The countdown to the 2021 NFL Draft has already begun and with college football in flux for 2020, the clock feels like it’s ticking faster toward next April.
This fall, with two Power 5 conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12) postponing their seasons to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and a few top players opting out as part of their personal protocol, the evaluation process for scouts, analysts and general managers got a lot tougher.
With no extra game tape of several notable prospects and perhaps a more limited series of pre-draft workouts ahead, it takes a keener eye to identify the most skilled pro talent for the Class of 2021. Luckily, a lot of players did plenty to boost their stock on the field early in their careers.
Based on what we’ve seen want we know, here a ranking of the best 50 overall prospects and an updated list of the top players to watch at every position going forward:
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2021:
Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields get company at the top
NFL Draft prospects 2021: Big board of top 50 players
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (6-6, 220 pounds)
Lawrence will be difficult to knock off from the top spot given the two QBs behind him don’t have a season showcase while he gets to go to work on the ACC schedule for a third time. He’s elite in terms of arm and athleticism and the scary thought is he has untapped upside with his special skill set.
2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (6-3, 233 pounds)
Fields was a dynamic dual threat right away in Ryan Day’s offense. He fits in with the modern pro game because of his unique running ability to go with his confident downfield passing.
3. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (6-3, 225 pounds)
Forget that he dominated for only one season in FBS. Between his prototypical frame, efficiency and athleticism, Lance is a mighty third QB in this top-heavy class who checks all the boxes in meshing passing and running so well.
4. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (6-6, 260 pounds)
Rousseau has opted out of the ACC season to focus on working out for the NFL. It’s just about raising his ceiling there as his floor or production immediately was high for the Hurricanes. He has great burst to the QB and finishes them off well, too.
5. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (6-1, 200 pounds)
Chase made a ton of big plays with Joe Burrow outside and now will get to expand his receiving and route-running repertoire with more slot work in 2020.
6. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (6-5, 325 pounds)
Sewell is a rock of a run blocker who also established himself as being plenty smooth enough with his feet in pass protection. With his Ducks career done, he should start on the left side for a long time in the NFL.
7. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 194 pounds)
Wade is a near clone of former Buckeyes teammate Jeffery Okudah with his active and instinctive work in coverage. Wade could use the time off to become more consistent with his technique.
8. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama (6-6, 310 pounds)
Leatherwood is an elite athlete who can become a top overall blocker should he keep working on his strength and technique. He should have more of the spotlight with his balanced play as the Tide roll with some offensive skill newness.
9. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (6-2, 203 pounds)
The son of the former Dolphins top cornerback has some of the same attributes. Surtain, with his pedigree, size and ball-hawking skills, has the potential to be a true shutdown corner in the NFL, too.
10. Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas (6-7, 300 pounds)
Cosmi has been outstandingly agile protecting that other Sam — quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Cosmi is a massive prospect for the position with nimble feet to match.
11. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (5-9, 180 pounds)
Moore opted out after a hamstrung sophomore season to get into better playmaking shape. He’s a dynamo made to deliver big plays all over the open field whenever he gets the balls in his hands in the nFL. Moore has the potential to grow into a more polished all-around receiver, too.
12. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207)
Farley continues the nice-sized cornerback theme in this class. Before opting out for 2020, he shot up to stardom in 2019, using his frame and hands well to win tough battles on routes and break up passes.
13. Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (6-5, 311 pounds)
Wilson has sa great combination of inside power and quickness to keep him as a highly effective interior pass rusher in the NFL.
14. Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest (6-5, 275 pounds)
Basham has natural explosiveness and instincts to get after and finish quarterbacks. There’s no doubt he’s relentless in trying to come up with game-changing plays, and the production proves it.
15. Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds)
Parsons is the latest product of “Linebacker U.” who completes defines with his active sideline-to-sideline playmaking with good combination of run-stopping and coverage skills. Ahead of his opt-out and conference postponement, Parson had 109 total tackles including 5 sacks in his last season for the Nittany Lions.
16. Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State (6-4, 315 pounds)
Davis is the classic agile and nasty right guard made for picking up where he left off run blocking at an elite level for the Buckeyes.
17. Creed Humphrey, G/C, Oklahoma (6-4, 312 pounds)
Humphrey combines athleticism with a mean hand punch. He remains a first-rounder after opting to return to school. He has good line leadership qualities and can be fine as a long-term snapper in the NFL.
18. Walker Little, OT, Stanford (6-7, 309 pounds)
File Little right under Cosmi has a big-framed tackle who’s equally comfortable getting downhill in the running game as he is sliding and mirroring in pass protection.
19. Dylan Moses, ILB, Alabama (6-3, 235 pounds)
Moses is trying to pick up where he left off in 2019 after a knee injury wiped out all of last season and took away his chance to be a surefire first-rounder in 2020. Moses has everything you want in an inside linebacker for a 3-4 or 4-3 with his range, instincts, speed and quickness.
20. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami (6-4, 235 pounds)
Roche has proved to have the twitch and burst necessary to be a highly productive pass rusher, but he also is appealing for the well-rounded nature of his game where he can be an asset against the run, too.
21. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5-10, 210 pounds)
Etienne came back to school in a bit of a surprise. His open-field quickness and receiving skills are set up to make him a top-flight change of pace back in the NFL.
22. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (6-2, 210 pounds)
Bateman has the classic look of a No. 1 who can stretch the field and make big plays outside but also position himself possession-wise to be a consistent scoring threat in the red zone.
23. Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford (6-1, 184 pounds)
Adebo is yet another big corner in this class with strong instincts and a great sense of making plays on the ball.
24. Javon Holland, S, Oregon (6-1, 200 pounds)
Holland has emerged as the top safety in a strong class for the position. He is coming off a very impressive sophomore campaign where he had 4.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He has nice size and a well-rounded skill set to play either spot.
25. Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama (6-3, 310 pounds)
Barmore combines strength and power with great technique and is someone to watch shooting up the board. He has all the tools to remain very disruptive in the NFL.
26. Trey Smith, G, Tennessee (6-6, 325 pounds)
Smith is a strong and powerful run blocker who also has great character on and off the field. He’s overcome some physical challenges well and consistently fights up front.
27. Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State (6-4, 215 pounds)
Nasirildeen packs a wallop in a linebacker’s frame and has some potential to learn how to use his frame well in coverage, too.
28. Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke (6-3, 225 pounds)
Rumph, another rising ACC star, should keep getting better and more complete beyond his instant high level of finishing production.
29. Jay Tufele, DT, USC (6-3, 305 pounds)
Tufele plays with a lot of energy and juice to get the quarterback inside. He’ll know need to hone his technique away from game action to boost his stock.
30. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds)
Waddle has a nice combination of field-stretching, possession and route-running qualities to make plays lining up anywhere in the NFL.
31. Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh (6-2, 290 pounds)
He has the build of former Pitt star turned Rams superstar Aaron Donald. That high praise will be hard to match but so far, Twyman’s quickness and power have added up to a very disruptive prospect wh can only get better all-around.
32. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 175 pounds)
Like his teammate Waddle, Smith has a nice blend of speed, quickness and route-running that gives him a lot of big-play versatility.
33. Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia (6-2, 185 pounds)
Campbell uses his size well to stick with his receivers on shorter routes and also has great quickness and athleticism to stay with them or recover downfield.
34. Cade Mays, G, Tennessee (6-6, 318 pounds)
Mays is a versatile run blocker with a good combination of agility and power for the interior.
35. Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU (6-3, 246 pounds)
Shelvin is a massive presence and backs that up with solid technique, making him the ideal early-down run stuffer from the nose.
36. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (6-6, 239 pounds)
Pitts has a high ceiling as an athletic, smart route-running pass catcher who right now has to be more of “move” option with blocking still a work in progress.
37. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State (6-5, 260 pounds)
Freiermuth is easily the most complete tight end in the class. He may not be the same game-breaking receiver as Pitts, but he is tough enough to consistent to win his battles whether route-running or blocking.
38. Deonte Brown, G, Alabama (6-4, 338 pounds)
Brown has great promise as a mighty run blocker for the NFL with his strong upper body.
39. Aiden Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 269 pounds)
Hutchinson uses his frame and power well to get to the quarterback, not simply relying on pure quickness.
40. Ar’Darius Washington, S, TCU (5-8, 179 pounds)
Washington has a little Tyrann Mathieu in him with how active he is in coverage with his smaller frame.
41. LaBryan Ray, DT, Alabama (6-5, 292 pounds)
Ray offers good length and strength vs. the run but is a few notches below his rising teammate Barmore.
42. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame (6-6, 305 pounds)
Eichenberg uses his strength, power and hands well to win blocks. He seems better suited to the right side but there’s plenty he can do to boost his stock with better footwork and technique.
43. Xavier Thomas, EDGE, Clemson (6-2, 65 pounds)
Thomas has the potential to be a very well-rounded end if he can work harder to develop in both getting after the QB and stopping the run.
44. Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State (6-5, 253 pounds)
Oweh is an amazing, borderline freakish athlete who can be devastating as a pass-rusher with some polish in his game.
45. Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson (6-5, 345 pounds)
Caman is a naturally big and nasty blocker who projects as a strong right tackle in the NFL.
46. Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia (6-4, 230 pounds)
Newman gets a bigger showcase after transferring from Wake Forest to replace Jake Fromm. He is a classic dual threat QB, working to get into the conversation with Fields.
47. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse (6-0, 203 pounds)
Cisco is a big ballhawking safety. He’s a natural top asset in coverage with the capacity to round out his game very well with technique work.
48. Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State (6-6, 301 pounds)
Radunz uses his frame well with relentless and toughness. He really came on the draft radar protecting for Lance last season.
49. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (6-1, 207 pounds)
Hubbard is a steady, strong runner who follows his blocks well. He maximizes his toughness and has great burst through holes. Hubbard can still improve to be more adept in the passing game.
50. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC (6-1, 195 pounds)
Brown is a tough, quick inside receiver in the JuJu Smith-Schuster mold of working the slot well.
NFL Draft prospects 2021: Best players by position
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
- Justin Fields, Ohio State
- Trey Lance, North Dakota State
- Jamie Newman, Georgia
- Brock Purdy, Iowa State
- Kyle Trask, Florida
- Travis Etienne, Clemson
- Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
- Najee Harris, Alabama
- Zamir White, Georgia
- Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
- Kenny Gainwell, Memphis
- Master Teague, Ohio State
- Trey Ragas, Louisiana
- Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
- C.J. Verdell, Oregon
- Max Borghi, Washington State
- Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
- Rondale Moore, Purdue
- Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
- Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
- DeVonta Smith, Alabama
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
- Tutu Atwell, Louisville
- Chris Olave, Ohio State
- Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
- Seth Williams, Auburn
- Tamorrion Terry, Florida State
- Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
- Kyle Pitts, Florida
- Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
- Brevin Jordan, Miami
- Penei Sewell, Oregon
- Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
- Sam Cosmi, Texas
- Walker Little, Stanford
- Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
- Jackson Carman, Clemson
- Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
- Jaylen Mayfield, Michigan
- Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
- Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
- Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
- Trey Smith, Tennessee
- Cade Mays, Tennessee
- Josh Myers, Ohio State
- Deonte Brown, Alabama
- Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
- Marvin Wilson, Florida State
- Christian Barmore, Alabama
- Jay Tufele, USC
- Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
- Tyler Shelvin, LSU
- LaBryan Ray, Alabama
- Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
- Cory Durden, Florida State
- Gregory Rousseau, Miami
- Carlos Basham Jr, Wake Forest
- Quincy Roche, Miami
- Chris Rumph II, Duke
- Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
- Xavier Thomas, Clemson
- Jayson Oweh, Penn State
- Joe Tryon, Washington
- Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
- Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
- Kwity Paye, Michigan
- Micah Parsons, Penn State
- Dylan Moses, Alabama
- Nick Bolton, Missouri
- Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
- Shaun Wade, Ohio State
- Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
- Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
- Paulson Adebo, Stanford
- Tyson Campbell, Georgia
- Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
- Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
- Erik Stokes, Georgia
- Jevon Holland, Oregon
- Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
- Ar’darius Washington, TCU
- Andre Cisco, Syracuse
- Paris Ford, Pittsburgh
- Richard LeCounte, Georgia
- Caden Sterns, Texas
- Trevon Moehrig, TCU