Best 2021 NFL Draft Fits for Pac-12, Big Ten Prospects, More

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterAugust 14, 2020

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) and defensive end Shaka Toney (18) celebrate a sack of Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer (13) in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Purdue in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Penn State defeated Purdue 35-7. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Barry Reeger/Associated Press

College football as we know it will be much different this year, with the Pac-12 and Big Ten voting to postpone fall athletics and possibly playing their seasons the spring. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 are forging ahead with intentions to play a fall season—which is notable because three of the Power Five conferences playing in the fall and the remaining two potentially playing in the spring makes the NFL's decision on the draft process very challenging.

NFL sources were hopeful that all of the Power Five conferences would play in the fall or spring together instead of the split decision we have. With the Senior Bowl scheduled for late January 2021, the NFL Scouting Combine on the books for late February and the NFL draft in late April, the league is up against a tight schedule regarding the spring predraft process.

And that doesn't even take into account the players' decisions. We've seen top players like Micah Parsons (Penn State) and Gregory Rousseau (Miami) opt out of the 2020 season and declare for the upcoming draft. But what about the Justin Fields- and Penei Sewell-type prospects who are considered top players but are uncertain about their future in college football?

So much needs to be clarified by the NFL, NFLPA and NCAA—three groups not known for their ability to work together. And as the Big Ten and Pac-12 push toward the potential of a spring season, no top draft-eligible players are likely to play if it means missing any predraft preparations like the combine or pro-day workouts.

If you are Fields or Sewell and already look like a first-round lock, you're already looking ahead to next fall when you'd be in the NFL. Here are the best fits for the top players from these shut-down conferences, including the FCS Missouri Valley Conference, which features two potential top-10 picks of its own.


Big Ten

LB Micah Parsons, Penn State (opt out)

Projection: Top-15 pick

Best Fit: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have plenty of fun, young talent on defense, but no one like the 6'3", 245-pound Parsons, who Penn State coaches say runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. He's explosive in the middle of the field but has also shown an ability to rush off the edge. In a division with Lamar Jackson, the Bengals need all the defensive speed they can get.


QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Carolina Panthers

At 6'3", 228 pounds, Fields is a thickly built quarterback who displays efficient passing and a hard-nosed running style in the red zone that produced 10 rushing touchdowns last year. Put him in Carolina coordinator Joe Brady's offense, which loves the middle of the field—Fields' best passing window—and they could thrive together.


CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Kansas City Chiefs

It remains to be seen if Chiefs general manager Brett Veach values cornerbacks early in the draft, but Shaun Wade's ability to navigate inside or outside coverage makes him very valuable to a defensive coordinator like Steve Spagnuolo, who has unlocked the talent of Tyrann Mathieu. Spags could do the same for the talented Wade, who looks like the next in a long line of first-rounders at cornerback from Ohio State.


WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota (Opt-Out)

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles prioritized speedy receivers in the 2020 draft by adding Jalen Reagor and John Hightower, but with Alshon Jeffery likely playing his last season with the team (club option for 2021), the need for a physical possession receiver exists. Rashod Bateman has some Dez Bryant to his game with his ability to box out on breaking routes and a tough running style post-catch that Eagles fans will love.


WR Rondale Moore, Purdue (Opt-Out)

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Tennessee Titans

Watch Derrick Henry lure linebackers into the box and then let Ryan Tannehill hit the speedy, explosive Rondale Moore on quick routes over the middle on play action or deep down the sideline on go routes. Moore is exactly what Tennessee lacks in a big-play offensive weapon.


OG Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

When you think "hard-charging running game," you might think of the Baltimore Ravens, but I still see the Steelers as a team that values and loves the interior run game. Wyatt Davis is the best guard in the 2021 draft class and will be an instant upgrade to both pass protection and the run game.


WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

Projection: First- or second-round pick

Best Fit: New York Jets

Who on this offense has the wheels to scare a defense? Well, Chris Olave does and would give Sam Darnold a much-needed asset at receiver who can aid his quarterback with yards after the catch that are sorely missing from the Jets offense. This would be a selection with the pick from Seattle and not the Jets' original selection.


WR Nico Collins, Michigan

Projection: First- or second-round pick

Best Fit: New England Patriots

It's unclear what the Patriots offense will look like without Tom Brady, but one immediate change could be the acquisition of bigger receivers with more of a possession style. The 6'4", 215-pound Nico Collins fits the mold beautifully with size and speed to get open for whomever is under center.



OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Projection: Top-five pick

Best Fit: Washington

A draft weekend trade of Trent Williams left Washington without an established left tackle, which makes the team a perfect fit for Penei Sewell. If they're drafting in the top five it may be time to consider a new quarterback, but a clean left tackle is also a giant need.


S Jevon Holland, Oregon

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Atlanta Falcons

Seeing the best safety in the draft class and a top-tier playmaker find a home with Dan Quinn should make fans of the Ducks and Falcons both giddy. Jevon Holland is a certified baller, and Quinn knows how to use his center fielders.


OT Walker Little, Stanford

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

Protecting franchise quarterback Justin Herbert on the edges of the line has to be the No. 1 priority for an underrated duo running the Chargers in general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Anthony Lynn. Walker Little has some injury questions, but if those are cleared up, he's a legit first-rounder.


DT Jay Tufele, USC

Projection: First-round pick

Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have not been happy with their interior defensive line play. General manager Mike Mayock loves high producers from Power Five conferences, and that's exactly what Jay Tufele is. At 6'3" and 315 pounds, he can be the interior penetrator the team needs.


WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Projection: First- or second-round pick

Best Fit: New Orleans Saints

Consider me skeptical that Emmanuel Sanders will actually be what the Saints are looking for. Finding a competent young receiver to line up across from Michael Thomas is still a huge need, and Amon-Ra St. Brown is a Playmaker with a capital P.


CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

Projection: Second-round pick

Best Fit: Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings continue to remake their secondary, and Paulson Adebo has the vision, instincts and physicality to play for head coach Mike Zimmer. If he's healthy after a spotty 2019, he could shoot up boards in the predraft workout season.


Missouri Valley

QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Sam Hodde/Associated Press

Projection: Top-five pick

Best Fit: Chicago Bears

If Matt Nagy is allowed a chance to pick his own quarterback for the Bears, there is no better fit than the dual-threat, strong-armed Trey Lance. After throwing for 28 touchdowns and no interceptions last year—while running for another 14—Lance will be one of the most exciting players in the 2021 class if he declares as a redshirt sophomore.


OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State

Projection: Top-10 pick

Best Fit: Denver Broncos

The Broncos really need a new left tackle, and Dillon Radunz has the athleticism and length to be the ideal person to protect Drew Lock in an offense that has all the skill pieces to be explosive.


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