Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Shake-Up Coming at Top of the Tackle Class?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterFebruary 10, 2017

Oct 29, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Garett Bolles (72) celebrates a touchdown by Utah Utes tight end Evan Moeai (not pictured) during the second half against the Washington Huskies at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Washington won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Since the beginning of the college football season, there has been an intense debate around the NFL about who the top offensive tackle prospect in the 2017 draft will be. That debate rages on into February. 

Cam Robinson from Alabama had the hype coming into the season, but struggles on the field and question marks off of it pushed his stock down. Ryan Ramczyk, the one-year starter at Wisconsin, was the midseason riser who looked to answer the tackle question, but he has a torn hip labrum and scouts have told me they worry about his length. So who's left?

Utah's Garett Bolles. The 24-year-old left tackle is mean and athletic and became a starter at Utah after arriving on campus in early August. NFL scouts would love him to be 21 instead of 24—he served an LDS mission and played at Snow College before enrolling at Utah—but the tools Bolles brings to the table have everyone in the league talking. Like one scout told me last week, Bolles is the tackle in this class—the rest of the draft industry just has to catch up to that.

Does that put Bolles in the top 10 or top 15 picks? It absolutely could. That makes him this week's biggest riser.

What else is happening?

  • Updated two-round mock draft
  • A top-five lock at quarterback?
  • How domestic violence is shaping the scouting combine
  • Scouting in 140 characters
  • ...and five names to know before the combine

                                   

The Scout's Report

—"He's a top-five lock." That's what one general manager told me this week about North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. In the media there is a strong debate about who the top quarterback is this year, but the feeling I get from teams is that Trubisky is QB1.

Brad Kaaya threw 27 TDs and 7 INTs in his final season at Miami.
Brad Kaaya threw 27 TDs and 7 INTs in his final season at Miami.John Raoux/Associated Press

—Speaking of quarterbacks, one scout told me this week his grade on Brad Kaaya was "Day 3." That could mean Round 4 or Round 7, but it's not what the former Miami quarterback wants to hear. Kaaya needs to improve his footwork and some mechanical issues that come with it, but the three-year starter has better tools than a Day 3 grade in my book.

—Two surprise players not invited to the combine: Kansas State junior linebacker Elijah Lee and Arizona linebacker Paul Magloire. Lee, as an underclassman, is a big surprise. Magloire had a great East-West Shrine Game week, and my assumption was that propelled him up boards enough to secure an invite.

—NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted this week that Florida linebacker and potential first-rounder Jarrad Davis won't perform drills at the combine because of the ankle injury he suffered this season. Rapoport added, per a source, that Davis expects to be 100 percent by his pro day.

—Appearing as a guest on the Setting the Edge podcast this week, Rapoport stated that Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes might not make it to Round 2. He added that some NFL scouts see Mahomes as the top quarterback in this class. Mahomes has tremendous arm strength and athleticism, but he has to win in interviews and whiteboard sessions. That said, there is nothing keeping him from being the belle of the ball for a team in Round 1.

—As most NFL teams meet this week to begin the process of discussing the draft as an entire scouting staff, more finalized grades will become known. One player I'm hearing NFL teams are higher on than I've been is Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Said one scout, "[You] can play him anywhere—safety, nickel, corner—and he's athletic enough to make plays." Don't be surprised if Awuzie gets into Round 2.

—The Buffalo Bills have to add a quarterback early in this draft, and speaking to a rival GM about that opening, he said, "They'll draft one in the first two rounds, and if I had to pick it'd be [Deshaun] Watson based on what [Doug Whaley] likes and how he thinks."

—In talking to a scout this week about the EDGE class, he told me, "You're way too high on Ryan Anderson. Think he has a Round 3 grade from us." I see Alabama's Anderson as a low-risk, high-reward power rusher in a 3-4 defense. For a 4-3 team, it's understandable his 6'2" frame might not be appealing, though.

—What's most important for a quarterback in the Kyle Shanahan offense? I asked an NFL scout who's worked with Kyle and knows his system well for an answer. "The most important thing is someone he knows will work hard and put in the time he does. From a traits standpoint, accuracy and a quick release will be keys, but the QB has to inspire confidence mentally. Kyle's offense is hard and very wordy, so any of these Air Raid kids have to show him they can retain info and spit it back out with authority."

—How many running backs go in Round 1? A general manager I spoke with this week set the number at four, listing Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey as the top players.

 

                           

5 Names to Know

5. EDGE Jordan Willis, Kansas State

After the Senior Bowl, I go back to the film and try to watch two or three more games from standout players. I'll do that for every player during February and March, but the eye-catching players in Mobile, Alabama, get first priority. Kansas State's Jordan Willis got that treatment this week.

Jordan Willis is a rising edge-rusher in the 2017 draft class.
Jordan Willis is a rising edge-rusher in the 2017 draft class.Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Willis is a big (6'4", 250 lbs) defensive end who projects well to a 4-3 defense. He isn't super twitchy or flexible, but his ability to rush with speed and power makes him intriguing. Willis had 11.5 sacks this season and a ton more pressures while playing in a conference that gets the ball out of the quarterback's hand in a hurry. That type of impact is hard to overlook, even if you don't put much emphasis on stats.

                                  

4. WR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech

Henderson wasn't at the Senior Bowl as a junior, but his teammate Trent Taylor was. When going back to see more of Taylor, I kept finding Henderson on the screen.

A 5'11", 191-pounder with a jacked frame and excellent speed, Henderson can line up inside or outside the formation and win matchups. He's a capable run-after-catch guy who also has the speed and tracking skills to be a threat down the field.

Henderson won't push Mike Williams or Corey Davis as the top receivers in this class, but in Round 2 he's a guy to watch as an impact-maker if paired up with a good quarterback like Marcus Mariota or Ben Roethlisberger.

                              

3. EDGE Tarell Basham, Ohio

Another 6'4", 250-pounder at defensive end, Tarell Basham had 16 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks as a senior. He showed up well on the Senior Bowl stage, too. 

Basham's bend isn't great, but his length and power allow him to stack up blockers and go through them when he can't get the corner to go around a tackle. Basham has a solid countermove when blockers get hands on him and has shown the drive to work past a first and second contact to make a play on the ball.

I see his best fit as a 4-3 defensive end, but at his size and with good overall athleticism, he could potentially stand up on the edge.

                                           

2. LB Jarrad Davis, Florida

As mentioned above, Davis will miss doing drills at the combine, but it's important to talk about how impressive No. 40 is on film.

Going back to my 2015 season notes, Davis was the guy stealing the show on a Florida defense that featured Vernon Hargreaves, Keanu Neal, Jonathan Bullard, Quincy Wilson, Marcus Maye, Alex Anzalone and Teez Tabor. He was the dude flying to the ball and making the defense click. An injury-plagued 2016 took some of the buzz away from Davis, but he's a first-rounder on my board.

Davis would be an amazing fit in Houston or Oakland if he's available at the back end of Round 1.

                           

1. WR Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

There's no getting around it—Ryan Switzer is short and white. Many will put the wide receiver in the slot and say he's a New England Patriots-type player, and I'm sure New England would love Switzer because they value players who do their jobs well and can create after the catch. That's who he is. Strip away the white stereotypes and he's just a really good receiver.

Switzer dominated at the Senior Bowl with quickness, sharp routes and strong hands. He can work in the slot and as an outside receiver and will benefit teams in the return game. And while he may never be a true No. 1 receiver, Switzer's tools make him a safer pick and earlier contributor than some of the bigger, flashier receivers in the class.

Every year there are a handful of players that become "my guys" as non-first round values. Switzer is on that list.

                  

The Big Board

This time of year, rankings are constantly changing as new information comes in and as I get caught up on game film missed in-season. Some big risers this week? Bolles, Taco Charlton, Haason Reddick and Cooper Kupp. Here's a new two-round mock draft showing those changes.

Updated 2 Round Mock
PickTeamPlayer
1ClevelandDE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2San FranciscoQB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
3ChicagoDL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
4JacksonvilleRB Leonard Fournette, LSU
5Tennessee (from Rams)CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
6New York JetsS Jamal Adams, LSU
7LA ChargersS Malik Hooker, Ohio State
8CarolinaDE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
9CincinnatiLB Reuben Foster, Alabama
10BuffaloQB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
11New OrleansDE Taco Charlton, Michigan
12Cleveland (from Eagles)QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
13ArizonaWR Mike Williams, Clemson
14Philadelphia (from Vikings)WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
15IndianapolisT Garett Bolles, Utah
16BaltimoreCB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
17WashingtonRB Dalvin Cook, FSU
18TennesseeTE O.J. Howard, Alabama
19Tampa BayTE David Njoku, Miami
20DenverT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
21DetroitCB Quincy Wilson, Florida
22MiamiDE Charles Harris, Missouri
23New York GiantsDE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
24OaklandCB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
25HoustonLB Jarrad Davis, Florida
26SeattleDL Montravius Adams, Auburn
27Kansas CityS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
28DallasDE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
29Green BayCB Sidney Jones, Washington
30PittsburghLB Haason Reddick, Temple
31AtlantaDL Caleb Brantley, Florida
32New EnglandCB Tre'Davious White, LSU
33ClevelandG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
34San FranciscoRB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
35JacksonvilleS Budda Baker, Washington
36ChicagoWR John Ross, Washington
37LA RamsWR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
38LA ChargersOLB Ryan Anderson, Alabama
39New York JetsRB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
40CarolinaT Cam Robinson, Alabama
41CincinnatiCB Teez Tabor, Florida
42PhiladelphiaRB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
43BuffaloS Justin Evans, Texas A&M
44New OrleansQB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
45ArizonaQB Nathan Peterman, Pitt
46BaltimoreLB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
47IndianapolisS Desmond King, Iowa
48MinnesotaG Dan Feeney, Indiana
49WashingtonWR Zay Jones, East Carolina
50DenverTE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
51Cleveland (from Titans)TE Jordan Leggett, Clemson
52Tampa BayCB Adoree' Jackson, USC
53DetroitDL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
54MiamiS Marcus Williams, Utah
55New York GiantsWR Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech
56OaklandRB D'Onta Foreman, Texas
57HoustonS Eddie Jackson, Alabama
58SeattleCB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
59Kansas CityOLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
60DallasCB Fabian Moreau, UCLA
61Green BayLB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
62PittsburghS Obi Melifonwu, UConn
63AtlantaDE Dawuane Smoot, Illinois
64New EnglandEDGE Joe Mathis, Washington
Matt Miller

                        

Parting Shots

10. The San Francisco 49ers announced the hiring of new head coach Kyle Shanahan this week and also noted the hires of Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur as assistants. As far as offensive brainpower goes, no team in the NFL has a better top three in terms of young up-and-comers.

Shanahan is a brilliant schemer and quarterback developer. He'll adjust his scheme to fit the talent on the roster—look at what he's done with Robert Griffin III, Matt Schaub and Brian Hoyer as very different passers, for example. The yin to his yang is McDaniel. He understands the run game and how to scheme it and coach it and is a big reason for the success of running backs in Shanahan's scheme during their six-year run together.

The addition of Mike LaFleur—brother of new Rams offensive coordinator Matt—only makes this a stronger unit. Labeled as an offensive assistant in Atlanta, LaFleur will coach the wide receivers in San Francisco. Look for the team to favor speed at the position with this new group coming to town.

There hasn't been a ton of reason for optimism in San Francisco lately, but this trio heading up the offense has me excited for the team's future.

9. To replace Shanahan in Atlanta, the Falcons hired Steve Sarkisian as their new offensive coordinator. I'll admit, this news shocked me. Sarkisian was an analyst at Alabama last year before replacing Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator for the national title game. What he did to earn the jump to NFL offensive coordinator is beyond me.

The obvious connection here is Pete Carroll. Sarkisian was with Carroll at USC, and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was under him as defensive coordinator in Seattle.

Sarkisian and Shanahan both prefer the zone-running game, and both are students of the West Coast offense, but that's where the similarities end. Expecting Sark to come in and run Shanahan's offense isn't fair to either man. He'll want to run his own scheme, with his own verbiage and his own style. 

This could be good news for Matt Ryan, though, as Shanahan is not known for being best friends with his quarterbacks.

This is just one of many changes coming to the Falcons after the team also released defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox following the Super Bowl. Quinn had already taken back play-calling duties on defense, so this move isn't a big surprise, but I can't remember a Super Bowl team with more coaching turnover in one offseason.

8. USA Today's Tom Pelissero reported this week that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Baylor wide receiver Ish Zamora were not on the NFL's list of players invited to the combine. This is notable under the new NFL rule that allows the league to ban players who have been convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses from attending the combine.

Mixon and Zamora are not the only draft-eligible players with arrests in their backgrounds, though. They are, however, the only two players to be caught on camera. 

Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook, whom I've been told by a scout is on the combine list, was twice arrested for domestic violence complaints according to a report from the Tulsa World. The only difference is that Westbrook was never convicted and there was no video evidence of his incidents.

We should applaud the NFL for attempting to do something about players with violent backgrounds, but the inconsistency is maddening. If Westbrook had been caught on camera, would he be allowed to attend?

Once again the NFL is fumbling an issue because the same rules don't apply to everyone. 

7. Throughout the last year, I've been covering Jaylon Smith's progress from gruesome knee injury to a hopeful NFL career. The videos posted this week from Smith's training sessions are encouraging.

Two clips on Twitter aren't enough to say how Smith will look when the 2017 season starts, but they are a promising sign from a player who sat atop my 2016 draft rankings before his injury in the Fiesta Bowl. If Smith can get back to even 90 percent of what he was, he can be a Pro Bowl linebacker.

6. The Pittsburgh Steelers released cornerback Justin Gilbert this week in a move that probably didn't make headlines for most of you. But it did for me. You see, Gilbert was the No. 7 player on my 2014 big board. Oops.

What went wrong?

Gilbert was an athlete with ideal NFL size (6'0", 202 lbs) and had the ball skills to flip the field with five interceptions in his sophomore season. Or so it seemed. It turns out, Gilbert didn't really love football or want to work at getting better. And his college interceptions were so much a result of right place, right time and not actual instincts.

This isn't the end of the road for the former No. 8 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns, but he has to have a major turnaround in his work ethic if he hopes to get a third chance.

5. Don't let draftniks scare you away from Leonard Fournette. The LSU product has all the tools I look for in an elite running back. Fournette kicks off this week's five Scouting in 140 reports.

4. Christian McCaffrey:

3. Dalvin Cook:

2. Alvin Kamara:

1. Jamaal Williams:

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.

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