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
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields needed a strong performance against Clemson because of the pocket-passing issues he displayed against Indiana and Northwestern - plus somewhat in 2019. He stepped up big time against the Tigers, carrying Ohio State to the upset win in utterly unstoppable fashion. 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 and one interception that came fom a tipped pass. He also ran for 42 yards on eight carries. From start to finish, Fields pushed the ball vertically and laid out some excellent deep balls. He saw the field well, threw accurately, and displayed some serious grit to play through the injury. Fields dominance of Clemson, one of the best teams in the nation, was a serious bounceback performance for his draft stock.
Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Hufanga put together an excellent year in the Pac-12's abbreviated 2020 season. Over only six games, Hufanga recorded 62 tackles, four interceptions, one pass broken up, two forced fumbles and three sacks. As a sophomore, he had 90 tackles with two forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks and three passes broken up. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder has the size to play strong safety and nickel linebacker in the sub package. He could be a nice safety/linebacker hybrid who helps defend receiving tight ends and the ground game at the next level.
Malik Herring, DL, Georgia
Herring never produced a big stat line during his collegiate career, but he played well enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. In 2020, he totaled 19 tackles and one sack. He notched 26 tackles and .5 sacks in 2019. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder could be better off adding some weight and competing at tackle in the NFL.
Jonathon Cooper, DE, Ohio State
Cooper has flashed at times for Ohio State in 2020, showing off a decent skill set. He entered the college football playoff with 2.5 sacks and 20 tackles over six games, which almost matched his best year of production, 2018, when he totaled 25 stops with 2.5 sacks. Cooper then had a good performance versus the Clemson Tigers, including notching a sack-fumble on Trevor Lawrence following an impressive rush on which he powered through an edge protecter. The 6-foot-4, 257-pounder could help himself if he shows well in the pass-rushing one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl.
Malcolm Koonce, OLB, Buffalo
Koonce showed some dangerous edge-rush ability in 2019 with nine sacks and three forced fumbles. Buffalo only had seven games in 2020, but Koonce continued to put heat on the quarterback, recording five sacks. Koonce also showed improved run defense with 30 tackles, which almost matched his 2019 total of 33. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder is an undersized edge rusher for a 4-3 defense, but he could potential fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. Performing well at the Senior Bowl would help Koonce.
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Barmore produced a really impressive tape against Notre Dame. He made a couple of tackles in run defensein the early going, showing his speed and athleticism to flow down the line and make some tackles outside of the tackle box. In the second quarter, Barmore had 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 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.
Barmore's performance against Notre Dame showed 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 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, he has a ceiling of the back half of the first round and a floor of being selected on Day 2.
2020 NFL Draft Stock Down
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Trask had to play the Cotton Bowl without his top four receivers as Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland were all out due to either 2021 NFL Draft preparation or a positive COVID-19 test. He had been excellent for Florida all season - 11 straight games -, but for he produced a dud in what could be his final collegiate game. It was a tough situation for him to be thrust into playing with backup receivers, but he also made mistakes unrelated to the loss of those playmakers.
On the Gators' first possession, Trask telegraphed a pass on a deep out and had a cornerback jump the route for a 45-yard pick-six. Trask stared down his receiver, making it an easy interception for the Sooners defensive back.
Trask had some bad luck on the next drive, seeing a deflected pass get picked off. The ball was a little behind the tight end, but it still should have been caught. Trask then threw his third pick of the first quarter when he wasn't on the same page with one of his new receivers, as the ball was located to the inside rather than the back corner of the end zone, and that resulted in an easy catch for the defensive back. Trask threw the ball before getting a good view, and that mistaken anticipation was costly for Florida. Trask completed 16-of-28 passes for 158 yards and three interceptions against Oklahoma. Trask's draft grade certainly won't be helped by his Cotton Bowl, but he probably won't be hurt too much considering he dominated in the other 11 games of the season.
Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson
Kendrick was burned by Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave for a couple of touchdowns, and Olave's speed, in particular, gave Kendrick a lot of problems. Olave's route-running and suddenness, led to Kendrick giving up separation out of breaks, and Kendrick couldn't keep the Buckeyes top receiver. Kendrick's performance against Ohio State shows he needs work for the NFL, so it might be a good idea for him to return to Clemson for 2021.
Jackson Carmen, OT, Clemson
Carmen was a huge liability for Clemson in its Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State. He was whipped by the Ohio State defensive linemen, giving up multiple sacks, including in the second half when the Tigers had an opportunity to get back into the game. Carman illustrated that he should move inside to guard in the NFL.
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