Scout Confidential: What We're Hearing

It’s our NFL Draft Bible Scout Confidential with insider information on the latest intel from the war rooms.
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With the final of the Pro Day events all wrapped up, any final straws of hay should now be in the barn as the countdown to the draft hits the nine-day mark. Grades, rankings and projections may continue to be reviewed and slightly tweaked, but the mounting tips, gossip, speculation, and spine tingles are in their greatest effect the closer we get to the opening of Round one.

To that end, in this Scouts Confidential, here are some of the most popular topics being bandied about among those closely involved in the process that will result in 259 new players hearing their name called next week.

What’s Up Front

Rashawn Slater is one of the best players in the draft and should be considered a steal wherever he is drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Rashawn Slater is one of the best players in the draft and should be considered a steal wherever he is drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Let's begin along the front line. With so much made about arm length, Rashawn Slater's (Northwestern) arms are 33 inches, wingspan is 80 1/8 and hands are 10½, while Penei Sewell’s (Oregon) arms are 33 1/4, wingspan 80 7/8 and hands 10 3/8. If there are no issues with Sewell, then it is hard to knock Slater for a quarter-inch difference. The tape, versatility and athletic ability will determine the final grade on either prospect.

Slater's tape and footwork may give him a slight edge on draft night by that very same slimmest of margins. If anyone believes Slater being the first tackle selected is an upset, here is another blip on the radar to track: Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State) could very well be the third tackle selected as his attitude, combo of strong run/pass blocking could end up matching up best with the teams looking for linemen and is a candidate to see a team trade up for the right to select him.

Although NFL teams have not been able to cross the border to conduct an in-person workout with University of Montreal offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage, he will most certainly be signed as a priority free agent post-draft as he has sent film of himself snapping as well as his strong CIS film playing offensive guard.

And while Trey Smith (Tennessee) has been a favorite to be the top-rated guard, it would not be shocking to see Ben Cleveland (Georgia) come off the board ahead of his fellow SEC blocker.

Skill, Skill, Skill

Josh Palmer is a great vertical threat that can win above the rim and be a red zone threat.

Josh Palmer is a great vertical threat that can win above the rim and be a red zone threat.

Looking at skill players, two outside receivers who could very well outplay their draft rankings are Josh Palmer (Tennessee) and Austin Watkins (Alabama-Birmingham).

Meanwhile, don't be surprised if Dyami Brown (North Carolina) ends up being a top-40 choice with a team trading back up early in Day 2 to acquire his rights.

Jacob Harris' (Central Florida) combination of size/speed, plus the potential to add 10 pounds and become a versatile weapon has some seeing him going as high as the fifth round. ... Racey McMath (LSU) has limited production, but with rare size/speed at over 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and running in the low 4.3s, he offers clubs a bigger version of former LSU sixth-rounder Russell Gage (Atlanta) who has turned out to be a worthy late-round pick.

There are tight-end needy clubs and others looking to play more non-traditional two-tight end schemes who favor Tommy Tremble (Notre Dame), thanks to his ability to block at the POA and on the move and he has upside as a receiver thanks to his 4.59 speed. If a team misses out on him, Kylen Grayson (SMU/Rice) is an underrated, versatile weapon who can line up at tight end, fullback, H-Back and give his quarterback a nice safety-valve weapon.

Getting After the QB

Azeez Ojulari is arguably the best edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft class

Azeez Ojulari is arguably the best edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft class

Pass rushers are at a premium and there is a variety to choose from depending on the front a team employs. Many believe Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) is the cleanest of those, as he played in a college scheme that varied from 3-4 to 4-3 and produced 15 career sacks. While it’s hard to imagine him being picked higher than former Bulldogs' edge rusher Leonard Floyd (No. 9 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft), he could end up as a top-15 pick.

Christian Barmore (Alabama) is not seen by all as being a sure-fire first-round pick and while there is a chance the first 32 picks could come and go without a single interior defensive lineman selected if there is one taken, do not be surprised if it is Levi Onwuzurike (Washington).

Cramming for exams last minute is one thing, but linebacker Jabril Cox (LSU/North Dakota State) has decided to do the equivalent of that by working out next week (April 26) three days before the draft in order to leave a final impression because he believes he will run a sub-4.5 at nearly 6-foot-3, 233 pounds ... Outside linebacker/defensive end Malcolm Koonce (Buffalo) has been mostly overlooked since he was unable to play in the Senior Bowl or work out due to a foot injury. However, his film and production (17 career sacks), to go along with having a long frame and quick first step is leading many to believe he will be more of a mid-round steal than late-round flyer.

Corner Depth

Asante Samuels Jr. has the NFL bloodline and could end up being one of the better corners to come out of the 2021 NFL Draft class.

Asante Samuels Jr. has the NFL bloodline and could end up being one of the better corners to come out of the 2021 NFL Draft class.

On many boards there are almost as many cover guys with draftable grades as there are wide receivers. Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida State) has caught fire at the right time to challenge others to be taken between No. 20 and 32 in the first round. ... Despite not playing in 2020, Kary Vincent Jr. (LSU) has explosive physical traits (4.3 speed) and ball skills (16 pass breakups, six picks) to be boosted above many other names that have been steadily given second- or third-round grades.

Plus, if a team misses out on the early run, here are a few names to keep in mind between Day 2 and Day 3: Cornerbacks Zech McPhearson (Texas Tech), Benjamin St-Juste (Minnesota) and Mac McCain (North Carolina A&T).

Staying Safe

Trevon Moehrig has been talked about as the best safety prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft class.

Trevon Moehrig has been talked about as the best safety prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft class.

If the goal is to find players that could surpass safety Trevon Moehrig (TCU) on draft night, keep watch on Richie Grant (Central Florida), Jevon Holland (Oregon) and Jamar Johnson (Indiana). The scheme of the teams looking to add a safety early in the draft will determine how prospects come off the board.

Sneaking into Round 1

More and more hype is beginning to surround Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph.

More and more hype is beginning to surround Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph.

Finally, if anyone wonders about players that could find their way into the latter half of the first round, here are a handful that have been mentioned: Cornerback Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky/LSU), tackle Dillon Radunz (North Dakota State), defensive lineman Payton Turner (Houston), center Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma) and wide receiver/return specialist Tutu Atwell (Louisville).

Stay tuned for our next edition, which will provide the latest intel on quarterbacks, running backs and some mid-to-late round gems, as well as a few new names who became draft eligible after playing their final games this spring.

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