Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Biggest Red Flags in the 2018 Draft Class

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterNovember 24, 2017

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Baker Mayfield made news last week not for his beatdown of the Kansas Jayhawks but for a crotch-grab caught on camera. Twitter and television erupted with talk of Mayfield losing the Heisman Trophy or his draft stock being hurt.

Is Mayfield's fiery, loud style a sign he's the next Johnny Manziel, as some have suggested?

Whether it's an arrest over the summer before his senior season or the gesture and comments caught on camera against Kansas, NFL franchises will be forced to debate whether Mayfield is the type of person they want leading their team. The same goes for UCLA's Josh Rosen, given his "F--k Trump" hat

"Red flag" has become a vague way of talking about players with off-field questions. In my time covering the draft, I've heard the ridiculousDerek Carr being married was considered a red flag by one area scout I spoke to before the 2014 draftto the credible. Who are the top red-flag guys in this class, and how does the NFL see them?

Baker Mayfield: You either love him or hate him, and I expect the NFL will be the same way. Some teams will love Mayfield, while others won't want him being the face of their team at quarterback. His issues are well-documented, and how well he interviews in the predraft process will be enormous for his draft stock.

Josh Rosen: The potential top-five pick has ruffled feathers with his hat choice, the hot tub in his dorm room or his comments on how college players should be paid. Rosen doesn't have an arrest record or any suspensions for drug use, but he's been the most discussed player in the 2018 class in my conversations with scouts. Rosen's off-field interests are the type that NFL executives often look down on. "Does he love football?" is a question I've heard numerous times from NFL decision-makers this season.

Arden Key: Key took time away from the LSU program in the spring before returning 40 pounds heavier. He then promptly suffered a shoulder injury that cost him the start of the season. Key came back to the field and looked dominant, but he is out again with a knee injury. Rumors from area scouts have persisted all season that Key left the team to attend rehab. His off-field and injury history could push a once-top-10 talent way down the board.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Holton Hill: Right when Hill was starting to climb up draft boards, UT suspended him for six games due to failed drug tests. Hill, a junior, may ultimately declare for the NFL draft instead of finishing out his suspension to start the 2018 season. Hill was playing at a high level, but that was a new development after he was no more than a role player in his first two seasons. Declaring now would only add to questions about his decision-making. 

Azeem Victor: At the end of the 2016 season, it looked like Victor was going to be a force in 2017 after he recovered from a broken arm. His season has instead been a mess, and he recently was arrested for a DUI that led to his indefinite suspension from the team. Victor's stock was rising when he got hurt last season, but now it's crashing.


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.


          

Here's what else is going on this week:

  • Top five matchups to watch in Week 13
  • Rosen vs. Darnold
  • Top-ranked offensive tackle returns
  • Baker Mayfield stock watch
  • Stick to Football Episode 33: New York Jets safety Marcus Maye

      

The Scout's Report

Josh Rosen vs. Sam Darnold was the matchup of the week, and it offered scouts and analysts a good look at the two players on the same field. What did we learn, though? Said one scout at the game, "Rosen makes everything look pretty in the pocket, but I still think Darnold is the better overall quarterback." The two players will no doubt be compared throughout the entire draft process, which is starting to heat up. Darnold still ranks slightly ahead of Rosen on my big board.

• Texas left tackle Connor Williams returned to the lineup following a knee injury and looked like his old self. Williams has the instincts, toughness and athleticism to be a plug-and-play starter at left tackle. I've talked to some area scouts who feel he might be best suited at left tackle (a la Zack Martin), but I feel he's a true left tackle. A healthy Williams has a shot at becoming a top-10 pick.

• Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen isn't expected back next season, according to head coach Craig Bohl. This meshes with what I've heard from team sources throughout the process. Allen is on track to graduate in December and is eligible for the Senior Bowl. When he made the decision to return to school this season, it was always likely to be a one-and-done deal.

Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

• San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny is having an amazing season—over 1,800 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns—but he was somehow left off the Doak Walker Award list. The award, which goes to the best running back in the nation, might be a lock to go to Bryce Love of Stanford, but Penny has earned the right to be a finalist.

Baker Mayfield went off against Kansas after the Jayhawks team captains elected to ignore his handshake before the coin toss. Following a late hit, Mayfield was fired up on the sideline and was seen grabbing his crotch and yelling "f--k you" at the KU sideline. Twitter went off with instant analysis about whether this will cost Mayfield the Heisman or on draft day. My take? No. It shouldn't cost him the Heisman, and it's irresponsible to make sweeping statements about draft stock. Mayfield's fiery personality may rub some teams the wrong way, but other teams may love his intensity. 

• Sometimes you're watching a player, and the fit with an NFL team is obvious. That's how I feel about Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk and the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton was at his best when he had speedy Ted Ginn stretching the field. Give him Kirk, and this offense will flourish.

 The more things change, the more they stay the same—the Buffalo Bills named Tyrod Taylor the starting quarterback this week after Nathan Peterman's abysmal five-interception performance last week. I firmly expect the Bills to be in the running to select a quarterback early in the 2018 draft.

• The Oakland Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. this week. This reminds me of a report I filed after the Raiders hired Norton. At that time, a player who was with Norton in Seattle said he wasn't a good play-caller or schemer; instead, he's only a "rah-rah" guy.

      

5 Matchups to Know

5. Ohio State at Michigan

Ohio State got back on track over the last two weeks after losing to Iowa. While Michigan doesn't seem to match up well on paper, you have to ignore that in a rivalry game. The Michigan defense, led by draft prospects such as lineman Maurice Hurst and linebacker Mike McCray, must show it can shut down the Ohio State offense. Keep an eye on center Billy Price against Hurst in one of the week's best matchups.

       

4. Alabama at Auburn

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

This is the big one. Not only is this a huge game for SEC implications and the College Football Playoff, but it should feature a number of scouts. The Alabama defense against Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is must-see TV for fans and scouts alike. How Da'Ron Payne, Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick deal with the Tiger offense will say much about their stock.

      

3. Notre Dame at Stanford

After a Notre Dame loss to Miami, this game doesn't carry the same national weight, but it's still a scout's dream. The Notre Dame offensive line, featuring Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, against the Harrison Phillips-led Stanford defensive line could have three potential top-40 players involved. On the flip side, Notre Dame running back Josh Adams can boost his stock with a solid game against the Stanford defense.

    

2. Washington State at Washington

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk projects as a middle-round pick and will go head-to-head against Washington junior Jake Browning, who also projects as a middle- to late-rounder should he decide to declare for the 2018 draft. Washington has a loaded defense at every level, which will make this Falk's biggest test of the season. If he hopes to advance his draft stock, this is the game to do it.

    

1. West Virginia at Oklahoma

The injury to Will Grier means we won't get a quarterback duel in this game, but we do get to see hard-hitting safety Kyzir White (brother of Kevin White) against Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense. White has the range and pursuit skills to effectively spy Mayfield, but he likely will be matched up against tight end Mark Andrews. Wherever he is on the field, White against this speedy Oklahoma offense will be a great test.

           

Parting Shots

10. With Mike McCoy out in Denver and John Elway calling the team "soft," I'm wondering if we're about to see a major shakeup with the Broncos. Elway's hand-picked head coach, Gary Kubiak, retired due to health reasons after last season, and the choice to hire Vance Joseph seemed more sentimental than a pick made to secure the future of a team that needed serious help offensively.

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

I've often said good general managers and coaches quickly move on from mistakes. All decision-makers screw up from time to time, but how you deal with those mistakes is enormous. The hiring of Joseph looks like a mistake right now with the offense reeling and the once-dominant defense out of sorts.

There isn't a hot coordinator on the market that Elway can tap into this time around if he does decide to move on from Joseph. Elway and his top aides need a serious search for the type of coach who can scheme, lead and inspire this team.

         

9. Speaking of head coaching candidates, keep an eye on Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. The Chiefs may have taken a step back as of late on offense, but the entire NFL is looking for the next Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay right now. Nagy might be it.

The former University of Delaware quarterback has a path similar to Jay Gruden's. He played and coached in the Arena Football League before Andy Reid hired him as a coaching intern in Philadelphia. Nagy was infamously signed to the Eagles' roster for a day before the NFL intervened and said the team couldn't sign a coach to the active roster. 

Nagy worked as the quarterbacks coach in Kansas City from 2013 until 2015, when he replaced Doug Pederson as offensive coordinator. 

      

8. Can we give some credit to Howie Roseman? The general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles was exiled when Chip Kelly took over the team, but he returned post-Chip to rebuild the team. And he's done so quickly with few (if any) misses.

Roseman traded up to select quarterback Carson Wentz, who looks like an MVP candidate, and then traded away Sam Bradford to recoup vital draft picks he sent to Cleveland when he traded up for Wentz. Roseman was aggressive in signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. He shored up his backfield by signing LeGarrette Blount and trading for Jay Ajayi. 

Think of it this way: Roseman essentially traded Sam Bradford for the pick flexibility that became Derek Barnett and Jay Ajayi. You could point to misses like Dorial Green-Beckham, but that move didn't hurt the team. 

If the season ended today, Roseman gets my vote for Executive of the Year.

      

7. ESPN's Mark Schlabach tweeted Chip Kelly is expected to make a decision on where he'll coach "in the coming days." Kelly is being courted by UCLA and Florida—two great jobs with far different expectations. Do you want to go to Florida, which is a recruiting hotbed but has difficult in-state competition and has to play in the SEC, or to UCLA, where you have to compete with USC for everything but have an easier path to a conference title in the Pac-12?

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Neither job is a walk in the park, but both are great fits for what Kelly did at Oregon. At each school, he'll be able to recruit the speed he wants on offense and have the facilities to compete nationally for the best players. 

      

6. It's far too early to be predicting trades, but keep an eye on the San Francisco 49ers as a team to trade back in Round 1. Not only could San Francisco look to recoup a second-round pick after it traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, but its needs don't match up with the talent at the top of the draft.

As of now, the 49ers would be drafting No. 2 overall. There isn't a wide receiver or cornerback worth drafting there. Instead, general manager John Lynch could call a team like the New York Jets and offer them the chance to trade up for a quarterback. Now that the 49ers have crossed their biggest need off the list, the front office is free to trade back and collect more picks if they decide a top-five pick is too rich for running back Saquon Barkley or the other top players on the board.

      

5. Elway has a lot to figure out in Denver this offseason, and we'll see how quarterback Paxton Lynch looks in some extended starting duty. Looking at the draft board and at the Broncos' needs, I could see this being an ideal landing spot for Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.

The Broncos have a massive need at left guard, and Elway needs a sure thing after some inconsistent production from his draft classes. Nelson is a sure thing as a guard in the Zack Martin mold. Pairing him up with Garrett Bolles and Max Paradis makes the left side of the line a strength for whomever is playing quarterback.

       

4. Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey has struggled this year against speed-rushers in games versus Miami and Georgia, which has led to questions about whether he'll play left or right tackle in the NFL. I see McGlinchey as a Jack Conklin-type prospect who will make his mark on the right side in the pros but could be a good player right off the bat.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

McGlinchey's best trait is that NFL scouts consider him pro-ready. Like Conklin, what you see is what you get. There might not be as much upside with McGlinchey compared to Orlando Brown or others, but there's also a much higher floor. He's ready to step into a lineup tomorrow and lock down a spot. And while he might not improve as much over his first three seasons compared to some of the other prospects, McGlinchey offers the best Day 1 talent at tackle.

      

3. There are six games left for most NFL teams, which means the draft order is coming into focus. There are still a number of teams locked in the middle of the order that require some clarity, but we're getting there.

1. Cleveland Browns (0-10)

2. San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

3. New York Giants (2-9)

4. Denver Broncos (3-7)  

5. Indianapolis Colts (3-7) 

6. Chicago Bears (3-7) 

7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-6) 

8. Arizona Cardinals (4-6) 

9. Oakland Raiders (4-6)

10. Cleveland (from Houston Texans 4-6)  

11. New York Jets (4-6)  

13. Miami Dolphins (4-6) Washington (5-6)

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6)

15. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)  

16. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) 

17. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

18. Buffalo Bills (5-5)  

19. Green Bay Packers (5-5) 

20. Detroit Lions (6-5) 

21. Tennessee Titans (6-4)   

22. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)  

23. Buffalo (from Kansas City Chiefs 6-4)

24. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3)

26. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) 

27. Carolina Panthers (7-3) 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) 

29. New England Patriots (8-2)

30. New Orleans Saints (8-2)

31. Minnesota Vikings (9-2) 

32. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

      

2. The first wave of Senior Bowl attendees have been announced, and so far, this group looks good. 

  • TE Adam Breneman, UMass
  • LS Tanner Carew, Oregon
  • C Austin Corbett, Nevada
  • OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
  • DE Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio
  • CB Duke Dawson, Florida
  • DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
  • RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
  • WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State
  • TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
  • CB Danny Johnson, Southern
  • CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque
  • WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
  • LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
  • LB Mike McCray, Michigan
  • WR Anthony Miller, Memphis
  • CB Siran Neal, Jacksonville State
  • LB Uchenna Nwosu, USC
  • OT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
  • OT Timon Parris, Stony Brook
  • OG Skyler Phillips, Idaho State
  • WR Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
  • CB Chandon Sullivan, Georgia State
  • TE Ian Thomas, Indiana
  • P Johnny Townsend, Florida
  • CB D'Montre Wade, Murray State

                

1. Stick to Football Episode 33 is ready for download—and if you haven't already, go ahead and subscribe and leave a five-star review!

This week, Connor and I are joined by rookie safety Marcus Maye to talk about his transition to the Big Apple and the culture change on the Jets. B/R host Stephen Nelson also sits in to talk about the Pac-12, Baker Mayfield and discuss his knowledge of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. To close it out, the boys take your questions from Kennedy in #DraftonDraft.

     

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