NEW YORK, N.Y. — Another week on the road from work, writing to you somewhere over Missouri and Illinois and then finishing up at Bleacher Report's home office in New York—where we'll shoot our weekly NFL draft show for Facebook Live (Thursdays at 1 p.m. ET). It's been a wild week. The NCAA handed out the Heisman Trophy. A top underclassman quarterback decided to enter the draft. The Senior Bowl and Shrine Game rosters are filling out.
The goal of each Friday's Scouting Notebook is to catch you up on all things NFL draft from the last week while sprinkling in my analysis and the rumors I hear talking to NFL folks. This week's should be a good one.
- Top quarterback declares for the draft
- Updated three-round mock draft
- Fixing Los Angeles
- AFC scout interview
- ...and how do you get a job with the Patriots?
The Scout's Report
—I updated my top-10 mock draft on Instagram this week, and many were surprised at the omission of Michigan defender Jabrill Peppers. Don't be. Peppers is a tremendous college player, but I don't yet see the traits that will make him a blue-chip NFL prospect. Erase the hype and focus on the traits—that's what scouting is, after all—and you'll struggle to tell me the three or four things that make No. 5 a top-10 player.
—Will Peppers even be in the 2017 draft class? Many assume so, but the redshirt sophomore said after the Heisman ceremony, in a televised interview with the Big Ten Network, that he "hoped to do it again." That is vague, and Peppers could be playing coy, but scouts I've talked to say they haven't received a solid yes or no from Michigan on his plans.
—Another Heisman candidate, Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook, came under the microscope of Tulsa World sportswriter Cody Stavenhagen in this fascinating expose on the star receiver's background. For NFL teams, most telling is the two arrests in Westbrook's past on family violence complaints. According to Stavenhagen, "Westbrook was accused of throwing the mother of two of his children to the ground. In 2013, Westbrook was accused of biting the same woman's arm and punching her in the face with a closed fist."
—I spoke to a former coach this week, looking for background information, and he vouched for the receiver, saying they had no issues with him during his JUCO days. That's the type of question NFL scouts will be asking as they look for a complete picture of a complex person.
—How good is this tight end class? It's the best I've ever seen. O.J. Howard is a top-15 player. Jake Butt and Bucky Hodges may make the first round. Evan Engram, Jordan Leggett and David Njoku are all potential top-64 guys. If you need a tight end, this is a great year to grab one. And we may see NFL teams do that by focusing on tight end (and safety) early in the draft because it's not traditionally a position with high-end talent and depth.
—Texas A&M safety Armani Watts tweeted his draft intentions with a photo of himself in uniform with the caption "one more year." He projects as a strong safety and will enter the 2018 draft as my top senior at the position.
—Myles Garrett is the clear-cut best player in this class. That's my opinion, and it's the opinion of every NFL scout I've contacted in the last two weeks. If Cleveland can overcome the need to draft a quarterback No. 1 overall, Garrett should be the pick.
—No surprise here, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has shot down rumors of his interest in getting back into the NFL. Keep dreaming, Rams.
—Late Thursday afternoon, Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald tweeted breaking news that four Georgia players would return to school for their senior seasons: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. Most notable is Chubb, who returned from a serious knee injury in 2015 to have a solid junior season.
5 Names to Know
5. CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Ohio State's Gareon Conley is lost in the hype and numbers some of the 2017 cornerback class put up. In fact, he's rarely mentioned by draft fans asking questions on Twitter. That must change.
Conley, more so than teammate Marshon Lattimore, is NFL-ready and has the frame (6'0", 195 lbs) to step right into an NFL defense. In fact, I grade Conley out better than last year's No. 10 overall pick (Eli Apple) coming out of the same scheme.
4. QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Scouts are up and down on Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs—and I've admittedly done little work on his 2016 tape—but it's telling that he got a Senior Bowl invite. When I asked one scout his thoughts on Dobbs, he replied that the senior passer "has a football IQ and wiring like Dak [Prescott] but not his decision-making."
I'll be keeping a close eye on Dobbs throughout the week of practices at the Senior Bowl, starting January 24.
3. EDGE Joe Mathis, Washington
A foot injury took Mathis out for the season in early October, but at the time, he was leading the Huskies in sacks and had made an impact as a power-rusher with some speed and length off the right edge of the defense.
At 6'2" and 255 pounds, Mathis reminded me of Noah Spence. Like Spence, he uses his leverage well and has enough speed to close the door on quarterbacks off the edge. With a strong predraft performance, Mathis could shoot up boards.
2. EDGE Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M
The "other" defensive end at Texas A&M, Daeshon Hall has size and athleticism as a strong-side defensive end in a 4-3 defense. At 6'5" and 270 pounds, Hall can match power with power and uses a stiff long-arm technique to keep blockers off his frame.
Playing opposite Myles Garrett—and next to Daylon Mack—may help Hall slide under the radar of offensive coordinators when game-planning. But with his tools and potential, he could impress at the Senior Bowl and work his way into a Day 2 selection even in a loaded EDGE class.
1. WR Travin Dural, LSU
Every year, fans want draft analysts to pick a sleeper prospect who, in the right system, could outproduce his ranking. This year's candidate at wide receiver is Travin Dural.
Looking at his numbers, Dural doesn't jump off the page. But how much of that was the awful LSU system? With no quarterback to consistently deliver the ball, Dural's numbers suffered in a run-first attack. That said, the potential is there for him to have an impact as a mid-rounder due to his tools.
3 Questions with an AFC 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 AFC scout who asked to remain anonymous for competitive purposes.
Bleacher Report: The biggest news in the draft world this week was the report of Dede Westbrook's off-field issues. Had you heard about this beforehand?
Scout: When our guy visited Oklahoma, it wasn't mentioned. That puts us behind the ball. Means you better bust your ass at the Senior Bowl and combine and spend the next four months checking every lead on his wiring and background. Especially since it involved domestic violence.
B/R: There's been a debate in our office about Dalvin Cook vs. Leonard Fournette. What are your thoughts?
Scout: I'd take Fournette, and like I've told you before, it's because he's a rare athlete and talent. Cook plays in a great offense with NFL talent all around him. Fournette played with a sh--ty offensive situation, and I do think he slowed it down a little after getting hurt. But if you're scouting them as players and not producers, give me Fournette.
B/R: I know pro scouting isn't your area of expertise, but what do you think of Michael Floyd being picked up by the Patriots?
Scout: Good for him. I hope he has it together off the field because he's been a mess on it lately. I'd worry about him picking up that offense in the next four weeks to make an impact on the playoff run. It's a really different system from what [Bruce] Arians does, and 12 [Tom Brady] demands perfection from his receivers in terms of steps and timing.
The Big Board
A Twitter poll asking which readers would rather have this week—a three-round mock draft or a new top-50 big board—overwhelmingly pointed to a mock draft. With the playoff picture coming into focus, more players declaring every day and a coaching vacancy in Los Angeles, that makes sense to me.
|3-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)||CB Quincy Wilson, Florida|
|7||Carolina||DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee|
|8||New Orleans||OLB Tim Williams, Alabama|
|9||Cleveland (f/PHI)||QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame|
|10||San Diego||S Jamal Adams, LSU|
|11||Arizona||S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan|
|12||Cincinnati||LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt|
|13||Indianapolis||RB Dalvin Cook, FSU|
|14||Buffalo||WR Mike Williams, Clemson|
|15||Tennessee||WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan|
|16||Baltimore||CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State|
|17||Philadelphia (f/MIN)||RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford|
|18||Green Bay||TE O.J. Howard, Alabama|
|19||Washington||DL Montravius Adams, Auburn|
|20||Miami||DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA|
|21||Tampa Bay||WR John Ross, Washington|
|22||Denver||T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin|
|23||New York Giants||DL Caleb Brantley, Florida|
|24||Oakland||LB Jarrad Davis, Florida|
|25||Houston||DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State|
|26||Atlanta||DE Taco Charlton, Michigan|
|27||Pittsburgh||OLB Ryan Anderson, Alabama|
|28||Seattle||CB Jalen Tabor, Florida|
|29||Detroit||CB Sidney Jones, Washington|
|30||Kansas City||QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson|
|31||New England||EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri|
|32||Dallas||DE Dawuane Smoot, Illinois|
|33||Cleveland||CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State|
|34||San Francisco||QB Brad Kaaya, Miami (Fla.)|
|35||Jacksonville||G Dan Feeney, Indiana|
|36||Chicago||TE Jake Butt, Michigan|
|37||New York Jets||EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn|
|38||Los Angeles Rams||TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech|
|39||Carolina||T Cam Robinson, Alabama|
|40||New Orleans Saints||QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech|
|41||Philadelphia||CB Desmond King, Iowa|
|42||San Diego||T Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky|
|43||Arizona||QB Luke Falk, Washington State|
|44||Cincinnati||DE DeMarcus Walker, FSU|
|45||Indianapolis||S Justin Evans, Texas A&M|
|46||Buffalo||DL Vita Vea, Washington|
|47||Cleveland (f/TEN)||WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC|
|48||Baltimore||S Budda Baker, Washington|
|49||Minnesota||G/C Ethan Pocic, LSU|
|50||Green Bay||RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas|
|51||Washington||RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma|
|52||Miami||CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson|
|53||Tampa Bay||CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama|
|54||Denver||LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State|
|55||New York Giants||TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss|
|56||Oakland||CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan|
|57||Houston||S Marcus Allen, Penn State|
|58||Atlanta||S Marcus Williams, Utah|
|59||Pittsburgh||CB Corn Elder, Miami (Fla.)|
|60||Seattle||G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame|
|61||Detroit||RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee|
|62||Kansas City||CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee|
|63||New England||DL Chris Wormley, Michigan|
|64||Dallas||CB/WR Adoree' Jackson, USC|
|65||Cleveland||S Eddie Jackson, Alabama|
|66||San Francisco||RB Jamaal Williams, BYU|
|67||Jacksonville||EDGE DeVonte Fields, Louisville|
|68||Chicago||S Marcus Maye, Florida|
|69||New York Jets||CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado|
|70||Tennessee (f/LA)||DL Carlos Watkins, Clemson|
|71||Carolina||C/G Pat Elflein, Ohio State|
|72||New Orleans Saints||CB Tre'Davious White, LSU|
|73||Philadelphia||WR Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma|
|74||San Diego||CB Kevin King, Washington|
|75||Arizona||DL Elijah Qualls, Washington|
|76||Cincinnati||WR Zay Jones, East Carolina|
|77||Indianapolis||T Eric Magnuson, Michigan|
|78||Buffalo||T Roderick Johnson, FSU|
|79||Tennessee||LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern|
|80||Baltimore||TE Jordan Leggett, Clemson|
|81||Minnesota||WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech|
|82||Green Bay||WR Jehu Chesson, Michigan|
|83||Washington||WR Amara Darboh, Michigan|
|84||Minnesota (f/MIA)||RB Royce Freeman, Oregon|
|85||Tampa Bay||DL Lowell Lotulelei, Utah|
|86||Denver||TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville|
|87||New York Giants||LB Haason Reddick, Temple|
|88||Oakland||RB Nick Chubb, Georgia|
|89||Houston||QB Davis Webb, California|
|90||Atlanta||CB Rasul Douglas, West Virginia|
|91||Pittsburgh||LB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin|
|92||Seattle||RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson|
|93||Detroit||WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse|
|94||Kansas City||LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee|
|95||New England||T/G Chad Wheeler, USC|
|96||Dallas||WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington|
10. I've had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Belichick a few times, and it's never enlightening. I can't imagine having to cover him on a beat and use his press conferences to write entire articles from. But sometimes he opens up and talks ball.
When he does, take notes.
9. Want to work for the Patriots? Here's how you do it.
Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com has a great piece on what it takes to work for the NFL's best coach.
"The 20/20 deal," Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll told Duffy. "Twenty hours a day for 20 grand a year. And it wasn't exactly 20 yet."
A lot of people reading this column want to work in the NFL as a scout or coach. I've tried sharing my experiences of what it takes to get to that level. This piece from Duffy is one of the best I've read on the subject.
8. It's almost hiring and firing season (and already is for the Los Angeles Rams). As the list of openings grows for front-office jobs, this is my short list of candidates. And a note here: I'm not listing candidates like Eric DeCosta (Baltimore) or Nick Caserio (New England), who have passed up interview opportunities in the past to stay in their current jobs.
- Chris Ballard, Kansas City Chiefs
- Trent Kirchner, Seattle Seahawks
- Chris Grier, Miami Dolphins
- Brian Gaine, Houston Texans
- Omar Khan, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ballard would be the top choice for me—and hopefully special teams coordinator Dave Toub comes with him. Trent Kirchner would be a close second as the current co-director of college scouting for the Seattle Seahawks.
7. Jeff Fisher is gone as head coach of the Rams, and general manager Les Snead may follow. How do the Rams start a rebuilding project that must be done without first- and third-round picks this season after trading up for quarterback Jared Goff? Step one is hiring the right people.
General manager—Chris Ballard, Chiefs
Ballard has the scouting chops to add the players the Rams need on both sides of the ball. He's a hard-nosed, grizzled veteran, and his no-nonsense method would be ideal for a team that too often has had an amateur feel to it.
Head Coach—Dave Toub, Chiefs
Toub is a special teams coach, which means he interacts with players from every background and skill set. Many will project an offensive head coach here to groom Goff and Todd Gurley, but a coach who can impact the entire roster and instill leadership and discipline is more important than hiring an offensive guru.
Building a staff would be crucial for Toub, but his experience as a coordinator means he can focus on the team instead of an offensive coach like Kyle Shanahan, who as a first-time head coach would need a strong defensive coordinator who could handle one-half of the team alone.
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:
|2017 Senior Bowl Rosters|
|QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa||QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee||QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss|
|QB Sefo Liufau, Colorado||QB Nathan Peterman, Pitt||QB Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin|
|QB Seth Russell, Baylor||QB Davis Webb, California||RB Matt Dayes, NC State|
|RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo||RB Donnel Pumphrey, SDSU||RB Jamaal Williams, BYU|
|FB Sam Rogers, Virginia Tech||FB Freddie Stevenson, FSU||WR Travin Dural, LSU|
|WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse||WR Zay Jones, East Carolina||WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington|
|WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M||WR Fred Ross, Miss. State||WR Jamari Staples, Louisville|
|WR Ryan Switzer, UNC||WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana 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 Antonio Garcia, Troy|
|T Conor McDermott, UCLA||G Jessamen Dunker, Tenn. State||G Dan Feeney, Indiana|
|G Danny Isidora, Miami (Fla.)||G Dorian Johnson, Pitt||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||DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State||DT Montravius Adams, Auburn|
|DL Jaleel Johnson, Iowa||DL Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte||DL Tanzel Smart, Tulane|
|OLB Ryan Anderson, Alabama||OLB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin||OLB Jarrad Davis, Florida|
|OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA||OLB Haason Reddick, Temple||ILB Duke Riley, LSU|
|CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado||CB Corn Elder, Miami (Fla.)||CB Damontae Kazee, SDSU|
|CB Desmond King, Iowa||CB Brendan Langley, Lamar||CB Ezra Robinson, Tenn. State|
|CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee||CB Marquez White, FSU||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||P Toby Baker, Arkansas||P Justin Vogel, Miami (Fla.)|
|K Jake Elliott, Memphis||K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State|
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:
|2017 Shrine Game Rosters|
|QB Wes Lunt, Illinois||QB Zach Terrell, Western Michigan||QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati|
|QB Nate Peterman, Pitt||QB Cooper Rush, Central Michigan||RB Elijah McGuire, La.-Lafayette|
|RB Joe Williams, Utah||RB Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin||WR Jalen Robinette, Air Force|
|WR Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska||WR DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue||WR Rodney Adams, South Florida|
|WR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois||WR Tony Stevens, Auburn||WR Trey Griffey, Arizona|
|WR Austin Carr, Northwestern||WR Billy Brown, Shepherd||WR Kermit Whitfield, FSU|
|TE Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma St.||TE Eric Saubert, Drake||TE Michael Roberts, Toledo|
|T Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia Tech||T Victor Salako, Oklahoma St.||T Antonio Garcia, Troy|
|T Dan Skipper, Arkansas||T Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M||T Erik Magnuson, Michigan|
|T Gavin Andrews, Oregon State||T Dieugot Joseph, FIU||G Zach Johnson, NDSU|
|G Danny Isidora, Miami (Fla.)||G Kyle Kalis, Michigan||G Geoff Gray, Manitoba|
|G Adam Pankey, West Virginia||C Lucas Crowley, North Carolina||C Chase Roullier, Wyoming|
|C Anthony Auclair, Laval||DE Trey Hendrickson, FAU||DE Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas|
|DE Derek Rivers, Youngstown||DE Avery Moss, Youngstown||DE Bryan Cox, Florida|
|DE Karter Schult, Northern Iowa||DT DeAngelo Brown, Louisville||DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo|
|DT Josh Tupou, Colorado||DT Joey Ivie, Florida||LB Brooks Ellis, Arkansas|
|LB Andrew King, Army||LB Carroll Phillips, Illinois||LB Jayon Brown, UCLA|
|LB Kenneth Olugbode, Colorado||LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest||LB Calvin Munson, SDSU|
|LB James Onwualu, Notre Dame||LB Kevin Davis, Colorado St.||LB Ben Gedeon, Michigan|
|CB Treston DeCoud, Oregon State||CB Jalen Myrick, Minnesota||CB Tyquwan Glass, Fresno State|
|CB Jack Tocho, NC State||CB Fabian Moreau, UCLA||CB Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma St.|
|CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado||CB Brad Watson, Wake Forest||CB Channing Stribling, Michigan|
|CB Aarion Penton, Missouri||S Randall Goforth, UCLA||S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma St.|
|S Tedric Thompson, Colorado||S Anthony Fish Smithson, Kansas||S Damarius Travis, Minnesota|
|S Orion Stewart, Baylor||S Jamal Carter, Miami|
4. The January 16 deadline for players to declare for the 2017 NFL draft seems far away, but some are already announcing their intentions. The following players have confirmed they'll enter the draft:
- QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
- QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
- RB James Conner, Pitt
- 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 Nazair Jones, North Carolina
- DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
- DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
- DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma
- EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri
- LB Jermaine Grace, Miami (Fla.)
3. If you looked at the list of Senior Bowl quarterbacks above, you were probably left wanting a little more star power. NFL teams are too. So are media scouts.
This quarterback class isn't as bad as 2015's seniors of Garrett Grayson and Bryce Petty, but it's pretty bad. That may be good news for a player like Davis Webb, who should impress with the lack of talent around him. But it's also bad news for an impressive group of wide receivers that may be left with mediocre passers getting them the football.
2. On Thursday, I reported that Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was "leaning toward" declaring for the 2017 draft but that his decision hadn't been made. That's where it remains Friday, even if some Twitter reports spun that to mean he was definitely declaring.
The way I hear it, Kaaya is weighing another year of development under a good coach in Mark Richt versus the reality that the 2017 quarterback class is weak and the 2018 quarterback class looks to be strong. Jumping to the NFL now may result in a Day 2 pick, but Kaaya also wouldn't have to suffer for another season behind a bad Miami line. He'll also be playing without top targets David Njoku and Stacy Coley if he returns next year.
Kaaya may still decide to return to college for another season, but my money today is on declaring.
1. It's no secret that I'm slightly obsessed with Bill Belichick as a coach, scout and team-builder. But he's also quite the football historian. This video of Belichick drawing up a run play from the 1959 offense—from memory—was too good to ignore:
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.