NFL Draft trending storylines: Davis Mills, the fastest 40s, the No 1 long snapper and the Miami duo | NFL News

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Will somebody take a chance on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills? (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

Will somebody take a chance on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills? (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

Pro Days are drawing to a close, NFL teams are finalising their boards and the rumour mill is picking up speed. It is almost Draft time.

We are into the home stretch with just a fortnight to go until Commissioner Roger Goodell opens proceedings by announcing the first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft live from Cleveland.

With that in mind, we take a look at 10 of the trending storylines…

The chasing pack of QBs

Kellen Mond of Texas A&M throws during the Senior Bowl in January (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Kellen Mond of Texas A&M throws during the Senior Bowl in January (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

The top five quarterbacks look set. What order they come off the board, however, remains to be seen. By now you would put your house on Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No 1 and perhaps even on Zach Wilson heading to the New York Jets at No 2, while one of Alabama’s Mac Jones or Ohio State’s Justin Fields are expected to land with the San Francisco 49ers at No 3. That would likely leave the other to then scrap it out with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance to become the fourth play-caller taken.

But the interest does not stop there. Stanford’s Davis Mills, who made just 11 starts across two years in college, appears to be generating late buzz in light of an impressive Pro Day and time in what is deemed a pro-style offense under Cardinals head coach David Shaw. Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, who became the third QB in SEC history to record over 9,000 career passing yards alongside his 1,500 career rushing yards, is, meanwhile, said to have been subject to “serious” enquiries from between 10 and 15 teams, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

NBC’s well-connected Peter King also stirred the pot again this week by claiming he is “starting to think” Florida’s Kyle Trask could become the sixth first-round quarterback. We will see.

Need for speed

It is difficult not to become enamoured by speed at this time of year, even if it is showcased without pads, a football in hand and 200-pound defensive backs swarming them.

Pro Days can be a reminder of what scouts already know, but they can also put some players on the radar and earn others the extra money that comes with rising up Draft boards.

Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz led the way in 2021 with an unofficial time of 4.26, just shy of John Ross’ record 4.22 effort in 2017. Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes also boosted his stock with a 4.29 at his Pro Day, while Purdue’s explosive Rondale Moore only continued to fuel excitement about his potential with a 4.29 of his own.

Top 10 unofficial 40-yard dash Pro Day times

Player Position School 40 time
Anthony Schwartz WR Auburn 4.26
Rondale Moore WR Purdue 4.29
Eric Stokes CB Georgia 4.29
Shi Smith WR South Carolina 4.33
Kary Vincent CB LSU 4.33
Racey McMath WR LSU 4.34
Elijah Moore WR Ole Miss 4.35
Jayson Oweh Edge Penn State 4.36
Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina 4.37
Ambry Thomas CB Michigan 4.37

Stanford receiver Semi Fehoko was also among those to record an unofficial 4.37.

Sitting just outside of the top 10 are Illinois cornerback Nate Hobbs, LSU wide receivers and first-round prospects Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, Western Michigan wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge, Missouri safety Tyree Gillespie, Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome and Kansas running back Pooka Williams, all of whom recorded unofficial 4.38 40s.

No 1 long snapper

Long snapper is not typically a position that attracts attention, but here’s to changing that.

Alabama’s Thomas Fletcher was recognised as the top long snapper in the nation in January as he received the 2020 Patrick Mannelly Award. Fletcher did not record a single bad snap on punts, PATs or field goals across his 55 games as Crimson Tide starter.

He also notably recovered a fumble on a punt return against Missouri and earned first team All-America honours from Rubio Long Snapping, the most well-known long snapper resource in the country. In addition, Fletcher saw Alabama’s kicker finish 2020 a perfect 14 of 14 on field goals and 84 of 84 on extra points.

Fletcher looked to quash ridicule over a long snapper’s athleticism at his Pro Day as he recorded an unofficial 4.84 in the 40, 13 reps on the bench press, a 33.5 inch vertical jump, a 9.1 inch broad jump and a 4.47 shuttle.

Who’s TE2?

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in action against Memphis (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via AP)

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in action against Memphis (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via AP)

Florida Kyle Pitts is the Draft’s unicorn, a mismatch nightmare making teams with a top-10 pick second guess themselves and a tight end with the skill set many believe can help propel him among the greats in his position. But who awaits behind him?

Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth seemingly occupies that position as next in line as one of the most NFL-ready prospects in this year’s class, with the imposing size, strong hands and underrated separation speed to be a menace as a receiving threat. His stature also gives him a high ceiling as a blocker entering a pro offense.

Miami’s Brevin Jordan does not possess the size and strength to be an obvious red zone mismatch or blocking contributor, but what he does offer is excellent speed and yards after catch ability. Get the ball in his hands, and you are in business. Boston College’s well-rounded Hunter Long is coming off an exceptional 2020 season in which he led all tight ends with 57 catches and 658 yards, and Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble is believed to have untapped potential having spent much of his career behind Cole Kmet and Michael Mayer.

There there is Georgia’s Tre’ McKitty, Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah, and Central Missouri’s fascinating tight end/punter hybrid Zach Davidson.

HBCU prospects

Prairie View A&M Panthers wide receiver Tristen Wallace makes a catch against the Houston Cougars in 2019 (Trask Smith/CSM via AP)

Prairie View A&M Panthers wide receiver Tristen Wallace makes a catch against the Houston Cougars in 2019 (Trask Smith/CSM via AP)

The NFL recently hosted the first-ever combine for prospects belonging to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), having had to cancel last year’s event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Within that was an opportunity to take a look at the likes of NC A&T cornerback Franklin ‘Mac’ McCain III, Texas Southern wide receiver Donnie Corley and Prairie View A&M wide receiver Tristen Wallace.

Among some of the other HBCU talent to monitor are Grambling State offensive lineman David Moore, NC Central cornerback Bryan Mills and Alcorn State safety Qwynnterrio Cole.

In a bid to provide HBCU prospects with a bigger platform on which to showcase their talent, the Black College Football Hall of Fame plans to stage its inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl on the back of next year’s Super Bowl.

What are the analysts saying?

Where will Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields land at the 2021 NFL Draft? (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Where will Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields land at the 2021 NFL Draft? (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Word has it neither NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah or Bucky Brooks sleep in the month of April. From mock drafts to endless hours of studying tape, this is their big dance.

In his third and latest mock draft, Jeremiah has the Atlanta Falcons taking Lance at No 4 overall and Fields heading to the Detroit Lions at No 7. Elsewhere, Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw is selected by the Indianapolis Colts at No 21 to fill the void left by the retired Anthony Castonzo, Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari is taken by the New York Jets at No 23 to play across from Carl Lawson and Ole Miss route-running maestro Elijah Moore is plucked as a luxury pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager also released his first mock draft last week, sending Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater to the Miami Dolphins at No 6, followed by Kyle Pitts to the Arizona Cardinals at No 7 via a trade with the Lions. He, meanwhile, has dynamic Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney to the Chicago Bears at No 20 and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr finding a home with the Buffalo Bills at No 30.

Mid/late round gems

North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1) runs for a touchdown against the UTEP Miners in December 2020 (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via AP)

North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1) runs for a touchdown against the UTEP Miners in December 2020 (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via AP)

Day two is where things can get really interesting at the Draft. Russell Wilson was taken in round three, George Kittle and Tyreek Hill were both taken in round five, Antonio Brown was taken in round six and that guy Tom Brady was taken with the 199th overall pick. You know the stories.

The depth of this year’s wide receiver class means mid-to-late round weapons await in their numbers. Racey McMath is the LSU receiver nobody is talking about behind Chase and Marshall, Stanford’s 6ft 4in Simi Fehoko is a powerful vertical threat, slot option Dazz Newsome is a fiery product of North Carolina’s impressive offense, BYU’s Dax Milne is the man better known as Zach Wilson’s favourite target and North Texas’ Jaelon Darden is somebody you do not want to give space in the open field.

Also throw Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, Indiana’s Whop Philyor, Auburn’s Seth Williams, Clemson’s Amari Rodgers and South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson into the mix.

The defensive tackle class

Christian Barmore is one of the top interior linemen up for grabs (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Christian Barmore is one of the top interior linemen up for grabs (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

There arguably is not a position group being talked about less than that of the defensive tackles, who analysts believe are in short supply when it comes to difference-makers.

Alabama’s Christian Barmore can be a bully at the line of scrimmage when on his game and has flirted with first-round projections alongside Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike. UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa operates with excellent leverage, Ohio State’s Tommy Togiai plays with outstanding lateral quickness, Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon showcased impressive burst during a breakout 2020 and USC’s Jay Tufele provides an unrelenting motor.

While the top end talent looks positive, the depth has struggled to convince.

Risers

With no Scouting Combine in 2021, it has been trickier for players to make the kind of pre-Draft leap witnessed in previous years. Nevertheless, strong Pro Day showings have paid off some.

Penn State’s Jayson Oweh dropped jaws with an unofficial 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and displayed the overall athleticism designed to make him an explosive threat off the edge, while South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn continue his ascent by crushing his day in front of scouts with a 41.5 inch vertical jump alongside an 11-foot, one-inch broad jump.

Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis staked a claim as potentially the second linebacker off the board with a sub 4.5 40 time and a 42 inch vertical jump at 6ft 4in, 234 pounds. Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade, whose preparations for the 2020 season were hampered by injury, also shone on his recent Pro Day with a 4.43 in the 40, a 37.5 inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-three broad jump despite not being fully healthy just yet.

Aside from Pro Day success stories, offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater put himself on the map with a dominant Senior Bowl experience, and Missouri defensive back Tyree Gillespie is earning deserved attention as one of the top deep assignment safeties.

The Miami duo

Will Jaelan Phillips' injury-stricken past impact his Draft position? (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)

Will Jaelan Phillips’ injury-stricken past impact his Draft position? (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)

The identity of the first pass-rusher off the board remains a mystery, the answer to which may or may not originate from Miami.

Hurricanes star Gregory Rousseau had been touted as 2021’s runaway edge option this time last year after he earned the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year award thanks to his 15.5 sacks. But having opted out in 2020, he appears to be among those whose gap in game film has contributed to uncertainty. On top of that, he seemingly struggled to blow analysts away at his Pro Day.

Miami team-mate Jaelan Phillips is meanwhile described as “the most talented edge rusher in the Draft” by NFL Network’s Jeremiah. Mixed opinions over his value meanwhile stem from a health standpoint, with Phillips having medically retired from football with UCLA in 2018 after two injury-hit campaigns, before transferring to Miami in 2019.

Follow build-up to the NFL Draft across Sky Sports digital platforms, before Draft week arrives with a channel takeover as Sky Sports Action becomes Sky Sports NFL on Monday April 26.

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