National Signing Day 2021: Ranking the Top 25 Offensive Prospects

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2021

National Signing Day 2021: Ranking the Top 25 Offensive Prospects

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    Ohio State commit Emeka Egbuka has all the traits you want in a receiver.
    Ohio State commit Emeka Egbuka has all the traits you want in a receiver.Credit: 247Sports

    There aren't a bunch of unsigned difference-makers at the top of the recruiting food chain remaining on the board, so this year's class is taking shape for most of the teams around the nation, and we know what programs are getting the best players.

    Throughout the week, Bleacher Report will be taking a look at the best of the best in the nation and ranking our top players on offense and defense. This article zeroes in on the offensive side of the ball—the guys who make things happen with the ball in their hands and the ones who pave the way.

    As always, there are several quarterbacks and playmakers, but this year is heavy on offensive linemen, too. 

    Yes, many of these guys are going to the College Football Playoff participants, but there are plenty of other programs represented as well.

    B/R will highlight our 25 favorite prospects on both offense and defense, complete with a college outlook for each, and merge for a final top 50. Here are the offensive prospects.

25-21. Thomas, Bowman, McCord, Brooks, McCarthy

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    J.J. McCarthy
    J.J. McCarthyCredit: 247Sports

    25. Brian Thomas Jr., WR

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 185 pounds

    Status: Unsigned (Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia)

    College Outlook: With the Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals both looking to replenish the talent on the perimeter, this feels like it's going to be a battle between these two SEC West rivals, but the Aggies could sneak in, too. Georgia is on the outside looking in for the big-bodied receiver who is a natural athlete and also a standout basketball player. The Walker, Louisiana, native should be a future star.


    24. Billy Bowman, ATH (Likely WR in college)

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 175 pounds

    Status: Signed with Oklahoma

    College Outlook: The do-it-all player for powerhouse Ryan High School in Denton, Texas, just teamed with Longhorns signee Ja'Tavion Sanders to lead his team to a 5A state title, and he can star on either side of the ball. Though he likely would show out on defense, it's hard to envision a player with his ball skills anywhere besides receiver for Lincoln Riley. He is sleek, smooth and fast and should be a weapon for Spencer Rattler.


    23. Kyle McCord, QB

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 215 pounds

    Status: Signed with Ohio State

    College Outlook: It's going to be a wide-open battle to start for the Buckeyes under center next year if Justin Fields goes pro and coach Ryan Day doesn't zero in on a transfer. The Philadelphia-based high school senior has a big arm and will have an opportunity to win the job right away. He has all the traits you want in a quarterback and an offensive leader.


    22. Jacorey Brooks, WR

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 185 pounds

    Status: Signed with Alabama

    College Outlook: Brooks isn't going to outrun anybody, but he is an elite receiver prospect who can do a lot of things with the football and possesses the long strides needed to pull away from defenders. He has a huge catch radius and was a very productive receiver at two excellent Florida high schools, Booker T. Washington in Miami before finishing his playing days at IMG Academy. He's up next in 'Bama's Sunshine State receiver pipeline.


    21. J.J. McCarthy, QB

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 190 pounds

    Status: Signed with Michigan

    College Outlook: Much like at Ohio State, the Wolverines' starting quarterback job is wide-open, and McCarthy has a strong chance to win it over Joe Milton and Cade McNamara, though the latter has to be considered the favorite. McCarthy originally hails from Big Ten country (Illinois) but finished his high school days throwing to Brooks at IMG Academy. He has great pocket awareness and makes all the throws.

20-16. Fidone, Shipley, Franklin, Johnson, Rucci

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    Thomas Fidone
    Thomas FidoneCredit: 247Sports

    20. Thomas Fidone, TE

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 225 pounds

    Status: Signed with Nebraska

    College Outlook: The Council Bluffs, Iowa, native is clearly the top tight end in the class, and he could be an instant-impact star for the Cornhuskers. It's not every day that a player at his position can be the jewel of a strong class, but that's the case for Fidone, who is the best in Scott Frost's group of players. He has a big body, deceptive speed and can do everything you'd ask of a tight end, including blocking and catching passes.


    19. Will Shipley, RB

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 198 pounds

    Status: Signed with Clemson

    College Outlook: With Travis Etienne off to the NFL, Shipley stands to benefit dramatically in an offense that could be one of the best in the nation in '21 with DJ Uiagalelei and Justyn Ross anchoring the unit. Yes, Lyn-J Dixon will factor into the equation, too, but Shipley's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, break away and his toughness between the tackles are all assets that will behoove him right away. He will be firmly in the mix and a fan favorite.


    18. Troy Franklin, WR

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 170 pounds

    Status: Signed with Oregon

    College Outlook: The Menlo Park, California, pass-catcher is one of the most electrifying athletes in the entire class, possessing the type of breakaway speed you simply cannot keep off the field. He can stretch the field, and though he needs to add weight to go across the middle consistently, Franklin is a home run hitter who will be in the rotation right away and could even be a threat in the return game and on speed sweeps.


    17. LJ Johnson, RB

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 204 pounds

    Status: Unsigned (Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Oklahoma)

    College Outlook: The most complete running back in the country hails from Texas, and even though there's another Lone Star State runner ahead of him on this list, Johnson has the highest ceiling. This will likely come down to a Jimbo Fisher vs. Steve Sarkisian battle, and whoever gets Johnson will get a big playmaker who also has breakaway speed. Exciting things are ahead for this offensive centerpiece.


    16. Nolan Rucci, OT

    Height/Weight: 6'8", 295 pounds

    Status: Signed with Wisconsin

    College Outlook: In a year when the recruiting class is absolutely loaded with trench talent, the Lititz, Pennsylvania, native's upside is as high as anyone's, and he's going to a program that knows how to develop NFL offensive linemen. Rucci is joining his brother with the Badgers after deciding against playing for his dad's Penn State Nittany Lions. He is strong and can really bend for a guy his height. Once he gets in a weight room, he has the potential to be an All-American.

15-11. Suamataia, Maye, Edwards, Jackson, Huard

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    Drake Maye
    Drake MayeCredit: 247Sports

    15. Kingsley Suamataia, OT

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 280 pounds

    Status: Signed with Oregon

    College Outlook: There are a few Ducks on this list, and Mario Cristobal has done a great job rebuilding the program that lost a ton of talent to early NFL draft entries and COVID-19 opt-outs. Perhaps the heir to Penei Sewell's throne at left tackle is Suamataia, an athletic lineman from Orem, Utah, who needs to pack on 20 to 30 pounds but can be a multiyear difference-maker. He could play at several spots across the line.


    14. Drake Maye, QB

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 210 pounds

    Status: Signed with North Carolina

    College Outlook: The one-time Alabama commitment decided to follow the family tradition and sign with North Carolina, and he's been the longtime staple of the Tar Heels class. His father played football at UNC, and his brother, Luke, was an All-American basketball player for the Heels, so the ties run deep. Maye is a huge-bodied, big-armed quarterback who may not be finished growing. The sky is the limit for his ability.


    13. Donovan Edwards, RB

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 190 pounds

    Status: Signed with Michigan

    College Outlook: Edwards can pack on more weight and still have game-breaking ability in the rushing attack. He will bring an every-down dynamic to the Wolverines offense that it currently doesn't have, and it's exciting to think about him teaming with J.J. McCarthy and Xavier Worthy for a three-headed offensive monster that can help bring Big Blue back. He has as much ability as any runner in the class.


    12. Donovan Jackson, OG

    Height/Weight: 6'4½", 308 pounds

    Status: Signed with Ohio State

    College Outlook: One of the strongest suits of the Buckeyes this past season was their dominant offensive line, but many of the impact players along the front are getting ready to head off to the NFL. Jackson will be in the next generation of stars along with Paris Johnson Jr. from last year. The Bellaire, Texas, native is going to be a dominant force who has the length to play tackle but a high-round NFL future on the interior.


    11. Sam Huard, QB

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 pounds

    Status: Signed with Washington

    College Outlook: There are few names more well-known around U-Dub than Huard, and, yes, Sam is the son of former Huskies signal-caller Damon and the nephew of Brock. With the Huskies needing an impact arm after just a so-so year by Dylan Morris, Huard could step right in and battle for the starting job. He doesn't have the biggest arm in the class, but he can make all the throws, and growing up around the game, he has a high IQ at the position.

10. Ty Thompson, QB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 215 pounds

    Status: Committed to Oregon


    College Outlook

    Ty Thompson may seem like the first "out-of-place" prospect on this list, considering the Arizona high school standout is the nation's No. 39 overall player, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and even lower in 247Sports' own ratings at 83rd.

    There are a ton of things to like about the Gilbert (Mesquite High School) native, though, so much so that there are just a couple of signal-callers ahead of him on this list. Evaluating recruits isn't necessarily about what they are now but what they can be.

    Thompson is going to be a star with the right coaching.

    He's got the size to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he'll have the opportunity in Eugene if he can beat out the likes of Tyler Shough, Anthony Brown and Jay Butterfield. 

    Between Thompson's arm strength and ability to make all the throws, you've got to like his projections. He's not the most mobile quarterback in the class, but he's also not statuesque back there. 

    He was named the All-American Bowl Offensive Player of the Year in leading his team to a state title while throwing for 3,171 yards and 31 touchdowns and gaining 232 rushing yards and eight more scores (h/t 247Sports' Kevin Wade).

    "He can do it all," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. "And he has the makeup to match. … Inside and out, he's just a true champion."

9. Tristan Leigh, OT

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 270 pounds

    Status: Committed to Clemson


    College Outlook

    Tristan Leigh is the top-ranked prospect in the Commonwealth, and he is heading to play his college football for coach Dabo Swinney at Clemson, and though he hasn't signed scholarship papers yet, he was one of the biggest names to come off the board in the late cycle.

    Leigh could have gone to any program in the nation, and he is a player with a projectable frame who easily could play at 320 in a couple of years. It wouldn't be out of the question for him to add 20 to 25 pounds before his freshman season and enter the mix on the offensive front as a true freshman.

    He has that type of ability, and Swinney has proved he isn't scared to throw first-year players to the wolves.

    After choosing the Tigers over LSU and Oklahoma, Leigh should join Jackson Carman and Walker Parks on a line that needs to get a whole lot better if the Tigers are going to win another national title next year. They're looking for impact players, and Leigh certainly fits that bill.

    He is big, talented and powerful, and once he adds weight, he's going to be a force in the ACC.

8. Camar Wheaton, RB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 190 pounds

    Status: Committed to Alabama


    College Outlook

    One of the biggest shockers of the late signing period probably shouldn't have been. The Alabama Crimson Tide reached into Texas and stole a running back many thought was a lock to play his college football at Oklahoma.

    It's the second year in a row the national champion Tide were rude to coach Lincoln Riley so late in the process. Last year, they flipped Jase McClellan from the Sooners, and this year, it was Camar Wheaton. The Garland, Texas, native has the ability to be a star soon for Alabama.

    The Tide will welcome back Brian Robinson Jr., Trey Sanders and McClellan in '21, so it may take a while for Wheaton to earn his way onto the playing field, but he is a big-play runner with massive ability to bust a game open with his wheels.

    He also happens to be heading to Tuscaloosa, where they churn out elite running backs, so it's easy to project him this high based on ability plus potential. Wheaton will have to wait his turn, but once he gets it, he's going to be a star.

7. Brock Vandagriff, QB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 205 pounds

    Status: Signed with Georgia


    College Outlook

    The Georgia Bulldogs had to reach to USC transfer JT Daniels to find a signal-caller who could make the offense tick in 2020, and it's a big deal for the Bulldogs that he is coming back for another year in Athens.

    Once he leaves for the NFL, Brock Vandagriff will be waiting in the wings.

    The one-time Oklahoma commit couldn't pass up the chance to stay home and play for coach Kirby Smart, and the Bogart, Georgia, native is a major recruiting win for a Georgia team that has struggled to attract impact quarterbacks since Justin Fields left for Ohio State.

    Yes, Carson Beck could wind up battling Vandagriff for the job, but the latter looks like a can't-miss prospect once he develops. He has a knee injury that could limit him right away, but Vandagriff possesses a big arm, excellent athleticism and a swagger you need between the lines.

    There are definitely some kinks Vandagriff needs to fix in his mechanics, but he is a modern-age quarterback who can throw the ball and be a force in the run-pass option offense. So once he learns the system, he'll have a lot of upside and can be a multiyear starter for one of the SEC's best programs.

6. Emeka Egbuka, WR

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 pounds

    Status: Committed to Ohio State


    College Outlook

    The second future Buckeye in the top 10 is also the top wide receiver in the country. While there may be guys who are bigger and others who are faster, nobody possesses the complete skill set that Emeka Egbuka does, and he can put everything together at the next level.

    One of the most valuable immediate needs Egbuka can provide Ohio State is as a recruiter if he can help land fellow 5-star JT Tuimoloau to come with him from their native Washington to Columbus. The two players are friends from the Seattle area.

    But Egbuka will do so much more than that if he lives up to expectations. 

    With Chris Olave returning to school, Ohio State can bring him along slowly, and the Buckeyes are loaded with other pass-catchers like Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming. But Egbuka will fit right in.

    He has the ability to turn on the afterburners, and he can go up and get every ball around him. More importantly, he's already worked on his body in high school and is strong enough to shed tacklers. He can carve out a role for himself in the return game, too.

    Egbuka is a player who can help you in a lot of ways, and Ryan Day will find a way to utilize him right away.

5. Tommy Brockermeyer, OT

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'6¼", 283 pounds

    Status: Signed with Alabama


    College Outlook

    It may be easy to overlook Tommy Brockermeyer because Alabama also signed JC Latham, but that would be a huge mistake. Both of these offensive tackles are can't-miss prospects who will anchor the Crimson Tide's line for years to come.

    When Nick Saban dipped into Texas to snag Brockermeyer and his brother, center James, from under the Longhorns' noses, it was a major blow to UT's recruiting. The Brockermeyers' father played for the Horns, and Tom Herman couldn't get them in the boat.

    The Fort Worth native missed his junior season with a torn labrum, and it wouldn't hurt him to gain some strength in a weight program, but he has unteachable size, is very athletic and has a ton of upside. He'll learn from the best in Tuscaloosa, too.

    The best thing for him is Alabama won't need him right away, allowing him to be brought along slowly if he's not quite ready and still be a multiyear starter for the nation's top team. His best attribute is his dominance as a run-blocker, and his athleticism bodes well for his development as a pass protector.

    Brockermeyer is going to be a stud for several years.

4. TreVeyon Henderson, RB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 5'11", 195 pounds

    Status: Signed with Ohio State


    College Outlook

    The best running back in this class is Ohio State signee TreVeyon Henderson, and it's not really close.

    He's going to a place that will know how to showcase his talents, and though the national runner-up Buckeyes were fine at running back in 2020 with Trey Sermon and Master Teague III, they were in need of a big-play runner who can break open the game like J.K. Dobbins.

    They found one in Virginia prospect Henderson.

    This is an elite running back whom you could put at a lot of positions on the field, and he would excel. Henderson can be a force in the return game and could be an exceptional pass-catcher out of the backfield who make things happen in the open field.

    Though he already possesses a big enough body to contribute as a freshman, Henderson can add weight and not lose speed, and he is the type of player whom Ryan Day will know how to utilize and create opportunities for right away. He should team with Teague in 2021 for a great one-two punch.

    Look for Henderson to be one of the most-discussed freshmen in the nation.

3. Amarius Mims, OT

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'7", 315 pounds

    Status: Signed with Georgia


    College Outlook

    You never want to be mentioned in any part of an investigation, but that's what elite UGA offensive tackle signee Amarius Mims is dealing with after his name came up in connection with recruiting misconduct at Tennessee, which resulted in the firing of head coach Jeremy Pruitt and other assistants, according to ESPN's Chris Low and Mark Schlabach.

    There have been no indications of any wrongdoing by Mims, so there's no reason to be concerned about his instant-impact ability at the moment. He's definitely the type of player who should warrant attention from everybody in the nation.

    Mims is a potential star, and it's not hyperbole to suggest he is the best offensive lineman the Dawgs have signed since Andrew Thomas. The Cochran, Georgia, native is a straight-up mauler who plays with a nasty disposition and has the brute strength to make his mark on the Red and Black right away.

    He may have the highest upside of any lineman in the entire class once he gets the right coaching and settles into a position helping protect JT Daniels.

    Mims is athletic enough that he could play on either line of scrimmage, though his highest upside is on the offensive front, and that's where he should thrive and develop into an early-round NFL selection.

    He has the potential to be a star quickly for coach Kirby Smart at a position where UGA needs more depth and talent.

2. Caleb Williams, QB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 210 pounds

    Status: Signed with Oklahoma


    College Outlook

    With Spencer Rattler already poised to break out in Norman and in school for at least another year (if not more), we may have to wait to see the best quarterback in the 2021 class play.

    It'll be worth it.

    No longer does coach Lincoln Riley have to rely on transfers to come into his Sooners program and take over to lead the team. Rattler was a major coup, and though he had some hiccups this year, he learned on the job and was shining by the end of 2020 as a redshirt freshman. Look for Caleb Williams to do the same.

    The Sooners were all set with Brock Vandagriff as their signal-caller commit, but he dropped them for Georgia. So, Riley went and lured a higher-ranked prospect with more upside and polish. Williams is a Washington, D.C., native who can do everything with the ball in his hands.

    He has a terrific arm, is mobile, and though he doesn't possess elite size, he can still make all the throws from the pocket and move the pocket when he needs to.

    Williams also has played exceptional competition, and his ability to throw darts from multiple arm angles has drawn comparisons to Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes (h/t's Parker Thune).

    When you factor in that he'll have better coaching on the collegiate level than either of those two had, it's exciting to project his ceiling. We may be readying ourselves for the next college football star quarterback very soon.

1. JC Latham, OT

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 305 pounds

    Status: Signed with Alabama


    College Outlook

    Alabama always seems to get the best players, and it's because Nick Saban is a generational recruiter who perhaps won't have an equal ever again in college football. This year's class is the perfect example, as he has signed another top-ranked group while ushering out the '17 class that may be the best ever.

    At the center of this year's haul is the best offensive player in the 2021 class, IMG Academy offensive tackle JC Latham.

    The 6'6", 305-pound prospect is an athlete who just happens to play on the offensive line, and like Amarius Mims, he originated as a defensive lineman, so he is just now realizing how dominant he can be. The bottom line is that's going to be pretty elite.

    It's hard to envision a scenario in which he doesn't start for the Tide at some point in 2021, especially with some positions opening along the front such as Alex Leatherwood's left tackle slot.

    If you think Saban wouldn't play freshmen at such an important position, you'd be wrong. He did with Evan Neal and Cam Robinson. Latham very well could follow in their footsteps, and he's still developing. He's a big, powerful force who is already showing dominance in the run and pass games.

    He is also coming from the nation's top high school program, so the competition he faced in games and practice will benefit him when he arrives in Tuscaloosa. He already has an NFL body, and he is going to be one of the best linemen in college football very quickly.


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