Michael Conroy/Associated Press

—If you love sleepers, keep this name in mind: Cole Toner. The Harvard right tackle was pointed out to me recently by an area scout, and after watching three games myself, he looks like the real deal. In checking in with other scouts from two teams, everyone has him in the top 100 currently, with every team I've talked to projecting a position change to center in the NFL.

—Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced this week that running back Keith Marshall would leave school early and enter the 2016 NFL draft. Marshall (5'10", 215 lbs) doesn't show great NFL speed on film, but he does have a draftable grade as of now even with the injuries he's suffered.

—It's been a weird week for Josh Doctson injury updates. Last week there was confusion over if he was out for the year or expected to play, but he didn't see the field Saturday and on Wednesday, head coach Gary Patterson announced Doctson would miss the rest of the regular season, per Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The senior wideout has a first-round grade.

—It happens a lot and often isn't newsworthy—when an opposing coach compares a player to J.J. Watt or Aaron Rodgers or says an opponent is the best in college football. But when a scout says Alabama has the best defensive line he's ever seen, that's newsworthy. Thanks to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, that's the word coming from a "veteran NFL scout" with first-round grades for A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen.  

Nati Harnik/Associated Press

The people of Lincoln, Nebraska, are very proud of two things: their football team and their chicken-fried steak. Both were amazing when I was in town to scout the Michigan State vs. Nebraska game last weekend. Coming off that trip, this week's Notebook will lean heavily toward the Big Ten matchup, but also the news and notes I collected throughout the week.

But back to Lincoln for a bit. I've lived my whole life in the Midwest and probably take for granted that "charm" we in the middle of the country are known for. And with this job I get to travel a lot. I've never encountered nicer people than those in Lincoln.

With two scouting assistants along for the ride, we were consistently blown away at the overall courtesy and niceness the people showed. You can't walk into a diner in Lincoln for breakfast without being chatted up by the old couples in line, and even on the crowded streets surrounding Memorial Stadium before kickoff, pedestrians were giving vehicles the right of way. Maybe that's normal where you live, but it was one of the most remarkable things about this trip.

If you get a chance to visit Lincoln, do it. And go to Cook's Cafe for chicken-fried steak. Oh my goodness.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

In my five years at Bleacher Report, I've never had readers ask for a scouting report on a player like they have over the last month for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. You guys asked (a lot), so this week I'm delivering—finally—with an introductory scouting report on the hottest name in the 2016 draft class.

What else can you expect this week? My biggest misses of the last five years, all sorts of rumors and news, five names to watch this weekend (including the matchup I'll be watching in Lincoln, Nebraska) and answers to your questions from Twitter.


— I've mentioned Houston cornerback William Jackson before. He's 6'0", 185 pounds, and runs a legit 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. And according to three scouts I texted with this week, he has a first-round grade heading into the last month of the season.

— This week I updated my Top 100 big board, and I immediately received an inquiry from an area scout about why DeForest Buckner was ranked so highly (No. 14 overall). Buckner, according to this scout, hasn't matched his play to his hype.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Hot names. Big risers. Stock up and stock down.

The buzzwords that make up the NFL draft industry seem tailor-made for hot takes. That's what we want to avoid here. After all, we're talking about the careers and dreams of 20-somethings, not the newest tech stock. But talking about stocks isn't a bad idea. NFL teams will make investments in these players based on what they see on the field, what they find off the field and what the numbers say on testing day at the NFL Scouting Combine or a pro day. 

Like some stocks, some of these players will be great out of the gate. Others will crash and burn. Some will be solid but never great. And some will be hidden gems—that sweet stock only a few know about before it becomes a big thing. And that's scouting—finding that next big thing that no one knows about.

A scout told me this week that scouting isn't about finding the Andrew Lucksanyone can find those. It's finding the players who will build a team that can win. And that's my goal at Bleacher Report: to do the job of a general manager, but by filing reports with you guys and not my war room. Which players are worthwhile investments, which have big potential but may crash and burn, and which sleepers should we all be looking at?

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Welcome to November. By this time of year, you either love or hate your favorite NFL team's roster. So you might be reading this mock draft wondering how the Carolina Panthers or Cincinnati Bengals can add a piece or two and continue their reign in their respective divisions...or you might be a Detroit Lions fan looking at which top-five pick can turn this team around (and no, you can't draft a new head coach, guys).

Evaluating team needs and player values before coaches are fired and before free agency is an inexact science, but at this point in the season it's becoming pretty clear which teams have needs at which positions. And with draft history a factor, we also know which teams (Baltimore) will go for a "best player available" approach to the draft.

Looking at the 2016 class six months before the NFL draft is tough. This is a class dominated by underclassmen at every position, and it's unfortunately too early to know which of those juniors and redshirt sophomores will head to the NFL. I've done my best to include the ones I've heard will enter the draft, or those who I think would benefit from leaving for the NFL now. But players like Darron Lee at Ohio State or Eddie Jackson at Alabama aren't mentioned here, because it looks like they'll stay in college for another season. Of course, that can change between now and the mid-January deadline to enter the draft.

The draft order is current up to the Week 8 games and not adjusted for playoffs.

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Certain landmarks stand out when you look at the NFL or college football season. The first four weeks of the pro season serve as an introduction to the year. Generally speaking, by the end of the first quarter of the season, we know who teams are and what they're lacking. After the second quarter, though—which is where we stand right now heading into Week 8—you really get a fuller picture of what's going on in the NFL and in college football with just a month left in that season.

So here we are. Almost November. And that means draft season is really getting into gear for college players, NFL scouts and now NFL fans. And that's good news if you like reading this article every Friday morning, because it means I have so much more to talk to you about.

The Week 8 update comes with a big Su'a Cravens scouting report (fresh off seeing him live versus Notre Dame), a ton of rumors and notes, plus my midseason look at each NFL team's three biggest needs as we look ahead to the offseason.


— NFL scouts are raving about North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. Said one area scout this week, "He's a boy scout. He'll be a top-three quarterback."

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Tucked on the eastern shores of the St. Joseph River, South Bend, Indiana, rests as a magical place for football fans. It’s from that place that the majority of this week’s Scouting Notebook comes after a visit to scout USC and Notre Dame in their head-to-head matchup.

If you’ve never been to South Bend, put it on your bucket list. The trees are a perfect shade of oranges and reds. The air is crisp, clean and reminds you of every great Saturday of your youth playing tackle football in the backyard before heading inside to catch kickoff on TV. The people are stereotypically friendly—USC fans in the parking lot were greeted with “Welcome to Notre Dame”—and the sights are straight out of Rudy.

The football ain’t bad either. In a game featuring 26 players on my 2016 NFL draft watch list, it was an obvious visit for Week 8 of the college football season.


— 15 NFL teams were represented at the Notre Dame-USC game, including general manager Ryan Grigson of the Indianapolis Colts. The teams in attendance, with notable high-level attendees:

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Come on into the film room. The lights are low, the chairs are uncomfortable and hopefully you brought your own sunflower seeds. This is where the magic of scouting happens. 

It's in the film room that teams are designed and where dynasties are built. Everyone knows who the top-tier players are, but it's the grind of studying players over and over again that allows great teams to be built. It's how you make the decision to take a flier on a Tom Brady at pick No. 199 or Russell Wilson in Round 3. It's how you know to let some players slip past you even if the media call them a need.

NFL draft scouting is all about the film. Do the stats posted on Saturday come about because of traits and talents or scheme and poor competition? There's only one way to find out, and that's by grabbing the clicker, turning down the lights and studying the game film. And that's what I've been doing for the last week. Clicker in one hand, pen in the other. And these are the results.


— The biggest news of the last week was the knee injury Georgia running back Nick Chubb suffered. As a true sophomore, he isn't eligible for the NFL draft until 2017, but the injury still sent shock waves through college and the NFL due to his talent. In speaking to an NFL team doctor this week (who requested anonymity), it's feared that Chubb's injury could be career-ending. The doctor explained that Chubb was lucky to have no nerve damage, but that a PCL tear is far worse than an ACL tear and far worse than the injury Chubb's teammate, Todd Gurley, suffered one year ago.

Steve Helber/Associated Press

All summer I told you loyal draft fans that the 2016 class looked like the year of the pass-rusher, and it does. But the NFL is about to get an infusion of talent at running back, defensive tackle and linebacker that will rival most draft classes I've seen in my five years at Bleacher Report.

When you think of the 2016 draft class, you'll probably think of Jared Goff (QB, California) or Joey Bosa (EDGE, Ohio State), and you should, because they are two very capable headliners. But don't forget Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith—a Patrick Willis-like linebacker with three-down skills and the tools to play any of the three linebacker spots in a 4-3 scheme.

You also can't forget about UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark, and how his ability to stop the run—the best in college football right now—is blended with rare quickness and athleticism for a 0-technique. And how about Ezekiel Elliott? The Ohio State running back is dominant as a runner and receiver, and he might just take the Heisman Trophy with him to the NFL.

The list goes on and on. And while draft analysts have a tendency to oversell the value of a class in the summer months, after four weeks of play, there is no doubt that the 2016 draft class has blue chips at the top.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

If you read this title and thought, "It's way too early for a mock draft," well, just try to have fun and enjoy this for the entertainment purposes. But if you saw this article and were instantly excited about the future of your favorite team, then you're the folks I'm writing for. The people who are already watching the Cal Bears while wearing their Chicago Bears hoodie to see if Jared Goff is the kind of quarterback you can build around. If you're watching Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and not thinking about the Heisman, but wondering how he'd look running behind the Miami Dolphins offensive line, then you're my kind of people.

How does a mock draft in October work? The draft order is based on Super Bowl odds, and I've included seniors and those underclassmen (redshirt sophomores, juniors) who I've heard are interested in the NFL at this time. This is a class dominated by juniors, and I'm not predicting or advising any of them to leave college for the pros.

So how about team needs? This is a snapshot of what each team looks like right and takes into account age, injuries, salary cap and upcoming free agents. Some positions might not seem like a need today, but they could be thanks to player losses in free agency.

And a big reminder. An all-caps REMINDER: The draft order is not based on any kind of prediction. They're simply the most recent Vegas Insider Super Bowl odds. After Week 8 I'll start using current standings for draft order.