The 2021 NFL offseason is going to be unlike any other offseason we have seen. With no NFL Scouting Combine and no in-person visits, teams have limited access to prospects. Heck, we didn’t even get an East-West Shrine Bowl this offseason. We did get a Senior Bowl, however, and that even takes on even more importance after a shortened season (for many teams).
And so, many of the early risers and fallers storylines in February are going to have ties to the Senior Bowl. That will likely change in the coming weeks, but not as much as it would during a normal offseason. Teams will be doing more virtual meetings and probably talking to more prospects than they normally would have, but the access just won’t be the same. And no NFL Scouting Combine means no mingling between agents, general managers, coaches, and players, in addition to not being able to judge the Underwear Olympics.
Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the current 2021 NFL Draft risers and fallers.
No one improved their draft stock more than Mac Jones at the Senior Bowl, and he didn’t even play in the game. Jones picked up an ankle injury late in the week and sat out the game as a precaution, but the practices matter just as much as the game down in Mobile, if not more so. After an impressive college career at Alabama, scouts wanted to see how Jones performed outside of his comfort zone of being surrounded by elite talent. Jones passed every test. While questions about arm strength and overall athleticism remain, Jones displayed the pinpoint accuracy, quick processing, and excellent command that made him a Heisman finalist throughout the week. With so many teams in search of a quarterback, Jones may very well have vaulted himself into the first round. In fact, Daniel Jeremiah has him going to the Saints at 28th overall in his most recent mock.
Demetric Felton (WR/RB — UCLA)
Demetric Felton bounced back and forth between running back and wide receiver in college, and that versatility already has him rising up draft boards. As just a running back or a wide receiver, Felton would probably be a Day 3 pick. But the fact that he can do-and succeed-at both means he might jump into the Day 2 conversation. This touchdown in the Senior Bowl didn’t hurt his stock either.
Is it possible to be a draft riser if you were already being talked about as a potential Top 5 pick? Actually, yes. A few months ago, the consensus top two quarterbacks were Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. The conversation was always really Lawrence and then everyone else, but the consensus was generally that Fields was second. Then, it gradually became Fields or Wilson. And now, it sounds like Wilson moving into that second spot. One team even reportedly has Wilson ahead of Lawrence on their draft board:
“What he does as a thrower, and as a runner, is exactly where we are as a league right now. He throws some of those 50/50 balls with his shoulders square to the defense after running around in the pocket and I’m seeing Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech all over again.” — NFL College Scouting Director
Michael Carter had some buzz heading into the Senior Bowl, and he backed it up throughout the week and in the game itself. He isn’t really elite in any category, but he isn’t bad in any category either. He runs hard, has good balance, and is already good in pass protection. What he lacks in top-end speed he makes up for in solid fundamentals, balance, and vision. He’s undersized, but he is getting some well-deserved attention.
Kellen Mond got off to a rough start in the Senior Bowl, but he rebounded in a big way to walk away as the Senior Bowl MVP with a line of 13/25, 173 yards, 2 TD; 2 rushes, 11 yards, and a two-point conversion. His athleticism and arm will intrigue teams, and his ability to bounce back in a huge spot at the Senior Bowl will impress teams as much as the overall performance. He won’t get drafted in the first round in April, but he has positioned himself as a potential Day 2 pick because of his tools and performance.
Once upon a time, Newman was a rising star in the college ranks with the physical and athletic profile to be an early-round draft pick. The tools are still there, but the production wavered. And while he can’t be blamed for opting out of the 2020 season, it didn’t help his stock. He competed at the Senior Bowl, but he was understandably rusty. He will still intrigue teams because all of the tools are there, but he will be viewed as a project at the next level. And because of how the last year-plus has gone, his stock is down.
Another player with an intriguing physical skillset who has failed to impress recently. Here is what I had to write about Sage Surratt shortly after the Senior Bowl:
Sage Surratt is another player who started out strong in the first day of practice but quickly faded. He has great size and can be physical, but he was inconsistent and struggled with separation throughout the week. He also dealt with a lower-body injury during the week. Surratt is another player who opted out of the 2020 season and had the chance in Mobile to re-establish himself as a potential first-round pick, but he did little to stand out throughout the week. And to top things off, he was unable to play in Saturday’s game.
Feleipe Franks (QB — Arkansas)
Feleipe Franks is an enormous quarterback prospect with a cannon for an arm. His physical profile has him on everyone’s board, but his inconsistency will give every team pause. At the Senior Bowl, he flashed but was once again inconsistent. With a strong performance, he had an opportunity to climb draft boards. But he did little to separate himself, and he is probably headed in the wrong direction on most draft boards.