With the NFL Draft in the books, it’s already time to look forward to next year. The AAC produced 17 draft picks in the 2020 draft, a good year for the conference, but next year could be even better. There’s a ton of talent returning to the AAC in 2020, and many of them could push to be early picks. So why wait? Let’s take a look at some of the top players that could enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB Shane Buechele, SMU
The AAC’s top returning quarterback and former Texas Longhorn will enter the NFL Draft after 2020, but how high is his ceiling? He can go through his progressions well and put some touch on his passes, and he’s a gamer that can compete at any level.
QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
An athlete playing quarterback, Ridder’s also improving as a passer. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be drafted, but he has the potential to improve his stock in 2020.
RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
Mr. Versatile for the Tigers will get attention for his ability to do nearly everything. Arguably the best pass catching back in the country, teams will love the flexibility he gives a team. Adding some size to his frame will help more, but he has the tools to get on an NFL roster.
RB Otis Anderson, UCF
Speaking of versatile, Anderson gives the Knights what Gainwell does for Memphis. With numerous options at running back, he might have limited opportunities to showcase what he can do. Will his size shy teams away? It’s tough to say, but he has the speed and agility to be a playmaker.
RB Bentavious Thompson, UCF
Between Thompson, Otis Anderson, and Greg McCrae, Thompson has the best frame to make it in the NFL. With the competition on the roster, it might be another year before we see Thompson’s name entered in the draft, but he’s already shown flashes of what he can do.
WR Damonte Coxie, Memphis
A physical receiver who can win any 50/50 ball, Coxie will gain the attention of numerous NFL teams. He doesn’t have the ideal speed to create vertical separation, but he can make up for it with his route running.
WR Tre Nixon, UCF
If you like footwork, Nixon’s your guy. His attention to detail helps him release off the line of scrimmage, and gives him separation early in the route. With Gabriel Davis in the NFL, Nixon figures to become to go-to receiver for the Knights.
WR Reggie Roberson, SMU
For a while, Reggie Roberson was the man to stop on the Mustangs, not James Proche. With Proche gone, Roberson becomes Shane Buechele’s go-to target. If he can stay healthy the entire year, he can shoot up draft boards with his abilities.
OG Cole Schneider, UCF
Without a good offensive line, UCF wouldn’t be where it is now. Schneider was arguable the most consistent player on that line, and it’s the reason the Knights will compete for a conference title once again.
OT Obinna Eze, Memphis
The former four star came to campus with some excitement, and he’s provided the Tigers with solid play at tackle. Getting drafted will continue a streak of Memphis Tigers lineman getting drafted, and an argument can be made that he’s the best of them all.
DE Patrick Johnson, Tulane
People forget how much damage Johnson can do for Tulane. He took a step back in his production last year, but his talent is still worth noting. Teams will most likely draft him as an Edge or a linebacker, but he’s already shown that he can handle those responsibilities.
CB TJ Carter, Memphis
Arguably the best player in the conference, Carter took a step back last year, but he’s a name that NFL teams will notice. Teams took more shots on him in 2019, and should do so again this year, but Carter’s proven that he’s an elite corner with great ball skills to shut down any matchup.
CB Damarion Williams, Houston
No one really paid attention to Williams last year because the focus was literally anywhere else. Williams flashed greatness throughout the year, even against Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb (who was just drafted by the Dallas Cowboys). NFL teams will love his aggressiveness along with his ability to tackle, and the Cougars are lucky to have him another year.
S Richie Grant, UCF
One of the best safeties in all of college football, Grant brings a fearless attitude to the field. Hard hits, closing speed, and a reliable tackler, it won’t be long before the Knights safety joins an NFL team.
S Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
The Bearcats had the luxury of Forrest’s versatility last year. With the loss of James Wiggins, Forrest inherited a new role, one that will improve his draft stock. He spent a lot of time near the line of scrimmage, and led the team in tackles.
Other potential NFL Draft prospects
QB Brady White, Memphis
RB Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
WR Marquez Stevenson, Houston
TE Kylen Granson, SMU
OG Dylan Parham, Memphis
OT Jarrid Williams, Houston
OT D’Ante Smith, ECU
OT Jaylon Thomas, SMU
DT Elijah Ponder, Cincinnati
LB Diego Fagot, Navy
CB Aaron Robinson, UCF
CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
CB KJ Sails, USF
S James Wiggins, Cincinnati