The 2021 NFL draft is almost a year away, and scouting work on the prospects has already started. Position groupings are shaping up to be deep in both the quarterback and wide receiver groups. An impressive group is the wide receiver group, and it has several prospects that could turn into number one receivers in the NFL. The quarterback group has four players that could turn into franchise quarterbacks. Let us get a jump start and examine the top 25 prospects in the 2021 draft.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson)
Trevor Lawrence’s career record says it all. The Clemson signal-caller has lost one game his entire career, and that was against eventual 2020 national champion LSU. The probable Heisman contender put up impressive numbers last season, passing for 3,665 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In 2018, the numbers were just as remarkable, with Lawrence throwing for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. Lawrence has been an exceptional leader and has shown he can play through pain in the Ohio State semi-final matchup. The key for Lawrence now is staying healthy.
2. Ja’Marr Chase, WR (LSU)
During the LSU championship run, Chase made some very good cornerbacks look average. Chase was able to confuse Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs with his route running. In a talented receiving corps, Chase was on the receiving end of 20 touchdown passes and gave the Bayou Bengals a deep threat for Heisman winner Joe Burrow. To cap off his sophomore season, Chase racked up 221 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the destruction of Clemson in the national championship. Chase is a Heisman threat and will probably be a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
3. Patrick Surtain, CB (Alabama)
One player that has lived up to the recruiting hype at Alabama is cornerback Patrick Surtain. Surtain earned All-American honors last season at Alabama, and it was surprising that he did not declare for the 2020 NFL draft. Surtain is fast enough and uses his size at 6’2” to cause problems for opposing wide receivers. The potential is there for Surtain to have an impressive 2020 season and make a case for going early in the draft.
4. Justin Fields, QB (Ohio State)
Fields, in his brief time in the college game, has worked under multiple offensive systems, both at Georgia and, most recently, at Ohio State. In Fields’ first season with the Buckeyes, he passed for 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. The Georgia transfer had an excellent season, and he was a Heisman finalist in his first season as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. Fans and scouts are expecting another big season from the Buckeyes signal-caller.
5. Penei Sewell, OT (Oregon)
Sewell has learned his craft well under Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. Sewell is a dominant offensive tackle, and he has kept Oregon quarterbacks clean the past few seasons. The powerful Oregon Duck won the Outland Trophy last season and will likely have a shot at winning it again this year. Oregon will not have experience at the quarterback position this season, so the offensive line will need to come through in a big way for the Ducks.
6. Shaun Wade, CB (Ohio State)
Wade was overshadowed last season by Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette. Both Arnette and Okudah were first-round selections this season, and Wade has an excellent chance at being the next first-round corner from Ohio State. Wade showed last season that he was a consistent tackler and a dangerous cover corner. The talented Buckeye has the attribute of having played the outside, nickel, and safety positions, and he will be another Buckeye selected in the first round.
7. Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State)
Over the past four decades, Penn State has kept the NFL flush with linebackers. Micah Parsons will be the next great Penn State linebacker to hear his name called on draft weekend. Parsons shows off his impressive athleticism when he blitzes the quarterback. Parsons is productive, racking up 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and five sacks. While doing this, Parsons was able to break up five passes and force four fumbles. The impressive linebacker is entering his junior season, and if he declares this year, he has an excellent chance of being the first linebacker off the board.
8. Gregory Rousseau, DE (Miami)
The Miami Hurricanes have had a history of producing first-round talent, but from the defensive end position, the Hurricanes have not had a player go in the first round since 2003. Rousseau had an excellent season in 2019, recording 19 tackles for loss to go along with 15.5 sacks. It is early to compare Rousseau to Chase Young, but the similarities are present, and that could lead to Rousseau going in the first round of the 2021 draft.
9. Dylan Moses, LB (Alabama)
Dylan Moses suffered an ACL injury last season, so his medicals may be a bit of a question mark, but he has an excellent chance at a bounce-back season. In 2018, Moses displayed exceptional speed and flashed the ability to make plays all over the field. Moses has shown that when he is healthy, he is a top-10 draft pick and he should bounce back and be an impact player for the Crimson Tide this season.
10. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)
Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy were the recipients of most of the attention last season, but DeVonta Smith was the receiver that led the Crimson Tide in receiving yards with 1,256 and touchdowns with 14. Smith has improved the past two seasons and is looking to take that next step in being the go-to guy. As long as Smith continues to develop his route running, he will be an early first-round selection in 2021.
11. Walker Little, OT (Stanford)
Little was one of the best offensive tackles coming into the 2019 season but suffered an injury early in the season and could not declare for the draft last season. Little bouncing back from the injury and proving that he can be the same dominant tackle he was before the injury will allow him to go early in the first round of the 2021 draft. Walker has proven that he can be a dominant tackle in the past, and he would have been a top ten pick had he stayed healthy a year ago.
12. Justyn Ross, WR (Clemson)
Justyn Ross has dominated elite competition before. Ross lit up Alabama in the national championship two years ago. Ross can high point the football and is a frightening red zone threat for opposing defenses to scheme against. The athletic Ross is a matchup nightmare at 6’4” and 220 lbs. The athletic Clemson receiver will be the go-to target with Tee Higgins now in the NFL. The potential for a big 2020 season is high for Ross.
13. Rondale Moore, WR (Purdue)
Moore only played in four games last season, but he has already proven that he is a dynamic playmaker from the receiver position. All anyone needs to do is look at what Moore accomplished in 2018. In 2018, Moore was named first-team All-American and was the winner of the Paul Hornung Award. The explosive Moore has the potential to move up in the draft and will probably be the primary receiving target in the Boilermaker’s offense.
14. Sam Cosmi, OT (Texas)
The 2021 offensive tackle class is shaping up to be a deep one. Sam Cosmi has started 26 games the past two seasons and has done an impressive job on the right side. The move to the left side for the upcoming season will be significant for Cosmi. Cosmi has the opportunity to prove he is the best tackle on the draft board. Cosmi has had two years of experience and will go early on draft weekend, but how early is the question?
15. Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson)
The Clemson passing game gets plenty of attention, but the Tigers’ rushing attack is just as dangerous. Travis Etienne is an explosive runner, averaging 7.8 yards per carry and causing nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. Etienne is a threat when rushing the football, but he is also a complete back and does a superb job of catching the football. The value that NFL teams place on running backs varies, but Etienne is a safe first-round selection.
16. Marvin Wilson, DT (Florida State)
It has not been a pleasant couple of seasons for the Florida State Seminoles, but it has not been without its bright spots as well. Wilson had 44 tackles, four pass breakups, and five sacks last season. Wilson is powerful enough and quick enough to draw the double teams from opposing offensive lines. The Florida State defense will be counted upon early in the season, which will give Wilson a chance to shine and pick up some momentum as the season gets underway. The athletic defensive tackle will play under a new coaching staff, but he has an excellent chance to move into a first-round selection.
17. Jaylen Waddle, WR (Alabama)
Waddle uses his excellent speed at both the wide receiver position and in the return game. Waddle was on the receiving end of 33 passes and racked up 560 yards and six touchdowns. With Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy both in the NFL, Waddle has a chance to become Alabama’s top deep threat for the 2020 season.
18. Deonte Brown, G (Alabama)
Brown solidified the right guard spot for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Deonte missed the first four games of the season last year, serving a four-game suspension for an NCAA violation. Brown helped the Crimson Tide offense finish second in the nation in scoring at 47.2 points per game. The remarkably talented Brown has been consistent enough in pass protection and in run blocking to propel himself into the first round.
19. Richard LeCounte, S (Georgia)
The most consistent and reliable safety on the board is Georgia safety Richard LeCounte. LeCounte is a hard hitter, and he does an excellent job of identifying the run and bringing down the ball carrier. The hard-hitting safety is an intelligent player that can anticipate where the quarterback is going with the football and make a play on the ball. LeCounte will need to put on some weight, but his game translates well to the NFL style of play.
20. Creed Humphrey, C (Oklahoma)
Creed Humphrey is a massive player at the center position. Humphrey is 6’6” and 320 lbs and is a dominant player for the Sooners offense. The Shawnee, Oklahoma native, can explode out of his stance and dictates where the defensive linemen are going to go. Humphrey’s run blocking is solid, and he is quick to defeat the defensive lineman and get into the next level. The ability that is the most valuable is his identification of the blitzers and calling out where they are coming from.
21. Kyle Pitts, TE (Florida)
Pitts has exploded onto the scene as a vital component of the Florida Gators’ offense. The Gator’s tight end has caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five touchdowns. Pitts is not afraid to come across and make the reception, meanwhile knowing that he is going to take a blow. The 2020 tight end draft class was not a strong one, so Pitts staying healthy and continuing to produce will be a factor in how high he goes in the first round of the 2021 draft. With Florida losing Van Jefferson to the NFL draft this season, Pitts has an excellent opportunity to emerge as a more significant red zone threat.
22. Tyler Shelvin, DT (LSU)
Tyler Shelvin is an athletic defensive tackle that can explode into the offensive backfield and disrupt both the run and the passing game. Shelvin’s excellent power forces the offensive line to double team him, which frees up the edge rusher to get into the backfield. In what is shaping up to be a deep defensive tackle draft, Shelvin gives NFL teams a look at both a run stuffer and a solid pass rusher. The massive Bayou Bengal plays against elite competition in the SEC, so scouts will have an opportunity to draft a defensive tackle that will be ready for the NFL game.
23. Trey Smith, OT (Tennessee)
Smith is a massive human being at 6’6” 325 lbs. Smith has anchored the Tennessee offensive line over the past two years and has helped turn the Tennessee offense into a much more consistent threat. The Tennessee standout has played the left tackle spot and has done an impressive job of keeping his quarterback off the ground. Smith has also played the guard spot. Playing inside has allowed Smith not to be moved and drive the opposing defender backward, as well as attack the second level.
24. Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)
Trey Lance will be the quarterback in the 2021 draft that will get more attention as the college football season draws closer. The Bison quarterback is dangerous using his legs, being able to extend plays and pick up first downs. Lance rushed for 1,100 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on the ground. As good as Lance was on the ground, he was equally dangerous through the air. Lance threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns. North Dakota State is a powerhouse program, and it is no longer a surprise to see quality quarterbacks come out of smaller schools and light up the NFL. Lance has the potential to move up in the draft with another dominant season this season.
25. Kylin Hill, RB (Mississippi State)
Kylin Hill had the talent and the numbers to enter the draft in 2020, but he chose to go back to school and get some work under Mike Leach. The Mississippi State standout rushed for 1,350 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground last season. Hill was on the receiving end of 18 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown. The receiving area will probably be the area that Hill improves the most this season. Being in the Mike Leach air raid system will require Hill to be a safety valve for the quarterback this season. Hill proving that he can be consistent on the ground game and in the passing game will make him a top draft target for NFL teams needing a consistent running back.
The outstanding thing about getting a list out there early is it will give everyone an idea of who the marquee players are going to be heading into the season. At this point, the number one overall selection appears to be Trevor Lawrence from Clemson. Looking at this list, fans will see plenty of Alabama players and plenty of Clemson talent.
Talented running backs like Kylin Hill and Travis Etienne have a chance to put more focus on the running back position than has been on it the past few years. One item that will not come as a surprise is the number of offensive linemen that can be found in this list. To put together a dominant offense, you need to go inside-out, and that is why the number of offensive linemen in this early top 25 category is extensive. Everything will soon be settled on the field; we just have to be patient a little longer.