Here are the top five players with Minnesota connections expected to be selected in this week's NFL draft.
QB TREY LANCE
College: North Dakota St. | Hometown: Marshall, Minn.
He may not get drafted first, second or even third among quarterbacks, but Lance has a rare skill set expected to make him the second Bison passer taken with a first-round pick in six years. The Marshall, Minn. native is a physical marvel with intelligence, a cannon arm, and a 6-foot-4, 224-pound frame fit for tight end. If he can overcome accuracy issues and land in the right system, analysts have compared his ceiling to Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
WR RASHOD BATEMAN
College: Minnesota | Hometown: Tifton, Ga.
The former Gophers star receiver could be the program's first opening-round draft pick since 2006 and running back Laurence Maroney. What has many expecting Bateman to be a first-round pick is his ridiculous production – 60 catches for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019 – coming from a crisp route runner with sure hands. Bateman (6-0, 190 pounds) isn't the biggest target, but he plays big, ranking eighth in the FBS in broken tackles during his college career, per Pro Football Focus. Mock draft analysts have him as a late first-round pick to the Ravens, Packers, and Bears, among others.
OT DILLON RADUNZ
College: North Dakota St. | Hometown: Becker, Minn.
Radunz started 32 straight games as the Bison left tackle, and likely improved his standing among NFL teams after a strong Senior Bowl in January, when Radunz was named the practice player of the week. At 6-foot-4 and 301 pounds, he's one of many intriguing offensive tackles in a class loaded with tall, athletic blockers. While pre-draft chatter sticks on teammate Trey Lance's experience in NDSU's pro-style offense, Radunz will benefit from a varied playbook, too. He's projected as a likely second or third-round pick.
CB BENJAMIN ST-JUSTE
College: Minnesota | Hometown: Montreal
St-Juste (6-0, 202 pounds) is "everybody's favorite mid-round cornerback," according to NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah. The Canadian transferred from Michigan to Minnesota in 2019 and started 14 games the past two seasons. While he's got limited experience, he has an intriguing combination of height, length, and aggressiveness that NFL teams like at cornerback. St-Juste was a strong tackler at Minnesota who broke up 10 passes in 2019. He's projected as more of a developmental prospect than pro-ready.
DE ELERSON SMITH
College: Northern Iowa | Hometown: Minneapolis
The former Minneapolis South tight end said he's gained 70 pounds – including 20 pounds since he last played a football game for Northern Iowa in 2019 – during his college transformation into an edge rusher. Smith drew strong reviews at the Senior Bowl in January, when he faced FBS-level competition in front of pro scouts. Listed 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, Smith could still be asked to get even bigger for the NFL. But his impressive ascension could make him a late-round developmental pick.