The 2017 Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday night in New York City, and the front-runner to take home the prize is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. The two other players invited—Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford running back Bryce Love—also had fantastic seasons worthy of accolades. All three will go down in the annals of college football. But what does the NFL think of them?
To get an early sense of their NFL stock, Bleacher Report spent this week surveying scouts, execs, agents and coaches around the NFL. Here's what we found:
"He's amazing as a college quarterback. Most improved player in the nation. He's short and not real fast, but I wouldn't bet against him at our level." —NFC area scout
"Four months ago I thought he was a Day 3 pick. Watch the Ohio State game and you'll see an NFL-caliber quarterback. I'd take him in the first round. I love the kid." —AFC player personnel director
"The immaturity is gonna be an issue. So will the hand size, speed and his body type. I still think he's probably a Round 3 kid." —AFC area scout
"I don't know for sure where he'll play in our league, but he's f--king exciting. I could also see someone breaking him in half the first time he's hit." —AFC defensive coordinator
"With as much natural talent he has, there's developmental potential. The key will be how well his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach can create a scheme for him—like Kyle Shanahan with RGIII—so he can have success early. Then you have to build on that success so defenses don't catch up to him." —NFC player personnel director
"Well, I think the first question is what is he? I don't think he's a great passer despite good arm strength. I don't think he's a powerful enough runner to have success on the ground. So he'll have to learn to be a better thrower and stop relying on his legs. And if that doesn't work, move him to receiver." —former NFL general manager
"He's electric with the ball in his hands. Excellent speed and vision." —AFC area scout
"He'll be good. Not a bell cow but part of a one-two punch where he can be a change-of-pace guy." —NFC running backs coach
"It's a real concern for me that he's small and hasn't shown he can catch the ball. Looks like a Round 3 guy if he runs like we expect him to." —AFC general manager
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Here's what else is going on this week:
- Another front office shakeup in Cleveland
- Updated Senior Bowl attendees
- Top-10 player declares for the draft
- University of Miami, LSU bracing for major losses to NFL draft
- Stick to Football Episode 35: Best fits for the NY Giants, Damarious Randall interview
The Scout's Report
• The University of Texas lost two more players to the NFL draft when cornerback Holton Hill and safety DeShon Elliott joined offensive tackle Connor Williams in declaring. With linebacker Malik Jefferson also expected to leave for the pros, head coach Tom Herman will have a major rebuild on his hands in 2018.
• Should Missouri quarterback Drew Lock stay or go? I'm asked this often, so I dug into his tape. I like Lock's physical skill set but would like to see him stay and develop more as a passer. His decision-making and pocket presence are shaky right now. When asked about Lock, a top area scout told me he should stay and compete to be QB1 in the 2019 draft. It's worth noting that Lock lost his offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, to Central Florida, and many are speculating that could cause him to leave early.
• NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah tweeted this week that he's been told Baker Mayfield will run in the "high 4.8s/low 4.9s" in the 40-yard dash. That's not a great time for a small (6'1", 215 lbs) quarterback. I also expect Mayfield's hand size will come in well below the NFL threshold of nine inches. These might seem like small details, but watch as scouts tear the Oklahoma quarterback apart because of them.
• LSU is bracing for another heavy class of NFL departures.
Talking to a source with the football team, I've learned Derrius Guice (RB), Arden Key (DE), Donte Jackson (CB), Kevin Toliver (CB) and Toby Weathersby (OT) are all expected to declare. Others, including John Battle (S), could also declare.
• Another team expecting big losses is the University of Miami. Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com has reported that defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton are leaning toward declaring for the draft. Ariz has also reported cornerback Michael Jackson is considering declaring.
• Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the top-ranked player on my draft board, but he told reporters this week he will wait until after the team's Fiesta Bowl appearance to make a decision on the 2018 NFL draft. It would be a major surprise if Barkley doesn't declare.
• Another top player, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, is also waiting to make a decision. Rosen tweeted this week that he's not made a decision on the 2018 NFL draft, refuting a report from WalterFoootball.com.
10. Not a day goes by without someone asking on Twitter for an updated mock draft. And with two general managers (Jerry Reese, Sashi Brown) being fired this week, it's definitely a good time for an update.
1. Cleveland: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
2. NY Giants: QB Sam Darnold, USC
3. San Francisco: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
4. Denver: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
5. Indianapolis: EDGE Bradley Chubb, NC State
6. Chicago: OT Connor Williams, Texas
7. Cleveland (f/Houston): S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
8. Tampa Bay: S Derwin James, FSU
9. Cincinnati: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
10. Arizona: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
11. NY Jets: CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa
12. Washington: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
13. Miami: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
14. LA Chargers: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
15. Dallas: EDGE Arden Key, LSU
16. Buffalo (f/KC): LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
17. Oakland: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
18. Detroit: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
19. Buffalo: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
20. Green Bay: OLB Harold Landry, Boston College
21. Baltimore: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
22. Atlanta: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
23. Jacksonville: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
24. Tennessee: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
25. Seattle: SS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
26. Carolina: DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
27. LA Rams: OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
28. New Orleans: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
29. Philadelphia: OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
30. Pittsburgh: RB Ronald Jones, USC
31. Minnesota: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
32. New England: LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
9. The Cleveland Browns announced Thursday morning that general manager Sashi Brown would be fired and head coach Hue Jackson would remain with the team into 2018 and coach them next year. Frankly, this was a much-needed move, but I'm still not confident in the direction the Browns are headed. That's because of owner Jimmy Haslam.
The first step for Haslam is to get out of the way. Hiring a credible executive to run the football side of things should be the second step. Whether that's Peyton Manning, former Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey or a media-side guy like Daniel Jeremiah; the Browns need direction and credibility. Right now they have neither.
With four draft picks in the first two rounds and around $100 million to spend in free agency, the Browns are in good shape. This move was clearly made in order to make sure the person spending that money and using those draft picks knew what they were doing. Brown did not, and he's gone because of it.
My first call would be to John Dorsey, who is an excellent evaluator, is well-connected to agents, scouts and coaches, and would bring stability and credibility to Cleveland.
8. Mike Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Steelers had an epic—and spot-on—rant this week. Watch it below.
Mitchell couldn't be more right. Football is a violent, contact, combat sport. Like boxing. Like MMA. No one should take the field trying to hurt another player, but expecting football to be safe is like expecting a car crash to be. The sport, by its nature, is violent. The job of the NFL is to educate players as to the risks and do its best to mitigate those risks. But you can't eliminate them altogether.
7. NFL Draft Riser: RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn. He's a little banged up right now, but I love Kerryon Johnson. The junior running back has vision, speed, enough power and the hands to be a threat right away in the NFL. There's some Alvin Kamara-style playmaking here.
6. NFL Draft Faller: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville. An injury-plagued season had Alexander falling down my board, but the more tape I study from 2016 and even this year shows that the 5'11", 188-pound Alexander is a slot corner only in the NFL. He's a junior with another year of eligibility, and my advice would be to return to school and prove he can stay healthy.
5. NFL Draft Sleeper: OT Desmond Harrison, West Georgia. The former Texas player was kicked out of the program by Charlie Strong but has resurfaced at West Georgia and has shown the athleticism and instincts that had folks in Austin so excited about him out of high school. Harrison has been accepted to the Senior Bowl and has a chance to shine there.
4. Which underclassmen are declaring for the 2018 NFL draft? The list is small right now, but each week it'll be updated before the January 15 deadline. Note: Only those players confirmed, not rumored, are listed here.
• S DeShon Elliott, Texas
• WR Quadree Henderson, Pitt
• CB Holton Hill, Texas
• S Derwin James, FSU
• CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
• RB Mark Walton, Miami (Fla.)
• OT Connor Williams, Texas
3. We're down to the final five games of the NFL season. Here's a look at the draft order as December starts.
1. Cleveland Browns (0-12)
2. New York Giants (2-10)
3. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)
4. Denver Broncos (3-9)
5. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)
6. Chicago Bears (3-9)
7. Cleveland (from Houston Texans 4-8)
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)
10. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)
11. New York Jets (5-7)
12. Washington (5-7)
13. Miami Dolphins (5-7)
14. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)
15. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
16. Buffalo (from Kansas City Chiefs 6-6)
17. Oakland Raiders (6-6)
18. Detroit Lions (6-6)
19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)
20. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
21. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
22. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
24. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
25. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
26. Carolina Panthers (8-4)
27. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
28. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
29. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)
31. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
32. New England Patriots (10-2)
2. The first wave of Senior Bowl attendees have been announced, and so far, this group looks good.
- WR Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
- RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
- QB Kurt Benkert, Virginia
- TE Adam Breneman, UMass
- DE Andrew Brown, Virginia
- OT Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
- LS Tanner Carew, Oregon
- TE Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
- C Austin Corbett, Nevada
- OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
- DE Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio
- CB Duke Dawson, Florida
- LB Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
- LB Garret Dooley, Wisconsin
- DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
- QB Luke Falk, Washington State
- DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
- FB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
- RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
- WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State
- TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
- OT Desmond Harrison, West Georgia
- S Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii
- TE Chris Herndon, Miami (Fla.)
- DT B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
- DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
- CB Danny Johnson, Southern
- CB Taron Johnson, Weber State
- DT Justin Jones, North Carolina State
- CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque
- LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
- DE Harold Landry, Boston College
- QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
- WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State
- LB Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
- OT Cole Madison, Washington State
- LB Mike McCray, Michigan
- WR Anthony Miller, Memphis
- WR J'Mon Moore, Missouri
- CB Siran Neal, Jacksonville State
- LB Uchenna Nwosu, USC
- OT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T
- OT Timon Parris, Stony Brook
- RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
- OG Skyler Phillips, Idaho State
- CB Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
- OT Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
- WR Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
- CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
- CB Chandon Sullivan, Georgia State
- OG Wyatt Teller, Virginia Tech
- TE Ian Thomas, Indiana
- P Johnny Townsend, Florida
- DE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
- CB D'Montre Wade, Murray State
- RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa
- LB Fred Warner, BYU
- S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
- OG Sean Welsh, Iowa
- QB Mike White, Western Kentucky
- OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
1. Stick to Football Episode 35 is ready for download—and if you haven't already, go ahead and subscribe and leave a 5-star review!
This week, Connor and I give you our picks for the openings with the New York Giants, give you a college player to know and break down the 2018 Senior Bowl rosters. We're also joined by Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall to talk Aaron Rodgers, his Pro Bowl credentials and Hennessey. As always, our intern Kennedy joins us to close it out with #DraftonDraft.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.