We all know the top prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft, a list that includes quarterback Trevor Lawrence, offensive tackle Penei Sewell, linebacker Micah Parsons, edge rusher Gregory Rousseau, and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Well, there are many other riveting prospects when it comes to this year’s college football season. Some of those prospects are receiving a great deal of hype, while others are not receiving enough. Let’s take a look at five well-known 2021 NFL Draft prospects and review whether they are overrated or underrated.
Around this time last year, the top prospects for the 2020 Draft class were Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, and Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa. Tagovailoa, Young, and Jeudy lived up to their billing, but it is pretty safe to say Epenesa was a bit overrated early in the 2020 Draft evaluation process.
This time last year, no one was talking about underrated prospects such as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, and Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills. The battle between too much hype and not enough is something we see on an annual basis, and this year is no different.
Are your favorite NFL Draft prospects overrated or underrated?
Walker Little, Offensive Tackle, Stanford (6’7″, 320 pounds)
When looking at early 2021 NFL mock drafts, one name I am consistently seeing as a projected top-15 selection is Stanford’s offensive tackle Walker Little. Little’s 2019 campaign ended abruptly after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. While there is much to like surrounding Little’s game including his experience, the tape doesn’t show a first-round prospect.
Little has good size, functional strength, and plays with good leverage, yet he is a complete liability in pass protection. He doesn’t use his hands well, gets completely overwhelmed by gifted speed rushers, and plays with sloppy footwork. He doesn’t set his anchor well by any means and his overall athleticism is lacking. It doesn’t help that he is coming off a serious knee injury, but if Little wants to solidify his first-round status, he must prove to be healthy and needs drastic improvement in his game.
He is coming into the season with much to prove. When you see Little on tape, he does not demonstrate the necessary traits to be a top offensive tackle prospect. In fact, Little’s NFL future might involve being kicked inside to guard. When it comes to the 2021 Draft prospect, Little falls under the overrated category.
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan (6’4″, 277 pounds)
On a very talented Michigan Wolverines’ defense, one player that isn’t getting enough attention is defensive end Kwity Paye. Paye was stellar in 2019, accumulating 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He might not garner the attention that his teammate Aidan Hutchinson receives, but he might be the better prospect.
Paye has a tremendous thick build and transfers his weight quite well. He has heavy hands, tremendous power, and he can set the edge with force. His ability to play inside and outside makes him a viable chess piece on the defensive side of the ball.
The video clip below will show Paye (#17) completely abuse Iowa left tackle Alaric Jackson (#77) for a multi-sack game.
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) October 6, 2019
There hasn’t been much early buzz surrounding Kwity Paye, but if he dominates Big Ten competition like he did in 2019, his 2021 NFL Draft stock will soar.
Sage Surratt, Wide Receiver, Wake Forest (6’3″, 215 pounds)
Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Surratt had his 2019 season cut short after he suffered a serious injury to his right shoulder. However, his play still put him on the map as a legitimate draft prospect. The 2021 wide receiver group has a chance to be historically good, boasting names such as Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), and Rondale Moore (Purdue), but let’s not forget about Surratt.
Surratt was brilliant in 2019, securing 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns in only nine games. If it wasn’t for his injury, Surratt would have likely led the ACC in receiving yards and touchdowns.
He has phenomenal size, sensational hands, and a tremendous frame. He is a former high school basketball standout and it shows with his ability to box out defenders for the football. He might not possess the best speed, but he creates separation with ease with his outstanding route-running ability. When it comes to the contested catch, Surratt is one of the best in all of college football.
In the clip below, Surratt’s focus and strong hands are on full display, as he hauls in a pass for a huge gain.
Sage Surratt just came up HUGE for @WakeFB.
Let's take another look at that amazing one-handed catch. pic.twitter.com/fq17JbjOZn
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) August 31, 2018
In a deep positional group filled with big names, Surratt’s name gets lost in the shuffle, but if he can return to 2019 form for an encore performance this season, that will drastically change.
Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State (6’3″, 224 pounds)
Let me start by saying North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is an electrifying draft prospect and one I like a great deal. In 2019, he threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions, which is a remarkable accomplishment on any level of football. He is an athletic playmaker built to thrive in today’s NFL.
Lance has everything you could want from a franchise quarterback, including elite athleticism, a tremendous arm, accuracy, the ability to hurt defenses with his legs, and the ability to carry his team. He will without question be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, should he declare.
In every 2021 mock draft I have read, Lance has appeared as a top-10 selection. For me, it’s too early for him to be getting this type of hype. He might not have the surrounding talent that Lawrence or Justin Fields have at their disposal, but he also doesn’t play the ferocious competition they face either. It’s hard to knock a player that led his team to a 16-0 record and didn’t throw an interception in a season, but for me to buy Lance as a top-10 pick, he will have to do far more than thrash the likes of UC Davis, Western Illinois, and Missouri State.
In 12 of 16 games in 2019, Lance threw for under 200 passing yards and has only completed 66.9 percent of his passes at North Dakota State, while playing a cupcake schedule. If his play in 2020 mirrors that of 2019, he will erase any doubts I have. There is a good chance that Lance will continue his trajectory as a top-10 pick, but I don’t think he is there quite yet.
Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech (6’2″, 207 pounds)
When the top cornerback prospects of the 2021 NFL Draft are discussed, you hear names such as Patrick Surtain Jr. (Alabama) and Shaun Wade (Ohio State). They deserve the hype, but it’s time Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley gets proper recognition. In 2019, Farley was an absolute beast, racking up four interceptions, 12 passes defended, and a touchdown.
Farley possesses prototypical size, standing 6’2″ with a strong, muscular build. As his 2019 statistics indicate, which include leading the ACC in interceptions and being second in the conference in passes defended, he has elite ball skills. He comes with great speed, high football intelligence, and excellent fluidity. Not only will Farley be a surefire first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, he has the potential to be a top-15 selection.