Historically, 53 percent of first-round picks from each year end up being busts.
Meanwhile, every year, there are also certain players I fall in love with when evaluating. Typically these are guys who play the game the way it was meant to be played. They play with heart, and they play to win.
It is a little past Valentine's Day, but nonetheless, I have a list of five players that I really like in this year's draft class, which I'm going to label as my top five draft "crushes."
These are five players who I believe will star in the National Football League.
1.) Special teams ace Avery Williams, Boise State
5-foot-9, 188 pounds (4.41 40-yard dash time at Boise State's pro day)
Grade: A (as a return specialist)
As a former special teams scout, special teams are very near and dear to my heart. Special teams are a third of the game, and it is of utmost importance to have someone who is a legitimate return specialist.
Detroit has not really had a legit return guy since when Mel Gray played, and that is going back quite a few years (1989-1994).
Williams is in the mold of Jamal Agnew. He is versatile. He can player corner (nickel slot) and running back, as well.
He had six punt returns and three kick returns for touchdowns. He also blocked five kicks (three punt blocks, one PAT and one FG).
Williams has exceptional vision, balance and instincts as a returner. He flows with the holes very well.
Williams has real passion for the game, and he spends a lot of time in the film room. Williams has a real maturity to him, and one day, he dreams of being a special teams coordinator.
He is going to make a real impact in the NFL.
2.) WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
5-foot-10, 182 pounds (4.25 40-yard dash time, according to 247Sports.com)
Grade: A (receiver and return specialist)
This guy is a pure football player. He looks like he was born to be a receiver, and he is the top-rated receiver on my draft board.
I love this guy. Dynamic and instinctual. Excels at all three route levels (short, intermediate and deep). Home run-hitting ability.
Waddle is a threat to score every time he touches the ball as a receiver or a returner. Extremely fluid and smooth. He is very confident in his hands.
One of the things I love most is he starred all three years in college, while having three different quarterbacks throw to him.
He just has a knack for getting open and exploiting defenses at every route level. Excels at slant and crossing routes. Can take a slant to the house.
I have not seen anything like him on slants since Jerry Rice and John Taylor. Gives a strong effort.
Waddle is extremely dangerous after he catches the ball. One of the best I have ever seen in 40 years, in terms of YAC (yards after the catch). Extremely slippery and strong-willed after he catches the ball. Very tough to bring down. Can take a hand-off or end-around, as well, and is the same type of nightmare for defenses to tackle in the open field.
Waddle is like watching poetry in motion on deep passes. High-points 50-50 balls very well. Reminds me of Randy Moss that way. Goes up and gets it. Threat to score every time he touches the ball as a return specialist.
This guy is the real deal. He is a slam-dunk superstar waiting to happen.
3.) OG/C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
6-foot-3, 320 pounds
Burst on to the scene at the 2021 Senior Bowl. Nicknamed "The Gut," he was notified he was going to be playing center for the first time in his life the night before the start of the Senior Bowl practices, and he held his own.
Not only did he hold his own, but he dominated top-rated defensive linemen in the practices. Did it while playing with a broken right hand.
He captured my attention from the first moment I saw him on film. A real NFC North-type of player. He sets up well after the snap, and sinks his hips well. Concrete anchor. Nobody is going to bull-rush this guy. Long arms and lightning fast hands that strike like a stun gun.
Meinerz plays with a defensive mentality. Looks to make pancake blocks. Extremely aggressive nature on the field, but he has a big heart off the field.
He is raising money ("Hugs for Alaina") to help raise money for a 14-year old girl who is fighting a rare disorder.
Reminds me of a Mark Schlereth or Joe Jacoby. He is someone who can also play guard, which is where he played in college.
He profiles as a 10-15-year pro, and he's worked his way into the draft discussion between the second and fourth round. This guy will be a real fan favorite.
4.) LT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
6-foot-3, 315 pounds
Franchise left tackle. Best left tackle in the draft. Polished technician who excels equally in pass protection and run-blocking. Handled Chase Young in 2019. Wins most of the snaps. Tends to stay off the ground, however, has a nasty streak that shows up when he makes pancake blocks.
Reminds me of a cross between Jim Lachey and Raleigh McKenzie. Slides out, and protects the pocket well. Has good hand placement and cat-quick feet. Competitive. Rock-solid anchor. He is not a guy who will get put on skates and get bulled back into the quarterback. Excels at picking up stunts and blitzes.
He needs some work protecting the inside gap, but he has what it takes to play in a lot of Pro Bowls over the next 10-15 years. A plug-in-and-play type.
The only real knock on him is that he is 6-foot-3, and the average LT in the NFL is 6-foot-6. But, he will be just fine. Big-time prospect and a top-10 talent.
5.) RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina
5-foot-10, 225 pounds (4.55 40-yard dash time, according to CBSSports.com)
My pick for Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Sure-fire All-Pro runner. He is the type of runner the Pittsburgh Steelers will select, and he will run them straight into the playoffs.
He possesses a compact and squatty build, and he had a whopping 7.3 yards-per-carry average at North Carolina. A very disciplined, smooth and patient runner. Finds holes and exploits them. He is like a pinball or battering ram through holes. Extremely tough to bring down. As one announcer said, "Nobody makes more people miss than Javonte Williams."
Accelerates, and has that coveted burst of speed. A nightmare for defensive backs to try to bring down in the open field. He does not look to go out of bounds, but instead looks to run over defenders. Has a nice spin move and a strong stiff arm. Can go inside or take a pitch outside.
Extremely dangerous as a receiver. Can go deep. Plucks ball confidently with his hands. Threat to score every time he touches the ball. A complete back and game-changing presence.
Williams will become a household name in America. Fantasy players, remember his name.
If I am an NFL GM, these are five names on my radar going into the 2021 NFL Draft.
These are the kinds of players that help build Super Bowl-winning teams.