The 2021 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and while it’s fun to celebrate the can’t-miss prospects like Trevor Lawrence or focus on the positive with potential sleepers, there are inevitably players who shoot up draft boards without much merit.
In other words, we’re going to focus on the most overrated prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft who are garnering first-round hype.
After all, when you look at the hit rate of first-round picks over the past decade of teams that traditionally pick higher such as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals, it’s not like every perceived first-round pick is a big hit.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
You’ll see cut up clips on SportsCenter of plays where Jones goes through multiple reads and finds the right man. There’s this perception that he has extremely quick processing and can just sling it all over the yard.
Why is it, then, that according to Pro Football Focus, Jones grades dead-last among the top QB prospects when throwing beyond his first read?
Well, it could be that Jones had a potential first-round tailback in Najee Harris to hand the ball to for 26 touchdowns. Or maybe it was the fact that DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, when the latter was healthy, were unguardable and are surefire first-round picks.
Is it possible that because of the threat of Harris running always there, and Smith and Waddle running circles around outmatched defensive backs, that Jones wasn’t actually scanning the field as much as he’s being given credit for. He may have just been looking off defenders for fun and assuming whichever receiver he targeted would be wide open, as was often the case.
Yes, Jones has good ball placement and had an FBS-record 77.4% completion rate in 2020, but the circumstances surrounding his single season of dominance at Alabama makes him a tough evaluation. He also certainly doesn’t have the ceiling of QBs he may be drafted ahead of such as Trey Lance or Ohio State star Justin Fields.
For a player who ranks 35th (second-round grade) on our updated draft big board of top 100 prospects, Jones definitely isn’t worthy of going No. 3 overall to the San Francisco 49ers.
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
The epitome of a one-year wonder, Jamin Davis is skyrocketing up draft boards out of absolutely nowhere. Granted, his speed and explosive athleticism bring to mind Seattle Seahawks All-Pro Bobby Wagner, yet that’s a purely attributes-based comparison.
First of all, to draft a linebacker on Day 1 in the first place, it had better be a special player. Davis is a special athlete. There’s a difference. However, all it takes is one team to fall in love with his traits, and that’s partially why PFF’s Mike Renner suggest Davis could be a first-round pick:
But there are already more established, proven stars at the position such as Micah Parsons, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and even Zaven Collins.
While the size-speed combination Davis boasts definitely pops off his film, he’s still learning the nuances of the position and is especially raw when it comes to man-to-man pass coverage. Those aren’t issues with the aforementioned trio of linebacker prospects.
A more proven player like Missouri’s Nick Bolton might get the nod over Davis as well. It’s just not worth taking him in the first round, and the Kentucky standout will need to go to a team with either a veteran ‘backer or multiple front seven players around him to expedite his development.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
There’s no denying Kadarius Toney has some special physical tools. He’s got excellent high-end speed and is among the 2021 class’ most shifty and agile playmakers.
NFL Network’s Peter Schrager, though, recently suggested Toney could be a top-15 pick, which is way too rich.
Toney is so raw as a route-runner, and his game tape is extremely inconsistent. He had only 50 career catches before putting up 70 last season, and it’s not like he was playing behind a bunch of future NFL stars for all those years.
With the exception of Van Jefferson, who may be the Los Angeles Rams’ No. 4 receiver in 2021 despite being a second-round pick in 2020, no one from Florida’s program since Toney began playing for the Gators in 2017 is tearing it up in the NFL.
So what took Toney so long to get on the field? Hard to say without any firsthand knowledge, but a strange off-field incident from 2018 involving an airsoft gun hints at potential underlying maturity issues.
Plus, defenses had to focus so much on stud tight end Kyle Pitts this past season that it freed up Toney for so many chances and favorable matchups. He didn’t have to be a premier route-running technician.
Toney is probably worth a second-round flier, but in such a loaded wide receiver class, he’s not worth a first-round choice.