Sitting in my office on a Thursday morning, sipping an energy drink that will probably cut my life expectancy in half, I decided to dial up a longtime friend who scouts for an NFC team to ask questions before writing this article and a new mock draft.
The conversation jumped around. Which head coaches will be fired? Who do you like to fill those vacancies? Oh, and where can I find a good wide receiver for my favorite team?
"Oof. The 2020 draft, probably," he said.
And that's how most NFL evaluators feel about the upcoming class of wide receivers.
There are names that you will recognize. D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss) and N'Keal Harry (Arizona State) have already announced they will enter the upcoming draft. Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) and A.J. Brown (Ole Miss) are expected by evaluators to do the same once their seasons end. Even adding in the two Browns, NC State's Kelvin Harmon and a couple of Texas Longhorns (Collin Johnson, Lil'Jordan Humphrey); the belief is that this wide receiver class is a bad one.
Teams looking for help in the passing game may turn their attention from wide receivers to tight ends in this year's draft.
While no wide receiver carries a top-20 grade on my draft board, Iowa's Noah Fant sits in the top 15 with Alabama's Irv Smith Jr., Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Stanford's Kaden Smith all also projected as top-40 players. There isn't a game-changing athlete like O.J. Howard in this group—none of these players will ever line up consistently outside the hashes—but there is a unique collection of talented pass-catchers with versatility to dominate up the seams and sometimes in the slot.
Given the dominance of Zach Ertz—who is on pace to shatter the NFL's single-season tight end reception record—as well as the successes of Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and others—it makes sense that offensive coordinators needing more pass-catchers would look to this year's tight end class.
"When it's all said and done, in the next four years, I'll bet you this tight end class is better than the receivers," said one area scout. I'd follow that bet.
The Scout's Report
—Looking for a riser in the next five months of the NFL draft process? Florida State's Brian Burns, a 6'5" and 235-pound junior, has 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss this season. One scout told me Burns is his No. 2-ranked EDGE behind Ohio State's Nick Bosa.
My concerns with Burns are size-related. He's rail thin and dominates with speed in the ACC. Can he add power and not lose flexibility and quickness? Can he convert speed to power to beat blockers? Speed sells in the NFL, though, and Burns could wind up a top-15 pick like Marcus Davenport last season.
—NFL evaluators are pessimistic about the 2019 draft class, but they should cheer up once the cornerback class is looked at. LSU's Greedy Williams, Clemson's Trayvon Mullen, Georgia's Deandre Baker and Washington's Byron Murphy look like Round 1 locks. There is also good depth with two Ohio State players (Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield), Julian Love (Notre Dame) and a host of solid Day 2-type picks.
—The 2019 Senior Bowl list is starting to come together (see that below), and one name that should excite those in attendance is Louisiana Tech pass-rusher Jaylon Ferguson. With 15 sacks on the year, and 42.5 in his career, Ferguson has production to match his quickness and developed tool set as a defensive end or outside linebacker prospect. A strong predraft process could get him into the top 32 picks.
—The biggest jump on my big board (posted below) is Kentucky's Josh Allen. A top-10 player last week, Allen moves to my No. 3 overall spot after I caught up on his film.
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Allen has the size, burst and power to wreck offensive tackles. He shows a finished long arm to keep tackles off his frame but also has the speed to bend the corner and get into the backfield. He's an NFL-ready outside linebacker.
—When Alabama and Georgia take the field Saturday, there will be 24 players from my 2019 draft list on the field. And that's just for 2019. Evaluators are excited for this game because of this year's teams overall, but the chance to see Tua Tagovailoa face off against Jake Fromm is what folks really want to see. Tua, the Heisman favorite, has overtaken Fromm in the minds of evaluators we spoke to, but both still have a full season of college football left in 2019 before they're draft-eligible.
—As you're watching conference championship games this weekend, keep an eye on Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. A productive, speedy back with excellent vision, Henderson is generating a ton of buzz among NFL scouts. He has a chance to be an early Day 2 selection.
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. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
6. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
7. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
8. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
9. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
10. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
11. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
12. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
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.
I've mentioned before on Twitter that NFL scouts loved Terrell Lewis before he injured his knee. Now that Lewis is back practicing after rehabbing from the torn ACL, there is renewed buzz around him. To be clear: I don't expect Lewis to declare for the 2019 draft, but if healthy he will go into next season as one of the top edge players for the 2020 draft. If healthy, he would be the top-ranked linebacker at Alabama—over Wilson and Anfernee Jennings, who are both seen as top-50 players.
The great thing about Nick Bosa is that he transcends scheme. The same discussion was had about how well his brother, Joey, would fit in 3-4 or 4-3 base schemes. The younger Bosa has tremendous strength, football IQ, technique and agility to play either standing up or with his hand in the dirt. He's also good enough against the run to be left on an island if lined up wide on the line. If the 49ers continue to hold the No. 1 overall pick, he is a no-brainer selection.
7. The 2019 Reese's Senior Bowl is only two months away, which means executive director Jim Nagy and his staff are filling in the rosters. Here are the announced players who have accepted invites so far.
Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
Zach Allen, DL, Boston College
Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
Ben Banogu, DE, TCU
Beau Benzschawel, OG, Wisconsin
Marquise Blair, S, Utah
Garrett Bradbury, OL, North Carolina St.
John Cominsky, DL, Charleston
Dennis Daley, OT, South Carolina
Nate Davis, OG, UNC-Charlotte
Michael Deiter, OG, Wisconsin
Andre Dillard, OT, Washington St.
Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
Ryan Finley, QB, NC State
Carl Granderson, DE, Wyoming
Terrill Hanks, LB, New Mexico State
Chase Hansen, LB, Utah
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
Elgton Jenkins, OC, Mississippi State
Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston
Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
Gardner Minshew II, QB, Washington St.
Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State
Foster Moreau, TE, LSU
Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Germaine Pratt, LB, North Carolina State
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas St.
Dontavius Russell, DL, Auburn
Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
Khalen Saunders, DL, Western Illinois
Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville
Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College
Marvel Tell III, S, USC
Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame
Khari Willis, S, Michigan St.
Gerald Willis III, DL, Miami (Fla.)
Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion
Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
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. Jacksonville Jaguars
7. Atlanta Falcons
8. Detroit Lions
9. Buffalo Bills
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11. Green Bay Packers
12. Cleveland Browns
13. Miami Dolphins
14. Tennessee Titans
15. Denver Broncos
16. Philadelphia Eagles
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Indianapolis Colts
19. Seattle Seahawks
20. Carolina Panthers
21. Washington Redskins
22. Baltimore Ravens
23. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Minnesota Vikings
26. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
27. Houston Texans
28. Los Angeles Chargers
29. New England Patriots
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans)
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Los Angeles Rams
5. We're approaching December, so I've added an Underclassman Watch List to the Scouting Notebook. So far, seven underclassmen have declared:
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma (Draft Projection: Round 3)
Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State (Draft Projection: First Overall)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida (Draft Projection: Round 3)
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan (Draft Projection: Round 1)
N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State (Draft Projection: Round 1-2)
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss (Draft Projection: Round 2)
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston (Draft Projection: Round 1)
4. Game balls for Week 13 of college football:
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: 20-of-31, 396 yards, 6 TD
Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State: 12 catches, 248 yards, 3 TD
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: 11 catches, 243 yards, 2 TD
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina: 10 catches, 210 yards, 3 TD
2. Here are the college games you'll want to scout during conference championship weekend. Saturday is a great day to find a reason to not leave the house.
No. 17 Utah vs. No. 11 Washington (Friday)
No. 14 Texas vs. No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia
No. 25 Fresno State @ No. 22 Boise State
No. 2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
No. 21 Northwestern vs. No. 6 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.