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2021 NFL Draft Big Board 2.0: Six quarterbacks in top 50

As we head into the final month of the 2020 season, Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante breaks down his current big board for the 2021 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Much has changed in the past month.

Six weeks ago, the Bears were 5-1 and leading the NFC North. Since then, they have dropped four straight and head into a crucial Sunday Night Football matchup against the Packers that could legitimately make or break their 2020 season.

Said cold streak has had more and more Bears fans thinking about the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, where an emphasis on the offensive side of the ball is expected. Whether it be a quarterback, an offensive lineman, or even a wide receiver, the Bears are in desperate need of an overhaul on offense early on in the upcoming draft.

This year’s draft is especially unique since it’s a complete crapshoot predicting which players will declare at this stage. Normally, it’s a safe bet to watch plenty of seniors early on in the draft process, but with the NCAA allowing seniors an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-shortened 2020 season, it’s tough to determine who will actually enter the draft.

Nonetheless, it’s likely that many of the consensus top prospects will still find themselves entering the draft this year. To preview how the draft might be shaping up as we head into December, let’s take a look at the current top 50 players on my draft board.

2021 NFL Draft Top 50 Big Board 2.0

Rank Name Position College Positional Rank Draft Stock Watch
Rank Name Position College Positional Rank Draft Stock Watch
1 Penei Sewell OT Oregon OT1
2 Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson QB1
3 Micah Parsons LB Penn State LB1
4 Ja'Marr Chase WR LSU WR1
5 Kyle Pitts TE Florida TE1
6 Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama WR2
7 Justin Fields QB Ohio State QB2
8 Patrick Surtain II CB Alabama CB1
9 Gregory Rousseau EDGE Miami (FL) EDGE1
10 Pat Freiermuth TE Penn State TE2
11 Zach Wilson QB BYU QB3
12 Rashod Bateman WR Minnesota WR3
13 Travis Etienne RB Clemson RB1
14 DeVonta Smith WR Alabama WR4
15 Caleb Farley CB Virginia Tech CB2
16 Rashawn Slater iOL Northwestern iOL1
17 Samuel Cosmi OT Texas OT2
18 Zaven Collins LB Tulsa LB2
19 Najee Harris RB Alabama RB2
20 Wyatt Davis iOL Ohio State iOL2
21 Creed Humphrey iOL Oklahoma iOL3
22 Rondale Moore WR Purdue WR5
23 Alijah Vera-Tucker iOL USC iOL4
24 Terrace Marshall Jr. WR LSU WR6
25 Brevin Jordan TE Miami (FL) TE3
26 Christian Darrisaw OT Virginia Tech OT3
27 Javonte Williams RB North Carolina RB3
28 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB Notre Dame LB3
29 Caden Sterns S Texas S1
30 Chuba Hubbard RB Oklahoma State RB4
31 Dillon Radunz OT North Dakota State OT4
32 Kwity Paye EDGE Michigan EDGE2
33 Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina CB3
34 Paulson Adebo CB Stanford CB4
35 Trey Lance QB North Dakota State QB4
36 Dylan Moses LB Alabama LB4
37 Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama OT5
38 Nick Bolton LB Missouri LB5
39 Jackson Carman OT Clemson OT6
40 Amon-Ra St. Brown WR USC WR7
41 Jevon Holland S Oregon S2
42 Shaun Wade CB Ohio State CB5
43 Andre Cisco S Syracuse S3
44 Israel Mukuamu CB South Carolina CB6
45 Paris Ford S Pittsburgh S4
46 Bubba Bolden S Miami (FL) S5
47 Patrick Jones EDGE Pittsburgh EDGE3
48 Kyle Trask QB Florida QB5
49 Quincy Roche EDGE Miami (FL) EDGE4
50 Mac Jones QB Alabama QB6

Deep quarterback class

Heading into the 2020 season, I didn’t think that this year’s quarterback class was going to be all that deep. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields looked the part of obvious franchise-caliber quarterbacks, but there was a large discrepancy between the top two signal-callers and the rest of the class.

Since then, however, three quarterbacks in particular have risen into first-round conversation: Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask, and Mac Jones.

Wilson has since surpassed Trey Lance as the No. 3 quarterback on my board and is firmly a top-15 prospect in the 2021 class. His downfield accuracy, his arm strength, and his anticipatory skills and make him an intriguing quarterback option for teams picking outside of the first two picks.

Trask and Jones are arguably the top two Heisman contenders in the nation as of this writing. Trask has shown impressive accuracy on the deep ball, toughness in the pocket, a quick release and improved timing behind his throws. Jones has stepped into Alabama’s starting quarterback role and excelled from Day 1, looking like one of the most accurate and intelligent throwers in college football.

I had all of the six quarterbacks in my top 50 selected in the first round of my latest mock draft. While there’s a chance that doesn’t happen, given the high-end depth of the 2021 quarterback class and the massive league-wide demand for quarterbacks, it wouldn’t be shocking at all if it happened. Any of the top six signal-callers could end up starting in the NFL, and that’s an incredibly good sign for the quarterback-needy Bears.

Offensive linemen galore

The Bears have one of the worst offensive line units in the NFL, and while injuries up front have ravaged their unit, their Day 1 starters don’t inspire confidence, either.

Luckily for them, the 2021 draft has plenty of talented offensive linemen to choose from.

Despite opting out of the 2020 season, Penei Sewell is still my top overall prospect in this year’s draft. While he projects as a top-five lock, there are several blockers who could end up selected later in the first round.

Rashawn Slater—another opt-out from this season—is my second-rated offensive lineman in this year’s class, and whether he plays as a tackle, guard, or center at the next level, he is a well-rounded and intelligent blocker with a very high ceiling at the NFL level. Samuel Cosmi has all of the physical tools of a franchise left tackle, while Christian Darrisaw is a high riser in the class with a lot of potential.

Wyatt Davis and Alijah Vera-Tucker are two guard prospects I’ve been high on since the summer, and both players—the latter in particular—are solidifying themselves as top-50 locks in this class. Dillon Radunz is an athletic blindside blocker, Alex Leatherwood is still a versatile and well-rounded blocker, and Jackson Carman brings a nasty edge to his game.

This top 50 isn’t even including a few players who could be selected in the first two rounds. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele is a physical specimen at tackle, Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg is a powerful lineman whom I’m excited to watch more of going forward, and Tennessee’s Trey Smith brings a mean streak to the interior.

The Bears desperately need help along their offensive line, so luckily for them, the 2021 draft is projecting to have some incredible depth up front. They would be wise to take a lineman in the first two rounds of the draft this year.

Where are the defensive linemen?

The 2020 NFL Draft saw just two edge rushers and two interior defensive linemen selected in the first round. It’s very likely that the 2021 class could see even smaller numbers.

As of this writing, I only have a true first-round grade on one edge rusher: Gregory Rousseau. Though he opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, the tape he showed off in 2019 looked like that of a surefire first-round pick. Kwity Paye has risen up my board with his performance this season and could very well find his way into that territory, but no other edge rusher seems to project to be worthy of a first-round selection.

The situation is even worse for the interior defensive linemen, as I have no players inside of my top 50. Marvin Wilson was ranked No. 15 on my first big board, but after a season-ending leg injury and a disappointing 2020 campaign dropped him significantly. My top interior defender, Jay Tufele, is a solid Day 2 prospect but doesn’t have the anchor strength needed to propel him into first-round territory.

That’s not to say this class is completely devoid of defensive talent up front. Defensive linemen like Jaylen Twyman from Pittsburgh and Daviyon Nixon from Iowa are explosive and athletic players who will likely have strong Day 2 grades when it’s all said and done. Alabama’s Christian Barmore, UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa and Georgia’s Jordan Davis are a couple of players worth keeping an eye on, as well.

There are also plenty of talented edge rushers outside of the top 50 who could turn into solid starters at the next level. Azeez Ojulari from Georgia, Joseph Ossai from Texas and Jaelan Phillips from Miami are all high risers up my board who could get drafted even higher than where I have them. Athletic sleepers like Joshua Kaindoh from Florida State and Adetokunbo Ogundeji from Notre Dame are also mid-round talents worth keeping an eye on.

However, the 2021 class does lack in top-end talent up front. Luckily for the Bears, they don’t have a significant need at edge rusher, and their interior defensive line isn’t the biggest hole on their roster. It would be wise of them to invest in some depth on Day 3, but the early-round talent in the class likely isn’t worth taking a shot on in their case.