This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2021 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2021 NFL Draft Stock Up
Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Sermon came up with clutch runs in the Big Ten Championship to get the Buckeyes a lead when their passing offense was struggling. The Oklahoma transfer 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 to 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 the 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. He ran for 331 yards and two touchdowns over 29 carries, with Northwestern having no answer for him. Sermon's performance against the Wildcats will really help his draft grade, and he could be a solid mid-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
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 in 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 fourth overall.
Harris continued to run well throughout the second half, racking up yards. He ran the ball into the end zone from a yard out at the start of the fourth quarter. Then with Florida down by a touchdown, Harris ripped off a couple of big runs to get inside the Gators' 20-yard line. Harris toted 31 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns, plus caught five passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns.
Harris' phenomal game against Florida with help him with NFL evaluators. He has been a power runner for years, but as a senior, he has really evolved into being a valuable receiving weapon. 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 the 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 stay behind his pads. Harris trampling of the Gators ups his odds of being a first- or second-round pick next April in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Zaven Collins, OLB, Tulsa
As we reported in the Hot Press last week, sources from five different teams felt that Collins could be picked in the back half of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. NFL scouts were somewhat skeptical about Collins at the start of the year, but they are raving about Collins now. They feel he could be a 4-3 Sam linebacker or Mike linebacker and also would be a great fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Collins (6-4, 260) has explosive speed, athleticism and the abilities to cover or to play in space. He also is a dangerous pass rusher who put steady heat on the quarterback when asked to rush. In 2020, Collins totaled 54 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two passes defended. He collected 97 tackles in 2019, which was after 85 stops as a freshman. Collins should go no lower than the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Kolar had a very good 2020 season, and he added another impressive tape with his performance in the Big XII Championship Game. He made a nice play in the first quarter that saw him run along the sideline and then use his size to get a late push-off from a defensive back to make a leaping 28-yard reception. 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 more receptions late in the second half to move Iowa State inside the 10, and he also helped produce a touchdown via an excellent block that destroyed a defensive back who was trying to loop around the line. Versus Oklahoma, Kolar caught six passes for 92 yards with 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 career as a backup and eventually develop into a starter. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Kolar could be worthy of being third-round choice.
Tony Fields II, LB, West Virginia
Fields (6-1, 220) was a productive tackler over the past four seasons for both Arizona and West Virginia, and his steady play earned him a spot at the Senior Bowl next month. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder has some speed and athleticism to chase down ball-carriers and is a solid tackler. In 2020, Fields totaled 88 tackles, an interception, a sack and two passes defended. He notched 94 tackles as a junior, 89 tackles in 2018, and 104 tackles as a freshman. Showing coverage skills in Mobile could help Fields to rise.
Grant Stuard, LB, Houston
Houston had a quirky schedule this year because of the virus, but Stuard stayed consistent, producing quality tackle totals. He recorded 50 stops and a sack in 2020. As a junior, he totaled 97 tackles, one sack and four passes broken up. Stuard (6-1, 225) could stand to add some weight for the NFL, but his steady play earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
Joshuah Bledsoe, S, Missouri
Bledsoe was a solid tackler for Missouri over the past few seasons and a steady contributor. He showed a nice ability to break up passes as a junior, and his steady play as a senior landed him an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Over 2020, Bledsoe recorded 32 tackles, a forced fumble and four passes defended. He notched 49 tackles as a junior. Team sources say Bledsoe could sneak into the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft and should go in the early rounds of Day 3 if he falls that far.
James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
Wiggins missed the 2019 season due to a torn ACL suffered in practice a few days before the season opener. He had an impressive 2018 season in which he displayed the ability to tackle and made some plays on the ball with four interceptions and five passes defended. Wiggins returned to the field in 2020 and was solid for the Bearcats, recording 32 tackles, an interception,and six passes defended. With his solid body of work, Wiggins earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He could rise with a good week in Mobile.
2020 NFL Draft Stock Down
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
Purdy is a potential mid-round or third-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but his performance in the Big XII Championship won't help his draft grade. 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. Early in the third quarter, Purdy made a terrible decision, giving up 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 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 only adds to the negatives and will help send him to Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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