The 2020 NFL Draft was one for the books. The 2020 class was outstanding at every position with a historic offensive tackle and wide receiver classes. I can’t wait to see how these prospects will fit and grow with their teams, and how they will look in the coming years.
The draft did not lack drama either. Two NFC and former playoff teams, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, used high draft picks on quarterbacks Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts adding intrigue to their quarterback positions in the fall. The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders did Seahawk and Raider things, drafting prospects Jordan Brooks and Damon Arnette in the first round when most experts predicted both as late second or early third round prospects. Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb fell to the middle of the first round, allowing the Broncos and Cowboys to leave the draft night with some of the best receiving corps in football. However, some teams were not as fortunate. The Green Bay Packers, yes the packers again, were shockingly the butt of most fans jokes, who ridiculed the team for passing up on opportunities to draft a wide receiver, their most pressing need.
As exciting as the 2020 draft was, a new crop of prospects is ripe with talent, potentially even more talent than the 2020 class. This article will detail my top-25 prospects in the 2021 draft based on their potential and what we’ve seen on tape so far.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
What is there to say about Trevor Lawrence anymore. In two seasons, the Clemson quarterback has 66 passing and 10 rushing touchdowns while leading his team to back-to-back national championship games. Nobody else on this list can say the same. Lawrence also has the physical attributes to be a dominant quarterback at the next level. For many, Lawrence is a sure bet, similar to Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft.
2. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Fresh off an Outland Trophy in 2019, an award given to the nation’s best offensive or defensive interior lineman in the country, Penei Sewell is considered by many the best tackle prospect of the past decade. With the last draft’s amazing tackle class, Sewell has some pressure to perform. However, I think another offseason of correcting his balance to match seamlessly with his athletic frame will make him one of the most coveted prospects in the class.
3. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Edge Rusher Gregory Rousseau had a monster season in 2019. The redshirt freshman produced an astounding 54 tackles and 15.5 sacks. Out of a total of 54 tackles, nearly over a third were for a loss. As a redshirt freshman with these numbers, you can only bet that Rousseau will continue to improve and ascend to Chase Young levels of hype in the 2021 draft. I would have loved to see Rousseau in a Hurricanes uniform in 2021 as they play Alabama and Michigan State. You can’t win them all but any team will win drafting this talented edge rusher in the 2021 draft.
4. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Joe Brady and Joe Burrow did wonders for Ja’Marr Chase’s game. Ja’Marr Chase was by far the best wide receiver in 2019, high praise given the gauntlet of star-power at the receiver position in this year’s draft. But this praise is not without merit as Chase put up an elite 84 receptions for 1780 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. People may knock his game given an elite system and pieces around him. However, Chase has great hands and an ability to make contested catches only the most elite receivers in the NFL could make.
— TigerDroppings (@TigerDroppings) April 27, 2020
5. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.
While most of the attention, rightfully so, went to Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields had a Heisman worthy season. Ryan Day’s offensive system at Ohio St. transformed Fields from a quality quarterback prospect to the nation’s premier quarterback. Fields 2019 stats were not human, as the quarterback threw for 41 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions at a completion rate of 67.2 percent. He carries plenty of velocity on his passes and is accurate when on the move. Expect Fields to be in the Heisman conversation again in 2020.
Leading the way in the group is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, rated by McShay as the No. 4 overall prospect in the class. https://t.co/4yfBMvo7SH
— Toledo Sports (@toledosports) May 27, 2020
6. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Alex Leatherwood ranks as my second-best offensive lineman due to his athleticism and potential to play multiple positions on the offensive line in the NFL. Leatherwood excels at run-blocking and will be coveted by teams with zone rushing schemes. If he plays meaningful time at the guard position, expect his draft stock to fall. If he plays tackle, expect him to be drafted in the top-ten. Regardless, he is an elite athlete at the position and one of the best prospects in this class.
7. Patrick Surtain ll, CB, Alabama
The Crimson Tide’s five-star recruit, Patrick Surtain ll, enters his junior year with everything to prove. He has the frame, 6’2’’ 203 pounds to match up against any receiver. He also does a great job of using the sideline as an extra defender. With his size, he is also a sure tackler, something that gives Surtain even more positional versatility. Expect him to shine amongst the cornerback pack in 2020.
8. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.
Micah Parsons is my highest rated linebacker. He is almost as versatile as Isaiah Simmons, a top-ten pick in 2020. Parsons excels due to his athleticism. He can run sideline to sideline with some of the best running backs in the game, has the length, size, and speed to cover tight-ends, and can disrupt slot receivers over the middle. With an elite set of athletic traits and tape to solidify his talent, Parsons will most definitely impress in 2020.
9. Trey Lance, QB, N. Dakota St.
Trey Lance is the quarterback nobody is talking about. Similar to Jordan Love in 2020, I expect Lance to get more attention as the season progresses. At 6’3 221 pounds, Lance looks like a machine and could become the next quarterback out of North Dakota State to make an impact in the league. He projects as a dual-threat quarterback due to his 1,100 yard rushing season in 2019. But by no means is he a below-average passer. Lance threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns. This kid’s hype needs to catch up with his talents.
The QB1 of the 2021 draft is expected to be a battle between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. However, @MoveTheSticks and I believe another QB (Trey Lance) should be included in the conversation. We had a lively discussion on the MTS podcast today.. pic.twitter.com/mEHnCGtmDe
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) May 26, 2020
10. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Rondale Moore is another prospect that does not get the attention he deserves. Moore is an elite speed threat at 5’9’’, 180 pounds. Many discount Moore for his sophomore season where he only caught 29 receptions for 387 receiving yards. However, he was limited by a nagging hamstring injury. To see his full potential, you must go back to 2018 where he caught a whopping 118 receptions for 1258 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions. His speed is nearly Henry Rugg’s level and he has the production to show for it. 2020 will catapult Moore’s draft stock.
11. Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Sam Cosmi isn’t projected as a top-ten pick in most draft boards because he’s only played right tackle throughout his career. However, expect things to change for the 6’7’’ 310-pound offensive lineman. With a void at left tackle, the Longhorns will most likely move Cosmi to this position which should improve his draft stock. Despite draft stock logistics, Cosmi can play and is steadily improving. He cut his pressure rate by nearly half from 4.6% to 2.5%. If he improves even more in 2020, Cosmi will be a top-ten pick no doubt, especially with experience at the coveted left tackle position.
12. Xavier Thomas, EDGE, Clemson
What would this list be without a top Clemson defensive lineman? Here’s our annual great Clemson defensive lineman in Xavier Thomas. All jokes aside, Thomas deserves to be on this list. While he hasn’t put up the stats, only 1.5 sacks in 2019, injuries have limited his production. However, his athletic potential is through the roof, and if he can stay healthy and consistent in 2020, expect him to be included in conversations with Rousseau.
13. Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Walker Little was considered amongst the likes of Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, and Jedrick Wills in 2019. However, a season-ending injury curtailed his plans at entering the 2020 draft. This may be a blessing for Little as this year’s offensive line class is not as deep. I think if he shows his health and has a quality season, expect teams to clamor over him in the 2021 draft.
14. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The second linebacker on this list, Dylan Moses has that IT-FACTOR. As another Alabama pipeline under Nick Saban, Moses’ only knock has been injuries. When productive, as in his sophomore campaign with 86 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks, Moses can be a difference-maker for teams. While injuries will most likely hurt his stock, when healthy, Moses is easily a top-20 player in this draft class.
15. Pat Friermuth, TE, Penn St.
At 6’5’’ 256 pounds many folks in the draft community have dubbed Friermuth as the baby Rob Gronkowski. He can do it all by racking up yards after catches, blocking at an elite level, and running crisp routes. He also showed the ability to be an elite red-zone threat for the Nitty Lions racking 15 touchdowns in two seasons. All the more impressive is that these touchdowns were with Miles Sanders and KJ Hamler on the field. Friermuth is elite at his position and hasn’t received credit where credit is due.
16. Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida St.
Marvin Wilson is another player often overlooked by analysts because of the position he plays on the interior defensive line. His biggest strength is his size and speeds off the line. There are countless plays where he just bulldozes opposing guards due to his quick release along the line of scrimmage. If he can keep up his rate of 8.5 sacks in 19 games, as his career average suggests, Wilson will become a top-15 pick.
17. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio St.
Many expected Shaun Wade to join Ohio State counterparts Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette in the 2020 draft. However, his role in 2019 was relegated to the nickel position. While he shined at nickel, it is not a position that provides considerable draft stock. I expect Wade as a number one cornerback and with a few more interceptions to climb on draft boards. Wade is an elite athlete with all the tools to be successful.
18. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Travis Etienne is a household name. After two national championship appearances and quality games in between, Etienne is well experienced and ready to make a huge difference in years to come. He has a very quick step used to beat linebackers to the hole. While he won’t turn heads in the combine, he has the acceleration to reach his top speed very quickly. With 1,1614 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019, Etienne deserves to be on this list.
Clemon's Travis Etienne is the clear-cut RB1 in the 2021 class — all the dynamism and forced missed tackle ability needed to perform above expectation in the NFL.pic.twitter.com/HJtmyWQi40
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) May 28, 2020
19. Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Caden Sterns is my top safety in 2020 and he has the potential to climb up this list. As a freshman, Sterns shined with four interceptions and four pass breakups. However, his sophomore year was a disappointment with no interceptions and fewer tackles. Caden Sterns makes this list due to his potential, he is an instinctive safety that is right almost every time. If he can get some consistency, he should be a mid-first round pick.
20. Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
Carlos Basham makes this list because of his steady improvement throughout his four seasons. As an edge rusher, Basham has continued to show the capacity to grow at an elite level, finishing his redshirt junior season with 57 tackles and 11 sacks. While not the most talented of this bunch, his work ethic and continued strength building will prove valuable in molding him into an excellent player in the NFL.
21. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
DeVonta Smith was apart of the four-headed trio at the wide receiver position in Alabama. While projected as a second-round pick in a crowded receiver class, Smith’s return to Alabama allows him the opportunity to produce the eye-opening stats that he is capable of producing. I think returning to Alabama is perfect for Smith, who can add muscle to his smaller frame. With his fluid ability to create separation, spending an offseason in Alabama will make Smith a top-three receiving prospect.
22. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle serves as Smith’s receiving partner in Alabama next season. While younger and less of a household name, Waddle will make his name as one of the most explosive receivers in the nation. He’s nearly as fast as Henry Ruggs lll, nearly as fluid as Jeudy, and nearly as dominant as Lamb after the catch. Another season to get better at all these phases will push him into the national conversation.
23. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Andre Cisco is a very capable safety, who could transition to cornerback in the NFL. He has elite coverage skills per his PFF grade of 88.8 in his freshman year. While his sophomore year was more disappointing, in part due to injury, I expect Cisco to return to his freshman year form as he continues to hone his technique. With already great coverage, ball skills, and closing speed, I expect Cisco to be a top-two safety in the upcoming draft.
24. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma St.
With a name like Chuba Hubbard, the Oklahoma State running back is ready to become a household favorite. At 6’0’’ 207 pounds, the Canadian is an explosive, but patient runner that will let the holes come to him and then capitalize with his agility and Madden-like cuts. While many argue that he lacks a top gear, I argue that the running back’s ability to brush off contact is what truly makes him elite.
25. Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
In a competitive SEC, Israel Mukuamu was able to hold his own. The cornerback out South Carolina height 6’4’’ and wingspan gave him the ability to neutralize jump-ball receivers. For his height, he has good enough speed to be a matchup nightmare with the shiftiest wide-receivers. His three-interception game against Georgia in 2019 is just a taste of his ball skills. He is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft.