Adam's 2021 Big Board: Group of 5 Edition
In every single draft board I have seen, there is a consistent top 3; Trevor Lawrence from Clemson, Justin Fields from Ohio State, and Penei Sewell from Oregon. After Sewell, most draft boards start becoming much different. This draft seems to be deep at many different positions, a 3rd round rick could very well be a first round caliber player. This draft board is different than the rest. Every year Mel Kiper pretends to know every single strength and weakness on all 254 draft picks. Are you like me and smell the BS? Here is the draft board of all the players he has his assistants and interns look into for him.
As an alumni of Marshall University, I love watching and following G5 football. This draft board is focused on players from the G5. Rightfully so, G5 prospects do not get the same media attention as Power 5 schools. This Big Board is your guide to help introduce those players to you when your team drafts one of them. All Group of 5 schools and Independent schools qualify for this draft board (Sorry FCS your time is coming soon.)
***Even though Notre Dame is considered an independent, there is no way I would include them in this. Many Power 5 conferences created a rule that one non-conference game must be against another Power 5 school and Notre Dame counts. Therefore, they are ineligible for my draft board.
1. Zach Wilson QB BYU
Zach Wilson could be the first player since 2017 from a G5 school to be drafted in the Top 5 (Corey Davis.) He is able to play in multiple different schemes and will have a long and solid future as a starting QB in the NFL. His fearlessness play is incredible for such a high draft pick. His ability to escape tackles and avoid trouble is flawless. He is rated the 3rd best QB in this draft, and when you look back at this draft in 10 years, I can see him being the best player to come out of this draft. If a team thinks Wilson may slip they are going to miss out. A team is going to need to negotiate their way into the Top 10 to select Wilson. The entire G5 should be proud of this man and should rally behind his success.
**Coming soon** Brandon Sweet's draft analysis on Zach Wilson will show you exactly why he is being rated so high!
2. Zaven Collins LB Tulsa
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the nations Top Defensive Player went to a G5 player for the first time since 2015 (Tyler Matakevich) Collins is the clear best defensive G5 player in this years draft and could make the claim for the best overall defensive player. Collins is an overall very balanced player. He has the ability to both rush the QB and drop back in coverage. He was a complete defender with high-impact plays for the Tulsa defense. Defensive coordinators should be very high on Collins and offensive coordinators should be scared when he takes the field against them. He should be taken in the 1st round, and if he slips to the 2nd round, some team will get a steal.
3. Kenneth Gainwell RB Memphis
In my opinion the 3rd overall RB and the 3rd overall G5 prospect in this years draft. The skilled running back who's speed and elusiveness will help move an NFL offense down the field. For being undersized, he demonstrates an incredible sense of power and speed. If a team needs a slot receiver, Gainwell is just as good as a slot receiver. He needs to pair with another RB due to his lack of strength, but he is still a very productive back who can excel at the NFL. Expect to see his name called sometime on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Check out my draft analysis on Gainwell to get the inside scoop on him.
4. Richie Grant S Central Florida
Grant is a versatile safety that can play in multiple defensive roles and is best used as free safety is ready to make big plays for an NFL defense. From his first game at UCF until his last, he has continuously progressed and will continue to do that at the next level. Grant has excellent hands and incredible vision. Still some areas he needs to improve, but so does every draft prospect. I project he will be taken in either the 2nd or 3rd round, anywhere after that he will become a massive steal.
5. Brady Christensen OT BYU
If Zach Wilson is the number one G5 prospect, the man who protected his blind side has to be ranked on here at some point. Introducing Brady Christensen. He really excelled in the pass game for BYU and is capable of playing at either tackle or guard positions. His ability to play multiple positions on the O-Line is what is going to draw GM's and coaches to him. He can provide a team with excellent depth by playing multiple signs and that is why I see him being picked in 2nd or 3rd rounds, with a chance he slips to round 4.
6. James Wiggins S Cincinnati
When healthy Wiggins could be one of the best defensive players in the draft. However, a 2018 ACL injury saw him regress a little. His numbers and level of play were still phenomenal. When healthy his tackling ability and calculated angles are incredible. He easily could have been a 1st or 2nd round player, but that ACL is still a fear. Since teams tend to be hesitant with players with ACL injuries, be on the look on Day 3. However, very easy could be a Day 2 surprise.
7. Jordan Smith DE UAB
The top edge rusher for the 2020 Conference USA Champions (pains me to write that, but Marshall will have their day) finds his way into the top 10 prospects. Very athletic, quick, and solid build for a DE. I was not impressed with his overall style of play, but he always managed to get the job done. Once he makes it to the NFL, he will need to fix the small details of his game, but he will still provide a team plenty of defensive line depth. Look for his name to be called early on Day 3.
8. Malcolm Koonce DE Buffalo
Koonce was a very strong pass rusher for the Buffalo Bulls. His ability to track and follow the ball is solid and it really shows off his athleticism. He needs to imrpove his lower body strength and his footwork, but his upper body strength and IQ are what makes him such a valued pick. Just like Smith, expect him to be taken in the 4th or 5th round.
9. Tariq Thompson S San Diego State
One of the top defenders for the Aztecs, Thompson's instincts and ball skills are what make him such a valued pick. His agility and mobility show off his instinctive ability to find the football and make a play. He is not extremely explosive or many physical attributes, but his instincts and ball coverage make up for it. If a team is looking for a solid zone coverage player or a special teams player, Thompson is your guy. My guess is he gets the draft call in the 5th or 6th round.
10. Jaret Paterson RB Buffalo
This man scored 8 touchdowns in a game! I do not care what negative things people have to say about that, that's insane. He is a little undersized for a running back, however he used it to his advantage. He did so well of running in between the tackles and in some tight spaces. He is will need to be paired with another RB and will be a great addition to a RB committee. I can see a team picking him much higher than where he should in Day 2, but I fully expect him to be taken early in Day 3.
11. Reed Blankenship S Middle Tennessee State
12. Jaelon Darden WR North Texas
13. Aaron Robinson CB Central Florida
14. Marlon Williams WR Central Florida
15. DeAngelo Malone DE Western Kentucky
16. Patrick Johnson DE Tulane
17. Austin Watkins WR UAB
18. Khyiris Tonga DT BYU
19. Jonathan Adams Jr Arkansas State
20. Josh Ball OT Marshall
21. Marquez Stevenson WR Houston
22. Dax Milne WR BYU
23. Tarron Jackson DE Costal Carolina
24. Warren Jackson WR Colorado State
25. Shane Buechele QB Southern Methodist
During draft season, the focus is always on players who will be taken in the first round or other big name college players drafted in later rounds. This is a chance to give a spotlight to those players who will probably go unnoticed or not spoken about. Some big name players Khalil Mack, Bobby Wagner, Kareem Hunt, and Ben Roethlisberger have hailed from Group of 5 schools. One of these players could very possibly be the next great G5 player. Keep an eye out for these.