The best players available in the 2021 NFL draft

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Doug Farrar
·6 min read
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Just because the NFL doesn’t see you as a first-round talent doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as a starter in the league right away. Last year, the Buccaneers were able to steal Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. with the 45th pick, and Winfield was an integral part of the Super Bowl champs’ top defense. The Colts nabbed Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor with the 42nd overall pick, and Taylor was the league’s most productive rookie back with 1,169 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on just 232 carries. Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn lasted until the final pick of the second round, and the Panthers got themselves a key multi-position player on the cheap as a result.

So, as we all wake up bleary-eyed with the first round of the 2021 MFL draft behind us, keep in mind that there’s still a ton of positional value out there, and a lot of players with legitimate first-round grades still waiting to help make their teams better. Here are the best players available in Day 2 of the 2021 NFL draft.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Three linebackers went in the first round this year -- Micah Parsons to the Cowboys at 12, Zaven Collins to the Cardinals at 16, and Jamin Davis to Washington at 19. It's a surprise that Owusu-Koramoah is still on the board here, given his versatility, traits, and production, but you can expect some team to happily select him early in the second round. Other teams may be unsure how to utilize Owusu-Koramoah in their schemes as he's less a true 'backer and more a safety hybrid, but at 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds and the ability to play everywhere from the box to the slot to free safety, he certainly fits the paradigm of the modern do-it-all defender.

Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama

(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

People have been saying all along that the 2021 class of interior defensive linemen was a bit light, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that there were no tackles taken in the first round. That hasn't happened since 2017, and there were two DTs taken in the first round in 2020, so it's not as if this is some sort of league-wide positional manifesto. Barmore is the best of the bunch this year, and while has everything you want in a three-tech base tackle with nose and end potential, there isn’t a lot to go on when it comes to hand technique o get free from blockers. When that happens, he should be a top-tier tackle. Until then, he’s equal parts production and potential.

Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Now, this was a surprise. Actually, there were a few surprising things about running backs in the first round. The Steelers took Alabama's Najee Harris at 24, and the Jaguars selected Clemson's Travis Etienne one pick later -- in Etienne's case, per Urban Meyer, to be a third-down back. But if you're looking at overall skill set and what makes a next-level starting running back in today's NFL, it's tough to find anyone better than Williams, who forced an NCAA-high 76 tackles as a runner last season, and had 27 runs of 15 or more yards. Williams is also an ascending receiver, and he blocks like a linebacker, so while I get that the Steelers valued Harris' versatility and the Jaguars liked Etitnne's explosiveness, Williams does more things at an elite level than any other back in this class.

Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

(Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)

There were no safeties taken in the first round in 2021, and while Moehrig seemed to be the only prospect at the position with absolute first-round traits, I expected him to land somewhere in the top 32 with his versatility and coverage ability. In three seasons with the Horned Frogs, Moehrig allowed 49 receptions on 96 targets for 533 yards, 253 yards after the catch, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 54.7. Why might he have dropped? It's possible that Moehrig, like just about every other safety in this class, is a projection to a point as a true free safety, and brings more value as a player who can line up in multiple spaces. Perhaps the league doesn't value that as much as analysts do?

Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Five edge-rushers heard their names called on Thursday night, and Ojulari -- who had 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback hurries on just 193 pass-rushing snaps last season -- is the best of the bunch left on the board. Some teams may have been scared off by Ojulari's size at 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds, but Ojulari knows how to disrupt quarterbacks, and he's done so against some very stout collegiate offensive lines. He is a true edge with some off-ball potential as opposed to a multi-gap rusher, which does make him a bit more scheme-specific.

Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss

(Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

In my final mock draft, I had the Giants trading down with the Bears and taking a smaller, quicker receiver in the first round. Got that part right. But I had them taking Elijah Moore with the 20th overall pick, as opposed to Florida's Kadarius Toney, who was their eventual pick. I like Toney as a playmaker in space, but I like Moore even more (sorry) as that tone-setter from the slot and outside. In 2020, Moore caught 22 passes behind the line of scrimmage for 94 yards and a touchdown, and he had 11 receptions on 19 targets of 20 or more air yards for 490 yards and four touchdowns. Any team running a lot of three- and four-receiver sets would love to have Moore in their receiver room.

Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama

(Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports)

It's not automatic that NFL teams will select a center in every first round -- there were none taken in 2017, none in 2014, and none in 2011 or 2012. But Dickerson absolutely displayed first-round talent when he was on the field, so the medicals might be giving teams pause. He had season-ending injuries both at Florida State and Alabama, and he's coming off a torn ACL. But if you need a power center to define the middle of your offensive line, it doesn't get much better than this. Dickerson didn’t allow a single sack in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He gave up a sack in his first game of the 2020 season against Missouri, and gave up no sacks and two total pressures through the rest of the season. He's also got extensive experience in both zone and gap schemes.

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