In the 2012 NFL draft, Andrew Luck stood above the rest of the class as a near-perfect prospect. Many considered him the best since John Elway or Peyton Manning. Luck, as a college quarterback entering the NFL, was perfection. That allowed him to be head and shoulders above the other top players in that group—including Robert Griffin III and Trent Richardson.
What does Luck have to do with the 2017 draft class?
When I asked an NFL general manager this week how good Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is, he brought up that 2012 class and how far Luck was ahead of the pack. Garrett, said the general manager, is similarly pulling away from the rest of the class.
Should the Cleveland Browns second-guess their decision at No. 1 overall, they'll be smart to take the advice of a director of player personnel I spoke with who said, "Passing on Garrett is like passing on a young Bruce Smith. You don't pass on a kid like that."
A young Bruce Smith!? I'll sign up for that.
What else is happening in the world of the draft?
- Updated Top 50 Big Board
- An interview with an anonymous NFL scout
- Biggest combine snubs
- Scouting in 140 characters
- And five names to know before the combine
The Scout's Report
—Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported that the Miami Dolphins will release left tackle Branden Albert. This move creates ripples through the league. Miami will slide Laremy Tunsil to tackle and create an opening at guard while saving $7.2 million on the cap. Albert, who has lost some athleticism over the years, is still a solid right tackle prospect and quality player when healthy.
—ESPN's Ed Werder dropped this nugget on Thursday morning: Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo is expecting to be released and not traded. This is interesting because Romo counts $24.7 million on the Cowboys' 2017 cap. But by cutting him, an NFL source told me the team would actually gain $8 million in cap space. As for Romo, being released allows him to pick his new team (hello, Houston) and negotiate a contract there that won't be so bloated.
—In the last week, both Werder and MMQB scion Peter King have opined that the New England Patriots will not trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. This may be the Patriots attempting to tell interested teams they're not going to cave to below-market offers, but it might also be legit. The Patriots don't have to be in a hurry to trade Garoppolo if the compensation from teams doesn't match their perceived value of him. Garoppolo is set to be a free agent in 2018, though, and now is the time to move him if the Pats want something in return.
—In talking to an NFL scout this week, the topic of the San Francisco 49ers drafting a quarterback at pick No. 2 came up. This take left me thinking hard for days: "Why draft a QB there when there isn't the support system to succeed? Look at [Jared] Goff vs. Dak [Prescott]. Young quarterbacks succeed when they have structure, and the 49ers lack structure. Use that No. 2 pick and build a team before reaching for a quarterback."
—Where does the second quarterback come off the board? I asked a general manager from the AFC that this week: "I have to think Chicago goes quarterback at [pick] three. Looking at that roster and knowing Ryan Pace, quarterback fits there."
—"We're worried about Tim Williams' weight and love of the game. His combine weigh-in will be really huge." That's what an area scout texted me this week when I asked about any character concerns he's investigating pre-combine. Williams has top-20 potential but the questions surrounding his character and decision-making could push him to Round 2.
5 Names to Know
5. EDGE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State
It's easy to be swayed by Derek Rivers' production at Youngstown State. He had 14 sacks this year and 19.5 tackles for a loss as a 6'5", 250-pound edge player. His player profile is that of a versatile 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.
Rivers is a player I'm asked about often because of his production, but on film, he looks a little stiff-hipped and lacks the quick-twitch ability to jump the snap and get into the backfield. He is able to win with his motor and tools as a pass-rusher, but for those wanting to project Rivers into the top two rounds, I don't see that kind of athlete.
4. OL Dion Dawkins, Temple
A three-year starter at left tackle for Temple, Dion Dawkins is an impressive mover for 6'5" and 320 pounds. He's an ideal candidate to kick inside to guard in the pros but is also a player I'd feel comfortable playing at right tackle to see if he can handle the outside speed and power game.
Dawkins' stock keeps rising each time I view his tape. Given his versatility, experience and NFL-ready strength, he is one of the safer offensive line picks in the draft. Don't be surprised if he hears his name called in Round 2.
3. WR Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Playing the H-back role at Ohio State—think Braxton Miller or Percy Harvin—Curtis Samuel should have been a Heisman candidate for the work he did with the ball in his hands this season. As an NFL prospect, he's an interesting fit given his usage as a running back and wide receiver in college, but based on his size (5'11", 197 lbs) and shiftiness in space, Samuel is a receiver to me.
Where he'll ultimately land in the draft is up in the air. Samuel may be helped by the impact of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, given their similarities as playmakers with excellent change-of-direction skills and game-changing speed. I currently have him in Round 2, but a team in the late first round could easily snag Samuel to fill a wildcard role on offense.
2. LB Paul Magloire, Arizona
A surprise combine snub, Paul Magloire fits the athletic outside linebacker mold currently en vogue in the NFL at 6'1" and 221 pounds. The former Appalachian State quarterback turned running back started out at safety for the Arizona Wildcats before eventually settling in at linebacker. Sounds like a Bill Belichick kind of guy, right?
Magloire will have to sell teams on his versatility, athleticism and upside at linebacker given his newness to the position during his pro day workout. He can do that though, and if teams watched his Shrine Game tape, they saw a guy impacting the play consistently in the box and in space. Magloire currently sits just outside my top 100 players.
1. WR Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Taylor's name comes up a lot on Twitter from draft fans and analysts, with our own Ian Kenyon thinking he's a top 25-45 player. I watched more of Taylor this week to get a better feel for his game, and I'm comfortable slotting him into Round 3-4.
Taylor gets great matchups from his scheme and operates in space more than in traffic. That means a lot of timing routes and short plays where Taylor is given room to make plays after the catch. Against Alabama, Western Kentucky did a great job moving Taylor around inside and outside the hashes so he could get matched up against linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks.
Taylor is solid, and his hands are impressive, but the lack of burst and some poor body control on route breaks keep him down on my board.
The Big Board
Who are the top 50 players in the 2017 NFL draft? Are any quarterbacks or left tackles worthy of a top-15 selection? Let's find out in a pre-combine big board update.
|Updated Top 50 Big Board|
|1||EDGE Myles Garrett||Texas A&M|
|2||RB Leonard Fournette||LSU|
|3||LB Reuben Foster||Alabama|
|4||SS Jamal Adams||LSU|
|5||FS Malik Hooker||Ohio State|
|6||EDGE Solomon Thomas||Stanford|
|7||DL Jonathan Allen||Alabama|
|8||WR Mike Williams||Clemson|
|9||CB Quincy Wilson||Florida|
|10||CB Marshon Lattimore||Ohio State|
|11||WR Corey Davis||Western Michigan|
|12||TE O.J. Howard||Alabama|
|13||RB Dalvin Cook||Florida State|
|14||TE David Njoku||Miami|
|15||EDGE Taco Charlton||Michigan|
|16||QB Mitch Trubisky||North Carolina|
|17||QB DeShone Kizer||Notre Dame|
|18||CB Gareon Conley||Ohio State|
|19||OT Garett Bolles||Utah|
|20||OT Ryan Ramczyk||Wisconsin|
|21||CB Sidney Jones||Washington|
|22||EDGE Charles Harris||Missouri|
|23||LB Haason Reddick||Temple|
|24||EDGE Derek Barnett||Tennessee|
|25||RB Christian McCaffrey||Stanford|
|26||CB Teez Tabor||Florida|
|27||LB Jarrad Davis||Florida|
|28||QB Deshaun Watson||Clemson|
|29||FS Jabrill Peppers||Michigan|
|30||EDGE Takkarist McKinley||UCLA|
|31||EDGE Ryan Anderson||Alabama|
|32||CB Tre'Davious White||LSU|
|33||DL Montravius Adams||Auburn|
|34||DL Caleb Brantley||Florida|
|35||RB Alvin Kamara||Tennessee|
|36||WR John Ross||Washington|
|37||OT Cam Robinson||Alabama|
|38||FS Budda Baker||Washington|
|39||CB Marlon Humphrey||Alabama|
|40||QB Patrick Mahomes||Texas Tech|
|41||CB Adoree' Jackson||USC|
|42||FS Justin Evans||Texas A&M|
|43||TE Jordan Leggett||Clemson|
|44||DL Malik McDowell||Michigan State|
|45||WR Cooper Kupp||Eastern Washington|
|46||FS Marcus Williams||Utah|
|47||G Forrest Lamp||Western Kentucky|
|48||FS Desmond King||Iowa|
|49||LB Zach Cunningham||Vanderbilt|
|50||EDGE T.J. Watt||Wisconsin|
3 Questions With...
After a few weeks off, "3 Questions With..." returns with an interview with an area scout for an unnamed team.
Bleacher Report: Now that you've studied this class more closely, who is the one guy we in the media are overrating?
Scout: All the quarterbacks. They're terrible. I wouldn't want to put my job on the line for any quarterback in this class. And to think about taking one in the first round? No way. I'm sure someone will do it, but it's mind-blowing.
B/R: Where is the strength of this class?
Scout: Running back. This is a historic running back class. Not just with the first-rounders, but with the overall depth. I think we'll have around 30 draftable running backs in this class—which probably translates to like Round 5 or higher on your board. That's an unreal number. And the variety is nice, too. Power runners. Speed backs. It's a great class. Best I've seen.
B/R: Who is the can't-miss prospect in this class?
Scout: Myles Garrett. I don't know if there's ever a real can't-miss player—other than Luck—but he's really close. You just don't see guys that big who are that fast and that strong and that fluid. He's also a great kid and is really wired to win. You won't have any issues with him like they did with Clowney's injuries or Von's drug use.
10. What position will be picked first in the 2017 NFL draft? We can feel pretty confident that it'll be a defensive end (Myles Garrett). How about 2018?
If recent history tells us anything, the first overall pick will be a quarterback, left tackle or defensive end. In fact, since 1997, every No. 1 overall pick has played those three positions. Of course, every draft class is different and there may be some generational talent to come along at defensive tackle (like Ed Oliver) that eventually changes that streak, but it's telling that in the last 20 years, only three positions have been picked first overall.
So looking ahead to 2018, remember names like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Connor Williams and Josh Allen as potential No. 1 overall selections.
9. The hiring of Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator in San Francisco likely means a departure from the old 3-4 scheme that Vic Fangio installed under Jim Harbaugh that the team has been running as of late. And while base defenses are being phased out more and more, there is still the question of what this means for the 49ers and for the No. 2 overall pick.
At face value, this means nothing for the 49ers needs. Whether it's a 3-4 or 4-3 base scheme, Jonathan Allen is not a fit if the team believes in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner as long-term pieces. Reuben Foster would be a fine fit as a strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 Under scheme ran by Saleh, but a linebacker that doesn't rush the passer at No. 2 overall is steep.
There will be those that connect Solomon Thomas here as a 4-3 defensive end, and I do like that fit, but it's more likely the 49ers will go to the EDGE position on Day 2 of the draft. An area where the 49ers could go in Round 1 that might surprise people is cornerback. Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State is a big name rising up boards and could be a plug-and-play No. 1 cover man.
8. Growing up a fan of the University of Texas football team means Vince Young is one of my all-time favorite football players, which is why I was as surprised as anyone when it was announced the Longhorn great had hired Leigh Steinberg to represent him in his quest to return to football.
Talent was never the issue for Young, but he struggled to adjust to a pocket-based offense in the NFL and his long, slow release as a passer allowed defenses to jump his routes. He also struggled with the adversity of not winning every game.
Young is now 33 years old and will be 34 when the 2017 NFL season begins. This is a nice story, but I don't expect to see him pulling a Randall Cunningham and making a triumphant return to the NFL.
7. The NFL released the list of 330 players invited to the combine this week. There's not much notable from the list outside of the players not invited. By my count, 77 of the 95 underclassmen that declared early were invited. Likewise, the only player in my top 100 not invited was Oklahoma's Joe Mixon.
Being invited to the combine doesn't guarantee you'll be drafted and the opposite is true, too. In 2016, 37 players not invited to the combine were drafted (out of 256 draft picks). The year before, the 2015 draft had 41 non-combine players drafted.
Getting that invite to the combine is a life-long dream for many players, but it's not a guarantee and it's also not a deal-breaker.
6. "My wife had passed away, and I found out over the internet."
Tommie Harris, writing for The Players' Tribune, told a heart-breaking story about finding out his wife had died following a routine surgery and how it has impacted his life. We spend so much time watching football players and covering them that too often, stories like this slip through the cracks. We forget they are real people with lives outside the game. We forget that they can hurt, too.
Take 10 minutes and read this piece. I guarantee it will move you. And I know—this isn't a draft story and we're 70 days away from the draft so why waste a line about a non-draft story. But it's that good of a piece and that touching of a story.
5. This week's Scouting in 140 focuses on the talent at the safety position in this year's class. Here are my top five safeties, all broken down in 140 characters or less. Up first, Jamal Adams.
4. Malik Hooker:
3. Jabrill Peppers:
2. Budda Baker:
1. Justin Evans:
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.