the epitome of versatile, also possessing the ability to play nickel corner if needed. Holland is a good tackler, but could improve that part of his game, especially if he can pack on a couple of healthy pounds without sacrificing his athletic ability. A very “safe” pick in the draft. In any defensive scheme, he can find a niche and be very productive. He can be a late first round steal by a team that is just a few pieces away from making a super bowl push.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Berry
Travis Etienne RB Clemson
A true game-breaker out of the backfield. Travis Etienne had a very productive career at Clemson. He proved to be a threat as a runner and a receiver, and could take it to the crib at any given moment. Etienne is known for his speed, acceleration, vision and quick feet. A very skilled modern day running back. Fumbles have plagued him throughout his time as a Tiger, and he is limited in pass protection. He is compact, and could add a few pounds to help him fight through contact at the NFL level. Etienne has incredible quickness and an ability to cut and find a small hole with tremendous vision. His skillset can work in any system. A young QB would love nothing more than to be able to have a guy like Etienne he can throw a simple swing pass to, and watch him take it to the house. A first round caliber prospect, who might end up being a day 2 steal for some team depending on how teams draft the running back position.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Brian Westbrook, Alvin Kamara
Mac Jones QB Alabama
Weirdly enough, Mac Jones might have the least “bad tape” of any of the top QB prospects, but I still have him lower than the other 4. Jones has a lot of likable traits. He is good sized, but with room to grow, fantastic pocket awareness, good accuracy and solid decision making. Not afraid to take a check down and live to fight another play. The phrase “game manager” has turned into a straight insult, but in this regard, it is a compliment to his decision making and accuracy on the field. Not a lot of mobility, a very QB friendly offense, and not the most arm strength are some of the concerns around Jones. He has some early off the field character concerns as well. His floor is really low. The chances of him being a “bust” prospect are very small. His ball placement and pocket generalship are what has the rumors churning of him going as high as 3. With good players around him, he will play really good. A QB you can win a Super Bowl with, but not necessarily a QB that will win you that Super Bowl. I look for Jones to still break the stigma surrounding Alabama QBs in the NFL.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Kirk Cousins, Matt Hasslebeck
Liam Eichenberg OT Notre Dame
A large, powerful offensive lineman out of Notre Dame that moves people off the ball with ease. Sound familiar? Quinton Nelson, Zach Martin, Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame has had some really good offensive lineman come out in recent years. I put Liam Eichenberg more in the McGlinchey category than the Nelson or Martin category. Not an insult, those two are transcendent, elite all pros since the day they entered the league. Liam is a fantastic blocker with high IQ against various blitzes and always looks to climb to the second level on run plays. He isn’t the most athletic, and doesn’t have the quickest feet. He’s got long enough arms and rarely overextends. He projects as a better right tackle than left tackle at the next level, but with the way defenders rush from both sides, having both tackles locked up is what allows offensives to march up and down the field. Liam will be a strong starter in the league for quite some time.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Mitchell Schwartz, Mike McGlinchey
Daviyon Nixon DT Iowa
Resilient is a good way to describe Daviyon Nixon’s path to one of the best defensive tackle prospects. Starting his college career as a JUCO superstar before transferring to Iowa, Nixon exploded on to the scene last season. An athletic powerhouse who explodes through gaps and holds his own against offensive lineman. He’s tough and has a high motor with constantly moving feet. Nixon is a perfect fit for a 3 technique in a 4-3, but could probably expand his skillset to be a 3-4 defensive end while still wreaking havoc. He isn’t the most powerful rusher and doesn’t always muddy up the pocket. He has plenty of room to grow, but the natural traits and talent is there. His athleticism was on display at his pro day, running a sub 5 40-yard-dash and in his 71 yard pick-6 against Penn State.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Tommie Harris, Jonathan Allen
Jabril Cox LB LSU
An athletic technician who is very disciplined on the field, Jabril Cox who used 2020 to help is draft stock, transferring from FCS powerhouse NDSU to LSU, and continuing to be a defensive force. He’s the best cover linebacker in this class, with outstanding depth in zone and very fluid hips. He struggles with offensive lineman engaging him, and winning the point of attack. He can flow effortlessly from sideline to sideline and takes good pursuit angles after the ball carrier. He even has an effective skillset as a blitzing linebacker, making him even more versatile. Whoever drafts him will have fun incorporating him into their defense, and you have to imagine he will get better each and every year.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Myles Jack, Luke Kuechly
Jalen Mayfiled OT Michigan
One of the most talented tackles in the draft, Jalen Mayfield has all the tools to be a stalwart at tackle for whoever drafts him. In addition to his 6’5 320 pound frame, he has excellent vision and feet. Rarely in the wrong place, and explosive off the ball. I would like to see him improve on using his leverage and moving defenders in the run game. Whether it is at either tackle, or he gets moved inside to guard, he will improve any offensive line he goes to day one.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Jedrick Willis, Alejandro Villanueva
Azeez Ojulari Edge Georgia
Probably the most productive edge defender in the class, Azeez Ojulari has continued to climb up draft boards all off-season. He flies off the edge with exceptional hand work and bend to turn the corner. He has the ability to change directions and chase down plays in the backfield. Ojulari isn’t the biggest edge defender, and sometimes gets pushed out of the play by bigger offensive tackles. He has work to do to round out his game, but as a 3-4 stand up backer that can also put a hand in the dirt as a defensive end, Ojulari will be able to fit into most defenses and spend plenty of time in offensive backfields.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Leonard Floyd, Dee Ford
Samuel Cosmi OT Texas
An experienced starter with a quick first step, AND still plenty of untapped potential. Samuel Cosmi is one of my more interesting prospects in the class. He shows a very fundamental skill set in a 6’7 310 pound behemoth of a man. He has shown the ability to move his feet in both the pass and running game, while also having a strong base when he anchors on pass plays. Cosmi will reach a sometimes and find himself off balance. He is very athletic, but does rely on that a little too much at times. The pros outweigh the cons for the most part, and Cosmi looks to be a strong fit at either tackle spot for whoever drafts him.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson
Jamin Davis LB Kentucky
An ascending talent due to his WOW factor. Jamin Davis has incredible athleticism and some good football instincts on the field that often help make up for his lack of experience. His athletic traits are impossible by even Madden video game standards. At 6’3 and 235, Davis ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, a 42 inch vert and an 11 foot broad jump. Those numbers are astronomical. His on the field speed doesn’t always translate to the 4.49. He is aggressive and a fantastic run stopper with great lateral quickness. In the right defense, Davis will fly all over the field and be a pro bowl level player for years to come.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Devin Bush, Jon Beason
Rashod Bateman WR Minnesota
Big, strong, fluid and fast. Rashod Bateman had a very productive career at Minnesota, with all the tools a coach could want. He has very good hands, excellent route running, and high level ball skills. My favorite thing on tape with Bateman was the effort on every single play. Even if he was on the backside of the play design, he still gave 100% effort as if the play was set for him. He ran a surprising 4.39 40-yard-dash, but he doesn’t really play to that speed. On tape, he didn’t show a lot of sudden explosion, or that extra gear that his run time showed. Some of the best hands in the draft, and finds ways to snatch the ball in traffic over the middle. Bateman has the potential to be a #1 WR in the NFL, while at least being a very good #2. With his early career production, and sure hands, I can see him sliding into the back end of the first round for some of those receiver needy teams who feel they are a piece away from a Super Bowl run.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Keenan Allen, Anquan Boldin
Levi Onwuzurike DT Washington
Pure explosion. Levi Onwuzurike showed in the 2019 season at Washington that he can be one of the most explosive interior defensive lineman at the next level. Running an insane 4.85 40-yard-dash at his pro day, while weighing 290 pounds is absolutely mind boggling. You could see that burst on film, especially when he blocked punts. He does a great job engaging with offensive lineman and collapsing the pocket, but isn’t the best true pass rusher. Only 7 career sacks, but he does blow up run plays and take up multiple blockers, freeing up others. Projects as an interior 4-3 defensive tackle, but could play 3-4 defensive end with his explosiveness. Look for him to be high up on many teams boards who run multiple fronts and need versatile defensive lineman.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Gerald McCoy, Cameron Heyward
Christian Barmore DT Alabama
A potential game wrecker on any given play. Christian Barmore showed up and showed out in the national championship game, getting 5 tackles, two for loss and a sack. The 3rd team All-American showed some of the best hands among all defensive lineman, and equally impressive feet. He regularly commanded a double team, or he would burst through gaps and live in the backfield. Extremely athletic, running a 4.9 40-yard-dash at 315 pounds. His athleticism did sometimes get him in trouble, he would look to backdoor the play and end up too far out of position. Barmore could add a little strength to his game as well, to compliment the natural explosiveness. One area that he excels in, more than many young defensive lineman, is always playing with proper pad level to get leverage on his opponents. He is a guy who can play across the defensive line, in any system, and make an impact. Look for Barmore to continue the strong trend of Alabama defensive lineman having success at the next level.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Marcell Dareus, Kenny Clark
Zaven Collins LB Tulsa
A playmaker from the linebacker spot, Zaven Collins junior season was spectacular. 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions including 2 pick 6’s. Oh and a blocked kick as well for fun. Zaven Collins is a big linebacker, weighing in at 260, but is also very athletic for his size. His best attribute is his hustle. He will fight off blocks until the whistle and chase down the play. He is really good in zone coverage, has a knack for reading the QB’s eyes and the passing lanes (probably since he played QB in high school). Collins isn’t much of a pass rusher, and often takes the long route to the ball, which he made up for with athleticism and hustle, but at the next level could cause him to be behind the play or over pursue. His change of direction and agility on the feet are a bit average because of his size. One thing Collins is never scared to do is take on blockers and still work to get the tackle. His athletic ability allows him to chase down runs from the backside. Expect him to be a day 1 starter for whoever takes him, and be a solid contributor for a decade plus.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Lance Briggs, KJ Wright
Kadarius Toney WR Florida
The epitome of electricity. Kadarius Toney was a big part of Florida’s offense this last season, and was the spark plug for them. Running a 4.38 40-yard-dash, and arguable have better agility and quick feet than speed. When he gets the ball in his hands in space, the entire defense gets nervous. His vision and hands are very good. He only has a limited time as a full-time receiver, so his route running and feel for the position will need to improve. He has a lot of unnecessary moves and wiggles in his breaks. Toney will also add a dynamic element in the gadget game and as a kick/punt returner. His quick feet and agility can help him thrive as a speedy slot option, and separate in space. Similar to his Gator teammate, Kyle Pitts, Toney is a dangerous weapon that can find a niche in just about any offense.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Percy Harvin, Tyler Lockett
Ronnie Perkins Edge Oklahoma
Intriguing and explosive. Ronnie Perkins was a disruptive playmaker for the Sooners for 3 years. Bursts off the edge, and uses great pad level to drive through bigger and stronger offensive lineman. When locked in, he gives 100% effort and can regularly be disruptive in the backfield. Perkins only weighed in at 247 pounds, which is very light for a defensive end, and he doesn’t project as a 3-4 outside linebacker. There are off the field concerns with Perkins, but I don’t think it will hurt his draft stock too much. Being smaller, he can be a liability against the run if caught up in the muck. When it comes to pursuing the play and chasing down runners and quarterbacks from the backside. Perkins intrigues me, and I can see him being a really good player at the next level, with the potential to be great.
Favorable NFL comparisons---Robert Mathis, Brian Burns
Wyatt Davis OG Ohio State
Arguably the best “pure guard” in this class. Wyatt Davis is a very explosive offensive lineman, with excellent hand placement, and a decorated college campaign. He was a unanimous first team All-American. He uses great leverage and moves very well climbing to the second and third levels. Not a lot of negatives with Davis’ game. He could do a better job finishing off blocks and working on his base. Davis climbs to the next level very well with his athletic skills, he just tends to struggle getting his blocks in space. The leg injury in the National Championship game is also a small concern, but I imagine he will be able to heal from that just fine. His power, athleticism and experience at a high level program make him a very keen prospect for many teams. If he slips out of round 1, look for teams to consider trading up for him towards the top of round 2.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Mike Iupati, Wyatt Teller
Terrace Marshall WR LSU
A potential nightmare for defensive backs at the next level. Terrace Marshall displayed breakaway speed this last season, and matched it with his 4.38 40-yard-dash at his pro day. With a 6’3 and 200-pound frame, he provides a mismatch against most defenders that will line up across from him. With no Justin Jefferson and no Ja’Marr Chase in 2020, Marshall showed that he is more than just “the other guy” in the 2019 LSU record-breaking offense, and that he is a legit #1 type WR as well. His ball skills, route running and physicality make him a strong prospect for every team. His 40 time doesn’t always show up on tape, and is not the best blocker, despite his frame. Marshall’s ability to play both inside and outside also make him a top receiving prospect in the draft.
Favorable NFL comparisons—DJ Chark, Braylon Edwards
Asante Samuel Jr. CB Florida State
The name matches the game. Asante Samuel Jr is quite possibly the best man to man corner in the draft, while having receiver type ball skills. He is a very heady player who dissects what the offense is doing and has excellent anticipation on when to break on the ball or receiver. Samuel lacks long speed and size, so he won’t physically match up well with some of the next level receivers. He can tackle, but this part of his game can definitely improve. Samuel plays more physically than he is built, and he has great short burst to make up for his lack of long speed. Will fight for the ball when it’s in the air, and will force turnovers.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Brandon Flowers, Joe Haden
Rondale Moore WR Purdue
Explosive game-breaker. Rondale Moore has the unique ability to score from any blade of grass on the field. As a slot receiver, Moore can pick up the first downs on short routes, or simply take them right up the sideline for 6. Very good hands and ability to track the ball. He lacks size and major physicality. At a listed 5’7 and 181 pounds, he isn’t physically imposing on any NFL defenders. Moore’s 4.29 40-yard-dash speed is complimented by his incredible burst in short areas, and when the ball is in his hands, the entire defense is on its heels. Expect him to be a YAC king if the right team drafts him.
Favorable NFL comparisons—DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton
Joseph Ossai Edge Texas
Gives full effort every play, and has one of the highest motors in the draft. Joseph Ossai is an explosive edge player, with a good amount of experience. Ossai spent a lot of time rotating between defensive and outside linebacker at Texas, before really settling in as a pass-rushing outside linebacker his last year at Texas. Incredibly affective in space and a speedster off the edge. Underrated, strong hands allow him to fight off bigger offensive lineman as he explodes around the edge. Sometimes gets caught in no-man’s land, and can get pushed back by offensive lineman after initial contact. While his best fit is as a pass rush linebacker, he does have the ability to drop out into coverage as well. A very versatile front seven player with a high upside.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Brian Orakpo, Clay Mathews
Pat Freiermuth TE Penn State
A big, strong, technically sound tight end from the BIG10. Pat Freiermuth has really clean route running with excellent hands and a good feel for finding the week spot in the zone. A natural receiving threat, who does give full effort on run plays. He isn’t the strongest blocker, and doesn’t blow defenders off the ball. Ran a really good 40-yard dash, but doesn’t always show that speed down the field. Freiermuth has the versatility to split out in the slot and catch the ball with his hands in traffic. All the skills and traits to be a reliable tight end for years to come, with a very high ceiling.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Dallas Clark, Tyler Eifert
Nick Bolton LB Missouri
Suddenness, and a burst reminiscent of an in the box safety. Nick Bolton is an excellent sideline to sideline linebacker, who thrives in pursuit. Very good in coverage, and fluid hips in space. Bolton is undersized, and really struggles to disengage with blockers. While he brings a thump, he does need to sure up tackling as well. Bolton covers distance like a free safety, and thrives in the open field, where a lot of linebackers can get taken advantage of. He will need to be in the right system to achieve his full potential, but if he does, look for Bolton to potentially surprise a lot of people.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Bobby Okereke, DJ Williams (Broncos LB)
Baron Browning LB Ohio State
A talented linebacker with flashes of excellence. Baron Browning plays fast and explosive in every direction. He gets to the ball carrier with force. Browning looked really comfortable and fluid in coverage. His change of direction allows him to attack the play, regardless of where he is on the field. Browning struggles with consistency, and sometimes disappears for very long stretches of games. He flashes, and then he’s gone. Part of that is sometimes his football instincts in dissecting a play are a touch slow, and he is unable to recover. When he is on his game, Browning looks like the next Ohio State linebacker to come out of the Columbus pipeline. His versatility allows him to play in a variety of systems, including getting some action rushing off the edge. His ceiling is right up there with some of the higher rated LBs in the draft, and if he can consistently hit that ceiling, a lot of people will be talking about him being one of the steals of the draft.
Favorable NFL comparisons—Navorro Bowman, Jaylon Smith
OT Dillon Radunz NDSU
RB Javonte Williams UNC
Edge Joe Tryon UW
WR Dyami Brown UNC
Edge Jason Oweh Penn State
WR Elijah Moore Ole Miss
CB Eric Stokes Georgia
OG Quinn Meinerz UWW
A very deep draft class, especially in some positions. With some of 2019’s breakout stars sitting out 2020 due to COVID, many who did play took advantage and shined through to catch scouts eyes. I look forward to seeing which guys exceed expectations, and how others adapt to whatever system they are drafted into.