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Two of the top performers at the NFL Combine were North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson and Minnesota Golden Gophers edge rusher Boye Mafe, and both are projected to be first-round picks by Pro Football Focus (PFF) in the upcoming NFL Draft. 

Watson dazzled with his size, speed and explosiveness at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, putting up athlete scores for a wide receiver of his height (he's 6'4'') that had never been seen before at the Combine. 

Mafe is projected to go No. 28 to the Green Bay Packers in the PFF mock. 

"With the Packers likely moving on from edge defender Za’Darius Smith and maybe moving on from edge defender Preston Smith, an influx of young defensive line talent would be welcome in Green Bay. Mafe is explosive off the line, as his 1.59-second 10-yard split landed in the 89th-percentile, 38-inch vertical leap in the 91st percentile, and 10-foot-5 broad jump ended up in the 90th percentile. The testing numbers show up in his college production, as he recorded four straight 75.0-plus pass-rush grades. Ultimately, he generated 42 quarterback pressures and seven sacks in 2021. Much like Rashan Gary, Mafe could be a better professional than he was a college player."

PFF's mock has Watson going to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 30 pick. 

"Watson is the latest North Dakota State product who could end up being a first-round pick come April, as his 1.46 second 10-yard split and 11-foot-4 broad jump both landed in the 99th percentile at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds. Watson earned a career-best 89.7 receiving grade in 2021 while averaging 18.6 yards per reception and 4.33 yards per route run in an offense built around running the football. Watson averaged over 20 yards per reception for his college career — a remarkable feat no matter where he played."

There's another local tie in PFF's mock draft in the form of Jermaine Johnson, who was a standout at Eden Prairie High School before blossoming into one of the most dominant edge rushers in the country this past season at Florida State. PFF has Johnson going No. 9 to the Denver Broncos.

"Johnson’s stock has been on a meteoric rise following a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, which was capped off with a remarkable 1.55-second 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Johnson’s explosiveness and quick first step will make him one of the most coveted pass-rushers in this year’s class.

"Johnson was always a strong run defender but took his game to another level in 2021 with 46 quarterback pressures and 14 sacks after transferring to Florida State."

Jermaine Johnson

Jermaine Johnson

PFF's mock, by the way, has the Vikings taking Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo with the No. 12 pick. 

The NFL Draft is April 28-30 in Las Vegas. 

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