Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Latest Draft Buzz, Updated Big Board & More

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 25, 2017

Stanford's Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes against Southern California during the first quarter of a Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Draft week is here—and all the rumors, smokescreens and outright lies that come with it.

Who can you trust this week? Not many people. It's easy to get sucked into a good story or scoop and believe the area scout, general manager or coach on the other end of a text message, but vetting the information and sorting through the details is no easy task.

Which information is true and which is false? I'll do my best to update you with real information on every NFL team as draft week unfolds. A team-by-team report follows below with the news and rumors I'm hearing and trusting this time of year. 

Things will happen fast and furious Thursday night, and I expect a few trades in the top 10 picks that will destroy all our mock drafts. The final scouting notebook of the 2017 draft season will focus on which players teams are linked to and who might be going where.

What else is going on this week?

  • Updated Top 50 Big Board
  • Reuben Foster's stock
  • Who's rising and who's falling
  • Five names to remember on draft night

The Scout's Report 

Arizona Cardinals: Expect a quarterback in the first round. Scouts, general managers and coaches from opposing teams all responded Monday morning that they expect a quarterback to Arizona. There has been considerable buzz in scouting circles for weeks now that the team likes Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes if he's available. The Cardinals have also done extensive research on pass-rushers, per a scout with the team, and could look to add there in Round 2.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons would love Forrest Lamp at pick No. 31, I'm told by a coaching source, but he's not expected to be there. A trade out is possible to collect more picks. The Falcons' internal needs are at defensive end, linebacker and they would like to add a young running back for the future.  

Baltimore Ravens: After a big free-agency period in which the team added Tony Jefferson and kept Brandon Williams in town, my scouting source with the Ravens said they'll lean toward pass-rushers in the first round. But Ozzie Newsome loves power football and might not be able to resist the offensive line talent on the board in Rounds 2 and 3.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills' love for quarterbacks is real, per a scouting source with the team. I cannot see them trading up to land Mitchell Trubisky, but they could hold tight at 10 and draft Deshaun Watson. Other players linked to the team through the source were Marshon Lattimore, Reuben Foster and O.J. Howard.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Carolina Panthers: The Christian McCaffrey love is real, per a scouting source. If Leonard Fournette is off the board at No. 8 overall, I expect McCaffrey to be the selection. 

Chicago Bears: Don't bet on a quarterback in Round 1, per a high-level source with the team. Defensive back is much more likely, with Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore earning high grades on the team's board. A quarterback is more likely on Day 2 of the draft. Oddly enough, my source said they've done a ton of work on running backs and wouldn't rule one out in Round 2 or 3.

Cincinnati Bengals: Early this draft season, my source with the scouting department said to expect a linebacker but has since moved to thinking they're leaning toward the best available pass-rusher. This could be Jonathan Allen's spot in Round 1.

Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett should be the No. 1 overall pick, but will he be? Based on sources in the Browns front office, I'm 99 percent sure he's the pick. The team is also making calls trying to trade back into the top 10 from their spot at No. 12 overall for Trubisky. 

Dallas Cowboys: A well-placed source in the Dallas front office told me cornerback is the primary need, with targets being Kevin King and potentially Cordrea Tankersley. In Round 2, the team would like to add a pass-rusher if it misses out on T.J. Watt in Round 1. They also worked out Tarell Basham (Ohio), and a scout with the club confirmed they do like him.

Denver Broncos: A coaching staff source said he thinks they'll go offensive tackle at pick No. 20 overall and wouldn't rule out a potential move up the board to get one. Linebacker, wide receiver and quarterback are considered the other needs by the front office.

Detroit Lions: David Njoku of Miami is in play here, according to a scout with the team. He also said this could be an "offensively heavy" draft class as they look to get better at running back, wide receiver and tight end.

Green Bay Packers: A source on the scouting staff said the plan is to go defense early and often in this draft, unless a surprise player falls in Round 1. The same source said Joe Mixon is very much in play in Round 2. He remains on their board.

Houston Texans: Quarterback is a need, but the team won't reach to draft one. A source in the front office said cornerback, offensive tackle and quarterback are where they expect to go in Round 1. Gareon Conley and Marlon Humphrey would be ideal fits in this defense.

Indianapolis Colts: New general manager Chris Ballard has remade the team through free agency, giving the Colts the freedom to go with a best-player-available approach. As for needs, my scouting source said edge-rusher should be targeted in Round 1. This is another team that has Mixon on its board.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars do a good job keeping things quiet, but two bits of information have leaked to me out of the front office this week: Fournette is in play at No. 4 overall, and the team wants to add a quarterback in the first three rounds.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB or bust? Not quite, but a source with the Chiefs scouting department does expect they'll add a passer in the first two rounds. I've also been told by another source that inside linebacker is high on the team's wish list. 

Los Angeles Chargers: A new coaching staff with the Chargers could shake things up, but a source on the scouting staff says wide receiver is possible (Mike Williams) and that Malik Hooker is also in play depending on medicals. The same source said a pass-rusher in the middle rounds should be expected.

Los Angeles Rams: Three positions dominate the Rams' list of wants, according to a front office source: wide receiver, cornerback and tight end. With no pick in Round 1, the Rams may even try to move back a little in Round 2 to collect extra selections.

Miami Dolphins: The hype for Forrest Lamp building on Twitter is legit, said one scouting source. The team would also like to add talent at defensive end and tight end early in the draft.  

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have plenty of needs, and a scouting source told me they hope to address running back, wide receiver, safety and patch holes on the offensive line. The team doesn't have a Round 1 selection.

New England Patriots: The Patriots don't currently pick until the third round, so it's impossible to connect names with the team. Defensive line, a physical cornerback and some size at wide receiver were listed as needs, according to a scout with the club.

LB Reuben Foster.
LB Reuben Foster.Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints: "Win now" is the mantra coming out of New Orleans. In talking to a scout, the team likes physical Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey if it doesn't trade for Malcolm Butler. At pick No. 32, a quarterback is in play, but more likely a defensive end. One wild card would be if Reuben Foster falls, given the team's affinity for him.

New York Giants: Offensive tackle is an ideal option for the Giants at pick No. 23, per a scouting source. Garett Bolles (Utah) or Cam Robinson (Alabama) makes sense if they're still on the board. The Giants had both O.J. Howard and David Njoku in for visits, per the scout, and would jump at the chance to draft them.

New York Jets: I do not expect a quarterback at pick No. 6 overall. Odds are the Jets attempt to trade out of the top 10 to let a team like the Cleveland Browns move up to select Trubisky. If the Jets hold their spot, Jamal Adams is too good of a fit to bypass if he's available. Team needs include safety and tight end. 

Oakland Raiders: An athletic linebacker that can help in coverage is a want for this team, according to a scout. My hunch: Jarrad Davis in Round 1 or Tyus Bowser in Round 2. The Raiders did extensive work on Mixon, and I believe they will consider him if he's available in the second round.

Philadelphia Eagles: Every scout or general manager from a rival team I've spoken to expects this to be a cornerback pick. One Philadelphia scout at the combine told me they love Conley. This could be his landing spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers had a need at safety last year and grabbed Sean Davis from Maryland, but a source with the staff told me they will consider Jabrill Peppers in Round 1 if he's available. A tight end in Round 2 is considered the plan right now. Expect a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft.

San Francisco 49ers: New general manager John Lynch has locked up what used to be a leaky front office. This is a very hard team to peg right now, but I do continue to hear from rival scouts and general managers that it likes Reuben Foster and Fournette, but may not be willing to take either at No. 2 overall. I don't expect a quarterback in Round 1. The 49ers could try to duplicate last year's draft and trade back into the 20s for more players.

Seattle Seahawks: Cornerback is the expectation in Round 1, according to a scouting source. Where they go in Rounds 2 and 3 looks to be wide receiver and pass-rusher. A quarterback should be added late.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The team has been all over the secondary prospects in this draft, according to a front office source. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chidobe Awuzie drafted here. The Buccaneers are a perfect fit for Dalvin Cook, but my source said he's unlikely a Round 1 target due to off-field concerns. A defensive end should be added in the first three rounds.

Tennessee Titans: At pick No. 5 overall, a rival executive told me the Titans will select Marshon Lattimore. I feel the same way. With the No. 18 overall selection, wide receiver is very likely unless one of the top tight ends falls through the cracks.

Washington: A scouting source here tells me they love Haason Reddick and would even consider moving up for him. Washington is one team that cleared Jonathan Allen on medicals, per a source. 

5 Names to Know 

5. George Kittle, Tight End (Iowa) 

TE George Kittle
TE George KittleDarron Cummings/Associated Press

One of the more impressive pass-catchers at the combine just so happens to be one of the best blockers, too.

Iowa's George Kittle rocked the track with a 4.52 40 time at almost 6'4" and 247 pounds. He also added a 35-inch vertical jump and 11-foot broad. Those numbers are insane for a big tight end. Kittle is a bit raw, and the Iowa offense never featured him as a receiver, but his testing is good enough to get him a look in the middle rounds.

4. Obi Melifonwu, Safety (UConn)

When you're 6'4", 224 pounds and you run a 4.40-second 40 and broad jump 11'9", teams are going to stand up and take notice.

Obi Melifonwu parlayed an excellent week at the Senior Bowl and a great combine into a huge move up my board this week. He's now ranked in Round 2 after being a Round 3 player when the season ended. One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis even believes Melifonwu will go in the first round.

3. Zay Jones, Wide Receiver (East Carolina) 

Zay Jones isn't the biggest (6'2", 201 lbs) or fastest (4.45s 40), but his agility and hands are very nice. Those were on display at the combine the same as they were at the Senior Bowl.

In Indy, he turned heads with his ability to snag the ball, his smooth transitions in routes and his 11'1" broad jump and 4.01-second 20-yard shuttle. Those are top-50 player numbers in combination with his on-field traits.

2. Josh Jones, Safety (North Carolina State)

At 6'1 1/2" and 220 pounds, Josh Jones impressed with 4.41 speed and the hips to turn and attack the ball in the air. His film looked top-100 and his workouts backed that up.

Jones is getting lost a little in a very deep safety class, but his name should start to heat up as the draft gets closer. With his overall size and athleticism, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Jones sneak into Round 2 over more well-known players like Eddie Jackson of Alabama.

1. Jordan Willis, Edge-Rusher (Kansas State)

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

There were a lot of impressive showings at the combine, but you could easily say Jordan Willis had the best day of any player at any position. When your numbers compare to guys like Von Miller, you're doing pretty good.

Willis is a classic predraft riser following a great week at the Senior Bowl and a strong combine showing. He has an outside shot to go Round 1 now.

The Big Board 

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network has a great line that I'm going to borrow for this time of year—mock drafts are what he hears, rankings are what he sees. I've tried for years to explain the difference, and nothing comes as close as that one sentence. 

With my final mock draft—a seven-rounder—coming out Thursday morning, here's my final Top 50 big board:

Final Top 50 Update
RankPlayer
1EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
3LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
4S Jamal Adams, LSU
5EDGE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
6S Malik Hooker, Ohio State
7TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
8DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
9CB Quincy Wilson, Florida
10CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
11CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
12WR Mike Williams, Clemson
13TE David Njoku, Miami (FL)
14QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
15WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
16LB Haason Reddick, Temple
17EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri
18RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
19RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
20G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
21EDGE Taco Charlton, Michigan
22QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
23T Garett Bolles, Utah
24WR John Ross, Washington
25EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
26T Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
27T Cam Robinson, Alabama
28RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
29S Budda Baker, Washington
30EDGE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
31CB Tre'Davious White, LSU
32LB Jarrad Davis, Florida
33S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
34CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
35CB Sidney Jones, Washington
36TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
37QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
38DL Chris Wormley, Michigan
39CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
40CB Kevin King, Washington
41QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
42EDGE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
43RB Dalvin Cook, FSU
44S Marcus Maye, Florida
45WR Zay Jones, East Carolina
46WR Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
47S Josh Jones, North Carolina State
48LB Tyus Bowser, Houston
49LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
50DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Matt Miller

Parting Shots 

9. Reuben Foster was in the news last week when he told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that he failed the NFL's drug test at the scouting combine with a diluted sample. Foster's test being classified as a "fail" could hurt his stock with teams, but multiple sources I've talked to say it won't be as bad as many expect.

Foster, said the source, is a player many are leaking will fall because they hope it'll push him down the board. Two teams told me they would take Foster if he's still on the board when they're on the clock late in the first round.

There is a chance Foster slips in the draft, but I have a hard time seeing him get past the Saints at pick No. 11.

8. The story we're all watching this week is where the quarterbacks will go. One high-level executive I spoke with said he expects two will be drafted in the top 10 picks and a total of three in the top 15. But where?

What makes the most sense to me is that the Browns get back into the top 10 to select Trubisky. Buffalo could then draft Deshaun Watson. That leaves Patrick Mahomes for the Cardinals. That gets us to two in the top 10 and three in the top 15. 

Of course, the Browns have to actually trade up, but that is very doable now that they own an extra second-rounder this year (from Tennessee) and two more next year (from Philadelphia and Houston).

7. Two things can sink a prospect's value like nothing else: injuries and off-field issues. For Washington's John Ross, multiple teams have told me he's falling due to past injuries—including microfracture surgery on one knee and a torn labrum that was repaired after the combine.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Ross, who some teams projected to be the top receiver in the class at one time, could be looking at the second round now.

For guys like Caleb Brantley, who was charged in a domestic violence situation last week, there's not enough time for the court process to find him guilty or not guilty. That leaves teams scrambling for information. There undoubtedly will be some who take Brantley off the board.

6. Every year, there are players drafted higher than the media and fans expected. Here's my short list of players I think go higher than we all project:

  • Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey: The need for physical, press cornerbacks will push Humphrey up the board. He's also pro-ready coming out of Alabama. (top 20)
  • Michigan S Jabrill Peppers: Even with the diluted drug test, team scouts have told me he's a Round 1 player. (Round 1)
  • Clemson QB Deshaun Watson: Watson's leadership and ability to win big games won't be forgotten on draft night. (top 15)
  • Temple LB Haason Reddick: Part linebacker, part pass-rusher; Reddick has been this draft's biggest riser. (top 10)
  • Ohio State CB Gareon Conley: Conley's technique and sticky coverage have teams talking about taking him earlier than his teammate Marshon Lattimore. (top 15)

5. Just as there are players going higher than we expect, there are those who fall through the cracks and become "steals" in the draft. These aren't predictions on a Laremy Tunsil or La'el Collins level, but rather players whose stock has been overly inflated online:

  • Washington WR John Ross: Injury issues are concerning teams given Ross' 5'11" size. (Round 2)
  • Florida State RB Dalvin Cook: Cook's off-field issues are hurting his stock, and so are injury issues to his hamstring and shoulder. (Round 2)
  • Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer: Kizer's struggles in 2016, plus the rise of Patrick Mahomes, are pushing him down boards. (Late 1-Early 2)
  • Florida CB Teez Tabor: Slow 40 times and a history of suspensions could push a Round 1 talent into the third round. (Round 3)
  • USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster is a huge name, but his lack of speed and separation skills are a red flag. (Round 2)

  

4. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday teams are concerned over Jabrill Peppers skipping the Michigan bowl game—even though Peppers and the team said he had a hamstring injury. Schefter also reported this week that Peppers tested positive at the combine drug test for a diluted sample.

Peppers, like Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette, didn't suit up for his final game. Yet no one is down on the running backs. If teams wanted to knock every player who decided not to play, that's one thing, but picking and choosing is part of what's wrong with the NFL: a lack of consistency.

3. Late Monday night, Cleveland 19 News reported a "top NFL draft prospect" was involved in an alleged assault against a woman in a hotel room. The news station has decided not to release the player's name, waiting instead for a police report to be filed (if one is). 

With the draft two days away, this could have an obviously huge effect on the player's status. It's admirable that the media has decided not to release a name unless/until he is charged. The player's attorney said, "In my opinion, this young lady is an opportunist, and it's actually despicable."

This story could blow up as the draft approaches and might be this year's Laremy Tunsil event.

2. If you're into the NFL draft and podcasts, hopefully you've checked out Stick to Football.

Episode 1 launched last Wednesday with guest Mitchell Trubisky and our updates on where the top quarterbacks in the class will land. This week we'll talk to Ohio State playmaker Curtis Samuel and do our final Round 1 mock draft.

Subscribe on iTunes or TuneIn and leave us a review!

1. The NFL Draft 400 series reached its completion this week. If you want a full scouting report, grade and pro-player comparison on every player in this draft, this is for you:

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Fullbacks

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Tackles

Offensive Guards

Centers

Defensive Linemen

Edge-Rushers

Linebackers

Cornerbacks

Safeties

Specialists

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

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