The 2021 NFL Draft runs through Thursday to Saturday, but unlike recent draft, Buffs fans will likely have to wait until Day Three for any Colorado player to be selected. Part of that is CU not having any Laviska Shenault-level prospect on the team, and part is that more players with iffy draft stock have taken advantage of a free year of eligibility for playing during a pandemic.
This is the smallest player pool in the past 20 drafts, at least. Super seniors like Nate Landman can return to school to boost their, in his case following a torn Achilles. Third-year players like redshirt sophomore Dimitri Stanley, for example, has the talent to be a mid-round pick but may feel there isn’t enough on tape to warrant a leap of faith.
There are only two Buffs who are in this draft, Will Sherman and Mustafa Johnson, as virtually every senior has returned to CU or transferred.
Will Sherman, OL
Will Sherman came to Colorado as a highly touted prospect from football powerhouse Allen High School in Texas, where he blocked for Kyler Murray as an underclassmen. He was probably the most talented lineman on CU, even during his redshirt season, so it was no surprise to see him start at right tackle early in his freshman year. From there, he was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention as freshman and All-Pac-12 second team as a junior.
Sherman is best as a run blocker moving downhill, as the Buffs ran towards his side whenever they were desperate for short yards. He was more than solid in the passing game, at both right and left tackle, although he’s may not be big or technical enough to thrive at tackle in the NFL. Teams probably see him as a tackle/guard tweener, because is a small for a tackle prospect at just 6’3 with shorter arms, and he’s not as big and strong as most guards with his 305-lbs. frame.
Sherman will likely be drafted as a developmental guard with the ability to play swing tackle or even center. His type is valuable as a rotation lineman, at the very least, and he could grow into a solid guard in a zone-blocking scheme, where quickness is prioritized over sheer girth. He’s a late round prospect with draft range between the 4th and 6th rounds, most likely.
Mustafa Johnson, DL
A late bloomer out of high school, Mustafa Johnson came to Colorado by way of Modesto Junior College, where he spent his freshman season. The Buffs had a ton of questions about the defense heading into the 2018 season, and though they Buffs lacked depth in the trenches, but they found star talent in the disruptive defensive end.
Johnson racked up a team high 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2018, thanks to his quick first step and non-stop motor. He looked even better as a junior, particularly in his demolition of Nebraska’s offensive line, but his season was affected by an ankle injury
sustained when Arizona State intentionally injured him on a chop block. His senior year was strong in both production and team success, as the Colorado defense carried them to the Alamo Bowl.
During this pre-draft process, Johnson has been derided mostly for his small stature at 6’2, 290-lbs. (Him being “small” is always hilarious, but such is football.) His draft write up on NFL.com basically says “this guy is a great athlete who works hard but he’s entirely too small for professional football.” It is fair to call him a tweener between being an edge rusher and a down lineman — and I would consider him a pass-rushing down lineman in a 3-4 defense — but there have been plenty of undersized lineman who made an impact in the pros.
Teams are likely viewing him as a priority free agent, but he’s still worth a 6th or 7th round pick. He definitely has the ability and work ethic to make the NFL, even as a depth piece.