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Identifying the stock of players who opted out of the 2020 season remains difficult

For the players who sat out the 2020 NCAA season, figuring where they belong in the 2021 NFL Draft class isn’t quite clear.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As if 2020 wasn’t difficult enough, entering the 2021 NFL Draft there is a contingent of players who opted out of their last college season, with the outlier who played for a team who had their season canceled.

COVID-19 took away a lot for players looking to turn to the professional ranks, but when it comes to evaluating these prospects who missed most, or all, of their 2020 season, trying to identify their draft stock is anything but easy.

ESPN Senior Writer Jeff Legwold looked at these players who opted-out of last season, and whether their stock is rising or falling leading into the 2021 NFL Draft. See what he had to say below:

The prospects who opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic have teams relying on methods they’ve used in the past for prospects who missed the season before they entered the draft. Rob Gronkowski, who did not play his final season at Arizona due to a back injury, was a tidy 270-pound Super Bowl reminder that body of work is important in this process. He was the No. 42 overall pick in 2010.

Evaluators have tried to make the best of what they saw at the Senior Bowl in January and the pro days of some of the opt-out players. Stanford’s Paulson Adebo, for example, is still a tough call for some as the two-time All-Pac 12 pick had an injury end his 2019 season nine starts in and he opted out in 2020.

Overall, there will be some fluctuations between how the opt-out season impacts a variety of prospects, with each team having its own criteria for how those players are graded. From my discussions with scouts and personnel executives, here are a few who could be placed in two categories:

Opt-out prospects teams still love:

  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  • Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (played until November before opting out)

Opt-out players who have spurred debate and could drop:

  • Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
  • Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
  • Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
  • Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest

When you look at the players whose stock might be falling, you have to wonder which team will take a chance on these prospects. It isn’t as if they lost talent in a season off, but they might just need a chance to prove themselves.

This could provide some tremendous value in the middle rounds of the draft for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who might not have the high draft selections, or overall draft capital. What would you think about drafting a player who didn’t play in 2020? Let us know in the comment section below, and he sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.