Media coverage of the 2021 NFL Draft could be as exciting as ever for Minnesota sports fans thanks to a trio of players who are already being talked about as potential high picks.
The most obvious of the college football stars who projects to be a high pick is Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who was a dominant force in his sophomore season with 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports already has Bateman ranked as the sixth-best prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. raved about Bateman and the guy throwing him passes, Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan, in a recent interview with 247Sports about his favorite 2021 draft hopefuls.
“Good group,” Kiper said. “Justin Fields, Ohio State, is going to be right there. I like Tanner Morgan at Minnesota in terms of quarterbacks but not as a top group. Look at Penei Sewell the offensive tackle at Oregon, Micah Parsons the linebacker from Penn State. Gregory Rousseau if he builds on what we saw at Miami at defensive end last year. He gets after the quarterback. And I like Rashod Bateman, catching those passes from Tanner Morgan, a great receiver at Minnesota.”
Morgan threw for 3,253 yards with 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions to help the Gophers go 11-2 and win the Outback Bowl.
The third player with Minnesota ties who could rise up draft boards over the next 11 months is NDSU quarterback Trey Lance, who is already being regarded as a player to watch.
Lance, a Marshall, Minnesota, native, led the Bison to another FCS national championship in his first year as starting quarterback while throwing for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
ESPN included Lance in a story touting eight quarterback names to know for 2021.
"At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, Lance has physicality and good mobility, and plenty of NFL folks have already taken notice. The question is how his skill set translates to a higher level of competition. He has never thrown a pass against an FBS foe, and his playoff numbers -- 60% completion rate with five passing TDs over four games -- didn't exactly match his regular-season production. Lance, who will be a third-year sophomore, is a wild card, but the upside is tremendous."
The two quarterbacks who are already considered the best entering the 2021 draft are Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields.