Cleveland, OH (EETV)- The 2021 NFL Draft will take place from April 29th through May 1st in Cleveland, Ohio as college talent will look to get drafted after battling through a difficult season.

This draft class is highlighted by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence who is the favorite to be the first pick. Lawrence is joined by a number of quarterbacks including Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones. They are regarded as some of the top prospects by many draft analysts.

The Auburn Tigers have 14 draft prospects this year. Notable players in this class are Anthony Schwartz, Seth Williams, K.J Britt, and Jamien Sherwood.

Eagle Eye's Delaney Baro, Andy Huling, Thomas Lynn Murphy, and Harrison Tarr answer some of the biggest question coming into this year's draft.


Outside of Trevor Lawrence, who is the best QB in this draft class?

Thomas Lynn- After having one of the greatest seasons in BYU football history, Zach Wilson proved he was worthy of being a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, being from a non-power five school causes concern for NFL scouts as to if he can play against the competition that the NFL brings week in and week out.

The junior quarterback led the Cougars to an 11-1 record while throwing for 3,693 yards (third in the nation), 33 touchdowns (third in the nation) and just three interceptions. Wilson threw for 300+ yards in half of his starts this past season, four in which he threw for three plus touchdowns.

One of Wilson's most underrated abilities is his ability to play make. He rushed for 254 yards and 10 touchdowns in the 2020 season, three games in which he ran for multiple touchdowns. The NFL has noticeably been transitioning from pro-style quarterbacks to more dual-threat quarterbacks because it keeps defenses on their heels.

The highest increase in Wilson's stock value came following his jaw-dropping Pro Day performance for NFL scouts. The 6-3 210lbs Wilson already has the ideal frame for a quarterback, and his throwing mechanics make him look even more perfect. Videos of his Pro Day went viral on the internet after he made near-impossible throws look effortless.

After his impressive performance, Wilson went from being a top-10 projected draft pick to being projected to go second overall by the New York Jets. It is still unclear who the top quarterback is after Trevor Lawrence, but the closer we get to draft day, the more and more it looks like Zach Wilson is the answer.

Not everybody believes that stats are an efficient way to scout prospects, but numbers never lie. 

Andy- Mac Jones is someone to watch in this deep field of quarterbacks in the NFL Draft. Jones isn’t regarded as the most athletic quarterback, but his pocket passing has been compared to veteran NFL quarterbacks including Joe Flacco and Kirk Cousins.

The former Alabama quarterback had one of the most impressive seasons with 4,500 pass yards, 41 touchdowns, and a 77.4% completion rate. After sitting behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, Jones did not disappoint, leading the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season and a National Championship.

His intelligence and knowledge of the game make him one of the better quarterbacks that teams in the first round should be looking at. I see the San Francisco 49’ers, Denver Broncos, or New England Patriots giving him a chance. All of them will be looking for a quarterback who can learn their system quickly and I think that he has the potential to do big things.

Delaney- Of all the talented quarterbacks in this year’s draft, behind Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields is possibly the most athletically gifted prospect.  His grit and willingness to do whatever necessary sets him high above the other quarterbacks. Fields ranks closely with Mac Jones and Trey Lance, and there is much speculation about who of the three will go third overall to the San Francisco 49ers.

Fields possesses the classic franchise quarterback abilities including great arm talent, ability to pass in the pocket and pinpoint accuracy. When compared directly to Jones, Fields has the higher ceiling, but the question boils down to who Jones is versus who Fields can become.

"Justin Fields is uber-talented," an NFC coordinator said. "To me, he is probably a more pure quarterback than Kyler Murray, throws it better and he's bigger. I'd love to get my hands on that guy."

 During his single year at Georgia and his two seasons at Ohio State, Fields’s career included 5,701 yards over 34 games for 67 touchdowns and a pass completion rate of 68.4%.

 Fields occasionally does hold the ball too long, but he is usually able to escape the pressure and scramble away, although his mobility and field vision under the blitz could stand to improve.

Because Fields may require some molding, there is a small risk in drafting him. However, if a team is able to coach him up to his peak and provide him with the necessary offensive arsenal, the payoff would be huge.

Harrison- A native of Marshall, Minn., 6’4” 224-pound quarterback Trey Lance built a legacy for himself in his time at North Dakota State. Lance took the reins of the Buffalo offense in 2019 as a redshirt freshman and never looked back, leading his team to a 16-0 record, tossing for 2,786 yards with no interception, winning the FCS national championship and earning the title of Walker Peyton FCS Player of the year. 

 Lance is certain to hear his name called in the early goings of the NFL Draft and with things seemingly all but set in stone between Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, the NDSU quarterback is in the same boat as Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. The Jets, Falcons and Broncos are all clearly in the market for a quarterback and Lance’s dynamic abilities should serve him will to fit into any scheme; however, it’s hard to not salivate over seeing him surrounded by the likes of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.


Which Auburn Prospect are you looking most at and which team would be their best fit?

Thomas Lynn- A potential steal in the 2021 draft is the 6-2 216lbs safety out of Auburn, Jamien Sherwood. nflmockdraftdatabase.com projects Sherwood to be picked in the sixth round but could be selected earlier due to his ability to play multiple positions.

Sherwood improved every year at Auburn and became soon known for his downhill hard hits to opponents. In 2020, Sherwood tallied 75 tackles, including three tackles for loss and one sack. He also caused frustration from quarterbacks and receivers as he totaled three pass breakups his junior season.

The weaknesses for Sherwood lie in his footwork ability. Scout notes show that he lacks the athletic speed to play over the top and tends to have heavy feet.

"He's got to lose weight and add quickness," an anonymous NFL scout said.

It would not be a surprise if Sherwood got drafted by a team whose intentions were to move him to a linebacker position. If so, he will need to keep his speed and agility while also putting more size on his frame.

Best Team Fit: Cincinnati Bengals

Andy- Seth Williams is one of the better wide receivers in this draft class. His size and speed make him a good target for any team. Williams has good hands and upper body strength which can make him stand out.

In 2020, Williams didn't have his best season. Many teams tried to cover him which forced Bo Nix to find other targets. Williams finished the year with 47 receptions for 760 yards and four touchdowns.

Williams is projected by the NFL Database to go in the fourth round but there's a chance that someone picks him up earlier. His best fit is the San Diego Chargers or the Tennessee Titans. Both of these teams could use Williams to have another option in their receiver corp.

Delaney- Linebacker K.J. Britt shows some of the greatest star potential in Auburn’s NFL draft class this year as a player with great field vision, fundamental instincts and strong leadership skills.

Britt had a successful four years playing for the Tigers, establishing his reputation as a heavy hitter with an old-school style of play early in his freshman year. His aggressive bursts of speed, ability to change directions and attack from the right angle highlight his foundation of skills, allowing him to potentially translate to special teams.

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Britt tallied 27 tackles, but in his junior year, he racked up 68 tackles. Unfortunately for Britt, after two games as a senior captain, he injured his hand, forcing his season short after only 23 tackles. However, Britt bounced back and recovered in time for the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he was named top linebacker on the American team while logging five tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Britt’s down-hill approach coupled with his muscular build give him the strength to stuff lead blocks and not miss a tackle. However, in isolation, Britt sometimes tends to lose his coverage duties in passing situations. Despite a few weaknesses, Britt’s strong sense of leadership will make him stand out come draft day.

Britt should be able to earn a spot on the roster looking to add a young layer of depth to their linebacker unit, such as the Browns, Saints or Chiefs. Expect to see Britt go late in the sixth or seventh round, and do not be surprised if he is drafted with the intentions of transforming him to a core special teams player. 

Harrison- No player from Auburn has a less clear route to the National Football League than former Tiger wideout Anthony Schwartz. The 6-foot 186-pound wideout was nearly a household name prior to his enrollment following his setting of a youth world record in the 100 meter dash; however, had a rather curious collegiate career. In the abbreviated 2020 season, Schwartz tallied 54 receptions for 636 yards and three touchdowns, nearly matching the total yards acquired in his previous two seasons combined.

Despite a significant display of improvement from Schwartz in a final season which consisted of just 10 contests, the draft local for the Pembroke Pines, Fla. native remains unclear. A consensus late-fourth or early-fifth-round pick, Schwartz will likely find himself headed to a contender looking for a receiver geared more toward speed and deep ball capability. The Titans and Buccaneers come to mind.


What trades do you expect to see during the draft?

Thomas Lynn- The Cowboys were finally able to come to a contract agreement with the franchise's future, Dak Prescott, in the offseason. It has been their number one priority but had been lingering around for an extended amount of time. With that now behind them, the front office can now look towards the 2021 NFL Draft and gearing up for another playoff push this season with the right moves on draft day.

Cowboys' team needs for the draft includes every position on the defensive side of the ball. In 2020, the Cowboys recorded one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history. They ranked fifth-worst in points given up per game, second-worst in rushing yards allowed per game and ranked 23rd in total yards given up per game.

Currently, with the 10th overall pick, the Cowboys are projected to select a cornerback. The Cowboys' top two cornerbacks they have been eyeing during the pre-draft process are South Carolina's Jaycee Horn and Alabama's Patrick Surtain. However, the talent of cornerbacks in this year's draft is not as strong as in previous years, and the Cowboys may look to move down in the draft to take one of those cornerbacks at a later selection. Trade discussions between the Cowboys and Patriots have been going around lately as the Patriots look to move inside the draft's top ten to select a quarterback.

With ten total picks in this year's draft, including three rounds with multiple selections, the Cowboys could be in the news a lot come draft day. Moving down in the draft could give the Cowboys another mid-round selection where they will look to improve the rest of the defense and the offensive line.

Andy- I believe the Washington Football Team will be looking to trade up for a quarterback. With the retirement of Alex Smith, they need a long-term replacement in that position. They could potentially make a trade with the Carolina Panthers who have the eighth pick in the draft.

The Panthers already got Sam Darnold from the Jets so unless they have any major needs, they could trade down if they don't want to take any key players. Washington currently has the 19th pick so it could be risky if they wait around for the other teams in front of them to make picks.

Their divisional rivals have picks 10-12 so it could be in their best interest to move up for a quarterback. They might stay put considering that they need an offensive tackle and a linebacker, but if they want a quarterback, I project them to make a trade to get into the top 10.

I could see Teddy Bridgewater being traded by the Panthers over to the Broncos for an extra draft pick. The Broncos do not have many quarterback options outside of Drew Lock, who was the starter last season. The Broncos need some veteran experience to give him some competition at that position.

The Panthers would probably want to get out of Bridgewater’s 22.9-million-dollar salary now that they have acquired Darnold. Bridgewater would be good veteran competition for Lock to play with. 

Delaney- Of the teams who should have been more active in the offseason, the New Orleans Saints may have been too focused on celebrating Drew Brees’ career rather than looking ahead toward the franchise’s future.

The Saint have several holes in their roster in need of desperate repairs. Not only do Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston need more additions to their receiving corps, but the team’s cornerback and linebacker roles are also lacking. 

Priority should be placed on trading up for a linebacker or cornerback, as this year’s draft class is fairly sparse. If the Saints are able to trade up, acquiring CB Greg Newsome II from Northwestern would be a clear step in upgrading the team’s defensive unit as he has obvious potential to become a starter in the next couple years. 

In terms of filling the linebacker position, Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah possesses extreme versatility, playmaking abilities and the explosive traits necessary to make an impact in the pros.

In terms of wide receivers, the talent considered early- to mid-second round last year should still be available in this year’s third round. If New Orleans instead decides to focus on a receiver first, drafting Terrace Marshall Jr. of LSU would be the first step in restocking the team’s offensive department.

Sean Payton does have a 13-year of trades up on the board, so expect the Saints to strike some deals come draft night.

Harrison- I expect the Denver Broncos to be active during the draft. John Elway has not given up entirely on Drew Lock at the quarterback role, but I wouldn't be suprised to see them going after another one to give himm some competition. If they don't draft a quarterback, then trading the Panthers for Teddy Bridgewater could be an option.

The Broncos have the 9th pick in the draft this year. This is a make or break year for them which could determine if they are going to keep tanking or not.

Besides a quarterback, the Broncos need an offensive lineman to strengthen the right side of the line. Denver could also use a linebacker and a defensive tackle to help Von Miller who will be returning due to a season-long injury.


Which Player has the Highest Ceiling?

Thomas Lynn- It is not often that one of the top prospects in an NFL Draft comes at the tight end position, but Kyle Pitts is a once-in-a-generation talent.

The 6-6 245lbs Pitts is a matchup nightmare for any team. Cover him with a safety or cornerback, and he can box out the defender to go up and snag the ball. Try switching a linebacker on him; then he will go blazing past with his 4.4 40-yard dash speed.

Another viable trait for Pitts is his versatility. He can lineup on the inside as a tight end, outside as a wide receiver or on the line as a tight end/pass blocker. Offensive coordinators will have field days drawing up plays to confuse opposing defenses with a weapon like Pitts.

The junior out of Florida racked up 770 yards and 12 touchdowns with 43 receptions in the 2020 season. If not for a concussion that left Pitts sidelined for four games, he would have totaled over 1,000 yards and more than 20 touchdowns last season.

My NFL comparison for Pitts is future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson. Although Johnson was a wide receiver, both are listed at 6-6, with Johnson weighing just eight pounds less than Pitts and a 40-time only five one-hundredths quicker. Earning the nickname "Megatron," Johnson totaled over 11,000 yards and 83 touchdowns before retiring at 30 in 2015.

Remember Kyle Pitts's name because it will not take him long to make a name for himself in the league.

Andy-  Devonta Smith has the skills to be one of the best wide receivers out of the 2021 draft class. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner had a career best 1,856 receiving yards, 23 touchdowns, and averaged 15.9 yards a catch. Scouts are probably concerned with his smaller body, but he is an elite route runner. He is very fast and is a competitor.

Coming into college, he was told that he wouldn’t be good because of his size. He proved that wrong last season with an SEC record of receiving yards and touchdowns. He is very similar to Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons who is also a former Alabama wide receiver.

My expectation is for Smith to be one of the first receivers off the board along with Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle. I see Smith going to the Patriots or the Eagles because both teams need a wide receiver. The Patriots may pass him by if they target a quarterback in the first round, but if they do choose a receiver, Smith would be a good addition to their receiver corp.

Delaney- Despite opting out of the 2020 football season, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has one of the highest ceilings in this year’s draft.

Chase’s last season of elite production ended with the Tigers winning the National Championship. However, his success cannot only be regarded as a by-product of working under last year’s no. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. 

In 2019, Chase won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. In the championship game against Clemson, he totaled nine receptions for 221 yards, also scoring two touchdowns. Over his 14 starts that season, Chase led the FBS while setting SEC records with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns on 84 receptions.

Top-tier athleticism, great ball skills and competitive toughness all add to Chase’s high draft stock. As a star playmaker, he has the ability to vertically accelerate to find open field, easily and instinctively positioning himself in contested catches. 

“The way he accelerates is on a totally different level. He knows he can win one-on-one but once a coach puts more polish on him, he could be special," one executive for an NFC team said.

However, Chase sometimes relies on his athleticism over his field awareness, often leading to nonchalant route running. Nonetheless, his willingness to take on contact and versatility in his position and schemes make Chase a coveted wide receiver for any team.

Harrison- An impact player from the first time he stepped inside Memorial Stadium as a true freshman, former Clemson running back Travis Etienne is certainly a prospect all 32 teams are keeping a close eye on. Standing at just 5’10” 215-pounds, Etienne may not possess the same frame as other prospects such as Najee Harris; however, what he lacks in build is more than made up for by talent and physicality.

Despite not starting a single game in his freshman year, the back lead his team in total yards rushing and in rushing touchdowns; more impressively, Etienne posted north of 4900 yards on the ground, acrewd 70 rushing and eight receiving touchdowns, lead his team to four-straight college football playoff berths and won a national title during his time at Clemson.

Considering the fact that Etienne’s decision to return for his senior year surprised scouts just as much as it did fans, it is difficult to fathom the back not hearing his name called on the first night of the draft; however, with the typically shorter career span of players at the position, a slide is not entirely out of the picture. Look for teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers or Jacksonville Jaguars to make a late-first or early-second round push for the Clemson alumna.


Who will be a Suprise First Round Pick?

Thomas Lynn- Former New England Patriot and four-time NFL Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel’ legacy is is returning to the professional stage.184-pound cornerback out of Florida State,  Asante Samuel Jr., might struggle for size but makes up for it with his quick agility and instincts.

Every game A.J. matches up against the opposing team's best wide receiver with the mindset that he is the best player to set foot on the field. It did not take long for A.J. to make his impact at the collegiate level.  He led the Seminoles in pass breakups all three years he was there.  In 2020, A.J. led the team in interceptions (three) and pass breakups (six) before opting out and preparing for the NFL Draft.  

 NFL draft analysts project A.J. to get drafted anywhere from the early second round to the late third round.  However, all it takes is for one of the  32 teams to realize A.J.'s potential and take a chance on him late in the first round. While a first-round selection would certainly grab the attention of fans and media alike, the upside Samuel possesses speaks for itself.

Andy- The Eagles need to win the draft this year. After missing out on the playoffs in 2020, the Eagles need to bring in some dynamic players into the team. Jalen Hurts looks to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job after winning the job over Carson Wentz.

Picking up a dynamic receiver will give him a solid option to throw to after DeSean Jackson was released during the offseason. Philadelphia will look to get Waddle, Chase, or Smith if they are still left on the board. The Eagles could potentially go for a linebacker or cornerback if those players are gone.

They could trade for another first round pick which would give them a chance to grab a receiver like Terrence Marshall Jr., Rashod Bateman, or Elijah Moore. It will be interesting to see how they approach it, but if they can get three solid picks in those positions, I’d say they’d be in a good position for the upcoming season. 

Delaney- Alex Leatherwood, offensive tackle from Alabama, has the potential to go first-round and garner envy from teams who pass up on drafting him. Last year, Leatherwood bordered on being a first round pick, but he ultimately decided to return to Alabama for one last season with the Tide.

The coveted offensive tackle position is one many teams will be seeking to fill holes in their rosters. If any team is hesitant of Leatherwood’s value, his two dominant seasons with the  Tide coupled with Alabama’s prestigious program history should add a level of comfort to teams interested in picking him up.

In the regular season, Alabama ranked sixth in the league in total yards per game and finished the year as one of 10 teams to average over 500 yards per game. A large portion of the team’s success and production is credited to Leatherwood’s contributions. He again earned first-team All-SEC honors while being named a finalist for the Outland Trophy and solidifying his reputation as an All-American

Leatherwood’s well-roundedness, solid footwork and ability to maximize field angle spotlight his athletic ability and potential as a pro. He has excellent field vision and great mobility. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 316 pounds, Leatherwood’s size adds a level of versatility and the potential to fill an offensive guard role as well.

Despite a few minor limitations exposed in this year’s Reeses’ Senior Bowl, if Leatherwood is able to increase his strength and consistently finish his blocks, he deserves recognition as a rookie worthy of a starting position.

Harrison- Former No. 1 recruit in the country Najee Harris lived up to every bit of his hype during his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Despite not starting a single game in his freshman season — due to the always crowded running back room in Tuscaloosa — Harris more than made up for lost time in his final three years, earning all-SEC honors in both his junior and senior seasons. 

Although many projected the talented back to enter the draft in 2020, Harris opted to return to Bama for his senior year in which the back smashed school record books, racking up 1466 yards on 251 touches and tallying 26 total touchdowns in a season which was cut down to a mere 13 games. Moreover, the back helped lead Alabama to yet another national championship.

Harris is one of the bigger question marks in terms of where the back will land in the draft. With the athleticism he has and the 6’1” 232-pound frame he stands upon, it’s difficult to not see Harris selected as early as the mid first round or as late as the early second; however, there are several teams who need a running back in that draft range, the Steelers, Jaguars and Bills come to mind.


Which team needs to win the NFL Draft?

Thomas Lynn- With the inking of the extension of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, the front office of the Dallas Cowboys may now look towards the 2021 NFL Draft and gearing up for another playoff push this season with the right moves on draft day.

The Cowboys team needs for the draft includes every position on the defensive side of the ball.  In 2020, the Cowboys recorded one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history, finishing fifth-worst in points given up per game, second-worst in rushing yards allowed per game and 23rd in total yards given up per game.

Currently, with the 10th overall pick, the Cowboys are projected to select a cornerback; however, the talent of cornerbacks in this year's draft is not as strong as in previous years. An unsurprising move Cowboys may look to move down in the draft to take one of those cornerbacks at a later selection.  Trade discussions between the Cowboys and Patriots have been going around lately as the Patriots look to move inside the draft's top ten to select a quarterback. 

With ten total picks in this year's draft, including three rounds with multiple selections, the Cowboys could be in the news a lot come draft day.  Moving down in the draft could give the Cowboys another mid-round selection where they will look to improve the rest of the defense and the offensive line.  

Andy- The Eagles need to win the draft this year. After missing out on the playoffs in 2020, the Eagles need to bring in some dynamic players into the team. Jalen Hurts looks to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job after winning the job over Carson Wentz.

Picking up a dynamic receiver will give him a solid option to throw to after DeSean Jackson was released during the offseason. Philadelphia will look to get Waddle, Chase, or Smith if they are still left on the board. The Eagles could potentially go for a linebacker or cornerback if those players are gone.

They could trade for another first round pick which would give them a chance to grab a receiver like Terrence Marshall Jr., Rashod Bateman, or Elijah Moore. It will be interesting to see how they approach it, but if they can get three solid picks in those positions, I’d say they’d be in a good position for the upcoming season. 

Delaney- The Patriots need to win this year’s draft. The team has been on a free agency spending spree this offseason, but they still need to fill both offensive and defensive roster gaps. 

Consistent with previous years, they still lack offensive weapons, and the recent retirement of Julian Edelman further solidifies their need. Even though they re-signed Cam Newton to another short-term deal, last season proved Newton was nowhere near the championship-caliber quarterback he played like in previous years. The Patriots do have the 15th overall pick, but if they wait, the top quarterbacks will be off the board. Trading up comes with a cost, but the Patriots do not have much of a choice if they are seeking a long-term solution. If Bill Belichick decides to stick with Newton, drafting a talented wide receiver such as Jaylen Waddle may help fill in the offensive holes and set Newton up to throw more touchdowns than interceptions this season. 

Defensively, the Patriots struggled against the run last season, and the moves the team made during free agency reflect their awareness of the situation. Drafting a linebacker would add depth to the already improved defensive unit ahead of this upcoming season. Cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Stephone Gilmore will both hit free agency next year, so Belichick should also be looking ahead in drafting a young replacement in case he chooses not to retain either of them.

In previous years, the Patriots have been their own worst enemy on draft night, but if they can avoid rash moves, they just may pave their way to the playoffs once again.

 

Harrison- After an encouraging 2020-21 campaign consisting of the breaking of a 26-year playoff victory drought, the Cleveland Browns have slipped between the cracks when it comes to teams that must have a solid showing in the 2021 NFL Draft; however, one could argue that success in this year’s draft is more important than ever.

Nick Chubb, David Njoku and Jadeveon Clowney will all be unrestricted free agents in 2022; Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward will be able to listen to qualifying offers.

Even the Browns’ front office cannot make up its mind about how long Odell Beckham Junior will be a member of the team for. The best case scenario for Cleveland? Find depth and do the best possible job to find a diamond in the rough in the late rounds.