2021 NFL Draft: Who will be next year’s LSU and dominate draft boards?

2021 NFL Draft prospect, Rashod Bateman #13 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
2021 NFL Draft prospect, Rashod Bateman #13 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

LSU dominated the 2020 NFL Draft with 14 players selected. Looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft, will any team come close to that level of success?

During the 2020 NFL Draft, it seemed as though a player from LSU went at least once every five picks, bringing the total at the end of Day 3 to 14 Tigers selected and even more signing following the draft. Looking ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft, there are a few teams who could reach double-digits.

LSU’s success in the draft stemmed from two things that went hand-in-hand. The first was the odd circumstances of this draft. With no Pro Days, teams had to rely on the footage they had from the season, meaning teams that received more national coverage were more likely to be selected in some cases, which is the second point. With the odd circumstances and championship exposure, LSU players were well known by the time the draft rolled around.

It also helps that LSU had elite talent spread across the field, not built up at one position. Of their 14 selections, five went during the first day of the draft and another five on the second day. So, looking at the 2021 NFL Draft-eligible players, who has the potential to match this?

The first thought has to be Clemson. Obviously Trevor Lawrence is leading that charge, but running back Travis Etienne is also regarded as one of the top backs, if not the best, in next year’s draft. When you add in players like wide receiver Justyn Ross and a roster that has more than a dozen seniors, the possibility is there.

Also, Clemson is poised for another playoff run given their easy conference schedule and returning talent. Should they once again play for the National Championship, that level of exposure should only increase the chances of matching what LSU was able to do this year.

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Another contender is a team that was tied for the second-most selections this year, Ohio State. Each year the Buckeyes produce a high number of picks and the 2021 NFL Draft should be no different. Justin Fields and Chris Olave headline the list of potential OSU selections, but they could both opt to return for another season.

Ohio State also is known for producing defensive backs and offensive linemen that count for at least a handful of picks each draft. Like Clemson, a playoff push could be in the works for the Buckeyes which would garner more national recognition for all of their players entering the draft.

However, every year there’s a team towards the top of the draft selection numbers that seems surprising. This year Michigan tied for second with 10 selections while Utah tied for fifth with 7. So who could be those teams to watch? Texas and Minnesota.

Beginning with Texas, they could check off two of the important “multi-pick” positions, being offensive line and defensive backs. Samuel Cosmi is already being regarded as one of the top offensive linemen and Caden Sterns is gaining attention in the secondary.

Throw in mid-round options like linebacker Joseph Ossai and maybe a team taking a chance on Sam Ehlinger and they are already more than halfway to Utah’s total, and those are just the more well-known players. It also helps if the Longhorns can string together wins. The thought of “Texas is back” captures fans each year and sustaining that through a season could greatly increase draft stock.

As for Minnesota, the P.J. Fleck ties are starting to come through (See what I did there?). In his final season with Western Michigan, Fleck saw three former Broncos selected in the 2017 draft, the most for WMU in a seven-round draft. Now, Fleck is having a similar impact with the Gophers, seeing five selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

For next year’s class, Fleck already has the media buzzing about 2021 NFL Draft prospect Rashod Bateman who is challenging Ja’Marr Chase for the best wide receiver in college football. Add quarterback Tanner Morgan and a total of 18 seniors or graduate students on the roster and you’re just a little bit of success away from seeing a lot of draft picks from Minnesota.

'Last Chance U' star becoming interesting NFL Draft prospect. dark. Next

Minnesota also has the potential to become a Cinderella story. Despite their conference, they have been regarded as one of the lesser schools that play in the Big Ten. Should they begin to compete with the best of the conference each week, that attention could play well for those entering the 2021 NFL Draft.