The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic means the run up to the 2021 NFL draft is going to look much like the process that led to last year’s event. There won’t be an NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The pro day circuit is pared-down. Teams like the New Orleans Saints can’t fly prospects into town for private meetings at their facilities; all contact is being conducted virtually.
So information is coming at a premium this year. Still, eventually, every team will have met with nearly every prospect. So we shouldn’t look too deeply into these reports. The Saints aren’t tipping their hand one way or another based of which interviews are made public, but it’s a good data point to keep in mind ahead of this year’s draft. This list will be updated as new meetings are reported:
QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Reported by: Ross Jackson, Canal Street Chronicles. A popular pick for the Saints in media mock drafts, Jones is seen as a great facilitator who throws with accuracy and anticipation — the same tools Drew Brees used to find early success in the NFL. He may not share Brees’ high ceiling, but Jones is someone the Saints could win with. Will he still be available at No. 28?
QB Jamie Newman, Wake Forrest
Nov 30, 2019; Syracuse, NY, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman (12) runs with the ball against the Syracuse Orange during the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Reported by: Ross Jackson, Canal Street Chronicles. Newman is closer to Tommy Stevens, last year’s late-round pick who the Saints envisioned as a tight end conversion project. He’s still an able passer, but his abilities as a runner could give him more NFL options than other prospects. He could be a Taysom Hill understudy who opens up the Saints playbook more than traditional pocket passers.
DT Alim McNeil, North Carolina State
Oct 10, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive tackle Alim McNeill (29) reacts after a defensive stop during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Reported by: The Draft Network’s Justin Melo. McNeil is considered to be a prospect who could be picked in the first round, having impressed at the college level as a big nose tackle with some ability to pressure quarterbacks. The Saints have used their first pick to add an offensive or defensive lineman with five of their last six selections.
DT Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Washington defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) hits Utah quarterback Jason Shelley after Shelley threw a pass during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Reported by: The Draft Network’s Justin Melo. Like McNeill, Onwuzurike is in the conversation surrounding this year’s best rookie defensive tackles, but he’s very much a pressure player who makes an impact rushing against guards. He’s comparable in play style and body type to Sheldon Rankins when he came out of college and might not be available at No. 28.
DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
National Team defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji of Notre Dame (91) points during the NCAA Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Reported by: The Spun’s Chris Rosvoglou. Ogundeji is still developing as a player and an athlete, but he has enough tools to help out right away. He compares well to Trey Hendrickson from a physical profile, but with just 10.5 career sacks to Hendrickson’s 41.0 takedowns when he came out of Florida Atlantic. Like Hendrickson, he’s considered a second- or third-round prospect.
WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois
Oct 31, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) celebrates running back Mike Epstein’s touchdown during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports Reported by:The Spun’s Chris Rosvoglou. A premier deep threat in 2019 when he caught 33 passes for 634 yards (19.2 yards a pop) with 9 touchdown receptions, Imatorbhebhe took a step back in 2020 while averaging just 13.5 yards per catch. He’s seen as a mid-round prospect and could help himself by running well at his listed size of 6-foot-2, 220 pounds.
OL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Jan 28, 2021; National defensive lineman Ade Ogundeji of Notre Dame (91) drills against National offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin -Whitewater (71) during National practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama, USA; Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Reported by: The Draft Network’s Justin Melo. Meinerz is quickly rising up draft boards after crushing his week of practice at the Senior Bowl, lining up at center in a pinch despite playing left guard for most of his college career. He could be a viable option in the second or third rounds, and would be a nice Nick Easton replacement in New Orleans.