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Sleepers and Stars: Last-minute predictions on 2021 NFL Draft prospects


Tonight in Cleveland, several young men's lives will change forever.

The 2021 NFL Draft is now upon us, as the first round will begin Thursday, April 29 at 5 p.m. PT. There are 12 players who will be in attendance at the draft, ready to fulfill their lifelong dream of walking across the stage and shaking the commissioner's hand. This year's draft will be, for the most part, like any other draft – exciting, emotional and completely unpredictable.

Here's a few last-minute observations regarding some prospects that have the chance to become a franchise cornerstone for their organization.

Quarterback A-Plenty

If you are in need of a quarterback, you've come to the right draft.

While Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields are grabbing the majority of the headlines in this year's pool of quarterbacks, this looks to be the deepest quarterback draft class in many years. What makes this class of quarterbacks so intriguing to me isn't the ones that are making all the noise, but the one's the media are sleeping on that may have the last laugh.

There are a plethora of quarterbacks primed to go on Day 2 and 3 that possibly might become more productive starters in the NFL that the ones being talked about for the first round. Florida's Kyle Trask, Stanford's Davis Mills and Texas A&M's Kellen Mond are experienced quarterbacks that shouldn't be taken lightly.

Trask scratched and clawed to QB1 under coach Dan Mullen, throwing for nearly 4,300 yards and 43 touchdowns. Trask may have showed off the most grit and determination in him against the eventual nation champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, throwing for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns in the close loss. Several draft experts say that the Heisman finalist is even a fringe late-first round draft selection.

Two other quarterbacks poised to make noise are Kellen Mond and Davis Mills. Mond has been the man with the plan since he arrived in College Station, starting for the Aggies since his freshman year. Every year he has vastly improved his playmaking abilities and accuracy, completing 63 percent of his passes with a 19:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio his senior season. Mond was also the the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl MVP.

Davis Mills from Stanford has had the least amount of time out of these quarterbacks to showcase his skills, however he's shown flashes of being a great passer and has good size to go with good athleticism and speed. Mills was a five-star recruit for Stanford from Atlanta, Georgia, and was able to touch the surface of his potential last year in a limited pandemic season.

The Raiders are well aware that you can find a franchise quarterback sitting in the second round. For teams looking for a potential franchise quarterback that can be developed with time with the right team, you don't have to put all your eggs in a basket in the first round.

It's all about the U

With the exception of Alabama, the University of Miami may have the most sure-fire talent coming to the league in this draft.

For starters, the Hurricanes have developed two first-round talent edge rushers in Jaelen Phillips and Gregory Rosseau. If Phillips and Rosseau are both selected Thursday night, they'll be the first edge rusher tandem to be selected in the first round from the same school since Manny Lawson and Mario Williams of North Carolina State in 2006.

Rosseau has become one of the most polarizing figures in the 2021 NFL Draft after piling up 15.5 sacks in 2019, switching over to the defensive end position from wide receiver. The 6-7, 275 pound athlete won ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year his redshirt freshman season and then sat out last year due to the pandemic. In Rosseau's absence, Phillips picked up the ball for the Hurricane defense, having a stellar junior year, as the UCLA transfer had 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. They both also put on a show at their Pro Day, as Phillips ran a 4.56 40-yard dash with a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump. Rosseau ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and posted marks of 30 inches in the vertical jump, 9 feet, 7 inches in the broad jump and 21 reps on the bench press.

The Hurricanes also have another defensive lineman who can become a potential star in Quincy Roche. Roche is another transfer, like teammate Jaelen Phillips who stepped up big last season for the Hurricanes, compiling 4.5 sacks his redshirt senior year and 31.5 over his college career between Temple and Miami. The explosive defensive end also had a great Pro Day along with the rest of teammates, running a 4.68 40-yard-dash. While Roche isn't as high profile as his two edge rushing teammates, he has all the qualities to be just as, if not more, productive at the next level.

Can't go wrong with any of these guys at The U.

DeVonta Smith is big enough

I remember in 2007, a young, lanky basketball player from the University of Texas catching a lot of flack from critics and draft "experts" because people thought he was too skinny and undersized to translate his game to the NBA.

That man was four-time scoring champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant.

I understand that basketball is a completely different game than football — I just feel like the same people who were wrong about Durant 14 years ago are going to be the same people wrong about DeVonta Smith.

The Slim Reaper may be 6'1 and 170 pounds soaking wet – but he's also the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 30 years.

Smith may not be the most heralded receiver in the year's draft, however it's hard to say that no one with the exception of Trevor Lawrence has made more big time plays in his college career than him. He's arguably the best routerunner in this year's draft and if a quarterback puts the ball in his vicinity, he's going to go get it. He capped off his 23 touchdown senior season with 212 yards in the first half of the national championship game.

He's a proven winner with two national championships, a student of the game and has great upside. His weight shouldn't deter you from the greatness we've all seen on tape. Drafting DeVonta Smith shouldn't be overanalyzed.

Take a look at draft prospects that analysts project the Silver and Black to select with their first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft. (Last updated Wednesday, April 28, 2021)

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