Today, Big 10 Leadership decided against having a college football season. This was far from unexpected and now dozens, if not hundreds of football players, will likely turn their attention to the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite ideas like a spring football season being floated, there will likely be little for draft prospects to do to “elevate” their draft stock between now and the draft. So unless there is a combine and an All-Star Circuit in 2021, draft rankings will be “fixed” most likely for players who cannot play. For the Big 10, here are the top fifteen prospects coming out of the conference.
15. Baron Browning, Linebacker, Ohio State: Browning was used in a limited role in 2019, but still consistently flashed as one of the more athletic players on the field. The 6’3”, 240 pound defender is a high upside player with big play ability against the run and as a blitzer.
14. Nico Collins, Wide Receiver, Michigan: The Michigan offense isn’t exactly a wide receiver’s dream, but Nico Collins still managed to lead the Big 10 in yards per catch in 2019. The 6’4” receiver is a power forward on the football field, using size and physicality to bully cornerbacks for big plays.
13. Kwity Paye, Defensive Lineman, Michigan: Kwity Paye’s upside has already draw attention this summer and people will keep talking about him in the coming months. Paye is a highly athletic defender who makes up for “tweener” size with great speed and a high motor.
12. Trey Sermon, Running Back, Ohio State: Between crowded backfield’s and injuries, Trey Sermon never got a chance to truly shine at Oklahoma. Sermon was poised for a huge senior season at Ohio State before *gestures around* all this happened. Sermon is a versatile offensive player with good size and athleticism.
11. Paddy Fisher, Linebacker, Northwestern: Paddy Fisher has been a mainstay on the Northwestern defense for the last three years. Fisher is a physical, instinctive defender who crashes downhill to defend the run. Fisher has gotten knocked for coverage skills, but he is more solid there than given credit for.
10. Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State: In his first year starting, Chris Olave was Ohio State’s top playmaker in the passing game. Not only does Olave has easy speed, but he is extremely advanced as a receiver when it comes to route running and attacking zone coverage. In 2019, Olave turned 25% of his catches into touchdowns.
9. Rashawn Slater, Offensive Lineman, Northwestern: Coming into 2019, Slater was a valuable lineman for Northwestern, contributing at guard and right tackle. When he moved to left tackle for last season, he turned into one of the best blockers in the country. Son of an NBA player, Slater’s a great athlete who excelled in pass blocking. That, coupled with his versatility, will make him of high intrigue for NFL teams.
8. Wyatt Davis, Offensive Guard, Ohio State: In his first year starting, Wyatt Davis was one of college football’s elite interior blockers. Davis has a combination of size, speed and strength to make any offensive line coach see red and any defensive lineman see dirt. If 2019 is any indicator, Davis has star written all over him.
7. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State: Penn State did not throw the football much in 2019. Only 217 of Penn State’s 367 pass attempts were completed. Yet, Pat Freiermuth caught 43 of those completions (about 20%) and scored seven of Penn State’s 25 receiving touchdowns (28%). Freiermuth was as advanced and dangerous as a sophomore tight end could be in the Nittany Lions offense. He is not only a great athlete at the position, but is a gifted blocker and has rare pro-readiness for a young player at tight end.
6. Alaric Jackson, Offensive Tackle, Iowa: Tristian Wirfs held the spotlight in 2019, but it was Alaric Jackson who was holding it down at left tackle for most of the season. The 6’6”, 320 pound senior is a quick, strong blocker who plays with a chip on his shoulder.
5. Rondale Moore, Wide Receiver, Purdue: There are few players in the country who are more exciting to watch than Rondale Moore. Moore set the Big 10 on fire as a freshman when he scored 14 times from scrimmage and was dangerous any time he touched the ball. Moore’s sophomore season was cut short by injury, but Moore’s skill set as an all-around playmaker is obvious.
4. Rashod Bateman, Wide Receiver, Minnesota: Even before the Big 10 canceled the season, Bateman was one of the first big name prospects to opt out of the season. The 6’2”, 200 pound receiver was a big play threat for Minnesota last year. His size, physicality and excellent route running made him dangerous at every level of the field. Bateman is not outstanding in terms of pure athleticism, but he more than makes up for it with his technical prowess and on-field demeanor.
3. Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State: It’s been a while since Penn State sent a star linebacker to the NFL. Micah Parsons is set to change that. After two incredible seasons, Parsons entered 2020 as one of the most hyped linebacker prospects in a long time. While he may not get another chance to showcase his skills in college, he has more than shown he deserves high draft consideration. The 6’3”, 245 pound defender is a phenomenal run defender and blitzer, with capability to cover tight ends, running backs and even slot receivers. Parsons is another player who opted out early, but even when he did, everyone knew he will hear his name called very early next spring.
2. Shaun Wade, Cornerback, Ohio State: Despite playing next to Jeff Okudah in 2019, Shaun Wade was still considered one of the best cornerbacks in the country. In fact, he probably would have gone in the first round in 2020 if he declared for the draft. Wade is a unique prospect in that he did a lot of his damage out of the slot for Ohio State. He is versatile and athletic, a technically sound cover cornerback and a reliable tackler. Wade is not flashy and doesn’t create a lot of big plays, but he is an extremely solid and well rounded defender who can anchor a secondary.
1. Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State: In his first year starting, Justin Fields put up video game numbers for the Buckeyes. 41 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns and only three interceptions… There is a reason Fields was a Heisman finalist. Despite lack of experience, Fields was excellent as a passer. He showcased great decision making, accuracy, touch at all levels of the field. He has a good NFL level arm, no doubt. His athleticism makes him extremely difficult to defend not only as a pure runner, but as a passer too. He does a great job moving in and outside of the pocket to manipulate passing defenses. In any other class, Fields would almost be the surefire first overall pick.