Every year there are always players that get pushed down a draft board for one reason or another who end up being “steals” relative to their draft positions.
I come up with an annual list of guys that I am much higher on than consensus seems to be, and while I don’t have access to the information that NFL teams do, I feel as though I’ve been pretty solid at predicting “my guys” to be studs in the NFL.
Here are some of my credentials since I started doing this in 2019:
- Brian Burns
- D.K. Metcalf
- A.J. Brown
- Terry McLaurin
- Chase Winovich
- Jeffery Simmons
- Sean Murphy-Bunting
- Justin Jefferson
- Antoine Winfield Jr.
- Michael Pittman Jr.
- Denzel Mims
- Van Jefferson
- Willie Gay Jr.
- Jeremy Chinn
- Jonah Jackson
I could go on but you get the point. While I have my fair share of misses, like everyone does, I like to believe that “my guys” tend to outperform their draft positions.
Here are the 13 players from this years class who I LOVE and think will be great in the NFL.
Jaelan Phillips | EDGE | Miami
Phillips is far and away the best edge prospect in this class. He is a lot closer to the talent levels of the Myles Garrett and Joey Bosa’s of the world coming out of college, but injury concerns are pushing him down the board.
I truly think that whatever team takes him is going to get one of the steals of the draft if he can stay healthy. If it weren’t for his questionable background, Phillips might be off the board in the first five picks. I’m willing to take what I saw on tape and plant my flag for him in saying that he will be one of if not the best defensive player to come from this draft class.
Jaycee Horn | CB | South Carolina
When I watched Horn, I saw shades of Stephon Gilmore and Jalen Ramsey. Now, he is not nearly at that level just yet but with the right coaching he can be an all-pro in this league for years to come.
The son of former Saints star Joe Horn has as high of a football acumen as you will see coming out of college. He has gone through the ringer of SEC receivers like DeVonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, Elijah Moore, Jerry Jeudy, Seth Williams, etc. and has fared extremely well against all of them.
Combine his production against top competition and the fact that he is one of the best all-around athletes at the position that we have ever seen before and he has all the tools to be what I think he can be – an elite player in the league. Not a terribly hot take because he is still going to get drafted really high, but wherever he gets taken will be looked at as a steal a couple of years down the line.
Teven Jenkins | OT | Oklahoma State
If it weren’t for Rashawn Slater and Penei Sewell dominating the top of this draft, Jenkins might be the first tackle off the board. He has all the tools you want with great hand usage, strong grip strength and a lot of upper body power to be a premier pass-and-run blocker at the next level.
While he won’t be the top tackle taken, and may not even be the third or fourth tackle taken, I’m willing to bet that if he lands in the right situation he could end up being better than everyone selected before him.
Elijah Moore | WR | Ole Miss
Moore is probably my favorite wide receiver in this class. People are looking at his size and already giving him limitations, but I don’t see how you can watch his tape and say that.
He is electrifying as a receiver and can get open at every level of the field against all types of coverages. Add in the fact that he might have the strongest hands of anyone not named DeVonta Smith and you have a sure-fire superstar for years to come. Again, size is going to push him down the board but I see him being a Tyler Lockett type of player in the NFL. In the right situation, watch Moore blossom into a superstar.
Cameron McGrone | LB | Michigan
This is the biggest question mark of the draft to me. Sure, the injury last year hurts his stock a little to knock McGrone out of the first round (I still would take him there) but he isn’t even being talked about as a day two prospect!
McGrone is every bit as athletic as Micah Parsons and he honestly looked cleaner as a pure linebacker on tape than Parsons. He’s undersized, sure, but much like DeVonta Smith you didn’t see his size limit him in any capacity in college. You often find that the best linebackers in the NFL are taken in the mid-rounds of the draft and I would bet my money that McGrone ends up being that guy.
I see a lot of Eric Kendricks and Fred Warner in his game and think that in the right system he can develop into that level of stardom.
Amari Rodgers | WR | Clemson
Rodgers is one of those guys that everyone is going to overthink and he’s going to come in and be a difference maker from the get-go and for the next decade.
He gets the “Hunter Renfrow treatment” as I like to call it where I think everyone knows he is going to be solid at the next level but is “boring” to an extent. While I don’t think he’s boring, he’s going to get trumped by players with “flashier upside” and will be forgotten until he starts playing next year. Teams will be shaking their heads for overthinking the pick and wishing they took him earlier, a la Hunter Renfrow (fifth-round pick).
Daviyon Nixon | IDL | Iowa
In a pretty weak defensive line class, I’ll take my odds on a guy like Nixon. Disruptive, that’s the word I would use to describe him. He gets off the ball extremely fast and just causes problems for offensive lineman whether it be taking on doubles against the run, stunting around them or just rocking someone back into the quarterback.
He is a little inconsistent but is more well-rounded than every other defensive lineman in this class. I’ll take my chances on the raw talent and play style Nixon has in an NFL that values disruption at the point of attack.
Kellen Mond | QB | Texas A&M
I don’t know what I’m missing with Mond, at all. He was a four year starter, played against the toughest competition and was productive, has a rifle for an arm, is extremely mobile, and is (for the most part) accurate.
Sure, his quarterback aesthetic isn’t very clean and he looks robotic at times throwing the ball, but I focus on results. I think of any quarterback not taken in the first round, Mond has the highest chance of being the next Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson in the sense of being drafted outside of the first and becoming a franchise guy.
I currently have Mond slated as my QB5 behind Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Lance, but I could absolutely see the argument for liking him over Lance.
Tyson Campbell | CB | Georgia
If Campbell’s ball skills weren’t so iffy, he would be in the conversation for top corner off the board with Horn and Surtain. Despite not having the same prowess in the pass-break up department as those two, it’s not something that he can’t learn how to do.
Campbell is an extremely physical corner at the line of scrimmage and is as fluid a mover as any at the position. He stays in phase at a high level and is sticky in all types of coverages. I’m confident that with the right coaching, Campbell can become an elite cover corner in the NFL.
Pass on Campbell at your own risk.
Feleipe Franks | QB | Arkansas
The biggest knock that I could find on Franks is that he doesn’t have a desirable franchise quarterback name. Seriously, there is a lot to like about this guy. His mechanics might be the most sound in the class, he has a rocket arm, he reads the field well and is a fast and punishing runner out of the pocket. His deep accuracy leaves a little to be desired but that can be improved in an NFL system.
If you’re a team that needs a quarterback but missed out on the top five or six, take Franks and don’t think twice about it. No quarterback dealt with more pressure on a per-snap basis than Franks did in 2020 and he actually performed better than expected despite getting hit almost every play.
I would LOVE to take my chances on a prototypically-built quarterback who has experience dealing with pressure at an absurd rate on my team. I think he’s a project, but a project that absolutely could pay off in the right situation.
Liam Eichenberg | OT (IOL) | Notre Dame
I don’t see Eichenberg sticking at his college position of tackle at the next level due to short arms, but I think he can be a VERY good guard or center. Everything Eichenberg does is extremely calculated and he almost looks like a robot out there (in a good way).
You can already tell he has been coached extremely well (as most Notre Dame lineman are) and won’t have a long adjustment period in the NFL. He plays with a low center of gravity and blows lineman of all sizes off the ball. Is scheme versatile as a guard and will make a team very happy wherever he is taken.
Malcolm Koonce | EDGE | Buffalo
Koonce is one of those smaller-school guys that is getting pushed down due to level of competition concerns, but his tape is phenomenal. He has shades of former Buffalo edge defender Khalil Mack in his game (albeit not nearly as juiced) and is a problem for tackles trying to block him.
I think he is more of a late day-two selection but I would take him over a lot of the “project” guys that are being mocked in rounds one and two. I think that he will go on to be extremely solid in the NFL for years to come and people won’t care where he came from, but they will care that he didn’t get picked earlier.
Andre Cisco | S | Syracuse
Coming off an ACL injury definitely hurts his stock, but Cisco would be the first safety off the board (in my opinion) without that. He is extremely athletic and is all over the field on tape. His ball skills and turnover production was other-wordly at Syracuse and teams will most certainly have a role carved out for him in the NFL.
I would put my money on an athletic freak with insane ball skills and instincts at my starting safety position and not think twice about it.