Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook Heading into Conference Championships

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Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook Heading into Conference Championships
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The Scout's Report

— Want the next Tyron Smith? According to one NFC team scout I talked to this week, just draft Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil: "He's Tyron 2.0. Big, mean, athletic. The total package."

— The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft is for sale. That's according to multiple general managers I spoke with this week. The belief is that in a class that's described as "flat," there is no can't-miss player for the Tennessee Titans to draft at the top of the order. They're willing to move the pick to a team in need of a quarterback.

— The general consensus in talking to NFL scouts this week is that a quarterback will go No. 1 overall after someone trades up with the Titans. The most common answer to which player that will be is Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

— The LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide always dominate the recruiting rankings, but the internal recruiting done by head coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban has been impressive. LSU will keep star linebacker Kendell Beckwith and cornerback Tre'Davious White after both considered leaving early for the NFL, and Alabama returns anchors O.J. Howard (TE) and Jonathan Allen (DE) to an always loaded roster.

— The 2016 linebacker class is stacked with Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame), Myles Jack (UCLA) and Reggie Ragland (Alabama) all ranked inside my top 15. The last time that happened? 2014, with Khalil Mack, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Barr.

Vernon Adams finished the year hot at Oregon, leading to many questions about his NFL draft stock. One scout in attendance at the East-West Shrine Game practices in St. Petersburg, Florida, this week texted me that Adams "won't be in the NFL in two years." With a small frame (5'10 ½", 195 lbs, 8 ¾" hands), he has a lot to overcome, but he's worth a late-round flier in my opinion.

— Ohio State defensive lineman Adolphus Washington pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of soliciting for prostitution. This stems from an arrest on December 9, 2015, according to the Columbus Dispatch's John Futty. Washington was suspended by Ohio State and didn't play in the Fiesta Bowl, but he will participate in the Senior Bowl next week.

Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

— Senior Bowl weigh-in is a pivotal part of the draft process for some players, and one area scout pointed out that his team cannot wait to see what Virginia Tech defensive end Dadi Nicolas measures in at, given his listing at a light 227 pounds on a 6'3" frame.

  

Five Names to Know—Senior Bowl Defense Edition

5. No. 9 DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

Noah Spence has legitimate top-15 talent; it's just the off-field questions that will cause teams to pause. It's been a year since Spence transferred to EKU, and since then he's been a model citizen. A good week of practice, and a good week of interviews with NFL teams, will solidify his Round 1 grade.

Andres Leighton/Associated Press

4. No. 9 EDGE Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

There is a buzz out there about Fackrell's being a first-rounder, but currently he grades out as a Round 3 player on my board. A good week in Mobile—especially if he can show hip flexibility, core strength and explosion—could make Fackrell a lot of money.

3. No. 58 LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin defense was blessed with two exceptional outside linebackers with Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel, and now Schobert will get his chance to shine on a big stage. The key for the week is showing that his production (20 TFL, 9.5 SCK, 1 INT) wasn't due to the talent around him and that he has the athleticism to hang in the NFL.

2. No. 4 FS Darian Thompson, Boise State

Thompson is the top-ranked free safety in the 2016 draft class as of now, and he has a chance to be a legit top-32 pick. Thompson is a three-down playmaker with range, hands and tackling ability from his spot in the center of the Boise State defense. He'll stand out in Mobile.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1. No. 2 DL Shawn Oakman, Baylor

You know Shawn Oakman, he of the famous meme. He's big, strong and muscular, and he's a defensive end that wears No. 2. It's all very, very cool. But he's not that good of a player, or rather isn't as good as his reputation was. Oakman has a chance to live up to his reputation and dominate the offensive linemen he faces this week.

Scouting Report: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

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

No. 8 Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (estimates 6'1", 202 lbs)

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Strengths

Jalen Ramsey was a three-year starter in the Florida State secondary and started his very first game as a true freshman at cornerback. One of the top high school players in his recruiting class, Ramsey is also a star track athlete (ACC indoor and outdoor long jump champion). As an athlete, he's in a rare class.

Ramsey is a tremendous athlete, but his best asset is his ability to think on the field and mentally handle all the different assignments thrown at him by the Florida State coaches. He's played cornerback, safety and a "Star" position (like a nickel safety) and handled them at a very high level. Ramsey has a quick processor and is able to see and react at the same time. For all the talk about size and speed, it's his recognition and quick trigger that make him special.

Athletically, Ramsey's gifts translate into production. In 2015, playing boundary corner, he held opposing quarterbacks to a 55 percent completion percentage but only gave up a ridiculous 315 yards on 37 catches while allowing just one touchdown all season.

Ramsey has the foot quickness to transition through routes and the hips to turn and run without slowing down or losing his balance. Because of this, he's very effective playing in man or press coverage. He's physical at the line of scrimmage and uses his length very well to redirect receivers off the snap or in their breaks. He's not timid with his press technique and lands a solid, well-placed jam when asked to play up on receivers. Ramsey has the tools to be great in-phase, riding the hip pocket of receivers down the field.

Teams running a zone scheme will love Ramsey's leaping ability and closing speed. Using his 6'1" frame, he's able to attack the ball like a center fielder both as an off cornerback or single-high free safety.

According to FSU teammates, coaches and opposing players, Ramsey is an "alpha dog" on the field that his teammates look to for guidance. He's a tone-setter in the locker room and on the practice field.

Weaknesses

There will be some who think Ramsey is living off his recruiting reputation, and I've heard that already from NFL scouts. There have also been scouts who point out that he was much more aggressive playing safety in 2014 than he was playing cornerback in 2015, and that he may have been saving himself for the NFL draft.

On the field, Ramsey has a tendency to miss tackles (15 in the last two seasons) that could worry teams, even though he did drop from 11 misses to just four in 2015. He can get excited in coverage and jump routes prematurely, or commit his feet to a transition that never happens. Ramsey gets away with this in college because he can recover with length and speed, but he will have to clean up his technique in the pros.

For his career, Ramsey had just three interceptions, which will without a doubt prompt questions about his ball skills.

Pro Comparison: Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL teams will have different perspectives on the best way to use Ramsey, but I see a press cover cornerback with a very high potential. Players with this combination of size, speed, instincts and intelligence are rare. Ramsey is a top-five player in this class and should be in consideration for the top overall pick.

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 two-round mock draft.

Pre-Senior Bowl Two-Round Mock Draft
1. TEN T Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss 1. CLE WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
2. CLE QB Jared Goff, Cal 2. TEN DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
3. SD CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State 3. DAL LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
4. DAL DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State 4. SD T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
5. JAX LB Myles Jack, UCLA 5. BAL EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
6. BAL CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson 6. SF NT Kenny Clark, UCLA
7. SF QB Carson Wentz, NDSU 7. JAX CB Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.)
8. MIA CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida 8. TB CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
9. TB DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon 9. NYG DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida
10. NYG WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss 10. CHI SS Vonn Bell, Ohio State
11. CHI LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame 11. MIA DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
12. NO DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss 12. LA (f/PHI) CB William Jackson, Houston
13. PHI T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame 13. OAK LB Su'a Cravens, USC
14. OAK CB Eli Apple, Ohio State 14. LA C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
15. LA QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis 15. DET T Jason Spriggs, Indiana
16. DET DL A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama 16. NO LB Deion Jones, LSU
17. ATL LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama 17. IND DL Andrew Billings, Baylor
18. IND T Taylor Decker, Ohio State 18. BUF DT Maliek Collins, Nebraska
19. BUF DE Noah Spence, EKU 19. ATL WR Josh Doctson, TCU
20. NYJ RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State 20. NYJ QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
21. WSH DL Sheldon Rankins, Louisville 21. HOU QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
22. HOU T Jack Conklin, Michigan State 22. WSH LB Josh Perry, Ohio State
23. MIN WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State 23. MIN DT Vernon Butler, La. Tech
24. CIN DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson 24. CIN DT Austin Johnson, Penn State
25. PIT TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas 25. SEA WR Tyler Boyd, Pitt
26. SEA G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State 26. GB OLB Kamalei Correa, Boise State
27. GB DL Jarran Reed, Alabama 27. PIT SS Jeremy Cash, Duke
28. KC T Jerald Hawkins, LSU 28. KC WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
29. DEN T Shon Coleman, Auburn 29. DEN RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
30. CAR WR Corey Coleman, Baylor 30. CAR FS Darian Thompson, Boise State
31. ARZ OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia 31. ARZ DL Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
32. NE stripped by NFL 32. NE SS Jayron Kearse, Clemson

Matt Miller

  

Parting Shots

6. The 2016 Senior Bowl roster is almost set before the week gets underway this coming Monday (January 25). Here's the North roster as it stands now, but remember that players can (and will) drop out between now and late January:

2016 North Senior Bowl Roster
1 WR Braxton Miller, Ohio State 48 ILB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
3 CB William Jackson III, Houston 49 OLB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
4 FS Darian Thompson, Boise State 51 G Josh Garnett, Stanford
6 QB Cody Kessler, USC 56 G Joe Dahl, Washington State
7 RB Tyler Ervin, San Jose State 58 OLB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
8 QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford 59 T Joe Haeg, North Dakota State
11 QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State 60 LS Jeff Overbaugh, San Diego State
15 PK Ka'imi Fairbairn, UCLA 63 C Austin Blythe, Iowa
16 QB Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech 66 C Jack Allen, Michigan State
17 DE Jihad Ward, Illinois 70 T Willie Beavers, Western Michigan
18 WR K.J. Maye, UCLA 71 DE Jason Fanaika, Utah
19 WR Jordan Payton, UCLA 72 G Nick Martin, Notre Dame
20 CB Deiondre' Hall, Northern Iowa 77 T Kyle Murphy, Stanford
21 CB Tavon Young, Temple 78 T Jason Spriggs, Indiana
22 P Riley Dixon, Syracuse 79 T Cole Toner, Harvard
23 S Tyvis Powell, Ohio State 80 TE Bryce Williams, Easter Carolina
24 CB Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State 81 TE Nick Vannett, Ohio State
25 S Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah 82 TE Henry Krieger Coble, Iowa
26 CB Maurice Canady, Virginia 84 WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
27 RB Chris Swain, Navy 85 WR Chris Moore, Cincinnati
28 RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech 86 WR Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
29 S K.J. Dillon, West Virginia 90 DT Matt Ioannidis, Temple
31 CB Eric Murray, Minnesota 91 DT Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
33 FB Soma Vainuku, USC 92 DT Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
35 ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia 93 DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
37 OLB Joshua Perry, Ohio State 95 DE Carl Nassib, Penn State
41 ILB Jared Norris, Utah 98 DE Lawrence Thomas, Michigan State
44 ILB Blake Martinez, Stanford 99 DT Austin Johnson, Penn State

www.seniorbowl.com

5. Here's the 2016 Senior Bowl South roster as it stands now:

2016 South Senior Bowl Roster
0 ILB Deion Jones, LSU 48 TE Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
1 CB Harlan Miller, SE Louisiana 49 OLB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
3 WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma 50 LS Jimmy Landes, Baylor
4 WR Jay Lee, Baylor 55 G Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
5 CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama 58 T Spencer Drango, Baylor
9 WR Charone Peake, Clemson 59 OLB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
10 QB Brandon Allen, Arkansas 60 G Connor McGovern, Missouri
10 ILB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri 61 C Graham Glasgow, Michigan
12 QB Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State 62 T Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech
14 QB Jake Coker, Alabama 65 G Christian Westerman, Arizona State
15 QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State 71 T John Theus, Georgia
16 S Jeremy Cash, Duke 73 G Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
17 RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama 74 T Vadal Alexander, LSU
19 OLB Reggie Ragland, Alabama 77 C Evan Boehm, Missouri
20 S Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee 83 TE Jake McGee, Florida
21 S Sean Davis, Maryland 86 WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
22 RB Aaron Green, TCU 88 WR Paul McRoberts, SE Missouri State
23 CB Jonathan Jones, Auburn 89 TE Jerell Adams, South Carolina
25 CB James Bradberry, Samford 90 DE Jarran Reed, Alabama
28 CB Jalen Mills, LSU 91 DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
32 RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas 92 DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor
33 ILB Antonio Morrison, Florida 95 DE Bronson Kaufusi, BYU
35 PK Ross Martin, Duke 96 DE Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
36 S DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary 97 DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
38 P Alex Kinal, Wake Forest 98 DE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
40 FB Dan Vitale, Northwestern 99 DT Quinton Jefferson, Maryland
45 ILB Josh Forrest, Kentucky

www.seniorbowl.com

4. The underclassman declaration deadline passed on January 18, and while the NFL hasn't released a full roster of the names yet, here are the unofficial declarations I've been tracking. By this count, the 2016 draft class would set a new record for most underclassmen. The previous record was 98 in 2014:

2016 Draft: Unofficial Underclassmen List
C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State LB Nick Vigil, Utah State
CB Xavien Howard, Baylor LB Brett McMakin, Northern Iowa
CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson P Eric Enderson, Delaware
CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida QB Jared Goff, California
CB Jalen Ramsey, FSU QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
CB Rashard Robinson, LSU QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
CB Corey Tindal, Marshall QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
CB Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.) RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame RB Alex Collins, Arkansas
CB Eli Apple, Ohio State RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma RB Peyton Barber, Auburn
CB Cleveland Wallace, San Jose State RB Zac Brooks, Clemson
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida
CB Daryl Worley, West Virginia RB Keith Marshall, Georgia
DL A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama RB Jordan Howard, Indiana
DL Andrew Billings, Baylor RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame
DL Kevin Dodd, Clemson RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
DL Darius Latham, Indiana RB Byron Marshall, Oregon
DL Quinton Jefferson, Maryland RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
DL Willie Henry, Michigan RB Dwayne Washington, Washington
DL Chris Jones, Mississippi State RB Wendell Smallwood, West Virginia
DL Malik Collins, Nebraska SS Jayron Kearse, Clemson
DL Vincent Valentine, Nebraska SS Vonn Bell, Ohio State
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss T Shon Coleman, Auburn
DL Austin Johnson, Penn State T Jerald Hawkins, LSU
DL Hassan Ridgeway, Texas T Jack Conklin, Michigan State
DL Kenny Clark, UCLA T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
EDGE Kamalei Correa, Boise State T Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
EDGE Shaq Lawson, Clemson T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
EDGE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky T Caleb Benenoch, UCLA
EDGE Alex McCalister, Florida TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
EDGE Leonard Floyd, Georgia TE Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland TE David Grinnage, North Carolina State
EDGE Joey Bosa, Ohio State TE Austin Hooper, Stanford
EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State WR Cayleb Jones, Arizona
EDGE Ron Thompson, Syracuse WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
EDGE Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt WR Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
FS T.J. Green, Clemson WR Kenny Lawler, California
FS Travis Blanks, Clemson WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
FS Keanu Neal, Florida WR Demarcus Robinson, Florida
FS Tyvis Powell, Ohio State WR Demarcus Ayers, Houston
G Denver Kirkland, Arkansas WR De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State
G Avery Young, Auburn WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
G Alex Redmond, UCLA WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
K Roberto Aguayo, FSU WR Jalin Marshall, Ohio State
LB Scooby Wright, Arizona WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
LB Ben Brown, Mississippi State WR Bralon Addison, Oregon
LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame WR Tyler Boyd, Pitt
LB Darron Lee, Ohio State WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
LB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma WR Marquez North, Tennessee
LB Steve Longa, Rutgers WR Thomas Duarte, UCLA
LB Myles Jack, UCLA WR Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
LB Su'a Cravens, USC

nfl.com

3. Why does hand size matter for a quarterback or a wide receiver?

That's something that came up this week after I tweeted out measurements of Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams (5'10 ½", 195 lbs, 8 ¾" hands) and UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (6'3", 188 lbs, 7 ¾" hands). Both are well below standard NFL thresholds, which are nine-inch hands for quarterbacks and between 9-9 ½" hands for wide receivers.

Why does this matter?

Because NFL teams don't want 800 players on their draft boards, nor do they want their scouts overwhelmed with tape. So they cut the fat by filtering out players who have measurables below what they feel works for each position. This can bite you in the butt, but more often than not it works.

The way I was taught to look at this was to separate the bottom 10 percent of hand-size athletes at quarterback and wide receiver (or arm length at offensive line) and see if the poor measurables affected their play. If it did, they would be eliminated from the draft board.

2. The NFL has made a fairly big deal in scouting circles about the new rules for the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Since before the 2015 draft, players in their redshirt sophomore or junior seasons of college can ask their schools to submit their names to the NFLDAB and receive one of three grades:

  • First round
  • Day 2
  • Return to school

This is a pretty big change from the old system, as the NFL and NCAA were worried that too many kids were leaving for the NFL without proper information. And they had reason to worry after a record 98 players declared early for the 2014 draft. The idea was that the original format was too specific and therefore left wiggle room for a player's stock to change dramatically between the January deadline to enter the draft and the late April draft. Here's the old system, showing which grade a player could receive:

  • In the first round
  • As high as the second round
  • As high as the third round
  • After the third round
  • In no round at all

But the new system isn't working. At all. In the 2015 NFL draft, the first year in the new system, only 74 players declared early...but that was a very poor class of players compared to a historic class in 2014. Fast-forward to this year and the unofficial count is at 105 players. That breaks the old record by seven players. And remember, there are only 256 picks in each NFL draft, and 36.7 percent of underclassmen weren't drafted in 2014.

The NFL has an underclassman problem on its hands, and this article about Auburn running back Peyton Barber sheds some light on the issue. Barber, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Michael Niziolek, didn't even ask the NFL for feedback. His family asked some connections, and even after hearing he would be a late-round pick, Barber opted to enter the NFL draft.

If you've never heard of Peyton Barber, you are not alone. I polled six NFL scouts after reading this article yesterday, and none had heard of him.

1. The East-West Shrine practices were held this week in St. Petersburg, Florida, with many standout performances worth noting. I wasn't at the practices, but in talking with scouts on the ground, these players helped their stock:

  • Travis Feeney, LB, Washington
  • Deon Bush, FS, Miami (Fla.)
  • Alex Lewis, T, Nebraska
  • Victor Ochi, DE, Stony Brook
  • Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
  • Kyle Carter, TE, Penn State

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

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