The red and white confetti raining down in Miami after the Super Bowl was the unofficial start of NFL draft season. Almost every mock draft you’ll see between now and April will solely feature the first round of the draft; some will go up to the 2nd day just to shake things up.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller went the extra mile or six and released a full seven round mock draft this week. As someone who has written mock drafts I can only imagine how long it took Matt to write this. He is also one of the most respected national scouts in the industry. For our interests, though, of the two hundred and fifty six mocked draft picks, two of them were Tar Heels.
Defensive lineman Jason Strowbridge was mocked in the fourth round to the Dallas Cowboys. Strowbridge’s role varied throughout the season as an outside down lineman in Jay Bateman’s scheme; earlier in the year he spent a lot of time rushing as a 3-tech but as the year went on he started playing more of a 5-tech role as an outside rusher. At Carolina he was listed at 285 pounds, but at the Senior Bowl, he weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 267. That weigh-in almost solidifies that teams will look at Strowbridge as an edge defender, where he played well for Carolina last season.
Strowbridge is almost a lock to be the first Carolina player drafted this year. Even though he played through an injury about half of the year, Strowbridge was often Carolina’s best defensive player, even if he didn’t rack up as many tackles as Chazz Surratt and other defenders. Dane Brugler, another widely respected analyst, said as much in the lead-up to the Senior Bowl:
I was really intrigued by UNC DL Jason Strowbridge on tape (No. 77 overall on my board coming into the week) and he's consistently played at a high level through two practices.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 22, 2020
Powerful hands, agile feet. And he's been disruptive both outside and on the interior.
Versatile defensive linemen who can create pressure from anywhere on the field are becoming a necessity in the NFL. Strowbridge does a great job of keeping his pad level low and quickly getting to the ball. He’ll be a good mid-round pick, and if he gets drafted into the right situation has a chance to have a great rookie year. Here are some highlights.
The other Tar Heel that Bleacher Report projected getting drafted was safety Myles Dorn. Miller had Dorn going in the 7th round to the Houston Texans. He’s been mocked as high as the fourth round, though, in other mock drafts. The longer the draft goes and the further down big boards you get, the more opinions on players will vary. One player could get a mid-round draft grade from one scout, and an undrafted free-agent grade from another. Such is the unpredictability of the Draft.
The other side effect of the late rounds of the draft is that teams will begin to be a bit more risky. The first day or two of the draft teams are going to look for as sure-fire players as they can find. In the 6th or 7th round you can take a chance on players that have a couple traits you really like and think you can develop.
Dorn is an aggressive safety who flies to the ball. He is a sure open field tackler and has enough size (6’1” 210 lbs.) to not get overwhelmed. He played mostly deep safety at Carolina, but has a deep enough skill set to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Dorn’s most likely path to a roster spot will likely be his potential to develop into a starting safety and his ability to contribute immediately on special teams. He’s naturally instinctive and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on a roster when the NFL season opens.
Somewhat surprising was that offensive tackle Charlie Heck wasn’t projected as a draftee. Heck was invited to the Senior Bowl, along with Strowbridge, though he didn’t stand out as much there. He is definitely on NFL radars regardless and will almost assuredly be in an NFL training camp one way or another.