Top 50 NFL Draft Prospects
The 2021 NFL Draft Class is filled with amazing talent, and we are breaking it all down here by profiling the Top 50 players of the 2021 NFL Draft Class. These are our top 50 picks for the very best college football players that will be entering the NFL this coming year. We are breaking down their college statistics, film, strengths, weaknesses, intangibles, and possible NFL landing spots on this list. We also went ahead and mocked every player to a team based on need, talent, and the general consensus of draft range. A reminder that these picks and analyses are subjective. You can head over to Twitter @lineups, where we will be announcing each player live during the 2021 draft.
Trevor Lawrence has been one of, if not the most hyped quarterback in the history of the NFL Draft. Ever since his sophomore season in high school, he has had eyes on him and people claiming that he is the next generational talent. The only names that can be said in the same sentence when it comes to QB hype and talent entering the draft are John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck. Two Hall of Fame QBs, and one Hall of Fame talent that had his career cut short in Andrew Luck. After crushing Deshaun Watson’s Georgia State High School records, he followed in his footsteps in attending Clemson University. After just one season as a true freshman, many general managers and owners believed he would be the first overall pick in the draft if it were possible for him to enter, even at just 19 years of age. This was after leading the Clemson Tigers to a 15-0 season and a National Championship. Lawrence continued to dominate in his sophomore and junior seasons. Trevor Larence is a special talent that only comes along once a decade.
• Arm Strength
• Incredible Frame
• Quick Decision Making
The strengths are evident all over Trevor Lawrence’s tape. He has the arm strength to fit the ball in tight windows all over the field, and he can zip the ball whenever it is needed. With that arm, he consistently places the ball in perfect spots where only his guy can make a play. Lawrence can throw on the run, rolling out to either side with power, accuracy, and ease. Lawrence can be compared to Aaron Rodgers in this way, but with much more speed. Trevor has demonstrated a mastery but also growth in both pre and post-snap reads, something that really reminds you of Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, creating favorable matchups and finding those matchups after the snap. All-in-all, Lawrence is a complete talent that literally checks every scouting box imaginable.
• Locked on Primary WR
• Extreme Confidence
When it comes to cons, it is extremely hard to find any. The one thing you may run into is the fact that Lawrence is so good he is overconfident. You can find this apparent in two ways. The first is attempting deep passes with almost no space. The crazy thing is that Lawrence often hits these throws, but in the NFL, he will most likely run into a much harder time beating defensive backs off of pure talent and confidence. The second time overconfidence comes into play is every so often locking into one read. See, Lawrence is so good he only needs the tiniest window to hit the throw, so it was often not an issue to only look at one guy and wait for that window to develop. This will need some improvement at the next level.
2020 stats – GP: 10, COMP%: 69.2, PASS YDS: 3,153, PASS TD: 24, INT: 5, RTG: 169.2
Overall stats – GP: 40, COMP%: 66.6, PASS YDS: 10,098, PASS TD: 90, INT: 17, RTG: 164.3
Trevor Lawrence’s production in college was fantastic. In his final season, Lawrence hit almost a 70% completion percentage, maintained a 5 to 1 TD to interception ratio, and averaged a career-high 9.4 yards per attempt. While Lawrence numbers are not quite Joe Burrow’s from last year, you have to keep in mind that none of Lawrence WR’s weapons are projected to be top picks. Amari Rodgers was the best receiving threat, and he is not expected to be a Day 1 or Day 2 pick. In context, Lawrence was outstanding and had ridiculously efficient numbers.
Best Landing Spot
Trevor Lawrence is the one exception to the rule here, as he is not going anywhere but Jacksonville. Urban Meyer, the new Head Coach of the Jaguars, was even given a front-row seat to Lawrence’s workout at Clemson. You do not pass on a generational talent, and for better or worse, there is only one place Lawrence is going. DraftKings has Lawrence at -2,000 or roughly a 95% chance of being 1st overall. I would put that number at 99%, and the only way the Jaguars give up this pick is for 4+ first-round picks, another generational talent, and a solid QB.
The Jaguars have a solid core, with tons of draft capital and cap space. Lawrence will be stepping into the NFL with good weapons in James Robinson, DJ Chark, and Laviska Shenault. However, I peg the Jags to add even more talent in free agency or the draft. This is not a bad landing spot, and Lawrence will make it work, regardless.
Worst Landing Spot
It is very hard to compare Trevor Lawrence to an NFL quarterback. Only three guys even come to mind when it comes to this big of an NFL prospect in Manning, Luck, and Elway. However, his game is nothing like any of theirs. His style and play will remind you a bit of Deshaun Watson and Rookie of The Year Justin Herbert. The thing is, Lawrence is more mobile than Herbert and has a much stronger arm than Watson. It is almost like taking the best of each of these incredibly talented QBs, and then sprinkling on more talent, a bigger frame, and topping it off with one of the best football IQs many have ever seen.
Accuracy: 10 – Incredible accuracy, especially short to intermediate-range, with precise
Arm Strength: 9.5 – One of the strongest arms to come out of college, but can control the speed at which he throws
Mechanics: 9 – Mechanics are incredible; his long frame may be an issue in the NFL if he does not keep it tight
Mobility: 8.5 – Insanely mobile for his size, he is no Lamar Jackson, but he will pick up plenty of yards on the ground
Zach Wilson is a QB whose draft stock exploded during the 2020 season. While many prospects chose to sit out or did not do much in the way of changing the perception of their abilities, Wilson took full advantage of the year. Many had Zach Wilson as a draftable QB who was intriguing coming into 2020, but leaving it, he is now in the conversation for the 2nd best prospect, alongside Justin Fields and Trey Lance, for the QB position. Wilson did not take on the toughest competition at BYU during 2020, but he did showcase time and time again a knack for both ball placement and arm strength that was incredible, irrelevant to his competition.
• Powerful Arm
• Pocket Presence
• Ball Placement
Zach Wilson’s strengths are very apparent when watching his 2020 tape. Wilson consistently made unbelievable plays with his arm that were NFL quality. He showed off incredible arm strength with multiple 30+ yard passes that looked effortless. His ball placement was also something that looked drastically improved from 2019 to 2020. Wilson was able to do things such as lead his receiver or protect them by throwing away from contact. The best part of Wilson’s tape may be his mobility. He was able to scramble away from pressure on so many occasions I lost count. The best part is that Wilson does not instantly take off with his legs; he keeps his eyes up and makes plays with his arm out of the pocket on a consistent basis.
• Did not face elite competition
• Errors throwing when under pocket pressure
• Post-snap IQ could be better
When it comes to negatives, there was not a ton in 2020. If you go back to 2019, you could point to some accuracy problems, some bad reads, and some odd pocket awareness. However, this was all improved in 2020. Wilson still struggles with a hand in his face, but he was better at avoiding that in 2020. Now, some may chalk this up to the fact that he did not play great competition in 2020, but that is hardly a knock. One thing I do want to see improvement from with Wilson is his post-snap reads. Faster progressions and faster reads would be something that can lead Wilson to become an elite QB, not just a good one.
2020 stats – GP: 12, COMP%: 73.5, PASS YDS: 3,692, PASS TD: 33, INT: 3, RTG: 196.4
Overall stats – GP: 30, COMP%: 67.6, PASS YDS: 7,652, PASS TD: 56, INT: 15, RTG: 162.9
Zach Wilson’s college production was not very impressive until 2020. However, in 2020 he had the very best year, statically speaking, out of any QB in the nation. He sported an 11:1 TD to INT ratio while completing over 73% of his passes. On top of this, his yards per attempt was a staggering 11.0, and his yards per completion was 12.6. Zach Wilson has a phenomenal season, one of the best that I have ever seen.
Best Landing Spot
I believe that the best case for Zach Wilson would be the Carolina Panthers trading up for him. The Panthers’ offensive system under Matt Rhule would be perfect for the mobile skill set that Zach Wilson offers. He could easily run the system and utilize the incredible deep threats at his disposal in Robby Anderson and DJ Moore. While I do believe that Carolina needs to improve the offensive line, this is something Zach Wilson can make up for as that line is built up. I could see Zach Wilson easily claiming OROY on this Carolina Panthers team and leading them to a playoff berth.
Worst Landing Spot
The Houston Texans are undoubtedly the worst destination for just about any player in the NFL right now; however, there is a real possibility that the Texans trade Watson to the Jets or Dolphins and use that pick on Zach Wilson. If Zach Wilson goes to the Texans, not only is he going to be limited with only Brandin Cooks as his only real weapon, but he is going to be behind a horrible offensive line. On top of both these points, the Texans’ organization is in shambles, the management is inept, and I would not blame Wilson if he refused to sign. That is how bad of shape this team is in.
I believe that Zach Wilson can be the next Russell Wilson. I mean that as in both are extremely mobile QBs who can hold onto the ball longer due to their legs. Both of them love to air it out deep, and both can pass with extreme accuracy. I think that Zach Wilson is a winner and a leader like we see out of Russell Wilson. When I watch the college tape, I really do see a younger version of Russell Wilson in most things that Zach Wilson is able to accomplish. It can be argued that Russell Wilson is the ceiling for Zach Wilson, but I think that talent is already somewhat comparable, and their play styles are shockingly similar.
Accuracy: 8.5 – Clearly has a mastery over his ball placement and can hit guys all over the field
Arm Strength: 8.5 – Not the biggest cannon, but he is strong and can hit deep throws with ease
Mechanics: 7.5 – Minor tweaks could be made to his lower body mechanics
Mobility: 9 – Very mobile outside the pocket and could be a big threat to run with the football
Ja’Marr Chase’s journey to the NFL was anything but ordinary. Beginning in Florida and ending with a year away from football in Louisiana, it’s been a long road to reach his dream of playing on Sundays. Nevertheless, on April 29th, the 6’0 tall, 208-pound star wideout, from 87 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, is expected to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. After briefly committing to Kansas, Chase changed his mind and spent his freshman year playing for Florida before returning home to play for LSU his sophomore season. He impressed in his first year with the Gators, putting up 313 receiving yards on 23 catches in seven starts as a true freshman, but his sophomore year is where he really started to shine. Chase teamed up with the eventual number one draft pick, Joe Burrow, and the Tigers and became virtually unstoppable. They put up video-game-like-numbers on their way to a National Championship, and Chase set single-season SEC records for both receiving yards with 1,780 and touchdown receptions with 20. After winning the Biletnikoff Award for the most outstanding receiver and being named First-Team All-American, Chase decided to opt-out of the 2020 season to preserve his draft stock and health. They say sell high. Well, that’s exactly what Ja’Marr did. We’ll find out if the decision paid off come the end of April.
• Ball skills
• Body control
• Contested receptions
It’s difficult to find any weaknesses with Ja’Marr Chase unless you look with a magnifying glass. If you must nitpick, it has been said that he is quick, but he is not exceptionally fast. His high 4.4 or low 4.5 speed won’t burn by cornerbacks in the NFL, but with his body control, expect Chase to be featured heavily in the slant game. Another weakness of his has been attributed to his reliance on contested catches. Beating the defender to a jump ball was the bread and butter for Chase and Burrows in 2019. Just glancing at his game log, you can see he had receptions of 50, 61, and 78 yards in his last five games, including a 56-yard play in the National Championship. These big plays will be tougher to come by in the National Football League, but he can make up for that in his ability after the catch, where he can extend the play and be tough to tackle. It might be a slow start for the wideout from Baton Rouge, but the future is bright, and he will improve every season.
2019 stats – 13 GP, 77 receptions, 1,163 receiving yards, 15.1 YPR, 10 TD
Overall stats – 36 GP, 159 receptions, 2,742 receiving yards, 17.2 YPR, 26 TD
Ja’Marr Chase embarrassed every defensive back that lined up across from him in 2019. He put together one of the best seasons a wide receiver has ever had in the history of the SEC, en route to winning a National Championship, the Biletnikoff Trophy, and being named a unanimous First-Team All-American. Chase compiled 1,780 yards, which was the most in college football by over 200 yards. He also led the league in touchdown receptions with 20, beating out his teammate and eventual 22nd overall draft pick, Justin Jefferson, who had 18 TD grabs. Chase had an outstanding 24 receptions over 20 yards, and his exceptional body controlled to a 69.5% catch percentage out of 105 targets in 2019. His record-setting season could be partially attributed to the talent of his gunslinger, Joe Burrow, and the mastermind of their offense Joe Brady. However, if he ends up in the right system, don’t be surprised to see another huge jump in production this year, just like from his freshman to sophomore season.
Best Landing Spot
Several teams could benefit from landing what some think is the top wideout in the 2021 NFL draft. Between his sure hands, solid route-running ability, and contested-catch strength, there is a lot to like. But, in sitting out a year, Chase allowed the gap between him and other wide receivers in the draft to narrow some. Names like Jaylen Waddle and DeVonte Smith have muddied the waters at the top of the WR draft board, but I still expect we will see Chase’s name called first. If it comes in the first ten picks, like expected, the best place for Ja’Marr is the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, and it would be incredible to see it used to reunite Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow. If they were to draft Chase, they would be adding to a strong receiving core made up of Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, and he would be filling a void with AJ Green with one foot out the door. Although Cincinnati would probably be better off drafting an offensive lineman to protect Burrow, it would be a lot more fun to see what the two LSU Tigers could do if they teamed up again.
Worst Landing Spot
Although all teams would love to have a prodigy wide receiver like Ja’Marr Chase on their roster, he isn’t a great fit for everyone. Because of cap space and a few other reasons, the worst landing spot for Chase is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are already paying their two wideouts, Beckham and Landry, over $30 million dollars, which is 14% of their cap space. In the short term, it might help the team, but it would hurt the organization. Not to mention Cleveland has the 26th pick in this year’s draft, so they would have to make some drastic plays to move up into the top ten to have a chance at Chase.
When you watch the film of the sure-handed, route-running sensation, Ja’Marr Chase is most similar to legend and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. Body control is the name of the game for these two wideouts. Fitzgerald is infamous for boxing out a defender in the corner of the endzone and coming down with every ball thrown his way. Ja’Marr Chase does the same thing, using his body to win jump balls and to break tackles across the middle. They are also both very smart on and off the field. Fitz is one of the most football-savvy guys out there and has invested in 40 to 50 companies, including his own travel company. Chase is the same way. On the field, he can find the soft spot in the zone defense and time a jump ball perfectly. He also wisely opted out of the 2020 season, preserving his health and draft stock for a lengthy, successful NFL career.
Agility: 9.5 – is his best attribute. He knows exactly where to position his body to have an advantage on the defender on every ball thrown his way
Routes: 9.0 – He is a fluid route runner and has a great ability to get open
Justin Fields was an elite High School prospect who chose to go to Georgia. Fields actually won the Elite 11 MVP, a High School QB competition where he went up against the likes of Trevor Lawrence. However, after one year at Georgia, Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State, where he immediately became the starting QB. It was at Ohio State where Fields would flourish, slowly turning himself into the agreed-upon #2 QB in the draft. That was until 2020 when Zach Wilson blew up onto the scene. The waters were further muddied when Fields took down Trevor Lawrence in the semi-finals of the CFB playoffs. At this point, Fields looks like a great prospect who ranges from being a starting to elite NFL QB, depending on what scout you ask. He ranges between 2-4 when it comes to the QB slot in the class.
• Arm talent
• Very Mobile
• Keeps Head Up
Justin Fields’ strengths are very easy to see when flipping on the tape. You do not have to look hard. He has great arm strength that can laser the ball all over the field. He has excellent accuracy and can often lead receivers and pick out his spots when passing. This accuracy does not take a huge hit when he throws on the run as he is an outstanding mobile QB who does a good job of keeping his head up. This means that Fields will not always take off and run, which he can do very well, but instead often extends plays and picks up huge chunks with his arm.
• Locks onto One Read
• Holds onto the Ball too Long
• Attempts Risky Throws
• Slow on Progressions
• The Deep Ball Could be Better
The cons for Justin Fields mostly revolve around the time he takes to throw the ball. While some use Russell Wilson as a comparison, I do not believe that Fields has the same scramble ability as Wilson. The NFL is going to be much faster, and the schemes more complex than what Ohio State ran. Fields will need to learn to make reads faster, move on from his first read quicker, and get the ball out. If he cannot do this, I do not believe that he can become a great NFL QB. Fields also often attempts some high-risk throws that he will not get away with at the NFL level. Weirdly enough, despite making high-risk throws with pressure, he at times will refuse to throw the ball unless his guy is wide open. He needs to find a better middle ground in this area. My final complaint is a bit nitpicky; however, I would rate his deep ball as average. While he makes a lot of good throws deep, he often misses out on completing the touchdown as he fails to lead the WR or ends up overshooting them. I would rate both of his fellow peers in Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence over him when it comes to the deep ball.
2020 stats – GP: 8, COMP%: 70.2, PASS YDS: 2,100, PASS TD: 22, INT: 6, RTG: 175.6
Overall stats – GP: 34, COMP%: 68.4, PASS YDS: 5,701, PASS TD: 67, INT: 9, RTG: 178.8
Justin Fields’ college production was fantastic, especially in 2019. However, in 2020 you need to look no further than the semi-final game against Clemson to see how good Fields can be if he gets the time for his long reads. The throws he can make are fantastic, and it is clear that he has the physical ability to be an elite NFL player. Fields constantly sported a good completion percentage and good TD to INT ratio.
Best Landing Spot
The Atlanta Falcons are a perfect landing spot for Fields for a multitude of reasons. The first is the fact that Fields would get the opportunity to sit behind Matt Ryan and learn. I believe that Fields could benefit greatly, similarly to Patrick Mahomes, if he can sit out for a year or two and learn the game more. During practice, he can be tested and learn how to read NFL defenses, get that ball out quick, and really hone in on all that physical talent. On top of this, Atlanta will be building the team up a bit more over the course of the next year or two as I do not project them to be playoff-bound. This means that Fields may be able to get game time late in the season, and it also means that he can be the face of the newly built Falcons team as they cash in on some good draft stock. All-in-all I think that the Falcons are the very best franchise for Fields’ long-term success.
Worst Landing Spot
The New York Jets would be the worst scenario for Fields. Now, I do not believe that this would ruin Fields’ career. However, ideally, I would have Fields sit a year, and if he goes to the Jets he will be starting year one. On top of this, the Jets do not have many weapons. While I love Denzel Mims, there is nothing very promising beyond that. There are redeeming features about the Jets, the offensive line is trending up, the team has a good amount of cap space and draft capital, and Robert Saleh brought over offensive coaches from the 49ers. The Jets will most likely run a similar system to what the 49ers currently run, a system that I think can suit Fields’ physical abilities. The issue really lies in the fact that, mentally speaking, I do not know if Fields is ready right away. I am worried that he will have a very poor first season, and it will cause him to lose confidence or, even worse, the team to move on right away.
While many consider this a bit of a hot take, I am going to compare Justin Fields to Kirk Cousins. Now, let me say that Kirk Cousins does not get the credit he is due for how amazing of a passer he is. That is a compliment to Fields. They both are accurate passers who can throw on the run and from play-action. They both can hit the deep ball consistently. Ignoring the obvious mobility difference between the two, the similarities really pick up when it comes to the mental game. Cousins often fails to move on from his first read quick enough, he holds onto the ball too long, and you see minimal pre-snap adjustments from him. I believe that Fields fits all of these categories. One thing that these two also share is waiting for their WR to be wide open instead of throwing them open. Now, Fields could get over these issues, but if he does not, I think that he ends up being a mobile version of Kirk Cousins. Still a good QB, just not an elite Super Bowl-winning QB.
Accuracy: 8.5 – Extremely accurate; however, he often waits for his WR to be wide open to pass
Arm Strength: 8 – Good arm strength, not quite Josh Allen, or even Herbert/Lawrence level, but it is a strong arm
Mechanics: 7.5 – He could make some adjustments to quicken his release and stay consistent
Mobility: 8 – Very mobile in and out of the pocket; this is a strong part of his game
Talented, game-changing skill position players and physical edge rushers are coveted draft day targets for every NFL team. However, finding that once in a decade player to man a spot on the offensive line is equally important. Penei Sewell is one of those special linemen. The good news for teams a few spots down the draft board is the need for, and availability of skill players who team officials ahead of them just cannot pass up. Sewell has continued to fulfill lofty expectations since his high school playing days in Utah. Almost by default, a special player, the clear consensus as the top offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft, may be the target of the team who drafted Joe Burrow first in 2020. With the importance of the left offensive tackle position in the NFL, it will be hard to pass on the lineman who was one of the highest-graded offensive tackles in NCAA history.
• Devastating run blocker
• Powerful upper body
• Tremendous balance
• Excellent hand technique
• Extremely quick feet
• Experience against the versatility of NFL edge rushers and the blitz
• Pass protection footwork
• Occasional lack of focus
Sewell has excellent balance and outstanding coordination. His biggest strength on film is his ability to use this stability from initial contact through the block. This is partly responsible for Sewell’s solid blocking technique. His balance and good use of his hands help prevent him from compensating by getting flagged for holding. Another huge strength of Sewell’s game is the ability to avoid unnecessary penalties from being out-positioned. As one of the highest-rated linemen in recent memory, Sewell’s weaknesses are minimal. One perceived weakness is the lack of experience against highly skilled edge rushers. He will need to improve his pass blocking footwork to avoid getting beat off the edge.
Sewell came out of Desert Hills High School in Utah as one of the highest rated offensive guards in the country. He passed on offers from such programs as Alabama and Notre Dame to play for the Oregon Ducks. Sewell did not disappoint. Through his production on the field, he has actually improved his rank. Sewell lost over 20 pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Oregon. During the 2019 season, he did not allow a single sack. In nine of his games, Sewell did not allow the Oregon quarterback to be touched. After starting 13 of Oregon’s 14 games in 2019, Sewell elected to sit out the 2020 season and prepare for the NFL Draft.
Best Landing Spot
Cincinnati looks to be the beneficiary of an off-the-charts performance by DeVonta Smith in front of a nationally televised audience. Any team with even the slightest need at wide receiver will earn an F grade if they pass up Smith. The Bengals would come close to earning the same poor marks if they pass up Penei Sewell. Sewell will need some time to develop his pass protection skills, but he is a physical specimen at left tackle and just too talented for Cincinnati not to take with the fifth overall selection.
Worst Landing Spot
Ironically, if the Bengals’ offensive line staff cannot help Sewell master NFL pass blocking skills, it could lead to a rough honeymoon in Cincinnati. Sewell will be entrusted with keeping the NFL’s voracious pass rushers off Joe Burrow’s blindside. He proved worthy of the challenge when he protected former teammate and LA Chargers QB Justin Herbert at Oregon. However, Cincinnati still holds the best potential for this young offensive lineman. Don’t be surprised if his versatility, plus previous experience at the position, allows him to shift down a spot to offensive guard at some point in his career.
Prior to the BCS National Championship game, there was a better-than-average chance that the Miami Dolphins would snag Sewell at number three. The Dolphins want to strengthen their offensive line in front of their young quarterback as do the Bengals. However, both teams would benefit tremendously by adding a superstar pass-catcher like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith. With the Falcons at number four, heavily leaning towards someone to replace the aging Matt Ryan at quarterback, this should land the massive offensive tackle in the Bengals’ lap. Sewell will be a gift for the Bengals if they don’t decide to throw it away.
Sewell is the same height with a similar body build to a former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle. Cincinnati’s scouts would certainly love to add someone in the mold of a player viewed as one of the greatest, if not the best, offensive tackle in NFL history. While there are distinct differences in their physical appearance, Sewell’s devastating run-blocking style has also been compared to the technique of Orlando Pace.
Physical: 9 – Might be difficult to fathom, but Sewell was bigger in high school. He has matured into his massive body in a way that has dramatically enhanced his quickness while maintaining the physical size and strength to play offensive line in the NFL.
Mechanics: 8 – Theoutstanding center of gravity that makes Sewell a devastating run blocker will help him master pass protection technique.
Run Blocking: 9 – Powerful leg drive and an uncanny center of gravity. Has the physical capacity to emulate the pancake blocks leveled on defensive backs aka Orlando Pace.
Strength: 7 – Sewell may not rank as the strongest offensive lineman in the class, but he has enough brute strength to overpower defenders.
DeVonta Smith came out of Amite High School in Louisiana as the #9 ranked WR recruit in 2017. At Alabama, Smith would play a part in one of the greatest WR cores in college history over his 4-year collegiate career as he played alongside Calvin Ridley, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Irv Smith. However, after an injury to Waddle was sustained in 2020, he exploded and rocketed up draft boards as he took home the 2020 Heisman as a WR, becoming the first to do so since Desmond Howard in 1991. DeVonta Smith is a unique talent that continued to produce, even as the clear #1 against top-tier competition. He goes into this draft firmly as a top-3 WR talent and has a high chance of being drafted in the top 10 picks.
• Route Running
• Leaping Ability
• Finds Soft Spot in Zone
• Tons of Production
DeVonta Smith has a lot going for him as a wide receiver. First of all, he can accelerate extremely fast as he is explosive in and out of breaks. He is one of the top route runners in college football, arguably the best over the past few seasons besides his teammate Jerry Jeudy. However, unlike Jeudy, Smith has had zero issues with dropped passes and has often made incredible catches in the air, contested or not, despite only being 6’1 175lbs. His release off the ball is one of the best in college and often gives him an advantage in the route that the defensive back cannot recover from. Another thing I personally love about Smith is his ability to find the soft spot in zones and between the safety and corner, something that you can create a successful career off of on its own.
• Average Top Speed
• Lean frame
The negatives with Smith all revolve around physical worries at the next level. While a decent height at 6’1, he is extremely lean at only 175 pounds. He also does not have elite top speed, with most predicting a low 4.5 forty time. However, guys like Devante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins also ran 4.5 forties and look where they are now. Some are simply worried he is not fast or big enough for the NFL, and while, of course, ideally, he would be bigger and faster, I do not see these as huge negatives.
2020 stats – 13 GP, 117 receptions, 1,856 receiving yards, 15.9 YPR, 23 TD
Overall stats – 47 GP, 235 receptions, 3,965 receiving yards, 16.9 YPR, 46 TD
What can you say about DeVonta Smith? He won the Heisman, and he maybe had the most dominant WR season in the history of college football. He was literally unguardable, especially in big games. He had 130 yards and 3 touchdowns in the CFB semifinals and 215 yards and 3 touchdowns in the CFB Championship against Ohio State. He was a massive part of this National Title win for Alabama, and I cannot picture a more perfect season for Smith.
Best Landing Spot
The very best case scenario for Smith is that he drops to the Los Angeles Chargers and gets drafted to play alongside Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. While Allen is a somewhat comparable WR, the amount of talent that would be on the field with Allen in the slot and Mike Williams/DeVonta Smith on the boundaries would be terrifying for opposing defenses. Herbert just put up the best statistical season of all time from a rookie QB. He looked flawless at times, and, to be honest, he was as good as many people expect Trevor Lawrence to be, which is an All-Pro top-5 QB. Smith could go to the Chargers without the stress of having to be the day one #1 WR for the team. I honestly believe that with Herbert supplying the passes, I could envision a Justin Jefferson-like rookie campaign for Smith.
Worst Landing Spot
There are no redeeming qualities about going to the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback for the team, and he is simply an off-brand version of rookie Carson Wentz, in my opinion. While he can rush the football and has a strong arm, this is one of the worst QB situations that Smith could find himself in. On top of that, there are literally no other weapons on this team receiving-wise. He would be more than just a #1, and he would have to be “the guy” for this offense from day one. While Smith is more than capable of that, he does need some kind of QB, with some kind of offensive line to produce, the curse of being a WR.
The more and more I watched the tape, the more I realized I was watching Justin Jefferson’s rookie NFL tape mimicked in Smith’s college film. While Jefferson’s college tape is a lot different from Smith’s, when you compare what Jefferson did during his rookie season and how he played the game, it looks exactly the same as DeVonta Smith’s college tape. These two both excel by having a great release, which they then build off of with great routes. Both players have a good vertical and extremely solid hands. Justin Jefferson is faster, but they have about the same explosive acceleration. Even the small things like finding the soft spot in the zone are scarily similar when comparing Jefferson’s NFL tape to Smith’s college tape. These two are very similar WR’s in the way that they achieve success beating DBs.
Agility: 9 – great at stopping and starting, elusive, and can make plays
Routes: 9 – An elite route runner coming out of college
Jumping: 8 – Can jump very high, has brought multiple catches in from over 10 ½ feet in the air
Size: 6 – A good height at 6’1 but a very lean frame that many worry about at the next level
For the past five years, Alabama football has been better known as Wide Receiver University. Cooper, Ridley, Jeudy, and Ruggs are all young star wideouts from Alabama playing in the NFL, and Jaylen Waddle is looking to add his name to the list. The 5’10”, 182 lb. wideout from Houston had his choice of colleges after coming out of the tough terrain of high school football in Texas, with offers from 25 different schools. He was the fifth-ranked receiver in the 2018 recruiting class and the second-ranked overall player in the state of Texas. He chose to play for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide over Texas A&M, Texas, TCU, Oregon, and Florida State. Given Alabama’s deep rotation of wide receivers, that meant he would have to fight for any playing time. Waddle impressed immediately and worked his way up to fifth in the depth chart. As a true freshman, he put up 848 yards on 45 catches and seven touchdowns. He averaged an electric 18.8 yards per play and added a punt return for a touchdown. Playing alongside future first-round draft picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Waddle saw the field less during his sophomore season. The wideout’s numbers dropped to 33 catches for 560 yards, but the dip didn’t seem to affect his draft stock. NFL scouts were dazzled when Waddle ended the season with a punt return against LSU, where he shook a defender off his facemask and took it 77 yards up the sideline for a touchdown. Unfortunately, his junior and final season at Alabama was cut short due to an ankle injury, but that was not before putting up exceptional numbers to start the year. In Waddle’s first four games, he had 557 yards on 25 catches and four touchdowns. He returned to contribute to the national championship game, testing the ankle injury and helping the Tide win their 18th title. If scouts deem him healthy enough, I don’t see Waddle being available past the 15th pick of the draft.
• Deep threat ability
• Open field agility
• Kick return ability
• Scoring threat
• Injury issues
Jaylen Waddle has one attribute that trumps all else, pure God-given speed. With a 4.27 40-yard dash time, he makes defenders look like they are standing in glue and is a threat to take every catch to the house. Whether it’s catching the ball or returning kicks, Waddle is dangerous in space and can change the game in an instant. To go with his speed, he has great hands and good route-running discipline. He is excellent at setting up his breaks and shaking defenders with his eyes or a head fake. All of these things combined with his open-field ability will make Waddle one of the best young deep threats in the game. If there is one negative about Waddle, it is his size. At just 5’10”, he is the shortest of the top three wide receivers in the draft by two inches. He will have to make up for what he lacks in size with his elusiveness. His ability to take the top off the defense and his skill after the catch is what will get him those chunk yards, not his size.
2020 stats – 6 GP, 28 receptions, 591 receiving yards, 21.1 YPR, 4 TD
Overall stats – 34 GP, 106 receptions, 1,999 receiving yards, 18.9 YPR, 17 TD
Although Waddle’s college stats didn’t break any records, scouts are convinced his skills will translate well to the NFL. He is projected to go in the top-fifteen in most mock drafts and after seeing the success of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, many teams are making a spot for a burner like him on their roster. Aside from his receiving production, Waddle made a big impact returning the ball. During his sophomore season he was buried behind world-class wide receivers on the depth chart, but he contributed on special teams, with 20 punt returns for 487 yards and a touchdown, as well as five kick returns for 175 yards and a touchdown. Before his injury, in his final season at Alabama, his stats began to mirror his elite skills, and he compiled 557 yards in his first four games. Waddle is lethal in the open field, and with many of his former teammates playing on Sundays, he knows what it takes to play at the next level.
Best Landing Spot
Although many teams would love to have a dangerous deep threat like Jaylen Waddle on their roster, he fits some organizations better than others. One of the best spots for the speedy wideout is in South Beach with his college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Miami would be a perfect home for Waddle, and his speed would be a nice compliment to opposite WR Devante Parker’s size. Brian Flores has been building something special in Miami, and Waddle would fit into his plans well. His open-field quickness and deep threat ability would add an element that the Dolphins need to make that coveted playoff push they’ve been looking for.
Worst Landing Spot
Worst Landing Spot:
I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having another player like Tyreek Hill, but the worst spot for Waddle to land would be the Chiefs. It would make the most dangerous offense in the NFL even more dangerous, but it simply doesn’t make sense. Kansas City has the 31st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, so they would have to make big moves to have a chance at drafting the Alabama speedster. Not to mention they are paying Tyreek Hill a potential $22.8 million over the next two seasons. I don’t think we will see Waddle in KC.
When you watch Jaylen Waddle play football, a few different comparisons come to mind. John Ross, Brandin Cooks, DeSean Jackson, even his old teammate Henry Ruggs, whom he has the exact same 40-yard dash time as and is one of the fastest wide receivers to come through Alabama. But the best comparison in the NFL right now is Jaylen Waddle to Tyreek Hill. Their pure speed and ability to create separation are unmatched. Get them the ball, and the chase begins. Just like Hill, he has the spark to turn any play into a touchdown, and once he gets in the open field, everyone watching holds their breath. It is high praise to compare Waddle to one of the great game-changers in the NFL, but he has that kind of talent.
Agility: 9.0 – Other than speed, agility is one of his top attributes. Get this kid the ball in the open field and the fireworks start. He will be dangerous in the screen game and slants across the middle.
Routes: 8.5 – His ability to trick a defender with his eyes or a headshake makes him tough to stay with off the line of scrimmage. He is good at getting the defender to open his hips, and then blowing by him.
Jumping: 7.0 – The jump ball is not one of his strong suits. Because of his 5’10” height and uncanny quickness, he is better utilized in open space, making defenders miss.
Trey Lance is an extremely young QB who is coming out after just his sophomore season, in which he only played one game as the NDSU football season was canceled. Out of High School, Trey Lance did not have many offers; however, after just one starting season at NDSU, many slotted him as a first-round pick for the 2021 Draft. This was following a season in which Lance had a ridiculous 42 total touchdowns, 28 passing, and zero interceptions. At this point, Lance is securely in the conversation for the second through fourth-best QB prospect in the draft, alongside Zach Wilson and Justin Fields.
• Good Velocity
• Mobile, Can Extend Plays
• Good Footwork
• Pre-Snap Awareness
• RPO Experience
Lance showed an incredible amount of raw talent in 2019. Despite playing for an FCS school, there is no doubt that Lance has what it takes to compete in the NFL. He displayed a very strong arm and pretty good accuracy. Something that Lance also excelled at was the mental game. I was impressed with his RPO reads and pre-snap adjustments, as well as his post-snap reads. This is something that, when yielded in the right offense, can dominate defenses. On top of all these attributes, Lance is extremely mobile and arguably even more fluid when passing on the run. Lance is a legitimate threat as a runner and also a passer when rolling out. This is something that the defense will have to plan for, as he can eat you alive on the ground.
• Consistent Mechanics
• Post-snap Progressions Past 1st read
• Deep Accuracy
• Vision as a Runner
Lance’s number one complaint coming out of college is the fact that there is only one-year of impressive tape, and that tape was against sub-par competition. However, the complaints I would have with that tape start with his deep accuracy. Lance has a strong arm, but he is not the strongest in this class. He sometimes struggles to make very deep throws. Another thing that Lance needs to work on is his touch on his intermediate to deep passes, as he does not lay the ball into spots like Zach Wilson or Trevor Lawrence. To be fair, those are two incredibly talented QB prospects. Lance can also be somewhat robotic with his motion in the pocket, and I believe he could generate more power with some tweaks in that motion. Lastly, one thing I worry about translating from college to the NFL is his rushing ability. Lance is undoubtedly athletic. However, his vision running the football was rather poor in the games I watched, as he often relied on the fact that he was stronger and faster than the defense to get massive chunk plays.
2019 stats – GP: 16, COMP%: 66.9, PASS YDS: 2,786, PASS TD: 28, INT: 0, RTG: 180.6
Lance played a few snaps in 2018 and opted out in 2020; however, all of these stats are from his 2019 season, where he dominated the competition. There is little arguing with these numbers, as he was flat-out better than every opponent he went against with NDSU. He was efficient, explosive, and great in every game.
Best Landing Spot
I think that any quarterback would be lucky to go to the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan is simply an offensive genius. The team has a good line, good weapons in Ayuk, Samuel, and Kittle. The run game is consistently good no matter who the RB is due to Shanahan’s elite system. Simply put, the 49ers are a great offensive team for quarterbacks to thrive. I believe that Lance could start year one on the 49ers because I trust Shanahan to put Lance in positions to succeed. He could use Lances’ RPO talent, his mobility, and his arm talent extraordinarily well; probably better than anyone else. Almost every other landing spot, I would prefer Lance sit a year and learn, but on the 49ers, he could slot in right in and outplay Jimmy G.
Worst Landing Spot
The Chicago Bears are probably the polar opposite of the 49ers. You have a coach in Matt Nagy who thinks he is Shanahan, but in reality, he is a mediocre play-caller who often puts his QB in horrible spots to succeed. With Allen Robinson likely gone, the Bears do not have a real number one. I do love Anthony Miller’s and Darnel Mooney’s talent; unfortunately, Matt Nagy does not know how to use that talent. Lance would be thrust into a QB competition in a system that is simply not good. This is one path that I absolutely hate for Lance’s career trajectory, and I believe that the Bears would most likely waste, or worse, ruin his talent.
Yes, it is easy to draw comparisons to Carson Wentz when it comes to having successful careers going to NDSU; however, these two QBs are extraordinarily similar coming out of college. Both ran an RPO offense and had tremendous success. Both of these QBs have large frames, good arms, and were great out of the pocket while extending plays in college. Carson Wentz was an MVP candidate in his second-year and looked very solid as a rookie. I see this as a very plausible outcome for Lance. While Wentz has struggled recently, I chalk that up to poor coaching and injuries. Since Frank Reich left, Wentz has not been the same. I believe that Lance can see the same success that Wentz did early in his career if he is put in the right position with the right coaches.
Accuracy: 7.5 – Good, not great accuracy in college. The deep ball needs work
Arm Strength: 7.5 – Lance is strong and can hit a good velocity while throwing
Mechanics: 7 – Mechanics on the run are great; however, in the pocket, he could be more fluid and stronger
Mobility: 9.5 – An extremely mobile QB who will be a threat on the ground as well as rolling out to pass
When you tune into a Penn State football game, one of the first things you notice is the sheer size of their middle linebacker. Weighing in at 245 lbs., standing 6’3”, and lining upright in the middle of the field, it’s hard to miss Nittany Lion LB, Micah Parsons. And NFL scouts haven’t either. After you get past the magnitude of this man, the next thing that takes you by complete surprise is his speed. Clocked at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, Parsons should not be able to move so quickly for a man of his size. Seemingly running through blockers, he flushes out screens in the blink of an eye, and he stays with tight ends down the field like he’s a cornerback. This remarkable speed makes him a valuable chess piece that defensive coordinators can line up all over the field – which they love.
Since day one, Parsons has impressed on the football field. He is so versatile that with his speed and size, coaches had him running the ball in high school. His senior year, Parsons ran for 1,239 yards on just 109 carries, averaging over 11 yards per rush. Coming out of high school, he was a five-star prospect and ranked seventh overall in the 2018 recruiting class. The success continued as he transitioned into playing for James Franklin at Penn State. Franklin moved Parsons to full-time middle linebacker, and the decision paid off. In 2019, during his sophomore year at Penn State, Parsons made the leap everyone was hoping for. He emerged as one of the best linebackers in the country and amassed 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles, and five pass deflections. Parsons also led his team to a Cotton Bowl win over the Memphis Tigers, where he had 14 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. After ending his sophomore season on such a high note, the star middle linebacker chose to opt-out of the 2020 season and preserve his draft stock.
• Strong tackler
• Hard hitter
• Great speed
• Quick step
• Good pass-coverage linebacker
• Great first instinct
• Blitzing ability
• Disciplined off of the field
• Over-aggressive at times
• Runs around blocks
• Needs work shedding blocks
It’s hard to find weaknesses when profiling potential first-round draft picks, and Parsons is no different. If you use a magnifying glass, the linebacker has been critiqued for being overly aggressive at certain times. Given his speed and his knack for guessing right so often, this flaw is understandable and fixable. With proper coaching, he will learn to time the play better and anticipate the ball carrier instead of flying by him. On the other hand, the list of strengths for Micah Parsons is long. His natural speed gives him an elite blitzing ability, and he can fly to the ball. When he reaches the point of attack, which doesn’t take long, he knows exactly what to do, amassing 18 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles over his college career. Because of his sideline-to-sideline speed, Parsons is solid in man-to-man pass coverage, and he can cover a large area when in zone. His physicality and size mean he will be tough against tight ends and anything across the middle. Additionally, he is a terrific run defender who demonstrates an innate ability to beat blockers to the spot, often resulting in a tackle for loss. Parsons will be a great fit in a variety of defenses and would be a critical piece in any defensive coordinator’s game plan. He is just as impressive off the field as he is on it. During his opt-out, in between morning workouts, yoga classes, and physical therapy sessions, Parsons continued classes and completed a degree in Criminology.
2019 Stats – GP: 13, TACKLES: 109, SACKS: 5, TFL: 14, FF: 4, INT: 0
Overall Stats – GP: 25, TACKLES: 191, SACKS: 6.5, TFL: 18, FF: 6, INT: 0
After arriving at Penn State, Parsons saw action immediately. Coach Franklin moved him to middle linebacker exclusively, and the results soon followed. The LB compiled 82 tackles as a true freshman, including four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. But his sophomore season is what gained him the attention of NFL scouts. Parsons was named an All-American and Big Ten Linebacker of the Year on his way to leading the Nittany Lions to a 10-2 regular season and a Cotton Bowl victory. He was responsible for an incredible 109 tackles, including 14 for a loss, five sacks, and four forced fumbles. After the Big Ten postponed their fall football schedule due to the pandemic, Parsons chose to preserve his draft stock and opt-out of the 2020 college football season. He is slated to be one of the most highly rated defensive prospects in this year’s NFL draft.
Best Landing Spot
The draft hype is real around the standout linebacker from Pennsylvania. Many analysts are naming him the best defender in the draft and predicting he won’t last past the tenth pick. If that is the case, a solid landing spot for Parsons is the Atlanta Falcons. Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Parsons could take the next step up the ladder to becoming an elite defender at the next level. Pees has been quoted saying he wants to implement a versatile defense built around varying surprise blitzes. Parsons can help with that. Also, when looking at Atlanta’s defensive numbers from last season, it is evident that they could use some assistance. The Falcons have the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and it’s not far-fetched to think Arthur Blank uses it on a defensive game-changer like Micah Parsons.
Worst Landing Spot
Although there’s never a bad spot for an elite linebacker like Parsons, some teams don’t fit the bill because of salary cap issues. One of those teams is the Chicago Bears. The Bears are already paying Khalil Mack over $17 million per year, and he is under contract until 2024. They are also paying Robert Quinn over $12 million per year over the next three years. Not to mention, Chicago doesn’t draft until pick number 20, and I highly doubt Parsons will be available that late.
A few different linebackers drafted in recent first rounds have similarities to Micah Parsons. He resembles Tampa Bay’s Devin White in the way he flies to the ball. His size and speed are similar to that of the Bear’s young linebacker Roquan Smith. But the best comparison of a long-time NFL star is Micah Parsons to Bobby Wagner. Wagner is one of the best pass covering LBs in the league, and he has the versatility to blitz whenever necessary. The same can be said about Parsons. Also, Wagner is smart. He is the signal-caller and the quarterback of the defense. As mentioned previously, Parsons is the same way. He is a natural-born leader and controls the defense like a music conductor when he’s on the field.
Athleticism: 8.5 – For his size, Parsons has incredible speed. He will be a great tool for any NFL defensive coordinator.
Pass Coverage: 8.5 – One of his best attributes is his pass coverage. NFL scouts are excited about his ability to stay with physically demanding tight ends.
Run Defense: 7.5 – Parsons is a stout run defender, not afraid to plug the middle or chase down a screen in the flats. He could use some work timing his pursuit as well as getting off lead blockers.
Strength: 9.0 – Just looking at Parsons, you can tell strength isn’t something he lacks. He has a very disciplined workout regimen and holds power clean and squat lifting records at Penn State.
Patrick Surtain II, son of former NFL great Patrick Surtain Sr., is following his father’s footsteps. Like his father, Surtain is about to become an NFL cornerback. Unlike his father, he is about to be a first-round pick, possibly even Top 10. After three years at Alabama, Surtain is now entering the 2021 NFL Draft and is one of the highest-rated defensive players in his class. Likely the top cornerback and possibly the first defensive player drafted, Surtain finished his collegiate career with three great seasons. He came in as a true freshman and has started all 40 games for Alabama. Highly recruited out of high school, Surtain lived up to his expectations. He totaled 116 tackles, six for loss, four interceptions, and 24 passes defended. He also added in four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and a touchdown. In 2020, Surtain went on to win SEC Defensive Player of the Year. At 6’2”, 202 pounds, Surtain is a nice-sized corner who has a great football IQ. He has great field awareness and is capable of both pressing up on receivers and sitting back in coverage. Whether it is in the slot or on the outside, Surtain can move around on defense and is capable of keeping up with a team’s WR1. With his football genetics, athletic ability, and intelligence, Surtain is the best defensive back in this class and may even go on to have a better NFL career than his father, who was a three-time Pro Bowler and a First-Team All-Pro in 2002.
• Football IQ
• Field Vision
• Not Overly Athletic
• Deep Ball
As far as 20-year old cornerbacks go, it is hard to really find any major concerns with Patrick Surtain II that should keep NFL teams from taking him early come April. He may not be the most athletic guy, but at his size, he has the potential to be a major part of an NFL secondary. One thing he will need to work on at the next level is his ability to cover the deep ball. His closing speed isn’t the greatest, and in the NFL, that could spell trouble. However, he should also be able to benefit from an NFL offseason as he looks to improve his biggest concerns. As for positives, there are plenty. Surtain played at Alabama, which usually means a smart and disciplined defender who is NFL-ready from the start. All of these are true for Surtain. He has great awareness, and he can play both in the slot and on the outside. He is not afraid to play press coverage and get physical with receivers, which is a must in the NFL. The ceiling is high, and the floor is as well. It’s not out of the question to think that Surtain could be in Canton in 20 years. Worst-case scenario, he is a Top 10 pick and plays 10+ years as an average corner in the NFL, which in today’s game is still very valuable.
2020 stats – GP: 13, Tackles: 37, Sacks: 0, FF: 0, FR: 0, INT: 1, Pass Defended: 10
Overall stats – GP: 40, Tackles: 116, Sacks: 0, FF: 4, FR: 1, INT: 4, Pass Defended: 25
When you look at Patrick Surtain II and his stat sheet, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Surtain is the best defensive back in the 2021 draft class, and he had to play against some of the best offenses in SEC history throughout his career. Unlike a running back or quarterback, a sexy stat sheet doesn’t make a great cornerback. If you watch Surtain in action, it’s his ability to cover some of the best receivers in the country and take them out of their team’s offensive attack.
Best Landing Spot
When you look at the 2021 NFL Draft order, you will notice about nine or ten teams in the first 13 picks could use a player like Surtain. It is unlikely that a team like the Atlanta Falcons will take Surtain with the fourth pick. However, if the Dallas Cowboys are lucky enough to see his name still on the board when their pick rolls around at #10, Surtain should be headed to Jerry World to play on Sundays. The Cowboys’ defense last season was one of the worst in franchise history. While they have numerous holes to plug on that side of the ball, a potential star in Surtain would be a great start. Dallas could elect to go offensive line here to help better protect their franchise quarterback, but Surtain would be the better move right now. Assuming Dak Prescott can return to normal, the Cowboys’ offense will have enough to be a playoff team. It’s the defense that will make or break them in 2021.
Worst Landing Spot
It is hard to say that any team drafting Surtain would be a bad landing spot. Having said that, if the Cincinnati Bengals, who do need to address their cornerback issues, went with Surtain with the 5th overall pick instead of drafting a player like Penei Sewell to address their offensive line, that would be a bad move. For the Bengals, their offensive line has to be their main focus early in this draft. Joe Burrow was looking every bit what was expected of him before his season-ending injury. The Bengals need to protect the franchise. Drafting Surtain would hurt both his and Burrow’s careers, as well as any possibility of being a playoff team in the next three years.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that a great NFL comparison to Patrick Surtain II would be his father, Patrick Surtain Sr. However, not so much. Surtain II is about three inches and 10 pounds heavier than his father. He is also a better defender against the pass than his father was coming out of college. A better NFL comparison for Surtain would be Richard Sherman. They are similar in size (Surtain 6’2” 205 and Sherman 6’3” 205) and speed (Surtain 4.57 40-yard dash and Sherman 4.56 40-yard dash). Both guys have good length and can get physical at the line and take away a team’s top receiver. Like Sherman, Surtain is prone to getting beat deep on occasion, but other than that, it has very few cons. If Surtain has a career similar to Sherman, then no team will regret drafting him no matter what spot he is taken.
Speed: 5 – His 4.57 speed is far from elite and is average at best.
Agility: 7 – Not the most agile player out there but nothing too concerning either.
Zone Coverage: 7 – While he won’t be at his best in zone coverage, he is certainly no liability.
Tackles: 8 – Good tackler that wraps up well.
Michigan continues to churn out these types of defensive prospects of late — the skillset is there and athleticism, but there is missing production. Kwity Paye fits that bill as he is an uber-athletic edge player who has a high motor that has caught the eye of many NFL scouts. Paye was only a 3-star recruit coming out of high school and is now headed to being a likely 1st round pick. He was a running back in high school and also competed in track and field. You can see his versatility in his mobility, which is going to help him a lot at the next level. While Paye is going to have some work to do to elevate his numbers at the next level, landing with a team that can develop good pass-rushers will be key for his rest-of-career outlook. Not only will a team be getting a high-ceiling pass rusher, but they will also be getting a great player off the field.
• Hand Technique
• High Motor
• High Football IQ
• Lower Half Flexibility
• College Production
Paye is going to have a lot of people drooling over his athletic profile, but those who weigh college production will be looking at the other edge rushers in this draft. Paye was a pest in the backfield, especially on outside runs and read options. We saw him put pressure on the quarterback at a constant rate but not high enough nor with the numbers of some of the recent elite edge rushers like Garrett and Young. He is a little bit too stiff in his tape when it comes to his lower half, yet that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. His hands and IQ are the two attributes I value the most in Paye. He has a strong bull rush move and combined with his speed and athleticism. It is tough to get around. Paye was not fooled often with play-action or any sort of option at the college level, and his play recognition skills are noteworthy. Coaches will also love the high motor he plays with, and he doesn’t turn off that switch either.
2019 Stats – GP: 4, TCK: 16, SACKS: 2, TFL: 4, FF: 0, FR: 0
Overall Stats – GP: 28, TCK: 97, SACKS: 11.5, TFL: 23.5, FF: 1, FR: 0
2020 was a shortened year, and he missed two games with a groin problem. I would point more towards his 2019 numbers, where he had 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. As mentioned above, he was only a 3-star recruit and was starting in Year 2. It is either going to be Paye or Rousseau, who we haven’t seen since 2019.
Best Landing Spot
Paye needs to find himself on a team that can develop him as a true pass-rusher at the next level. The athleticism and hands are there, alongside the IQ, but there are a few extra levels a team can unlock here. For Paye’s sake, landing on a team like Minnesota who has a proven track record of developing some elite pass-rushers.
Worst Landing Spot
The Raiders continue to be the worst landing spot for many players. The constant turnover between players and the staff is a concern. They have also failed to develop quite a few defensive prospects over the last few seasons. Since Paye is not one of those elite prospects like Garrett or Young, I want him to go somewhere where we have seen a staff develop young talent and have a set plan for them.
Olivier Vernon is a name that comes to mind as someone who isn’t elite at any one particular thing but is going to do a lot of positives that might not show up in the box score. Vernon was best utilized in a 4-3 system, and the same would go for Paye. While athletic and speedy, he still lacks to be an edge rusher in a 3-4 system.
Athleticism: 7 – Not elite speed but certainly above average and quick to the ball
Mechanics: 7 – Strong bull rush technique but will need to improve in other areas.
Run Defense: 8 – Excellent in pursuit and reads plays well.
Strength: 7 – Good strength but will likely need to add a bit more to take the next step.
With an influx of high-level quarterback and receiving talent into the NFL in recent years, there seems to be a lack of supply of quality cornerbacks. Several teams have defensive back as one of their top positions of need this offseason. Caleb Farley is a size-speed demon as he reportedly ran a 4.25-second 40-yard dash in high school. He was formerly a quarterback/running back and had 58 total touchdowns in his senior year, ranking third in North Carolina preps history. Farley had no plans to play on defense in college, but he has evolved into one of the best cornerback prospects in the country. He would have been the CB2 in last year’s class, right after Jeffery Okudah, had he declared for the draft, but he decided to return for his senior season before ultimately opting out of the season.
• Elite speed
• Length and strength
• Clunky footwork
• Lack of press experience
• Never tracked receivers or flipped sides
• Hasn’t played since 2019
• Injury history
Caleb Farley is a top-end physical specimen with ideal speed and size for the cornerback position. He’s also a ballhawk in pass coverage – he had six interceptions across two seasons at Virginia Tech. The biggest concern for Farley will be his limited experience with press defense – he only played 58 snaps of press across two years in college. His footwork can come off a bit clunky at the line of scrimmage, and he needs some fine-tuning. He’s not a player you want running a lot of zone coverage at the moment as his main strength comes in matching all kinds of receivers step-for-step in man coverage. Farley also has a bit of a tackling problem with 21 missed tackles on 80 attempts, but that can be refined over time. One major concern is his injury history, as Farley had a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 and missed the last two games of 2019 with back spasms that bothered him all year long. Farley hasn’t played since 2019, but he clearly stands as an elite prospect at one of the most important positions in the NFL.
2019 stats – 10 GP, 14 tackles, 0 sacks, 12 PD, 0 FF, 0 FR, 4 INT
Overall stats – 23 GP, 43 tackles, 1 sack, 19 PD, 0 FF, 0 FR, 6 INT
Caleb Farley’s basic stats don’t tell the full story of a dynamic downfield coverage player with the ability to keep up with speedy players downfield. He only allowed 4 completions on a career 15 targets against 20+ yards downfield. He isn’t going to line up in the slot and doesn’t provide the same versatility as other defensive back prospects, but he has all of the traits of a high-end, lockdown press corner. Farley’s production may seem a little light, but he missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL before switching over from receiver to play cornerback. Farley proved his ability to be an elite cornerback in 2019 as he allowed a completion on less than 50% of his targets, and he was a first-team All-ACC honoree.
Best Landing Spot
There are several teams in the first round that would love to have a cornerback with Farley’s combination of size, speed, and strength. However, Denver stands out as an especially strong landing spot. The Broncos had serious issues at cornerback last season without any injuries, but at certain points of the year, they were down to just three healthy cornerbacks. A.J. Bouye was released prior to the start of free agency, and Denver heads into next season with Bryce Callahan as the only locked-in starting cornerback on the roster. Duke Dawson is listed as a starter in the team’s current depth chart despite playing mostly special teams to this point in his career. Michael Ojemudia, Essang Bassey, and De’Vante Bausby had opportunities to prove themselves last year, but they all disappointed. Vic Fangio’s defense is predicated on elite man-to-man coverage in the secondary, like what Kyle Fuller provided Chicago when they had the #1 scoring defense in the NFL. Farley’s physical profile makes him an ideal fit as a man-to-man boundary cornerback with the ability to cover a diverse variety of opponents.
Worst Landing Spot
It’s unlikely that the Lions will spend a first-round pick on a cornerback for the second-straight year, but that fit doesn’t make a ton of sense for a few reasons. Detroit will likely be in line to draft one of Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, or Kyle Pitts to add to an offense in desperate need of playmakers. It also wouldn’t help Farley’s early production to play on a defense with such a limited pass-rush as the Lions have – Detroit had just 24 sacks in 16 games last year. An inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks forced Jeffery Okudah into constant bad situations as a rookie, and that problem is likely to persist this season. The Lions do need to add a second cornerback alongside Okudah at some point, but that wouldn’t be the best use of their first-round pick at this point in time.
In looking for a strong comparison for Caleb Farley, I searched for cornerbacks who possess the same level of speed and size – there aren’t many. Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine and stands 6’2”, 210 lbs, so the physical attributes are right in line with Farley. Like Farley, Smith is at his best in press coverage and has the ability to cover a multitude of types of receivers on the boundary. He has the speed to stick with faster receivers downfield, as well as the size and physicality to work against bigger possession receivers. When healthy, Smith has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and has long been underrated in the discussion of the league’s best at the position. Farley has that type of upside as a pro.
Speed: 10 – Whenever Caleb Farley gave up a step at the line of scrimmage (which was rare), he would always have the ability to recover in coverage. Not even Chase Claypool could burn him.
Agility: 9 – Farley is a remarkably fluid athlete and he moves incredibly well in coverage. He uses his size to his advantage, but he moves much better than most players would at his size.
Zone Coverage: 7 – While he certainly has the fluidity and physicality to play zone defense, his mistakes tended to come more in these sets and he’ll fare better in a man-heavy scheme.
Tackles: 6 – Farley missed 21 of 80 career tackle attempts, and that’s a concern heading into the NFL. It’s something that should be fixable through technique drills over time, but he gets a knock in this category for now.
Son of Reggie Slater, a former NBA player, Rashawn Slater was just a three-star recruit coming out of Clements High School in Texas in 2017. He earned just five scholarship offers but instantly became a starter at Northwestern and has been starting ever since. He has the ability to play any position on the offensive line, and in 2019 he was dominant at left tackle. In 787 snaps, he allowed no sacks and just one QB hit. Chase Young was the best pass-rusher in the country that season (and the eventual #1 overall pick), and Slater’s tape against him was better than anyone in the country. It’s unclear if Slater has the size to be a long-term starting tackle in the NFL, however. Slater’s polished technique and cerebral capabilities on the offensive line make him an early first-round pick, and he’s going to be a high-impact player wherever he gets drafted.
• Foot quickness
• Processing speed
• Natural athlete
• Positional versatility
• Great cut-off abilities
• Clean footwork
• Limited size and arm strength
• Doesn’t impose will at LOS
• Not ideal prototype for tackle
• Opted out of 2020
Best Landing Spot
Rashawn Slater is likely going to be forced to play at a tackle spot for one of the teams picking early in the first round with the level of demand at that position. However, his future that provides the highest upside for becoming a perennial Pro Bowl player is in the interior of the offensive line. The Cowboys seem to make the most sense as a potential landing spot for Slater with their transitioning offensive line that is still full of top-level talent. Tyron Smith could be released heading into next year with a $14 million cap hit on his contract, and Slater would make some sense as a replacement at tackle across from La’El Collins. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to play shorter players outside as Collins is 6’4” and Zack Martin, the perennial All-Pro guard, saw some time at tackle last year at 6’4”. In the long-term, after Dallas resolves the future of the tackle spot beyond Smith, Slater can kick inside to form one of the most dominant interior offensive line trios in the NFL with Martin and Joe Looney. The Cowboys have some other significant needs in the draft, but Slater’s versatility and incredible footwork make him a natural fit in Mike McCarthy’s West Coast offense.
Worst Landing Spot
While Rashawn Slater does have the ability to play at offensive tackle, he would be better-served landing on a team that allows him the flexibility to play inside as well. The Patriots likely aren’t that team as their offensive line is not one of their major needs this offseason. Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney fared very well on the interior last year, while Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu were dominant on the outside. New England also gets Marcus Cannon back after he opted out of the 2020 season. The scheme fit is also a question mark as the Patriots ran much more of a power-rushing scheme last year with Cam Newton under center – that isn’t ideal for a smaller, movement-based player in Slater. Newton is a free agent, but it’s unclear what New England’s offense will look like next season. The combination of a lack of clear-cut playing time right away as well as the potentially bad scheme fit makes this a poor landing spot for Slater.
Top 15 Picks
I hate comparing draft prospects to All-Pro players, but for Slater, the comparisons to Marshal Yanda are eerie. Like Slater, Yanda came into the NFL as a player with the versatility to play at tackle but not quite the size or strength to do so. He later became a full-time offensive guard for the Ravens and dominated in their movement-oriented, West Coast offense. Yanda is a future Hall of Famer who started in the NFL for 14 years and was named to two All-Pro teams. However, I truly do believe Slater has that type of upside as an interior offensive lineman. While he may start his career on the outside, Slater just might be a longtime high-level starting offensive guard like Yanda.
Physical: 9 – His footwork is absurd on tape and he moves better than some tight ends in the NFL. He will be able to play a major role in spread-out offenses featuring movement on the offensive line.
Mechanics: 9 – Slater is extremely fundamentally sound and it’s easy to project his technique and footwork carrying him for a long time as a starter.
Run Blocking: 8.5 – A force in open space, Slater will thrive in an offense predicated on spacing the field and utilizing various ball-carriers. He’s not quite a road-grader, but he’s incredibly stout in the run game.
Strength: 7.5 – Slater isn’t going to be breaking any strength records at the combine, but that’s okay – what he lacks in foundational strength and physicality, he makes up for in technique and processing.
Just a three-star recruit out of Riverdale Baptist Highschool in Maryland, Christian Darrisaw’s only confirmed offer from a major program was Virginia Tech, with a few others from smaller schools. He hit the recruitment circuit as just the nation’s 171st-ranked offensive tackle and didn’t even crack inside the top-30 in Maryland alone. He has climbed quite a ways from his humble beginnings, however, as he’s got many teams considering using their first-round pick on a young man they see as their franchise left tackle. His experience and durability at Virginia Tech speak volumes alone. He won the starting left tackle job before playing his first career college game in his true freshman year and hasn’t looked back. He started all but one game in 2018, 13 games in 2019, and nine games in 2020, racking up weekly and yearly awards in each of his three seasons along the way. Another trait that impresses NFL scouts is his size. At 6’ 5’’ and 315 pounds, Darrisaw has molded his body to fit the ideal NFL offensive tackle. Perhaps what impresses scouts the most, though, is his athleticism. For his size, Darrisaw moves and bends remarkably well. His first step at snap allows him to quickly get into position, pull on running, plays exceptionally well, and burst to the next level when run blocking downfield. While his footwork could use some work staying in position as he’s pass blocking, his ability to lower his center of gravity and move laterally has NFL teams confidence that he can easily be coached up to a position where he can handle the speed and strength that will be rushing at him off the edge at the next level.
• Lateral moving
• Getting to next level run blocking
• Anchoring in pass protection
• Hand placement
• Awareness & football IQ
• Complacency / giving up on plays
While Darrisaw’s combination of size and athleticism might have teams chomping at the bit, there are some drawbacks to his game that will need to be corrected for him to realize his potential at the next level. First is his footwork. Dropping back in pass protection, Darrisaw can at times attempt to use his upper body and hands more than moving his feet to stay in front of rushers. At the next level, with much tougher competition, that won’t get the job done. However, in theory, this is something that can be improved upon. Perhaps the biggest knock on Darrisaw is his complacency, which at times can look like a lack of football knowledge, and at times it can simply appear as a lack of aggressiveness. Either way, you’ll often see Darrisaw appear to give up on a play after an initial assignment or fail to finish off a block through the whistle. While some might question his awareness on the field, others might label it as being “soft,” or without a “mean streak.” For the sake of his progression as a player, hopefully, it’s the former. A lack of football knowledge is also something that can be improved through training.
Best Landing Spot
The Indianapolis Colts. Having developed one of the best offensive lines in football in recent years, The Colts will need to replace ten-year veteran Anthony Costanzo at left tackle, who announced his retirement after the 2020 season. If drafted by the Colts, Darrisaw would immediately be given the opportunity to win the starting left tackle position, a task that many believe he’s polished enough to handle were he to fall into the right situation. Either he wins the job and seemingly plays well enough to deserve it, or he sits for a bit and learns behind some of the best. Being surrounded by one of the best lines in football and immediately next to arguably the best guard in football, Quenton Nelson, makes it a perfect match.
Worst Landing Spot
The Cincinnati Bengals. I don’t envy the scrutiny that will be placed on the Bengals offensive line next season, as all eyes will be on the health of Joe Burrow’s knee, an injury that the offensive line has already had to take the blame for. While slotting in with the Colts would surround Darrisaw with above-average offensive line play, slotting in with the Bengals would do quite the opposite. The line, much as it has been in recent years in Cincinnati, is currently a disaster. Their promising young left tackle, Jonah Williams, will hopefully be healthy and penciled in at left tackle to start the 2021 season. Drafting Darrisaw would then likely lead to a position change to right tackle, which is not something he has done before and does not seem wise for somebody who might struggle with their football IQ. The positional change, and the weight of the world being put on him from day one to protect Joe Burrow, surrounded by below-average players, would not be setting Darrisaw up for success.
Early-Mid 1st Round
Jake Matthews. Many of the traits that Darrisaw is being labeled with are similar to that of Atlanta’s long-time left tackle Jake Matthews. In addition to being a similar size to Darrisaw, Matthews was also lauded for his athletic ability, flexibility, and lateral movement as a prospect coming out of college. The tape showed that he could pull really well, had a quick first step off the snap, could reach the second level well when run blocking, and whose ability to bend and lower their center of gravity made it possible to maximize their strength. Much like Darrisaw, Matthews was also a multi-year, experienced starter upon declaring for the NFL draft. Perhaps the most note-worthy comparison, though, is the lack of a “mean streak.” It didn’t prevent Matthews from being an above-average tackle in the league, and it shouldn’t prevent Darrisaw from being one either.
Run Blocking: 7
While Mac Jones isn’t going to go inside the top-five like some of the other quarterbacks in this class, Jones might offer the best value if he falls to the mid-to-late first round. We have only really seen one year out of Mac Jones, where he threw 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns in a National Championship winning season. There are plenty of strong landing spots for Jones as the top-two picks in the draft will be grabbing the top-two quarterbacks in this class. It will be interesting to see how teams go with Lance, Fields, and Jones. The Alabama quarterback is getting a lot of praise, and some even rate him as the second-best quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence. Jones has shown a high IQ, and his reading of the field might separate him from others in this range.
• Reading The Field
• Short Range Passes
• In-Pocket Mechanics
• Touch Passes
• One Year College Starter
Like some of the other Alabama quarterbacks who have come out in recent years, they all had exceptional receiving cores around them. Jones was no different, as two of his wide receivers are expected to go inside the top-20. He had his issues with accuracy at times, missing players high or underthrowing on the deep ball. Like Tua, the arm strength looks ideal but isn’t quite as exciting as you might think. While it isn’t a weakness, I wouldn’t call it a strength either. Jones did have throws where he let his receivers run after the catch, which is an overlooked part of his game. Jones reads the field well and has strong pocket mechanics, but we saw some struggles outside the pocket. He doesn’t have much mobility, and footwork became an issue as well. Playing behind the Alabama offensive line, this isn’t going to be notable to the average eye.
2020 stats – GP: 13, COMP%: 77.4, PASS YDS: 4,500, PASS TD: 41, INT: 4, RTG: 203.1
Overall stats – GP: 30, COMP%: 74.3%, PASS YDS: 6,126, PASS TD: 56, INT: 7, RTG: 197.6
In 2019 we were able to see a little bit of Mac Jones as a sophomore. He competed for 68% of his passes over 141 attempts and had 14 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. 2020 was the big year for him, as he threw for 4,500 yards and had a 77% completion percentage. Jones led the Tide to a championship and finished third in Heisman voting.
Best Landing Spot
There are a few spots that would be great for Mac Jones. Starting with Atlanta, he would get to sit behind Matt Ryan and jump into a good receiving core when Ryan’s time is up. Denver and New Orleans are the two spots I like the most. Denver has an excellent receiving core and a good enough offensive line to help a rookie out. The Saints also have an exceptional offensive line, and with Sean Payton and Michael Thomas, Jones would have adequate personnel around him as he develops. Jones essentially needs a strong offensive line as any quarterback does, but even more so given his lack of mobility and footwork to make and extend plays.
Worst Landing Spot
With Chicago likely to lose Allen Robinson, the Bears pass-catchers will be thinned out despite some young names that might take another step. The offensive line play was average last season, and play-calling continues to be a question mark under Matt Nagy. Given Chicago will be after a quarterback, Jones could be in this range. With work still needed for Jones at this level, Chicago’s incompetence on the offensive side falls beyond just who is on the field.
Mid-Late 1st Round
While Philip Rivers is a little larger than Mac Jones, the mobility is about the same, and any play extension is non-existent. Rivers had good but not great arm strength, which falls into Jones’ scouting report as well. However, this skill set has a lower floor than most quarterbacks, given than desirable athleticism out of the pocket and non-elite arm strength.
Accuracy: 7 – Accurate on shorter/intermediate throws, struggles on the deep ball.
Arm Strength: 6 – Not a notable attribute of Jones’ but could be worse.
Mechanics: 7 – Good footwork within the pocket.
Mobility: 4 – Below-average mobility and ability to extend plays.
Kyle Pitts is an exciting name in this draft because he is technically listed as a TE based on what Florida labeled him as, but he is likely to be in WR roles at the NFL level. Pitts can play anywhere on the field, both inside and outside, as well as tearing it up from the slot. His worst trait is blocking, which he shouldn’t be asked to do much of anyway. At 6’6, he is a freak athlete with above-average speed and very good route-running skills. Pitts is going to be a nightmare for defenses to match up against. He is too big against corners and anyone else he can blow right by. Pitts is also just 20 years old,
• Versatile Route Runner
• Fluid Hips & Quick Feet
• Lines Up Inside & Out
• Elite Size & Speed
• Only 20 Years Old
• Ability To Get 50/50 Balls
• Good Speed
• Strong Hands
While some will have an issue with him being labeled as an in-betweener, Pitts has shown he can be of use in multiple ways. His movement and quickness for his size are often not seen, and he is also sure-handed. Pitts’ route tree is also off the charts, and in addition to him being a mismatch, the right landing spot could see him produce right in year one. If we are pointing out weaknesses, blocking isn’t his strong suit, but it isn’t from a lack of effort. This won’t be looked at regardless, given everything else he can do.
2020 stats – GP: 8, REC: 43, REC YDS: 770, TD: 12, YDS/REC: 17.9
Overall stats – GP: 24, REC: 100, REC YDS: 1,492, TD: 18, YDS/REC: 14.9
Pitts began to emerge in 2019, where he had a 54-649-5 line. Last year, Pitts broke out for a 43-770-12 line in just eight games for Florida and ranked 10th in Heisman voting. Pitts played against a couple of strong secondaries in the SEC, but this conference is nowhere near what it used to be when trying to compare opponents. But he shredded Alabama for a 7-129-1 line, and his highlight game came against Ole Miss, where he went for 170 yards and four scores.
Best Landing Spot
Trades could determine the right fit for Pitts in this draft. If a team like Atlanta doesn’t settle on a quarterback and trades back, they would be in a range where I have Pitts going. Atlanta would be an excellent spot for him as he can be an efficient piece while Atlanta has their full cast, and eventually, Jones will depart, leaving Pitts and Ridley to be a strong 1-2 punch. Also, get Pitts on turf and let him do his thing. Now Atlanta doesn’t fall back and say Cincinnati doesn’t get Sewell for whatever reason. I love the addition to Cincinnati with him and Joe Burrow. Pitts just needs to find himself on a team with a stable quarterback situation.
Worst Landing Spot
Speaking of unstable quarterback situations, Pitts could find himself in New York at pick 11 if the Giants decide they need to add another weapon, which they do. Daniel Jones isn’t the guy of the future, and the Giants could be soon searching for another future quarterback. I am also not confident in the Giants using Pitts to his full potential either, given they run a very lackluster offense. In combination with the subpar quarterback play, this wouldn’t be ideal.
Early – Mid 1st
Because Pitts can play a versatile tight end and wide receiver, you can make multiple comparisons here. If we are looking at him from a receiving tight end threat, there are a lot of similarities to Darren Waller, who has broken out over the last few seasons. Waller is a big target but very elusive and has the speed to beat defensive backs off the line or in space. Waller ranked first in yards after the catch among WR/TE last season, and I can see Pitts finding his way high onto this list during his career.
Agility: 8.5 – Quick feet and hips make him an exceptional route runner.
Routes: 8.5 – Versatile route tree with the ability to line up all over the field.
Blocking: 5 – Average blocker.
Size: 10 – Height gives him a mismatch on just about everybody.
Christian Barmore is entering the NFL Draft after just his second season playing football at Alabama. The interior defensive lineman showed a lot in his first two seasons. Barmore was the 5th ranked defensive tackle in his class coming out of Neumann Goretti High School in Pennsylvania and so far has seemingly lived up to the hype. Barmore is undoubtedly best suited as a 3-Tech, something that has been becoming a little rarer in the NFL.
• Pass Rush
• Explosive Lower-Body
• Quick First Step
• Good Hand Fighting
• Large Size for 3-Tech
Barmore really shines as a pass-rushing 3-Tech. He has an explosive base, a quick first step, and a knack for collapsing the pocket. His hand fighting is great, and it is clear that the pass-rushing side of his game has developed ahead of schedule as a redshirt sophomore. This is becoming more and more important in today’s NFL as the offense relies more and more on the pass. I would argue that he is a very good size for how quick he is and his position as a 3-Tech. At Alabama, he played across the line and was often required to do a lot of different things; this showcased his versatility to possibly fit in a 3-4 or multi-front defense at the next level.
• Struggles Against Big Linemen
• Not Disciplined
• Shedding Blocks on Run
The weaknesses are really on display when it comes to the run game and screen game. Often times I watched Barmore struggle with a single blocker, and he was unable to achieve shedding the block. Barmore also got pushed back quite a bit by larger offensive linemen; this includes the pass, but especially the run game. This is a major red flag for me as every offensive lineman in the NFL is going to be strong compared to the average college guard. In the screen game, Barmore rarely had any awareness, and his lack of a 3rd year playing was really on display. I am worried that Barmore could be taken advantage of on the ground and by a savvy offensive play-caller.
2020 Stats – GP: 11 , Tackles: 37, Sacks: 8, TFL: 9.5, FF: 3, FR: 0
Overall Stats – GP: 22, Tackles: 63, Sacks: 10, TFLs: 15.5, FF: 3, FR: 0
Barmore’s college production as a DT was pretty solid. The 8 sacks on the season and huge production during the CFB National Title Game really boosted his NFL draft stock. However, he only produced one and a half other tackles for loss besides the 8 sacks. He needs to figure out how to utilize his strengths to get into the backfield and blow up run plays. If that skill is honed, a lot of my worries for him in the NFL start to dissipate.
Best Landing Spot
The Minnesota Vikings and Mike Zimmer’s defense is one of the few places Christian Barmore could play a traditional 3-Tech and really utilize his skills. Andre Patterson, the Vikings Defensive Line Coach, is one of the very best in the business. He has consistently turned later-round picks into startable assets, as well as turned Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter into superstars. If you want to get the best out of your linemen, then you go to Patterson. Barmore would also be able to play alongside Michael Pierce, a big NT that will eat double teams up. This will allow Barmore a much easier time rushing the passer and getting into the backfield against the run.
Worst Landing Spot
While the Green Bay Packers have a talented roster and use for Barmore, I do not like the fit on this Packers’ defensive scheme. There is already some confusion as to what front will be lined up next year as Joe Barry has become the new Defensive Coordinator; however, apparently, he was not Matt LaFleur’s first choice. Barry has run both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, and it seems like it will be a bit of a mix in 2021. I think that Barmore needs to focus as a 3-Tech, and him being utilized on the nose or at the edge as a 3-4 DE will not bode well for his development.
Mid 1st – Early 2nd
When I watch Barmore, I see quite a bit of Sheldon Richardson when it comes to comparing their pass rushing. Both use a bit of quickness and size to collapse the pocket and get to the QB. I believe that Richardson was a more well-rounded prospect coming out of college, but both do struggle to stop the run at times. I would argue that Barmore is currently a very raw but bigger version of a Sheldon Richardson-like player. As a 4-3 3-Tech, I think they play very similar styles.
Athleticism: 7 – Athletic for his size, a big 3-Tech
Mechanics: 6.5 – Good footwork, but the upper body could see quite a few improvements
Run Defense: 5.5 – Nothing special in rush defense, needs to secure more tackles
Strength: 6 – Often got pushed back by bigger college linemen
Azeez Ojulari was a prolific high school football player with over 100 tackles and eight or more sacks in each of his junior and senior seasons at Georgia’s Marietta High School. He was also a starting basketball player for the varsity team. He received over 30 scholarship offers and chose Georgia over a plethora of other high-level programs. In his junior season at Georgia, Ojulari broke through as one of the best pass-rushers in the country as he racked up 35 pressures, 9 sacks, and 8 QB hits. That earned him a nod as a semi-finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award for the top defensive player in the country. He bested some of the best offensive tackles in the country like Alex Leatherwood. In the Peach Bowl, Georgia’s final game of the season, Ojulari opted to play and registered three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a safety – arguably, the best game of his college career. That game could have boosted his draft stock a bit, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the best pass-rushers in this class.
• Consistently great speed off the edge
• Incredible at cornering offensive tackles
• Strong football IQ, reads and reacts to plays
• Always one step ahead of opposing blocker
• Limited power at 240 lbs, concerns about run defense
• Only one year of top-level production
• Didn’t play more than 52 snaps in a game
• Pass-rushing technique needs some refinement
• Lacks ideal length for some schemes
With the prevalence of passing in the modern NFL, every team needs a multitude of capable pass-rushers to put pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback. Azeez Ojulari stands as arguably the best pure pass-rusher in this year’s class with his blend of speed, athleticism, and ability to read and react to plays. That cerebral element is often the missing link for a lot of players, and Ojulari has already showcased a strong understanding of the game. Teams will have doubts about his ability to produce in run defense as he’s a bit undersized at 6’3”, 240 lbs. He could certainly add some muscle, but there’s also the concern of losing some of his burst off the edge if he does. I believe athleticism and foot speed are much more important in the new NFL than traditional size and strength. Ojulari only had one year of top-level production at Georgia and the Bulldogs were able to keep him fresh by limiting him to no more than 52 snaps in a game. Ojulari is an incredibly advanced pass-rusher for his age, but his somewhat one-dimensional game will cause him to drop in the draft. A borderline playoff team could get a huge boost from Ojulari by drafting him in the 20s.
2020 Stats – 10 GP, 31 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 4 FF, 1 FR
Overall Stats – 39 GP, 68 tackles, 15 sacks, 18.5, 5 FF, 1 FR
Best Landing Spot
The Titans are top-to-bottom one of the most talented teams in the NFL, but their inability to get after the quarterback hindered their defense last season. Only two teams had fewer than Tennessee’s 19 sacks last year. New defensive coordinator Shane Bowen, previously the team’s outside linebackers coach, would be thrilled to work with a prospect with Ojulari’s talent. Tennessee’s offense is relatively set with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and A.J. Brown leading the charge, but their defense has to improve to make them a real Super Bowl threat. Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent this offseason, and he may not return with the Titans’ limited cap space. Tennessee will also have a significant need at cornerback, but it’s likely that Patrick Surtain, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn are off the board by the time their first-round pick (#22) comes around. Ojulari is an awesome fit in the variable blitzing defense we should see Bowen employ.
Worst Landing Spot
There are few teams that wouldn’t benefit from having a pass-rusher like Azeez Ojulari on their roster, but the Washington Football Team may be one of them. Washington runs a base 4-3 in which Chase Young (6’5”, 265 lbs) and Montez Sweat (6’6”, 260 lbs) are two of the bigger edge defenders in the NFL. Washington’s defensive scheme wouldn’t be a great fit for Ojulari, despite his clear talent, and he wouldn’t see immediate playing time with the level of pass-rushing talent on the roster. Washington should focus on an underwhelming offense with their first-round pick rather than adding a redundant player who is a poor scheme fit in Ojulari.
Ojulari reminds me a lot of another former Georgia outside pass-rusher in Leonard Floyd. Like Ojulari, Floyd was a bit undersized coming out of the draft, but he has been very productive off the edge to this point in his career. Floyd was a major contributor to the Rams’ top defense last year. Ojulari possesses more speed and athleticism than Floyd, however, and he’s likely to be more explosive as a pass-rusher off the edge. A popular comparison for Ojulari has been Ravens’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue ran a 4.75 40-yard dash at the combine, something Ojulari should be able to significantly surpass. Like Ojulari, Ngakoue has had some concerns in regards to his run defense and both players may be better-served as pass-rushing specialists. If Ojulari is able to add significant muscle mass, his comparisons improve as does his prospective future.
Athleticism: 10 – One of the best athletes in this draft class with remarkable speed off the edge. He’ll skate by some offensive tackles in the NFL
Mechanics: 8.5 – Ojulari’s pass-rushing is obviously his biggest strength, but his mechanics could be cleaned up a bit more over time.
Run Defense: 6. – At 6’3”, 240 lbs and with limited standing reach, Ojulari doesn’t have ideal measurables for run defense. Luckily for him, pass defense is much more important these days
Strength: 6 – He wouldn’t break any combine records for strength, and the lack of a power aspect to his game could hold him back from becoming a Pro Bowl-level edge defender.