This year, there were only three players from the Mountain West Conference selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, coming from only Boise State (2) and San Diego State (1). With all three being Day 3 picks, none of them figure to be placed into starting or even immediate roles this coming season. However, we will discuss what roles they might play for their new teams and how their chances of playing football on Sundays currently stands.
DB Darren Hall: 4th round to the Atlanta Falcons
Darren was the first Mountain West player drafted this year, and he figures to make an immediate impact as a quality backup defensive back and special teams player.
Hall figures to get in the DB rotation early in his career, mainly due to his versatility. He is almost ideal as a dime back where he can fill the corner/safety hybrid spot that would be important in those packages. He played both positions at one time or another at San Diego State and did so with the ability to play man or zone coverage. His football IQ and ability to diagnose plays are traits that should help him see the field and lead to turnovers that he had a knack for in college.
In addition to this, Darren figures to be used heavily on special teams early and often in his Falcon career. Again, tapping into his playmaking ability, the hope would be that Hall excels in his role there and shapes the special teams units into formidable ones with the potential to impact games in small ways.
TE John Bates: 4th round to the Washington Football Team
Most coaches, scouts, commentators, and even fans can agree that John Bates’ best days are ahead of him. His true role probably won’t be fully realized for a few seasons, but he should see the field in his rookie season.
He comes into the pro game as a player equally adept as a blocker and receiver, even though he was light on production with the latter. Washington has a clear-cut tight end, which is ideal for Bates, as he can ease his way into the rotation, and the coaches can pick and choose spots for him to be successful in.
The Washington Football Team appears to value his blocking skills, which could initially be his way onto the field. It’s easy to see how John will appear in sets featuring straight running plays, goal-line packages, and other multiple tight-end sets. These sets can also feature his skills as a pass-catcher, where he can be a dump-off option off the line or out of the backfield, in the red zone, or a great option on third-down over the middle of the field, where he shined in college.
Bates will likely settle in as a third or maybe even a second tight end with a limited but consistent snap count while appearing in every game.
DB/ATH Avery Williams: 5th round to the Atlanta Falcons
Avery went higher than many would have expected, so it’s safe to say the Falcons have some idea of a role for him right away, even if that role could go a few different ways.
First and foremost, Williams will be a special teams player. One would think he would have every opportunity to be a punt returner and likely even a kick returner to start next year. In addition to that, special teams coaches can get creative as he also blocked kicks during his college career. He is small but a sound tackler, so it would not be surprising to see him in many different special teams packages and usages.
Though he will start and perhaps star on special teams, Avery will likely also be a part of the defensive back rotation as a backup. It’s not hard to imagine him in the slot covering small, speedy receivers, matching their skill set with his own. He could potentially be involved in sub-packages as the primary nickel or dime back, depending on how he fares prior to the season.
Again, Williams is almost assured of having a role on special teams and the defense to a lesser extent. But it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have.
The Mountain West Conference still produced quality draftees this season, even if the number of players was severely less than the previous few seasons. It will be exciting to see these athletes develop and compete for NFL roles. Next week, MWCConnection will examine all the undrafted free agents and their chances of making a 53-man roster for an NFL team.