No position in sports receives more attention, more credit and more blame than quarterback in the NFL. It's the ultimate spot where you can't win a title without a good one—just look at the last 14 Super Bowl champions as evidence of that.
Quarterbacks drive the NFL, which is why every team is obsessed with finding, developing or acquiring a franchise passer. And even those teams with an aging starter—and in some cases a future Hall of Famer—are always looking for the next guy.
Of the 32 teams in the league, I count 14 with a legitimate shot at taking a quarterback early this year: Buffalo, New York Jets, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, Washington, Chicago, New Orleans, Arizona and San Francisco. And those are just the teams that would take a quarterback in the first three rounds.
Supply and demand are fascinating parts of team building, and this year's quarterback crop has been overlooked and designated as poor because there isn't an Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston at the top. The one thing that hasn't been articulated well to the public is that this quarterback class is deep. Real deep.
Mitchell Trubisky will be a first-rounder, and it's becoming more likely that Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will be, too. Three quarterbacks in Round 1 would match last year's number. There's also a solid chance DeShone Kizer and Davis Webb go in the first 32 picks. The last time five quarterbacks went in the top 32? 1999.
As we hit the two-week mark before the April 27 draft, talk regarding the 2017 class has come full circle. Evaluators might not love any quarterback in this class enough to trade up for him, but we could see an 18-year high set in terms of how many are selected in the first round.
What else is happening as teams finish draft meetings?
- Updated two-round mock draft
- Myles Garrett's draft grade
- Latest NFL draft rumors
- Scouting in 140
- Fixing the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Scout's Report
—The New York Jets brought in North Carolina's Trubisky for a workout Thursday, according to multiple outlets. The Jets have been connected to the quarterback throughout the draft process. They remain a buttoned-up front office, but I don't buy that the team is as interested in Trubisky as it's letting on. My hunch: The Jets would love for a team to trade ahead of them to take Trubisky.
—Our own Mike Freeman had a great piece this week covering rumors for every team in the league. One notable nugget: The Cleveland Browns are torn internally on what to do with pick No. 1. Freeman wrote the front office wants Myles Garrett and head coach Hue Jackson wants Trubisky. This meshes with what I heard at the combine from a scout: Jackson likes Trubisky a lot. He might get a chance to draft him at No. 12 overall.
—One more quarterback note: If you're looking for a Mahomes landing spot, two teams I'm told by scouts and general managers that really like him are the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.
—Two players invited to the NFL draft in Philadelphia declined invites: Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams and Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson. Both will spend time with family at home.
—If you're looking for a surprise name invited to the draft, Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie might be the least well-known of the 22 invitees.
—Scouting sources with the Tennessee Titans have confirmed the team's interest in Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Clemson wide receiver Williams. If Lattimore is on the board at No. 5 overall, I expect he'll be the team's pick. If Lattimore is gone, to Chicago for example, look for Williams to get heavy consideration.
—As mentioned above, Lattimore to Chicago is a hot rumor among NFL general managers. One executive I spoke with felt "99 percent sure" the Bears would draft a defensive back if they keep the No. 3 overall pick.
—The New Orleans Saints are in "win-now" mode, according to a front office source. With the No. 11 pick, the team would love to see Alabama's Reuben Foster on the board, I've been told.
5 Names to Know
After spending all week on the phone with NFL scouts, coaches and general managers, I'm hearing these five names are moving way up draft boards. These late surges happen as team information leaks to the media, and each of the five players listed below has a chance to hear his name called in the first round.
5. Wide Receiver Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
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"Don't be surprised if Samuel goes ahead of Dalvin Cook," is what one scout texted me this week. Samuel, who played running back and wide receiver at Ohio State (the same role Braxton Miller played), has elite skills as a speed player. He can affect the game as a runner, receiver and return man. That value—and teams seeing what someone like Tyreek Hill can do to an offense—has pushed up his stock.
4. Defensive Lineman Chris Wormley, Michigan
"He was overshadowed in that defense, but the dude can play!" a scout said.
Wormley hasn't been a hot name among draft analysts, but the scout I spoke to said it wouldn't be a surprise if in a weak defensive tackle class, Wormley heard his name called much earlier than we all expect. Wormley is a big man (6'5", 298 lbs) with the skill set to be an instant starter in a 3-4 defense. I project him as more of a top-50 kind of guy, but there's buzz building that he could go higher.
3. Edge-Rusher Derek Barnett, Tennessee
"After Myles Garrett, he's the best true edge in the class."
Scouts I spoke to for this article praised Barnett's effort and production. He didn't have the most amazing 40-yard dash times (4.88 seconds), but his tape against SEC competition was impressive. Teams drafting in the middle of the first round that need an outside pass-rusher (Indianapolis, Baltimore, Tampa Bay) could all call Barnett's name.
2. Linebacker Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
"I know we like him, and I don't think he'll get to us."
That's what a team scout told me about Cunningham, who was considered a Round 1 prospect before the combine but started to slip due to concerns about his play power and tackling skills. But as one coach told me, "Cunningham missed some tackles, but did you see how many he made?"
1. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
"Guys that fast and that physical go in the first round," said a scout.
Humphrey's tape isn't the best of the 2017 cornerback class, but his upside and traits are eye-opening. Teams like the New Orleans Saints or Tennessee Titans in the middle of the first round are likely targets for Humphrey. And as one rival scout told me, "don't rule out the Ravens with that Alabama connection."
Two-Round Mock Draft
As more information and moves come into focus, there's never a bad time to update the mock draft. That's what today's focus will be, with a two-round mock based entirely on what I'm hearing teams will do.
|Updated 2-Round Mock Draft|
|1. Cleveland||DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M|
|2. San Francisco||RB Leonard Fournette, LSU|
|3. Chicago||CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State|
|4. Jacksonville||DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford|
|5. Tennessee (from Rams)||WR Mike Williams, Clemson|
|6. New York Jets||S Jamal Adams, LSU|
|7. Los Angeles Chargers||S Malik Hooker, Ohio State|
|8. Carolina||RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford|
|9. Cincinnati||LB Reuben Foster, Alabama|
|10. Buffalo||QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina|
|11. New Orleans||CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama|
|12. Cleveland (from Eagles)||CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State|
|13. Arizona||LB Haason Reddick, Temple|
|14. Philadelphia (from Vikings)||CB Quincy Wilson, Florida|
|15. Indianapolis||EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee|
|16. Baltimore||TE O.J. Howard, Alabama|
|17. Washington||DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama|
|18. Tennessee||CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado|
|19. Tampa Bay||RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State|
|20. Denver||OT Garett Bolles, Utah|
|21. Detroit||TE David Njoku, Miami (FL)|
|22. Miami||OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky|
|23. New York Giants||QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson|
|24. Oakland||LB Jarrad Davis, Florida|
|25. Houston||OT Cam Robinson, Alabama|
|26. Seattle||CB Kevin King, Washington|
|27. Kansas City||QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech|
|28. Dallas||CB Tre'Davious White, LSU|
|29. Green Bay||EDGE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin|
|30. Pittsburgh||S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan|
|31. Atlanta||OG Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin|
|32. New Orleans (Patriots)||LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt|
|33. Cleveland||WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan|
|34. San Francisco||DE Charles Harris, Missouri|
|35. Jacksonville||RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee|
|36. Chicago||S Budda Baker, Washington|
|37. Los Angeles Rams||WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC|
|38. Los Angeles Chargers||QB Davis Webb, California|
|39. New York Jets||CB Adoree' Jackson, USC|
|40. Carolina||TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss|
|41. Cincinnati||RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma|
|42. New Orleans||DE Taco Charlton, Michigan|
|43. Philadelphia||WR John Ross, Washington|
|44. Buffalo||WR Zay Jones, East Carolina|
|45. Arizona||QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame|
|46. Indianapolis||G Dan Feeney, Indiana|
|47. Baltimore||EDGE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA|
|48. Minnesota||S Marcus Maye, Florida|
|49. Washington||CB Obi Melifonwu, UConn|
|50. Tampa Bay||WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington|
|51. Denver||DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State|
|52. Cleveland (from Titans)||S Josh Jones, North Carolina State|
|53. Detroit||DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State|
|54. Miami||CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson|
|55. New York Giants||LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State|
|56. Oakland||WR Curtis Samuel, Ohio State|
|57. Houston||CB Sidney Jones, Washington|
|58. Seattle||DE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State|
|59. Kansas City||CB Rasul Douglas, West Virginia|
|60. Dallas||S Justin Evans, Texas A&M|
|61. Green Bay||RB D'Onta Foreman, Texas|
|62. Pittsburgh||TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech|
|63. Atlanta||DL Montravius Adams, Auburn|
|64. Carolina (from Patriots)||DE Tarell Basham, Ohio|
10. Many have asked what I would do to fix a team since mock drafts are based on what I'm hearing franchises will do and not an opinion on what they should do. Using Fanspeak's On the Clock tool, here's my seven-round mock draft on how I'd fix the Jacksonville Jaguars:
|Fixing the Jacksonville Jaguars|
|1/4||DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford|
|2/35||RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma|
|3/68||QB Brad Kaaya, Miami (FL)|
|4/110||S Desmond King, Iowa|
|5/148||CB Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida|
|6/187||TE Eric Saubert, Drake|
|7/222||OT Aviante Collins, TCU|
|7/240||DL Harold Brantley, Missouri|
9. As our NFL Draft 400 series rolls on, it seems important to note just how well Garrett graded out.
The Texas A&M defensive end scored an 8.5 on the grading scale. For comparison, last year's best grade was a 7.99. That was handed out to Jalen Ramsey and a healthy Myles Jack. In 2015, the highest grade was 7.50 to both Winston and Leonard Williams.
Garrett's 8.50 is the highest since Luck and Von Miller, respectively. Both received a 9.0 on my grading scale, which equates to a rare, once-in-a-lifetime talent.
To live up to that mark and the status as third-best grade, Garrett will have to not just excel early in his career but also sustain the success. Jadeveon Clowney is another highly graded player over the last five years, but his early struggles to stay healthy have affected how many view him (even though he was a stud in 2016). Garrett, like so many great pass-rushers before him, will have a massive spotlight on his play early and often.
8. On Thursday night, the NFL released the list of 22 players invited to the 2017 draft in Philadelphia. Here's that list, via NFL director of communications Randall Liu:
Players invited to the draft aren't guaranteed to go in the first round, but the NFL goes to great lengths to make sure the players invited aren't sitting around for three days. If you're on this list, people in the NFL headquarters have heard you're a top-50 prospect.
7. A few weeks back, we took a look at how the Cleveland Browns have been rebuilding this offseason. Today, we take a deep-dive look at what the Indianapolis Colts have done in new general manager Chris Ballard's first offseason.
Ballard has added tough, low-cost free agents who will come in and make a big impact on the defensive front seven. Armed with pick No. 15 in the first round, the Colts could still add a marquee pass-rusher in the draft, too, while taking advantage of the deepest running back class in recent memory in the middle rounds.
- LB John Simon (free agent)
- P Jeff Locke (free agent)
- TE Jack Doyle (extension)
- LB Barkevious Mingo (free agent)
- LB Jabaal Sheard (free agent)
- RB Robert Turbin (extension)
- CB Darius Butler (extension)
- NT Al Woods (free agent)
- LB Sean Spence (free agent)
- TE Brandon Williams (free agent)
- DL Johnathan Hankins (free agent)
- TE Dwayne Allen (and a sixth-round pick) to New England Patriots for 2017 fourth-round pick
- ILB D'Qwell Jackson
- DL Arthur Jones
6. This week's Scouting in 140 takes a look at five of my favorite sleeper prospects in the class. Up first, Mack Hollins (North Carolina WR):
5. Ben Boulware (Clemson LB):
4. Nate Gerry (Nebraska S):
3. Jerome Lane (Akron WR):
2. Brendan Langley (Lamar CB):
1. Our NFL Draft 400 series began April 3, with full scouting reports and player comparisons for the top 400 players in the 2017 class. Starting with the quarterbacks, here are the completed profiles so far:
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.