2021 NFL Draft Big Board: Ranking the Top 100 Prospects
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Pitts
For the past few years, I’ve done mock drafts and posted NFL draft prop betting content for The Action Network.
Last year, I went 124-88-1 (+26.2 units) betting the NFL draft and was the No. 6 mocker in the FantasyPros accuracy contest. In 2019, I was 54-29 (+17.7 units) on the draft and was also a top-20 mocker in the FantasyPros accuracy contest and Mock Draft Database contest.
If you want to see what I’m betting for the draft this year, check out the Action Labs NFL Draft Insider Props Tool.
I am obsessed with the NFL draft.
But I’ve never created a big board — until now.
The idea to make one had never crossed my mind until recently, when I was talking with Scott Smith, who has probably been the best mock drafter in the world over the past three years.
In our conversation, Scott mentioned several big boards — including the excellent Consensus Big Board at The Athletic, curated by Arif Hasan — and I started thinking to myself: “If I were an NFL general manager, and I had no scouting department because I had fired all my scouts, how would I create a big board?”
I dug into some production statistics, I looked at some big boards, I consulted some historical and mock draft data — and a few hours later I have created a big board: My Top 100.
2021 NFL Draft Big Board
Big Board Methodology
For the most part, I’ve done little tinkering in creating the big board: I put data into spreadsheets, I weight different variables, then I let the algorithm do its work.
The top 100 players according to my super-advanced and proprietary (read: very basic) methodology are exactly the players who make up my final top 100 big board. I haven’t removed any players from the top 100 or substituted any players. I figure that the numbers driving my spreadsheets know more than I do.
But within the top 100 I have made some small tweaks.
Originally, Zach Wilson was one spot ahead of Fields. I flipped the order. I believe Fields should be the No. 2 quarterback selected in this class. I also moved both of them ahead of tackle Penei Sewell and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Quarterbacks dominate.
I bumped Trey Lance up from No. 11 to No. 8, ahead of wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. Quarterback is such an important position, and Lance has so much upside: He belongs in the top 10.
I also felt compelled to move Mac Jones up from No. 20 to No. 12, right after cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
Travis Etienne and Najee Harris were originally ranked at the bottom of Round 1 — and I obviously couldn’t have that, so I bumped them down a few spots to the top of Round 2.
It’s worth nothing that the algorithm on its own had Etienne ahead of Harris — and that’s also how I have them ranked in my pre-draft top 40 dynasty rookie rankings.
There’s a very real chance that Etienne is selected ahead of Harris.
I moved Terrace Marshall Jr. up a few spots into Round 1: His talent warrants that kind of valuation, even with his injury history.
I also bumped Rondale Moore down one spot, which put him at No. 33, the first pick of Round 2. As much as I love Moore, I doubt strongly he will go in Round 1. But sign me up for Moore all day in Round 2.
In the original top 100, Kadarius Toney was one spot ahead of Rashod Bateman. I prefer Bateman, so I reversed the order. I think they are both coin flips to go in the second half of Round 1.
Pat Freiermuth is the clear No. 2 tight end in the class. I doubt he goes in Round 1, but the Jaguars are rumored to love him, and it’s not unthinkable that they could reach for him at picks Nos. 25, 33 or 45. I bumped him up from the 50s into the 40s.
I have Sewell ahead of Rashawn Slater, but the two are probably closer in quality than I originally surmised, so I bumped Slater ahead of Waddle and Smith.
I also moved Alex Leatherwood and Samuel Cosmi up from the 40s to the 30s. I had to put them ahead of Jalen Mayfield, who has fallen down mock draft boards over the past few months.
Landon Dickerson belongs in Round 1. He has a lengthy injury history, but he’s the best center and maybe the best interior offensive lineman in the class. I moved him up to No. 31 from a spot in the 50s.
I know that’s a massive jump, but I don’t care. Dickerson might not go in Round 1, but that’s where I’d take him if I were a GM.
Gregory Rousseau and Jayson Oweh were originally near the top of Round 2, but I bumped them up to the bottom of Round 1. Based on everything I look at, I think both have better than a 50% chance of going in the top 32.
I also bumped Joe Tryon up about 10 spots. I doubt he goes in Round 1, but he has gotten some buzz, and I expect he’ll go in the top half of Round 2.
Jamin Davis was originally in the 40s, but with his athleticism and ability I had to move him up to No. 36, right behind Etienne and Harris.
Davis is very live to go in Round 1.
NFL Draft Big Board Utility
If I were you, I wouldn’t use this big board to inform your prop bet wagers: It wasn’t build with that purpose in mind.
Primarily, the board represents how I would value players in the 2021 NFL draft if I were an NFL decision maker. Secondarily, it roughly corresponds with how I think the top 100 picks will generally go.
Predictiveness isn’t my top priority here. But I do expect the big board to prove prognosticative.
Of the 100 players selected at the top of the NFL draft, I project that 75-90 will be on this list and taken in an order that correlates with how I have them ranked.
In a few hours work, that’s not bad.
In the words of Shakespeare, “The first thing we do, let’s fire all the scouts.” Most people don’t know that Billy was an analytics-friendly football fan, but he was.
2021 NFL Draft Big Board
|3||Justin Fields||QB||Ohio State|
|8||Trey Lance||QB||North Dakota State|
|11||Patrick Surtain II||CB||Alabama|
|13||Micah Parsons||LB||Penn State|
|14||Jaycee Horn||CB||South Carolina|
|17||Christian Darrisaw||OT||Virginia Tech|
|18||Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah||LB||Notre Dame|
|19||Caleb Farley||CB||Virginia Tech|
|25||Greg Newsome II||CB||Northwestern|
|26||Teven Jenkins||OT||Oklahoma State|
|30||Jayson Oweh||EDGE||Penn State|
|32||Terrace Marshall Jr.||WR||LSU|
|37||Asante Samuel Jr.||CB||Florida State|
|44||Javonte Williams||RB||North Carolina|
|47||Carlos Basham Jr.||EDGE||Wake Forest|
|48||Pat Freiermuth||TE||Penn State|
|50||Liam Eichenberg||OT||Notre Dame|
|52||Dillon Radunz||OT||North Dakota State|
|53||Wyatt Davis||OG||Ohio State|
|61||Amon-Ra St. Brown||WR||USC|
|65||Dyami Brown||WR||North Carolina|
|70||Alim McNeill||DT||North Carolina State|
|71||D’Wayne Eskridge||WR||Western Michigan|
|72||Baron Browning||LB||Ohio State|
|73||Chazz Surratt||LB||North Carolina|
|76||Pete Werner||LB||Ohio State|
|77||Michael Carter||RB||North Carolina|
|78||Tylan Wallace||WR||Oklahoma State|
|81||Josh Myers||OC||Ohio State|
|85||Milton Williams||DT||Louisiana Tech|
|87||Brevin Jordan||TE||Miami (FL)|
|88||Hunter Long||TE||Boston College|
|89||Tommy Tremble||TE||Notre Dame|
|92||Patrick Jones II||EDGE||Pittsburgh|
|93||Hamsah Nasirildeen||S||Florida State|
|94||Tommy Togiai||DT||Ohio State|
|95||Aaron Banks||OG||Notre Dame|
|100||Kellen Mond||QB||Texas A&M|
Matthew Freedman is 1,018-828-37 (55.1%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.