NFL Hot Press: Surprise First-Rounders for the 2021 NFL Draft

Surprise First-Rounders for the 2021 NFL Draft

Updated March 2, 2021
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Surprise First-Rounders One of the hardest parts of any NFL draft for pro teams and draft analysts to project are the final dozen picks of the first round. Typically, every franchise has around 20 players with a first-round grade, so there are always some players with consensus second-round grades who end up being selected on the opening night of the draft. Late in the first round is when the draft starts getting more subjective, with teams varying widely in regards to how they feel about the prospects. With that in mind, reached out to team sources to survey on who could be the surprise first-round picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Here were the players who teams suggested as those candidates.

  • Multiple teams suggested Tennessee guard Trey Smith as a potential surprise first-round pick. Smith is an interesting prospect who some teams really like and other teams have significantly soured on. Some feel he is a really good guard who is tough at the point of attack. Others, however, feel he is an overrated player who is more of a name than a quality player. Those teams think Smith is definitely a second-day prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • The wild card for Smith’s draft evaluation is a pulmonary blood-clot issue that caused him to miss time as a sophomore. Some sources think Smith could be a surprise first-rounder because they view him as a plug-and-play starter at guard and typically a top guard or two sneaks into late in the first round. Others completely disagree, but Smith falls in the subjective part of the draft where beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • A few team sources think Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis could sneak into the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft because he is big, fast and athletic. Some teams have him graded higher than Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, who is a consensus first-round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft. Davis had an excellent 2020 season for the Wildcats, totaling 89 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two passes defended and two interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder has good size and the speed to cover a lot of ground. He possesses a lot of upside, and teams think his best football is ahead of him.

  • A few weeks ago here in the Hot Press, Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman was noted as a prospect who team sources said could go late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 340-pounder is a good athlete, and teams love his movement skills at his large size. They still feel, however, he has technique issues to clean up and needs development. Hence, some view him as a second-rounder while others think he is worthy of going late on the opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft because of his excellent skill set.

  • Some scouts believe that Central Florida cornerback Aaron Robinson will be the fourth cornerback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft and has a shot at sneaking into Round 1. They have Robinson just behind Georgia’s Tyson Campbell, and many in the scouting community believe Campbell will be picked in the back half of the first round. Campbell being a first-round pick could make Robinson a late first-rounder because cornerback is a premium position and always in demand in that portion of NFL drafts.