Scouting the 2021 NFL Draft prospects

Weeks of intensive movie examine and a few conversations with NFL expertise evaluators have me in a draft mind set. Listed below are a number of the observations I’ve obtained and a number of the phrases on the road on the 2021 NFL Draft.

The WR class is insanely good

Florida Gators tight finish Kyle Pitts
Gainesville Solar-USA TODAY NETWORK

One of many explanation why the free agent market at WR hasn’t actually developed as anticipated is as a result of so many groups belief within the deep, proficient, diversely expert draft class that’s about to hit the league. 

There are 4 wideouts worthy of being chosen within the high 10: Jaylen Waddle, Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith. Not all can be, in fact. I think Smith is the one who drops due to his measurement, or lack thereof. Chase had an outstanding 2019 however didn’t play final season, and there are extra questions on him than some groups can be snug with to take that extremely as effectively.  

Pitts performed tight finish at Florida, however there are two NFL gamers who come to thoughts when watching him — they usually’re each (superb) exterior receivers: Mike Evans and D.Okay. Metcalf. The actual fact Pitts can align inside or movement throughout the formation provides worth. A crew in search of a standard, hand-in-dirt TE or perhaps a commonplace flex TE (suppose Travis Kelce) goes to be upset in Pitts. A crew in search of a game-breaking downfield and purple zone menace who can be utilized to dictate matchups and create mismatches within the secondary will worth him above any of the collegiate WRs on this class. I’ve a tough time seeing Pitts not being one of many first six picks off the board, and he might go as excessive as No. 2 general. 

Present WR massive board

Ja’Marr Chase
SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Community, USA TODAY NETWORK by way of Imagn Content material Companies, LLC

That is primarily based on general grade, however remember that some gamers can be higher matches with sure groups than different conditions. Staff match and choice issues!

  1. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  2. Kyle Pitts, Florida
  3. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  4. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
  5. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
  6. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
  8. Jaelon Darden, North Texas
  9. Kadarius Toney, Florida
  10. Rondale Moore, Purdue

Subsequent up, in some semblance of order: Dyami Brown, North Carolina; Elijah Moore, Ole Miss; Whop Philyor, Indiana; Anthony Schwartz, Auburn; Nico Collins, Michigan

One WR I’m not almost as excessive on as most are is LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr., who is usually projected as a late first-round prospect. Within the 2020 video games I watched (Auburn, Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina) earlier than he opted out, I noticed a lazy route runner relative to his athleticism with iffy palms who didn’t even attempt to block. There have been instances the place he flashed top-shelf skill, however he was within the effectively too usually for my tastes.  

One of the best OL within the draft

Southern California Trojans offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports activities

My highest-graded offensive lineman on this class isn’t Penei Sewell from Oregon or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. It’s Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC, and it’s not likely up for debate. 

Vera-Tucker checked each field an NFL crew can presumably need in a lineman throughout the Trojans’ 2020 season. He’s obtained excellent practical athleticism, brute energy, anchor energy, hand/shoulder/hip approach and coordination, and his footwork obtained higher the extra reps he obtained. He’s performed left guard and left sort out and might be an instantaneous NFL starter at both spot. I like him most at proper sort out, the place he could possibly be an elite presence shortly. He’s “solely” 6-foot-4, and his arms usually are not lengthy, so he’ll most likely shift again inside to protect. He’s a top-10 general expertise on this class for me, and I’d definitely let him show he can’t play sort out earlier than making the transfer to protect.  

Neither Sewell nor Slater performed in 2020, so there most likely is a case of “out of sight/out of thoughts” with their evaluations. I like them each fairly a bit, although others can be greater on Slater than I’m. There’s some nice tape and all-around skill with Slater, no query, however I fear a bit that he performs too upright and depends on recovering effectively as a tactic as a substitute of a Plan B. All three are worthy high 25 picks for me. 

On the flip aspect, I’ve but to know what some very sensible folks I sometimes belief see in Jalen Mayfield from Michigan. I see some athletic instruments however not elite ones, not like with Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw or Sam Cosmi from Texas. Mayfield barely performed 1,000 snaps in faculty, and he struggled together with his palms, anchor and skill to dictate engagement at proper sort out. There may be undoubtedly upside, however something earlier than the latter half of the third spherical is dictating an excessive amount of speedy expectation on a precocious participant who wants a number of work earlier than he can capably play within the NFL. 

Three Day 3 gamers I like quite a bit

Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes (55)
Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier by way of Imagn Content material Companies, LLC

Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue: A flexible defender who has performed each EDGE and off-ball, I liked the event in Barnes’ sport in 2020. He was visibly faster and extra alert to keep away from blocks, two of the larger questions getting into the season. On the Senior Bowl, he confirmed he has the footwork and route recognition to drop into protection and excel. He is a very good tackler who hits with fascinating malice. His vary and lateral quickness/footwork are restricted sufficient that he received’t be drafted earlier than the fourth spherical, however Barnes is a greater all-around LB than a number of gamers who’ve been drafted sooner than that in recent times. 

Jaylon Moore, OL, Western Michigan: Moore can play both sort out spot or left guard, although left sort out might be his greatest match. A highschool tight finish, he saved the athleticism and suddenness of being a talent place participant whereas he grew. Moore wants extra constant approach, however I appreciated that he wasn’t out over his skis a lot as a senior in comparison with his earlier profession. The Broncos program has quietly developed some legit NFL offensive linemen in the previous couple of years. Moore is much less NFL-ready than a few of them, however he’s a participant who can begin out as a swing sort out and emerge as a viable starter in 2022 or 2023. That’s a fifth- to sixth-round worth.  

Milton Williams, DL, Louisiana Tech: Williams might need examined his approach into the Day 2 combine, however that’s the place he’s all the time belonged. He’s a freak athlete with excellent speed-to-power and steadiness at high velocity for a 284-pounder. Williams performs within the vein of Sheldon Richardson or Leonard Williams, versatile sufficient to play as an upfield rush 3T, completely at dwelling as a 5T however fast sufficient and sensible sufficient to play exterior the sort out too. His lack of size (6-foot-3 with quick arms) will restrict him some, however Williams is a baller, girls and gents. Prime 50 expertise for me. 

Seen and overheard draft notes

Brigham Younger Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports activities

–Don’t be shocked if the tide of opinion turns in a short time on BYU QB Zach Wilson. Final month’s wunderkind has been extra below the microscope within the draft media. From what I’ve gathered, he’s already had that therapy from the NFL groups, and we’re simply catching up. Wilson is way much less a lock to be a top-five general decide than extensively assumed, although it solely takes one crew to imagine. The notion that he’s very good in 7-on-7 however not essentially 11-on-11 got here from the NFL, not the media.  

–Alabama’s Christian Barmore is a top-30 decide. After that, it’s exhausting to venture every other inside defensive lineman (one who can’t additionally play exterior) within the first three rounds. I occur to love Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike as a top-50 expertise, however that’s not an analysis shared by a number of NFL staff.  

–That is my interpretation of Mac Jones and his professional day exercise at Alabama, particularly listening to former Auburn coach Gene Chizik on the SEC Community. When Chizik talked about him as a great complementary piece and a top-half-of-draft participant, that’s the precise proper prism to view Jones. Curiously, the Crimson Tide alumni on the printed, together with former Alabama QB Greg McElroy, undoubtedly downshifted the hype and principally concurred with Chizik’s analysis. Good for them. 

I see Jones someplace between Kirk Cousins and Brian Hoyer as an NFL participant, with the potential to perhaps hiccup into being Jared Goff and even Ryan Tannehill for a 12 months or two when given an incredible supporting forged. It was refreshing to listen to folks considerably nearer to the scenario replicate those self same fundamental views and tone down the top-15 general hype. If he went to Indiana and never Alabama, there isn’t an employable NFL GM who would draft him within the first two rounds. I do just like the high-floor potential and underappreciated athleticism Jones shows, having stated that. 

–Two prospects the NFL appears greater on than the draft media, primarily based on a dialog I had with a present director of collegiate scouting after a current professional day are Kentucky LB Jamin Davis and Tulane DE Cameron Pattern. I like what I’ve seen of Davis in restricted viewing however haven’t studied Pattern past his Senior Bowl week and watching Tulane’s video games in opposition to Houston and Memphis in actual time. 

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