News & Analysis

Top 10 performances from 2021 NFL Draft prospects during college football bowl season

Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) celebrates after defeating the Clemson Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Every snap counts when you’re projecting forward to the NFL draft, and it's all visible on each player's tape. There’s been a growing trend of prospects opting out of bowl games, but the 10 guys below made the most of their time on the field during the 2020-21 college football season.

1. Ohio State QB Justin Fields vs. Clemson

After the Big Ten championship game, Fields needed a notable performance. And in the College Football Playoff against Clemson, he showed off not only his arm talent but also his toughness. No one would have blamed him for coming out of the game after the shot he took from Clemson linebacker James Skalski. It was the opposite, though, as Fields finished with a 94.6 passing grade and four big-time throws.

2. Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari vs. Cincinnati

Georgia doesn’t win its contest against Cincinnati football without Azeez Ojulari, plain and simple. He took over in the second half — albeit against a backup tackle — and had three sacks along with a forced fumble. He’ll test the athleticism of every offensive lineman he faces at the next level.

3. Alabama DI Christian Barmore vs. Notre Dame

This is the version of Barmore we’ve been waiting all year to see. Going against one of the best interior offensive lines in the country, he put on a show. He racked up seven pressures on 40 pass-rushing snaps in what was easily his highest-graded outing of the season. NFL evaluators will go back to that tape all spring, and Barmore passed with flying colors.

4. BYU QB Zach Wilson vs. UCF

Yes, it was UCF, and yes, they didn’t have all their starters in the secondary. But just look at this throw.

Wilson plays at a high level with consistency. He finished with a 90.9 passing grade against UCF — his seventh 90.0-plus passing grade this season.

5. Ohio State WR Chris Olave vs. Clemson

Olave was consistently matched up with Clemson’s Derion Kendrick — a first-round hopeful in his own right — and came away the easy victor. He caught six of eight targets for 132 yards and two scores. In six games this year, Olave now has five 100-yard outings. He’s one of the best route-runners in the draft and is proving it against top competition.

6. Oklahoma OT Adrian Ealy vs. Florida

The recent Senior Bowl invite had his way with Florida's edge defenders. Ealy didn’t allow a single pressure on 31 pass-blocking snaps and finished the game with an 82.2 overall grade. That’s a massive performance given the distinct lack of pass-rushing talent he’s faced in the Big 12 (outside of his own team in practice, of course).

7. Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown vs. Colorado

Overshown is a converted safety at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, and for much of the year at linebacker for Texas, he looked like exactly that — a safety playing linebacker. He struggled mightily with physicality and missed tackles in the box. Against Colorado, however, we saw that coverage ability of a safety with a little more oomph in the box. He picked off a pass, had three pressures including a sack and missed only one of his seven tackle attempts. That’s likely not enough for the redshirt junior to declare, but he’ll be a name to watch in 2022.

8. Ohio State DI Tommy Togiai vs. Clemson

Togiai had been one of the Buckeyes' biggest breakout players through his first six games, but even that didn’t prepare us for the dominance we saw against Clemson. He was a true game-wrecker and pretty much shut down the Tigers' run game before it even got started. On a loaded defensive line, Togiai had played only 368 career snaps prior to this season.

9. Clemson WR Cornell Powell vs. Ohio State

Powell not only elevated his stock but also tried to eviscerate Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade’s stock. After waiting in the wings for four seasons — topping out with a career-high 122 yards in 2019 — Powell has made the most of his opportunities as a redshirt senior. He caught eight of his 11 targets for 139 yards and two scores against the Buckeyes in a losing effort. At 6-foot and 210 pounds, he’s one of the country’s more physical players at the position.

10. Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg vs. Alabama

Not many guys from Notre Dame brought their A-game against Alabama, but Eichenberg sure did. He allowed only two pressures on 55 pass-blocking snaps and earned a 91.6 run-blocking grade, as well. That caps off quite the season for Eichenberg, who didn’t allow a sack all season. He’s firmly in the second-round mix at this point.

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