What we realized from NFL professional days: A coveted QB class, opt-out riddles and which prospects are rising


No scouting mix. No in-person visits from prospects. No enterprise as normal for these concerned within the 2021 NFL draft.

That is the second consecutive draft impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and groups have had little face-to-face time, scarce medical data, fewer video games to assessment and simply as many inquiries to reply as normal. Within the months main as much as the draft, which begins April 29, there have been professional days and … a complete lot of hoping for the most effective with digital conferences with prospects.

With the majority of these on-campus exercises now wrapped up, we scoured the outcomes and located takeaways from the athletic testing numbers, quarterback throwing periods, surprises and moments that wowed social media. Here is all the things it is advisable know from the 2021 professional days:

How much less medical data has modified the method

The largest loss for each staff this yr is what they covet most from the mix: the outcomes of prospects’ medical exams. In most years, 330-plus gamers would obtain one of the intensive medical exams of their lives on the mix as medical staffs from every staff have entry to their medical data and may look at every in particular person.

The prospects who’re flagged are despatched for extra assessments earlier than they go away the mix. And people with the most important damage questions are introduced again to Indianapolis within the weeks earlier than the draft for one more examination.

This yr, groups have tried to assemble a lot of the medical data in digital conferences with the prospects. And about 150 — these projected to be chosen over the primary two days of the draft — can be dropped at Indianapolis within the coming days for an analysis by a restricted variety of staff docs or trainers (two representatives per staff).

In consequence, groups might have far much less data on roughly 55% of the prospects who would have been invited to the mix in earlier years. A few of the middle- to late-round gamers with damage questions who do not make that prime 150 might be impacted.

Even a high-profile prospect resembling Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who just lately had surgical procedure on his again — an outpatient microdiscectomy, in accordance with a number of groups — might see his draft standing differ from projections if groups do not discover a consolation degree together with his restoration.

Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo, an intriguing, versatile pass-rusher who suffered a torn Achilles in January, might be impacted as nicely, with the worst-case situation a fall into Day 3 for an damage he would have had examined a number of occasions in earlier years.

One other instance is Duke cornerback Mark Gilbert, whose final full season on the sphere was 2017, when he led the ACC in passes defensed. He missed most of 2018 and all of 2019 attributable to hip surgical procedure after which performed in simply two video games final season (114 snaps in all) earlier than he had proper foot surgical procedure. There are extra wild playing cards than normal this yr.

Why the QB class is so coveted this yr

The quarterback math has at all times been troublesome to wrestle with by the years.

Most personnel executives will solely, begrudgingly, concede throughout a season there would possibly 5 – 6 “nice” quarterbacks within the league at that exact second. After which those self same personnel executives act like there are that many future nice quarterbacks in each draft.

That is in a standard yr. The frenzy is in overdrive this yr, as quarterbacks might be chosen with every of the primary 4 picks for the primary time in historical past. One basic supervisor contacted in latest weeks had predicted “the quarterback professional days can be extra on the market than normal.” That means any and all reactions to at least one throw right here, one throw there, towards air, could seem to have extra that means after a number of journeys by the social media cycle than normal. It is all aligned for historical past to be made.

Six quarterbacks had been chosen within the first spherical of the 1983 draft, with the primary (John Elway), the third (Jim Kelly) and the final (Dan Marino) picks fitted for gold jackets when their careers had been over. The final time quarterbacks went 1-2-3 within the draft? It was 1999, when Tim Sofa, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith had been picked.



Justin Fields rolls to his left and heaves a deep dime that leaves his teammates and NFL personnel impressed.

In 2018, 4 quarterbacks — Baker Mayfield (No. 1), Sam Darnold (No. 3), Josh Allen (No. 7) and Josh Rosen (No. 10) — had been chosen among the many prime 10 for the primary time in seven a long time. And final yr, three went within the prime 10: Joe Burrow (No. 1), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 4) and Justin Herbert (No. 5).

One of the obtrusive indicators that the wrestle continues to be actual on the prime of the board is that quarterbacks went 1-2 in each 2015 and 2016 (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in ’15, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz in ’16) and not one of the 4 continues to be together with his unique staff.

With a lot uncertainty this yr, there is a feeling within the league that the groups on the prime of the board imagine the time, setting and the prospects accessible create the proper storm to roll the cube on a quarterback. A lot in order that when you averaged most of the precise grades on the highest quarterbacks on this draft, they could fall one thing like this:

First spherical

Late first to mid-second spherical

Third spherical

Quarterbacks have at all times been chosen nicely above their precise grades as a result of, nicely, they’re quarterbacks. There may be additionally the residual affect of the Payments buying and selling as much as No. 7 to pick Allen in 2018, the yr after the Chiefs had moved to No. 10 to pick Patrick Mahomes. These two groups made huge trades and obtained their guys, and each different staff has been watching carefully.

I reached out to roughly two dozen scouts and personnel executives in latest weeks for an unscientific ballot to attempt to get a snapshot of how Spherical 1 will actually go. These are the outcomes, with quarterbacks listed in no particular order inside every tier (there have been a handful of these surveyed who mentioned they’d flip Lance and Jones, however agreed with the remaining):

Prime 10 picks

Simply outdoors the highest 10

Backside of Spherical 1 or prime of Spherical 2

Largest vary of opinions (backside of Spherical 1 to deep into Day 2)

So with only some weeks to go till the draft begins, anticipate quarterbacks to stay the most important speaking level.

Hand-timed glory: Not each time is created equal

The 40-yard sprint occasions on the mix usually provide some consistency in that each prospect runs on the identical floor. And given it has been roughly 4 a long time since there hasn’t been a mix, this yr is a throwback. Whereas indoor amenities are much better now than a long time in the past, the one 40 occasions groups have are from prospects working at completely different locations.

Play pace nonetheless guidelines for many within the league, because it ought to, and the GPS metrics used now give evaluators a way more highly effective measurement device than the 40. However any affirmation is sweet affirmation, and the 40 supplies groups with comps for gamers that return a long time, particularly groups with some continuity amongst their space scouts who’ve timed all these runs.

Nonetheless, any 40 occasions at professional days that had been below 4.30 are nearly actually questioned by groups. Prospects will be extraordinarily quick, however they’re unlikely to be that quick. 4 examples, which circulated final month:

Even a 4.55 40 for Miami defensive finish Jaelan Phillips, an exceptional prospect who has struggled with accidents — he has had a number of concussions, together with ankle and wrist points — will trigger groups to pause as a result of that is uncommon pace for a 260-pound edge rusher.

There is not any query these guys are quick. And you will get deep within the weeds with metrics, working surfaces, response occasions, sneakers worn, splits and the truth that elite 100-meter sprinters are nonetheless constructing pace on the midway level of the race. However even Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt was estimated to run a 4.20 over the primary 40 yards within the 9.58 electronically timed 100-meter report he set in 2009.

Provided that prospects have nearly at all times run quicker in professional days than on the mix by the years, they may not truly transfer the needle a lot when the picks get made.

Decide-out riddles: One other wrinkle in a wierd yr

The prospects who opted out of the 2020 season as a result of COVID-19 pandemic have groups counting on strategies they’ve used previously for prospects who missed the season earlier than they entered the draft. Rob Gronkowski, who didn’t play his ultimate season at Arizona attributable to a again damage, was a tidy 270-pound Tremendous Bowl reminder that physique of labor is essential on this course of. He was the No. 42 total choose in 2010.

Evaluators have tried to make the most effective of what they noticed on the Senior Bowl in January and the professional days of a few of the opt-out gamers. Stanford’s Paulson Adebo, for instance, continues to be a tricky name for some because the two-time All-Pac 12 choose had an damage finish his 2019 season 9 begins in and he opted out in 2020.

General, there can be some fluctuations between how the opt-out season impacts a wide range of prospects, with every staff having its personal standards for a way these gamers are graded. From my discussions with scouts and personnel executives, listed here are just a few who might be positioned in two classes:

Decide-out prospects groups nonetheless love:

  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

  • Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (performed till November earlier than opting out)

Decide-out gamers who’ve spurred debate and will drop:

Prospects who wowed at professional days

Professional days are only one piece of the puzzle, and when scouts criticize the media for his or her evaluations of prospects, they are going to typically say an excessive amount of emphasis was positioned on a professional day or mix exercise and that one play made in a noncompetitive state of affairs mustn’t get as a lot love because it does.

Listed here are just a few of the non-quarterbacks who made the a lot of the showcase in latest weeks:

  • Many individuals within the league got here away from Northwestern’s professional day raving about how offensive sort out Rashawn Slater sorted lacking a season. They obtained the affirmation they wanted to make him a top-15 choose.

  • Wisconsin-Whitewater lineman Quinn Meinerz did not get to play a recreation in 2020 as a result of his staff’s season was canceled. However he made probably the most of his Senior Bowl week, particularly within the one-on-ones, and he adopted that up with a top-shelf professional day on March 9, together with a reliably timed sub-4.9 40-yard sprint at 320 kilos and prime occasions in shuttle drills.

  • The sport video confirmed Oklahoma middle Creed Humphrey did not give up a sack in 2020, and his professional day was stellar for his place, together with shuttle drill occasions much like these for a ability place participant.

  • Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh had a professional day one scout referred to as “high-end ridiculous” because the 6-foot-5, 257-pounder had double-take numbers resembling a 39½-inch vertical and a 40 time within the 4.3s. He is among the largest professional day/recreation tape query marks of this class as a result of he completed final season and not using a sack.

  • BYU broad receiver Micah Simon, a former prep quarterback, went undrafted in 2020 after COVID-19 compelled his professional day to be canceled. He caught passes from Zach Wilson at BYU’s professional day this yr and dropped a 4.3 40 on these in attendance. He was signed by the Panthers final week.



Zach Wilson rolls to his left and unloads a superbly thrown deep ball at his BYU professional day.

Prospects who nonetheless have questions after professional days

  • Pitt security Paris Ford was a productive participant who constantly confirmed a very good understanding of what offenses needed to do, however his professional day 40s had been within the 4.8s, and his occasions within the agility drills weren’t practically what many scouts had been hoping to see.

  • Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade has seen his inventory fall in latest months — he was seen as a possible first-round choose final summer season — and he didn’t work out on the Buckeyes’ professional day due to a turf toe damage. He has informed groups he’ll work out April 14, and he’ll want to supply one thing to counter his shaky play this previous season.

  • Scouts had already mentioned that Florida State defensive sort out Marvin Wilson did not have the most effective week on the Senior Bowl and his professional day efficiency was simply OK. Many got here away hoping for extra from the previous five-star prospect.

Moments that popped on social media

Listed here are 5 moments that had individuals buzzing:


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