Seven Missouri Valley Football Conference players have been evaluated and ranked by NFL.com and ESPN heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 2021 NFL Draft takes place on April 29-May 1 and this year there could be seven players from the Missouri Valley Football Conference that are drafted into the league. This isn't to say that all seven of these players will be drafted, nor does it say that there aren't other players from the conference that could be looked at, but this is off of the evaluations of NFL.com and ESPN and their mock draft projections and prospect lists.

Many are aware of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance and the potential for him to be an early first-round selection. Lance has even been projected as high as the third overall pick. NDSU has two players that have been graded. Northern Iowa and Illinois State both have two players rated, while South Dakota State has one.

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Below are the scouting reports from both NFL and ESPN. Click on the links to read the entire scouting report for each player from each website.

North Dakota State

Trey Lance, QB

  • NFL.com - 1st Round Selection, 6.47 Grade, and comparison to Josh Allen
    • "He’s a rare dual-threat quarterback in that he’s tasked with setting his own protections and reading the full field. Coaches rave about his football IQ and film work. They believe he will come into the league more football savvy than most of the quarterbacks in this draft. Tape shows very average arm strength but velocity should improve with better lower-body drive. While his recognition of coverage danger is a plus, he’s currently more of a "yellow light" quarterback who needs to find a "green light" risk-taking mentality to become a playmaking talent in the NFL."
  • ESPN - 3rd rated overall QB, 10th overall prospect, 92/100 grade.
    • "Lance has fast eyes and does an exceptional job with ball security. He shows good downfield touch, but his biggest weakness is a lack of consistently accurate ball placement, especially on shorter throws and throws outside the hashes. He wasn't asked to make many anticipatory throws at NDSU. He's a bruising runner with good top-end speed. Lance's relative inexperience (17 starts) and FCS level of competition are concerns, but he has elite physical abilities."

Dillon Radunz, OT

  • NFL - 6.25 Grade, Compared to Alex Lewis
    • "He appears to be a better run blocker than pass protector and might be best suited as a guard for teams utilizing gap and inside-zone running schemes. He could become a quality backup or eventual starter if he finds the right fit."
  • ESPN - 8th rated OT, 66th Overall Prospect, 79/100 Grade
    • "He still needs to add bulk and continue to improve his lower-body strength. He is, however, an excellent athlete for the position and a smooth mover. He gets set quickly and mirrors effectively in pass pro, though he gives too much ground at times."

South Dakota State

Cade Johnson, WR

  • NFL - 6.26 Grade, Compared to Dennis Northcutt
    • "His routes are a little rounded and he doesn't have much of a catch radius. However, he does have the ability to add yards after the catch and offers kick-return value. College teams missed with this former FCS walk-on, but NFL teams should pay attention. He has starting slot upside."
  • ESPN - 16th Rated WR, 92nd Overall Prospect, 72/100 Grade.
    • "He has the toughness to make plays in traffic over the middle. He's a hands catcher, but he's a small target with very short arms. Johnson doesn't have a high ceiling, but he has the tools to push for the No. 3 role early in his career and compete for a kickoff-return role as a rookie"

Northern Iowa

Spencer Brown, OT

  • NFL - 6.25 Grade, Compared to Jared Veldheer. Expected Round 2-3
    • "Towering tackle prospect with the hands, feet and length in place to become a quality pass protector on the next level. Despite playing right tackle his entire career at Northern Iowa, Brown has the athleticism to give it a go on the left side if a team desires. He's packed on weight and muscle over the years but his performance at the Senior Bowl practices showed that there is still work to do in terms of improving his core strength to offset his high center of gravity. He can play in a variety of run schemes but he will be at his best on the move, where his foot quickness will give him an advantage in finding the angles."
  • ESPN - 11th Ranked OT, 97th Overall Prospect, 71/100 Grade.
    • "He overwhelms second-level defenders. He has a powerful punch and does a good job of resetting his hands in pass pro. He over-sets and loses inside-out leverage. He struggled with speed to power and quick inside moves the week of the Senior Bowl. He's an effective leader with an excellent work ethic."

Elerson Smith, OLB/Edge

  • NFL - 5.90 Grade, No NFL Comparison. Expected Round 4-5
    • "He's tall and continues to fill out his long frame with quality muscle, but he's still relatively lean in his lower body. Seemed out of position when matched up as a four- or five-technique, where bigger players were able to work him over at times. Despite that issue, Smith has been a consistent fighter and grappler at the point of attack and rarely gives in."
  • ESPN - 6th Rated OLB, 136th Overall Prospect, 65/100
    • "He has a quick inside move and flashes a push-pull move. He flashes speed-to-power and is effective when he kicks inside to rush the passer. He plays with too much forward lean and ends up on the ground at times. Smith has the tools to push for the No. 3 role at 3-4 OLB or defensive end early in his career."

Illinois State

Christian Uphoff, S

  • NFL - 6.00 Grade, Compared to Chris Conte.
    • "Tape shows an instinctive player who can be a little inconsistent in responding to what he sees. He's tough and physical enough to cover tight ends and play near the line of scrimmage in run support. His angles to the football and inconsistencies as an open-field tackler are a little concerning, but he should be an early backup with the upside to develop into a starter."
  • ESPN - 23rd Rated Safety, 233rd Overall Prospect, 40/100 Grade
    • "He's not a center fielder, and we have concerns about his ability to match up with slot receivers. He plays downhill and flashes above-average stopping power in run support. His angles are inconsistent, and he's an inconsistent tackler. Uphoff grades out as a core special-teams player who provides depth at safety."

Drew Himmelman, OT

  • NFL - 5.69 Grade, No NFL Comparison, Round 7 or Preferred Free Agent
    • "He'll be immediately lumped into the category of extremely tall tackles who struggle with anchor and reactive quickness due to the high center of gravity. There is no question Himmelman is way behind with his functional power and ability to utilize his length at an optimal level. He's a quality athlete who should be able to handle most move-blocking duties"
  • ESPN - 24th Rated OT, 327th Overall Prospect, 30/100 Grade
    • "Himmelman started 35 games at left tackle. He played tight end in high school and moves well for his size. He has below-average length and overextends at times. He gives too much ground in pass pro. Himmelman grades out as a reserve tackle with some upside and a unique frame."

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