3 Dec 2020

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Missouri Tigers 2021 NFL Draft Preseason Guide

I love the SEC and Saturday’s in the southeast during college football season. There is no better conference in America when it comes to college football than the SEC. The rich tradition of the league and the list of stars that have come from this league that changed the game of football and the way that it was played and coached.

Let’s kick this off with a little run-through of some of those names. The coaches are legendary, from Paul William “Bear” Bryant, Pat Dye, and Johnny Majors to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, this conference has seen coaches that changed the game forever.

Its player’s history is extremely rich too. From Peyton Manning to Herschel Walker, to Bo Jackson and Julio Jones, national championships and thousands of players that have moved on to play in the NFL. The prestige surrounding the conference is incredible, and it makes our Saturdays better in the long run of the fall and winter months.

Every season, there are NFL prospects lined up in large numbers looking to make an impact on the future NFL. The game that they love, that they have given so much for and pursued an almost impossible dream is becoming a reality for many of these players. This, to me, is one of the biggest things that really makes this game special.

Missouri is still relatively new to the SEC, joining the league in 2012 and leaving Big 12. Gary Pinkel at head coach won the SEC East in both 2013 and 2014, and the team has struggled to stay relevant since. Kony Ealy, Drew Lock, and Charles Harris are a few of the notable names that the school has produced since joining the SEC.

Who Missouri lost from last season

Missouri won the number of games that they needed to get to a Bowl Game, finishing the season at 6-6. However, they were unable to receive an invite and didn’t make a postseason appearance. Head coach Barry Odom was fired and replaced by Eli Drinkwitz.

Missouri isn’t normally a school that puts out a lot of tremendous talent, but they have a good history of providing the NFL with good players overall. They didn’t loose too many players who had a big impact on the season, as the team was considered to be pretty young overall.

Quarterback Kelly Bryant would be considered a substantial loss by most. He was a graduate transfer who arrived last season from Clemson after losing the starting job to Trevor Lawrence. Bryant wasn’t a legitimate NFL Draft candidate, and as a result, went undrafted.

Tight End Albert Okwuegbunam went to the Denver Broncos in the 4th round, paired with former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, who was a 2nd round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Okwuegbunam had a disappointing combine, showing that he lacked some serious athleticism, but it didn’t impact his draft status much in the long run.

Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott was a third-round selection to the Cleveland Browns, a team in need of immediate interior help on defense. Elliott should be able to provide some help but wasn’t quite ready to impact the game just yet in my opinion.

Missouri produced a lot of NFL talent during the Gary Pinkle days, but so far since his retirement, Missouri has struggled to produce the same level of talent to the professional leagues. This too may be one of the reasons that the school moved on from Odom, feeling as though he was doing a disservice to the school.

The Prospects this season

Missouri won’t have an outstanding season this year, in my opinion. They still have too much that is unknown across the board. In terms of the NFL Draft, I think that they have some very suitable prospects to chose from.

Here are the six prospects that you need to know about entering the season.

RB Larry Rountree (Sr)

#34 | 5’9″ | 210 lbs | Millbrook (Raleigh, North Carolina)

The 2017 Freshman All-SEC AP/Return Specialist Larry Rountree enters his final year (barring injury) at Missouri with 2748 career rushing yards and 26 career touchdowns. He’s 450 yards away from breaking the Missouri rushing record by a non-quarterback, and 1541 yards away from breaking the school record.

Rountree is most definitely a good running back, and very suitable as a ball carrier between the tackles as well as a blocker. He’s got good burst and see’s the field pretty well. Rountree uses his explosion as a means of power while in between the tackles and tries to use that as a means to burst into the secondary.

Missouri limits his usage for a reason though. This is a guy who is a capable blocker, but he’s not great. His burst is good, but not great. Rountree is also very limited as a receiver, which will limit his effectiveness in the league. He shows promise as a receiver, yes, but he is nowhere near consistent enough to be a real impact player in the NFL in that aspect of the game yet.

Grade: Project (Uncertain Future).

November 29, 2019. Virginia Tech (Va Tech, VPI, Hokies) at Virginia (Cavaliers, Wahoos, UVA). Virginia Tech Athletics, Football. Scott Stadium. Charlottesville, Virginia. Final score: Virginia Tech 30, UVA 39. NOTES: Photo © Ivan Morozov http://www.ivanmorozov.com

WR Damon Hazelton (Rs-Sr)

#7 | 6’2″ | 210 lbs | Franklin (Towson, Maryland)

The graduate-transfer from Virginia Tech by way of Ball State, Damon Hazelton is a large-bodied receiver threat who can be a perimeter weapon and was very effective at Virginia Tech. He committed to Ball State and played 11 games as a freshman in 2016 before transfering to Tech and sitting out 2017. Hazelton was 2nd-Team All-ACC in 2018, and an Honorable Mention in 2019. He has 20 career touchdown catches in a span between 2016 to now.

Hazelton is still very raw in terms of getting open. He has some fantastic catches that he has made across the span of his career, but overall Hazelton needs to sure his footwork and route running. I would really like to see Hazelton confuse defenders on a more consistent basis. He’s a bigger bodied receiver, but he’s still not dominating through physicality while he’s still on the ground.

Eli Drinkwitz has a way of making offense come together. He was 12-1 in his first season at Appalachian State last season, who had a fearsome offense. I am excited to see what it will look like and what he will be able to do with a player like Hazelton.

Grade: Project (Uncertain Future).

OL Larry Borom (Rs-Jr)

#79 | 6’5″ | 325 lbs | Brother Rice (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)

Larry Borom is a versatile offensive lineman, capable of playing just about any position across the line. He played right tackle his redshirt-freshman season in 2018 in reserve, but started the 2019 season at left guard. He ended up moving back to right tackle, but played a lot of snaps at left tackle has his teammate, Yasir Durant, struggled with a neck injury.

I would anticipate Borom starting at left tackle this season with Durant having graduated. Borom is a very savvy player with a load of tricks up his sleeve. His fundamentals are solid, showing excellent hand placement and hand work, a good anchor and excellent bend. However, when Borom takes more of a power rush, he struggles to stand his ground and maintain his ground.

The versatility is going to be appealing to NFL teams because they can plug him into several spots on the depth chart immediately. They’re going to want to work up his body strength, and hope that he’s developable in that aspect.

Grade: Future Impact (2+ Years Back-Up).

IDL Kobie Whiteside (Sr)

#78 | 6’0″ | 290 lbs | Alief Taylor (Houston, Texas)

Kobie Whiteside enters his second season as a full-time starter, collecting 27 tackles and 6.5 sacks (a team high last year, even with Jordan Elliot on the team). He enters this season with 8.5 career sacks, and is tied for having the most sacks out of any returning SEC defender this season.

Whiteside is a very violent interior presence, a menace to the running game and a real gap penetrator. While the role of “gap penetrator” on the interior isn’t something highly touted by most NFL franchises anymore, mostly for lack of scheme preference, the few clubs that still rely on that type of an interior defender will appreciate what Whiteside can do.

While he’s not the biggest person on the field, he is extremely explosive off of the line of scrimmage, showing incredible burst, as well as a very low pad level that makes him very difficult to contain. His hand work is excellent as well, as he deflects incoming attacks to counter the punch but also will use it as a means to propel himself further. He’s very intense as well, not letting up even when he is double teamed or well engaged.

There aren’t many flaws to his game, and he might be he best interior lineman in the SEC. I’m really impressed with Whiteside, and I think he’s going to be highly regarded this draft class for both his ability as a gap penetrator as well as a space-eater.

Grade: Instant Impact (Immediate Starter).

LB Nick Bolton (Jr)

#32 | 6’0″ | 230 lbs | Lone Star (Frisco, Texas)

Nick Bolton was one of my first studies this year when I heard that his tape was solid. I was shocked when I put on the tape. The biggest thing that stands out with him and his style is how he’s so very tough and always seems to be in the right place, no matter what game I turn on.

Bolton is explosive and instinctive. He plays lower than most everyone on the field which gives him devastating hit power when he initiates contact with a ball carrier. He has a good range that allows him to impact plays inside and outside of the box.

That being said, Bolton is not particularly gifted at dropping into coverage. There are a lot of things that he can still learn and improve on. If a team wants a thumper, someone who can engage the ball carrier and give him a lick, Bolton is their guy.

Grade: Low Impact (Future Starter).

Summer Notes (John Vogel)

S Tyrie Gillespie (Sr)

#9 | 6’0″ | 205 lbs | Vanguard (Ocala, Florida)

Tyrie Gillespie is entering his third season as a starter, coming into 2020 with 19 career starts. He’s been an impact player since he stepped on campus, becoming a valuable weapon on special teams during his freshman season in 2017. Gillespie took over the starting duties at safety against Alabama in 2018 and never looked back.

Missouri played a lot of one-deep coverage and asks their safeties to play more man coverage than most defenses. I see a very smart and instinctual player in Gillespie who takes away a lot of open looks and limits the quarterback’s options. He takes excellent angles, something that’s encouraging to see.

He’s pretty athletic, although not the most athletic for his position. He moves around well and has good range. While it’s hard to move him out of position, Gillsepie sometimes is slow to recognize the play developing and doesn’t get to the ball in time. He works well on run plays, but I think he’s somewhat limited to a strong safety role that will play more in a rover-type role in the NFL.

Grade: Future Impact (2+ Years Back-Up).

Missouri Tigers NFL Draft Projections

The Tigers aren’t expecting any level of immediate success, and that’s alright. They don’t need a level of instant success right now. They need a slow, steady rebound, the way that things last in the SEC. The Eastern Conference is becoming much more competitive by the year, now with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee all posing to be serious threats, and Kentucky hanging around as a very competitive team.

I think that the best prospect here is Kobie Whiteside. I think he has an excellent chance at a very good NFL career, a pro-bowl career. He plays with an extremely low pad level because he’s naturally smaller, he’s got excellent burst, and his hand work is incredible. He’s naturally got the tools to be a very good player in the NFL.

I think with another very good season and marked improvement, Nick Bolton will be a riser in this draft cycle. He’s a very rangy linebacker with a nose for the football. I think that the Tigers know that he is going to be special.

Grades
Instant Impact (Immediate Starter)
IDL Kobie Whiteside

Low Impact (Future Starter)
LB Nick Bolton^

Future Impact (2+ Years Back-Up)
OL Larry Borom
S Tyrie Gillespie

Project (Uncertain Future)
RB Larry Rountree
WR Damon Hazelton^

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