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Minnesota Football: What Gophers stand a chance to be drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft

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Wisconsin v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

This past weekend the Gophers had 5 players drafted.

  • Antoine Winfield Jr was the first one taken. In the 2nd round Tampa Bay took Winfield Jr to compete in their defensive backfield.
  • Tyler Johnson also was selected by the Buccaneers in the 5th round.
  • Kamal Martin was also a 5th round pick to the Green Bay Packers.
  • Carter Coughlin was a 7th round pick, heading to the New York Giants.
  • Chris Williamson also went in the 7th to the Giants.

Congrats to all 5 Gophers in their endeavor to play on Sundays. Having 5 Gophers drafted is a record for the University of Minnesota. In fact, 48 Big Ten players were drafted this past weekend and the Gophers tied for the 3rd most drafted. Ahead of Wisconsin and Nebraksa.

Untitled

Michigan 10
Michigan 10
Ohio State 10
Minnesota 5
Iowa 5
Penn State 5
Wisconsin 4
Maryland 2
Michigan State 2
Nebraska 2
Purdue 2
Indiana 1

But now we look ahead. Looking at the current Gopher roster, who stands a chance to be drafted. A year ago at this time, it seemed pretty certain that Johnson and Coughlin were going to be a part of the 2020 NFL Draft. Winfield Jr had a break out season, finally healthy, and moved up the boards considerably. Martin and Williamson were certianly key members of the Gopher defesne and seniors who managed to impress scouts enough to get a chance.

I’m intentionally not going to speculate on players who really haven’t contributed yet. So incoming freshmen, kids who redshirted last year or really didn’t play enough to show anything special on the field are not going to be on this list. There could be several NFL draft picks in the younger classes, but that kind of speculation is for another post.

The Sure Things

These guys are not only going to be drafted but they are likely to be in the first few rounds. Bateman is showing up in multiple first round projections for 2021. These projections are meaningless (Right, Leidner?), but the talent here is evident. Both of these guys may be early entries and likely high draft picks.

WR - Rashod Bateman

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Gophers have very good shot at having the first Gopher drafted in the 1st round since Laurence Maroney. The bad news is that Rashod Bateman is going to be leaving early. This guy is a stud and assuming he has another good year, he will be too high on draft boards to come back for his senior season. These three VERY early mock drafts both have Bateman in the 1st round. Guys coming here, developing into highly sought after players who leave early for the NFL Draft is a good sign for the program.

OT - Daniel Faalele

This guy has been talked about as an NFL body and athleticism from day 1. In his year and a half as a starter he has improved and become the answer at RT for the Gophers. When will he leave and enter the draft? That’s the question. If he continues to get better this coming season, he may see his stock high enough that he forgoes his senior season. Or he comes back for one more and pushes his name up everyone’s draft boards. But his size and ability is undeniably NFL caliber.

The Seniors

CB - Coney Durr

It seems unlikely that Durr is going to shoot up draft boards and be a guy drafted on either of the first two days. He has decent size and good speed, not elite. But he is very good in coverage. If Chris Williamson was drafted, I think Durr will hear his name called as well. A productive and healthy season, he’ll get a bigger paycheck.

OG - Conner Olson & OT - Sam Schlueter

I’m going to discuss these two at the same time. Both have had very good careers for the Gophers and both are going to be in consideration for All-Big Ten awards at the end of the season and stand to be later round draft picks. If I had to guess, Olson is the more likely to be drafted unless Schleuter is going to be considered more of an interior lineman at the next level.

The Rest

QB - Tanner Morgan

Formerly a MAC level recruit, really does not have great size for the position but if Morgan has another year like he did in 2019, he very well may hear his name called in a future NFL drat. Not ideal size but decision making and accuracy are highly regarded attributes of an NFL quarterback. I mean, if Nate Stanley is drafted, why couldn’t Tanner Morgan be as well?

OG - Blaise Andries

All-Big Ten as a sophomore and turning into really nice interior lineman. Andires has started all 26 games in his career, mostly at RG and has shown the versatility to play OT as well. Quietly has been very good, another great season and not only is he going to start getting NFL looks, I won’t be surprised if he leaves early.

OG - Curtis Dunlap Jr.

This is a bit more about projecting than it is about actual production over his career thus far. Dunlap Jr has at times been impressive and at times has struggled. But the talent appears to be there. He played sparingly as a true freshman, allowing himself to redshirt. He started 12 games in 2019 and will have plenty of time to solidify himself as a future NFL Draft pick.

CB - Benjamin St-Juste

Arguably our best corner in the second half of the 2019 season. Chris Williamson was just drafted but I think NFL teams will prefer the production and size of St-Juste. The kid is 6’3” with good speed and had 10 pass breakups while staring 9 games last year. I would not at all be surprised to see a breakout seaosn for St-Juste and then a decision on his part.

Others Considered

These names are guys who wouldn’t shock me if they improved their production on the field this upcoming season and moved into the draft conversation. Not nearly enough has been done to warrant

  • Chris Autman-Bell - sliding into WR2 this year will be a chance for CAB to show his skills.
  • Boye Mafe - getting a lot of spring hype and will have the opportunity for a lot more playing time this year.
  • Terell Smith - a big corner with elite speed. Smith needs to improve but he is gifted.
  • Tyler Nubin - the only true freshman to see significant playing time a year ago and may be the team’s starting safety as a sophomore.
  • James Gordon IV - pure speculation but the staff seemed eager ot get Gordon IV on the field as soon as they could while retaining his redshirt.

As mentioned earlier, I’m avoiding as much speculation as possible. Personally I think there are a couple defensive ends and linebackers who may be very good. When given opportunity and time to develop, they may become All-Big Ten studs who will be obvious draft picks. But there is no way of knowing until they are given a chance to prove it. Two years ago I would not have called Kamal Martin a 5th round draft pick, but he earned it. Ky Thomas, Donald Willis, MJ Anderson, Braelin Oliver or Thomas Rush may all be worthy of playing on Sundays. But who knows.

Having guys selected for the NFL is great for the program. Very excited for the coming seasons and accolades that follow.