Prime Time Sports Talk 2021 NFL Draft Positional Rankingsby Mike Fanelli April 21, 2021 0 comments
The 2021 NFL Draft is just over a week away. After months of preparation, it’s almost time to get on the clock and make a pick. As the days till the draft wind down, the Prime Time Sports Talk scouting staff continues to spend countless hours grinding the film. With just over a week to go, it is time to release our staff’s group positional rankings.
Make sure to check out all of our 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Reports.
Player I’m Higher on Than Most
Mike – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
We haven’t seen Collins play in over a year after opting out of the 2020 season because of Covid-19. However, despite the horrible quarterback play from Shea Patterson, Collins had a 17.3 touchdown rate over his final two seasons at Michigan. Collins has the size and athleticism to make plays on all three levels and will be a force to deal with in the red zone. If Collins had played with an NFL-caliber quarterback at Michigan, he would be in the first-round conversation. Whoever lands him in the middle rounds is going to get the steal of the draft.
Mason – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
As of right now, St. Brown is my 15th overall player in the class. He excels in his route running and release but overall has few weaknesses in his game. One weakness is the speed, which is illustrated by his 40-yard dash time. St. Brown may not end up as a number one receiver, but he will be an Emmanuel Sanders-like player.
Brady – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The media coverage of fields is all over the place and inconsistent. Simply put, Fields can make his reads and go through the progressions. One of the reasons this false narrative progressed is the option routes Ohio State receivers run, which often take longer to develop. Fields is ultra-accurate, has the arm talent to make all the throws, and he’s a significant threat to rush the ball. For good reason, Justin Fields is the second-best player on my big board, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him succeed at a high level in the NFL.
Alex – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
While many fantasize about young stars like Terrace Marshall Jr., few turn on the tape to find a diamond in the rough. Eskridge is built to start day one. He has solid enough hands, elite speed, insane route running, and top-notch after-the-catch ability. Few can touch the impact that Eskridge will have in his rookie season. He will be 24 in his rookie season, but a team that is looking for a super bowl surely won’t mind having an offensive rookie of the year contender on their roster for that push.
Chris – Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
The perfect power back for a two-horse rushing tandem in the NFL, Sermon has the makeup of a physical runner. With great strength and contact balance, he can effectively navigate between the tackles while possessing the ability to lower his shoulder and finish off runs effectively. Along with this, while Sermon does not remain overly fast, he can turn on the jets and get downhill in a hurry to outrun opposing defenders. Lastly, while he has not racked up the receiving yards over his four-year college career, Sermon has improved significantly in this area since arriving at Ohio State. He has demonstrated soft hands while being able to bail his quarterbacks out as the hot read with solid ball security.
Charlie – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
St. Brown, as my fourth wide receiver, is one of the hotter takes on this list. However, he is one of the most NFL pro-ready prospects out there. A superb route runner who is crafty with his cuts and shifty in the open field, St. Brown can do it all. He can go up and grab contested balls and work outside and in the slot. St. Brown can give his future team anything they need and can be one of the best route runners in the game if he hits his ceiling.
Kamran – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
Williams is one of the most intriguing mid-late round wide receivers in the draft. The ability to make contested catches is extremely important, and Williams has proved that he can do just so. Standing at 6’3’’ and weighing 212 lbs, Williams uses his big frame to make tough catches. He will be a threat in the red zone for opposing defenses. Williams has the potential to be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver on his team if he can improve his separation in the NFL.
Player I’m Lower on Than Most
Mike – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Freiermuth has drawn comparisons as the next Rob Gronkowski. Those comparisons need shot down. They are nothing alike aside from wearing the same jersey number. During his time at Penn State, Freiermuth had more than 26 receptions and over 370 receiving yards in a season only once. He struggles to consistently catch the ball and isn’t the athlete many claims he is. Any team drafting Freiermuth thinking he’s the next Gronk or anything close to him is going to be very disappointed.
Mason – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
While many have Marshall as a late-first-round prospect, I have him as a late fourth-round player. He doesn’t demonstrate effort on some plays, and his 40-yard dash time at his pro day didn’t show up on tape. Other concerns include a limited route tree and concentration drops. Marshall needs a good scenario, such as Baltimore or New Orleans, for him to succeed.
Brady – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The analysis on Wilson is inconsistent as a result of highlight-reel plays he can make. Wilson’s high-end plays look like Patrick Mahomes, where he’s able to improvise and play outside of structure extremely well and make all sorts of off-platform throws. The aspects that should scare analysts: several plays where he moves around the pocket into pressure (with a great offensive line), several misreads resulting in good not great plays, and inside structure play. Overall, Wilson has potential, but he needs a year to sit behind a veteran quarterback to get better at the reading of the game and inside-structure aspects of the offense.
Alex – Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma
As a center, having some sort of situational awareness is the most crucial part of the job. Humphrey seemed to be lost on some plays, even allowing linebackers to get right past him. There were also plays where Humphrey gave up, showing a lack of motor, which is scary for the one player that sets the tempo for the rest of the line. As a guard, Humphrey will be perfectly fine, but as a center, no quarterback should have to worry about getting killed from simple mistakes, especially in the NFL.
Chris – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
While he offers the prototypical makeup for a featured receiver in the NFL with his size, speed, and physicality, Marshall is not as smooth a route runner as other receivers in the class. This can cause him to disappear on tape sometimes as opposing defensive backs can navigate where he is going on the route. In addition to this, there are instances in which Marshall allows the ball to travel into his body instead of catching it with his hands. This led to problems with drops during his time at LSU. Furthermore, Marshall also needs to improve both his effort and technique as a blocker to stay on the field in the NFL.
Charlie – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Freiermuth is lucky to make the top five on my list. One of the most overrated prospects in this year’s draft cycle. He’s incredibly stiff, doesn’t show good route timing, and offers almost no potential in the passing game with his route running. As a blocker, he’s pretty solid, which is where he stands out most. For a guy who’s getting second-round talk, he’s just not worthy of a top 60 pick.
Kamran – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields is a very polarizing prospect. He has many positives and negatives, and for me, the cons outway the pros. Although Fields has the athleticism to succeed in the NFL, Fields struggles with pocket awareness and being able to pick up blitzes. Also, Fields, at times, is unable to progress through his reads well, often locking on to the number one or two option to throw the pass. In the NFL, with less clean pockets and the inability to consistently quickly progress through his reads, Fields will struggle to make the plays he did at the collegiate level.
Player I’m Higher on Than Most
Mike – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
In today’s NFL, the more you can do, the more valuable you are to a team. Owusu-Koramoah is the true definition of a Swiss army knife. He can play linebacker, safety, nickel cornerback, and rush the passer. Owusu-Koramoah is this year’s version of Isaiah Simmons. While his smaller frame (6’2”, 221 lbs) will scare off some people, All-Pro Darius Leonard is roughly the same size (6’2”, 230 lbs).
Mason – Ar’Darius Washington, SAF, TCU
The “other” TCU safety ranks second on my safety board, only behind Trevon Moehrig. Washington is a versatile player that can play in the slot or at either safety position. He is a young prospect that is a good tackler and has tremendous ball skills. Washington could go in the third or even fourth round, and at that cost, it would be a steal.
Brady – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Samuel is the son of Pro Bower Asante Samuel Sr and is a clone of his father. Samuel Jr. has similar physical concerns with his poor long speed and limited length. However, his movement skills are beyond fluid and allow him to keep up with receivers who are faster than him. Then there’s the mental aspect of his game, call it to play recognition or instincts, as he is consistently around the ball and making plays. He’s not perfect by any means, but he’s the player who could translate his skills quickly to the NFL and make an immediate impact.
Alex – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
While many uphold Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II as some of the best man corners in this class, few mention Campbell. He may have been picked on by Williams and Kyle Pitts, but he played as well as he could have. With holding and simple pass-defense mechanics are his two main issues, it is surprising that not many people have him in the early second round. Honestly, the size, speed, ability to cover, and tenacity make for a convincing late-first-round pick. If a crystal ball showed Campbell holding less and continuing to cover the way he does now, he may be worth a top-15 pick.
Chris – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
Utilizing an effective burst as a defensive tackle, Nixon possesses effective length, hand usage, and power to be an every-down player at the pro level. Enjoying a breakout campaign for the Iowa Hawkeyes during his final season, Nixon racked up 15.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, earning him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Fluid with his feet, he can occupy blockers while making plays from sidelines to sidelines effectively. He utilizes a high football IQ and effective closing speed to fire through holes in the opposing offensive line and wrap up ball carriers in the backfield.
Charlie – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Horn is a stud. He’s a fantastic man-coverage corner who also brings some good value in zone coverage schemes. He’s got the best skills from any corner in recent memory. Along with his great play on film, he’s a freak athlete and demonstrated this at his pro day, where he ran a 4.39 40, had a 41.5 inch vertical, and an 11-foot broad jump.
Kamran – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley has been dropping down boards due to injury concerns, but his upside outweighs the risk of taking him. He possesses all of the physical tools to succeed as a cornerback in the NFL. Farley is a fantastic athlete with great ball skills and physicality who has all-pro upside if he succeeds.
Player I’m Lower on Than Most
Mike – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Having raw traits and upside are nice but seeing the player do it is more important. In his first two seasons at Penn State, Oweh had seven sacks in 13 games. However, last year he had zero in seven games. Why the sudden disappearance in production? Was it because he faced more attention with Yetur Gross-Matos in the NFL? Whatever the reason, zero sacks in seven games isn’t something we should take lightly.
Mason – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
The linebacker class is a deep one. Unfortunately, Bolton has gotten plenty of hype that isn’t warranted to me. He doesn’t have great sideline-to-sideline speed, and he can’t cover that well. I would much rather take Pete Werner or Cameron McGrone in the third round than Bolton in the first or second.
Brady – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley is an excellent prospect who warranted top 20 hype all year. However, he has a history of injuries with a torn ACL in 2017, and then in the 2019 season, he had multiple back spasms. Recently he elected to have a microdiscectomy (small surgery for his back) and this is somewhat troubling and leads me to be lower on him. Farley elected to opt-out of the 2020 season, so the question that arises is: how will Farley’s body hold up for two months of consecutive practices, four months of regular season football, and an extra month of playoff football? Back issues and recurring injuries Farley has had, are injuries I want to avoid at all costs, thus Farley falls several spots on the rankings.
Alex – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
This has absolutely nothing to do with Phillips’s talent. He’s graded as the best edge talent in the class. The problem lies with his concussions. Every player gets them, but it’s extremely rare for an institution to medically ban a player from playing. If this were a no-name school, it could be called an overreaction. However, this is from UCLA, one of the best medical schools in the world. They know far better than draft analysts. Phillips is a great talent, but he’s a human being. Hopefully, his career is short and very sweet, and his life long and happy. Everyone prays UCLA was wrong, but chances are they’re not.
Chris – Andre Cisco, SAF, Syracuse
Cisco has some of the best ball skills in the entire draft class for safeties and bolsters excellent recognition in zone coverage. However, with limits on his speed, range, and vision as a deep safety, he will need significant development and refinement to be able to match up with opposing running backs and tight ends out of the backfield. Along with this, he lacks consistent technique as a safety, forcing him to have issues with missed tackles. Furthermore, he frequently has problems with his vision and eye discipline as a safety, leading receivers to run by him and create large chunk plays down the field.
Charlie – Jevon Holland, SAF, Oregon
Holland almost gets demoted to safety six here, behind Jamar Johnson, but he just scrapes by due to his versatility. He doesn’t have great coverage skills, especially in the nickel-back position, or playing corner outside. His instincts are just average and he is not involved in the run stoppage. He brings very nice athleticism which is why he is on the list at five. Otherwise, a very raw player who’s shown some good flashes and can develop nicely in the right system.
Kamran – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Collins is often placed as a top three or four linebacker on NFL big boards, but he should not be that high. Although Collins possesses good size and burst he struggles in pursuit and overall speed. Collins’ lack of speed and inconsistency when choosing gaps will lead to his downfall against more skilled lineman and running backs in the NFL.
Mike Fanelli on Twitter @Mike_NFL2
Mason Thompson on Twitter @Thompson22Mason
Brady Podloski on Twitter @BpodNFL
Alex Barbour on Twitter @alexxbarbour
Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Kamran Nia on Twitter @kamran_nia
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