2021 April NFL Pre-Draft Top Five Prospect Rankings
Jake Pittman - 4/13/2021
Trevor Lawrence has been deemed a "generational talent" or a "perfect prospect" since he took the reins for Clemson’s football program. While I don’t think he is a perfect prospect, he is one of the most complete and naturally gifted quarterbacks since QB Andrew Luck. Lawrence has elite arm strength, outstanding athleticism and great accuracy on throws all over the field. Lawrence is the Jaguars locked and loaded first overall pick in the 2021 Draft, and should make a name for himself in the league for years to come.
Zach Wilson wasn’t in the conversation a year ago, but after an outstanding season littered with highlight plays and elite level throws he has cemented himself in the Top 3 of this year’s prospects. His lack of college competition and only one year of success are a concern, but he shows a lot of promise to be able to adapt to the NFL game. He has a lot of risk, but his upside as an elite producer will make it hard for the Jets to pass up on him with the 2nd pick in the 2021.
Justin Fields is an athletic stud. He posted a remarkable 4.44 40-yard dash at hispro day this spring, and has shown his ability to make plays outside the pocket throughout his college career. Fields was the No. 1 QB prospect coming out of HS and has played against top level college competition his whole career. He is a winner and a competitor. He has footwork and accuracy issues, but players like QB Lamar Jackson have proved that these areas can be improved. Fields isn’t a lock to be a Top 10 drafted player, but I think a team like the Panthers or 49ers will take a chance on him to be their franchise QB.
Mac Jones is a fighter and a winner. Jones has been incredibly reliable and successful as a starter for the No. 1 team in the nation and knows how to get the job done. Jones was surrounded by elite weapons and has had concerns about his arm strength, It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the league, but his calm head and winning mentality will make him a player that some team is going to fall in love with. I think he may be drafted after the next player in this list, but he should be selected in the first round at some point.
Trey Lance isn’t the only quarterback from South Dakota State to make a splash in the college scouting world as QB Carson Wentz was select No. 2 overall just a few years ago. Lance was already a highly-touted prospect before last season, but he was only able to play in 1 game last season. Even in this one game, his performance wasn’t that impressive. However, Lance does have an incredible amount of natural gifts and if he can find himself in the right spot. He could develop into a great NFL QB.
Najee Harris was a human highlight reel last season for the Crimson Tide. His combination of size, speed and power is a force to be reckoned with. Harris isn’t the same level of prospect as RB Saquon Barkley or RB Ezekiel Elliott, but he has all of the traits to become one of the premier feature backs in the NFL for as long as his body holds up. I would expect Harris to be drafted towards the back end of round 1 or early round 2, but if a team really falls in love with his skillset he could climb up the draft board.
Travis Etienne has been one of the best RBs in college ever since he stepped onto the scene for the Tigers. He is an absolute burner who can separate from defenders in the 2nd level with the flip of a switch. He is a crafty runner who can break tackles when he needs to. His home run hitting ability in the screen game will also make him an enticing option for running back needy teams. He will most likely be selected in the same point of the draft as Harris and could even be selected early if a team is looking for more of a speedster.
Javonte Williams is a fast and balanced runner who has excellent field vision. He can break tackles with the best of them, and his low center of gravity and tremendous balance makes him very difficult to bring down. He has shown excellent prowess on the goal line and can punch in tough short yardage plays. Williams will be a steal for whatever team selects him as he will most likely be taken in the late 2nd or early 3rd round and I project him to be a solid starting running back in the league.
Williams counterpart Michael Carter is also an excellent runner. He has shown all-around abilities that should translate seamlessly to the NFL speed of play. Carter can destroy angles with his acceleration up field, and he has solid hands in the receiving game. I expect him to be drafted around the same time as his former teammate, and he may even be selected a little bit higher as he has been getting more attention in the scouting world after his stellar Senior Bowl performance.
Kenneth Gainwell is an electric runner. He is fast player who can make guys miss with his phenomenal juke moves and hip flexibility. He is a little bit smaller than the prototypical NFL running back which could bring some concerns to his durability and 3-down potential, but his speed and receiving ability will make him a great option for NFL franchises. I project him to be selected in the 3rd or 4th round of the 2021 NFL draft, and his receiving abilities will make him a viable 3rd down option in year one for whatever team selects him.
Jamarr Chase is the total package. He is probably one of my favorite WR prospects that I have ever scouted and his route running, strength, speed and ball skills make him the best WR in this outstanding class of pass catchers. He is a plug and play day 1 starter who can make consistent big time plays all over the field. I think he will be selected with the 6th overall by the Miami Dolphins, but if they pass on him I don’t imagine him falling outside of the top 10.
Devonta Smith is last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and he showed everyone last season why he belongs to be taken in the Top 12 in the draft this year. In most drafts he would be the No. 1 prospect, but he slips to No. 2 for me behind Jamarr Chase. The only thing that separates them for me is Smith’s much smaller and more slender frame. Durability is a concern, but he has shown that he can take a hit and even break tackles consistently. He is an absolute stud who can play all over the formation. He has elite hands, route running and body control and should go no later the 12th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Bateman is silky and smooth. He gets in and out of his breaks effortlessly and always finds a way to get open. One of his few concerns for me was that he didn’t look like he had true next level speed, but he brushed all my concerns to the side when he ran an unofficial 4.39 at his pro day. If Bateman can translate that type of speed to the next level he is going to be special. After his pro day and the play making ability he has already put on tape, I don’t see any way that Bateman falls out of the first round. I could even see him being selected as high as 12th overall.
The fact that a player like Jaylen Waddle could be ranked at No. 4 at his position shows just how deep and talented this year’s WR class is. Waddle is the definition of a true speedster. He can run with the best of them, including his former teammate WR Henry Ruggs III. However, Waddle isn’t just a runner. He has good hands and an outstanding release off the line. Waddle can bring such a special dynamic to any team that selects him, and I project him to also be taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.
For a smaller guy, Rondale Moore packs a punch. He is incredibly quick and has straight line speed to go with it. He is a solid route runner with above average hands. He isn’t as naturally gifted as the rest of the guys on this list, but he makes up some ground with his toughness and grit. He can make guys miss and has phenomenal balance that helps him to stay up when defenders try to take him down. His lack of height makes it difficult for me to see him as the No. 1 WR for an NFL roster, but he can be an outstanding piece to any offense. I think he will be taken towards the end of round 1 or in the early part of Round 2.
Kyle Pitts is an absolute freak of nature. He stands at 6’ 6" while also having outstanding body control and speed. If you ever turned a Florida game on this season his talent shined. He is a mismatch nightmare for defensive coordinators and is a tremendous red zone threat due to his jump ball abilities. His size doesn’t stop him from running past defenders in route to the end zone. Kyle Pitts should be a Top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and I imagine the Bengals or Falcons will welcome him onto their rosters with open arms.
Pat Freiermuth is a big physical receiving TE from Penn State University. He has good hands and is a solid route runner for his size. He can break tackles against smaller defenders consistently and can even make guys miss from time to time. He isn’t an outstanding athlete and his blocking leaves a lot to be desired, but he can make big time plays in the redzone and on 3rd down with his phenomenal size and hands. I project him to be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Tommy Tremble is a strong and physical player. He is a determined and effective run blocker. He is a physical receiver and has enough speed and athleticism to succeed in intermediate routes. He has solid hands but his route running and separation creation leaves much to be desired. His best attribute is his blocking ability and tenacity. Coaches and scouts love a big physical player with toughness and nastiness. Tremble will most likely be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Brevin Jordan is an athletic move tight end. He has experience playing all over the formation, even in the backfield. He can play out of the slot like TE Evan Engram and can make plays all over the field. He is a weapon that can be utilized out of the screen game and he excels on 3rd downs. Coaches love to have players with this type of versatility. I project Jordan to be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Hunter Long is a solid tight end. Long can block effectively and his a good receiver. He doesn’t have any defining characteristics like the tight ends above him on this list, but he can get the job done when he is called on. Big body tight ends who can make catches in tight spaces will always find spots to thrive in the NFL and Long should be able to find a role on an NFL franchise. I project Long to be taken in the 4th round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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