In what has felt like a lifetime, six months ago saw sports come to a halt as the world prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past week, we saw several College Football Conferences, the Big Ten and PAC-12 most notably, postpone their season until the Spring. In this article, we take a look at ten 2021 NFL Draft prospects impacted the most by Covid-19.
10. Jaylen Twyman
University of Pittsburgh
Over the weekend, we saw Jaylen Twyman opt out of the season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. I would have liked to see him compete for Pitt in the ACC this Fall, but declaring early and getting a jump on preparing for the NFL Combine is a smart decision.
On Twitter, Twyman said that this isn’t about covid-19, but rather his family’s needs and his future, which certainly involves the 2021 NFL Draft. In a move that could closely resemble a top Draft prospect’s decision to skip workouts at the NFL Combine, Jaylen Twyman had nothing left to prove at Pitt. Opting out of the College Football season putsch emphasis on his 2019 film, which was quite impressive.
9. Elerson Smith
University of Northern Iowa
Elerson Smith isn’t a well-known prospect to many, but I was looking forward to the FCS prospect putting up another solid performance. Smith was one of the best edge rushers at the FCS level.
Ultimately, I think he’s a late-day three 2021 NFL Draft pick, but the opportunity to light up the Missouri Valley Conference, and impress NFL scouts, could have solidified his spot as an NFL Draft pick. I’m still hopeful that Smith might find his way onto a FBS roster via a transfer, but only time will tell as we await an answer from the NCAA on this.
8. Paulson Adebo
Last season, I had a preseason first round grade on Paulson Adebo. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to breakout and set himself apart from other secondary NFL Draft prospects. A return to Stanford was smart, but covid-19 has thrown a wrench into his College Football plans and aspirations of a high draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft pick.
I still remain optimistic that Adebo has his name called at the end of the first round, but I think an early to mid-second round grade is most likely. Quite honestly, I think his best move would be to accept the NCAA’s ruling of another year of eligibility due to the coronavirus. However, let’s assume that he declares for the 2021 NFL Draft here.
7. Trey Lance
North Dakota State
I have Trey Lance as the 2nd quarterback on my 2021 NFL Draft board, which puts him in the top ten overall. However, I would have liked to see what he could do with another year at North Dakota State. Much like Elerson Smith, Lance is at the top of his position in the Missouri Valley Conference.
If he can find his way onto a FBS roster, and put together some film against top FBS prospects, he might be able to widen the gap against Ohio State’s Justin Fields. However, I find the transfer unlikely. In the end, I think a decision to opt out of the Spring season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft would be a wise decision for Trey Lance.
6. Frank Darby
Arizona State University
In recent years, the Sun Devils have produced quality first round wide receiver products in Brandon Aiyuk and N’Keal Harry. According to Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Frank Darby’s draft stock is right up there as well.
Arizona State had first-rounders N’Keal Harry and @seniorbowl alum Brandon Aiyuk each of past two years and Frank Darby has the tools to be one of first WR to be picked next April. We love Darby’s upside because coaches say he’s the team’s hardest worker. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/Gi0LKdTWqu
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) August 4, 2020
Given that a Spring football season seems unlikely, I’d like to see what Frank Darby can do at the Senior Bowl, and ultimately, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Of all the players on this list, I think he’d see the highest return on a transfer into the Big 12, SEC, or ACC, should the NCAA allow it.
5. Chris Olave
Ohio State University
The 2019 season was Chris Olave’s shining moment. I was looking forward to seeing Olave improve in the offseason and see where that growth took him in 2020. Instead, we’re hoping that he participates in a Spring football season.
I thought heading into the 2020 College Football season that Olave was a borderline first round 2021 NFL Draft Pick. As it stands now, I think he’s in the same position, although his road to becoming a first round lock is much more muddy. Nonetheless, I still think there’s enough there on film for an NFL franchise to select him on day one in the NFL Draft.
4. Pat Freiermuth
Penn State University
I’ve covered the NFL Draft for about ten years now. Throughout that time, one thing has always stood out – NFL scouts are all over the place on tight ends. We’ve seen NFL franchises target tight ends of all different playing styles, sizes, and builds.
I have Freiermuth listed as the 2nd overall tight end on my 2021 NFL Draft board, but Kyle Pitts, Brevin Jordan, and Charlie Kolar are all currently scheduled to play football this Fall. I still think it’s likely that Pat Freiermuth comes off the board before several of those guys, but I would have liked to see what he could have done to improve this season.
Freiermuth has good athleticism for his size and does well as a downfield receiver. Covid-19 has altered his plans for the 2020 College Football season, but I still think he’d be a coveted prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
3. Rondale Moore
I’m not sure if there was a prospect that needed a 2020 College Football season more than Purdue’s Rondale Moore. The 2018 season featured a breakout performance as a true freshman for the Boilermaker receiver. The 2019 was full of high expectations for Moore, and it started out quite well. Throughout the first two games of the 2019 season, we saw Moore collect 334 receiving yards on 24 receptions and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, hamstring issues plagued him all season long and we only saw him play in four total games.
The 2020 College Football season would have been beneficial for NFL scouts as they saw him rebound from the injury. Unfortunately, and as was the case with many, Moore opted out of the season due to covid-19 and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Currently, I have a late first round grade on Rondale Moore. Earlier this year, we saw the 2020 NFL Draft loaded with quality wide receiver prospects. If you can believe it, this draft class might be even better. Moore could improve his draft stock at the NFL Combine or at his Pro Day. If he can, we could see him off the board within the top fifteen as NFL scouts look to check boxes on his abilities.
2. Justin Fields
Ohio State University
After transferring from the University of Georgia following his true freshman season in 2018, Justin Fields has been an absolute stud at Ohio State. The 2020 season could have proved to NFL scouts that the 2019 season wasn’t a fluke. However, the Big Ten postponed their season until the Spring due to covid-19, which might blur the path to the NFL Draft a bit.
Justin Fields was only a Junior this season, so similar to other prospects on this list, it’s not a lock that he declares for the 2021 NFL Draft. However, given that he’s likely a top three quarterback should he declare for the NFL, I fully expect his time in Columbus has come to an end.
You can check out my summer scouting report on Justin Fields here. I was impressed with his ability to maneuver throughout the pocket, as well as progress through his reads. However, I would like to see his accuracy increase, especially on short ‘pitch and catch’ throws.
1. Penei Sewell
University of Oregon
Penei Sewell is considered by many to be the top offensive line prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft class. While he’s only a Junior this season, and has an additional year of eligibility remaining, I believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that Sewell departs for the NFL.
Sewell was one of several outspoken players in the PAC-12 at the forefront of the #WeAreUnited movement. As a result, one has to wonder what else he has to accomplish at the University of Oregon?
Penei Sewell is a pro-ready offensive tackle that has the tools and abilities to step into an NFL franchise on day one and make an impact. Sewell has terrific quickness out of his stance to handle speedy edge rushers with ease, as well as a good use of hands to establish and maintain leverage.