Seven Patriots enter 2021 NFL draft

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“My expectations were just to run fast on my 40, do good on all my drills and then when it came to the position work, just being able to show good footwork, be fast in and out of my breaks, be clean in and out of my breaks,” Schwartz said in an interview wrapping up his pro day. “I feel like I did all of what I listed. I feel like there’s still room to improve, but today I showed I’m more than just that deep-threat guy. I can do everything a receiver is supposed to do.” (Photo submitted by Ethan Masel)

Along with Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell and Florida cornerback Marco Wilson, as featured in the latest issue of The Patriot Post, Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, Florida defensive tackle TJ Slaton, Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert and Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks hope to find themselves among the next group of Heritage alum transitioning into the NFL. As April 29 nears, here’s a look at those remaining prospects.

Anthony Schwartz – Auburn

Dating back to his days at Heritage, Auburn’s junior WR Anthony Schwartz’s game has always relied on speed. The former Broward County Track and Field Athlete of the Year in 2017 also claims the rights to the Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year award in 2018 as well as a gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay at the 2018 U20 World Championships.

Schwartz’s blazing speed transferred over nicely to the college level, where Auburn utilized him in versatile roles both out of the backfield and lining up at wideout. Over the past three seasons, though, Schwartz has increasingly capitalized on showing off his skills at receiver, racking up a career-high 636 yards through the air in 2020 to go along with three receiving touchdowns.

At his pro day, Schwartz impressed, perhaps unsurprisingly, at his 40-yard dash. Posting an unofficial time of 4.26, the Auburn product barely fell short of the NFL record time of 4.22 and established himself as one of, if not the, fastest athletes in the draft class.

“I feel like I am the fastest guy in all of football, especially coming into the draft this year,” Schwartz said in an interview following his unofficial time.

With his speed in mind, teams lacking a true deep threat, like the Detroit Lions, might opt to look Schwartz’s way towards the fourth or fifth round of the draft. Schwartz hopes, though, to prove that he can provide an impact wherever needed.

TJ Slaton – Florida

A senior DT out of Florida, TJ Slaton was a four star recruit out of Heritage in 2017, ranking as the 69th overall prospect in his class. Though Slaton hasn’t necessarily turned heads as much as expected, his 2020 season, where he finished with 37 total tackles and 1.5 sacks, has helped raise the tackle on draft boards.

At his pro day, the former Patriot continued to build his resume, notably posting a 40-yard dash time of 5.09 and a 29’’ vertical, both of which rank above the average for a DT.

Slaton’s game isn’t without its concerns, though, as some analysts have pointed out. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein, for example, pointed to the tackle’s trouble “controlling the point of attack” as well as his issues with staying “too upright against the double team.”

Zierlein did not fail to mention his strengths, however, citing the Florida product’s explosiveness, athletic ability and quick release as positives to his game.

With that in mind, Zierlein has Slaton’s potential finding him a home in the later end of the sixth or seventh round to teams looking for a powerful presence in the trenches, though Slaton has risen as high as the middle rounds in recent mocks.

Khalil Herbert – Virginia Tech

Senior RB Khalil Herbert out of Virginia (transferred from Kansas in 2019) posted respectable numbers over his first few college seasons and was a three-star recruit out of Heritage, but he seemed to take the next step in his game during 2020. 

The former Patriot logged 165 total touches in his final campaign, breaking loose for 1,362 yards to compliment nine scores. In his breakout season, Herbert showcased his excellent vision, patience, dynamic running and pure strength, as mentioned by CBSSports’s Dan Schneier. Schneier’s main knock on Herbert’s game lies in his lack of production in the passing game, though a lack of opportunity might have been the cause for that.

Standing at 5’8 and weighing in at 210, Herbert garnered 782 yards after contact last season, ranking eighth in the nation, and at his pro day, the back managed a 4.46 time for his 40-yard dash.

Herbert’s late bloom, yet evident potential bodes well for teams looking for a developmental prospect in the backfield. Like his fellow alum, Slaton, many mock drafts have the VT standout falling somewhere in the later end of the sixth or seventh rounds. With the unique upside he boasts, though, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Herbert finding a match in the middle rounds.

Nick Eubanks – Michigan

Michigan’s senior TE Nick Eubanks helped bring Heritage a state title in his junior year and was the 15th ranked TE prospect in the 2016 class.

A lack of opportunities and a broken arm derailed Eubanks’ early career at Michigan, but with a respectable 2018 campaign and 25 receptions for 234 yards in 2019, Eubanks began to showcase his NFL qualities.

Measuring in at 6’4 and 245 with a 4.59 40-yard dash time at his pro day, Eubanks possesses great speed for his size that he hopes catches the eye of scouts.

“Most teams, they look at me and see that [I’m] a big dude,” Eubanks said to reporters prior to his pro day. “[I] can block if [I] get it down pat well. But most things people notice about me is I can run. I can really run, and that’s one thing I want to emphasize in terms of my pro day.”

Due to a rocky final season at Michigan, Eubanks may perhaps hold the most uncertainty of the Patriot products entering the NFL, though the upside he has shown might prove enough to land him a phone call in the late rounds.

Sammy Rosenthal is a senior at American Heritage School in Plantation Fla. and is entering his fourth year writing for the newsmagazine; his second year as the publication’s Sports Editor. Sammy takes pride in being a die-hard Miami Heat and Dolphins fan as well as dedicating his Sunday to watching football.