Besides the actual play of the sport, the process of scouting college players and the draft are my favorite parts of pro football. Adults ranging between 20-25 years old, and sometimes older, compete against one another to prove their worth to NFL teams. From Senior Bowls to combines and pro days, every prospect looks to be in that 1% of all college athletes to reach the pro level. In reality, maybe 25-50 guys from each draft will have an NFL career that lasts more than five years. Let's take a look at this years top prospects and where they will go in the draft!
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
No one should be shocked by this. Trevor Lawrence is the best QB prospect to come out of college since Andrew Luck. His passing ability is incredible (go check out his pro day if you haven't seen it yet), he is mobile inside and outside of the pocket, and is a precise decision maker. The 1-time National Champion looks to redirect the course the Jags are on, and he will be the most pivotal piece of their massive rebuild.
Pro Comparison - Ryan Tannehill
#2 New York Jets - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
A lot of scouts are riding the hot wave of Zach Wilson, but Justin Fields is still a - seemingly - competent quarterback. After having an electric career at Ohio State, he looks to take his dual threat ability to the NFL. Ohio State QBs normally don't transition well into the league, but Fields could be an exception to that.
Pro Comparison - Dak Prescott
#3 Houston Texans (via Miami, via Denver) - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Trade alert!!! Miami trades with Denver to move back in the first round. Denver gives up the 9th overall pick, the 71st overall pick, and a 2022 2nd round pick to move up to the 3rd overall pick. With this, they trade away the newly acquired 3rd overall pick, 40th overall pick, a 2022 first round pick, and Bradley Chubb to obtain Deshaun Watson.
After all of that, Houston looks to rebuild with Zach Wilson, a very solid QB prospect who has yet to reach his full potential. He showed he can get it done through the air and on the ground, scorching defenses all year long. Wilson will also bring a new swagger to Houston that is going to be much needed after their remodeling this offseason.
Pro Comparison - Baker Mayfield
#4 Carolina Panthers (via Atlanta) - Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
Another trade alert!!! With three quarterbacks going in the first three picks, the Panthers get antsy and swap picks with the Falcons, while also giving up a 2nd round pick in this draft and the 2022 draft. With this, they select Trey Lance, a very Matt Rhule-type quarterback who brings a lot of athleticism to the position. Pair this with Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, CMC, and possibly a tight end through free agency, this offense is looking much scarier than it did a year before.
Pro Comparison - Deshaun Watson
#5 Cincinnati Bengals - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The past few drafts have had at least one stud offensive lineman who will be a household name throughout their careers. 2018 was Quenton Nelson, 2019 was Elgton Jenkins (not crazy coming out of college, but has been incredible in his first two years), 2020 was Tristan Wirfs and Mehki Becton, and this year is Penei Sewell. Penei will anchor an inexperienced offensive line. He may end up taking the left tackle spot from Jonah Williams, a 3rd year tackle out of Alabama, but Jonah will most likely be moved to guard or right tackle. Penei did opt out of the 2020 college season, but that won't affect his draft stock.
Pro Comparison - Trent Williams
Photo: The Athletic
#6 Philadelphia Eagles - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Another 2020 opt out, Ja'Marr is still the best receiver coming out of this draft. We all saw the impact Justin Jefferson was able to have on the Vikings, and Ja'Marr was a much better receiver in 2019 than Justin. According to PFF, since 2019, Ja'Marr leads all college football receivers with 14 catches of 20+ yards, and he didn't play in 2020. That shows the impact he is going to bring to the Eagles, who are in need of a big time receiver after cutting DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery.
Pro Comparison - Amari Cooper
#7 Detroit Lions - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Arguably the best receiver in college football in 2020, until his "season-ending" ankle injury sidelined him in the middle of October. I say "season-ending" because he played minimal snaps in the CFP Championship against Ohio State. Up until that point, Waddle had 25 receptions for 557 yards and 4 TDs, averaging 22.3 yards per catch. If not for his electric counter-part, Devonta Smith, Waddle may very well have gone in the top 3. Alas, Detroit finds a great receiving option for a thin wide receiver group.
Pro Comparison - Odell Beckham Jr.
#8 Atlanta Falcons (via Carolina) - Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
The Falcons get much needed help on the defensive side of the ball, especially in their pass rush. Over the course of a year, the Falcons lost two first round pass rushers in Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley. Even after acquiring former first round pick, Dante Fowler, the Falcons still need help getting to the quarterback. Given the best pass rusher is still on the board, this should be a no-brainer for the Falcons.
*See pick #4 for trade details*
Pro Comparison - Myles Garrett
#9 Miami Dolphins (via Houston, via Denver) - Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Finally, the 2020 Heisman winner is off the board. Devonta Smith was the best college football player a year ago, zooming past defenses over the top, across the middle, and underneath coverage. He may be the best route runner in the draft, and has incredible game speed. So why is he the third receiver off the board and almost out of the top 10? Size. He has a very unusual frame, standing at 6'1 while weighing in at 174. He's pretty skinny compared to other players at his position, but we've seen players with a similar build thrive before. The Dolphins end up getting a steal with this pick, reuniting Tua and Devonta, and this will help put their offense in the top 10 next year.
*see pick #3 for trade details*
Pro Comparison - Robby Anderson
Photo: USA Today
#10 Dallas Cowboys - Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The biggest need for the Cowboys this offseason is their secondary. With a shallow free agent market for the CB position, the Cowboys take Surtain with the 10th overall pick. Many analysts have Caleb Farley ahead of Surtain, but the Cowboys take a shot on the cornerback out of Alabama, who actually played in 2020 compared to Farley.
Pro Comparison - Jaire Alexander
#11 New York Giants - Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Giants get much needed offensive line help. After an up and down year from rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas, they look to offer help with one of the best linemen in the draft. Slater, who opted out in 2020, could end up moving to guard, but the Giants need more help at right tackle than anything else. Slater played all over the Northwestern offensive line in the 2019 season, so any position changes should be routine for him.
Pro Comparison - Charles Leno Jr.
#12 San Francisco 49ers - Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Another stud who opted out, Farley would fill a much needed void in an incredible 49ers defense. With the probable departure of Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley, Farley would be a great young option for an aging secondary (Jimmie Ward will be 30 and Jaquiski Tartt will be 29 during the 2021 season). Farley's stands at 6'2 and has surprising speed for his size, already giving him an upperhand on other corners in the draft class.
Pro Comparison - Xavien Howard
#13 Los Angeles Chargers - Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons would have most likely been a top 10 pick if he chose to play in 2020. He is the perfect size for a linebacker in the NFL, at 6'3 and 245 pounds, while also showcasing blazing speed while at Penn State. During his college career, reports surfaced that he clocked in between a 4.40-4.45 40 yard dash. Given he has been preparing for the NFL draft, that may very well move into the high 4.3 range. Mix this speed with his physicality, you have a player who could change the entire identity of a defense.
Pro Comparison - Devin White
#14 Minnesota Vikings - Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
Gregory, who opted out in 2020, can be a really effective pass rusher in the NFL. Standing at a massive 6'7 at 265 pounds, he somehow can find a way to get low and root offensive linemen off the ground. With that, and his sneaky agility, he can dominate at the next level if he continues to develop like he did in college. The Vikings find the perfect match opposite elite pass rusher Danielle Hunter, making the Vikings defense a feared threat in the NFL again.
Pro Comparison - Montez Sweat
Photo: Miami Athletics
#15 New England Patriots - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
My offensive rookie of the year finds his way to the Pats roster for 2021. One of the best receiving threats in college football a year ago, Pitts ran through and around defenses, while mossing defensive backs and safeties all year long. seeing that most teams ahead of the Pats won't need a tight end (except the Cowboys and Panthers, who will most likely find someone in free agnecy), Pitts will fall right into New England, who were ranked at the bottom of the league for tight end production.
Pro Comparison - Rob Gronkowski
#16 Arizona Cardinals - Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
With the inevitable departure of Patrick Peterson and other aging corners on the Cardinals roster, the position will need to be filled by young talent. Given some of the young free agents will not be able to fill the number 1 cornerback role, the Cardinals take Jaycee in the middle of the draft. The 6'1 corner is projected to run a mid 4.4 time, giving the Cardinals needed speed and size at the position. He may not be the best corner in the draft, but he will make a big impact on their defense.
Pro Comparison - Byron Jones
#17 Tennessee Titans (via Las Vegas) - Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Trade alert!!! The Titans swap picks with the Raiders, giving up the 22nd overall pick, a 3rd and 4th round pick this year, and a 3rd and 4th round the following year, while also receiving a 5th round pick in 2021, and 2nd round pick in 2022.
This man is a monster. Arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the draft, Barmore will bring incredible size and strength to the interior of a lackluster Titans defense. With the ability to play either nose tackle or 3 tech, Barmore should cause a lot of problems for NFL offenses for years to come.
Pro Comparison - Chris Jones
#18 Miami Dolphins - Najee Harris, HB, Alabama
The Alabama reunion continues as the Dolphins get much needed running back help with Najee. The 6'2, 230 pound running back out of Alabama not only brings power running skills to the table, but is also a viable receiving threat, averaging almost 4 catches a game while racking up 35 yards per contest. Tua gets two major pieces to his success at Alabama in Miami, with Najee making his case as the best back in the draft class.
Pro Comparison - Latavius Murray
#19 Washington Football Team - Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Washington makes a proper reach for one of the most underrated receivers in the draft. Toney made some solid plays throughout the season, but put the NFL on notice when he cooked some of the best DBs in the country during the Senior Bowl. His speed won't blow anyone out of the water, but his shiftiness and ability to get open should be enough to land him a starting spot on Washington's roster.
Pro Comparison - Jarvis Landry
Photo: Associated Press
#20 Chicago Bears - Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
A near opt out for the 2020 season, Alijah found his way back to the gridiron right before the start of the season. He spent most of the season playing left tackle, but he will most likely move back to his natural guard position when he joins the Bears. After Kyle Long retired, the Bears struggled to find consistency on the inside of their line. Alijah provides that solid playing ability and looks to help the offensive line.
Pro Comparison - Andrew Norwell
#21 Indianapolis Colts - Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Despite getting picked in the back half of the first round, Leatherwood will terrorize opposing edge threats in the NFL. With the retirement of Anthony Catonzo, Alex fills a hole in one of the best offensive lines in football, allowing them to continue their dominance without missing a beat. When we look back, we'll wonder how this guy wasn't a top 5 overall selection.
Pro Comparison - Ryan Ramczyk
#22 Las Vegas Raiders (via Tennessee) - Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
Azeez Ojulari will be a questionable pick to some, but the perfect fit for the Raiders. His ability to bend, dip, and rip past offensive linemen, especially at the speed he does it, is incredible to watch. My defensive rookie of the year will make the Raiders pass rush intimidating. Getting Ojulari will also allow the Raiders to move Clellin Ferrell or Maxx Crosby inside in pass rush situations to create mismatches across the defensive front.
Pro Comparison -
*see pick #17 for trade details*
#23 New York Jets (via Seattle) - Travis Etienne, HB, Clemson
After solving their QB issue with Justin Fields, they also solve their running back issues by picking up Travis Etienne. Etienne is one of the most electric backs in the class, providing insane highlights after the catch and between the tackles. And don't let his size fool you, his 5'10, 205 frame is one of the hardest to bring down. The Jets offensive will be one to watch in 2021, and will start making big plays in 2022.
Pro Comparison - Alvin Kamara
*pick acquired through Jamal Adams trade*
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers - Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
Wyatt Davis may be the best pure offensive guard in the draft. His ability to move the line of scrimmage, while being an efficient pass blocker makes him a valuable asset to any offensive line. He may not make crushing blocks, but his consistency snap after snap is eye opening. With the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, Davis looks to help out the Steelers at either guard or center.
Pro Comparison - Ali Marpet
#25 Jacksonville Jaguars (Los Angeles Rams) - Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech tackle looks to add much needed protection for Trevor Lawrence. Darrisaw has surprising athleticism and can provide versatility in pass protecting schemes. If he adds another 10-15 pounds before the start of the year, he can be a dominant run blocker as well. Give him time to develop and Darrisaw could be a top 10 offensive tackle within a few years.
Pro Comparison - Eric Fisher
*pick acquired through Jalen Ramsey trade*
#26 Cleveland Browns - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Not the best linebacker in the draft, but one who improved tremendously during his time at Notre Dame. The Browns defense is close to being elite, and adding Jeremiah could help them reach that point. With a crazy pass rush and solid secondary play, Jeremiah would provide instant athleticism to play coverage, but would either need to add some weight or become more of a linebacker/box safety hybrid in order to provide significant run support. With more defenses turning to hybrid players like Jeremiah, we could see him shine in a similar role in the Browns defense.
Pro Comparison - Foyesade Oluokun
Photo: Notre Dame Athletics
#27 Baltimore Ravens - Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
After opting out for the final two games of the regular season, many analysts have Cosmi's draft stock declining. His play and size, however, make this an easy selection for the Ravens who may be losing Orlando Brown in the offseason. Brown, who played left tackle after Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury, wants to remain at that position. Given Stanley is one of the best tackles in the NFL, the Ravens will most likely trade him and look to Cosmi to provide much needed help along the offensive line.
Pro Comparison - Lane Johnson
#28 New Orleans Saints - Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Most people have the Saints taking a QB, but Sean Payton has made his support of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston apparent over the regular season and offseason. With an aging Jared Cook, the Saints look to Freiermuth as a viable receiving target in the middle of the offense. Pair that with some solid run blocking, which seems to be a lost art for the tight end position, he would provide instant production to a Saints offense that took a step back in 2020.
Pro Comparison - Travis Kelce
#29 Green Bay Packers - Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
After getting gashed up the middle by rushing attacks all year long, the Packers need to address their linebacking core. Bolton won't be the best in pass coverage, but his run stuffing ability will be an instant boost to their defense. The Mizzou product may not start right away, but will be a key piece for the defense as they look to make another playoff run late in the year.
Pro Comparison - Matt Milano
#30 Buffalo Bills - Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
Joseph Ossai will fall in the draft, not due to his playing ability, but teams having more dire needs at other positions. Any other year, Ossai could possibly be a top 10 pick. His perfect balance between pass rushing aggression and run stuffing prowess will be vital to a solid Bills defense. With Jerry Hughes at 33 and Mario Addison at 34 when the season starts, Ossai will be young blood for the defense.
Pro Comparison - TJ Watt
#31 Kansas City Chiefs - Trevon Moehrig, Safety, TCU
Trevon Moehrig is probably the most raw defensive talent in the draft. During his time at TCU, he played all over the defense and generated highlights at every spot. He would fit in perfectly to the Chiefs defense, providing needed run support and coverage help in the box. He will be in the running for defensive rookie of the year and will get the Chiefs defense back on track after an embarrassing Super Bowl
Pro Comparison - Kenny Vaccaro
Photo: Pro Football Network
#32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Bucs? Taking a QB??? With Tom Brady on the roster????? You bet your bottom dollar this is the direction the Bucs go. With Brady entering the final year of his contract, and seeing he will be 45 in 2022, it is unlikely he will continue to play, at least for the Bucs, if at all. With this knowledge, the Bucs will take Mac Jones to develop under Brady for a year, giving them a viable option to use in 2022. Mac falls to the end of the first round due to questions about his leadership, ability to carry a team without all star talent around him, and overall playing ability. The Bucs find their perfect replacement for Tom Brady and continue to build for future success.
Pro Comparison - Andy Dalton
Some names on this list may be a surprise to some, as studs like Rashod Bateman, Kyle Trask, Zaven Collins, and Javonte Williams will not be picked until the second or third round just based on team need. Be on the look out for some second or third round gems like Rondale Moore, Jayson Oweh, and Teven Jenkins to make big splashed in the NFL also.
Another thing to note is that players who opted out of the 2020 college season can and will have their draft stock negatively impacted. Yes, it's an unprecedented year and we shouldn't be writing someone off just because they didn't play, but missing a full year of football is a big deal, especially in terms of developing college stars into professional athletes. Nevertheless, there will be some players who didn't play in 2020, play at an top tier level in 2021.