When the Big Ten announced that they were postponing the 2020 season to possibly the Spring it sent shock waves through football because we wouldn’t be seeing one of the two elite conferences playing football in the spring. This also means that we wouldn’t get to see some of the best 2021 NFL Draft Prospects playing in games as the Big Ten is loaded with NFL Draft talent. But the Big Ten is back in less than a month and this is the perfect opportunity to get to know who the best 2021 NFL Draft Prospects are in the Big Ten based on my film study this summer.
*Indicates players who have opted out of the 2020 season
#Indicates players who once opted out but plan on returning to play
1. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
2. Micah Parsons LB, Penn State*
3. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
4. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
5. Rondale Moore, WR Purdue#
I’d take the top five prospects in the Big Ten against any other conference and it starts up top with Ohio State’s quarterback Justin Fields. In his first year as a starter Fields was able to elevate the Buckeyes offense showcasing the physical tools of an elite quarterback showing the quality accuracy along with the ability to throw with touch and anticipation.
Penn State’s Micah Parsons won’t be playing for Penn State this year, but he is in the running to be the first defensive player taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. Parsons is an elite athlete who is able to be a multifaceted play maker showing the ability to run sideline to sideline, drop into coverage and provide a pass rush.
At 6’4 274lbs Kwity Paye is an explosive fluid mover who wins with burst and agility to and boosts one of the best 3 cone times in 6.37 seconds which found him number one on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List. Rounding out the top five is two receivers who both have different skill sets. Chris Olave isn’t very flashy but he reminds me of former Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy because he is a dynamic route runner with above average athletic traits. Rondale Moore on the other hand is an ultra athlete who is a dynamic play maker who you’ll want to get the ball into his hands in space.
6. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State#
7. Rashawn Slater, LT, Northwestern*
8. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
9. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota#
10. Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Ohio State has been producing elite cornerbacks on a yearly basis and Shaun Wade looks to be the next one up. Wade has the speed, fluidity and instincts that teams crave and now that we have a 2020 season he’ll be able to show that he can also play outside in addition to playing in the slot.
2005 was the last time Northwestern had an offensive lineman drafted and also happens to be the year they last had a first round pick. Both of those steaks will likely be broken in the 2021 NFL Draft as Rashawn Slater has a legit shot of being a top 10 overall pick. Slater may only be 6’4 but he plays with good balance and good athletic ability that allows him to mirror opposing pass rushers. Equipped with good hands and route running ability Pat Freiermuth is one of the top tight ends in the country and could find himself going in the early second round.
After getting cleared to return, Minnesota gets back one of the top receivers in the Big Ten in Rashod Bateman. Bateman is a power route runner who is able to get separation with his size and the ability to build up speed. Freiermuth isn’t the only quality tight end in the conference as Jake Ferguson is looking to be the latest Badger to make it in the NFL. Ferguson is at his best using his size, body control and leaping ability to go up and make contested catches either in the red zone or down the field.
11. Wyatt Davis, RG, Ohio State#
12. Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan*
13. Daniel Faalele, RT, Minnesota
14. Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
15. Josh Myers, C, Ohio State
Ohio State has a couple of offensive lineman that are both talented but have different skill sets. While center Josh Myers is very athletic and able to reach defenders outside of his gaps, right guard Wyatt Davis is a pure mauler who wants to manhandle defenders.
Also along the offensive line it’s hard to miss Daniel Faalele at Minnesota as he’s 6’9 and 400lbs. However Faalele moves very well for his size and is able to use his length and size to make it tough to get around him while locking defenders down when he gets his hands on them.
At cornerback Michigan’s Ambry Thomas isn’t a physical corner but he shows the speed and change of direction skills to stick with receivers. And explosive and versatile linebacker Baron Browning is able to use those traits to go sideline to sideline, drop into coverage and get around blocks to make plays.
16. Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota
17. Jack Sanborn, ILB, Wisconsin
18. Paddy Fisher, MLB, Northwestern
19. Journey Brown, RB, Penn State
20. Cole Van Lanen, LT, Wisconsin
Tanner Morgan thrived last year after an injury forced him into the starting role as he led the Gophers to an eleven win season. Morgan doesn’t have a huge arm but shows the ability to throw accurately and with touch to his talented receivers.
Linebackers Jack Sanborn and Paddy Fisher may play for different teams but they are very similar prospects. Both linebackers aren’t great athletes but make up for it with tremendous instincts and are good tacklers.
Keep an eye on Journey Brown who could make a big jump this year as he is a tough runner that doesn’t go down to first contact and has enough burst to get to the second level. In a deep tackle class a player like Cole Van Lanen can get lost in the shuffle but he is a very solid tackle who has starting traits. Like most Wisconsin lineman he is strong at the point of attack but Van Lanen also possesses the lateral quickness needed to cut off the edge and prevent edge defenders from turning the corner.
21. Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
22. Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
23. Thayer Munford, LT, Ohio State
24. Jason Oweh, DE, Penn State
25. Tyreke Smith, DE, Ohio State
At 6’4 222lbs Michigan receiver Nico Collins is a physical contested catcher whose body control and hands can make him a quarterback’s best friend. Former Oklahoma Sooner Trey Sermon is now in Columbus and looking to take his bruising between the tackles running style to the Buckeyes to replace JK Dobbins. Thayer Munford is a solid offensive tackle that has good lateral agility but needs to improve his core strength and hand usage if he wants to improve his draft stock.
There are a lot of draft analysts that are very high on Penn State defensive end Jason Oweh, but he just left me wanting more. Oweh is a talented athlete and if he’s able to improve on his pass rushing technique and finish more plays then he could live up to the hype. Tyreke Smith on the other hand has made the most of his opportunities as a backup showing the ability to flash and make plays when given the opportunity. With Chase Young gone Smith will be thrust into the premiere pass rushing role and hope that he could be the next great Ohio State pass rusher.
26. Master Teague, RB, Ohio State
27. Alaric Jackson, LT, Iowa
28. Dedrick Mills, RB, Nebraska
29. Dicaprio Bootle, CB, Nebraska
30. Jalen Mayfield, LT, Michigan#
Nebraska RB Dedrick Mills is at his best running off tackle where he can get to top speed quickly and use his contact balance and power to make defenders miss #NFLDraft #Huskers pic.twitter.com/zfUVwgFpXd— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) May 21, 2020
Master Teague and Trey Sermon will be the perfect duo because Teague’s explosiveness is a great compliment to the between the tackle bruiser. At Iowa Alaric Jackson had hype around him last summer as a potential first round pick but injuries caused him to miss several games. For what Jackson lacks in athletic ability he makes up for it with strength and hand usage and will lock down defenders if he gets his hands on them.
After a slow start Dedrick Mills really turned it on late and is looking to keep his momentum going forward. Mills is a tough runner who really excels on off tackle runs where he is able to get up to top speed and make quick cuts. An intriguing player Dicaprio Bootle has the speed and fluid hips to stick with receivers, ball production and experience playing both cornerback and safety. However Bootle struggles with tackling and toughness which causes him to fall down the rankings.
Initially Jalen Mayfield opted out for the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL Draft which was a bit of a surprise since Mayfield is only a redshirt sophomore and only has a single season of starting experience. But Mayfield is back and is looking to put some refinement into his game as he is a good athlete but lacks the technique needed to be considered an early round pick.