With so much information going around the league with Pro Days, free agency, and general rumors in the lead up to the NFL Draft, we’re going to keep tabs on league news and how it could impact the draft. This post will be updated regularly.
ATLANTA FALCONS NOT TARGETING A QB
According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, the Falcons “will not force a quarterback” with the No. 4 pick.
The Falcons have frequently been paired with quarterbacks in mock drafts, but owner Arthur Blank may have tipped their hand early this offseason with indicated support for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones returning in 2021. Those comments were likely a sign the 78-year-old owner isn’t interested in rebuilding around a young quarterback right now.
King also speculates it will be difficult (possibly requiring multiple future first-round picks) to convince Atlanta to trade their selection.
DAVE GETTLEMAN LOCKED IN ON DEVONTA SMITH?
In his most recent mock draft, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah also has the Giants taking Smith, stating “I still get the sense Big Blue wants more weapons.”
Neither Lombardo nor Jeremiah gives us much concrete evidence to go on, but it’s worth paying attention to these reports because Gettleman does not play the draft with a poker face. In 2019, for example, everyone knew of his obsession with quarterback Daniel Jones. The same thing happened in 2018 when he drafted Saquon Barkley.
WILL DENVER BRONCOS TRADE UP FOR A QB?
There’s no new news on this topic, but earlier this offseason GM George Paton stated: “We do want to bring in competition, we’re not going to force it.”
This quote is worth revisiting because we’ve now seen the team explore trades for both Matthew Stafford and Sam Darnold, but decline to outbid other suitors both times. They also, presumably, had an opportunity to acquire the No. 3 pick, which eventually went to San Francisco.
It’s starting to look like Paton was genuine when he said he wouldn’t force a quarterback addition. We may now need to consider the possibility the Broncos spend the No. 9 pick on another position, possibly adding a quarterback on Day instead.
DALLAS COWBOYS INTERESTED IN CORNERBACKS
In his latest mock draft, Cowboys beat writer Calvin Watkins has the team selecting South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn.
This is notable because Watkins has Alabama CB Patrick Surtain already off the board, indicating he believes Dallas is high on both top cornerbacks.
Watkins also mentions Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw as a possible “future left tackle.”
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS GOING DEFENSE IN FIRST ROUND?
Greg Auman of The Athletic projects the Bucs to target the defensive side of the ball with the 32nd pick, specifically defensive line or linebacker.
The Bucs don’t have an obvious hole on either side of the ball, but they do have five prominent defensive players in the last year of their contract: defensive linemen Ndamukong, Suh, William Gholston, and Jason Pierre-Paul, cornerback Carlton Davis and safety Jordan Whitehead.
DANIEL JEREMIAH MOCKS JUSTIN FIELDS TO DETROIT LIONS
We haven’t seen the Detroit Lions paired with quarterbacks in many mock drafts since the Matthew Stafford–Jared Goff trade, so this is an interesting development.
Jeremiah doesn’t offer much of an explanation in his mock draft, but this is likely a result of Mac Jones now expected to go much higher than we initially believed.
With Goff likely in Detroit for two more years, the Lions don’t have to rush to find his replacement. However, it does seem plausible that they’ll have a high enough grade on Fields to make this move.
DALLAS COWBOYS INTERESTED IN FLORIDA TE KYLE PITTS
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is “infatuated” with Kyle PItts.
Of course he is. Jones is like a toddler who immediately loses interest in his toy as soon as he spots a new one.
The 78-year-old Jones has been less involved in recent years, ceding some power to his son Stephen, and it’s no coincidence Cowboys’ draft classes have improved. And he’ll probably be talked out of this latest obsession.
With an already deep group of offensive weapons and massive holes on the defensive side of the ball, it would tough for Dallas to justify adding Pitts, especially since it may require trading up in the top 10.
CAROLINA PANTHERS STILL CONSIDERING DRAFTING A QB?
After trading for Sam Darnold on Monday, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer stated “It doesn’t take us out of taking a quarterback.”
It’s possible Fitterer is telling the truth. Since other teams are trying to jump to No. 4—but the Atlanta Falcons almost certainly won’t trade that pick within the division—Carolina might be concerned they won’t get the quarterback they want at No. 8. Therefore, they traded for Darnold as a contingency plan.
However, it’s also possible Fitterer wants other teams to think they could draft a quarterback, prompting someone else to jump ahead of them. If Carolina isn’t drafting a quarterback, they want to see as many quarterbacks off the board before their pick as possible, giving them the best selection at the other positions.
Between these two possibilities, the smokescreen scenario sounds most likely.
ATLANTA FALCONS TRADING NO. 4 PICK?
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Falcons are receiving calls about the No. 4 pick and “are open to moving” the selection.
We didn’t need an official report to know these calls were happening since there will be two potential top-10 quarterbacks still on the board at No. 4.
The teams most likely to be calling Atlanta about a quarterback are the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, and the Washington Football Team.
With three of those teams outside the top 10, however, it will probably take a substantial package to convince the Falcons to trade down and pass up the opportunity to land a premier player at No. 4.
CAROLINA PANTHERS NOT INTERESTED IN A QB?
In a recent podcast, Josh Norris of Underdog Fantasy stated he would be shocked if the Panthers drafted a quarterback at No. 8.
Norris’ theory is based on a belief that, because of owner David Tepper’s aggressive style, if the team loved any of the quarterbacks likely to be available at No. 3, they would have out-bid the San Francisco 49ers for that selection.
This is a strong theory, however, Norris also brings up the strongest counterargument to his own point: Tepper, being an impatient owner, might simply be done watching Teddy Bridgewater and demand an upgrade.
If this theory is true, it greatly increases the chances one of the top quarterbacks falls outside the top 10, which is probably good news for the Washington Redskins, New England Patriots, or Chicago Bears.
CLEVELAND BROWNS SHOWING INTEREST IN CORNERBACKS
The Browns appear to be in decent shape at cornerback with free agent addition Troy Hill, Greedy Williams returning from injury, and Denzel Ward. However, the team is spending time with a number of potential first-round cornerback selections this offseason.
The list of Cleveland’s reported virtual visits includes:
- Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
- Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
- Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
- Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
All of these players are likely to be gone by the time Cleveland is on the clock on Day 2, so it appears as though they’re giving serious consideration to adding more talent to the secondary in Round 1.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS CONSIDERING FLORIDA QB KYLE TRASK
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler mentioned the Saints as a contender to land a quarterback in the draft, despite re-signing Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
Fowler specifically mentions Kyle Trask as a potential target “somewhere after round one.”
Since both Winston and Hill signed one-year deals, it could certainly make sense for New Orleans to bring in a young quarterback to groom behind them for a year, before potentially passing the torch in 2022.
MIAMI DOLPHINS SHOWING INTEREST IN FLORIDA TE/WR KYLE PITTS
According to The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino, Dolphins HC Brian Flores spoke with Kyle Pitts at Florida’s pro day on Wednesday and plans to continue conversations with him leading up to the draft.
It’s possible Miami has interest in selecting Pitts sixth overall, but it’s also easy to read this as a smokescreen.
By sharing their interest in Pitts publicly, maybe the Dolphins can convince the Atlanta Falcons or Cincinnati Bengals to select Pitts rather than trade down with one of the quarterback-needy teams. Then Miami could potentially be in position to trade down again with a quarterback-needy team (Carolina or Denver?).
That’s just one example of how this news might not be as straightforward as it appears.
FLORIDA TE KYLE PITTS BLAZES 4.44 IN THE 40
Kyle Pitts posted a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at Florida’s pro day on Wednesday.
As we’ve mentioned previously, pro day times are often faster than combine times because teams can select the most favorable running surface they have access to for workouts. At Florida, however, this isn’t the case.
Based on data from DraftScout.com, dating back to 2011, 11 out of 15 Florida players who ran at both the combine and pro day failed to improve their time and, on average, ran 0.5% slower at the Gators’ pro day.
This allows us to fairly compare Pitts’s incredible time to other big receivers who ran in Indy, such as Mike Evans (4.53) and Calvin Johnson (4.40).
JA’MARR CHASE RUNS A 4.38 40, SOLIDIFYING HIS CASE FOR WR1
Ja’Marr Chase had an impressive showing at his pro day this morning running a 4.38 40 while also completing a 41-inch vertical jump and 11-foot broad jump. He measured in at just over 6-feet tall and weighed in at 201 pounds, which all but confirmed he was the size and speed scouts were looking for to confidently make Chase the first wide receiver selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
JUSTIN FIELDS RUNS A 4.44 40 YARD DASH AT THE OHIO ST. PRO DAY
Justin Fields wowed those in attendance at his pro day clocking a 4.44 40 yard dash which, according to Adam Schefter, is the second-fastest time by a QB ever recorded since 2006, only behind Robert Griffin III, who ran a 4.41 in 2012. The caveat is that Lamar Jackson did not run at his combine but still, it is certainly a time that is going to get teams’ attention, even if not all of them were there in person today.
SOUTH CAROLINA JAYCEE HORN POTENTIALLY CB1?
MMQB’s Albert Breer recently mentioned he’s spoken to sources with a few teams who prefer South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn to Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II.
The race to be the first cornerback off the board was likely narrowed last week when Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley announced he would undergo back surgery.
The Lions at No. 7, Cowboys at No. 10, and Eagles at No. 12 appear to be the most likely candidates to select the first cornerback.
URBAN MEYER ACKNOWLEDGES JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS WANT TREVOR LAWRENCE
When asked if the team will draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence by NBC Sports’ Peter King, Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer stated “that’s the direction we’re going.”
Meyer acknowledged the final call will be made by owner Shahid Khan, but this statement confirms with near-100% certainty what we’ve assumed all along.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS GM, HC SKIPPING OHIO STATE PRO DAY
According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch will attend Alabama’s pro day on Tuesday, while assistant GM Adam Peters will attend Ohio State’s.
It’s tempting to read between the lines and assume San Francisco is favoring Alabama’s Mac Jones over Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
The more likely scenario—as was addressed here last week—is that San Francisco already knows who they’re taking at No. 3.
Therefore Shanahan and Lynch may be attending Alabama’s pro day to evaluate other prospects, and also to plot a contingency plan. If one of the top quarterbacks were to get injured leading up to the draft, they’ll need to be prepared to make a decision on whether Jones is also worthy of that selection.
Drafting a quarterback changes the entire direction of a franchise, so smart teams prepare for every possible scenario before making these critical decisions.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about going to Alabama’s Pro Day tomorrow, and not North Dakota State or BYU, says it was important for the team not to tip its hand before the trade was done. “Now that you’re up at 3, you don’t have to hide as much.”
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS TARGETING TREY LANCE AT NO. 3?
Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi recently speculated that the 49ers are targeting North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall selection, acquired on Friday from the Miami Dolphins.
Lombardi’s logic is based on the 49ers’ insistence that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is not available on the trade market.
Trey Lance is just 20 years old and started only 17 games at North Dakota State, and only appeared in one game in 2020 due to the pandemic. As a result, it’s assumed he’s unlikely to be prepared to lead an NFL offense by September.
So if the 49ers draft Lance, it does make sense to keep Garoppolo as the short-term starter.
Although, if Garoppolo is traded, this certainly wouldn’t be the first time a team reversed course after such a statement.
MIAMI JUMPS BACK INTO THE TOP 10 TRADING WITH PHILADELPHIA FOR NO. 6 PICK
Miami had a busy afternoon, to say the least. Minutes after trading down from No. 3 to No. 12 the Dolphins announced a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles that sent picks No. 12, No. 123, and a 2022 first-round pick for picks No. 6 and No. 156. With San Francisco jumping to No. 3 and all but assuring at least three QB’s, if not four, will be taken by pick No. 6, Miami must be confident that the player(s) they were considering at No. 3 will most likely still be there at No. 6. The same can almost be said from the Eagles’ perspective. A team that will most likely be looking at WR’s, there is a good chance that one or more of the players they were considering at 6 will still be available at 12.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ACQUIRE NO. 3 PICK FROM MIAMI DOLPHINS
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, San Francisco has swapped first-round picks with the Dolphins.
When a team jumps to the top of the draft like this, they’re going after a quarterback. So we can assume San Francisco will be targeting either Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance.
This trade is somewhat surprising since the New York Jets own the No. 2 overall selection, and are likely to be targeting a quarterback. Perhaps this trade indicates San Francisco is excited about at least two of the three aforementioned prospects.
It’s also possible San Francisco knows the Jets’ plans at No. 2. New Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur had previously spent his entire NFL coaching career under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, so it’s likely they’ve talked this offseason.
When there’s a strong relationship, secrets like this do get swapped between teams, so it’s very possible San Francisco knows which quarterback will be gone at No. 2, and therefore who they’re landing at No. 3.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS LOOKING FOR CORNERBACK HELP?
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of receiving stolen property.
It’s too early in the investigation to know if this news will impact his availability in 2021, but the Saints appear to have already been showing an interest in cornerback prospects in the upcoming class. It’s certainly possible this news could enhance their motivation to address the position.
Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II and Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. are two potential first-round targets the Saints have been in contact with this offseason. Some potential Day 2 cornerbacks they’ve shown interest in include Michigan’s Ambry Thomas, Syracuse’s Trill Williams, and Oregon’s Thomas Graham.
PENN STATE PLAYERS POST IMPRESSIVE 40 TIMES
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (4.39) and pass-rusher Jayson Oweh (4.36) posted remarkable times in the 40-yard dash at their pro day on Thursday.
There’s no denying Parsons and Oweh are impressive athletes, but Penn State’s pro day times are notoriously fast. According to The 33rd Team, Penn State players typically run three percent faster at their pro day than the combine.
A notable example of this is Buffalo Bills 2008 first-round pick Aaron Maybin, who ran a 4.89 at the combine, before running 4.64 at his pro day.
This adjustment would make Parsons’ expected combine time 4.53, and Oweh’s 4.49.
Attempting to make these adjustments is valuable because players run on slightly different surfaces at each school. So Penn State isn’t being accused of fabricating these numbers, but they just happen to have an extremely fast running surface.
USC OL ALIJAH VERA-TUCKER MAKING SWITCH TO GUARD?
USC left tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker checked in with 32 1/8” arms at his pro day on Wednesday. That measurement likely means he’ll be listed as a guard on most draft boards.
Over the last 10 years, only two offensive tackles with sub-33” arms were drafted in the first round: Justin Pugh (who eventually spent most of his career at guard) and Kaleb McGary (who has spent two disappointing years at right tackle for the Atlanta Falcons).
Vera-Tucker could still land among the top 20 picks—the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers both need interior offensive line help—but his likely designation as a guard shortens the list of teams who will consider him in the first round.
BALTIMORE RAVENS INTERESTED IN LSU WR TERRACE MARSHALL JR.?
In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has the Ravens selecting LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. This is the third consecutive mock draft in which Kiper has paired Marshall and Baltimore.
Kiper is a Ravens fan and is well-tuned into the organization—he correctly predicted their selection of LB Patrick Queen last year—so his projections for Baltimore are worth taking seriously.
CALEB FARLEY TO UNDERGO MICRODISCECTOMY ON 3/23 AND NOT WORK OUT AT HIS PRO DAY
Farley, who is in the running for top CB taken in this year’s draft, will now not be able to work out for scouts at his pro day that is scheduled for March 26. That could be enough of a concern to put both Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn ahead of him on draft boards. As his agent Drew Rosenhaus stated, he is expected to be cleared for full activities before the start of training camp so it shouldn’t bump him out of the first round altogether.
PENN STATE LB MICAH PARSONS IN DANGER OF FALLING?
In his latest mock draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has Micah Parsons falling to the Green Bay Packers at No. 29, and mentions “character concerns” as a possible reason.
The character concerns are a reference to allegations of bullying and sexual harassment by a former teammate.
Zierlein, whose father was a long-time NFL and coach college, is well connected in the league, so these types of statements are often an indication of what he’s hearing from team sources. In a recent tweet, Zierlein also mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers as a specific team he believes won’t draft Parsons for this reason.
In his previous mock draft, Zierlein gave Parsons to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 6. Making such a significant change, and specifically citing the off-field questions, definitely gives the impression Zierlein has heard too many negative reviews of Parsons from within the league to believe he’s a candidate to go that high.
SYRACUSE CB IFEATU MELIFONWU RUNS 4.48 AT PRO DAY
While he isn’t a consensus first-round pick right now, Ifeatu Melifonwu is likely in the conversation for some teams after running a 4.48 40-yard dash with a 41.5” vertical at Syracuse’s pro day.
The Green Bay Packers, who are likely looking to replace 6’3” cornerback Kevin King, could be a potential landing spot for the 6’2” Melifonwu in the late first round.
New York Giants Sign WR Kenny Golladay
With the Giants locking up a WR1 for 4 years at 72 million and 40 of which guaranteed, WR now moves down the priorities list for them. I would expect them to now shift their focus to offensive line at pick 11 or best player available. They may also be enticed to trade down as their pick could become a target if one of the top 4 quarterbacks are still available at pick 11 and a team such as the Patriots or Bears wants to leapfrog San Francisco at 12.
Georgia CB Eric Stokes Impresses at Pro Day
Eric Stokes entered Georgia’s pro day as a fringe first-round prospect, but his pro day numbers make a strong case for him belonging among the top 32 prospects. Stokes blazed a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 39” vertical leap.
The 6’0” Stokes also checked in with 32 ¾” arms, which ranks in the 89th percentile among cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus—and we know how much NFL teams covet length at the position.
Stokes was not in my most recent first-round mock draft, but I had him matched with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the previous version. The New Orleans Saints and New York Jets are two other potential landing spots for Stokes in the first round.
Green Bay Packers Re-Sign RB Aaron Jones
Since Green Bay spent a second-round pick on running back AJ Dillon last year, Aaron Jones’s return is mildly surprising.
The Miami Dolphins had previously been the favorites to land Jones and there isn’t an obvious alternative target on the free agent market. With Jones no longer available, the odds of Miami selecting a running back with either the 18th or 36th pick have greatly increased.
Miami Dolphins Trade DE Shaq Lawson
Between Shaq Lawson and the recently released Kyle Van Noy, Miami has now parted with two of its top three pass-rushers from last season. Lawson and Van Noy combined for 84 QB pressures, according to Sports Info Solutions.
The Dolphins may address this need in free agency, but they’re also in a good spot to add a pass-rusher with the 18th pick. Michigan’s Kwity Paye, or Miami’s duo of Jaelan Phillips or Gregory Rousseau could each fill Lawson’s role in the defense.
Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins could potentially be a replacement for Van Noy.
Tennessee Titans Showing Interest in Cornerbacks
The Titans have met virtually with at least five cornerback prospects this offseason: Northwestern’s Greg Newsome, Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., UCF’s Tay Gowan, and Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu and Trill Williams.
Draft visits don’t mean much in terms of connecting teams to specific players, but when a team is investing this much time in a certain position group, it’s typically a strong indication they plan to address that area of the roster.
Most of the aforementioned players are Day 2 prospects, but Newsome and Samuel Jr. could potentially land in the first round.
Many GMs attend Pro Day for North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
The New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings were among a large group of teams represented by their GM at the North Dakota State pro day on Friday.
Normally a GM’s attendance signals serious interest in a prospect, but we probably can’t connect those dots as strongly in this case. Since Trey Lance only appeared in one game in 2020, many of these GMs have likely never seen him in person.
Lance is more of an unknown than a typical top QB prospect, so high-profile coaches and front office staff likely made this pro day one of the priorities on their spring schedule, just to be sure they’ve done their due diligence.
As for Lance’s workout, he checked in at 6’4”, 224 pounds and declined to participate in agility drills.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne weighs in at 215 pounds at pro day
Running back Travis Etienne was listed at 205 pounds at Clemson, and may have played lighter than that at times. His lack of size and finesse style of play has led some doubters to wonder if maybe he’s not three-down back in the NFL.
Adding some weight for his pro day, while still running a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, probably relieves some of that doubt from any teams with similar questions. As a result, he’s still in the mix to sneak into the late first round.
Kansas City Chiefs release LT Eric Fisher, RT Mitchell Schwartz
The Chiefs injury-depleted offensive line held together reasonably well until Fisher’s injury in the AFC Championship game. So finding a suitable replacement appears to be critical to their ability to repeat as AFC champs.
If they address this need in the draft, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg or Texas’ Sam Cosmi are the most logical fits at LT. Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins and Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield are both viewed by many as RT-only prospects (or guards) and could potentially be replacements for Schwartz.
New Orleans Saints release WR Emmanuel Sanders
Since the Saints are in a tough cap situation, they probably can’t afford to replace Sanders with a high-end free agent. As a result, his departure likely increases the odds of New Orleans targeting a receiver in the first round.
The Saints like to use their receivers interchangeably between the slot and outside, which may draw them towards players with similar experience in college. Florida’s Kadarius Toney (63 percent of career routes in slot, according to Sports Info Solutions) is the probably closest comparison to Sanders among the likely first-round receivers.
USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown (64 percent of career routes in slot) is another who has extensive experience in both roles.
Northwestern CB Greg Newsome runs 4.38 at pro day – Draft Impact:
Newsome wasn’t highly regarded prior to 2020, but he was dominant in the shortened Big Ten season. With only a small sample size of elite performances, teams will be looking for an excuse to downgrade him but his 4.38 40-yard time and 40” vertical gives him the workout numbers to match his recent production, increasing the odds of him sliding into the first round.
The Jets and Packers both look like potential fits in the late first-round based on their heavy use of zone coverage, which Newsome excelled at in college.