Sep 26, 2020; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers defensive back Jamien Sherwood (20) goes for a loose ball after Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Terry Wilson (3) fumbled during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Jets’ fifth-round pick Jamien Sherwood first to sign

Former Auburn safety Jamien Sherwood is set to become the first draft pick to sign an NFL deal on Wednesday, ESPN reported.

Sherwood, taken in the fifth round by the New York Jets, will sign a four-year deal worth $3.83 million according to the report, citing agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Sherwood finished his junior season at Auburn with 75 tackles, three passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 11 games.

Despite his experience at safety in college, the Jets introduced Sherwood as a linebacker when drafting him.

–Field Level Media

Apr 17, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) returns a punt during the first half of the annual Purple and White spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Coming soon: 2022 NFL Draft watchlist

With the 2021 NFL Draft in the books, the next class is right around the corner.

Here are the top prospects to watch one year before the Class of ’22 crosses the draft stage:

Seniors
1. Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama: A fluid athlete who can stick to receivers with ease, Jobe’s potential is near the top of any player in the 2022 class.

2. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia: Monstrous nose tackles with the athleticism and power that Davis generates aren’t common. His disruptiveness sets him apart from others.

3. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State: A smooth operator with refined route-running and ideal athleticism for the position, Olave’s decision to return for another year was a surprise.

4. Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky: Long, strong and mean as a junkyard dog. Kinnard gets around quite well as a 345-pound right tackle, and his imposing style will bode well in the NFL.

5. Boye Mafe, DE, Minnesota: One of the freakiest athletes to come out of college in years. If he hones his technique as a senior he’ll be viewed as a possible top prospect.

6. Adam Anderson, OLB, Georgia: Anderson’s natural burst and bend is eye-popping, even on a talented Georgia defense. He’s as flexible as pass rushers come.

7. CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon: A strong runner who demonstrates good burst and pad level that never fails, Verdell’s reliable style buys yardage that most backs simply can’t purchase.

8. Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati: He’s a prototypical defensive end with good length and burst for the position. Another year to clean up his hands could lead to a boom in draft stock.

9. Jaquan Brisker, SS, Penn State: 2020 Senior Bowl invitee who took advantage of his extra eligibility. Brisker is a height, weight and speed monster who hits efficiently and effectively.

10. Lecitus Smith, OG, Virginia Tech: A man mover who will send the bodies flying in the run game, Smith’s nasty streak and natural power makes him a high-floor prospect.

Underclassmen
1. Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU: Going back to his true freshman year, Stingley has been billed as a superstar. He has elite length, fluidity and ball skills. It’s hard to find a better-looking athlete at the position.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon: A former top recruit with excellent burst and athleticism, Thibodeaux is scheme versatile and will only get better as he improves his pass rush arsenal.

3. Kyle Hamilton, FS, Notre Dame: It shouldn’t be possible for a 6-foot-4, 220-pound man to run the alley like Hamilton does. He’s an absurd athlete and highly intelligent back end defender.

4. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina: Accurate to every level of the field and efficient enough to survive when things go off structure, Howell’s prototype arm and ball placement will make him a hot commodity.

5. George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue: At 6-4, 275, Karlaftis is the defensive end prototype. He has great length, violent hands and the anchor to lock down in the run game.

6. Drake Jackson, DE, USC: Excellent hands and natural power allow Jackson to create winning angles and uproot linemen with the best of them. He can move in space for a big man too.

7. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State: Suddenness, route-running, and hand-eye coordination are the keys to Wilson’s success. It’s no surprise he bullies Big Ten defensive backs.

8. Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M: A mountain of an individual, Green has the type of anchor and power that teams crave from interior linemen. He’s a mauling presence with a great floor.

9. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama: It takes a special type of linebacker to start as a true freshman under Saban. Harris has the smarts, tackling and athleticism to be a franchise defender at the next level.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard (30) runs the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the fourth quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers honor request, tab RB Chuba Hubbard in fourth round

The Carolina Panthers were on the clock during the fourth round of Saturday’s NFL draft when coach Matt Rhule received a text.

It was his wife, Julie, and she had a succinct message: Draft Chuba Hubbard.

Peace at the dinner table was maintained when Rhule and the Panthers followed the instructions and tabbed the Oklahoma State running back with the 126th overall selection.

Rhule broke the news to Hubbard when they chatted on the phone shortly after the pick was announced in Cleveland, where all seven rounds of the draft was held over three days starting with the first round on Thursday night.

“This is true. I got to tell you this, man,” Rhule said to Hubbard in a video released by the Panthers. “About 10 minutes ago, my wife texted me and said ‘please take Chuba Hubbard.’ So she speaks, it happens. We’re excited to have you, man.”

Carolina owner David Tepper got on the phone and verified the text was legitimate while speaking to Hubbard.

The Panthers will be hoping Julie Rhule has an eye for talent and that Hubbard can be a solid backup to star runner Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had a season for the ages in 2019 but played in just three games due to injuries last season. Now-departed journeyman Mike Davis filled in admirably but his limitations also made it clear Carolina needed to upgrade the position.

Hubbard had a huge season in 2019 when he rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns for Oklahoma State. But things didn’t go as well in the COVID-19 plagued 2020 campaign as he rushed for just 625 yards and five touchdowns in seven games before an ankle injury halted his season.

But Rhule, who once coached at Baylor, hasn’t forgotten that day that mid-October day in 2019 when Hubbard rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

“I couldn’t sit there and watch you run wild on me all those years at Baylor and not take you when I had the chance,” Rhule said.

Hubbard wasn’t the only big name to go in the fourth round. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 133rd overall pick.

Book stands just 6 feet tall, which is on the small slope of NFL signal callers. But the Saints had a small-size quarterback for the past 15 seasons in legendary Drew Brees, the sure Hall of Famer who retired after last season.

So naturally, another chapter about Book’s height was being written after the player who was 30-5 as a starter in college went to New Orleans.

“That’s just been the story my whole entire life,” Book told reporters of his height after being selected. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. You know, I’m not getting any taller. And Drew Brees has been able to do it — there’s many other quarterbacks, you can go down the list, that have been able to do it.

“We’re different players, but we’re similar in stature. And (Brees) proved to everybody down there and in the world that he could do it. And I want to do the same thing, and I just feel like I fit in that system well. You know, those are big shoes to fill, there’s no doubt about it, but that’s an exciting challenge for me.”

Sam Ehlinger of Texas was the only other quarterback picked in the final four rounds. He went in the sixth round (218th selection) to the Indianapolis Colts.

Ehlinger passed for 11,436 yards and 94 touchdowns for the Longhorns, second in both categories behind Colt McCoy (13,253 yards, 112 touchdowns from 2006-09).

The New York Jets had a unique draft oddity by picking two players named Michael Carter.

The Jets selected Michael Carter, a running back from North Carolina, in the fourth round, and then selected cornerback Michael Carter II of Duke in the fifth round.

The Carters certainly are highly familiar with each other. They played against each other in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The running back Carter finished his North Carolina career in fourth place on the school’s all-time rushing list with 3,404 career yards after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

“We were really excited about Michael Carter, just his elusiveness and his explosive playmaking ability,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said of the back.

New York coach Robert Saleh was just as excited about the defensive back Carter, who can play both cornerback and safety.

“He’s one of those guys with great versatility.” Saleh said. “Tremendous speed. He’s very sticky in coverage and he’s tremendous mentally in terms of absorbing information and play multiple spots.

The final selection of the 259-player draft, known as Mr. Irrelevant, was Houston linebacker Grant Stuard.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia defensive back Tyson Campbell (3) breaks up a pass from Auburn quarterback Bo Nix (10) to Auburn wide receiver Seth Williams (18) during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Georgia and Auburn in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Georgia won 27-6.  Mandatory Credit: Joshua L. Jones-USA TODAY NETWORK

Jags pick Georgia CB Tyson Campbell to open Round 2

One day after the Jacksonville Jaguars picked a potential franchise quarterback to open the NFL draft, the team turned its attention to the opposite side of the ball.

Jacksonville selected Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell on Friday to begin a busy night of drafting. Teams made their second- and third-round picks, and they will return to action Saturday to conclude the draft with Rounds 4-7.

Campbell, 21, started 24 games in three seasons with Georgia. He was a five-star recruit out of high school in Florida and ranked as the second-best cornerback in his class behind only Patrick Surtain Jr., who was a first-round pick by the Denver Broncos at No. 9 overall on Thursday night.

The New York Jets followed by taking Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore with the second pick of the second round at No. 34 overall. The Broncos took North Carolina running back Javonte Williams at No. 35, the Miami Dolphins selected Oregon safety Jevon Holland at No. 36, and the Eagles picked Alabama center Landon Dickerson at No. 37.

The New England Patriots maintained their strong pipeline with Alabama when they selected Crimson Tide defensive tackle Christian Barmore with the sixth pick of the second round. Barmore will reunite with college teammate Mac Jones, whom New England drafted at No. 15 overall in the first round.

Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. had to wait until the middle of the second round until the Los Angeles Chargers selected him at No. 47 overall. Samuel Jr. led the Seminoles with three interceptions and served as a team captain in 2020 before opting out after eight games.

Notre Dame pass rusher Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah slid to No. 52, when the Cleveland Browns selected him. Many draft analysts had projected the former Fighting Irish star to be a first-round pick after a junior season in which he was a first-team All-American, Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and won the Butkus Award.

Kyle Trask was the only quarterback to go in Round 2. The former Florida Gators signal-caller was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he will learn under Tom Brady after throwing for 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns and eight interceptions with the Gators in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (6) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Best available players after first round

It was all about offense in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday.

When the Jacksonville Jaguars are back on the clock with the 33rd pick to kick off the second round Friday night, the run on defense could begin.

Jacksonville selected Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first and spent the 25th pick on his college teammate, running back Travis Etienne.

The first seven picks in the draft were offensive players for the first time in the modern draft era — the 1999 draft came close; cornerback Champ Bailey was the No. 7 pick — and only 14 defensive players were selected among the top 32 Thursday.

Entering Day 2 of the draft, here are the top 25 players available:
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Azeez Ojulari, DE-OLB, Georgia
Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
Landon Dickerson, OG/C, Alabama
Richie Grant, FS, UCF
Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest
Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Tyson Campbell, DB, Georgia
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Quinn Meinerz, OG/C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Jay Tufele, DT, Southern Cal
Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (Fla.)

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; DeVonta Smith (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Philadelphia Eagles as the number ten overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft notebook: NFC East drama shakes up first round

After a mostly predictable start, three NFC East rivals cranked up the intrigue in the 2021 NFL Draft with high-stakes maneuvers that reshaped the proceedings.

The Dallas Cowboys, due up at No. 10, openly coveted one of the top two cornerbacks in the class, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. But the Carolina Panthers made Horn the first defensive player off the board at No. 8 and the Denver Broncos chose Surtain at No. 9, leaving Dallas empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith of Alabama was still available at No. 10, with the New York Giants possibly interested in him at No. 11. The Philadelphia Eagles made a rare deal, executing a trade with one division rival to leapfrog another.

The receiver-needy Eagles jumped to the 10th pick to select Smith by trading the 12th and 84th overall picks to the Cowboys. Dallas used the No. 12 pick on Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons rather than a corner.

“When you trade it in the division, you understand that you’re not going to get any values (added) to that, either. It’s going to have to work for them as well,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said.

The turn of events had consequences.

With Smith gone, the Giants instead traded back with the Chicago Bears, who moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 to land Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the fourth quarterback chosen.

At No. 20 the Giants went with a different wide receiver, slot Kadarius Toney of Florida. It marked the first time Dave Gettleman traded back in eight drafts as general manager of the Giants and the Carolina Panthers.

Belichick stands Pat for QB: The New England Patriots didn’t have to trade up to snag one of the best quarterbacks available. Alabama’s Mac Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15.

Now he’s tasked with becoming New England’s next franchise quarterback more than a year after Tom Brady left for the Buccaneers.

“I can’t wait to play for the greatest franchise in NFL history,” Jones said.

Records for offense, Alabama: The first seven picks of the draft were offensive players for the first time. The previous mark was six straight offensive players to open the 1999 draft.

After quarterbacks went 1-2-3, the Atlanta Falcons selected highly touted tight end Kyle Pitts. The Cincinnati Bengals chose LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase fifth, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle sixth and the Detroit Lions chose Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell seventh.

Nick Saban’s pro factory in Tuscaloosa also had an historic night, as the Crimson Tide tied a record with six players chosen in the first round of a single draft. The 2004 Miami Hurricanes had the first draft class with six first-rounders.

After Waddle, Surtain, Smith and Jones, the Las Vegas Raiders reached at No. 17 for Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood, who projects as a right tackle on their depth chart with Kolton Miller locked in at left tackle. The Pittsburgh Steelers then drafted running back Najee Harris at No. 24 to bolster a thin depth chart at the position.

Jags, Jets take two: The entire NFL knew the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets would select quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson with the first two picks. But both teams had a second first-round pick to spend toward building their teams around their respective rookies.

The Jets owned the Seahawks’ 23rd pick from last year’s Jamal Adams trade. They packaged that and two third-rounders to the Minnesota Vikings to move up to No. 14 and take the top-rated offensive guard in the class, Alijah Vera-Tucker of Southern Cal. Vera-Tucker figures to slot in next to last year’s first-round pick, mammoth tackle Mekhi Becton, to protect Wilson.

The Jaguars used the 25th overall pick (from the Los Angeles Rams in the Jalen Ramsey trade) to reunite Lawrence with his Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne. Etienne is the ACC’s all-time leading rusher with high marks of 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns over four seasons.

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2021; Clemson, SC, USA;  Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence works out during Pro Day in Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars tab QB Trevor Lawrence with top pick of NFL draft

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Cleveland.

The 6-foot-6 Lawrence will be looked on as the savior by Jacksonville fans, and is the team’s first choice under new head coach Urban Meyer.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up went 34-2 as a starter at Clemson and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018. He passed for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and tacked on 18 rushing scores.

This was the initial time Jacksonville held the No. 1 selection after the team finished with an NFL-worst 1-15 record in the 2020 season. The Jaguars held the No. 2 pick three times, with their best selection in 1995 being offensive tackle Tony Boselli, who has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist the past five years.

The Jaguars also hold the No. 25 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

–Field Level Media

Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton takes off his mask to yell to his players in the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Saints trying to trade into top 10 of draft

The New Orleans Saints, owners of the No. 28 overall pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft, are seeking a trade partner to move into the top 10, Fox Sports and ESPN reported.

“The primary reason isn’t for a QB, it’s actually for another position,” ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweeted. “Although, there is 1 QB (not named Trevor) who would change their minds if he was still available.”

Longtime Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired this offseason, so New Orleans re-signed 2020 backup Jameis Winston heading into next year. The Saints also still have Taysom Hill on their roster, but they have used him more as a utility knife than as a quarterback.

As many as five quarterbacks could be taken in the top 10 of the draft Thursday. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson are expected to go No. 1 and 2, with Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance all in the mix atop the board.

Non-quarterbacks widely projected for the top 10 include Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Oregon tackle Penei Sewell and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II.

Moving from No. 28 to No. 10 or better is not unheard of, but a leap that big would require New Orleans to fork over a haul of assets in return.

–Field Level Media

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushes upfield ahead of Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Blake Gallagher (51) during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

Big Ten Championship Ohio State Northwestern

Report: Patriots talking to Falcons about the No. 4 overall pick

The New England Patriots may be strongly considering paying up for trading up in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Athletic reported the Patriots are interested in the Atlanta Falcons’ fourth overall selection in Thursday’s first round, likely targeting a quarterback.

With Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets) and either Mac Jones or Trey Lance (49ers) likely gone by that point, the Patriots could be targeting Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

The cost would figure to be prohibitive, given the 49ers gave up plenty to move from No. 12 into their current No. 3 position. San Francisco traded the No. 12 overall pick this year, its third-round pick next year and first-rounders in 2022 and 2023.

The Patriots hold the No. 15 overall pick.

–Field Level Media