Paxton Lynch is the forgotten quarterback of the 2016 NFL draft, but that could all change when the Denver Broncos face the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football to open the season at home on September 11. Lynch, last year's No. 26 overall pick who started just two games as a rookie, has impressed in minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) this summer. But has he done enough to overtake incumbent Trevor Siemian?
This week I talked to multiple NFL scouts who studied Lynch before the '16 draft as well as teammates and Broncos coaches to get a feel for where the quiet quarterback is now versus where he was leaving the University of Memphis as a three-year starter. Many believe sitting for one season was the best thing the Broncos could have done for him.
"He just wasn't ready coming out of college, especially for that offense. He needs to be in the gun and clear to see the field. Can't be under center running that [Gary] Kubiak scheme," said one scout who viewed Lynch in college and has watched his rookie film. It's true that the move to Mike McCoy's scheme will be better for Lynch, and already folks in Denver are seeing the benefits of that tutelage.
Said one teammate, who asked to remain anonymous, "Paxton has the better deep ball [over Siemian], but he has to become a leader and get smarter. Trevor has that over him right now."
Siemian started 14 games last season and was solid in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback, but that was under a different coaching staff. With McCoy as offensive coordinator under Vance Joseph—a former college quarterback who specialized in defensive coaching in the NFL—Lynch and Siemian should have a clean slate to work from.
The biggest step up for Lynch, said one general manager who passed on him in the first round of the 2016 class, is "learning to play faster. He has such a slow trigger and he's already this big, tall, long-armed guy. I don't think he'll ever be quick enough as a thrower to win in our league."
There are those who have their doubts about Lynch, but a strong showing this summer and improved confidence as a second-year player will make the quarterback battle in Denver the NFL's most exciting.
Here's what else is going on this week:
- Five names to know for 2018's draft
- Zach Orr's comeback and Nick Fairley's season on injured reserve
- Early scouting on Washington State's Luke Falk
- Why the NFL hates player-for-player trades
The Scout's Report
—The Kansas City Chiefs made a shocking decision last week when they let general manager John Dorsey go. Now the team is interviewing candidates both internally and externally for the top job. My gut feeling is that current co-director of player personnel, Brett Veach, will be the man the team hires.
Veach was with Andy Reid in Philadelphia and recently interviewed for the Buffalo Bills' general manager opening. It's also worth noting that Veach played college football with current Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. There are a lot of dots to connect here, but maybe the one carrying the most weight is that both Veach and Reid are represented by Bob LaMonte.
—Athletes, like the rest of us, get in trouble. The difference can be in the punishment for those troubles. That is, unless you're Keyshawn Johnson's son. Keyshawn Jr. was cited for marijuana possession in his dorm room, which resulted in a ticket from University of Nebraska police. But that wasn't enough for Dad, who pulled Junior from the football program so that he could "mature." That's tough love.
— Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr retired in January as a result of a neck condition doctors found that was considered life-changing at the time. But now Orr is back, telling the Ravens he wants to play football, per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network. Orr, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2014, is an unrestricted free agent now and can sign with any team that can get their doctors to sign off on his neck.
—The New Orleans Saints announced that defensive tackle Nick Fairley will miss the 2017 season due to a heart condition. He's been placed on the NFI list, which is reserved for non-football injuries or illnesses. Fox Sports' Jennifer Hale reported earlier this summer that Fairley was being held out of OTAs after tests found a heart condition.
—So you think you're strong? Maybe, but not Derrius Guice strong. Teammate Aaron Moffitt shared a video of the LSU running back squatting 650 pounds. Derrius knows to never skip leg day.
—So you think you're fast? Tony Brown, a safety for Alabama, does too. So fast that he's trying to win a spot on the U.S. national track and field team in the 100-meter dash. Brown recorded a time of 10.12 seconds at the NCAA championships earlier this month. For comparison, Christian Coleman crushed the NCAA record with a run of 9.82 seconds at the same event.
—Deshaun Watson was drafted to be the quarterback of the future for the Houston Texans, but he might wind up the quarterback of now. Head coach Bill O'Brien, in an interview with John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, praised his quarterback's NFL readiness, poise and wiring. O'Brien also noted the team won't have to "limit him" when talking about Watson's play in training camp and the preseason.
5 Names to Know
July is generally when the calendar turns and I start working toward the next year's draft class. Let's start that a little early with these fives names you'll want to remember come September.
5. Logan Woodside, Quarterback (Toledo)
The Most Valuable Player of the Manning Passing Academy, Logan Woodside (6'2", 210 lbs) will have NFL scouts flocking to Toledo this fall. Woodside is a little undersized but has excellent touch accuracy and reminds me of a Colt McCoy-type passer when watching his 2016 film. You can check out his highlights and see some of the tools that make him an intriguing prospect.
4. P.J. Locke, Defensive Back (Texas)
P.J. Locke has the quickness and agility of a slot cornerback and the instincts to play all over the secondary. In that way he compares to Damarious Randall or Chidobe Awuzie, but with a 210-plus-pound frame that lets him bang with tight ends and running backs. The Texas defense will look completely different this season with Tom Herman as head coach, and Locke could be one to benefit most.
3. Dorance Armstrong, Edge-Rusher (Kansas)
Dorance Armstrong was going to be my super-sleeper for this season, but then Kansas head coach David Beaty compared him to Myles Garrett and the secret was out. Armstrong has excellent athleticism, and while he lacks Garrett's size, he's very quick off the ball and can dominate the passing game in the same way. Armstrong needs to bulk up and play with better hand use, but he's a solid top-50 prospect right now.
2. Jaire Alexander, Cornerback (Louisville)
Jaire Alexander has NFL size and length at 5'11", but it's his speed and ball skills that have teams excited. Alexander posted five interceptions in 2016 and is already becoming one of the most feared cornerbacks in college football. His toughness will be another added benefit when teams come to look at his game film.
1. Luke Falk, Quarterback (Washington State)
You've probably heard of Luke Falk by now, but maybe not as a legitimate Round 1 quarterback for 2018. It's time to think of him in that mold. Falk has excellent size (6'4", 210 lbs) and the accuracy to thread the needle across the field. He reminds me a lot of Andy Dalton coming out of TCU, though not quite as willing to run the ball.
5. We know that NFL teams have general managers, but did you know college teams do too? Arizona, LSU and Ohio State all feature "general managers" on staff to run the recruiting side of things. This job entails film study, marketing, in-person recruiting and everything a college staff needs to bring in players.
Cleveland.com did a great profile on Ohio State's GM, Mark Pantoni. The piece is an in-depth look at the job Pantoni does for the Buckeyes and how that job has grown in the last three years. Pantoni and his LSU counterpart, Austin Thomas, are also incredibly beneficial for NFL scouts who come to visit.
Outside of the head coach at each program, no one will know the players better than the GM. If I'm going to Columbus or Baton Rouge to talk about a player, I'm reaching out to their office first.
It will be interesting to see if other major programs adopt this strategy. With Tom Herman's experience under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, I would expect him to hire a GM—officially or unofficially—at Texas.
4. Why don't we see more player-for-player trades in the NFL? With the NBA trade market officially hot, I'm left wondering why player movement in the NFL is largely limited to free agency. Is it fear of failure from owners? Is it hesitation to give up on a player? It's really both.
The last thing NFL execs and coaches want is to miss on a player. If you're a quarterback-needy team and you didn't draft Dak Prescott, fans and analysts are already calling for your job. We live in a microwave society where everything is wanted and evaluated immediately with no patience. That makes it harder for a team like the New York Jets to trade Muhammad Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson for a player instead of a draft pick.
One other reason that I see around the league is that draft picks hold a mystical value in the NFL. You can trade a starting-quality wide receiver for a sixth-round draft pick. Unless you're a quarterback or marquee player under 26 years old, you're not being traded for a first-round pick. The value of a pick—due to the low cost and the potential to strike it rich—makes it economical for a team to flip a mid- or late-round pick for a player. The current CBA allows teams to keep players longer after drafting them, which makes it cheap to keep them and then eventually let them leave in return for a compensatory draft pick.
Right now, the NFL's finances—where contracts aren't guaranteed—make it easier to keep a player than to trade one.
3. Spending so much time this week researching and talking to folks about the Denver Broncos left me pondering just how good they'll be this year with a new coaching staff and uncertainty at quarterback. Here's what I'm left with:
The Broncos will finish last in the AFC West.
The quarterback position is the strongest contributor to this belief, but the offensive line is also unsettled, even with first-rounder Garett Bolles and free agent Ronald Leary coming to town. On defense, we all know how good the unit can be, but is Shane Ray ready to replace DeMarcus Ware full-time? The inside linebacker corps is also weaker with Todd Davis next to Brandon Marshall.
Meanwhile, the competition in the division remains tough. The Raiders are an ascending team that get a few more wins off improved chemistry alone. The Chargers will have a tough year with a move to Los Angeles and a new coaching staff, but Philip Rivers has weapons and an improved defense behind him. The Kansas City Chiefs didn't make any major moves in terms of player acquisition, but they have the explosive offense needed to compete with the Broncos secondary and a good enough defense to frustrate the team's quarterbacks.
When looking at the AFC West, here's how I'd rank them:
2. The NFL released its Top 100 players list this week with a final top 10 that's been highly controversial. Here's my list in a side-by-side look.
|NFL's Top 10 Players|
|Rank||NFL List||Matt Miller List|
|10||Matt Ryan||Odell Beckham|
|9||Le'Veon Bell||Derek Carr|
|8||Odell Beckham||Aaron Rodgers|
|7||Ezekiel Elliott||Antonio Brown|
|6||Aaron Rodgers||Khalil Mack|
|5||Khalil Mack||Von Miller|
|4||Antonio Brown||Julio Jones|
|3||Julio Jones||Aaron Donald|
|2||Von Miller||Matt Ryan|
|1||Tom Brady||Tom Brady|
1. Stick to Football Episode 11 is ready for your download! We talk to Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson about going undrafted, the meanest tweet he's ever received and how he's undefeated at NBA 2K. We also answer your questions in #DraftonDraft and debate the NFL's Top 100 players list.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.