UA draft hopefuls to learn fate soon
North defensive lineman McTelvin Agim of Arkansas (91) rushes the quarterback during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
FAYETTEVILLE -- The current crop of NFL Draft hopefuls has had a pre-draft experience like no other.
Just when the pro-day circuit was heating up -- and before the long rounds of private workouts and in-person meetings -- the coronavirus pandemic shut down NFL offices, eliminated most pro days and took private workouts out of the picture.
The NFL Draft will start with the first round tonight in a "virtual" setting, with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks from the basement of his home in Bronxville, N.Y. Personnel for the 32 NFL teams making the 255 picks in this draft are being required to work at home.
The second and third rounds will be conducted Friday, and the final four rounds will take place Saturday. Fifty-eight of the most highly regarded prospects have been sent cameras to record their reactions to being selected.
The draft will be the first league-wide event held by one of the four major sports since NBA and NHL games on March 11.
The draft originally was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders.
University of Arkansas safety Kamren Curl, an early declarer, was headed for a private workout the day the NFL called a halt to travel for scouting purposes.
"It's been pretty weird," Curl said this week. "Before they shut the business down, I was in line to board my plane going to Baltimore. I got the text saying, 'Don't go to Baltimore' because they were shutting everything down. So yeah, that was crazy."
NFL teams have had to make phone calls, set up video chats and communicate with draft prospects online or in virtual settings since mid-March.
Arkansas defensive tackle McTelvin Agim, a standout in East-West Shrine game practices who got a late invitation to the Senior Bowl, is considered the top available prospect for a Razorbacks' program that has suffered back-to-back 2-10 seasons.
He's rated the No. 14 defensive tackle available in the draft by The Athletic, and he's projected as a fourth-round pick by that outlet. USA Today's draftwire site projected Agim to the New England Patriots in the fourth round. Chad Reuter of NFL.com has Agim slotted in the fifth round to the Green Bay Packers.
Agim told his agent, Nicole Lynn of Young Money Sports Agency, he didn't want to hear about where he's projected.
"Whenever it happens, it just happens," said Agim, who has been training in Fayetteville during the coronavirus pandemic after working out in Fort Worth at APEC, a facility where NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has trained. Agim plans to be home in Texarkana, Texas, for the draft.
"I feel like I raised my stock, but I don't know how far I was climbing from," Agim said.
Curl is rated the No. 21 safety in the draft by The Athletic's Dane Brugler, and is projected as a seventh-rounder or preferred free agent.
Curl said he entered the 2019 season thinking he might declare early, then put up 76 tackles, fourth on the team, with 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
"I felt like it was the best decision for me," Curl said. "It was like always in my head even before the season, but it was just my gut feeling. During the season, I just felt like it was my time to go."
He said the frequency of his contact with NFL personnel has been on the rise.
"It's picked up a lot these last couple of weeks," he said. "I've been getting multiple calls from multiple teams per day."
Curl said he's heard most frequently from the Panthers, Titans, Cardinals and the NFC champion 49ers, where his workout buddy and ex-Razorback Dre Greenlaw is coming off a strong rookie season.
Curl said his family is driving over from Oklahoma to watch the draft with him this weekend.
Arkansas linebacker De'Jon Harris checks in as the No. 35 linebacker prospect by The Athletic, and is given a preferred free agent projection by the publication.
Harris posted three consecutive 100-tackle seasons and finished his career at No. 5 on the Razorbacks' all-time tackles chart. He called the pre-draft period a blessing, even while being chaotic.
"It's like the best experience you could have," Harris said. "Just being able to get through it and meet new people and get feedback about your game and talking to different types of players and coaches, it's been a blessing, but it's nerve-wracking at the same time. It's stressful."
Curl and Harris both signed with the PFS Agency, where former Arkansas tailback Rawleigh Williams works as an assistant to agent Jake Presser.
Harris said on Tuesday he was uncertain whether he would travel home to Harvey, La. -- where covid-19 cases have been more prominent -- or whether his mother and family members would drive up to Fayetteville for the draft.
Former Arkansas tight end Cheyenne O'Grady is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. His athletic talent is unquestioned, as shown by his tackle-breaking touchdown in the Hogs' 55-34 victory over Colorado State last fall. But he shuffled in and out of the doghouse for coaches Bret Bielema and Chad Morris before eventually departing the team late in October.
O'Grady said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that it was Morris' decision to kick him off the team after he told the coaches he did not want to practice on the Sunday after a 48-7 loss at No. 1 Alabama in which he scored the Hogs' only touchdown on an 8-yard strike from John Stephen Jones.
Despite playing in just seven games, O'Grady tied for the team lead with 33 catches, and he had 372 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
He is projected as the No. 14 tight end available by The Athletic, ahead of teammate Chase Harrell, who is No. 21. O'Grady is projected as a late-round pick or a preferred free agent.
Wrote Brugler, "Overall, O'Grady owns the coordinated athleticism and natural tracking skills to stick on an NFL roster, but his unreliable character will keep several teams from taking the chance, projecting as a potential late-round flier."
Defensive tackle T.J. Smith said the fact Arkansas got its pro day in on the morning of March 11, the day before athletic events around the country started shutting down, worked in his favor because he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine like Agim, Curl, Harris and O'Grady. He said his prior training at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami helped him turn it up at pro day.
"They were able to help me get some really good numbers down, get some really good times down," Smith said. "Since pro day, it's just been teams left and right just reaching out. You hear from a little bit of everybody, from scouts to assistant position coaches to position coaches, some head coaches. You hear from everybody."
Smith said his 40 time on pro day was 4.92. He also liked his 29 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, and his L-cone time of 7.44.
"My 40 was really good for a big guy, being close to 300 pounds," Smith said. "I thought my jumps were pretty good. I was one shy of what I wanted on the bench press. Overall, I felt like I had a really good workout. Teams kind of blew up my phone about it."
Smith is rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by The Athletic. He drove to his parents' home in Moultrie, Ga., on Wednesday to watch the draft.
Sports on 04/23/2020
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