Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields? With the 2020 NFL Draft already in the rearview mirror, experts are already projecting the Clemson and Ohio State signal callers to be among the top picks in next year’s annual event. But which Colorado Buffaloes could hear their names called next April? Here’s an early look at the Buffaloes most likely to be drafted in 2021:
Mustafa Johnson, Defensive end
A Junior College transfer, Johnson broke out during his first season with the Buffaloes. In 2018 he led the Pac-12 with a 0.62 sacks per game (7 1/2 sacks in 12 games) average and finished fourth in the league with 17 total tackles for loss. As a result, the 6’2”, 290-pound defensive end was projected to forgo his senior season in Boulder, Colo. and be a first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Hampered by an ankle injury, Johnson took a step back during his junior year. He still managed to finish with four and half sacks in nine games, including three against rival Nebraska. Johnson has all the talent in the world, but most likely needs a solid senior year to jump back into first round consideration.
Nate Landman, Inside Linebacker
Born in Zimbabwe where his father played international rugby, it’s no surprise Nate Landman has been nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ by his Buffaloes’ teammates. The 6’3”, 230-pound inside linebacker led the Buffs in total tackles (217) and solo tackles (148) each of the last two seasons. He’s also registered 23 tackles-for-loss, six sacks and three interceptions in that span. Landman is an excellent tackler and has a great instinct for the ball, especially in passing situations, but unfortunately, he lacks the top speed to be considered a day one or two selection. Look for him to go off the board late on day three next April.
K.D. Nixon, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner
Like his DeSoto High School (DeSoto, Tex.) and Buffaloes teammate Laviska Shenault Jr., Nixon declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season, but quickly reversed course. Once the second or third option in the Buffaloes passing game, the 5’8”, 180-pound speedster will be the team’s number one wideout threat this year. In three seasons in Boulder, Nixon has played in 30 games and accumulated 89 receptions for 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns. He also averaged 23.4 yards per kick return last season, which ranked 33rd among all FBS players.
Had Nixon followed through with his original NFL draft declaration, he might have been towards the bottom tier of a very deep 2020 wide receiver class. Unfortunately, the 2021 wide receiver class could be loaded as well if juniors like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Clemson’s Justyn Ross, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and Purdue’s Rondale Moore leave early. Without question, Nixon has the talent to be an NFL receiver, but like Landman, he’ll need a big senior year and great combine workout if he hopes to be anything more than a late round pick.
Terrance Lang, Defensive End
The 6’7”, 280-pound defensive end led the Buffaloes with five and a half sacks last season. Another big season in 2020, and don’t be surprised if you see the one-time USC commit test the NFL waters.
Will Sherman, Offensive Lineman
Sherman has started the last 20 games for the Buffaloes and is expected to anchor the offensive line this year. However, should the 6’5, 310-pounder declare early, he’ll be up against a stacked group of offensive tackle prospects including Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Stanford’s Walker Little.