The 2021 NFL draft is a week away. As teams, evaluators and scouts finish their draft boards, you'll hear plenty of comparisons between some of the top prospects in this talented class and current and former NFL players. These matches might point to the way they play the game, their physical measurements, a level of versatility, similar traits or some combination of those lines of thought. But regardless, NFL draft evaluators often liken players coming out of college to established pros to put a name and a face to what they bring.
These comps aren't always exact -- and in most cases they don't suggest the prospect will share the same level of success as the NFLer, for better or worse. But they can be helpful nonetheless to better understand prospects and how they project to the next level.
So we asked 10 of our NFL draft analysts for their single most favorite comp in this year's class. Some you've probably already heard, but others might offer a new way to look at a particular prospect and what we can expect to see from him each Sunday going forward. First up, we have a potential top-five quarterback getting comparisons to an NFC South signal-caller -- who was also a top-five selection.
I see Jones as a very similar player to Ryan, the longtime Atlanta Falcons QB. Jones has good but not great arm strength and is extremely accurate. The Alabama signal-caller also shows underrated movement traits in the pocket and can run boots/rollouts effectively. He is a good decision-maker with the football and throws a very catchable ball. That leads to lots of yards after the catch. -- Mike Tannenbaum, NFL analyst/former GM
Atwell and Brown show how the NFL has changed over the years. They're tiny 5-foot-9 wideouts with lightning speed who can be used all over an offense. They can fly with the ball in their hands. Brown, a 2019 first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, weighed 166 pounds at his combine, while Louisville's Atwell is only 155 pounds. A smart offensive coordinator will get Atwell the ball in space and let him work. -- Mel Kiper, NFL draft analyst
To start, both wide receivers have a lean frame yet know how to protect themselves and get open. But I really like this comp because of their savvy route running. Alabama's Smith knows how to get off press coverage, he's smooth in and out of his breaks, and he can find the soft spots in coverage. That's Harrison, who played with the Indianapolis Colts from 1996 to 2008 and is now in the Hall of Fame. And Smith also thinks about the game in the same way Harrison did -- the Heisman winner is a second quarterback on the field with excellent recall and a great understanding of defensive structures. -- Todd McShay, NFL draft analyst
With his high-end traits, Florida's Pitts will create pass-game matchups from the tight end position in the NFL. But I like the comp to Burress -- a wideout who played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and New York Jets from 2000 to 2012 -- here when Pitts is flexed outside as the boundary X receiver or aligned in the slot. I'm looking at the long, physical frame, along with the ability to outmuscle defenders on in-breakers or contested catches. And we know that Pitts can separate vertically while also bringing scoring upside on isolation throws inside the red zone. -- Matt Bowen, NFL analyst
The physical similarities between Minnesota's Bateman and the Falcons' Ridley are eerie, including height (6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively) and weight (both 190 pounds). Both receivers glide in a way that masks their speed, and Bateman has the polish to be as productive as Ridley was in his rookie year (821 yards and 10 TDs) if paired with a veteran quarterback. -- Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer
While Kansas City Chiefs receiver Hill is thicker and has more power right now, Waddle's rare change-of-direction ability, speed and explosiveness invoke shades of Hill. Like Hill early in his career, the Alabama product has a chance to quickly emerge as a premier kick/punt returner in addition to sparking an offense. Waddle's field-flipping skill set is uncommon. -- Field Yates, NFL analyst
The most obvious similarity outside of their size is the running backs' ability to impact the passing game. Memphis' Gainwell and the Los Angeles Chargers' Ekeler have very good ball skills and are effective releasing out of the backfield, working out of the slot and splitting out wide. Both are shifty open-field runners with good quickness through the hole, the contact balance to break some tackles and enough juice to make defenses pay when they get a seam. -- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
Ojulari (6-foot-2, 249 pounds) and Ngakoue (6-foot-2, 246 pounds) are two similarly built edge defenders who come in what would be considered a small package. But don't let the size fool you. Like Ngakoue, the Georgia outside linebacker Ojulari is an aggressive edge setter against the run, especially when it comes to taking on and folding pulling offensive linemen.
One of Ojulari's premier pass-rushing moves is the cross chop. That's a move that Ngakoue -- now with the Las Vegas Raiders after time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Ravens -- adopted as his signature move when he got to the NFL in 2016. -- Turron Davenport, Titans reporter
Penn State edge rusher Oweh is the classic potential-over-production player on this board. He absolutely dominated testing -- a hand-timed 40-yard dash in the high 4.3s at 257 pounds, a 39½-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump to go with off-the-chart performances in agility drills -- but he finished without a sack in the 2020 season. There are plenty of plays where he impacts what the opponent is trying to do, overwhelms the blocker in front of him or chases down the ball carrier from behind. But he had zero sacks.
Likewise, Vikings pass-rusher Hunter ran in the 4.5s at the 2015 combine at 252 pounds after he had posted 1.5 sacks in his final season at LSU. But we saw a high-effort player with pursuit skills and an ability to win in the pass rush with some additional polish. -- Jeff Legwold, Broncos reporter
Everything lines up with these two players. It's hard to find 6-foot-8-or-taller offensive tackles with great mobility. Brown (Northern Iowa) is seen as "developmental," but he was the elite tester on the offensive line in this class and has high-end starter talent like Miller, who just got a big-money extension with the Raiders. Miller was also viewed as a developmental guy coming out of UCLA. -- Jim Nagy, NFL draft analyst