While the 2021 NFL Draft is still far off in the distance, players that will be drafted early are on the field now. Each week presents unique matchups for draft prospects and this week is no different. Here are NFL Draft prospects to watch in college football week 9.
1. Shaka Toney, Edge, Penn State Nittany Lions
In their loss to Indiana, not much went right for the Nittany Lions. The pass rush did do a great job of generating pressure. They will have to do more of the same this week when they take on Ohio State. Shaka Toney will need to keep his hot start to the season going to give Penn State a chance.
In their season-opener, Toney finished the game with two sacks and was seemingly consistently creating pressure. The edge class is very fluent right now and with some more good games, especially against an offensive line like Ohio State’s, Toney could play his way up draft boards.
2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State showed that they had their offense rolling on all cylinders in their season-opening win over Nebraska. Justin Fields is showing why there was so much hype around the Buckeyes heading into this season. He’ll have to play well this week against a tough Penn State defense.
Fields went 20 of 21 for 276 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska. He is fully capable of having another big game against Penn State. Fields will be fighting for position to be the second quarterback taken behind Trevor Lawrence. He has all the tools to help the Buckeyes win this game and secure a spot as a top five pick.
3. Drake Jackson, OG/C, Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky has had a rough start to the season, but that is not in any part a fault of their offensive line. They have run the ball well and have done a solid job protecting the quarterback. The offensive line will have to be at their best against Georgia, which includes center Drake Jackson.
Jackson has played well this season and specifically has shown a knack for getting to the second level and completing blocks. Georgia has a very stout defense, so it will be interesting to see how Jackson does against the tough competition. Jackson can prove he is worthy of a selection early in the 2021 Draft with some more good play.
4. James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati has had a good season so far and are highly-ranked. A lot of this is because of their good defense, who has done a really good job against the pass specifically. They’ll need more of that to happen this week against Memphis and James Wiggins will have an impact from his safety position.
Wiggins has 16 total tackles and four passes defended this season for the Bearcats. His play has helped him to get some recognition as a possible mid-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. A good game against Memphis will help him increase his stock.
5. Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
Just like everyone expected, Alabama is impressing early in the season. Quarterback Mac Jones has specifically been able to use all of his talented weapons to put up a lot of points. He’ll need to keep producing and he’ll need DeVonta Smith to step up even more now that Jaylen Waddle has been lost for the season due to injury.
Smith has 45 receptions for 556 yards and four touchdowns already this season. Smith has played like a receiver that deserves to be selected in the first round. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to have big plays against Mississippi State.
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