If you've ever wondered whether NFL execs watch Alabama or Clemson or LSU and say, "yeah, sure, I'll take all of that, thank you very much," turns out your hunch was correct. During Thursday night's first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, four teams -- the Dolphins, Eagles, Bengals and Jaguars -- reunited two former college stars from the same team.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 overall to the Jags and was later paired back up with his college running back Travis Eteinne, who was drafted at No. 25 overall. Of the four, they were the only two to be drafted by the same team in the same year. The Dolphins (QB Tua Tagovailoa and WR Jaylen Waddle) and Eagles (QB Jalen Hurts and WR DeVonta Smith) paired up old tandems from Alabama's truly monster run of the past four years. Meanwhile, the Bengals added wideout Ja'Marr Chase to Joe Burrow's arsenal at No. 5 overall.
These examples aren't novel, but it's fun to see star tandems get drafted by the same franchise, either in the same draft or within a couple of years. Consumers of college football have watched these players grow up together, and it's nice to see that connection potentially translate to success in the pros. It doesn't always end up working out that way, but it's a chance for a unique story.
If we're looking at 2022 and beyond, here are dynamic college football tandems I'd love to see paired back up in the NFL sooner rather than later.
QB Justin Fields and WR Garrett Wilson -- Ohio State
You could go with fellow Buckeyes wideout Chris Olave here, but Chicago gave up a 2022 first-rounder to the Giants to trade up and get Fields on Thursday. I don't know exactly where Olave projects in 2022, but early indications are that he should be a first-rounder. In any case, Wilson could fill this role nicely depending on where he projects.
The Buckeyes had a top-10 rated passing offense last year with Fields, Olave and Wilson, even though they only played in eight games, including two rounds in the College Football Playoff. Pretty much two-thirds of Fields' 2100 yards passing last year went to Olave and Wilson. Together, the pair accounted for 60% of passes caught and touchdowns scored amongst the team's pass-catchers. They, along with Jaxon Smith-Njigba, make up one of the most talented wide receiver rooms in the country going into 2021.
To date, Olave has been the WR1 for Ohio State, but Wilson is 1B. If he's still available, the Bears could add a real dangerous, athletic and competitive wide receiver to the group for Fields.
QB Mac Jones and WR John Metchie III -- Alabama
Mac Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15, so they didn't have to give up anything to get him. Yes, quarterback was a need and Jones, smoke-screened all the way up to No. 3 on mock drafts everywhere, is probably fine there. But the Pats can also use a couple of upgrades at wide receiver, and I don't reckon that'll be immediately fixed come this time 2022.
That's where Metchie could come into play. On the same roster that featured first-rounders DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Metchie had two 100-yard showings and a pair of two-touchdown games last year. He looks every bit like the next great Crimson Tide wideout and WR1 for next season. If he's in that Day 1/Day 2 conversation, that could be a game-changer for New England's offense with a quarterback that's already familiar with him.
RB Breece Hall and TE Charlie Kolar -- Iowa State
Hall is draft-eligible next year and Kolar is returning for one more season. Practically the whole 2020 Cyclones starting 22 is back, but these two are a big reason why they're an offseason darling. I won't speculate on where they'll be drafted in 2022, but they are the kind of pieces I would want to add to my offense if I was building around a quarterback who needed help.
Hall is a multi-tool, every-down back who was the nation's leader in rushing yards in 2020 while Kolar was a second-team All-American and Mackey Award finalist. I won't project two superstars, per se, but they're the kind of players that have good careers. They'd be a good match on a team ready to surround a quarterback with weapons.
DT Darius Stills and DT Dante Stills -- West Virginia
There's a very Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin vibe to this next duo. Though the Stills brothers were recruited to West Virginia, Dante was the top-rated player in the state in 2018 and heralded with a four-star rating from 247Sports. Darius had two Power Five offers, and the other was from Rutgers. Throughout their careers in Morgantown, the Stills brothers have lived up to the hype, leading the team with 14 combined sacks in 2019.
Exiting WVU, Darius once again finds himself as an underdog. He's projected as a Day 3 whose drawbacks include short arms and being undersized. But Stills leaves West Virginia as one of the best defenders to come through that program in more than a decade. He is the program's first consensus All-American since Dan Mozes in 2006 and had All-Big 12 first team honors in 2019. He can play, and some team is going to get a contributor. But if the goal of that team is to build up its defensive front though the draft, these two brothers were a major bright spot for a team that needed its defense to stay in games.
QB JT Daniels and WR George Pickens -- Georgia
This year's quarterback class is supposed to be historically good. We'll see if that's the case, but also, what does that mean for 2022? There doesn't appear to be as much fanfare about it, but that could change with time. One of the players that could stand out by draft season is Daniels. He was on his way to having a perfectly fine career at USC when he had a season-ending knee injury and got Wally Pippdd by Kedon Slovis. Though he missed much of this past year recovering, he had a good final four games -- all wins -- with 307 yards passing a game, 10 touchdowns and just two picks.
The Bulldogs could finally have the more wide open offense that offensive coordinator Todd Monken was brought in to deliver a year ago. The problem is Pickens just suffered an ACL injury in March, so I don't know if he'll end up playing in 2021. If that's the case, Daniels and Pickens would have only had a few really good games together. I can see Daniels playing his way into first-round status for 2022. Pickens' injury might drop him out of that conversation, but he could be a familiar Day 2 pickup for a NFL team that is invested in Daniels already.