Every year we come to the NFL Draft and we have our set big boards and draft analysts like myself pretend we know everything before the big day and we know exactly how the board is going to shake out. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. From your top analyst to the bottom, we don’t know jack shit.
Predicting a draft order and trades is one of the hardest things in sports and as much as we like to say, “hey we know exactly where this guy should and will go,”there are players every year who experience a draft day slide because of the way the board shakes out. In a year impacted by a global pandemic, there’s a good chance we see some prospects fall further than we expected, so here’s some players I believe may have the painful experience of a draft day slide.
Warning: These are just possibilities and ways the draft may shake out, this is not me insulting any prospect or making any concrete predictions. The reality is most slides happen not because of talent, but because a prospect doesn’t fit a series of team’s specific needs and falls down as a result.
Micah Parsons (Penn State) LB
This may be stating the obvious, but there’s a real chance Parsons slips in the draft. While we don’t seem to have a consensus on the legitimacy of the allegations launched against him, the narrative surrounding Parsons’ character refuses to die. That alone could stop multiple team’s from selecting him, but take into account the fact that he did not play in the 2020 season and only has one season as a starter, a draft day slide may be in the cards for the former All-American.
Rashawn Slater (Northwestern) OT/IOL
Slater is a consensus top 10 prospect in this year’s draft, but I think there is a legitimate chance he drops. While we evaluate him as a tackle, Slater is only 6-foot-3, making him one of the shortest tackles in the NFL. Slater does fit the profile for an elite guard, but with team’s trading up for QBs, there being an amazing amount of elite pass catchers and a strong crop of offensive tackles, it won’t shock me if Slater falls on draft night. Slater’s potential fall isn’t a dramatic one in my mind, but don’t be shocked if he goes from a consensus top-10 pick to hearing his name called in the teens on draft night.
Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) CB
Injuries are scary for players, but they are just as scary for team’s that invest millions of dollars into young men in hopes of developing them into superstars. Talent wise, Farley isn’t a bad investment, I’ve said it a thousand times, he reminds me of Stephon Gilmore. However, and I hate having to write this, he’s a scary guy to bet on in the first round. Farley opted-out of the 2020 season and then when his pro day came, he could not participate due to an injury. The 6-foot-2 corner also missed his freshman season with a knee injury. I love Farley, on film alone he was my highest graded corner, but the injuries and a year of film scare me, not to mention the talent around him is trending upward. Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn showed out at their pro days and Northwestern corner Greg Newsome II is finally getting respect around the league for his efforts. Not to mention, Georgia’s Eric Stokes and Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. are highly intriguing, as is Stokes’ teammate Tyson Campbell. This is a crowded and highly talented corner group in this year’s draft, there is a lot of upside and as much ability as Farley has, his concerns may cause him to slip into the second round.
Mac Jones (Alabama) QB
I may be the biggest Mac Jones fan there is, I get he doesn’t have athletic upside, but he just exudes a high I.Q. and confidence that I think will transfer to the next level. But athletes are trendy and for good reason and with four athletically gifted signal callers around him, Jones is fifth on the board of many executives around the league. I like Jones, but there are only so many team’s that are in a position to take him after the 49ers select third and with the Panthers now trading for Sam Darnold, that’s another ideal landing spot gone. While Denver is sitting there needing a QB, John Elway loves signal callers with lots of arm strength and athleticism, so Jones doesn’t fit his mold. Since he lit up the Senior Bowl, Jones has been mocked in the top-10 in the majority of mock drafts, but at this point, I don’t see him being selected before the Patriots at 15, and even then, we know the wizard himself Bill Belichik is as unpredictable as they get. We’ve seen lesser prospects than Jones selected in the top-10 in recent years, but I think Jones will end up being the epitome of a player who fell because of a strong position group around him and a team that truly needs him when it is his time.
Kwity Paye Edge (Michigan) Edge
Edge rusher seems to be the grand mystery of the draft this year. Do we really know when the first one will be selected or even have a consensus top edge rusher. To be honest, the answer is no. I love Kwity Paye’s reckless abandon, but Miami’s Gregory Rousseau is still a crazy athlete that many can’t seem to get out of their head and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari’s film against Cincinnati was borderline poetry. Not to mention, the Giants, who are seen as an ideal landing spot for Paye have not gone a draft without selecting a Georgia player since Dave Gettleman got hired as general manager. Also, don’t sleep on the athletically gifted Jaelan Phillips, who tore up the ACC in Rousseau’s absence for Miami to be drafted in the top-20. The edge rusher position is one big question mark and there is little doubt in my mind that each team’s evaluations are significantly different and that may make it easy for Paye to slip late into the first-round.
Kadarius Toney (Florida) WR
Last year’s receiver class was dominant and as a result, Baylor receiver Denzel Mims went from a potential first round pick to being selected by the Jets late in the second round and this year will probably see a receiver have a similar slide. There are plenty of candidates for this slide, but if I was a betting man, I’d bet it would be Toney that slides in this year’s draft. As talented as he is and flexible he is as a route runner, there are major concerns when looking at Toney’s body of work. Toney’s slim frame had trouble holding up at the college levels and his name was a consistent fixture on the injury list for the majority of his college career. When he was available, Toney was often a reserve player at Florida until his final season and he wasn’t the primary receiving target on that team. I still haven’t gotten to Toney’s off the field problems. In 2018 he was suspended for “not living up the Gator standard.” In the months leading up to the suspension Toney was one of many involved in an armed altercation with a local gambler white at Gainesville and was once stopped by police with a loaded AR-15 obviously visible in his backseat and was lucky to not be arrested for it. Toney is a fun player to watch, but there seems to be a load of injury and off the field baggage that comes with him that I don’t believe teams will want to deal with. I may sound extreme, but don’t be surprised if Toney slips into the third round of the draft.