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2021 NFL Draft Fallers: 5 First-Round Players Who Could Slide Down Draft Boards

Posted: Apr 13, 2021Last updated: Apr 13, 2021

Here are 5 2021 NFL Draft Fallers Who Could Slide Down Draft Boards.

Every year, we see a high-profile player fall in the draft for a variety of reasons. Last year, CeeDee Lamb fell to the Dallas Cowboys at pick No. 17. In 2018, it was Derwin James who, again, fell to No. 17. These things can sometimes be hard to predict, but there are a few players that could drop further on draft night than anyone may suspects. So without further ado, here are the five players who could slide in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.


Read our full 2021 NFL Draft Guide, including Marcus’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.


2021 NFL Draft Fallers: 5 Players Who Could Slide Down Draft Boards

1. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Of all the players we are going to discuss today, this is the one I understand the least.

Justin Fields was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect in his class, and all he did was produce at Ohio State. In his two years with the Buckeyes, he threw 63 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, averaging over 9.4 yards per attempt. He also scored 15 touchdowns on the ground and was a dynamic threat in the open field.

Fields also led his team to the College Football Playoffs in back-to-back seasons and led his team to the National Championship in 2020.

Fields is an incredible athlete, has the ideal body for the NFL, and has proven he can play at an elite level against top competition. And yet, there is a chance that he might be the fifth quarterback drafted in a few weeks.

If Fields falls anywhere past the top two picks, he will become the steal of the draft. That is feeling more and more likely as the 49ers appear to be ready to take Mac Jones or Trey Lance ahead of him.

Expect Fields to fall some on draft night and ultimately go off the board somewhere inside the top 15 picks.


2. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

One of the biggest surprises on the Pro Day circuit was Rashod Bateman. He tested incredibly well, running the low 4.4 40 times. However, the team listed him at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds during his entire stay at Minnesota. But in reality, he measured just 6-foot, 190 pounds at his Pro Day.

While the size isn’t a concern, he doesn’t have the same appeal to teams as he would have at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Now, there is a chance that he falls out of the first round entirely, which would be surprising for a wide receiver who was routinely being mocked inside the top 20 just a few months ago.

Even a few weeks ago, it seemed like a lock that Bateman would be the No. 4 receiver drafted, at worst. Don’t be surprised if a few other players, such as Elijah Moore and Kadarius Toney, jump him in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Don’t be surprised if Bateman doesn’t go until the 30s or even 40s later this month.

2021 NFL Draft Fallers: 5 First-Round Players Who Could Slide Down Draft Boards

A surprise likely 2021 NFL Draft faller, Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman has seen some shine wear off during the 2021 NFL Mock Draft season, and he’s at risk of slipping outside of the 2021 NFL Draft’s first round. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)


3. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Over the last few years, we’ve seen fewer and fewer running backs selected in the first round. In fact, we’ve seen just one running back chosen in Round 1 in back-to-back drafts as the NFL appears to be waiting longer and longer before taking a runner.

With just over two weeks to go until the night of the draft, Najee Harris appears to be the favorite to be the first running back drafted. However, the number of teams that could consider a running back in the first round is low.

That means that Clemson’s Travis Etienne could have to wait a while before his name is called.

Etienne went back to school for his senior season and improved as a receiver. In 12 games, he caught 48 passes for 588 yards and two touchdowns. He continued to be one of the most efficient running backs in the country, averaging 7.2 yards per carry throughout his career at Clemson.

Heading into the early stages of the 2021 NFL Draft process, Etienne was a lock to be drafted in Round 1. Now, that seems very unlikely given the way the board lines up.

Look for this 2021 NFL Draft faller to come off the board sometime early in the second round, which could be 20-30 spots lower than we all anticipated just a few months ago.


Marcus Mosher’s The Game Day Podcast partner Adam Kramer disagrees with one of these 2021 NFL Draft Fallers. See which player Adam believes in by reading his latest edition of The Ticket to get 2021 NFL Draft betting tips, UFC and boxing advice, and more.


4. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Every year, a noteworthy first-round player or two who drops due to injury. Unfortunately, that player could be Caleb Farley this season. Until a few weeks ago, there was a healthy debate about the No. 1 cornerback in this class between Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) and Farley.

Surtain is the more polished prospect, but Farley has the higher upside with incredible athleticism and ball skills. If Farley reaches his ceiling as a prospect, he could easily be an All-Pro cornerback who averages four to five interceptions per season. He’s that talented and has that type of playmaking ability.

However, Farley could fall significantly during the draft as he was forced to undergo a microdiscectomy in March that will cause him to miss most of the offseason. The expectation is that he will be ready for the regular season, but back injuries always carry an iffy timeline.

On top of that surgery, he’s dealt with back spasms that caused him to miss games in 2019. He also has a torn ACL in his injury history (2017) that teams will have to check on before selecting him. Simply put, his injury history is lengthy and significant and that type of player typically falls far in the draft.

Farley is supremely talented, but picking cornerbacks with back injuries is always risky. Expect this 2021 NFL Draft faller to slip outside of the top 10 and into the late 20s or even 30s.


5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

You would think the SEC’s all-time touchdown receptions leader (fifth all-time overall) and the 2020 Heisman Trophy Winner would be a lock top-10 pick in the draft.

At worst, you would assume that he would be the first or second receiver drafted after totaling just under 4,000 career receiving yards in Tuscaloosa.

However, it would not be surprising if he were the third receiver drafted and for his teammate, Jaylen Waddle, to go ahead of him.

Teams appear to be a little concerned about his playing weight (listed at 170 pounds), and he refused to be weighed at the Senior Bowl and at his Pro Day. On top of the lack of size, he isn’t a burner; he likely would have run in the 4.5s at his Pro Day if he had worked out.

As a polished route runner, Smith has a relatively high ceiling, but the lack of size and speed might cause teams to push him down the board some and project him as a complementary receiver in the NFL.

Smith is likely to be the fourth offensive weapon off the board, and that could cause him to fall into the teens. That would be quite a drop for a player who many thought could have gone No. 3 to the Dolphins before they traded out of that spot.

It’s likely to be a small slide for Smith on draft night, though. Don’t expect him to get outside of the top 15 picks in Round 1.


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Author

Marcus Mosher

Marcus Mosher is an NFL analyst at The Game Day, residing in Erie, PA. He covers the NFL from a betting and fantasy perspective, producing written and video content. Marcus currently hosts multiple football-related podcasts and is a managing editor at USA Today’s Sports Media Group covering the Las Vegas Raiders. He has previously worked at The Athletic and Bleacher Report.

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