Group Of Five 2021 NFL Prospects

Group of Five

The Group of Five features smaller schools but there’s NFL prospects scattered throughout the teams. In the last two NFL Drafts combined (2019 & 2020), there was a total of 82 players drafted from the Group of Five conferences. I expect the trend to continue in the 2021 NFL Draft. We’re going to take a look at 15 Group of Five players that have a chance at being drafted.

I did a previous piece on 2021 NFL Draft prospects that have the chance to climb draft boards which included Warren Jackson, Reggie Roberson and Tarron Jackson. So I didn’t include them on this list.


Ronnie Rivers, RB, Fresno State

Rivers is a smaller back at 5’8, 183 pounds but he has a compact build. He’s slippery in the open field with good receiving ability. In 2019, Rivers had 43 receptions for 352 yards and 3 TD’s. Rivers won’t be an every down back but he’ll be able to operate in a role similar to the Chicago Bears Tarik Cohen. He should be a day three pick with another productive season.

Draft Prediction: 6th Round

Patrick Johnson, DE, Tulane

Out of all the Group of Five NFL prospects Johnson May be the first player selected in the draft. He’s even been slated to go in the first round in one mock draft. Johnson’s game is based around his speed and strength. He has an explosive first step which allows him to blow by tackles. Johnson can secure himself a first round selection with another productive season and some added moves to improve his consistency as a pass rusher.

Draft Prediction: 2nd Round

Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston

Stevenson is arguably the Group of Five’s most electric player. He leads the FBS with 10 catches of 50 or more yards in the last two seasons. In 2019 he was dynamic in the return game averaging 27.8 yards per kickoff return with two kickoff return TD’s. Stevenson is great on vertical routes and he’s dangerous after the catch. He shows another gear as he runs right by defenders. He needs work as a route runner but with his speed he’ll definitely get selected in the 2021 NFL draft.

Draft Prediction: 4th Round

Tariq Thompson, FS, San Diego State

Thompson has been a three year starter in the secondary for the Aztecs. He’s been a playmaker, logging 11 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles over his first three seasons. Thompson is great in coverage. According to PFF, he’s only surrendered 3 TD’s while targeted in coverage throughout his entire career. He’s a versatile player that plays multiple positions in the secondary. Last season he played over 150 snaps at both deep safety and in the box. He played the most snaps in the slot with 521. He’ll be a four year starter after the 2020 season so he’ll be able to immediately contribute at the next level.

Draft Prediction: 3rd-4th round

Shane Buechele, QB, SMU

Possibly the most talented QB the Group of Five has to offer, Buechele had a great season in 2019. He threw for 3,929 yards with 34 TD’s and 10 interceptions. Buechele throws a pretty deep ball. He has great ball placement on these throws. Last season he led the nation in pass attempts of 20 yards or more. Buechele has solid pocket presence and good mobility but his accuracy is inconsistent. Due to poor footwork, he sails a lot of easy throws. Buechele looks like a day three draft pick but he could climb into day two with improvements and another productive season.

Draft Prediction: 5th round

Carlton Martial, LB, Troy

Martial may be undersized at 5’10, 216 pounds but it doesn’t matter on the field. He’s a do it all linebacker for the Trojans’. In 2019 alone, Martial racked up 126 tackles, 18.5 TFL, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four sacks. He’s an instinctive LB that possesses the athleticism to make plays from sideline to sideline. Scouts will knock his stock down a couple notches due to his size but Martial has all the traits of a NFL LB.

Draft Prediction: 5th round

Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami(OH)

Doyle is the top offensive lineman from the Group of Five. A tough, powerful run blocker, Doyle is a mauler in the run game. He drives his feet through blocks and finishes defenders. Although he’s 6’8, 326 pounds, Doyle is a very good athlete that moves well laterally. Doyle is raw in pass protection but he’s shown promise by improving on his technique in every single season. He struggles dealing with speed rushers and sometimes defenders will get under his pads with a bull rush. With continued improvements in his game, Doyle could end up being a top 50 draft pick.

Draft Prediction: 3rd-4th Round

Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

McBride didn’t have a great start in the 2019 season but he did have a strong finish. He was selected first team all conference in the Mountain West. McBride is great after the catch due to his ability to break tackles. A reliable third down target with strong hands as evidenced by him only dropping one pass all of last season. McBride will only be a junior in 2020 but if he puts together another productive season then he’ll be on teams radar come draft time.

Draft Prediction: 5th Round

Deangelo Malone, DL, Western Kentucky

The reigning C-USA DPOY, Malone lived in opponents backfield last season. He was 5th in the nation in TFL’s with 20.5 and also recorded 11 sacks. Malone is 6’4 with long arms and an insane first step. He plays multiple positions along the defensive line for WKU but in the NFL he’ll fit best at OLB in a 3-4 defense. Malone is a raw pass rusher with limited moves but with his physical traits, he’ll be a late day two/early day three pick.

Draft Prediction: 3rd-4th round

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

Gainwell is one of the most versatile backs in the country. Last season he had 51 receptions for 610 yards and 3 TD’s to go along with 1459 rushing yards and 13 TD’s. He doesn’t just catch passes out of the backfield either, he also lines up on the outside at WR and in the slot. Gainwell is nimble in the open field. He makes defenders miss with sharp cuts and a great spin move. Gainwell can be a three down back in the NFL if he adds at least ten pounds.

Draft Prediction: 2nd Round

Corey Straughter, CB, Louisiana-Monroe

Straughter was one of the Group of Five’s top CB’s last season. According to PFF, he allowed the lowest catch rate in the nation at 28.6% and only a 13.5 passer rating. He also recorded five interceptions and 10 PBU’s. He was voted second team all american by USA Today. Straughter should be able to contribute at the next level as a 4th or 5th corner in sub packages.

Draft Prediction: 5th-6th Round

Elijah Cooks, WR, Nevada

Cooks had a good season in 2019 but he took his game to the next level in the Wolfpack’s final two games. In those two games, Cooks exploded for 348 yards on 26 receptions with one TD. He ended the season with 76 receptions, 926 yards and 8 TD’s. Cooks has the size that you want in a WR at 6’4, 215 pounds and he’s a nice athlete. He has NFL hands along with an NFL frame. Cooks is in position to have a breakout senior season.

Draft Prediction: 4th Round

Dy’Jonn Turner, CB, UAB

Turner plays a hybrid safety role for UAB. The team lists him as a safety but he played 75% of his snaps from the slot last season. He was one of the best slot corners in coverage last as he only gave up 26 receptions on 53 targets. Playing multiple roles for UAB will help Turner’s draft stock as it shows his versatility. With teams running more three and four WR sets than ever, having a DB that can contribute in multiple ways is important for added depth.

Draft Prediction: 6th Round

Damonte Coxie, WR, Memphis

Coxie is a physical, possession WR that excels at beating press coverage. He’s 6’3 with long arms so he’s able to extend for overthrown passes with no problem. Coxie’s body control is amazing. He makes a lot of catches over the middle while avoiding big hits because of this. He’s also a great blocker. Coxie’s speed is scouts biggest knock on him. Even without great speed, Coxie still possesses a lot of good traits for a WR so expect to hear his name called on day two.

Draft Prediction: 3rd Round

Malcolm Koonce, DE, Buffalo

Koonce had a breakout junior season in 2019. Emerging as one of the best pass rushers from the Group of Five. He was was named first team All-MAC after recording 9 sacks and 11 TFL. Plays with a great motor. He has great closing speed and he brings QB’s down violently. Koonce plays well with his hands and has a variety of pass rush moves. He plays DE for Buffalo but at 6’3, 250 pounds he projects more as a 3-4 edge rusher at the next level.

Draft Prediction: 3rd Round


Other Potential Group of Five NFL Draft prospects
  • Shaun Jolly, CB, Appalachian State
  • Tre Walker, WR, San Jose State
  • Christian Albright, LB, Ball State
  • Richie Grant, S, UCF
  • Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo
  • Tony Poljan, TE, CMU
  • Dwayne Johnson Jr, S/LB, San Diego State
  • Tre Walker, WR, San Jose State
  • Obinna Eze, OT, Memphis
  • Tre Nixon, WR, UCF
  • TJ Carter, CB, Memphis
  • Kylen Granson, TE, SMU
  • Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
  • James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
  • Austin Watkins, WR, UAB
  • Josh Pederson, TE, ULM

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