Mel Kiper 2021 NFL Draft Big Board: Trevor Lawrence, Penei Sewell Top RankingsMay 5, 2020
Two weeks removed from the 2020 NFL draft, it's time to start looking ahead to next year's class that is expected to be headlined by Trevor Lawrence.
In his first big board for the 2021 draft Tuesday, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Clemson quarterback as the best prospect. Ohio State's Justin Fields checks in at No. 3 behind Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.
Here are the top 10 prospects in next year's draft, according to Kiper's rankings.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
3. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
4. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
5. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
6. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
7. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
8. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
9. Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
10. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Lawrence has been pegged as the top player in the 2021 class dating back to his freshman year at Clemson. After a slow start last season with as many touchdowns as interceptions (five) through three games, the Tennessee native caught fire with 31 touchdowns and three interceptions over the final 12 games.
One potential concern highlighted by Kiper was Lawrence's inconsistent performance in College Football Playoff Games against Ohio State and LSU:
"He also struggled throwing the ball in two College Football Playoff games, completing just 51.4% of his passes against Ohio State and LSU. Still, Lawrence has elite traits, and there aren't many 6-foot-6 quarterbacks who have the arm talent and athleticism that he has. Lawrence has all the tools to be the No. 1 pick in 2021."
Kiper called Fields a "legitimate challenger" to Lawrence as the top quarterback in the class, with his main area of improvement needing to come "in how he sees the field and progresses through his reads."
North Dakota State's Trey Lance is the only other quarterback ranked in Kiper's top 25, at No. 15 overall. The Minnesota native threw 28 touchdowns without an interception on 287 attempts in 2019 and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns on 169 carries.
B/R's Matt Miller had the Carolina Panthers taking Lance in his way-too-early 2021 mock draft, calling him a "dynamic, athletic passer."
Sandwiched between the top two quarterbacks is Sewell, who doesn't turn 20 until October 9. The Oregon star was a dominant force in 2019 as a unanimous All-American selection and winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman.
Even though the 2020 wide receiver class was widely praised as one of the deepest in history, teams looking for help at the position next year likely won't be left in the cold.
Kiper has six receivers among his top 25 prospects, led by LSU star Ja'Marr Chase at No. 6. Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, who had 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, is the only other wideout in the top 10 (No. 8).
Despite losing Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III in the first round of this year's draft, Alabama seems like it will be okay at wide receiver in 2020.
Jaylen Waddle (Kiper's No. 11 overall player) and DeVonta Smith (No. 16) could give the Crimson Tide another pair of first-round wideouts next year.
All of these rankings are very fluid until we see what these players look like on the field next season and going through the predraft process, but it's never too soon to build anticipation for the draft with a class that looks as exciting as the 2021 group does.