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Reading the NFL Draft Tea Leaves: Zierlein’s Rumor Quartet

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, analysts are beginning to hone in on the whispers in an attempt to bring light the rumors they’ve been hearing. One of those analysts is’s Lance Zierlein, who shared some insight with the Twitterverse regarding several topics.

Let’s attack these in order:

1. Ridley’s size, not age, is what concerns some teams

Alabama WR Calvin Ridley turns 24 this December, but teams are right to not be concerned. If he were turning 24 and not arguably the most polished route runner in the class, there would be an issue. The other reason teams would be worried is if they thought a prospect was maxed out athletically. While Ridley tested like an average athlete, his play speed on film is above average.

At 6’0 ½” and 189 pounds, Ridley’s lean frame points to durability concerns at the next level. His marginal play strength shows up as a detriment against physical press corners and at the catch-point, but he’s nuanced in his releases and his calling card was never going to be 50/50 balls.

Zierlein added to this later with another wide receiver in play to come off the board in the first round.

SMU WR Courtland Sutton’s 6’3 3/8”, 218 pounds, and 79 ¼” wingspan (88th percentile) is definitely intriguing. Not near the finish product as a route runner compared to Ridley, Sutton showed improvement from 2016 to 2017 and has the fluidity for a big man that can be unlocked by the right coach. With Dez Bryant being released, Sutton is in play at 19 to the Dallas Cowboys.

2. Outside of Barkley, Penny seems to be the RB teams get most excited about

This came as a surprise. The Eagles have brought in San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny in for an official visit, but they also shown a metric ton of interest in LSU RB Derrius Guice. Penny doesn’t crack my top 50 big board, as he’s not a developed receiver at this point and is possibly the worst blocking back in the class. Still, Penny brings return value and enough tools to be a productive back.

This also points to real concerns about USC RB Ronald Jones II being aloof in meetings with teams, which is rumored to be worse than what is being reported. Based on film, Guice, Jones, Georgia running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb all rank comfortably ahead of Penny.

3. The top guards could fall because of depth at position

My top prospect in the class is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who has had the best film of any prospect I’ve seen in years. If Nelson falls to 8, it would be not only a perfect scheme and need fit but also a reunion with his Fighting Irish OL coach Harry Hiestand. Zierlein went on to point out that Nelson could indeed fall to anywhere between 8-11.

That leaves Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, UTEP’s Will Hernandez, and Nevada’s Austin Corbett as the next in line to be drafted. Corbett’s hype train is picking up steam according to Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst.

“The biggest riser on the interior? Austin Corbett of Nevada. Multiple sources believe Corbett will be off the board during the first dozen picks of the second round.” - Tony Pauline

This echoes statements previously made by NDT Scouting’s Jon Ledyard, who pegged Hernandez for a fall and Corbett for a climb based on rumblings he heard at the NFL Combine.

Beyond the players noted, Auburn’s Braden Smith is the only other guard with a Day 2 grade on my board, so “depth” may be referring to top end talent and not talent throughout the entire class. That said, if you take into account some teams wanting to move Texas’ Connor Williams and Humbolt State’s Alex Cappa inside, it definitely becomes a deeper position.

4. McGlinchey and Kolton will go higher than you think due to poor depth at OT

This is interesting because it omits the aforementioned Connor Williams as a tackle. Searching for further context, I found another tweet from Zierlein that mentioned most teams seeing Williams as a guard, likely due to his baseline physical profile for the position. Rumor has it that Williams could fall to the second round, so you wonder how the Eagles see his best use if he were to be there at the 32nd overall pick.

All indications are that Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and UCLA’s Kolton Miller will indeed go higher than anticipated. I’m not going to pretend to be a big source guy, but I have a dependable resource in the scouting world that has linked the Baltimore Raven’s to McGlinchey since the beginning of the season.

“There is really only one offensive tackle teams unanimously grade as a first-round pick, and that’s Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame. But even he is all over boards, as some people believe he’s worthy of a top-12 selection while others feel he’s a late first-rounder.

Most teams don’t have a first-round grade on Kolton Miller but expect the UCLA junior to land in the top 32 due to position priority and the lack of depth at the tackle spot.” - Tony Pauline

With another week and a half remaining in the draft process, more rumors are sure to fly, but there are some solid takeaways to take from reading the tea leaves. The overall feeling is that Courtland Sutton, Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller will not be on the board when the Eagles pick at the bottom of the first round, but that Derrius Guice, Connor Williams, and perhaps even Will Hernandez very well may be available.

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