Skyler Griffith ’21
Every year, top NFL prospects wait in anticipation of the league’s annual draft. As a direct gateway to the world’s most competitive stage of American football, the draft features the biggest young names in the sport.
Although these top college athletes are already competing against the best for a roster spot, this year’s draft class is particularly strong. All eyes have been focused on the draft’s top five quarterbacks: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, OSU’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones, and NDSU’s Trey Lance, all of whom are projected to be top 10 picks.
These gunslingers have soaked up most of the spotlight from other notable draft prospects. However, top non-quarterback prospects, such as Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith, have still managed to draw considerable attention to themselves. Harris and Smith became fan favourites after winning this year’s national championship as members of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Below are draft profiles and grades for these non-quarterback NFL prospects who are bound to spark the most excitement in their rookie year.
Najee Harris, RB (University of Alabama): A+
Simply put, no other 6’2” 230 lb athlete has ever matched Najee Harris’s athletic abilities. He might be the biggest running back to have ever hurdled defenders with such ease. Harris’s versatile play knows no limits.
He is a dual-threat running back, having proved that he can both run and receive the ball proficiently. After racking up 1,891 total yards and 30 total touchdowns in the 2020 season, it is no mystery as to why Harris received the Doak Walker Award (awarded annually to America’s top college football RB).
As an unusually large running back, Harris is comparable to Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Although Henry outweighs Harris by nearly 20 lbs, Harris’s athleticism blows Henry’s out of the water. Considering that Derrick Henry just became the 8th player in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards in a season, the sky’s the limit for Najee Harris.
The draft’s best quarterbacks will certainly give him a run for his money, but I expect Najee Harris to be named the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
DeVonta Smith, WR (University of Alabama): B+
DeVonta Smith might be the most intriguing prospect of the draft. This year, he was the first wide receiver to be awarded the Heisman Trophy (awarded annually to the most outstanding college football player) in 30 years.
Despite being named this year’s top player in college football, he is projected to be the third WR selected in the draft. Now why would a Heisman winner’s draft stock be so low? In this case, it’s because he weighs a mere 170lbs. Teams are hesitant to draft Smith because the skills of players his size don’t usually translate well into the NFL.
However, Smith believes playing professionally won’t be any different from college. Either Smith’s exceptional route-running and IQ will be his saving grace, or he will follow the likes of Johnny Manziel and become another Heisman bust. However, because DeVonta Smith outperformed every other college receiver last year, I expect him to beat the odds and hush the nay-sayers.
Photo Credits: https://www.profootballnetwork.com/nfl-draft-order/ (NFL Draft), Alabama Athletics (Najee Harris), Todd Kirkland/Getty Images (DeVonta Smith)