“Talk about combustible: There’s more of a need for rookies to contribute this year, and the knowledge base of those rookies will likely be lower than any year in memory.” – King on the difficulties of this year’s draft process
“More than any year I’ve been doing this, this draft’s a mystery…It kind of feels like the MLB draft, with the uncertainty.” – NFL Network Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah to King
“Jones is the most challenging evaluation for me. Ten years ago, lots of prospects were like him…But the league is going in a different direction.” – Jeremiah on Alabama QB Mac Jones
STAMFORD, Conn. – March 8, 2021 – Peter King provides a 2021 NFL Draft primer and speaks with NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah about this year’s top prospects in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also speaks with NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms, who ranked BYU quarterback Zach Wilson as his No. 1 QB prospect, and Maia Chaka, who recently became the first Black female official in NFL history, and discusses more news from around the league.
Across NBC Sports, Peacock’s weekday block of NFL programming from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET, which provides extensive NFL coverage, includes PFT Live featuring Mike Florio and Chris Simms live at 7 a.m. ET, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another, with Michael Holley and Michael Smith, at 3 p.m. ET, and PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday-Friday. ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest offseason news, and the NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show and Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast discuss offseason storylines.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
2021 NFL DRAFT
King: “Plenty of time to shuffle up team’s draft boards, but with increasingly important Pro Days beginning in earnest this week (vital this year because of no combine and no in-person meetings with prospects), and the draft 52 days away, I wanted to do a draft primer this week.”
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah to King on this year’s draft: “More than any year I’ve been doing this, this draft’s a mystery…It kind of feels like the MLB draft, with the uncertainty. All kinds of kids in it. The college kids are safer, because you’ve seen them against good competition. They’ve got maybe a lower ceiling but a higher floor. The high school kids, the upside’s enormous but there’s a major risk. It’s usually not that way in the NFL Draft, but it feels like it this year.”
King on the salary cap impacting the draft: “Exactly half the teams, 16 of 32, are either over the projected salary cap or have less than $10 million to spend. An average team will spend $8 million to $10 million to sign its rookies – so that shows you exactly how important the rookies are this year…Talk about combustible: There’s more of a need for rookies to contribute this year, and the knowledge base of those rookies will likely be lower than any year in memory.”
King on speaking to an NFL GM on difficulties surrounding this year’s draft: “More players than ever – in this GM’s memory – have one season of successful college football only. The error rate on those players, because they’ve had less experience than normal prospects, is higher.”
King on medical exams with no Scouting Combine: “Combine physical exams are notoriously thorough, sometimes discovering previously undiagnosed ailments. This GM told me his team won’t have trust in the exams till their own doctors can examine them – after the draft.”
King on quarterback prospects: “Five are likely to go in the first round, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence the likely number one pick to Jacksonville and BYU’s late-rising Zach Wilson likely number two to the Jets or some team trading up for him. After that, it’s a jumble.”
Jeremiah on Alabama QB Mac Jones: “Jones is the most challenging evaluation for me. Ten years ago, lots of prospects were like him – accurate, great decision-making, poise in the pocket. He’s outstanding in those three. But the league is going in a different direction.”
King on defensive prospects: “Not a great defensive draft, at all. Jeremiah has 24 players with first-round grades, only 10 on defense…What’s weird about this draft: It’s conceivable that the first eight players could be offensive players, and one of the unheralded corners – opt-out Virginia Tech athlete Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II – could be the first defender taken.”
King on wide receivers: “Best position in the draft: Wide receiver (again)…I begin to think NFL teams should start treating the receiver position like running backs. Don’t waste a high pick on one; you can get a good one in the seventies, eighties, nineties overall.”
Jeremiah on wide receivers: “It’s almost the same every year now. Last year, I had a record number of guys with top-three-round grades . Not as much this year , but so many good options in the second, third, fourth rounds.”
King on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts: “Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is the first player at his position in 43 years of Mel Kiper’s draft-grading to crack the top five overall prospects. Whether he goes that high is a matter of taste, but a smart team could use him as an in-line tight end, running routes out of the slot, split wide, and as an athletic motion man.”
2021 QUARTERBACK PROSPECT RANKS
King: “With five (six?) college quarterbacks set to be solid first-round candidates on April 29, I asked five people who’ve studied the tape on the class how they’d rank the best passers.”
Chris Simms: “1. Zach Wilson; 2. Trevor Lawrence; 3. Mac Jones; 4. Kellen Mond; 5. Justin Fields; 6. Trey Lance.”
Simms on Wilson: “Best pure thrower in the draft, most explosive arm in the draft. Has Mahomes/Rodgers magician type of traits. I think he’s more pro-ready than Trevor Lawrence.”
Simms on Lawrence: “Big, strong-armed, and played in a lot of big-time games. Still untapped potential. Throwing is not as consistent as Wilson or Mac Jones, but has great tools.”
Simms on Mond: “Way under the radar…I think he’s a first-round talent. After my rankings came out, I had people in NFL text me, ‘Damn you. Wish you hadn’t brought his name up in the conversation.’ Some teams love him.”
For more on Chris Simms’ QB analysis, click here.
ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky: “1. Lawrence; 2. Wilson; 3. Fields; 4. Jones; 5. Lance.”
Orlovsky on Lawrence: “Elite fundamentals, elite talent. Untapped potential because of subpar scheme in college. Most consistent high level of play – we take it for granted.”
Jeremiah: “1. Lawrence; 2. Wilson; 3. Lance; 4. Fields; 5. Jones.”
Jeremiah on Lance: “Lance and Fields are very close. Both physical, strong, aggressive, tough demeanor. It comes down to decision-making…Is he ready right now? It’s more of a long-term play. I believe in the kid.”
UPDATES ON 11
King on Maia Chaka being named an NFL official: “As it sunk in, Chaka realized the job was much bigger than being one of 117 NFL officials. Now, fathers and mothers of all colors can show their daughters the Black woman in the official’s uniform on the TV during games and point to another job that is now possible for them.”
Chaka to King: “It is very historic. It’s not only huge for me. It is huge for women. It is huge for the people I see in my community every day. It is huge for people who look like me. I would like to say I achieved this goal by doing things the right way, working hard, working with integrity. It is about work ethic.”
King on the Bears’ QB situation: “I’ve thought for some time that the Bears will be left out of the prime QB stakes. Chicago’s holding the 52nd and 83rd overall picks this year, and if the first round comes and goes without (Russell) Wilson or Deshaun Watson coming, the Bears should pursue Las Vegas backup Marcus Mariota.”
King on the Jets: “Someone who knows Jets GM Joe Douglas told me the other day he’s pretty sure the Jets have not made their mind up about the quarterback, and Douglas could be swayed by the quality of offers for Darnold. We’ll see. Smart money says they stick at two, eschew Deshaun Watson, and draft Wilson or their fave of the quarterbacks after Jacksonville takes Trevor Lawrence.”
King on Ben Roethlisberger: “It seems like the 2021 season will be Roethlisberger’s final one in Pittsburgh – and likely in the NFL…He’s very much on-board with the team’s sole off-season focus (even at the expense of losing productive wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster) of revamping the run game after a putrid 3.62-yard average carry last year, worst in the NFL.”
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur to King on kicking a late field goal in the NFC Championship Game: “One thing you definitely learn: I know my communication with [Aaron Rodgers] should have been better in that situation. Maybe on that third down we do something a little bit different. His mindset was, ‘We got four downs here.’ It comes down to communication, and that’s something I gotta learn from and be better with him.”
NEWS & NOTES
King on the Ravens’ new overtime rule proposal: “I think the ‘spot and choose’ overtime proposal by the Ravens is interesting, but probably doesn’t have much of a chance to pass this year…Usually, the arch-conservative NFL owners won’t vote for something odd/weird/highly different like ‘spot and choose.’”
King on free agency: “I think, more than ever this year, the smart teams will be the ones that let the early days of free agency fly by, ignoring the money that’s spent and the headlines that are made. I think you’ll see more players sign one-year deals than ever in the first month of the free market.”
King on the Panthers: “I think if I were the Panthers, I’d go hard after the number two pick, because Joe Brady and Zach Wilson would be a great match.”
King on the Saints: “I think, one day, the Saints clearing $63 million in two weeks to get under the 2021 cap is going to be a heck of a 30-for-30.”
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Chris Simms streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams Tuesday-Friday.
- ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- The Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast and NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show continue the NFL discussion.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.