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Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

ESPN's Todd McShay released his updated mock draft yesterday, which got me thinking: how will the cancellation of pro days due to COVID-19 affect draft boards and the hundreds of fringe NFL hopefuls?

The state of play: Top prospects, like all the guys on McShay's newest rankings, will be mostly fine. But for players who either weren't invited to last month's combine or performed poorly while there, pro days offer one last chance to prove themselves.

  • Presumptive No. 1 pick Joe Burrow understands its significance so well that he pushed for a pro day even amid the pandemic just to help improve his LSU teammates' draft stock.

By the numbers: There are thousands of draft-eligible players each year, but only a few hundred receive combine invites (337 in 2019) and even fewer actually get drafted (254 in 2019).

What they're saying: Lower-tier NFL draft hopefuls such as Ron'Dell Carter, a defensive end from FCS powerhouse James Madison, discussed his current predicament with WashPost's Kent Babb:

"We're stuck. All we can do now is work out, work out, work out — until we get a call ... It's just one of these things where no one knows what's going on. Like, no one knows. Nobody has been in this position before. The NFL probably doesn't even know what to do right now."

Pro day success stories:

  • Phillip Lindsay (RB, Broncos): The 2018 Colorado standout wowed scouts at his pro day, signed with Denver as an UDFA and has already made one Pro Bowl and rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
  • Austin Ekeler (RB, Chargers): The D-II star out of Western Colorado didn't earn an invite to the 2017 combine, but his pro day 40-yard-dash and vertical would have placed him fourth and first among RB, respectively. He's since scored 22 TD in three seasons for the Chargers and just inked a four-year, $24.5 million deal.

The bottom line: Though it's not the end of the road for players like JMU's Carter, that road has gotten bumpy in a hurry, and it will be up to them to hustle and get creative to prove they belong.

Go deeper: NFL will hold draft as scheduled but cancel public events due to coronavirus

Go deeper

Democrats drubbing Trumpless GOP on social media

Data: Twitter/CrowdTangle (Feb 24, 2021); Chart: Will Chase/Axios

In a swift reversal from 90 days ago, Democrats are now the ones with overpowering social media muscle and the ability to drive news.

The big picture: Former President Donald Trump’s digital exile and the reversal of national power has turned the tables on which party can keep a stranglehold on online conversation.

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to announce details of a plan to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
49 mins ago - Health

New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New research is bolstering the case for delaying second doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: Most vulnerable Americans remain unvaccinated heading into March, when experts predict the more infectious virus variant first found in the U.K. could become dominant in the U.S.

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