NFL Rumors & Draft News: 2021 free agency buzz

The NFL offseason is upon us, and it’s time to dive into the mailbag to discuss various topics around the league. Without further ado, let’s talk NFL rumors and 2021 NFL Draft news!

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NFL Rumors & Draft News: The Tony Pauline Mailbag (3.17.21)

This week’s installment will cover my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings and various questions around 2021 NFL Draft rumors and items from around the league. First, let’s find out what Tony believes is the key difference between Alabama’s top receivers in the draft.

NFL rumors and roster-building plans

I see you have DeVonta Smith ranked a few slots higher than Jaylen Waddle on your big board. What separates those two in your eyes as far as NFL prospects?

DeVonta Smith has a much more complete game as far as route running, reliable hands, and the ability to come away with the difficult grab. The question is, with his lack of size, how does he translate those skills to the next level? And more to the point — will he be as good at grabbing contested throws in a crowd on Sunday?

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Jaylen Waddle is not as complete a receiver, but he has home-run-hitting speed. He can score from any point on the field, and positively affects a team as a wideout and return specialist.

Any rumors on NFL Draft prospects that many believe will be first-round picks who could slide out of the first round?

Travis Etienne, Kadarius Toney, Levi Onwuzurike, and Christian Barmore.

How do you think the 2021 NFL Draft defensive tackle class is stacking up compared to recent drafts?

It’s not as bad as the 2017 class. However, it pales in comparison to most of the defensive tackle classes from the past decade. No defensive tackle on my board has a first-round grade. Though, I do believe the top three DTs — Christian Barmore, Levi Onwuzurike, and Daviyon Nixon — will be good values in Round 2.

And although there is no top-level talent at the position, there is a good mixture of three-technique types as well as gap occupiers and conventional 4-3 defensive tackles.

What do you think is D’Wayne Eskridge’s draft range? Could he slide up into Round 2?

Definitely Day 2 with a possibility in the late second round, which is where I presently grade D’Wayne Eskridge.

What are you hearing in regards to which direction Atlanta will go in Round 1? Are they finally ready to invest a first-round pick in a quarterback?

From what I hear, there is a very real possibility they take a quarterback with their first pick. You’ve got a new coach and a new general manager as well as an aging quarterback.

2021 NFL Draft news and rumors

Who are some of the biggest risers after the first batch of NFL pro days?

Josh Ball, Marshall, DT — his pro day workout secured him as a top-80 pick, though teams will have to be comfortable with the issues that pushed Ball out of Florida State.

Jonathan Marshall, Arkansas, DL — tremendous pro day and went from PFA (preferred free agent) to late-round pick. Marshall was out of place at nose tackle for the Razorbacks last season, which limited his play-making opportunities.

Tre Brown, Oklahoma, CB — 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash was much faster than scouts expected.

Could you please shine any light on the NFL rumors of Miami considering taking TE Kyle Pitts at 3? I would love this pick, but it seems like an outside WR is a higher priority.

They are just that at this point — rumors. I fully expect the Dolphins to do their due diligence on Pitts. But, no decision has been made at this point.

This offseason has been so unusual in terms of the pre-draft process. Do you think it leads to more trading or less trading in the first round this year?

No. I think you will see more teams try and unload middle and late-round picks this year for earlier selections in the 2022 NFL Draft.

So many seniors have decided to take up the NCAA offer of another year of eligibility it’s created a two-fold effect:

  1. Players in the mid-to-late rounds will be over-drafted in 2021, i.e., with the reduction in the talent pool, players with seventh-round grades could end up being selected in the fifth round.
  2. Players will be under-drafted in 2022, i.e., because of the expected overabundance of talent in next year’s draft, you will likely have an unusual number of players with fourth-round grades sliding to the seventh round.

Want more 2021 NFL rumors and draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?

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.

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.

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