NFL Rumors & Draft News: 2021 NFL Draft class comes into focus

The college season is over, and we’ve arrived at the NFL Conference Championships. We’re a few weeks away from the 2021 NFL offseason. As a result, Tony Pauline dives into his mailbag below to address some of your burning questions. Let’s dive into the NFL rumors, college football, and 2021 NFL Draft news!

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Related | Tony Pauline’s December 2021 NFL Mock Draft

This week’s installment will cover my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings and a slew of questions about player evaluations and the various riders and sliders from the college football season. But first, we start with the offseason’s first event — the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

NFL Rumors & Draft News: The Tony Pauline Mailbag (1.20.21)

Which prospects are you most looking forward to seeing at the Senior Bowl?

Mac Jones — I want to see how he does outside the element of all that great talent he was surrounded by at Alabama.

Jamie Newman — needs a big week of practice to salvage his draft stock.

Kenny Yeboah — I will be watching to see how he does in blocking drills. We all know he’s a terrific receiver.

Dillon Radunz and Spencer Brown — two big-time, small-school blockers with a lot on the line. Really looking forward to watching Brown.

Malcolm Koonce — in my opinion, one of the most underrated edge rushers in the draft. I don’t expect him to be drafted until the late rounds. Yet, he’s a very good pass rusher standing over the tackle as well as out of a three-point stance.

Ifeatu Melifonwu — I thought he was the most underrated defensive back at Syracuse and had the most upside of SU’s trio.

I see you moved Gregory Rousseau down on your big board. Do you think Rousseau made a mistake opting out of the 2020 season? Any NFL rumors that he could fall out of the first round?

He won’t fall out of the first round, but Rousseau made a big mistake not playing in 2020.  

He’s a terrific edge rusher and very athletic, but that’s where it starts and ends. He’s not a strong run defender and needs a lot of work on his game. I felt he was overrated from the get-go.

Did Ohio State CB Shaun Wade make a mistake entering the 2021 NFL Draft? Should he have gone back to school and maybe moved back to slot CB or perhaps safety (because he looked bad as a boundary CB in 2020)?

There are pros and cons to Wade’s decision. If he went back and got hurt or didn’t improve, he would be screwed moving towards the 2022 NFL Draft.  

Wade’s inability to prove he’s nothing more than a nickel back will hurt his draft stock significantly. There were scouts who graded him as a third-round pick entering the year. I was of the mindset he would be able to take his game to the next level and show he’s a number one type of cornerback.  

Obviously, I was wrong.

If Penei Sewell is available at pick three, do you think the Dolphins should take him despite taking Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt last year? Is he clearly that much of an upgrade?

He’s an upgrade over Austin Jackson, but I don’t think he’s enough of an upgrade to use the third pick of the draft on him.  I also have my concerns about Sewell’s ability to play right tackle.  

Do you think there are any teams (or know of any teams or NFL rumors) that don’t have Penei Sewell as the top offensive lineman in the draft?

No team I’ve spoken with have any other lineman, offensive or defensive, rated ahead of Sewell.

Why do you think there were so many teams who declined to coach the Senior Bowl? Does the media overstate the value of coaching in the annual event?

It’s more about travel in this day and age, and teams being unable to get entire staffs to Mobile.  

This year, more than ever, it would be a great advantage to coach Senior Bowl players and get to know them considering all the uncertainty about workouts leading up to this year’s draft.

Florida TE Kyle Pitts is now inside your top 5 of NFL Draft prospects. Do you think he could be the first TE selected in the top 7 picks since 2006? Where do you rank him compared to other recent TE prospects?

It’s going to be very tough for Pitts to break into the top 10 this year.  Looking at the teams with selections in that range, several of them need a tight end but they all have more pressing needs.

For comparison purposes, I believe Pitts is the best tight end in the draft since Vernon Davis, but I believe Pitts is more complete than the former sixth pick of the draft. 

Where can I find Tony on social media?

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and Insider. So, follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline and follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365 for all the latest NFL rumors and draft news.

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