News & Analysis

NFL Week 1 Mailbag: Thoughts on Tom Brady, Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson and more

Every week during the football season, I, Mike Renner, will be answering all the questions that you, the people who respond to my tweet, have for me.

I'd like to focus on rookies and NFL draft prospects because that's technically my job and I'm not even close to qualified to talk about anything else, but I'll answer pretty much anything you guys come up with. Let's set the tone today.

This is going to be a fun debate come next spring, especially if we've seen the last of both at the college level. In fact, it's a debate we already had with NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah on the 2 for 1 Draft Podcast about a month ago, and you can find the exact point on the pod here.

Ultimately, it comes down to the scouting process. From a physical tools perspective, Lance is more impressive than fields — he has a stronger arm and has been a bit more physical as a runner (although Fields is obviously no slouch himself in either regard). If that is what you value, you'll have Lance higher. If you value on-field performance and competition level — i.e., what we value — then you'll have Fields higher. I'm not sure you can go wrong with either, though.

This one is easy. It is the now-New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims.

I wrote up exactly why he was one of the most confounding prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft here, but the gist of it is that his Senior Bowl tape was vastly different from his game tape at Baylor. Mims struggled to separate on what was an admittedly limited route tree for the Bears last season, with 41 of his 113 targets being contested.

Then, at the Senior Bowl, with a little more freedom and on a number of different routes, Mims was easily the highest-graded receiver in the one-on-ones. It's not too dissimilar a storyline to 2019's highest-graded receiver in the one-on-ones: Terry McLaurin. With similar 4.3 speed, can Mims see early success in the same way McLaurin did?

I haven't the slightest clue what the answer to that question is, which is why Mims is who I'm most looking forward to watching.

I think traditional scouts would call you crazy. At quarterback, though, performance is quite easily the most important factor, and GM's have even tipped their hand on this multiple times in recent years.

Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow were far, far from your prototypical “toolsy” prospects, while Carson Wentz, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert all fit that bill. Yet, in each of those drafts, the better performer on the football field went first overall.

The thing about Brock Purdy as QB2 is that he hasn't quite outperformed Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields on the football field (Trey Lance is debatable in this regard, given his level of competition).

Now, the single most difficult thing about the quarterback position to quantify is the ease of situation. Everyone and their mother knows that Lawrence and Fields have had it easier with the talent around them at their respective schools than Purdy has at Iowa State. The best player Purdy has thrown to went in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and was cut a year later (Hakeem Butler). Does the difference in supporting casts bridge the difference in on-field performance enough for Purdy to leapfrog one of the top two? For me, I'd rather see that elite level of play even if it came with elite talent. So while I'm not calling you crazy, calling Brock Purdy QB2 is a massive leap I'm not even close to willing to take.

As much as it pains me to say, and as much as it will pain 99% of America to hear … Alabama is unbelievably loaded once again. They're going to tie Miami's record for first-round picks next year with CB Patrick Surtain II, DI Christian Barmore, LB Dylan Moses, WR Jaylen Waddle, WR DeVonta Smith and OT Alex Leatherwood all slated to go in the first. Even though Mac Jones is fairly meh — he earned a 79.5 passing grade on 160 dropbacks last year — he doesn't have to do much for them to win it all, given the talent they have on the roster.

When I hear “late-rounder,” I usually assume Day 3, so I'm rolling with that. And while I love me some John Hightower — he came in at No. 101 on our final draft board last year — his path to the field might be a little too crowded for my taste.

I'm going to cheat because of what I saw on Thursday night from cornerback-turned-safety-turned-cornerback L'Jarius Sneed. Allowing two catches from six targets for only 19 yards with a pick and a pass breakup against that receiving corps ain't easy to do. You have to think that Sneed might have gone much higher in the draft had Louisiana Tech not moved him to safety in his senior year. At 6-foot-1 with 31 ⅜-inch arms and 4.37 speed, Sneed looked like an ideal fit for what the Chiefs want to do defensively.

This one has got to be Brady. I picked both to make the playoffs, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are absurdly stacked. Kudos to GM Jason Licht for going all-in on that secondary in recent years, too — in the past three drafts, they've used six picks within the first three rounds to select secondary players.

Glad you asked! While CEH looks like a shoo-in, I'm also all in on Jonathan Taylor running behind the best offensive line in the NFL. And with how much the Los Angeles Rams' coaching staff loves Cam Akers, I'd put good money on him to eclipse that figure, too. This is truly a great rookie running back class.

My homerism may be shining through, but I give it a 99.9% chance. Will he grade that way? Eh…I doubt it, given Mike Pettine has shown he's willing to have Alexander track No. 1 wideouts. Since PFF's grades don't adjust for competition level, that puts him at a disadvantage grade-wise. His high-end games are as good as it gets in the NFL, though, with four multiple-pass-breakup games last season. We just need to see consistency.

Trautman was, for my money, the best underneath route-runner in the draft class. He obviously lacks some top-end speed, but he can separate on ins and outs fairly easily. That's a decidedly different type of tight end from Jared Cook, who is at his best downfield and wins as a seam-runner. I think Trautman is a good complement and will play well in the Saints' quick passing offense.

Every time I look up rookie receiver production, I'm floored at how few produce right out of the gate. On average over the last decade, only 3.2 rookie receivers per year go over 700 yards. So, with that, and the fact that he's not yet even listed as the starter for the Minnesota Vikings (who had just two receivers on the field 70% of the time last season), I'm going to take the under.

Simpson is certainly reminiscent of those two stylistically, and he fits the brutish style the Raiders have cultivated along their offensive line. Simpson's projection was not favorable, though, as he checked in at No. 189 on our draft board. Pass protection is the worry with his foot speed, and he only earned a 70.8 grade in that regard last season at Clemson.

My heart would love to say Diontae Johnson or JJ Arcega-Whiteside — two of my draft favorites who have been impressive in camp by all reports. My head, though, says A.J. Brown.

Honestly, I still have no earthly idea why Brown fell to Pick 51. I can understand why D.K. Metcalf fell, given his production and route-tree concerns, but those concerns were not there with Brown. He had terrific testing numbers for his size, went for 1,250-plus yards in his sophomore and junior seasons, broke 40 total tackles his final two seasons and — maybe most importantly — was the featured receiver in an Ole Miss offense that that had three other NFL-caliber receivers. The Ole Miss coaches saw him every day and said he's the guy we want to run our offense through. He's going to be a stud for a long time.

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