The 2021 NFL Draft is a little over two months away, but most teams have been waist-high in the process for several months. CBS Sports recently updated its grades on the draft-eligible prospects but those rankings will be fluid as we learn more. In an effort to familiarize fans with the top names at positions their respective teams may be in the market for this offseason, I have listed my personal top five at each position and provided an explanation.
Here are the top five prospects at each position on offense right now:
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (CBS Sports rank: 1)
- Zach Wilson, BYU (4)
- Trey Lance, North Dakota State (13)
- Justin Fields, Ohio State (6)
- Mac Jones, Alabama (23)
Trevor Lawrence has been the clear top choice for awhile. He is a tantalizing mixture of size, mobility, and arm talent. It would be a massive surprise if he were still on the board at No. 2 overall. Zach Wilson has a strong arm and processes defenses quickly. His baseline mobility is more than enough to extend plays in the NFL. It gets a little controversial in the third spot. Players that are not ready to be a high-level passer immediately must have other rare traits to fall back on initially until the rest of the game comes around for them. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is the perfect example of this line of thinking. He was far from a developed passer when he entered the league but his mobility and threat to stretch the field enabled him to have success while he worked on other aspects of his game. Trey Lance’s style as a dual-threat quarterback should give him the opportunity to keep plays alive, whereas Justin Fields wants to be known more as a pocket passer despite his above average mobility. The expectation is that the top four options will be taken in the top 12 picks. Mac Jones is said to have a high football IQ and throws the ball deep with rare touch. His lack of mobility would be a difficult sell in the first round, but it is imperative that he walks into a situation already set up for success. To me, the Saints are an ideal fit.
- Travis Etienne, Clemson (20)
- Najee Harris, Alabama (41)
- Javonte Williams, North Carolina (66)
- Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma (98)
- Michael Carter, North Carolina (55)
There is a case for each of the top three running backs to be taken first. One trait that all five have in common is the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. To be a three down back in today’s game, running backs must possess that ability. Travis Etienne has elite burst. Najee Harris has the size that makes him difficult to bring down in open space. Javonte Williams is not as big, but he is so smooth and has gamebreaker potential. Honestly, he is probably my favorite to watch in this class. Rhamondre Stevenson is a really big, physical player who lacks some of the explosiveness possessed by those above him, but he is a well-balanced back that should contribute immediately. Michael Carter was in this position even before a standout performance at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Smaller than his Tar Heel counterpart, Carter is capable of taking a handoff the distance or snaring passes out of the air.
Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell is currently the only other running back in my top 100. UCLA’s Demetric Felton might warrant a little bump after his display of versatility at the Senior Bowl.
- Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (3)
- Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (7)
- Devonta Smith, Alabama (10)
- Kadarius Toney, Florida (81)
- Rondale Moore, Purdue (22)
Although out of sight, Ja’Marr Chase was never out of mind. His performance last year cemented his stock as arguably the top draft-eligible wide receiver. Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith certainly applied pressure to the crown this year but Chase still has the highest upside. Kadarius Toney was impressive this year. He is the queen on the chessboard in the sense that he can do it all. The Alabama native can challenge vertically or can be used on extended handoffs, jet sweeps, etc. Toney has improved as a route runner and is no longer the speed novelty. Rondale Moore came back to Purdue with the hope of being used more vertically, but the Boilermakers had a different game plan for him. Moore is a tough player and that ultimately gave him the edge for me as the fifth-best wide receiver in another deep year.
- Kyle Pitts (9)
- Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame (74)
- Pat Freiermuth, Penn State (24)
- Brevin Jordan, Miami (46)
- Hunter Long, Boston College (77)
Kyle Pitts should probably be in the wide receiver category in all honesty, but he will be moved around to create mismatch issues for the defense. As a pass catcher, he is a top-10 talent. Tommy Tremble is the best all-around tight end. He has some wiggle after the catch and is a solid blocker. Pat Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan are neck and neck. It depends what the particular team is looking for at the position. Freiermuth is a more natural pass catcher, but he is not as dynamic and is more of a liability as a blocker. Hunter Long is a big target that teams can really utilize in the red zone.
If there were one player to challenge this list, it would be Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty. McKitty drew rave reviews at the Senior Bowl but his production has been slim. It is mystifying to consider that McKitty was highly regarded as an athlete coming out of high school. Florida State’s quarterback situation and Georgia’s system definitely contributed to his lack of eye-popping numbers.
- Penei Sewell, Oregon
- Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
- Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
- Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
- Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Penei Sewell was overhyped early in the process and has now reached the undervalued portion of the offseason. He may not be the flawless prospect that many once believed, but he is still a top-tier option for tackle-needy teams. Rashawn Slater is built more like an interior player but certainly has the quickness to hold up at tackle. Christian Darrisaw is a player who burst onto the scene this year. His refined technique and poise into his pass protection set is fun to watch. Teven Jenkins and Jalen Mayfield are similarly graded. Jenkins has a higher ceiling but Mayfield has the higher floor. There has been some discussion about moving the latter inside but he can hold his own on the edge. There is no need to move him.
Interior offensive line
- Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
- Landon Dickerson, Alabama
- Josh Myers, Ohio State
- Trey Smith, Tennessee
- Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
Alijah Vera-Tucker has played left tackle for the Trojans this season but his future is most promising as an interior player. Landon Dickerson suffered a devastating injury late in the season but he was also able to display his toughness. Josh Myers is a big man at center. His skill set will not be for the teams that require a lot of movement, but a more pro-style approach will suit him well. Trey Smith is a boom or bust type of player. He plays with a mean streak and dominates at times. Other times, it is like he has forgotten his coaching. Creed Humphrey is the second center on this list. He was a rock at the heart of Oklahoma’s offensive line and projects as one of the draft’s top centers.