NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Media outlets wishing to interview Colin Lindsay or Pigskin Paul Guillemette about the draft or other football topics should email the editor or call 613-692-1088

NDSU’s Lance 2nd top QB to set 2nd pro day … Literally just hours after Ohio State QB Justin Fields confirmed that he would be attending a 2nd Buckeyes’ pro day on April 14th, Trey Lance of North Dakota State indicated that he’ll also be participating in his programs second pro day on April 19th. One of the interesting questions with both scheduled workouts in which teams will be out in force. Sources are saying, for example, that San Francisco G.M. John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan are expected to attend at least Lance’s pro day workout. The 49ers did not attend Lance’s first pro day because it was before they had traded up from the 12th to the 3rd picks with Miami. And the fact that Shanahan and Lynch will be at Lance’s workout suggests that just may Alabama’s Mac Jones to the 49ers with the third pick may not be a done deal. That’ of course, has been the widely held belief around the league since the 49ers acquired the 3rd pick; however, observers around the league remain skeptical that the 49ers would have traded away three first round picks in order to move up to take Jones who most analysts consider to be more of a game manager type who is only the 4th or 5th best QB prospect this year and who likely could have been had with much less.

At the same time, there was an interesting piece by Falcons’ beat writer Orlando Ledbetter in the Atlanta papers today (we’d link but it’s by subscription only) indicating that G.M. Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are ‘in sync’ re their plans for the 4th pick overall this year. There had been reports that Fontenot wanted to take Trey Lance to replace Matt Ryan, but that Smith preferred to stick with Ryan, who is coming off a very productive season, for at least a couple of more seasons, and take Florida TE Kyle Pitts at #4. Unfortunately, the report didn’t indicate who had won the debate so we may have to wait until April 29th. We aren’t totally convinced, though, that this information isn’t mostly P.R. and that the Falcons in fact are still discussing their options at #4. Indeed, it was just yesterday that there were reports that the Falcons were open to trading the pick. However, it does not appear as if Justin Fields, a Georgia-native, is part of the Falcons’ discussion. Time will tell.

Pigskin mocks AFC West … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette continues his series of separate mock drafts for each team highlighting the direction or directions they are most likely to go at the upcoming draft with a preview of the drafts of the teams in the AFC West. Meanwhile, for those that missed it, here is Pigskin’s preview of what to expect over the next couple of weeks.

Twenty days and counting; QB Mills hot … Less than three weeks now until the start of the 2021 draft and its still pretty quiet around the league. One player that is generating a little buzz these days is Stanford QB Davis Mills. Mills is still a ways behind the group of 5 top prospects at the position who are all expected to be selected within, or at least close to the top ten picks, but there are whispers that nobody should be surprised if Mills is selected later in the opening round, particularly by a team like Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay which is looking for a developmental type QB. Developmental is the operative word for Mills as he only started 11 games at Stanford and is still learning the intricacies of the position, but he has the one thing you can’t teach a QB and that’s arm talent. He also has prototype size for an NFL pocket passer at 6-4, as well as the smarts and work ethic.

QB Lawrence throwing again; getting hitched … The NFL Network is reporting that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who will be the first player selected at the 2021 draft when the actual picking gets underway on April 29th, has been throwing for the past couple of weeks. Lawrence underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in mid-February and while he still isn’t cleared for contact, all indications are that his rehab is well on schedule. In fact, under normal circumstances Lawrence would be expected to be in Indianapolis this weekend where up to 150 leading prospects for this month’s draft are undergoing pre-draft medical tests, he’ll be getting married to long-time girlfriend Marissa Mowry.

 

‘On the whole I really would rather be in Cleveland’ … Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, who will be the first player selected at the 2021 draft, has already said that he won’t be attending this year draft in Cleveland; instead, he’ll be watching the draft with his family at home. However, the NFL has announced that ten players have accepted invitations to attend this year’s draft including four from national champion Alabama, including QB Mac Jones, WR Devonta Smith, CB Patrick Surtain and DT Christian Barmore. The other players who have accepted invitations include LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, Florida TE Kyle Pitts, Penn State LB Micah Parsons, North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley, and Miami DE Greg Rousseau. At the same time, we presume that several other top prospects like QBs Zack Wilson of BYU and Justin Fields of Ohio State, and Oregon OT Penei Sewell simply haven’t responded as of yet.

Three weeks and counting to go … The start of the NFL draft is just three weeks away. That’s 21 days and counting. And we don’t know whether its because of covid or whatever, but there’s really not a whole lot of buzz out there right now. There are a couple of players, though, that people are talking about as potential top ten surprises in South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn and Penn State DE Jayson Oweh after really athletic performances at their respective pro days. And while it would be a huge upset, there are some whispers that Horn could actually be the first corner off the board on the 29th. At 6-0, 205 with 33-inch arms, Horn is the prototype size for an NFL press corner and while he still isn’t as technically polished as Alabama’s Patrick Surtain, the consensus #1 CB in this year’s draft, Horn is a better athlete who ran a 4.39 40 at his combine last month while posting explosive leaps of 41.5 in the vertical and 11-1 in the long jump. The production was there too this past season, as he limited his opponents to less than a 35% completion rate. Meanwhile, Oweh is the poster child for the draft homily that ‘you don’t draft players to play in college!’ after he went sackless in 2020. Oweh, though, was just a redshirt sophomore that did have an impressive enough 7 sacks as a rotational player as a freshman. Oweh is also a generational type athlete for a DE. He’s 6-5, 257 with impressive 34.5-inch arms and ran an off-the-charts 4.36 40 at the Lions’ pro day while he also posted a 3-cone drill time of 6.83 seconds that would have been a full three-tenths faster than the fastest figure for DEs at last year’s combine. As they say in the trades, ‘time will tell!’ Hang in there!

Medical testing on tap for top prospects … Nothing formal has been announced but we believe that this is the weekend that 150 or so of the top prospects for the 2021 draft will be asked to go to Indianapolis for final medical tests before the draft. It is also believed that each individual NFL team will be allowed to have some of their own medical people to participate in the testing. In the past every prospect underwent a battery of tests at the combine, but of course this year there was no combine, although most players did undergo some medical testing by 3rd party doctors in their region early last month. Needless to say, these tests are particularly important for players who have had recent injuries or health issues such as Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle (foot) Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley (back)

Trade up interest in TE Pitts … While most of the focus on the top ten of the 2021 draft, now just 22 days away has been on the QBs, there is a bit of a buzz around the league that there could be potentially some teams interested in moving up to acquire Florida TE Kyle Pitts. As a nominal TE, Pitts plays a position that’s not normally a big seller early in the draft, but he’s just a talented big-play prospect who has the potential to a major mismatch problem at the next level. In fact, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL Network’s lead draft analyst both rate Pitts as the second best overall prospect in this year’s draft class here and here respectively. Pitts is expected to come off the board somewhere between the 4th and 7th picks on the 29th this month after QBs go 1-2-3. And Atlanta and Detroit, with the 4th and 7th picks respectively, have both suggested they’d be willing to trade down, presumably for a QB, but it is believed that several teams a little farther down the top ten, including Dallas at #10 and the Giants at #11, are very intrigued by Pitts’ skill set. Is that interest enough to generate some legit trade consideration. Time will tell! Stay tuned!

Buckeyes add 2nd pro day … Ohio State has reportedly opted to hold a second pro day prior to the 2021 draft on April 14th, in part to provide another opportunity for NFL teams to watch Fields work out in person. Recall that the Buckeyes first pro day was held the same day as that of Alabama last month. In particular, a second Ohio State pro day would give San Francisco G.M. John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, who both attended the Alabama workout to watch Tide QB Mac Jones, a chance to check out Fields in person. Of course, the 49ers did have senior people at the original Ohio State workout, they just weren’t named Lynch or Shanahan. The 49ers have the third pick overall at this month’s draft after trading up to that spot with Miami and for now are believed to be targeting Jones for that pick.

GBN Big Board tweaked; up to 300 … With just 22 days until the picks start coming off the board, the GBN Big Board ranking the top 300 prospects for the 2021 draft, has been updated. And our Chief Scout Larry Parker reports the staff is really impressed with the quality and depth of this year’s draft class. Indeed, they feel that there are over 300 prospects this year with a draftable grade suggesting that the post-draft free agent signing frenzy could be even more frenzied than in the past.

Projection tweaked … We weren’t really planning on it, but with all the developments over the past week or so we figured we had to update our current first-round projection.

49ers brain trust at odds over QB pick? … Interesting report in the local paper in San Francisco over the weekend suggesting that there is some disagreement between 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the personnel over which QB to select with the 3rd pick overall at the 2021 draft. According to the report, Shanahan wants the 49ers to select Alabama QB Mac Jones at that spot, whereas the rest of the front office is leaning toward Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The 49ers, of course, acquired the 3rd pick from Miami for a couple of future first round picks last week with the intention of selecting a QB. Shanahan reportedly sees Jones as a nice fit for the kind of offense he plans to run with the 49ers next year. However, the feeling in the personnel department is that Lance is simply the higher graded prospect and that if Jones was the target the 49ers didn’t really have to give up all that draft capital to move up to the third pick from the 12th.

At the same time, if, as expected, QBs are the first three players off the board on the 29th, then the real intrigue of the 2021 draft could start with the Falcons picking 4th. Of course, the Falcons could very well make it four QBs off the board to start the opening round. And, as we have noted in several recent items, the Falcons have been doing their due diligence on this year’s QB class with senior execs including owner Arthur Blank, G.M. Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith attending all the pro day workouts of each of this year’s top QB prospects which suggests Atlanta may be preparing to move on from 36-year-old incumbent starter Matt Ryan. However, before we get too far over our skies, it should be noted that the Falcons have also had senior people in attendance at the pro days of the top non-QB prospects such as Florida TE Kyle Pitts, LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase and Oregon OT Penei Sewell, each of whom would also be a value pick for Atlanta at that point.

Jets send QB Darnold to Panthers for picks … Another curve ball of sorts for the 2021 draft, which is now just 24 days away as the NY Jets have traded QB Sam Darnold to Carolina for a 6th round pick this year, the 226th pick overall, along with 2nd and 4th rounders next year.  The Jets, who are expected to take a QB – most likely BYU’s Zack Wilson – with the second pick overall at this month’s draft and had been trying to move Darnold, the third pick overall in 2018, for several weeks now. In fact, the Jets did pretty well for themselves as it was beginning to look like they might not get much more than a #3 for Darnold, although they’ll obviously have to wait a year. The big question remaining is what does the acquisition of Darnold mean for the Panthers’ draft plans. They had been widely expected to take a QB with the 8th pick if they didn’t actually trade up. What all this seems to indicate is that Carolina may be willing to see what they have in Darnold and go in another direction, at least for this year. Stay tuned.

Pigskin mocks NFC West … As he does every year at this time, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette is preparing separate mock drafts for each team highlighting the direction or directions they are most likely to go at the upcoming draft. And he gets it underway this morning with a preview of the drafts of the teams in the NFC West. Meanwhile, for those that missed it, here is Pigskin’s preview of what to expect over the next couple of weeks.

GBN staff thoughts on Sewell pro day … In the aftermath of Oregon OT Penei Sewell’s less than eye-popping pro day workout this week, we talked with GBN Chief Scout Larry Parker about what it all means. And his response was ‘don’t overthink it!’ According to Parker, Sewell is still the best OT prospect in this year’s draft; he’s certainly better than Rashawn Slater of Northwestern, although the latter may have better workout numbers. Sewell was easily the top OT in college football as a true sophomore in 2019, and almost assuredly would have been the first player at the position off the board in the 2020 draft if he had been draft eligible. In his 2 years at Oregon, Sewell only allowed Ducks’ QB Justin Herbert to be sacked 1 time in almost 700 pass blocking snaps, while only allowing 7 pressures in the 2019 season. He also has elite value as a run blocker, especially with his great strength and balance. Indeed, in 2019, he had the highest run-blocking grade – and the 3rd highest pass blocking grade – in college football that season. He has strong, fast hands to keep defenders at bay, and when he does get beaten initially, he recovers at a lightning quick pace like a man on a mission. Parker is still somewhat puzzled how Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL Network’s lead draft analyst, came to grade Slater higher than Sewell on his latest top 50 listing. However, it certainly wasn’t close at the end of the 2019 season, and since neither Sewell nor Slater played at all this season, nothing should have changed film-wise. We’ll see what the NFL thinks for sure on the 29th (now just 26 days away) so for now don’t overthink things guys!!

Pigskin set to mock team drafts … As he does every year at this time, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette produces a separate mock draft for each team highlighting the direction or directions they are most likely to go at the upcoming draft. This year is no exception, although because there has been so much going on, he’s later in the process than usual. Pigskin is also planning to modify the format to some degree. Here’s his preview of what to expect over the next couple of weeks.

Mixed bag of sorts at Sewell pro day … Its been kind of a mixed bag for Oregon OT Penei Sewell at the Ducks’ pro day today. Accoring to reports from the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy, Sewell came in a tad shorter than expected at just under 6-5, 331 – he had been listed at 6-6 in the team’s program. However, that’s no big deal. What could be a bigger deal, though is the fact that he actually has relatively short arms at just over 33 inches, compared with the gold standard of over 35. Sewell, though, does have huge mitts at almsot 10.5 inches. Sewell also impressed with 30 reps in the bench press, but neither of his jumps – 28 inches in the vertical and 9-1 in the long jump – were particularly impressive for an elite OT. The first 4 OTs taken in the opening round of the 2020 draft, for example, had an average vertical of around 33 inches. At the same time, Sewell’s 40-time is being reported as somewhere in the 5.1 range. Again, not bad for a big OL, but in comparison, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, the other top 10 type OL prospect in this year’s draft class, ran the 40 in under 4.9. Same story in the agility drills in which Sewell had times of 4.68 seconds in the short shuttle and 7.70 in the 3-cone, both of which would have been among the leaders at the 2020 combine. Again, though, Sewell’s 3-cone time was significantly slower than Slater’s 7.48 clocking in the same discipline. We’ll see how NFL types interpret these numbers, but they certainly weren’t the blow your socks off type figures a lot of analysts were expecting.

Bengals out in force at Ducks pro day … Still waiting for some actual results from today’s pro day at Oregon where OT Penei Sewell is the featured prospect. What we do know is that Cincinnati is there in numbers including head coach Zac Taylor, Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin and offensive line coach Frank Pollack. The Bengals have the 5th pick overall in this month’s draft and it appears that Sewell is one of the guys they are seriously looking at, although not the only one. Taylor, for example, was at TE Kyle Pitts’ workout at Florida earlier this week, while Tobin attended LSU’s pro day at which he got a good look at WR Ja’Marr Chase.

Tulsa LB Collins has a little disappointing pro day … Still waiting for the full results, but the early returns from the Tulsa pro day is that star LB Zaven Collins had a liitl bit of a disappointing day. Collins, who looked more like a DE when he measured in at almost 6-5, 260, was clocked in an unofficial hand-times 4.67 seconds in the 40 and then only managed 19 reps in the bench press.  Collins is being considered to be a late first round prospect.

Ducks wrap pro day week … The busiest week on the pro day circuit wraps up later today with a number of on-campus workouts set to go including one at Oregon where star OT Penei Sewell will be the featured prospect. And while there will be some pro days next week, this pretty much wraps up the process. Indeed, for most teams, there scouts and other personnel staff will get a couple of days of and then starting next they’ll be gathering – for most virtually – to put the final touches to their boards and get ready for the actual draft which is now barely 27 days away.

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