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NFL Rumors & Draft News: The buzz on prospects, opt-outs, and more

Tony Pauline’s mailbag is back with the latest NFL rumors and draft news. After the first wave of free agency, how were draft plans affected?

NFL Rumors & Draft News: The buzz on prospects, opt-outs, and more
Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) heads to the bench during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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 (3.25.21)

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. To begin with, let’s analyze the potential QB butterfly effect hanging in the balance of the Jets’ decision on Sam Darnold.

NFL rumors and roster-building plans

What is your best guess going by gut instinct what happens with the New York Jets and Sam Darnold? Does Darnold still have trade value? If no one meets their asking price, could you see a Drew Brees/Philip Rivers scenario and kick the decision on Darnold out a year?

As stated on Draft Insiders with Trey Wingo last night, people in the league believe it’s about 90% Darnold is traded. A likely scenario is San Francisco if they move Garoppolo. The Niners went hard after Joe Flacco, which tells you something.

I think it would be tough for the Jets to take a Zach Wilson then keep Darnold. If they don’t trade Darnold before the draft and select Wilson, it becomes a bit of a fire sale for the former first-round pick.  

As a Bears fan, what other sports should I consider watching for the next year or two?

I’m personally fond of watching Jessie Diggins in cross-country skiing. And though I’m not a big fan of curling, the screaming and yelling in the sport reminds me of what goes on in my home all the time.

In the end, just watch reruns of “Temptation Island.”  Very entertaining.

You nailed it on the report of the Jets pursuing Trey Hendrickson. Though they weren’t able to sign him, how likely and what round would the Jets draft a pass rusher? Any NFL rumors on the Jets as far as pass rushers they like?

They also signed Sheldon Rankins, who I said they had an interest in. It’s still early, but I’m hearing pass rushers, offensive linemen, and corners are priorities heading towards the draft — no names as of yet.

Which pass rushers on Day 1 or Day 2 should interest the Baltimore Ravens as far as talent and scheme fit?

Day 1: Azeez Ojulari, though he may not be available. I believe Joseph Ossai and Carlos Basham Jr. are perfect fits as well.

Day 2: Elerson Smith and Joe Tryon.

Day 3: William Bradley-King, Tarron Jackson, and Malcolm Koonce.

You said during the Senior Bowl the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers are very interested in Najee Harris. Is this still true?

Yes — as of the other day, I was told both teams still rank Najee Harris highly and are considering selecting him in the first round. The other team that has also moved into the mix in the Harris sweepstakes? The Buffalo Bills, from the information I received.

2021 NFL Draft news and rumors

Davis Mills tested well at his pro day, and he’s always had the throwing upside. How high could he go in the 2021 NFL Draft, given the drop-off in talent after the top five QBs?

The pro day workout is perfectly set up for Davis Mills‘ skill set — hopefully, you read our report from his workout at the Senior Bowl. The issue is quick decision-making in the pocket.  

He’s probably the seventh or eighth quarterback selected after Kellen Mond and will battle it out with Kyle Trask. Right now, I say third round, though. I don’t believe late in the second round is out of the question.

This is another deep wide receiver class. Who are your favorite Day 2 wide receiver prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Tylan Wallace, Dyami Brown, and Shi Smith.

Any NFL rumors on whether teams are skeptical about players who opted out?

There’s no general answer on a league-wide basis. In fact, there’s a variety of opinions and debates within front offices. For instance, I learned this week there are some people inside the Miami Dolphins front office who would prefer not to select players that opted out of the 2020 season with their early picks. Now, the opinion of those people may change after those players (Ja’Marr Chase and Penei Sewell, for example) workout.

The bottom line is, all things being equal, those who played in the 2020 season will have an advantage over those who opted out. Scouts value film over someone who opted out so they could run the three-cone .1-second faster.

Do you have any updates on Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith? Will they be participating in the second Alabama Pro Day?

I was told Najee Harris will workout at the second Alabama Pro Day. He’s rounding into top shape after the ankle injury he suffered in the semifinal game against Notre Dame.

Jaylen Waddle is expected to take part in the second Alabama Pro Day. He’s just getting to the point where his ankle is healthy and can do almost everything in his training. That will include both receiver drills and working on the testing portion (40, shuttle, three-cone).

DeVonta Smith said on TV he won’t be participating in the second Alabama Pro Day but may do something “later on,” whatever that means.

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.

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