The first of the ‘Big Three’ all-star games gets underway this week, as we at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will kick off our virtual NFLPA U experience on Wednesday! Players chosen for the 10th annual experience will receive recognition for being identified as a top prospect by the NFLPA Bowl scouting department, in addition to the NFL Players Association providing an virtual educational program that helps players transition to the pros.
Several key speakers will be part of the two-day event, which will be hosted by ESPN’s Maria Taylor and Ryan Clark. Former NFL GM John Dorsey will share perspective on what management looks for and expects from players. Also, NFL legends such as Michael Vick, Terrell Davis, Brian Dawkins and Deion Sanders, along with active stars like Cameron Jordan, Jaylon Smith and Todd Gurley, will provide unfiltered wisdom to the participants about the business of football along with the resources available through the NFLPA.
As the union for the players and by the players, we at the NFLPA are excited to prepare prospects for the next level and introduce these future members to their union!
In anticipation of that, we highlight some notable prospects who have accepted their invitation to the 2021 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl:
Zac Thomas, QB, Appalachian State
Appalachian State signal-caller Zac Thomas is viewed as one of the premier senior quarterback prospects for the 2021 draft class. A three-year starter, Thomas finished his Mountaineers career with nearly 7,000 passing yards and 69 touchdowns, to just 23 interceptions, while completing 63% of his passes. Thomas helped establish a winning culture for the football program, while providing great leadership and demonstrating excellent maturity. His cerebral awareness and knowledge of the playbook are through the roof, which equates to a strong foundation for him to build off as he pursues an NFL career. Thomas should have a lot of appeal on Day Three of the NFL Draft to organizations looking to develop a quality backup quarterback.
Had a chance to speak with @AppState_FB QB Zac Thomas, one of the better senior prospects in this year’s class. His maturity, knowledge of the game and recollection of the playbook was highly impressive. No surprise by his success (32-6 as starter), projects as quality #NFL🎯🎯🎯 pic.twitter.com/MJp1facmoK
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) January 1, 2021
Chris Evans, RB, Michigan
A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Michigan running back Chris Evans didn’t quite live up to the hype; but there is no denying the exceptional athleticism and overall talent he possesses. Evans is an elusive open-field runner, able to make defenders miss and pick up yards after contact. He has also proven to be an adequate pass-catcher out of the backfield and while he was limited to just 25 touches (160 yards) for the Wolverines this past season as a senior, his skillset should warrant him a look as a priority free agent and potential third-down back at the next level.
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No. 5 Michigan’s 6’5” 240lb monster QB Joe Milton. Currently NR in my database for 2021 QBs. He’s got a cannon and can move!Could be a big riser. pic.twitter.com/xc6SJnOxZ7
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) October 23, 2020
Foster Sarell, OL, Stanford
Stanford offensive lineman Foster Sarell is coming off a stellar senior campaign for The Cardinal, helping them get back to their winning ways in 2020. Sarell was dominant at times this past season manning the right tackle position and finishes his Stanford career starting 17 of 18 games at right tackle, including 15 consecutive starts to finish. His technique, fundamentals, strength and smarts more than compensate for any athletic shortcomings. In fact, there is buzz among NFL circles that Sarell could in fact be selected ahead of his more highly publicized teammate Walker Little, once considered to be a first-round prospect prior to injuries. While Sarell is currently flying under the radar among the mainstream media, NFL front offices are well aware of his potential. Don’t be surprised to see him go on to a long, successful NFL career as a starter.
— Foster Sarell (@thebigfozbear) December 30, 2020
Tavante Beckett, LB, Marshall
Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett is no stranger to adversity after transferring from Virginia Tech to Marshall to finish up his collegiate career. He did so with a bang, earning Conference USA 2020 Defensive Player of the Year honors while racking up 90 tackles (7.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in nine games played. While he may be viewed a bit undersized to man the linebacker position at the next level, Beckett has experience playing at safety and in the nickel. His versatility and instincts bode well for his next level aspirations, and he loves to lay the lumber when presented with the opportunity. Look for Beckett to receive every opportunity to earn his way onto a 53-man roster as a late-round selection/priority free agent. Special teams will be his ticket in.
It was a pleasure having the opportunity to speak with @HerdFB LB Tavante Beckett who exemplifies redemption. After off-field adversity at Virginia Tech, he bounced back to become a team captain and @ConferenceUSA DPOY at Marshall. Intense. Studious. Could thrive as UTL LB/SS/ST. pic.twitter.com/wLudjFbRer
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) January 6, 2021
Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Central Arkansas was in action early and often during the college football season, an impressive feat for an FCS program during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest beneficiaries was senior cornerback prospect Robert Rochell, who created a bit of a buzz for himself with his electric speed, nose for the football and excitement generated with the ball in his hands going the other way. The Shreveport, Louisiana native was constantly around the football, finishing with 27 tackles, creating a forced fumble and scooping up another for a 35-yard return. His résumé includes 10 interceptions and nearly 40 pass breakups during his 38-game Bears career. Blessed with prototypical height and premier speed, Rochell stands a very strong chance to be one of the few small school prospects to hear his name called during draft weekend.
DB coaches always instruct to become the receiver when the ball is in the air. @UCA_Football CB #9 Robert Rochell (@scootaa11) took it to heart on this play vs WKU. Rochell has that coveted length #NFL teams desire & is 1 reason why he’s high on the @NFLPABowl list!#BearClawsUp pic.twitter.com/0fWqJt7z6z
— Dane Vandernat (@DVandernat) July 14, 2020
*Tune-in every Thursday to ‘The State of Football’ for the latest NFLPA Collegiate Bowl buzz, featuring director of college recruiting Dane Vandernat at @NFLDraftBible!