Colorado has a bit of a streak going when it comes to producing NFL talent.
While the Buffaloes certainly are not on the level of an Alabama or Ohio State, they have had at least one player drafted in five consecutive years. That’s the longest streak for CU since an 11-year stretch from 1990-2000.
Next year, can the Buffs make it six in a row?
The 2022 NFL Draft is about 11 months away and a lot could happen between now and then, but here’s a look at CU top potential draft candidates for next year. This list includes seniors, as well as some juniors and sophomores. Given the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic gave everyone an extra year of eligibility, the juniors and sophomores could potentially all return to CU in 2022, but might also be ready to move on. The list is in order of draft potential (purely opinion and speculation, of course):
1. ILB Nate Landman, Sr.: A senior last year, Landman is taking advantage of the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility. He was having an All-American type of season in 2020 before rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in the regular-season finale. An exceptional tackler and run stopper, Landman was possibly a mid-to-late-round pick this year if healthy. If he proves healthy this fall and has a great season, he could be the first Buff off the board.
2. DE Terrance Lang, Jr.: Perhaps more than anyone on the current roster, Lang fits the mold of an NFL player. Nobody looks the part like the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Lang. He’s gotten better every year and if he continues that progression, he could be one of the top defensive linemen in the Pac-12 and potentially the first CU player drafted in 2022.
3. OT Frank Fillip, So.: Just a sophomore, but he’s entering his fourth season with the program. Injured in the spring, he hopes to be healthy by fall camp. The Buffs’ starting right tackle last year, he moves to left this year and might need a couple of seasons to prove himself more. CU’s last two left tackles were drafted in 2020 (Arlington Hambright) and 2021 (Will Sherman) and the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Fillip could follow them soon.
4. OLB Carson Wells, Jr.: He led the nation in tackles for loss per game last year. Nationally, he won’t be viewed as a top prospect going into this year, but if he’s dominant once again, he will be tough to ignore at the next level. Match his production from 2020 and he could get drafted next spring.
5. RB Jarek Broussard, So.: Like Fillip, he’s a fourth-year sophomore and he’ll be draft-eligible next year. If he is as productive in 2021 as he was in 2020, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he left for the NFL. As a smaller back (5-9, 185), though, he might need to be willing to play as a slot receiver to get NFL attention.
6. TE Brady Russell, Jr.: The NFL loves pass-catching tight ends and Russell has become of the top threats in the Pac-12. There were 11 tight ends draft this year, all of them in the first five rounds. With a healthy, productive 2021 season, Russell could be a future NFL selection.
Others to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order):
LB Robert Barnes, Jr.: A transfer from Oklahoma, he still has to prove himself at CU. He has shown positional versatility, however. If he has a great year with the Buffs, he could be a draft prospect next spring.
CB Mekhi Blackmon, Jr.: Although not as big as the top prospects at corner have been in recent years, Blackmon had a very good 2020 season. He dealt with some knee issues this spring, but if he’s healthy and has another great 2021 season, he could draw the attention of scouts.
RB Alex Fontenot, Jr.: Coming off a hip injury, Fontenot has to battle this fall just to become a starter with the Buffs. However, he may not need to be the lead back to get drafted. As long as he gets a good amount of carries and is highly productive in those carries, Fontenot could be attractive to NFL scouts. He has good size (6-foot, 205 pounds), speed and strength, and he doesn’t have a lot of wear on the tires.
OL Kary Kutsch, Sr.: A former JUCO transfer, Kutsch could finish this year as a three-year starter with experience at center and guard. His versatility, experience and size (6-5, 310) could catch the eyes of scouts.
QB Sam Noyer, Sr.: He has just six starts under his belt and the last three weren’t great, so he’s got a lot of work to do. First up is winning the job again. If he wins the job, stays healthy and has a great year, he could work himself into the draft conversation. There’s plenty of recent history of quarterbacks turning one great season into a spot in the draft.
WR Dimitri Stanley, So.: Although just a sophomore (again), he will be draft-eligible next spring. He’s got star potential and if he has a monster year as a receiver and returner, he could jump into the draft pool.