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NFL Draft 2021 Prospects: Predicting Top Targets Based on Latest Expert Mocks

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2020

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The 2020 NFL draft was just under a month ago, but for many NFL decision-makers, it's time to begin looking toward 2021. For college scouts and personnel directors, the coming season has already begun.

What transpires over the next 11 months will determine where both players and teams land in the 2021 draft. We don't yet know where teams will end up in the draft order, but we can get a good idea of which players are likely to be the most coveted.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, for example, has seemed destined to be the No. 1 pick since he first won the national title as a freshman. He's at or near the top of most expert mock drafts now, joined by a group with which fans are going to get very familiar with in the coming months.

Here, we'll dig into mock drafts from Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller, Tankathon.com and CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli. Who are some of next year's top draft targets not named Lawrence? Let's take a look.

      

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

If a team not in need of a quarterback ends up with the No. 1 overall choice, there's a good chance that Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell will be the pick. This is a scenario Miller explored, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking Sewell at one.

"One year after selecting quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals perfect the offensive line by selecting an elite left tackle prospect whom I've already compared to Jason Peters in terms of body type and movement," Miller wrote.

Sewell indeed appears to be one of the cleanest tackle prospects we've seen in some time. Listed at 6'6" and 330 pounds, he certainly has the size needed to anchor an NFL offensive line. He's also a technician in the trenches who should be ready to start from Day 1.

"He is as good as it gets at the tackle position that I've seen in college," Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus said on the 2 for 1 Drafts podcast.

Sewell may be the most targeted non-quarterback in 2021.

         

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Teams that do need a quarterback and don't end up with the No. 1 selection are likely to give a lot of consideration to Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. In fact, Fields may even be able to overtake Lawrence as the top signal-caller, depending on how the 2020 season unfolds.

This past season, Fields passed for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and just three picks. He also rushed for 484 yards and 10 scores.

Fields is pegged as the No. 1 selection by Tankathon, with him replacing another former Buckeye for the Washington Redskins. Fornelli has Fields going seventh overall to the Carolina Panthers, while Miller has him mocked to the Chicago Bears at 13.

It's worth noting that Miller also has North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance mocked ahead of Fields. Lance going ahead of Fields is a real possibility, again, depending on how things unfold this season.

Lance passed for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions in 2019. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and another 14 scores.

     

Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Teams love to add premier pass-rushers in the draft, which is precisely why one has gone No. 2 overall in each of the last two years. Miami's Gregory Rousseau could make it three years in a row, if he can repeat his impressive 2019 campaign.

In 13 games this past season, Rousseau amassed 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and 54 tackles. The caveat is that this is the only year of premier production on his resume. He only appeared in two games as a true freshman and, at this point, has to be considered a one-year wonder.

The redshirt sophomore will be an intriguing player to track in 2020. Another double-digit sack season could cement his status as a top-10 selection. A sophomore slump could push Rousseau to bypass the draft and return to Miami for another season.

This makes Rousseau one of the biggest question marks of 2021. He could be the first defender off the board, or he might not even make himself draft-eligible. Right now, he's mocked as a top-six selection by all three of the aforementioned sources. Tankathon and Fornelli both have Rousseau going fourth overall—Tankathon to the Panthers and Fornelli to the Miami Dolphins.  

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