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[Dynasty] 2021 NFL Draft Class


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Brandon Marshall hosts mini combine for draft prospects

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Among the highlights: Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes ran a 4.24 in the 40; North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt did 27 reps in the bench press; Iowa receiver Brandon Smith leapt 136 inches in the broad jump; and Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers showed great hands in passing drills.

 

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The Draft Network @TheDraftNetwork

.@UHCougarFB WR Marquez Stevenson put up broad jump numbers of 121" & 119" at the #HOACombine. 

#FrontOffice33 | #NFLDraft

https://twitter.com/thedraftnetwork/status/1367890601761406977?s=21

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The Draft Network @TheDraftNetwork

Stevenson also recorded a vertical jump of 41.5".

#FrontOffice33 | #HOACombine | @UHCougarFB

https://twitter.com/thedraftnetwork/status/1367891891186851840?s=21

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FMIA: In This 2021 NFL Draft Primer, Uncertainty Is No. 1 Overall Prospect

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The quarterbacks are plentiful, as is the uncertainty. Five are likely to go in the first round, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence the likely number one pick to Jacksonville and BYU’s late-rising Zach Wilson likely number two to the Jets or some team trading up for him. After that, it’s a jumble. Ohio State’s Justin Fields is likely to go in the top 10, and the other two could go that high as well. North Dakota State’s Trey Lance was a terrific size-speed prospect against FCS competition in 2019, but played just one game in 2020, so some teams don’t know what make of him. And Mac Jones, great last fall in leading Alabama to the national title, could go as high as eight to Carolina. But he’s not an athlete and doesn’t fit the mold of a new-wave NFL passer.

“Jones is the most challenging evaluation for me,” Jeremiah said. “Ten years ago, lots of prospects were like him—accurate, great decision-making, poise in the pocket. He’s outstanding in those three. But the league is going in a different direction. You need guys who can create plays. If you can’t create and buy some time, or take off and run for a first down on third-and-five, it’s hard. You have a narrow path to winning consistently.”

Not a great defensive draft, at all. Jeremiah has 24 players with first-round grades, only 10 on defense. (For the record, four quarterbacks, four wideouts, three offensive linemen, two running backs, one tight end, three edge players, three linebackers, three corners, and one safety. No defensive tackles.) Jeremiah has Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips of Miami and Kwity Paye of Michigan atop his Edge rankings, but it doesn’t seem like any of them are locks.

What’s weird about this draft: It’s conceivable that the first eight players could be offensive players, and one of the unheralded corners—opt-out Virginia Tech athlete Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II—could be the first defender taken. “If you want a corner,” Jeremiah said, “you better get one in the first couple of rounds. It falls off after that.” Another son of an ex-NFLer, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn (son of former wideout Joe Horn), should go by the end of round one.

Best position in the draft: Wide receiver (again). In the last two drafts, teams have picked a total of 30 wideouts in the first three rounds. This year, Jeremiah has 19 receivers with grades in the top three rounds. When you see the recent draft depth of the position—third-round wideouts from the last three years: Terry McLaurin, Michael Gallup, Tre’Quan Smith, Diontae Johnson—I begin to think NFL teams should start treating the receiver position like running backs. Don’t waste a high pick on one; you can get a good one in the seventies, eighties, nineties overall. 

“It’s almost the same every year now, Jeremiah said. “Last year, I had a record number of guys with top-three-round grades [27]. Not as much this year, but so many good options in the second, third, fourth rounds.” Most draft boards will have LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle among the top 12 picks. Kadarius Toney of Florida is Jeremiah’s fourth first-round wideout, but his favorite wideout at a bargain price (mid-round two) is Mississippi’s Elijah Moore: “There were games that nobody could cover him.”

Surest position at the top? Might be offensive line. It’s not deep, but either Rashawn Slater of Northwestern or Penei Sewell of Oregon (both were 2020 opt-outs) could be opening-day left tackles in September. They should both go in the top six or eight. Slater played well against Ohio State and ace edge-rusher Chase Young in their 2019 meeting. Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC) could play guard or tackle comfortably, and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) and Jalen Mayfield (Michigan) could crack the end of the first round.

The Unicorn. Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is the first player at his position in 43 years of Mel Kiper’s draft-grading to crack the top five overall prospects. Whether he goes that high is a matter of taste, but a smart team could use him as an in-line tight end, running routes out of the slot, split wide, and as an athletic motion man. (Remember Rob Gronkowski’s Jet Motion Super Bowl TD, when he was untouched by any defenders?) So Pitts may be drafted as a tight end but could end up playing all over the map. “If he had ‘WR’ next to his name,” Jeremiah said, “he’d be a top 15 pick.”

Run-and-chase linebackers are in style. Jeremiah loves Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame, and sees Micah Parsons (Penn State) and Zaven Collins (Tulsa) as first-round ‘backers. “He’s such an exciting player,” Jeremiah said of Owusu-Koramoah. “He’s one of the guys in this draft I can’t wait to see—both how he’ll be used and how many plays he makes all over the field.”

Running backs high in the draft are out of style, but not to Jeremiah. He loves Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Alabama’s Najee Harris, and the prospect who might be his favorite player in the draft (encompassing value as well as talent) is a likely second-rounder, North Carolina’s Javonte Williams. Jeremiah thinks Williams could end up being the best back in the draft. “Not often a running back is the leader of your football team,” Jeremiah said, “but Javonte Williams was at North Carolina.”

“I know one thing,” Jeremiah said near the end of our conversation. “If you’re a team or if you’re a fan, you’d better exercise patience after the draft this year. There’s just too much we’re not going to know about too many players.”

With the draft dominating news cycles increasingly from November to April, that’s not something draft-crazy fans are going to want to hear. But it sure sounds like the truth in 2021.


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The Deep QB Draft

With five (six?) college quarterbacks set to be solid first-round candidates on April 29, I asked five people who’ve studied the tape on the class how they’d rank the best passers. Lots of similarities—except, as I mentioned, from Chris Simms.

Chris Simms, NBC, Former NFL QB

1. Zach Wilson, Brigham Young. Best pure thrower in the draft, most explosive arm in the draft. Has Mahomes/Rodgers magician type of traits. I think he’s more pro-ready than Trevor Lawrence.

2. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson. Big, strong-armed, and played in a lot of big-time games. Still untapped potential. Throwing is not as consistent as Wilson or Mac Jones, but has great tools.

3. Mac Jones, Alabama. A machine. Best processor of information I’ve seen this year—the way Joe Burrow was. Throws a perfect spiral that hits the bullseye almost every throw. The way Alabama called plays, you could tell they trusted him more than Tua.

4. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M. Way under the radar. Don’t know why. Third-purest thrower, behind Wilson and Jones. When pocket’s collapsing, can still throw a perfect 20-yard out. I think he’s a first-round talent. After my rankings came out, I had people in NFL text me, “Damn you. Wish you hadn’t brought his name up in the conversation.” Some teams love him.

5. Justin Fields, Ohio State. An Adonis. Built like Cam Newton. Great runner. Some inconsistencies in his throwing—mechanics and accuracy. Too many times when the mechanics lead to throws that aren’t effective.

6. Trey Lance, North Dakota State. I like his throwing and mechanics more than Fields. Wideout-type speed, really strong arm. But there’s a lack of experience, and often looks at one guy and makes a throw. Probably needs to sit for a year. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him last till the second round.

Dan Orlovsky, ESPN, Former NFL QB

1. Lawrence. Elite fundamentals, elite talent. Untapped potential because of subpar scheme in college. Most consistent high level of play—we take it for granted.

2. Wilson. Omar Vizquel hands at QB. Very natural thrower of the football with the most “holy cow” throws in this draft. Play every snap with a belief there’s a big play out there somewhere on the field.

3. Fields. Physical talent is off the charts. Throws very well on the run. Will have to develop throwing to covered guys. Covered in college is often times open in NFL. Needs to be less “deliberate.”

4. Jones. Most impressive tape of any guy. Makes me say “so well done” the most. Perfect case of traits versus tape. Isn’t fast, but plays incredibly fast. I will know draft night if he’s going to be good (most dependent on where he goes).

5. Lance. Reminds me some of Dak Prescott. As good a deep ball thrower as anyone in the draft. Confidence in decisions. He’s an oxymoron—has a calm restlessness style of play.

Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus

1. Lawrence. He doesn’t have weaknesses. Not a Josh Allen arm, not Joe Burrow-accurate. But he’s NFL-ready. Very reminiscent of Andrew Luck. Can be a top-12 NFL quarterback in the NFL as a rookie.

2. Wilson. How much do you love big, highlight-reel impressive throws on every tape? Throws on the move, downfield, from different arm angles. Was not under pressure much. Didn’t play top competition.

3. Fields. Very accurate. For his career, the most accurate quarterback we’ve ever charted. His average depth of target is two yards farther than [ex-Buckeye] Dwayne Haskins. Plus, a legit weapon as a runner.

4. Lance. Probably the most impressive physical skill set of any QB in the draft. Probably the strongest arm, and he’s an excellent runner. Accuracy isn’t what the others have, but you fall in love with what he could be.

5. Jones. Doesn’t have the arm strength or mobility of the others. Might not make the special throws. But he’s accurate, with a very quick release, operated a good offense at a high level of a good offense. Outplayed Tua.

Greg Cosell, Analyst, “NFL Matchup” show

1. Lawrence. What consistently stood out was how precisely accurate he was on intermediate and deep throws. Bring the designed QB run game to an offense. Has an aggressive, turn-it-loose throwing mentality. Will be a day one NFL starter.

2. Wilson. His 2020 tape shows a QB whose game was built on pocket efficiency and off-schedule movement. My sense is he’s a combination of structured system efficiency with precise ball location and second-reaction improvisation.

Cosell has not ranked the order of Fields, Lance and Jones. Fields has a compact delivery and plus arm strength, Cosell said, but “did not show a natural feel for timing and anticipation—needed to see it before turning it loose.” Lance is “the most intriguing QB prospect” this year with great traits and a live arm; “it would not surprise me if Lance was a very good NFL QB three years down the road once he gains more experience and coaching.” Jones, Cosell said, is experienced with NFL route concepts and RPO, but he was concerned about Jones’ ability “to play outside of structure and make off-schedule plays.”

One more note from Cosell: “Jones is the most fascinating prospect. Almost every coach you talk to says second-reaction movement is almost essential for NFL quarterbacks now. Yet Jones has none and is not a good athlete. It will be interesting.”

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network Draft Analyst

1. Lawrence. Such a unique package. When you have that size and athletic ability, and he’s shown the ability to make plays outside the system too. Played against a high level for a long period.

2. Wilson. You’re getting pushback from a lot of folks who maybe didn’t watch as much of him. But there’s a lot of support for Zach around the league. He played the best this season, but there’s a difference between playing the best and being the best quarterback. If he hadn’t had that shoulder surgery [labrum surgery in 2019], I might be having some of Chris [Simms’] courage, putting Zach number one.

3. Lance. Lance and Fields are very close. Both physical, strong, aggressive, tough demeanor. It comes down to decision-making. Lance protects the football, has poise and doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way. Trusts what he sees. Is he ready right now? It’s more of a long-term play. I believe in the kid.

4. Fields. A little more accurate and consistent, but at times he got a little reckless with the ball. That bothered me. At times, he holds the ball too long. You can speed up your clock, which he needs to do.

5. Jones. Because his athletic tools are limited, it puts pressure on the organization to build up the rest of the roster. You’ve got to have a good offensive line in front of him.

 

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NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah says drafting this receiver would be a home run for Lions

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But assuming Chase is off the board by the time the Lions are on the clock, Jeremiah thinks the team would still do well to grab either Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith, a pair of Alabama standouts. 

Smith, this year's Heisman winner, caught 117 balls for 1,856 yards and 23 scores for the Crimson Tide. 

"DeVonta Smith is a pristine route runner," Jeremiah said. "He's obviously, everybody knows, is real thin, but man he's really long armed and can go up and get it, as well."

Jeremiah ranks Smith No. 8 on his big board, two spots behind Waddle. The analyst admits it boils down to skill set preference, but Waddle's rare speed is the difference. 

"I just thought what you get after the catch, with some of the shiftiness, and just the home-run speed from Waddle is why I ended up with Waddle over Smith," Jeremiah said. "GPS (time) stuff is going to be big this year because we haven't had as much verified numbers. Talking to some teams around the league, Waddle has the fastest GPS of any receiver in the country. Your eyes aren't deceiving you when you're watching him. He's freaky fast."

 

 

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16 hours ago, Andy Dufresne said:

"but the Bengals desperately need to sure up the offensive line."

Yes, I'm a dork and detail head. But this has to stop...

https://kris-spisak.com/writing-tip-shore-up-vs-sure-up/

For all intense and purposes, they get their main points across. If they nip it in the butt, we wouldn't have anything to complain about. I could care less if they correct these small issues. Though sometimes it's mind bottling. 

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18 minutes ago, steelers1080 said:

For all intense and purposes, they get their main points across. If they nip it in the butt, we wouldn't have anything to complain about. I could care less if they correct these small issues. Though sometimes it's mind bottling. 

Uh, it's for all intensive purposes. Sheesh. Some people's kids. :rolleyes:

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2 minutes ago, Andy Dufresne said:

Uh, it's for all intensive purposes. Sheesh. Some people's kids. :rolleyes:

For all in tents, and porpoises. We're talking about camping at SeaWorld here. 

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