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Wednesday, August 04, 2021
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2021 NFL Draft projections for UB’s top prospects

Koonce, Patterson headline a deep class for the Bulls

Malcolm Koonce is a projected mid-to-late round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Malcolm Koonce is a projected mid-to-late round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, last year’s crop of UB players are angling for one of the 259 coveted spots in the annual event. 

After an undefeated regular season and a Camellia Bowl victory over Marshall, the Bulls have a number of players ready to hear their names called over the weekend in Cleveland. 

Running back Jaret Patterson, defensive end Malcolm Koonce, wide receiver Antonio Nunn and offensive tackle Kayode Awowsika have all emerged as potential draft picks.

Here’s where draft analysts predict UB’s top 2021 Draft prospects will fall:

Jaret Patterson 

Class: Junior 

Position: Running back 

Patterson attained stardom during his time at UB, putting up historic numbers in 2019 and 2020. The first-team All-MAC selection rushed for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in just six games during the 2020 campaign. Patterson, a Glendale, MD native, led the nation in rushing at 178.7 yards per game. 

NFL scouts project Patterson to go off the board somewhere around the sixth round. He received a 5.98 draft grade from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, meaning he projects as a backup and special-teamer on most NFL teams. 

“There’s some pretty good depth at running back this year,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “You don’t see Patterson early. You see him more as a number two back.” 

Patterson’s strengths include impressive ball security and a compact build with a low center of gravity. Patterson has been praised for his impressive work ethic and humility at UB. He runs with pure force and was one of the most difficult running backs in the nation to bring down during the 2020 season. 

Outside of the running game, Patterson didn’t pose much of a threat to opposing defenses during his collegiate career. He was rarely used in the passing game in his time at UB, catching only 20 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown in three seasons. Patterson didn’t catch a single pass during the 2020 season. 

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The NFL has transformed into a pass-heavy league, so in order for Patterson to receive greater opportunities, he’ll need to become a threat in the passing game. Some analysts attribute Patterson’s strong play to his top-ranked offensive line and lower-level competition in the Mid-American Conference. 

Pro Football Focus: New York Jets (Round 6, Pick 226)

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Denver Broncos (Round 6, Pick 191)

Walter Football: UDFA

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Green Bay Packers (Round 6, Pick 214)

Malcolm Koonce 

Class: Senior 

Position: Defensive end/Outside linebacker

Koonce emerged as a major contributor for the Bulls in 2019, totaling 34 tackles and a MAC-best nine sacks in 13 games. Koonce was also recognized as the Bahamas Bowl Defensive MVP after recording five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Bulls’ 31-9 victory over Charlotte that December. In just six games in 2020, Koonce totaled five sacks and 30 tackles and was named first-team All-MAC for his efforts. 

Koonce has been projected as a Day Two or Three pick. But, Mel Kiper Jr. threw a curveball in one of his latest mock drafts when he projected Koonce to be picked No. 41 overall by the Detroit Lions. 

“Koonce is a natural pass-rusher who had 14 sacks over the past two seasons,” Kiper Jr. said. “He has great length and can be disruptive as a situational edge defender. He’s being underrated in the lead-up to this draft.” 

Kiper Jr. and fellow draft analyst Todd McShay’s latest mock draft revised Koonce’s draft position to the end of the second round. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranks Koonce as his 106th-best prospect. 

Koonce has been lauded for his tenacity and 33 inch arm length, which allow him to disrupt both the running and passing game. Over the past two seasons, Koonce has been one of the most productive players in the MAC, recording 14 sacks and 63 tackles.  

Koonce will need to improve his strength as a tackler and mechanical issues with his hand chops and spin moves in order to become an impact player at the next level, Zierlein wrote in his profile of Koonce for NFL.com Zierlein projected Koonce to be picked in Round Five. 

Pro Football Focus: Denver Broncos (Round 5, Pick 156)

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Baltimore Ravens (Round 3, Pick 104)

Walter Football: Green Bay Packers (Round 6, Pick 220)

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Tennessee Titans (Round 7, Pick 232)

Antonio Nunn 

Class: Senior 

Position: Wide receiver 

Nunn was the top receiver in an offense that prioritized the running game, but his production as a pass-catcher shouldn’t go unnoticed. 

The Tampa native is projected as either a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent by analysts.

In 2020, Nunn led the Bulls with 37 catches for 584 yards and two touchdowns and was named to the All-MAC second team. 

Nunn received a 5.58 draft grade from Zierlein, who projects Nunn to be a UDFA. Zierlein says Nunn is an option for teams in need of a speedy and well-built receiver. 

“Nunn has great size and acceleration,” Zierlein said. “He has outstanding instincts when it comes to altering tempo to help keep his body between the defender and the football.” 

Nunn has a strong build that allows him to take big hits after the catch, suggesting he could be a solid slot option at the next level, according to Zierlein. His speed is the main attraction for most scouts, since he can change direction in the blink of an eye and can accelerate past defenders. 

Nunn has occasionally dropped easy passes and his hands measure less than nine inches, which is small for a wide receiver and could limit his ability to make grabs in traffic. Working with a wide receiver coach who can refine his already impressive route running mechanics and cutting could propel him onto an NFL roster. 

Pro Football Focus: Houston Texans (Round 6, Pick 203)

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: UDFA

Walter Football: UDFA

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: UDFA

Kayode Awosika 

Class: Senior 

Position: Offensive lineman 

Awosika came to UB as a right tackle but shifted to left tackle for the 2020 season, when he started all seven games and earned first-team All-MAC honors. Awosika helped  pave the way for Patterson’s historic season. 

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Kayode Awosika (73) and Jaret Patterson (26) are two of UB's most promising 2021 NFL Draft prospects.

Awosika is projected to come off the board at the end of the draft or sign as an undrafted free agent. He received a 5.68 draft grade by Zierlein, who acknowledged Awosika’s play on one of the best offensive line units in college football last season. 

“Awosika was one of the pivotal offensive lineman for a rushing unit that pounded opponents throughout the season,” Zierlein said. “He has a guard’s frame and decent leg drive that can be improved with a wider base and better hand placement through contact.” 

Awosika   was a three-year starter at UB and gained experience at both tackle positions. He regularly moves his feet through contact while exhibiting above-average hand strength. 

Awosika may struggle when matched against speedy NFL pass-rushers due to his upright and rigid stance in passing sets. Awosika stands at 6-foot-3, 307 lbs so his strength isn’t a concern but scouts say he needs to work on his athleticism. An improvement in technique will yield a higher draft stock and outweigh his athletic weaknesses. 

Pro Football Focus: UDFA

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: UDFA

Walter Football: UDFA

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: UDFA

Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at hunter.skoczylas@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @HunterSkoczylas


HUNTER SKOCZYLAS

Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, posting memes on Twitter, and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills. 

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