What do you do when everyone you interact with on Twitter all day says one thing but almost every contact in the NFL says another? Who do you believe?
I've always felt like my job is to be the bridge between fans and the NFL and do my best to explain to readers and listeners why and how NFL scouts and executives think. Because of that, building friendships with those evaluators has become a much larger part of my job. So what do you do when that happens?
Twitter will tell you that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen isn't any good. Some will theorize on a system of racism in the NFL that promotes tall, strong-armed, white quarterbacks. Others will use data and numbers to show that Allen's completion percentage or yards per attempt aren't on par with that of franchise NFL quarterbacks when they were in college. And still more will use the eyeball test to tell you the kid is struggling and can't make plays.
Twitter does not like Josh Allen, but the NFL does. And I do. So where is the disconnect? I've always felt like folks in the media aren't transparent enough when evaluating players, so here's me being 100 percent open. Here's what I see when I evaluate Allen.
Stay up to date on every mock draft, big board and "Stick to Football" podcast episode throughout the season with the new B/R app.
The first step in evaluating college quarterbacks for the NFL is to realize that 99.9 percent of players must be developed as they make the jump from Saturdays to Sundays. Even Peyton Manning needed time to learn under quarterback coach Bruce Arians in his rookie season and he's considered the greatest quarterback prospect of my lifetime. So if every quarterback needs developed, why not bet on the best traits? It's a gamble, but when you realize every pick is a risk you might as well bet big. It was the same argument I made last October when telling NFL scouts that Patrick Mahomes should be a first-rounder.
Josh Allen has rare traits in terms of arm strength and athleticism; after watching him in person I'd say his arm is the strongest I've ever seen. Allen is able to make difficult throws from any platform and can easily throw a 25-yard out route on a line from the opposite hash.
You could counter that and say neither Manning nor Tom Brady have a huge arm or great athleticism, but they're rare in terms of preparation, football IQ and leadership. Allen's physical traits are similar to Cam Newton; and he made it to a Super Bowl and won an MVP without being incredibly accurate. You could also compare his arm, agility and pure strength to a young Ben Roethlisberger; another player who had amazing success without being highly accurate.
There are other cases of great athletes not working out (Jake Locker, EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles) but it's foolish to ignore cases where elite traits led to a quarterback being a good pick. That's what I see when I evaluate Allen—a strong-armed, athletic, smart, humble, tough player. Those traits will take a player far if he's developed, given a good play-caller and a little talent around him.
Allen is 21 years old. He's only been able to buy a beer for a few months. Expecting him to be something he isn't is why the draft process is so frustrating. Accept his strengths and know you have to work on his weaknesses.
When I got into scouting over 10 years ago, an NFL general manager told me in an email to focus on what a player can do and not what he can't as the golden rule of scouting. With Allen, it's all the things he can do that make him a first-round prospect.
Here's what else is going on this week:
- Top five matchups to watch in Week 6
- Luke Falk a first-rounder?
- Updated NFL draft order
- Stick to Football Episode 26 with a top 10 mock draft
The Scout's Report
—Some early-season money-makers: North Carolina State edge-rusher Bradley Chubb, Miami running back Mark Walton, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate.
—Texas head coach Tom Herman announced left tackle Connor Williams underwent a non-surgical procedure on his injured MCL. Williams' return this season remains possible. He's currently the top-ranked tackle and a top 10 player on my board.
—One area scout told me this week that Washington State quarterback Luke Falk has a legitimate chance to be a first-round pick and compared him to Andy Dalton coming out of TCU. Falk continues to light it up in head coach Mike Leach’s offense. He’s also showing the accuracy and field vision NFL teams will want to see, and the way he works to second progressions will be of interest too. Overcoming Leach’s system won’t be possible in the eyes of some scouts given the wide-open spread scheme he runs, but Falk continues to rise up my board.
—Three edge-rushers have top 10 potential, according to an NFL executive I spoke with this week. He mentioned Arden Key (LSU), Harold Landry (Boston College) and Bradley Chubb (NC State) as all having the tools and upside to be top 10 picks.
—Keep an eye on Louisville's Trevon Young as another first-rounder at the edge position. He was the most impressive Cardinal on the field when I visited for the Clemson game and has the strength and agility to be a top 32 player.
—The defensive tackle class has two top-tier talents in Christian Wilkins (Clemson) and Mo Hurst (Michigan) but the depth also looks good. Derrick Nnadi (FSU), Vita Vea (Washington) and Dre'Mont Jones (Ohio State) could make it a five-man party in the first round.
—How good could this running back class be? One national scout told me four could go in the first round. My list would be Saquon Barkley (Penn State), Derrius Guice (LSU), Ronald Jones (USC) and Mark Walton (Miami).
5 Matchups to Know
5. Luke Falk (Quarterback, Washington State) vs. Oregon Duck Defense
Luke Falk was on fire against USC last weekend but will get a better test against a healthy, fiery Oregon defense in Week 6. Falk doesn't have the biggest arm, but what I do like about his game is the poise, touch accuracy and quick decision-making he shows. This could be a big game for him.
4. Mark Walton (Running Back, Miami) vs. Derwin James (Safety, Florida State)
The best running back we don't talk about, Mark Walton, takes on arguably the best defender in the nation. Derwin James will likely be asked to man up against Walton in all he does, but the Miami running back will also be facing a defense featuring first-round talents Derrick Nnadi, Josh Sweat and Tarvarus McFadden. How well he does here will be noted on every scouting report.
3. Equanimeous St. Brown (Wide Receiver, Notre Dame) vs. M.J. Stewart (Cornerback, North Carolina)
St. Brown is a tall, lanky (6'5", 203 lbs) receiver prospect with obvious natural gifts. He's been held back some this year by poor quarterback play and needs to show his traits against a premier cornerback in M.J. Stewart to silence some critics. Stewart is a tough player at the line of scrimmage and has the vertical jump and timing to disrupt a stretch player like St. Brown.
2. Derwin Gray (Offensive Tackle, Maryland) vs. Sam Hubbard (Defensive End, Ohio State)
Derwin Gray has been popping up in conversations with road scouts this year as a sleeper tackle prospect. If he can handle Sam Hubbard and the Ohio State defensive line this weekend he won't be a secret much longer. Hubbard is one of the best defensive linemen in the nation and brings a combination of strength and motor to the defensive end position that are very likely to make him a first-rounder.
1. Yosuah Nijman (Offensive Tackle, Virginia Tech) vs. Harold Landry (Defensive End, Boston College)
Harold Landry has been very impressive this season showing off both traits and stats in big moments. To continue the push that has him ranked in the top 10, Landry needs to prove himself against the run and show he can handle an athletic left tackle (something he struggled with vs. Clemson). Yosuah Nijman and the fast-paced Virginia Tech offense will be a great test for Landry in primetime.
7. Four weeks into the NFL season might not mean much, but it's at least fun to look at a real draft order and see what trends continue. Here's how the order stands now, not including Thursday Night Football.
6. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is set to make his NFL debut as the starter for the Chicago Bears in Week 5. Here's what I wrote about Trubisky in his predraft scouting report.
A junior entry into the 2017 draft class, Mitchell Trubisky meets all the NFL thresholds for size, strength, mobility and football IQ. On the field he’s calm and collected both in the pocket and on the go—where he displays the athleticism to be featured as a runner and also as a scrambler when the pocket breaks down. A shotgun quarterback, Trubisky has the footwork and overall agility to operate under center with time. His arm talent is on the good-to-very-good scale, and he’s shown the ability to pinpoint passes to all levels of the field. Trubisky’s touch accuracy is impressive, and he’s able to mix up throws to fit the ball into coverage. In his one year as a starter, Trubisky completed 68 percent of his passes for 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He had just four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in 449 attempts.
A one-year starter at UNC, Trubisky doesn’t have a ton of tape to evaluate. Mechanically, he can break down at times and will start to throw off-balance and from his back foot without the proper arm strength or hip alignment to make the throws on target. Trubisky’s numbers were good, but he was surrounded by top-tier athletes at the skill positions, which will bring up questions about how much of his success was based on the talent around him. Misidentifying underneath and zone coverages led to the few interceptions on Trubisky’s tape. I don’t view Trubisky as a Day 1 NFL starter. But he's a player who could operate in the right system if need-be in his first season.
PRO COMPARISON: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
FINAL GRADE: 7.15/9.00 (Round 1—Future Starter)
Trubisky will be running an offense with very few NFL-level threats at wide receiver, but he is protected by a solid offensive line and has two very talented running backs to work with. The key is to see how well he handles the speed and pressure of the game. If Trubisky is poised, accurate and smart with the ball, those are the kind of positives coaches can build on.
5. The 2004 NFL draft featured three quarterbacks taken in the first 11 picks. Those three players have since become high-level starters, Super Bowl winners and potential Hall of Famers. But the teams that selected Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger have completely ignored the clock and have no plan in place for the end of their runs.
Roethlisberger has talked about retiring for years. Manning's regression is obvious and yet still shocking to see how far he's fallen. And Rivers continues to decline and appears more and more frustrated each week. Of those three teams, only the Steelers have given any thought to the future in the form of 2017 fourth-rounder Joshua Dobbs out of Tennessee. If the end is near for these three quarterbacks, and it looks to be, then the Giants, Chargers and Steelers better get on it as far as evaluating the upcoming quarterback class.
On paper, here are some early fits:
Giants—Josh Rosen, UCLA
The Giants are 0-4 and would have the third pick in the draft as of today. If that holds, drafting Rosen makes Eli Manning expendable.
Chargers—Josh Allen, Wyoming
Rivers probably has a year or two left, and time to learn is what Josh Allen needs most. This could be an Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes situation similar to what the Chiefs have in place.
Steelers—Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
The Steelers will likely win too many games to be in on the first-round quarterbacks. Taking a flier in the third round on a prospect with some upside like Nick Fitzgerald at least protects against a sudden Big Ben retirement and gives the staff two solid young quarterbacks to develop.
4. Quarter-season rookie awards are pretty pointless, but I still have fun doing them.
For Offensive Rookie of the Year, it has to be running back Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs runner leads the NFL in rushing yards and has been a great addition in the passing game too. Hunt is an ideal fit in the Kansas City offense and is an excellent example of how scouting and coaching can work together to find a talent that complements the system.
Defensive Rookie of the Year is a tougher choice, but the impact Jamal Adams has made for the New York Jets is unreal. He's a playmaker and a leader, and he has his teammates looking to him for the culture change that was so needed for the Jets. From a total impact perspective, Adams is the on- and off-field answer New York needed.
3. There is no comparison to seeing a player live. Last weekend I was able to scout Ohio State in person for the first time this year and there are so many little things you don't pick up on when watching on TV. Cornerback Denzel Ward, for example, has exceptional arm length that I hadn't noticed yet but when you see him in person it's the first trait that stands out. I'm more and more convinced that there is no substitute to seeing players live as often as possible. If you really want to evaluate how a player looks and moves, it's the only way to do it.
2. Thank you so much to the awesome staff at Rutgers for all their help last weekend. I got into New York late, realized the Ohio State/Rutgers game was a home game for the Scarlet Knights and fired off a hurried email on Friday night about a credential. The staff came through and was incredibly helpful. My next road trip—Dallas for the Red River Showdown between Texas and Oklahoma.
1. Stick to Football Episode 26 is ready to download—and if you haven't already, go ahead and subscribe with a 5-star review!
This week, Connor and I go head-to-head with our first mock draft of the year and do our best to explain why the rebuild in Cleveland isn't fixing the Browns. We also look at the play of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen in marquee games over the weekend and give our thoughts after seeing Ohio State at Rutgers.
To close it all out, we take your fan questions in our Draft on Draft segment with our intern Kennedy.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.