Updated April 28, 2021
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
The 2021 NFL Draft is just one day away! Here are some rumors that I have heard from sources just recently.
Throughout the leadup to the 2021 NFL Draft, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore has been the consensus top interior defensive line prospects. This year has a weak class for tackle talent, and Barmore has been the only tackle who has been consistently projected in the first round of mock drafts, albeit as a late first-rounder. In speaking with team sources, they feel there is the potential for Barmore to slide out of the first round. The main reasons are concerns about his maturity, makeup, and work ethic.
Teams feel Barmore is inconsistent as a worker and that shows up in his film and play on the field. At Alabama, Barmore would flash brilliance and was a dangerous pass rusher. But he was inconsistent and underwhelming as a run defender for a lot of his collegiate career. Barmore would turn it on in the pass rush, and players know that producing sacks leads to being drafted higher and getting paid more money in the NFL. His run defense seemed to come alive only when he was in his final games, producing the last tapes he would provide NFL teams. Thus, sources feel his inconsistency on the field matches the concerns they have about his maturity and work ethic off the field.
There seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for Barmore across teams, with some scouts feeling he could slide to second round and not be the first defensive tackle taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. It only takes one team to fall in love, however, and Barmore provides the rare commodity of interior pass rush. But his inconsistent play and work ethic have him as a bubble prospect between the first two nights of the 2021 NFL Draft.
If Barmore is not the first defensive tackle drafted, the player who probably will be is Washington's Levi Onwuzurike. Some teams have him in the running early in the second round. They think Onwuzurike is a solid, well-rounded prospest who should be a safe pick to turn into a quality pro. They don't think he is a dominating force to turn into the next Aaron Donald, but some teams like Onwuzurike as a top-50 player and feel he is the best defensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft.
One team that could pull trigger on Barmore or Onwuzurike is the Atlanta Falcons. From speaking with team sources, Atlanta sounds zeroed in on taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth-overall pick. Barmore and Onwuzurike are in play for the Falcons at pick No. 35-overall in Round 2. They could use more young talent on the inside of their defensive line and landing one of the top tackles in the draft class in the second round is quality value high.
Sources from other teams have said that Atlanta did a ton of work on Barmore, and it makes sense to dig deep given the makeup concerns that many evaluators have. They also said that the Atlanta staff feels Onwuzurike is a good player, and he could be their second-round pick. Both Barmore and Onwuzurike are in play to be Falcons on Friday night of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh safety Paris Ford, among others players, has been getting dropped off some draft boards because of character. Ford provided some excellent tape from the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and teams really like what he can do on the field, but the character evaluation, across the league, has been a killer for Ford. Teams have a lot of concerns about his affiliations from his youth and the potential for him to get in trouble off the field. The character evaluation was so bad that it offset the good tape ,and numerous teams have dropped him off their boards completely.
Another player with an important character evaluation is Miami defensive end Jaelen Philips. Phillips broke out in 2020 after transferring in from UCLA. Teams dug into the issues that led to Phillips' transfer, which happens to involve personal information we have chosen not to share. Teams, however, still looked into it ,and from speaking to team sources, the overall character evaluation came back positive. They think Phillips has shown some resolve and resilience, and sources say even if their team doesn't land him, they are pulling for him in the NFL. They say he interviewed well and is a good kid. Phillips looks reasonably safe to be selected on Thursday night of the 2021 NFL Draft.
I asked team sources for some feedback as to who were some of the players who interviewed well with teams. North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance impressed teams with his intelligence. They said Lance did better than expected and displayed impressive football I.Q. Florida tight end Kyle Pitts has been a star throughout the process, and teams love his makeup. He is a great kid, a hard worker, possesses an excellent football I.Q, and is the kind of teammate they love to have in the building. Pitts is a star on and off the field according to all teams.
For some mid-rounds prospects, other players who they said helped themselves included Northwestern quarterback Payton Ramsey, Florida International center Shane McGough, Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher and Texas safety Caden Sterns. Sterns is an interesting case, as the former Longhorns coaching staff had hurt his reputation some, but teams said Sterns was impressive and they feel he was caught up in a dumpster fire of a coaching staff on their way out. Fisher and Ramsey are said to be super smart, and they both have been impressive.