2021 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps - Late Bowl Games

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.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: draftcampbell@gmail.com
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

Alabama 52, Ohio State 24
  • Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith cemented himself as one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of college football by dominating Ohip State to help the Crimson Tide notch another National Championship. Smith and quarterback Mac Jones crushed the competition throughout 2020, and Ohio State proved to be no contest for the duo as well. By halftime, Smith had put Alabama in firm control with 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

    Early in the first quarter, Jones connected with Smith along the sideline for a gain of about 20 yards that helped move the ball near the end zone. Later on the drive, Smith was running open in the end zone for an eight-yard score, but Jones overthrew him incomplete. They connected again for a chunk gain, and Smith got open for a short touchdown reception at the start of the second quarter. Shortly later, Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning strip-sacked Jones, who did not secure the ball well while trying to dodge Browning in the pocket.

    Late in the first half, Smith toasted Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade off the line of scrimmage and got open running along the sideline for a 44-yard gain. Smith then finished the drive by getting open in the flat for a five-yard touchdown. Just before halftime, Smith added his third touchdown from 42 yards out. He lined up in the slot and raced vertically straight down the field past the linebacker and got wide open between the two safeties for the score.

    Smith went out with a hand injury early in the third quarter after a hard hit, and after an extended stay in the injury tent, he was taken into the locker room. Alabama didn't need him to close out the win because the Ohio State defense was no match for the Crimson Tide.

    Smith showed off why he is an elite receiving prospect for the NFL with his amazing route-running, speed, yards-after-the-catch skills, great hands, and a killer instinct that dominates man coverage. Smith looks destined to end up as top-10 choice in the 2021 NFL Draft.

    Aside from the fumble, Jones had a mistake-free game. He threw the ball accurately, showing timing, precision and anticipation. Jones completed 36-of-45 passes for 464 yards for five touchdowns. He could end up a second-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if he had more of a skill set, he would be a first-rounder. As it stands, teams feel Jones is a shorter A.J. McCarron or a stronger-armed Jake Fromm.

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields did not play poorly against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide offense was so dominant that he faced the impossible task of making up for the shortcomings of his defense. In the first quarter, Fields fired a rope to Chris Olave on an out route to get a first down, and then Fields lofted in a beautiful soft touch pass to tight end Jeremy Rucker for 36 yards, which set up a game-tying touchdown run for Master Teague. Fields showed his athleticism on a 28-yard run midway through the second quarter.

    It wasn't all good for Fields, as he had wide receiver Garrett Wilson wide open for a short touchdown along the sideline after he shook free of Patrick Surtain II, but Fields overthrew Wilson incomplete. Two plays later, Surtain dropped an interception on an ill-advised pass that Fields threw into traffic.

    In the third quarter, Fields took off on a zone-read run of about 30 yards where he juked a tackler at the second level before darting downfield. On the next play, Fields lofted in a pretty touch pass off his back foot to the back of the end zone for a critical score. Early in the fourth quarter, Fields lofted in a pretty back-shoulder throw for what should have been a 20-yard touchdown, but the receiver bobbled the well-thrown ball. On the ensuing fourth-and-goal, Fields was not on the same page with his receiver, missing him incomplete wide open in the back of the end zone. Fields ended up completing 17-of-33 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.

    Overall, Fields' draft grade won't be affected by this outing. He will still be a high first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields did not play poorly and was better than the numbers indicate. For the NFL, he has an excellent skill set, and with some development, he could be a dynamic quarterback. Fields throws the ball well and brings dangerous running ability. He does need a lot of development in terms of pocket awareness, passing in the face of the rush, and taking check downs, but Fields has a lot of upside to be a good pro starting quarterback.

  • Alabama running back Najee Harris finished his collegiate career in impressive fashion. Early in the first quarter, Harris got Alabama on the board with a short rushing touchdown, and he converted some critical fourth and shorts. In the second quarter, Harris caught a pass in the flat on a wheel route, making a nice adjustment to reach back for a pass behind him. After controlling the ball, he dodged defenders inside the 10 and then leapt over the goal line, banging off a tackler for a 26-yard touchdown. Harris totaled 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries, plus made seven receptions for 79 yards and a score.

    Harris' performance against Ohio State provides NFL evaluators further evidence that he is a future three-down starter who can do it all at the next level. Harris is a physical runner with the size to get yards after contact and enough quickness to hit the hole. As a senior, his pass-receiving ability really blossomed with an improved route-running and hands. Harris also was a good blocker for Mac Jones, showing the potential to be a skilled quarterback protector as a pro. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Harris could be a late first-round or early second-round pick.

  • Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade made some nice tackles in the early going, but this game illustrated his problems in pass coverage. In the first quarter, Wade came downhill off the right tackle to make a tackle on Najee Harris for a loss of a couple yards. Later in the first quarter, Wade got off a block from DeVonta Smith to help start a third-down tackle that forced a fourth down, but shortly later, Wade was burned by Smith along the sideline for a long gain. Wade was later part of giving up a touchdown to a backup receiver who outran him across the field. Wade struggled all evening in running with receivers and preventing separation. Their route-running and speed were too much for Wade.

    Wade had problems throughout 2020, proving that his transition to outside corner is a real work in progress. After struggling against Indiana and Penn State during the regular season, Wade gave up a number of big plays in the playoff, with both Clemson's and Alabama's receivers gaining separation against him. Wade was slow to react on some plays, and on others, eceivers just flat out run by him. Wade would benefit from more development as a football player, and the best thing for him would be to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility and return to Ohio State for the 2021 season. Wade did not play like an early-round pick in 2020, and he could have a significant slide if he enters the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore has first-round potential because he has proven to be a dangerous interior pass rusher over the past two seasons. His lack of run defense and well-rounded play kept teams from projecting him high in the first round, but over the last few games of 2020, Barmore really improved his run defense, and that trend continued against Ohio State in the National Championship.

    In the early going, Barmore made a good tackle near the line of scrimmage, shedding a guard and ripping down the back. A little bit later, Barmore came close to a sack, got upfield to tip a pass, and blew up a screen with a lightning rush into the backfield. At the end of the third quarter, Barmore made two tackles in a short-yardage situation, including a fourth-and-1 on which he shot through a gap to get a tackle for a loss that essentially secured the Alabama victory. All night, Barmore came close to sacks, and in the fourth quarter, Ohio State blew the blocking assignment to let Barmore run free for an easy sack.

    This was a really good tape for Barmore because it showed that he is improving in his run defense. NFL scouts had raved about Barmore's pass rush ability over the past two seasons, but they felt he needed to become a better run defender, tougher at the point of attack to hold his ground, and more well-rounded overall. Some scouts said if Barmore did improve his run defense, he could be a high first-rounder.

    If Barmore goes back to school, he has high first-round potential for the 2022 NFL Draft. If he enters the 2021 NFL Draft, Barmore has a ceiling of the back half of the first round and a floor of being selected on day two. Given that interior pass rushers are hard to find, I think Barmore would go in the first round if he enters the 2021 NFL Draft.

    Ohio State 49, Clemson 28
  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields needed a good game against Clemson, as NFL evaluators saw evidence of Fields having pocket-passing issues against Indiana and Northwestern, plus in some 2019 action. He stepped up big time against Clemson, carrying Ohio State to an upset win over the Tigers while being utterly unstoppable. Fields was phenomenal, showing his toughness by playing injured and ripping up the Clemson defense with his accurate deep-ball passing. Fields completed 22-of-28 passes for 385 yards, six touchdown passes and one interception on a tipped pass. He also ran for 42 yards on eight carries. This tape will really help Fields as a bounce-back performance in which he ripped up one of the best teams in the nation.

    On Ohio State's second possession, Fields made a good decisio by checking the ball down to Trey Sermon, who exploded down the field for a big gain. It was a nice play for Fields because not taking the check down was a flaw of his in those games against Indiana and Northwestern.

    Shortly later in the first quarter, Fields laid out a well-placed deep ball to Garrett Wilson for a 47-yard gain to set up a first-and-goal. A few plays later on third-and-goal, Fields fired a fastball into a tight window to tight end Luke Farrell for the score.

    Fields was off on a deep ball on the next drive, as he had Chris Olave running wide open at the 10-yard line, but Fields overthrew his receiver on what should have been a 54-yard touchdown pass. Later on the same drive, Ohio State had a great play design with Fields rolling to his left and tight end Jeremy Ruckert sneaking out to the right on the back side of the flow. Clemson left Ruckert uncovered, allowing Fields to fire a strike to Ruckert, who coasted into the end zone for the 17-yard touchdown.

    Midway through the second quarter, Fields ran up the middle and took a hard hit that knocked him out for a play. After coming back in, Fields fired a strike to the front corer of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown to Olave.

    In the 2-minute drill, Fields fired a fastball past a linebacker in the middle of the field for a 26-yard gain to Ruckert. Fields then finished the drive with a 12-yard scoring strike to him. It was a pretty throw that saw Fields fit the ball between two defenders.

    Fields stayed hot to open the third quarter, going downfield for a completion to Olave, which set up a scoring opportunity. Fields then had a throw get tipped at the line, and the pass wobbled in the air before being intercepted in the end zone. The tipped ball was bad luck, but Fields made a poor decision in throwing to a receiver who was surrounded by three defenders.

    Fields shrugged off the mistake, as on the next possession, he showed off his arm strength and deep-ball accuracy with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Olave on a deep post. It was a superb play as Fields stayed patient in the pocket to allow the route to develop and then lofted in a perfect pass to his receiver.

    Fields put the game away at the start of the fourth quarter, lofting in a well-placed pass for a 45-yard touchdown on a post route that led his receiver into the end zone. That just padded the Buckeyes' lead, and Fields carried his team to a legendary win for the Ohio State program.

    There is no doubt that Fields is worthy of going high in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He has an excellent skill set that includes size, arm strength, and athleticism. Fields is a largely accurate passer who locates his passes well. Routinely, he places them in position for his receivers to make the reception and pick up yards after the catch. Fields has a quality arm and can push the ball vertically, but does not fire fastballs unnecessarily, instead throwing a very catchable ball. With good feel, Fields lofts in touch passes and does not throw flat passes. He is an aggressive passer who challenges defenses downfield, but he could stand to take more check downs. Even in this great performance from Fields, he missed some open receivers underneath when he threw incomplete downfield.

    As a runner, Fields reminds me of Deshaun Watson. He is very shifty, showing quick feet and excellent elusiveness. 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 the strength to get a push in short-yardage situations. Fields won't be a runner like Lamar Jackson in the NFL, but Fields' mobility could be similar to Watson's or Dak Prescott's.

    All players need development, and Fields is not immune from that. He has flaws in need work, first and foremost would be pocket passing. His awareness is a real point of improvement, and he needs to improve his anticipation. Fields is a quarterback who needs to see a receiver breaking open rather than anticipating them getting free of coverage. Fields can also freeze when the rush is bearing down on him, so he 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 because Fields will enter the NFL having basically started only 1.5 seasons of college football. A patient approach from his NFL staff would benefit Fields, but he is definitely worthy of being top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • In what was in all likelihood his final collegiate game, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence battled against Ohio State, but he was let down by his offensive line, which was whipped by the Buckeyes' defensive front. On the first drive of the game, Lawrence made a money throw, lofting in a perfect pass along the sideline to convert a third down with a gain of 27 yards that set up Lawrence to get a short rushing touchdown. However on the next drive, Lawrence had a rare miss deep downfield with a tight end running deep wide open. Lawrence couldn't get his feet set because linebacker Pete Warner was about to hit him, and that led to the atypical inaccurate throw. Ohio State dominated the time of possession in the first half, racking up a 35-14 lead by halftime.

    In the third quarter, Lawrence used his arm to make some accurate passes, including a 10-yard scoring strike that got Clemson back in the game, but later in the third quarter, he lost control of the ball while being gang tackled and Ohio State recovered. Lawrence could have been ruled down, but the play was a bad break. On the next possession, Lawrence was strip-sacked, but he got lucky because a teammate fell on the loose ball. A few plays later, Lawrence hit Cornell Powell, who burned Shaun Wade to get open for a 26-yard touchdown.

    After he was strip-sacked by Tyreke Smith, Lawrence got lucky with a teammate falling on a fumble again. Late in the fourth quarter on a fourth down, Lawrence threw a good pass into the end zone right into the hands of receiver Amari Rodgers, but the pass was batted out of Rogers' hands and intercepted. Lawrence finished completing 33-of-48 passes for 400 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

    This performance won't change Lawrence's standing as the lock for the No. 1-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Clemson's blocking was terrible, and Lawrence played well overall considering his offensive line was beaten like a drum. Lawrence is a pro-ready NFL passer who has 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 he 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 thanks to his straight-line speed to run away from defenses.

    With his passing ability, mobility, intelligence, toughness and character. Lawrence is a true franchise quarterback and generational prospect. Many team sources feel he is the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL in the past 20 years.

  • Ohio State running back Trey Sermon carried Ohio State over Northwestern in the Big Tenn Championship, and Sermon stayed red hot against Clemson. In the first quarter, Sermon took a zone-read run and exploded down the field untouched for a 32-yard touchdown. Sermon had another run of about 30 yards midway through the second quarter, angrily charging through multiple tacklers and picking up a lot of yards after contact. Late in first half, Sermon powered through a few Clemson Tigers to convert a third-and-9, which was a huge play in putting Ohio State in firm control.

    Sermon totaled 193 yards on 31 carries and made four catches for 61 yards. He has been phenomenal over recent weeks, showing serious power to run through tackles, a wicked stiff arm to shake defenders, and the speed to get to the second level. With his phenomenal finish to this season, Sermon could be a riser during the pre-draft process.

    Alabama 31, Notre Dame 14
  • Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith dominated every opponent they faced this year, with Notre Dame being the latest victim to this prolific duo. On the first drive of the game, Jones threw a pass late along the sideline and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton came close to an interception near the end zone. Jones came back on the next play to throw a swing pass to the flat to Smith, who dodged a few tacklers to coast into the end zone with a 26-yard touchdown.

    A little bit later, Jones connected for another touchdown pass on a short toss where his receiver got wide open in the end zone. Early in the second quarter, Jones hit Smith on a quick slant, and he ran away from the Notre Dame defense for a 34-yard touchdown.

    At the start of the third quarter, Jones and Smith combined for an impressive play, as Jones could not step into a throw because of the pass rush, but he did a nice job of getting the ball out and locating it downfield where Smith could making a leaping grab over defensive backs for a gain of about 30 yards. The duo then hooked up on a seven-yard touchdown thanks to a fabulous route by Smith and Jones threw it accurately on a roll out for the strike. Jones finished completing 26-of-31 passes for 303 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    Along with Smith making huge plays as a receiver, he made some really nice blocks for his teammates helping them pick up extra yardage. Versus Notre Dame, Smith totaled seven receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Smith is a dominating football player who has great receiving ability with excellent hands, phenomenal route-running, yards-after-the-catch ability, speed, explosion and suddenness. He has the potential to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL.

    If Jones decides to leave Alabama, he could be a second-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He is very intelligent, has a quality arm, and sees the field well. Jones lacks the skill set of a high first-rounder, but he could receive consideration in the second round from some teams. Some teams have him graded lower.

  • Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had an overall quiet game versus Alabama. He did a nice job of playing in space and covering ground in pass coverage. Owusu-Koramoah got in on some tackles in the ground game, but the size of running back Najee Harris gave Owusu-Koramoah some issues. Harris ran through him on one play, but Owusu-Koramoah got enough of Harris' feet to trip him up. This game only illustrates the issues an undersized linebacker like Owusu-Koromoah could have tackling NFL power running backs. Thus, Owusu-Koramoah is better suited to the back half of the first round or early in the second round. Being only in the 210-220-pound range is going to lead to limit him somewhat in the NFL.

  • Alabama running back Najee Harris continued his excellent season by rolling over a good Notre Dame defense. In the first quarter, Harris showed his explosion by hurdling a tackler and then racing down the field for another 45 yards on a 53-yard gain. That set the tone fpr Harris, who ripped off yards in chunks, showing his power to pick up yards after contact. Harris totaled 125 yards on 15 carries plus took four receptions for 30 yards.

    This was a good game for Harris for the next-level's evaluators. He has been a power runner for years, but as a senior, he really evolved into being a valuable receiving weapon. In the SEC Championship 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 a three touchdown receiving night. Versus Notre Dame in the first round of the playoff, Harris ran hard on the ground, picking up lots of yards after contact while showing his power, quickness, knee bend, vision, contact balance, and ability to run behind his pads. This performance against the Fighting Irish will help Harris to be a late first- or early second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

  • Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore produced a really impressive tape against Notre Dame. In the early going, he made a couple of tackles in run defense, showing his speed and athleticism to flow down the line and make some tackles outside of the tackle box. In the second quarter, Barmore made a nice play in run defense, pushing back the right guard and then moving to his left to tackle the back near the line of scrimmage. In the third quarter, Barmore used his speed to get upfield and then swam over to the inside while racing past the center to hunt down quarterbook Ian Book for a sack. Barmore planted Book into the turf with violence, and that tackle knocked Book out of the game while killing that Notre Dame possession.

    This was a really good performance for Barmore because it showed that he is improving in his run defense. NFL scouts had raved about Barmore's pass rush ability over the past two seasons, but they felt he needed to become a better run defender, get tougher at the point of attack to hold his ground, and grow more well-rounded overall. Some scouts said that if Barmore did improve his run defense, he could be a high first-rounder. If Barmore goes back to school, he has high first-round potential for the 2022 NFL Draft. If he enters the 2021 NFL Draft, Barmore has a ceiling of the back half of the first round and a floor of being selected on Day 2.

  • Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood and Notre Dame left tackle Liam Eichenberg are future early-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Both of them played well in this game, showing rock-solid pass protection. Neither one was dominating and overwhelmingly physical in the ground game, but they were steady. Both of them have good skill sets for the NFL, neither is a top-10-caliber specimen. Leatherwood and Eichenberg do not have the physical talent of the tackles who went as top-16 picks last April - Andrew Thomas - Giants -, Jedrick Wills - Browns -, Mekhi Becton - Jets - and Tristan Wirfs - Buccaneers.

    Leatherwood needs to get stronger and become more physical as a run blocker. Eichenberg could be a dependable left tackle who might have issues with elite edge rushers. He also could be a good right tackle. Both Leatherwood and Eichenberg would be really good values as early second-round picks, and both look like safe picks worthy of late-first-round consideration. Some team sources think Leatherwood will go in the first round and others think Day 2. Some sources think Eichenberg is a second-round talent who could go in the first round.


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    NFL Power Rankings - May 12

    NFL Picks - Feb. 8



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