2016 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook for Divisional Weekend

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 15, 2016

AMES, IA - AUGUST 30: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the North Dakota State Bison calls a play in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Ames, Iowa. North Dakota State defeated Iowa State 34-14. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
David K Purdy/Getty Images

The Scout's Report

— As NFL teams meet and get ready for Senior Bowl week (January 25-30) in Mobile, Alabama, information about rankings is starting to leak out. For example, I've spoken with seven teams (scouts, coaches or general managers) that have Mackensie Alexander over Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey at defensive back.

— More draft board notes: Three teams I spoke with this week have Ohio State free safety Tyvis Powell ranked ahead of teammate Vonn Bell in the secondary. Both are Round 2 players on these boards.

— Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams announced during media day before the national title game that he's been cleared by doctors and will return to the team in 2016. Before fracturing his neck in a Week 1 accident, Williams ranked as my top wide receiver for this class.

BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 30: Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers runs with the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on December 30, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama. Auburn defeated Memphis 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

— "Go watch him against any good team and tell me how he did. He's overrated." That's what one college scouting director told me this week about Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. Games against Ole Miss and Houston would definitely back up this statement.

— Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith underwent knee surgery last week, and according to Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton, he's expected to make a full recovery after tearing his ACL and LCL. More on Smith below.

— North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz led the Bison to his second straight FCS title (five straight for the team, two for Wentz as a starter) this season. I reached out to get a feeling on Wentz's draft stock after the game, and one high-level AFC scout told me he's the No. 1 quarterback on their board, even though they don't expect him to be around when they pick late in the first round.

O.J. Howard dominated the national title game, leading to talk about him as the No. 1 tight end in the nation. Howard's size (6'6", 242 lbs) and speed (estimated 4.49 from scouts) make him appealing, and you can explain away his lack of production due to Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin's run-heavy scheme. And after seeing what he did to Clemson, there's a good chance some team drafts Howard in the first round.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 31:  Samaje Perine #32 of the Oklahoma Sooners carries the ball as Kevin Dodd #98 of the Clemson Tigers attempts to tackle him in the first quarter during the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 31, 20
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

— The other standouts from the title game were Clemson defensive ends Shaq Lawson (No. 90) and Kevin Dodd (No. 98), and both declared for the draft after the game. I've heard Dodd is a Round 2 grade from scouts, but I'm putting both in my top 25.

— Other Clemson underclassmen declaring for the draft are cornerback Mackensie Alexander and safeties T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse. Alexander, who left the game early with a hamstring injury, is the top-ranked corner on my board. Green and Kearse, however, played the entire game and were torched by the Alabama passing attack. Both players are intriguing NFL options, but they'll want to burn the Alabama game film.

 

Five Names to Know—Senior Bowl Offense Edition

5. No. 22 RB Aaron Green, TCU

A true three-down back with excellent hands and route-running skills, Aaron Green has the tools to impress on the field in Mobile thanks to his pass-catching chops and quick running style. He's a poor man's version of Ameer Abdullah.

 

4. No. 9 WR Jordan Payton, UCLA

Jordan Payton had a great season at UCLA (78 catches, 1,106 yards, five TDs) with Josh Rosen at quarterback, and at 6'1" and a solid 212 pounds, Payton has the body and speed to catch the eye of scouts in one-on-one drills against Senior Bowl cornerbacks.

 

3. No. 89 TE Jerell Adams, South Carolina

Adams has talent and could have a Clive Walford-like week in Mobile where he overcomes his college scheme to make plays on a big stage.

 

MANHATTAN, KS - AUGUST 30:  Offensive tackle Cody Whitehair #55 of the Kansas State Wildcats gets set on offense against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks during the first half on August 30, 2014 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Photo
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

2. No. 55 G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

Whitehair is the top-ranked offensive lineman accepting an invite to Mobile, and he has a chance to be a legit top-20 pick in this year's class. A left tackle at Kansas State, he looks like a future All-Pro at guard.

 

1. No. 78 T Cole Toner, Harvard

I've written about Toner before, and even though he's listed at tackle, his best pro position is center (a la Mitch Morse). A good week can push him into Day 2 of the draft.

 

Scouting Report: Darron Lee, Ohio State

Throughout the 2016 draft season, I'll highlight one draft prospect each week with a first-look scouting report.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Linebacker Darron Lee #43 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates during the fourth quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Ariz
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

No. 43 Linebacker Darron Lee, Ohio State (estimates 6'2", 235 lbs, 4.55 40 time)

 

Strengths

Lee is an off-the-ball linebacker with the ability to play as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, or as an inside linebacker in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme if he can add 10-15 pounds to his frame. That's something he's done during his time at Ohio State, given he came to Columbus as a 185-pound quarterback.

After beginning his career as a safety, Lee moved to linebacker before his redshirt freshman season. At Ohio State he's played as a "Sam" (strong-side) linebacker and is asked to cover in the slot, blitz off the edge and stop the run in space. His versatility is a big strength.

During his two seasons as a starter, Lee accumulated 13 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 29 quarterback hurries, 107 tackles and three interceptions, per Pro Football Focus' charting. In 2015, he earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors.

On the field, Lee checks all the boxes for quickness, agility, explosiveness and overall athletic ability (AA). His positional versatility, as mentioned above, allows him to be a match for every NFL team. Lee gets very good depth on his pass drops and shows smooth hips when playing in coverage. His comfort in space is obvious on film, and he's often found outside the hashes on the college field lined up opposite wide receivers. From this position, Lee is utilized as a pass-rusher, coverage linebacker and run defender. He's a solid tackler in space and closes to the ball in a hurry. Lee is a chess piece defenses can use against spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks, given his range and athleticism in space.

Off-the-ball linebackers must be able to cover, blitz, squeeze the edge and stop the inside run. Lee does the first three very well. His play speed and versatility are big selling points to his draft stock, and he can have a Day 1 impact as a sub-package linebacker (a la Telvin Smith). Lee classifies as a developmental linebacker, but a rare one in that he can have an immediate value.

 

Weaknesses

Lee can be slow to diagnose and make his initial read when attacking the ball. He's been able to cover this up in college thanks to his speed and athleticism, but his instincts must be quicker in the NFL. Lee likes to play in space and can be hesitant to stick his head in on inside run plays. He is not a stack-and-shed linebacker, which isn't necessarily a weakness, but something that must be known.

As a very good athlete, Lee looks the part on the move in coverage but doesn't show great balance when coming up to attack the run (especially against Notre Dame). His overall instincts and tenacity are questionable when he's asked to come up and play the ball. Lee needs time to develop at linebacker, given his relative youth there (two seasons). He may get burned early in his pro career, but at the same time he'll also make plays if put in a position to attack the football as a defensive threat.

 

Pro Comparison: Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers

 

The Big Board

So much is changing across the NFL landscape with new hirings, new firings and new players entering the NFL draft pool. That means it's time for a quickie mock draft. Just one round this time.

Updated Round 1 Mock Draft
PickPlayer
1. TennesseeT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
2. ClevelandQB Jared Goff, California
3. San DiegoT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
4. DallasDE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
5. JacksonvilleCB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
6. BaltimoreCB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
7. San FranciscoQB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
8. MiamiDE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
9. Tampa BayFS Jalen Ramsey, FSU
10. New York GiantsDE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
11. ChicagoWR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
12. New OrleansLB Myles Jack, UCLA
13. PhiladelphiaQB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
14. OaklandDE Jonathan Allen, Alabama
15. Los AngelesWR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
16. DetroitT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
17. AtlantaLB Darron Lee, Ohio State
18. IndianapolisDL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
19. BuffaloG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
20. New York JetsLB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
21. WashingtonLB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
22. HoustonRB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
23. MinnesotaT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
24. CincinnatiWR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
25. PittsburghNT Jarran Reed, Alabama
26. SeattleDE Jonathan Bullard, Florida
27. Green BayNT Andrew Billings, Baylor
28. Kansas CityT Jerald Hawkins, LSU
29. DenverDE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
30. ArizonaDL A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
31. CarolinaCB Eli Apple, Ohio State
Matt Miller

 

Parting Shots

8. The 2016 Senior Bowl roster is starting to take shape with another announcement of accepted invitations coming out each Tuesday. Here's the roster as it stands now, but remember that players can (and will) drop out between now and late January:

Updated Senior Bowl Rosters
QB Brandon Allen, ArkansasDE Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
QB Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina StateDE Jason Fanaika, Utah
QB Jake Coker, AlabamaDE Carl Nassib, Penn State
QB Jeff Driskel, Louisiana TechDE Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
QB Kevin Hogan, StanfordDE Shawn Oakman, Baylor
QB Cody Kessler, USCDE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi StateDE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota StateDE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana TechDE Jihad Ward, Illinois
RB Kenyan Drake, AlabamaDT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
RB Tyler Ervin, San Jose StateDT Matt Ioannidis, Temple
RB Aaron Green, TCUDT Austin Johnson, Penn State
RB Chris Swain, NavyDT Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
RB Jonathan Williams, ArkansasILB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
FB Soma Vainuku, USCILB Josh Forrest, Kentucky
FB Dan Vitale, NorthwesternILB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
WR Aaron Burbridge, Michigan StateILB Blake Martinez, Stanford
WR Leonte Carroo, RutgersILB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
WR Josh Doctson, TCUILB Antonio Morrison, Florida
WR Jay Lee, BaylorILB Jared Norris, Utah
WR Kolby Listenbee, TCUOLB Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
WR Braxton Miller, Ohio StateOLB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
WR Malcolm Mitchell, GeorgiaOLB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
WR Chris Moore, CincinnatiOLB Deion Jones, LSU
WR Jordan Payton, UCLAOLB Joshua Perry, Ohio State
WR Sterling Shepard, OklahomaOLB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
TE Jerell Adams, South CarolinaOLB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
TE Tyler Higbee, Western KentuckyCB James Bradberry, Samford
TE Henry Krieger Coble, IowaCB Maurice Canady, Virginia
TE Jake McGee, FloridaCB Sean Davis, Maryland
TE Nick Vannett, Ohio StateCB Deiondre' Hall, Northern Iowa
TE Bryce Williams, East CarolinaCB William Jackson III, Houston
T Vadal Alexander, LSUCB Jonathan Jones, Auburn
T Willie Beavers, Western MichiganCB Harlan Miller, SE Louisiana
T Le'Raven Clark, Texas TechCB Eric Murray, Minnesota
T Joe Dahl, Washington StateCB Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
T Taylor Decker, Ohio StateCB Tavon Young, Temple
T Spencer Drango, BaylorS Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State
T Kyle Murphy, StanfordS Jeremy Cash, Duke
T Jason Spriggs, IndianaS K.J. Dillon, West Virginia
T John Theus, GeorgiaS DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary
T Cole Toner, HarvardS Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
G Josh Garnett, StanfordS Jordan Lucas, Penn State
G Connor McGovern, MissouriS Jalen Mills, LSU
G Sebastian Tretola, ArkansasS Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
G Christian Westerman, Arizona StateS Darian Thompson, Boise State
G Cody Whitehair, Kansas StateP Riley Dixon, Syracuse
C Jack Allen, Michigan StateP Alex Kinal, Wake Forest
C Evan Boehm, MissouriK Ka'imi Fairbairn, UCLA
C Nick Martin, Notre DameK Ross Martin, Duke
www.seniorbowl.com

 

7. Underclassman declarations are starting to be announced as players make plans before the January 18 deadline to enter the 2016 NFL draft. Here's a look at the notable announcements thus far:

2016 NFL Draft Underclassmen List
RB Derrick Henry, AlabamaDL Maliek Collins, Nebraska
LB Scooby Wright, ArizonaDL Vincent Valentine, Nebraska
WR Cayleb Jones, ArizonaTE David Grinnage, North Carolina State
G Denver Kirkland, ArkansasCB Keivarae Russell, Notre Dame
RB Alex Collins, ArkansasLB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
RB Jonathan Williams, ArkansasRB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame
TE Hunter Henry, ArkansasT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
G Avery Young, AuburnWR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
T Shon Coleman, AuburnCB Eli Apple, Ohio State
CB Xavien Howard, BaylorEDGE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
DL Andrew Billings, BaylorLB Darron Lee, Ohio State
WR Corey Coleman, BaylorFS Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
EDGE Kamalei Correa, Boise StateQB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
WR Roger Lewis, Bowling GreenRB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
QB Jared Goff, CaliforniaSS Vonn Bell, Ohio State
WR Kenny Lawler, CaliforniaWR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
CB Mackensie Alexander, ClemsonWR Jalin Marshall, Ohio State
DL Kevin Dodd, ClemsonCB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
DL Shaq Lawson, ClemsonLB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
FS T.J. Green, ClemsonEDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
FS Travis Blanks, ClemsonDL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
SS Jayron Kearse, ClemsonT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado StateWR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
P Eric Enderson, DelawareRB Byron Marshall, Oregon
EDGE Noah Spence, Eastern KentuckyWR Bralon Addison, Oregon
CB Vernon Hargreaves, FloridaC Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
EDGE Alex McCalister, FloridaDL Austin Johnson, Penn State
FS Keanu Neal, FloridaQB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
RB Kelvin Taylor, FloridaWR Tyler Boyd, Pitt
WR Demarcus Robinson, FloridaLB Steve Longa, Rutgers
K Roberto Aguayo, FSUCB Cleveland Wallace, San Jose State
FS Jalen Ramsey, FSUWR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
EDGE Leonard Floyd, GeorgiaTE Austin Hooper, Stanford
RB Keith Marshall, GeorgiaEDGE Ron Thompson, Syracuse
WR Demarcus Ayers, HoustonDL Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
DL Darius Latham, IndianaT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
RB Jordan Howard, IndianaDL Kenny Clark, UCLA
FB Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas StateG Alex Redmond, UCLA
CB Rashard Robinson, LSULB Myles Jack, UCLA
T Jerald Hawkins, LSURB Paul Perkins, UCLA
CB Corey Tindal, MarshallT Caleb Benenoch, UCLA
DL Quinton Jefferson, MarylandWR Thomas Duarte, UCLA
EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, MarylandLB Su'a Cravens, USC
QB Paxton Lynch, MemphisLB Nick Vigil, Utah State
CB Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.)EDGE Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt
DL Willie Henry, MichiganCB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
T Jack Conklin, Michigan StateRB Dwayne Washington, Washington
DL Chris Jones, Mississippi StateCB Daryl Worley, West Virginia
LB Ben Brown, Mississippi StateRB Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
WR De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi StateWR Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Matt Miller

 

6. Black Monday has come and gone. After a wild week of movement and surprises, here are the current openings at head coach and general manager:

Updated NFL Coaching Vacancies
TeamOld CoachNew Coach
ClevelandMike PettineHue Jackson
MiamiJoe Philbin/Dan CampbellAdam Gase
New York GiantsTom CoughlinBen McAdoo
PhiladelphiaChip KellyDoug Pederson
San FranciscoJim TomsulaChip Kelly
Tampa BayLovie SmithDirk Koetter
TennesseeKen Whisenhunt/Mike Mularkey---
NFL.com

 

5. Head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide took home another national title Monday night, and this stat was so amazing that I had to share it here: Saban is 5-0 all-time in national title games. Five wins. Zero losses.

Even more impressive? Every recruiting class Saban has signed at Alabama has won a national championship.

 

4. During the national title game, many folks on Twitter wanted to know my thoughts on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is a sophomore.

Normally, I have a rule about not looking at players who aren't draft-eligible, but with the "20 for '20" series running here on B/R, I had to take a look at Watson. What I saw was very, very impressive—good enough for Watson to enter my 2017 NFL draft advance work as the No. 1 quarterback in the class.

 

3. Who were the biggest risers from the title game? Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd was all over the field, dominating the Alabama offensive line (and the Oklahoma offensive line before that) at left defensive end. Dodd had three sacks in the team's loss and proved that he has the size, speed and power to be a first-round prospect in this class.

On the Alabama side, no player was more impressive than tight end O.J. Howard. With Howard's impressive size and speed, he was always thought of as a promising talent, but in one game he capitalized on the potential and proved his upside with production. That will push Howard into the conversation to be the top tight end in this class.

 

2. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered an awful injury in the Fiesta Bowl, and it left many wondering what would happen to Smith's draft stock. Prior to the injury, Smith ranked as the No. 2 player on my board, but will NFL teams still value him in Round 1?

Smith suffered an ACL and LCL injury, per Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton, and a full recovery is expected. For comparison, that's the same injury Tyrann Mathieu suffered in early December 2013. Mathieu played 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014 and was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year in 2015.

That gives hope for Smith's status, and we could be looking at a Todd Gurley (No. 10 overall pick) or Cedric Ogbuehi (No. 21 overall pick) type of selection in the 2016 first round.

 

1. Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo tweeted this week that Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns would move on from Johnny Manziel. Given the team's status in free agency and the draft, with picks No. 2 and No. 32 overall, the Browns have options.

In free agency, it's unlikely the Browns would break the bank for Sam Bradford or Brock Osweiler. Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick could be available and would be interesting, but Jackson and the Browns have to feel pressure to get this right. That leads us to the draft.

With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Browns will likely have a shot at Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and the other quarterbacks in this class given the Marcus Mariota-led Tennessee Titans pick in front of them. If I'm in that room when the pick comes up, Goff is the guy to lead Cleveland to the promised land.

 

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.