2016 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Post-Combine Scouting Notebook

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2016 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Post-Combine Scouting Notebook
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Slow.

That's the best way to describe the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. After months of hype from players, agents, trainers and college football fans, the class fell flat when it came to explosiveness on the track. But good thing football isn't played in a straight line with a timer at the end of it.

Football is still, for now, played with big pads on and is more about lateral quickness than straight-line speed. Pay attention to the 40-yard dash, but remember that the 10-yard split of that run is equally as important. And if you really want to start scouting, weigh vertical and broad jumps like you do the 40 and pay close attention to the three-cone drill (or "L" drill) and 20-yard shuttle.

Scouting isn't just about running fast in a straight line. It's about finding football players. And that means a lot of things that can't be weighed, measured or timed.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Now, that doesn't mean players can't help themselves or hurt themselves in the last 10 days. A whole lot of them did. Between drills, interviews and medical examinations, the final boards for NFL teams will start to be set soon after pro days kick off. Ready or not, it's draft season.

Oh, and one warning: This is BS season, and if teams are talking to me or any other reporter/analyst, there's a reason for it. I'll do my best to filter out what's real and what's a smoke screen before posting it here.

 

The Scout's Report

— All the talk in Indianapolis was about who the Cleveland Browns would draft at No. 2—not who the Tennessee Titans would select No. 1 overall. I polled everyone I know connected to the Browns—coaches, scouts, even a player or two—and they all believe the Browns will draft Carson Wentz to be Hue Jackson's quarterback of the future.

— Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley impressed in drill work on the field, and did so, I'm told by a position coach on the field, with a cramping calf muscle. This likely affected Stanley's three-cone (8.03 seconds) and short-shuttle (4.90 seconds) times, which he'll redo at his pro day.

— The impending release of Robert Griffin III has led many to speculate on his next landing spot. One team you can cross off the list is the Kansas City Chiefs. A team source told me this week it's "not logical" to sign Griffin. The team will instead work to re-sign backup quarterback Chase Daniel.

— Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche needed to nail his team interviews at the combine to quiet doubts about his off-field past. One team official I spoke to this week, who was in the room for Nkemdiche's interview, called it "the worst I've ever seen."

— The release of Marques Colston in New Orleans opens the door for a big outside receiver. I'm told area scouts there have a real liking for Michael Thomas of Ohio State and could consider him if Sheldon Rankins and Darron Lee are off the board in Round 1.

— Could Christian Hackenberg go in the first round? Without a doubt. Said one Big Ten scout to me while in Indianapolis, "His freshman tape is better than any of these other (quarterbacks)." High praise, even if it won't receive many agreements.

— What happens to Jared Goff if Wentz goes to the Browns? "No way (the 49ers) let him slip past 7" is what one rival general manager told me. Bleacher Report's own Jason Cole reported early this week that the 49ers love Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

— The Philadelphia Eagles locked up quarterback Sam Bradford with a two-year contract this week, but a team source told me they would prefer to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds this year.

— It's a big offseason for the Indianapolis Colts, and I heard from a team source that they like Baylor nose tackle Andrew Billings a lot in Round 1.

— Don't rule out a quarterback in this draft for the Buffalo Bills. While Tyrod Taylor made it to the Pro Bowl, some scouts inside the organization believe he's limited as a long-term starter.

— Could Paxton Lynch be the quarterback the Houston Texans build around? While a fall to pick No. 22 would be a surprise at this point, I'm told by multiple teams that Lynch didn't interview or handle the whiteboard session well during his formal combine interviews.

— The writing was on the wall when the Arizona Cardinals offered restricted free agent Tony Jefferson a low-round tender, but I'm told by a source with the team that they plan to draft a safety early in the 2016 draft. One name to watch is Florida's Keanu Neal.

 

5 Names to Know—Stock Up Combine Edition

5. Defensive End Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Shaq Lawson entered the combine with close competition from the 4-3 defensive end class—including teammate Kevin Dodd. He left Indianapolis as a contender to be drafted in the top 10. Lawson blew away field drills and then doubled up with excellent performances in the 40-yard dash (4.70) and other explosive workouts like the short shuttle (4.21 seconds).

 

4. Tackle Jack Conklin, Michigan State

Jack Conklin won't be catching Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley atop draft boards, but he can definitely close ground and catch up to Taylor Decker to be the third tackle drafted. He did that in Indianapolis, showing off the quickness and agility that popped on his 2014 tape. Conklin battled nagging injuries throughout 2015, but if he's healthy, a mid-first-round grade could be coming.

 

3. Running Back Keith Marshall, Georgia

The running back class generally disappointed when it came time to run fast, but Keith Marshall did his best Ricky Bobby impression by burning up the track. His 4.31 wasn't just the best for running backs—it was the best period. And like Mr. Bobby says, if you ain't first, you're last. Marshall was first.

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

 

2. Defensive End Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

So, it's a good year for defensive linemen, in case you haven't heard. There are 15 of them ranked in my top 50 draft prospects (a record), and the one moving up fastest is Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State. His testing at the combine sent me back to the film, and you can clearly see his explosive get-off and length when attacking the edge. With a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash and a 35.5-inch vertical jump, Ogbah went home as one of the big winners of the NFL's Olympics.

 

1. Cornerback William Jackson III, Houston

If you're a Constant Reader (h/t Stephen King), you've read a lot about William Jackson III in this space. He's good. He's a member of the "Scout the Player, Not the Helmet" club. Jackson's also fast. Like 4.37 fast. My biggest question watching Jackson against the schedule at Houston was if he had the long speed to stay in-phase with NFL competition. He answered that question in a hurry at the combine.

 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Scouting Report: Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

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

 

Ht. Wt. Arm Hand 40 Yard Bench (225 lbs) Vertical Broad 3-Cone Short Shuttle
6'4 2/8" 273 35 1/2" 10" 4.63s 20 reps 35.5" 10'1" 7.26s 4.50s

A redshirt junior from Houston, Texas, Emmanuel Ogbah was named the 2014 Defensive MVP at Oklahoma State, as well as first-team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2014. Ogbah was a two-year starter at OSU after seeing snaps in every game as a redshirt freshman. Ogbah, who is 22 years old, was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to the United States when he was nine years old. 

Oklahoma State credited Ogbah with 26.5 career sacks, 35.5 tackles for a loss and 133 tackles.

 

Strengths

Ogbah is a long-armed, athletically gifted pass-rusher who played on both the right and left side of the Cowboys defense. He was often lined up in varying alignments, sometimes playing head-up on the tackle and other times splitting out wide of the tackle's outside shoulder. At 273 pounds he offers some positional versatility up front.

The film shows impressive moments of Ogbah firing out of his stance with the needed burst to turn offensive tackles. He wins with a hard upfield move that causes panic in lesser athletes at the college level.

On the hoof, Ogbah looks the part. He has a big, broad frame and long arms with thick, meaty hands. He could conceivably add more weight to handle an interior alignment. He plays tough and doesn't shy away from a fight in the trenches. And a credit to OSU, which allowed Ogbah to play all over the defense, so he's comfortable with his hand in the dirt and standing up off the edge.

The biggest positive to Ogbah's game is the blank canvas he offers as an athlete. You see flashes of him converting speed to power as a rusher (and vice versa), but it comes in spurts. He has such strong hands that college tackles can't compete with his rip or slap when he times it right. Ogbah has a full toolbox of pass-rushing moves (slap/rip, bull rush, speed move) when he's going full-bore. The right coach will find a lot to work with in Ogbah.

 

Weaknesses

The first game of charting Ogbah (against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl) showed that he will struggle against NFL-caliber tackles unless he learns to use his hands and vary his pass-rushing moves. Too often Ogbah looks heavy-footed and sluggish coming off the ball for stretches before kicking into gear and using his patented speed again. He likes to play in space, and gives more effort when split wide of the tackle.

On the field, you immediately notice a lack of situational awareness when he is asked to find the ball or make a read. Ogbah has thrived on athleticism and strength but hasn't learned to win with his eyes yet. This often leads to running out of the play against misdirection or read-option plays.

Ogbah's leverage remains inconsistent and will be a key point of improvement in his first NFL camp. That's coachable, but what isn't is a lack of hip and core flexibility that keeps him from truly bending the edge. In college, Ogbah could win with straight-line speed and a quick upfield burst. That won't win in the NFL, though, and until he can speed up his turns on the corner, he'll be ill-suited against the athletic left tackles in the pro game.

 

Pro Comparison: Kony Ealy, Carolina Panthers

 

The Big Board

The week after the combine means a new mock draft dropped and my big board was updated with a new top 300 players. So, what's left to post here? Another mock draft, of course.

By the time I finalized that previous mock draft Monday morning, I was already hearing new information and watching more workouts that would ultimately change where players are drafted. This is the most recent information you're going to find, though, as I'm writing this at 10 p.m. CT on Thursday night before publishing.

Post-Combine Mock Draft
1. Tennessee T Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
2. Cleveland QB Carson Wentz, NDSU
3. San Diego CB Jalen Ramsey, FSU
4. Dallas LB Myles Jack, UCLA
5. Jacksonville DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
6. Baltimore DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon
7. San Francisco QB Jared Goff, California
8. Miami CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
9. Tampa Bay DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
10. New York Giants RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
11. Chicago T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
12. New Orleans DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
13. Philadelphia T Jack Conklin, Michigan State
14. Oakland CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
15. Los Angeles WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
16. Detroit T Taylor Decker, Ohio State
17. Atlanta LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
18. Indianapolis OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
19. Buffalo Bills DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
20. New York Jets QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
21. Washington NT Andrew Billings, Baylor
22. Houston NT Jarran Reed, Alabama
23. Minnesota WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
24. Cincinnati WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
25. Pittsburgh CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
26. Seattle DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
27. Green Bay DL A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
28. Kansas City OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
29. Arizona SS Keanu Neal, Florida
30. Carolina DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
31. Denver T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Matt Miller

 

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Parting Shots

7. With the combine in the rearview mirror, it's time to break out my favorite Steve Keim quote: "If Hannibal Lecter ran a 4.3, we'd probably diagnose it as an eating disorder."

This is a funny quote with some truth to it, and I bring it up this week because now more than ever, college and NFL fans are left weighing the risk of off-field issues against the reward of on-field potential. And as one fan told me this week in Indianapolis, "It's just a DUI..."

When we're to the place that something is "just" a DUI, well, then we're talking about cannibalism being upgraded to an eating disorder.

 

6. Derrick Henry won a Heisman Trophy and played at Alabama, under a huge spotlight, so naturally fans of NFL teams want this running back on their roster. But do you really?

Let's look at history for a precedent. Henry weighed in at 247 pounds at the combine. The last time a running back weighing at least 225 pounds led the NFL in rushing was 2010 (Arian Foster).

In NFL history, there have been three running backs weighing over 247 pounds to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons: Jerome Bettis, Brandon Jacobs and Christian Okoye. 

Now, I'm not saying Henry can't succeed in the NFL, only that the odds are against him ever being the type of back you draft in the first or second round.

 

5. Jerry Jones came out firing this week, saying the Dallas Cowboys won't draft a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, per NFL Network's Gil Brandt (via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread). Two things...

One, why the hell would Jones come out and say this? By saying the Cowboys won't draft a quarterback, they're immediately limiting their trade potential. And if they truly don't want a quarterback, they want every quarterback-needy team in the NFL to think they want one, thus pressuring a team like San Francisco to trade in front of them for a quarterback and pushing more quality players at other positions to Dallas.

Two, Jones was very specific about saying the Cowboys won't draft a quarterback "at No. 4." Having followed and covered the NFL for a long time, I now fully expect Jones to trade to pick No. 5 and draft a quarterback.

 

4. This is a perfect transition to my next point. Former NFL scout and current ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick tweeted this week he "would be shocked if [Ezekiel Elliott] is not picked before/by Cowboys at 4."

That's a big statement, and it totally makes sense.

I've long said the Cowboys don't need to draft a quarterback early but should instead use the early picks to solidify the roster for a Super Bowl run while Tony Romo is still in his prime. Sure, draft a quarterback like Kevin Hogan in the middle rounds, but adding a dynamic three-down back like Elliott is a total Dallas move. And behind that offensive line, he could tear defenses apart.

 

3. A cool question came in via Twitter this week: Who's on your Mount Rushmore of draft prospects?

  • Andrew Luck: The best player I've ever evaluated (starting in 2010). Luck is the gold standard of QB prospects.
  • Von Miller: The best defensive player I've seen. Total package at Texas A&M.
  • Patrick Peterson: The No. 2-ranked player in 2011, behind Miller, he was a shutdown corner at LSU.
  • Ndamukong Suh: Having witnessed him kill the Texas Longhorns, I was immediately convinced he was going to wreck the NFL.

 

2. Which players in this class have a chance to make that Mount Rushmore? The best bets would be Jalen Ramsey or Myles Jack, but cracking that top four won't be an easy task. It's more likely they'd each rank as a top-five defensive player of the last seven drafts I've covered. As for the offensive players, none look to rank as top talents of the past decade.

 

1. If you want to learn about the offense Jared Goff ran at Cal, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski has a great article for which he interviewed former Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin about the college game, the NFL and how the "Bear Raid" works. It's this week's best read.

 

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

 

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