- Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.
With college football bowl season on the horizon, I’m updating my rankings for the 2021 NFL draft. You’ll find a new Big Board with my top 25 prospects overall, plus the top 10 prospects at every position, from quarterback to kickers, punters and long-snappers. (Check out the projected first-round order for the draft here.)
My pal Todd McShay and I did a “mini” 2021 mock draft last week, predicting the top 10 picks, and we’ll have full 32-pick mocks next month as the lead-up to April’s draft continues. It’s a really interesting class loaded with top-tier wideouts and a quarterback class that has come out of nowhere to project as many as five first-rounders. I didn’t expect that. The class is also light on elite pass-rushers, though you’ll find a few risers I like below.
A few notes before we get started:
These aren’t detailed scouting reports, and there is a lot of projection involved. Some of these prospects have made only a handful of starts, and others opted out of the 2020 season altogether.
Height and weight for each prospect are based on the data we get from schools, so it’s not official yet. We don’t get official numbers until the 2021 NFL combine. And because of the coronavirus, I’m not sure what the combine is going to look like next year.
Prospects change positions all the time. Running backs turn into fullbacks. Offensive tackles move inside to guard at the next level. My position rankings are based on where I project each player to play in the NFL.
This is a strange year in which the NCAA has thrown out eligibility clocks, so seniors who play this season could be seniors again in 2021. That still means underclassmen who are three years out of high school can enter the draft, but it also means we could see some upperclassmen return to school.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
HT: 6-6 | WT: 220 | Previously: 1
There’s no movement at the top. Lawrence is the best prospect in this class and is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick. After missing a few games because of a positive COVID-19 test, he returned at the end of November and threw for 403 yards in a blowout win over Pitt. He’s completing 69.2% of his passes with 20 touchdowns and three picks while averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. Lawrence has everything NFL teams want in a starting quarterback, from size to arm talent to the ability to process reads and make the right throw. Next up for the Tigers is a rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC title game; Lawrence missed the first game, but the Tigers are heavy favorites. Can Lawrence light up the Fighting Irish and lead Clemson to another College Football Playoff?
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