2021 NFL Draft: Russell Brown’s Top-50 Big Board


College football is in the books and we’re down to just the Super Bowl left on the schedule for the NFL. In fact, the Senior Bowl happens this week and despite not being able to make it this year (thanks, COVID), I’ll still be keeping a close eye on the prospect down in Mobile!

As we all know, the 2021 NFL Draft will be here before we know it. That means I’ve already put in plenty of time and effort into figuring out a perfect big board. With months of grinding tape and asking prospects how they tie their shoes, here’s the first installment of my top-50 big board for the 2021 NFL Draft!

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson | 6’6″ 220 lbs. | Junior 

Not much to really go over on this one. Teams wait decades for a QB of Trevor Lawrence’s ability. He can make any throw on the field, his throwing mechanics are clean and he’s got the ability to operate outside of the pocket. Aside from that, I love his composure on the field during big moments. Franchise quarterbacks don’t always come around, hard to think that Lawrence won’t be that or the first overall pick.

2. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon | 6’5″ 325 lbs. |  Junior 

Not playing this season could obviously hurt Sewell due to so many offensive tackles surging up draft boards. That being said, Sewell is the clear cut offensive tackle atop my board. He operates in space incredibly well for a player of his size and understands how to utilize his length in just about every situation. Teams will look for him to set the tone on offense.

3. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State | 6’2″ 245 lbs. | Junior 

Some will overthink Parsons because he didn’t play this year. Whenever you put on the 2019 tape, there’s Parsons around the football on every single play. Whether he’s draped over the shoulder of a tight end in the middle of the field or blitzing off the edge to sack the quarterback, Parsons can do it all. Defenses looking for a playmaker would be wise to look in the direction of Micah Parsons.

4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State | 6’3″ 223 lbs. | Junior 

There was a stretch of some questionable quarterback play from Fields but he played two games with bad ribs and now we’re all back on board. The toughness shown from Fields is remarkable and plenty of teams will value that. In most drafts, he’d be the top option at quarterback but obviously, Lawrence changes that. All of that being said, Fields shows a fairly quick throwing motion and the ball leaves his hand with ease. He can make just about every throw on the field but there are times that he’ll get stuck on one-read and those throws will lack the ideal “zip”. Overall, draft Fields and build around him.

5. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU | 6’1″ 208 lbs. | Junior 

Despite opting-out, Chase has some of the most exciting tape for any wide receiver in this class. Looking back at 2019, it’s ridiculous how good Chase had played.  He had 20 receiving touchdowns and almost 1800 yards, regardless of who was throwing him the football, those numbers scream number one receiver type production. Where Chase lacks in ideal separation for a player of his stature, he makes up for it with his success at the catch point and ability to score after the catch.

6. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU | 6’3″ 210 lbs. | Junior 

So many QB’s today need to offer the ability to sling the football a mile and have the mobility to avoid the speed on defense. Zach Wilson can certainly provide that for a team. He slings the football around the field with a simple flick of the wrist. His mobility will be coveted as he’s able to run designed QB draws to an unlimited amount of RPO concepts. He can get a bit dangerous with his decision making as he seems to always look for the big play but teams will love his “gamer” mentality on the field. Whether it’s the arm angles to the unorthodox throwing platforms he’s able to throw off, Wilson screams QB1 potential.

7. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida | 6’5″ 239 lbs. | Junior 

In the summer, I said that Kyle Pitts had “it.” Wouldn’t be surprising to see teams view him the same way. In a league that values tight ends that can move all over the field, Pitts can do just that. From playing in the slot, aligning as an ‘X’ receiver or staying as an in-line blocker, the versatility is there. As a route runner, Pitts is as fluid as they come for a player at his position. He does a great job not just winning at the catch point but attacking it with his long arms and athleticism. He’ll need to improve as a blocker but he gives a great effort on just about every rep.

8. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama | 6’1″ 203 lbs. | Junior 

It’s quite clear that he grew up around the game. It all comes natural to Surtain and it’s even easier with his athleticism. On tape, not only can he run in the hip pocket of receivers, his length instantly stands out. He utilizes his long arms to pluck the ball out of the hands of receivers. This has translated to four interceptions in his career and 24 pass deflections. No defensive back played more snaps in coverage than him as he had 555 of them in 2020.

9. Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama | 6’0″ 175 lbs. | Senior

No doubt, there are concerns about the weight and overall frame of the receiver. That being said, you can’t look past the production and overall playmaking ability from Smith. On tape, he’s shown the ability to take the top off a defense and can also be utilized in the short areas of the field with his ability to create after the catch. The Heisman Trophy winner could be the first receiver off the board and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him beat the odds being stacked against him and his size.

10. Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan | 6’4″ 272 lbs. | Senior 

There’s not a sure thing off-the-edge this season but Kwity Paye feels like the top-option. He’s every bit of his listed measurements and I love his ability to translate speed-to-power. Consistent pad level, effort and elite athleticism should help separate Paye from the rest of the group. Give him some NFL coaching and he should be able to turn the corner in more ways than one.

11. Trey Lance, QB, NDSU | 6’3″ 220 lbs. | Sophomore (RS)

Can’t overlook a one-year quarterback that never lost a game. Lance was a good decision maker during his one season at NDSU by never throwing an interception. His throwing motion is relatively clean but there are times that he gets caught up with his lower body or by rushing his mechanics. Throwing the ball at all three levels of the field looks fairly easy for him. That being said, he’ll only be 21-years old after he’s drafted and should easily be a quarterback that team focuses on developing.

12. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama | 5’10” 182 lbs. | Junior 

Had it not been for the injury, I think Waddle should have easily been higher on this initial list. That being said, I’m hesitant on receivers that suffer lower body injuries as they have shown a tendency to reoccur. When healthy, Waddle is the best route runner in this class and has similar explosion as other receivers such as Smith or Toney. If medicals become an issue, he could slip down draft boards but with how everything stands right now, he should still be a top-15 pick in this draft.

13. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame | 6’2″ 216 lbs. | Junior (RS)

One of the only negatives you’ll get here is the overall size. Playing at 216 pounds is less than ideal for an NFL linebacker but fortunately, “JOK” could add some muscle to his frame and be just fine. His range is fairly consistent but his lower body is incredibly quick and it’s helped him recover after getting caught on a block or in traffic.

14. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech | 6’2″ 197 lbs. | Junior (RS)

Another cornerback with good length and natural athleticism. Farley suffered a torn ACL in 2017 and missed two games in 2019 due to back spasms. Health could be a concern for Farley but if healthy, he works his length to his advantage on just about every play. As a former wide receiver, he’s got natural ball skills and this translated to six interceptions and 19 pass deflections in just 23 games for the Hokies.

15. Rashawn Slater, IOL, Northwestern | 6’4″ 315 lbs. | Senior 

Some have Slater as an offensive tackle but I’ve got him listed as a guard. I know how well he played against Chase Young and other top defensive players but I think he’s got a higher ceiling inside as a dominant guard. Despite only allowing 5 sacks in his career, he played guard in high school and could easily transition back inside. In space, he’s able to handle his own and has

16. Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia | 6’3″ 240 lbs. | Sophomore (RS)

Explosive pass rusher that earned a 91.7 pass-rush grade from PFF. Ojulari loves to use a stab-chop technique when rushing the passer and that’s helped him generate a career high in sacks with 9.5 of them. Of all the edge rushers in this class, he’s got the best and most efficient hands.

17. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota | 6’1″ 208 lbs. | Junior 

In an odd year, Bateman made the most of his opportunity. In just five games, he had 36 receptions but did record six drops on the season. With the ability to play in the slot or on the outside, he looks like he’s set to have continued success at the next level. Even if he doesn’t win with his speed, he’s one of the most fluid route runners in the class and can win at jump ball situations with his body control.

18. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama | 6’6″ 310 lbs. | Senior 

In this draft class, he checks in as one of the top run blockers. Pass protection was a bit off this year but he’s only given up 5 career sacks (same as Rashawn Slater). His tape is relatively consistent from the way he climbs to the second level or with his hand placement and grip strength. Due to his length, he’ll get a shot at left tackle but to get from being good to great, he’ll have to get improve his foot speed.

19. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama | 6’2″ 230 lbs. | Senior 

It’s been RB1 for Harris on my board since the summer. Someone with his size + great contact balance, lower body flexibility and pass catching ability provides teams a dynamic option out of the backfield. Known for hurdling defenders, wouldn’t be surprising to see Harris hurdle into the guaranteed first round discussion by the time we get to the draft.

20. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL) | 6’5″ 260 lbs. | Sophomore (RS)

I’ll never fault a player for opting-out but I do have to give grades off the tape. For Rousseau, his tape wasn’t as high as a few other edge rushers in this class. However, he’s got elite length and was seen playing in a variety of spots along the defensive line for the Hurricanes. Whether he was a zero-shade or aligned as a 5-technique, there’s some really intriguing tools with Rousseau. Testing will matter as he’s still a bit raw as a pass rusher and it’ll be interesting to see where he’s at physically with a year off from football.

21. Eric Stokes Jr., CB, Georgia | 6’1″ 185 lbs. | Junior (RS) 

Physical, press cornerback that will help immediately in stopping the run. His lower body is relatively fluid but it’ll be interesting to see how he tests for the purpose of his long speed. That being said, his ball skills have gotten better and finished with 4 interceptions and 22 pass deflections in his college career.

22. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida | 5’11” 190 lbs. | Senior 

Senior season surge for Toney has transitioned into plenty of buzz. With 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns, there’s plenty of reason to believe a team is chomping at the bit to get their hands on this talented playmaker. Toney is certainly in the conversation as one of the most explosive players in this draft. Align him anywhere, get him the ball and he’ll do the rest.


23. Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State | 6’6″ 301 lbs. | Senior (RS)

Physically gifted offensive tackle that wins with his tenacity, length and athletic ability. In high school, he was three sport athlete and despite being redshirted as a freshman, he went on to make 32 consecutive starts for the Bison. Put on the tape and you’ll see one of the best finishers in college football. Teams in need of an immediate plug-and-play left tackle should consider Radunz.

24. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson | 5’10” 210 lbs. | Senior 

Thick lower body and one of the better pass catching backs in this class, Etienne has made some improvements from year one to now but at times, he feels like the same guy as he was the year before. Etienne is explosive off his cuts and has the ability to go the distance at any time.

25. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech | 6’5″ 314 lbs. | Senior 

Darrisaw has some really good length, flexible lower body and some nice grip strength. This has allowed him to move defenders with ease. His pass blocking snaps was down by almost 100 snaps this year but he only gave up six pressures and no sacks. Some lower body injuries from his knee and ankle have bothered him throughout his career but he’s battled through it. He should be able to play right away for a team at either offensive tackle spot.

26. Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa | 6’3″ 305 lbs. | Junior (RS)

Explosive JUCO transfer from Iowa Western Community College. Nixon has emerged as one of the top defensive lineman in the Big Ten this season with 7 sacks, 23 pressures and 16 hits. Normally, he’s aligned as a 3-technique but will move inside as a 1-technique. His pad level is consistent and despite in tight areas, he’s quick and able to navigate to the ball.

27. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina | 6’1″ 200 lbs. | Junior 

Son of Joe Horn, it’s clear that there’s football in his bloods. Jaycee is athletic and has some nice length at 6-1. Shows good physicality and matched up well against Kyle Pitts earlier in the year. He competes on every single snap and that will most certainly happen at the next level.

28. Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU | 6’3″ 200 lbs. | Junior 

Filling in for Ja’Marr Chase this season as the top WR for LSU, Marshall had the best season of his college career. He’s got great size for the position and wins at all three levels of the field due to his overall technique. Drops were bit of a concern as he had 7 of them this season but he can still produce for a team as a solid number two and could become a number one threat for a team.

29. Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State | 6’4″ 310 lbs. | Junior (RS) 

Shortened season might have caused Davis to not really good in his groove for 2020 but he’s still a great interior offensive lineman. Davis is an absolute mauler in the run game and is one of the better finishers of the interior offensive lineman in this class. Despite lacking some consistency in 2020, Davis should still get drafted early enough with the expectations to play immediately on the inside of an offensive line.

30. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina | 5’10” 220 lbs. | Junior 

One of my favorites in this class — Williams has terrific size for the position and just bounces off contact consistently. On some of his cuts upfield, his hips look stiff but generally, he flashes the lower body flexibility needed to change direction and create a big run.


31. Pat Friermuth, TE, Penn State | 6’5″ 258 lbs. | Junior 

Former dual sport athlete in high school (basketball and football), Friermuth has terrific size for the tight end position. At his size, he’s athletic enough to get the ball in the open field and should easily have a role in the red zone for an offense. Considering his volume in the passing game in 2020, drops were a concern with five of them. Whether he’s asked to block or become a pass catcher, he should excel for a team at the next level.

32. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame | 6’5″ 305 lbs. | Senior (RS)

One of the most experienced offensive tackles in this class, Eichenberg brings over 40 games played to his resume. Teams will love his aggressiveness and how he excels at the point-of-attack. With over 2600 snaps at left tackle, it feels as if he’ll transition easily to the position in the NFL.

33. Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama | 6’5″ 310 lbs. | Sophomore (RS)

Despite lacking some consistency on tape, there’s a lot of intriguing tools here. Down the stretch of the 2020 season, those tools were being used and it showed positive results for Barmore. He finished with 37 pressures (top for all IDL in 2020) and had 8 sacks on the season. Once he’s becomes more consistent, he should become a 3-down IDL due to his size, versatility and pass-rush skills.

34. Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh | 6’5″ 270 lbs. | Senior (RS)

Despite suffering a torn ACL that cost him the ’19 season, Weaver came back and better than ever. His tape was really impressive due to his length, speed-to-power and overall pass-rushing skills. With 48 pressures in 2020 (3rd most in 2020), it feels like only the beginning for the edge rusher.

35. Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama | 6’6″ 325 lbs. | Senior (RS)

There’s another two games left for me to watch but we’ve also got the torn ACL to consider, as well. All of that being said, Dickerson is the most aggressive offensive lineman in this class and was by far the best center in football. His length, leadership, ability to dominate at the point-of-attack and how he consistently climbs to the second level should easily get him drafted on the 2nd day of the draft.

36. Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington | 6’3″ 290 lbs. | Senior (RS)

Much like Rousseau, not playing in the 2020 season made this a difficult one to process. That being said, his ’18 and ’19 tape was really good. He had 57 total pressures over those two seasons and a total of five sacks. Even though he’s only played about 60 snaps outside of the interior of the defensive line, he could provide a team some versatility up front. He’ll need to get stronger but overall he wins by maintaining his leverage and by utilizing his quickness and athletic ability.

37. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss | 5’9″ 184 lbs. | Junior

Maybe the most underrated wide receiver in the draft. Moore had 86 receptions this season and would have been close to 100 of them had he played in the Rebels bowl game. That being said, Moore can win on all three levels of the field due to his route running ability and how he’s able to succeed after the catch. He’ll primarily play under the slot and will be utilized in a variety of ways from motions, screen game and across the middle of the field.

38. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama | 6’3″ 235 lbs. | Senior

Had Moses not suffered his torn ACL, he’d be talked about more this draft class. He played through a lot of pain and it was clearly an issue which is why he looked so hesitant at times. He’ll need to get better when trying to disengage from blocks but overall, there’s plenty to work with here. He’s got great size for the position and flashes some really nice range to be in and around the football.

39. Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC | 6’4″ 300 lbs. | Junior (RS)

Was late to the party on this one but I’m glad I finally got to watch AVT. It won’t be surprising to see him shoot up my board  even more but going back to the 2019 tape, he was really impressive. His lower body flexibility is impressive but I love how quick he’s able to transition his weight from his post foot to his set foot. It’s not surprising to see him move to LT for the Trojans for the 2020 season. Add in the way he pops with his hands and you get a really fun prospect to watch.

40. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri | 6’0″ 232 lbs. | Junior

Need someone in the middle of your defense to pop and bring it on every play, look no further. Where Bolton lacks consistency with his angles to the ball, he makes up for it with his range and ability to blitz. The last two seasons combined he’s got over 150 total tackles and should easily get better with some NFL coaching.

41. Trevon Moehrig, SAF, TCU | 6’2″ 202 lbs. | Junior

Used all over the field for the Horned Frogs, Moehrig has found success in a single high role. This has given him a chance to roam freely and disrupt passes. In fact, it’s resulted to 21 pass deflections and 7 interceptions in his career.  He flies up the alley and it looks to thrive off contact. That being said, he can get careless and has missed tackles or takes himself out of position with poor angles.

42. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama | 6’2″ 205 lbs. | Junior (RS)

The biggest question mark on Mac Jones is what he’ll be at the next level without all of these top-tier WR’s. He’s got an above average arm with average mobility but his anticipation and decision making is what makes him so intriguing. He won’t make jaw dropping plays like other quarterbacks but he’s shown consistency. There’s a chance he goes in the first round but it’s best that he gets the Jordan Love treatment if he does.

43. Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh | 6’5″ 260 lbs. | Senior (RS)

Impressed by his length, Jones looked to be the best defensive lineman on the Panthers roster going into the season. He’s got a strong upper body and should be able to utilize his length at the next level. At the next level, he’ll need some refinement to his pass rush plan and will need to work on lowering his pad level or not exposing so much of his chest but overall, he’s got the potential to be a double digit sack producer.


44. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State | 6’6″ 310 lbs. | Senior (RS)

Jenkins has primarily played right tackle for the Cowboys but has shown the ability to play both guard and tackle spots. He flashes immediately on tape as he’s strong finisher with great length. Hand placement can get sporadic as his inside hand loves to reach back of the defender. Some cleaning up with his hand placement and football and he’ll be a very good right tackle at the next level.

45. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue | 5’9″ 175 lbs. | Junior

At this point, he is what he is. Moore impressed the moment he put on the Boilermakers uniform but injuries have slowed him down. Electric with the ball in his hands and he’s dominant in the short areas of the field. If healthy, Moore could be one of the biggest playmakers in this draft.

46. Michael Carter, RB, North Carolina | 5’10” 200 lbs. | Senior 

Forming one of the best RB duo’s in college football, Michael Carter is an explosive, one-cut back from UNC. He’s got the ability to run routes out of the backfield (82 career receptions) and has produced consecutive 1,000 rushing yard seasons for the Tar Heels. He’s able to create yards after contact but a lot of his success comes due to his patience and cutting ability.

47. Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina | 6’0″ 195 lbs. | Junior

One of the more fluid route runners in this class, Dyami Brown has the ability to win at all three levels of the field. He’s used just about everywhere and shows off fluid lower body movement in-and-out of his routes. Drops were a concern in 2019 and he improved that number from 9 to only 3 for the 2020 season. Rarely do I throw around pro comparisons but flashes of his game are comparable to Stefon Diggs.

48. Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL) | 6’5″ 266 lbs. | Junior (RS)

One of the most intriguing players in this draft. Phillips has the length and athletic ability to play just about anywhere. However, he’s already stepped away from the game as a top recruit committed to UCLA due to concussions. Now he’s back on the field but for the Hurricanes. So far, it’s paid off for him with 42 pressures and 9 sacks on the season. Consistency will be key for him but he could get drafted just based of his raw talent.

49. Andre Cisco, SAF, Syracuse | 6’0″ 203 lbs. | Junior

Going into the season, Cisco was my top ranked safety. He’ll need to become more consistent as an alley defender but he looks comfortable when playing in the box. Take away his torn ACL from this season (only played two games) and we could be talking about him as the top safety due to his elite ball skills (13 interceptions and 14 pass deflections in his career).

50. Jalen Mayfield, IOL, Michigan | 6″5 320 lbs. | Sophomore (RS)

Lacking ideal length, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mayfield transitions inside. I think he’s best suited to play at either guard spot and could provide the ability to start right away. Despite moving well in space, his foot speed is lacking (29 pressures allowed between 2019 & 2020). During 2020, he suffered a high ankle sprain and it limited to just 128 total snaps.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.