Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Who Do NFL Insiders Rank as Draft's Top QB?November 23, 2018
The New York Giants need one. The entire state of Florida does too. But the 2019 NFL draft doesn't feature a marquee quarterback prospect. There is no elite passer on par with the last three QB1s: Baker Mayfield, Mitch Trubisky and Jared Goff.
Where do teams turn? In some years they've manufactured a top quarterback (I'm talking about you, EJ Manuel), and in others they've found them in surprising places like Big 12 spread offenses or North Dakota.
In this year's class, there are strong opinions about the quarterbacks. In polling a dozen NFL evaluators and decision-makers to ask who the real QB1 is, you quickly realize there is no consensus.
"Josh Allen and [Christian] Hackenberg scarred me, so my gut is to say f--k those guys like [Justin] Herbert and [Drew] Lock," one NFC evaluator said. "Just let me work with Daniel Jones at Duke." He's not wrong. If you're afraid of the miss rate with traits-based quarterbacks like Allen and Hackenberg, you will like the readiness of Jones coming out of David Cutcliffe's system. Cutcliffe, for those younger readers, is the reason Eli Manning went to Ole Miss. He's widely regarded as one of the best quarterback developers in the nation.
One NFL insider had a different idea: "I bet Jon Gruden could get a bounty for [Derek] Carr." It does make you wonder—in a year with no clear-cut top-five pick at quarterback, could the New York Giants offer a top-five pick plus more down the road for Carr?
It's an idea that insider and others have pondered. If Carr isn't really Gruden's guy, this is the time to unload him before the loaded quarterback class of 2020 gets here.
Other contenders, like Oregon's Herbert and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, are met with questions about turning their traits into tools.
"Herbert, everything you hear is he's not ready mentally for the NFL," said one evaluator who has been through Oregon to watch the quarterback multiple times. For Haskins, the first-year starter at Ohio State, scouts worry about the scheme. "Urban [Meyer] has had one decent NFL quarterback (Alex Smith) ever come out of his system. That s--t will keep you up at night," said one NFL director.
There's no denying Herbert and Haskins both have tools. In a year where Patrick Mahomes is tearing apart the NFL after being drafted for his upside and not his Day 1 ability, owners and general managers could try to copy the Kansas City Chiefs' success. To that, the same NFL insider laughed. "None of these guys are Mahomes. Not even close."
The Scout's Report
— Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver got into a heated altercation with head coach Major Applewhite on the sideline during a nationally televised game—so heated the two had to be separated. Will NFL teams care? My original thought was that teams will care enough to ask about it when interviewing Oliver, who has already declared for the 2019 draft. After speaking to scouts this week, I'm even more convinced they'll ask and care about the answer.
Said one evaluator, "You don't want a Marcus Peters situation where your best player doesn't respect coaching." Peters was dismissed from the University of Washington in college and, according to NFL sources, traded from Kansas City due to a problem getting along with coaches.
It's not fair to say Oliver has issues with coaches, but this incident will send scouts to double-check their intel with the Cougars program.
— The lack of a true top-tier left tackle prospect in the 2019 draft class could be good news for Ole Miss' Greg Little. The 6'6", 325-pound junior is expected to enter the upcoming draft and could see his stock rise above the crop due to his size and experience. Said one scout, "[Little] could easily shoot up like [Mike] McGlinchey and [Kolton] Miller did last year."
— Another offensive tackle who could stand to benefit is Florida's Jawaan Taylor. Only a junior, Taylor looks to have the power teams love, but at 6'5" and 350 pounds, he has to prove he has the movement skills to handle NFL speed. Multiple pro evaluators report that he has first-round talent.
— As preliminary grades come in from area scouts, the word on the Clemson defensive line is still very good. While there isn't a consensus grade right now, three of the Tigers' linemen have received a first-round report from scouts. Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell could all be drafted within the first night.
The biggest questions when evaluating the three prospects are how well Lawrence can rush the passer in a league that values run defenders less and less; if Wilkins has the athleticism and strength to start; and if Ferrell has the bend to play in space.
— It's not a good year to need a running back or wide receiver, but it's a great year to need a tight end. Iowa's Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. and Stanford's Kaden Smith headline a group that could see as many as five tight ends drafted in the top 50.
— Adding to the already impressive tight end group, the Draft Network's Jon Ledyard reports that Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney and cornerback Joejuan Williams are expected to declare for the draft. Pinkney looks like a top-tier athlete on tape, but testing will be important for him and his 6'3", 210-pound teammate.
The Big Board
It's time to update the big board! Here's my most recent top 32:
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
3. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
6. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
7. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
8. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
9. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
10. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
11. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
12. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
13. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
14. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
15. Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
16. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
17. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
18. Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
19. Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
20. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
21. Dre'Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
22. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
23. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
24. Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
25. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
26. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
27. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
28. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
29. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
30. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
31. Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion
32. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
Each week throughout the rest of the season and up until the NFL draft, you can send your questions in via Twitter to be answered here.
This is where, as a general manager or owner, you have to know your competition. If the Denver Broncos fire Vance Joseph and decide to hire a defensive-minded head coach, you have to sell it as such: "We have Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers and Derek Carr in this division. We have to stop them." It could work for Denver, too, because Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are already on the roster. This is where a hire like Jim Schwartz could make a lot of sense.
A team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that lacks defensive talent would have a harder sell, even if their division is equally as tough with three very good quarterbacks to face.
The New York Jets desperately need a young offensive mind to work with Sam Darnold, but the foundation of the team is the defense, and most of the talent resides there. That's why a Schwartz or even John Harbaugh could work if they can also bring in an offensive coordinator that is sellable. This worked for Mike Vrabel with the Tennessee Titans because he brought Matt LaFleur with him from the well-respected Los Angeles Rams staff. So, really, it's more about the total staff than just the head coach.
7. The Khalil Mack trade could go down as franchise-changing for both the Chicago Bears and Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, with Mack's impact already being felt as the Bears pull ahead in first place in the NFC North.
But what about the actual trade? The Bears received Mack, a 2020 second-rounder and a 2020 conditional fifth-rounder in exchange for 2019 first- and sixth-round picks plus first- and third-rounders in 2020. On paper, that looks like a lot of picks, but look where the Bears and Raiders are drafting and it feels much different.
The Bears are currently slated to select No. 28 overall in each round for the 2019 draft. Assuming the Bears don't have a Philadelphia Eagles-like fall in 2020, the Raiders will have very little to show for trading the NFL's best edge-rusher. Here's how it would look:
2019 1st (No. 28 overall)
2019 6th (est. No. 202 overall)
2020 1st (No. 28 overall)
2020 3rd (No. 80 overall)
2020 2nd (No. 35 overall)
2020 5th (est. 141 overall)
6. It's almost NFL draft season for all 32 teams. Here's the current order based on win-loss percentage and strength of schedule.
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Oakland Raiders
4. New York Jets
5. New York Giants
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Atlanta Falcons
11. Detroit Lions
12. Denver Broncos
13. Philadelphia Eagles
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Miami Dolphins
17. Tennessee Titans
18. Seattle Seahawks
19. Cincinnati Bengals
20. Washington Redskins
21. Baltimore Ravens
22. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Houston Texans
25. Carolina Panthers
26. Los Angeles Chargers
27. New England Patriots
28. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
30. Los Angeles Rams
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans)
5. I recently added an Underclassman Watch List to the Scouting Notebook, which was the earliest I've done that. So far, three underclassmen have declared:
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma (Draft Projection: Round 3)
Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State (Draft Projection: First Overall)
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston (Draft Projection: Round 1)
4. Game balls for Week 12 of college football:
Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State: 43-of-55, 473 yards, 7 TD
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: 28-of-38, 405 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: 33 carries, 321 yards, 3 TD
Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland: 21 carries, 298 yards, 2 TD
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass: 15 catches, 219 yards, 2 TD
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss: 9 catches, 212 yards, 2 TD
3. Here are the college games you'll want to scout this weekend:
No. 6 Oklahoma @ No. 13 West Virginia (Friday)
No. 16 Washington @ No. 8 Washington State (Friday)
No. 4 Michigan @ No. 10 Ohio State
No. 20 Syracuse @ Boston College
Auburn @ No. 1 Alabama
2. The Stick to Football tailgate tour schedule has one stop left, and it's our biggest one yet. Come to The Game and see our awesome tailgate RV. We'll be recording the podcast at 10 a.m. in the gray lots. Look for the red and blue RV trailer flying the STF and B/R flags.
November 24: Columbus, Ohio (Michigan vs. Ohio State)
1. Stick to Football is ready for draft season, which means doing a top-10-pick mock draft in this week's episode. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.