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Daniel Jeremiah’s top 10: 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings 1.0

Last Updated on January 28, 2021 4:01 pm by

Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, which will take place in Cleveland on April 29-May 1, NFL Network draft guru and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah ranks his top 50 draft-eligible prospects.

1) Trevor Lawrence, QB

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

Lawrence is a tall, long and athletic quarterback. He has a long delivery, but he still gets the ball out quickly and it explodes out of his hand. The Clemson offense features a lot of quick screens and quick hitters. He showed excellent touch and placement on those throws. He can really drive the ball down the field when called upon and he also has the ability to layer the ball (over linebackers/under safeties) in the middle of the field. His overall accuracy is excellent at all three levels. He does need to improve his pocket awareness. He doesn’t always feel back-side pressure and needs to speed up his clock versus front-side pressure. Outside of his final game with the Tigers (College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Ohio State), I was impressed with his decision-making. He is a dangerous runner because of his build-up speed and toughness. Overall, Lawrence is ready to start right away and he has the tools to ultimately emerge as a top-five player at his position.

2) Ja’Marr Chase, WR

School: LSU | Year: Junior

Chase is a dominant player on tape. He lined up both outside and in the slot at LSU. He defeats press coverage with a combination of foot quickness and upper-body strength. He creates separation off the line of scrimmage and he can also find another gear when the ball is in the air. He is a clean route runner. He won’t gear down in traffic and has very strong hands to pluck and play through contact. He attacks 50/50 balls and consistently wins. Chase is at his best after the catch. He routinely breaks tackles and can make defenders miss, too. He did have a couple drops when the ball was on his back hip but I have no concerns about his hands. Overall, I love Chase’s attacking style of play and see him as a faster version of three-time Pro Bowl selectee Anquan Boldin.

3) Kyle Pitts, TE

School: Florida | Year: Junior

Pitts is a long, lean tight end prospect with excellent speed, ball skills and production. He has lined up inline, flexed in the slot and split out wide. He runs routes like a wideout. The former Gator has burst off the line, sets up defenders and explodes out of the break point. He beat upper-echelon SEC cornerbacks on a weekly basis. He builds speed to separate down the seam and tracks the ball naturally down the field. Pitts has an enormous catch radius. He uses his speed to pile up yards after the catch. He showed tremendous improvement as a blocker in 2020. He fits up, doing his best to wrestle and stay attached. He will fall off at times, but the effort is there. Overall, Pitts is a unique talent with the ability to take over a game. He is the definition of a mismatch player.

4) Zach Wilson, QB

School: BYU | Year: Junior

Wilson has average height and a lean/narrow frame for the quarterback position. He’s an excellent athlete and generates several wow plays in every game I’ve studied. Wilson has a dynamic throwing motion. He carries the ball low but once his hands separate, the ball comes out in a hurry with a high level of RPMs. He’s extremely accurate from a variety of platforms and arm angles. He makes some incredible throws while fading away with both feet off the ground, and he can drive the ball to the boundary from the far hash. He also uses his quickness and creativity to buy time to let his targets uncover. He’s effective on designed QB runs, but that part of his game will need to be limited at the next level due to his lack of size. My only real concern with Wilson is durability. He’s already been through shoulder surgery (after his freshman season) and he doesn’t have an ideal frame. If he can stay healthy, his upside is enormous.

5) Caleb Farley, CB

School: Virginia Tech | Year: Junior (RS)

Farley has outstanding size, length and speed for the cornerback position. He mixes up his technique and effectively re-routes wideouts with a one- or two-hand jam in press coverage. He’s very fluid/loose and stays in phase with his man underneath and down the field. Farley has a quick/smooth pedal in off coverage and his patience helps him handle double moves. He shows exceptional burst when he does drive on the ball. The redshirt junior has plenty of speed to carry vertical routes. He can find and play the ball down the field. He’s aggressive to fill versus the run, but he will fall off a few tackles. Overall, Farley has all of the ingredients to be a No. 1 cornerback at the next level.

6) Rashawn Slater, OT

School: Northwestern | Year: Senior

Slater is a slightly undersized tackle prospect. He plays with outstanding knee bend, foot quickness and balance. He explodes out of his stance in the passing game and does an excellent job of re-working his hands to maintain inside position. Slater gives a little ground versus power before dropping his weight and anchoring late. His best trait is his ability to recover when he finds himself in a bad position. In the run game, he plays with quickness and urgency when working up to the second level. He takes great angles and is one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to cutting off linebackers. He doesn’t have elite power to knock back defenders over his nose, but he does a good job of running his feet and staying attached. He has excellent awareness. Overall, Slater might lack ideal length, but it doesn’t hinder him and I believe he can excel at left tackle. If a team chooses to play him inside, he should quickly develop into a Pro Bowl guard.

7) DeVonta Smith, WR

School: Alabama | Year: Senior

Smith is a rail-thin wideout with long arms, excellent play speed and outstanding hands. He’s a silky-smooth route runner who accelerates into and out of the break point, which creates an unusual amount of separation against quality competition. He has complete faith in his hands, allowing him to run through the ball (without gathering his feet) on underneath and intermediate crossers. His leaping ability and length creates some special high-point grabs. He has a second gear after the catch and surprising toughness to break tackles. He competes as a blocker, too. People inside the Alabama program rave about his character, work ethic and professionalism. Smith should emerge as a high-volume weapon as soon as his cleats hit an NFL field.

8) Jaylen Waddle, WR

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Waddle is a slightly undersized receiver with extraordinary speed and playmaking ability. He has the ability to line up inside or outside. His acceleration in his release is elite. He destroys the cushions he receives from defenders in a hiccup and can find a second and third gear once the ball is in the air. He’s at his best on runaway routes, but he flashes the ability to efficiently gear down and work back downhill. I thought his hands were improved this fall (see: crazy catch versus Missouri in the season opener). He’s one of the most talented kickoff and punt returners (just watch the tape of his 2019 performance against Auburn) to enter the NFL over the last decade. Overall, Waddle isn’t quite as strong as Tyreek Hill, but he’s capable of having the same impact in the NFL.

9) Micah Parsons, LB

School: Penn State | Year: Junior

Parsons has a big, athletic frame and possesses excellent speed and versatility. He is quick to key/read before attacking the line of scrimmage. He can defeat blocks with his hands or use his quickness to slip past them. He has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline, although there were a few occasions where he overran the football in the games I studied. He also had some issues sniffing out the ball on zone reads. He’s very gifted in coverage versus tight ends and running backs. He has timing and burst as a blitzer off the edge. Overall, there aren’t many holes in Parsons’ game. It’s difficult to find linebackers with his size and ability to impact the passing game.

10) Penei Sewell, OT

School: Oregon | Year: Junior

Sewell has a huge frame, quick feet and strong hands. He has the foot quickness to kick out and cover up speed rushers in the passing game. His hands can get too wide at times, which allows defenders to get underneath him (see: matchup against then-Auburn DT Derrick Brown in 2019). However, he stays connected and usually wins when he locks on. He has the ability to bend and drop his weight, but he gets too upright on occasion. Sewell does some special things in the run game. He can uproot defenders over his nose and he is explosive as a puller. The more I watched, I did have some concerns about his balance. He lunges at times and ends up on the ground more often than you’d like. Overall, Sewell isn’t the most polished blocker in this class, but he does offer the most upside.

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