Group of 5 Big Board: 2021 NFL Draft
Welcome back to another journey of dissecting the G5 ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. As the Chief G5 Correspondent for The Cut, I present to you my second "Big Board," ahead of this years draft. In January, I published a big board for the G5. Many things have changed since then, and now we need to update the rankings. Sometimes fans get upset when their team selects someone from the G5 simply because they've never heard of him. Here is your guide into some of those guys.
***Even though Notre Dame is considered an independent, there is no way I would include them in this. Many Power 5 conferences created a rule that one non-conference game must be against another Power 5 school and Notre Dame counts. Therefore, they are ineligible for my draft board.
1. Zach Wilson, QB BYU
Is there any doubt on this? Wilson is going to be the first G5 player drafted in the top 5 since Corey Davis in 2017. Wilson is one of the top players in this draft regardless of school. One of the most pro-ready players in this draft. When you combine his ability to escape and evade pressure both in and out of the pocket as well as his athleticism, you are going to get an elite QB talent. Bravo for representing the G5 so well!
2. Richie Grant, S UCF
The first change from my first big board. Grant is a guy that has been climbing regular big boards. One thing people love to bash him on is his speed. However, even though he is not quick it helps compliment other areas of his game. Grant's ball skills and instincts are some of the best at the safety position. When you add his build, athleticism, and instincts you are going to get a solid franchise safety. He is going to make defensive coordinators very happy for many years. There are rumors he may find his way into day 1 and do not be surprised if your team selects him late day 1.
3. Brady Christensen, OT BYU
I feel bad for Christensen. Zach Wilson overshadowed Christensen's incredible pro day. This draft is loaded at OT and that is why his name is not being mentioned as much. At one point last season, he was named the best offensive lineman in all of college football. During the broad jump he jumped a 10-foot-1, and then he followed that up by jumping 10-foot-4. All of his measurements and scores ranked at least in the top 5 of players at similar positions. An insane pro day helped him rocket up my big board.
4. Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa
Here is a guy that I am really high on. Even though he dropped two spots in my rankings, he is an instant impact player for an NFL team. Collins was the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the nations Top Defensive Player last season. He is a very balanced LB. Collins' build is perfect for an NFL LB. There is not one trait he is elite at, but he is very balanced in a lot of different areas. The one trait in him I really love is his explosiveness. This helps in many different areas of a defense. I expect him to be drafted sometime on day 1.
5. Kenneth Gainwell, RB Memphis
I am really high on a lot of G5 players, and Gainwell is no exception. There are two very clear RB's ahead of him (Najee Harris and Javonte Williams), but Gainwell is a solid RB. He played in a very crowded RB room while at Memphis. However, when your teammates are Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, and Antonio Gibson and you can still put up incredible numbers, you are probably a very good prospect. He is going to need to build up his strength, but his power and speed will make a great addition to any team that needs a RB1 or a team that wants to create a deadly RB combination.
6. Jordan Smith, EDGE UAB
I am not a huge UAB fan. As a Marshall fan watching UAB beat us in the C-USA championship game was tough. However, this isn't personal it's simply business. Smith's name gets lost in conversation in a draft that is stacked at defensive players. The best way to describe Smith's style of play is like moldable clay. He will play to what the scheme is. Smith has a toolbox with a lot of different options in it. The large variety of options will prove to be very valuable to a franchise. He will need to improve overall as a player, but his ability to adjust to the scheme and play will make him an impact player.
7. Aaron Robinson, CB UCF
Here is a guy that is brand new to the Top 10! His versatility is what helps him make the big jump for me. He has the ability to play wide and in the slot. He plays better in the slot, but he easily can be moved all around the field. If a team needs help in the run defense with the D-gap, Robinson is your guy. UCF loved to use him there! He will need to improve his confidence in coverage and then he can be a featured CB for a team.
8. Payton Turner, EDGE Houston
Here is a guy that I feel deserves to be talked a lot way more than he does. Turner lost over 20 lbs going into last season and it helped him tremendously. By losing all that weight, his first step off the line and his lateral quickness improved astronomically. He has areas he still needs to improve, but seeing how quickly he improved in college in one season, he can make the tough transition to the NFL with ease.
9. Jaelon Darden, WR North Texas
Darden is a guy fans will not be happy that their team takes him, and then learn to love him. The one skill I want to highlight with him, is his ability to generate yards after contact. Darden's slipperiness is very hard to overlook. If a team can spread the offense, he will create a lot of yards for his team. An added bonus for Darden, is he has experience and success returning punts for North Texas.
10. Reed Blankenship, S Middle Tennessee State
Blankenship is able to round out the top 10 with his insane tackling ability. He has many other areas he needs to improve on. However, his strength and his tackling ability are 2nd to none in this draft. He is going to need to be paired with another solid safety in order to be effective, but he can provide much help for a defense.
11. Ty Gowan, CB UCF
12. Milton Williams, DT Louisiana Tech
13. Cameron Sample, EDGE Tulane
14. Marquez Stevenson, WR Houston
15. Jaret Patterson, RB Buffalo
16. Shane Buechele, QB SMU
17. Patrick Johnson, EDGE Tulane
18. James Hudson, OT Cincinnati
19. Marlon Williams, WR UCF
20. Malcome Koonce, EDGE Buffalo
21. James Wiggins, S Cincinnati
22. Josh Ball, OT Marshall
23. Tariq Thompson, S San Diego State
24. DeAngelo Malone, EDGE Western Kentucky
25. Dax Milne, WR BYU
I love focusing and following the G5. There really isn't anything better in my eyes than following the underdogs. There are a lot of unknowns with the 25 individuals listed above, however sometimes they are a true diamond in the rough.
If you ever want to discuss a G5 player or team, follow me on twitter @AAmack1234 and I will be happy to discuss with you!
Happy draft season and as always We are...Marshall and Go Herd!