Last week, we introduced our aggregated preseason CBS Sports Top 100 for the 2021 draft class. Now we give you, one of our loyal readers, our individual top 32 Big Boards before the start of a college football season that, at time of writing, won't feature the Big Ten, Pac-12, or MAC conferences.
Below are four prospects inside my top 32 board I'm higher on than our consensus board, and one prospect outside my top 32 -- but still inside my top 100 -- who did not make our consensus top 100.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman's going to get knocked for lacking flashy explosiveness off the line. And for as much as I believe athletic gifts are a vital component of projecting from college to the pros, being fundamentally sound at all the elements needed to succeed at your position is often the driving force behind a highly graded prospect on my board.
And Bateman does everything well. Everything. His glides through his press releases unencumbered. His route breaks are crisp and generate separation. He wins vertically with the ideal combination of speed and rebounding skills. According to Pro Football Focus' Draft Guide, Bateman came down with 12 contested catches on 19 such opportunities in 2019. Ready to be blown away? Rebounding specialist and first pick of the second round Tee Higgins had 11 contested catches on 20 opportunities last season.
After the catch, Bateman is deceptively shifty. His yardage accumulation with the ball in his hands almost reminds me of Courtland Sutton, my No. 1 wideout from the 2018 class. Long strides, good contact balance, and subtle, efficient cuts. Per PFF, Bateman forced 17 missed tackles on his 60 receptions (!) last year. For reference, Jerry Jeudy logged 15 forced missed tackles on 77 catches at Alabama in 2019. In my scouting profile of Bateman I went with a floor-middle ground-ceiling comparison of Marvin Jones, Allen Robinson, and Julio Jones. Sure, Jones is a lofty comparison, but with all this time to train after opting out, Bateman could surprise and run faster and test more explosively than everyone thinks. The freaky athletic attributes have long set Jones apart from the other top receivers in the league. But Bateman's polish entering the league is that of the polish Jones had when he was a rookie in 2011.
Bateman is No. 8 on our consensus board, No. 5 on my board
(OK, not a huge discrepancy. I just love Bateman's game and had to write about him.)
Chris Rumph, EDGE, Duke
Rumph is a rare cat. He plays like a tenth-degree black belt with his hands and has a springy, oiled-up lower half. That blend of deeply advanced skill and inherent talent leads to him being in the same unblockable edge-rusher echelon as the Bosa brothers and Chase Young among those I've scouted. Seriously.
Listed at 6-4 and 235 pounds, packing on weight is a must for Rumph as he enters the NFL, but I don't think he needs to be significantly heavier to succeed in today's NFL that's prioritizing speed and quickness over size and power. Also, I hope Duke uses Rumph more frequently (just 409 snaps last year) and in a more translatable way this season. In 2019, he often aligned off the ball like a traditional linebacker then moments before the snap drifted close to the line over an inside gap and destroyed whoever tried to block him. Name a pass-rushing move, and Rumph has it locked, loaded, and ready to be deployed. He quickly reads the leverage of an offensive lineman and counters in a flash. Rumph, just a redshirt sophomore last year, is fast off the ball, plays with a non-stop motor, and has long arms, all leading to a sizable tackling radius.
For playing in the 230s last season, he held up well against the run too, but whichever team drafts him will be doing so for his otherworldly pass-rushing ability. According to PFF, Rumph recorded 49 quarterback pressures on 198 pass-rushing snaps, meaning every four times he was sent after the quarterback, a pressure was generated. Incredible. Rumph has plenty of juice and enough dip/flattening talent to emerge as an absurdly productive edge rusher, and we know he can be a force as an interior blitzing type. Rumph's ultra-refined game is probably largely due to his dad, a longtime coach who spent years in the SEC and is now the outside linebackers coach for the Houston Texans. Get Rumph on your team.
Rumph is No. 33 on our consensus board, No. 8 on my board
Patrick Jones, EDGE, Pittsburgh
Jones looks the part off the bus at 6-5 and 260 pounds with long, dangling arms. He led the ACC with 62 quarterback pressures on 415 pass-rush snaps per PFF, which equates to a sizable 14.9% pressure-creation rate. And, of course, some of that production was schemed via stunts, but the vast majority of Jones' wins were legitimate one-on-one victories, triumphs in which he showcased a variety of ways to beat blockers en route to the quarterback.
His burst is good, not great, yet the way he immediately engages with his long arms, gets a read on the offensive tackle's balance, then counters in the opposite direction is terrific, NFL-level nuance. Jones plays with pop in his punch, can bench press blockers into the passer with a quality bull rush and displays flattening ability when he gets to the edge-rushing apex. He completely wrecked the games against Duke, Miami, and North Carolina. Over the course of the season, I never noticed Jones having a real dud of an outing. Love his consistency.
There'll likely be some knocks on his overall athletic gifts. But I'm fine with how smooth he looks on the field at his size, and he could probably pack on another five to 10 pounds without being sapped of his quickness. Jones essentially checks all the boxes for me -- with the most hesitation on his overall athleticism. He's long, decently powerful with a nice collection of effective pass-rushing moves, and he was steadily productive in 2019. I expect a gigantic 2020 campaign for Jones on the Panthers defense en route to widespread belief he's a first-round talent, which is where I view him today.
Jones is No. 52 on our board, No. 14 on my board
Thomas Graham, CB, Oregon
Graham is a ball magnet. He had 18 pass breakups and three picks in 2018 and 10 more defended passes with two interceptions a season ago at Oregon. Graham even had three picks as a freshman in 2017. I'm enamored with his versatility. At 5-11 and 193 pounds, he's on the fringe between classic nickel size and having the build of an outside cornerback but has excelled on the perimeter and in the slot during his time in college.
Graham plays with a confident, physical style in man on the outside and will provide a serious challenge to any type of receiver in contested-catch situations down the field thanks to great awareness and leaping ability. When he's pushed into the slot, Graham's twitchiness and route-recognition brilliance are on full display. It's difficult to find a rep in which Graham is completely turned around or can't quickly recover if he is. Because of his instincts, Graham is outstanding is zone too. His scheme versatility and ball production indicate he's going to be around the football frequently.
I don't know if he's a burner, but he looked faster than highly touted cornerback mate Deommodore Lenoir on film. Speed won't be a liability in the pros. A decade ago, Graham would've likely been labeled as a tweener with a negative connotation, yet as the NFL is becoming more hybrid player centric, the Oregon star will fit perfectly into a secondary.
Graham is No. 26 on our consensus board, No. 15 on my board.
Dazz Newsome, WR, UNC
Newsome has the unbridled assertiveness I love in a wide receiver. Everything he does on the football field is sudden and with authority. He explodes off the ball, makes intense cuts as a refined route runner, and is a no-nonsense yards-after-the-catch receiver with the vision and athleticism to be a disaster to tackle.
The 5-11, 190-pound slot receiver also tracks it phenomenally down the field, even if there's a defender close. He made this ridiculous grab last season against Duke, in which he pinned the football to the back of the corner but still held on. And every time I saw him get the football underneath, I felt like a big play was coming. He's that quick to flip on the jets, accelerate, and violently cut to avoid tackle attempts. Check this yards-after-the-catch stat on Newsome, via PFF,
"Dating back to 2018, Newsome has been one of the most elusive receivers in the college game by breaking an incredible rate of tackles after the catch (36 broken on 116 catches)."
On film, Newsome looks like someone who'll run in the 4.4s, so he checks many boxes. This season, I expect him to build on his 72-catch, 1,018-yard, 10-touchdown season in 2019 and will not be surprised if he approaches (or enters) the first-round conversation during the 2021 pre-draft process.
Newsome is unranked on our consensus board, No. 55 on my board
My Top 32 Big Board
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
4. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
5. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
6. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
7. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
8. Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
9. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
10. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
11. Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
12. Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest
13. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
14. Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
15. Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Oregon
16. Levi Onwuzurike, IDL, Washington
17. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
18. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
19. Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
20. Marvin Wilson, IDL, Florida State
21. Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
22. Ar'Darius Washington, S, TCU
23. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
24. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
25. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
26. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
27. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
28. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
29. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
30. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
31. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
32. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson