How does the NFL react to a second incident of domestic violence that brings back memories of Ray Rice's elevator knockout? That's the biggest topic around the league as scouts, coaches and general managers react to the release of a video showing Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punch a woman in the face (breaking her jaw) and then casually strolling out of a restaurant in 2014.
Mixon's fate will get considerable space here, but what else is happening in the world of the NFL draft?
- Two star running backs sit out bowl games
- A Super Bowl coach on the trade block
- An updated Big Board
- NFC scout interview
- ...and is there a first-round lineman in this class?
The Scout's Report
—The Mixon video sent shock waves through the league when it was released last Friday afternoon. And while some on Twitter were quick to defend his actions—if you can believe that—scouts and personnel people I talked with had a different take.
"He's undraftable now. There is no team that can use a pick on him [in this draft]" is what one high-ranking personnel man told me. A Big 12 area scout I spoke with said Mixon is expected to return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season now.
—Last week, I reported what NFL scouts were then telling me about Mixon from their visits to Oklahoma: He was taunted, spat on and called a racial slur, and those actions led to him punching the woman. But that's not true, according to Mixon's interview with police following his arrest, per The Oklahoman (h/t Deadspin).
Mixon was not spit on. He was slapped by a woman and punched her.
—The University of Oregon announced junior running back Royce Freeman would return to school and not enter the 2017 draft class. Freeman is a big (5'11", 230 lbs) back with speed and open-field moves, but injuries hit hard this season. In a very deep running back class, Freeman's return to school and an attempt to put another year of healthy film out is a smart play.
—Ross Dellenger of the The Advocate reported this week that LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith tore his ACL, ending his college career and seriously delaying his draft prep. Beckwith had buzz last season as a potential top-75 pick and followed that up with a solid senior season, but an ACL injury this late generally pushes non-elite players down several rounds. I'll move Beckwith to Round 4 because of the injury with updates coming once his rehab timeline is known.
—Mitch Trubisky, my top-ranked quarterback in the 2017 class, revealed to Scout.com that the NFL draft advisory committee gave him a first-round grade. That doesn't mean every team has Trubisky in Round 1, but that the average of teams polled by the committee put him there. Grades can come back as Round 1, Round 2 or Return to School from that panel. There isn't a consensus top quarterback in this class according to the scouts I've spoken with, but most teams I'm in contact with do prefer Trubisky to the rest of the group.
—Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey tweeted this week that he will sit out the Sun Bowl and begin preparing for the NFL draft. This created a media firestorm with the entire NFL world commenting on the decision. My take? Good for McCaffrey. You've more than paid Stanford back for the scholarship they gave you. Now it's time to make decisions for yourself. McCaffrey still ranks as a top-20 player on my board.
—The first player this season to announce he'd skip a bowl game and prepare for the draft was LSU running back Leonard Fournette—a player some were telling to sit out the entire season so as to not risk hurting his NFL draft stock. Just like McCaffrey, Fournette has proved his value and talent on the field for the Tigers. He's as NFL-ready as any player in college football. One more game on a bad ankle won't answer any lingering questions about him. Fournette is my top-ranked offensive player and No. 2 overall, behind only Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.
—Alex Dunlap of Orangebloods reported Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will enter the NFL draft as a tight end. Swoopes, who is listed at 6'4" and 250 pounds, was more of a bulldozer in short-yardage situations than passing quarterback this past season. This is the smartest move for his future because NFL scouts are likely to see him as a raw athletic canvas they can mold into a box-out tight end. Swoopes should expect to hear his name called late in the draft or even as an undrafted free agent.
—Top tackle Ryan Ramczyk will undergo surgery following Wisconsin's Cotton Bowl matchup with Western Michigan, according to anonymous sources quoted by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A hip surgery could mean Ramczyk returns to college for his senior season instead of entering the 2017 draft. This situation is one I'll be watching closely.
—Could Sean Payton be traded? For a second offseason, Payton's name was floated as a potential head coach candidate for teams willing to send draft picks to New Orleans for his services. The report, coming from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, says the Saints' motivations are largely financial and that it wouldn't take "all that much to get him."
—The move to sign Brock Osweiler looks like a bad one in Houston. When I asked a Texans personnel man what went wrong, he replied, "That's what happens when you sign a player the owner and GM want but the head coach doesn't."
5 Names to Know
5. QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
If you watched Wyoming against BYU on Wednesday night, you saw Josh Allen showing off his big arm and plus mobility. Allen isn't NFL-ready even though he's draft-eligible this year, but put his name on your 2018 watch lists. If he can continue to develop his field vision and decision-making, Allen could get himself into the top-five-quarterback conversation next fall.
4. LB Tre'von Johnson, Weber State
A small-school standout, Tre'von Johnson reached out and sent me game film to evaluate. He's a talented outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme with quick feet, ideal size (6'1", 235 lbs) and the instincts and tackling skills you want to see from a lower-level player against non-NFL competition. Johnson will get his shot in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and with a strong predraft process, he has an opportunity to get some late buzz going.
3. TE Michael Roberts, Toledo
A late addition to my tight end rankings, Michael Roberts is a player I'm falling in love with the more I watch.
An East-West Shrine Game invite, Roberts is a massive man at 6'5" and 270 pounds. As only a one-year starter, he has raw traits but impresses as a three-down tight end capable of lining up on the end of the offensive line or flexed out. And unlike many top tight ends in previous classes, Roberts can actually block well in the run game.
With 16 touchdowns on the season, Roberts emerged as a true playmaker for Toledo. His size and production are tough to overlook now.
2. EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
A junior at Boston College, Harold Landry may not enter the 2017 NFL draft. That's why I haven't done a ton of work on him yet. Taking a quick look this week, Landry definitely passes the eyeball test.
A 6'3", 250-pound edge-rusher, Landry bends the edge with very impressive quickness and footwork. He doesn't bring great power yet with his hands but is able to make splash plays with his hips and closing speed squeezing the corner.
Landry has a shot to be a first- or second-round player if he does enter the draft.
1. CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
The Colorado defense is quietly loaded with future NFL talent. We've talked a lot more about Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson in the secondary, but "other" cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is making plays and getting on the NFL radar as well.
Witherspoon is a tall, long cornerback with NFL speed. What he lacks is a tackling ability and the toughness needed to bang at the line of scrimmage against pro receivers. As a mid-round cornerback who has the tools to develop, Witherspoon is one to watch.
3 Questions with an NFC Scout
Each week, I'll pose three questions to an NFL draft prospect, current player, agent or current scout. This week, I spoke with an NFC scout who asked to remain anonymous for competitive purposes.
Bleacher Report: It's been a while since we've talked quarterbacks. Can you stack this class for me from top to bottom?
Scout: I will, as long as you let me clarify that it's still pretty early on these guys and I'm ranking them off the tape I've seen. We obviously haven't done interviews yet, and that's a huge part of my personal grade.
1 DeShone Kizer, 2 Mitch Trubisky, 3 Deshaun Watson, 4 Patrick Mahomes, 5 Brad Kaaya, 6 Luke Falk.
I like Kizer's tools best, but he needs time to be reworked a bit coming out of that toxic situation this year. Same for Watson, who I felt regressed this year in terms of reading coverage and making plays. He seemed really timid this year as a thrower and runner, and it resulted in more picks early. You noticed he came around more at the end of the season? It's because he stopped worrying so much.
Trubisky is a good player, but the one-year-wonder thing will always bother me. Mahomes is going to need some time to get acclimated to our way of doing things because he's basically had his hand held at Texas Tech. Falk and Kaaya are just guys. I doubt either becomes a full-time starter.
B/R: Do you anticipate giving a Round 1 grade to any offensive lineman?
Scout: From my area? Hell no. But the Wisconsin kid [Ryan Ramczyk] probably has a second-round grade in our room by draft time. That might mean he's a top 32 player still, but I can't see him getting that "1" beside his name given the hip injury and the limited Big Ten tape.
B/R: All summer we talked up the running back class, but is it still the best group?
Scout: I never bought into it like you guys did. The strongest position in this draft is the edge-rushers or outside linebackers. There might be seven of them in the first round alone. And there aren't many question marks about these guys, either. Myles Garrett is a freak show, and the 'Bama kids (Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson) should go early too.
The Big Board
With more players making their decisions for 2017, it's time to take a look at the top 32 players as of the end of December.
|Updated Top 32 Big Board|
|1||Myles Garrett||EDGE||Texas A&M|
|8||Dalvin Cook||RB||Florida State|
|9||Mitch Trubisky||QB||North Carolina|
|12||Corey Davis||WR||Western Michigan|
|14||DeShone Kizer||QB||Notre Dame|
|16||Gareon Conley||CB||Ohio State|
|26||Marshon Lattimore||CB||Ohio State|
|32||Bucky Hodges||TE||Virginia Tech|
8. While you're winding down getting ready for family get-togethers, make time to read about how Khalil Mack is outsmarting offenses.
"He knows the angles, he knows which arm to reach out with based on where the quarterback likes to hold the ball, he knows exactly at what depth the quarterback will be," says Raiders defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. "He knows how many steps their drops are, their setup points. He has a great combination of strength, speed, and power. But the biggest thing is his knowledge."
Kevin Clark of The Ringer is a fantastic writer, which makes this a must-read, but he also breaks new ground explaining why Mack is so successful. With so much NFL coverage on the internet, it's great to find a piece where you learn something new about a well-covered player.
7. Leonard Fournette not playing in a bowl game—after struggling with an ankle injury for much of the season—gave every NFL analyst with a platform the chance to weigh in on what a 21-year-old should do regarding his future. Fournette summed it up best in one tweet:
6. Will the Cleveland Browns finish the 2016 season without a win? It's looking pretty damn possible.
With two weeks remaining, the Browns host the San Diego Chargers (where Mike McCoy is on the hot seat and needs a win) and then travel to Pittsburgh against a Steelers team fighting for playoff positioning. Neither team is in position to roll over against the Browns. And remember this: Cleveland hasn't lost a close game since October 30, when the New York Jets won by three points.
If we're taking bets on the Browns finishing 0-16, I'm putting my money on it.
5. Another round of players accepted invitations from the Senior Bowl this week. Here's a look at the updated rosters—which are, of course, subject to change:
|Updated Senior Bowl Rosters|
|QB C.J. Beathard, Iowa||QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee||QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss|
|QB Sefo Liufau, Colorado||QB Nathan Peterman, Pitt||QB Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin|
|QB Seth Russell, Baylor||QB Davis Webb, California||RB Matt Dayes, NC State|
|RB Kareem Hunt, Toledo||RB Donnel Pumphrey, SDSU||RB Jamaal Williams, BYU|
|FB Sam Rogers, Virginia Tech||FB Freddie Stevenson, FSU||WR Amara Darboh, Michigan|
|WR Travin Dural, LSU||WR Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse||WR Zay Jones, East Carolina|
|WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington||WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M||WR Fred Ross, Miss. State|
|WR Jamari Staples, Louisville||WR Ryan Switzer, UNC||WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech|
|WR Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky||TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss||TE Gerald Everett, South Alabama|
|TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville||TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas||T Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt|
|T Julien Davenport, Bucknell||T Dion Dawkins, Temple||T Antonio Garcia, Troy|
|T Conor McDermott, UCLA||G Jessamen Dunker, Tenn. State||G Dan Feeney, Indiana|
|G Danny Isidora, Miami||G Dorian Johnson, Pitt||G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky|
|G Jordan Morgan, Kutztown||G Taylor Moton, Western Michigan||G Nico Siragusa, SDSU|
|C Isaac Asiata, Utah||C Kyle Fuller, Baylor||C Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia|
|C Jon Toth, Kentucky||DE Tarell Basham, Ohio||DE Keionta Davis, UT-Chattanooga|
|DE Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M||DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova||DE Carroll Phillips, Illinois|
|DE Dawuane Smoot, Illinois||DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State||DT Montravius Adams, Auburn|
|DT Ryan Glasgow, Michigan||DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa||DT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte|
|DT Tanzel Smart, Tulane||OLB Ryan Anderson, Alabama||OLB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin|
|OLB Jarrad Davis, Florida||OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA||OLB Haason Reddick, Temple|
|ILB Duke Riley, LSU||CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado||CB Corn Elder, Miami|
|CB Damontae Kazee, SDSU||CB Desmond King, Iowa||CB Brendan Langley, Lamar|
|CB Ezra Robinson, Tenn. State||CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee||CB Marquez White, FSU|
|S Justin Evans, Texas A&M||S Johnathan Ford, Auburn||S Nate Gerry, Nebraska|
|S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville||S Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami||S Josh Johnson, Boston College|
|S Marcus Maye, Florida||S Obi Melifonwu, UConn||P Toby Baker, Arkansas|
|P Justin Vogel, Miami||K Jake Elliott, Memphis||K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State|
4. The Senior Bowl is the premier predraft all-star showcase, but the East-West Shrine Game is also important. As those rosters start to take shape, I'll update them here as well:
|Updated East-West Shrine Rosters|
|QB Wes Lunt, Illinois||QB Zach Terrell, Western Michigan||QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati|
|QB Nate Peterman, Pitt||QB Cooper Rush, Central Michigan||QB Alex Torgersen, Penn|
|RB Elijah McGuire, La.-Lafayette||RB Joe Williams, Utah||RB Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin|
|RB I'Tavius Mathers, Middle Tenn. State||WR Jalen Robinette, Air Force||WR Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska|
|WR DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue||WR Rodney Adams, South Florida||WR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois|
|WR Tony Stevens, Auburn||WR Trey Griffey, Arizona||WR Austin Carr, Northwestern|
|WR Billy Brown, Shepherd||WR Kermit Whitfield, FSU||WR Quincy Adeboyejo, Ole Miss|
|TE Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State||TE Eric Saubert, Drake||TE Anthony Auclair, Laval|
|TE Michael Roberts, Toledo||TE Colin Jeter, LSU||TE Scott Orndoff, Pitt|
|TE Taylor McNamara, USC||OT Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia Tech||OT Victor Salako, Oklahoma State|
|OT Antonio Garcia, Troy||OT Dan Skipper, Arkansas||OT Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M|
|OT Erik Magnuson, Michigan||OT Gavin Andrews, Oregon State||OT Dieugot Joseph, Florida International|
|OT Justin Senior, Miss. State||OT Storm Norton, Toledo||OT Sean Harlow, Oregon State|
|OT Evan Goodman, Arizona State||OG Zach Johnson, North Dakota State||OG Danny Isidora, Miami|
|OG Kyle Kalis, Michigan||OG Geoff Gray, Manitoba||OG Adam Pankey, West Virginia|
|OC Lucas Crowley, North Carolina||OC Chase Roullier, Wyoming||OC Tobijah Hughley, Louisville|
|DE Deatrich Wise, Arkansas||DE Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic||DE Jerimiah Ledbetter, Arkansas|
|DE Derek Rivers, Youngstown||DE Avery Moss, Youngstown||DE Bryan Cox, Florida|
|DE Karter Schult, Northern Iowa||DE Ejuan Price, Pitt||DT DeAngelo Brown, Louisville|
|DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo||DT Josh Tupou, Colorado||DT Joey Ivie, Florida|
|DT Josh Augusta, Missouri||LB Brooks Ellis, Arkansas||LB Andrew King, Army|
|LB Carroll Phillips, Illinois||LB Jayon Brown, UCLA||LB Kenneth Olugbode, Colorado|
|LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest||LB Calvin Munson, SDSU||LB James Onwualu, Notre Dame|
|LB Kevin Davis, Colorado State||LB Ben Gedeon, Michigan||LB Steven Taylor, Houston|
|CB Treston DeCoud, Oregon State||CB Jalen Myrick, Minnesota||CB Tyquwan Glass, Fresno State|
|CB Jack Tocho, NC State||CB Fabian Moreau, UCLA||CB Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma State|
|CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado||CB Brad Watson, Wake Forest||CB Channing Stribling, Michigan|
|CB Aarion Penton, Missouri||CB Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tenn. State||S Randall Goforth, UCLA|
|S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma St||S Tedric Thompson, Colorado||S Anthony Fish Smithson, Kansas|
|S Damarius Travis, Minnesota||S Orion Stewart, Baylor||S Jamal Carter, Miami|
|S Dymonte Thomas, Michigan||S Delano Hill, Michigan||P Austin Rehkow, Idaho|
|P Eric Keena, North Texas|
3. The January 16 deadline for players to declare for the 2017 NFL draft seems far away, but some are already announcing their intentions. The following players have confirmed they'll enter the draft:
- QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
- QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
- RB James Conner, Pitt
- RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas
- RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
- RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson
- RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
- WR Jerome Lane, Akron
- WR Artavis Scott, Clemson
- WR Damore'ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss
- WR Mike Williams, Clemson
- DL Nazair Jones, North Carolina
- DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
- DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
- DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma
- EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri
- LB Jermaine Grace, Miami (Fla.)
2. The way I hear it, the Indianapolis Colts won't be making any changes in the front office or coaching staff after this season. Owner Jim Irsay is apparently fine with wasting the prime years of one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
General manager Ryan Grigson fell into a dream scenario and drafted a generational talent at quarterback. Since then, his only good pick has been wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round of the same draft (2012). And in free agency, the Colts gave too much money to average players like Anthony Castonzo, Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson.
Head coach Chuck Pagano was an inspiring story in his fight against cancer during the 2012 season, but he's been unable to prove himself as a game-day coach. Winning out this season gives the Colts nine wins and a shot at the playoffs. That's because of Luck under center.
Upgrading across the board in Indianapolis is what should happen, but until ownership gets tired of mediocrity, Luck will continue to carry a team with no help around him.
1. It was announced on the SiriusXM NFL Twitter account Thursday afternoon that the NFL would have a spring development league. Excitement shot through the social media site until Pro Football Talk tweeted a clarification: The Spring League has no affiliation with the NFL.
The idea of a spring developmental league is a good one, though. The NFL needs a system to better develop quarterbacks, offensive tackles and even non-player positions like referees and coaches. But this won't be that league.
Why hasn't the NFL developed a minor league yet? Money.
The cost of starting a minor league would be huge. Imagine a four-team league where two NFL divisions are paired together to send players for development—let's say the AFC North and South teams combine to form a minor league club. Each team would send five players, making up a 40-man roster. The cost to just pay, outfit, house and feed those players would be more than NFL owners are currently willing to surrender from their constantly enlarging profits.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it is a popular saying where I'm from. That seems to be the mindset among owners who don't see an immediate gain from paying for a developmental league.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.