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Ohio State vs. Alabama: NFL Draft Prospects Playing in CFP Championship 2021

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJanuary 6, 2021

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields warms up before the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Alabama and Ohio State are two of the top college football programs in the country on an annual basis. That's part of the reason why they're going head-to-head in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday night.

And neither team is likely to stop being successful anytime soon, considering they currently have the top two 2021 recruiting classes in the country, according to the 247Sports' composite rankings, with the Crimson Tide having a slight edge over the Buckeyes for the top spot.

Another area in which both programs are successful? Sending players on to the NFL. There are plenty of former Alabama and Ohio State standouts making an impact at the next level, and some of the programs' current players are likely to soon join them.

Here's a look at some of the players participating in Monday's CFP National Championship at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami who are probable top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft, which is set to take place April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.

        

Alabama

  • Mac Jones, QB
  • Najee Harris, RB
  • DeVonta Smith, WR
  • Jaylen Waddle, WR
  • Alex Leatherwood, OT
  • Dylan Moses, LB
  • Patrick Surtain II, CB

Smith is the most exciting prospect on this list after becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.

The 22-year-old has put up huge numbers (105 receptions for 1,641 yards and 22 total touchdowns), and he was ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect on ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s most recent big board.

Over his four-year career with the Crimson Tide, he has played consistently well, setting the stage for his huge 2020 season. It wouldn't be surprising if he's the first wide receiver taken in the 2021 draft.

Smith isn't the only Alabama receiver who's likely to be a first-round pick. Waddle (Kiper's No. 8 overall prospect) should also be taken with an opening pick, if he decides to leave school early.

The junior has played only four games this season and hasn't been in action since Oct. 17 because of a fractured ankle, but Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban indicated Tuesday there's a chance he could return for the national championship.

Jones has greatly improved his draft stock during his redshirt junior season, as he's now ranked No. 15 on Kiper's big board, which puts him fourth among quarterbacks.

The Alabama signal-caller, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, has passed for 4,036 yards, 36 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Harris (Kiper's No. 1 RB) and Leatherwood (No. 5 OT) are also Alabama offensive players who should garner a lot of interest early in the draft. On defense, Surtain (No. 1 CB) and Moses (No. 6 ILB) have been among the Crimson Tide's leaders, and they are exciting draft prospects as well.

Alabama has had at least three players selected in the first round of the NFL draft in each of the past four years. And with so many talented names likely to be heading to the pros after Monday's game, the Tide have a strong opportunity to keep that streak going.

             

Ohio State

  • Justin Fields, QB
  • Trey Sermon, RB
  • Chris Olave, WR
  • Wyatt Davis, OG
  • Shaun Wade, CB

Fields is the best prospect among this list, and he's still continuing to improve his draft stock as the season goes on.

The 21-year-old had an incredible showing against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns to lead Ohio State to victory in the CFP semifinal.

Not only that, but Fields played through a rib injury he suffered during the game. It was a strong performance that showed why Kiper previously had him ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2021 draft class and the No. 2 quarterback behind only Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.

While Lawrence is widely expected to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, it's quite possible the New York Jets, who own the No. 2 overall selection, could consider drafting Fields should they decide they want to move on from Sam Darnold.

Sermon was Kiper's No. 3-ranked running back on his big board, and he's since had two huge showings for the Buckeyes. In the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern, he ran for 331 yards and two touchdowns, and he then rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

If the 21-year-old finishes his college career with another big game against Alabama, it could lead to the Ohio State running back moving further up draft rankings heading into the offseason.

Olave (Kiper's No. 7 WR) and Davis (No. 2 G) are also offensive players for the Buckeyes who could be selected early in the 2021 draft, as each has impressed during their time at the school.

Last year, former Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah was selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 3 overall pick. Wade likely won't go that early in 2021, but he's another Buckeyes corner with the potential to excel at the next level, and Kiper has him ranked as the No. 4 at the position.

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