If you haven't been able to keep up with the fast-paced NFL offseason, don't worry, you are not alone. But that's why the Scouting Notebook exists—to keep you up to date on everything that's happening in the NFL and how it relates to the draft. That means a new mock draft again this week, but first a ton of news and notes.
The Scout's Report
—Who are NFL teams eyeing most? I had one team picking in the middle of the first round ask how far, realistically, wide receiver Amari Cooper could fall in the first round. My answer: no later than No. 11 to Minnesota, and even that would be a shock.
—Multiple area scouts remarked to me about Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson, and how he's solidly put himself into the first-round conversation with a great combine and pro day. I did hear from one team, though, that doesn't like Johnson as much because their general manager saw him live during the season and questioned his slight frame.
—Speaking of Johnson, I'm told by a league source that he has visits lined up with the San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.
—Trae Waynes became the talk of the town after posting a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but his agility numbers were very average in Indianapolis. He had a chance to improve them at his pro day, and did get his short shuttle time down to 4.19 (from 4.39), but this is still a very average time for a cornerback. The average over the last 10 years is 4.16 seconds, so Waynes is a tick slower.
—Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain's name landed on my desk this week, with one area scout calling him "the best cornerback no one knows." McCain is only 5'9" and 195 pounds, but his 4.51 40-time and eye-opening 3.82 second 20-yard shuttle has teams excited about his slot cornerback potential.
—Georgia Tech offensive lineman Shaq Mason stands out on film and in workouts, but at 6'1" and 300 pounds he's really undersized for the NFL. The fix? One team told me it's listing him at center, and really likes his potential there.
—Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah does a great job at the NFL Network, and his "Move the Sticks" podcast is a must-listen for draft and scouting fans. This week he hit a home run with in-depth analysis of Jameis Winston, including a breakdown of all 18 interceptions thrown in 2014. It's worth a listen.
—Running back Jay Ajayi from Boise State has visits lined up with the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars, I'm told by a source close to him.
—Missouri defensive end Shane Ray's camp has passed on that he has visits with the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals.
—How did Bryce Petty's pro day go? One scouting director I spoke to says, "For what it's worth, it was better than (Marcus) Mariota's."
—Nine NFL teams showed up at the Hobart pro day, according to a school source. With just offensive lineman Ali Marpet working out, that's a good sign.
Five Up, Five Down
With the 2015 NFL draft approaching, here's a look at five players moving up and five players moving down my board after extended film review.
5. CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
Johnson is getting a lot of play in this week's article, and for good reason. He's one of the smoothest cover men in this year's class—second only to Marcus Peters in my opinion—and has the agility and length to excel in man or zone coverage. Johnson's average 40 time (4.52) may turn some teams off, but he shouldn't get out of the first round.
4. Edge Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky
There is something to be said for pure violence and aggression from a football player, and Za'Darius Smith brings that off the edge for Kentucky. When evaluating Alvin Dupree film, it's so easy to get stuck watching Smith make plays and close on the ball. He's quickly moving up my board and could get inside the top three rounds.
3. FS Damarious Randall, Arizona State
The 2015 safety class is weak—both in free agency and the draft—which has me continually digging through more games to find a legitimate future starter talent. Damarious Randall is a legitimate future starter. He's built like a cornerback but is physical, fast and has the range to play center fielder in the NFL. It's dangerous to compare anyone to Devin McCourty, but they have serious similarities in their movements and style.
2. LB Taiwan Jones, Michigan State
While writing up linebacker scouting reports, I kept coming back to Taiwan Jones, really enjoying his style and aggression on the field. Then he turned in an improved 4.7 in the 40-yard-dash and a very good 33.5" vertical jump at his pro day and the burst shown on film starts to correlate with his measurements. Jones may be a mid-round pick, but he could be a future starter.
1. WR Devin Funchess, Michigan
In this same spot last week, Devin Funchess was listed as a player moving down in the lead-up to his pro day. Here's the thing about the draft process, though: You can erase your scouting combine time with a good pro day time, and that's what Funchess did. His 4.56 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day will get teams back on his good side.
1. CB Eric Rowe, Utah
March means putting final grades on prospects, and I've heard varying opinions on Eric Rowe around the league, so I was anxious to finalize my own grade. In the course of doing this, Rowe moved down my board. He's big (6'1", 205 lbs) with 4.45 speed, but he's a grabby, handsy cornerback who struggles with his initial transition. I'd draft Rowe higher in a press scheme, but as a general cornerback prospect I have him graded in Round 5. My biggest concern? That NFL receivers will abuse him at the top of their route stem when he can't use his hands to stop them.
2. Edge Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington
Since peaking as a potential first-rounder at midseason, Hau'oli Kikaha has been in a steady decline on my board. Now, six weeks out, he's ranked in Round 5. There are concerns about Kikaha's two ACL surgeries, but I worry most about his inability to move fluidly in space. He's a bit of a one-trick pony as a pass-rusher, and a lot of his production came thanks to his teammates drawing attention on defense.
3. T Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah
The 2015 tackle class is deep, but not top-heavy, and that's caused some players like Jeremiah Poutasi to slip down the board based purely on how the class is structured. But Poutasi is also moving down the board based on his play. He's a big, power tackle who projects best to guard in the NFL. His lateral movement and ability in space are questionable, and even a move to guard doesn't guarantee he'll be a starter-caliber player.
4. TE Jesse James, Penn State
Penn State tight end Jesse James should have stayed in college. After leaving Happy Valley as a junior with one year of eligibility left, James ranks as my No. 174 player overall in the NFL draft. There are 256 picks. Running a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash won't help, and James' struggles as a natural pass-catcher make him a questionable NFL-caliber player.
5. QB Shane Carden, East Carolina
If you read this article every week (and please do, my kids like to eat), you've seen Shane Carden moving down pretty consistently. Now, with my final quarterback grades handed in, it's worth noting that he didn't get a draftable grade on my board. Carden comes in graded at 4.90—which means he's a priority free-agent player.
Scouting Report: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
Throughout the 2015 draft season, one draft prospect will be highlighted each week with a first-look scouting report.
Offensive Tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M (6'5", 306 lbs)
Strengths: Cedric Ogbuehi is what NFL left tackles are supposed to look like. Tall, lean, athletic and with huge arms and hands, he’s right out of central casting. Ogbuehi is a fluid, impressive athlete with experience playing guard, right tackle and left tackle at Texas A&M. He’s an athletic mover in space and can quickly get to the second level in the run game or to the corner in pass protection. He uses his length well when engaging defenders and has the feet to slide, mirror and match defenders. He’ll finish blocks in space and can ride defensive players out of the play. You won’t find many offensive linemen with his athleticism, length and agility.
Weaknesses: An ACL tear suffered in the Liberty Bowl has limited Ogbuehi’s predraft process. He had to drop out of the Senior Bowl and was not able to participate at the combine. The A&M staff credited him with allowing seven sacks in 2014, and you can look at his struggles with timing at left tackle as a reason. He needs to work on adding power to his core and lower body to better stand up against power rushers, as too often he expects to beat rushers to the corner and gives up his inside shoulder. Playing with a wider, stronger base would be a quick fix for Ogbuehi in pass protection.
PRO COMPARISON: Duane Brown, Houston Texans
A top-tier athlete with a lean, long body and excellent athleticism, Oghbuehi is similar to Duane Brown at Virginia Tech and in Houston.
The Big Board
With free agency shaking up the NFL, here's a look at how the first round would play out if the draft were today.
|Updated Mock Draft—March 20|
|1||Tampa Bay||QB Jameis Winston, FSU|
|2||Tennessee||QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon|
|3||Jacksonville||Edge Dante Fowler, Florida|
|4||Oakland||WR Kevin White, West Virginia|
|5||Washington||DL Leonard Williams, USC|
|6||New York Jets||Edge Vic Beasley, Clemson|
|7||Chicago||Edge Randy Gregory, Nebraska|
|8||Atlanta||Edge Shane Ray, Missouri|
|9||New York Giants||WR Amari Cooper, Alabama|
|10||St. Louis||OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|11||Minnesota||WR DeVante Parker, Louisville|
|12||Cleveland||NT Danny Shelton, Washington|
|13||New Orleans||WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri|
|14||Miami||LB Shaq Thompson, Washington|
|15||San Francisco||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|16||Houston||Edge Bud Dupree, Kentucky|
|17||San Diego||RB Todd Gurley, Georgia|
|18||Kansas City||T La'el Collins, LSU|
|19||Cleveland||WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State|
|20||Philadelphia||SS Landon Collins, Alabama|
|21||Cincinnati||DT Malcom Brown, Texas|
|22||Pittsburgh||CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State|
|23||Detroit||CB Ronald Darby, FSU|
|24||Arizona||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
|25||Carolina||T D.J. Humphries, Florida|
|26||Baltimore||DT Arik Armstead, Oregon|
|27||Dallas||DT Eddie Goldman, FSU|
|28||Denver||T Jake Fisher, Oregon|
|29||Indianapolis||RB Duke Johnson, Miami (Florida)|
|30||Green Bay||CB Jalen Collins, LSU|
|31||New Orleans||CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest|
|32||New England||DE Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA|
10. Pro day bias. It's a thing. If you pay attention to draft media, you're going to see people and/or outlets praise the pro day of a prospect they like (see: Waynes, Trae) and talk down prospects they don't like (see: Holliman, Gerod). This is why players like Teddy Bridgewater have made pro day coverage a bit of a joke. It's a scripted workout in shorts and T-shirts, usually inside an air-conditioned or heated practice bubble, and does little to simulate actual football. The safe bet? Pro days should make up less than 5 percent of your draft grade on a player, and all numbers there should correlate with what you see on film.
9. Marcus Mariota to Washington? I'm not buying that. What I am buying is that Scot MccLoughan would love to force a team drafting after them at No. 5 overall to trade ahead of Washington to get Mariota. Why? Because that pushes down more talented players to their pick. If, for example, the New York Jets trade to No. 3 to get Marcus Mariota, it pushes a talented edge-rusher or defensive lineman down the board to Washington at No. 5.
8. Here's something I am buying: The San Diego Chargers will draft a running back in the first two rounds. I talked to head coach Mike McCoy at the Senior Bowl and he was emphatic that they will run the ball with power this year. Combine that with the moves they've made—and not made—in free agency and it points to the Chargers using an early pick on the position.
7. Whether you're evaluating college players for fun, for a media job, for an NFL team or as a general manager, there is a difference between being able to see talent and knowing how to value talent. That's something I questioned about Ray Farmer when the Cleveland Browns hired him, and it's something new Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace must prove. Learning where to slot and rank players is much harder than seeing talent.
6. Ready for a curveball? Baylor power forward Rico Gathers—yes, that's basketball—is drawing the attention of NFL scouts. The 6'8", 271-pound Gathers is built like a defensive end with broad shoulders, long arms and an impressive, strong physique. If you can pick him up as a free agent after the draft and try to develop him into a tight end or defensive end, it's worth the risk.
5. The 2015 NFL draft is quarterback deficient—especially after the top two of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. But just how bad is it? With final grades turned in, I have just seven quarterbacks graded with a draftable (5.00) grade. Since I've been grading prospects in 2009, that's the lowest total ever.
|Per-Year Draftable Quarterback Rankings|
|Year||No. of QBs|
4. It's not a good quarterback class, but it's a very good running back class. In the first four rounds, I have 11 running backs. And on my board, if you're a running back drafted in the first four rounds, you're a starting-caliber back.
|Updated Running Back Rankings|
|3||Duke Johnson||Miami (Florida)|
|7||Jay Ajayi||Boise State|
|9||Mike Davis||South Carolina|
|10||David Johnson||Northern Iowa|
3. There is a lot of Bryce Petty buzz in the scouting community and media right now, and with meetings scheduled with the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills, per league sources, he's a hot commodity.
I like Petty—he has a great arm and great character, he's a plus-level athlete and he has developmental potential coming out of a shotgun-heavy spread offense at Baylor. Yes, I worry about his footwork in the pocket and deep accuracy, but he's worth investing a pick on in the top two rounds and trying to build up. Petty isn't far from how I saw Ryan Tannehill coming out of Texas A&M.
2. Player evaluation is an ever-changing process, and in 2015 I'm changing how I look at offensive tackles. I have never played on the line, so it's always been a battle of whether athletic tackles or technically savvy tackles are the better prospect. Obviously you'd like both, but that's not realistic, so I'm changing how I value traits for tackles.
Most NFL tackles are around 310 pounds, give or take a few. Most NFL defensive ends range from 250 to 275 pounds and are excellent first-step athletes. The defender is going to beat the tackle athletically—that's a given based on the traits of each position. So what I want in a tackle is the ability to recover when beat to the edge. How does he shuffle his feet to reset? How is his power when the defender gets inside his frame? Does his surrender his chest? Technique plus athleticism, I guess you could call it, but a great NFL left tackle must be athletic enough to recover when beaten—because it's going to happen.
1. We're six weeks away from the 2015 NFL draft, and I can't picture any scenario where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass on Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick.
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