News & Analysis

Top 15 2021 NFL Draft prospects in the Big Ten

The Big Ten conference today announced that the league will indeed participate in fall football, reversing its August decision to postpone the season. While a handful of big-time NFL Draft prospects in the league have opted out — including top Purdue receivers Rondale Moore and Rashod Bateman, along with Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade — there remains an abundance of draft-eligible talent in the Big Ten, led by PFF's No. 2 overall prospect in Ohio State's Justin Fields.

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The following are the top 15 Big Ten players on PFF's current 2021 NFL Draft Big Board who will be strapping on the pads this fall.

1. QB JUSTIN FIELDS, OHIO STATE

Fields arrived a little later to the party than Lawrence, but he has been equally impressive. His 92.4 passing grade last season trailed only Joe Burrow among FBS quarterbacks. Oh, and he can run in the 4.5s at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds.

2. TE PAT FREIERMUTH, PENN STATE

Freiermuth is the total package with vise-grip hands, a barn-door catch radius and NFL-caliber inline blocking. That’s a rarity in this day and age.

3. EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN

Hutchinson holds the crown of being the only defender to give Tristan Wirfs fits last season when he racked up seven pressures against Iowa. The rising junior's versatile body allows him to also kick inside and still produce.

4. EDGE KWITY PAYE, MICHIGAN

The No. 1 freak on Bruce Feldman’s list, Paye is only scratching the surface of what he could become. With no polished pass-rushing moves to speak of, he still earned a 77.8 pass-rushing grade in 2019.

5. WR CHRIS OLAVE, OHIO STATE

No corner who lined up across from Olave last season could keep pace one on one. He’s already an incredibly advanced route-runner and brings some downfield juice to the table, as well.

6. IOL TYLER LINDERBAUM, IOWA

Linderbaum is easily the most athletic interior offensive lineman in the country. After flipping from the defensive line last season, he earned an 81.7 overall grade for the Hawkeyes.

7. EDGE JAYSON OWEH, PENN STATE

Oweh is yet another edge defender who could shoot up boards if he shows a modicum of polish in 2019. He can reportedly run in the 4.3s at 257 pounds, but he still wasn’t even a full-time starter last year despite earning an 81.8 pass-rushing grade on 207 pass-rushing snaps.

8. EDGE TYREKE SMITH, OHIO STATE

Smith is one of the best power ends in the class, but we just haven't seen much of him on the field. He played all of 245 snaps last season and didn't see 30-plus snaps in a game until the playoff bout against Clemson. It's hard to see him declaring without football this fall.

9. RB TREY SERMON, OHIO STATE

Sermon is a big back at 220-plus pounds who has consistently broken tackles throughout his career. His .33 career forced missed tackles per attempt rate equaled the marks that Cam Akers and Clyde Edwards-Helaire put up last season.

10. OT DANIEL FAALELE, MINNESOTA

Faalele is still far more a projection due to a lack of on-field performance at this point. And without a season, it's difficult to see him declaring. The 6-foot-9, 400-pound tackle has been playing football for only a few years, making his 76.5 pass-blocking grade last season very encouraging.

11. LB JACK SANBORN, WISCONSIN

Sanborn plays with terrific balance and already earned a solid 83.8 coverage grade in his first year as a starter last season. However, we need to see him get stronger and clean up his tackling game after missing 24 attempts last season.

12. RB JOURNEY BROWN, PENN STATE

Brown was part of a committee approach at Penn State last season until it was clear he was the top running back option toward the end of the year. He's the only other back in the nation who can match Travis Etienne's explosiveness; Brown averaged a ridiculous 4.8 yards after contact per attempt last season.

13. IOL JOSH MYERS, OHIO STATE

Myers is an enforcer in the middle of Ohio State's offensive line. He just needs to go for fewer kill shots in pass protection after allowing 15 pressures for a 72.5 pass-blocking grade last season.

14. WR NICO COLLINS, MICHIGAN

Collins isn't your average 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver. He has legit wheels and averaged 19.7 yards per reception last season. That combination of size and speed is intriguing, but he needs to develop into a more well-rounded route-runner.

15. LB CAMERON MCGRONE, MICHIGAN

McGrone is one of the most agile linebackers in college football. He's also already proven to be adept at stacking blockers at the point of attack.

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