2021 NFL Draft spotlight: Cincinnati secondary is the real deal

The state of Ohio will have several key NFL Draft prospects on display this weekend in a pair of big games involving Ohio State and Cincinnati.

Out of sight, out of mind can be quite powerful. While Ohio State’s game against Maryland was called off due to COVID-19 concerns, Kyle Trask was carving up the SEC, breaking both school and conference records. This weekend, Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields looks to remind the nation who the real Heisman front-runner should be when Ohio State plays No. 9 Indiana this weekend.

Down the road in Cincinnati, the Bearcats will travel to Orlando and rehash a rivalry with conference nemesis UCF. Both schools have been in the mix for both the American conference title and the New Year’s Six. In this game, the matchup to watch is the Knights’ wide receivers against one of the best secondaries in college football for the Bearcats. Cincinnati has three defensive backs with NFL potential.

Top draft prospects on display in the state of Ohio this weekend

Justin Fields, Ohio State, QB (Top 5)

Indiana’s defensive strategy will be quite interesting in their attempt to slow the prolific Fields who has more total touchdowns than incompletions this season. Fields has a quick release and could hurt the Hoosier defense if they try to blitz. On the other hand, if the Hoosiers sit back and play zone, both the receivers and Fields are good at finding the soft spots in a zone. Fields has no problem taking what the defense gives and letting those fast receivers run after the catch.

James Wiggins, Cincinnati, DB (4th Round)

James Wiggins is moving up draft boards. He was initially thought to be a priority free agent as a safety before the season started. However, he has been stellar this season, coming back from a torn ACL last season. Wiggins is the type of safety that is successful in the modern NFL. A natural ball-hawk, Wiggins had four interceptions as a sophomore in 2018. The redshirt senior has an interception, and five passes defended so far this season. Wiggins’s spot in the draft will have a lot to do with his health. Staying healthy is imperative if he wants to go in the top half of the draft.

Coby Bryant, Cincinnati, DB (5th Round)

Coby Bryant is the “lockdown” corner of this secondary. Bryant might be one of the fastest risers of any player in this draft. Initially not considered a draft prospect, Bryant has risen to the back half of the NFL draft. There is value in this round of the draft. Former All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman was drafted in the fifth-round out of Coastal Carolina. Bryant does not possess high-end speed, but his length is ideal for a team that plays zone coverage. Bryant understands leverage and how to use the sidelines as an extra defender. Bryant will have to adjust to life without being handsy since the rules in the pros are different.

Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati, DB (5th Round)

Much like his teammate Bryant, Forrest was not on the NFL radar at the beginning of the season. Because the Bearcats’ secondary has been so dominant, Forrest did play well when fellow safety James Wiggins went down with the ACL last season. Forrest is quickly rising up draft boards because of his versatility. Forrest can cover the slot or his deep half. The senior safety does not have any elite traits so that he will be limited at the next level. However, Forrest plays with great technique and preparation. Forrest is a film junkie. Forrest will definitely have to add some weight to his frame as well.

Next: Best college football QB’s of the 21st century

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