WHO HAS DECLARED?
Ohio State CB Shaun Wade announced he is declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. Wade returned this season hoping that he could prove that he could play the outside corner role. Let’s just say that had mixed results. Wade should be a damn fine nickel corner or perhaps even a safety. However, he likely will not be a first-round selection.
Indiana junior RB Stevie Smith (DFD Tape Grade: 7.2) and Auburn junior safety Jamien Sherwood. While I haven’t studied Sherwood yet, Smith projects as a late day three/UDFA. He runs with good balance and power but doesn’t have breakaway speed or elusiveness.
WHO’S COMING BACK?
Ohio State OT Thayer Munford (DFD Tape Grade: 8.5) announced he is returning to Columbus next season. The Buckeyes veteran left tackle accepted a Senior Bowl invite last month. I think he could have been a fringe first-round selection with a good week in Mobile. The 2021 season will now mark the third consecutive that I will grade Munford.
SENIOR BOWL UPDATES
With very little fanfare, the Senior Bowl has done away with the traditional North-South team names in favor of National and American. The Panthers will coach the American team while the Dolphins will coach the National team. A source close to DFD said the change was made because it became too hard to balance the rosters with the North versus South format. I have a different idea as to why the change was made but I will save that for another day. The Senior Bowl made a similar change in the early nineties and the local backlash was so great they changed it back after two years.
Ohio State LB Justin Hilliard, Florida State edge rusher Janarius Robinson, Michigan RB Chris Evans (DFD Tape Grade: 7.4), and Wisconsin-Whitewater guard Quinn Meinerz have all accepted invites to play in this year’s game.
Evans’ production is really poor and he may indeed be a better pro than a collegian. Hilliard is a space linebacker that covers space quickly. He just has struggled to stay on the field. The 1-on-1s in practice will be to his benefit. I haven’t studied Robinson yet but intend to do that shortly.
Meinerz is an aggressive blocker. He quickly punishes the man in front of him and gets to the second level for another taste. Meinerz has a good foundation and a nasty demeanor. I watched their final two playoff games from last year against St. John’s (MN) and North Central (IL). I finished with a 7.75 tape grade which would put him squarely in the 4th-5th round range. I tempered my grade some due to the level of competition. You can clearly tell that 99% of the players he was punishing will be seeking careers in things other than football. However, if he shows up in Mobile and performs well, I will raise my grade.
There is a recent history of Division II & III interior linemen having tremendous weeks in Mobile and getting drafted higher than they would have. Alex Cappa (Humboldt State) and Ali Marpet (Hobart) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ben Bartch (St. Johns-MN) of the Jacksonville Jaguars. All three have performed well in their careers so far and there is no reason to think Quinn Meinerz can’t do the same.