NFL Draft Big Board: Rob Rang's Top 100 Prospects
By Rob Rang
FOX Sports NFL Draft Analyst
Focusing strictly on the tape, here is our collection of the top 100 prospects available in the 2021 NFL Draft, with no attention paid to the selection order or team needs. This is simple: These are the 100 best players.
Along with the numerical ranking, to help distinguish the tiers of talent available, we’ve provided Blue Chip (potential All-Pro), Red Chip (immediate starter, potential future All-Pro), Green Chip (can compete for starting role) and Yellow Chip (developmental player who projects as a starter within two years) designations for each player.
Going back to the 2018 season, when he guided Clemson to a national title as a true freshman, Lawrence has wowed scouts with a combination of prototypical size, arm strength, accuracy and mobility. Along the way, he has earned comparisons to some of the legends of the game, such as John Elway. Don’t let the minor surgery on his non-throwing shoulder fool you. Lawrence is quite literally head and shoulders above the rest of a very good crop of quarterbacks and the top overall prospect in this class.
Boasting a combination of size, speed and catch radius similar to those of Raiders All-Pro Darren Waller, Pitts is the elite non-quarterback talent in the 2021 class. He enters the league just as it is fully embracing hybrid pass-catchers as moveable chess pieces, seemingly assuring that Pitts will make an immediate impact and contend for Pro Bowls early in his NFL career.
As a proud Pacific Northwest native, I can tell you that comparisons to the legendary Walter Jones do not come easily. However, Sewell is one of the handful of players who warrant mentioning as similar to the Seahawks’ Hall of Fame left tackle. Still just 20 years old, Sewell has some technical flaws to work out, but he offers exceptional power and agility for a man of his gargantuan size.
Pardon the pun, but all of the other wideouts in another terrific crop at the position are "chasing" the 2019 Biletnikoff winner to be the first receiver off the board. What distinguishes Chase from the rest of the class is his body control to win contested passes, as well as his strength, agility and breakaway speed to turn short catches into long gains.
It is difficult to describe Smith and not venture into hyperbole. Consider that he shattered Alabama’s all-time record for receiving touchdowns, with 46 – Amari Cooper is second with 31 – and Smith was the first Heisman Trophy winner at the position since Desmond Howard in 1991. Yes, Smith lacks the bulk scouts hope for, but he has long arms, sticky hands and the ability to contort in space. That skill set means he is "open" even when defenders are draped all over him.
In a year filled with NFL legacies, Surtain is the surest thing, boasting the same combination of length, fluidity and speed that helped his father play 11 years in the league, earning three Pro Bowls in Miami. A 38-game starter with 31 passes broken up and eight turnovers forced (four interceptions, four forced fumbles), Surtain is polished, proven and a playmaker.
While not as productive as his teammate Smith, Waddle is stouter and an even greater athlete, demonstrating elite elusiveness and rare acceleration. His 20 career touchdowns include three as a returner. A fractured right ankle that disrupted his final year in Tuscaloosa will require a closer look by NFL doctors to guarantee a top-10 pick. If cleared, Waddle could justifiably be ranked as the top receiver in this class.
The only front-seven defender to earn a Blue Chip, Parsons is as gifted as any linebacker who has come down the pike in years. Scouts will have to weigh the fact that he sat out the 2020 season and has shown bouts of immaturity at times – but make no mistake, his 2019 tape is more impressive than that of any other defender in this class. Boasting prototypical size, strength and speed to handle any linebacker role regardless of scheme, Parsons is a future All-Pro.
Fields might lack the consistency of some of the other quarterbacks in this class – and Ohio State’s disappointing track record in producing NFL quarterbacks is disconcerting – but his tools are undeniable. He's a more polished passer than his critics would suggest. He also has the smarts, toughness, accuracy and arm strength to indicate that he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. Fields has a chance to be special.
With all due respect to Lawrence and Fields, Wilson is the most accurate passer in the 2021 draft, and that fact alone warrants a top-10 selection. He does not possess a Howitzer, yet he generates plenty of velocity with a snappy release that can surprise defenders. Questions about his level of competition are legitimate, but accuracy remains the single most important quality for quarterbacks in the NFL, and Wilson can thread the needle to all parts of the field.
A similar moveable chess piece on defense to what Pitts is on offense, Owusu-Koromoah is perfectly suited to the modern NFL, where speed trumps size. Agile and instinctive, the reigning Butkus Award winner offers similar versatility as last year’s No. 8 overall pick, Isaiah Simmons (Arizona Cardinals), except that JOK is more physical.
Like top-rated cornerback Surtain, Horn is an apple who didn’t fall far from the tree, following the footsteps of his father, Joe, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. Given his upbringing, it might not surprise you that Horn shows great route savvy, and he is among the most confident (or cocky) smack-talkers in the class. If he had his dad’s ball skills (just two interceptions in 29 starts), Horn would push to be CB1. As it stands, he still could go in the top 10.
Shockingly passed over by college recruiters who wanted him to switch positions, Lance was an immediate hit at North Dakota State, posting mind-boggling numbers in 2019 (42 TDs and no interceptions) before NDSU’s 2020 campaign was cut to just one game. With all of his 17 career games at the college level played against FCS competition, Lance is as big of a gamble as it gets, but he’s a dynamic dual-threat athlete at QB at a time when the league loves them. Some of his throws on tape are Patrick Mahomes-like.
A square frame and 33-inch arms might ultimately push Slater inside after he starred at tackle (both left and right) in the Big Ten, but that is far from the consensus. In fact, Slater was named the top pass-blocker in the 2021 draft by league scouts in our Honor Roll article.
Jones was mischaracterized by some as simply a product of the Crimson Tide’s offensive juggernaut, but the tape clearly proves that he is a legit long-range sniper who led Alabama to its latest championship. Jones has terrific accuracy on deep balls, as well as the poise and smarts teams expect out of a field general.
The 2021 draft lacks the production among edge rushers of recent classes, which will result in a handful of players earning the top spot, depending on the talent evaluator. I’ll hitch my wagon to Paye, whose burst, power and heavy hands are reminiscent of another former Wolverine: Kansas City Chiefs’ standout Frank Clark.
In a draft full of electric wideouts, few have shown the combination of stop-start quickness, core strength and toughness as Toney, who exploded for 10 touchdowns in 2020 after previously freelancing for the Gators at running back and Wildcat quarterback. Toney consistently leaves defenders guessing at his next move.
Already a gifted pass-rusher, despite entering the draft as a redshirt sophomore, Ojulari offers an explosive first step, the core flexibility to dip around the edge and impressive strength and length (34.5-inch arms) to rip down ball carriers. He redshirted his first season in Athens while recovering from a torn ACL but led Georgia in sacks each of the past two years before making the NFL leap.
Scouts can check off a lot of boxes with the massive, powerful and surprisingly nimble Darrisaw, a three-year starter at left tackle, who has 34¼-inch arms – longer than those of the higher rated Sewell and Slater. Darrisaw hit the snooze button against lesser opponents too often for my liking, but when locked in, he has the look of a longtime starter.
One of the most fascinating players in the 2021 draft, the late-blooming Collins slipped through the recruiting cracks after playing QB in the small town of Hominy, Oklahoma (population 3,500). He grew into a star as a roaming, massive and wonderfully athletic linebacker, winning the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards in 2020 and projecting as the first Hurricane to earn a first-round pick since World War II.
A big back who can bulldoze, elude and leap over would-be tacklers, Harris is the most polished of this year’s runners and also boasts terrific hands out of the backfield.
The defensive end version of QB Trey Lance, Rousseau opted to sit out the 2020 season after a breakout 2019 campaign in which he led the country with 15.5 sacks. Extremely raw but sudden and slippery, Rousseau’s upside – similar to that of the Saints’ Marcus Davenport – warrants a late first-round gamble.
A twitched-up athlete with great size and natural cover skills, Farley’s tape screams top-20 pick. Durability concerns, however, could push him down the board.
Broad as a barn but shockingly quick off the snap, Barmore is one of the few difference-making interior defensive linemen in this class. Just a redshirt sophomore, Barmore will require some patience, but he boasts immense upside.
If not for a series of injuries dating to his time at UCLA, Phillips might warrant top-10 consideration. He is the most intriguing pass-rusher in this class, showing a masterful blend of burst and bend to attack off the edge.
An alarming track record of injuries (not the least of which is a torn ACL during this year’s SEC Championship game) could scare teams away in the first round, but Dickerson is a top talent among this year’s interior blockers.
A departure from the "typical" Northwestern athlete, Newsome is a lanky cover corner with light feet and loose hips that allow him to shadow receivers all over the field.
Vera-Tucker does not possess elite arm length — likely pushing him back inside to guard in the NFL – but the reigning Morris Trophy winner’s quickness, balance and power all scream day one starter.
A plug-and-play starter with the strength, quickness and power to handle zone or man blocking schemes, Humphrey is the safest of this year’s center class.
Built more like Notre Dame predecessor Zack Martin than NFL tackles Ronnie Stanley or Mike McGlinchey, Eichenberg’s stubby arms (32 3/8-inch) could push him inside to guard, but his experience outside (38 consecutive starts) speaks to his pro-readiness.
The reigning Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back, Moehrig is a natural ball magnet, with 28 passes broken up and seven interceptions in just 24 career starts.
Teams willing to gamble on upside are going to love Stokes, who isn’t yet a finished product but boasts elite measurables, including 32¾-inch arms and a 4.28(!) 40.
While not the same caliber of receiver out of the backfield as some of this year’s other top running backs, Williams is the best between the tackles, showing vision, balance through contact and physicality.
Among this year’s true breakout stars, Davis went from a reserve to a superstar for the Wildcats in 2020, and his stock continues to climb as the draft approaches, in part thanks to an eye-popping pro day workout.
A throwback tight end with the soft hands and reliable route-running to become the traditional security blanket over the middle, Freiermuth’s size and strength show up most when he is blasting through would-be tacklers.
A former running back who kept growing, Cosmi possesses exciting agility for a big man (4.85 in the 40-yard dash) to go with impressive weight-room strength (36 reps) and extensive experience at both tackle spots, starting 34 games for the Longhorns.
Holland might have starred for the Ducks, but he’s better described as a ballhawk, using his instincts, aggression and sticky hands to turn nine of his 19 career passes defensed into interceptions.
Long-armed and cat-quick off the snap, Onwuzurike is a classic penetrating under-tackle for 4-3 defenses.
A silky smooth route runner with stick’um for hands, Bateman is one of a handful of so-called "second-tier" receivers who will wind up being as productive as some of the flashier talents drafted ahead of him.
It isn’t often that a linebacker earns a comparison to a receiver, but like the aforementioned Bateman, Bolton is a better player than tester, with the instincts and physicality to help him quickly stand out in the NFL.
Jenkins earned plenty of votes as the most physical run-blocker in this year’s class, demonstrating the power and aggression that should make him a longtime starter.
If drafting for Fantasy Football, Etienne might be RB1. His blend of vision, quickness, breakaway speed, underrated power and vastly improved hands as a receiver make him a true three-down back.
Upside, you say? Regardless of position, no one boasts more of that than Oweh, who has more flashes on tape than the gaggle of paparazzi at the Oscars.
While perhaps lacking the height and straight-line speed clubs want outside, Molden has excellent instincts, is very fluid in coverage and is a strong, open-field tackler.
A Nigerian native who initially starred at inside linebacker for the Longhorns, Ossai is understandably a bit raw off the edge, but scouts like his athleticism and work ethic.
Pound-for-pound arguably the most explosive athlete in the draft, Moore is lightning in a bottle and a virtual clone of former Panthers’ All-Pro Steve Smith.
47. Quinn Meinerz, OG/OC, Wisconsin-Whitewater, 6-3, 320
A man amongst boys at the lower level, Meinerz has proven to be one of the real winners of the pre-draft process, turning heads at the Senior Bowl and pro day with his athleticism and intensity.
Originally at Alabama, Robinson has the light feet, fluid hips and sticky fingers teams are looking for in coverage and showed notable improvement as a tackler in 2020.
A star at North Dakota State, who ascended to LSU as a grad transfer, Cox is arguably the best coverage linebacker in this class, showing terrific awareness and agility in space.
While perhaps not the brawler his name and program might suggest, Leatherwood is a quality athlete whose track record of success the past three years as Bama’s blindside blocker will not go unappreciated by the NFL.
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL draft for over 20 years with his work found at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others.