Mel Kiper 2021 NFL Draft Big Board: Guru Releases Final Rankings Before Round 1

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes against LSU during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, in New Orleans. Lawrence is on a streak of 314 pass attempts without an interception, a run dating back to last Oct. 19 when he was picked off twice at Louisville in Clemson's 45-10 victory. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Ahead of the first round of the 2021 NFL draft on Thursday night, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his final big board Wednesday. 

Kiper ranked his top 150 overall prospects. Here's a rundown of the top 10:

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

3. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

4. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

5. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

6. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

7. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

8. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

9. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

10. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

The top of Kiper's rankings comes as little surprise since Lawrence is widely regarded as one of the best quarterback prospects ever and the clear choice for the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1 overall.

While the one-time national champion and 2020 Heisman Trophy runner-up will look to turn things around for a Jaguars team that went 1-15 last season, the New York Jets are likely to put their future success on the future of BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.

Kiper's rankings suggest taking Wilson could be a bit of a reach at No. 2 since he has Wilson as his No. 9 overall prospect and his No. 3 quarterback behind Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields.

After Lawrence and Wilson, another quarterback is expected to go third to the San Francisco 49ers. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported this week that the Niners will decide between Alabama's Mac Jones and North Dakota State's Trey Lance, who are ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, by Kiper.

While all five projected first-round quarterbacks are inside Kiper's top 13, only one is in the top seven.

Behind Lawrence is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who is similar to Pitts in that he is by far the best prospect in the draft at his position and perhaps one of the best at his position to ever enter the draft.

The Atlanta Falcons will be sitting pretty at No. 4 since they will have the option of taking Pitts or perhaps trading down with a team that covets the athletic and productive tight end.

A trio of wide receivers in Alabama's DeVonta Smith, LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's Jaylen Waddle occupy Nos. 3 through 5 on Kiper's big board.

While Smith was the most productive among them in college and won the 2020 Heisman Trophy, the order is somewhat surprising since most expert mock drafts have both Chase and Waddle going ahead of the diminutive Smith.

The other three spots on Kiper's big board are reserved for offensive linemen in Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell (No. 6), Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater (No. 7) and USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (No. 10).

Remarkably, there are no defensive players in Kiper's top 10, as the first one doesn't appear until Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 11.


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