NFL draft tier rankings 2021: Todd McShay's highest-graded prospects for this class

Executives, coaches and scouts for all 32 NFL teams are closing in on their final boards ahead of the 2021 NFL draft. Likewise, I'm finishing up my tape evaluations and starting to rank my own board.

And as those rankings get some finishing touches, it's sometimes easier to compare players graded very close together by tiering them. Thanks to our Scouts Inc. draft grades, we can 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. I have 111 players with at least a 70 grade, and I stacked them into six tiers.

This year's Tier 1 consists of only one player, and it won't surprise you who it is. But 28 other players earn a first-round grade with a 90-plus, and 82 more are designated as a Day 2-caliber prospect. Even though these tiers include only first-, second- and third-round talents, my full rankings currently include more than 300 prospects. I'll continue to update those rankings right up until the April 29 draft day. But for now, here are my draft tiers for 2021.

Note: This file first ran on April 5 but has been updated with new rankings.

Jump to a tier: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
Position breakdown

Tier 1: Lawrence all alone

Grades of 95 or higher. Elite prospects. Should be immediate NFL starters and project as perennial All-Pro players. Worthy of a top-five pick most years. I had just one player in this tier in 2020: Chase Young at 95.

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (97)

Lawrence really is in a tier of his own, and he is my highest-graded prospect since running back Saquon Barkley in 2018 (97). The Clemson signal-caller is a once-in-a-decade kind of QB prospect, and I've likened him to Andrew Luck and his evaluations before Luck was drafted at No. 1 in 2012. In fact, Luck is the only quarterback to have a higher grade from me over the past 10 years (99). Lawrence is also expected to be a No. 1 pick this month. He has excellent touch and accuracy, he makes good decisions with the football, he can drive the ball vertically with velocity and he moves very well in the pocket. Simply put, he's the definition of a franchise quarterback.

Tier 2: 11 prospects

Grades between 92 and 94. A notch below the elite class but still considered a plug-and-play NFL starter with high-level potential. Worthy of a top-15 pick most years. I had 11 players in this tier in 2020.