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Top Ten Tuesday: Early 2021 NFL Draft Prospects

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and it’s already time to at least take a glimpse ahead to the 2021 class. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday highlights the top prospects that could enter the draft next year, but keep in mind that these are just very preliminary rankings.


10. Paulson Adebo, Stanford CB

Others aren’t as high on him, but I think Adebo would have been a potential top-20 pick if he came out, as he has the size, athleticism, and natural cover ability to be a true No. 1 cornerback. Adebo will have a case to be the top defensive back next year if he performs up to expectations in the fall.


9. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama CB

Surtain II has NFL bloodlines as the son of former All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain, and he’s been a standout performer in the secondary for Alabama since he was a true freshman in 2018. The younger Surtain (six-foot-two) is bigger than his father and has shown impressive versatility at his size.


8. Travis Etienne, Clemson RB

Etienne is like a blend of Chris Johnson and Alvin Kamara at running back, and his willingness to return to school in a quest for another title speaks to his character. The explosive back rips off chunk yardage on a weekly basis and is nearly impossible to bottle up for an entire game.


7. Justyn Ross, Clemson WR

A lot was made of the 2020 wide receiver class (and rightfully so), but early indications are that 2021 is even better. Ross is next in a long line of Clemson wideouts that will be drafted high, and his performances on the big stage (including six receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown against Bama in the National Championship Game two years ago) should excite NFL teams.


6. Micah Parsons, Penn State LB

An All-American linebacker for the Nittany Lions, Parsons did everything last year—compiling 109 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, and five passes defended. Based on what I’ve seen, Parsons is very instinctive and aggressive.


5. Penei Sewell, Oregon OT

Sewell has allowed just one sack on 1,376 snaps over the past two seasons, and he is also an exceptional run blocker for the Ducks. Those who want to get an early look at the kind of prospect Sewell is should watch him against Auburn in last year’s season opener.


4. DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR
There are two things you should know about Smith and his NFL outlook: one, he was arguably the top option for an Alabama team that just had two receivers go in the top 15 picks, and two, he put up a 7/213/2 line against freshman phenom Derek Stingley Jr. and LSU last November.


3. Trey Lance, North Dakota State QB

Not having Justin Fields isn’t a knock on him as a prospect (he would have been No. 11 if I extended the list), but Trey Lance is a name to familiarize yourself with as someone that could be the second quarterback off the board in 2021. While not as dynamic, Lance—who had 42 total touchdowns and zero interceptions in 2019—appears to move around and throw like a bigger Kyler Murray.


2. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU WR

Chase was a superstar for the Tigers last season, catching 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns on the most prolific passing attack in college football history. It will be interesting to see how Chase fares statistically without Joe Burrow and Joe Brady in 2020, but his outlook as a prospect shouldn’t be changed based on his combination of size, smoothness, and receiving ability.


1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB

The 2021 quarterback class looks absolutely loaded, but barring something unforeseen (he has alluded to playing four years at Clemson, for what it’s worth), Lawrence will be the clear top option and slam-dunk No. 1 overall pick. We’ll see if a legendary career will be capped off with another national championship.


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