Now that the 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, draft experts still have to feed the beast, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. has done that today by releasing his initial top 25 prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft, as well as his initial position rankings.
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that the Buckeyes populate both lists.
Quarterback Justin Fields is No. 3 on Kiper’s board, behind Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 2 and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1
Fields threw for 3,272 yards last year with 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. He completed 67.2% of his passes and also rushed for 484 yards and 10 scores.
At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds with a strong, accurate arm and the ability to run very well, Fields is a very enticing draft prospect.
Here is what Kiper had to say about him.
“Fields is a legitimate challenger to Lawrence as the top quarterback in this class. The Georgia transfer got immediate eligibility to play in 2019, and he put up huge numbers, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Fields threw 41 touchdown passes with just three interceptions and added 10 rushing TDs. He was incredibly efficient last season, and he made it look easy. Fields has room to improve, though, in how he sees the field and progresses through his reads. Two of his three picks came in the College Football Playoff game against Clemson, including this one in which he stared down his receiver. There’s a lot to like here about Fields as prospect, and I’m looking forward to seeing another full season from him.”
Kiper’s No. 6 prospect — and top defensive back — is cornerback Shaun Wade. Wade was outstanding as a slot corner last year and everyone is excited to see him on the outside this year, including Kiper. Wade is one spot ahead of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr.
“On a defense that just had two first-round corners in Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, Wade played mostly in the slot, but his athleticism popped when I studied the Buckeyes. He’s going to move outside in 2020, but the versatility to move inside or outside is an asset as he transitions to the NFL. Wade has four interceptions over the past two seasons, and he also picked up two sacks in 2019. He is going to be the man in the new-look Ohio State secondary this season.”
The third Buckeye in Kiper’s top 25 is receiver Chris Olave at No. 20. There are five other receivers listed ahead of Olave, who caught 49 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Olave could be Ohio State’s first first-round receiver since Anthony Gonzalez (No. 32) and Ted Ginn (No. 9) in 2007.
“With K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack all off to the NFL, it’s the Olave show for the Buckeyes in 2020. He caught 49 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He tracks the deep ball well and made a few spectacular plays. He’s going to have a big year while catching passes from Justin Fields.”
There are four other Big Ten players in Kiper’s top 25. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is No. 5 overall; Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman is No. 8 overall; Michigan right tackle Jaylen Mayfield is No. 14 overall; and Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth is No. 21.
There are some other familiar names when you get to the position rankings, however.
Redshirt junior Wyatt Davis is the No. 1 guard for Kiper, while redshirt junior center Josh Myers is the No. 3 center. Both could be selected in the first round should they choose to come out early. Senior kicker Blake Haubeil is also at the very top of Kiper’s list of draft-eligible kickers, though he may have to wait a little bit past day one to hear his name called.