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NFL Draft Prospects 2021: Pauline’s updated big board, player rankings

Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline has released another big board update, ranking over nine hundred 2021 NFL Draft prospects — including a new player in his top 5.

NFL Draft Prospects 2021: Pauline's updated big board, player rankings
Credit: Javi Vega/PFN

What would usually be my pre-combine NFL Draft player rankings take a new form in the day and age of a global pandemic. So let’s just call this my pre-pro day big board, grading all of the 2021 NFL Draft prospects. There is some significant movement by a few players, as I will explain below.

The list has dwindled to 921 graded NFL Draft prospects due to so many seniors taking up the NCAA offer of one more year of college eligibility.  As I stated during the Draft Insiders show on February 18, scouts feel there will be a large number of late-round picks who end up as middle-round selections due to the diminishing pool of talent.  Conversely, there will be a plethora of talent in 2022 and players will be under-drafted throughout day three next year.

Related | Updated 2021 NFL Draft Order

My top 10 NFL Draft prospects of 2021 consist of three quarterbacks and two wide receivers. It also includes one offensive tackle and one tight end. There are only three defensive players inside my top 10. In fact, only ten of my top 25 NFL Draft prospects of 2021 reside on the defensive side of the ball.

NFL Draft Prospects 2021 | How the board shakes out

My 2021 NFL Draft board presently breaks down as follows:

  • 25 players with solid first-round grades
  • 35 players with late first/early second-round grades
  • 117 players graded as day one or day two selections
  • 284 players with draftable grades

Obviously, the latter two categories will be shaved as more information comes forward on true measurables, testing numbers, and medical checks. This, of course, assumes information is available on the prospects.

Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph a fast-rising 2021 NFL Draft prospect?

The biggest mover is Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph, as I alluded to during the February 23 mailbag. The LSU transfer is a big-bodied and instinctive cornerback with terrific ball skills. Whether or not Joseph slides into the late part of round one will be determined by his forty-yard dash time. Right now I’m told he’s expected to run in the mid to low 4.4’s. That’s fast enough to secure him a spot in the low 30’s.  Prior to this ranking, I graded Joseph as a mid-third-round choice.

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts moving further up draft boards

Kyle Pitts presently grades as my fourth-rated prospect in the draft.  Why the jump into the top five of my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings? Watch the film — it’s not so much how he played, but who Pitts played against.

During the SEC title game, Alabama put cornerback Patrick Surtain on Pitts in one-on-one coverage. Pitts finished the game with 7 receptions, 127 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown.

Against South Carolina, Pitts was manned up against Jaycee Horn most of the game. His totals that day were 4 receptions, 52 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

During the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” (sorry, I’m a traditionalist), Georgia used corners Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes in man coverage against Pitts. The big tight end finished with just 2 receptions, 59 yards, and 2  touchdowns. But truth be told, the game was over at halftime with the Gators up 38-21.

NFL Draft Prospects 2021 | Top Five Players

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Almost from the beginning, Trevor Lawrence was anointed as a franchise quarterback in the NFL and a player who would eventually be the first pick of the draft. And after breaking down the film, there’s no reason to doubt any of that.

Lawrence possesses all the skills to carry a team in the NFL — physical, mental, and intangible. He does an incredible job leading the offense, possesses the ability to make all the throws, and consistently makes proper choices. Lawrence is a big-bodied pocket passer, but he possesses the foot speed to pick up big yardage with his legs.

2. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Joe Burrow was selected with the first pick of last April’s draft after his record-breaking campaign. Burrow’s job was made much easier in 2019 thanks to his top target, Ja’Marr Chase.

Chase is a complete receiver, and dare I say, a better NFL prospect than Burrow — the only difference is Chase catches the ball rather than throws it. He is fast, tough, and instinctive. He makes the difficult catch in a crowd, displays next-level pass-catching skills, and shows a tremendous feel for the position.

3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Penei Sewell is a fluid, strong left tackle who easily slides out in pass protections and shows a lot of ability blocking in motion. He’s fundamentally sound, strong, and has upside.

If there is one red flag in Sewell’s game, it’s that he doesn’t block with a nasty attitude. Unlike many other top-rated offensive linemen, I don’t see Sewell working to bury opponents into the ground. Otherwise, he’s a sensational left tackle prospect for the next level.

4. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Kyle Pitts is a terrific athlete with the speed to beat defenders down the seam. He’s mobile and makes some tough receptions. As noted above, Pitts possesses tremendous upside.

5. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

If there’s a faster-rising prospect in the nation than Zach Wilson, I’m not aware of him. Except for the fact he’s short, Wilson checks all the boxes you want in a quarterback at the next level — smart, tough, athletic, plus the arm strength necessary to make all the throws.

PFN’s NFL Mock Draft Simulator

Be sure to give PFN’s free 2021 NFL Mock Draft Simulator a spin, which now includes both sim-initiated trades and user-initiated trades. Take control of your team and build your perfect haul of 2021 NFL Draft prospects.

2021 NFL Draft Big Board

You can sort my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings below by team or by position. You can also utilize the search function to quickly find whatever you may be looking for.

Grades have been assigned to all players who are eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft. This does not mean all the players handed draftable grades will declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Mobile users: Please note that the rankings are best viewed in landscape mode.

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365


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