In last week’s Notebook, I predicted that the Big Ten and Pac 12 would be canceling their seasons soon. The next day, both conferences did just that, becoming the first two Power 5 conferences to shut down for 2020. That means there will be several NFL prospects that have already taken their final college snap. Today, we’re going to look at five high-level prospects that are likely to enter the 2021 NFL Draft that you won’t see in action in 2020, but the Bills would be wise to keep these players on their draft boards.
5) Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The Bills have worked hard to improve their skill positions over the past few seasons. The receivers room is deep and talented, and Zack Moss and Devin Singletary are two young, explosive players that both figured to be very involved every week. The tight end position could benefit from the addition of an explosive pass catcher, and that’s what Freiermuth is. Nicknamed “Baby Gronk,” he’s already 6’5, 259 lbs but is quick, agile, and has very soft hands. Even though he’s only played two seasons in State College, he’s already the program’s all-time leader in TD receptions by a tight end. If he declares for the draft, the Bills might give him a serious look in the 2nd round.
4) Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Mayfield is an interesting player. He’s very inexperienced, having played only one college season as a redshirt freshman in 2019. He has only 13 career starts. Mayfield was solid at right tackle for Michigan but not dominant. Then came the regular-season finale against Ohio State and Mayfield completely shut down Chase Young. Michigan’s coaching staff left Mayfield one-on-one with Young for much of the game, and he not only held his own, he actually won the matchup. Mayfield offers good size (6-5, 319), the ability to play right or left tackle, and elite athleticism. If he played in 2020, he very well could have grown himself into a top 10-15 pick. Now without a season, Mayfield might drop a few spots, which is good news for Buffalo, who might be able to scoop him up in the back half of the first round.
3) Jay Tufele, DT, USC
Tufele is another young guy who had the potential to blow up in 2020. Through two seasons at USC, Tufele has proven to be a disruptive force in the middle, and with solid athleticism and quickness, it appears he has a ways to go before he hits his ceiling. The Bills are already deep at DT, though Tufele may offer more upside than anyone not named Ed Oliver. With 7.5 sacks through two seasons, Tufele has shown the ability to rush the passer from the interior. His run defense improved dramatically in his sophomore season. Without the benefit of a 2020 campaign, he could be a player who slides farther than he should.
2) Walker Little, OT, Stanford
The last 12 months have been very unfortunate for Walker Little. In the 2019 season opener, Little suffered a season-ending knee injury. Prior to the injury, Little was regarded as a potential top 10 pick. Had he still declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, he likely would have been a late first/early second-round pick. Instead, Little chose to return to Stanford for his senior season with hopes of boosting his draft stock by proving he was healthy. Now his senior season has been canceled. Little has the perfect size for a franchise left tackle at 6’7, 320 lbs. He’s a good run blocker and an elite pass protector. He also plays with a nasty streak that you like to see from your big guys up front. Walker Little is an elite LT prospect that unfortunately won’t have the opportunity to prove that he is healthy. That could be good news for the Bills, who may find themselves with a chance to steal a franchise tackle later in the first round.
1) Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons is one of a handful of elite, proven defenders in college football. Had he been eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft, he likely would have been a top 15 pick. Prior to the Big Ten canceling the season, it was expected that Parsons would continue his ascension and would grow into a top 10, possibly even a top 5 overall pick. NFL scouts are well aware of Parsons talent, and I wouldn’t expect him to drop out of the top 15 picks. This draft, however, promises to be one of the most unpredictable drafts we’ve ever seen. In his true sophomore season, Parsons totaled 109 tackles, 5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. He has elite instincts and athleticism. At 6-3, 245 lbs, he offers the flexibility to play inside or outside. From stopping the run to rushing the passer to covering backs and tight ends, there isn’t anything that Parsons isn’t good at. It’s not likely the Bills will have an opportunity to add such a game-changing talent, but football is unpredictable. If injuries or coronavirus cause the Bills to have a bit of a down season, they could be in position to add a superstar like Parsons.