NFL DRAFT TODAY-SATURDAY, NASHVILLE, TENN.:

Great unknown: Opinions on Arkansas prospects in the NFL Draft vary

Opinions on in-state prospects vary

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2019
Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

FAYETTEVILLE — The state of Arkansas is not providing any sure-fire early-round picks for this year’s NFL Draft, which is being held in Nashville, Tenn., for the first time, starting with the first round tonight.

What the state might lack in can’t-miss future NFL stars it can make up for in compelling storylines.

The top stories from the University of Arkansas are an offensive lineman aiming to be the next Great Dane in the pros in Hjalte Froholdt; the state’s best-known former foster child in Dre Greenlaw; and a classic late bloomer, Armon Watts, who thrust his name onto draft boards with a huge senior year.

At Arkansas State University, fast-twitch defensive end Ronheen Bingham is coming off January knee surgery but is reportedly moving up draft boards.

The first round of the draft will take place tonight at 7 from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony, with a main stage assembled at First and Broadway downtown. Coverage will be available on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network.

Rounds two and three will take place Friday, starting at 6 p.m. Rounds four through seven will be on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.

The list of prospects with Arkansas ties also includes ex-Razorbacks in cornerback Ryan Pulley, defensive end Randy Ramsey, safety Santos Ramirez, offensive lineman Brian Wallace and others.

Froholdt and Bingham are both listed among ESPN.com’s top 10 sleepers for the draft.

In its evaluation, ESPN.com noted that Froholdt “held up better against [Alabama’s] Quinnen Williams than any other offensive lineman all season [zero pressures on 41 pass-blocking snaps]. That alone should tell you that he can step in and play at the next level.”

Williams is widely regarded as the best interior defensive lineman in the draft and a potential top-five pick.

On Bingham, ESPN.com wrote, “On a snap-for-snap basis in 2018, no one won more as a pass-rusher than Bingham. The Arkansas State edge defender is a bit of a one-trick pony, but it’s a great trick. He has a ferocious spin move that was as unblock-able a move as we saw in the country.”

Bingham’s win rate as a pass-rusher was 31.7 percent, the highest in the country.

Former Arkansas State assistant coach Brian Early has connections to two of the state’s top draft prospects. He and his wife Nanci welcomed Greenlaw into their home as a young teenager who had bounced around the state’s foster care system. They adopted him last summer.

Bingham, a 6-2, 242-pounder from Bennettsville, S.C., transferred to Arkansas State from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and compiled 65 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last season to earn Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Greenlaw was the only Razorback to play in the Senior Bowl.

“As far as just athleticism and ability and even running, I think they all like that,” Greenlaw said of what he’s heard from NFL personnel during the pre-draft process. “I even had a couple of teams suggest safety. Whichever one works best.”

Greenlaw, Froholdt, Pulley and Watts all participated in the NFL Scouting Combine.

“It’s like a dream,” Watts said of his senior season, during which he amassed 49 tackles, including 7 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. “I don’t even know if it has hit me yet.”

Froholdt said he feels like he’s representing his home country of Denmark along with the Razorbacks.

“It was super cool,” he said of his appearance at the combine. “The support that I got there was unfathomable, and I got so many text messages from people. There’s a certain sense of pride to it being from Denmark and being able to represent my country.”

Appearing on an episode of the Hog Pod with Bo Mat-tingly this week, Froholdt said he’s got a good feeling about being drafted.

“I think right now, I’m in a pretty good stance to get drafted, but you never know how it’s all going to shape out,” Froholdt said. “Hopefully a lot of teams take guards. It seems to me right now, I’m going to be taken in the later rounds.”

NFL Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen, who helped lead the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl after the 1998 season, is the only other Danish player to be drafted into the NFL.

“We’re 1 for 1 with Danish people in the Hall of Fame who have played,” Froholdt said on the podcast.

Asked by Mattingly what it would mean to be the first Danish position player drafted, Froholdt said, “It would mean everything. That was a goal. Early when I first came, I didn’t want to talk about the NFL. But as the years progressed and it seemed like reality, that’s the goal.”

ProFootballFocus, a leader in metrics-based analysis, likes Froholdt, Bingham and Watts to be selected by the end of the third round.

Steve Palazzolo of PFF projects Froholdt with the No. 60 pick, late in the second round, to the Los Angeles Chargers. He has Bingham projected at pick No. 99 to the Los Angeles Rams, and Watts projected with pick No. 100 to the Carolina Panthers.

Other analysts have varying projections.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper lists Watts at No. 234 on his top 300 big board as the highest among players with Arkansas ties. Greenlaw ranks 248.

Chad Reuter of NFL.com, who compiled a seven-round mock draft, projected Froholdt with pick No. 197 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round.

NFL Draft Scout’s Ric Serritella does not list a player with Arkansas ties among his top 100 prospects for the draft.

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