Once the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft was announced, it was time to move on to the incoming class for 2022.
Such is life in the NFL, especially for those who work for their respective teams as pro scouts. They are constantly working to get a jump on the game’s next big superstar. From attending the high school games and college Saturday’s to the scouting combine, pro days, and even mixing in a private workout or two, the process can be a grueling one but if you can identify and successfully land a generational talent or a franchise player, it’s all worth it. When it comes to fantasy football, NCAA play might not appear to make much of a difference, as the game is a scarcity for the college ranks.
However, these college players are the next superstars of the NFL so it’s worth at least getting a jump on them and seeing who could be big-time players and even instant contributors, as a lot of them could be relied on in their rookie years. In this article, I will look at each position highlight what teams need to fill that need, and spotlight several players at those skill positions to see what tomorrow holds in store for the NFL and build anticipation for the upcoming NFL draft.
*As of this writing, the college football season has already begun, with Ohio State and Minnesota kicking off.
QUARTERBACK (Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Football Team, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Denver Broncos)
1. Spencer Rattler – Oklahoma (3031 yards, 28 TD, 7INT; 160 rush yards, 6 TD)
Rattler is seen as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman trophy this year. He is not a big quarterback, checking in at a modest 6’1” 205 lbs., but he demonstrated good playmaking ability as well as a penchant to run when he needs to, finishing 2020 with six rushing scores. He also has a good lineage of OU Quarterbacks who are having NFL success (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and possibly Jalen Hurts).
2. Matt Corral – Ole Miss (3337 yards, 29 TD, 14 INT; 506 rush yards, 4 TD)
Corral might have the most upside of any quarterback in this class. Like Rattler, he doesn’t blow you away in the size department but he’s a gamer. He’s got a ridiculous arm and jets for legs to complement. He’s projected as a first-round pick and playing against SEC powerhouses will only make him better.
3. Sam Howell – North Carolina (3586 yards, 30 TD; 146 rush yards, 6 TD)
Howell solidified himself as a big-time quarterback in 2020 and showed that his impressive freshmen year was no fluke. He capped off his 2020 by leading the Tar Heels to an Orange Bowl appearance and played well despite losing to Texas A&M. A great third year will all but put him in the 1st round conversation.
4. Desmond Riddler – Cincinnati (2,296 yards, 19TD; 592 rush yds. 12TD)
Riddler is more of a runner than he is a passer. He piled up the stats above in 9 games for the Bearcats and will look to improve upon those numbers as a senior. He probably won’t go on the first or even the second day, but he could be a nice project for a team that can afford to take the time to develop him.
5. Malik Willis – Liberty (2,260 yards, 20 TD; 944 rush yds. 14 TD)
Another Quarterback whose flair is as a runner, Willis is a bit of a wildcard amongst the quarterbacks this year. Like Riddler, his passing numbers are nothing to write home about, but he is a willing runner and will do it often – In the 2020 Cure Bowl against Coastal Carolina, he ran 21 times for 137 yards and scored 4 times. If he can boost up his numbers as a passer while maintaining his playmaking as a runner, the discussions about him as an early-round prospect could increase.
6. Kedon Slovis – Southern California (1,921 yards, 17 TD)
Statistically, Slovis fell off a cliff in 2020. He finished the 2019 season throwing for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns while leading the Trojans to a berth in the Holiday Bowl. Then in 2020, his passing numbers were almost cut in half, though a large part of that was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He injured his shoulder on the final play of the Pac-12 championship game, a loss to Oregon, and USC later opted out of playing in any Bowl games. If Slovis can get back on track and lead the Trojans to Bowl glory, he could find himself as Rattler’s rival for the Heisman trophy.
RUNNINGBACK (Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets) 1. Breece Hall – Iowa State (279 rushes, 1572 yards, 21 TD)
Anytime a player scores over 20 times in a football season on any level, he’s going to draw attention. Breece Hall scored the most of any player, in any conference in college football in 20202 outside of Najee Harris. The Cyclones made him their featured player and he rewarded their confidence in him. He also feasted in the Fiesta Bowl, running for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns to help the cause in defeating Oregon. Hall has perfect size at 6’1” 220 lbs. and could very well lead all backs in all major categories in 2021.
2. Isaiah Spiller – Texas A&M (188 rushes, 1036 yds. 9 TD)
Spiller dazzled in his first two seasons for the Aggies, rushing first for double-digit scores in 2019 and then eclipsing 1,000 yards as a sophomore. He even chipped in with two rushing scores in the Orange Bowl mentioned earlier, helping the cause to defeat UNC. A solid junior season could put Spiller in the first-round conversation if he chooses to enter the draft.
3. Zamir White – Georgia (144 rushes, 779 yards. 11TD)
Georgia has produced some notable Runningbacks who have transitioned well to the NFL in recent years, like Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift. They also produced notable names of years gone by like Terrell Davis, Herschel Walker, and Knowshon Moreno. White, who hopes to be the
latest of that fraternity, showed dramatic improvement as a sophomore, nearly doubling his yards output and more than tripling his rushing scores. If the Bulldogs are to keep up their recent run of CFP success, a lot of it will depend on White.
4. Max Borghi – Washington State (10 rushes, 95 yards. TD)
The best receiving back of this group, Borghi joined the Cougars in 2018 and immediately made his impact felt. He finished the year with eight rushing Touchdowns and chipped in 53 receptions for 374 yards and four more scores. The next year he scored 11 times and caught 86 passes for 597 yards and five scores, showing improvement in every boxscore category. A nagging back injury limited him severely to the numbers shown above, but he looks primed to return to his versatile playmaking in 2021.
WIDE RECEIVERS (PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, DETROIT LIONS, NEW YORK JETS, HOUSTON TEXANS, CHICAGO BEARS, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS)
1. Justyn Ross – Clemson (sat out 2020 due to injury)
During Clemson’s 2018 National Championship run, many might forget that it was Ross, and not teammate Tee Higgins, who led the team in receiving with six receptions for 153 yards and a score in the championship game. He also led the team in receiving during that same season. He missed all of 2020 with a congenital neck and spine injury that appeared to threaten his football career but reports say that the 6’4” 210 lb. receiver is back, healthy, and ready to stake his claim as one of the top receiver prospects this year.
2. Chris Olave – Ohio State (26 receptions, 389 yds. 4TD)
Due to the Big 10 season being postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Olave was not able to replicate his impressive 2019 numbers (49-849-12). Still, he had a solid campaign in limited action, finishing with 389 yards on 26 catches with 4 Touchdowns. He raised his level of play in the playoffs, torching the Clemson Tigers for 6 catches, 132 yards, and a pair of scores in the Sugar Bowl. He didn’t fare as well in the National Championship game against Alabama, netting 8 catches for only 69 yards but he solidified himself as a big-time receiver going into 2021 as the Buckeyes look to run it back.
3. John Metchie – Alabama (44 receptions, 782 yards, 6TD)
Metchie has big shoes to fill, not only in replacing the three-headed monster of Heisman-Winner Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs, but continuing the tradition of churning out NFL ready talent at wideout by way of Tuscaloosa (Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Amari Cooper to name a few.) But there is no reason to believe that Coach Nick Saban can’t get the best out of Metchie as he has done with other star players.
4. Jalen Tolbert – South Alabama (64 receptions, 1085 yards, 8TD)
Tolbert is another receiver that has first-round potential. He had an outstanding 2020 season and averaged 17.0 yards per catch. He’s another name to watch as a player whose stock could grow as the number one target in 2021.
TIGHT END (CINCINNATTI BENGALS, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, NEW YORK JETS, ARIZONA CARDINALS, CAROLINA PANTHERS)
1. Charlie Kolar – Iowa State (51 receptions, 697 yards, 7TD)
Kolar showed huge improvement as a featured receiver for the Cyclones in 2020, making significant jumps in all major receiving categories (11 receptions – 51 receptions; 137 yards – 697 yards; 3 Touchdowns to 7 Touchdowns). I’m reminded of Dallas Goedert when I see him play and when it’s all said and done, he could be in the conversation for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s best Tight End.
2. Jalen Wydermyer – Texas A&M (45 receptions, 502 yards, 6TD)
At 6’5”, 260 lbs., Wadermyer is the classically built tight end. He is a matchup nightmare for DBs and LBs alike. He demonstrated consistency throughout his first two seasons (32-447-6 as a freshman, 46-506-6 as a sophomore) and will look to stake his claim as a top tight end in College Football. Look for Wadermyer to have a big junior season.
Obviously, there will be more prospects to watch and more names that you will hear as the season rolls along. You may not think that college football players and fantasy football have anything in common but remember that all great players, both in NFL and Fantasy, were once college superstars of varying degrees. Familiarizing yourself with these players will help to get you a jump on who will be draft-eligible in the spring and who could be the next fantasy superstar in the next couple of years.