5 Players Who Raised 2021 NFL Draft Stock This Week

Photo: Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Next week is the conference championship games, then it’s bowl season and just like that, full slates of college football on Saturdays are behind us. Truth be told, getting 15 weeks of college football under the circumstances of 2020 feels like a miracle. While there hasn’t been much “normal” when it comes to the 2020 college football season, watching so many prospects emerge and elevate their draft stock has been exciting. Week 15 saw some offensive players put exclamation marks on outstanding seasons, while a couple of SEC linebackers also shined. 

North Carolina Running Backs 

The North Carolina running back tandem of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter has been dynamic all year long and put together their best performance of the season in Week 15. Against the Miami Hurricanes (!), Carter carried the football 24 times for 308 yards and two touchdowns while Williams compiled 236 rushing yards on 23 carries with three touchdowns. Combining for 47 carries for 544 yards and five touchdowns, the duo was literally unstoppable against a formidable Hurricanes defense. Those 544 rushing yards are the most by teammates in FBS history.

Both Tar Heel backs have logged more than 1,000 rushing yards in 11 games this season while averaging more than seven yards per carry. Carter is the lighter and shiftier back with better speed and Williams is the physical, tackle-breaker that is also a good athlete in his own right. There isn’t a better backfield in college football and both backs have surging draft stocks as the Tar Heels likely prepare to play next in the Orange Bowl. North Carolina could have two of the first five running backs off the board next spring.

Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas

Darden is having the best season nobody is talking about and features a skill set that is thriving in today’s NFL. In North Texas’ 45-43 win over UTEP, Darden hauled in eight receptions for 173 yards with four touchdowns. While his four receiving touchdowns were a season-high, 173 yards is just the third-highest total of the season. In nine games in 2020, Darden has six 100-yard outings with two eclipsing 200-yards. His 19 touchdown catches lead the country. 

Darden is an undersized receiver but what he lacks in size he makes up for in explosiveness. Darden is a dangerous vertical receiver but is also dynamic after the catch, forcing missed tackles and creating space for himself. He has the makings of a dangerous weapon at the next level that is likely to outproduce where he gets drafted if the NFL punishes him for a lack of size and because his production comes in Conference USA competition.

Jabril Cox, LB, LSU

An all-everything linebacker at North Dakota State, Cox leveled up by transferring to LSU for 2020 and cashed in his best performance of the season in the Tigers’ 37-34 upset win over Florida—which likely destroyed the Gators hopes of appearing in the college football playoffs. Cox’s performance against Florida was a resume game for him as he unleashed the full breadth of his skill set in a dominant outing. 

Cox is best known for his fluidity and ability to win in space, which showed up against Florida with several impressive open-field tackles and how he fared in coverage. Cox also received a few chances to rush the passer. He collected three quarterback hurries and performed well playing into the line of scrimmage defending the run. These were the types of games Cox was hoping to assemble when he decided to take his game to the SEC.

Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida 

Saturday’s loss to LSU was one Florida will want to forget, but lost in the disappointment was how terrific Miller played. Collecting a game-high 16 tackles, Miller registered two tackles for loss and one sack while looking comfortable in pass coverage. 

Miller’s processing skills against the run shined on Saturday. He was quick and confident diagnosing plays, attacking downhill, and finishing. Miller has played his best football later this season and his outing against LSU was his best to date.

Written By:

Joe Marino

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Joe Marino is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst at TDN. Marino comes to TDN after serving as a draft analyst for NDT Scouting, FanRag Sports and Draft Breakdown dating back to 2014. In 2017, Marino became a Huddle Report Mock Draft Champion when he produced the most accurate mock draft in the world.