2014 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Latest Scouting Notebook

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
2014 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Latest Scouting Notebook
USA Today

We're in the home stretch, draft fans. The first pick of the 2014 draft will be announced in 34 days, and at this point no one has any idea who that player will be—or even if the Houston Texans will hold on to the top pick.

The craziness is sure to increase now that most pro days are complete. The Scouting Notebook is here to help you cut through the noise and catch up on all the draft news, notes and information you may have missed in the past week.

Let's get started.

 

Five Up, Five Down 

 

Five Up

5. OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

Morgan Moses should send Taylor Lewan a gift basket. The off-field issues of the Michigan star have led to Moses moving up boards across the league. And with a dramatic drop-off at the left tackle position after Moses, he's inching his way into the late first-round conversation. 

Current ranking: No. 39 overall

 

4. OC Marcus Martin, USC

The top-ranked center on my board these days, Martin has a chance to be selected very early in the second round. As the most athletic and most ready for the NFL passing game, Martin has made himself a ton of money this season with his superb play and then his pro day performance.

Current ranking: No. 52

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

 

3. FS Terrence Brooks, FSU

Coverage safeties are in demand, and after the big three (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Jimmie Ward) many feel there is a drop-off in talent. Terrence Brooks has something to say about that. The smooth FSU free safety has all the talent to be a single-high center fielder and is better than advertised playing the run.

Current ranking: No. 55

 

2. WR Davante Adams, Fresno State

Want the next Michael Crabtree? That's who Davante Adams compares to. The Fresno State wide receiver has strong hands, very good jumping ability and is faster than expected. He also brings considerable upside as a redshirt sophomore entry into the draft.

Current ranking: No. 29

 

1. WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Evans has long been in my top 10, but the more I watch his game (and focus on him and not Manziel), the more I like. Evans has big, strong hands, and while he's not super fluid in space or overly quick, his straight-line speed is good enough to separate from defenders. Combine the hand strength, speed and size and you have one heck of a nightmare for defenders.

Current ranking: No. 7

 

 

Five Down

5. WR Allen Robinson, Penn State

A deep overall wide receiver crop moves Allen Robinson down after further review. While Robinson does show good hands and over-the-middle ability, he lacks the top-end speed to consistently pull away from defenses. With so many higher-level athletes at the position also in this class, Robinson sees his stock fall slightly.

Current ranking: No. 56 overall

 

4. OG David Yankey, Stanford

An in-season review of Yankey proved to be fool's gold, and after having time to catch up on the underclassmen interior linemen entering this draft, he's moving down. Yankey doesn't have the footwork or balance you want from a top-tier pass protector. While he looks the part, he doesn't always play it.

Current ranking: No. 101

Michael Conroy

 

3. WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Matthews, like Robinson, moves down this week by virtue of the overall talent in this year's corps of wide receivers. Matthews isn't a top-flight runner and doesn't make great plays after the catch, which can be a concern given the many players in this class who do. Matthews looks to have a solid career, but he's more limited than the players listed ahead of him.

Current ranking: No. 64

 

2. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

There are times in this business when you get caught up in a big arm and quick release and forget to look at the feet and the result of the throw. That's what happened for me with Jimmy Garoppolo. While he does have the arm and release, his footwork (especially under pressure) leaves a lot to be desired. Garoppolo is more of a project than originally realized.

Current ranking: No. 76

 

1. QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida

No player in the 2014 draft class scares me as much as Blake Bortles. The big UCF quarterback looks the part, but turn on the game film and you're never blown away. His footwork is often unbalanced and erratic, and his late throws over the middle are great in college but an interception in the NFL. Bortles has undeniable upside, but if he never improves (and that happens more than you'd think), who is he? Blaine Gabbert? Jake Locker? I see why teams love his upside, but the right now isn't very good.

Current ranking: No. 17

 

The Scout’s Report

 

Jadeveon Clowney stole the show this week with an exceptional pro day, but let's put that into perspective. It was a pro day. Yes, his athleticism is jaw-dropping, but so was his game film. Clowney was a lock to go top three last week, and he still is this week after the pro day.

— My Teddy Bridgewater praise is well-noted here, but this week I spoke to a high-level NFL scout about the Louisville quarterback. "What am I missing?" was my question to him. The answer? "(I'm) not high on him honestly. Biggest concerns on him are the mental and inconsistencies in mechanics. In my opinion you don't see him go through many progressions, a lot of primary target only reads. Mechanics wise I think he has good feel for pressure in the pocket, but drops his elbow too often. He definitely flashes elite ability, but the lack of consistency is alarming." 

— April 9 is LSU's pro day, and all eyes will be on quarterback Zach Mettenberger. How well he does there, and I'm told he will throw at the workout, will go a long way in determining where he's drafted. Mettenberger has an early Round 2 grade on my board.

— Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was not able to participate in the team's pro day. This comes after missing the combine with a stress fracture in his foot. The second-round prospect hopes to be healthy in time to have a workout for teams before the draft.

— There is considerable buzz in the NFL right now surrounding Ray Farmer and the Cleveland Browns' decision to not attend high-profile pro days. The NFL people I've talked to are all intrigued, and if Farmer's method works, it's something many NFL scouts could push for—as some don't particularly like pro day traveling.

— What type of defense does Clowney fit in? I asked four defensive coaches that question this week. Each replied with colorful language indicating you find a way to fit him in your defense. One went as far as to call Clowney the "best defensive end I've seen."

— Much has been made of the New England Patriots bringing Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater in for meetings. This is smart business, as the Patriots do have 30 visits to use and are facing Tom Brady aging (37 when the season starts) and the last year of Ryan Mallett's contract. If a quarterback falls in Round 1, we could see another Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre situation.

— Former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla has had a rough year, and NFL teams are responding. I spoke to three teams this week that have taken Lyerla completely off their draft boards due to off-field issues.

— My top-ranked player for the 2015 NFL draft (and yes, I already have a 2015 board), Marcus Mariota, has bulked up to 215 lbs in preparation for his final college season and the NFL. If Mariota puts on positive weight, he'll skyrocket atop boards across the league if he can match his stellar 2013 play.

— Central Florida running back Storm Johnson had to end his pro day early due to a pulled hamstring, but the powerful runner has meetings scheduled with the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars.

— Speaking of pro days, former prep star Seantrel Henderson ended his University of Miami workout early. Depending on which story you hear, he was either out of shape or sick and dehydrated. Given his suspensions and problems with consistency at Miami, this is not a good look for him. 

 

Scouting Dictionary

 

"Triangle Numbers"

Talk to enough NFL scouts and you'll hear them reference a player's "triangle numbers." What the heck does that mean?

This refers to a player's height, weight and 40-yard-dash time. Often you'll see people confuse this and reference 3-cone drill, short-shuttle and 40-time, but the "triangle" is as simple as height, weight and speed. 

 

Scout’s Take  

The top-ranked outside linebacker in the 2014 class, Buffalo's Khalil Mack hasn't received a ton of national focus. Breaking down his 2012 and 2013 film you see a force to be reckoned with. Here's my breakdown of the draft's best edge defender. 

Michael Conroy

 

OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

Strengths

A strong, active, athletic edge rusher, Mack is instinctive and lives around the ball. Fans will turn to the Ohio State game as evidence of his dominance (nine tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss, one interception returned for a touchdown). Mack can affect the game in every facet. He's strong enough to hold the edge and is quick enough to arc past blockers and get into the backfield to crash the party. His first-step is on par with any other outside defender in this class, and he uses that to set up blockers and then cross them up with counter moves.  

 

Weaknesses

Mack can get washed down if the run comes at him. That's what Baylor did and it worked, as Mack was often taken out of the play and became a non-factor in terms of production. Mack's greatest weakness may be a strength on film, as he plays a bit wild and could struggle to acclimate to assignment-style football. Much like Von Miller in his first season, Mack will have a learning curve moving into a structured NFL defense. 

 

Pro Player Comparison: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

 

The Big Board

Updated Top 32 Big Board
Rank Player
1 QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2 DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
3 WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
4 OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
5 OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
6 OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
7 WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
8 CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
9 DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
10 OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
11 QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
12 DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
13 TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
14 WR Odell Beckham, LSU
15 ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
16 FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
17 QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
18 QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
19 OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
20 CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
21 WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
22 DE Dee Ford, Auburn
23 SS Calvin Pryor, Louisville
24 CB Jason Verrett, TCU
25 OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
26 DT Timmy Jernigan, FSU
27 CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
28 WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
29 OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
30 TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
31 OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
32 DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

Bleacher Report

Parting Shots

 

10. Pet-peeve of the Week: Over-selling players. There's no need to say Jadeveon Clowney was blocked by "three or four players on every play" to defend his subpar 2013 numbers. Clowney was doubled often, and chipped a lot, but he was never blocked by four people on one play. I did see one play (against Arkansas) where three players touched Clowney. One time, in three years. Let's all kill the hyperbole.

9. I see a lot of confusion on what a team visit involves. Each NFL team is allowed 30 official visits to their facility for a one-day visit, and there is no workout. Teams can workout players by request, and there is no maximum number allowed for the on-campus workouts.

8. DeSean Jackson to Washington stole the headlines early this week. My take? Jackson is a speedy, dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. Washington didn't have a player like that on the roster. Giving Robert Griffin III another playmaker is a win for both.

7. Vertical board or horizontal board? That question came in from Twitter this week, and it's a great one. A vertical board is numerically based (like mine, 1-365 for example) and the players are ranked top to bottom. A vertical board leads to "best player available" drafting, as you can identify the top player on your board at any time.

The first time I heard of a horizontal board being used was when Ron Wolf's guys started getting jobs outside of Green Bay. In this system you are grading against your own team. So the board is stacked with your depth chart running vertically and players "stacked" horizontally and graded against the existing NFL player. The idea here is that you're not drafting the best player available, but really the best player available at a position of need. 

Neither system is right or wrong, but the horizontal board is the more interesting one for my personal preference of "value at a need" based drafting.

6. Another Twitter question, "Why does Mike Evans (Texas A&M wide receiver) always line up on the right, and this is a problem?" Evans lines up on the right largely because quarterback Johnny Manziel is a right-handed, roll-out quarterback. By putting Evans on the right, he's Manziel's primary target when on the move. It's not a limitation of Evans', but smart game planning.

5. Moving the NFL draft back from late April until early May was a decision felt around the league, but what about the players? Multiple draft-eligible prospects have mentioned that they're going crazy waiting for the draft and to find out where they'll be playing next season. Not only do they have to wait longer, but the amount of time to prepare for their first game is now shorter.

4. Wale and Kevin Durant recruited DeSean Jackson to Washington? Such is this day and age of social media and the power of the NFL.

3. Do pro days matter? The answer is difficult to put in one line, but the general response is yes, they do. If pro days didn't matter, NFL teams would not spend the money to travel to them. Bottom line, the NFL is not about wasting the time or money of coaches and scouts if not necessary. 

2. The NFL is all about the passing game right now, and I see two elite prospects at wide receiver and cornerback. Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) and Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State) are both my top-ranked players at each position. They would have also been the top-ranked players at the position last year (2013 draft). And the year before that (2012 draft). 

1. I'm asked a lot about my ranking of Teddy Bridgewater as the top player in this class. Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney will have an identical grade (95/100) in my final NFL 100 report of them. They are tied for No. 1 on my numerical ranking. Bridgewater receives my top spot because I believe he's a long-time, high-level starting quarterback in the NFL. Clowney may become the best defensive end in the league, but I'd rather have the fifth best quarterback over the best defensive end. That's why Bridgewater gets the top spot even though they have the same grade.

 

Twitter Must-Follow of the Week 

@JoshNorris, Rotoworld NFL draft analyst

If you love the NFL draft—and I'm assuming you do if you're reading this—then Josh Norris is a great follow. Josh is all about the film work and doesn't get caught up with rumors or groupthink. He gives a true evaluation based on his experience and scouting eye, and that's refreshing in today's ultra-reactive media space. 

 

Working and Reading

Here's a quick look at what I'm working on and reading this week.

 

Must-Reads 

MMQB: Stardom Doesn't Change Where You're From (Richard Sherman)

RSP: The 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio (Matt Waldman)  

B/R: How Important are Private Workouts? (Greg Gabriel) 

Grantland: The Northwestern Decision: An Explainer (Brian Phillips)

 

Content Schedule

Friday, April 4: Updated seven-round mock draft

Tuesday, April 8: NFL 1000 series moves on to the top inside linebackers

Thursday, April 10: NFL 1000 looks at the top 4-3 outside linebackers

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

Team StreamTM

Out of Bounds

NFL

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.