Well, we are a few weeks into the 2020 college football season, and we’ve already seen some exciting performances from top 2021 NFL draft prospects. The SEC has now begun its season, and the Big Ten isn’t far behind. What have we learned so far? Who has stood out? And what adjustments to draft class rankings need to be made based on the first month of college football?
Our NFL draft analysts — Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay — give their biggest takeaways from the college season to this point, and then name one early-season riser and one under-the-radar prospect to continue to watch. Plus, with North Dakota State set to play its only game of the season this Saturday, Mel and Todd explain what they are looking for from one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2021 class, Trey Lance.
What are your biggest early-season takeaways?
McShay: I’ll start with the No. 1 prospect on everyone’s board. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was in complete control against Wake Forest to start the season, completing 22 of 28 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown (and he added another pair of scores on the ground). After rolling up Citadel 49-0 a week later and then getting an off week, he carries a 91.9 Total QBR into this weekend’s home game against Virginia.
His anticipation and accuracy are really impressive, and the 6-foot-6 QB can really drive the ball outside the numbers. He is playing like you’d expect an elite NFL quarterback prospect to be playing. But on-field talent aside, I was even more impressed talking to him before the Wake Forest game — he has grown so much as a leader. When he first took over as starter, he was a bit more cautious, but now he’s the face of college football, and no stage is too big for him. He is the Tigers’ leader on the field, but he is standing out perhaps even more for his forward-facing roles in the “We want to play” campaign and advancing social justice discussions across the country.
Kiper: My biggest takeaway so far? That the 2021 class of pass-catchers is even better than I thought. After six wide receivers went in Round 1 in April, McShay put eight in his preseason 2021 Mock Draft, plus two more tight ends. I had six total — four wideouts, two tight ends — in my preseason Big Board, but there will be more in my next update.