By Ryan Roberts | @RiseNDraft
We’re back! Just in time to quench your thirst for 2021 NFL Draft knowledge. With added interest in the mailbag for this week, we have split it into two parts. Shoutout to you all for the awesome questions! This is a defensive heavy adaption with a little hog molly flavor fit in at the end … oh yea and the PAC is back!
HOW MANY LINEBACKERS WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO DRAFT IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE 2021 NFL DRAFT?
The over/under should be set at 3.5 in regards to first round linebackers (which is a high number for a position that is becoming less valued). This position is one of the true strengths in the 2021 NFL Draft class, complete with high level talent and outstanding depth. The class starts and rightfully so, with Penn State star Micah Parsons. Blessed with superb size, length and athleticism for the position, Parsons has the ability to wear a variety of hats for a defense in varying schemes. A top ten selection at the position is becoming less common but Parsons has all the ability to warrant that type of draft selection.
The other notable name that has been familiar to many evaluators over the last few seasons is Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses. Once dubbed the Lebron James of football, Moses has been firmly been on the radar since receiving an offer from LSU while he was still in high school. From a talent perspective, Moses has everything you would want at the position. He has a long and athletic frame that has plenty of room to add more size moving forward. With bordering elite straight line speed and quickness, Moses has some eye popping plays in support when he opens up. He’s also technically sound, remaining balanced and patient fitting appropriately inside. However, 2020 has not been his friend so far, as he has appeared to be a bit tentative and a tick slow coming back from an ACL injury that cost him the entirety of his sophomore season. Is it a lack of aggressiveness or is Moses a tick slow diagnosing? That’s going to be the issue in this evaluation. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the upside does carry Moses into the first round.
There are two other players who could crash the first down party when all is said and done. The first is one is a personal favorite in Nick Bolton of Missouri. The slightly undersized run and chase backer has a lot of parallels to Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan, except with a bit more pop in his lower half. Bolton is a gifted athlete who can make plays from sideline-to-sideline, while also showing up big time in the passing game. At the point of attack Bolton fills like a tank. He has no issue stacking and shedding, despite his lack of length. Bolton is the type of a three down linebacker who can affect the game in a variety of ways.
The last player is Chazz Surratt who is still very new to the linebacker position after beginning his career at quarterback for the Tar Heels. There is a strong resemblance to San Francisco 49ers star Fred Warner, both in terms of body type, smoothness and potential three-down impact. Surratt is your modern day off ball backer who has a chance to go very high when he tests as we may expect.
As an optimist, there are four potential linebackers who could be selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
WHAT PAC-12 PLAYERS DO YOU THINK WILL SHOOT UP ON YOUR BIG BOARD ONCE THEY GET A FEW GAMES IN?
Kuony Deng, the linebacker from Cal, immediately comes to mind. In a lot of ways, his game mirrors Buffalo Bills star linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in terms of size/length for the position and impressive athletic profile. A slightly odd fit body-type wise at inside backer, Deng became increasingly comfortable last season. There is top 50 potential here, if he is able to put it all together.
Another player who is extremely gifted but has been slightly overshadowed amongst a deep and talented Oregon secondary is redshirt sophomore safety Verone McKinley III. Originally coming to the team as a cornerback recruit, McKinley has spent some time inside at nickel before making the full time transition to safety in 2019. While he has ordinary size for the position, McKinley has outstanding instincts and playmaking ability for the position, always seeming to be around the football. McKinley won’t be for everyone but someone is sure to get a boost on the backend from a versatile defender who gives the secondary both alignment and coverage versatility.
Before he decided to opt out, University of Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike would have been in this category. Onwuzurike is the type of athlete on the interior who could have made a serious rise amongst an underwhelming interior defensive line class. All indications are that Onwuzurike is standing firm to sit out the 2020 season and resting on his previous three years of film. A notable athlete for the position, the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine does offer a great opportunity for that rise to still ensue.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH?
With how the game is trending, there is more emphasis being placed on the ability to manufacture and manipulate space; athletic second level defenders are becoming a necessity to match up against talented playmakers with increased real estate. That makes players like Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah a valuable commodity for an NFL defense. Lining up as the team’s Rover (de facto big nickel), “JOK” plays the majority of his reps as an overhang, aligning between the end man on the line of scrimmage and the slot receiver; he is an explosive athlete in space. Naturally, most will slot him in as a WILL backer due to his tweener size. Other teams may view him as an undersized SAM in the same vein as Shaq Thompson. With his upside in pass coverage, combined with his short area explosiveness and physicality, early Day Two is a distinct possibility for this talented second level defender.
WHO ARE THE TOP FIVE OFFENSIVE TACKLES IN THE 2021 NFL DRAFT?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way…Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell may be the best player in the 2021 NFL Draft class. His flexibility, core strength, athleticism and length are all elite attributes.
Outside of Sewell, this is a deep class that is still working itself out up top.
Blessed with outstanding feet and overall athletic profile, Samuel Cosmi of Texas possesses all the tools to develop into a premier blindside protector down the road for an NFL franchise. His biggest question mark is the lack of power profile, limiting his success working against stronger edge rushers. If he’s able to improve his anchor, there is All Pro potential here.
You want to talk about upside? Michigan right tackle Jalen Mayfield has all the talent in the world to hear his name called sometime during the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He owns a nasty demeanor, while demonstrating the ability to easily transition his lower body strength into movement at the line of scrimmage. There is a clean athletic profile here, showing the ability to mirror and match with even the most nimble pass-rushers.
A player who has taken big leaps during the 2020 college season so far is Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw. A gifted athlete for the position, it appears that he has finally put it all together. His movements now have a purpose and he consistently shows a clear understanding of spacing on the second level with improved angles. In pass protection, it seems so easy for him. He is an easy mover who in a lot of ways reminds me of former Virginia Tech standout Duane Brown.
The last player should come to no surprise. Northern Iowa right tackle Spencer Brown stakes claim as arguably the most physically gifted offensive lineman in the cycle. Blessed with outstanding size (6-8/320 pounds) and athleticism, the former high school tight end is still figuring out the intricacies of the position. From a core value and flexibility standpoint, you won’t find much better. Fans will have to wait until the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile to get a good look at Brown, who is currently working with former All Pro Joe Staley.
What, you want more? Not enough information for one sitting? We will be back tomorrow with more inside NFL Draft info for 2021. Sweet dreams, stay cool and catch us Friday morning with another edition of the RiseNDraft Mailbag Part II!
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