Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Latest Buzz Before the Draft Begins

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 26, 2018

Is QB Sam Darnold still the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Browns?
Is QB Sam Darnold still the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Browns?David J. Phillip/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. 

More than any draft I've ever covered, there is mystery and suspense surrounding what will happen when the Cleveland Browns are on the clock. 

What else is going on this week?

  • Antonio Callaway's draft stock
  • Most overrated and underrated players
  • Five names to remember on draft night

     

The Scout's Report 

Arizona Cardinals: The front office loves Baker Mayfield, according to a rival general manager. A trade up would need to happen to secure the Oklahoma quarterback, but after passing on a deal last year to get Patrick Mahomes, general manager Steve Keim might be motivated to get his guy.

Atlanta Falcons: Rival scouts have linked the Falcons to Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan so many times it's like he already plays for them. There was early word they liked the guards in this class, and that could still be the case in Round 2 if not in the first.  

Baltimore Ravens: All the buzz here is that the Ravens go offense if Derwin James is off the board (he should be). Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, tight end Hayden Hurst and interior lineman James Daniels have all been mentioned by scouts as a potential fit.

Buffalo Bills: No surprise here: The Buffalo Bills love Josh Allen.

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

If he's still on the board at No. 4, I expect the Bills to start calling to try to package picks No. 12 and 22 overall to move up and get a quarterback.

Carolina Panthers: Wide receiver and cornerback are both mentioned most often by rival scouts for the Panthers' presumed needs. I tend to hear more about cornerback, with Colorado's Isaiah Oliver getting plenty of play. 

Chicago Bears: It is too easy to connect the Bears to both Notre Dame offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, but the buzz is real from scouts, coaches and executives. One source said McGlinchey and new Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand "are best friends" and thinks Chicago could take him at No. 8 if Nelson is gone.

Cincinnati Bengals: The most interesting nugget I've heard regarding the Cincinnati Bengals this week is that if a top quarterback falls, they'd draft one in the first round. It seems unlikely a quarterback falls to pick No. 21 overall, but it's worth watching.

Cleveland Browns: The first pick will be a quarterback, and despite all the misinformation running around, I've been told it's between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. With pick No. 4, a trade is possible if the Browns are blown away by an offer, but I've been told their front office loves Quenton Nelson and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley

Dallas Cowboys: NFL Network's Jane Slater reported what I'd also heard this week: The Cowboys really like Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The feeling from scouts I've talked to is that Dallas won't force a pick at wide receiver in Round 1.

Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield is definitely in play here because general manager John Elway loves him, but Elway also can't afford to miss on a first-round quarterback again. A trade back is very possible, but two names I've heard linked to Denver by scouts are Quenton Nelson and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.

Detroit Lions: What will new head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn want?

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

A coach who has worked with both told me to project "tough, nail-eating SOBs" to the Lions. The coach thought an interior offensive lineman or Boston College edge-rusher Harold Landry would be a fit.

Green Bay Packers: A trade up can't be ruled out, said a former Green Bay scout who knows new general manager Brian Gutekunst. "He's aggressive, and he'll want his first pick to be a huge impact," the scout said. "They can move up."

Houston Texans: The Texans' first pick comes at No. 68 overall, and I'm told to expect an offensive lineman there. "It's all about building a team around [quarterback Deshaun] Watson," said a source on the scouting staff. 

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have already traded back once and won't be afraid to do it again if NC State edge-rusher Bradley Chubb is off the board. I've heard consistently from scouts that they like Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, but they might be able to slide back, let a team come up for a quarterback and still get him or another blue-chip player.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Interior offensive line is the name of the game for Jacksonville after building a dynamite defense through free agency and the draft. The only way that could change is if a cornerback the Jags believe could replace Aaron Colvin in the slot is available.

Kansas City Chiefs: With no pick in the first round, general manager Brett Veach might get bored and fire the phones up to move into the first 32 picks. Scouting sources think interior offensive line, cornerback and edge-rusher are the priorities for Kansas City. 

Los Angeles Chargers: A quarterback of the future was discussed by the front office last year, per a source on the scouting staff. This year they could pull the trigger if Lamar Jackson is there at pick No. 17 overall. Other considerations: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea or offensive line help.

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams traded nearly all of their picks away for established players and look lights-out good, but GM Les Snead won't make a selection until No. 87 overall. They desperately need a middle linebacker and could look to go there with that pick.

Miami Dolphins: Is the Baker Mayfield love real? One scouting source in Miami says yes, but the Dolphins don't expect him to be available. I've heard repeatedly that this is the floor for Derwin James. If he's on the board, he's the pick.  

Minnesota Vikings: "We have to protect the QB" is what one scout told me last week when talking draft plans. That said, the scout pointed out that general manager Rick Spielman is a true "best player available" guy and won't force the pick of a pass protector.

New England Patriots: With two first-rounders, will head coach Bill Belichick trade up? No sources connected to New England would tell me they expect a trade up. Every source indicated Belichick sees this as a chance to restock the cupboard after having just four picks in last year's class. 

New Orleans Saints: A quarterback will be drafted at some point, but not necessarily early, per a scouting source with the team. In Round 1, the scout thought a tight end like Hayden Hurst would be the move if he's on the board.

New York Giants: It's Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall, per one source with the team, but that source also noted things are very different under Dave Gettleman as general manager and Kevin Abrams running the scouting meetings.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Said the source, "Barkley is the best player and we all want him, but those two might think differently."

New York Jets: It'll be a quarterback, but which one? Sam Darnold is the top signal-caller on their board based on information I've been able to gather. If he's there, he'll be the pick.

Oakland Raiders: New head coach Jon Gruden has closed down some leaks within the Oakland Raiders' front office, but it recently came out that he wants to boost the offense. That's why so many are connecting Mike McGlinchey to Oakland as a right tackle/left tackle of the future. Gruden is a wild card, though, and he could shock us all Thursday night.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trading out of pick No. 32 overall makes the most sense for a team that doesn't own another pick until No. 130. If they for some reason keep that pick, Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore and South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert are the names scouts have most connected to Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The expectation from league sources is that the Steelers look to beef up the offense with a running back like Sony Michel, but this is a sleepy destination for a linebacker should one fall. 

San Francisco 49ers: Some in the front office would love to trade back to Buffalo's pick at No. 12 overall and let them come up for a quarterback. Others see Mike McGlinchey as the answer to life after Joe Staley. There isn't a consensus coming out of San Francisco, but I still think it'll be McGlinchey, Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Seattle Seahawks: Many expect an offensive lineman here, but I've heard twice this week the Seahawks are looking into scenarios to trade back in Round 1. Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson is often connected here in mock drafts, and he does fit the scheme and value.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Safety is the biggest need in the draft room, per a scouting source. It's a tossup among scouts between Derwin James and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. As of Wednesday night, it sounded like Fitzpatrick was winning out.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans need an edge-rusher, but it's unlikely Harold Landry will be available. Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is a nice consolation prize and could ultimately be the first pick. A source with the team expected a defense-heavy draft.

Washington: Vita Vea and Derwin James are the names most connected to Washington by scouts. I also expect the team to take a running back in the early rounds. 

     

5 Names to Know 

5. Frank Ragnow, Center, Arkansas

Frank Ragnow is a gifted, mean dude playing center. Teams also love that he has experience at guard. In a draft dominated by the interior line over offensive tackles, it wouldn't be a surprise if Ragnow is a first-rounder. 

4. Hayden Hurst, Tight End, South Carolina

Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Hayden Hurst has a very good chance to be drafted in the first round. Hurst's three-down ability has been praised by scouts who are willing to overlook his age (25 years old after a stint in minor league baseball) to secure a player who's ferocious with the ball in his hands.

3. Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP

Don't overthink this one, NFL scouts. Hernandez was one of the toughest blockers in college football this past season and brings an awesome demeanor to the field. He's in play anywhere from pick No. 20 to 32 and should be among the first offensive linemen drafted.

2. Geron Christian, Tackle, Louisville

Mike McGlinchey, Texas' Connor Williams and UCLA's Kolton Miller are all likely to hear their names called on the first night of the draft, but the offensive tackle most likely to be drafted next is this athlete from Louisville. Christian has all of the traits scouts are looking for and might be an option at No. 33 overall if the Browns keep the pick.

1. Justin Reid, Safety, Stanford

The younger brother of Eric Reid, Justin is an impact player and a very good athlete at free safety. There has been so much talk about Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick that Reid has almost been an afterthought. He won't be this weekend and should be a top-40 selection.

     

Parting Shots 

5. 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:

  • Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey: Don't be shocked if McGlinchey goes top-10 when it's all said and done. Pro-ready tackles are a rarity anymore, and he's Day 1-ready.
  • Wyoming QB Josh Allen: Twitter scouts hate Josh Allen, but he could hear his name called in the first overall spot. He's a lock to go top-10.
  • Washington DL Vita Vea: Too many labeled him as a two-down player by looking only at his size. He's a disruptor at defensive tackle and should be a top-15 pick.
  • Alabama DL Da'Ron Payne: Remember this guy? Payne dominated down the stretch for Alabama but hasn't received as much predraft buzz as you might expect. He's a first-rounder.

4. 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:

  • Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch: Injury issues are concerning teams, with five telling me he's off their board. He could slip some, but it only takes one team to fall in love and draft him.
  • Florida State EDGE Josh Sweat: Sweat blew up the combine, but a history of knee injuries has scared teams. He's likely a Day 2 player.
  • Michigan DL Maurice Hurst: A heart condition found at the combine is scary, but Hurst was cleared for the Michigan pro day, per the team, and was not called back for medical rechecks by the NFL. Still, scouts tell me he could tumble into Round 3 or later.
  • LSU EDGE Arden Key: Off-field issues play a huge role in Key's stock. If teams feel he's matured and bettered himself, he could still go early, but a slip into Round 3 is possible.

  

3. Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway failed his NFL Scouting Combine drug test, per multiple reports this week. Callaway, who was suspended for all of the 2017 season in connection to a credit card fraud scandal at the university, isn't expected to be drafted after this latest incident. One scouting source said, "He's a top-five wide receiver in a bad class of them if he's clean. Hell, even if it's just the weed, he's probably top-five. But we can't take him now." 

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

A new episode launched Wednesday with guest Taven Bryan and our updates on all the latest news, rumors and notes heading into the draft.

Subscribe on iTunes 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

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Tackles

Interior Offensive Line

Defensive Linemen

Edge-Rushers

Linebackers

Cornerbacks

Safeties

Specialists

                           

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

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