College Reunions We Want to See Happen in the NFLJuly 15, 2021
College Reunions We Want to See Happen in the NFL
Familiarity and chemistry can be driving factors in today's NFL. With college and pro schemes becoming more and more alike, reuniting college teammates in the NFL can, in theory, lead to instant cohesion on the playing field.
Several teams put this theory into practice during the 2021 draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars, for example, drafted Clemson teammates Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in the first round.
"It provides you with a sense of normalcy having Trevor here, just being with him the past three years," Etienne said, per AP sportswriter Mark Long (via ABC News).
The Cincinnati Bengals reunited Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, while the Miami Dolphins brought in Jaylen Waddle for Tua Tagovailoa.
Recently, Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams discussed the possibility of playing with former college teammate and current Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. While we've enjoyed watching Adams catch passes from Aaron Rodgers over the past seven years, a potential reunion of the Fresno State alums is intriguing.
How might an Adams-Carr reunion transpire? What other college-to-NFL pairings would we love to see in the near future? We'll examine seven potential reunions here in no particular order.
Davante Adams and Derek Carr
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have become one of the league's best quarterback-receiver duos. However, their time together may be nearing its end.
Rodgers has stayed away from the Packers organization all offseason, and his future with the franchise is in doubt. Adams, meanwhile, is in the final year of his contract. Might Adams look to rejoin Carr in Las Vegas?
"It would be a dream to be able to play with him," Adams said, per Bri Mellon of ABC30 Fresno. "But I'm a Packer now. Until that point when we make that decision, I guess we just gotta, we'll see what happens."
If Rodgers and Adams are no longer going to be a thing, it would be fun to see Adams and Carr get back together. The two won a Mountain West Conference title together in 2013, a season in which Adams recorded 1,719 receiving yards.
Carr isn't quite on Rodgers' level, but he's consistently been a quality NFL starter. He also hasn't had a No. 1 receiver of Adams' caliber as a pro.
Javon Kinlaw and Kingsley Enagbare
The San Francisco 49ers could forge a defensive reunion in next year's draft.
The team selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to help replace DeForest Buckner in 2020. Unfortunately, Kinlaw's rookie campaign was a bit of a mixed bag. He finished with 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 10 quarterback pressures.
Could reuniting Kinlaw with former South Carolina teammate Kingsley Enagbare help unlock the former's potential?
Enagbare, who will be draft-eligible next offseason, projects as one of the better edge defenders in the 2022 draft class. He amassed six sacks and seven tackles for loss in just eight games last campaign. He added two forced fumbles along the way.
In 2019, Kinlaw and Enagbare combined for 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 62 total tackles.
Drafting Enagbare would also give San Francisco a young bookend pass-rusher opposite Nick Bosa. A defensive front built around Kinlaw, Enagbare, Bosa and Arik Armstead would be a terror for opposing offensive linemen.
Justin Fields and Garrett Wilson
Like the 49ers, the Chicago Bears could look for a reunion in next year's draft. Specifically, they could try to pair 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields with former Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson.
This would be the same quarterback-receiver formula that the Bengals and Dolphins utilized in 2021.
The Bears traded up to secure Fields with the 11th overall pick, making him their clear quarterback of the future. By the time Fields is ready to flourish as a pro, however, No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson II may be out of the organization.
Robinson received the franchise tag and could depart in free agency next year.
Enter Wilson, who has spent time as both a slot receiver and a wideout for the Buckeyes. Listed at 6'0" and 188 pounds, he is a physical, versatile and explosive pass-catcher who flashed plenty of chemistry with Fields last season.
In only eight games, Wilson caught 43 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns. He was arguably Fields' most reliable target, and he could be the same at the next level.
Michael Pittman Jr. and Drake London
This offseason, the Indianapolis Colts took a chance on former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. If Wentz's bid for redemption pans out in Indy, it will likely have a lot to do with the coaching of Frank Reich, who helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII as the offensive coordinator. Wentz was out of the big game with a torn ACL suffered in Week 14.
However, Wentz isn't going to find success without the help of wide receivers like Michael Pittman Jr. The USC product gave fans glimpses of his potential last season, finishing with 503 yards and a touchdown.
The problem is that there isn't a lot of proven depth beyond Pittman and 31-year-old wideout T.Y. Hilton. This is where Pittman's former teammate and potential 2022 draft target Drake London enters the equation.
While London might not be the most polished prospect in the 2022 draft class, he oozes physical potential. Listed at 6'5" and 210 pounds, London is a massive perimeter target Wentz could utilize in the same fashion as Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz in Philadelphia.
In 2019, Pittman and London combined for 1,842 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns for the Trojans. While Pittman was responsible for the bulk of that production, London showed that he can be a dominant receiver a year later. With Pittman gone, he grabbed 33 passes for 502 yards and three scores in just six games.
Dyami Brown and Sam Howell
While the Bengals and Dolphins just drafted receivers to go with their young quarterbacks, the Washington Football Team could take the opposite approach in next year's draft. The WFT grabbed North Carolina wideout Dyami Brown in the third round of the 2021 draft. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell could be a 2022 target.
Washington is set to lean on journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. However, the 38-year-old is not a long-term answer at the game's most important position. Howell, on the other hand, might be.
"I believe a lot of what Howell does well will translate to the NFL," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote last month. "He can make every type of throw, and he isn't a stationary player. He can move around and create plays."
Howell finished the 2020 season with 3,586 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Brown finished with 1,099 receiving yards and eight scores.
Washington was a playoff team in 2020 and may have to trade up to get into Howell's draft range. However, the team has just about all of the pieces it needs to be successful over the long term, except for a young franchise quarterback.
Reuniting Brown and Howell could change that.
Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Gilmore
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is entering the final year of his contract and has stayed away from offseason workouts to this point. However, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year does not expect his holdout to lead to a trade.
"I'm told that Gilmore has largely not expected to be traded throughout this process because he knows the Patriots have made moves with Gilmore in mind," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on SportsCenter (h/t Bleacher Report's Tim Daniels).
Should this change, however, the Cleveland Browns would be a logical landing spot. They're potential Super Bowl contenders, but cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Greg Newsome II all have notable injury histories.
If the Browns did trade for Gilmore, they would reunite him with former South Carolina teammate Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney and Gilmore were both Gamecocks during the 2011 season, when they combined for 82 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks, six forced fumbles and eight passes defended.
With Clowney and Myles Garrett rushing quarterbacks and Gilmore—who allowed a passer rating of just 75.7 in 2020—on the back end, Cleveland could have its long-coveted Super Bowl-caliber defense.
Sony Michel and Todd Gurley II
Three-time Pro-Bowl running back Todd Gurley II is a free agent, though that is likely to change at some point in 2020. While he hasn't been the same dominant runner he was early in his career, Gurley is only 26 years old and would make a fine depth addition for a committee backfield.
One team that loves to utilize multiple backs is New England. The Patriots also happen to employ Gurley's former Georgia teammate Sony Michel.
While the two first-round picks were drafted three years apart, they were teammates in 2014 along with Nick Chubb, forming one massively talented backfield. That season, Michel and Gurley combined for 1,321 rushing yards, 163 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns from scrimmage.
While the Patriots already have a strong group of backs, including Michel, Damien Harris and James White, adding Gurley could give them arguably the deepest backfield in the league. While Gurley struggled to be a workhorse back for the Atlanta Falcons last season, he would be a scary third or fourth option.
Seeing Gurley and Michel together again would be fun for fans of hard-running football, and it would potentially give the Patriots the foundation of a playoff-caliber ground-and-pound offense.
Pairing Gurley with Chubb would also be fun, but Cleveland seems to have a defined two-pronged attack in Chubb and Kareem Hunt, along with a more established passing attack.
*Contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.