‘Dancing with the Stars’ power rankings: Carlos PenaVega, Hayes Grier are the men to beat

dancing with the stars dwts season 21 carlos penavega hayes grier

Season 21 of the ABC hit “Dancing With the Stars” is upon us, and like every season part of the fun is learning who will be competing. Who can dance? Who will choke under the pressure? Who will become an emotional wreck? Who will emerge a star? I am breaking down the contestants with my first Power Ranking of the season. Keep in mind I have no idea who can dance at this point. What I do know is it takes a lot more than good dancing to win “Dancing With the Stars.”

Let’s break down the seven men competing, based on their dance potential as well as their social media fan bases, which could play a big role when it comes to getting viewer votes. (Click here to see how I rank the women.)

‘Dancing with the Stars’: Paula Deen, Gary Busey among season 21 contestants

7. Andy Grammer
Facebook Rank: 4th out of 7 – 211K Fans
Twitter Rank: 4th out of 7 – 136K Followers

This is where I have to go with a gut feeling. Yes, Andy Grammer is a current, relevant singer/songwriter with a hit song on the radio (“Honey, I’m Good”). But that does not always translate into success on “Dancing With The Stars” as proven by last year’s first-booted contestant, RedFoo (of the band LMFAO). With his social media rankings in the middle of the pack and a potential lack of the “lovability” factor, I think Andy Grammar could be one of the first to go.

His first dance with partner Allison Holker will be to the song “Marvin Gaye” by Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor. This tells me we can expect a mid-tempo, forgettable ballroom dance. If he can surprise with his moves, of course, everything can change. But my initial instincts are telling me this pop star will be the first man to exit the stage.

6. Victor Espinoza
Facebook Rank: 5th out of 7 – 103K Fans
Twitter Rank: 6th out of 7 – 20K Followers

At just 5-foot-2, Espinoza isn’t the typical male athlete to appear on “Dancing with the Stars.” The Triple Crown-winning jockey lacks star power, as shown by his social media rankings, but he may pack a powerful punch when all is said and done. This is one contestant that could have a high “lovability” factor, but I have to see it to be convinced. At this point, I expect Espinoza to have an early exit based only on the fact that he has more famous competition. He could definitely be a dark “horse” though. His first dance with partner Karina Smirnoff to “G.D.F.R.” by Flo Rida should be high energy and may allow him a chance to show off his moves, if he has them.

5. Gary Busey
Facebook Rank: 6th out of 7 – 77K Fans
Twitter Rank: 5th out of 7 – 130K Followers

Who isn’t excited to see Gary Busey this season? This unpredictable, hilarious (not to mention Oscar-nominated) actor will no doubt bring the fun to season 21. With a personality made for reality TV, Busey will probably last into the middle of the season, while likely being the worst dancer on the show. Personality goes a long way, and with his first dance with partner Anna Trebunskaya being to “Dancing in the Street” by David Bowie & Mick Jagger, we can expect to see exactly what we want from Busey in week one: fun!  I expect voters to pick up their phones for Busey until the fun wears off and the competition takes a more serious turn.

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4. Alek Skarlatos
Facebook Rank: 7th out of 7 – 2K Fans
Twitter Rank 7th out of 7 – 1K Followers

Alek Skarlatos is this season’s American hero. He may not be a celebrity in the traditional sense, but what we have learned from past seasons is that American heroes do well on “Dancing with the Stars.” Skarlatos is a National Guard Specialist who heroically took down a gunman on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.

Not the typical war veteran we’ve seen in the past, and as far as I know, he has no physical scars to show from his heroic act. Because of this, I’m not sure he will get the same level of support that led previous American heroes J.R. Martinez and Noah Galloway all the way to the finals (and Martinez to a win). But if he can actually dance, look out. His first dance with partner Lindsay Arnold is to “Ten Feet Tall” by Afrojack featuring Wrabel, which could lead to an inspirational moment and strong audience reaction.

dancing with the stars predictions3. Nick Carter
Facebook Rank 3rd out of 7 – 726K Fans
Twitter Rank 3rd our of 7 – 547K Followers

“Dancing With The Stars” has had its fair share of boy band royalty, and the show has proven that teen heartthrobs never really lose their fans. The Backstreet Boys are still successful on tour and Nick Carter is arguably the most popular of the group. I expect his strong fan base and familiarity with choreography to take him far into the competition. His first dance with partner Sharna Burgess is to another Flo Rida hit, “I Don’t Like It, I Love It” and should provide a high energy performance. Regardless of his performance, I have no doubts Nick Carter will last into the late weeks of the season.

2. Hayes Grier
Facebook Rank 1st out of 7 – 1.2M Fans
Twitter Rank 1st out of 7 – 2.9M Followers

Who is Hayes Grier? That was what I asked myself when I saw him in this year’s lineup of “Dancing With The Stars.” I had to Google him. Then I saw that he’s a good-looking kid, a superstar on Vine and has millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter, more than anyone else in the competition. Oh perfect, he will go all the way to the finals. He has the young, female vote all to himself and I expect Hayes Grier to cruise with partner Emma Slater all the way to the end. Their first dance to “Cheerleader” by Omi will help target his fan base of girls and young women. If he’s even an average dancer he will go far. If he is a good dancer he may win.

1. Carlos PenaVega
Facebook Rank 2/7 – 809K Fans
Twitter Rank 2/7 – 2.6M Followers

Carlos PenaVega is another contestant I had to research because I’d never heard of him. He is apparently a big Nickelodeon star and that means lots of fans – more importantly, lots of young fans who will vote. He ranks second in social media behind Hayes Grier (whose entire claim to fame is being a social media star), but as someone who grew up in the entertainment business, PenaVega will be a tough train to stop.

Not only that, but we know he can perform on stage because he was recently cast opposite Julianne Hough (isn’t this some type of conflict of interest?) in the upcoming live television production of “Grease.” Add in the fun rivalry we will get to watch unfold before our eyes with his wife and “Dancing” rival Alexa PenaVega, and this just couldn’t align more perfectly for a Carlos PenaVega win. To make it even easier on him, they threw in a dance partner who has already gone all the way to the mirror ball trophy before: Witney Carson, who won season 19 with Alfonso Ribeiro (and earned an Emmy nom for Best Choreography to boot) Their first dance will be to “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown. You would be a fool to bet against this guy!

Who do you think will take home the mirror ball trophy?

‘DWTS’ early predictions: Alexa PenaVega will win, Gary Busey out first

In our “Dancing with the Stars” predictions center, you get to answer the following questions each week:

Who will receive the HIGHEST score from the judges?

Who will receive the LOWEST score from the judges?

Which celebrity will be eliminated?

Who will win “Dancing with the Stars”?

At the end of each week, the eligible user with the highest prediction accuracy and most points will win a $100 Amazon gift certificate, so it’s beneficial to keep coming back often and making/updating your predictions.

Who are you rooting for this season? Sound off in the comments section below, and join the discussion in Gold Derby’s reality TV forum.

Photo: Carlos PenaVega. Credit: ABC/Greg Zabilski

Photo: Hayes Grier. Credit: ABC/Ida Mae Astute

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