NFL draft: Breaking down top offensive players available

Top offensive players available in the NFL draft, scheduled for April 29 to May 1 (x-early entrant; y-did not play in 2020, opt out).

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QUARTERBACKS

Position outlook: In 2017, five quarterbacks were taken in the first round including Baker Mayfield first overall to Cleveland. This group of prospects compares favorably to that group.

x-Trevor Lawrence, 6-foot-6, 213 pounds, Clemson

Breakdown: Lawrence has been the presumptive No. 1 pick in this draft since his freshman season. Prototypical size, top-notch speed and athleticism and rare arm talent. Want to pick some nits? His delivery is a little long and deep ball accuracy could be more consistent.

Fact: Broke former Clemson star Deshaun Watson’s Georgia high school record for yards passing (13,908) and touchdown passes (161).

Gone by: As soon as the Jacksonville Jaguars turn in the pick.

x-Zach Wilson, 6-2, 214, BYU

Breakdown: Can throw accurately and with zip from multiple arm angles. Quick feet and hands made him especially effective with RPOs and play action. Made a big jump last season when BYU was playing a schedule low on top-flight competition.

Fact: Father Michael played defensive tackle for Utah in the early-1990s.

Gone by: The Jets appear locked in on Wilson at No. 2.

x-Justin Fields, 6-3, 227, Ohio State

Breakdown: Strong arm, blazing speed, sturdy build and willing to take a big hit to make a play. Tendency to hold the ball too long, leading to sacks, but his playoff performance against Clemson was probably the best game a college quarterback played last season.

Fact: The former five-star recruit transferred to Ohio State after playing sparingly as a backup as a freshman for Georgia in 2018.

Gone by: Seems the most likely of the top quarterbacks to drop out of the top five.

x-Trey Lance, 6-4, 224, North Dakota State

Breakdown: Athletic, with good arm strength and the ability to decipher defenses before the snap. Not a lot of film. Lance is 20 years old and has played just one full season against FCS competition.

Fact: Won the 2019 Walter Payton Award as the best player in FCS.

Gone by: Top 5-ish.

x-Mac Jones, 6-3, 217, Alabama

Breakdown: Quick decision-maker who throws an accurate deep ball, but doesn’t have the athleticism or elite arm strength of the other top quarterbacks in this class. He was surrounded by elite talent at Alabama.

Fact: Came to the Tide in the same recruiting class as Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted No. 5 overall last year by Miami.

Gone by: Could be No. 3 to San Francisco, but it will be interesting to see how far he would fall if all the speculation about the 49ers turns out to be a smokescreen.

Others: Kellen Mond, Texas A&M; Davis Mills, Stanford; Kyle Trask, Florida.

RUNNING BACKS

Position outlook: Every once in a while a team will buck the trend and take a running back early in the first round and a few years later it usually provides still more proof that it isn’t a great strategy. The best backs in this class are back half of the first-round picks.

Najee Harris, 6-1, 232, Alabama

Breakdown: A five-star recruit who steadily developed over four years. Great balance and strength to break tackles or stiff arm defenders away. Doesn’t have breakaway speed. Was used a lot in the passing game.

Fact: Won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the nation in 2020 and set an SEC record with 30 touchdowns.

Gone by: Late first round.

Travis Etienne, 5-10, 215, Clemson

Breakdown: Explosive acceleration leads to lots of long runs. Makes quick cuts and slips through holes. Improving pass catcher. Lacks shiftiness when running inside and doesn’t necessarily move piles forward.

Fact: The ACC’s career rushing leader (4,952 yards) was used judiciously over four years at Clemson, averaging only 171 carries per season.

Gone by: Top 25.

x-Javonte Williams, 5-10, 212, North Carolina

Breakdown: Displays good vision and runs angry, though without a lot of separation speed.

Fact: Only 366 college career carries, which could be viewed as a positive (lots of tread left on the tires) or negative (how will he handle a heavier workload?).

Gone by: Middle of the second.

Others: Michael Carter, North Carolina; Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis; Trey Sermon, Ohio State.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Position outlook: A loaded group that could have three players go in the top 12 picks and another three or four more to be taken later in the first round.

xy-Ja’Marr Chase, 6-0, 201, LSU

Breakdown: Good burst to get separation and consistently comes down with contested catches. Plays like a bigger receiver, despite lack of great length.

Fact: Opted out of last season but was an All-American in 2019, setting SEC records with 1,780 yards receiving and 20 TD catches.

Gone by: Favorite to be first receiver off the board, probably by about No. 7. Or maybe reunited with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow to Bengals at five?

DeVonta Smith, 6-0, 170, Alabama

Breakdown: Reliable hands, quick feet and sharp route runner. His size is far from ideal, but he’s such a good technician it helps him avoid getting locked up by defenders who want to bully him. Productive lining up inside or out.

Fact: Last year, Smith became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since 1991.

Gone by: No. 15.

x-Jaylen Waddle, 5-9, 180, Alabama

Breakdown: Blazing speed and elusive after the catch. Was a dangerous return man with the Tide. Size could limit him to playing mostly in the slot.

Fact: Played in only six games last season because of a broken left ankle.

Gone by: No. 15.

Kadarius Toney, 6-0, 193, Florida

Breakdown: Darting runner, who changes direction at top speed. He is not a polished receiver, but he could be best used in a versatile role instead of as a traditional route runner.

Fact: Was a dual-threat quarterback during his final two seasons of high school, leading his team in Mobile, Alabama, to a 20-5 record.

Gone by: Best bet to be the fourth top-20 receiver.

x-Rashod Bateman, 6-0, 190, Minnesota

Breakdown: Precise route runner who consistently catches the ball away from his body, but lacks deep speed.

Fact: Opted out of last season when it looked as if the Big Ten would not play in the fall. Returned to the team and played five games before opting out again when the team was hit by COVID-19 issues.

Gone by: Among a group of receivers who could go from the back third of the first round to middle of the second round.

x-Elijah Moore, 5-9 1/2, 178, Mississippi

Breakdown: Huge breakout season in 2020, showing off his hands and toughness after the catch. Questions remain about how he will hold up when pressed by physical corners.

Fact: An All-American last season who set a school record with 86 receptions for 1,193 yards.

Gone by: Picks 25-50.

x-Terrace Marshall Jr., 6-2 1/2, 205, LSU

Breakdown: Smooth deep threat who uses his length well, but also will drop some easy ones.

Fact: Marshall’s great uncle is the late Joe Delaney, a running back with the Kansas City Chiefs who drowned in 1983.

Gone by: Picks 25-50.

Others: x-Tutu Atwell, Louisville; x-Dyami Brown, North Carolina; D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan; x-Rondale Moore, Purdue; Amari Rodgers, Clemson; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State.

TIGHT ENDS

Position outlook: One player with a chance to go top five and a few Day 2 picks.

x-Kyle Pitts, 6-6, 245, Florida

Breakdown: Became an impossible matchup last season, too big for the fast players and too fast for the big players. Rarely lets a pass he can get his hands on get away. The blocking needs work, but maybe he’s just a super-sized wide receiver.

Fact: Last year he became the first tight end to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy voting since 1977.

Gone by: Five or six. Pitts is the top choice to be the first non-quarterback selected.

x-Pat Freiermuth, 6-5, 251, Penn State

Breakdown: Gets compared to former Penn State teammate and tight end Mike Gesicki. Freiermuth is not quite that dynamic an athlete, but his size-speed-agility combination is strong.

Fact: Father is a basketball coach and mother coached field hockey.

Gone by: Middle of the second round.

Others: x-Brevin Jordan, Miami; x-Hunter Long, Boston College; x-Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame.

TACKLES

Position outlook: Looking at three first-round locks, some early round good depth and a little more debate over the first player off the board than some might have expected.

xy-Penei Sewell, 6-5, 331, Oregon

Breakdown: Elite size-athleticism combination. Gets off the ball quickly and violently and will search for defenders to block downfield. There are some technique issues, but he doesn’t turn 21 until October and has all the upside you’d want.

Fact: After starting his first two seasons with the Ducks, he opted out of last year’s delayed Pac-12 season.

Gone by: No. 5 to Bengals makes a lot of sense, but if not he’s probably gone by about No. 8.

y-Rashawn Slater, 6-4, 304, Northwestern

Breakdown: Technically sound and fluid blocker. His arms are a little shorter than usual for an NFL tackle and he never played inside during his college career.

Fact: Three-year starter at Northwestern, who held up well in matchups against Ohio State star Chase Young in 2019.

Gone by. Has a chance to be the first tackle taken, and a good bet to be gone by about No. 12.

x-Christian Darrisaw, 6-5, 322, Virginia Tech

Breakdown: Solid striker, who walls off defenders with nimble footwork. Needs to finish and stay with blocks longer.

Fact: Spent a season at prep school after high school before going to Virginia Tech, where he was a three-year starter.

Gone by: Top 20.

Teven Jenkins, 6-6, 317, Oklahoma State

Breakdown: Tenacious mauler. Powerful and thick, but speed rushers can break down his technique.

Fact: Opted out of the final month of last season after playing seven games.

Gone by: Late first round.

x-Samuel Cosmi, 6-6, 314, Texas

Breakdown: Solid and steady, if not spectacular in most every way. Does not consistently knock defenders off the line.

Fact: Started first eight games for Texas last season before opting out of rest of the season.

Gone by: Middle of the second.

Liam Eichenberg, 6-6, 306, Notre Dame

Breakdown: Aggressive with solid fundamentals, though limited athleticism and length could bump him inside to guard.

Fact: Three-year starter at left tackle for the Fighting Irish.

Gone by: Top 50.

Alex Leatherwood, 6-5, 312, Alabama

Breakdown: Power and athleticism are excellent, but plays a bit stiff.

Fact: Outland Trophy winner last season as the nation’s top lineman.

Gone by: Top 50.

x-Jalen Mayfield, 6-5, 326, Michigan

Breakdown: High upside prospect who played right tackle in college and could be better suited at guard.

Fact: Opted out of last season when the Big Ten initially postponed, but then chose to return for the abbreviated schedule.

Gone by: Top 50, but of this group Mayfield seems to have the largest range of draft night outcomes.

Others: Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa; x-Jackson Carman, Clemson; x-Brady Christensen, BYU; x-James Hudson, Cincinnati; Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State; Walker Little, Stanford.

INTERIOR LINEMEN

Position outlook: When a center or guard goes in the first round it tends to be late as a low-risk pick. That seems to be where the best of this bunch will land.

x-Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, 6-4 1/2, 304, Southern California

Breakdown: Strong and sturdy and consistently wins with hand placement. Can slide outside but overall athleticism is only OK and footwork needs some work.

Fact: Vera-Tucker played left tackle last season after starring at left guard in 2019 for USC and being named the team’s offensive lineman of the year. His days at tackle might not be done.

Gone by: Top 25.

Landon Dickerson, C, 6-6, 333, Alabama

Breakdown: Natural leader and aggressive finisher of his blocks. Has injury concerns and has shown limited range, but also projects to guard.

Fact: Suffered torn ACL in both knees throughout his college career and also had surgery on his right ankle in 2017.

Gone by: Top 30.

x-Creed Humphrey, C, 5-4, 302, Oklahoma

Breakdown: Prototypical leader of the line with decent athleticism, but maybe a little low on power.

Fact: Three-year starter and two-year captain.

Gone by: Middle of the second round.

Others: Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame; Deonte Brown, G, Alabama; Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State; Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater; Josh Myers, C, Ohio State; Trey Smith, G, Tennessee.

Kickers

Jose Borregales, Miami; Evan McPherson, Florida; Riley Patterson, Memphis.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

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