ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay decided to categorize prospects into different tiers in an attempt to “separate the top prospects into different groups to help predict where they will come off the board during the first three rounds of the draft.” Three Wolverines made appearances in McShay’s list, and where he ranked them means positive things about what kinds of players he believes they are as they enter the NFL.
Tier 1, for example, comprised of only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is all but a lock to be selected at No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and seen as an “elite prospect.” Tier 2, which is “a notch below the elite class but still considered a plug-and-play NFL starter with high-level potential,” has 11 players in it, but none are Wolverines.
Tier 3 is where the Maize and Blue representation begins, with edge defender Kwity Paye checking in as the fifth player in the grouping and the 17th player in the entire draft class. McShay says that prospects in this tier are “good NFL starters and are considered strong values in the bottom half of Round 1 in any given draft class.”
Paye, a two-time All-Big Ten honoree who notched 23.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks at Michigan, is also viewed by McShay as the top pass-rusher in the entire class.
“A year after [former Ohio State defensive end and current Washington Football Team standout] Chase Young topped our board with a 95, the first 2021 edge rusher checks in with a 91 [draft grade according to Scouts Inc.] at No. 17 (Paye). But he leads five defensive ends or outside linebackers with at least a 90 grade, which is actually a jump up from three in 2020 (and [former Clemson star and current Arizona Cardinal] Isaiah Simmons was more of a hybrid prospect). Paye has explosive closing speed and a high ceiling, but the stat sheet hasn’t caught up just yet for him.”
Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, who started just 15 games at Michigan but impressed in a limited sample size (including against the aforementioned Young from OSU), was listed as a Tier 4 prospect (one of 23) — which is defined as a “good future NFL starter” with “second-round value” — and as having a grade of 87.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., native is seen as having the potential to be drafted in the first round but more likely a second- or third-round choice — McShay has him early in the second round, going No. 38 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Teams seek pass protectors in the first round, and guys such as [Virginia Tech OL Christian] Darrisaw, [Notre Dame OL Liam] Eichenberg and Mayfield can be high-end starting tackles in the NFL,” McShay wrote in his tier rankings.
There were no Wolverines in Tier 5, but wide receiver Nico Collins made an appearance in Tier 6 which McShay defines as “future solid starters but need time to develop, have limited upside or come with baggage.” At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Collins’ big body and ability to high-point the ball down the field is a reason why McShay believes he is being undervalued by other analysts in the industry and potentially NFL teams.
He wrote that Collins, who averaged 17.8 yards per reception during his three years in a winged helmet, is a “big target in the pass game,” and sees him as a third-round value, ranking him as the No. 72 prospect in the class.
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