News & Analysis

Top 10 performances from 2021 NFL Draft prospects in Week 9

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrate a touchdown pass from Jones to Smith at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, we updated the PFF 2021 NFL Draft Board now that the Big Ten is back in action. This week’s top 10 features five guys who reside in that top 100, and if the rest continue to play as well as they did over the weekend, they’ll make it there soon enough, as well.

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1. WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Producing with a trio of first-rounders flanking you is great, but how would Smith fare as the focal point of the Alabama passing attack? Well, we got our answer this past weekend — he caught 11-of-15 targets for 203 yards and four scores.

Size be damned, Smith gets open and can also make plays in traffic. Smith has now answered whatever questions he felt he had to answer by returning for his senior season.

2. Edge Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame

Hayes didn’t need many snaps to make his presence felt against Georgia Tech in Week 9. He registered five pressures on only 19 pass-rushing snaps and forced two fumbles. And he did it from all over, with two pressures against each tackle and one against the right guard.

Hayes is a fifth-year senior who has been starting for Notre Dame ever since 2017 (although he missed most of 2019 due to injury). He’s a big, long athlete at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, and he has now come into his own with 15 pressures in his last four games.

3. CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

You’d have thought that Surtain would have seen a ton of action against Mississippi State’s pass-happy attack this past weekend, but that wasn’t the case. He was targeted only once on 47 coverage snaps and made the most of it with a pick-six.

In his bid to be CB1, Surtain has now allowed only 10 catches from 22 targets on the season for 110 yards with a pick and four pass breakups.

4. WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State

There aren’t too many 6-foot, 190-pound receivers in the country you can trust to win fade routes, but Wallace is just a different breed.

His explosiveness is a problem for pretty much any defensive back to stick with down the field, and even when defenders do, he can outjump them like that. He tried to single-handedly lead Oklahoma State to a win over Texas with an 11-catch, 187-yard, two-touchdown performance.

5. WR Dyami Brown, North Carolina

While his route tree may not be the most complete, 11 catches for 240 yards is impressive any way you slice it. Despite only being listed at 185 pounds, Brown was bullying Virginia’s corners down the field on Saturday.

Brown plays much, much stronger than that listed weight, and he tracks the ball down the field at a very high level. His route-running polish, or lack thereof, will push him down boards, but there’s natural receiving talent to work with.

6. Edge Joseph Ossai, Texas

Ossai has benefited from converting to a full-time line-of-scrimmage player this season, and his presence as a pass-rusher proved to be the difference against Oklahoma State.

He finished with three sacks and six total pressures, but that wasn’t even the half of his impact. Ossai had an absurd eight run stops on the day, as well. He’s now amassed an 87.4 run-defense grade and an 80.3 pass-rushing grade on the season. The junior is making his way toward first-round consideration.

7. RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

I’m not worried about the “fumble” that Etienne had, as it was clearly on freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei’s handoff placement. Etienne showed everything you could want from a modern running back prospect against Boston College on Saturday.

Speed, explosiveness, elusiveness and, most importantly, downfield receiving ability. He caught seven passes for 140 yards and a score against the Eagles.

8. RB Trey Ragas, Louisiana

While Etienne made his presence felt through the air, Ragas did it on the ground against Texas State. The 5-foot-10, 230-pound bowling ball of a running back broke nine tackles on 19 carries — 11 of which went for first downs — against Texas State. He had a long of only 17 yards but still averaged 6.9 yards per attempt.

If you’re looking for a power back in the later rounds, this is your guy.

9. QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Mond is quietly putting together easily the most impressive statistical season of his career, and Saturday’s performance against Arkansas was about as efficient as we’ve ever seen him be. He connected on 21-of-26 passes for 260 yards and three scores. Those numbers could have been even better if not for two drops.

He was consistently attacking on time and accurately over the middle of the field — a fundamental tenet of quarterbacking at the NFL level. It wasn’t him simply pumping out go balls to receivers winning one-on-ones, either. We’ve been waiting for Mond to take the next step for a year and a half now, and this past weekend may have been it.

10. DI Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

It was an uneventful redshirt junior campaign for Mathis before this past weekend, as he had only six total pressures in his first five games. Against Mississippi State, however, Mathis consistently won his one-on-one opportunities en route to three pressures on the day.

He also added two batted passes as a part of an excellent all-around performance. He’s going to need more of those to think about declaring at season’s end.

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