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2021 NFL draft: Can Stanford QB Davis Mills surprise after 11 college starts?

Eric Edholm
·22 min read
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Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

75. Stanford QB Davis Mills

6-foot-4, 225 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Developmental passer who once was an elite recruit, displaying some intriguing upside in his 11 college starts

Games watched: USC (2019), Cal (2019), Washington (2020), Oregon State (2020), UCLA (2020)

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit — the top QB in the 2017 class, ahead of Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, and No. 10 nationally — Mills went with the Cardinal and stuck around despite not seeing the field much early on. Davis redshirted in 2017 and then saw action in only one game in 2018, going 0-for-2 passing with a 5-yard run vs. UC-Davis.

In 2019, Mills lost the starting job to K.J. Costello. But Mills quickly was thrown into the mix when Costello got hurt, eventually playing eight games (starting six) and completing 158 of 241 passes (65.6 percent) for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Upside: Fundamentally clean passer — mechanics look eerily similar to Andrew Luck at times. Nice, balanced dropbacks. Great posture. Keeps feet and hips squared up. Quick, fluid throwing motion. Very little that needs to be retooled significantly in his setup or delivery.

Will look like an NFL starter in 7-on-7 work. Short passing game wizard who can dart throws quickly and on target. Fast decision making — processes standard reads well and lets it fly. Often seen throwing with trust, as receivers are getting into their breaks — little hesitation in his delivery. Knows how to leverage man-coverage defenders and dice up zones underneath. Had a lot thrown on his plate in a voluminous system and handled it pretty deftly.

Good size and build. Enough movement skills within the pocket to create time and opportunities. Able athlete to pick up tough yards as an occasional scrambler. Nice arm talent and touch to attack most parts of the field. Uses his lower body well to aid throws from clean pockets. Throws mostly pretty, clean passes. Can manipulate arm angles amid pressure and muddied pockets.

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Much better on deep touch and accuracy in 2020 than in 2019. Showed improved eye manipulation, better timing and ball placement — stopped underthrowing those routes as often.

Suffered from a lot of receiver drops the past two seasons, including a whopping 16 drops in 2020, per PFF — 11 percent of his pass attempts were counted as drops. Only eight interceptions in 442 pass attempts. Had 504-yard and 428-yard passing games on the road.

More than half his starts in 2019 came with a Cardinal roster ravaged by injury, especially on the offensive line. Rarely had much support from the run game in his time in school.

Tough — gutted his way through a leg injury in a big upset over Washington in 2019, completing 21 of 30 passes (70.0 percent) for 293 yards and a TD and scrambling three times for 26 yards. In the 2020 game against the Huskies, Mills made a TD-saving tackle after a fourth-quarter fumble in a one-score game to help preserve the win.

Operated in a pro-style system with heavy under-center usage. Prototypical pocket-passer approach. Ascending talent who could be the QB surprise in this class down the road.

Downside: Inexperienced — only 11 college starts and 820 total game reps over parts of three seasons. Turns 23 years old in October and might not get an NFL starting shot for at least a year. Missed big test against Oregon because of COVID contact tracing.

Guilty of some really shaky decisions at times — that inexperience can show. Will hang his receivers out to dry — prone to floating a hospital ball or two that gets his man clobbered. Sideline/red-zone accuracy can be shaky — doesn’t always give his man a chance to come down with it. Tosses up a few prayer balls in traffic.

Injury history must be vetted — suffered multiple knee injuries late in his high-school career, which lingered into his Stanford career, plus a leg injury that cut into his 2019 campaign. Medical evaluation could have a huge effect on his draft grades.

In a mere 11 college starts, Stanford QB Davis Mills showed some intriguing potential. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
In a mere 11 college starts, Stanford QB Davis Mills showed some intriguing potential. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Might never be a great deep-ball thrower. Wasn’t asked to do it much past two seasons. Showed improvement in this area but lacks ideal touch and arm strength to consistently drive the ball vertically. Gives cursory look-off to safeties — needs to sell those better.

Still learning how best to handle pressure. Pressure can bring out some of his best throws, but it’s inconsistent — locks in on his hot reads and has trouble getting to second read. Can get sloppy at times (seven career fumbles), especially when the heat is on. Needs more time facing complex blitz packages. Must show he can climb the pocket more consistently.

Best-suited destination: Mills needs time to develop and shouldn’t figure prominently in a team’s 2021 plans in a perfect world. But the talented passer could be a down-the-road replacement for an aging QB, ideally with a team that employs heavy play action, timing and rhythm in the passing game, such as the Titans, Falcons, Saints or Vikings.

Did you know: There have been some fine athletes in Mills’ family, mostly in other sports. His grandfather played minor-league baseball in the New York Mets’ minor-league system, and his two older sisters both played college tennis. Erin Mills played tennis at Tusculum, and Ali played at South Carolina.

Player comp: This is a tricky one. As we said above, there are times when you watch Mills throw, and it brings you back to Luck’s passing mechanics when he was back on The Farm. But Mills doesn’t possess Luck’s higher-end arm talent and athleticism. Instead, we see some similarities in Mills to how Jared Goff operates. If Mills can be groomed properly and remains healthy, that might be his ceiling.

Expected draft range: Rounds 3 to 4

74. Michigan State CB Shakur Brown

5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Banty rooster with terrific ball skills whose hyper-competitive style can work for him — or against him

Games watched: Rutgers (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020), Ohio State (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Brown redshirted in 2017 and saw action in 12 games (one start), notching a pick six and six tackles. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Brown made 23 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five passes defended in seven games but had his season cut short because of an undisclosed injury he suffered during the season. In 2020, the redshirt junior picked off five passes, second-most in college football despite playing only seven games. He earned first-team all-Big Ten mention, also breaking up four passes and making 25 tackles.

Upside: Feisty and competitive. Agitator who likes to get under receivers’ skin — see the Ohio State game when he was egging on Chris Olave and other wideouts. Won’t ever back down from a challenge. Incredible confidence. Often asked to cover opponents’ WR1 — takes on all shapes, sizes and styles.

Ballhawk — seven career INTs in 26 games. Returned those picks for 186 yards, including a pick six in 2018 and one that was called back in 2020. Cat-quick reflexes to close fast. Aggressive and fearless — crosses receivers’ faces to make plays on the ball. Natural football instincts that can’t be taught.

Plays the ball like a wide receiver — attacks it with a “my ball” attitude when it’s coming anywhere in his zip code. Runs the routes for the receiver. Made some circus picks in 2020, such as his fantastic grab to seal an upset against Northwestern. Tracks the ball extremely well in the air.

There's plenty to like about Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
There's plenty to like about Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Inside-outside versatility — has played nickel and outside CB spots with equal effectiveness. Wasn’t asked to blitz much but showed some exciting potential to be great at it (two sacks in 2019, near safety vs. Tulsa).

Underrated strength. Holds up well despite a small frame and is perfectly comfortable playing a physical brand of ball. Will crash down hard in run support. Can play press-bail technique effectively. Routinely faced off against receivers 3-4 inches and 20-30 pounds bigger.

Downside: Inexperienced — 26 career games but only 12 starts. Only a year’s worth of starting experience. Missed a big chunk of sophomore season with injuries — needs clarity in his medical evaluations. Plays with some disregard for his body — durability concerns exist in the NFL scouting community.

Small frame with limited growth potential — likely always will be giving up size and/or speed in his matchups. Straight-line speed might be a bit capped — lacks that extra gear. Was beaten deep a few times (see 2020 Indiana game). Will take the cheese in zone defense — falls for double moves, will lock in on play-action fakes and can be manipulated by talented quarterbacks’ eyes.

Overaggressive and physical — flagged 10 times over the past two seasons, including multiple unsportsmanlike conduct calls and personal fouls. Tackling efficiency needs to improve — lots of wild attempts in 2020 that led to missed tackles.

Can easily lose his cool on the field. Needs to know when to reel it in. Could get in certain coaches’ doghouse for undisciplined moments. Character must be vetted.

Best-suited destination: We can envision Brown playing either inside or outside, and in zone- and man-heavy schemes. His best impact might come as a slot corner in a predominantly man-coverage system where his quickness and risk-taking skills can best be put to use. A perfect addition for a defense that also could use a few dashes of spice and vinegar.

Did you know: Brown was a big-play specialist in high school, too. As a senior, he logged a 95-yard INT return for a touchdown, an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 65-yard TD catch.

Player comp: Remember Cortland Finnegan? That’s who Brown most reminds us of — tough, undersized, feisty and impactful. For a more recent comp, Brown also has some Bradley Roby in his game.

Expected draft range: Rounds 2 or 3

73. Miami TE Brevin Jordan

6-foot-3, 245 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Young, ascending talent who can turn short catches into long gains, but he’s not yet a complete tight end

Games watched: Louisville (2020), Clemson (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), North Carolina (2020), Oklahoma State (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 49 nationally), Jordan started 11 of 12 games he played as a true freshman, earning second-team all-ACC (coaches) in catching 32 passes for 287 yards and four scores. In 2019, Jordan started 10 games and caught 35 passes for 495 yards and two scores, earning a nomination for the Mackey Award (best tight end in college football) despite missing three games with injury. He also missed three more in 2020 with a shoulder injury but had his best statistical season with 38 catches, 576 yards and seven TDs in eight starts. Jordan then declared for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Athletically gifted. Displays sharp cutting ability in the open field and strong burst off the line — tough cover for linebackers and slower safeties. Added weight throughout his college career and didn’t appear to lose a step.

YAC king who turned a lot of short passes into longer gains — averaged 15.2 yards per catch in 2020 despite 27 of his 38 catches coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage (including 13 behind the line). Great acceleration after the catch and able to make the first man miss or power through him.

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Worked through contact well, especially in the middle of the field — took some whopper hits and kept churning for more yards. Fearless working the seam where safeties lurk. Broke several tackles throughout his career – underrated strength with the ball in his hands. Turns into a weapon with the ball in his strong hands. Wards off defenders with an effective stiff arm.

Miami tight end Brevin Jordan (9) stiff-arms a Duke defender. (Nell Redmond/Pool Photo via AP)
Miami tight end Brevin Jordan (9) stiff-arms a Duke defender. (Nell Redmond/Pool Photo via AP)

Displayed better route subtlety, including a hesitation move at the top of his routes and sharper, quicker cuts. Has the potential to grow more in this area. Worked effectively with mobile QB D’Eriq King, displaying good recognition for scramble drills and freelancing to get open.

Still needs refinement as a blocker but doesn’t lack confidence, wanting to take on edge defenders in the run game. Lined up in-line, flexed into the slot, out wide and occasionally in the backfield.

Has some trick-play potential — completed his only pass last season for 15 yards and also threw a nice ball against Clemson that drew a pass-interference flag. Used a few times as a runner and could be tried on inside screens (think Urban Meyer’s offense at Florida or how the Chiefs use Travis Kelce).

Plenty of room to grow and develop — won’t turn 21 until July. Appeared more of a confident, complete player in 2020. Might just be hitting his athletic and mental peak.

Downside: Injuries have added up a bit — missed multiple games each of the past two seasons with shoulder (2020) and lower-body (2019) injuries. Rarely was healthy in college and it likely cost him a step or two.

Lacks ideal length and mass for the position — merely adequate NFL size. Built more like a bulked-up running back or a bulky receiver. Not as effective playing in-line and almost certainly to be featured more as an H-back/detached receiver.

Timed speed might be better than his play speed. Doesn’t always gain elite separation. Route running has improved but still needs to be streamlined and cleaned up. Some big chunks of his yardage down the seam appeared to come on coverage busts or miscommunications.

In-line blocking needs work. Effort is there, but effectiveness is hit or miss. Hand placement in pass protection gets sloppy. Looks unsure of assignments on occasion. Will burrow into defenders' chests and lose his leverage and balance. Doesn’t quite sustain long enough on blocks.

Somewhat reduced offensive usage — ran a lot of short stuff (drags, crossers, screens) and seam routes. Wasn’t asked to run every route on the tree. Not a true red-zone mismatch weapon – wasn’t targeted a ton the closer the Canes got to the end zone. Lacks the length and quick-separation skill to be a huge TD producer in tight quarters.

Still not the most natural catcher. Allows passes to get into his body and will double-catch some balls. Eight career drops on 149 targets. Wasn’t as effective in contested-catch situations. Needs to use his body better when shielding off defenders.

Best-suited destination: We mentioned Meyer above, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him want to give assumed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence an outlet target in Jacksonville to steal some yards. We could see Jordan fitting in a lot of places, but the Jaguars are a team that makes sense for his ability.

Did you know: Brevin’s father, Darrell Jordan, was a linebacker out of Northern Arizona who was drafted in the ninth round (222nd overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in 1990, although he never played in a regular-season game.

The elder Jordan died in 2018 of a heart attack a few months before Brevin shipped off to Miami.

Player comp: Jordan is somewhere on the Gerald Everett-Evan Engram-Trey Burton spectrum.

Expected draft range: Rounds 2 or 3

72. Syracuse S Andre Cisco

6-foot, 209 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Freelancing, ballhawking safety who could turn out to be the best in this class if he can play with more discipline

Games watched: Liberty (2019), Maryland (2019), North Carolina (2020), Pitt (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Cisco was overshadowed at IMG Academy but landed with the Orange and made himself into a three-year starter. He was fantastic as a true freshman, earning third-team AP All-American honors and being named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year with an FBS-best seven INTs, 18 passes defended and 60 tackles in 13 games (11 starts). As a sophomore in 2019, Cisco hauled in five more picks, 10 passes defended and made 65 tackles in nine games. In 2020, he played only two games, making 11 tackles and one INT before declaring for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Absurd playmaking ability — a whopping 13 INTs, 29 passes defended, two forced fumbles in 24 games. It was hard to turn on the tape and not see him make some kind of impactful play in a game.

Tremendous athleticism — runs and moves extremely well. Great physique with natural bulk that doesn’t hinder his movement skills. Quick-twitch mover. Reaction times both in run and pass support are plus-plus. Good upper-body strength and lower-body explosion. All the physical traits you’re looking for in a modern post safety.

Outstanding range — covers as much ground in a hurry as any safety in this class. Tracks the ball from a deep safety spot and can traverse half the field to make a play on the ball.

Comes in ready to send a message against the run or vs. middle-field catches. Lays some absolute licks on those who dare to enter his zone (see Pitt 2020 game, on back-to-back plays). A “juice” player who can impact the game from the top down. Sees the field well and arrives at the ball in a hurry. Asked to handle high-safety duties in aggressive defense — they ran a lot of Cover 1, trusting he’d close off the top.

Turns 21 in March, so there's ample room for growth and development.

Downside: Injury risk who has missed parts of two seasons. Cisco has played the equivalent of one full season over the past two years. Torn ACL early in 2020 season could limit his offseason participation and put him behind as a rookie. Physical style could lead to a shorter career.

Riverboat gambler who rides as many cold streaks as he does hot ones — too much freelancing. Will guess wrong and get burned. Bites on play action and will be manipulated by quarterbacks’ eyes. Needs to be schooled more on being patient and not trying to make a pick every single pass play.

Tackling can be an issue as Cisco takes poor angles to the ball, doesn’t wrap up or flies in chaotically. PFF charted him with 27 missed tackles in 24 games. Can he be trusted as the last line of defense?

Coverage skills when singled up on receivers was spotty. Some quicker receivers might be too much for him to handle in the slot. Will battle with bigger targets at the catch point but can get bodied up.

Has box-safety skills but isn’t always as effective down there. Still learning to read his keys in reduced space and diagnose from tighter quarters. Was caught fighting through traffic in that role. Needs to have his head on a swivel and use his peripheral vision better.

Best-suited destination: Projects as a post or split safety in the NFL who can patrol the middle and seek opportunities to make plays on the ball. He can work in the slot and in the box, but it’s not yet what Cisco does best.

Did you know: Cisco was high school teammates with Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses and Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit.

Player comp: Marcus Williams-Anthony Harris mold.

Expected draft range: Round 2

71. Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace

5-foot-11, 193 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.81 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Vertical threat with great competitiveness and video-game production, albeit in a narrow role feasting on bad Big 12 defenses

Games watched: Tulsa (2020), Iowa State (2020), Texas Tech (2020), TCU (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 148 nationally), Wallace signed with the Cowboys and his twin brother, Tracin. Tylan caught seven passes for 118 yards in 13 games as a true freshman amid a deep receivers room in 2017. He really broke out in 2018, catching 86 passes for 1,491 yards (second in FBS) and 12 TDs, earning first-team all-Big 12 and second-team All-America mention. In 2019, Wallace caught 53 passes for 903 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games before suffering a torn ACL. He came back strong in 2020 with 59 receptions for 922 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. In the bowl game against Miami, Wallace caught six passes for 45 yards in the first half and then sat out the second half — a pre-planned move to limit his injury risk before heading to the Senior Bowl.

Upside: Dangerous deep threat who can turn the jets on. Caught 38 passes of 20-plus air yards over the past three seasons for a combined 1,353 yards and 11 TDs. Strong production for three years once he earned a featured role — averaged 107 yards per game since 2018 and scored 27 TDs in those 31 games.

Looked plenty explosive and dynamic following a torn ACL in 2019 — and will be another year removed from injury as an NFL rookie. Track background shows up in his vertical acceleration. Explosive movement skills and great leaping ability at the catch point.

Plays bigger than his size. Competes with a fiery attitude. Strong hands. Tons of contested catches. Jumping ability, timing and elite desire — a tough combination for DBs to stop. Makes big plays in big moments.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace has been one of the best vertical threats in college football since 2018. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace has been one of the best vertical threats in college football since 2018. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Runs clean routes. Carves off his routes with suddenness and doesn’t gear down at the top of his routes. Maintains balance and will work back to his quarterback to offer a good target. Adjusts to off-target throws pretty well. Will use a hesitation move to sell the stutter-go route.

Downside: A bit of a one-trick pony. Played predominantly on the right side of the field in an Air Raid system with a slimmed-down route tree. Played about 10 percent of his snaps in the slot. Has a smaller frame for an outside receiver — close to maxed-out frame and short arms.

Got bodied in press coverage and could get bumped off his routes, even by relatively small corners. Plays too light on his feet at times and must be more wary of subtle downfield contact. Didn’t see a ton of press coverage outside. Big corners can have their way with him.

Fast for college but might not have that extra gear to consistently take the tops off of NFL defenses. Short-area quickness is good but not what you’d expect of a receiver of his dimensions. Feasted on Big 12 defenses.

Let a few catchable balls slip through his grasp — some concentration drops, some where he didn’t get his hands out in front. Will mistime some jumps and lose positioning. Can do a better job of exploding out of routes on short and intermediate stuff.

Not a ton of special teams value. Was used sparingly as a punt returner early in his OSU career.

Best-suited destination: Wallace might be best suited as a WR3 in a vertical offense where he can stress defenses deep. Some teams will want to try him inside because of his smaller frame, but his best moments have come outside the numbers pushing vertically and working back to the ball if needed.

Did you know: His brother Tracin suffered three torn ACLs at OSU, which led him to medically retire from football in June of 2019.

Player comp: We get some Nelson Agholor vibes from Wallace, who could be slow to adjust to a complex NFL offense but should display some juice in time.

Expected draft range: Round 3

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