Matt Miller's Latest 2020 NFL Draft Stock Up, Stock Down
Week 6 of the college football season was dubbed Separation Saturday as Top 25 teams went head-to-head across the country. It wasn't just a day for top teams to pair off and see who belongs at the top; it was also a day for top prospects to face each other in contests that would have major NFL draft ramifications.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow faced his best test of his season against a talented Florida secondary. Texas and Oklahoma squared off in the Red River Showdown, which featured a slew of offensive talent and some defensive surprises.
Who is left moving up and down the board following the weekend? We asked a handful of NFL scouts that question.
Stock Up: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Scout's Take: "You can't deny how well he's playing. He has an 'it' factor that you can't put a price on. And he's throwing big-time balls."
Joe Burrow's stock has seen a meteoric rise since the season began. He's now ranked No. 7 overall on my big board following an enormous game against a Top 10 Florida Gators team loaded with defensive prospects.
Torching the Gators for a 21-of-24 night with 293 yards, three scores and a ridiculous 12.2 yards per attempt shows that Burrow is able to accurately move the ball down the field and produce points. It also proves he isn't beholden to an underneath or timing-based passing attack. He's pushing the ball down the field and allowing Ja'Marr Chase (remember him for 2020) and Justin Jefferson to make plays at wide receiver.
Burrow isn't yet in the tier of Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, but as the season goes on, he has a chance to make himself many fans in the NFL scouting community. It's hard to imagine Burrow lasts very long in the first round with his play on the field and his reputation as a high-character leader at LSU.
Stock Down: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Scout's Take: "People got too high on him when they weren't playing anyone, but he's really come back down to Earth. I also don't think we love his mental makeup."
There is a lot to unpack here.
Washington hasn't played an SEC schedule, but then again, neither have most SEC teams so far this season. Eason did struggle against the two best teams the Huskies have seen—an uneven 16-of-26 against USC with no touchdowns and then a 16-of-36 night against Stanford that saw one score and one interception. That part is fair—to date, Eason hasn't played well against good Pac-12 competition after torching Hawaii and BYU in Weeks 3 and 4.
As to the mental makeup, scouts have talked about this all summer and now into the fall with Eason. No one has accused him of being a bad person, but the dreaded "football character" that is often talked about in scouting circles isn't seen positively for Eason. Football character can mean different things to different evaluators, but when pressed on specifics regarding Eason, one regional scout said: "He's just not very mature and doesn't handle the little things well that you want at the position. Honestly, going back to school [for his senior season] could be good for him to grow up."
Eason has all the physical tools, but after sitting out 2018 after transferring to Washington, a return to Seattle for another season might be exactly what he needs.
Stock Down: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Scout's Take: "I've never understood the love with this kid. He might look the part, but he'll get someone fired. He doesn't have it."
If you're a longtime reader here or listener of the Stick to Football podcast, you've no doubt heard scouts' concerns about Justin Herbert's mental makeup. He's been called "soft" a lot—and in private conversations with a former member of the Oregon football staff, I've heard the same concerns. "He lacks a killer mentality" is how one area scout put it this week.
Herbert has natural talent—a loose, easy throwing motion with a big right arm on a 6'6", 235-pound frame would make most scouts drool. But no matter how well he plays on the field (he's been up-and-down this season), scouts always go back to the personality and wiring concerns.
When verified by scouts and separate football staff internally at Oregon, that's enough to cause a drop down the board. Herbert could overcome the lack of toughness to become an NFL great, but I've not studied many quarterbacks who have success in the NFL without a lot of bite to match their bark.
Stock Down: Brandon Jones, SS, Texas
Scout's Take: "Coverage skills are really poor from him, but I bet he tests well and someone overdrafts him. I'd put him in Day 3."
Asking Brandon Jones to cover one of the best wide receivers in college football backfired for the Texas Longhorns against Oklahoma when Jones—more of a traditional box safety—had to line up early in the game against CeeDee Lamb in man coverage. Oops.
Jones was exploited when asked to use foot quickness and agility to match Lamb's routes. He's physical, aggressive and a very good downhill player, but he lacks the coverage instincts and agility for that position. This won't kill Jones' draft stock, but teams must be aware of who he is: a third safety type who will likely be asked to spy quarterbacks, take away middle-of-the-field crossing routes and help in the run game.
The downside for Jones is that this type of safety isn't as valued in the NFL anymore. That's why his stock sees a drop this week.
Stock Up: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Scout's Take: "I don't know if he'll be the fastest guy when tested, but he's so physical and smart that it won't matter."
CeeDee Lamb isn't the biggest (listed at 6'2", 191 pounds) or the fastest (projected 40-yard time in the mid-4.4-second range), but he might be the best receiver in college football.
Critics will point to the weakness of the Oklahoma schedule. That's fair, but Lamb was oftentimes the best receiver for the Sooners last year even as first-rounder Marquise Brown got the majority of the team's targets.
Lamb, who has an amazing catch radius and is a menace for defenders after the catch, projects as a true WR1 in the NFL. His route running and speed will get questioned when compared to the rest of the class, but what he's able to do fighting for the ball and then shucking tacklers after the catch is truly impressive. It's a big "stock up" week for Lamb.
Stock Up: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Scout's Take: "Probably the most improved player in my area this year. His sideline-to-sideline speed is really impressive. True three-down linebacker."
Welcome to the first round, Kenneth Murray.
Following a 2018 season that saw Murray pop on box scores, he looks like a much-improved all-around linebacker this season. His ability to track and run down ball-carriers outside the box had me calling him NaVorro Bowman to a group of readers Saturday. Murray took over against Texas by running down Sam Ehlinger on blitzes and spying him in the run game, but he was as impactful in the passing game.
Murray looks like a dream for teams that want a three-down linebacker who can stay on the field and excel in nickel situations. That screams Round 1 grades.
Stock Up: Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
Scout's Take: "He's so big and physical ... guys like that can play for us. And he went off against a very good Utah team. Give him more consistency at QB, and more people would be talking."
You probably know Michael Pittman Jr. either from his dad's legendary biceps or from his 10-catch, 232-yard night against Utah earlier this season. Both are notable, but it's what Pittman could be doing with a more consistent quarterback situation in Los Angeles that has scouts excited.
The 6'4", 220-pound Pittman is an ideal fit as a WR1 in a vertical offense given his size, speed and ability to track the ball down the field. He's also showing more versatility in his route tree as the USC offense opens up.
Pittman has been on the rise all season long. If the big senior accepts an invite to the Senior Bowl, his stock will only continue to climb once he's able to show off his traits without being held back by the Trojans' passing game.
Stock Down: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Scout's Take: "He's small and doesn't catch well in traffic. Being fast doesn't make up for that."
Wide receivers must be able to do two things to succeed in the NFL—separate in their routes and catch the ball. Jalen Reagor is struggling to do both.
Catching up this week on TCU film, the first thing that popped out is that Reagor doesn't fight for the ball in traffic and too often puts the ball on the ground when asked to make contested catches. Yes, he's quick and can scoot with the ball in his hands, but he looks like the type of receiver who will need touches schemed for him by the offense.
Those receivers can succeed in the NFL, but it's rare. Reagor looks more like a Corey Coleman type as the season progresses. That's pushing his stock down.