With barely three weeks left before the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off, it has been the weirdest of draft seasons. Limited attendance at the Senior Bowl and pro day workouts coupled with no combine, no individual workouts, and on and on. The end result? Information leaking from franchise headquarters has been slow. What’s not been slow is the chatter on the players who will impact this year’s event. As of April 4, here’s the latest NFL Draft news and rumors I’m hearing, including whispers on Richie Grant and Gregory Rousseau.
NFL Draft News & Rumors | Offensive linemen on the rise
Putting aside testing numbers for a minute, teams have been completing Zoom interviews with draft-eligible players ad nauseum since the middle of January. And as happens each year, several prospects have impressed the general managers, coaches, and scouts holding these virtual meetings. Included in this group are a trio of Day 2 offensive linemen: Trey Smith of Tennessee, Aaron Banks of Notre Dame, and Brady Christensen from BYU.
Smith entered the season graded by scouts as the top prospect from the senior class regardless of position. He was graded almost a full round higher than Rashawn Slater and a round and a half better than Teven Jenkins. But as we often see, preseason grades mean little.
Unlike those two, Smith is looked upon solely as a next-level guard and has a medical history that must be checked out. Regardless, he plays smart football, so it comes as no surprise he’s interviewing well.
Much the same can be said about Aaron Banks, as he displays great blocking vision and a feel for what’s happening on the field. Banks is more a rumbling type of lineman that will line up at guard in a power-gap offense. Brady Christensen is often the forgotten prospect at BYU, with Zach Wilson taking up all the media headlines — and that’s a shame. The junior has been a good left tackle, protecting Wilson the past two seasons, and has shown consistent progress on the field.
NFL Draft News & Rumors | Florida safety moving on up
No, I’m not talking about the University of Florida or Florida State or even Miami of Florida. Rather, I’m talking Central Florida and their terrific safety, Richie Grant.
Despite being graded as a free-agent prospect by scouts entering the season, I stamped Grant as a Day 2 prospect over the summer. Back in June of last year, I wrote:
“While some scouts grade Richie Grant as a priority free agent, I stamped him as a potential second-day pick. Grant is an explosive run defender who shows solid range and ability in coverage. He lacks classic size and speed, but Grant is a terrific football player.”
It seems even I sold Grant short — the UCF senior is presently receiving late first-round consideration on a number of boards around the league.
Whether Grant ends up in the first frame is another matter altogether, considering most teams at the bottom of Round 1 will be looking for offensive tackles and pass rushers. But after another terrific season on the college field, an outstanding performance over three days of Senior Bowl practice, and an equally impressive showing during pro day position drills, it looks as though Grant will be the second safety to come off the board in three weeks.
NFL Draft News & Rumors | ACC prospects falling down draft boards
Two defensive prospects from the Atlantic Coast Conference and a pair of players (many on the outside once considered top-12 draft picks) are falling — and potentially falling out of the first round.
The first of the two would be Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley.
After opting out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, the recent announcement Farley underwent back surgery and won’t be ready until the start of camp has teams concerned — very concerned.
And while combine medicals don’t take place until this week, front office personnel have confided they believe Farley won’t be ready for football until the end of the summer. Medical exams, MRIs, and everything else taking place in Indianapolis this week will be critical to Farley’s draft grade.
The other ACC defender who could potentially fall out of Round 1 is Hurricanes pass rusher Gregory Rousseau. This is not a case of injury, rather a mediocre pro day workout by someone with just one year of starting experience on the college level. Like Farley, Rousseau opted out of the 2020 campaign to prepare for the draft.
Scouts are not only concerned with Rousseau’s limited body of work but the fact his teammate, Jaelan Phillips, looked like the better prospect during the Hurricanes Pro Day. There are a number of teams who have moved Phillips ahead of Rousseau on boards at this point.
Want more prospect news?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.