You’d be forgiven if you had mostly ignored the NFL draft the last couple of years. While the occasional Tar Heel has been called, there hasn’t been a lot of intrigue at the top of the draft for them since Mitchell Trubisky in 2017. In fact, since that night, only six Tar Heels have heard their name called during the three days of the draft, and the highest was MJ Stewart in 2018, in the second round.
The Tar Heels can nearly double that in 2021. Four guys seem like sure-fire picks, and a fifth could be a late round add that would provide value for a team that gets him. Thus, if you were planning to watch the draft with some more feeling this year to see where Carolina guys land, we’ve got you covered.
Who Might Get Drafted and When?
We laid out profiles of the five guys last week who have the best chance.
All but Newsome have shown up with higher round grades in mock drafts. Tanya had your update this morning on the last round of mocks, but the lack of a combine this year has made intelligence gathering more difficult than usual. Teams are having to go off Pro Days and Zoom Interviews, and for teams that are notorious for running prospects through the ringer, this change has made it that much more difficult for them.
With all that said, Williams and Brown have been generating late buzz as possibly sneaking into the first round, with many starting to think Williams would be just as good a fit for some teams as other backs, if not better. If either don’t hear their name tonight, then it’s almost assured they’ll hear it tomorrow.
Michael and Chazz are where things start sliding into tomorrow/Saturday territory. Carter has almost been given universal third round grades, but the later you get into the draft the less believable these grades could be, meaning depending on how other players slot he could slip into Saturday. Chazz is the same way, as teams will see a ton of potential but know he’ll need work as he’s only been playing linebacker for two years.
Dazz is the one who’s up in the air, and it showed since he decided to play in the Orange Bowl. His combination of skill and versatility, plus how he showed out in the bowl game, should get him a chance with some team in the draft, but if not you have to think he’ll likely be snapped up as a Free Agent. Either way, it would be a surprise if he heard his name before Saturday.
What are my options to watch?
The NFL has gotten its wish that the Draft has become a major TV event. It will house three distinct broadcasts during its first two nights, and then be on two networks for the later rounds. There is truly an option for anyone.
- Day 1: Thursday Night, Round 1, Start Time 8 PM
ESPN: Mike Greenberg is the host with analysts Mel Kiper Jr, Louis Riddick, and Booger McFarland. Their insiders of Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen will be there, but they’ve agreed with the NFL to not tip picks, thus they likely won’t be breaking much. Suzy Kolber will be the one interviewing draftees, be it on site in Cleveland or remotely.
ABC: This will be a distinct broadcast with more of a focus on the college side of the equation, emphasized by the fact that the College Gameday crew of Reese Davis, Kirk Herbstreet, and Desmond Howard will be anchoring the coverage. ESPN’s other draft anchor, Todd McShay, will be on this broadcast, which makes sense as he serves as a sideline reporter during ESPN’s college football coverage. Maria Taylor will also be there with Jesse Palmer and David Pollack. It should provide a unique angle as this crew will have studied up on all of these players while they played, as the ESPN crew will be looking more at their future potential
NFL Network: The league’s network will go back to having their own broadcast, and bring all the fixings with Rich Eisen hosting and, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis as well as Stanford head coach David Shaw providing analysis. Kurt Warner and Joel Klatt will also be on site for opinions, Ian Rapoport will be providing insider access when no one is tipping picks, and Melissa Stark will be doing interviews. This set is likely going to be pretty smooth as Eisen has been hosting the draft for almost two decades now, weird as it is to say.
Fox Sports Online: For folks loyal to Trey Wingo, who was let go by ESPN last year, Fox Sports will have an online “watch party.” Fox doesn’t have the rights to show the draft so it will literally be a case of them watching the names being called and providing analysis, but several former NFL players are expected to show, and unlike the others it will be interactive allowing for fans to ask questions during the broadcast.
- Day 2: Friday Night, Rounds 2 & 3, Start Time 7 PM ET
ESPN and ABC will provide the same coverage and staff as Thursday, with Greenberg on ESPN and the College Gameday crew on ABC. The best note here is that the plan is for Maria Taylor to interview the families of players drafted, and with both Chazz and Sage Surratt looking to be drafted, you can bet the Surratts are on the list. Also notable, the embargo on tipping picks will be lifted so the insiders will be able to let folks know more about who’s moving where in order to take a player.
NFL Network meanwhile will also keep their setup mostly the same, with Chris Rose and Peter Schrager taking over for Kurt Warner and Joel Klatt.
- Day 3: Saturday Afternoon, Rounds 4-7, Start Time Noon ET
ESPN and ABC will provide a unified broadcast for both channels on Saturday, with Reese Davis taking over as the host. The only analysts announced are Kiper, McShay, and Riddick along with their insiders of Mortensen and Schefter, but with a lot of time to fill you’re likely going to see other folks pop in and out here. There may not be a magic moment where you see a guy’s name called as the networks tend to focus more on analyzing what happened over the last two days and then featuring a prospect here and there, but the NFL has also made it a point to add some things to the later rounds so it’s possible a player will get a special moment.
NFL Network will go with Eisen, Jeremiah, Davis and Schrager, with Rapoport as their insider. With them being the league sponsored network, you can expect more of the “special touches” the NFL throws to show up there.
If the ins and outs of the production, along with the decisions made interest you, Richard Deitsch has a detailed breakdown (The Athletic, $) of each network’s decision and their thinking about what they’ve learned from last year, and how their show has changed as a result. It’s a pretty good read for media nerds.
We’ll let you know as soon as someone is drafted, but no matter what it sets up to be the biggest night for UNC at the NFL Draft in some time.