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Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Mixon Undraftable, Trubisky Grading & More

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 23, 2016

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 12:   Running back Joe Mixon #25 of the Oklahoma Sooners warms up before the game against the Baylor Bears November 12, 2016 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 45-24. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** local caption *** Joe Mixon;
Brett Deering/Getty Images

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). 

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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
RankPlayerPositionCollege
1Myles GarrettEDGETexas A&M
2Leonard FournetteRBLSU
3Jonathan AllenDLAlabama
4Jamal AdamsSLSU
5Reuben FosterLBAlabama
6Tim WilliamsEDGEAlabama
7Mike WilliamsWRClemson
8Dalvin CookRBFlorida State
9Mitch TrubiskyQBNorth Carolina
10O.J. HowardTEAlabama
11Quincy WilsonCBFlorida
12Corey DavisWRWestern Michigan
13Jabrill PeppersSMichigan
14DeShone KizerQBNotre Dame
15Derek BarnettEDGETennessee
16Gareon ConleyCBOhio State
17Takkarist McKinleyEDGEUCLA
18John RossWRWashington
19Christian McCaffreyRBStanford
20Montravius AdamsDLAuburn
21Caleb BrantleyDLFlorida
22Jalen TaborCBFlorida
23Zach CunninghamLBVanderbilt
24Taco CharltonEDGEMichigan
25D'Onta ForemanRBTexas
26Marshon LattimoreCBOhio State
27Sidney JonesCBWashington
28Deshaun WatsonQBClemson
29Jake ButtTEMichigan
30Ryan RamczykTWisconsin
31Ryan AndersonEDGEAlabama
32Bucky HodgesTEVirginia Tech
Matt Miller

                       

Parting Shots

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:

7⃣ Leonard Fournette @_fournette

Only person I owe something too..... https://t.co/QaLDGDC9Nw

            

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, IowaQB Josh Dobbs, TennesseeQB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
QB Sefo Liufau, ColoradoQB Nathan Peterman, PittQB Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin
QB Seth Russell, BaylorQB Davis Webb, CaliforniaRB Matt Dayes, NC State
RB Kareem Hunt, ToledoRB Donnel Pumphrey, SDSURB Jamaal Williams, BYU
FB Sam Rogers, Virginia TechFB Freddie Stevenson, FSUWR Amara Darboh, Michigan
WR Travin Dural, LSUWR Amba Etta-Tawo, SyracuseWR Zay Jones, East Carolina
WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern WashingtonWR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&MWR Fred Ross, Miss. State
WR Jamari Staples, LouisvilleWR Ryan Switzer, UNCWR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
WR Taywan Taylor, Western KentuckyTE Evan Engram, Ole MissTE Gerald Everett, South Alabama
TE Cole Hikutini, LouisvilleTE Jeremy Sprinkle, ArkansasT Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt
T Julien Davenport, BucknellT Dion Dawkins, TempleT Antonio Garcia, Troy
T Conor McDermott, UCLAG Jessamen Dunker, Tenn. StateG Dan Feeney, Indiana
G Danny Isidora, MiamiG Dorian Johnson, PittG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
G Jordan Morgan, KutztownG Taylor Moton, Western MichiganG Nico Siragusa, SDSU
C Isaac Asiata, UtahC Kyle Fuller, BaylorC Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia
C Jon Toth, KentuckyDE Tarell Basham, OhioDE Keionta Davis, UT-Chattanooga
DE Daeshon Hall, Texas A&MDE Tanoh Kpassagnon, VillanovaDE Carroll Phillips, Illinois
DE Dawuane Smoot, IllinoisDE Jordan Willis, Kansas StateDT Montravius Adams, Auburn
DT Ryan Glasgow, MichiganDT Jaleel Johnson, IowaDT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte
DT Tanzel Smart, TulaneOLB Ryan Anderson, AlabamaOLB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
OLB Jarrad Davis, FloridaOLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLAOLB Haason Reddick, Temple
ILB Duke Riley, LSUCB Chidobe Awuzie, ColoradoCB Corn Elder, Miami
CB Damontae Kazee, SDSUCB Desmond King, IowaCB Brendan Langley, Lamar
CB Ezra Robinson, Tenn. StateCB Cameron Sutton, TennesseeCB Marquez White, FSU
S Justin Evans, Texas A&MS Johnathan Ford, AuburnS Nate Gerry, Nebraska
S Josh Harvey-Clemons, LouisvilleS Rayshawn Jenkins, MiamiS Josh Johnson, Boston College
S Marcus Maye, FloridaS Obi Melifonwu, UConnP Toby Baker, Arkansas
P Justin Vogel, MiamiK Jake Elliott, MemphisK Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
www.seniorbowl.com

          

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, IllinoisQB Zach Terrell, Western MichiganQB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
QB Nate Peterman, PittQB Cooper Rush, Central MichiganQB Alex Torgersen, Penn
RB Elijah McGuire, La.-LafayetteRB Joe Williams, UtahRB Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin
RB I'Tavius Mathers, Middle Tenn. StateWR Jalen Robinette, Air ForceWR Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
WR DeAngelo Yancey, PurdueWR Rodney Adams, South FloridaWR Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois
WR Tony Stevens, AuburnWR Trey Griffey, ArizonaWR Austin Carr, Northwestern
WR Billy Brown, ShepherdWR Kermit Whitfield, FSUWR Quincy Adeboyejo, Ole Miss
TE Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma StateTE Eric Saubert, DrakeTE Anthony Auclair, Laval
TE Michael Roberts, ToledoTE Colin Jeter, LSUTE Scott Orndoff, Pitt
TE Taylor McNamara, USCOT Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia TechOT Victor Salako, Oklahoma State
OT Antonio Garcia, TroyOT Dan Skipper, ArkansasOT Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M
OT Erik Magnuson, MichiganOT Gavin Andrews, Oregon StateOT Dieugot Joseph, Florida International
OT Justin Senior, Miss. StateOT Storm Norton, ToledoOT Sean Harlow, Oregon State
OT Evan Goodman, Arizona StateOG Zach Johnson, North Dakota StateOG Danny Isidora, Miami
OG Kyle Kalis, MichiganOG Geoff Gray, ManitobaOG Adam Pankey, West Virginia
OC Lucas Crowley, North CarolinaOC Chase Roullier, WyomingOC Tobijah Hughley, Louisville
DE Deatrich Wise, ArkansasDE Trey Hendrickson, Florida AtlanticDE Jerimiah Ledbetter, Arkansas
DE Derek Rivers, YoungstownDE Avery Moss, YoungstownDE Bryan Cox, Florida
DE Karter Schult, Northern IowaDE Ejuan Price, PittDT DeAngelo Brown, Louisville
DT Treyvon Hester, ToledoDT Josh Tupou, ColoradoDT Joey Ivie, Florida
DT Josh Augusta, MissouriLB Brooks Ellis, ArkansasLB Andrew King, Army
LB Carroll Phillips, IllinoisLB Jayon Brown, UCLALB Kenneth Olugbode, Colorado
LB Marquel Lee, Wake ForestLB Calvin Munson, SDSULB James Onwualu, Notre Dame
LB Kevin Davis, Colorado StateLB Ben Gedeon, MichiganLB Steven Taylor, Houston
CB Treston DeCoud, Oregon StateCB Jalen Myrick, MinnesotaCB Tyquwan Glass, Fresno State
CB Jack Tocho, NC StateCB Fabian Moreau, UCLACB Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma State
CB Ahkello Witherspoon, ColoradoCB Brad Watson, Wake ForestCB Channing Stribling, Michigan
CB Aarion Penton, MissouriCB Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tenn. StateS Randall Goforth, UCLA
S Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma StS Tedric Thompson, ColoradoS Anthony Fish Smithson, Kansas
S Damarius Travis, MinnesotaS Orion Stewart, BaylorS Jamal Carter, Miami
S Dymonte Thomas, MichiganS Delano Hill, MichiganP Austin Rehkow, Idaho
P Eric Keena, North Texas
www.shrinegame.com

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.

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