The 2021 NFL Draft is scheduled to take place on April 29- May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio. And we at the Shadow League thought it would only be appropriate to give our top 12 prospects heading into this life-changing night for so many student-athletes.
The top prospect in this draft is Trevor Lawrence aka “Sunshine,” the 6’6 gunslinger from Clemson. A winner capable of beating you with his arm and legs. Tough as nails and very cerebral. He’ll give Urban Meyer something to build around in Jacksonville. And we all know he wasn’t taking this job if Lawrence wasn’t coming out early.
Florida hybrid tight end Kyle Pitts is the second-best prospect in this draft. At 6’6 and 240 pounds with great speed, hands, and an unbelievable catch radius. You can line him up anywhere and he’ll be a matchup nightmare. 91 percent of his catches in college went for a first down or touchdown. Could be a faster version of Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase ranks third and he’s a better prospect than his former teammate Justin Jefferson who lit the league up as a rookie for the Vikings. Chase sat out last year after helping lead the Bayou Bengals to the 2020 CFP National Title. He goes 6’1 and 200 pounds with sneaky speed and athleticism, a huge catch radius and he plays physical.
Coming in fourth is Penei Sewell the generational prospect at tackle. He reminds me of Jonathan Ogden, and that says a lot. Playing left tackle in today’s league is as high a premium as it’s ever been. Sewell opted out of the 2020 COVID-19 ravaged season but it didn’t hurt his draft stock one bit. Oregon Ducks missed him immensely in 2020.
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith weighed in at 166 pounds and folks seem alarmed. Why? He dominated in the SEC at that size his entire career at Alabama. While torching presumptive first-round cornerbacks in the process. He’s an elite route-runner with great quickness. Reminds me of Lance Alworth and Marvin Harrison.
We stay in Tuscaloosa for our next prospect, and his name is Jaylen Waddle, a wide receiver who combines speed, quickness and explosiveness to make defensive backs look like they’re running in quicksand. Spent a lot of last year injured after breaking his ankle, but when he was healthy there was no slowing him down.
When I hear the name Justin Fields, and then I watch him play it’s very reminiscent of Cam Newton. Big, strong, athletic and tough as nails. But for some reason, all I keep hearing is he doesn’t have enough starts, but folks aren’t saying the same thing about Zach Wilson who played against average competition at best in the same amount of starts.
Fields has impressed with his pre-draft performances and I believe he’s the second-best QB prospect in this draft and time will definitely prove it. Ryan Day can coach a QB.
Here at the Shadow League, we’re not as big on Zach Wilson as the masses but that’s not to say he can’t play. We’re just gonna take the approach with him that the national media takes with the Black QB who is always subject to more scrutiny and dissection.
Wilson has talent and he showed it at BYU. He dominated bad defenses all season and the time he stepped up in competition at Coastal Carolina he was just okay. Yeah, Coastal Carolina surprised a lot of folks with their amazing season, but let’s not act like he was facing the type of competition that Fields faced weekly talent-wise. Athletic, strong-arm and a very quick release. Can he be a good QB in the NFL? Yes. Do I expect him to be? We shall see.
Let’s head back to Tuscaloosa for our next prospect, and here we have physical press corner Patrick Surtain II, who’s arguably the most NFL-ready at the position in the draft. His dad had a long, solid career in the NFL, but he’s projected to be better and that says a lot.
In this draft, there are a few really talented offensive linemen that could play guard or tackle and probably make pro bowls or even become all-pro at either position.
Rashawn Slater is one of those guys, blessed with great feet and long arms he could kick out at tackle but he’s also tough and sturdy enough to bump down and be a dominant guard. He’ll make some team look really intelligent by drafting him. He’ll make Northwestern happy come draft night.
Trey Lance played at North Dakota State, the same school which produced 2016 No.2 overall pick Carson Wentz. Just like Wentz, Lance doesn’t have a huge body of work, but he’s just as talented.
He’s a true dual-threat with his arm and legs. His upside is limitless, but teams will need to give him time to develop more as a passer in the short to intermediate game. Good deep-ball passer. Doesn’t make mistakes, as evidenced by his one career collegiate interception thrown.
Christian Darrisaw is a 10-year starter for the first team to snatch him off the board, He’s an Uber talented big, mean, athletic specimen.
Darrisaw is a smash-mouth run blocker and a very good pass blocker with all the tools to dominate opposing defensive lineman. Very underrated prospect in my opinion, who’ll have plenty of suitors come draft night. This Hokie can play.
Alija Vera-Tucker can start at guard or tackle. The former USC Trojan has upside for the future.
Jaelen Phillips boasts elite pass-rushing skills, but he needs to stay healthy. The former 5 ⭐️ prospect transferred to Miami after a year at UCLA and flashed his potential.
Mac Jones the signal-caller from Alabama, has arguably the best intangibles of any QBs in this draft. Mentally tough and extremely cerebral, he can also throw it a mile. He’s a true definition of a late bloomer as he waited behind some elite QBs before assuming the reigns.
Jaycee Horn son of former NFL wideout Joe Horn, just looks like a boundary corner. Physical, tough and has very good ball skills. Horn has the propensity to struggle with the smaller and shifty wideouts. But he’s a very good player. This former South Carolina Gamecock is gonna be a good pro.
Micah Parsons is the best linebacker in this draft. It stems from his ability to play the run, cover in space, run sideline to sideline and rush the passer. Penn State really missed him in 2020. The LaVar Arrington comparison is accurate.