There are just 27 days separating us from the 2015 NFL draft, which means the silly season is about to heat up. Smokescreens, misdirection and flat-out lies will be coming out of NFL front offices, but hidden in there is truth, too. What are team sources saying? That's covered in a "What I'm Hearing" mock draft.
Ready for news, notes, rumors and more? It's all covered here.
The Scout's Report
— High-level sources with the San Francisco 49ers have told me the team is "in love" with wide receiver Amari Cooper from Alabama and will inquire as to trading up to draft him should he slip past the Oakland Raiders at No. 4 overall.
— Four well-placed sources believe the No. 2 pick will be Marcus Mariota—what's up for debate is who will hold the pick. According to these same sources, the Titans will be shopping the pick.
— One team that may be interested in a move up is the Cleveland Browns. I'm told by a source within Cleveland that they love quarterback Marcus Mariota and rank him higher than any quarterback from the 2014 draft class. My source expects the Browns to be players if the Titans shop the pick.
— The Notre Dame junior pro day was this past week, which is a place to be for NFL scouts. It's notable that the team allowed redshirt sophomore tackle Ronnie Stanley to participate in the event. Stanley told me before the January 15 deadline that he considered entering the 2015 draft. Expect Notre Dame to treat him like a senior next season.
— Damarious Randall's name is heating up (more on him later), and I'm told by team sources that his visit with the Cleveland Browns went very well. Randall may be a target for them with the 43rd pick.
— One more note on the Browns: Cornerback Quandre Diggs had a visit with the team this week as it looks to add depth to the secondary. Diggs is a slot cornerback who could be brought in to replace Buster Skrine.
— Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman will meet with 18 teams as of now before the draft. I'm told by one team's scout for his area that this is a sign that teams want more background on Perriman and more face-to-face time with him since he declared early out of UCF.
— Scouts at the University of Miami pro day told me linebacker Denzel Perryman went down with a hamstring injury after running his second 40-yard dash. One scout said it "looked bad" and is worth monitoring. A tear or significant injury could severely affect his draft stock.
— South Carolina running back Mike Davis wowed scouts with a 4.38 pro day 40, per SEC Network on Twitter, and I'm told by his camp that he has workouts coming with the New England Patriots.
— Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby is my No. 2-ranked player at the position and has workouts/visits with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers this week, per team sources.
Five Up, Five Down
With the 2015 NFL draft approaching, here's a look at five players moving up and five players moving down my board after extended film review.
5. CB Byron Jones, UConn
Two weeks in a row, Byron Jones makes the list moving up the board—and this week he's put himself in the first round.
Some may think this move is reactionary, but Jones is a unique case study. He was hurt with a shoulder injury midway through his senior season, so he wasn't at the Senior Bowl and wasn't truly on my radar until a week before the combine. Then he blew up with an amazing performance there. So it might seem like Jones' rise is all workout-based, but it's truly because he was flying under the radar until word started to leak about his 2013 tape.
4. WR Geremy Davis, UConn
A byproduct of watching Byron Jones more this past week was watching more of Geremy Davis. Scouting friends had raved to me about his hands, and he's definitely an NFL-caliber product with his great concentration, his production and the fact that he didn't drop a pass in 2014 (44 catches) with some bad quarterback play behind him.
At 6'2" and 216 pounds, Davis has the size and speed (4.47 pro day 40, per National Football Post) to develop into a starter.
3. EDGE Anthony Chickillo, Miami (Fla.)
Anthony Chickillo is a tweener who really didn't impress at his pro day, but he's still a very intriguing player given his natural talents and upside. Chickillo was a top prep player coming out of high school but never developed at Miami (an issue for many of the current players), but if placed into an NFL system and with a true position to master, he has the tools to become a better pro than he ever was in college.
2. SS James Sample, Louisville
In a class of safeties with few hitters, James Sample stands out. He has the build to hold up in the NFL right now and has the mentality of a fighter in the box. He has good athleticism, too, and can play with enough range on underneath and over-the-top routes to make an impact. Sample is a clear top-100 player and a potential rookie starter—impressive considering he was a one-year starter at Louisville.
1. FS Damarious Randall, Arizona State
Damarious Randall's stock is rising for two reasons: He's a dang good player, and this year's free safety class is very bad (and that includes the free-agent class). Randall has range, speed, instincts and developmental abilities, but he's raw after pursuing baseball early on. He is fiery and a playmaker and will step in and be a leader early on in his career. How good can he be? I'm comparing him to Tyrann Mathieu.
1. C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Reese Dismukes ended the season challenging for the No. 1 center spot in my rankings, but more film study has pushed him down while elevating Cam Erving, Hroniss Grasu and B.J. Finney. Now, Georgia Tech's Shaq Mason is also ahead of him, making the run-blocking Dismukes my No. 5 center. He doesn't show the athleticism needed to be a top-tier pass protector in the NFL.
2. CB Kevin White, TCU
Short cornerbacks with average speed aren't hot properties for NFL teams, and while Kevin White has good instincts and toughness, he's not a smooth mover in coverage and will get bodied by bigger NFL receivers. If you put him in the slot, his short-area quickness will be an issue when asked to mirror and slide. That pushes White down, even though his toughness is easy to love.
3. WR Josh Harper, Fresno State
Production and good hands go a long way for a wide receiver, but Josh Harper's struggles to separate from coverage were an issue at Fresno State and will be a bigger issue in the NFL. Without great size (6'1", 191 lbs) or speed (4.64 in the 40), Harper would have to be an elite-level route-runner to consistently separate, and that doesn't show up on his tape. He does have potential and very good hands, but his current abilities make him more of an early Day 3 pick.
4. CB Jacoby Glenn, Central Florida
Jacoby Glenn could be loved by some teams and taken off the board by others based on scheme fit. He's a lean, narrow-bodied off-coverage cornerback without the speed to recover if a receiver eats up his cushion. Glenn would work for teams running a Cover 2, but that's becoming much less trendy as teams run more Cover 1 or Cover 3. Glenn also doesn't have the power to play at the line of scrimmage, nor can he turn and bail with speed after pressing. After further film study, I have Glenn in the sixth-round range.
5. WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Where do you draft a receiver who isn't really a receiver but more of a return man hidden in a running back's body? Ty Montgomery doesn't showcase the consistent hands and natural catching ability of a receiver but is an electric return man. That lack of positional value, though, makes him a late-round pick on my updated board.
Scouting Report: Marcus Peters, Washington
Throughout the 2015 draft season, one draft prospect will be highlighted each week with a first-look scouting report.
Cornerback Marcus Peters, Washington (6'0", 197 pounds)
STRENGTHS: Marcus Peters looks like a pro, moves like a pro and plays like a pro. He’s going to be an impact player early in the NFL. He’s fluid and compensates for a lack of elite speed with great technique in his hip turns and in his timing. Peters rarely lets himself get out of position when waiting on underneath routes or when working in phase. He’s physical enough to jam and stun receivers at the line of scrimmage and has the length to break up passes in the air. He will challenge receivers for the ball. Peters plays with the mentality that the ball is his. He’s a tough, attacking tackler in space. Peters has the talent to become a top-five NFL cornerback.
WEAKNESSES: Peters was dismissed from Washington in November and was suspended for one game earlier in the year after a blow-up on the sideline. On the field, Peters can be a freelancer in coverage and will gamble to make the big play instead of staying tight in coverage. Peters isn’t patient and will get overaggressive when he feels he needs to make a play. He’s not overly fast and could struggle to turn and run with receivers down the field. Peters has to trust his coaches, or he can become a problem. Multiple teams I've spoken to are concerned about his close relationship with Marshawn Lynch.
PRO COMPARISON: Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons. Like Trufant, Marcus Peters isn’t overly fast and will drop a few interceptions, but he’s physical and sticky in coverage.
The Big Board
We are less than one month away from the 2015 NFL draft, which means draft boards are coming into clearer focus. Here's a look at a "What I'm Hearing" first-round mock draft as we enter April.
|April 3 Mock Draft|
|1||Tampa Bay||QB Jameis Winston, FSU|
|2||Tennessee||QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon|
|3||Jacksonville||EDGE Vic Beasley, Clemson|
|4||Oakland||WR Amari Cooper, Alabama|
|5||Washington||DL Leonard Williams, USC|
|6||NY Jets||EDGE Dante Fowler, Florida|
|7||Chicago||WR Kevin White, West Virginia|
|8||Atlanta||EDGE Randy Gregory, Nebraska|
|9||NY Giants||EDGE Shane Ray, Missouri|
|10||St. Louis||OL Brandon Scherff, Iowa|
|11||Minnesota||WR DeVante Parker, Louisville|
|12||Cleveland||NT Danny Shelton, Washington|
|13||New Orleans||EDGE Bud Dupree, Kentucky|
|14||Miami||WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri|
|15||San Francisco||CB Marcus Peters, Washington|
|16||Houston||EDGE Eli Harold, Virginia|
|17||San Diego||RB Todd Gurley, Georgia|
|18||Kansas City||T Andrus Peat, Stanford|
|19||Cleveland||TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota|
|20||Philadelphia||CB Byron Jones, UConn|
|21||Cincinnati||DL Arik Armstead, Oregon|
|22||Pittsburgh||CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State|
|23||Detroit||CB Ronald Darby, FSU|
|24||Arizona||DT Eddie Goldman, FSU|
|25||Carolina||T D.J. Humphries, Florida|
|26||Baltimore||CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest|
|27||Dallas||SS Landon Collins, Alabama|
|28||Denver||T La'el Collins, LSU|
|29||Indianapolis||OL Jake Fisher, Oregon|
|30||Green Bay||NT Malcom Brown, Texas|
|31||New Orleans||CB Jalen Collins, LSU|
|32||New England||RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin|
6. With pro days winding down, an important part of the draft process remains, one that won't get a ton of publicity. On April 18 and 19 players will return to Indianapolis for medical rechecks on injuries. This is key for players like Todd Gurley, Cedric Ogbuehi and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu who were not able to participate at the combine due to injuries.
5. An interesting note came out this week when talking to a current NFL player about the direction the Kansas City Chiefs will go in the draft. As he said, "(GM John) Dorsey doesn't pay offensive linemen." And that's correct. Under Dorsey's watch, Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz and Rodney Hudson left while the team focused instead of adding low-cost free agents and draft prospects. It's worth watching with the 18th pick and more needs on the offensive line.
4. The NFL handed down punishment this week to the Cleveland Browns (for texting coaches from the executive box) and Atlanta Falcons (for piping in crowd noise). My reaction? No big deal.
The Falcons were penalized a 2016 fifth-round draft pick and $350,000—nothing for billionaire owner Arthur Blank (he's valued at $2.5 billion by Forbes). The Browns were fined $250,000, and general manager Ray Farmer must serve a four-game suspension. And if you're wondering at home, a four-game suspension for a general manager basically means nothing.
In the weeks leading up to the punishment, a source of ESPN's Adam Schefter billed it as "severe," but there is nothing severe about it.
3. Florida State's pro day was this week, and the loaded crop of talent was anchored by quarterback Jameis Winston. How would quarterback coach George Whitfield top having Johnny Manziel throw in pads and a helmet last year? Winston threw an unheard of 105 passes during his workout—compared to 65 for Blake Bortles last year. The reason for this? As one college scouting director told me, "They're trying to prove his shoulder can hold up to the punishment." Winston's shoulder came under scrutiny at the combine.
2. This tweet from Jamaal Charles was too good not to share. And it's getting to the heart of a big discussion right now in football scouting: metrics vs. film study. Can a combination of workout numbers and on-field production better predict success than old-school film scouting? I was taught to evaluate players on film—and I'm admittedly not a numbers guy—but there is value to both. But the ability to see what a player can do and can't do will never go away.
1. Draft season never ends here, and as the 2015 class gets finalized, work is already starting on 2016. Here's a way-too-early sneak peek at the top 10 players.
|2016 NFL Draft Sneak Peek|
|9||Connor Cook||QB||Michigan State|
|8||Jaylon Smith||EDGE||Notre Dame|
|6||Laremy Tunsil||T||Ole Miss|
|5||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Ohio State|
|4||Ronnie Stanley||T||Notre Dame|
|3||Robert Nkemdiche||DL||Ole Miss|
|2||Christian Hackenberg||QB||Penn State|
|1||Joey Bosa||DL||Ohio State|
NFL pro day stats and results can be found here.