Comparing draft prospects to current or former NFL players can be an interesting and exasperating exercise. There are those who believe that such player comps are fruitless, that all players are different, and the people who make the comps are looking to pad their articles and podcasts. At Touchdown Wire, we tend to view it differently, for a couple of reasons.
First, player comps can be a service to readers if they’re NFL fans, they don’t watch a ton of college football, and they’re looking to get pictures in their heads of draft prospects they may not be familiar with. Giving those readers the name of a player they are more familiar with can be helpful. Second, when you get into player comps at a forensic level, using approximate height, weight, play style, and potential production, it can also finalize the picture of the prospect in the head of the person analyzing the players. Taking the time to figure out which current or former NFL quarterbacks are most like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones, tells a story in the story, whether you’re reading or writing.
So, with that preamble out of the way, here are Doug Farrar’s and Mark Schofield’s NFL player comparisons for their top 50 prospects in the 2021 draft class. You can read their entire Big Board here, and we’ve indicated which person made each comparison. Kudos also to our own Coley Cleary for the outstanding graphics!
A number of different comparisons have been thrown around for Lawrence. Some have gone as far as comparing him to Andrew Luck, given the expectations. Others have made the Deshaun Watson comparison. The more I watched Lawrence over the past few months, the more I saw another quarterback: Justin Herbert. That might sound crazy, but if you look at Lawrence’s athleticism, arm talent and ability to attack leverage in the secondary, it looks somewhat similar to the peaks of Herbert during his time at Oregon, and what he did last year as a rookie. If you had said during this time last season that Lawrence and Herbert were comparable, someone would have said you were crazy. But now? Teams would take a rookie season from Lawrence similar to what Herbert did in a heartbeat. — MS
Darren Waller is a name that comes up often in the Pitts conversation, and I understand that. Deep down I think Pitts is one of those prospects that merits a comparison to himself, a unicorn. He is Kyle Pitts, the most dangerous weapon in this offensive class. — MS
The “Baby Cam” comparisons are apt, given Fields’ athleticism and arm talent, but I see a super-athletic Ryan Tannehill. That is why the Atlanta Falcons — and new Falcons head coach/former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith — lurking at fourth overall is very intriguing to me… — MS
I’ve seen comps of Sewell to Johnathan Ogden, and I’m always reluctant to compare draft prospects to Hall of Fame talents unless the talent forces me to (such as when I had the unmitigated gall to compare Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh to Joe Greene). Sewell isn’t quite the malevolent finisher Ogden was, but he has a combination of athleticism and aggression that brings fellow Hall-of-Famer Orlando Pace to mind.
That said, with the aforementioned reluctance to compare any draft prospect to an NFL all-timer, I’ll say that Sewell’s movement skills and desire to physically embarrass defenders remind me a great deal of Trent Williams. Draft him, put him on the left outside of your offensive line, and check off one less thing to worry about for the next five years. — DF
A common comparison for Chase is Anquan Boldin, given how strong both players were off the line and at the catch point. PFF also used the Justin Blackmon comparison, which is accurate for where both players were coming out of college. — MS
I have long thought that comparisons between him and Baker Mayfield were apt, and in the PFF draft guide the comparison of “a more creative Baker Mayfield” seems very accurate. What got many excited about Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma was what he did outside of the pocket and off-structure, but he was at his best last season in a Kevin Stefanski system that struck the right balance between that creativity, and designed throws off play-action. In such a system Wilson could thrive, while still offering some extra spice along the way. — MS
Last summer, Matt Waldman told me that Steve McNair was his comparison for Lance. Our own Doug Farrar and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, agree. You should know that Matt does not make that lightly, as McNair is one of the players that sparked Matt’s love for this sport. When that comparison is put out into the world, I take notice. — MS
Sometimes when coming up with comparisons I try and step outside the traditional “size/athletic profile” realm and try and get into the player’s scheme and usage. That led me to Justin Jefferson for Jaylen Waddle. While many look at Waddle and see Tyreek Hill — a comparison not without merit — I look at Waddle’s ability to operate on the over/crossing route and think of Jefferson. That was a route that the former LSU receiver ran to perfection and Waddle, whether against zone or man, did the same last season with his acceleration and pace. — MS
The two players that came immediately to mind when watching Slater and thinking about his measurables were New England’s Isaiah Wynn and Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs. Both players have succeeded in the NFL at tackle despite not being tall enough to ride the ride, so to speak.
But a deeper dive brought the better and clearer comp to me — Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead came out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013 at 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds with 34-inch arms, and none of that mattered, because he had the movement ability, nastiness, and technique to become a foundation player at his optimal left tackle position. Slater has those same attributes, and that same potential. — DF
Comparing prospects to one of the league’s best at a position is often a fool’s errand, but the DeVonta Smith/Marvin Harrison comparison fits for a few reasons. Sure there is a frame/size angle, but both are silky-smooth route runners with great feel for leverage and “full body route running.” — MS
Coming up with a comparison for Surtain was one of the more challenging aspects to this year’s draft cycle. I ended up with Byron Jones, and I understand why some explanation might be needed. Surtain’s testing profile, particularly the explosiveness drills (vertical jump, broad jump) did remind me of Jones and his tremendous performance at his Scouting Combine, which really put him on the map. Other comparisons for Surtain include Trumaine Johnson (provided by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus) and Nnamdi Asomugha (provided by Jordan Reid of The Draft Network). — MS
The Seahawks took Clark out of Michigan with the 63rd overall pick in the second round of the 2015 draft despite some serious off-field concerns because Clark brought advanced hand moves, play strength, and speed around the edge. Phillips’ issues are medical in nature, but he has the most clear overall skill set of any edge defender in this class, and could have a similar NFL impact. — DF
Schematically, and only schematically, I have compared him to Jalen Ramsey. For more on that comparison and why I think Horn is a sneaky pick for the Los Angeles Chargers you can dive into this piece. — MS
Parsons combines the feel for the game and pass rushing ability of Dont’a Hightower with the athleticism of Tremaine Edmunds. Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network went with Myles Jack, and that could be a solid comparison for Parsons, who has the athleticism to do everything from blowing up run fits to covering slot receivers up the seam.
When the Dolphins selected Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, they deployed him much like Nick Saban did at Alabama — all over the field, from slot to box to free safety. But when the Steelers traded for Fitzpatrick early in the 2019 season, they immediately made him a more one-position guy. Fitzpatrick responded by becoming one of the NFL’s best free safeties. Moehrig played all over the place at TCU, but he has similar athletic attributes to become a top-tier deep-third eraser if his NFL team wants to point him in that direction. — DF
It is hard to find an apt comparison for Owusu-Koramoah given his versatility, but in terms of a role Fred Warner could be a schematic comparison. Both were players used more as overhang defenders in college, and Warner has found ways to contribute all over the field in San Francisco from coverage to blitzing through the interior gaps. That could be a model for Owusu-Koramoah’s transition to the league. — MS
Coming out of UTSA Marcus Davenport had impressive speed off the edge and used his size, frame and length very well. Watching Azeez Ojulari I was reminded of what Davenport looked like as a prospect. Ojulari needs to fill out the rest of his game as a pass rusher, including finding ways to win with power and on the inside, but the speed and length remind me a ton of Davenport when he was a prospect. — MS
Among the reasons to believe in Caleb Farley as a prospect is his recovery ability. It might sound counter-intuitive. After all, if a CB’s strength is his ability to recover after getting beaten on a route, doesn’t that mean he’s…getting beat on routes? But remember, the guys on the other side of the football are good too. Farley is still learning the position and his ability to make-up ground and get to the catch point is a strength reminiscent of Jimmy Smith. Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus saw that in Farley’s game, and it is a strength I completely agree with. — MS
The Falcons took Matthews with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Obviously, they believed Matthews to be a transcendent talent with that kind of draft capital statement. Matthews hasn’t been all that, but he’s carved himself out a very nice NFL career because he’s far above-average at just about everything, and the dings are few and far between. Like Matthews, Darrisaw checks nearly all the boxes, though not in aggressively spectacular ways. Any NFL line coach would take unspectacular consistency over amazing variance, and that’s what Darrisaw is primed to provide. — DF
I will admit that this comparison needs a bit of explanation. Coming out of Auburn Carlton Davis was known more for his press-man coverage skills than anything else, and if you have studied Greg Newsome that is…not something he was asked to do a ton. This comparison comes down to the size, as well as the feet. Davis’ ability in press coverage was tied not just to his length but also his footwork beneath him, as he kept himself in position on each opportunity in press. Newsome has great footwork as well, and the potential is there for him to grow into a solid press coverage defender. — MS
Others such as Mike Renner at PFF have gone with the Keenan Allen comparison, which I understand, as Bateman isn’t a burner, but he can gain separation from defensive backs with excellent route-running, and toughness at the catch point. I also see a little Allen Robinson to his game, particularly with what he can do at all three levels of the field. — MS
You have probably heard this comparison a lot this draft cycle, so I’ll share when it clicked for me. It came on a play from the Wednesday practice of the Senior Bowl, and remember, this was the practice that jump-started the “Mac Jones is a first-round QB” discussion. Jones had an opportunity to push the ball downfield on a deep over route and it was open but he…checked the ball down.
It reminded me of a story about Cousins during his time in Washington, when an exasperated Jay Gruden expressed some frustration with Cousins by telling a story about the quarterback that “I can’t get guys 30 f—ing yards open all the time.” That play from Mobile, as well as others on his film, more than anything else led me to Jones/Cousins comparison. — MS
The Chargers took Liuget with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Illinois, and Liuget used a nice combination of strength and speed, as well as techniques developed over time, to become an above-average tackle. Barmore could get himself into the Gerald McCoy realm at his peak potential with a bit more controlled aggression, but the Liuget comp seems to be a better fit at this point in time. — DF
Dante Hall was the original human joystick if memory serves me well — which it may not — and Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner calls Toney a “bigger Dante Hall.” Hard to disagree. — MS
You don’t see a lot of centers at 6-foot-6 and 326 pounds, and Dickerson’s positional flexibility in college makes me think that his NFL team might want to move him around as well. Woody played from 1999 through 2010 with the Patriots, Lions, and Jets, switching from center to guard to tackle along the way, always at a high level, and at 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds. Dickerson has absolute top-tier potential as an NFL center, but he may be capable of even more. — DF
Dating back to the old Bleacher Report NFL1000 days, when I would tell anyone who would listen that “all Beasley does is get open” — and yes, his recent play has me taking some victory laps on that proclamation — I think very highly of Beasley. So when I buy into this comparison, you should know it is a bullish stance. — MS
I would also add Cleveland’s Nick Chubb into the comparison here. Like Lynch at his peak, Williams has the obvious ability to blast through multiple opponents for serious gains, and like Chubb, he has a fabulous combination of sudden quickness and sustaining power. When every play has the potential to be a highlight play, that’s a great way wind up as RB1 in a draft class. — DF
Coming out of Maryland, Yannick Ngakoue was a productive player who offered more than just pass-rushing abilities. He was solid against the run, could set the edge well, played until the whistle on each snap and even kicked inside at times. Those are all aspects of Kwity Paye’s evaluation that stood out to me. Paye could benefit from adding some moves to his pass-rushing profile but I do see glimpses of where Ngakoue was coming out when I watch Paye. — MS
During his virtual pro day media session, Radunz revealed that he’s working with the former 49ers standout and six-time Pro Bowler in his pre-draft process. Like Staley when he came out of Central Michigan in 2007, Radunz has all the athleticism you want at the position, with some concerns regarding his core strength. Staley was able to overcome those issues in a decisive fashion, and Radunz can, too. It’ll be a process, but the potential is there. — DF
Moore reminds me of a similar player from last season, Laviska Shenault Jr. I’m yet to give up on Shenault — who could be in position for a big year with Trevor Lawrence coming to town — and I won’t give up on Moore. Players with his ability can contribute early and often. — DF
Like the Georgia alum, Vera-Tucker played multiple positions in college, and his physical shortcomings had most people sliding him to NFL guard in their heads. But Wynn was able to move past that, and given the right environment (personally, I think he has Pittsburgh Steelers Left Tackle written all over him). Vera-Tucker could, as well. — DF
In a recent mock draft I had the Baltimore Ravens drafting him as a potential Matthew Judon replacement, and there is a reason… Ossai could be a blitz specialist from all over the formation, as Judon became with the blitz-heavy Ravens. — MS
Like Parker, who the Dolphins selected with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 draft, Marshall has an intriguing combination of footwork, release diversity, and play strength that could make him an underrated X-iso receiver in the NFL sooner than later. — MS
Comparing Asante Samuel Jr. to Asante Samuel Sr. is the easy move here, but Samuel Jr. reminds me even more of another cornerback who has a son currently in the NFL — Antoine Winfield Sr., whose son, Antoine Jr., starred at safety for the Buccaneers as a rookie last season. Like the elder Winfield, Samuel Jr. will absolutely not back down from anybody as an outside cornerback despite his size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds). Some may want to move Samuel to a slot role, but he may be able to transcend that. — DF
This was a comparison that Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus went with, and it makes a great deal of sense to me. Both players are long, quick and explosive off the edge, and if you watch them on film and look at their testing profiles, you see a lot of similarities. Right down to the 21 reps each on the bench press. — MS
When Miller came out of UCLA in the 2018 draft, the Raiders took him with the 15th overall pick, and it had the look of a major reach. Miller allowed 19 sacks and 86 total pressures in his first two seasons, as his athletic traits were overwhelmed by his rudimentary fundamentals. But in 2020, the light went on (two sacks and 23 pressures allowed), and Miller might have been the league’s most-improved player outside of Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Cosmi might experience a similar developmental ride in which he gets owned for a while, and then figures it all out. Cosmi needs a ton of coaching, but the athletic upside is quite interesting. — DF
I love throwback comparisons, and Jenkins reminds me of Gogan, the highly athletic and animalistic guard who played in the NFL from 1987 through 2000 and made three Pro Bowls. Like Gogan, Jenkins would provide an impressive combination of aggressiveness, short-area quickness, and the ability to physically dominate as an interior blocker. And also like Gogan, Jenkins may start out as an NFL right tackle, and find his true home inside. — DF
Like the former Rams, Falcons, and Patriots running back, who played in the NFL from 2004 through 2015 and gained 11,438 rushing yards and scored 69 touchdowns on 2,764 carries, adding 461 receptions for 3,683 yards and nine touchdowns, Harris is a powerful, sustaining, versatile back who can be the epicenter of an offense. What you will get with him is a back who does just about everything at a plus level… but if you’re looking for consistent explosive plays, he may not be your ideal. — DF
I watch Collins and immediately think of another player with that last name, Jamie Collins. Just let him fly around the field and be thankful he’s doing it for you, not against you. — MS
Through four seasons with the Rams, Johnson turned himself into an outstanding deep safety and slot defender with awareness, quick movement skills, aggressive tackling, and the ability to move with a receiver in space. Johnson recently signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract with the Browns because he can run the defense and erase receivers from multiple positions. Holland projects similarly as an on-field leader and multi-position specialist. — DF
When Charles was healthy with the Chiefs, he was the league’s biggest threat to take any play for a long touchdown, and Etienne reminds me very much of Charles in his receiver-ish build, scary straight-line speed, and slightly upright running style. Charles’ 2013 season, with 329 touches for 1,980 yards and a league-high 19 touchdowns, would be Etienne’s ultimate potential in the right offense. — DF
I had a second-round grade on Jarrett when he came out of Clemson in 2015, so I was shocked when he lasted until the 137th overall pick in the fifth round of that draft. Jarrett has proven to be at least a second-round talent if not more (had the Falcons held on to win Super Bowl LI, Jarrett had an outside shot at MVP with his three sacks), and though he wasn’t for everybody at 6-foot-0 and about 300 pounds, he fit quite naturally into Atlanta’s defense as a nose and nose shade tackle, with occasional three-tech work. McNeill has many of Jarrett’s attributes, and should benefit his NFL line sooner than later. — DF
Cox harkens one’s mind to Cory Littleton, an athletic linebacker known for his coverage skills in the middle of defenses — everything from simple wheel routes to two-way goes out of the slot. — MS
J.C. Jackson is a scheme-diverse cornerback with good awareness, solid recovery speed and the necessary short-term memory needed to excel at the position. Watching Eric Stokes at Georgia, I can see those same traits show up on film. He can peel off routes well to break on throws and has a great feel for jumping routes in both zone or off-man coverage situations. — MS
The Steelers took Hargrave out of South Carolina State with the 89th overall pick in the 2016 draft based on his quickness and aggression at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds. Hargrave has been a plus pass-rusher for both the Steelers and Eagles in his NFL career, and Nixon, who brings a similar combination of speed and aggression (especially if he’s used as a one-gap disruptor as opposed to a two-gap plugger), projects well as a rotational tackle with a lot of rocket sauce. — DF
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Johnson is a bigger player than Savage, who came out of Maryland at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds. But the two players share the ability to cover well and consistently from the slot and the deep third, outstanding physical characteristics, and the potential to drive some personnel guys crazy if they’re looking for more physical tacklers. — DF
Freiermuth’s nickname is “Baby Gronk,” he wears number 87, and PFF described him as a “poor man’s Rob Gronkowski.” He has a long, long way to go before living up to such a moniker but his play style certainly mirrors what we saw from Gronkowski early in his career. — MS
I see a little of Trey Flowers in Roche’s game as a player who might rely on technique and need a bit of scheme help to produce at the next level. The Patriots brought out the best in Flowers by moving him around the formation as an edge factor and inside disruptor on obvious passing downs. — MS
At 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, Dockett became a multi-gap force for the Cardinals from 2004 through 2013, playing all over the line without a defined position. Dockett brought heavy hands, impressive quickness, and an outstanding competitive demeanor to the field, and I see that same potential in Onwuzurike. — DF
I’ve seen comparisons between Molden and Tyrann Mathieu, and I’m not willing to go there — Mathieu is both a cyborg and a unicorn, and he might be the NFL’s best free safety and slot defender right now. Let’s not put that level of pressure on Molden just yet. Ward, who the 49ers took with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 draft out of Northern Illinois, has carved out an estimable career as both a safety and slot guy, and Molden has a similar athletic profile with a similar height/weight/speed structure. — DF