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This week’s installment will cover my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings and a slew of questions about quarterback rumors around the NFL. But first, we start with some talk and NFL rumors about how NFL teams are approaching the RB1 discussion in the 2021 NFL Draft.
NFL Rumors & Draft News: The Tony Pauline Mailbag (2.10.21)
Is Alabama’s Najee Harris the clear consensus RB1 on team draft boards? And is Travis Etienne widely considered one of the top two backs in the draft? Or are there RBs who could overtake Etienne and/or Harris in this class?
Those are one and two from teams I’ve spoken with. Someone else could make a late charge, but it would be more due to scheme fit rather than being a better prospect. Neither Harris nor Etienne fit a scheme that prioritizes speed and perimeter running. A team like that could bypass either, just as teams bypassed J.K. Dobbins.
On Sunday, you shared information that the Jets keep getting calls about the availability of Sam Darnold. If the Jets do trade Darnold, which available quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft do you think the Jets favor — Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or somebody else?
Zach Wilson — he would be a terrific fit for the offense they want to run.
Have you heard any NFL rumors that potential off-field allegations and concerns around Micah Parsons could likely cause him to fall in the draft?
I’ve not heard anything further on the allegations brought forth last fall. I would expect to hear more as we get closer to the draft. Speculatively, if the allegations from the fall were true, we would’ve heard more from the State College media — and James Franklin would probably be looking for a new job.
If Parsons drops, it will be due to opting out last season.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys will prioritize the cornerback position with the 10th overall pick? If so, who do you think would be the pick if all of the cornerbacks are still on the board when Dallas is on the clock?
I think there are a lot of ways they could go, and much hinges on whether or not they sign Dak Prescott. It could be cornerback, but I would not be surprised if they took a top offensive lineman if a good one stared them in the face.
It seems as though the top of the cornerback board is not very impressive, which could leave NFL teams looking for diamonds in the rough. Who is your favorite sleeper cornerback in this draft class?
The pickings are slim at the cornerback position, but my sleepers would be:
Greg Newsome, Northwestern
Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
Olaijah Griffin, USC
Shakur Brown, Michigan State
Is the number of teams reportedly interested in veteran quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, and so on an indication that NFL teams aren’t as high on the upcoming QB class as the media is — any NFL rumors there?
No — in most cases, it’s easier to rebuild a veteran quarterback than start fresh with a rookie. The quarterbacks traded (Goff) or mentioned as being traded (Wentz & Darnold) are young, physically gifted, and have shown the ability to lead an offense in the past.
Is there any kind of consensus inside league circles about how the top three wide receivers — DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle — are stacked on draft boards? Or is there significant variance from team to team?
It’s pretty much Chase then Smith. However, a lot of teams like Rondale Moore of Purdue ahead of Waddle and justifiably so. He (Moore) is more of a natural receiver compared to Waddle.
The 2021 NFL Draft looks to have a very highly-regarded QB class and there’s already speculation that teams will need to move up to secure their target. Which teams do you expect to be most active when it comes to looking to trade down?
Depending on which quarterbacks are traded where, Carolina, Washington, San Francisco, and maybe Dallas.
What are your thoughts on Carson Strong’s decision to return to school? Do you think it was a wise long-term decision? Any NFL rumors he’s a potential top-10 pick in 2022?
It was the best decision he could’ve made. I’m glad to say I’ve been ahead of the curve on Strong, but he still needs refinement. He’s a great arm talent, he makes good decisions and he’s accurate, but he still needs work on his timing. My main concern is the Nevada offense. They get too cute with their “Pistol” formations and direct snaps to the running back, rather than focusing the offense on Strong.
As far as the top 10 is concerned — it’s definitely possible, but to draw a comparison, I don’t grade Strong as highly as I graded Josh Allen after his sophomore season at Wyoming.
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