The NFL regular season has concluded, which means the top of the NFL Draft order is set and teams who have been eliminated from the playoffs, now turn their attention to rebuilding for next year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who own the top pick in the draft, will be searching for a new general manager and head coach. The New York Jets, who will select second overall, will be looking to employ a new head coach. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans, who would have had the third pick in the draft (now belongs to Miami Dolphins; see Laremy Tunsil trade) and the Atlanta Falcons (picking fourth) will also be in the market for a new general manager and head coach. All of these organizations will be undergoing a major makeover during the offseason.
With the news that Cincinnati Bengals (fifth pick) head coach Zac Taylor and Philadelphia Eagles (sixth pick) head coach Doug Pederson have both been retained, they now appear to be the two coaching staffs who will have the added benefit of coaching in the Senior Bowl later this month in Mobile, Alabama. It’s a nice advantage to have, considering we do not know what the combine pro pro day circuit will look like this year.
With two additional teams in the postseason for 2021, there are now 18 franchises actively looking to upgrade for next season. We will continue to monitor how these teams look to rebuild, which will heavily depend on how well they draft. One college football game remains but it is officially ‘draft season,’ once the calendar flips to January. We will continue to bring you the names you need to know, each and every Monday right here in ‘Scouting The Nation.’
SERMON SOARING UP DRAFT BOARDS
One can only marvel with excitement after watching the performances put in by Ohio State senior running back TREY SERMON [5116/215] over the past three weeks, with the exclamation point coming in the Sugar Bowl this past weekend, as the Buckeyes romped Clemson. Sermon was up to his usual tricks, rushing for 193 yards and catching an additional four passes for 61 yards. The previous week, he ran for 331 yards and a pair of scores in a win over Northwestern during the Big Ten Championship game. On the season, Sermon is averaging seven and a half yards per carry with 868 rushing yards, including 636 rushing yards coming in the past three games! The transfer from Oklahoma had shown flashes of his big play burst and explosion during his time with the Sooners. Now, Sermon has done it frequently on the biggest of stages during his time in Columbus. Another sensational showing in the College Football National Championship could help cement Sermon as a solid Day Two prospect.
A ‘DAZZ’-LING END TO A SUPERB CAREER
Credit to North Carolina senior wide out DAZZ NEWSOME [5096/185], who expressed his desire of unfinished business by participating in the Orange Bowl, while many of his heralded teammates sat this one out and instead, turned their attention on the upcoming NFL Draft. Newsome delivered with another notable performance, making six receptions for 68 receiving yards and one dazzling touchdown catch. The Hampton, Virginia product has been one of the more reliable performers in the ACC over the past several seasons due to his yard after catch ability, as he is tough to close on in open space. Newsome projects as a slot receiver at the next level with his stature but he plays much bigger than his size indicates and will serve as a great presence inside the facility, as he has been praised for his competitiveness and leadership. In 43 career games with the Tar Heels, Newsome finished with 3,292 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns, including an impressive 11.1 punt return average (48 returns). Expect this talented playmaker to hear his name called somewhere during the middle of the draft come April.
NORTHWESTERN RECEIVER A LATE BLOOMER ON THE RISE
Northwestern senior wide receiver RAMAUD CHIAOKHIAO-BOWMAN [6005/203] began the season as barely a blip on the NFL radar but his strong play in 2020 has caught the attention from pro scouts, as he finished the year with a bang. Chiaokhiao-Bowman saved his best for last, making several clutch catches in the Citrus Bowl, including a touchdown to help give the Wildcats a win over Auburn. He nabbed eight balls for a career-high 103 receiving yards the previous week versus Ohio State during the Big Ten Championship. The lengthy, agile pass-catcher has demonstrated great run after catch ability and has become one of the top red zone weapons on the team. The Minneapolis native, who also duals as the residential ‘team barber’ and is known to ‘bring the juice,’ according to the coaching staff, is a noted hard-worker who had a prolific high school career but emerged as a late bloomer during his time at Evanston. With his size, speed and quickness, he has now done enough to be considered a priority free agent following the draft.
VERSATILE DEFENDER BIDS FAREWELL TO STILLWATER
Oklahoma State employed one of the better defenses during the Mike Gundy Era this past season. One of the key cogs has been senior linebacker CALVIN BUNDAGE [6010/215], a three-year starter who bounced back from a season-ending injury a year ago and finished his career off in a big way. Bundage collected a pair of tackles and a half sack in the Cowboys victory in the Cheez-It Bowl. Following the game, he would announce his intent to turn pro. Bundage fits the athletic profile of a more modern-day linebacker who can do a little bit of everything. He led the team with seven and a half tackles this season, including three and a half over the final four games. While his snaps were a bit reduced more than he was previously accustomed to earlier in his career, Bundage made the most of his opportunities, as he returned to form and put to rest any questions about his ability to play at a high level coming off injury. He stands a chance to hear his name called late in the draft, if not, he is sure to be in high demand as a priority free agent.
MOUNTAINEERS LONG SNAPPER NEXT IN THE PIPELINE
West Virginia has become a hotbed for long snappers of late, as senior KYLE POLAND [6020/242] is the latest Mountaineers player at the position to garner NFL attention. At 6-2 and 240-plus pounds, Poland possesses the ideal size, in addition to being one of the most consistent snappers in all of college football this past season. His experience includes playing center during high school, which shows up on film, as he demonstrates excellent blocking technique. Poland was named a team captain on two occasions this past year, a testament to his leadership. He credits his development to his predecessors Rex Sunahara, currently a member of the Miami Dolphins and Nick Meadows, who dabbled briefly with a pro career prior to Sunahara. The Morgantown, West Virginia product now looks to follow in those footsteps with an invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the possibility of suiting up on Sundays becoming a distinct possibility.
*Be sure to catch NFLPA Collegiate Bowl director of college recruiting Dane Vandernat every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. ET on ‘The State of Football’ show live on @NFLDraftBible!