We're 10 weeks into the NFL season, and I'm promising you, this week's Scouting Notebook is the best one so far this year.
Here's what's below:
- The Big 12's best player
- Updated Mock Draft
- Another Tennessee RB leaving school
- Names to know, injury updates
- ...and an interview with NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah
The Scout's Report
—"He's the best player in the Big 12." That's what an NFC scout told me about Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. I've spent time here before talking about the off-field issues with Mixon, and when asked if that would hurt his draft stock, the same scout replied, "It should, but it'll be interesting. Frank Clark went Round 2. I'll bet someone takes the bait."
—Jonathan Allen continues to be one of the most discussed players in the 2017 class. One area scout told me this week that Allen's leadership and work ethic are being talked about as the best Nick Saban has ever coached. The scout I spoke to thinks Allen is a slam dunk top-five pick, and I agree.
—As we reported earlier this week, Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara is expected to leave early for the NFL after the 2016 season. The junior back originally played at Alabama before going to community college in Hutchinson, Kansas. With Jalen Hurd leaving the program, Kamara has a chance to show down the stretch that he can be the man for the Volunteers.
—The Ohio State secondary has three potential first-rounders patrolling the field, but it's cornerback Gareon Conley who teams tell me they prefer. One AFC scout I spoke to said Conley is a "top-15 player" and higher ranked on his board than 2015 top-10 pick Eli Apple.
—Dan Hope of Orange and White reported this week that Clemson underclassmen Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott and Mike Williams would be honored on senior day. This happens when an underclassman is preparing to leave for the NFL draft and won't be around for their own senior day. While Watson and Williams were always expected to declare, this goes one step further toward making it a reality.
—Florida International tight end Jonnu Smith will miss the remainder of the season after his girlfriend, who is pregnant, threw boiling water on his head. That news comes from Jorge Corrales of WSVN. There will definitely be more to this story, but the immediate impact is a big hit to Smith's draft stock depending on the severity of the injuries.
—Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday and will be shut down for the remainder of the regular season, according to head coach Kevin Sumlin's press conference. Knight was ranked as a late-rounder on my last board but had a good chance to get a Senior Bowl invite. If he's back in time for the A&M bowl game, he may still be able to go in Mobile, Alabama.
—Ole Miss announced this week that quarterback Chad Kelly suffered a torn ACL and lateral meniscus, ending his season. Kelly is a polarizing prospect with a big arm and good mobility, but the injury combined with his off-field issues will put him in the undrafted free-agent category on my rankings.
—Laken Litman covers Notre Dame for the Indianapolis Star and is a must-follow for news about the Fighting Irish. When she asked quarterback DeShone Kizer what his plans are for next season, Kizer replied he hasn't put in enough "thought and time needed to make the decision." Kizer is in a four-way battle with Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya for the top quarterback spot in this year's draft.
—A source in the Miami Hurricanes' coaching staff tipped me off to an interesting nugget: The Chicago Bears have been at the last two games and are asking about quarterback Brad Kaaya. A person close to Kaaya confirmed the news when asked and said he's already spoken with general manager Ryan Pace about the quarterback.
5 Names to Know
5. DL Chris Wormley, Michigan
A 6'6", 302-pound senior, Chris Wormley has blossomed under head coach Jim Harbaugh and the team's 3-4 defense. A natural 5-technique defender, Wormley is starting to put together all the impressive physical traits he brings to the table. If an NFL team can harness that ability and get maximum production from him, he could develop into a premier 3-4 defensive end.
4. EDGE Jordan Willis, Kansas State
The Big 12 is a bit of a joke defensively, but there are talented draft-eligible players here and there. Finding them isn't easy, but they're out there. Jordan Willis is one of those up-and-comers on defense.
The Kansas State defensive end is tremendous against the run and offers enough power and speed to get after the quarterback. At 6'5" and 258 pounds, Willis has the length to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and brings enough strength at the point of attack to knock defenders off his frame.
3. S Marcus Allen, Penn State
Marcus Allen didn't make my most recent Big Board update, but not for lack of talent. Instead, the junior defensive back missed the cut because I hadn't seen him play enough games. Allen just recently popped onto my radar, but he's talented enough to get a mention here before showing in the next Big Board update.
The Penn State strong safety is a terror around the ball. He has 72 tackles on the year and four tackles for a loss while showing range and instincts coming up to play the run or short pass. Penn State's comeback this year is largely thanks to what Allen is doing as a leader on defense.
2. WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
The upcoming wide receiver class doesn't look particularly strong, but one player making a case for a Day 2 selection is Oklahoma State's James Washington.
Washington's ball skills stand out on film. He has a natural, smooth action to bring in the ball and isn't afraid to get off the turf to elevate for a jump ball. Washington isn't an oversized or super-fast receiver (6'1", 205 lbs, estimated 4.55 speed), but his ability to locate and attack the ball makes him a riser.
1. DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma
Walker was a significant riser on my last Big Board, but after watching more film and talking to NFL scouts this week, I'm concerned.
Walker has flashes of great talent, but he goes through weeks of nothing. That's hard to see if you watch one or two of his "on" games, which makes him a player you can be really high on until you see the lack of consistency across the board. It may be a work ethic or conditioning problem, but there is something missing from Walker's game tape.
3 Questions With NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah
Each week I'll ask three questions to an NFL draft prospect, current player, agent or current scout. This week, I spoke with former NFL scout and current draft analyst for NFL Network Daniel Jeremiah.
Bleacher Report: Of all the draft events, which one is your favorite? Senior Bowl, combine, pro days, etc.?
Jeremiah: The Senior Bowl is by far my favorite event on the draft calendar. It's a great opportunity to see top-tier players go up against one another on the field of play. Real football.
I've learned over the years not to get too carried away with your grade due to an all-star game performance, but it does help settle some ties on your individual sequence list. Also, I just love hanging in Mobile with all of my scouting buddies. We have our traditional spots we like to hit up (believe it or not, there's a great Greek spot minutes from our hotel).
B/R: What has been the biggest adjustment to working in the media?
Jeremiah: The biggest adjustment for me has been scouting for the public as opposed to a specific team. When you're with a team, you evaluate for specific schemes and rank players based somewhat on what your needs are at the time. There's a "recipe" given to you by your coaches/personnel bosses (for lack of a better analogy), and it's up to you to go find the desired ingredients to make it all come together.
On this side of things, there's no such instruction. There are no guidelines. At the end of the day, watching tape and describing players is the best part of my job. However, ranking them is incredibly difficult and challenging without the "recipe" in hand.
B/R: I'm sure you get this question even more than I do, but what is your advice for folks wanting to work in scouting—either media or team-based?
Jeremiah: Getting an NFL scouting job is extremely difficult. There are so many people competing for the same small number of vacancies. The good news is there are plenty of opportunities at the college level to get involved with recruiting. That is probably the most popular path to NFL scouting gigs. Do a great job in that role and impress NFL scouts when they visit your program to evaluate your players.
My other piece of advice would be to consume as much game tape as possible and write as many reports as possible. NFL GamePass (shameless plug) is a great tool for aspiring scouts. You can watch all-22 tape (same stuff scouts and coaches study) of every NFL game dating back to 2009.
Create projects for yourself. For instance, look up the league leaders in sacks and make it a goal to study every player in the top 10. Watch three to four games on each player and write a brief summary, focusing on strengths/weaknesses. Once you know what a great player looks like, it makes sorting out the others much easier.
The Big Board
We're past the halfway mark of the NFL season and have just one more month of regular-season college football. Perfect time to break down team needs and look at where each team could go in the first round.
|Updated Round 1 Mock Draft|
|1||Cleveland||DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco||RB Leonard Fournette, LSU|
|3||Chicago||DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama|
|4||Jacksonville||LB Reuben Foster, Alabama|
|5||New York Jets||CB Quincy Wilson, Florida|
|6||Tennessee (from LA)||WR Mike Williams, Clemson|
|7||Tampa Bay||S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan|
|8||Carolina||DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee|
|9||Arizona||QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame|
|10||Cincinnati||S Jamal Adams, LSU|
|11||Buffalo||T Cam Robinson, Alabama|
|12||Tennessee||DE Dawuane Smoot, Illinois|
|13||Indianapolis||CB Jalen Tabor, Florida|
|14||San Diego||T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin|
|15||Miami||CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State|
|16||Pittsburgh||EDGE Tim Williams, Alabama|
|17||New Orleans||QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina|
|18||Green Bay||RB Dalvin Cook, FSU|
|19||Cleveland (from PHI)||QB DeShaun Watson, Clemson|
|20||Detroit||DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State|
|21||Baltimore||EDGE Ryan Anderson, Alabama|
|22||Washington||RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford|
|23||Philadelphia (from MIN)||WR John Ross, Washington|
|24||New York Giants||DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA|
|25||Houston||LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt|
|26||Atlanta||CB Sidney Jones, Washington|
|27||Denver||S Malik Hooker, Ohio State|
|28||Seattle||DL Caleb Brantley, Florida|
|29||Kansas City||EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn|
|30||Oakland||LB Jarrad Davis, Florida|
|31||New England||CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State|
|32||Dallas||DE Charles Harris, Missouri|
8. There seems to be some confusion on Twitter—shocking, I know—about what scouting is and what it isn't. And of course there is no "right way" to scout players, but there are several ideas out there about what those of us who evaluate players are doing.
The first myth I see is that stats equal success. An example of this was Ohio State fans being upset that Dante Booker ranked higher than Tyquan Lewis on my most recent Big Board. Booker has been hurt and not making an impact, while Lewis has notched five sacks as a junior. On paper, it would seem Lewis is the better talent.
Box score scouting will get you fired, though. Booker is the better athlete, which is what most NFL scouts are actually scouting. It's why they leave games at halftime after "body typing" the players on the field. Production is great, but production matters to NFL teams only if it's the byproduct of athletic traits.
Booker and Lewis are different players, but the same theory holds true when looking at why DeShone Kizer is ranked higher than Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Production is nice, but only if it comes with context.
7. Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated had a great article this week on how the Atlanta Falcons offense hinges on center Alex Mack. It's a must-read if you're a nut for offensive philosophy. But there's also a great nugget in here from Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.
The new analytics people didn’t really value the center position very much. They much more strongly value the outside players. They feel like building a team from the outside in is how you do it. You value your tackles to some level, but they really value receivers and cornerbacks and DBs. For Alex, I’m guessing it was, I’m the best player in the NFL at my position. Somebody’s going to pay me to be the best player in the NFL at my position. Why would I stay in Cleveland for somebody who doesn’t want me that much, for a team that doesn’t seem to be making progress? I want to go somewhere that’s got a quarterback, a lot of pieces in place, and maybe I can be the final piece of that puzzle.
This is a huge look into the mindset of the Browns' new front office. It appears it is placing monetary values on positions, which is something I've heard other teams doing too. This isn't purely a Moneyball idea, either. It's more about prioritizing spending in an era that has many teams loaded with five or six huge contracts and trying to fill the other 47 roster spots with inexpensive parts. For the Browns, center wasn't one of those five or six priorities.
6. Did you know I take requests? Former MLB pitcher Clay Rapada has been blowing me up asking for a combined list of defensive backs for this draft. Seems like his Browns need an upgrade in the secondary. Here's the list, for Clay, and for the rest of you looking at a very strong defensive back class.
|Top Defensive Backs|
|SS Jabrill Peppers||Michigan||#5|
|SS Jamal Adams||LSU||#6|
|CB Quincy Wilson||Florida||#8|
|CB Gareon Conley||Ohio State||#16|
|FS Malik Hooker||Ohio State||#18|
|CB Jalen Tabor||Florida||#19|
|CB Sidney Jones||Washington||#29|
|CB Marshon Lattimore||Ohio State||#33|
|SS Justin Evans||Texas A&M||#38|
|CB Jourdan Lewis||Michigan||#42|
|CB Desmond King||Iowa||#43|
|FS Marcus Maye||Florida||#48|
|CB Tre'Davious White||LSU||#54|
|CB Marlon Humphrey||Alabama||#55|
|CB Cordrea Tankersley||Clemson||#57|
|CB Chidobe Awuzie||Colorado||#58|
|S Marcus Williams||Utah||#61|
|CB Corn Elder||Miami (Fla.)||#66|
|CB Adoree Jackson||USC||#67|
|S Budda Baker||Washington||#70|
5. It's almost Heisman time, and while I don't have an official vote, it's always fun to make a list of who should be invited to New York. Here's my look at the top candidates and a quick note on their NFL draft potential.
a. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville—A true sophomore, Jackson isn't NFL draft-eligible yet, but his playmaking definitely translates to the next level. The front-runner to take home some hardware at the Heisman ceremony, Jackson will enter the 2017 season as my No. 2 ranked quarterback behind Josh Rosen of UCLA.
b. Jake Browning, QB, Washington—Another non-draft-eligible player, Jake Browning has impressive pocket poise and accuracy but doesn't have great size for the next level (listed at 6'2", 209 lbs). I haven't done a complete study on Browning yet, but his touch and pocket play will get him the No. 3 quarterback ranking for next season.
c. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan—The dynamic three-way player for Michigan is the most likely draft-eligible player to take home the award. Peppers, who is only a redshirt sophomore, has range, instincts and is a threat with the ball in his hands. He's currently the No. 5 overall player on my 2017 draft big board.
d. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas—A bruising running back with breakaway speed, D'Onta Foreman is the second coming of Marshawn Lynch. He's had a magical season for Texas, rushing for over 100 yards in every game he's played while scoring 13 touchdowns. He's carrying a Round 1 grade if he declares early for the draft.
e. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama—Jonathan Allen is a nightmare for offenses to deal with, and with his talent and work ethic, he's a lock to be a top-five selection in this year's draft class if he declares early. Allen may not have the numbers to get the invite to New York, but if Heisman voters are truly recognizing the best players in college football, he should be there.
Other former Alabama players have done the same this year. John Parker Wilson played quarterback before the LSU game, and Blake Sims helped the team get ready for Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight.
Richardson has been staying in shape for NFL workouts and must have done a good job, as Alabama held Fournette to just 35 yards on 17 carries.
3. Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins to take the head coaching job at Alabama for the 2007 season. Since that time, every other SEC school has made at least one coaching change. Is Saban a coach killer? He's definitely not helping matters.
|SEC Coaching Changes|
|LSU||Ed Orgeron (interim)||2016|
|Miss. State||Dan Mullen||2009|
|Ole Miss||Hugh Freeze||2012|
|South Carolina||Will Muschamp||2016|
|Texas A&M||Kevin Sumlin||2012|
2. The pressure to draft a quarterback early is always there, especially for teams that have been bad for a while at the position. Cleveland and San Francisco will face that pressure at the top of this year's draft, too.
What both front offices should avoid is drafting a player higher than they are valued. That seems obvious, but there are examples in almost every draft class of a franchise overinflating the value of a player for need. And most often it happens at quarterback.
EJ Manuel in Buffalo. Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Blake Bortles in Jacksonville.
Those quarterbacks were not valued as highly as they were drafted, but each franchise panicked and overdrafted a quarterback with the hope he could be developed into a franchise quarterback. Instead, look at Seattle, Oakland and Dallas as examples of what teams should do. Yes, each team did get lucky in landing home run passers outside the first round, but each club also evaluated needs and values separately. The Raiders didn't draft Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater at No. 5 overall in the 2014 draft, even though the need was enormous.
Being patient pays off, and while there is "win now" pressure in San Francisco and probably some in Chicago, smart franchises will look at the 2017 quarterback class and wait before anointing anyone as a top-tier prospect.
1. What should the Cleveland Browns do if they finish the year 0-16 and earn the first pick in the draft?
There will be pressure to draft a quarterback, but like mentioned above, they should avoid that unless the front office values a player in that draft slot. Last year's move to trade out of pick No. 2 and the chance to draft Carson Wentz indicates they would indeed pass on a quarterback if there isn't a player worthy of the selection.
The best move would be drafting Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick and then see where the board falls. The Browns have two first-rounders, and that extra pick coming from Tennessee may net them another top-20 pick.
There's no telling yet if one of the quarterbacks could fall there, but it's entirely possible the Browns could get a Khalil Mack-Derek Carr kind of draft class with some patience. Going with the sure thing in Garrett and then taking a quarterback later, under less pressure, is a smarter move.
That may remind fans too much of the Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel draft class, but these are much better players with far fewer off-field issues. And there is another option—stick with Cody Kessler for another year and see what he can do. There is zero pressure to win 10 games in Cleveland next year, which gives Hue Jackson and his crew a chance to build a winner from the ground up.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.