GREEN BAY, Wis. – Five of the better prospects in this year’s NFL Draft could be in for a disappointing start to Thursday’s first round.
Having asked several scouts this week about players who could slide, Florida receiver Kadarius Toney, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons were mentioned prominently.
Parsons still won’t get to No. 20, let alone to where the Green Bay Packers reside at No. 29, but it’s not a lock that he’ll be the first off-the-ball linebacker off the board, despite his superior combination of size, athleticism and production.
“People had the worst experiences with him in the spring,” a scout said.
After the Big 3 receivers, Toney is the best slot receiver in the draft. At 5-foot-11 5/8, he’s 2 inches taller than Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore. He was dynamic as a receiver, runner and returner. The Packers haven’t had an impact slot receiver since Randall Cobb and a consistent returner since Cobb’s early years. The jet-sweep game died after Tyler Ervin went down last season. Toney would fill all those niches.
“I don’t know where people are on his character,” a scout said. “He doesn’t have any criminal history, never technically been arrested, been suspended from games. You talk to everyone at Florida, they make him sound like he’s a poster child. When you do some real digging, there’s some stuff there. Talent-wise, he shouldn’t be there. But I think there’s a shot [he falls to 29]. If they’re comfortable with the dude, he’d be a great fit. He’s a top-20 player. But he’s got some off-the-field and Green Bay’s pretty conservative with that kind of stuff.”
For teams looking for a pass-rushing defensive tackle, Barmore’s the man. He was by far the best interior rusher in the nation last year. But he was only a part-time player at Alabama and had an especially limited role against the run.
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“Two weeks ago, I would have said he’d be gone for sure,” a scout said. “It’s weird. The reason why we’re talking about these guys is they all have a thing. Barmore’s been getting killed on the mental and work ethic and mental toughness. Some teams have been super-scared off by him. He’s got a wide range. I could see him going from 20 to top five of the second. I could see him slide a little bit.”
Farley’s fate will depend on which team feels comfortable taking him despite his well-documented back surgeries.
Farley had a brilliant season in 2019 and Newsome had a brilliant season in 2020. However, Newsome missed three-plus games in each of his three seasons.
“I know you called about Farley but this guy’s medicals are a problem, too,” a scout said. “He’s never gotten close to finishing a season. Hurt every year, no interceptions [one, actually]. He’s really good but after dealing with Kevin King’s injuries for four years, I doubt Gutey wants another injured corner.”
Added another scout: “Farley falls because of his back issue. Newsome falls because he may not be as good as the other guys at his position.
While King and Sullivan were re-signed, the Packers have a major need at corner, whether it’s perimeter or slot. A scout listed his order as Georgia’s Tyson Campbell, Florida State’s Asante Samuel, Farley and Newsome. Georgia’s Greg Stokes – he of the 4.29 40 – is behind that tier. He said there is little consensus in the scouting community for Campbell, Newsome or Stokes. All could go between 25 and 45, he said.
“If you look at (Stokes’) attributes, he looks great but I think he’s pretty far from being a finished product as corner,” a scout said. “That’s just not someone I would take in the first round. He got pumped up by the 40 but, when you study him, his tape’s not actually that great.”