NFL player comparisons for the top 50 prospects in the 2021 draft class


Touchdown Wire 22 April, 2021 - 12:25pm 18 views

When is the NFL draft?

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah answered questions for an hour and a half on Wednesday, previewing the 2021 NFL Draft (April 29-May 1 on NFL Network/ESPN/ABC) during a media Zoom call. NFL.com2021 NFL Draft: Seven takeaways from Daniel Jeremiah's conference call

Comparing draft prospects to current or former NFL players can be an interesting and exasperating exercise. There are those who believe that such player comps are fruitless, that all players are different, and the people who make the comps are looking to pad their articles and podcasts. At Touchdown Wire, we tend to view it differently, for a couple of reasons.

First, player comps can be a service to readers if they’re NFL fans, they don’t watch a ton of college football, and they’re looking to get pictures in their heads of draft prospects they may not be familiar with. Giving those readers the name of a player they are more familiar with can be helpful. Second, when you get into player comps at a forensic level, using approximate height, weight, play style, and potential production, it can also finalize the picture of the prospect in the head of the person analyzing the players. Taking the time to figure out which current or former NFL quarterbacks are most like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones, tells a story in the story, whether you’re reading or writing.

So, with that preamble out of the way, here are Doug Farrar’s and Mark Schofield’s NFL player comparisons for their top 50 prospects in the 2021 draft class. You can read their entire Big Board here, and we’ve indicated which person made each comparison. Kudos also to our own Coley Cleary for the outstanding graphics!

A number of different comparisons have been thrown around for Lawrence. Some have gone as far as comparing him to Andrew Luck, given the expectations. Others have made the Deshaun Watson comparison. The more I watched Lawrence over the past few months, the more I saw another quarterback: Justin Herbert. That might sound crazy, but if you look at Lawrence’s athleticism, arm talent and ability to attack leverage in the secondary, it looks somewhat similar to the peaks of Herbert during his time at Oregon, and what he did last year as a rookie. If you had said during this time last season that Lawrence and Herbert were comparable, someone would have said you were crazy. But now? Teams would take a rookie season from Lawrence similar to what Herbert did in a heartbeat. — MS

Darren Waller is a name that comes up often in the Pitts conversation, and I understand that. Deep down I think Pitts is one of those prospects that merits a comparison to himself, a unicorn. He is Kyle Pitts, the most dangerous weapon in this offensive class. — MS

The “Baby Cam” comparisons are apt, given Fields’ athleticism and arm talent, but I see a super-athletic Ryan Tannehill. That is why the Atlanta Falcons — and new Falcons head coach/former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith — lurking at fourth overall is very intriguing to me… — MS

I’ve seen comps of Sewell to Johnathan Ogden, and I’m always reluctant to compare draft prospects to Hall of Fame talents unless the talent forces me to (such as when I had the unmitigated gall to compare Nebraska’s  Ndamukong Suh to Joe Greene). Sewell isn’t quite the malevolent finisher Ogden was, but he has a combination of athleticism and aggression that brings fellow Hall-of-Famer Orlando Pace to mind.

That said, with the aforementioned reluctance to compare any draft prospect to an NFL all-timer, I’ll say that Sewell’s movement skills and desire to physically embarrass defenders remind me a great deal of Trent Williams. Draft him, put him on the left outside of your offensive line, and check off one less thing to worry about for the next five years. — DF

A common comparison for Chase is Anquan Boldin, given how strong both players were off the line and at the catch point. PFF also used the Justin Blackmon comparison, which is accurate for where both players were coming out of college. — MS

I have long thought that comparisons between him and Baker Mayfield were apt, and in the PFF draft guide the comparison of “a more creative Baker Mayfield” seems very accurate. What got many excited about Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma was what he did outside of the pocket and off-structure, but he was at his best last season in a Kevin Stefanski system that struck the right balance between that creativity, and designed throws off play-action. In such a system Wilson could thrive, while still offering some extra spice along the way. — MS

Last summer, Matt Waldman told me that Steve McNair was his comparison for Lance. Our own Doug Farrar and’s Daniel Jeremiah, agree. You should know that Matt does not make that lightly, as McNair is one of the players that sparked Matt’s love for this sport. When that comparison is put out into the world, I take notice. — MS

The two players that came immediately to mind when watching Slater and thinking about his measurables were New England’s Isaiah Wynn and Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs. Both players have succeeded in the NFL at tackle despite not being tall enough to ride the ride, so to speak.

But a deeper dive brought the better and clearer comp to me — Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead came out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013 at 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds with 34-inch arms, and none of that mattered, because he had the movement ability, nastiness, and technique to become a foundation player at his optimal left tackle position. Slater has those same attributes, and that same potential. — DF

The Seahawks took Clark out of Michigan with the 63rd overall pick in the second round of the 2015 draft despite some serious off-field concerns because Clark brought advanced hand moves, play strength, and speed around the edge. Phillips’ issues are medical in nature, but he has the most clear overall skill set of any edge defender in this class, and could have a similar NFL impact. — DF

Schematically, and only schematically, I have compared him to Jalen Ramsey. For more on that comparison and why I think Horn is a sneaky pick for the Los Angeles Chargers you can dive into this piece. — MS

Parsons combines the feel for the game and pass rushing ability of Dont’a Hightower with the athleticism of Tremaine Edmunds. Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network went with Myles Jack, and that could be a solid comparison for Parsons, who has the athleticism to do everything from blowing up run fits to covering slot receivers up the seam.

When the Dolphins selected Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, they deployed him much like Nick Saban did at Alabama — all over the field, from slot to box to free safety. But when the Steelers traded for Fitzpatrick early in the 2019 season, they immediately made him a more one-position guy. Fitzpatrick responded by becoming one of the NFL’s best free safeties. Moehrig played all over the place at TCU, but he has similar athletic attributes to become a top-tier deep-third eraser if his NFL team wants to point him in that direction. — DF

It is hard to find an apt comparison for Owusu-Koramoah given his versatility, but in terms of a role Fred Warner could be a schematic comparison. Both were players used more as overhang defenders in college, and Warner has found ways to contribute all over the field in San Francisco from coverage to blitzing through the interior gaps. That could be a model for Owusu-Koramoah’s transition to the league. — MS

The Falcons took Matthews with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Obviously, they believed Matthews to be a transcendent talent with that kind of draft capital statement. Matthews hasn’t been all that, but he’s carved himself out a very nice NFL career because he’s far above-average at just about everything, and the dings are few and far between. Like Matthews, Darrisaw checks nearly all the boxes, though not in aggressively spectacular ways. Any NFL line coach would take unspectacular consistency over amazing variance, and that’s what Darrisaw is primed to provide. — DF

Others such as Mike Renner at PFF have gone with the Keenan Allen comparison, which I understand, as Bateman isn’t a burner, but he can gain separation from defensive backs with excellent route-running, and toughness at the catch point. I also see a little Allen Robinson to his game, particularly with what he can do at all three levels of the field. — MS

The Chargers took Liuget with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Illinois, and Liuget used a nice combination of strength and speed, as well as techniques developed over time, to become an above-average tackle. Barmore could get himself into the Gerald McCoy realm at his peak potential with a bit more controlled aggression, but the Liuget comp seems to be a better fit at this point in time. — DF

Dante Hall was the original human joystick if memory serves me well — which it may not — and Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner calls Toney a “bigger Dante Hall.” Hard to disagree. — MS

You don’t see a lot of centers at 6-foot-6 and 326 pounds, and Dickerson’s positional flexibility in college makes me think that his NFL team might want to move him around as well. Woody played from 1999 through 2010 with the Patriots, Lions, and Jets, switching from center to guard to tackle along the way, always at a high level, and at 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds. Dickerson has absolute top-tier potential as an NFL center, but he may be capable of even more. — DF

Dating back to the old Bleacher Report NFL1000 days, when I would tell anyone who would listen that “all Beasley does is get open” — and yes, his recent play has me taking some victory laps on that proclamation — I think very highly of Beasley. So when I buy into this comparison, you should know it is a bullish stance. — MS

I would also add Cleveland’s Nick Chubb into the comparison here. Like Lynch at his peak, Williams has the obvious ability to blast through multiple opponents for serious gains, and like Chubb, he has a fabulous combination of sudden quickness and sustaining power. When every play has the potential to be a highlight play, that’s a great way wind up as RB1 in a draft class. — DF

During his virtual pro day media session, Radunz revealed that he’s working with the former 49ers standout and six-time Pro Bowler in his pre-draft process. Like Staley when he came out of Central Michigan in 2007, Radunz has all the athleticism you want at the position, with some concerns regarding his core strength. Staley was able to overcome those issues in a decisive fashion, and Radunz can, too. It’ll be a process, but the potential is there. — DF

Moore reminds me of a similar player from last season, Laviska Shenault Jr. I’m yet to give up on Shenault — who could be in position for a big year with Trevor Lawrence coming to town — and I won’t give up on Moore. Players with his ability can contribute early and often. — DF

Like the Georgia alum, Vera-Tucker played multiple positions in college, and his physical shortcomings had most people sliding him to NFL guard in their heads. But Wynn was able to move past that, and given the right environment (personally, I think he has Pittsburgh Steelers Left Tackle written all over him). Vera-Tucker could, as well. — DF

In a recent mock draft I had the Baltimore Ravens drafting him as a potential Matthew Judon replacement, and there is a reason… Ossai could be a blitz specialist from all over the formation, as Judon became with the blitz-heavy Ravens. — MS

Like Parker, who the Dolphins selected with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 draft, Marshall has an intriguing combination of footwork, release diversity, and play strength that could make him an underrated X-iso receiver in the NFL sooner than later. — MS

Comparing Asante Samuel Jr. to Asante Samuel Sr. is the easy move here, but Samuel Jr. reminds me even more of another cornerback who has a son currently in the NFL — Antoine Winfield Sr., whose son, Antoine Jr., starred at safety for the Buccaneers as a rookie last season. Like the elder Winfield, Samuel Jr. will absolutely not back down from anybody as an outside cornerback despite his size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds). Some may want to move Samuel to a slot role, but he may be able to transcend that. — DF

When Miller came out of UCLA in the 2018 draft, the Raiders took him with the 15th overall pick, and it had the look of a major reach. Miller allowed 19 sacks and 86 total pressures in his first two seasons, as his athletic traits were overwhelmed by his rudimentary fundamentals. But in 2020, the light went on (two sacks and 23 pressures allowed), and Miller might have been the league’s most-improved player outside of Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Cosmi might experience a similar developmental ride in which he gets owned for a while, and then figures it all out. Cosmi needs a ton of coaching, but the athletic upside is quite interesting. — DF

I love throwback comparisons, and Jenkins reminds me of Gogan, the highly athletic and animalistic guard who played in the NFL from 1987 through 2000 and made three Pro Bowls. Like Gogan, Jenkins would provide an impressive combination of aggressiveness, short-area quickness, and the ability to physically dominate as an interior blocker. And also like Gogan, Jenkins may start out as an NFL right tackle, and find his true home inside. — DF

Like the former Rams, Falcons, and Patriots running back, who played in the NFL from 2004 through 2015 and gained 11,438 rushing yards and scored 69 touchdowns on 2,764 carries, adding 461 receptions for 3,683 yards and nine touchdowns, Harris is a powerful, sustaining, versatile back who can be the epicenter of an offense. What you will get with him is a back who does just about everything at a plus level… but if you’re looking for consistent explosive plays, he may not be your ideal. — DF

I watch Collins and immediately think of another player with that last name, Jamie Collins. Just let him fly around the field and be thankful he’s doing it for you, not against you. — MS

Through four seasons with the Rams, Johnson turned himself into an outstanding deep safety and slot defender with awareness, quick movement skills, aggressive tackling, and the ability to move with a receiver in space. Johnson recently signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract with the Browns because he can run the defense and erase receivers from multiple positions. Holland projects similarly as an on-field leader and multi-position specialist. — DF

When Charles was healthy with the Chiefs, he was the league’s biggest threat to take any play for a long touchdown, and Etienne reminds me very much of Charles in his receiver-ish build, scary straight-line speed, and slightly upright running style. Charles’ 2013 season, with 329 touches for 1,980 yards and a league-high 19 touchdowns, would be Etienne’s ultimate potential in the right offense. — DF

I had a second-round grade on Jarrett when he came out of Clemson in 2015, so I was shocked when he lasted until the 137th overall pick in the fifth round of that draft. Jarrett has proven to be at least a second-round talent if not more (had the Falcons held on to win Super Bowl LI, Jarrett had an outside shot at MVP with his three sacks), and though he wasn’t for everybody at 6-foot-0 and about 300 pounds, he fit quite naturally into Atlanta’s defense as a nose and nose shade tackle, with occasional three-tech work. McNeill has many of Jarrett’s attributes, and should benefit his NFL line sooner than later. — DF

Cox harkens one’s mind to Cory Littleton, an athletic linebacker known for his coverage skills in the middle of defenses — everything from simple wheel routes to two-way goes out of the slot. — MS

The Steelers took Hargrave out of South Carolina State with the 89th overall pick in the 2016 draft based on his quickness and aggression at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds. Hargrave has been a plus pass-rusher for both the Steelers and Eagles in his NFL career, and Nixon, who brings a similar combination of speed and aggression (especially if he’s used as a one-gap disruptor as opposed to a two-gap plugger), projects well as a rotational tackle with a lot of rocket sauce. — DF

At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Johnson is a bigger player than Savage, who came out of Maryland at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. But the two players share the ability to cover well and consistently from the slot and the deep third, outstanding physical characteristics, and the potential to drive some personnel guys crazy if they’re looking for more physical tacklers. — DF

Freiermuth’s nickname is “Baby Gronk,” he wears number 87, and PFF described him as a “poor man’s Rob Gronkowski.” He has a long, long way to go before living up to such a moniker but his play style certainly mirrors what we saw from Gronkowski early in his career. — MS

 I see a little of Trey Flowers in Roche’s game as a player who might rely on technique and need a bit of scheme help to produce at the next level. The Patriots brought out the best in Flowers by moving him around the formation as an edge factor and inside disruptor on obvious passing downs. — MS

At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, Dockett became a multi-gap force for the Cardinals from 2004 through 2013, playing all over the line without a defined position. Dockett brought heavy hands, impressive quickness, and an outstanding competitive demeanor to the field, and I see that same potential in Onwuzurike. — DF

I’ve seen comparisons between Molden and Tyrann Mathieu, and I’m not willing to go there — Mathieu is both a cyborg and a unicorn, and he might be the NFL’s best free safety and slot defender right now. Let’s not put that level of pressure on Molden just yet. Ward, who the 49ers took with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 draft out of Northern Illinois, has carved out an estimable career as both a safety and slot guy, and Molden has a similar athletic profile with a similar height/weight/speed structure. — DF

Sign up for the Touchdown Wire newsletter to get our top stories in your inbox every morning

A few years ago I wrote a piece for the Pro Football Weekly draft guide. Titled "Draft Spotlight on Quarterback Development," the article dove into how NFL teams have done away with the traditional model of quarterback development -- letting them sit and learn for a year or two -- and thrust them onto the field as soon as possible. We all know the "why:" The economics of today's NFL make the cost-controlled quarterback a valuable asset. But I wanted to get into the "how." If you are playing a QB early, how do you best go about that?

The NFL kicks off its three-day draft extravaganza on April 29 from Cleveland.

The Sunshine State will open and close the festivities as they are currently structured, with the Jacksonville Jaguars making the first pick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final slot in the last round, barring any trades of those slots.

The power of the fully operational "Draft Industrial Complex" has perhaps led to the death of one of draft season's best aspects:

With scouts and media members working around the clock, around the calendar year, to scout and identify talent it is harder and harder to find those true diamonds in the rough. After all, we all know that once the 2021 NFL draft draws to a close, the process will start almost immediately for the 2022 cycle. That means almost a full calendar year of watching players. Given the sheer number of people now covering the draft in...

Start every day with our most popular content waiting in your inbox.

Please re-enter your email address.

You'll now receive the top Touchdown Wire stories each day directly in your inbox.

Please enter an email address.

Please check your email for a confirmation.

Read full article at Touchdown Wire

2021 NFL Draft Profile: Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell

Pac-12 Networks 22 April, 2021 - 07:10pm

Updated Draft Position Betting Props of Top Draft Prospects

Sports Illustrated 22 April, 2021 - 02:44pm

For the Detroit Lions, there are a myriad of options when it is their turn to select at the No. 7 position. 

In the past few days, there has been a growing belief that general manager Brad Holmes & Co. could target an offensive lineman in the first round. 

If Penei Sewell is no longer available, the Lions could look to Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern. 

“I think I’m the best tackle in the draft,” Slater said via the Detroit Free Press. “So I have a really high level of confidence about that, but at the same time, I’m a team player. If a team wants to play me at guard, I’m all for it. As long as that’s what’s best for the team, I’m happy to play whatever position they need me at.”

Initially, it was believed that Detroit would target one of the elite wideouts that are available in this year's draft class. 

With Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Ja'Marr Chase all expected to be selected on Day 1, Detroit could easily decide to upgrade its receiving corps by targeting one of these top wideouts. 

Here is an updated list of draft-position prop bets for the top draft prospects, per BetMGM

2021 NFL Draft: Why Caleb Farley could be Falcons’ first-round pick 22 April, 2021 - 01:07pm

If the Atlanta Falcons were to trade out of the No. 4 overall spot in the upcoming draft, one of the players who could be available and would fill a need is cornerback Caleb Farley.

Farley, 22, is 6-foot-2, 197 pounds and has elite athleticism and speed for his position. The former high school quarterback is very much seen as a prospect who might not have as much experience at the position as others but has a high ceiling because of his physical makeup.

In two seasons at Virginia Tech, Farley recorded 56 tackles, 19 pass deflections and six interceptions. During his sophomore season, Farley led the ACC in pass deflections helping him earn first-team All-ACC honors. Farley opted out of the 2020 season.

The Falcons have a hole to fill at the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite of A.J. Terrell who had a standout rookie season. Last year, Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Darqueze Dennard all saw action as a starting cornerback for the Falcons. Of that group, Sheffield and Oliver are the only two still on Atlanta's roster. The team added Fabian Moreau in free agency and he's expected to compete for the job as well.

Farley's ability to make plays on the ball sets him apart in his draft class. If it weren't for the back procedure, he had done on March 23 that kept him from working out at his pro day and his injury history, there's a chance he would be viewed as the No. 1 cornerback in the draft. Most mock drafts and draft analysts have Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II coming off the board before Farley.

The Falcons finished last in the NFL in pass defense as they gave up 293.6 yards per game in the air in 2020. With Dean Pees taking over as defensive coordinator in his first season with the Falcons, he'll likely want more playmakers in his secondary.

Farley fits the bill and his size and speed bode well for him given the talented and big wide receivers he would go up against playing in the NFC South. His athleticism also allows Pees to move him around the field as he's known for bringing pressure packages from all over the field.

While some view Farley as a raw prospect, he could be the type of player who excels in the right defense with good coaching. He'll have that in Atlanta with Pees, a veteran defensive coordinator, and the rest of the Falcons' coaching staff. He would also be able to compete for a starting job right away with the Falcons and competition could elevate his game even more.

"Farley possesses rare size for the position and does an excellent job of utilizing his frame and length to charge rent inside the catch space. While his traits and ball skills will be coveted, he's still light on overall reps at the cornerback position. He needs to continue to improve his technique and discipline as he displays inconsistencies staying connected to routes at times. Farley is an ascending talent who fits more cleanly in a press-heavy scheme. Might require early patience as he continues to gain the polish necessary to become a quality NFL starter. Concerns surrounding his past injuries and latest back procedure could cause him to slip in the draft." – Lance Zierlein,

Rashawn Slater: I think I'm the best tackle in the draft - ProFootballTalk

NBC Sports 22 April, 2021 - 09:16am

With the 2021 draft beginning a week from tonight, the common assumption is that Oregon’s Penei Sewell will be the first offensive tackle off the board.

But Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater has a chance to change that.

Like Sewell, Slater opted out of the 2020 college season. When the Big Ten initially canceled football, Slater began training with a private instructor and continued to do so when the season came back on. But Slater’s most impressive on-field accomplishment at Northwestern was successfully limiting last year’s defensive rookie of the year, Chase Young, during Ohio State’s victory in 2019.

While Young had a sack in that contest, it came against Northwestern’s right tackle — not Slater on the left.

Slater, whose father Reggie played eight seasons in the NBA, sees himself as one of the draft’s top prospects.

“I think I’m the best tackle in the draft,” Slater said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “So I have a really high level of confidence about that, but at the same time, I’m a team player. If a team wants to play me at guard, I’m all for it. As long as that’s what’s best for the team, I’m happy to play whatever position they need me at.”

Slater is widely expected to be a first-round pick next week. But it remains to be seen if the league’s talent evaluators will agree with Slater’s assessment.

The Vikings and I respectfully request that you prove that you’re the best this year. 🙂

Long term you have to believe Slater will end up at tackle but short term he could be a starting guard of that’s where the drafting teams hole is, Slater has versatility/flexibility

Spoken like a young man. Playing guard instead of tackle means less money come contract time. You better take care of yourself and your money because the owners will only look out for themselves.

Ohio State beat Northwestern 52-3 in 2019 with Chase Young not playing past the first series of the 3rd quarter. Slater is a fine prospect but let’s not put too much weight on 1 game.

He played great against Chase Young in college. In most other drafts he would be a top 3-5 pick.

If he falls to Dallas, pick him.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opt-Out Decisions Throw Wrench Into NFL Draft Options

KSL Sports 21 April, 2021 - 03:15pm

AP – Caleb Farley was the first top prospect to make the decision that has added a whole new layer of uncertainty to the annual crapshoot that is the NFL draft.

The talented Virginia Tech cornerback decided back in July to skip the 2020 season because of the coronavirus. Having lost his mother to cancer in 2018, Farley was unwilling to put another loved one at risk and felt it would be safer to skip the season no matter the impact on his draft status.

Farley had plenty of players follow his lead, including several others set to be high draft picks next week such as LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

Now it’s up to NFL teams to figure out how much to weigh those decisions in their draft evaluations and how to project what kind of prospects they will be.

Penei Sewell: 95.8 PFF Grade in 2019

1st among all offensive players in college football 💪

Is he the pick for Cincy at No. 5? 🤔

— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 16, 2021

McShay said he believes some teams will opt to take players who played in 2020 over those who sat out if the grades are similar but most of those top players are still expected to go off the board in the top half of the first round.

Farley has another factor complicating his situation after undergoing back surgery in March. He is expected to be ready for the start of training camp and has no regrets on his decision, even after being forced to skip his pro day workouts because of the injury.

Longtime draft analyst Gil Brandt, who spent nearly three decades with the Dallas Cowboys, likened the players sitting out 2020 to those who missed seasons in the military during the Vietnam War.

Brandt said those players rarely came back at the same level, but the situation with Farley and the others is far different since they were able to work out and spend extra time studying film and working on technique that they believe will help them in the NFL.


— Penei Sewell (@peneisewell58) April 19, 2021

“Learning new techniques. I’ve truly grown and got better in my fundamentals. I’m just excited to get around a staff, a new defensive backs coach, a new defensive coordinator so I know I can just be a sponge and soak up everything they have to offer.”

While players such as Sewell and Chase are still expected to be top 10 picks, others such as Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau, Washington pass rusher Joe Tryon, Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell and Central Florida cornerback Tay Gowan might have missed out on opportunities to build on promising 2019 seasons that would have improved their draft stock.

Even several of the top prospects who didn’t opt out of the entire 2020 season have limited film with some such as Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle missing significant time with injuries, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn shutting his season down early after coach Will Muschamp was fired and North Dakota State QB Trey Lance playing just one showcase game in the fall before the Bisons had their full spring season in FCS.

That lack of game film could lead to some difficult choices for decision-makers such as Cincinnati’s Duke Tobin, who could be contemplating taking a player such as Chase or Sewell with the fifth pick despite not getting to see them play in 2020.

Former Desert Hills football star and Oregon OT Penei Sewell is the winner of the 2019 Outland Trophy. Penei is one of the greatest high school football players in Utah history. @kslsports @KSL5TV

— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) December 13, 2019

The reasons for opting out vary for each player and teams are doing their homework to figure out why before making a big investment.

Several players in the Big Ten and Pac-12 began preparing for the draft when those conferences announced in the summer that they wouldn’t have a fall season only to change directions later and opt for a shorter campaign after some of those players had already signed with agents.

Many chose to sit out at that point rather than pay back an agent to regain eligibility.

We've never seen anyone like Penei Sewell

— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) April 20, 2021

While nearly all of the players had good reasons for their choices, it doesn’t mean that the lack of game film won’t give second thoughts to teams.

But the players also are quick to point out that it wasn’t like they put the time to waste. Many worked with specific-position coaches to help hone their craft to prepare them for the NFL.

Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, a projected first-round pick, spent his time training with Duke Manyweather.

“I was a much-improved player going into my senior year but now even more so,” Slater said. “Just training with Duke, he’s a master. Every single day I was learning something new. He taught me how to move more efficiently, how to leverage better and how to just be more powerful and explosive off the ball, stuff like that. My technique has shot up since last time I played.”

Now the question is if NFL teams feel the same way.

2021 draft

Sports Stories