Memphis has had at least one player drafted every year since 2014. While it’s unlikely that any Memphis prospects are selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, as they were with Dontari Poe and Paxton Lynch in 2012 and 2016, respectively, it looks as if the streak will continue. The Memphis 2021 Pro Day will see scouts, coaches, and general managers flocking to Tennessee, hoping to find the missing pieces to add to their rosters.
The Memphis Tigers finished the 2020 college football season with an 8-3 record. They peaked at 25th in the College Football Playoff rankings but eventually ended the year unranked. Still, Ryan Silverfield’s team finished the season in style, defeating Florida Atlantic 25-10 to win the 2020 Montgomery Bowl.
When is the Memphis Pro Day in 2021?
The pro day for the Memphis Tigers will take place on March 19.
Top Memphis prospects working out at pro day
Most people won’t think of Memphis as one of the top colleges for producing running backs. Alabama has consistently had RBs taken in the first round, and it looks as if Najee Harris will be another. Georgia has also seen players leave and quickly become NFL superstars. Memphis has become a running back factory in recent years, though.
After being forced to wait 13 years since the Carolina Panthers selected DeAngelo Williams in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the Tigers look set to have their fourth running back drafted in just three years.
The Los Angeles Rams took Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. One round later, the Dallas Cowboys brought in Tony Pollard to help ease Ezekiel Elliott’s workload. In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Washington Football Team used a third-round pick on Antonio Gibson, who quickly established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic runners.
Kenneth Gainwell is the latest name to watch — he tops the list of Memphis 2021 prospects.
After touching the ball just 10 times and redshirting 2018, Gainwell exploded onto the scene in 2019. He turned 282 touches into 2,069 yards and 16 touchdowns. So impressive were his performances that he was named American Athletic Conference (AAC) Freshman of the Year while also earning first-team All-AAC honors. He led the AAC in yards from scrimmage, a mark that also saw him finish fourth in the entire nation.
The expectation was that Gainwell would have a big season in 2020. He opted out, though, protecting his health and giving himself more time to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Featured | Pauline’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
Without the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the 2021 Memphis Pro Day could be huge for Gainwell. Scouts will likely pay particular attention to his size and 40-yard dash time. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds. NFL teams will likely want to see whether he can add weight and still maintain the speed and agility crucial to his game. Inability to do so won’t prevent him from having a career at the next level, but it could limit his workload.
Gainwell is currently 121st on Tony Pauline’s big board. Pauline believes:
“Gainwell did an outstanding job after stepping into the starting lineup in 2019 and shows great versatility as a ball carrier, a pass catcher, and even a blocker. He’s a high-upside prospect who also comes with downside risk, but Gainwell is a situational back with potential on all three.”
Draft Analyst A.J. Schulte sent him to Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of his recent mock draft.
Other prospects at the 2021 Memphis Pro Day
Kenneth Gainwell is the most high-profile prospect going through his pro day workout, but he’s far from the only one. Riley Patterson, who has been the team’s kicker for the past four seasons, is currently the third-highest ranked kicker on Pauline’s big board. He converted 240 of his 246 extra point attempts (97.6%) and 64 of his 83 field goal attempts (77.1%) during his time with the Tigers.
On offense, wide receiver Damonte Coxie and quarterback Brady White had productive careers with Memphis and will hope that they can impress scouts. On defense, defensive tackle O’Bryan Goodson, defensive end Joseph Dorceus, and linebacker J.J. Russell have also declared for the draft. Gainwell is the only one of the 2021 Memphis prospects to have a draftable grade from Pauline currently.
Still, all will be hoping to do enough to become late-round draft picks or catch on as undrafted free agents.
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