Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady continues to play like a much younger man. The 44-year-old Brady completed 32/50 passes for 379 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in a 31-29 win over the Cowboys on Thursday night. His first interception was a screen pass thrown to running back Leonard Fournette that was right at his facemask and bounced off his hands, and the second was a Hail Mary attempt that was picked off by Jourdan Lewis at the end of the first half. Here’s his first touchdown of the 2021 season:
Last night defensive end Kwity Paye went #21 overall to the Indianapolis Colts. I discussed offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield yesterday as a possible first rounder (LINK), but as expected, he did not go off the board on night one.
So besides Mayfield, who’s next?
Wide receiver Nico Collins measured in at 6’4″, 215 lbs., having lost weight since he last wore a Michigan uniform in 2019. He ran a 4.43 at Michigan’s pro day, broad jumped 10’5 3/4″, and showed a 37.5″ vertical. Even though I have doubts about that forty time, I don’t think anyone expects him to be a burner in the NFL. He can be a matchup probably with his size. I thought he might be a good fit for a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Eagles already went with a wide receiver (albeit a small one) in Devonta Smith. Projected draft spot: Rounds 2-3
Cornerback Ambry Thomas is probably the next best bet. At 5’11” and 191 lbs., Thomas showed off a 38″ vertical, broad jumped 10’2″, and ran the forty in 4.37. He opted out of the 2020 season, but he was a shutdown corner when he last played in 2019. Will teams hold it against him that he missed 2020? That remains to be seen, but a few guys who opted out of 2020 still went in the first round. Projected draft spot: Rounds 3-4
Linebacker Cam McGrone missed a chunk of the 2020 season with a torn ACL, and he wasn’t playing that well before the injury, anyway. At 6’0″ and 234 lbs., he was unable to run the forty and did 20 reps on the bench press. McGrone only started for part of 2019 and part of 2020, and he probably left too early. It would not surprise me if he went undrafted, and it would not surprise me if he went in the 5th round. Projected draft spot: Rounds 6-7
Fullback Ben Mason weighed in at 6’2″ and 246 lbs. He did 29 reps on the bench, ran a 4.72, and broad jumped 9’9″. Fullbacks have gone the way of the dodo in recent years, but he’s such a devastating lead blocker that I think he can fill a role on a roster somewhere. Projected draft spot: Rounds 6-7
Running back Chris Evans is 5’11” and 211 lbs. He clocked a 4.44 forty, did 20 bench press reps, had a 40.5″ vertical, and broad jumped 10’7″. His pro day was arguably the most impressive of any Michigan player, and yet his overall lack of production at Michigan leaves some questions about what he can really do at the next level. He never topped 685 rushing yards in a Wolverines uniform, and his final season included just 73 rushing yards and 87 receiving yards. I think he can play in the NFL, but it would be a little odd for him to get drafted. Projected draft spot: Round 7 or UDFA
Other draft-eligible players I do not expect to get drafted:
Name: Ambry Thomas Height: 6’0″ Weight: 182 lbs. High school: Detroit (MI) King Position: Cornerback Class: Senior Jersey number: #1 Last year: I ranked Thomas #11 and said he would be a starting corner by the end of the season with 15 tackles and 1 interception (LINK). He made 38 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 7 pass breakups. TTB Rating: 90
Thomas had a rough go of it in the lead-up to the 2019 season, coming down with colitis that caused him to lose weight and put his season in jeopardy. He was not on the 110-man roster to start fall camp . . . and yet somehow he was ready to start game one against Middle Tennessee.
And he started off with a bang, too, making 1 tackle, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery in that season opener. He added interceptions against Iowa and Michigan State, too. Coaches in the conference took notice, naming him Third Team All-Big Ten for the year. And he was named the team’s Defensive Skill Player of the Year over the more recognized Lavert Hill and a safety who got drafted, Josh Metellus.
Michigan was set to have another lockdown corner returning in 2020 . . .
. . . and then COVID-19 hit.
Thomas opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, citing his bout with colitis as the main factor. That has left the Wolverines scrambling to find a second cornerback. For several years, Michigan has just reloaded at cornerback, but the remaining ammunition might be full of blanks. Vincent Gray was a constant contributor in 2019, but nobody seems to have taken a stranglehold at the other spot. Numerous names have been rumored to lead, including Gemon Green, D.J. Turner, and Jalen Perry. Daxton Hill would probably start at corner if he wanted to do it, and former safety Sammy Faustin has been bumped over to corner for more depth and competition.
Naturally, Michigan opens up against Minnesota and Rashod Bateman, one of the top few receivers in the conference. Michigan’s pass rush might hit home and help out the back end, but Thomas’s absence will be felt throughout the season. I have faith that Mike Zordich will coach the corners as well as anyone can, but things could get ugly against the better passing teams on the schedule.
If you’re taking notes, Michigan is missing the #2 most important player (Thomas), the #5 guy (Nico Collins), and the #10 guy (Dylan McCaffrey), although McCaffrey had clearly become less important than I had estimated.
I guess I prematurely posted a goodbye post for Jalen Mayfield after he opted out of the 2020 season (LINK), because now he’s reportedly coming back to play. It’s understandable that he opted out since the season was canceled/postponed at the time.
Meanwhile, defensive end Kwity Paye also came out and said he was returning, even though he had not necessarily made an official announcement that he was leaving.
That leaves Nico Collins and Ambry Thomas, both of whom have signed with agents, as the other two guys who are in some limbo right now. Thomas is reportedly interested in coming back, while there’s not much coming out of Collins’s camp.