KANSAS CITY, Mo. — I'm typing this to you while I can still feel my fingers before the Kansas City Chiefs host the Oakland Raiders in what is expected to be a frigid night at Arrowhead Stadium. Temperatures in the teens. Windchill in the single digits. Perfect December football.
Before watching two of the best teams in the NFL attempt to stay warm while fighting for the AFC West—and maybe AFC—crown, it's time to check in on the state of the NFL draft.
What's happening this week?
- Top running backs declare for the draft
- Updated two-round mock draft
- Ranking Heisman candidates as draft prospects
- NFC scout interview
- ...and where the hell is Tiffin University?
The Scout's Report
—"You're going to draft a safety with a lucky interception in the top 10? We get fired for mistakes like that." That's what a director of college scouting texted me this week about Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. As much as the media likes Peppers, the sense I get from NFL folks is the Heisman candidate is more hype than substance.
—This week, I reported Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is getting a closer look from NFL teams after those investigating his background have found the assault charges from 2014 were instigated by a racial slur. The same day our video published, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that video of Mixon punching a female in the face (and breaking her jaw) must be made public.
—Another B/R first report this week: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is entering the 2017 draft. The star back confirmed the report the next day in a Twitter post. In polling NFL scouts, I've found teams are torn on his stock, with two saying he's in their top 32 and three others saying top 50 is closer to it.
—As star running backs go, none is bigger than Leonard Fournette. The top back in the class announced his intention to declare for the 2017 draft on Twitter this week. Fournette is ranked No. 2 overall on my board and is the top offensive player.
—Will Myles Garrett enter the draft? ESPN's Edward Aschoff noted Garrett said he will decide after the Texas A&M bowl game but wants "to go top three." Garrett projects as my top overall player and is as close to a lock as possible to slot into the top three picks.
—Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield announced he will return to the Sooners for his senior season and not enter the 2017 draft. Smart decision. I had Mayfield ranked as a late-round prospect.
—I was told that while scouting, always look at what a player can do first. We're not doing that with Deshaun Watson. My view: The Clemson quarterback has some rough edges, but he's a dynamic player with dual-threat traits. I'd still bet on Watson's being a first-rounder in April.
5 Names to Know
5. QB Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin
Wednesday night, word started buzzing on Twitter about a Division II quarterback from Tiffin University who was invited to the Senior Bowl. A quick check with Senior Bowl officials confirmed it. Antonio "Pig" Pipkin will be in Mobile, Alabama.
I had never heard the name Antonio Pipkin before last night. I'm guessing most of you haven't either. A quick look at his highlights—I'll have game film on Monday—shows a dual-threat quarterback with a big arm but an approach that needs to be revised so he can better work from the pocket and make decisions when he has to process defenses from a standstill.
Pipkin has the tools to impress scouts in Mobile and should be one of the most intriguing players in attendance.
4. LB Haason Reddick, Temple
A standout defensive end for the Temple Owls, Haason Reddick's size will be a major question mark when NFL scouts view his profile. Listed at 6'1" and 230 pounds, Reddick is better suited to playing weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense than working with his hand in the dirt on the end of a defensive line.
Reddick has accepted a Senior Bowl invite and will get a chance to show off his athleticism against top-tier offensive linemen. He'll also need to show if he has the hips and agility to play in space as an outside linebacker.
3. CB Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech
A big cornerback (6'2", 197 lbs), Brandon Facyson is a redshirt junior who could enter this year's class. If so, his stock is moving up as the draft gets closer. With his size and instincts, Facyson has pro-level tools. His five interceptions as a true freshman in 2013 also point to ball skills.
Facyson has struggled at times this season, and the Virginia Tech staff has had a short rope on him (he was pulled after committing pass interference against Clemson), but the NFL can see his size and potential and find a lot of reasons to like him as a Round 3 or 4 player.
2. DL Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
Another super-productive Iowa defensive lineman, Jaleel Johnson has already accepted a Senior Bowl invite. He'll look to use his 6'4", 310-pound frame to tear up interior offensive linemen in Mobile.
Johnson, who has 7.5 sacks this season, is an ideal build and athlete for a 4-3 defense. The senior tackle is a natural 3-technique (see the Michigan game for evidence of this) and can use his quickness to shoot gaps and make plays.
Tackles like Johnson—who can penetrate and make splash plays in the backfield—always perform well at the Senior Bowl. He has a chance to make some money after a week of practice.
1. WR Damore'ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss
An early entry into the 2017 class, Damore'ea Stringfellow is a big man at wide receiver. The 6'3", 230-pounder has a long, powerful stride when attacking deep balls and uses that size well to get leverage on inside routes.
Stringfellow is maddeningly inconsistent, though. I charged him with two drops in Week 1 against Florida State (on just three catches) and noticed that trend throughout the season. He has potential, and his size makes coverage a problem, but he's as likely to drop the ball or give up positioning for a touchdown as he is to make a spectacular play.
3 Questions with an NFC Scout
Each week, I'll pose three questions to an NFL draft prospect, current player, agent or current scout. This week, I spoke with an NFC scout who asked to remain anonymous for competitive purposes.
Bleacher Report: This offensive line class looks pretty bad. Have you seen a first-round-caliber tackle who's eligible for this year?
Scout: I haven't personally seen one in my area. Co-workers have talked up Orlando Brown (Oklahoma left tackle), and there's some like out there for the [Ryan] Ramczyk kid at Wisconsin, but this is a very bad offensive tackle class. Even going down the line at guard and center, there are more guys being hyped up than actual good players.
B/R: If your job depended on being right about a quarterback in the 2017 class, who are you picking?
Scout: My job does depend on this!
I haven't studied every quarterback yet—we'll get there in the next month probably—but I really like Mitch [Trubisky] if we're putting our nuts out there. He has the arm. He's completing 70 percent of his passes. He has some mobility. I know you're going to say, "He's only started one season," but I don't care about that. It doesn't take three seasons to see if a guy can hit passes or not. And he can hit them.
B/R: It's almost that time of year where your fellow scouts get promoted to director and even general manager jobs. Of the personnel people you've worked with or encountered, which one would you pick as the best GM candidate?
Scout: Some candidates are best for certain jobs, while others aren't a good fit in that situation. But if I had to pick just one guy to be a great GM, I'm taking Chris Ballard (current Kansas City Chiefs director of football operations). He should have gotten the Chicago job when they hired [Ryan] Pace.
Ballard is a scout's scout, and he knows how to value talent. That's something a lot of scouts don't do well. Like Chip Kelly wanting to draft Jordan Matthews in the first round (laughs). Seeing talent is only part of the job—knowing where to value the player and how to build a team takes experience. Ballard has that.
The Big Board
It's mock draft time! Who will your team draft in Round 1? How about Round 2?
|Updated 2-Round Mock Draft|
|1||Cleveland||DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco||LB Reuben Foster, Alabama|
|3||Jacksonville||DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama|
|4||Chicago||QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina|
|5||New York Jets||RB Leonard Fournette, LSU|
|6||Tennessee (f/LA)||WR Mike Williams, Clemson|
|7||Carolina||S Jamal Adams, LSU|
|8||Cincinnati||EDGE Tim Williams, Alabama|
|9||Cleveland (f/PHI)||QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame|
|10||New Orleans||EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee|
|11||San Diego||S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan|
|12||Arizona||EDGE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA|
|13||Tennessee||CB Quincy Wilson, Florida|
|14||Indianapolis||LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt|
|15||Buffalo||WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan|
|16||Green Bay||RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State|
|17||Philadelphia (f/MIN)||WR John Ross, Washington|
|18||Washington||RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford|
|19||Miami||TE O.J. Howard, Alabama|
|20||Pittsburgh||EDGE Ryan Anderson, Alabama|
|21||Tampa Bay||DE Taco Charlton, Michigan|
|22||Denver||TE Jake Butt, Michigan|
|23||New York Giants||DL Montravius Adams, Auburn|
|24||Kansas City||CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State|
|25||Houston||DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State|
|26||Atlanta||TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech|
|27||Baltimore||CB Jalen Tabor, Florida|
|28||Detroit||DL Caleb Brantley, Florida|
|29||Seattle||CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State|
|30||New England||EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri|
|31||Oakland||RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas|
|32||Dallas||DE Dawuane Smoot, Illinois|
|33||Cleveland||CB Sidney Jones, Washington|
|34||San Francisco||QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson|
|35||Jacksonville||T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin|
|36||Chicago||S Justin Evans, Texas A&M|
|37||New York Jets||DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State|
|38||Los Angeles||G Dan Feeney, Indiana|
|39||Carolina||T Cam Robinson, Alabama|
|40||Cincinnati||LB Jarrad Davis, Florida|
|41||Philadelphia||CB Desmond King, Iowa|
|42||New Orleans||CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson|
|43||San Diego||EDGE Solomon Thomas, Stanford|
|44||Arizona||LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State|
|45||Cleveland (f/TEN)||EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn|
|46||Indianapolis||CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama|
|47||Buffalo||S Marcus Allen, Penn State|
|48||Green Bay||WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC|
|49||Minnesota||S Budda Baker, Washington|
|50||Washington||G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame|
|51||Miami||CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan|
|52||Pittsburgh||S Marcus Williams, Utah|
|53||Tampa Bay||DL Vita Vea, Washington|
|54||Denver||C Pat Elflein, Ohio State|
|55||New York Giants||RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma|
|56||Kansas City||DL Elijah Qualls, Washington|
|57||Houston||EDGE DeVonte Fields, Louisville|
|58||Atlanta||S Marcus Maye, Florida|
|59||Baltimore||RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee|
|60||Detroit||CB Corn Elder, Miami (Fla.)|
|61||Seattle||DL Chris Wormley, Michigan|
|62||New England||WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma|
|63||Oakland||LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern|
|64||Dallas||WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech|
7. The 2016 Heisman Trophy candidates were released this week, and four of them are draft-eligible— Peppers, Dede Westbrook and Watson are likely to be in the 2017 draft, while Mayfield and Lamar Jackson (the only non-eligible player) will be back in college next season.
How do the five finalists rank as draft prospects?
5. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield has eye-popping numbers (3,669 yards passing, 38 TDs), but his small stature (6'1", 210 lbs) and average arm strength make him more of a Day 3 pick and NFL backup. Coming from the Oklahoma and Texas Tech offenses will also mean a big transition to the NFL.
4. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Just as Mayfield is a concern because of size and scheme, so is Westbrook. Scouts I've talked with say he's under 175 pounds and won't break 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Some may see Tyler Lockett or John Brown here—and in the right NFL offense (Pittsburgh, Arizona) Westbrook could make plays as a downfield threat—but he's a small guy whose numbers are inflated by the scheme.
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
A fascinating dual-threat quarterback who has accounted for 51 touchdowns in 2016, Jackson took over college football in the first two months of the campaign. He's cooled down since, throwing three interceptions in the season finale against Kentucky and five total picks in his last five games. Jackson isn't NFL-eligible yet, but he'll have to cut down on turnovers and add some bulk to his lean 6'3", 205-pound frame.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Like Jackson, Watson's turnovers became an issue at points this season. He finished the year with less impressive statistics in 2016 than his breakout sophomore campaign but still accounted for 43 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Watson has the arm and mobility to be a threat in the NFL, but he has to cut down on poor decisions that lead to turnovers.
1. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Peppers gets the top ranking here but may be overrated. Peppers plays safety and linebacker while returning kicks and taking Wildcat snaps for Michigan, but he won't be able to do that in the pros. As a safety, Peppers has yet to show the skills in coverage to lock down tight ends and slot receivers, which makes him more of a question mark than fans may realize.
6. Another round of players accepted invitations from the Senior Bowl this week. Here's a look at the updated rosters—which are, of course, subject to change:
|Senior Bowl Rosters|
|QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa||QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss||QB Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin|
|QB Seth Russell, Baylor||QB Davis Webb, California||RB Matt Dayes, NC State|
|RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo||RB Jamaal Williams, BYU||FB Sam Rogers, Virginia Tech|
|FB Freddie Stevenson, FSU||WR Travin Dural, LSU||WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse|
|WR Isaiah Jones, Virginia Tech||WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Wash.||WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M|
|WR Fred Ross, Miss. State||WR Jamari Staples, Louisville||WR Ryan Switzer, North Carolina|
|WR Trent Taylor, La. Tech||WR Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky||WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma|
|TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss||TE Gerald Everett, South Alabama||TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville|
|TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas||T Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt||T Julien Davenport, Bucknell|
|T Dion Dawkins, Temple||T Conor McDermott, UCLA||G Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State|
|G Dan Feeney, Indiana||G Danny Isidora, Miami (Fla.)||G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky|
|G Jordan Morgan, Kutztown||G Taylor Moton, Western Michigan||G Nico Siragusa, SDSU|
|C Isaac Asiata, Utah||C Kyle Fuller, Baylor||C Jon Toth, Kentucky|
|DE Tarell Basham, Ohio||DE Keionta Davis, UT-Chattanooga||DE Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M|
|DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova||DT Montravius Adams, Auburn||DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa|
|DT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte||DT Tanzel Smart, Tulane||OLB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin|
|OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA||OLB Haason Reddick, Temple||ILB Duke Riley, LSU|
|CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado||CB Corn Elder, Miami (Fla.)||CB Desmond King, Iowa|
|CB Brendan Langley, Lamar||CB Ezra Robinson, Tennessee St.||S Justin Evans, Texas A&M|
|S Johnathan Ford, Auburn||S Nate Gerry, Nebraska||S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville|
|S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami (Fla.)||S John Johnson, Boston College||S Marcus Maye, Florida|
|S Obi Melifonwu, UConn||K Jake Elliott, Memphis||K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State|
|P Toby Baker, Arkansas|
5. The Senior Bowl is the premier predraft all-star showcase, but the East-West Shrine Game is also important. As those rosters start to take shape, I'll update them here as well:
|Shrine Game Accepted Invites|
|QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati||QB Wes Lunt, Illinois||QB Nate Peterman, Pitt|
|QB Cooper Rush, Central Michigan||QB Zach Terrell, Western Michigan||RB Elijah McGuire, La-Lafayette|
|RB Joe Williams Utah||WR Rodney Adams, South Florida||WR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois|
|WR Jalen Robinette, Air Force||WR Tony Stevens, Auburn||WR Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska|
|WR DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue||TE Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma St.||TE Eric Saubert, Drake|
|T Antonio Garcia, Troy||T Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M||T Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia Tech|
|T Victor Salako, Oklahoma State||T Dan Skipper, Arkansas||G Geoff Gray, Manitoba|
|G Danny Isidora, Miami (Fla.)||G Zach Johnson, NDSU||G Kyle Kalis, Michigan|
|C Lucas Crowley, North Carolina||C Chase Roullier, Wyoming||DE Trey Hendrickson, FAU|
|DE Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas||DE Deatrich Wise, Arkansas||DL DeAngelo Brown, Louisville|
|DL Treyvon Hester, Toledo||DL Josh Tupou, Colorado||LB Jayon Brown, UCLA|
|LB Brooks Ellis, Arkansas||LB Andrew King, Army||LB Kenneth Olugbode, Colorado|
|LB Carroll Phillips, Illinois||CB Treston Decoud, Oregon State||CB Tyquwan Glass, Fresno State|
|CB Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma State||CB Fabian Moreau, UCLA||CB Jalen Myrick, Minnesota|
|CB Jack Tocho, NC State||S Randall Goforth, UCLA||S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma St.|
4. The January 16 deadline for players to declare for the 2017 NFL draft seems far away, but players are already announcing their intentions. The following players have confirmed they'll enter the draft:
- QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
- RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas
- RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
- RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson
- RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
- WR Jerome Lane, Akron
- WR Artavis Scott, Clemson
- WR Damore'ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss
- WR Mike Williams, Clemson
- DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
- DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
- DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma
- EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri
- LB Jermaine Grace, Miami (Fla.)
3. David Johnson is having an MVP-caliber year but probably won't get the love from voters since he's on a team likely to miss the playoffs. But the Arizona Cardinals running back is a fascinating story. From being a delivery boy in Clinton, Iowa, to starring at Northern Iowa after everyone else overlooked him, Johnson has overcome amazing odds to become one of the NFL's elite players.
As Breer wrote, Jeff Fisher didn't even know his general manager, Les Snead, had his contract extended recently. That seems like something a head coach should know.
Breer also covers events like "unfortunate things" taking place with high picks Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason—comments from Fisher that could be interpreted as a shot at the man drafting these players.
The Rams are struggling again, and Fisher will have his seventh straight season finishing .500 or worse. That will put pressure on anyone, no matter their contract status. When the story of the Fisher/Snead tenure is eventually told, it will be a tense one.
1. Your Tweet of the Week, courtesy of Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian:
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.