Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

NFL Draft Preview: A Deeper Look At the Top Prospects

It is officially that time of the year: NFL Draft season. Three of the biggest days of the year for football fans and players alike. Two hundred and twenty-four players will hear their names called over the weekend in what is likely the most important moment of their life up to that point. However, only 32 young men will hear their names called on the very first night. Outlined below are 15 of the young men who could hear their names called, along with their potential suitors.

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon: There is not much to say about Sewell that hasn’t been said already. In a strong offensive line class, Sewell is the consensus top prospect. Standing at 6’5, 330 lbs, he has the size and skill to be a day one starter. Even though he still has work to do in pass protection, he is a potential cornerstone on the offensive line that can be great for the next decade if healthy. If Sewell is still available after the 5th pick, the Bengals are making a big mistake by not protecting Joe Burrow. Yet, there is a good chance they don’t get the chance if the Falcons take him with the fourth pick.  

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: Slater is another potential day-one starter. While he possesses much of the strength and athleticism that Penei Sewell has, he lacks the natural size. While he has slightly less potential than Sewell, he could still be a future star. Many of the teams hoping that Sewell drops to them would surely be happy to get Slater. The likely landing spots for him are the Bengals, Dolphins, Lions, or Panthers. Teams like the Chargers and Vikings, who pick 13th and 14th respectively, are certainly hoping that Slater will drop to them. However, it is unlikely he is available outside of the top 10 picks.

Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech: Of the offensive tackle prospects, Darrisaw is widely considered the third choice. While he has plenty of natural athleticism and size, he isn’t quite as pro ready as Sewell or Slater. With that being said, he certainly has a high ceiling. Some of the previous teams that were interested in the previous two prospects might not want to take Darrisaw with a top ten pick. He is likely to be available for the Chargers, and if they do not select him, it is very likely that the Vikings would not be able to pass up on him.

Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan: Considered by many to be the best defensive lineman in the draft, Paye is the only player in his position likely to be selected early in the draft. Like most of the prospects at his position, Paye has a lot of upside because of his athleticism. He has a natural ability to rush the passer, but needs to work on his run defense if he’s going to be great at the next level. Despite him being the best prospect at the defensive line, teams will be drafting him based on his potential. The teams likely to be interested in him are the Broncos and the Eagles. There is potential that the Vikings could look at Paye if he drops to 14th if there are no offensive linemen available.

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Parsons is a bit of a high-risk, high-reward prospect. He has the athleticism and size to compete with anyone. However, his physicality isn’t the issue. His play recognition and ability to find running backs can be very suspect at times. However, if he is given proper coaching, the sky's the limit for Parsons. Unfortunately for Parsons, there aren’t many teams picking in the top ten that need a linebacker. The first three teams that are likely to take him are the Lions, Giants, and Eagles. However, Parsons could still slip later in the draft if these teams look to fill other needs. In that case, it would not be surprising to see a team like the Browns trade up from their position at 26 to draft Parsons in the mid-to-late teens. 

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: The son of former pro-bowler Patrick Surtain, he has all the tools that a team could possibly want in a cornerback. He has elite size for a corner to go with elite athleticism. Playing in the SEC, he looked impressive against the best competition in the country. He won the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, and helped lead Alabama to the national championship game. His prowess in run defense is rare for his position. While cornerback is a position that everyone seems to need in the NFL, two teams that are likely to give Surtain a look in the first ten picks are the Panthers or the Cowboys.

Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: Much like Surtain, Horn has a lot of the physical tools that teams look for in a cornerback. He is big and plays physical against tough receivers. While he is not quite as NFL-ready as Surtain, he has the raw talent and athleticism to help out for a team with veteran leaders to help guide him and the potential to become great. He also has an NFL background, as his dad was a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys could certainly snag him with the 10th pick if they are unable to get Surtain. After the Cowboys, he could possibly go to the Eagles, Raiders, Bears, or as late as the Titans at 22nd.

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech: After playing quarterback in high school and wide receiver as a freshman at V-Tech, Farley made the right choice in switching to cornerback. The 6’2, 200-pound corner has the size and length that NFL scouts love. His long arms and great speed allow him to play aggressive in coverage. While he is still a very raw talent, his potential is top-tier. If given the right situation, he can develop into a great cornerback. Much like Horn, the Cowboys could look to take him if Surtain is not available for them. After that, their situations are essentially the same. The Eagles, Raiders, Bears, and Titans could have their choice between Farley and Horn.

As the NFL moves to a more pass-heavy league, running backs are sought after less and less. That is why this year, there will likely not be a running back taken in the first round 

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida: Possibly the best player in this draft not named Trevor Lawrence, Pitts has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL from day one. He has a rare combination of size and athleticism for his position. He has the ability to catch just about any ball thrown his way. Whichever team gets him should be able to improve their passing game immediately. His one downside is that he struggles with blocking, but he has shown a willingness to improve. Any team not drafting a quarterback should look at taking Pitts. The Falcons could be making a big mistake if they don’t draft him with the 4th pick. If they pass, he is very likely to go to the Dolphins or Bengals. 

Ja’marr Chase, WR, LSU: The 2019 Biletnikoff winner as the nation’s top wide receiver opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. However, his play in 2019 was enough to establish him as one of the draft’s top prospects. His elite speed, athleticism, and strength give him the tools to beat just about any defensive back in coverage. He has also been praised by his teammates for having a great work ethic. This guy does not have many holes in his game and will likely hear his name called in the first ten picks, namely to the Bengals, Dolphins, or Lions.

Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama: While Devonta Smith does not have the prototypical size of a wide receiver, standing at 6’0 but only weighing 170 lbs, he more than makes up for it with his play on the field. Smith has excellent speed and quickness to go with even better route running. He can be put into any offensive scheme and find a way to be successful. Also, he is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991. While Chase likely has more potential than Smith based on his physical frame, Smith looks more prepared to make an immediate impact on day one because of his body of work. Smith could potentially be drafted by the Dolphins, Lions, or Eagles if he slips out of the top 10. 

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: As the second fiddle to Smith in Alabama’s offense last season, Waddle has blazing speed that can easily take the top off of a defense. While he may not be as polished, he is more than capable of making an immediate impact. From the moment he is drafted, Waddle is likely to be one of the faster players in the league. This will allow him to contribute in several ways as a pass-catcher. He could be drafted by the Dolphins or Lions, but is more likely to slip to the Eagles or Cardinals after missing most of last season due to injury. 

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: There is nothing more that needs to be said about Trevor Lawrence. He has the potential to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in just a few years. As many people have said, the draft starts with the second pick because the Jaguars will certainly select him first overall. 

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU: When the 2020 season began, there was a consensus that Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were going to be the first two picks in the 2021 draft. However, Zach Wilson was able to sneak into the conversation as the second-best player in the draft by leading his BYU Cougars to a great season. Thanks to his stellar play last season, along with an excellent pro day, Wilson’s draft stock skyrocketed. At the moment, it seems almost certain that the Jets will select Wilson with the second overall pick. 

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: Despite leading his Buckeyes to a record of 8-1, with a loss in the national championship game, Fields managed to find himself dropping in the quarterback rankings. After two excellent seasons for the Buckeyes, in which he was a Heisman finalist his sophomore year, Justin Fields was able to prove that he can perform in the big moments in his big win against Clemson and a great effort against Alabama. While other top quarterbacks are getting much more respect, he still has immense potential for any team that drafts him. After trading up to the third pick, it appears that the 49ers are poised to draft Fields. While many believe that he is not who the 49ers had in mind, he is the clear and obvious choice there if the first two picks go as expected.

Undecided major on a pre-med track that has somehow convinced himself that he will see a Minnesota sports team win a championship.

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