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Position Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

| March 20, 2021 5:54 am PDT

From the first selection to “Mr. Irrelevant,” 257 players will hear their name called in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Mock drafts feel a little bit premature until the free agency period calms down. However, it’s the perfect time to unveil my position rankings to give you an idea of how things could shake out.

Keep in mind, the three-day process gets underway on April 29th, so there’s plenty of time for fluctuation to take place.

Quarterback Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  • 2. Zach Wilson, BYU
  • 3. Mac Jones, Alabama
  • 4. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
  • 5. Justin Fields, Ohio State
  • 6. Davis Mills, Stanford
  • 7. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
  • 8. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
  • 9. Kyle Trask, Florida
  • 10. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
  • QB Sleeper: Ian Book, Notre Dame

Trevor Lawrence has been hailed as a generational talent, and I’m now comfortable saying that Zach Wilson has joined the party. Forget about surging past Justin Fields as the favorite to come off the board at #2 – some NFL experts have thrust Wilson past Lawrence and are calling him the top dog in the draft.

For a closer look at how I arrived at my quarterback rankings, dive into the post below.

Running Back Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Javonte Williams, North Carolina
  • 2. Najee Harris, Alabama
  • 3. Travis Etienne, Clemson
  • 4. Michael Carter, North Carolina
  • 5. Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
  • 6. Trey Sermon, Ohio State
  • 7. Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
  • 8 . Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
  • 9 . Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
  • 10. Elijah Mitchel, Louisiana
  • RB Sleeper: Javian Hawkins, Louisville

The three guys at the top are fairly interchangeable. Each man projects as a three-down workhorse who can factor into the passing game. Kenneth Gainwell possesses the same abilities, although his smallish sample size (235 career carries at Memphis) could steer some GMs away.

Frankly, having less mileage on his tires makes Gainwell arguably the most intriguing RB in the 2021 Class.

Wide Receiver Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
  • 2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  • 3. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
  • 4. Rondale Moore, Purdue
  • 5. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  • 6 . Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
  • 7. Kadarius Toney, Florida
  • 8. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
  • 9. Dyami Brown, North Carolina
  • 10. Tutu Atwell, Louisville
  • WR Sleeper: Jaelon Darden, North Texas

Perhaps the deepest group in all of the NFL Draft position rankings, the collection of wide receivers available in 2021 is extensive. It’ll be the second straight year that two Alabama products are early picks on day 1, although a chunk of teams surely have Ja’Marr Chase penciled in as the #1 WR on their big board.

In terms of NFL Draft sleepers at this position, look out for Jaelon Darden to provide a big boost out of the slot and in the return game straight away as a rookie.

Likely a third- or fourth-round pick, the speedster out of North Texas scored 31 touchdowns in his last 20 games with the Mean Green.

Tight End Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Kyle Pitts, Florida
  • 2. Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • 3. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
  • 4. Hunter Long, Boston College
  • 5. Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
  • 6. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
  • 7. Hunter Long, Boston College
  • 8. Cary Angeline, NC State
  • 9. Tre’ McKitty, Georgia
  • 10. Kylen Granson, SMU
  • TE Sleeper: Pro Wells, TCU

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah hasn’t been shy about extolling Kyle Pitts.

“You can make a strong case that Kyle Pitts is the best player in the Draft. If you were going to pick the player most likely to have HOF career in this draft class, I think the overwhelming choice around the NFL would be Kyle Pitts.”

Once the cant-miss talent from Florida is gone (within the top 7 picks), it’ll likely be sometime in round two when the next tight end gets plucked. That’ll almost certainly be Pat Freiermuth – a 6’5” target who figures to act as a safety blanket in the middle of the field at the next level. Nonetheless, I happen to like Brevin Jordan a bit more due to his versatility.

The junior from “The U” can line up next to the tackle or split out wide; he can play in the slot or out of the backfield. He’ll be a nightmare matchup for linebackers, and he’s too big and strong for safeties.

A sincere downfield target who can stretch the seams, Jordan will have a shot to impact an NFL roster right away.

Top 10 Offensive Tackles at 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
  • 2. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
  • 3. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
  • 4. Samuel Cosmi, Texas
  • 5. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
  • 6. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
  • 7. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
  • 8. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
  • 9. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
  • 10. Jackson Carman, Clemson
  • OT Sleeper: Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

Despite sitting out in 2020, nobody compiling NFL Draft position rankings in 2021 is wary about slotting Penei Sewell at the top. An utterly dominant run-blocker who is incredibly light on his feet, it’s almost impossible to envision the Bengals passing on Sewell at #5. Of course, that’s if he’s even available.

Christian Darrisaw got better and better during his three years in Blacksburg, eventually emerging as the most proficient tackle in college football this past season. Not only was Darrisaw’s 94.5 run-blocking grade the highest among all P5 tackles in 2020; his 90.8 pass-blocking grade also topped the charts.

Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater is also a plug-in-play at left tackle, but I believe Christian comes with a bit higher of a ceiling.

Teams that are willing to be patient as Dillon Radunz bulks up, a gold mine could be waiting at the end of the tunnel. Radunz is a voracious run-blocker with a fierce temperament – a trait that bodes well for sustained productivity in the trenches.

Interior Offensive Lineman Draft Rankings for 2021

  • 1. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
  • 2. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
  • 3. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
  • 4. Josh Myers, Ohio State
  • 5. Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • 6. Landon Dickerson, Alabama
  • 7. Ben Cleveland, Georgia
  • 8. Trey Smith, Tennessee
  • 9. Deonte Brown, Alabama
  • 10. Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
  • IOL Sleeper: Kendrick Green, Illinois
Quinn Meinerz

Some teams may view Vera-Tucker as a left tackle, the position he played the majority of the time at USC in 2020. Having said that, he’s got all the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler at guard.

Alijah’s flexibility to play all over the line is one reason he’s appealing; his excellent footwork and total body control are why he’s entrenched as the top-ranked interior offensive lineman in this draft.

Then again, I’ve stumbled across 2021 NFL Draft rankings where Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis is regarded as the best guard prospect. Davis has the power to displace defensive tackles and provide large gaps for his running backs.

Wyatt’s strengths will be on full display if he winds up with a team that likes to run the ball inside.

Creed Humphrey reigns as the top center in this class. The heart and soul of the Sooners O-Line is tremendous with his hands and go hold his blocks with the best of them.

Those of you scratching your head thinking who Quinn Meinerz is and what division does Wisconsin-Whitewater play in, you’re not alone. The Warhawks are a D-III school that had its seasons canceled in 2020, meaning Meinerz arrived at the Senior Bowl as a relatively unknown.

Talk about turning heads in mobile, Quinn consistently mauled down P5 rushers and is starting to shoot up in mock drafts.

Top 10 Defensive Tackles in the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  • 2. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  • 3. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  • 4. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
  • 5. Alim McNiel, NC State
  • 6. Tyler Shelvin, LSU
  • 7. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
  • 8. Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M
  • 9. Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
  • 10. Jay Tufele, USC
  • DT Sleeper: Mustafa Johnson, Colorado

Christian Barmore was already on the radar as the best defensive tackle in the 2021 class, and stalwart performances in the CFP have solidified his position. Barmore earned PFF’s highest pass-rush grade among all P5 DTs, as well as the highest run-stop rate.

Marvin Wilson and Tyler Shelvin are built like brick houses with tremendous upper-body strength, while Levi Onwuzurike disrupts the game by being explosive. Levi’s ability to win one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage will eventually lead to requiring double teams.

The Trojans Jay Tufele occupies the 10th spot in my NFL Draft defensive tackle rankings, however, I could have just has easily swapped him out with one of his teammates at SoCal, Marlon Tuipulotu. Both have a bright future in the National Football League.

Edge Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami
  • 2. Kwity Paye, Michigan
  • 3. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  • 4. Jalean Phillips, Miami
  • 5. Jayson Oweh, Penn State
  • 6. Quincy Roche, Miami
  • 7. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
  • 8. Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
  • 9. Joseph Ossai, Texas
  • 10. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
  • Edge Sleeper: Elijah Ponder, Cincinnati
Gregory Rousseau

Three of the top-6 edge rushes hail from Coral Gables.

Gregory Rousseau leads the way after recording 15.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2019. Rousseau’s decision to opt-out in 2020 afforded both Jalean Phillips and Quincy Roche the opportunity to shine in different ways.

Phillips registered a team-high eight sacks and deflected three passes; Roche chipped in with 4.5 sacks but was a menace for opposing ball carriers (3 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles).

Jayson Oweh only has 20 games at Penn State on tape and he didn’t tally a single sack in 2020 (seven games), yet something about him screams “sky-high potential.” As Jayson continues to fill out his frame and clean up on his technique, we may all look back talking about what a steal Oweh was.

While not a prototypical edge rusher who’s going to amass double-digit sacs each year, Elijah Ponder lights up on film and can be an influence from the get-go. Don’t let his day 3 projection fool you into thinking otherwise.

Top 10 Linebacks in the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Micah Parsons, Penn State
  • 2. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  • 3. Nick Bolton, Missouri
  • 4. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  • 5. Baron Browning, Ohio State
  • 6. Jamin Davis, Kentucky
  • 7. Dylan Moses, Alabama
  • 8. Pete Werner, Ohio State
  • 9. Jabril Cox, LSU
  • 10. Chaz Surratt, North Carolina
  • LB Sleeper: Tuf Borland, Ohio State
Zaven Collins

Micah Parsons represents another opt-out from 2020 who leads his in his respective NFL Draft position rankings.

The dynamic playmaker from Penn State was marvelous in 2018 and 2019, and the Nittany Lions defense crumbled without him this past year. Parsons is squarely in the conversation of being a top-10 pick in April.

As far as roaming inside linebacker with game-changing speed and ferocious appetite to make tackles, Zaven Collins clocks in behind Parsons as the next best thing.

7.5 sacks and 4 interceptions in just 8 games in 2020 propelled Collins into earning the reputation as the best linebacker in the country. His 91.1 PFF grade (1st among all FBS linebackers) backs up that theory.

Baron Browning, Peter Werner, and Justin Hilliard are a trio of Ohio State linebackers receiving loads of attention in the pre-draft process. Just don’t sleep on the other Buckeye LB looking to hear his name called, Tuff Borland.

In the history of OSU football, Tuf is just the second player to ever be named as a three-time captain. He’s loaded with grit and tenacity and never takes any plays off.

Top 10 Cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft

  • 1. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  • 2. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
  • 3.  Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  • 4. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
  • 5. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
  • 6. Elijah Molden, Washington
  • 7. Tay Gowan, Central Florida
  • 8. Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon
  • 9. Eric Stokes, Georgia
  • 10. Shaun Wade, Ohio State
  • CB Sleeper: Darren Hall, SDSU

It’s difficult to separate Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain II as both cornerbacks have what it takes to be “shutdown” material. At 6’1” with long arms, Jaycee Horn’s rangy motions and growing skillset have him hot on the top two CB’s trail.

The fourth spot is where my CB rankings may differ from many others, but I find myself infatuated by what Ifeatu Melifonwu brings to the table. Melifonwu can wreak havoc at the catch point, he’s a dependable tackler, and he has great acumen when it comes to reading backfield motion.

Another defensive back ranked higher here than in most spots is UCF corner, Tay Gowan. Tay opted out in 2020 and isn’t fresh in everyone’s mind, but he was nothing short of outstanding in 2019. Gowan contributed eight pass deflections and surrendered a total of 20 catches in 12 games during his only season with the Knights.

NFL Draft Safety Rankings for 2021

  • 1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU
  • 2. Jevon Holland, Oregon
  • Andre Cisco, Syracuse
  • Richie Grant, Central Florida’
  •  Talanoa Hufanga, USC
  • Richard LeCounte III, Georgia
  • Paris Ford, Pittsburgh
  • Hamsah Nasirildeen
  • Reed Blankenship, Middle Tennessee
  • Tariq Thompson, SDSU
  • S Sleeper: Tyree Gillespie, Missouri
Jevon Holland

TCU’s Trevon Moehrig is a disruptor and a ball hawk. He’s not afraid to bull rush the line of scrimmage but has the speed to fall back in disguised coverage schemes.

Moehrig is all but certain to be the first safety selected, but it’s too early for the former Horned Frogs DB to start counting chickens before they hatch.

Jevon Holland is nipping at Trevon’s heels and is in the discussion to be the top safety picked. Holland’s decision to sit out in 2020 was enabled by him dominating Pac-12 receivers in 2019.

Great instincts and plus-lateral quickness make him a viable candidate to be a starting safety in the NFL immediately upon his arrival.

After bursting onto the scene with seven interceptions and nine pass breakups as a true frosh in 2018, Andre Cisco added five more picks in nine games as a sophomore. His junior campaign was cut short to just two games, but he collected another interception to give him 13 in 24 career collegiate games.

He’ll need to tone down his aggressiveness at the next level not to get beat on big plays, but that’ll be a lot easier to teach given his notable intuition.

Summarizing My 2021 NFL Draft Rankings

With film from pro-days still pouring in and lots of virtual interviews yet to take place, expect there to be movement in the NFL Draft position rankings from now until late-April. Nothing drastic is likely to occur; perhaps it’ll more about tweaking a ranking here and tweaking a ranking there.

It’s safe to assume Trevor Lawrence is going #1, and there are no versions of Penei Sewell not being the first offensive lineman drafted. How many running backs go on day 1, and which Alabama WR gets chosen first – that’s all up in the air.

I’m one of the many who can’t wait for April 29th to arrive so those questions can be answered.

Michael Wynn

As a former Division I collegiate golfer, Michael Wynn loves writing about golf. He's also an expert in most of America's most popular sports, writing extensively for GamblingSites.com on football, basketball, and baseball.

Michael's a Las Vegas native and has been with the company since 2017.

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