It’s never too early to shift the focus to the 2021 NFL Draft.
That conversation will undoubtedly start with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence — who is favored to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Lawrence will look to play in a third straight College Football Playoff championship game next season. He will have company, however. Ohio State’s Justin Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 and has the numbers to prove it.
Of course, Alabama will again be well-represented in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Crimson Tide have nine players on our early big board for 2021, including five players in the top 25.
Here is a look at the best 50 best players available in the 2021 NFL Draft regardless of position, and how high each might be selected based on team needs, position scarcity and other factors. Most of the players are underclassmen (denoted with *), but that is the norm in the NFL Draft now.
It’s never too early to take a closer look. Here is a look at Sporting News’ big board for 2021:
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2021:
Projecting where Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields & other top prospects will go
NFL Draft prospects 2021: Big board of top 100 players
1. Trevor Lawrence*, QB, Clemson
Lawrence could have been the No. 1 pick in the last two drafts. The 6-6, 220-pound quarterback has 66 TDs and 12 interceptions the last two season, and he’s added 10 rushing TDs. He’s the kind of quarterback who generates hype reserved for former No. 1 picks such as John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, and he will be the presumed top pick unless something drastic happens in 2020.
2. Justin Fields*, QB, Ohio State
Don’t sleep on Fields, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist after a flawless transition to Ryan Day’s offense at Ohio State. Fields passed for 41 TDs last season with just three interceptions, and it’s that blend of great decision-making combined with the ability to run (484 yards, 10 TDs) that will translate as a franchise quarterback. The rivalry with Lawrence extends back to the Elite 11 camp, and this is the next chapter.
3. Penei Sewell*, T, Oregon
The 6-6, 325-pound tackle is good enough to be the No. 1 pick if quarterback is not a consideration. He won the Outland Trophy last year and continues to improve under the watch of former offensive lineman Mario Cristobal. He has a tough act to follow considering how well this year’s tackles performed at the NFL Combine, but he should be up to that challenge.
4. Gregory Rousseau*, DE, Miami
Believe it or not, Jerome McDougle (2003) was the last Miami defensive end taken in the first round. Rousseau – who had 15.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season – will change that. He’s a dominant edge rusher in a 6-6, 251-pound frame. He can clinch that by leading the nation in sacks.
5. Ja’Marr Chase*, WR, LSU
Chase was unstoppable in LSU’s high-scoring offense last season. He had 84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs and won the Biletnikoff Award. The production might drop without Joe Burrow and pass game coordinator Joe Brady, but that doesn’t mean Chase – a 6-1, 200-pound prototype receiver – will slip too far down the draft board.
6. Walker Little, T, Stanford
Little suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2019; otherwise he would have been a first-round pick in this year’s draft. He’ll have to come back healthy, but the 6-7, 315-pound will be an effective left tackle at the next level.
7. Justyn Ross*, WR, Clemson
Ross’ numbers dipped as a sophomore, but he’s caught 17 TDs and averaged 16.7 yards per catch as one of Lawrence’s favorite targets at Clemson. The 6-4, 205-pound receiver could easily flip spots with Chase depending on the junior-year production, and that could come with Lawrence.
8. Patrick Surtain II*, CB, Alabama
Surtain has NFL bloodlines, and he’s lived up to expectations as a five-star cornerback with the Crimson Tide. The 6-2, 203-pound corner can bulid on that resume with an All-American season as a junior.
9. Shaun Wade*, CB, Ohio State
Wade will be in line to be the next first-round cornerback from Ohio State. He is an outstanding cover cornerback and sound tackler, and with a few more interceptions could be the top defensive back in this draft.
10. Alex Leatherwood, T, Alabama
Leatherwood would have been a top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He moved to left tackle last season after playing right guard in 2018, and he will have the ability to contribute at multiple positions at the next level.
11. Sam Cosmi, T, Texas
Cosmi is the fourth elite tackler on the board. The 6-7, 310-pounder started in 26 games at right tackle the last two seasons. He’s making the move to the left side as a redshirt junior, and that means a chance to show he’s the top offensive lineman in the draft.
12. Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia
LeCounte averages 50 tackles per season the last three years with the Bulldogs, and he created seven turnovers (four interceptions, three fumble recoveries). The 5-11, 190-pound playmaker is the top safety on the board.
13. Micah Parsons*, LB, Penn State
Parsons is one of the most-athletic defensive players in college football, and there is not a more-complete side-to-side classic linebacker in the draft. He finished with 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and five sacks while adding five pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He has room to move up into the top 10 with an impressive junior season.
14. LaBryan Ray*, DE/DT, Alabama
Ray missed most of last season with a leg injury, but the talent is there for the 6-5, 292-pound. Ray’s ability to play inside or outside is a plus, and he is primed for that long-awaited breakout season in 2021.
15. Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Wilson remains one of the bright spots for a Florida State program that has struggled in recent seasons. Wilson had 44 tackles and five sacks as a junior, and he had four pass breakups. He’s an imposing 6-5, 311-pounder who should impress at next year’s NFL Combine with his athleticism.
16. Deonte Brown, G, Alabama
Alabama has a proven track record with interior linemen, and Brown is the next one off the assembly line. Brown has played in 35 games for the Crimson Tide last season, and the 6-4, 338-pound guard should improve that stock as a senior.
17. Cade Mays*, G/T, Tennessee
Mays transferred from Georgia, and his ability to play multiple positions should push him to the middle of the first round. He’s the first of two Tennessee offensive linemen in our top 25.
18. Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
Mukuamu is a long 6-foot-4 cornerback who totaled 59 tackles with four interceptions and nine pass breakups. The Gamecocks’ last first-round cornerback – Stephon Gilmore – turned out great. Mukuamu should get the same opportunity.
19. Jay Tufele*, DT, USC
Tufele nearly doubled his tackle total as a sophomore, and the 305-pounder should continue to be disruptive on the interior for the Trojans. He has 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss the last two seasons.
20. Andre Cisco*, S, Syracuse
In two seasons, Cisco has compiled 12 interceptions and 14 pass breakups for the Orange, and he averages more than 40 tackles per season. At 6-0, 203 pounds, he has the range to be an immediate impact player at the next level.
21. Joe Tryon*, EDGE, Washington
The edge-rushing talent isn’t quite as deep, and Tryon will have to match a season in which he had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. The 6-5, 262-pounder should continue to develop as a junior.
22. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Smith, a 6-1, 175-pound speedster, broke out with 14 TD catches last season, and he averages 17.9 yards per catch in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. He will be the No. 1 receiver with Alabama this year, and with that comes the chance to live up to first-round billing.
23. Trey Smith*, G/T, Tennessee
Smith overcame blood clotting that threatened his career to get back on the field, and he would have been in the mix as a first-round pick this season because of his versatility. Another year of healthy production could vault him into the top 10.
24. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Etienne is one of the most-efficient running backs in college football history. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scores a rushing TD once every 9.2 carries. He surprised with the decision to return to school, but he has the opportunity to be the first back taken in 2021.
25. Chuba Hubbard*, RB, Oklahoma State
Hubbard opted to return to school after rushing for 2,094 yards and 23 TDs in 2019. The Cowboys haven’t had a running back selected in the first round since Barry Sanders in 1989. Perhaps Hubbard could break that streak with an impressive senior season.
26. Creed Humphrey*, C, Oklahoma
27. Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
28. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
29. Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
30. Jalen Mayfield*, T, Michigan
31. Paulson Adebo*, CB, Stanford
32. Quincy Roche, LB/EDGE, Miami
33. Jaylen Waddle*, WR, Alabama
34. Brevin Jordan*, TE, Miami
35. Tyson Campbell*, CB, Georgia
36. Rondale Moore*, WR, Purdue
37. Josh Jobe*, CB, Alabama
38. Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida
39. Richie Grant, S, UCF
40. Kellen Mond*, QB, Texas A&M
41. Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
42. Seth Williams*, WR, Auburn
43. Trey Hill*, C, Georgia
44. Thayer Munford, G, Ohio State
45. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
46. Kyle Pitts*, TE, Florida
47. Paddy Fisher*, LB, Northwestern
48. Caden Sterns*, S, Texas
49. Amon-Ra St. Brown*, WR, USC
50. Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
BIGGEST NFL DRAFT STEALS:
Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7
NFL Draft prospect rankings by position
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (1)
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State (2)
3. Jamie Newman, Georgia (29)
4. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (40)
1. Travis Etienne, Clemson (24)
2. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (25)
3. Najee Harris, Alabama (45)
1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (5)
2. Justyn Ross, Clemson (7)
3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama (22)
4. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (33)
5. Rondale Moore, Purdue (36)
5. Seth Williams, Auburn (42)
6. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC (49)
1. Brevin Jordan, Miami (34)
2. Kyle Pitts, Florida (46)
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon (3)
2. Walker Little, Stanford (6)
3. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (10)
4. Sam Cosmi, Texas (11)
5. Deonte Brown, Alabama (16)
6. Cade Mays, Tennessee (17)
7. Trey Smith, Tennessee (23)
8. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma (26)
9. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan (30)
10. Trey Hill, Georgia (43)
11. Thayer Munford, Ohio State (44)
12. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State (50)
1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (4)
2. LaBryan Ray, Alabama (14)
3. Marvin Wilson, Florida State (15)
4. Jay Tufele, USC (19)
5. Tedarrell Slaton, Florida (38)
1. Joe Tryon, Washington (21)
2. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest (27)
3. Quincy Roche, Miami (32)
1. Micah Parsons, Penn State (13)
2. Dylan Moses, Alabama (28)
3. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina (41)
4. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern (47)
1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (8)
2. Shaun Wade, Ohio State (9)
3. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina (18)
4. Paulson Adebo, Stanford (31)
5. Tyson Campbell, Georgia (35)
6. Josh Jobe, Alabama (37)
1. Richard LeCounte, Georgia (12)
2. Andre Cisco, Syracuse (20)
3. Richie Grant, UCF (39)
4. Caden Stearns, Texas (48)
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