QB with the best arm talent: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Along with his high-end processing and movement ability, I believe Lawrence has the most arm talent of the '21 quarterback class. That allows the projected No. 1 overall pick to target all levels of the field, driving the ball vertically or attacking tight windows. Lawrence can also vary ball speeds, making layered throws with touch and pace.
Best second-reaction QB: Zach Wilson, BYU
In today's league, creating second-reaction plays is key at the position. And we see that pretty consistently on Wilson's tape, given his loose and confident style. The BYU star can escape and extend, which allows him to use that natural whip in his arm on off-platform throws to act as a ball distributor when he has to go outside of structure. Among QBs with at least 50 attempts outside the pocket in 2020, only Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) bettered Wilson's 9.43 yards per attempt in those situations.
QB with the best physical traits/tools: Justin Fields, Ohio State
I recently compared Fields to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, given the high-end physical tools and traits I see on the tape. That's the arm talent, movement skill and the physical element he brings to the position, both inside and outside of the pocket. And in a schemed NFL pass game, Fields can maximize those traits while also being utilized as a runner with his dual-threat ability.
Most accurate QB: Mac Jones, Alabama
While Jones might lack upper-tier traits at the position in terms of moving outside the pocket and arm strength, the Alabama quarterback completed 77.4% of his passes last season on an undefeated national championship team. And the tape tells us that Jones can throw with consistent ball location and accuracy, which translates to a timing/rhythm pass game in the NFL. He was off target on just 5.9% of his passes in 2020.
Best decision-making QB: Trey Lance, North Dakota State
During North Dakota State's FCS national championship season in 2019, Lance threw 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions. That speaks to his decision-making process skill and the way he diagnoses coverages. While I do believe Lance will have to cut it loose more often as a pro quarterback, he's an easy fit for today's play-action-based NFL offenses that cater to his ability to find open windows and the added element he brings to the position on designed rushes. His 6.8 yards per designed rush in 2019 would have ranked fifth among FBS quarterbacks that year.
Most anticipatory QB: Davis Mills, Stanford
I see Mills as a Day 2 pick with developmental upside, given his high-end arm talent and footwork inside the pocket. A former five-star recruit, Mills can deliver the ball with anticipation on second- and third-level throws, which is a critical factor to producing in an NFL scheme.
Best route-running WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Smith is a glider, an easy mover who can shift gears within the route stem to create instant separation. Ultra-productive this past season at Alabama with 117 receptions and 23 touchdowns, the Heisman Trophy winner can set up defensive backs and win at all three levels of the route tree.
Best WR after the catch: Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
Strong, competitive and tough, Chase also brings immediate juice after the catch. That means quick acceleration and a physical play style, which leads to production in the open field. Simply put, Chase is a difference-maker with the ball in his hands. During his time at LSU, Chase averaged 4.1 yards after contact per reception for the highest career mark of any Power 5 wideout over the past 10 seasons.
Best playmaking WR: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
I see Waddle being deployed like Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in an NFL system. He has the top-end speed to stretch the field vertically and the traits to be schemed on manufactured touches. He's an explosive target with the playmaking ability to threaten defenses from multiple alignments. He averaged 21.1 yards per catch on 28 receptions in 2020.
Most sudden WR: Kadarius Toney, Florida
The sudden lateral quickness of Toney jumps on the tape. Watch him run an option route or expose a one-on-one matchup in space. He has the start/stop speed to shake coverage and then the catch-and-run elusiveness to slice up defenses in the open field. He forced 21 missed tackles on receptions in 2020, in the top 10 in college football.
Best slot WR: Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Moore, who caught 11 passes for 143 yards against Alabama last season, displays both the vertical speed and the lateral quicks to separate in the slot. And with his competitiveness and toughness at the catch point, Moore can be a volume target in the pros. His 86 catches in 2020 trailed only DeVonta Smith's 117.
Best red zone WR: Nico Collins, Michigan
I'm projecting here with Collins as a red zone target in the pro game -- he didn't play in 2020 and had uneven quarterback play in 2019 -- because of his long 6-foot-4 frame. An offensive coordinator will be able to create isolation matchups with Collins as a backside X or in a slot alignment to utilize his catch radius on contested throws. Look for a team to throw him fades and slants and even scheme him up on seam balls to attack the end zone.
Most dynamic WR: Rondale Moore, Purdue
With the skill set to be utilized as a motion/movement target and the ball-carrier vision to pick up yards in the open field, Moore can create impact plays. Whether being targeted from the slot or seeing touches on fly sweeps, screens and reverses, he has tons of the dynamic ability to get loose in space. He missed time in 2019 and suited up for only three games in 2020, but he had 1,471 yards from scrimmage in 2018.
Fastest deep-ball WR: Anthony Schwartz, Auburn
Schwartz is a blazer with the speed to challenge the top of the secondary. And given the amount of schemed "shot plays" we see in the league, off play-action and max protection, Schwartz fits as a vertical target on deep go balls and over routes. He ran a 4.26 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, and he was a track star in high school.
Most versatile WR: Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Bateman can align as the boundary X receiver or bump inside to create matchups from the slot. In a way very similar to how Allen Robinson IIand Michael Thomas are utilized in the league, Bateman can be targeted on isolation throws or schemed up inside the numbers as a middle-of-the-field option. From 2019 to 2020, his slot snaps jumped from 23% to 75%.
Best WR in the RPO game: D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
Eskridge has the straight-line acceleration to generate chunk plays on run-pass option (RPO) concepts. NFL quarterbacks can simply read the conflict defender and throw the quick-glance route to the vacated area of the field -- that's where Eskridge can catch and go with some real juice. He posted a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Best north-south juice at RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson
Etienne has the open-field speed to create explosive plays in the run game, but I'm focused on his high-end short-area burst -- the north-south juice to get through the second level of the defense. He's a prime fit in a zone-run scheme where he can quickly attack creases of daylight. Over the past two seasons, Etienne had 24 rushes for at least 20 yards, tied for the sixth most in the FBS.
Best change-of-direction ability: Najee Harris, Alabama
At 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds, Harris has classic Bama running back traits, especially given his downhill running style. But don't sleep on his change-of-direction ability. Harris can stack moves together and skate past defenders. He forced 100 missed tackles on rushes in 2020, 21 more than the next-best player.
Best contact balance: Trey Sermon, Ohio State
Turn on Sermon's tape against Northwestern or Clemson. You'll see two postseason stages in which Sermon displayed his pro running style, including contact balance at the point of attack. It allows Sermon to play through contact and slip off tackles. He broke 24 tackles in 2020 and averaged 3.64 yards after contact per rush.
Top power-running RB: Javonte Williams, North Carolina
Williams does have the lateral movement ability to make defenders miss, but it's all about the power here for me. Williams runs with low pad level and can explode through defenders. You want a prospect who can give you consistent yards after first contact? It's Williams. A ridiculous 723 of his 1,140 rushing yards in 2020 came after contact, and he was the FBS' only running back to break more than 25% of defenders' tackle attempts (25.5%).
Best pass-catching RB: Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
Gainwell has the traits to produce as a zone runner, but the receiving skills really jump out on the tape. In his final college season at Memphis (2019), Gainwell caught 52 passes. He can release out of the backfield to create matchups against linebackers or flex outside to run vertical concepts. Like Aaron Jones in Green Bay, Gainwell can be schemed as a dual-threat back.
Best pass-catching TE: Kyle Pitts, Florida
With a 6-foot-6, 246-pound frame and the speed to separate vertically, Pitts brings wide receiver traits to the tight end position. And with his formation versatility, Pitts can flex into the slot or play as the boundary X. He's a matchup weapon in the pass game who can create conflict for opposing defenses due to his rare ability. He had three games with more than 125 receiving yards in 2020 to go along with three multi-TD outings. But he really caught the national eye when he caught eight passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns against Ole Miss in September.
Best blocking TE: Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
If you want a "move" tight end who will clear a path in the run game, then check out the tape on Tremble. He plays with an edge. You can see the physicality and the technique on contact. With Tremble -- who does have developing traits as a receiver too -- NFL coordinators can utilize his run-game impact as a lead blocker or in-line to secure the edge on zone schemes.
https://twitter.com/movethesticks/status/1385763620584235010?s=21Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Finalizing top 150 list. Spent some more time on WRs. Had a little shakeup at 4/5
https://twitter.com/marcus_mosher/status/1385763754688790530?s=21Marcus Mosher @Marcus_Mosher
Which Moore, may I ask? Please say Elijah. lol
https://twitter.com/movethesticks/status/1385763954081730564?s=21Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Ha. Elijah. Forgot we have another Moore.
That's been my top 4 for quite some time. I think Marshall should be at 5, but what do I know?https://twitter.com/movethesticks/status/1385763620584235010?s=21
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Finalizing top 150 list. Spent some more time on WRs. Had a little shakeup at 4/5
Ihmir Smith-Marsette makes most of these lists. Time to pay attention, I think.
That's been my top 4 for quite some time. I think Marshall should be at 5, but what do I know?
https://twitter.com/jonas_shaffer/status/1384922124666687490?s=21Jonas Shaffer @Jonas_Shaffer
Interesting. @MoveTheSticks says on a conference call that some medical issues “popped” for LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. at the medical combine in Indianapolis.
Marshall missed time in high school and college with foot and leg injuries that required surgery.
https://twitter.com/dpbrugler/status/1384930044506787842?s=21Dane Brugler @dpbrugler
I've heard similar. Part of the reason why Marshall dropped a little in my rankings a few weeks ago.
We're starting to get more and more medical info each day. Some of it could alter how the 1st round plays out.
This PT (doctor?) is optimistic but cautious. I don't know anything about him but I'm sure we will hear a ton about this once TM gets drafted. Or if he falls a bunch.
https://twitter.com/pff_fantasy/status/1386334684871761926?s=21PFF Fantasy Football @PFF_Fantasy
Highest career rushing grade among RBs in the 2021 NFL Draft
Najee Harris - 95.9
Javonte Williams - 95.9
Travis Etienne - 95.8
Trey Sermon - 93.2
Highest career rushing grades (CFB):
1. Travis Etienne - 96.7
2. Javonte Williams - 96.3
3. Najee Harris - 96.2
4. Jonathan Taylor - 95.3
5. Kareem Hunt - 95.0
https://twitter.com/andrewsiciliano/status/1386376521665810433?s=21Andrew Siciliano @AndrewSiciliano
I’m tell you there’s a chance (slim) that no deffensive players are taken in the top-10 of the @NFLDraft Thursday night.
It would be a first.
There has NEVER been an @NFL Draft (common era, since 1967) without a defensive player in the top-10.
The latest on the quarterback class
There has been plenty of debate about how the top five quarterbacks stack up against each other. At this point, the only true consensus ranking is Trevor Lawrence at No. 1.
Almost all -- not all -- teams have Zach Wilson at No. 2. Then it is all over the board for Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Justin Fields. That doesn't just mean from a team-versus-team standpoint. There are differing opinions within each organization. I've heard that multiple teams have split decisions on rankings, with the team owner preferring one of them, the GM liking another, the head coach leaning another direction and so on. And I've heard all three of Jones, Lance and Fields mentioned as at least a team's No. 3 quarterback in the class.
What about beyond those five? Two people from around the league indicated a growing interest in Stanford's Davis Mills. One even said that if there is a surprise pick in Round 1, it could be Mills. But it's clear that there is more love for Mills than many people thought, which is surprising for a guy who only started 11 games in college.
I also was told by a GM that Mills, Kyle Trask (Florida) and Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) are all very likely to come off the board by the end of Round 2. The teams that he has heard with interest in at least one of the trio include Washington, Chicago, New England and potentially Denver, if it doesn't take a QB at No. 9 overall.
Other player buzz
Leaguewide, teams seem to agree that Travis Etienne, Najee Harris and Javonte Williams (North Carolina) are the top three running backs, in some order, and then there is a significant drop-off. Those three could all go in the later parts of Round 1 or early on Day 2, though NFL teams have those three RBs ranked in different ways. Some have Etienne No. 1 at the position. Some are more interested in Harris' game. And at least one team has Williams ahead of Harris, meaning Williams isn't the de facto third guy.
I haven't spoken to a single decision-maker in the past week who doesn't have Ole Miss' Elijah Moore as that team's No. 4 wide receiver in the class. Most seem to have Ja'Marr Chase first, and then DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are in some order at No. 2 and No. 3. But Moore is getting buzz and appears set to be the fourth wideout drafted.