Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Alex Smith Not Relinquishing Throne Just Yet

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 13, 2017

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off of the field in a losing effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs now have a general manager. On Monday, they announced former co-director of player personnel Brett Veach was being promoted. But what will they do at quarterback? Alex Smith is on the roster, and former general manager John Dorsey executed a trade to pick No. 10 overall for Patrick Mahomes.

The question on everyone's mind in Kansas City has to be what Veach means for Smith. And there's little evidence to answer the question given the first-time general manager's relatively quiet ascension to his new title.

While talking to scouts, agents, players and team executives for this story, two things were repeated to me constantly: Alex Smith is in a contract year, and nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach. 

Reid is the power broker here. After all, it was Reid who brought a former Delaware running back-turned-area scout with him from Philadelphia to Kansas City and then watched his protege blossom into a legitimate GM candidate. Said one rival executive, "Nothing happens up there without Andy's blessing."

As far as Smith being in a contract year, it's technically true. The Chiefs can release Smith after the season and save $17 million. If Mahomes is ready after year one, it makes sense to cut a 34-year-old Smith and recoup serious money while handing the job to a salary-controlled quarterback for another four seasons.

Anyone expecting big changes in Kansas City will be disappointed. Veach and Reid will work as a tandem and have more chemistry and experience than any other duo in the NFL given their time together in Philly and Kansas City. Ultimately, for Alex Smith, that means playing this season like it will be his last with the Chiefs.

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Here's what else is going on this week:

  • Five names to know for 2018's draft
  • The best positional units on defense in college
  • Early scouting on Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
  • Where will Kirk Cousins play in 2018?

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins looks on after the New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 19-10 at FedExField on January 1, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images


The Scout's Report

What's happening with Kirk Cousins? Nothing, as best I can tell talking to executives around the league. The deadline for a long-term deal to be done is July 15, and as of now, it's highly unlikely anything gets done. My bet is still that Cousins hits the free-agent market next spring. It's baffling that Washington has played this so poorly.

Boston College edge-rusher Harold Landry is the best senior draft prospect in the country, according to one player personnel director I spoke to this week. Landry, at 6'3" and 250 pounds, has "elite burst and understands how to use his arms. He's a top-10 pick," said the scout.

Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki caught the eye of NFL scouts last fall, and now he's viewed as the best senior at the position, according to a number of scouts I spoke to this week. Gesicki holds the team record for receptions by a tight end and has the versatile frame (6'6", 250 lbs) that fits the NFL.

Two safety prospects we talked about a lot last season—Marcus Allen (Penn State) and Quin Blanding (Virginia)—have received Day 3 grades from many NFL scouts I've spoken to this fall. Said one scout, "Neither player has the speed or hips of a safety. They don't do it for me."

The 2017 NFL supplemental draft was held Wednesday, with no players being selected. Georgia Military College defensive lineman Tavares Bingham and Western New Mexico running back Marques Rodgers were both eligible for the draft.

Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey opted to return to school for a fifth season, and already scouts are telling me he's a "top-40" player. McGlinchey is the left tackle for the Fighting Irish, but one scout told me he might be best off on the right side and compared him to Mitchell Schwartz.

A name to keep in mind: Kyzir White, a safety at West Virginia. One area scout told me White could shoot onto the scene this year and be a top-50 pick.


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 five names you'll want to remember come September.


5. Mason Rudolph, Quarterback (Oklahoma State)

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Mason Rudolph wouldn't have been a surprise entry into the 2017 NFL draft given the lack of depth at the position, but he opted to return to school. My grade on Rudolph at the end of the 2016 college season was an early third-rounder, and that's where I've heard scouts still have him. Rudolph lacks the arm strength and foot agility to be considered more of a top-tier player.

4. Billy Price, Center (Ohio State)

The right guard for Ohio State previously, Price will move to center this year, and I expect his stock to soar because of it. Price is a mauler in the run game and plays with the fire and toughness every scout loves. He's also a smart technician and a very good finisher when latching on to blockers. Price will start the season with a Round 1 grade.


3. Porter Gustin, Edge-Rusher (USC)

The USC defense will be fast and aggressive in 2017, and a big part of that is edge-rusher Porter Gustin. He's an animal coming off the edge and has the size, speed and strength to make scouts remember his name and number. Gustin has a legitimate shot to carry a Round 1 grade into the season after more film study. The early look is impressive.


2. Braden Smith, Tackle (Auburn)

The 2018 offensive tackle group should be worlds better than what we saw in 2017. Braden Smith at Auburn will have a chance to state his case as a potential Round 1 or early Round 2 guy this season. He's big and strong but is also very well-versed in angles and leverage. He's close to NFL-ready heading into his senior season.


1. Jonathan Kongbo, Edge-Rusher (Tennessee)

Tennessee lost Derek Barnett to the NFL, and the guy tabbed to replace him, Jonathan Kongbo, looked the part in limited action last season. This is a deep sleeper to watch, but at 6'6" and 264 pounds, Kongbo has all the athletic traits you need on the edge.


Parting Shots

5. It's definitely a slow month for news when USC redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold leads the day by saying on ESPN's The Six that "I don't think any team should tank their season because of me."

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

A. That's just Darnold being humble. Even if he thinks a team should tank for him, he can't go on ESPN and say it.

B. He's absolutely right. An NFL team is a 53-man roster with several dozen coaches and scouts involved in the process. It's almost impossible to really tank without the full blessing of ownership and a lot of trust that the owner won't then fire you if the public pressure builds.

C. Darnold has played this very well. He's non-committal on if he'll enter the 2018 draft or not, and that's how it should be. He has a season to worry about first. Let the business of the draft take care of itself in January.


4. How would you like to load up the family for an NFL game and pay $2 for hot dogs, $2 for sodas or even just $5 for a beer? You'll be able to at the Atlanta Falcons' new home. What's even better—the prices for concessions will stay the same when the stadium hosts the Super Bowl.

Another team breaking ground in the affordable event area is the Kansas City Chiefs with their Bud Light Game Day passes. For $200 you get access to all 10 Chiefs' home games via a mobile ticket that cannot be sold or transferred. Each person can buy four season tickets, which means you and your family can hit the Chiefs home games for $800 total. I've spent that on two tickets for a hot game before.

We all know the cost of going to a game has gotten out of control. At Kauffman Stadium, going as a fan, I paid $40 for parking and $22 for a beer and brisket sandwich. Good for the Falcons to cut down on the cost of eating at the game and the Chiefs for offering an affordable ticket to people.


3. The 2017 college football season is gearing up to be a great one, with more talent on the field this season (and at more marquee positions) than last season offered. Here's my look at the best offensive units (based on all players, not just draft-eligible) in the country:


QB: Alabama Crimson Tide

Jalen Hurts is a legitimate Heisman candidate as a true sophomore starter, but incoming freshman Tua Tagovailoa is one of the best recruits head coach Nick Saban has ever pulled in at the position. Hurts has to take a step forward as a passer this season and Tagovailoa is still unproven, but the hype surrounding these two is out of this world.


RB: Georgia Bulldogs

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are both NFL-quality backs. It was a bit of a surprise when Chubb decided to return to college for his senior season, but doing so gives the Bulldogs a one-two punch at running back that no other team can claim. Alabama, Oregon and Iowa also have talented backfields, but the Georgia duo is the best.


WR/TE: Penn State Nittany Lions

After losing Chris Godwin to the 2017 NFL draft, Penn State looks loaded at receiver and tight end. Mike Gesicki is the likely leader of the group, but receivers DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and DeAndre Thompkins are all talented enough to be game-changers. Colorado has a solid foursome at receiver and Pitt is surprisingly talented too, but Penn State has the group you'll want to focus on.


Michael Thomas/Associated Press

OL: Texas Longhorns

This might be a surprise, but left tackle Connor Williams is the best in the nation after surrendering just one sack (on a scramble) in two years. Left guard Patrick Vahe is a massive man in the run game, and already youngsters Zach Shackelford (center) and right tackle Denzel Okafor are future studs.


2. Don't be surprised if the talent on defense bests the offensive talent this season. We might even see a defensive Heisman winner for the first time since Charles Woodson won it as a two-way performer in 1997. Here are the best units on defense:


DL: Clemson Tigers

Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins both look like future top-five picks at defensive tackle. Lawrence is the bigger, stronger player with Wilkins as more of a Gerald McCoy-like gap shooter. Both are exceptional. Clelin Ferrell is another future top-32 pick to watch after his burst onto the scene in 2016 replacing Shaq Lawson. Ohio State is loaded and Washington will have a very good line, but Clemson has the top-tier talent.


LB: USC Trojans

The four-man unit for USC is a wrecking crew, led by inside linebacker Cameron Smith and edge-rusher Porter Gustin. Both are absolute nightmares for offenses. They're joined by Uchenna Nwosu and John Houston Jr. to form a wall at linebacker. Alabama will be good again, but USC has the best unit.


DB: Ohio State Buckeyes

How can Ohio State be on this list after sending three first-round picks to the NFL last season? Head coach Urban Meyer is that good. Denzel Ward, Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield make up the best cornerback crew in the nation with solid senior safeties Damon Webb and Erick Smith ready to carry the load there. Florida State has talent and Oklahoma is solid, but Ohio State is scary special.


1. Stick to Football Episode 13 is ready for your download! We talk to former NFL tackle Eugene Monroe on his controversial retirement and push for ending the ban on marijuana in the NFL. We also dive into the 2018 NFL draft and take your questions on #DraftonDraft.

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

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