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hmhertz

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Posts posted by hmhertz

  1. Javelin Guidry 10.13 100 meters,

    The Spear would run Henry Ruggs off the track.

    the forty is made for tv event, all it does is measure start.

    They don't run the forty at the Olympics or any recognized

    track event. At his Pro Day a scout had Ty Johnson at 4.26,

    very impressive for a 210lber who hoisted 225 lbs 27 times

    • Upvote 1
  2.  it’s clear that Jets GM Joe Douglas is going to make sure he doesn’t make the same missteps that torpedoed the previous regime in New York.

     

    If I'm not mistaken JD was our GM last year.

    It was his job to help Darnold by upgrading

    our skills position. His response was subtracting

    Anderson and adding Perriman & Perrine

    • Thumb Down 1
  3. HAMSAH NASIRILDEEN | Florida State 6032 | 215 lbs. | SR. Concord, N.C. (Concord) 1/17/1999 (age 22.28) #23
    BACKGROUND: Hamsah Nasirildeen (Naz-ril-deen) grew up in Concord, N.C., a northern suburb of Charlotte, and was a four-year varsity starter in both basketball and
    football at Concord High School. A four-year starter at wide receiver, he didn’t play defense until his junior year, lining up at safety and posting 80 tackles and four
    interceptions in 2015. As a senior, Nasirildeen finished with 108 tackles and three interceptions, earning All-Conference honors for the second straight season. He was
    named First Team All-State and a U.S. Army All-American. On offense, he finished his prep career with 108 receptions for 1,728 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
    As a junior wing on the basketball team, Nasirildeen led the team in points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (9.3). He passed up the opportunity to enroll in
    college early to stay for his senior year of basketball, finishing his career with over 1,000 points.
    A four-star recruit out of high school, Nasirildeen was the No. 14-ranked safety in the 2017 class and the No. 1 recruit in the state of North Carolina. His dance list
    piled up with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Michigan and others. Nasirildeen initially committed to South Carolina at the start of his senior year before
    flipping to Florida State weeks before signing day. He accepted his invitation to the 2021 Senior Bowl.
    YEAR (GP/GS) TKLS TFL SACK FF PD INT NOTES
    2017: (13/2) 29 0.0 0.0 0 3 0
    2018: (12/5) 91 0.5 0.0 0 3 1 Led team in tackles
    2019: (12/10) 101 2.0 1.0 3 5 2 Second Team All-ACC; Led team in tackles, FFs; Made 22 tackles at BC; INT TD; Injured knee in season finale
    2020: (2/2) 13 1.5 0.0 0 2 1 Missed the first seven games of the season
    Total: (39/19) 234 4.0 1.0 3 13 4
    HT WT ARM HAND WING 40-YD 20-YD 10-YD VJ BJ SS 3C BP
    COMBINE N/A (Combine canceled)
    PRO DAY 6032 215 34 1/2 9 3/4 81 7/8 - - - 32 - 4.27 7.05 17 (no runs or broad – right hamstring strain)
    STRENGTHS: Sports an oversized, stretched-out frame with remarkable limb length…quick footed and coordinated in his transitions…downhill player who fills quickly
    and powerful at contact…makes form tackles when he can square up his target…strikes with the force to jar ball carriers and knock the ball loose (three forced
    fumbles on 2019 film)…improved awareness and took positive steps in coverage in 2019 (47.6% completion rate, zero touchdowns allowed) compared to 2018 (73.3% 
    [246]
    completion rate, four touchdowns allowed)…shows off his wide receiver background when the ball is in the air…quiet personality, but coachable with reliable
    character (defensive coordinator Adam Fuller: “He asks key questions during meetings…he’s very much a team player”)…logged almost 500 career snaps on special
    teams at FSU…has experience at multiple positions and led the team in tackles in 2018 and 2019.
    WEAKNESSES: Position-fit concerns with his linebacker/safety tweener skill set…needs to eliminate the fly-by tackles…doesn’t consistently play through blockers with
    his eyes…needs to better anticipate blockers’ landmarks to play out in front…can be manipulated in deep coverage when he focuses more on the backfield than the
    wide receiver…late recovery skills to make up a lost step in man coverage…suffered a torn ACL in his left knee (November 2019), forcing him to return to school in
    2020 and sit out the first seven games as a senior.
    SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Florida State, Nasirildeen played free safety in defensive coordinator Adam Fuller’s scheme, lining up in the deep half, versus the
    slot and at linebacker. Although his senior year was basically a lost season due to his ACL rehab, he led the Seminoles in tackles as a sophomore and junior and
    announced himself as a possible top-100 draft pick. Described as a “war daddy” by the FSU coaches, Nasirildeen runs the alleys with physicality and plays with the
    length and toughness to shed blocks in the box. In coverage, he has fluidity and ball skills, but his route anticipation and eye discipline are not currently strengths of
    his game. Overall, Nasirildeen comes with position-fit questions in base and requires a defined role, but he is a super-long, downhill force player with moldable
    physical traits. He projects as a hybrid box safety and core special-teamer.
    GRADE: 3rd Round (No. 93 overall)

  4. Apologies if this was posted elsewhere in this thread.

    Found at the Jets Addicts board found informative and I'm

    psyched about the procedure-

    How the jets decided on zach wilson

    Today, 10:31 AM
     
    This was a different type of draft year, and everyone had to get as creative as they could. So back on March 29, at BYU’s pro day, with the Niners-Dolphins tradegoing down, Zach Wilson getting ready to throw and the tectonic plates of the 2021 draft shifting, Jets coach Robert Saleh ran down BYU alum Fred Warner, his former star middle linebacker from San Francisco, with a bit of a weird request.

    Warner was there to support Wilson and the rest of the Cougars trying to make their case to all the NFL teams there that day. He also served as a human measuring stick.

    Hey Fred, can you go give Zach a hug real quick?

    The first-team All-Pro obliged his old defensive coordinator, and in doing so helped Saleh, GM Joe Douglas and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur put the final piece in place for the Jets’ decision on what to do with the second pick. The 6' 3", 230-pound Warner is roughly the same size as Patrick Mahomes, and, as he approached Wilson, who’d faced questions about his size, the Jets’ brass could actually see it.

    Wilson was eye-to-eye with Warner, he had broad shoulders that measured up with a linebacker’s and confirmed what the Jets came in believing: that he had plenty of room to grow physically and could eventually show himself to be like the other big people in his family (his dad was a Utah defensive tackle, and he has one brother who’s a BYU linebacker and another who’s verbally committed to be one in 2022).

    Right around that time, medical clearance came for the Jets, too, something that was important, given that Wilson had surgery on his right shoulder two years ago, and thus the final pieces were put in place for the 21-year-old to become the latest big swing that New York’s star-crossed football franchise has taken.

    And obviously there’s a strong belief in Florham Park that this will be different than Mark Sanchez or Sam Darnold, or even the relatively successful Chad Pennington. They wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t feel that way. So how did they get there? A few weeks back, we detailed the Jets’ decision to deal Darnold and search for their next QB from GM Joe Douglas’s perspective. Now, we’re giving you how the coaching staff worked through this—and signed off on Wilson with the No. 2 pick.

    • Saleh and his staff got going on the quarterbacks about a month ahead of starting on the rest of the draft class, a couple of weeks after arriving in Jersey in January, mostly because the Darnold situation combined with the team’s holding the second pick in a quarterback-rich year demanded that. Saleh studied the five quarterbacks who woundo up going in the first round. LaFleur, QBs coach Rob Calabrese and pass-game specialist Greg Knapp did that and went deeper into the class, too, through the whole second tier.

    The head coach directed his assistants not to talk to one another about the quarterback group to keep opinions on each player unaffected, and, when the staff reconvened in late February with their independent evaluations of the class, a consensus was reached that the top two were clear—Trevor Lawrence and Wilson. And that was with the offensive coaches drilling down on technical details, and Saleh clearly seeing Wilson’s fearlessness, bravado, timing, accuracy and just how smooth he looked as an athlete.

    This is going to sound bananas, but the Jets’ coaches actually discussed, at that point, how they preferred Wilson to Lawrence as a fit for their offense. Why? Wilson’s tape showed a very clean translation to the Shanahan style of offense. You can see him go through reads—1, 2, 3, out! Lawrence, conversely, played in an offense heavy on RPOs. That’s not a knock. Justin Herbert played in an RPO-heavy system in college, too, and was obviously fine.

    It’s just that picturing Wilson running LaFleur’s system was easy, because BYU’s offense carries so many similar West Coast principles. And Wilson also had traits that the offense values, starting with a lightning-quick release and good balance throwing on the move.

    • The next step was the Zoom meetings, and one thing in particular stuck out about Wilson in that setting. While his ADHD was at one point a story line, the quarterback showed uncanny, Rain Man–like recall. It shined through in particular during his Zoom meetings with the Jets, and as Knapp took him through the BYU tape. Or, more accurately, Wilson took Knapp through it.

    If you’ve watched coaches’ tape before, you’ve seen how, before a play is shown, a shot of the scoreboard comes up to establish the point of the game the play is taken from, down-and-distance, etc. Well, at one point, in a meeting with Wilson, Knapp had the screen frozen on such a frame. Wilson immediately told him what was coming. He took him through the play call. He took him through the defense’s call. He told him how a certain corner would usually be in the coverage associated with the call. He explained his throw. Then, he told him why the coaches called the play and how it was worked into the practice week.

    Suffice it to say, that impressed the coaches, and it wasn’t the only time it happened. Again, the formation presnap wasn’t even on the screen yet.

    • Another part of the process was determining whether Wilson would be equipped to deal with New York. There were two reasons, primarily, the Jets eventually came to the conclusion that he’ll be fine. One, less than a year ago, he dealt with his coaches at BYU, disappointed in how 2019 played out, opening up a quarterback competition—and responded with one of the most finely quarterbacked seasons in school history. And two, Provo’s not New York. But BYU and Utah football are a big deal in that state, so he did have some “fishbowl” experience.

    The Jets also got feedback on his personality and developed their own opinions as to how it would play in New York. Wilson’s throwing coach, former NFL QB John Beck, was a tremendous resource along the way, too, telling the team he’d never seen a more natural thrower at that age, or a quarterback who could throw that effortlessly off-platform, but also that he was a smart kid with enough of a cocky edge, and self-awareness, to take slings and arrows in New York.

    Now, here’s one thing that really stood out to me, on how the Jets are going to handle Wilson going forward: They don’t want to put the weight of the world on his shoulders. In fact, if you watch the phone call the Jets made to Wilson after making it official, it’s right there. “All you gotta do is be yourself, nothing more, nothing less,” Douglas told Wilson, before Saleh got on the phone and added, “The biggest thing I want to tell you, just remember this, this organization is going to lift you, not the other way around.”

    The point was emphasized with the Jets, soon thereafter, trading up for guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, then taking receiver Elijah Moore and tailback Michael Carter.

    And the concept really does show awareness of where things went wrong with Darnold. The Jets aren’t going to ask the world of Wilson right away (though the plan is to prepare him to start Week 1, as would be the case with anyone on the roster, and the reality is he likely will start). They’ll ask him to be, to steal a phrase from my old NFL Network colleague Bucky Brooks, the trailer and not the truck as a rookie, and allow him to grow from there.

    A team with that idea going in is a good place for any quarterback to start. We’ll see if that situation eventually adds up to better results at the position than the Jets have gotten of late.

     

     

  5. 9 minutes ago, Lith said:

    That didn't take long.

     

    Rashed measured just over 6 feet, 2 inches and weight 251 pounds, about six pounds heavier than his listed weight heading into Oregon State’s 2020 season. Rashed had a few wow moments, such as 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, and a reported 4.58-second clocking in the 40.

    • Upvote 1
  6. Arkansas Pro Day: Jonathan Marshall shines

    While Feleipe Franks is the best-known Razorbacks prospect outside the scouting community, several defensive players really turned heads today. Defensive lineman Jonathan Marshall, graded as a priority free agent before the season, moved himself into Day 3 conversation with his workout today.

    Marshall measured a shade over 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds. He completed 36 reps on the bench press (32 ½ inch arms), touched 32 in the vertical jump, and 9’6″ in the broad jump. His 40-time was as fast as 4.77 seconds on many watches. Marshall tweaked his hamstring on the second 40-yard dash and did not run the shuttles or three-cone.

    • Upvote 1
  7. Arkansas Pro Day: Jonathan Marshall shines

    While Feleipe Franks is the best-known Razorbacks prospect outside the scouting community, several defensive players really turned heads today. Defensive lineman Jonathan Marshall, graded as a priority free agent before the season, moved himself into Day 3 conversation with his workout today.

    Marshall measured a shade over 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds. He completed 36 reps on the bench press (32 ½ inch arms), touched 32 in the vertical jump, and 9’6″ in the broad jump. His 40-time was as fast as 4.77 seconds on many watches. Marshall tweaked his hamstring on the second 40-yard dash and did not run the shuttles or three-cone.

    • Upvote 1
  8. 10 minutes ago, Dcat said:

    Coles was 5'11".  Moss was listed as 5'10" but was shorter.  I know that from meeting him in person.  

    And you are not getting the point.  I never claimed that Moore won't be a very good slot WR.  I am upset of JDs use of draft value.  I would rather traded down to get another pick. Or have gone in a different direction with the pick.

    Coles was tough, Santana had the nuts of a flea, always looking

    to get out of bounds and not take a hit.  Moore is tough and strong.

    He shares the ability with Jerry Rice & Stefon Diggs to keep running

    after the catch, not slowing to gather himself

    • Upvote 1
    • Like 1
  9. 2 hours ago, varjet said:

    The question for JD, which he probably has an answer to, is whether Teven Jenkins is worth 2 of a [Samuel, Freirmuth, Brown, Radusz, Melifonwu.]   

    I don't know the answer.  

    Baldine sez Pitts is a better blocker than the Freir, who can't run but

    has good hands

  10. 12 hours ago, JetNation said:

    AVT.jpg

    In somewhat of a surprise move, Jets GM Joe Douglas moved up from 23rd to 14th overall in the first round by giving up a huge haul of picks.

    The #Jets traded No. 23, No. 66 and No. 86 for No. 14 and No. 143, sources tell @TheAthletic

    — Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) April 30, 2021

     

    Douglas parted with 3 premium picks in giving up picks 23, 66 and 86 to move up and grab offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.  The Jets also received pick number 143 from the Minnesota Vikings in the deal.  Vera-Tucker gives the Jets a potentially elite interior offensive lineman who also has the ability to play offensive tackle at some point down the road.

    After taking Zach Wilson with the second overall pick, Douglas is looking to avoid repeating the mistakes of those before him who failed to protect former first-round pick Sam Darnold.

    The post Jets Trade up to 14, Select Alijah Vera-Tucker appeared first on JetNation.com (NY Jets Blog & Forum).

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/Jetnationcom/~4/vznAkOlUJvY

    Click here to read the full story...

    The Bald Bastid deserves his part of the responsibility of

    the Jets having a crap offensive line. two years of signing the position's

    dregs in free agency and not adding a single udfa or  middle round

    pick of hope. With all our needs we should be adding picks not

    spending three premium picks on a solid interior O lineman

  11.  

    Ranking the top defensive backs in the 2021 NFL Draft: Bob McGinn’s grades are in

    Bob McGinn Apr 28, 2021comment-icon@2x.png 18 save-icon@2x.png

    This is the 37th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL Draft Series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-2001), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-2017) and BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-19). Until 2014, personnel evaluators often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts. This will be a nine-part series.

    PreviouslyQBs | RBs | WR/TE | OL | DL | LB

    The disagreements run deep at cornerback and safety in the NFL Draft this year. Except, that is, at the top.

    Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, the surest of selections on the defensive side of the ball, and Texas Christian safety Trevon Moehrig easily won the vote among personnel executives as the best players at their respective positions.

    In a poll of 19 scouts, Surtain claimed 12 first-place votes. In a poll of 20 scouts, Moehrig captured 15 firsts.

    Twelve cornerbacks and 16 safeties picked up at least one vote as selectors were asked to name their top five at each position. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote was worth four and so forth.

    Surtain, with 87 points, was followed by Jaycee Horn (71, four firsts), Caleb Farley (52, two), Greg Newsome (17), Tyson Campbell (15), Asante Samuel (13), Kelvin Joseph (11), Eric Stokes (eight), Ifeatu Melifonwu (five, one), Benjamin St-Juste (three), Paulson Adebo (two) and Aaron Robinson (one).

    Moehrig, with 91 points, was followed by Jevon Holland (50, two firsts), Andre Cisco (46, one), Richie Grant (36), Elijah Molden (28, one), Divine Deablo (eight), Tyree Gillespie (eight, one), Talanoa Hufanga (eight), Hamsah Nasirildeen (six), Jamar Johnson (five), Caden Sterns (five), Darrick Forrest (four), Jamien Sherwood (two), Shawn Davis (one), Brandon Stephens (one) and Trill Williams (one).

    The runaway victory for Moehrig was as much an indictment of the competition as it was acknowledgement of his talent. Jamal Adams, who was drafted No. 6 in 2017, and Mark Barron (No. 7, 2012) were the only safeties taken among the top 10 in the last 10 years.

    “You’ve got to have safeties, so one is going to go in there somewhere,” said one personnel man. “It got worse when (Paris) Ford ran a 4.9 (40-yard dash). A lot worse.”

     

     

    Moehrig, a third-year junior, was similar to Surtain in one important aspect: He doesn’t have a major weakness.

    “He’s the only safety that I think can possibly go in the first round,” an NFC scout said. “He has a real good skill set other than short arms. He can get the ball. He has (cornerback) feet. He’s not a killer, but he can get people down in space. Good football player.”

    Four executives used the word “clean” to describe Surtain’s performance during his three seasons as a starter and his lineage as the son of a former Pro Bowl cornerback.

    “Five years from now, he’s going to be everything you thought he’d be,” said an AFC personnel director. “There’s no gray area with him. You know exactly what you’re getting.”

    Surtain will become the 10th Crimson Tide cornerback drafted since coach Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007. Seven of the first nine were first- or second-round picks, and their track record isn’t very good.

    Dee Milliner, the No. 9 pick in 2013, was a bust. Kareem Jackson, the No. 20 choice in 2010, and Dre Kirkpatrick, the No. 17 choice in 2012, have enjoyed long, solid careers, but neither had made a Pro Bowl team. A pair of second-round selections, Javier Arenas (2010) and Cyrus Jones (2016), were busts.

    Marlon Humphrey, the No. 16 pick in 2017, finally broke through and made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two years. Then Trevon Diggs, the Cowboys’ second-round choice a year ago, played pretty well as an 11-game starter.

    “Everybody says Saban is a guru,” one executive said. “But the way he teaches them there, you’ve got to reteach them out of the technique because it doesn’t work up here.”

    Another personnel evaluator who has scouted everywhere in the Southeast for years said Surtain is easily the best cornerback in his memory from Alabama.

    “He’s the most complete one, and here’s why,” the scout said. “He can tackle. He can play man to man. He can judge the ball in the air.

    “On top of that, he is a low-maintenance, great young man. He’s not a look-at-me, eyes-on-the-prize guy. He is a legitimately clean corner. Some people might knock him for short-area suddenness. He gave up a few plays, but he’s got Pro Bowl potential.

    “Humphrey came off that great 2016 season. He’s played well. But at this point, Surtain has played better than Humphrey.”

    Jaycee Horn of South Carolina is the second-rated corner behind Surtain. It’s cloudy after that, especially given the fact that Virginia Tech’s talented Caleb Farley underwent back surgery to have two discs repaired on March 23.

    Most scouts expect three to five cornerbacks to be taken in Round 1. The record of six is shared by the 1997 class, which was headed by Shawn Springs at No. 3, Bryant Westbrook at No. 5 and Tom Knight at No. 9, and last year’s crop.

    “Surtain and Horn have kind of separated themselves,” an AFC evaluator said. “Straight off tape, Farley’s the third best. I could see six (being taken). If the run goes early, like where Surtain goes, then all of a sudden they could catch fire.”

     

     

    Ranking the cornerbacks

    1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (6-foot-2, 208 pounds, 4.42 40, Round 1): Described by several scouts as a complete player.

    “He’s everything you want,” said one. “He can run with the little guys, and he’s big enough and strong enough to fight off the big, strong wide receivers. He’s close to being a shutdown guy where you can say, ‘You got this guy. Make sure he catches only two or three passes for 12 yards.’”

    Started 38 of 41 games for Alabama before declaring a year early.

    “He has a touch of stiffness even though, technically, he mitigates it very well,” a second scout said. “He’s a pro more than the other. He and his dad were very similar. Both really good technicians. Almost to the point where you don’t appreciate the athletic ability.

    “When he ran fast on pro day, some people were shocked. (Darrelle) Revis was like that. Some of these guys are so smooth and technically sound, they don’t rely on their speed all the time.”

    From Plantation, Fla., Surtain finished with 117 tackles (six for loss), four interceptions and 31 passes broken up (PBUs).

    “He walks in as a starter,” a third scout said. “He’s as polished as anybody. I wouldn’t say he has any shortcomings, but I don’t think he’s a natural catcher of the ball.”

    His father, Patrick (5-foot-10½, 194, 4.53), played 11 seasons, had 37 picks and made three Pro Bowls.

    “I think he’s better than Marlon Humphrey coming out,” said a fourth scout. “He’s ready right now. Loves the game. Competes. Same guy every day. They all rave about this guy (at Alabama).”

    His 10-inch hands tied for the largest at the position.

    2. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-foot-0½, 205, 4.40, Round 1): Third-year junior, three-year starter.

    “From the last couple drafts, he fits right there with (Denzel) Ward and the kid in Green Bay (Jaire Alexander),” said one scout. “He’s on that level. He’s a better ball guy than Surtain. You’ve got to keep him from grabbing up the field. His penalty rate wasn’t all that bad. He grabs because he’s trying to dominate people, not because he’s in trouble. He’s got to learn (he’s) not going to dominate people up here.”

    His father, Joe, was the quirky four-time Pro Bowl receiver for the Chiefs, Saints and Falcons from 1996 to 2007.

    “He’s grabby, and you’re going to have to really coach him up,” said a second scout. “But his pro day was sensational. It’s almost like he knew Surtain’s numbers the day before and he was motivated to beat him, and he did. But he’s not nearly as good.”

    Had jumps of 41½ inches (vertical) and 11-1 (broad), and his arms were measured at 33 inches.

    “He tries to intimidate people,” a third scout said. “But he can cover and he’ll hit you. He’s a kid that freelances. His mistakes come because he made the wrong guess. He’s jumping or sitting on routes. He’s feisty. He can reroute receivers. He’s really aggressive.”

    From Alpharetta, Ga., Horn started 29 games, finishing with 101 tackles (seven for loss), two picks and 25 PBUs.

    “Plays the game the right way,” a fourth scout said after ranking Horn No. 1. “He’s a big, physical guy on the outside, which is hard to find these days.”

    USATSI_13467481-e1570334651637.jpg
     
    Caleb Farley has first-round talent, but teams are concerned with his injury history. (Steve Mitchell / USA Today)

    3. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-foot-2, 197, no 40, Round 1 or 2): So much of his draft position and career hinges on the medical reports.

    “I think he might have the most upside if he’s healthy,” said one scout. “He’s relatively (new) to the position. He would run 4.3 or better (on the 40). I think he’s the fastest (cornerback). He has real size and length (position-best 33⅝-inch arms).

    “But he has two different discs in his back that he has had work on, and he had a knee (injury). How much more tread does he have on his body? He might drop out of the first because of his injuries.”

    Played quarterback in high school at Hickory, N.C., but moved to wide receiver as a redshirt freshman. Suffered a torn ACL in August 2017 and was shifted to cornerback in ’18. Underwent back surgery in early 2020, then had the disc repair a month ago.

    “His medical is worrisome,” a second scout said. “He can absolutely fly. He’s got a lot of potential.”

    Started 23 games at cornerback in 2018 and ’19 before opting out in ’20.

    “I mean, you talk about a risky pick,” said a third scout.

    Finished with 56 tackles (one for loss), six picks and 25 PBUs.

    “The kid didn’t play for a whole year, and all of a sudden he gets back surgery,” said a fourth scout. “The question is, why didn’t he get it taken care of earlier if he was having issues? Someone will take a swing at him in the first, though.”

    Added a fifth scout: “He’s the best athlete of the group and has the most upside of the group. But his injury history is a concern. He’s got the best deep-ball skills of the group.”

    4. Greg Newsome II, Northwestern (6-foot-0, 192, 4.38, Round 1 or 2): Third-year junior, three-year starter.

    “Great kid,” said one scout. “Smart, steady player. A little bit unspectacular with his play-making ability but a good athlete. Has pro height/weight/speed, pro instincts, pro mentality. A lot to like.”

    The Chicago native played in just 21 of the Wildcats’ 40 games the past three years. Missed 19 games with an assortment of nagging injuries.

    “Durability is my only concern because he never played a full season,” a second scout said. “He’s fluid, can flip his hips, run. He didn’t have much ball production, but they never threw his way for three or four games this year. He had like only one target in a three-game stretch. The 40 obviously helped him. I didn’t think he necessarily played that fast, but at least he’s got that speed.”

    Finished with 71 tackles (one-half for loss), one pick and 25 PBUs.

    “He’s a perfect nickel,” a third scout said. “Strength is probably his biggest deficiency. The guy gives effort. He’s athletic enough to tackle guys. He wins the 50-50 (balls) more with quickness, savvy and instincts than he does physicality and presence. He’s really good in a lot of things, but no flat-out wow. These guys usually end up in the second round.”

    5. Tyson Campbell, Georgia (6-foot-1, 193, 4.39, Round 1 or 2): Played at American Heritage School (in Plantation, Fla.) under coach Patrick Surtain on a team that included Patrick II and Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz.

    “He might be the most explosive and sudden of all these guys,” said one scout. “That’s saying a lot. He’s just got instant movement. Little bit more of a reactor right now than a natural feel guy. He just smothers guys. Hard to beat. In run support, he triggers and tackles strong. He’s gifted. Just needs some polish. He reminds me of William Jackson II.”

    Ranked behind only Surtain in the high-school cornerback class of 2018.

    “Athletically, he is a freak,” said a second scout. “But there are some mental busts in there that really screw him up. If anything, you’ve got to get into his head and find out who he is. I think he’ll be an outside corner. He’ll tackle (well) enough.”

    Started 24 of 33 games, finishing with 89 tackles (3½ for loss), one pick and 11 PBUs. A third scout said he didn’t like Campbell’s hands.

    “He’s got everything and cannot get a ball down,” a fourth scout said. “The coaches there tried everything imaginable and nothing helped.”

    Campbell’s vertical jump of 34½ inches was the lowest of the 10 cornerbacks.

    6. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State (5-foot-10, 180, 4.40, Round 2): One team removed him from its draft board because of his size and what they thought was his overinflated opinion of himself.

    “There will be size limitations, but he compensates in other ways,” one scout said. “He’s undersized but very productive. He can play outside or inside.”

    Playing mainly right corner, Samuel started 23 of 32 games over three seasons before opting out after eight games in 2020 and declaring for the draft.

    “Good player, just (small),” a second scout said. “Has good instincts and cover skills. He’s a marginal tackler and hitter, but he’ll go after the ball. There are guys that aren’t tough that won’t go after the ball, but he will. Also has good hands.”

    The Sunrise, Fla., native finished with 96 tackles (three for loss), four picks and 33 PBUs. Arms were 30⅛. His father, Asante (5-foot-11, 185, 4.52) played 11 seasons as an NFL cornerback, intercepted 51 passes and made four Pro Bowls.

    “More of a slot,” a third scout said. “But he’s an excellent athlete and is quick as can be. He plays like his dad. He just knows what he’s doing. He attacks the ball. But his size does show up. He can get pushed around, and in run support he’s more of an ankle-biter, drag-you-down type.”

    7. Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky (5-foot-11½, 197, 4.34, Round 2): From Baton Rouge, he was the No. 2 prospect in Louisiana in the class of 2018. Played sparingly as a freshman before being suspended for the final game and transferring to Kentucky. After sitting out 2019, he started nine games in ’20 before opting out of the last two games.

    “There are certainly some inconsistencies in his game and probably (off the field), I would say, that likely will hold him back from being the best he can be,” one scout said. “If he decides that football’s No. 1, he can be a really good player. I don’t think he’s a bad kid, but he’s it’s hard to bet on him.”

    Added another scout: “It depends on your level of tolerance. He’s very talented.”

    His collegiate stats in 20 games (nine starts) were 37 tackles (one-half for loss), four picks and six PBUs.

    “He’s as talented as the top three guys,” a third scout said. “He’s got a little bit of inconsistency in his play, but when it was time to play against the big receivers, he would step up to the challenge. He did pretty well against Alabama.”

    Said a fourth scout: “He’s got instinctual issues, but I want him to go high.”

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    Eric Stokes was a Georgia state champion sprinter in high school. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

    8. Eric Stokes, Georgia (6-foot-0½, 194, 4.31, Round 2): Third-year junior with 25 starts in 36 games.

    “I like him, but he has worse ball skills than (Tyson) Campbell,” one scout said. “He had more interceptions than Campbell, so the ball might find him, but he’ll never be a natural at (picking off passes).”

    Finished with 78 tackles (two for loss), four picks and 26 PBUs.

    “He’s a starter,” said another scout. “He just doesn’t take the ball away the way other guys do.”

    Ran the fastest 40 of the group. In fact, he was a state-champion sprinter in high school in Covington, Ga., clocking 10.39 seconds in the 100 meters.

    “He needs to improve his ball skills,” a third scout said. “The height/weight/speed are going to be too hard to pass up.”

    A fourth scout said Stokes brought to mind cornerback Stanford Routt, the 38th pick in the 2005 draft by the Raiders.

    “He’s stiff,” he said. “He’s a track guy playing football.”

    9. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (6-foot-2½, 208, 4.50, Round 2): Fourth-year junior from South Grafton, Mass., backed up in 2018 then started 19 games in 2019 and ’20.

    “Great feet and body control for a guy that big,” one scout said. “When he gets up and presses, it’s easy for him. Turns and runs smooth. Has the size and speed to smother guys. When he’s playing off, he’s not silky as far as transition, but he can burst out of stuff. Not sure about his true grit in run support, but he gets guys down.”

    His brother, Obi, was drafted as a safety in the second round by the Raiders in 2017 out of Connecticut but has played in just seven games in four years. Currently with the 49ers.

    “Everybody knows those bloodlines,” said a second scout. “Little bit of a finesse guy like his brother. With his brother playing safety, it was a little more detrimental. (Ifeatu) being a corner, he can get away with it a little more. He’s just got to be more efficient as a tackler.”

    Finished with 88 tackles (five for loss), three picks and 26 PBUs. Probably better in a Cover-2 or Cover-3 coverage scheme.

    “He’ll be scheme-specific, but he’s got a chance to be starter-level eventually,” said a third scout. “He’s not ready to go immediately. He is interesting.”

    Excelled in the vertical jump (41½ inches) and broad jump (11-2).

    10. Paulson Adebo, Stanford (6-foot-1, 198, 4.44, Round 2 or 3): Redshirted in 2017, made first-team All-Pac-12 in ’18, struggled in ’19 and opted out in ’20.

    “Very similar to Jaylon Johnson last year,” one scout said. “Jaylon was an ideal zone-scheme corner. (Adebo) is like that, but he’s got better ball skills and better straight-line speed. He’s at the line for what I would say you want for a man-to-man corner. I’d give him the nod over Johnson, who went middle of the second round last year (to the Bears).”

    Adebo’s 10-inch hands are tied for the largest at the position.

    “He’s stiff, but he’s big and physical, can run fast and he’s tough,” a second scout said. “More of a press guy, like what the Seahawks do.”

    From Mansfield, Texas, Adebo started 21 of 22 games in college, finishing with 97 tackles (3½ for loss), eight picks and 34 PBUs.

    “(A bit) tall in his transition,” said a third scout. “If he plays more man coverage, it will expose it more. In zone, you can kind of mask it a little.”

    11. Aaron Robinson, Central Florida (5-foot-11½, 188, 4.39, Round 2 or 3): Covered kicks at Alabama in 2016 before transferring to UCF and sitting out ’17. Missed six games with a concussion in 2018 before serving as the nickel back covering slot receivers the past two seasons.

    “Best nickel defender in the draft,” one scout said. “He’s got everything you want. The thing that holds him back is the consistency of the instincts. Sometimes he gets sloppy.”

    From Deerfield Beach, Fla., Robinson started 19 of 42 games for UCF, finishing with 109 tackles (7½ for loss), three picks and 21 PBUs.

    “He’s got height and he runs well,” a second scout said. “He’s a little grabby and sort of duck-footed. I wouldn’t use the word awkward, though. He’s not super fluid, but he does have some explosion to him.”

    Said a third scout: “They played him more as a slot in that off-ball safety position. He is tough as hell. He’s got short-area cover quickness and twitch. You don’t really want him on the outside covering, but as a slot-hybrid type of guy, he’s a really good player.”

    12. Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota (6-foot-3½, 202, 4.58, Round 2 or 3): Played briefly as a freshman at Michigan in 2017 before sitting out all of ’18 due to a hamstring injury. Rather than agreeing to sign a waiver giving up his scholarship, he entered the transfer portal and was eligible immediately because he graduated in May 2019. At Minnesota, he started 14 of 18 games over two seasons.

    “He’s one that really popped at the Senior Bowl,” one scout said. “He was OK off his college tape, but then at the Senior Bowl he gained a lot of momentum. Big, long, press corners who can run fit the league now.”

    Other than the 40, which was average for his height, he stood out at pro day. His 4.01 short shuttle and 6.63 3-cone led the position.

    “On double moves, when he needs to mirror and match guys, that’s where he shows a little bit of stiffness,” said a second scout. “He’s not always fluid. I don’t think he trusts himself, either. He gets a little grabby. He also didn’t have much ball production. The length obviously is there, and he tested well.”

    From Montreal, St-Juste finished with 62 tackles (1½ for loss), no picks and 13 PBUs.

    “Talented player,” said a third scout. “Has great feet and is very athletic. Good speed, very good instincts. He’s good enough in run support. Just hasn’t played much.”

    Other top cornerbacks: Ambry Thomas, Michigan; Rodarius Williams, Oklahoma State; Marco Wilson, Florida; Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas; Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech; Shaun Wade, Ohio State; Kary Vincent, LSU; Bryce Thompson, Tennessee; Keith Taylor, Washington; Darren Hall, San Diego State; Thomas Graham, Oregon; Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon; Tre Brown, Oklahoma; Avery Williams, Boise State; Cam Bynum, California; Olaijah Griffin, Southern Cal; Shakur Brown, Michigan State; Isaiah Dunn, Oregon State.

    Ranking the safeties

    1. Trevon Moehrig, Texas Christian (6-foot-0½, 202, 4.51, Round 1 or 2): TCU’s MVP on special teams as a freshman before starting at free safety in 2019 and ’20.

    “I don’t remember the last safety that could both tackle and cover,” said one scout. “That conference (Big 12) probably is the best passing conference in football, and he was really good. He covered the slot most of the time. There are very few safeties that can actually cover. I’d try him at corner just to see if he could play out there.”

    Played cornerback and wide receiver in high school at Spring Branch, Texas.

    “I didn’t see special, but I saw a lot of good,” said a second scout. “I appreciate the way he played. He can play in the middle of the field and he can play down. He’s one of the few guys who is fully interchangeable. I’m not saying he’s great covering the slot, but he knows how to play within himself.

    “I like the angles he plays with in the run game. He’s tough. He’s got the size. His speed is fine.”

    Finished with 125 tackles (4½ for loss), seven picks and 28 PBUs.

    “He’s more of a post player than a consistent physical player,” a third scout said. “I think he’s unanimous (as the No. 1 safety). He’ll be on the brink of (making the Pro Bowl).”

    Arms were just 30⅝ inches. A fourth scout remained unimpressed.

    “I don’t see anything to him,” he said. “You can see he knows how to play … but he’s not really fast, he’s not really athletic, he’s not a knock-you-out tackler or anything. He’s just OK.”

    2. Jevon Holland, Oregon (6-foot-0½, 207, 4.46, Round 2): Here’s another player with a light resume. He started two of 13 games as a freshman in 2018 and all 14 in ’19 before opting out in ’20.

    “He’s a rookie starter,” said one scout. “I was at his workout. He worked out really well. He can play down in the box but is also athletic enough to play on the deep end. You can do a lot of things (with him). He ran a 4.46 (40) and had ball skills.”

    Finished with nine interceptions, leading the Ducks in 2018 and ’19.

    “He has put on a lot of weight since he last played (listed at 196 in ’20), but he ran well with it,” a second scout said. “He can play nickel, but I see him more as a free (safety). Good player, really smart. He’s going to have some issues with quicker guys, but against certain guys, you’ll be able to get away with him. I think he’s a starter.”

    The Pleasanton, Calif., native also made 110 tackles (4½ for loss) and broke up 19 passes.

    “He’s a ‘tweener,” a third scout said. “Not a corner athlete. (Doesn’t have ideal) safety strength and toughness. Didn’t see a lot of twitch or change of direction.”

    3. Andre Cisco, Syracuse (6-foot-0½, 216, no 40, Round 2 or 3): Third-year junior, three-year starter.

    “He has more ability than all the safeties,” one scout said. “Long arms (32½ inches), big hands (10⅝ inches), runs fast, jumps high, smart. Plus, 13 interceptions. Doesn’t hunt, but he can get the ball and can cover. He’s a boom-or-bust.”

    Started just one year in high school at Valley Stream, N.Y. Instant starter as a freshman at Syracuse. Suffered a torn ACL in a collision with a teammate in warmups before the team’s third game in 2020.

    “He’s a risky one with the medical,” a second scout said. “But he’s really smart. Really instinctive, tough.”

    Finished with 136 tackles (two for loss), 13 picks and 29 PBUs.

    “Probably the least reliable tackler of the top three (safeties),” a third scout said. “He’ll go for some kill shots and miss. I like the athlete. Obviously he’ll slide because of the injury, but a good, solid player.”

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    Richie Grant, right, racked up an impressive 291 tackles at UCF. (Reinhold Matay / USA Today)

    4. Richie Grant, Central Florida (5-foot-11½, 198, 4.56, Round 2 or 3): From Fort Walton Beach, Fla., his only FBS offer was from UCF. Redshirted in 2016, played extensively in ’17 and started 33 games from 2018 through ’20.

    “He was my favorite guy at the Senior Bowl,” one scout said. “He played every position in the secondary. Both safeties, nickel and a steady helping of outside corner during the game. His school film wasn’t as good as the Senior Bowl. His physical skill was good, not great.”

    Didn’t clock a blazing 40 (4.56 seconds), but his 3-cone of 6.78 seconds led the position.

    “The thing he doesn’t have trouble with is hitting you,” a second scout said. “That kid will probably start.”

    Impressive production. Finished with 291 tackles (11½ for loss), 10 picks, seven forced fumbles and 29 PBUs.

    “He’s very good at tackling out of the middle of the field,” said a third scout. “He has the best tackling rate of any of the safeties. He has knock-back power. He can stop people. Doesn’t have great long speed, but has enough.”

    5. Elijah Molden, Washington (5-foot-9½, 192, 4.61, Round 2 or 3): His father, Alex (5-foot-9½, 186, 4.46), was the No. 11 pick in the 1996 draft. An NFL cornerback for eight seasons, he finished with 12 interceptions.

    “This kid has everything going for him,” said one scout. “Great kid, smart, good on the board. He’ll wind up starting and being a good player.”

    From West Linn, Ore., Molden played off the bench in 2017 and ’18 before serving as the nickel back covering slot receivers in 2019 and ’20.

    “He’s a Tyrann Mathieu/Budda Baker type of guy,” a second scout said. “But where do you play a guy who’s 5-foot-9 with 29-inch arms? He doesn’t really cover well enough to play nickel. Not really big enough to play in the box. Not enough range to play out in the open field.

    “But he is a damn good football player and will play 10 years in this league. Plays the game the right way. I think he’s as good as (Antoine) Winfield Jr.”

    Finished with 153 tackles (seven for loss), five picks, four forced fumbles and 25 PBUs.

    “I like him as a player, but he’s not those guys,” a third scout said referencing Mathieu and Baker. “He’s a good player, but that’s rarefied air. He think he’s a zone nickel and a late third- or fourth-round pick.”

    “I think he can survive in nickel if he’s in a zone-type deal,” a fourth scout said. “Because he didn’t run well, obviously, you don’t want to match him up. I don’t think he has the body armor to last there (safety).”

    6. Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (6-foot-3½, 226, 4.45, Round 3): Some teams have him graded as a box safety, others view him as a weakside/dime linebacker.

    “You think you’re going to get Kam Chancellor,” one scout said. “This kid doesn’t have that kind of mentality. Chancellor would knock your teeth (out). Deablo is athletic as a tackler, but he’s not mean or explosive or anything like that. But the upside’s really good.

    “He played a lot of sub linebacker in the Senior Bowl and did really well. He doesn’t have a ton of wiggle as far as man coverage, but he can play in zone because he’s fast, long and pretty instinctive.”

    Spent 2016 at wide receiver, his high-school position in Winston-Salem, N.C., before moving to defense in ’17.

    “Interesting guy,” a second scout said. “He’s in the mold of (Kyle) Dugger and (Jeremy) Chinn. An absolutely fabulous kid. I don’t know where you play the guy. There will be some concerns in one-on-one coverage. He’s got a little tightness to him. He loves the game. You’ve just got to figure him out.”

    Started 33 of 51 games, finishing with 206 tackles (12½ for loss), six picks and 17 PBUs.

    “I didn’t think the guy could run,” a third scout said. “I estimated 4.7. Then he did. He’s best in the box, but has free-safety range. I imagine he’ll end up playing linebacker.”

    7. Talanoa Hufanga, USC (6-foot-0½, 199, 4.63, Round 4): Third-year junior, three-year starter originally from Corvallis, Ore.

    “Strictly a box safety,” one scout said. “He plays the game hard, but his lack of foot speed will catch up to him in the NFL. He’s very tough. People have been trying to make him a linebacker, but at the end of the day, he’s going to be too small.”

    His 40 time was the slowest of the top 12 safeties.

    “He’s the same type of player as Deablo, but Deablo is bigger and faster,” said a second scout. “(Hufanga) made some big hits in games and everybody got excited about him. He’s aggressive. Linebacker-type mentality. But a ‘tweener.”

    Finished with 203 tackles (16½ for loss), four picks and 12 PBUs.

    8. Jamar Johnson, Indiana (6-foot-0, 205, 4.58, Round 4 through 6): From Sarasota, Fla., he started just one game for the Hoosiers in his first two seasons.

    “The guy wasn’t on the radar at the beginning of the year,” said one scout. “It’s not like Indiana is producing a lot of juniors. Then he had two interceptions in the Ohio State game and all of a sudden you’re an All-Pro. That’s what happens nowadays.”

    Finished his junior season with seven career picks and declared for the draft. Played 31 games, starting nine.

    “He didn’t test all that great, but I like him,” said a second scout. “He plays with a lot more range than (his times indicate). Good man cover player. Good blitzer off the edge.”

    Missed too many tackles in 2020. “He moves like a starting safety, but his tackling would be a liability,” a third scout said.

    Finished with 70 tackles (eight for loss), the seven picks and 14 PBUs.

    Other top safeties: Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State; Tyree Gillespie, Missouri; Shawn Davis, Florida; Caden Sterns, Texas; Jamien Sherwood, Auburn; Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati; Brandon Stephens, Southern Methodist; Richard LeCounte, Georgia; Trill Williams, Syracuse; Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh; Ar’darius Washington, Texas Christian; Christian Uphoff, Illinois State; Joshuah Bledsoe, Missouri; James Wiggins, Cincinnati; Brady Breeze, Oregon; Tre Norwood, Oklahoma; Mark Webb, Georgia; Paris Ford, Pittsburgh.

    The Skinny

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    Two-year starter Zech McPhearson, left, has a master’s degree from Texas Tech. (Scott Wachter / USA Today)

    Unsung hero

    Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech: Spent three years at Penn State without playing much but graduated with a degree in labor and employment relations. Moved to Lubbock, Texas, as a grad transfer and produced as a two-year starter. He has adequate height/weight/speed (5-foot-11, 193, 4.50), a 40½-inch vertical jump, strong leadership skills and a love for the game. He also completed his master’s degree at Texas Tech in interdisciplinary studies.

    Scouts’ nightmare

    Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia: One of the more shocking 40 times on the pro-day circuit occurred March 17 in Athens, Ga., when LeCounte clocked 4.76 in his first run and 4.82 in his second.

    “You would never think he was that slow watching him on film,” said one scout. “It’s hard for me to draft 4.8.”

    A three-year starter, team leader and producer against both the run and pass, LeCounte had his final season end five games early when his dirt bike was struck by a vehicle and he suffered multiple injuries. Once an early-round prospect, he might be fortunate to be drafted now.

    Scout to remember

    Carroll Hardy: An athlete for all seasons, Hardy spent 24 years in the Denver Broncos’ personnel department in various director and scouting roles. The team reached three Super Bowls during his tenure. He helped assemble the “Orange Crush” defense of the 1970s. A native of Sturgis, S.D., Hardy starred in three sports at Colorado before being drafted in the third round by the 49ers in 1955. After one season as a receiver, Hardy turned to baseball. His eight-year, 433-game career was made famous with the Red Sox when he became the only player ever to pinch-hit for Ted Williams. He died in 2020 at the age of 87.

    Quote to note

    NFC personnel executive: Michigan State has had at least one player drafted every year since 1940. Now that streak might be in jeopardy. Cornerback Shakur Brown, a pesky ballhawk, is the Spartans’ best hope, but he ran poorly (4.63) at pro day.

    Said the executive: “Hell of a streak. He’s an undersized, instinctive nickel with ball production, but he doesn’t have that twitchy quickness that you need at nickel. This is their only shot.”

  12.  

    Ranking the top edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft: Bob McGinn’s grades are in

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    This is the 37th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL Draft Series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-2001), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-2017) and BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-19). Until 2014, personnel evaluators often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts. This will be a nine-part series.

    PreviouslyQBs | RBs | WR/TE | OL | DL

    A retirement, a return and an opt-out have created dizzying detours in the paths of Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau to the NFL Draft.

    Ten months ago, Rousseau was coming off a 15½-sack season as the left end for the Miami Hurricanes. Phillips, meanwhile, had not played a game in almost two years.

    In Phil Steele’s 2020 football preview that reached newsstands in June, Steele featured rankings of the top seniors, juniors and redshirt sophomores for the 2021 draft courtesy of Draftscout.com. At defensive end, Rousseau was No. 1. And Phillips? He was No. 64.

    The rankings were perfectly understandable. Rousseau was the hottest pass rusher not named Chase Young in 2019 and Phillips was off somewhere in football’s no man’s land.

    Following recommendations from the UCLA medical and coaching staffs, Phillips had announced his retirement from football in December 2018 after his second down year in Westwood. Multiple concussions, multiple surgeries on his left wrist stemming from an off-campus moped accident and multiple ankle injuries led him to walk away and enroll at Los Angeles City College to study music and concentrate on his keen interest in becoming a rapper and music producer.

    Two months later, Phillips had a change of heart and decided to resume his football career as a transfer at Miami.

    “Thank you God for giving me a second chance,” he tweeted. “The COMEBACK is going to be something serious.”

     

     

    As Rousseau was running wild in 2019, Phillips, the No. 1 player in the country in the class of 2017, was sitting out as a redshirt. The prospect of having both players rushing the passer off the edge was a major reason why Steele predicted the Hurricanes would be the nation’s most improved team in 2020.

    Everything changed on Aug. 6 when Rousseau elected to opt out of the season. It changed again when Phillips stepped in for Rousseau at left end and fulfilled his immense promise with an outstanding year.

    The Hurricanes finished 8-3 and played in the Cheez-It Bowl, a game Phillips opted out of in order to prepare for the draft. The pair finally was on the same field together March 29 for their pro day in Coral Gables, Fla., and scouts were far more impressed with Phillips’ athletic testing than Rousseau’s.

    A strong indicator of how the tide has turned toward Phillips came from my polling earlier this month of 18 executives in personnel. Not only did Phillips finish ahead of Rousseau on 14 ballots, he also fared better on two separate questions.

    Asked who among the edge rushers had the best chance to bust, Rousseau led with seven votes while Phillips didn’t have any. Jayson Oweh collected four votes, Carlos Basham Jr. and Joe Tryon each had two and Joseph Ossai and Kwity Paye each had one. (One of the 18 scouts declined to vote.)

    All 18 personnel evaluators then were asked who was the best pass rusher in the draft. Phillips dominated here with 13 votes, followed by Rousseau with three then Paye and Tryon, each with one.

    “That’s a no-brainer,” an AFC decision-maker said. “Phillips has the most natural talent and biggest upside of all of them. I wouldn’t touch Rousseau.”

    Another executive: “Phillips is top 10 or 12 if you watch the tape right. I don’t get what the hype is with Rousseau. There are major concerns.”

     

     

    To draft Phillips high, a team would be counting on its medical staff to rule positively on his injury history and people inside and outside the organization to reach a positive judgment on his at-times immature behavior at UCLA.

    “If he can build off what he did in one year at Miami, he’ll be a legitimate NFL (defensive) end,” an AFC executive said. “He seems to have responded there after the issues he had at UCLA.”

    An NFC personnel director added: “That’s LA. He was going through stuff. I got green lights on him. I’m not even blinking. He’s smart, and he’s got drive and want and grit.”

    Added an AFC scout: “We’re not sure we can count on (him). … Talent-wise, he’s way better than Rousseau.”

    Rousseau weighed in at 266 pounds at the pro day, which, according to some scouts, was about 30 pounds heavier than his playing weight in 2019. His workout was merely average, and now scouts have varied opinions on what his position should be.

    “He’s so stiff in the lower body that I don’t see how he plays on the edge,” an AFC executive said. “You can’t help but be impressed when he walks in the room. He had like 15 sacks, but 10 of them were from the inside. I think somebody will try to fatten him up, get him in the 280s and make him play as a 3-4 (defensive) end, then stay inside as a defensive tackle on third down.”

    Rousseau and Phillips were among three edge rushers, a defensive tackle and a tight end who participated in testing at The U’s pro day. Rousseau’s vertical jump of 30 inches was the worst of the five, and his broad jump of 9 feet, 7 inches was fourth. Phillips led the five with jumps of 36 inches and 10 feet, 5 inches.

    “He had eight months to get ready for a pro day, and at the workout, it looks like he never jumped in his life,” said one personnel man. “He fell down on the vert and fell down on the broad. I’ve never seen a player fall down on both of those drills.”

    Rousseau’s prime measurables (6-foot-6½, 266 pounds, 4.66 40 time) have few matches in recent draft history. Among the closest would be defensive end Anthony Nelson (6-foot-7, 271, 4.83), a fourth-round draft choice by the Buccaneers in 2020. Devin Taylor (6-foot-7, 273, 4.74) was the Lions’ fourth-round choice in 2013. Michael Johnson (6-foot-7, 266, 4.69) started at defensive end in Cincinnati for nine seasons after being a third-round pick in 2009 and finished with 44½ sacks.

    Maybe Rousseau will be Jadeveon Clowney (6-foot-5½, 266, 4.52) from the 2014 draft, or Dion Jordan (6-foot-6, 248, 4.58) from 2013. Jevon Kearse (6-foot-5, 262, 4.45) would be the sweet ceiling, but “The Freak” was one of a kind with jumps of 40½ (vertical) and 10 feet, 10 inches (broad jump) back in 1999.

    Of Kearse, who went No. 16 to the Titans and made the Pro Bowl three times, former Bears GM Jerry Angelo said before that draft, “He’s the most special athlete I think I’ve ever seen.”

    “He’s so intriguing,” an AFC personnel director said of Rousseau. “He didn’t work out as great, but I’m going off what he did as a 19-year-old kid in 2019 with a number of sacks and the upside the kid has. I think Rousseau is one we’ll look back on.”

     

     

    The panel of 18 scouts agreed to rank their top five edge rushers in order, with a first-place vote worth five points, a second-place vote worth four and so on. Phillips drew 11 firsts compared to four for Paye, two for Rousseau and one for Tryon.

    Phillips, with 74 points, led the voting, followed by Paye (53), Rousseau (42), Tryon (23), Azeez Ojulari (22), Oweh (15), Ossai (13), Basham (11), Payton Turner (eight), Ronnie Perkins (six) and Rashad Weaver (three).

    “The top eight are all very similar guys,” said one NFL decision-maker. “Bottom of the first through bottom of the second-round talent. When you get to the fourth through seventh, there are still a lot of guys leftover that have traits.”

    Ranking the edge rushers

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    Jaelan Phillips is coming off a breakout season with the Hurricanes. (Matt Gentry / The Roanoke Times via Associated Press)

    1. Jaelan Phillips, Miami (6-foot-5½, 260, 4.58, Round 1): Turned his career around with the Hurricanes in 2020.

    “Everything that you want in a modern NFL pass-rushing end, he has,” said one scout. “He has rush from the edge, from inside, from nose tackle. He’s got the length, the mass, the strength and power to do it. If he had played all the way through and didn’t have the issues, absolutely he’s a top-10 player.”

    His freshman season at UCLA was limited to seven games because of a high-ankle sprain. His sophomore season was limited to the first four games due to multiple concussions. Redshirted at Miami in 2019, played well last season and declared a year early.

    “I was at his pro day and it was a phenomenal workout,” a second scout said. “He moved like an outside linebacker. He had some concussion issues at UCLA. Didn’t know if he was going to play football or not, or how important it was to him. Got out of there and went to Miami. Reset himself. He’s the most gifted (of the edge rushers).”

    His 4.18 time in the short shuttle led the position.

    “He really blew up this year,” said a third scout. “I wonder if he can sustain that. A lot of his lack of production before this year wasn’t his fault. He worked out freakishly.”

    From Redlands, Calif., Phillips started six of his 11 games for the Bruins in 2017 and ’18 on teams that went 6-7 and 3-9 under Jim Mora and Chip Kelly, respectively. Finished with 86 tackles (23½ for loss) and 12½ sacks.

    “He plays like he loves football,” a fourth scout said. “He’s really good in the run game and can get to the quarterback in a variety of different ways.”

    2. Kwity Paye, Michigan (6-foot-2½, 261, 4.57, Round 1): Lightly recruited player from Providence, R.I. Compared by one scout to Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, another former Michigan right defensive end.

    “(I) like the way he plays,” said another scout. “It’s not anything special. He’s got good get-off and burst. There are moldable things to make him an efficient defensive end or outside linebacker. He worked out pretty well.”

    Barely played as a freshman before starting four of 13 games as a sophomore. Moved into the lineup in 2019 but failed to put up impressive numbers.

    “I don’t think he’ll be a bust,” another scout said. “High-effort guy. Played with violence. I’d have liked more stats, but he still was disruptive. He showed quickness off the snap. He could do it (rush with) both power and speed. Can hold the point. Has the strength (36 reps on the bench).”

    Started 20 of 38 games, finishing with 100 tackles (23½ for loss) and 11½ sacks.

    “He’s got a lot of things you want,” a third scout said. “Now, he is short. That’s his biggest deficiency. But his arm length (33 inches) is solid. I think his best attribute is he can really accelerate through contact.”

    Was born in a refugee camp in Guinea. Came to the U.S. with his Liberian parents at 6 months.

    “You see some violence, you see the jolt and snatch, you see some burst off the edge,” said a fourth scout. “I like him, but he should be better than what he is.”

    3. Gregory Rousseau, Miami (6-foot-6½, 266, 4.66, Round 1): His freshman season ended after two games because of a broken ankle that required surgery. Was second in the nation with 15½ sacks in 2019 before opting out in ’20.

    “He’s not explosive, but he’s a really good technician,” one scout said. “He knows how to use his hands and get off blocks. He knows angles. He’s a really smart player. He has the pass-rush knack. He just has feel for what he needs to do. He’s what you want in a full-time defensive end.”

    Reminded another scout of Justin Tuck (6-foot-5, 265, 4.75), the 11-year defensive end who registered 66½ sacks.

    “(Rousseau’s) production comes from interior pass rushing, a la Tuck,” the evaluator said. “He could possibly (bulk up) and be a 3-4 defensive end.”

    Another scout expects him to do just that.

    “He looks like an NBA power forward because of the height, the length and the range,” he said. “I think he’s going to be that 275-, 280-pound guy and be a 5-technique. He’ll be able to leverage players (stopping the run).”

    His arms were 34⅜ inches and his hands were a position-high 11⅛ inches.

    “Got a lot of athletic ability, but a complete finesse player. There’s no nasty to him,” said a fourth scout.

    The Coconut Creek, Fla., native entered the draft with only seven career starts. Played in 15 games, finishing with 59 tackles (22½ for loss) and 15½ sacks.

    “He’s a gangly athlete,” said a fifth scout. “Struggles to change direction. He’s raw.”

    4. Joe Tryon, Washington (6-foot-5, 259, 4.67, Round 1 or 2): A fourth-year junior who played only two seasons after redshirting in 2017 and opting out in 2020.

    “Extremely well put together,” one scout said. “He’s going to be overdrafted for what he’s actually done in his career. Somebody will take a chance on the physical traits. He’s gifted. He had (12½) sacks the last time he was on a football field. Looks the part, but (Joseph) Ossai and (Ronnie) Perkins outplayed him.”

    From Renton, Wash., Tryon played from multiple alignments in his 25-game, 14-start career.

    “I don’t know if he’ll ever be a dominant sack guy, but I could see him having steady six, seven (sack) years with a 10 every blue moon if his technique improves,” said a second scout. “He’s big, long and can run. He’ll probably be a DPR (designated pass rusher) early. I don’t see dominant ability, so he probably has the best chance to bust.”

    Finished with 61 tackles (14½ for loss) and nine sacks.

    “Love this kid,” said a third scout. “He can bend. He can drop into coverage. He doesn’t have any speed-to-power move. He’ll get stalled. But his effort is undeniable. He’s a very determined football player.”

    5. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia (6-foot-2, 249, 4.62, Round 1 or 2): Suffered a torn ACL in his final game as a prep (in Marietta, Ga.) and redshirted in 2018 while rehabilitating the knee. Started 23 of 24 games for the Bulldogs the past two years before declaring as a third-year sophomore.

    “He’s athletic and quick with a good get-off,” said one scout. “He can get on an edge. He runs well. Playing (every) down, the size factor could be an issue. He can be a 3-4 or a 4-3 guy.”

    Played from two- and three-point stances.

    “I’d probably play him as a ‘Sam’ (linebacker) on early downs and then on third down try to find ways to get him involved in the rush,” said a second scout. “Georgia always has athletes, but their rush instincts aren’t there. In the NFL, the tackles are too good just to be a good athlete.”

    Finished with 67 tackles (18½ for loss) and 14 sacks.

    “I think there’s some risk with him, but if you’re saying that, what’s Kwity Paye?” a third scout said. “(Ojulari) had 8½ sacks (in 2020) in the SEC, and the biggest season Kwity had was 6½ in the Big Ten.”

    He’s the shortest of the top 15 edge rushers, but his arm length (34½ inches) is excellent.

    “They played him at end and off the ball, and he gets beat up wherever he is,” said a fourth scout. “You love the way he plays, but he’s a little guy. His pass rush is just effort. That’s really what he’s got. I don’t have a role for him.”

    6. Jayson Oweh, Penn State (6-foot-5, 257, 4.37, Round 1 or 2): “He should be a better player, but his upside is insane.”

    That evaluator summed up what many of his scouting brethren have been saying about Oweh, a pro-day wunderkind but too often a nonfactor for the Nittany Lions.

    “You see the workout and the flashes,” said a second scout. “He didn’t have a sack (in 2020), but Danielle Hunter had only (1½) his last year at LSU. You just don’t pass up rare (skills).”

    Led edge rushers in the 40, broad jump (11 feet, 2 inches) and 3-cone (6.90). Long arms (34½ inches), small hands (9¼ inches). Played only two years of prep football in Howell, N.J.

    “It’s still new to him,” a third scout said. “He doesn’t play like his test numbers, but somebody will take a shot on him. He shows back-side chase and all that. He’s just got to be more consistent at the point of attack.”

    Redshirted in 2018 after playing minimally in four games. Backed up in 2019 before starting last year. In 24 games (eight starts), he finished with 63 tackles (13½ for loss) and seven sacks (five in 2019).

    “You can see he’s got some talent, but he didn’t have a sack,” a fourth scout said. “Some team will take him and get burned. He’s my 11th edge rusher.”

    7. Joseph Ossai, Texas (6-foot-3½, 256, 4.63, Round 2): Third-year junior, two-year starter.

    “When I watch him, I see Danielle Hunter,” said one scout. “This guy plays harder than anybody in the draft. He just wears guys out by how hard he plays. He’s got explosive, wow plays. He’s got some stab and jolt at the point of attack. The backside stuff, how he chases, is incredible. On the pass rush, he shows you a lot of moves, the burst, bend. They drop him some, but that’s not really his deal.”

    Born in Nigeria, he moved with his family to Houston at age 9. Played high school ball in Conroe, Texas. In 2018 and ’19, he played extensively as an off-ball linebacker before moving outside in ’20.

    “He might be a 3-4 outside linebacker,” another scout said. “He is kind of tight for that. I really liked his passion for the game. He’s got legit, straight-line acceleration.”

    Led the top 15 edge rushers in the vertical jump (41½).

    “He’s just a guy to me,” a third scout said. “He didn’t blow it up there, and he had plenty of times to rush. I think he’s more of a DPR.”

    Started 24 of 36 games, finishing with 165 tackles (30½ for loss) and 11 sacks.

    “I think he’s stiff and doesn’t have a plan when he’s rushing,” said a fourth scout. “He loses his feet too much when he rushes. He is determined to get there, though.”

    USATSI_13542850.jpg
     
    Carlos Basham was productive at Wake Forest, finishing with 173 tackles and 20½ sacks. (Jeremy Brevard / USA Today)

    8. Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest (6-foot-3½, 274, 4.62, Round 2): Redshirted in 2016, played a lot in a rotation in ’17 and started 32 games over his last three years.

    “He’s the most natural pass rusher in the draft,” said one scout. “He has underproduced for his skill level, which certainly is a concern. The competitive nature of the player needs to improve to maximize his potential. His level of talent is up there with the better guys in the draft.

    “He’s a much better athlete than Za’Darius Smith was. They’re completely different, though. Za’Darius was an overachiever and Basham is an underachiever. Za’Darius has less physical ability but a much greater competitive spirit.”

    Basham played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme but impressed while rushing inside at the Senior Bowl.

    “He’s interesting because he can play both spots and can probably be an inside sub rusher,” said a second scout. “He’s kind of been a coast-on-talent guy. He’s been a big fish in a small pond at Wake Forest. Probably not held to the same standards a guy from Alabama would be held to.”

    Arm length (32⅞) was the shortest of the top nine edge rushers. From Roanoke, Va., Basham finished with 173 tackles (35½ for loss) and 20½ sacks for Wake Forest.

    “He’s an inconsistent player,” said a third scout. “More productive as a junior. His motor needs to crank up.”

    9. Payton Turner, Houston (6-foot-5½, 268, no 40, Round 2 or 3): Playing college ball in his hometown, Turner backed up in 2017 before starting 27 of 28 games from 2018 through ’20.

    “A little upright, a little stiff, but he may have the best motor in the draft,” one scout said. “He plays really hard and he’s really big. I just think guys like that end up being good players. He has pass-rush tools, but he doesn’t have pass-rush productivity yet.

    “He can be anywhere from 275 to 300 (pounds). He’s best if you play him at about 275 coming off the edge and chasing the ball. Kind of just being big and a tone-setter.”

    The 3-4 teams either see him as an outside linebacker or as a 5-technique with 25 additional pounds. The 4-3 teams view him as a left or right end.

    “He didn’t stand out at the Senior Bowl,” another scout said. “He didn’t have huge fall grades, so this is a little bit of a rising sun. He’s got some rush potential, both power and speed.”

    Has the long longest arms at the position (35⅜ inches).

    “He’s weighed almost 290,” said a third scout. “He dropped down for some reason for the Senior Bowl (270). Has the tools to be a good NFL pass rusher. Let’s put it this way: He’s got all the material, but he wasn’t as productive as I thought he should be.”

    Finished with 115 tackles (25 for loss) and 10 sacks.

    10. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma (6-foot-2½, 253, 4.71, Round 3): An undersized third-year junior with short arms (32⅞ inches) and small hands (9 inches). Failed to impress at pro day with a pedestrian 40, a slow shuttle run and a 32-inch vertical jump.

    “I think he goes mid-to-late third,” said one scout. “But he’ll be a better player than some of the guys that go before him.”

    The St. Louis native started 25 of 33 games at defensive end for the Sooners.

    “He is (small), but he plays extremely hard,” a second scout said. “He may be an exception to the rule. He’s pretty explosive.”

    Failed an NCAA drug test in late 2019 but successfully appealed and returned after missing six games.

    “Character all checks out,” a third scout said. “He’s a 100-mph, try-hard, play-with-your-hair-on-fire guy. He’s got the strength to do the cobra strike (bull rush). He’s a pain in the ass to block.”

    Finished with 99 tackles (32 for loss) and 16½ sacks.

    “Love the way he plays,” said a fourth scout. “There is a little bit of tightness to him. I could see people saying he’d bust because a lot of his (production) comes from his effort.”

    11. Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh (6-foot-4½, 259, 4.85, Round 3): Described by one scout as a “subtle” rusher. Missed all of 2019 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament but returned better than ever in ’20.

    “He gets a lot of cleanup sacks,” said a second scout. “He has technique, but no explosion. He’s a try-hard, overachiever type. He was (productive), and I don’t know how he does it. He’s a lot like the guy last year from Boise, Curtis Weaver. He also had a knack.”

    From Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rashad Weaver started 28 of 35 games over four seasons, finishing with 110 tackles (34½ for loss) and 17 sacks.

    “He’ll end up being a CEO of a business someday,” said a third scout. “He’s a great kid. Plays hard. He just doesn’t have quick feet. I think he can go to a team where he doesn’t have to be that fast and maybe be a backup as a Day 3 guy.”

    12. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh (6-foot-4, 261, no 40, Round 3 or 4): Pulled up slightly before crossing the finish line of his 40 at pro day. Although there is no satisfactory clocking, teams estimated his speed to be in the high 4.8s. His broad jump (8 feet, 11 inches), meanwhile, was the lowest at the position.

    “He’s the one who reminds me of a Za’Darius Smith,” said one scout. “Za’Darius ran 4.81. It’s a big man’s game.”

    Started at left end in a four-man front, but some teams see him agile enough to stand up outside in a 3-4.

    “He doesn’t play the game fast,” a second scout said. “He’s a power guy. He wants to be the best guy there. But I don’t think he’s very strong and I don’t see counter moves. He’s got to get stronger.”

    From Chesapeake, Va., Jones started 24 of 48 games over four seasons after redshirting in 2016. Finished with 117 tackles (33½ for loss) and 22 sacks.

    “Tries his ass off,” said a third scout. “Great kid. Got better as far as being a technician as a rusher this year. But he’s stiff. He was disappointing at the Senior Bowl. He’s a classic overachiever.”

    13. Cameron Sample, Tulane (6-foot-2½, 267, 4.86, Round 3 or 4): From Snellville, Ga., he played defensive end as a three-year starter for the Green Wave. His size and athleticism make him one of the most versatile defenders in the draft.

    “Kind of a ‘tweener,” said one scout. “But when it comes down to just playing football, he just makes plays. He’s too small to play inside consistently, but he’s got some quickness. I think his best position based on his body type is that Pittsburgh 3-4 outside linebacker. If I was running that defense, I could see him as a third- or fourth-round pick. If you play him on the edge, that’s his best bet.”

    Posted a 37-inch vertical jump.

    “He has the capacity to play in the 280s and he is strong,” a second scout said. “Good football player.”

    Started 38 of 46 games, finishing with 151 tackles (21 for loss) and 10½ sacks.

    14. Chris Rumph II, Duke (6-foot-3, 239, no 40, Round 4): Moved regularly with his family because his father, Chris, has been a college or NFL assistant coach since 2003. Presently, the elder Rumph is the defensive line coach for the Bears.

    “The guy just never stops,” said one scout. “He gets bounced around like a pinball, but the guy has some edge rush ability. He’s a rotational defensive end (in a 4-3), or he could play in a 3-4. Pretty decent athlete, but (size) is an issue. Looks like a basketball player.”

    Managed just 18 reps on the bench, the fewest by a top-15 edge rusher. After playing high school ball in Gainesville, Fla., Rumph started only as a senior for the Blue Devils, finishing with 125 tackles (34 for loss) and 17½ sacks.

    “Poor man’s Leonard Floyd,” said a second scout. “Love the way the guy plays. Has amazing flexibility. He just gets in so many awkward positions and gets knocked around, but he always comes out of it. How much bigger and stronger is this guy going to get?”

    15. Quincy Roche, Miami (6-foot-2½, 245, 4.68, Round 4 or 5): From Randallstown, Md., Roche stepped into a starting role at defensive end in his first season with the Hurricanes after Rousseau opted out.

    “Plays hard, really instinctive, smart,” one scout said. “Knows how to play. Not a lot in his tank. He could be a really good backup for somebody for a long time.”

    At Temple, he redshirted in 2016 and started 17 of 39 games from 2017 through ’19. Moved to Miami as a grad transfer and started 10 games at right end in a 4-3 defense.

    “He has a lower ceiling because of physical limitations,” a second scout said.

    His production was extraordinary. In 49 games (27 starts) for the Owls and Hurricanes, he had 182 tackles (54 for loss) and 30½ sacks.

    “(Christian) Darrisaw just ate this guy up,” a third scout said of the Virginia Tech left tackle. “Excellent dip and bend at the corner. He has a great first step. Needs to play more physical against the run.”

    Other top edge rushers: Jordan Smith, Alabama-Birmingham; Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa; Ade Ogundeji, Notre Dame; Janarius Robinson, Florida State; Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame; Charles Snowden, Virginia; Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State; Shaka Toney, Penn State; Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo; Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State; Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State; William Bradley-King, Baylor; Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina; Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State.

    The Skinny

    GettyImages-1303371462-scaled.jpg
     
    Elerson Smith recorded 14 sacks for the UNI Panthers in 2019. (Don Juan Moore / Getty Images)

    Unsung hero

    Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa: One evaluator said Smith (6-foot-6, 252, 4.75), who has a 41½-inch vertical jump, has the ability to bend around the corner much like Bryce Paup (6-foot-4, 245, 5.01) did for the Packers, Bills, Jaguars and Vikings. Paup came out of UNI as a sixth-round pick in 1990 and went on to make four straight Pro Bowls and notch 75 sacks. Smith had 28 sacks in three years, including 14 in 2019, but lost the ’20 season when the Missouri Valley Conference canceled its season. Smith is much better rushing the passer than playing the run.

    Scouts’ nightmare

    Janarius Robinson, Florida State: His height/weight/speed numbers (6-foot-5, 262, 4.69) are top-notch. So is his arm length (35¼) and hand size (10⅞). But it just didn’t happen for him in Tallahassee: 42 games, 28 starts, eight sacks. Scouts appreciate his effort and sincerity. Some team will seek to unlock his potential.

    Scout to remember

    Jim Parmer: A star halfback at Oklahoma State in the mid-1940s, Parmer backed up Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren on the Eagles’ championship teams of 1948 and ’49. After a nine-year playing career in Philadelphia, he coached at Texas Tech before joining the BLESTO combine as a scout in 1967. That eight-year stint was followed by about two decades as a regional scout for the Bears. Working under George Halas, Jim Finks and Bill Tobin, Parmer was a no-nonsense evaluator of college talent. His legacy lives on in grandson Jeff Ireland, the Saints’ assistant general manager. Parmer, a native of Mangum, Okla., died in 2005 in Lubbock, Texas. He was 79.

    Quote to note

    AFC personnel executive: “In college, if you’re a really good athlete, you can get away clean. People can’t block you. But in the NFL, even Aaron Donald, people get in front of him. He just has the strength and athletic ability to run through guys. You don’t get many sacks in the NFL just by going clean to the quarterback. You’ve got to fight through contact, play through bodies.”

  13.  

    Ranking the top linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft: Bob McGinn’s grades are in

    Bob McGinn Apr 27, 2021comment-icon@2x.png 30 save-icon@2x.png

    This is the 37th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL Draft Series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-2001), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-2017) and BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-19). Until 2014, personnel evaluators often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts. This will be a nine-part series.

    Others in the series: QBs | RBs |WR/TE | OL | DLEdge

    Of the Pro Bowl linebackers just four years ago, the Panthers’ Luke Kuechly has retired, the Steelers’ Ryan Shazier suffered a career-ending spinal injury, the fortunes of the Jets’ C.J. Mosley have taken a turn for the worse and the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner will be entering his 10th season.

    New blood, most notably the Buccaneers’ Devin White, has come up through the personnel pipeline at linebacker, but more is needed. Many teams continue to seek that fast, tough and smart “mike” linebacker to wear the green dot on his helmet and play 100 percent of the defensive snaps.

    Fortunately, this looks like the year to draft that kind of player.

    “I have nine linebackers in the first 75 picks,” an executive in personnel for an AFC team said. “I don’t know if nine linebackers have ever been taken in the top 75. I feel if I need a linebacker, I can get one at the bottom of the third round or the top of the fourth. A guy I can start as a rookie and get production out of.”

    He wasn’t alone. Two other personnel evaluators also expressed confidence there will be starting linebackers available in Round 3.

    “That top five is a really good, strong group,” said another AFC personnel executive. “Those next guys are all solid in their own range. It’s a better inside linebacker group than it has been most recently.”

    Penn State’s Micah Parsons, not only the fastest linebacker on the board but also one of the biggest, should be gone within the first 15 selections. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame, whose balky hamstring apparently prevented teams from obtaining a 40 time, also is projected for the first round, and Tulsa’s Zaven Collins and Kentucky’s Jamin Davis might go anywhere from 20 to 50.

     

     

    Then comes the cohort of eight to 10 names that fills the position with intrigue. By no means will they all become great players, but there are raw ingredients throughout to demand the utmost consideration.

    “Everybody wants a Devin White,” another scout said. “White’s the best linebacker I’ve scouted in 20 years. He’s not falling off the tree every year. (Other than) going back two years ago and taking Devin White at No. 5, there are no Devin Whites coming along.”

    The Bucs hit it big with White in 2019 just as the Steelers did with Devin Bush five slots later. The year before, the Bears secured Roquan Smith at No. 8 and couldn’t be more pleased with the acquisition.

    For various reasons, Tremaine Edmunds in Buffalo, Rashaan Evans in Tennessee and Leighton Vander Esch in Dallas haven’t been all their teams hoped they’d be as first-round picks in 2018. In fact, two players taken later that year, the Colts’ Darius Leonard at No. 36 and the 49ers’ Fred Warner at No. 70, have gone past their more celebrated first-round peers.

    Last year, four linebackers were drafted in the first round: Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, Jordyn Brooks and Patrick Queen.

    They all had adequate rookie seasons. At this point, however, it’s possible that Willie Gay (No. 63) in Kansas City, Logan Wilson (No. 65) in Cincinnati, Zach Baun (No. 74) in New Orleans, Jacob Phillips (No. 97) in Cleveland, Malik Harrison (No. 98) in Baltimore and Mykal Walker (No. 119) in Atlanta might surpass any or all of them. Those second-, third- and fourth-round players displayed considerable promise in 2020.

    Some teams have taken larger safeties and grouped them with the linebackers. Virginia Tech’s Divine Deablo (6-foot-3½, 226 pounds), Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen (6-foot-3, 215), Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood (6-foot-1½, 216) and LSU’s JaCoby Stevens (6-1, 212) fit the profile.

    “One reason why there are so many names in this stack is that’s football now,” one AFC executive said. “These are all modern-day, college-football linebackers that have to expand out in coverage or run down the middle of the field to protect the seam or what have you. That’s why there are so many names. Some of these guys are safeties that are converted to linebacker.”

     

     

    Eighteen personnel people were asked to rate the linebackers from 1 to 5, with a first-place vote worth five points, a second-place vote worth four and so on.

    Parsons dominated with 12 firsts and 81 points. Following, in order, were Owusu-Koramoah (52½, three), Collins (50, one), Davis (40½, two), Nick Bolton (19), Pete Werner (14), Baron Browning (three), Jabril Cox (two), Dylan Moses (two), Monty Rice (two), Chazz Surratt (two), Derrick Barnes (one) and Ernest Jones (one).

    “It’s what you value,” an AFC personnel director said. “If you’ve got a base-down guy, you would want more of a nickel player. Or, if you have a situational guy that can play on third down, you might want more of a heavy-handed guy.”

    Ranking the linebackers

    1. Micah Parsons, Penn State (6-foot-3, 246 pounds, 4.36 40 time, Round 1): Didn’t start as a freshman but still led the team in tackles. Started 12 games in 2019 before opting out in ’20.

    “You always know he’s in the game,” one scout said. “He’s either blowing up the quarterback on a blitz or going outside and knocking the sh*t out of somebody. He can man cover a back and a tight end at a very good level. Hell of a pass-rushing linebacker. Plays to the outside are his forte. Running the ball down.”

    Almost refuses to use his hands while taking on blocks.

    “Not a real shock-and-shed kind of linebacker,” a second scout said. “More of a scrape-and-run guy. He’s OK against the pass. He was a five-star (recruit) and all that. He opted out, and you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get in this situation. But he’s got all this physical ability.”

    From Harrisburg, Pa., Parsons switched high schools after being suspended during his junior year for an incident in the school cafeteria.

    “We have to find out a little bit more about leadership and intangibles, and being able to call a defense,” said a third scout. “But even if he’s just a rush-hit guy, he might turn out to be Darius Leonard. He’s not Devin White. He doesn’t take on blocks like Devin White. He tries to run around and jump things, but the athletic things are top-notch.”

    Finished with 192 tackles (19 for loss) and 13½ “big plays” (defined as the total of sacks, interceptions, fumbles forced and fumbles recovered).

    “What you have is a space-chase ‘backer,” a fourth scout said. “If everything is straight-line for him and he sees it, he’s explosive inline. His sacks, (Penn State had stunts) upfront and blitzed him right through the middle. They schemed him to do that stuff. When he’s in space and if he’s chasing somebody, you can see his speed.

    “Besides that, he’s not an exceptional athlete. His effort’s OK. He is a non-factor when a blocker is on him. He reminds me of Isaiah Simmons last year. Simmons just had an average year (for the Cardinals).”

    Parsons’ 11-inch hands were the largest at the position.

    2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame (6-foot-1½, 221, no 40, Round 1): Redshirted in 2017. Suffered a broken foot in practice after two games of the 2018 season. Started as a linebacker “rover” in 2019 and ’20.

    “He’s a ‘will’ linebacker,” said one scout. “He’s so athletic and quick-twitch that you can do a lot of things with him. He’s not as big as (Isaiah) Simmons, but he’s a similar kind of athlete.”

    Decided not to run the 40 at pro day.

    “His 40 would be in the high 4.4s,” a second scout said. “I think he didn’t run because he wanted the weight, not the speed. I think he played at 215. He’s athletic, twitchy, violent, physical. He’s wired right.”

    Finished with 142 tackles (24½ for loss) and 17 big plays.

    “Playing inside in a 3-4 wouldn’t be best for him,” a third scout said. “You could get away with him as a 4-3 ‘mike.’ It’d be better if he was an outside guy in a 4-3. You’ve got to allow him to get around blocks rather than take on blocks and go make the tackle. He certainly has the physical ability to cover tight ends. There’s a lot that can be done with this guy.”

    Had basketball offers from smaller Division I schools out of Hampton, Va. Compared by one scout to Jamal Adams and by another to Deion Jones.

    “All right, if you want a tackle 15 yards down the field, he’s your guy,” a sixth scout said. “He can run around, but do you want this guy out in space in coverage? No. You love the way he plays, but he’s little.”

    Played wide receiver, cornerback and safety in high school.

    “He’s the wild card,” a seventh scout said. “I got a vibe the Notre Dame people were nervous about making this guy a safety because of his ability to communicate and he freelanced so much. I saw him as an elite cover ‘backer. Put him at ‘will’ and let him run around and hit people and play in coverage. To put this guy inside facing blocks all the time, I don’t know why you would do that.”

    3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa (6-foot-5, 259, 4.65, Round 1 or 2): Lightly recruited out of tiny Hominy, Okla., where he played quarterback and safety and was class valedictorian.

    “He plans on becoming a doctor,” said one scout. “Does very, very well in interviews. He can play all the linebacker positions, but he thinks he’s best at ‘sam.'”

    Lined up off the ball as a weakside linebacker in a 3-3-5 defense.

    “He’s got a little Dont’a Hightower (6-foot-2, 265, 4.64) in him,” said a second scout. “He’s not as powerful as Dont’a, but he does play strong. As a rusher, you see things that can be developed. He can play ‘mike,’ too.”

    After a redshirt season, he started 31 of 33 games. Finished with 244 tackles (30 for loss) and 18½ big plays.

    “He’s a big body with straight-line speed,” said a third scout. “It’s more just build-up speed. He’s not the sudden, explosive, quick guy. He’s more of a bigger man who just kind of takes up space, and when the ball goes away from him, he can turn, build speed and track it down.”

    His arms measured 33⅝ inches, the longest at the position.

    “It’s like you’re watching a midget football game and there’s a kid that shouldn’t be on the field because he’s too big,” said a fourth scout. “He’s a giant. When you get a guy that big, people think he should be ripping everybody in half. He doesn’t do that, but who (cares)? He gets guys down. You look at the body, you’d think he was an old-school, 1980s, ‘mike’ linebacker. Just a big, between-the-tackles plugger. But this guy can run. He’s not a blowback tackler. (Brian) Urlacher probably is a good comparison.”

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    Jamin Davis finished his career at Kentucky with 144 tackles. (Mike Watters / USA Today)

    4. Jamin Davis, Kentucky (6-foot-3½, 234, 4.47, Round 1 or 2): Fourth-year junior, one-year starter.

    “He’s by far my No. 1 linebacker,” one scout said. “Plays hard. Can run. Not the greatest take-on guy, but who is nowadays? He’s tough. He can slip and dip. In coverage stuff, they never take him off the field. Just really instinctive in coverage. Against Florida, they were spread out and he was just running all over the place making plays.”

    Redshirted in 2017, played off the bench for two years and moved into the lineup at middle linebacker in ’20 when Chris Oats suffered a stroke in the summer.

    “It’s a little bit like when (linebacker) Josh Allen came out of there (in 2019),” a second scout said. “He blew up on the radar at the last minute. I look at those Kentucky guys very similar. They’re late bloomers. He’ll need some time. I don’t think he’ll be the guy you want running the show the first year. I want him playing fast.”

    From Ludowici, Ga., Davis finished with 144 tackles (five for loss) and 8½ big plays. Led the position in the vertical jump (42) and broad jump (11-0).

    “His workout was insane,” said a third scout. “He’s got instinct problems. I see his playing style best at ‘mike,’ and a ‘mike’ that is not instinctive is very dangerous.”

    Weighed 234 pounds at pro day, but a fourth scout said he looked “rail-thin” during the season. He guessed his playing weight was below 220.

    “He’s more of a ‘will’ in a 4-3 rather than a ‘mike,’” said a fifth scout. “He’s a little bit slower reacting inside the box, but they tell you it’s because of all the RPO stuff. If you react suddenly to an RPO run, then the ball goes behind you, over your head. Every team that needs a linebacker is sitting on him. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t go in the first (round).”

    5. Nick Bolton, Missouri (5-foot-11, 237, 4.60, Round 2): Third-year junior, two-year starter.

    “He should have been playing in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s,” said one scout. “He’s a hitter. Tough kid. Like the old-school linebackers with a little better speed. But he does not read the inside blocking schemes time after time. He gets fooled by play-action pass, which is a killer for me.”

    Played sparingly as a freshman, then started for two years on the weakside in a 4-2-5 defense.

    “He reminds me of Demario Davis,” said a second scout. “Physical like that. He’s got nice, instinctive feel. Makes a (lot) of plays. I’d like to see him develop a better feel in the passing game.”

    Originally from Frisco, Texas, Bolton finished with 224 tackles (17½ for loss) and just seven big plays. Never forced a fumble. “Poor man’s Devin Bush,” a third scout said. “He played ‘mike’ (at Missouri), but he might be better served playing on the outside because of his size. Really good kid.”

    Said a fourth scout: “Small run-around guy. Gets beat up. I don’t think he has good instincts. Chase downfield effort guy.”

    6. Peter Werner, Ohio State (6-foot-3, 238, 4.61, Round 2): Three-year starter with a 39½-inch vertical jump.

    “I was hoping Pete Werner was a secret,” said one scout, laughing. “There are no more secrets in this business. He’s smart. Played a lot over the slot. He can play in space. He moved really well in the workout. He’s a legit three-down linebacker.”

    Started both on the weakside and the strongside.

    “This (kid) has the intensity to be a Hall of Famer,” a second scout said. “He reminded me of Dan Morgan. You can’t overlook intensity in a kid. Teams love it when you show that. Defensive captain and leader. He can run your defense.”

    His father, Greg, started four of his 10 games as a tight end for the Jets (free-agent signing) in 1989 after a collegiate career at DePauw.

    “He’ll be a good, solid pro,” a third scout said. “Probably a starting ‘mike’ by Year 2.”

    The Indianapolis native finished with 185 tackles (15 for loss) and 10 big plays.

    “I’m surprised he’s that high,” a fourth scout said. “I love the makeup, but there are limitations. He’s not as good as (James) Laurinaitis, and Laurinaitis wasn’t that good.”

    Said a fifth scout: “He just looked like a guy who knew how to play. Lot of effort. Little bit limited as an athlete.”

    7. Baron Browning, Ohio State (6-foot-3, 245, 4.56, Round 2 or 3): Joined by Pete Werner, Justin Hilliard and Tuf Borland as Buckeyes linebackers in the draft.

    “If he had Borland’s and Hilliard’s intangibles, he’d be a top-10 pick,” said one scout. “He never really started until this year; he played behind Borland. He coasts on talent. The athletic ability cannot be denied. I think the best thing he does is rush the passer. It’s boom or bust with this guy. He’ll come in and be a steal, or be a career underachiever.”

    Labeled as “an old-fashioned ‘sam’ ’backer” by one scout.

    “If you’re going to gamble on traits, you could take him,” said a third scout. “The tools are outstanding. Do I put 10 pounds on the guy and put his hand in the dirt and let him be a D-end? Or do I put him at ‘sam’ on early downs and let him rush on third down?”

    Fort Worth, Texas, native started just nine of 43 games, finishing with 110 tackles (18 for loss) and 11 big plays. Some teams think he’s best suited to play OLB in a 3-4 defense.

    “He’ll probably go mid-to-late four,” said a fourth scout. “There’s just too much in that body to let him go longer than that.”

    Considered a modest medical risk (shoulder) by at least one team.

    8. Monty Rice, Georgia (6-foot-0½, 236, 4.58, Round 3): From Huntsville, Ala., he played four seasons for the Bulldogs, starting 28 of 47 games.

    “He’s more power guy than athlete,” one scout said. “He’s got some thump to him. He is a good fit inside for a 3-4. Not sure about his range and ability to play in coverage.”

    Georgia generally took him off the field on passing downs so his exposure in coverage was limited. Increased his draft stock dramatically by running an unexpectedly swift 40.

    “I had no clue he could run like that,” said a second scout. “The workout helped him. Nice college football player. His coverage isn’t very good.”

    His hands, measured at 8¾ inches, were the smallest at the position.

    “He may not come across that way at first, but he’s good enough on the board,” said a third scout. “He’ll be able to run your defense. Won’t have any issues with this kid.”

    Finished with 219 tackles (10½ for loss) and six big plays.

    “Might be more of a weak inside ‘backer if you’re in an odd front,” said a fourth scout. “He could play ‘mike.’ Georgia has a pro-style defense, so he has some experience in that regard.”

    USATSI_15244925.jpg
     
    Chazz Surratt began his college career as a quarterback. (Bob Donnan / USA Today)

    9. Chazz Surratt, North Carolina (6-foot-2, 229, 4.59, Round 3): Redshirted as a quarterback in 2016 before starting seven games under center (80.1 passer rating) in ’17. Eyeing his NFL future, he voluntarily made the move to inside linebacker in 2019 and started in a 3-4 defense.

    “He’s probably the closest one to being able to run your defense because he’s so intelligent,” said one scout. “It wouldn’t surprise me if at the end of the day, he’s the most productive of all these guys. He’s really athletic. He’s tough. He’s got to learn how to play under control. He can match in space. He’s got to get a little bit bigger.”

    Said a second scout: “I was pleasantly surprised by the kid’s instincts and compete and tackling,” said a second scout. “He’s not a killer, but he’s a good wrap-up tackler. He can run and cover.”

    His short arms (30¼ inches) concern some teams.

    “If you want a guy that will bend people over backward, he’s not your guy,” a third scout said. “But for a guy who used to be a quarterback, he showed pretty good toughness. I just like the athlete.”

    The Denver, N.C., native finished with 207 tackles (22½ for loss) and 18½ big plays.

    “He needs time to develop,” a fourth scout said. “He is a vocal leader. He’s got problems getting off blocks. He’s got sideline-to-sideline speed.”

    10. Jabril Cox, LSU (6-foot-3, 232, 4.60, Round 3): Moved from North Dakota State, where he was a three-year starter, to LSU as a grad transfer in 2020.

    “(I) like him,” said one scout. “He played better at LSU than at North Dakota State.”

    Played as a running quarterback at a high school in Kansas City but went to Fargo, N.D., as a linebacker.

    “He’s a ‘will’ linebacker who will be your dime and nickel linebacker,” a second scout said. “His whole thing is his ability to play in the passing game. He had some issues at the Senior Bowl when he had to play inside against the run.”

    Half a dozen personnel people said he needed to be more physical.

    “Undersized,” said a third scout. “Gonna struggle to hold up between the tackles.”

    Quickly won a job with the Tigers, giving him a whopping 48 starts in 55 games. Finished with 316 tackles (38½ for loss) and 29 big plays.

    “All of the issues he has can be coached,” said a fourth scout. “If you get him to bend his knees and play with urgency, he can be a really dynamic linebacker. He’s got the best man cover skills of any linebacker in the draft. I think he has more upside than (Patrick) Queen.”

    Added a fifth scout: “He’s a lesser version of Pete Werner.”

    11. Dylan Moses, Alabama (6-foot-1, 225, no 40, Round 3 or 4): Alabama and LSU were among the schools that offered him scholarships as an eighth-grader in Alexandria, La.

    “Off his (2018) film, I gave him a first-round grade,” said one scout. “He didn’t play as well this year. I thought he came back from the knee (injury) a little bit too early.”

    Played extensively as a freshman in 2017 and led the team in tackles in ’18. His career arc changed in August 2019 when he suffered a torn ACL. Fought his way back to start 13 games for the national champions in ’20 but wasn’t nearly as productive.

    “He’s been hurt a lot, and I think it’s kind of taken away his range, speed and change of direction,” said a second scout. “Plays hard, but he looks small on tape.”

    Finished with 196 tackles (22 for loss) and 11 big plays.

    “I don’t want to say (he’s) overrated, because I think he’s still recovering from his knee injury,” a third scout said. “He’s at the line of what I call an ideal starter. The one good thing for him is almost all Alabama players are polished. They get boosted up in the draft.”

    12. Derrick Barnes, Purdue (6-foot-0½, 240, 4.62, Round 4): Started 20 of 38 games from 2017 to ’19 as a rush outside linebacker, amassing 11 sacks as a junior, then shifted inside last year.

    “He can play three downs,” said one scout. “He’s going to be more of a zone coverage guy than a man coverage guy. He can go sideline to sideline. Considering he’s a one-year starter (inside), he did exceptionally well. He has added value because he can rush the passer from the outside.”

    Compared by another scout to Kwon Alexander and Denzel Perryman.

    “He plays like a pro, just his assertiveness,” he said. “Some (blockers) will knock him down because he’s not very tall. He’s a little limited, a little tight in space. I think he’s a plug-and-play linebacker because he’s so physical and mean.”

    From Covington, Ky., Barnes finished with 225 tackles (25 for loss) and 14½ big plays. His 29 reps on the bench led the position.

    “His pro day was pretty damn good,” said a third scout. “I really liked the blitzing and pass rushing. He was good with the speed-to-power stuff. He just lacks the size there. I thought he lacked quickness in coverage. He’s a great person. He’ll be a (beast) on special teams wherever he goes.”

    13. Cameron McGrone, Michigan (6-foot-1, 234, no 40, Round 4): Third-year junior. Played the early portion of 2020 with a club protecting a hand injury before suffering a torn left ACL in November. He had a right ACL tear in high school (2016).

    “I was shocked that he came out,” said one scout. “With the injury, I don’t know where he’ll go. If he didn’t want to be at Michigan, he should have transferred. There’s a lot of inconsistency on tape when he did play.”

    As a sophomore in 2019, he replaced NFL-bound Devin Bush at middle linebacker and had a solid season.

    “He’s best playing downhill when he could shoot through a hole,” said a second scout. “Strength might be an issue. He gets caught up in the trash a little bit. His speed might get him exposed in coverage. Last year (2019), he was way better. Someone will get good value. With that injury, he’ll drop.”

    The Indianapolis native finished with 91 tackles (11 for loss) and four big plays.

    “He leaves you scratching your head,” a third scout said. “He’s talented. He can run. He’s pretty tough. The production and effort is really up and down.”

    14. Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College (6-foot-1, 227, 4.60, Round 4 or 5): Fourth-year junior with short arms (30¼ inches).

    “I thought he was the best (prospect) at Boston College,” one scout said. “Weakside type. Best in space and laterally. Good range. Can break on ball. He just wasn’t real physical. Thing is, he can play in space. That’s what people are looking for.”

    Moved into the lineup in 2018, his second season, but underwent knee surgery in spring 2019 that caused him to miss the first four games. Had 111 tackles in 2020.

    “He’s a ‘mike,’” said a second scout. “Good special-teams player. Needs to get stronger, but I like the temperament. He could develop into a good backup who may push to be a starter in time.”

    The Buffalo native finished with 230 tackles (15½ for loss) and 10½ big plays.

    15. Ernest Jones, South Carolina (6-foot-1½, 230, 4.72, Round 4 or 5): Third-year junior, two-year starter.

    “He played better in 2019 than in 2020,” said one scout. “He wasn’t as physical against the run this year. His pad level was higher and he was catching blocks.”

    Originally from Waycross, Ga., Jones played five games as a backup in 2018 before starting 21 games the past two years at middle linebacker.

    “On first and second down, you would like to say that he could (call signals),” said a second scout. “Then you’d want to get him off the field on third down.”

    Finished with 199 tackles (10½ for loss) and nine big plays. “I really admire how he plays,” said a third scout. “At the end of the day, his 4.7 speed makes him a dinosaur.”

    Said a fourth scout: “Looks like Darius Leonard. He’s not as long, but he is mean. He’s a tone-setter.”

    Other top linebackers: Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M; Tony Fields, West Virginia; K.J. Britt, Auburn; Nick Niemann, Iowa; Justin Hilliard, Ohio State; JaCoby Stevens, LSU; Anthony Hines, Texas A&M; Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State; Paddy Fisher, Northwestern; Grant Stuard, Houston; Garret Wallow, Texas Christian; Riley Cole, South Alabama; Tuf Borland, Ohio State.

    The Skinny

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    Justin Hilliard has a rather lengthy injury history, but still managed to play in 48 games for the Buckeyes. (Douglas DeFelice / USA Today)

    Unsung hero

    Justin Hilliard, Ohio State: Oh, what might have been. In 2015, Hilliard was the Buckeyes’ lone five-star recruit as the No. 1 player in Ohio. Then the injuries hit: three biceps tears requiring surgery, a torn Achilles and a torn meniscus. In six years, he managed to play 48 games but made just seven starts as part of a crowded, talented linebacking corps. His play stood out in the College Football Playoff Has his master’s degree. He’s undersized (6-foot-0½, 229) and ran a disappointing 40 (4.81), but he goes all-out all the time.

    Scouts’ nightmare

    Nick Niemann, Iowa: His brother, Ben, logged 43.4 percent of the playing time at inside linebacker for the Chiefs in 2020. He didn’t test athletically as well as Nick, who at 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds ran a 4.50 40 and recorded the best 3-cone time (6.67) at the position. In the last decade, Iowa linebackers have shown a penchant for making NFL rosters, but his production in Iowa City was marginal.

    Scout to remember

    Raymond “Fido” Murphy: He was a legendary, colorful scout for the Bears under George Halas for decades, beginning in 1934. The 40-yard dash was his idea, he always maintained. After checking into a hotel, sometimes he would have himself paged.

    “It isn’t that I’m smarter than anyone else,” he once said. “It’s just that I know more.”

    In 1963, Sports Illustrated wrote a story about him, headlined “Football’s Greatest Scout.” He was married to a Hollywood actress for 30 years. When asked about Oregon State QB Terry Baker, the Heisman Trophy winner and first pick in the 1963 draft, he cracked, “For carrying around a trophy, he’s got a great arm. For throwing a football, no.”

    Murphy died in 1983 at the age of 78.

    Quote to note

    NFL executive: “This year, more guys ran (the 40) well than any year I’ve been involved in. The ones that ran, (they) ran well. There were very few disappointing times.”

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