The 2021 NFL Draft is near and will continue as planned despite continued limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, teams are still doing their due diligence, reviewing game tape and re-watching Pro Day workouts to get a feel for the players they can no longer work out privately.
Here’s a look at five players who have either seen their draft stock rise or fall in recent weeks and months.
5. Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Jaelan Phillips was the No. 1 college recruit in 2017, but his career was seemingly destined to be brief. After fewer than 500 snaps at UCLA, Phillips was forced to retire due to a string of concussions. However, he returned in 2020 and transferred to Miami, which sparked a revitalization. After not even being considered a top-100 prospect at the start of the season, Phillips has seen his draft stock steadily rise. At the turn of the calendar, Phillips was once again considered a top-50 prospect, and then came his pro day. After posting remarkable numbers and stealing the spotlight from teammate Gregory Rousseau, Phillips is now widely viewed as a first-round talent whose ceiling has not yet been reached. Although there are some obvious injury concerns, Phillips appears destined to be selected in the top 25 or top 30 later this month.
4. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Jaycee Horn was already considered a top-100 talent when the 2020 college season began. But after surrendering just eight receptions while recording five passes defensed and two interceptions over seven games, the buzz became real. By mid-January, Horn had established himself as a first-round talent. He just needed a successful pro day to really solidify his value. Mission accomplished. Horn set the football world on fire with an eye-opening performance at the South Carolina facilities, including a 4.4 40-yard dash, and a vertical jump that landed him in the 9th percentile. Not only is Horn now considered a top-20 or top-15 talent, but some mock drafts have even projected him going as high as 10-12.
3. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Despite opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Gregory Rousseau entered the new year as one of the top edge rush prospects in the nation. He was widely viewed as a top-15 or top-20 pick, with most projecting that he would go 11th overall to the New York Giants. However, as we got into February and March, Rousseau’s projected value began to drop significantly. Coupled with the aforementioned rise of Jaelen Phillips, Rousseau watched his draft stock plummet to the late first-round, early second-round range. Things got no better for him after an underwhelming Pro Day. With just a year of quality game film available, it’s no surprise that Rousseau is no longer viewed as one of the truly elite edge rush prospects. That’s not to say he won’t find success in the NFL, but he was overvalued to begin with, and now things have simply balanced out.
2. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
Entering the 2020 college season, Elijah Moore was somewhat of an afterthought in comparison to many of the nation’s other elite receivers. However, after posting 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns over the course of just eight games, Moore entered December as a top-100 talent and projected mid-round pick. Then came the Ole Miss Pro Day, which Moore dominated with a 4.32 40-yard dash and other impressive measurables. Combined with his quality film, Moore went from offseason afterthought to top-100 talent to potentially a first-round pick. Most mock drafts and projections now have the Ole Miss product going anywhere between pick No. 20 overall to pick No. 30 overall. That’s quite a meteoric rise over the course of four months.
1. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Entering 2021, many viewed Mac Jones as a potential late first-round pick or even early second-round pick. However, his stock began to rise in late January, and it settled round the mid-first-round range until March. Rumors of an early run on quarterbacks helped catapult Jones’ stock, and the rise continued with additional rumors that the San Francisco 49ers were interested in him. Whether or not those rumors are true, Jones has become a consistent top 15 (sometimes even top 10) projection in most mock drafts. That shows no signs of slowing down. As recently as the first week of April, Jones remains a common top-10 pick in most mock drafts and simulations.