NFL Draft 2021 Preview

Quin Norris, Sports Editor

With the NFL draft starting in just one week, I wanted to take this opportunity to evaluate the top prospects for each position going into the draft. 

Starting with the prized possession of any NFL team, we have the quarterback position. This is a highly anticipated draft at the position due to five big names. These quarterbacks are: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. 

Starting with Trevor Lawrence, he should easily be not just the first quarterback off the board, but the first player as well. His body size and natural arm talents suggest that he is a sure fire cannot miss prospect however the one major hole in his game was his collegiate scheme. The Clemson offense ran a lot of wide-open crossing routes and dump passes in the flats which is a scheme that often cannot be run as often as what he got to run at Clemson. Other than this small issue, there is not much to dislike about Lawrence. 

The other four prospects could fall anywhere between day one and day two. Zach Wilson and Mac Jones for example both bring strong showings into the draft from their previous season in college and are fully expected to go within the first ten picks. 

For Wilson, he has an amazing ability to make plays happen on the move similar to a Russel Wilson style of play. Wilson’s major downside is his size and lack of major FBS competition. Mac Jones is a pure pocket passer who understands defensive schemes and pocket presence better than anyone in his class. 

However, the biggest knock against Mac Jones is his lack of athleticism. When looking at Justin Fields there is little to no assurance on where he will land. Fields was once thought to be the for sure second pick, but now due to his poor tendencies in big games he has seen his stock fall to anywhere as late as the end of the first round. 

Finally, with Trey Lance his draft position completely depends on when the others are taken. Being a quarterback more aligned to Lamar Jackson many teams will be reluctant to take a flyer on him; however, he does have promise to be used in a similar vein as Lamar for whatever team is lucky enough to draft him. 

When looking at the running back position in this year’s draft there are only really two names to keep an eye out for in the first round. First is hard nose running back Travis Etenne out of Clemson. While his size is not ideal, he has always been a good explosive back in his time in college and could be a back along the same style as Kareem Hunt. However, the better back choice would be Najee Harris. Harris is a versatile back who can catch out of the back field along with run the ball quite effectively. While Eteene is definitely the more traditional running back the only player I would feel comfortable drafting in the first round would be Harris for his versatility. 

This year’s wide receiver class does run quite deep but is headlined by Devonta Smith, Jamar Chase and Jalen Waddle. All these players bring a lot to the table. Smith is a do it all receiver with his one downside being his size. Jamar Chase is a great route runner with great hands however he has not played the sport in a year making him a bit of a gamble. Jalen Waddle is easily one of the fastest prospects in the entire draft and if a team is looking for their Tyreek Hill, he is definitely the guy. All these players should easily go off the board on day one as many teams across the league will be looking to add depth in their wide-outs room. 

Tight End is a bit of a disappointment in this year’s draft as no one player sticks out. If I was to be giving my advice on who to pick for a tight end, I would suggest Florida wide receiver Kyle Pitts and move him to a receiving tight end threat to use his crazy size as a dangerous threat to opposing linebackers. 

At offensive line, there is only one name that matters and that is Penni Sewell from Oregon. Offensive line is usually a position where you know what you are getting when you draft a player and Sewell is easily one of the best tackles prospects the draft has seen in a while. This is easily a first-round draft pick and will most definitely be the first offensive lineman taken off the board in this year’s draft. 

The defensive side of the ball is a little lacking in the upcoming draft compared to drafts in the past. At defensive back the only player that I would comfortably consider a first-round talent at that is Patrick Surtain out of Alabama. He has abnormally larger size at the corner position but still has the speed to cover in the open field making him a terrifying match up for future NFL wide-outs. 

In the linebacker prospects, no one really sticks out as a true first round talent. I would advise NFL teams to avoid the linebacker prospects entirely in the first round and start taking shots at them in the second round. 

On the defensive line, I would suggest going after Kwitty Paye out of Michigan or Jalen Phillips out of Miami as both players would be solid passer rushing starters for whatever team landed them. 

Overall, this draft class is only strong in two areas. That being quarterback and wide receiver. It will make for a very interesting draft as teams have only really tape to work from with these players as the combine did not occur.