The college football season is underway in 2021 and with that comes the evaluation of potential NFL prospects. Each weekend showcases future professional players battling one-on-one in the biggest games on the brightest stage. The implications of these matchups are crucial to the standing and fate of the NFL hopefuls. With the season just beginning, NFL teams will start to stack their boards with players and assign grades to them based on these exact matchups. All of these prospects are eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft and several have the talent to hear their names called very early. How they match up against the best competition is indicative of just how high they will go.
Clemson WR Justyn Ross vs. Georgia CB Derion Kendrick
Justyn Ross is looking to have a major comeback year after missing all of the 2020 season with a neck and spinal injury which required surgery. Ross is a long 6-foot-4 redshirt junior WR who brings a blend of reliable hands and physicality to the wideout position. In 2019, Ross hauled in 66 receptions for a total of 865 yards and 8 touchdowns. With a new QB leading the Clemson Tigers, DJ Uiagalelei, Ross offers a stable and experienced presence for the young QB to rely on. After suffering through major adversity last season, Ross’ play in 2021 is vital for the Tigers and his possible future in the NFL.
University of Georgia cornerback Derion Kendricks is a former teammate of Ross at Clemson who transferred to the Bulldogs this past off-season. Standing at 6-foot, 190 pounds, Kendrick offers a tenacious attitude to an already solid Georgia defense. He has experience as both a field and boundary corner with great instincts for the position. His eyes and hip discipline in man coverage are very impressive and allow him to be an extremely impactful player on his new team. Kendricks is looking to start off the season by shutting Ross down in the big Clemson vs. Georgia game and establishing himself as one of the top defensive backs in the SEC in 2021.
Miami OT Zion Nelson vs. Alabama Edge Christopher Allen
One of the leaders of the Crimson Tide’s pass rush unit this year will be redshirt senior Christopher Allen. Coming off a breakout season tallying a career-high 6 sacks and 13 TFL’s, Allen is looking to build upon his 2nd team All-SEC performance in 2020. Allen is a 6-foot-4, 242 pounder who can play as a DE or a walk-up OLB. His combination of violent hands and deceptive speed allows him to be an effective player who can contest the best offensive lineman in the country. He will be a critical staple in the Alabama defense and an impressive start against a Miami Hurricane team will surely increase his 2021 draft stock.
Miami will be looking for redshirt sophomore Zion Nelson to lead the Hurricanes’ offensive line this season. He returns this season after starting 20 games over the previous two seasons. He brings an athletic build with big, thick legs for the left tackle position. Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 316 pounds, Nelson has nice foot speed that will allow him to set the edge for the run and pass game. The Alabama pass rush is a very tough assignment for any offensive lineman but Nelson’s play against the Crimson Tide will be something that NFL scouts will analyze in detail.