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This week’s installment will cover my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings and various questions around 2021 NFL Draft rumors and items from around the league. First, we discuss which players are jiving with specific NFL team fits.
NFL Rumors & Draft News: The Tony Pauline Mailbag (3.2.21)
I know it’s early, but what are some of your favorite player/team fits for the 2021 NFL Draft — both ones you are hearing in league circles as well as ones you like based on player ability and team needs?
I believe you have been saying for months that Trey Lance was more a mid-first rounder than a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Recent NFL draft rumors seem to indicate that Lance is “sliding” down boards. Why do you think he’s “suddenly falling,” and where do you ultimately see him coming off the board? Top 15? Top 20?
I couldn’t tell you what others are thinking, but I believe people who had him graded so highly in the early stages may finally be realizing Trey Lance will have to sit as a rookie in the NFL.
If you selected Lance in the top 10, you are doing so with plans to insert him in the starting lineup quickly. That could lead to his ruin.
Why isn’t Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton receiving more buzz? He was highly productive in the nation’s best conference. Do teams worry about his ability to be a three-down linebacker at the next level?
He’s small, struggles taking on blocks, and needs a free shot at the play. Nick Bolton is a good player and solid athlete, but his small size is an issue.
We know the running back position has been devalued by many in terms of investing first-round picks into the position. Any NFL rumors the 2021 NFL Draft could see more than one running back selected in Round 1?
I believe it’s 50/50 at present on whether Travis Etienne slides into the late part of Round 1. He’s ranked #32 on my overall board.
At EDGE, who are the overrated/underrated guys in the 2021 NFL Draft? Jayson Oweh and Greg Rousseau seem overhyped to me — too raw to contribute in Year 1. Is that unfair? Also, does Jaelan Phillips’ health history concern you?
I agree Gregory Rousseau is overrated, and in my opinion, he made a mistake opting out. He’s a good pass rusher, but I am concerned about his ability against the run at the next level.
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Jayson Oweh was ridiculously overhyped coming into the season, with some grading him as a potential first-round pick. I like his film, but he has limitations and is a Day 2 prospect. In the right system, I think he will do well.
As far as Jaelan Phillips and his injury history, his multiple concussions have got to raise red flags. It’s something teams must closely inspect.
Why does it feel like Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman is getting overlooked in this draft class? He’s garnered little buzz in the NFL rumor mill, it seems, and is constantly overshadowed by the SEC receivers. Is he not in the same tier of WR as the Alabama receivers, for example?
He’s not in the same tier as those players, no. I think Rashod Bateman was a bit inconsistent last season, which led to a drop in his draft grade. He initially said he was going to opt out in 2020 before deciding to play the season when the Big 10 announced their delayed start. It seemed as though he only wanted to dip his toe in the water rather than play 100% every down.
More than anything else, I believe many overrated Bateman from the get-go. He was never a top-10 prospect as many predicted six-plus months ago. He’s a good prospect with terrific next-level potential — just not a top half of Round 1 guy.
Every year, we see an under-the-radar Day 3 or undrafted RB break out into an extended role. Who are your favorite candidates to follow that path in the 2021 NFL Draft? Any rumors circulating around the NFL about some of these guys?
Any team that selects Chris Evans of Michigan on Day 3 and able to get him back to where he was in 2018 will have a steal on their hands.
Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas of Louisiana fit that mold.
Jah-Maine Martin of North Carolina A&T is someone I really, really like as a Day 3 sleeper. The Aggies just canceled their spring season, so Martin may return for 2021.
How do you weigh ball production in the secondary versus physical/athletic traits? I’ve noticed the highly-touted defensive backs often have little to no ball production, while guys lower on the draft board get targeted more often and therefore have more opportunity to make plays.
The answer is in your question, and you really have to watch the tape and make your own call.
I like to see ball production, whether it be INTs or PBUs — but the fact is, often times, opponents purposely throw away from talented defensive backs on the college level. So, if a guy only has 1 INT and 5 PBUs all season, but the film shows teams only threw in his direction two or three times a game, you cannot downgrade that player for lack of production.
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