Josh Palmer, Jake Funk rising up draft boards a week away from the 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft is exactly one week away, and two names are quickly rising up draft boards, Tennessee wide receiver Josh Palmer and Maryland running back Jake Funk. Here is what I am hearing about these two up-and-coming prospects.

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Josh Palmer and Jake Funk, two skill players gaining a lot of momentum

Everyone is talking about Kyle Pitts, Najee Harris, and a trio of talented receivers who are expected to be selected at the top of the draft. But two other skill players, one a middle-round choice and the other a late-round/priority free-agent type, are getting a lot of love in the scouting community.

Palmer was given a third-round grade by scouts entering the season, and he was listed as a top-10 receiver in the senior class. A mediocre 2020 campaign in which he recorded fewer receptions than the prior year, left questions in the minds of scouts. Yet, since the Senior Bowl, where Palmer turned in three strong practices, scouts have reverted back to their initial takeaways.

Like most who watched the film realize, the situation at Tennessee last season, especially on offense, was not ideal. There was a lot of inconsistency at quarterback, and former starter Jarrett Guarantano transferred to Washington State. There was also a change at head coach after the season.

Still, scouts came away not only impressed with the football skills Palmer showed during Senior Bowl week, but also his physicality and athleticism. They admired the way Palmer stuck it out at Tennessee for the entire season when he had every reason to shut it down and begin draft preparation. During Tennessee’s Pro Day, Palmer timed faster than expected in the 40 at 4.51 seconds and caught the ball well during position drills.

There’s a feeling that Palmer may have restored his third-round grade with his performance in the months leading up to the draft. The New York Jets and Detroit Lions are teams showing a great deal of interest in the big receiver.

Funk is coming off a career year

The other skill player who has caught fire is Funk, who’s coming off a career season.

After struggling with ACL injuries that cut his 2018 and 2019 campaigns short, Funk finished with 560 rushing yards last season, second-most in the Big Ten. During Maryland’s Pro Day, the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder timed 4.47 in the 40.

He’s a four-down back who can be used on special teams — Funk accumulated 30 tackles on coverage units during his time at Maryland. Head coach Mike Locksley gave Funk rave reviews for the NFL teams who have inquired.

While the injuries will send up red flags, I’m told that recent medical exams received by teams around the league have given Funk’s knees the thumbs up. He won’t need a waiver in order to participate in camp this spring.

Teams are now doing a deep dive on Funk, who’s getting a lot of attention from both New York teams — the Jets and Giants — as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Tony Pauline is the Chief Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Tony’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter: @TonyPauline