Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: How the Draft Really Went Down & What It MeansMay 3, 2018
You watched for three days as 256 players heard their names called and saw their hopes of playing in the NFL realized. You watched as Shaquem Griffin, Jordan Mailata and others became household names. You watched as quarterbacks flew off the board in Round 1 and then disappeared in Round 2.
Those are the stories you know from draft weekend. These are the ones you didn't see happen.
The week after the draft is my time to catch up with NFL sources and talk about what went down in their draft rooms. What player broke their hearts by coming off the board two picks too soon? Why did some of the top players in college drop down the board?
Let's find out.
The Scout's Report
—Failed Drug Tests Hurt Players
The NFL Scouting Combine is every year in late February and yet each season we have players fail the mandatory drug test in Indianapolis. NFL sources told me Holton Hill (Texas), Desmond Harrison (West Georgia) and Antonio Callaway (Florida) all failed the test. Each dropped in the draft because of it.
What can agents do, short of babysitting players 24/7 in the months leading up to the draft? It's impossible to blame anyone but these players for failing a test they knew was coming. You may not care if players (or people) use drugs, and largely the NFL doesn't either. What matters to teams is if it gets in the way of being available to play.
—Seattle Shocked the NFL in Round 1
I polled 12 NFL scouts or executives after the Seattle Seahawks selected San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny in the first round. Not one team agreed on that value. The highest grade I could confirm was a mid-Round 2 value from an AFC team.
This doesn't mean Seattle was wrong—just different. If Penny hits, the front office will look brilliant. But this is a team that's lost some of its shine in recent years because of poor offseasons. John Schneider and Pete Carroll might finally be on the hot seat.
—Sam Darnold, Not Baker Mayfield, Is Consensus QB1
Baker Mayfield was the first quarterback off the board, but only two teams were confirmed to have him as their top quarterback—the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots. On the flip side, I spoke to over 15 teams that listed Darnold as their top quarterback.
—Josh Allen Liked, But Not By Many
Josh Allen was the No. 7 overall pick in the first round, but sources told me only two teams loved him. The Arizona Cardinals would have traded up for Allen (and may have tried) because he was their top quarterback. The Bills, where Allen ultimately ended up, had Allen as QB2 behind Darnold, per sources.
Adding on to Allen: Not one team told me his tweets that surfaced the day before the draft had any effect on his stock.
—Lack of Early Trades Not a Surprise
Why didn't we see more trades in the top five? One NFL executive told me the boards were set in stone. The New York Giants wouldn't even answer the phone to consider dealing out of No. 2 overall, per one source. Said another: "We knew QBs were going one and three, the Giants wanted Saquon. What was there to trade up for in draft with only a few elite players?"
—Raiders "Irresponsible" for Drafting Maurice Hurst
And finally, this one is shocking. After the draft ended on Saturday—and even during our Bleacher Report live stream coverage—I was asking if Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was going to be drafted. Hurst was flagged at the combine for a heart condition but was later allowed to participate at the Michigan pro day. If the Wolverines felt he was healthy, why did he fall so far in the draft?
I spoke to over 10 scouts, coaches and executives regarding Hurst. One, in a heated rant, labeled the selection "irresponsible" by the Raiders because of Hurst's heart condition (which hasn't been publicly shared) and hoped the talented defender would "never put a f--king helmet on again in his life."
That sentiment was echoed many times over, with one head coach adding, "Only the Raiders would draft a guy who could literally die on the field from a known condition."
The Big Board
By Round 5 of the 2018 NFL draft, I was begging our producers to let me talk about next year's class. If you can't tell, I'm super-excited for the 2019 group. Here's my early top 10 with a full big board coming out Monday morning (May 7).
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
3. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
4. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
5. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
6. Trey Adams, OT, Washington
7. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
8. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
9. Dre'Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
10. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
5. The Cincinnati Bengals reportedly will not pick up the option on offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi following the 2018 season, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, which would make him a free agent. The 2015 first-rounder (pick No. 21 overall) hasn't lived up to his draft stock yet but is an athletic player who needed work coming out of Texas A&M's spread offense. Don't be surprised if a team that likes his potential trades for Ogbuehi this preseason.
4. Chicago's Kevin White is another first-rounder not getting extended, per Garafolo. The former West Virginia wide receiver has been plagued by injuries throughout his NFL career. White was the top receiver on my board in the 2015 draft class but has never been able to put it together on the field.
It's an unfortunate reality, but White—with only 21 career catches—is looking like a bust after being picked No. 7 overall.
3. Let's have fun with some draft superlatives. Up first, my favorite draft:
The Chicago Bears didn't have the most picks or make the most moves; they just had a super-solid draft. Roquan Smith is exactly what the defense needed in the middle of the 3-4 scheme Vic Fangio runs. There's no doubt he saw some Patrick Willis in Smith.
Following that up with the selection of James Daniels to solidify the offensive line and Anthony Miller to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver spot is smart team building. The Bears didn't dominate the value of my predraft board or make splashy moves, but general manager Ryan Pace added players who fit what his coaches want to do.
"Draft the players you want to coach" is a popular moniker in the NFL, and it works for what Chicago did.
2. Least favorite draft: The Oakland Raiders.
Kolton Miller at pick No. 15 overall was my favorite selection the Raiders made. After that it's a collection of off-field issues (Arden Key), injury issues (Maurice Hurst) and straight-up bad trades for players (Brandon Parker).
Reggie McKenzie had built a good team in Oakland through the last four draft classes. Jon Gruden seems determined to ruin it.
1. Stick to Football went wild last week with coverage every day, and we don't plan to slow down this summer. This week we graded every AFC team's draft and chatted up Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson to see where he's at in his recovery process (great listen, fantasy football fans).