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2021 NFL Draft Sneak Peek

Najee Harris, Alabama
With all other major sporting events cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, the 2020 NFL Draft was in unique position to to be as popular as ever, and it did not disappoint. Over three days, it gave us the intrigue and suspense us sports fans had been craving for some time now. Now that it is officially in the books, it seems only natural to take a very early sneak peek at how next spring may shape up. Even with both the NFL and college football seasons in doubt, the 2021 Draft could be stocked with elite-level talent on both sides of the ball. I decided to break down each position group, and the names to keep an eye on over the coming 12 months.


Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
It isn't crazy to think that even in a Draft that included Joe Burrow & Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence might have the No. 1 overall pick if he was eligible. Instead, NFL teams will have to wait until '21 to get their chance at the prized Clemson quarterback. Lawrence checks just about every box you can imagine; he has elite arm talent, good mobility for the position, prototypical NFL size, and he's an intelligent, level-headed kid. The key for Lawrence will be staying healthy over the next season. Again, we don't know what college football will look like this fall if it does happen, but there might be calls for Lawrence to sit out because he's that much of a sure thing. He's too competitive to do that, but obviously he can't take a major injury over the coming months. If he does that and continues to progress, it would be pretty shocking if he wasn't QB1 in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Justin Fields, Ohio State
Justin Fields has taken a different career path than Lawrence, starting off at Georgia before making the decision to transfer to Columbus. That makes it easier to forget that Fields, not Lawrence, was widely considered the top signal-caller in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Coaches and scouts have long adored Fields' mobility and playmaking ability, but he also showed a real natural feel for the position this past fall. He was an excellent decision-maker, and made the right reads when he needed to. He certainly has a different skill set than Lawrence, but has the same superstar potential. The only knock he has that Lawrence doesn't is his fit in an NFL offense. You can imagine Lawrence in pretty much every offensive scheme imaginable, which isn't quite the case for Fields, who would need a little more catering to his skills.

Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Every year there is a smaller-school guy that shoots up NFL Draft boards during the pre-Draft process, and don't be surprised if it is Trey Lance next spring. He led North Dakota State to an FCS Title in 2019 while throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also added over 1,000 yards with his legs and 14 more scores. What's even more impressive is that he did all that without throwing a single INT, despite nearly 300 passing attempts. That shows an impressive feel for the game and a great mind, even though he was just a redshirt freshman. At 6'3", 221 pounds Lance already looks like an NFL quarterback and an impressive 2020 could further cement his status as a likely first-rounder.

Other Names to Watch
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Jamie Newman, Georgia
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Running backs

Travis Etienne, Clemson
While Trevor Lawrence is a favorite to be the top quarterback taken in the 2021 cycle, don't be surprised if his backfield mate is the first RB off the board. Etienne made a pretty surprising decision to skip on the 2020 Draft, likely to add to a resume that already includes a National Title and high Heisman finish. The one thing that immediately jumps out at you with him is his mind-boggling speed. When he gets a lane, he is good as gone and his excellent vision enables him to wriggle into tight gaps and open things up. Coming into college, he ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash, but I'd be shocked if he doesn't run even better nowadays. Don't be shocked if this guy wins the Doak Walker Award in 2020 then becomes a first-round selection next spring.

Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Talking about running backs with speed, Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard is a world-recognized sprinter, as a three-time Canadian age-group champion in the 100 meter dash. If he played high school ball in America, he likely would have been a high-profile recruit but instead he landed in Stillwater as a little-known three-star tailback. After just two seasons with the Cowboys, he has emerged as one of the sport's premier talents, leading FBS in rushing in 2019. He flirted with the idea of the NFL this past off-season but instead decided to come back for his redshirt junior campaign. Oklahoma State will likely lean on his services once again, and Hubbard hasn't shied away from being an absolute workhorse. At this point, Hubbard is eighth in Heisman odds for 2020, with 25-1 odds of becoming the first tailback since Derrick Henry to take home the award.

Najee Harris, Alabama
Najee Harris joins both Etienne & Hubbard as a player who considered the NFL before deciding to return for the 2020 campaign. Harris is more of your prototypical three-down back than the other two, a powerful runner who also has a mix of shiftiness and wiggle to him. He was forced to split time early in his career with a pair of future NFL guys in Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs, but he's now the go-to guy for the Crimson Tide. Harris could really have a special year when you consider the 'Bama offense is in some sort of rebuild (as much as it can be in Tuscaloosca). As they break in a new quarterback, Nick Saban and company will lean on their former five-star tailback.

Other Names to Watch
Trey Sermon, Ohio State
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Max Borghi, Washington State
Pooka Williams, Kansas
Kennedy Broosk, Oklahoma


Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
Joe Burrow's groundbreaking 2019 was huge for LSU and the program as a whole, but particularly Ja'Marr Chase. He was the main beneficiary of the Heisman winner's success, snatching 84 balls for 1,740 yards and 20 touchdowns, while winning the Biletnikoff Award. Chase is out to prove that 2019 was no fluke, and he can produce even without a record-setting QB throwing to him. There's no questioning his athleticism, and he plays much bigger than his 6'1" frame might suggest. The fact he absolutely burned A.J. Terrell in the National Championship seems to indicate he'll have no troubles adjusting to life in the pros. Terrell just happened to be a mid-first rounder in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
I've been on the Rashod Bateman hype train for years now, and the Minnesota Gopher didn't disappoint in 2019. He hauled in 60 receptions for 1,219 yards, averaging over 20 yards per reception. Bateman has a good physique, is a smooth route runner, and has a clutch gene in him. He played his best football in the biggest moments for Minnesota, including going for over 200 yards in the thrilling victory over Penn State. It will be interesting to see how he performs in '20 as the Gopher offense goes somewhat of a transition, breaking in new co-offensive coordinators Matt Simon and Mike Sanford Jr.

Justyn Ross, Clemson
There are SEC coaches who lay awake at night wondering how they let Justyn Ross, an Alabama native, leave the conference. Ross really broke on to the scene with a dominant National Championship Game against a 'Bama defense full of future NFL contributors. He had six catches for 153 yards against the Tide, including one of the greatest catches of the past decade. Although his numbers regressed slightly in 2019, he still showed enough to continue gathering NFL attention. Now that he'll be the No. 1 option for Lawrence in '20, expect Ross to really take off. He clearly has sticky hands, but his speed is underrated at this point in his career.

Other Names to Watch
Rondale Moore, Purdue
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Chris Olave, Ohio State

Tight Ends

Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
The 2020 NFL Draft Class was exceptionally weak for tight ends, but that doesn't appear to be the case looking ahead to 2021. Spearheaded by Freiermuth, there are a host of tight ends who could sneak into the first round and make an immediate impact. Freiermuth is a matchup nightmare as a 6'5" weapon with receiver hands. He still has to grow as a blocker, but it will be difficult for NFL teams to ignore his playmaking potential. He enters this season as the favorite to take home the John Mackey Award as the nation's top TE.

Brevin Jordan, Miami
Miami's offensive struggles were present for much of 2019, but they were especially noticeable without the services of Brevin Jordan. Jordan missed four games down the stretch, with the Hurricanes going 1-3 in that span. He's a real difference-maker as a YAC (yards after catch) nightmare for opponents, and a reliable security blanket for any QB. I'd like to see him become more effective in the red zone, as he had just two TD receptions last fall. To be fair, Miami also has to use him wiser, a top priority for new OC Rhett Lashlee.

Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Compared to both Freiermuth and Jordan, Iowa State's Charlie Kolar is not as flashy, but he's just as effective. He had 697 yards for the Cyclones in 2019 and also hauled in seven touchdown receptions, including two in a victory over Texas Tech. Kolar offers ideal size for the position, at 6'6", 252 pounds and he's a physical blocker in space. If he can become an even better route runner, he could evolve into an even bigger problem for defenses. No matter what, he'd be an ideal complementary piece in any offense.

Other Names to Watch
Kyle Pitts, Florida
Kylen Granson, SMU
Brant Kuithe, Utah

Offensive Line

Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
Few programs in college football are developing the offensive line as well as Notre Dame, who has recently seen Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey and Ronnie Stanley to the league. They have their next future NFLer in Eichenberg, a proven left tackle. Over the last two years, Eichenberg has started 26 games for the Irish at arguably the most important position on the line. During 2019, he did not concede a sack, even as he played in 845 snaps. He certainly looks like the type of tackle who can build this unit around.

Creed Humprey, Oklahoma
Creed Humphrey has been the anchor of Oklahoma's O-Line for a number of years now, and he has attracted plenty of NFL buzz. Sure, he plays at a position (center) that often doesn't get first-round looks, but it's hard to beat his level of experience and success. He was an All-American this past season and will enter 2020 as the Rimington Trophy favorite. Humphrey also has the luxury of playing in a modern offense that translates well to the next level. That's an attractive motivator for a lot of NFL teams.

Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
In addition to Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith, Alex Leatherwood's decision to return to Alabama was just as surprising. He likely would've been a first-rounder, but instead is back for his senior campaign. Leatherwood has shown impressive versatility during his time in Tuscaloosca. He was forced inside to guard due to the team's lack of depth on the interior, but he moved back to his natural left tackle last fall. At tackle, he offers prototypical size (6'6", 310 pounds) and impact blocking for both the run and pass.

Penei Sewell, Oregon
Even in a 2021 Draft Class that is going to be stocked to the brim with offensive line talent, Penei Sewell stands alone as the best of the best. The Oregon offensive line was great as a whole in 2019, but Sewell outshone everyone else, and hoarded awards. He won the Outland Trophy, was an All-American, he finished as the top rated O-Linemen in Pro Football Focus history. That's an awfully great resume, and he could be even better in 2020. Lawrence and Fields are probably the favorites to go No. 1 overall next spring, but Sewell might just be too good to pass up in the long run.

Other Names to Watch
Samuel Cosmi, Texas
Alaric Jackson, Iowa
Cade Mays, Tennessee
Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Walker Little, Stanford

Defensive Line

Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)
There is no Chase Young or Nick Bosa at this point in the 2021 Class, but Gregory Rousseau could still end up being a high selection. He broke out as a redshirt freshman to the tune of 15.5 sacks and 54 total tackles. Now, he gets even more help in the Miami pass rush, as they bring in Temple transfer Quincy Roche and Jaelen Phillips. With opposing teams forced to focus on other playmakers even more, it wouldn't be surprising to see Rousseau really blossom. He might need to bulk up for the professional level, but the tools are there.

Marvin Wilson, Florida State
The biggest win this off-season for new Florida State head coach Mike Norvell was convincing defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and wide out Tamorrion Terry to stay in Tallahassee for an extra year. Wilson is an absolute disruptor in the interior D-Line and one of the best in the country. He has ideal size for his position, but you're amazed by his athleticism and nimbleness. Wilson can really blow by opposing linemen, and five sacks from your DT is nothing to scoff at. He's had a little bit of issues with nagging injuries, but that shouldn't be much of a concern.

Xavier Thomas, Clemson
It felt strange this 2020 NFL Draft to not see a Clemson D-Linemen go early, considering how consistent the program has become at producing top-tier talent. That is sure to change in 2021, as Xavier Thomas feels like a future first-rounder. He really flashed as a true freshman in 2018 and a lot of people (including me) expected big things in '19. Thomas wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he just didn't produce as much as hoped. Now a junior, he should really live up to his high billing and become a sack machine. The fact that Clemson was able to get in some spring practice should be a huge win for him.

Other Names to Watch
Jay Tufele, USC
Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
LaBryan Ray, Alabama
Jalen Twyman, Pittsburgh
DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky


Micah Parsons, Penn State
Micah Parsons, Penn State

Micah Parsons is truly an electrifying defensive talent. He first arrived at Penn State as a defensive end, but quickly moved to middle linebacker, where he has the heart-and-soul of Brent Pry's unit the last two seasons. He's got incredible closing speed, elite finishing ability, and a veteran's feel for the game. His dominance was on full display in this year's Cotton Bowl, when he was easily the best player on the field. Parsons finished the game with 14 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss. He looks sure to be a high selection next spring.

Dylan Moses, Alabama
Dylan Moses was well on his way to a huge 2019 and likely first-round selection before a torn ACL in August practice cost him the year. Moses still flirted with the idea of going pro, but his decision to come back seems like the right move. He has a chance to prove he is back to 100 percent, and he'll be a crucial component of the Crimson Tide defense. Moses is a freak of an athlete, running a 4.46 40 in middle school and displaying helmet-popping hitting ability. He can play on the outside, but it appears as though he is locked into a middle linebacker role for 'Bama. There has been a long line of Crimson Tide players who have manned that position and gone on to successful NFL careers, and Moses appears to be next.

Nick Bolton, Missouri
There definitely is a big drop-off at this position after Parsons and Moses, but Nick Bolton is one of the best defenders in the country you've probably never heard of. He was immediately one of the best players on the Missouri defense when he came in as a freshman, and was even more impressive in 2019. Bolton was a force in run support, but what I find most impressive about him is his ability to drop back in coverage. He picked off two passes and had eight pass deflections and could line up against nearly anyone. That type of versatility is an obvious plus in the world of modern football.

Other Names to Watch
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Baron Browning, Ohio State
Charles Snowden, Virginia
Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin
Chazz Surratt, UNC


Shaun Wade, Ohio State
There's a real battle for the title of "DBU" going on in college football right now, with LSU, Ohio State, Alabama and Florida all producing insane secondary talent regularly. Ohio State's top guy is going to be Shaun Wade, who was another relatively surprising returnee. Wade has first-round talent, and he was a mainstay for Ohio State in 2019 playing the inside corner role. Coaches have raved about his work ethic and approach to the game, and his decision to return should help him round out all the areas of his game.

Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
After first breaking on to the scene with a three-interception game in the upset of Georgia, Israel Mukuamu has developed into a legit NFL prospect. He's got ideal size for the cornerback position, standing at a lanky 6'4" with a long wingspan that allows him to recover quickly if he's beaten. He's a physical cornerback with pretty good ball skills, although they could be even more improved. I'd like to see him put together one more good season before I proclaim him a first-round selection, but he'll be an interesting watch in 2020.

Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Paulson Adebo entered 2019 with a lot of hype, coming off a 2018 in which he was absolutely shutdown, and earned All-American honors. He had a good 2019, but Stanford's struggles really overshadowed what he was able to do on the football field. It also probably left a bad taste in the mouth for him, motivating him to return for his another year. He's a really intelligent, well-rounded football player who can make plays, picking off four passes last fall. Adebo does have to get more consistent, and doesn't have the upside of others that may be in this Draft Class, but he seems like a safe pick at this extremely early part of the process.

Other Names to Watch
Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
Jevon Holland, Oregon
Josh Jobe, Alabama
Richard LeCounte, Georgia
Andre Cisco, Syracuse

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