With the 2021 NFL Draft right around the corner, there is no better time to share my final player rankings. This big board has the top 50 prospects ranked in my opinion. This is a challenging exercise, with loads of great players available in this historically deep draft class. This class has loads of talent, with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and cornerbacks really sticking out.
The criteria for the big board includes talent, college performance, NFL transition/scheme fits, and positional value. Red flags like injuries can also bring a prospect down. Each position has their own criteria as well. For example, I judge a QB based on raw talent, (arm talent and athleticism), accuracy, decision-making, mechanics, pocket presence, football IQ, and the “intangibles” (leadership, toughness, etc).
Without further ado, here is my top 50 big board for the 2021 NFL Draft which starts on Thursday April 29 at 8:00 PM EST.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The top prospect in this class for seemingly forever, Lawrence has passed every test on the road to being the #1 pick in this draft. The 6’6 quarterback out of Clemson has the size, arm strength, athleticism, accuracy, and processing ability to live up to the generational prospect billing. Lawrence is just about as can’t miss a prospect as ever, and Jacksonville shouldn’t waste much time making him the top pick on Thursday night.
2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence have been the top two players in their class since high school. Fields had been the projected second pick for over two years. For some inexplicable reason, Fields has fallen down draft boards and could possibly be the fifth quarterback taken on draft night. I still believe that Fields is clearly the second best QB in this class and the second best player overall. He has everything you want in a franchise QB; elite athleticism, accuracy, arm talent, and toughness. There is no quarterback in the NFL with the blend of size, athleticism, and arm talent that Fields has. Fields has an extremely high ceiling and a high floor. For a deeper dive into Fields, click here. He is still my #2 player in the class despite falling down other boards for no good reason.
3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Kyle Pitts is the clear best non-quarterback in this draft class. The most universally loved prospect in a long time, Pitts is the safest bet in this class to be a future All-Pro. The best tight end prospect probably ever, Pitts has an extremely rare blend of size, speed, and catch radius. The Travis Kelce comparisons are legit. Pitts lacks a bit in the blocking aspect, but he is pretty much a hybrid TE-WR. Expect Kyle Pitts to terrorize NFL defenses from his first day in the league.
4. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Penei Sewell has a strong case to be considered the best prospect in this class, and was consensus top 3 heading into this college football season. Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, which has hurt his draft stock a bit. Sewell is a generational left tackle prospect. He is a great athlete who is quick, strong, and tough. His 2019 tape is extremely impressive. Sewell allowed only 2 hits on his quarterback in a season in which he turned 19 and played in a tough conference. An elite player with still an extremely high ceiling, Sewell will be one of the best tackles in the NFL rather quickly.
5. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Chase is another player who opted out of the 2020 season, but his 2019 tape shows more than enough to be a top pick. Chase terrorized SEC defenses at 19 years old. He was the top option on what was possibly the greatest college football offense ever. He racked up 1780 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns en route to a championship with NFL stars Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson. Chase was a bit better than Jefferson in 2019 and Jefferson just went on to have 1400 yards in his rookie season in the NFL. Ja’Marr Chase has the size, speed, body control, and hands to be one of the best receivers in the NFL.
6. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Rashawn Slater will be a very safe pick in the draft. Slater’s chances of being a bust are slim to none. He is athletic and technically sound. Slater should be able to play at any spot on the offensive line in the NFL and dominate. In 2019, Slater absolutely dominated Chase Young in pass protection in a game against Ohio State. Young just went on to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Slater will be able to play any position on the line in any scheme and be perennially elite.
7. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Smith is only 166 pounds, which is extremely light for an NFL receiver. It’s not something to overly worry about however. Smith won the 2020 Heisman trophy as he dominated for Alabama. Smith has great hands, speed, quickness, and route-running ability. His ability should outshine the weight concerns. Expect DeVonta Smith to be a top receiver in the league for a long time.
8. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
There is nothing Micah Parsons can’t do on a football field. Parsons is the top defender in this class by a fairly wide margin. He has a freakish blend of size and speed. Very few linebackers can run sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash and Parsons did. He can cover, he can tackle, and explode through holes rushing the passer. He is going to make an impact in the NFL for a long time and pop out in games. There are hazing and character concerns from college that hold him back from being higher on draft boards, but he is supremely talented.
9. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trey Lance is very raw, but extremely talented. Lance has great size, athleticism, and arm strength. He only played in one game in 2020, which set his development back even more. His accuracy is also a bit of a concern. But there is no question that if developed in the right system, Trey Lance has all the tools to be a great NFL starter. He is a smart player, and his upside pushes him slightly above of Zach Wilson on my board.
10. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Zach Wilson has the most impressive arm in this draft class. He has the ability to make jaw-dropping throws. The concerns are clear however. Wilson was terrible in 2019 and only improved in 2020 with a schedule that included no Power 5 teams. There are also concerns with his size, injury history, and mechanics. There is no doubt that Wilson has the chance to succeed in the league, but there just seems to be a greater risk with him. I prefer Lawrence, Fields, and Lance over him but this is a historically great quarterback class. For an in-depth look into Wilson, click here. Wilson has plenty of rare traits to succeed but I am not overly high on him as he ranks as my QB4.
11. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Jaylen Waddle’s 2020 season was cut short by injury, but he was dynamite when on the field. Waddle is explosive and can line up from anywhere. He has extremely rare speed and also has good hands. He separates from defenders with ease. Being only 5’10, size is a concern, as are injuries for someone that size and with injury history. But, if healthy, Waddle will develop into one of the most explosive wideouts in football.
12. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the definition of a perfect fit in the modern NFL. Owusu-Koramoah has elite speed, great coverage skills, and hits extremely hard. There are some size limitations at linebacker, but JOK will make an impact as long as he is on the field. The coverage instincts with this type of speed and power is very rare, so expect Owusu-Koramoah to be a great player at the next level.
13. Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Kwity Paye has extremely rare traits for an edge rusher. Paye is abnormally explosive, fast, quick, and strong. He has the ability to bend and burst off the edge. The raw tools are there and the intangibles are too. He is a high motor player with fantastic effort. Paye is an immigrant with a great story. He has to work on his pass rush plan when facing NFL offensive tackles. However, with the right coaching staff, Kwity Paye will be a monster and elite edge rusher with the rare tools he possesses.
14. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Surtain is the son of a former NFL cornerback, and he was clearly born to play the game. Surtain has great instincts and is great mirroring receivers. He also has great size, length, and discipline. He might struggle a bit early on in isolated situations with speed receivers. Despite that, Patrick Surtain II is a strong bet to have a very long and successful NFL career.
15. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
Alijah Vera-Tucker is a plug-and-play starter from day one in the NFL and should be very successful. Vera-Tucker is athletic, strong, and competitive. He has good balance and toughness. He is a very good pass and run blocker. Vera-Tucker will be a great starting offensive guard in the NFL in any scheme and very early on in his career.
16. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw is the consensus third-best offensive tackle in this draft class and he has the potential to be a very effective NFL starter. Darrisaw has great size and is quick on his feet. He will have to work on some technical things that all rookie offensive linemen have to do. He is great in pass protection and a great outside run blocker. Darrisaw should develop into a franchise left tackle in the right situation.
17. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jaycee Horn is a player that is easy to become a fan of. He is ultra competitive and aggressive. He has fantastic size and speed and proved himself every week in the brutal SEC. Horn has some tackling issues and can sometimes get overly aggressive in coverage. He might struggle with pass interference penalties early on in his career. However, Horn should be a great starter in the league and a cornerback that wide receivers are scared of playing if he is developed correctly.
18. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Rashod Bateman is the complete package at wide receiver. I am a massive fan of his and he is much higher on my board than most. While Bateman has no ridiculous tools, he does everything very well. He is a solid route-runner with good size, hands, speed, and body control. I feel like he is in a very similar situation to Justin Jefferson last year as the consensus fourth-best receiver in this class who should land with a good team. I expect Bateman to start early on in his career and be a great player in the league.
19. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley is the most talented cornerback in this draft class. He would pretty easily be my top cornerback in this draft class if not for major injury concerns. Farley suffered from a variety of injuries in college, most prominently to his back. He has had multiple back/spinal surgeries. Back injuries are very tricky and dangerous. However, he says he is fully healthy now. On the field, Farley has fantastic size, speed, and technique. He is very fluid. If he stays healthy, Farley will be an elite corner in the NFL.
20. Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
I am a big fan of Greg Newsome II. Newsome has great ball skills as he disrupts passes in the air all the time. He is athletic and big and extremely fast. Newsome brings great effort and is a willing tackler. He never played a full season in college due to injury issues. Newsome is the type of player coaches love and has all the potential in the world if healthy.
21. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Teven Jenkins is a mauling offensive tackle. There are some questions about whether he will be a guard or tackle at the next level, but I think he can be successful at either. He is a nasty run blocker who finishes blocks with ease. Jenkins is a player that running backs will love running behind and defenders will hate facing. Jenkins should be a good player in the league.
22. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Trevon Moehrig is the best safety in this draft class. He is an instinctual free safety that has all the tools to succeed. Moehrig is a ballhawk with great coverage ability downfield. He is an aggressive tackler. He has to improve his discipline and technique a bit for the NFL. All in all, Trevon Moehrig should be a very effective deep safety at the next level.
23. Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama
Christian Barmore really broke out at the end of the 2020 season. He started playing his best in the most important games of the season as Alabama chased a championship. He is raw, but he is very explosive from the interior. He is strong and quick with a ton of room to grow. Barmore has the potential to be dominant as both an interior pass rusher and run stuffer. Barmore will be very good with the right developing.
24. Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
A very underrated player, I am a big fan of Zaven Collins. Collins does not have many elite traits, but he does a load of things very well. Collins is big, athletic, and a very smart player. He can rush the passer and is solid in coverage too. He is dynamic and can do a load of things. Collins is an extremely underrated player and will be targeted in the draft by the top defensive minds in the game. Zaven Collins should start early on in his career and will be a great player.
25. Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Creed Humphrey is one of my favorite players in this draft class. He is a center who will step in from day one and anchor a team’s offensive line for the next decade. He is athletic and strong for a center. He allowed no sacks at all over his three seasons in college. Humphrey can pass and run block very well and is in line for a fantastic NFL career.
26. Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Azeez Ojulari has a ton of potential as an edge rusher. He has great burst and effort. He bends around the edge very well. He will need to work on his technique at the next level, but Ojulari should develop into a solid player.
27. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Travis Etienne is a running back who will thrive in any scheme in the NFL. He is explosive and quick. Etienne has great balance and is a fantastic pass catcher out of the backfield. The positional value of running backs holds him back on this board, but Etienne will be a game-breaker at the next level.
28. Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Jaelen Phillips is very talented but has very concerning injury issues. Phillips had to medically retire from football early in his college career due to concussions. He came back and looked good in a short time on the field, but teams will certainly be frightened by the concussion issues. Phillips has great size and power coming off the edge. He makes plays in the backfield against the run and pass. He has the potential to be great, but the injury concerns are immense.
29. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Najee Harris is another explosive runner who is splitting hairs with Etienne. Harris is versatile and runs with a great blend of speed and power. He is extremely athletic and plays with immense effort. Harris will be an instant starter at running back and make a team very happy.
30. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Javonte Williams is a running back who is in that top tier with Etienne and Harris. Williams is a tough-nosed runner who is extremely physical. He is an every-down back who can run, pass catch, and block very well. Williams is elusive and thrives at breaking tackles. He should be a starter in the league early on, just like Etienne and Harris.
31. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I think Mac Jones is solid, but the top 5 draft pick conversation for him is laughable. Jones has a high floor but a low ceiling. It would be a major shock to see him become anything more than an average starting NFL quarterback. He has good size and can process information on the field very quickly. He is not well-built and has average arm strength at best. He has no athletic ability but is solid moving around the pocket. He is fairly accurate. Jones is a solid quarterback prospect, but not anything special in my eyes.
32. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Terrace Marshall Jr. is another player who has injury concerns heading into this draft. Marshall faced a variety of injury issues in college, including ACL and ankle issues. However, Marshall is tremendously talented. He has great size, hands, route-running ability, and body control. He can play anywhere on the field and in any scheme. I am a fan of Marshall and I think he will be a great receiver in the NFL if he can stay healthy.
33. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
In a class that is deep with second to third tier offensive tackles, I see Liam Eichenberg as the clear best of that bunch. I think he is a fringe first round talent. Eichenberg is a great run blocker. He is solid in pass protection, but still has so much room to grow. Eichenberg has the chance to be a franchise left tackle in the right situation.
34. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Kadarius Toney is an electric playmaker. He will probably be used mostly as a slot receiver, but the best way to consider him is as simply an offensive weapon. At 5’11 he is bigger than most slot guys. Toney will break tackles with the ball in his hands and constantly get open. He will be a very exciting player at the next level.
35. Pat Friermuth, TE, Penn State
Friermuth is not a very special prospect, but he is very solid. He has great receiving ability and fantastic size and quickness for a tight end. He has potential to develop as a blocker as well. Freiermuth can be a very solid starting tight end as soon as he enters the NFL.
36. Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
Wyatt Davis has all the tools to be a starting offensive guard in the NFL for a long time. Davis is powerful and mobile which helps him excel in run blocking. He is a mauler with a very ceiling and a lot of room for improvement. Davis proved himself in the Big 10 as he dominated top competition week in and week out. Wyatt Davis will likely be a day one starter in the NFL and a very effective one.
37. Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Eric Stokes is an incredibly talented cornerback. Stokes ran a sub-4.3 40-yard dash and is 6’1. Those types of corners just don’t come around very often. He needs to improve some technical things like not being too grabby. I love the potential Stokes has though and he can really be an elite cornerback in the NFL with the right coaching staff and development.
38. Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
I am probably higher on Jabril Cox than any other person is, but I’m fine with that. Cox possesses one of the most valuable assets in today’s NFL and does it better than any other linebacker in this class. Cox is elite in coverage in an era where the coverage linebacker is a dying breed. Linebackers have trouble covering the quickness of today’s running backs and tight ends but it is extremely valuable if they can. Cox can and is terrific in all aspects of coverage. He is also a great leader and quick learner. There are rightful concerns about his run defense. However, I see Cox in the mold of a Lavonte David type player, a linebacker who excels in coverage and is perennially underrated. Jabril Cox will succeed in the NFL solely based off his coverage ability.
39. Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
I am lower on Landon Dickerson than most people are as the injury concerns are a real problem to me. Dickerson suffered injuries in every season since 2016 besides the 2019 season. Durability is a major question mark. Besides that, he has the makings of a good player. He is a strong and a tough blocker. He is also a camaraderie guy that is beloved by teammates. If he can stay healthy, Dickerson should be a starting NFL center for a good portion of time.
40. Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Jamin Davis is an explosive and athletic linebacker who has recently been rising on draft boards. Davis is fast and does a bunch of things well. He is still extremely raw though and will need some development time. Jamin Davis will become one of the most explosive linebackers in the league if developed properly.
41. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Rondale Moore is an explosive slot wide receiver. Moore is dynamic and has ridiculous speed and quickness. He has some size and injury concerns at 5’7, but if he can stay healthy Rondale Moore will be an exciting slot receiver and kick returner at the next level who can swing games with splashy plays.
42. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Andre Cisco is a very underrated safety prospect who is my second-highest ranked safety. Cisco has a knack for the big play. He is a turnover machine who can get interceptions and force fumbles. He is also very athletic. There are some concerns about his consistency, but I think Cisco can be a game-changer in the NFL.
43. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Another slot receiver with the last name Moore, Elijah Moore is a very exciting player. He is elite after the catch and can cause a big play whenever he catches the ball. His route-running needs some refinement and size is a concern, but Elijah Moore will be an energizer bunny in any offense.
44. Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Jayson Oweh is a fascinating draft prospect. Oweh barely produced in college, but the raw tools are jaw-dropping. Oweh is fast, explosive, and strong. He ran around a 4.4 40-yard dash which is insane for an edge rusher. Oweh will be interesting to watch at the next level as he has all the potential in the world.
45. Levi Onwuzurike, IDL, Washington
Onwuzurike is a defensive tackle with good athleticism and quickness. He is strong and will be a very good future starter who will wreak havoc from the interior of a defense.
46. Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Asante Samuel Jr. comes from NFL bloodlines and has the makings of a good player. Samuel is a high effort player who is very fast. He is a bit undersized, so his future might be in the slot, but Samuel will be an exciting and solid cornerback in the NFL.
47. Milton Williams, IDL, Lousiana Tech
Milton Williams is a very underrated player from a very small school. He is a fantastic run defender with rare speed and explosiveness for a defensive tackle. You might not know the name or school, but Milton Williams from Louisiana Tech will make some team very happy.
48. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Nick Bolton is a great tackler who is explosive rushing the passer. He is also solid in coverage. Bolton has the chance to be a very good middle linebacker for a long time with his all-around skillset.
49. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Jevon Holland is an extremely versatile defensive back who excels at a multitude of things. He is a great athlete who should be a Swiss army knife for any defense in the league.
50. Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana
Jamar Johnson is an instinctual safety who really understands the game. He has a ton of upside and has the makeup teams look for in a future starting free safety. Johnson will be a starter early on in his career and should find success.
- Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
- Richie Grant, S, UCF
- Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
- Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
Deep Sleepers I Love:
- Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
- Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
- Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
- Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina
- Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
Thanks for reading my article on my top 50 big board for the 2021 NFL Draft!
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