Let’s face it: if you clicked on this article, you probably have opinions about the 2021 NFL Draft. Or you want to read some debate about other people’s opinions on the draft. Either way, we’re here to accommodate you.
In the past, as an avid fan of NFL Draft analysis, I’ve placed my bets on a number of prospects. Some of them turned out to be huge successes, and some didn’t come close.
- Hits: Lamar Jackson, George Kittle, Shaquil Barrett, Daniel Sorensen, Mike Evans
- Misses: Hakeem Butler, Ryan Nassib, Isaiah Ford, Vernon Adams Jr.
In other words, my vision to predict future all-star athletes is clear as mud. But that’s part of the fun.
Unlike the 2020 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills do have a first-round pick in play. That made it a little easier to stay tuned into pre-draft coverage this year, although other circumstances in 2020 greatly limited the amount of college football I was able to watch. As always, I have my own set of players, ranked high or low, who I think could be exciting NFL professionals. So who have I locked in for this year’s rookie lineup?
Top on my list is offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz. The D3 recruit from Wisconsin-Whitewater quickly landed on my radar when he dominated practice at the Senior Bowl, and nothing has moved him since. The 6’3” 320-lb Meinerz crushed his workouts with a 4.86 40-yard dash, a 32” vertical leap, and a 7.33 three cone drill, among others. There’s a lot of raw talent to develop here, but the upside is a potential Pro Bowl guard or center.
Next up would be Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins. 6’5” 260 lb players aren’t supposed to move like he does, but Collins has the speed and fluidity to be a team’s full-time off-the-ball linebacker. He has a knack for playmaking, with five career interceptions, two blocked kicks, two forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks, and 29 tackles-for-loss in his career. Two easy player comparisons: Anthony Barr and Jamie Collins, who both carved out long, high-impact careers.
Finally, it’s Ifeatu Melifonwu. A 6’2” 212 pound cornerback is already an enticing prospect, but this is the brother of the NFL Combine record-setting Obi Melifonwu. So he’s also an excellent athlete, with a 4.44 40-yard dash and a 41.5” vertical leap at his pro day. He’s a good tackler, and effective reading the play in front of him. That would work for a starting cornerback in Buffalo’s zone-heavy defense, but Melifonwu could also potentially work in as a “big nickel” option in some situations. In the last two seasons, Melifonwu had three interceptions and 17 pass breakups across 20 games played.
Since most of these names are in the discussion for day-one and day-two picks, I feel like I owe it to pick a name or two outside of the top 100 bucket. So I’ll also add Northern Iowa edge rusher Elerson Smith and North Texas receiver Jaelon Darden as two late-round players I like.
Alright, your turn: Who are your favorite can’t-miss players in this year’s NFL Draft? Let loose in the comments!