Updated: May 27, 2021
1. Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence is the clearest candidate to put on this list as he’s coming into the NFL with an incredible amount of hype surrounding him. However, TLaw is not a player that has shied away from pressure as he's garnished a fan base since he’s a high schooler. Throughout his football career, he’s proven his talent and work ethic as he’s managed to win almost all of the games he’s played and avoided any bad press along the way. The fact that he’s a #1 pick is already enough expectation, but he also comes into the NFL as one of the greatest QB prospects. The Jaguars were lucky to land him and have built a team around him that will help him succeed for a long time. They even made the effort of getting a coach who is a legend in the NCAA, Urban Meyer. All these components, plus the hype around Lawrence, have made him a clear #1 on the list.
2. Zach Wilson
Ironically, the second player on this list is the 2nd pick in the NFL draft. The Jets are a franchise that has struggled a lot in recent years and has had a losing culture for a while. When Sam Darnold was picked #3 in 2018, the Jets thought they had landed the QB of their future; however, fast forward 3 years, and he’s been traded to the Panthers. This move shows a dark side of the Jets organization as Darnold wasn’t given a chance to prove himself to a new coaching staff and “culture.” This trade added more pressure to a QB that already had high expectations coming into the NFL. The Jets coaching staff have made big moves to make everything perfect for Wilson's arrival. In the draft, they traded up to pick Alijah Vera Tucker and a great WR in Elijah Molden. In free agency, they spent top dollar on Corey Davis, who shined in the 2020-2021 season and an explosive RB in Tevin Coleman. The Jets have invested a lot of money into putting Wilson in a perfect situation, and now he needs to prove them right by balling out in the NFL. If he doesn’t, he might end up in a similar position to the last QB the Jets had.
3. Najee Harris
Najee Harris was definitely an interesting player to place at #3; however, I have my reasons. The Steelers were a team that seriously struggled in the run game, and it wasn’t completely Jame Conner’s fault. The Steeler O-Line struggled severely in Run Blocking; they ranked 31st in the NFL, and the highest-graded PFF player was Villanueva with a 60.9. This was an obvious cause for concern as the Steelers' downfall could be connected to their one-dimensional play style. In the 2021 free agency, the Steelers lost Villanueva, Pouncey, and Feiler. Villanueva being a Pro Bowl LT, and Pouncey, a candidate for a HOF position. In the 2021 draft, the steelers could have opted to fill one of these gaps, strengthen one of their weakest positions, and look at free agency for a veteran RB. Nonetheless, they prioritized Najee Harris and filled the gaps of the weak O Line deeper in the draft. As the first RB drafted and Alabama alumni, Najee is facing a great deal of pressure as the Steelers fan base was torn between Offensive Line or RB.
4. Jayce Horn
Putting Jaycee Horn in this list might be debatable, but I have a couple of reasons why he’s under so much pressure. The Panthers organization made a trade for Sam Darnold with the Jets this offseason filling the QB position for the upcoming season; however, the Panthers have picked up his 5th-year option, which places him as a possible short term filler for the organization. Since the Panthers have not committed to Darnold long term, they had all the right to pick up a Rookie QB with the #8 overall pick. In this position, the Panthers had 2 extremely talented QBs that could have been the face of the franchise for the future. Another reason was the fact that he was the first defensive player to be taken, so the Panthers saw something in him that put him above other great prospects, such as Surtain, who was taken 1 pick after. From the perspective of a Panthers fan, you could understand the expectations they have on Jaycee Horn. This expectation will grow throughout the season if Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Surtain, manage to take the NFL by storm. Jaycee Horn needs to ball out and show his worth since the start, and that's why he's 4 on my list.
5. Kyle Pitts
I debated putting Kyle Pitts at 5 as there were many candidates that made sense on the list. The first reason why he’s at #5 is the hype that has been built around him. The media constantly calls him a once-in-a-lifetime prospect (which I think he is), and at moments they have said he’s the greatest TE prospect in NFL history. This obviously translates to pressure and expectation, which are fair for a TE drafted at #4 overall. However, in my opinion, there is a stronger reason why he’s got so much pressure. The Falcons were one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL, struggling to stop any opponent; in contrast, their offense performed highly all season. The terrible defense that the Falcons displayed was a good enough reason to trade back with a team that needed a QB and receive picks and get a defensive stud later in the first round. This trade back could have transformed a lazy and below-average defense into a competitive one with a great future. By picking Pitts, the Falcons chose a player that might not make an immediate impact (TE normally takes time to develop in the NFL) over a competitive defense for this season. The Falcons could have also used the #4 pick to snatch up a future replacement for an aging Mat Ryan. These question marks and doubts will haunt Pitts while he tries to prove his worth in the NFL.