Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: A Reality Check on the Top Players in the Draft

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 25, 2018

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 27: Baker Mayfield #6 of the North team reacts during the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 27, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield and Quenton Nelson may not be top-10 players in this draft. Terrell Owens talks about training Julio Jones. The UFC goes low, and Colin Kaepernick goes high. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

         

1. Baker Mayfield not in the top 10?

NFL draft season is a marathon of hopes, lies, dreams, lies, hypocrisies and more lies. 

I love every second of it.

It changes lives. The players who will be drafted this Thursday through Saturday have been looking forward to this moment since they could first throw a football.

And right up until this moment, there is an endless amount of material to keep us entertained. There is spinning on top of spinning on top of spinning.

This 10-Point Stance item is dedicated to seeing through that spin and bringing a little clarity to the draft process, courtesy of some bluntness from a scout I've known for years.

Occasionally, I ask a scout to provide honest opinions on draft picks. This is one of those times. He is promised anonymity, and in return he provides his honest view on the top 10 players in this draft. Note that these are his top 10 players and his most current info about them, not his predictions for who will go with the top 10 picks.

You've gotten plenty of mocks this week. You've gotten so many mocks your blood type is mock. Your dreams are mock. You mock on, dude. (And if you haven't, here's a good one to read. And another.)

One thing you'll notice from this scout is something I've consistently heard from personnel people. He believes this year's crop of quarterbacks isn't that great...except for one.

Here are the rankings and thoughts. The quotes are verbatim except for some grammatical cleanup and censoring of the curse words. (Scouts curse a lot.)

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

1. RB Saquon Barkley: "Best combination of talent and person I've seen in a long time. I spent [a lot of time] around him, and he has true star potential."

2. QB Lamar Jackson: "Far more accurate a quarterback than people think. Had some whiteboard trouble [diagramming plays] with us, but he's smart, a leader and, of all the guys in the league, he reminds me most of Aaron Rodgers. I think that's how he'll play."

3. DE Bradley Chubb: "The best athlete in this draft. By far."

4. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick: "His versatility is his best quality. I can put him almost anywhere on the field. Maybe the smartest player I interviewed."

5. QB Josh Allen: "Not as raw as people think. He's a quick learner with a really strong arm. When we look back, the two best quarterbacks from this draft will be [Jackson] and Allen."

6. QB Sam Darnold: "Probably the safest player in the draft. Good player but won't be great. Did well in our interviews with him."

7. DT Vita Vea: "It's rare to see a guy his size (6'4", 347 pounds) not just move as fast as he does but [do so] with such athleticism. The problem is he eats a lot. He could be 400 pounds in two years."

8. OT Mike McGlinchey: "I see him as the offensive line [equivalent] of [Lamar] Jackson. There's so much raw potential and some work that needs to be done. Early in his career, he's going to get beat a lot on the edge. Then he'll settle in."

9. CB Josh Jackson: "The most underrated player in this draft. Very smart, and of all the DBs in this draft, he's the most instinctive."

10. QB Josh Rosen: "Probably the player I'm least certain of when I try to gauge his future. It could go either way. He could be a huge star or a huge bust. I don't think there will be a middle road."

There are a few notable absences from this scout's top 10. One is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.

"Good player, but he's a mauler," said the scout. "There's nothing particularly special about maulers."

And why doesn't Baker Mayfield make his top 10?

"He's not a top-10 player. It's that simple."

This draft is going to be fun.

          

2. T.O. works with Julio Jones

One of the most misunderstood players in NFL history is Terrell Owens. You read that right.

Owens was never the malcontent he was portrayed to be by the media and others. Never. He wasn't perfect, but he also wasn't a locker room cancer. Most players viewed him as a leader.

And so does Falcons receiver Julio Jones.

Owens has occasionally worked with Jones because, again, most players see Owens as a historic talent. Owens was just voted into the Hall of Fame.

"I think Julio and some other players just want to pick my brain," Owens told me recently. "I've always been accessible. Regardless of what was said about me being selfish or not being a team guy, that just wasn't true. I always gave back to the players."

One of the most interesting things about Owens' work with Jones is that he works with Jones. The University of Alabama released a video that showed the two men's training last week, and you can see Owens is actually running routes. And not only running routes, but also running them as well as Jones is.

"It's easier to teach when you can actually do physically what you're teaching," Owens said.

          

3. Owens on rookies and HOFers

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  NFL Player Terrell Ownes watches the game during the 2010 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by FINAL FANTASY XIII on center court during NBA Jam Session Presented by Adidas on February 12, 2010 at the Dallas Convention Center in
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

I asked Owens if there was one piece of advice he'd give to incoming draft picks.

"I'd tell them to always believe in themselves," Owens said. "They'll hear people try to define them, but don't let them. Define yourself."

So what's it like for Owens now that he's defined himself, officially, as a Hall of Famer?

"Everyone has said things will change," Owens said. "But everything feels pretty much the same to me."

He said he's currently getting his gold jacket and Hall of Fame bust made. He said, laughing, "I get to sign off on the bust so I don't look crazy."

          

4. The next Tiki Barber?

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

There is one name I want you to remember from this draft, and it's not a big name or a quarterback or a name you know. It's Chase Edmonds. He's a running back from Fordham, and he might end up being one of the best players from the 2018 draft.

Edmonds brings something to the position only a few other running backs in this draft bring: He is a matchup nightmare. He's 5'9" and 205 pounds, is speedy and is practically uncoverable when running routes. In fact, at Edmonds' pro day, he worked out a lot at the slot position.

At the combine, he did the three-cone drill in 6.79 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.07 seconds. Both were the fastest for running backs.

He reminds me of former Giants running back Tiki Barber, who could do everything.

"Chase is a lateral freak," said Kevin Dunn, CEO of TEST Football Academy, where Edmonds trained. "... He'll be incredibly elusive at the next level. He's no underdog. He's a big dog backed by his relentless pursuit of perfection. He's a humble kid that just wants to work and keep getting better."

"Chase is such a gifted athlete, paired with a great work ethic," said Geir Gudmundsen, director of football operations at TEST. "You can see the intensity and focus on his face every day he comes to work. His mind is made up. He is going to give it everything he has to make it—not just for him but for his little girl. You can tell his passion has a bigger purpose."

Edmonds has a two-year-old daughter and sees football as a way to secure her future.

He's met with almost a dozen teams, and while the stories we tend to hear about this part of the process are the weird questions from team officials, Edmonds told me one thing a scout said to him that he loved.

"I find there are two types of scouts," he said. "There are scouts who ask you or tell you things just to get a reaction. Then there was this Vikings scout who told me something I won't forget and was great.

"He asked about what I was going to do after football. I told him I wasn't sure yet. Then he said, 'The players that last the longest in the NFL are the ones who are well-rounded.' I was struck by that."

In the NFL, there will be a lot of people struck by how good Edmonds is.

        

5. Four more players to watch in the draft

C.J. Reavis, Marshall: He's a strong safety who can cover and tackle. His versatility will give Reavis a good shot to be a force in the league. He could be the next Malcolm Jenkins.

I asked Reavis what question he was constantly asked by teams. Some of them asked what was he going to do with his first paycheck.

"I told them I'm going to take care of my mom," he said.

(Also, Reavis backs up our scout from No. 1 on facing Lamar Jackson in college: "You really don't know how good he is until you faced him.")

         

Nate Wozniak, Minnesota: Wozniak is 6'9" and 260 pounds. He's spoken to more than a dozen NFL teams, and while he's as good a blocker as there is at the tight end position in this draft, teams are also discovering he can run routes and catch passes. Teams that worked him out have been stunned by his speed and hands.

"Most teams think of me as a blocking tight end," he told me. "That's what I did, and do, well. But I do have upside in the passing game."

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 16: Nate Wozniak #80 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers carries the ball against the Middle Tennessee Raiders during the fourth quarter of the game on September 16, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota def
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Wozniak said one of the most interesting things for him during the draft process has been taking the Athletic Intelligence Quotient test. It measures cognitive abilities in athletes.

"There were questions about shape rotations and memory tests," said Wozniak.

Here's what to remember about Wozniak: He's going to be a better pass-catcher than many know.

        

Malik Earl, Missouri State: Earl, a wide receiver, has quietly captured the attention of a lot of teams, mainly because his potential is through the roof and he plays every snap like it's his last. Three teams to look out for with Earl: the Packers, Seahawks and Dolphins.

Regarding the Packers, Earl is similar to Davante Adams.

"I model my game after him," Earl told me. "That's the greatest compliment you could give me."

         

Tim Boyle, Eastern Kentucky: One scout told me he believed the 6'4", 230-pound quarterback had a chance to be a solid player in the league. Why? The scout says he's good under pressure and has a strong, accurate arm. This scout thinks Boyle has a real shot to be a starter down the road.

David Stephenson/Associated Press

When I asked Boyle what the most interesting question scouts asked him was, he told me many asked about his relationship with his girlfriend.

"I was asked, 'Do you have a girlfriend? What's your relationship like with her? Is she the one?'" Boyle said.

Is she the one? How's he supposed to know now? And what does that have to do with football?

"This is my guess, but I think teams just want to see if your life is stable," he said. "They want to know if you're going to be chasing women all the time."

Gotta love the NFL.

          

6. A draft moment to remember

This beef between ESPN analyst Mel Kiper and then-Colts GM Bill Tobin was a key moment in the history of the draft.

It showed ESPN, and viewers, the drama and strong analysis it could produce in draft coverage.

Televised draft coverage, to some degree, has changed since that moment. It's become more fawning and access-obsessed with fewer strong opinions about the picks or the players.

Also, Kiper was right.

          

7. Brady was always going to play

Tom Brady's agent, Don Yee, says Brady will play in 2018. This was never truly in doubt.

I don't have any sourcing on this. I just know Brady, and he still desires to play as long as he can, and he obviously still can at a high level. The highest level, in fact.

It will take a lot to pry Brady from football. It will happen one day. Just not now.

            

8. NFL fights diabetes

Not much to say here other than this video on Titans general manager Jon Robinson's daughter and the fight against diabetes is worth your time. Journalist Courtney Fallon is working on a documentary about Type 1 diabetes and the league.

I've heard for years how there's more of an issue with diabetes among players than is generally known. A deeper look at this has long been needed, and maybe this is the beginning of one.

           

9. Greg Hardy and the UFC

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

The NFL, like other parts of society, has dramatically mishandled domestic violence incidents involving its employees. We don't need to go down the list of screw-ups by the league; it's long and plentiful.

But in one instance, the NFL eventually got it right. It stopped employing Greg Hardy.

During his time in the NFL, Hardy was an awful person. His past, though, doesn't seem to be a factor with the UFC. Nolan King of MMA Today reports that Hardy will fight in the UFC's Contender Series in June.

The site recalled how UFC's Dana White told Fox Sports 1 in 2016: "I'm not saying he should be welcomed here. I'm saying, I'm a guy who believes that if you make a mistake, your life isn't over forever. When you make mistakes, it's about how you act from there on out."

Well, Hardy didn't just make a mistake. He was found guilty of domestic violence before getting off on a technicality and, more importantly, he never seemed to be sorry about it.

The UFC, though, doesn't seem too worried about that.

       

10. Ambassador of Conscience

Peter Dejong/Associated Press

By now, you've likely heard that Colin Kaepernick won the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International. It's a prestigious award, but I had no idea just how prestigious it is.

It's Amnesty International's highest human rights award. The site describes the award this way: "It celebrates individuals and groups who have furthered the cause of human rights by showing exceptional courage standing up to injustice and who have used their talents to inspire others. It also aims to create debate, encourage public action and raise awareness of inspirational stories and human rights issues."

Wikipedia has a list of previous winners, a stunning group of activists from around the globe, including in recent years Alicia Keys (2017), Joan Baez (2015), Malala Yousafzai (2013), Harry Belafonte (2013), Peter Gabriel (2008) and Nelson Mandela (2006).

Now, an NFL player is a part of this group. It's an amazing thing to see.

         

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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