2021 NFL Draft RB rankings

1. Javonte Williams (UNC) | 5’10/220

Comp: Nick Chubb

Javonte Williams was a highschool state legend in North Carolina — the valedictorian of his class who gained 4 straight soccer state titles and a state title within the 4×100 relay — however due to circumstances you is probably not as acquainted with him as you might be Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. We by no means received to see Williams within the CFB playoff, for one, and, resulting from sharing a backfield with Day 2 prospect RB Michael Carter, Williams didn’t crack 1,000 yards dashing for the primary time till 2020.

Final season was Williams’ nationwide coming-out get together. He ran for 1,140 yards and 19 TD on 7.3 YPC whereas posting a 25-305-3 line as a receiver. His tape in opposition to Miami (236 yards) particularly could possibly be hung within the Louvre. And right here’s the factor: He was 20-years previous on that tape! Williams gained’t flip 21 till simply after the draft. He’s three months youthful than Etienne, and greater than two years youthful than Harris. Among the many prime working backs prospects on this class, the fellows with relevance, Williams is the youngest of all of them.

Williams performed linebacker earlier in his highschool profession. Physicality isn’t only a staple of his sport, it is inherent to who’s as a body-in-space mover. Such is the pure approach disparate ideas like violence, steadiness, toes, imaginative and prescient and bounce coalesce, proper there in entrance you, play after play, in Williams’ catalogue of movie.

The realm of Williams’ sport that actually improved from faculty teaching was studying blocks, organising blockers, and timing and decisiveness into and thru the outlet — as an example, pausing behind pulling blockers and recognizing the second he ought to punch the gasoline. You’ll discover, as he does, that he at all times squares his shoulders to the road, fortifying and readying himself for contact whereas getting right into a sprinter’s stance in the direction of the aim line.

As that space of his sport improved, he exploded as a participant. As a result of right here’s the factor: Javonte Williams is totally devastating within the second stage. You don’t need him to get there, as a result of he’s going to make a linebacker look foolish. He does that with motion and outright violence.

When Williams decides, he accelerates as rapidly as any again his dimension on this draft, taking the skin with impunity in the event you give it to him, after which he’s screaming downhill with zero regret for human life. There isn’t any hesitation, no dancing, no slowing-down to survey the sphere. After Javonte Williams’ preliminary acceleration happens on a run, he’s going to be a bat out of hell screaming upfield till the second the protection can get him down — if they will get him down.

Williams is buoyed by a depraved stiff-arm and the additional power you get from working full velocity with zero hesitation into each confrontation, which works for him as a result of Williams additionally might need one of the best contact steadiness of any again we’ve seen enter the draft the previous few lessons.

Williams can take in a comical quantity of power and maintain churning ahead (he flattened many shocked ACC defenders the previous few seasons). It’s not simply that. When he takes a clear sufficient hit to lose his steadiness, as an example, you’ll see Williams, stumbling, reflexively stick his non-ball hand to the turf to proper himself. Or if he can’t, he’ll maintain kicking his toes into the turf to back-pedal for a number of extra yards till his butt hits the turf, bringing concerning the whistle. You will not must have an Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday dialog with Javonte Williams about clawing for each inch — that is in his DNA.

Williams is a grasp at refined actions within the split-seconds main as much as contact, making him much more harmful in these conditions. Defenders, having achieved their homework, know Williams can drop the hammer with a power they haven’t seen earlier than. So that they regulate for this, fortifying their bases and approaching maybe with extra self-discipline and warning than ordinary, as if standing in a cage with a lion carrying a hamburger neckless.

Williams, a intelligent satan, will drop his pad stage to change the defender’s strike zone or tilt his shoulders to shrink it in these valuable mili-seconds earlier than the defender should commit, giving Williams a head-start in an interplay he entered because the heavy betting favourite in as is.

Final season, Williams led the nation with 76 damaged tackles on solely 157 makes an attempt(!!!), breaking the PFF report for damaged tackles per try (as a result of he broke one on common every-other run!!!). He was simply tops within the nation with 23 runs that gained 10-or-more yards after first contact. That is an space of his sport that may completely translate to the following stage.

Williams doesn’t have Travis Etienne’s burst, nor his long-speed. No. However he doesn’t play that approach. He performs extra like Najee Harris, and he has extra lengthy velocity and burst than Harris does (Williams will possible be a low 4.5 man, with Harris within the high-4.5s and even low-4.6s). He can take the skin in a approach Harris can’t, and he can get into the third stage faster. His tape reveals extra seperation from defenders at full velocity. Any huge performs Williams gives are a bonus as a result of, in baseball parlance, he hardly ever strikes out.

He gained 10 yards or extra on 26.8% of his makes an attempt, an absurd output, and ranked No. 2 within the nation with 27 carries of 15 yards or extra. This behind a UNC offensive line that during the last two seasons ranked No. 71 and 74, respectively, in energy success price, No. 49 and 101 in Soccer Outsiders’ stuff price, and No. 91 and 81 in PFF run-block grading. Regardless of working behind that shoddy offensive line, Williams completed 2020 with a 95.9 dashing grade that was the very best of the PFF Faculty period.

Harris is a greater receiver, it’s true. However Williams might be higher on this space of the sport than he’s given credit score for. On 58 profession targets during the last three years, Williams caught 49 balls (84.5%) and solely dropped 4 catchable throws. And he is greater than a display man, rating No. 22 out of 98 certified RBs final season with 1.64 yards per route run.

Williams solely fumbled thrice in faculty — you may belief his arms. He would have been given rather more work on this space had it not been for the presence of Michael Carter, a really fabulous receiver out of the backfield. However Williams did usurp Carter as UNC’s most popular blocking again in 2020, with 64 pass-pro reps to Carter’s 32. Williams allowed solely two hurries and two pressures in these reps.

Carter’s presence, plus Williams’ early declarations, means Williams not solely enters the league younger, however with a lot much less historical past of abuse than most runners of his ilk who’ve entered the method lately. Williams solely had 416 touches from scrimmage in faculty. Najee Harris had 294 touches from scrimmage final season.

Although Javonte by no means dealt with a monster workload at UNC, I’ve little doubt about his skill to be an all-day three-down NFL bell-cow resulting from his skillset, versatility, play-style and sturdiness. One space I’d prefer to see him enhance in is simply an expertise factor — additional growth studying his blockers, setting them up and refining that second he hits the accelerator.

For a runner so gifted, younger, and recent, I’m not solely assured in his skill to do do, and moreover show he is a plus within the passing sport with extra utilization, however maintain excellence within the NFL for years after having so achieved.

2. Najee Harris (Alabama) | 6’2/230

Comp: Steven Jackson

A consensus five-star recruit out of California, Harris, the No. 2 general prospect within the 2017 class, seen because the gem of an Alabama haul that included Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy, not solely selected to take a seat early behind Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs in signing with the Crimson Tide, however he spurned a Day 2 draft slot final spring to return for his senior season.

This resolution was gorgeous on the time, seen as an pointless gamble by a bodily again who was chopping a 12 months off his professional profession for little return upside. However Harris was finally vindicated as he locked himself in as a top-three runner on this class (and maybe even RB1) by successful the Doak Walker Award and dashing for 1,466 yards and 26 TD with a 43-425-4 receiving line to assist lead the Tide to a different title.

Standing 6-foot-2, 230 kilos, Harris cuts an imposing determine — as tall as former teammate TE Irv Smith Jr., and solely 10 kilos lighter. The very first thing you discover about Harris is his stage of talent at that dimension. He had 80 catches in faculty — 70 because the begin of the 2019 season alone! — on 100 targets, and dropped solely three catchable balls.

That’s much more spectacular than it seems, as a result of not solely does Harris put himself able for extra targets by working superior, crisp, various routes, however extra balls flung his approach are thought-about catchable by the mere truth of his distinctive dimensions.

With an 81-inch wingspan, Harris had an extended wingspan than any receiver that attended this 12 months’s Senior Bowl, and was shorter than just one tight finish (no RB on the occasion exterior of Harris had a wingspan longer than 79 inches). Senior Bowl attendees Nico Collins, Trevon Grimes, Noah Grey, Kenny Yeboah and John Bates are 6’4 or taller… Harris has an extended wingspan than any of them.

Harris creates separation out of the backfield, he gives his quarterback a second tight end-like goal by way of size (Irv Smith Jr. has a 74 ⅞ wingspan on the similar peak, for reference), and he’s a pure arms catcher within the useless of a high-end prospect at that place (he dropped three of 83 catchable targets in faculty for a drop price of three.6%).

Harris reveals the flexibility to not solely high-point the ball downfield, however flip upfield in a single movement and easily transition from receiver to runner. It’s throughout this shift that he turns into a monster, a smooth-moving 230-pound hammer that may evade linebackers and knock over defensive backs. Harris recorded 22 damaged tackles on 43 catches this 12 months, per PFF.

He’s a broken-tackle machine normally, in fact. Harris’ lengthy, rocked-up body, it seems, can be very flexible. Coming downhill in shut quarters, Harris is a load. Give him slightly area and he’s a fair trickier puzzle due to his free hips and exact footwork. Within the open subject you would be forgiven for pondering he is as a lot of a slasher as he’s a hammer. Harris tries to beat defenders with motion each hit as a lot as he does energy.

In shut quarters, Harris can change course as easily as any oncoming defender, and since he’s larger than most confronted past the primary stage, he’s in a position to flip full-body sort out makes an attempt into arm-tackle makes an attempt that he runs via like a highschool paper soccer banner (183 damaged tackles on 639 profession carries).

Harris was dominant working behind the nation’s finest offensive line in 2020. He’s a next-evolution hammer again, a three-down participant that may deal with ridiculous work hundreds and stay on the sphere. I might at all times need him working routes after I’m passing, however heck, he is additionally a darn good pass-blocker.

Sadly, Harris has one main weak spot that he won’t ever be capable of repair: He’s not quick. He gives a lot to an offense by way of staying on schedule, controlling the clock, transferring the chains, and cashing in on pink zone alternatives. However within the NFL, it’s an open query as to when he’ll have his first 40-yard run. Harris might be caught from behind if and when he ever breaks away.

Reviews of a 4.45 forty are belied by his tape, which is devoid of explosive runs and present him getting caught from behind. On 638 collegiate carries working behind an elite offensive line and between elite receivers in an offense schemed by the man who’s now the top coach at Texas, Harris solely ran for greater than 20 yards on 25 events. In 4 years, his longest collegiate rush was 42 yards. Final 12 months, it was 26 yards on 251 carries.

His NFL group picks him understanding Harris will present an entire heckuva lot however categorically is not going to produce explosive performs. If there are two different issues, it’s that Harris is constructed excessive, runs excessive, and doles out punishment but additionally takes his justifiable share — will he proceed to have the ability to deal with 300-touch hundreds within the NFL the following 5 years whereas staying off IR?

The opposite is that, regardless of being a giant again, he’s clearly extra comfy with slightly area to maneuver. Harris barrels to the road with urgency with the ball in his arms each time, however he may stand to make use of his distinctive view of the sphere to extra totally survey his choices earlier than making a selection. Harris does a pleasant job setting defenders up in area on the second stage, however he doesn’t use it as effectively behind the road, maybe as a result of he doesn’t give it some thought in the identical approach.

I’d be comfy taking Harris on the prime of the second spherical. He isn’t bringing my offense any homers, however we’re going to get a heckuva lot of singles and doubles by leveraging his eat-eat-eat hammer-back-with-moves ethos together with his distinctive second-TE-on-the-field receiver skillset out of the backfield.

3. Travis Etienne (Clemson) | 5’10/205

Comp: Reggie Bush

A no-nonsense, hyper-explosive, one-cut-and-go slasher, Etienne was the right match beside Trevor Lawrence the previous three years in Tony Elliott’s unfold scheme at Clemson. Elliott opened up the sphere, Lawrence saved defenders on their heels together with his skill to carve up the deep sector at will, and Etienne feasted off the open areas he was offered, scoring 78 profession TD.

Whereas the runners I rank above Etienne didn’t have many 40-yard plus performs in faculty, Etienne produced explosive performs with regularity — 16 of his 78 TD, as an example, got here from a distance of 44 yards or extra.

He’s a menace when he will get a head of steam behind him. Etienne reads blocks effectively, exhibiting admirable endurance behind the road with out being tentative, and has a lethario’s sense of timing for the exact second he ought to reduce upfield and speed up. If he’s given slightly runway throughout this course of, the play may finish in a landing.

Etienne accelerates as easily and electrically as any again since maybe Chris Johnson. Etienne explodes via the outlet together with his shoulders sq. to the tip zone and runs with a sure catalytic vitality from there, combining high-4.3 velocity with a fearless working type.

At full velocity, Etienne runs with extra energy than his body would counsel, shredding arm tackles and bouncing clear away from off-target sort out makes an attempt — utilizing velocity as energy. And since he accelerates so rapidly, and advances down the sphere with such haste, he typically creates poor angles for defenders, forcing them to play into his arms on this regard. He runs upright however together with his head on a swivel.

My concern with Etienne is that he’s on the smaller aspect, simply south of that 215-pound threshold you’re feeling comfy with, and his sport, whereas explosive and harmful, lacks nuance. For a way good of a participant he’s, Etienne will at all times in some methods be a slave to circumstance as a result of his type works so significantly better in a wide-open system behind a extremely good offensive line.

When Etienne has a lane to speed up via, keep in mind, he’s lethal. Whenever you clog up that area within the preliminary moments after the snap and don’t supply him an attractive gap to blow up via, it is Etienne de-fanged. He’s far more explosive north/south mover than he’s east/west.

When he will get to prime velocity, he has zero curiosity in transferring off his straight line — you’re going to must make him. Etienne doesn’t change course crisply in speed-of-sound mode and he hardly ever throttles down or alters his tempo — dwell by the breakneck type, die by the breakneck type, amirite?

He’s not making an attempt to select down the road laterally and make individuals miss within the gap, that is not his sport. He’s prepared to attend for a gap, and when he sees it, he’s about to punch the gasoline and go into ballistic mode. However what occurs when these holes present up with much less regularity?

Etienne’s finest seasons got here in 2018-2019, when he posted 90.1 and 90.5 PFF grades, respectively, whereas his offensive line offered him 3.8 (2018) and a pair of.8 (2019) yards earlier than contact. In 2020, upon dropping 4 starters to the NFL, Clemson’s offensive line regressed from No. 15 in PFF’s run-blocking grades to No. 36, offering Etienne with just one.8 yards earlier than contact.

Etienne regressed proper together with it to an 82.0 PFF grade. That could be a vital drop-off in effectivity for a working again that was nonetheless enjoying subsequent to Trevor Lawrence in Tony Elliott‘s system — particularly when you think about that Etienne’s grade was buoyed by his best-ever season as a receiver, which we’ll speak about in a second.

Clemson’s finest offensive lineman final season was LT Jackson Carman, additionally a prospect on this 12 months’s draft. Etienne averaged 6.7 YPC on 84 carries to the left aspect final 12 months. On 82 carries to the suitable aspect, he averaged 4.4 YPC.

To Etienne’s credit score, he’s now not an enormous minus within the passing sport. He admitted earlier than the 2019 season that he received “nervous” as a receiver. After catching 17 balls with 5 drops his first two seasons on campus, posting an abomination of a forty five.6 PFF receiving grade as a sophomore in 2018, Etienne went to work.

He improved his PFF receiving grade to 77.2 in 2019 after which to an elite 90.9 grade in 2020. Between 2019-2020, Etienne caught 85 balls and dropped 5, an astounding price of progress. Whenever you hear Alvin Kamara comps, that is the place they’re coming from — folks that mission continued breakneck progress in Etienne’s receiving growth. Honest sufficient.

Sadly, presently, Etienne continues to be principally confined to dump-offs, swings, screens and hitches. However to be truthful, linebackers don’t have any shot of sticking with him even on simple protection assignments. And with the ball in his arms, Etienne turns into the identical participant he at all times is, searching for a brief runway to speed up to prime velocity via. It’s extraordinarily, extraordinarily, extraordinarily lucky that Etienne grew to become a plus receiver, as a result of he’s at all times been a poor cross blocker and certain at all times might be.

Etienne will even by no means be a lot of an inside runner, and he’s thus a foul match for any group that likes its lead again to take action with regularity. Etienne is a three-true-outcomes working again: He’s ready on his blockers, hoping to bounce it exterior and hit the jets, and he’s making an attempt to outrun you from there.

You will get him to begin placing out by taking away his house runs. Ohio State was one group that confirmed how to try this. The Buckeyes’ stout line of defense managed the LOS in opposition to Clemson within the final two playoff matchups, holding Etienne to 68 dashing yards on 20 carries throughout two video games.

Etienne will go ballistic early in his profession if he finds himself on a contender in a really particular type of offense. However I fear he may disappoint exterior of very best circumstances. And although I really like his development as a receiver the previous two seasons, he isn’t Kamara’s equal in that division and I might must make a logical leap to mission him to get there within the close to future. For these causes I can not in good conscience rank him forward of both Javonte Williams or Najee Harris, two gamers who will succeed regardless of the place they find yourself.

4. Michael Carter (North Carolina) | 5’8/202

Comp: Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Michael Carter is subthreshold small. However he’s dominated for years, and his body-type suits the sport he’s bringing to the NFL. Equally-proportioned to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Carter posted 3,345 all-purpose yards and 45 complete TD as a senior in highschool. The lightning to Javonte Williams’ thunder within the UNC backfield the previous few years, Carter holds UNC information for yards per carry in a sport (12.83), season (7.98) and profession (6.62).

The identical caveats that apply to Williams’ offensive strains the previous two years additionally apply to Carter (No. 71 and 74 in energy success price, No. 49 and 101 in Soccer Outsiders’ stuff price, and No. 91 and 81 in PFF’s run blocking grades). However Carter excelled in faculty as a fast decision-maker that runs with a really low heart of gravity and possesses ridiculous reducing skill. Final 12 months, he and Williams ranked No. 1 and a pair of within the FBS in proportion of runs that resulted in 10-plus-yards gained (26.8% and 26.1%, respectively).

Constructed with a thick lower-half, Carter is a jitterbug in shut quarters, forcing off-target sort out makes an attempt he pings off. Blessed with elite contact steadiness, Carter is ready to keep protected via non-fatal contact regardless of his scatback body as a result of he is constructed so compactly, does not give his opponent a lot of a goal to hit, and is a puzzle to determine from a motion perspective.

He’s not bothered by head-on collisions and fares higher in them than you’d count on. Carter adjustments instructions seamlessly and bursts from a impartial place with electrical energy akin solely on this class to Travis Etienne.

Carter is an distinctive receiver, and received higher as he went alongside at UNC. He runs good routes, he transitions from receiver to upfield runner very fluently, and he hardly ever drops the ball. Carter caught 80 passes in faculty and dropped solely six.

Whereas he confirmed nice promise as a pass-blocker early in his profession — six hurries and eight pressures over 175 pass-blocking snaps his first three years, culminated by a powerful 82.0 PFF pass-pro grade in 2019 — Carter struggled in a small pattern in 2020 (two hurries and three pressures on 32 pass-blocking snaps) and misplaced that gig to Javonte Williams.

However it’s additionally truthful to notice that due to Carter’s presence, Williams received much less run within the passing sport than he ought to have the earlier two years, and coaches had been most likely desperate to discover a motive to offer him a number of of Carter’s reps — and Carter gave them one.

Both approach, Carter brings a various skillset to an offense. If he booms, he’s one other Dalvin Prepare dinner. If he falls on the lower-end of his growth curve, he’ll have Gio Bernard’s profession. Extra possible, he’ll be one thing in between. Devonta Freeman or Clyde Edwards-Helaire are life like old- and new-school outcomes.

5. Rhamondre Stevenson (Oklahoma) | 6’0/227

Comp: Eddie Lacy

Rhamondre Stevenson solely performed 235 snaps within the FBS (he didn’t qualify academically out of highschool and was suspended for the primary a part of his senior season — however, to be truthful, in 2018, Stevenson had one of many nice JUCO seasons of the previous 5 years). And Stevenson categorically lacks velocity. However he’s a ok prospect to doubtlessly go on Day 2, anyway.

A burly brawler who runs with Hulk energy — he was listed at 242 kilos final season and reduce right down to 227 kilos for Senior Bowl weigh-in — Stevenson totally dominated in his restricted seems, dashing for 1,180 yards and 13 TD on 165 makes an attempt (7.2 YPC). In 2020, he had a landing, first down, or 10+ yard run 59 occasions on 101 makes an attempt (58.4%). Of his 7.2 profession YPC, 2.5 got here earlier than contact, and 4.7 got here after contact.

Stevenson posted an 86.6 PFF offensive grade in 2019, and a 90.4 grade in 2020. Along with his dashing acumen, Stevenson proved adept as a receiver in restricted seems, catching 28 of 33 targets (84.8%, a excessive proportion) with solely two drops for 298 receiving yards (10.6 YPR). Scouting studies that counsel Stevenson is a zero within the receiving sport are telling on themselves — 28 catches for 298 yards with two drops over 235 collegiate snaps is about as promising a begin to a giant again’s receiving profession as you may hope for.

Stevenson has a slightly-lesser Najee Harris skillset in a prospect with a a lot smaller pattern dimension — whereas Stevenson performed 235 snaps in faculty, Harris performed 1,578. Harris is the superior receiver, for certain, however he’s particular in that regard. Stevenson, in his touches, compares favorably to Harris in each different regard. Stevenson additionally seemed nice in pass-pro in 2020, posting an 80.9 grade that ranked among the many prime of the working backs on this record.

Stevenson has extra straight-line velocity than you’d count on for a again that within the tape you are watched weighed slightly below 250 kilos. The angle he brings to the north/south power he runs with manifests a form of super-human run energy, zapping defenders who come at him from off-angles like canine who walked too near {an electrical} fence. Christian Okoye Tecmo Bowl vibes, is what I am saying.

Whereas Stevenson is a power to wrangle down when he has a head of steam working downhill, and whereas he’ll get downfield faster than you count on and even mess with defenders’ angles, Stevenson labors to make defenders miss and, in reality, doesn’t attempt to take action typically. He barrels downfield like a burning automobile tumbles down a mountain, with the identical fiery intentions and common lack of maneuverability.

Stevenson’s 2020 season began late due to a suspension resulting from a flagged marijuana take a look at earlier than final 12 months’s bowl sport. Marijuana is now authorized in some kind in 44 of fifty states and is favored by two-thirds of People to be legalized nationally. It’s longer examined for within the NBA. Adjustments to the NFL’s CBA make for much less marijuana testing sooner or later, and a suspension solely after a 3rd optimistic take a look at. Sooner or later, there’ll possible be no testing in any respect.

Right here’s what Stevenson’s JUCO coach, Dean Grosfeld, who has labored on the college for greater than 25 years, needed to say about Stevenson, vis-a-vis his failed take a look at:

“I used to be shocked. As a result of we do drug testing at our stage, and there have been no indicators of it. We had been shocked. I feel in some individuals’s eyes, that’s a personality flaw. In my eyes, it’s not essentially a personality flaw, it’s a mistake. … Does he personal this? Sure. Is he embarrassed? Sure. I feel embarrassment reveals you typically a human emotion. He was embarrassed. He was embarrassed as all get out. He didn’t blame anyone else. However he was embarrassed, and that reveals you what sort of human he’s. He’s an unimaginable human being. He’s simply superior. I really like the child to loss of life. I work with a number of youngsters, and he’s simply as stable as a rock. He’s only a good human being.”

I feel Stevenson’s suspension is one thing that may sooner or later be seen as draconian. With the above context in thoughts, I do not see that failed take a look at as a pink flag. Nor do I see his highschool educational struggles as a pink flag.

What I see is a giant, hard-charging, downhill again that requires a number of defenders to wrestle to the bottom. A man that’s prepared and in a position to play particular groups for you whereas he develops. And one of many few working backs on this class with true three-down skill. I feel Stevenson is being slept on.

6. Trey Sermon (Ohio State) | 6’0/213

Comp: Marshawn Lynch

Trey Sermon made some huge cash over the last month of the season. However it’s vital to say firstly that he was at all times able to this, and we noticed flashes of it all through his profession. Sermon rushed for 331 yards and two TD on 29 carries in opposition to Northwestern’s top-10 protection within the Massive Ten Championship Recreation and 193 yards and one TD on 31 carries in opposition to Clemson within the playoff semis, breaking an unimaginable 24 tackles in these two video games.

Lengthen that stretch a sport again to the Michigan State sport, and Sermon ran for 636 dashing yards and 4 TD on 9.1 YPC in his final three collegiate video games (he was most sadly injured instantly within the nationwide title sport in opposition to Alabama).

Sermon runs with unmistakable conviction, a no-nonsense bruiser that comes with candy toes, good imaginative and prescient, and the type of burst that made him a ballyhooed recruit again when he signed with Oklahoma out of highschool. Sermon evokes Marshawn Lynch each in his come-get-it type, but additionally in his ludicrous contact steadiness, absorbing huge quantities of power and spinning off it.

Sermon had an attention-grabbing profession. A four-star Oklahoma recruit, Sermon put up 744 yards and 5 touchdowns as a freshman in Norman, after which actually seemed like a star within the making as a sophomore in 2018 with 947 yards and 13 TD. However a leg damage and Kennedy Brooks’ ascension tanked Sermon’s 2019 marketing campaign (54 carries for 385 yards and 4 TD) and despatched him packing for Columbus. Sermon’s switch to Ohio State was an impressed resolution that was finally vindicated.

Sermon runs tall, and he lacks lengthy. He takes a number of hits. Together with his latest damage rap sheet (torn ACL, bum shoulder), sturdiness is a priority. I do assume he’s a barely higher pass-catcher than he’s given credit score for, with 48 receptions and solely three drops in his profession working with a wide range of quarterbacks.

However Sermon is extra of a check-down and display choice on this space, extraordinarily dependable when known as upon, however unable to do rather more than wrangle within the cross and churn out the yards accessible to him. Maybe this space of his sport can enhance with work within the professionals. Sermon had the advantage of enjoying on good groups and behind nice offensive strains in faculty, that is true, however he additionally needed to share the backfield with nice backs who additionally wanted utilization, and he most likely did not get the receiving-game work he may have.

Sermon’s spectacular mix of dimension, toes, imaginative and prescient and get in touch with steadiness flashed every time he was on the sphere in faculty, and the way in which he completed his profession offers hope that he’ll transition easily as a three-down again. I feel Trey Sermon is an NFL starter — I feel he is that good — so I can’t rank him any decrease than this.

7. Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis) | 5’11/195

Comp: Raheem Mostert

A real one-year marvel, Gainwell ran for less than 91 yards in 2018 (behind Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Patrick Taylor Jr. on a group that additionally had Antonio Gibson) earlier than exploding for 1,459 dashing yards in 2019. He opted-out in 2020 citing COVID-19 issues.

A particularly shifty runner with excellent imaginative and prescient, Gainwell is aware of he can’t run over you, so he’s making an attempt to make you miss. His toes are ridiculous, making Gainwell extraordinarily troublesome to sq. up in shut quarters and very troublesome to get your bearings on once you’re screaming down on him.

He’s clearly extraordinarily harmful in area. Memphis received him into it typically. Gainwell must be taught to comply with his blocks higher. He sees the sphere effectively sufficient, however believes in his evasion qualities to such a level that he’ll flip the script and run the place pleases, move of his blockers be danged.

He’s so younger and inexperienced that I wouldn’t maintain this quirk in opposition to him long-term. However it’s an space that’ll must be addressed in teaching. As a result of Gainwell’s sport could be aided by making extra constant selections behind the road of scrimmage, as it could free him to get into the second stage extra typically, the realm through which he’s scary as an apparition due to his toes.

Gainwell is a extremely, actually, actually good-pass catcher. Maybe no shock, since Memphis recruited him as a receiver and solely later shifted him to working again. He stays expert sufficient as a route runner that Memphis had no points flexing him into the slot in 2019.

It’s truthful to say that Gainwell was higher working routes flexed into that place than Antonio Gibson, although it was the latter’s acknowledged place. Gainwell posted a jumbo 51-610-3 receiving line in 2019 along with his monster dashing output.

Due to his hard-charging type, Gainwell runs with extra wattage than the size would counsel. However he nonetheless has that scatback body, and lacks the deep velocity wanted to transform the types of explosive touchdowns Travis Etienne does (which is not to say he is gradual, simply that he has no likelihood of cracking the 4.3s).

I see Gainwell as a powerful platoon choice on the subsequent stage, able to choosing off yards as a runner together with his elusiveness, and providing lots within the passing sport, whether or not as a receiver out of the backfield or flexed into the slot. Simply don’t take him pondering you’re getting both a bellcow. Or a completed product, for that matter.

8. Demetric Felton (UCLA) | 5’9/189

Comp: Randall Cobb

I contemplate Felton extra of an OW, a RB/WR in the event you desire, than a working again. However for simplicity sakes I am rating him with the working backs, with a rating that displays the worth I really feel he’ll present within the NFL, versus an apples-to-apples comparability of working again traits in opposition to the fellows listed round him.

In a number of methods, I desire Felton as a slot receiver. As a working again, he’s a freelancer, consistently making an attempt to show the coach’s requires inside runs into bounce-outside alternatives. Clearly extra comfy in area, Felton hates working between the tackles, missing the ability, endurance and fortitude for the job.

A slot receiver earlier in his profession, that is the realm Felton shines, whilst a working again. He runs crisp routes, creates separation, catches the ball cleanly, and seamlessly transitions from receiver to runner. He annihilates linebackers who attempt to cowl him. Felton stays a really robust receiver out of the slot (this could possibly be his final long-term vacation spot — Felton practiced with the receivers in Cellular and posted a sterling 62% win price in one-on-ones).

I respect that he added weight to transition to working again, and that he confirmed toughness by breaking 36 tackles on 132 makes an attempt and sturdiness by taking 25-or-more carries in three of six video games final season. As a runner, Felton’s strengths are insane shakability and explosive burst. When he will get to the second and third ranges, you see the returner in him, weaving via site visitors and making guys miss.

Felton is inexperienced as a working again, so maybe he’ll ultimately develop into comfy working inside to maintain defenses sincere. Till he does, NFL defenses will sit dead-red on Felton’s forte, solely feigning motion inside so as to bounce exterior. Within the meantime, he’s a harmful receiver wherever you need to play him with joystick agility within the open subject however finally capped as a playmaker by an absence of sprinter’s lengthy velocity.

9. Khalil Herbert (Virginia Tech) | 5’9/204

Comp: Olandis Gary

If I can get private for a second, I’m a College of Kansas graduate. And Khalil Herbert is an instance of why it’s so infuriating to be a Jayhawks soccer fan. In 4 seasons at KU, principally spent behind Pooka Williams, a prospect ranked decrease on this record, Herbert by no means ran for greater than 663 yards.

Following a grad switch, in 11 begins at Virginia Tech in 2020, Herbert ran for 1,183 yards on 7.6 YPC, turning into the primary 1,000-yard rusher in Justin Fuente’s 9 years. That was additionally Herbert’s first-ever 1,000-yard season, even going again to his highschool profession, a part of the explanation he was solely a three-star recruit. However indicators of this participant flashed from time-to-time at Kansas. In solely 43 makes an attempt in 2019, he averaged 8.9 YPC on a KU group with an terrible offensive line.

Constructed low to the bottom and geared up with X-ray imaginative and prescient, Herbert is a bouncy, bursty again who seeks to set defenders up and use their momentum in opposition to them. He runs via arm tackles and retains momentum on off-angle photographs. Final 12 months, Herbert tied for No. 1 within the nation in yards after contact per try (4.74). And he has sufficient juice to take it the space, rating No. 2 final season with 16 runs of 20-plus yards. He was Virginia Tech’s kick returner in 2020 and led the ACC in all-purpose yards (1,791).

What Herbert doesn’t do, no less than so far, is contribute on passing downs. He’s by no means caught greater than 10 balls in a season, and he’s unproven, at finest, as a pass-blocker. As well as, as a fifth-year senior coming into the league, he’s on the old-end for a prospect. However the NFL loves it some outside-zone ideas, and Herbert’s sport is completely fitted to that system, making him an intriguing goal for groups that run that scheme. Fantasy gamers ought to pay shut consideration to the scenario he leads to.

10. Spencer Brown (UAB) | 5’11/228

Comp: AJ Dillon

Should you’re searching for this 12 months’s AJ Dillon at a sticker-price low cost, Spencer Brown is your man. I’ve a smooth spot for Brown, admittedly. Brown signed with UAB in 2017 when the Blazers had been re-activating their soccer program after shuttering it for 2 years. UAB primarily imposed consecutive Demise Penalties on itself, an act of egregious self-destruction that ought to have made it inconceivable for them to make a bowl sport for years.

However that’s not the way it performed out. In that first season, 2017, Brown’s true freshman season, he ran for 1,329 yards and 10 TD for a rag-tag squad that shocked the nation by going 8-5. The following season, the Blazers went 11-3, with Brown working for 1,227 yards and 16 TD whereas enjoying via a left foot damage that coaches mentioned left him 60-80%.

“The Moose” was banged up once more in 2019, lacking 5 video games, however UAB went 9-5 anyway. After which Brown went for 889 yards and 10 TD in 9 video games as a senior as UAB went 6-3. UAB certified for a bowl all 4 seasons (and performed in three, with 2020’s bowl in opposition to South Carolina canceled as a result of Gamecocks’ COVID points on the time). UAB was within the FBS from 1996-2014 earlier than shuttering its program for 2 years. In these 19 seasons, the Blazers made just one bowl sport, the 2004 Hawaii Bowl when Timmy Chang out-gunned the Roddy White-led Blazers 59-40.

UAB HC Invoice Clark deserves a lot credit score for the renaissance. It wouldn’t have been attainable with out Brown, round whom Clarke constructed the offense from day 1, a run-first, control-the-clock form of assault that feasted on deep photographs when defenses inevitably cheated as much as cope with Brown.

Brown performed linebacker in highschool and brings that violence to the working again place. He comes with a truck stick, a stiff arm, and shoulder pads deployed like a fender in monster derby. He is additionally super-reliable over excessive utilization (six profession fumbles on 858 carries, with solely three of them coming after his freshman 12 months).

However, like Dillon, he’s not only a huge plodder. Brown is an incredible athlete, an alumni of Bruce Feldman’s freak record. Listed No. 44 in 2018, Brown was reported at the moment to have a 4.52-second 40-yard sprint, together with a 650-pound max squat and 385-pound max energy clear.

Final offseason, Brown went on a food regimen to chop from 242 kilos to round 210, a call he talks about within the clip beneath. He’s proven to be efficient wherever in that weight vary, sacrificing energy for velocity when he cuts kilos, giving his NFL group some choices so far as how they need to go about using him.

Brown doesn’t change instructions crisply, he wasn’t used as a receiver in faculty (20 profession catches), and his enjoying type results in, on the very least, minor accidents — he was in a position to play via one in 2018, however wasn’t so fortunate in 2019. However Brown had an 80% catch price in faculty and seems to have first rate arms on tape, giving hope he may ultimately present no less than an outlet receiver on the subsequent stage.

Both approach, thankfully, he’s proven up to now to be a promising pass-blocker, posting pass-pro PFF grades of 71.1, 66.2, and 73.6 earlier than falling off to 59.6 in 2020. He most likely gained’t return kicks or punts within the NFL, however Brown is prepared to play on protection items and nonetheless hits like a truck, ala his linebacker days.

You possibly can do far, far worse on Day 3. And since Brown is being ranked as a late-Day 3 man or perhaps a UDFA across the business, I imagine he’ll present good return on worth.

11. Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State) | 6’0/207

Comp: Tevin Coleman

Fascinating eval of a again who was one of many nation’s finest in 2019, and merely pedestrian in 2020. Who’s Chuba Hubbard? The man who ran for two,094 yards and 21 TD on 6.4 YPC in 2019? Or the man who ran for 625 yards and 5 TD on 4.7 YPC in 2020?

A sprinter from Alberta, Canada, Hubbard additionally ran for the Cowboy observe and subject group. His largest asset on the soccer subject is pure velocity. Whereas returning to highschool for one more 12 months labored out like gangbusters for Najee Harris, it actually harm Hubbard.

Right here is his HC, Mike Gundy, explaining Hubbard’s NFL resolution when Hubbard ultimately determined to return to highschool final winter: “[P]eople actually did not know the place he would go — center second spherical all the way in which to fourth spherical, a dramatic distinction financially up entrance and people rounds within the draft. What we advised Chuba is, ‘You are solely 20 years previous. You’ve got solely performed 15 video games in American soccer. You’ve gotten an opportunity to develop your self right into a first-, second- and third-down again. Within the NFL, in the event you’re a first-, second- and third-down again, you develop into far more priceless. So he had essentially the most upside, for my part, of any participant we have had right here, deciding to return for one more 12 months.”


Chubbard is poor in cross safety and hasn’t been the weapon as a pass-catcher his athleticism suggests he could possibly be, both. Hubbard posted a 53-479-3 receiving line with 4 drops in faculty, the overwhelming majority of these catches coming at or behind the road of scrimmage. He did not present a lot after the catch, averaging 9.0 YPR, nearly two yards lower than Rhamondre Stevenson averaged per catch.

He fumbles too typically (seven in 461 dashing makes an attempt the previous two years) and comes with a thin body and an upright type that invitations hits. Hubbard received banged up slightly final season and seemed zapped of his powers. He doesn’t run with a lot energy, getting taken to the bottom by arm tackles, and avoids contact when he can.

In 2019, he had 328 carries and was nonetheless working with explosion on the finish of the season — so he’s not categorically incapable of carrying the load. However Oklahoma State’s offense was significantly better in 2019, and it catered to Hubbard’s strengths, a wide-open, up-tempo system, providing Hubbard working lanes to take advantage of. When he will get an apparent gap like that, Hubbard is lethal. He accelerates rapidly, has world-class high-end velocity, and may make defenders miss together with his soar reduce.

However when Hubbard doesn’t have area, like a poor man’s Travis Etienne, he loses his utility. Hubbard actually must discover a wide-open passing offense with a ok quarterback to maintain further defenders out of the field. If he’s drafted by group additional behind in its offensive evolution, I’m involved that Hubbard might be a sweet-passing level guard that may’t shoot on a group stuffed with one-on-one slashers — with one world-class talent that’ll go wasted on the vine.

12. Elijah Mitchell (Louisiana) | 5’10/215

Comp: Royce Freeman

For a runner who posted 3,864 yards from scrimmage and 46 complete TD in faculty regardless of platooning with Trey Ragas and Raymond Calais and meets NFL dimension and burst thresholds, it’s slightly stunning Mitchell isn’t getting extra love early within the draft course of.

A effectively put-together, densely-built again, Mitchell reveals good burst via holes and retains his legs transferring on contact. At full velocity, he’s a load. I like Mitchell’s toes for a again over 220 kilos. He presses the road of scrimmage with goal, and reveals a one-cut-and-go feeling for zone soccer.

He additionally reveals good, smooth arms as a receiver, if not essentially the most various route-package. Mitchell caught 49-of-57 targets (86.0%) whereas dropping solely 4 balls. Mitchell additionally has loads of expertise in pass-pro, and improved to a 74.8 PFF grade in that space after struggling earlier in his profession.

Mitchell labors to alter instructions in area, lacks high-end velocity, might be leaping up in competitors within the NFL, and isn’t a standout in anyone trait. However he’s a well-rounded, above-the-thresholds prospect with a number of years of high-end FBS manufacturing in his previous. I feel he hangs across the NFL for a very long time.

13. Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State) | 5’9/216

Comp: Ronald Jones

In his first 12 months on campus, Jefferson totally displaced a powerful beginning working again (Artavis Pierce) and went on to run for two,933 yards and 27 TD over two-and-a-half years as a starter.

Jefferson’s calling playing cards are imaginative and prescient and burst, causes his finest match within the NFL are in a zone-read scheme. Jefferson notes cut-back lanes, and units up defenders on the second-level rather well.

Jefferson makes tight, environment friendly cuts in claustrophobic quarters, and runs with a large base that permits him to soak up off-target contact and maintain churning upfield when on the hunt.

My issues for Jefferson are lack of sturdiness and a “working backs don’t matter” sport that’s totally depending on his blocking. Jefferson wants area to work with off the snap and a clearly delineated path upfield shortly thereafter, or he’s apt to get swallowed up. He doesn’t make guys miss behind the road of scrimmage, and he will get into hassle an excessive amount of on this regard by freelancing.

Jefferson will get what’s blocked for him and once in a while rips off an unlimited run. However he struggles to create when he doesn’t get good blocking. And his contact steadiness is mediocre when he isn’t transferring at full velocity, in circumstances resembling behind the road of scrimmage — you may pull him down fairly simply as he’s searching for a lane. And for a again that lacks burner velocity, I don’t love that he wants energy, versus motion, to beat defenders within the second and third ranges — he’s not an influence again, however he labors to return off his path when he will get going full velocity.

Oregon State surprisingly didn’t use Jefferson as a receiver a lot the previous few years, however he’s proven to be an honest outlet receiver every time given the possibility, catching 43-of-49 targets (87.8%) in faculty with just one single drop. Jefferson offers effort in pass-pro however hasn’t been examined there a lot and certain has an “common” ceiling on this space.

To me, Jefferson initiatives as a depth again. He can contribute in a number of areas, however maybe not effectively sufficient in any to ever draw back in a timeshare. Growing his utility on third down will go a good distance in the direction of figuring out how lengthy he sticks within the NFL.

14. Javian Hawkins (Louisville) | 5’9/179

Comp: Noel Devine

A dynamic playmaker, Hawkins reveals blazing velocity within the open subject and unimaginable short-area quickness to typically get him there in faculty. When it comes to house run skill as a runner, Hawkins ranks within the top-five of this class.

He wasn’t used a lot as a receiver and might be a poor pass-blocker on the subsequent stage. An absence of third-down utility for a scatback on this mildew is a large pink flag, and partly explains my pessimistic rating regardless of liking his athletic traits.

However Hawkins may argue he was a sufferer of circumstance in faculty, not dropping any of his 21 profession targets. If Javian Hawkins turns into a superb receiver on the subsequent stage, he’ll be an especially harmful participant. We simply don’t know if he’s able to dealing with something however dump-offs and screens.

Both approach, he hasn’t but discovered the right way to constantly learn his blocks, partly as a result of he’s so dang electrical that he felt he may beat defenses with athleticism alone in faculty — and was vindicated typically sufficient.

Turning into extra prepared to work together with his teammates on this space might be key, because it’ll possible enable him to enter the second stage clear extra typically within the NFL. Hawkins is usually taken down on first contact, so he doesn’t need to be messing round behind the road or working in opposition to the move of his blockers too typically.

Nonetheless, he is an thrilling younger again value taking an opportunity on. Platoon backfields are all the fashion, and if you are going to be packing gentle with a Swiss Military knife as an alternative of a machete, Hawkins can no less than operate because the blade, whereas supplying you with your kick and punt returner for the following a number of years.

15. Jaret Patterson (Buffalo) | 5’9/195

Comp: Devin Singletary

Patterson ran for over 1,000 yards all three years he was in faculty, with a excessive of 1,799 in 2019 adopted by 1,072 yards in solely six video games performed in 2020. He and Kevin Marks had been extraordinarily troublesome to cease in Buffalo’s run-heavy offense.

As was the case with Devin “Motor” Singletary at FAU, Patterson is extraordinarily troublesome to get your arms on. And he runs like a spinning prime, low-to-the-ground and very sturdy, very troublesome to knock to the bottom — he modifies instructions like he’s enjoying frogger, reducing ridiculously crisp angles from any velocity extra like an NHL skater than a working again. Regardless of his body, Patterson ranked No. 8 in damaged tackles per try (0.32) and No. 6 in yards after contact per try (4.7) final 12 months.

A prototypical zone runner, Patterson’s sport is all about studying blocking move, choosing the right time to speed up upfield, and evasion, evasion, evasion. Patterson sees the sphere effectively and runs with good tempo and endurance, permitting his blockers to dictate the motion in entrance of him earlier than making a call. He was in a very nice scenario the previous couple of seasons. Buffalo was PFF’s No. 1 graded run-blocking group in 2020.

The problem with Patterson is he’s the scale of a scatback with common velocity and burst, and he’s a zero within the passing sport. Patterson didn’t catch one single cross in 2020, which, to be truthful, was partly due to the system. However over three seasons, he caught solely 19 passes whereas dropping three. And he’s additionally a poor pass-blocker who doesn’t have the body to be relied upon within the NFL in that division, anyway.

Patterson’s utility as a mighty-mite that sees the sphere effectively and is troublesome to corral and laborious to arm sort out means he has an NFL future. However it’s possible as a Motor Singletary kind, ideally the 1B in a committee, and a skillset that’s at all times replaceable.

16. Pooka Williams Jr. (Kansas) | 5’10/170

Comp: Dexter McCluster

Pooka accelerates from zero faster maybe faster than any again on this draft — he’s legitimately and stupefyingly explosive. That is his trump card and the explanation he’ll possible be drafted.

As soon as he finds the open subject, he reveals each high-end velocity and human joystick agility — that is additionally why he’s a superb return man and might be so within the NFL. He broke a bunch of tackles in faculty regardless of missing energy as a result of he’s troublesome to sq. up and he runs very laborious. Pooka additionally confirmed in faculty to be a powerful receiver. In reality, if the working again factor doesn’t work out, he needs to be tried within the slot.

If that finally ends up being the case, it’ll be as a result of Pooka freelances far too typically for a runner who’s taken down on first contact. At Kansas, Pooka handled handoffs like kickoffs, unilaterally deciding the place he’d be working, irregardless of blocking assignments. Apparently, Williams has no toes on his proper foot from a childhood lawnmower accident, however this has by no means hampered him.

His slight body has led to nagging accidents, nonetheless. Williams’ utility as a return man and receiver along side his big-play skill make him worthy of a draft slot. However after Williams was arrested for home battery and suspended for one sport in 2019, his drafting group must be comfy together with his off-field to make the funding.

17. Kylin Hill (Mississippi State) | 5’10/214

Comp: Ameer Abdullah

Hill by no means had a star-turn as he was anticipated to at Mississippi State. That included 2020, the place he seemed to be an ideal slot in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, however performed in solely three video games.

What I like about Hill is that he’s a pure hands-catching receiver with years of manufacturing behind him — 67 receptions on 83 collegiate targets with solely seven drops — who runs with plain burst. With an exclamation-point stiff arm, Hill broke 116 tackles on 453 profession carries, per PFF. Hill will stick round long-term within the NFL if he learns to fluctuate his working tempo and take what’s given to him as an alternative of making an attempt to bounce each try exterior.

He may be too undisciplined to belief as a contributor in an NFL offense. However it’s additionally attainable that minor tweaks in his sport unlock an explosive passing sport weapon with the scale and explosion to no less than power defenses to respect him as a runner. He could possibly be a really priceless rotation piece for a really particular type of group.

18. Larry Rountree III (Missouri) | 5’9/210

Comp: Ke’Shawn Vaughn

If Pooka is your flashy late-round choice, Rountree is your boring late-round grinder different. I’ve little doubt about Rountree’s well-rounded sport. My concern is that he’s extra of a Quad-A sort participant. Rountree is a dependable again that grades out round common to barely below-average throughout the board — velocity, athleticism, dimension.

He’s a grinder that alters tempo, reveals good footwork, and may determine the outlet and get via it. However Rountree will win no footraces, and he gained’t shake any defenders with motion. And for a grinding, churning form of again, he goes down on preliminary contact too typically, failing to create a second alternative, missing the pop to get himself out of hassle.

Rountree confirmed promise in pass-pro in faculty, which is sweet, as a result of he’s not pure within the receiving sport and certain gained’t get a ton of alternatives in that division within the professionals. Rountree performed in a zone scheme in faculty and gives a group working an identical scheme low-ceiling reliability.

Better of the remainder…

19. Trey Ragas (Louisiana) | 5’11/227

20. Chris Evans (Michigan) | 5’10/216

21. Rakeem Boyd (Arkansas) | 5’11/200

22. JaQuan Hardy (Tiffin) | 5’9/225

23. Vavae Malepeai (USC) | 5’11/215

24. Jah-Maine Martin (North Carolina A&T) | 5’9/220

25. Brenden Knox (Marshall) | 6’0/220

26. CJ Marable (Coastal Carolina) | 5’9/190

27. Deon Jackson (Duke) | 5’11/220
28. Asim Rose (Kentucky) | 6’1/210
29. Stevie Scott III (Indiana) | 6’1/231
30. Josh Johnson (Louisiana-Monroe) | 5’9/215


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