Pete Prisco’s 2021 NFL Draft Higher-Than Crew: 20 guys I like greater than the scouts do


For my annual Higher-Than Crew, which is made up of gamers I like greater than the scouts, I attempt to restrict the variety of gamers from one place group.

That did not occur this 12 months. Not with a loaded receiver group. 

It is possible that three receivers will likely be off the board by the fifteenth decide within the first spherical, and perhaps even three within the prime 12. They’re LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

They’re the consensus prime receivers on this draft, however do not get the concept that’s the place the receiver expertise ends on this class.

That is why I’ve 5 others on this Higher-Than Crew, together with my captain, North Carolina receiver Dyami Brown. Being the captain of this staff has some historical past of success. Two of these gamers from the previous have been Lavonte David and Grady Jarrett.

Along with these two, among the many gamers who’ve made my Higher-Than Crew  — which is often fabricated from non-first-round gamers — are Dak Prescott, George Kittle, David Johnson, Tyler Lockett, Deion Jones, Stefon Diggs, Yannick Ngakoue and Za’Darius Smith. There have been misses — like Sean Davis as my captain just a few years again — however I get pleasure from in search of down-the-line gamers who would possibly find yourself being steals.

Brown is a type of gamers. He’s an explosive receiver who ran by a number of defensive backs in school. He had 21 landing receptions in his profession. However he is far more than only a pace man. He’s strong as a route runner and can solely get higher as he will get coached up within the NFL.

However the factor that’s so enticing is his big-play capacity. He averaged a minimum of 20 yards per catch every of the previous two seasons. Pop on his sport tapes and you will notice why. At 6-1, 190 kilos, he places concern in defensive backs together with his capacity to run by them with ease. He was clocked at 4.4 at his professional day, however I feel he performs sooner than that. 

Brown will likely be a star on the subsequent degree — perhaps even higher than one of many big-three receivers on this draft class. That is how a lot I used to be impressed by his tape. 

However he isn’t alone. There are 4 others on this Higher-Than Crew. They’re Tennessee’s Josh Palmer, Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick, Auburn’s Anthony Schwarz and Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Palmer and Fitzpatrick are larger receivers, whereas Schwartz and Smith-Marsette can run. None will likely be first-round picks, and a few would possibly even be third-day picks, however the expertise is there to grow to be good NFL receivers.

Right here is your entire staff:

Davis Mills, QB, Stanford

Mills went to Stanford as a big-time recruit from Georgia, however he did not actually grow to be the full-time starter till final season. He did begin six video games in 2019 rather than the injured Ok.J. Costello. He began six video games final season within the COVID-shortened season. Mills has good measurement at 6-4, 225 kilos and the ball pops off his proper arm. It is only a matter of getting extra expertise. I feel he’ll turn into a top quality NFL starter on the subsequent degree and can find yourself being higher than one or two of the highest 5 quarterbacks on this draft.

Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame

He’s an influence participant, who performed left guard for Notre Dame. He lined up subsequent to deal with Liam Eichenberg, who some suppose could possibly be a first-round decide. However when watching Eichenberg, my eyes drifted to Banks and his energy sport. After a severe research of Banks, I count on him to grow to be a longtime starter within the NFL and go to some Professional Bowls. He does must work on his go safety. 

Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame

He hasn’t been a lot of a go catcher in his profession with the Irish, however he is likely one of the greatest blocking tight ends on this draft. I do suppose he has the athletic capacity to enhance as a go catcher, which might make him a well-rounded tight finish. He performed behind Cole Kmet in 2019 and final 12 months star freshman Michael Mayer was Notre Dame’s prime pass-catching tight finish. Tremble will likely be a steal for the staff that takes him within the second spherical. Sit again and watch his enchancment as a receiver within the NFL and simply keep in mind that a number of big-time tight ends come within the second and third rounds of the draft. 

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa 

Groups in search of a burner within the later rounds ought to take a protracted have a look at Smith-Marsette. He can fly and averaged 14.7 yards per catch at Iowa. He’s additionally a succesful kick returner, which is able to add to his worth. He does must get stronger, however he has the body to do it. He was arrested for DUI at Iowa, which is a priority and in addition injured an ankle whereas flipping into the tip zone to have fun a rating. However the pace will likely be what attracts him to groups, and it ought to. 

Demetric Felton, RB, UCLA

For those who love “air backs” like I do, that is the man for you. He performed operating again and receiver in Chip Kelly’s offense and did a pleasant job doing each. He can win within the passing sport, but in addition confirmed he is a succesful runner. He ran for 206 yards final season towards Arizona. He additionally caught seven passes for 46 yards and a landing towards Colorado. He is not an enormous again at 5-9, 190 kilos. Some view him as a slot receiver, however I see him extra as a third-down again and return man, who also can play within the slot. 

Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana

He has performed slot nook and security and has the vary that groups crave on the again finish. He had 4 picks final season, with a type of being an incredible play towards Ohio State in the midst of the sphere the place he learn Justin Fields’ eyes to make the decide. He additionally had a sack in that sport as a blitzer. The one knock on him is that he lowers his head when he tackles. That is a no-no on the subsequent degree. However his capacity to cowl a number of floor on the again finish will make him a pleasant third- or fourth-round security. 

Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh

Twyman opted out of the 2002 season, however his 2019 tape reveals a participant who can get stress on the quarterback from the inside. He is not huge at 6-1, 303 kilos, however he has quickness inside to push the pocket. He had 10 1/2 sacks in 2019, which reveals that capacity. He has to enhance as a run participant, however the staff that will get him will likely be getting a participant who can get inside stress. He went to Pitt as a result of Aaron Donald was his favourite participant, however he jogs my memory of a man who was the captain of this Higher-Than staff when he got here out of school: Grady Jarrett. That is excessive reward in my ebook.

Kary Vincent Jr, CB, LSU

Groups are at all times in search of a slot nook, and this needs to be their man. Vincent performed exterior and within the slot, and even some at security, for the Tigers in his profession earlier than opting out final 12 months. However I feel his capacity to play man protection will make him a pretty nickel nook. He can fly, too, which is able to assist with the slot protection. LSU has grow to be generally known as “DB U” in recent times, and search for Vincent so as to add to that as an excellent slot nook on the subsequent degree. 

Alaric Jackson, T-G, Iowa

He was a three-year starter at left deal with for the Hawkeyes, however I feel his greatest soccer can be performed if he moved inside to protect. Brandon Scherff and Marshal Yanda have been two former Iowa tackles who moved inside and have become excellent guards. Jackson ought to have the ability to grow to be a starter inside, whereas being a beneficial swing deal with if wanted. He does not have nice athletic capacity to deal with pace rushers, which is why I feel shifting inside would assist his possibilities of taking part in. He turned a vegan final 12 months and misplaced weight, however modified again to non-vegan weight loss plan and gained again his energy earlier than the Senior Bowl. He’s sturdy, which is why he is an excellent run blocker. While you begin that many video games on the offensive line at Iowa, there may be expertise there. 

Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

He is not the most important nook at 5-10, 190 kilos, however he is aware of the right way to play the place. The son of former NFL star nook Asante Samuel, he has the instruments to be an excellent starter on the subsequent degree. He battles on each play and has the duvet abilities and method wanted to grow to be a prime cowl participant. If he have been two inches taller, he is perhaps within the dialog as greatest nook prospect within the draft. As it’s, he needs to be a late first- or early second-round decide. 

Ronnie Perkins, DE, Oklahoma

He has performed together with his hand on the bottom and standing up in his profession. At 6-3, 250 kilos, he performs onerous and hard and has the pace wanted off the sting. He is perhaps extra suited to being a stand-up 3-4 rusher on the subsequent degree. He would wish so as to add some weight as a down finish, however he’s nonetheless strong within the run sport at that weight, which tells you he is greater than prepared, which some edge gamers are usually not. 

Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee

For groups in search of a good-sized receiver, Palmer matches the invoice. At 6-1, 210 kilos, he’s a robust receiver who had a few of his greatest video games towards some prime corners. He beat Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II for a landing and had an excellent sport towards the 2 Georgia corners. He is not a burner, however he will likely be a pleasant third receiver for a staff in search of a powerful exterior participant. 

Tony Fields, LB, West Virginia

He transferred to West Virginia final season after three years as a starter at Arizona. At simply over 6-feet tall and 222 kilos, he is not an enormous participant however he performs larger than he appears. He is an ideal run-and-chase linebacker who racked up a number of tackles. He does have bother with guard and facilities getting out on him in area, however he’s greater than prepared to take them on. For a third-day decide, he ought to assist a staff instantly on particular groups and may fit his method onto the sphere together with his capacity to run and chase. 

Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn

For those who love pace, that is your man. Schwartz can flat out fly and was as soon as thought-about a possible Olympic sprinter. He’s nonetheless uncooked as a receiver, however is a greater route runner than you’d suppose. He was utilized in quite a lot of methods at Auburn. I feel he’ll proceed to develop as a go catcher, which is able to make him a harmful deep risk for the staff that lands him. 

Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

At 6-3, 235 kilos, he runs effectively for a linebacker with that measurement. He performs quick with the flexibility to run down performs and play effectively in protection. He is good at diagnosing after which utilizing his pace to chase down runners. He additionally does a pleasant job in protection and had a pick-six on an athletic play towards Tennessee when he dropped into protection. He was solely a starter for a 12 months, which is able to flip some groups off. It should not. I feel he has an opportunity to be the most effective linebacker on this class. 

Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU

He’s a mountain of a person at 6-3, 350 (or so) kilos and he performs prefer it. He opted out in 2020, however when the Tigers received the nationwide title in 2019, he was an enormous a part of the protection. He anchored the road towards the run, typically commanding the double staff. There’s worth in that for a staff in search of a nostril in a 3-4 or a 4-3 one method participant. He can push the pocket at instances as effectively, however he’ll principally be used as a run participant on the subsequent degree. He does must preserve his weight in examine. 

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

He was a one-year starter at Memphis after opting out final season. He’s a smallish again at 5-9, 200 kilos, however he has 4.4 pace and may do a number of issues. He has the home-run pace to tear off lengthy runs and he is additionally an completed receiver out of the backfield. He shared time with Antonio Gibson in 2019 and he has the identical sort of talent set, however is quicker. 

Quincy Roche, Edge, Miami

Miami has two edge rushers who will go greater than Roche in Greg Rousseau and Jaelen Phillips. However that does not imply Roche cannot play. When Rousseau opted out, Roche, who transferred to Miami from Temple final 12 months, turned a starter. He went to Miami to problem himself extra after a formidable Temple profession. He’s an edge rusher who performs onerous and will likely be a participant who ought to arise as a 3-4 rush participant on the subsequent degree. He will not wow together with his athletic capacity, however there may be at all times a spot for gamers like Roche who play onerous and wish to be good. 

Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville

He is the “different” receiver at Louisville on most lists to Tutu Atwell, however he should not be. Fitzpatrick is an even bigger receiver at 6-1 1/2 and 208 kilos, however he is additionally bought good pace and averaged 16.8 yards per catch in his 4 seasons at Louisville, together with an eye-opening 19.4 final season. He ran away from defenders on a fast display towards Boston Faculty for a 69-yard landing and in addition had an 82-yard rating towards Virginia Tech the place he ran by the nook. In a 12 months with a number of smallish receivers, he would make sense for groups in search of larger exterior gamers. 



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