Last Saturday was full of excitement and jubilation as the College Football season officially kicked off. While the Big Ten and PAC-12 are still finalizing plans to return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Big Twelve and ACC were two of the Power Five conferences to kickoff their season, while the SEC is scheduled to start on September 26th. As the season progresses, one thing that we’ll be discussing, especially on this website, is the draft stock among 2021 NFL Draft prospects.
In this article, we’ll look at five prospects that had strong performances to start the season. In addition, we’ll examine their draft stocks as they currently sit and attempt to predict where they’ll be drafted in April.
5. Sam Ehlinger – Texas
Heading into the 2020 College Football season, I had Ehlinger ranked 10th on my list of draft-eligible quarterbacks. However, following a lackluster performance by Iowa State QB Brock Purdy, it might be time to re-evaluate Sam Ehlinger.
Prior to this season, I’ve been waiting for Ehlinger to take the next step. Last season, we saw the Longhorns quarterback increase his production as he threw for over 3,600 yards and 32 touchdowns. This season, we must see Sam Ehlinger play the game much more efficiently.
Although it was against an inferior UTEP team in Austin, Ehlinger went 25 of 33, throwing for 426 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. If Sam Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorns offense can put up similar numbers all season long in Tom Herman’s offense, we could see Ehlinger’s 2021 NFL Draft stock rise rather quickly.
4. Travis Etienne – Clemson
It was a bit of a shock that Travis Etienne opted to return to Clemson for the 2020 College Football season. However, he began the season right where he left off 2019. Etienne displayed his athleticism and explosiveness in the season opener against Wake Forest.
Etienne kicked off the season with 17 rushing attempts for 102 yards and 1 touchdown. Additionally, the Clemson running back caught three passes for 47 yards. If Travis Etienne is able to reproduce the numbers that he put on the board in 2019, while improving his consistency and draft stock, he could solidify himself as a first round 2021 NFL Draft prospect.
3. Carlos Basham Jr. – Wake Forest
Speaking of the Clemson and Wake Forest game, let’s talk about the Demon Deacons defense for a bit. Carlos Basham, who was referred to as ‘the best defensive end that Clemson will face all season’ by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, didn’t disappoint on Saturday. Early in the contest, ‘Boogie’ Basham was able to get pressure on Trevor Lawrence for a sack.
While he only finished with two total tackles, Basham was able to put his pass rushing abilities on display as he disrupted the pocket. In addition, the Clemson Tigers largely game planned for the Wake Forest edge rusher and ran the ball away from him. Nonetheless, Basham once again showed how talented he is as a pass rusher.
Currently, I have a late-second round grade on Carlos Basham. However, I do think it’s likely that we see his 2021 NFL Draft stock rise as the season progresses.
2. Dyami Brown – North Carolina
As I put together our Top 100 2021 NFL Draft Big Board, I had Dyami Brown, the wide receiver from the University of North Carolina, on the outside looking in. However, after a strong performance against Syracuse, it might be time to re-evaluate that.
While the Tar Heels were up against a lackluster Syracuse team, Brown was able to haul in six catches for 94 yards. What doesn’t come out on the stat line, however, is Dyami Brown’s ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage, as well as through the stem of his route.
As we stand today, I have an early day three grade on Dyami Brown. The biggest question mark that I have coming into this season is consistency. If Brown is able to play more consistent as an outside receiver, I believe that we could see him sneak into an early third round spot.
1. Trevor Lawrence – Clemson
As I’ve said all offseason long, it’s going to take a catastrophe for Trevor Lawrence not to be the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. On Saturday, against Wake Forest, Trevor Lawrence kicked off the season for the Clemson Tigers.
While he only threw for one touchdown, Lawrence did complete 22 out of 28 passes, throwing for 351 yards. However, Trevor Lawrence was rather impressive as he threw with anticipation and displayed a fine level of accuracy.
I’m not sure if it’s even possible to raise his 2021 NFL Draft stock at this point, but Trevor Lawrence is, in my opinion, reaching a level of anticipation that former Stanford Cardinal and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck saw.