2021 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Conference Championships

This section breaks down many college football games each week and highlights how 2021 NFL Draft Prospects have performed. Or look at the 2021 NFL Draft Stock page.

By Charlie Campbell.
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Alabama 52, Florida 46
  • The inept Florida defense had no answer for star Alabama running back Najee Harris, and the senior tailback put the Gators in dire straits by halftime with a truly dominant performance. In the first quarter, Harris had a short rushing touchdown from eight yards out. In the second quarter, he caught a pass in the flat, spun off a tackle, and then banged into the end zone on a short touchdown catch. Later before the half, he ran an out and stop before slashing across the field to make a 23-yard touchdown catch. In the final seconds of the half, Harris spun off tackles again on his third touchdown catch of the half and his fourth overall.

    Harris continued to run well and rack up yards throughout the second half. At the start of the fourth quarter, he ran the ball into the end zone from a yard out. Later with Florida down by a touchdown, Harris ripped off a couple of big runs to get inside the Gators 20-yard line. Harris totaled 178 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns and caught five passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns.

    Harris gave the NFL a phenomenal tape with this contest. He has been a power runner for years, but he has really evolved into being a valuable receiving weapon as a senior. Against Florida, Harris showed good route-running, soft hands, an ability to find the soft spot in zone coverage, and dangerous yards-after-the-catch skills. On top of his receiving ability, Harris ran hard on the ground. picking up lots of yards after contact while showing his power, quickness, knee bend, contact balance, and ability to behind his pads. Harris’ dominance of Florida will help him to be a first- or second-round pick next April in the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith have dominated every opponent they have faced this year, and the weak Florida defense didn’t stand a chance. They could have had a bigger night, but Harris took over and carried the Crimson Tide. Still, Jones threw some good passes, including using Harris well in the passing game on short completions – see above.

    On the second play of the game, Smith got open running a dig for a gain of 19 yards. Smith got open again on the next drive picking up 24 yards with a corner post route. To end that possession, Smith got wide open by burning quarters coverage. Smith lined up in the slot and veered to the front corner of the end zone for another touchdown catch in his prolific 2020 season.

    Midway through the first quarter, Jones tossed a completion, but defensive back Trey Dean ripped the ball out of the wideout’s hands for an interception that wasn’t really Jones’ fault. Jones could have located the pass better, as it was slightly behind the target. On the next drive, Jones had a receiver wide open in the end zone – without a defender within 15 yards – and Jones overthrew the ball through the back of the end zone on what should have been a 33-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter with Florida only down by seven, Jones and Smith connected on a 15-yard touchdown, as Smith got open on a slant for an easy score. To cap the win, Smith caught a critical onside kick attempt to clinch the win for Alabama.

    Smith totaled 15 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns versus Florida. For the NFL, Smith is dynamic athlete who could be a deadly weapon and has No. 1 wide receiver potential. He possesses the speed to get vertical, is superb after the catch with moves in the open field, runs fabulous routes to create separation, is very sudden in and out of his breaks, high points the ball well, and has excellent hands. If Smith were not so thinly built, he would be a top-10 pick, but despite his lean frame, he looks like a first-round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft. His performanc against the Gators could help make him a top-20 choice.

    Jones completed 33-of-43 passes in the SEC Championship Game for 418 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He threw the ball accurately with timing and placement to let his receivers make big plays. Jones has adequate arm strength for the NFL. Some teams have him graded in the second round and others have him in the mid-rounds, so Jones has a wide range of where he could go in the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Florida quarterback Kyle Trask has had a phenomenal, record-setting 2020 season, and he continued his strong play with an impressive game against Alabama in the SEC Championship. On the first third down of the game, Trask fired a perfect strike past coverage to Kyle Pitts to convert the third down. Trask finished that drive by lofting in a perfect 51-yard touchdown pass to Kadarius Toney. The ball hit Toney in stride to let him run away from the cornerback for the score.

    Late in the first half, Trask threw a beautiful pass to Toney between the Alabama safeties for a gain of 39 yards. Two plays later, Trask hit Toney in stride for a gain of 27 yards. On the next play, from the one-yard line, Trask ran up the middle and used his big body to go through a few defenders for the score.

    At the start of the third quarter, Trask laid out a beautiful pass to Trevon Grimes, who leapt over Patrick Surtain II and ran away from the star cornerback for a 50-yard touchdown. Trask converted a third-and-17 later in the third quarter with a 20-yard completion to Pitts, who had got open in the deep zone. Later on that drive, Trask used his legs to convert a few first downs and set up a short rushing touchdown that cut Florida’s deficit to four points entering the fourth quarter.

    Early in the fourth quarter, however, Trask was strip-sacked on a tough play where it was difficult to see the defender coming. Trask came back to throw a pretty 31-yard pass to Pitts to move the chains, and the dynamic tight end drew a third-down pass interference for another first down. That set up a short rushing touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, Trask laid out a perfect jump ball to Pitts, who made a leaping grab over a defender for a 22-yard touchdown. Trask then ran in a two-point conversion. He completed 26-of-40 passes for 408 yards with three touchdowns passing and one touchdown rushing.

    Overall, Trask showed pocket-passing ability for the next level against Alabama. He demonstrated impressive, accurate ball placement and made good decisions. With a powerful arm capable of making touch passes, Trask put on display some natural passing ability. The big knock on Trask is a lack of mobility, which hurts his chances of being a first-round pick next April. Trask will most likely get selected on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Pitts looks like a potential top-10 pick, and Toney could go in the late first or early second-round pick next April. Both players gave proof of their projections, tearing up the Alabama secondary. Toney totaled eight receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, while Pitts caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.

    For the NFL, Toney is a weapon like Curtis Samuel or Deebo Samuel. Toney is an explosive and shifty receiver who creates separation and is phenomenal in the open field with the ball in his hands. Because of not being that big and having some injuries in his history, Toney will probably be a second-round pick, like both Samuels.

    This season, pro teams have seen everything they could hope to see out of a receiving tight end in Pitts. He has shown the speed to run past defensive backs throughout the year, consistently generating separation from all defensive backs, including early-round talents. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end used his size to win 50-50 passes, showed good hands, ran excellent routes, and showed he is a mismatch nightmare for the next level. His Alabama tape was evident of him being a potential top-10 pick next April. He is a better prospect than T.J. Hockenson, O.J. Howard or Eric Ebron.

    Clemson 34, Notre Dame 10
  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence missed the first meeting with Notre Dame due to COVID-19, and the Tigers suffered a close loss with their backup quarterback. Lawrence was able to play in this matchup, and he proved that his presence on the field makes all the difference between a win and a loss, leading the Tigers to blow out the Fighting Irish.

    Lawrence’s evening didn’t start out well, as on the first possession, he missed a linebacker dropping into coverage instead of blitzing. That led to the linebacker deflecting Lawrence’s pass up in the air. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton caught the deflection for an interception. Lawrence simply shrugged off the play, and on the next possession, he threw a perfect deep ball to Amari Rodgers, hitting him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.

    In the second quarter, Lawrence climbed the pocket and kept his eyes downfield to deliver a strike into zone coverage to receiver E.J. Williams and he darted into the end zone the remaining 15 yards or so for a 33-yard touchdown.

    After halftime, Lawrence showed his skill set with an excellent run off the right side, cutting through his blockers and exploding down the field with a 34-yard scoring run. It was an excellent run that illustrated Lawrence’s rare athleticism and speed. He finished completing 25-of-36 passes for 322 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He ran for 90 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown as well.

    Lawrence’s performance against Notre Dame will only secures his standing as the eventual No. 1-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence is a pro-ready NFL passer with a cannon for an arm, and his deep ball accuracy is incredible. He shows tremendous ball placement deep down the field, hitting receivers in stride and and leading them to big yards after the catch. Lawrence can fit passes into windows the size of a shoe box, and he fires in strikes past defensive backs with the velocity of his throws. Lawrence is long-limbed, but still manages to have a quick release. As a passer, Lawrence has an elite skill set for the NFL.

    Lawrence also has rare mobility for a big quarterback. His speed catches defenses by surprise, and he is a slippery runner who can dodge tacklers and possesses the straight-line speed to run away from defenses.

    Lawrence is a generational prospect who looks like a true franchise quarterback, bringing passing ability, mobility, intelligence, toughness and character. He could be the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL in the past 20 years.

  • Thanks to Lawrence dominating Notre Dame, Clemson did not need to use running back Travis Etienne very much, but he still helped his team to a big win. Late in the second quarter, Etienne bounced a run around the left side and exploded down the field for a 44-yard touchdown run. He only had 10 carries, but totaled 124 yards and the score. Etienne looks safe to be a pick in the back half of the first round or go early in the second round.

  • Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has had a good 2020 season, but this game did not go his way. On the opening series of the game, Owusu-Koramoah made a good open field tackle on Etienne along the sideline, but aside from that play, he was pretty quiet. Lawrence dominated the Fighting Irish defense, and Owusu-Koramoah does a nice job playing in pass coverage in the middle of the field. He covers a lot of ground and is fluid in space. His speed and pass-coverage ability are what will make Owusu-Koramoah an early-round pick next April in the 2021 NFL Draft.

    Owusu-Koramoah is undersized, so tackling NFL power running backs is going to be an issue for him. Thus, Owusu-Koramoah is better suited to the back half of the first round or early in the second round. Weighing in the 210-220-pound range is going to lead to some limitations in the NFL.

    Ohio State 22, Northwestern 10
  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is virtually locked into being the second-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, and his performance against Northwestern illustrates why Fields won’t jump Trevor Lawrence to be the No. 1 pick. Fields was playing without one of his top receivers in Chris Olave, and Ohio State felt his absence, but Fields showed exactly what he is for the NFL. He has a great skill set with arm talent, accuracy, and excellent mobility, but he needs a lot of work in pocket passing, as his awareness and reacting to the pass rush are serious points of improvement for the next level.

    Early in the first quarter, Fields did a nice job of using his feet to convert a third-and-3 when no receivers were open, but to end the drive, Fields did not react well to a blitz on third-and-goal, and that led to a sack that forced a field goal. On the next third down, Northwestern faked a blitz and dropped eight into coverage not letting a receiver get open. Fields scrambled before throwing an ill-advised pass that fell incomplete.

    The Ohio State passing offense struggled for a lot of the first half, as Fields couldn’t get in rhythm and the Northwestern defense was playing really well. Midway through the second quarter, Fields made a great back shoulder fade throw to convert a third down and get a gain of about 20 yards, but once again, Fields’ pocket awareness came back to bite when he held the ball too long and took an unnecessary sack. Just before halftime, Fields led the Buckeyes inside the 10-yard line, but Fields had a pass a bit off the mark and star freshman cornerback Brandon Joseph picked off Fields in amazing fashion with a leaping one-handed catch.

    Fields threw another interception early in the third quarter, with one coming because Fields and his receiver weren’t on the same page. Fields thought the wide receiver would sit on the sideline, but the wideout turned to run vertically and the pass floated to a defensive back for an easy pick. Against Northwestern, Fields completed 12-of-27 passes for 114 yards and two interceptions. He ran for 35 yards on 12 carries.

    Fields is worthy of going high in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. There is no doubt that he has an excellent skill set with size, arm strength, and athleticism. Fields is typically an accurate passer who locates his passes well. He regularly places balls where only his receiver can make the reception and pick up yards catch. Fields has a quality arm and can push the ball vertically, but he does not fire fastballs unnecessarily, instead throwing a very catchable ball. Fields has good feel, lofting in touch passes and not throwing flat passes. He is an aggressive passer who challenges defenses downfield, but he could stand to take more check downs.

    As a runner, Fields is reminiscent of Deshaun Watson. He is very shifty with quick feet and is very elusive. Fields will juke and dodge defenders in embarrassing fashion thanks to his burst to accelerate into space. On top of his feet and quickness, Fields has a sturdy build with strength to get a push in short-yardage situations. In the NFL, Fields won’t be a runner like Lamar Jackson, but Fields’ mobility could be similar to Watson or Dak Prescott.

    All players need development, and Fields is not immune from that. He has flaws that need work, first and foremost would be his pocket passing. Fields’ awareness is a real point of improvement. He can freeze when the rush is bearing down on him, and Fields needs to work on making the quick check-down throw out of that play to avoid a negative-yards situation. Improving his pocket awareness and field vision are not surprising issues, as Fields will enter the NFL having basically started only 1.5 seasons of college football. Having a patient approach would benefit Fields but he is definitely worthy of going as a top-five pick next April.

  • The real star of this game was Ohio State running back Trey Sermon. The Oklahoma transfer came up with clutch runs to get the Buckeyes a lead when the passing offense was struggling. Sermon changed the game in the third quarter when he exploded down the field for a 65-yard run. That play put Ohio State in position take the lead with a short touchdown run. Sermon continued to rip off yards in chunks, showing the quickness to hit the hole, a second gear in the open field, strength to finish runs well, and vision to weave his way through a tough Northwestern defense. Late in the fourth quarter, Sermon put the Wildcats away with his second rushing touchdown, as they had no answer for him. Sermon ran for 331 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. His performance against Northwestern will really help his draft grade, and he could be a solid mid-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

    Oklahoma 27, Iowa State 21
  • Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy is a potential mid-round or third-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and his performance against Oklahoma won’t help improve his draft grade. Purdy made some nice plays, but he also made some big mistakes that really hurt Iowa State.

    In the second quarter, Purdy lofted in a pass to the end zone for his tight end Charlie Kolar, but Purdy did not get enough on the ball, which fell short into the hands of an Oklahoma defensive back. Purdy came back to throw a short touchdown pass to Kolar to keep Iowa State in the game.

    Early in the third quarter, Purdy made a terrible decision on his second interception. After escaping the rush and rolling into the open field to his right, he found nothing open up close, but although he did have a receiver wide open deep down the field for a potential touchdown. Purdy did not see that receiver and forced an awful throw into double coverage for an easy pick by Oklahoma. Down by six late in the fourth quarter, Purdy was in Oklahoma territory and scrambled out to his right. Instead of throwing the pass away or running into the open field, Purdy lofted a weak throw that ball hung in the air allowing three defensive backs to close down field on the open receiver. One of those Sooners made a leaping grab for Purdy’s third interception, clinching the loss for Iowa State. Purdy completed 27-of-40 passes for 322 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

    Purdy had the reputation of a good decision maker entering the 2020 season, but he had a number of games this year in which his decisions were terrible and he exercised poor ball security. His performance against Oklahoma game only adds to the negatives. For the NFL, Purdy has accuracy in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is more of a dink-and-dunk passer rather than a big-time play-maker who has the arm talent to make game changing plays. Purdy does not have an elite arm talent or running ability. He is short and does not make many plays when the schedule breaks down and he has to ad lib. He also is stiff in the pocket and struggles to escape pressure. Thus in the 2021 NFL Draft, he could go as high as the fourth round and probably no lower than the sixth round. It’s possible he develops into being a solid backup quarterback as a pro.

  • Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson has had a strong back half to the season, putting himself in contention as a sleeper value pick for the 2021 NFL Draft. He ran hard in the first quarter, moving the chains and ripping off yards in chunks. He showed nice vision on a 25-yard run to bounce to the outside and get upfield to get the Sooners to midfield. Late in the first half, Stevenson had some critical runs to move the ball down the field and set up a goal-to-go situation. Stevenson totaled 97 yards on 18 carries with four receptions for 36 yards.

    Stevenson opened the season while serving a suspension, using some of that time to drop weight, and is playing in the 230s, but the power back has very good quickness for his size. He has the speed to hit the hole before it closes and a second gear to accelerate to the second level. At his size, Stevenson could be a power back who helps teams grind out wins and is a valuable back in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Team sources feel Stevenson could be a late third-round or early fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar had a very good 2020 season, and he added another impressive tape with his performance in the Big XII Championship Game. In the first quarter. Kolar made a nice play along the sideline, and using his size to get a late push off from a defensive back to make a leaping 28-yard reception while running. Late in the first half, Kolar caught a short slant around the five, bounced off a tackler, and darted into the end zone.

    Kolar made a few receptions late in the second half to move Iowa State inside the 10, and he helped produce a touchdown with an excellent block to destroy a defensive back trying to loop around the line. Versus Oklahoma, Kolar caught six passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

    Kolar runs good routes and has solid hands and an NFL build. He possesses some yards-after-the-catch ability and enough athleticism to be effective. Kolar also is not liability as a blocker. He could start out his NFL career as a backup who develops into a starter. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Kolar could be worthy of being a third-round selection.


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