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Jason Pinnock declares for the 2021 NFL draft

The Pitt cornerback tied Paris Ford for the team lead in interceptions, with three

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt cornerback Jason Pinnock declared for the 2021 NFL draft on Friday night, joining several other Pitt upperclassmen in making their future plans public. Pinnock was the third Panther to declare for the draft on Friday, as Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver made similar statements several hours before his was released.

“This game of football started on the pavement in the street, and I’ve been in love with it ever since,” Pinnock wrote on Twitter. “Football has provided so much for me, with the potential of even more in store. With that in mind, and after countless conversations with my family, I have decided to forgo my last year of eligibility to officially enter the 2021 NFL draft.”

“To the city of Pittsburgh, the City if Champions, I can’t thank Panther Nation enough, and you will forever be in my heart,” he continued. “I drove through that Fort Pitt Tunnel in 2016 not knowing what to expect. Our fans are the best in the country, and [they have] accepted me and my family since our very first visit. I made a promise to my family and to this city to finish my degree here at Pittsburgh, and it will be done! I hope you all continue this journey with me, and I am just grateful for every one of you here in Pittsburgh as well as Panther Nation across the world.”

Pinnock is one of the more surprising entrants into the NFL draft from Pitt. That’s because moving on at the end of this season seemed like an inevitability for standouts like Jones and Weaver, both of whom are viewed as potential first-round draft picks, but there has been no draft buzz around Pinnock.

The likely reason for that is because Pinnock struggled at times during the 2020 season, and in some cases, his struggles were costly and tough to miss. Most notably, Pinnock gave up game-winning touchdown receptions in back-to-back weeks to Emeka Emezie of NC State and Zay Flowers of Boston College.

With that said, 2020 was Pinnock’s best season to date statistically, as he tied Paris Ford for the team lead in interceptions, with three. Those picks came against Louisville, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. He also ranked second to Damar Hamlin in pass breakups, with five in nine games, and came up with 20 tackles on the year, including one tackle for a loss, which came against Austin Peay.

Pinnock is not among the top 149 prospects or the top 17 cornerbacks listed by CBS Sports, which has only provided evaluations for 149 prospects. He is also not listed among the top 206 prospects or top 27 cornerbacks by ESPN, which has only provided evaluations for 206 players. So he will likely need to improve his draft stock by April to earn a selection.

Fortunately for Pinnock, he has accepted an invitation to take part in the College Gridiron Showcase, a postseason all-star event that will take place in Fort Worth, Texas, from Jan. 17 to Jan. 21. And while that event is not as high-profile as the Senior Bowl, it should provide Pinnock with exposure to pro scouts.