3 MAC players who could find their way to Cleveland Browns in 2021

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KALAMAZOO, MI – NOVEMBER 25: Kareem Hunt #3 of the Toledo Rockets runs the ball in the fourth quarter against the Western Michigan Broncos at Waldo Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Mid-American Conference football has become a Covid-19 casualty

The Mid-American Conference, home to twelve mid-sized but football-crazy midwestern universities, most of which are familiar to Cleveland Browns fans because of their easy driving distance to northeast Ohio, has officially crashed and burned as of August 8.

Within hours of publishing a Dawg Pound Daily article pointing out the risky nature of the 2020 college football season, especially outside the Power Five conferences, the MAC announced that its entire season has been at least postponed till spring or perhaps canceled altogether, making it problematic how a MAC player could make the Browns or another NFL team next year.

Though outside the NFL Power Five, the MAC has produced more than its share of professional star players, including Kareem Hunt (Toledo Rockets, Cleveland Browns), JoJo Natson (Akron Zips, Cleveland Browns), Khalil Mack (Buffalo Bulls, Chicago Bears); Ben Roethlisberger (Miami RedHawks, Pittsburgh Steelers), Julian Edelman (Kent State Golden Flashes, New England Patriots), Eric Fisher (Central Michigan Chippewas, Kansas City Chiefs) and approximately 70 players in all.

MAC teams benefit financially when they play major conference teams, and allow their football team to get pasted by the big boys. This year, however, many of the major conferences have said they will only play in-conference games, meaning that MAC conference schools will not get a payday. Well, heck with that, they figure. If the players are incurring more risk, and the NCAA is no longer throwing them a bone, there may not be a compelling reason to play the games.

The MAC says they may play in the spring next year, which is great, except that that is when the NFL draft is supposed to take place at that time. How’s that supposed to work out? Probably not very well, for those players seeking pro careers.

On the other hand, for the mid-tier and non-scholarship athletes with no pro future, who just want to play football one more year, that could be an acceptable path forward, if not an ideal one.

The 2020 college football season is crucial to those players with a borderline chance of making the NFL, who could possibly make it if they improved their skills by playing one more season against tough competition. They may be able to play this season for other college teams. Details will be worked out, but it is expected that there will be a significant exodus of players who will transfer and be granted immediate eligibility due to the unusual circumstances.

Some of the better players of the MAC could wind up in Power Five and tip the balance of power.  Others may resurface in the Canadian Football League or XFL if that league can be resurrected one more time.

The players who are really good — the MAC superstars — and still going to go to the pros. It might set them back a few spots in the draft, but even if they have to sit out an entire year, it’s not that much different than missing a year due to an injury. With that in mind, three top players are listed who have a very good chance of going to the NFL and becoming starters.

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