Todd McShay 2021 NFL Draft Big Board: Trevor Lawrence, Pitts Top Final Rankings

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2021

FILE - Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against LSU during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game in New Orleans, in this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, file photo.  Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was among 98 juniors granted eligibility by the NFL into the draft, while national championship-winning QBs Mac Jones from Alabama and Trevor Lawrence from Clemson were among another 30 players eligible after completing their degrees and deciding not to play more in college. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence finished a wire-to-wire run atop the big board of ESPN's Todd McShay leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which kicks off Thursday night.

McShay called Lawrence a "once-in-a-decade type of quarterback prospect" and gave him an overall grade of 97 out of 100. By comparison, last year's No. 1 overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow, earned a grade of 94 from the draft analyst.

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts follows Lawrence in the rankings. Here's a look at McShay's top 10:

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (Grade: 97)
  2. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida (Grade: 94)
  3. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU (Grade: 94)
  4. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU (Grade: 93)
  5. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (Grade: 93)
  6. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (Grade: 93)
  7. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama (Grade: 93)
  8. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (Grade: 93)
  9. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State (Grade: 92)
  10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama (Grade: 92)

The length of draft season, which extends from the College Football Playoff in January through the draft in April, creates plenty of time for overanalyzing prospects. The fact that Lawrence made it through 15 weeks without losing his grip on the top spot is a testament to his talent.

He's the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford in 2012. While injuries disrupted Luck's career and led to early retirement in 2019, he lived up to the hype as a high-end franchise QB when healthy.

Lawrence, the presumptive No. 1 choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been a top prospect since high school—he's the sixth-best college football recruit ever tracked by 247Sports—yet exceeded expectations with the Tigers.

The 21-year-old Tennessee native completed 66.6 percent of his throws for 10,098 yards with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 40 games across three years at Clemson. He added 943 rushing yards and 18 scores on the ground.

"Trevor Lawrence is a generational guy," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said in January. "He's going to be a great player for a long, long time."

The star-studded quarterback 2021 class includes Wilson, Lance, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones as potential top-10 draft picks. It's possible at least one of them has a better career than Lawrence.

But the Clemson standout has looked like the No. 1 pick in 2021 for about five years, and he's done nothing to change his terrific long-term outlook.

Meanwhile, Pitts is coming off a monster 2020 season with the Gators. He scored an eye-popping 12 touchdowns in eight games to go along with 43 catches for 770 yards.

He's a perfect fit for the modern game as a 6'6", 245-pound tight end who can play the typical in-line role and create plays over the middle or split out wide to create matchup problems for the opposing secondary. He'll be a major weapon on third down and in the red zone right away.

"I feel like at the end of the day, all the preparation, just through the years, I feel like at the end I'll be the best to ever do it," Pitts told reporters earlier this month.

The 2020 Mackey Award winner has a good chance to become the first non-quarterback off the board Thursday.