Pauline Mailbag: Latest on Clowney, plus talking 2021 RBs and TEs

In this week's mailbag, we discuss the latest on free agent Jadeveon Clowney, how the top of the RB and TE class looks right now, Trey Lance's "showcase", and much more.

We’ve finally made it to September! College football, in some parts of the country, will get underway soon. The NFL, too, will kick off in just over a week. No better time to open up the mailbag and discuss your questions on college football, the NFL, or the NFL Draft. This week’s mailbag includes questions on the Big Ten’s 2020 season, Trey Lance, the 2021 RB class, and much more. But first, we begin with the latest on free agent Jadeveon Clowney.

If you have a question you want to send in for next week’s mailbag, you can e-mail it to or send a tweet to @PFN365 on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTonyPFN, and we’ll try to include it in an upcoming mailbag column.

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The Tony Pauline Mailbag

Who are the frontrunners for Jadeveon Clowney? Are the Ravens still the most likely landing spot?

Most league insiders I’ve spoken with, including a great source who I called just before typing this out, still believe Clowney ends up with the Ravens, as I suggested last week.  It checks off a lot of boxes for both sides.

Related | Lamar Jackson is poised to get Ravens over the playoff hump

That said, I have no direct knowledge of the two sides talking. It’s also a situation that seems to change daily. It’s already September and Clowney is still unsigned. If I had told you six months ago this was going to be the situation, you would’ve told me I was nuts.

Where do you think Clay Matthews signs?

I’m told the belief is Matthews ends up in Seattle.  It’s a good fit in a variety of ways.

Do you think the Big Ten will eventually have a “late fall” football season?

I think the Big Ten season will start sooner rather than later.  Later being February of 2021; sooner is November or December, if not earlier. There is a ton of pressure being brought down on the conference from a variety of groups — players, parents, alumni and boosters.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the decision of the conference, the way they went about it and the speed in which the decision was made caught people by surprise and angered many. At this point, it’s as much about politics as it is concern over players’ health, which is sad.

How much can Trey Lance really improve his draft stock with a single “showcase game” against Central Arkansas in October?

I don’t believe a single game like that will help him all that much, though I’m sure Lance would love to have a knockout performance considering it’s the only game left on the NDSU schedule this year. This assumes he hasn’t started Combine training. Pre-draft workouts will be most important for Lance.

Related | Is NDSU’s Trey Lance an exception to the rule?

Remember — it was Senior Bowl week that pushed the draft stock of former NDSU signal-caller Carson Wentz to the front of the pack.

How do you stack the 2021 draft class at running back heading into the 2020 college season?

My board goes as follows:

  • Najee Harris/Alabama
  • Chuba Hubbard/Oklahoma State
  • Travis Etienne/Clemson

There is then a big drop-off to Kylin Hill.

I think Harris is undervalued and a complete back with better than average ability around the perimeter.

Related | Alabama RB Najee Harris a modern back with old-school power

Chris Evans of Michigan is the sleeper and the wildcard. Off the 2018 film, before he was declared ineligible, Evans looked like a potential day two pick. He’s still graded as a day-two prospect by some in the scouting community while others stamped him as a late sixth-rounder.  I put a fifth-round grade on Evans, who will suffer by not being able to play this fall. 

Is Pat Freiermuth a lock to be the TE1 in 2021? Or could somebody like Kyle Pitts, Brevin Jordan, or Matt Bushman overtake him?

He’s the top tight end right now, but I would not say he’s a lock to be the first player at the position selected next April.

Pitts and especially Jordan are faster and more athletic, yet Freiermuth is more polished to this point.  Bushman is a real good pass catcher but someone who likely will struggle to get under 4.8 seconds in the forty before the draft.

Related | 2020 SEC Preseason Summer Scouting Preview

Nick Eubanks of Michigan is someone who could have made a big move up boards with a big season.

Is there an under-the-radar edge rusher that you think will climb draft boards as the season goes on?

Two guys to keep an eye on that few are talking about — James Head Jr. of Indiana and Jordan Smith of UAB.

I wrote about my affection for Head and his pass-rushing skill back in June.  Obviously his ability to climb draft boards is dependent on the Big Ten getting back on the field.

Few are even aware of Smith, but get to know him as he’s an athletic 3-4 OLB type who impacts games.

Presently I grade both as second-day prospects.

Was there one player no one is talking about who blew you away watching film this summer?

That would be Georgia Southern safety Kenderick Duncan Jr.

I first noticed him last year while scouting Georgia Southern’s three corners, and I thought he was the best player in their secondary.  That was affirmed as I was breaking down the Sun Belt film.

Duncan is a linebacker-sized safety with a complete game.  He’s an instinctive defender with terrific ball skills and a tough run defender who makes the tackle in open space.  I’ve given Duncan an early third-round grade.

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365

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