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Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Working 2020 Draft Process a Must for Top QBs

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 6, 2019

TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks warms up before the NCAAF game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield did it. Josh Allen did it.

Daniel Jones did too.

What do those three quarterbacks have in common, and how could a decision they each made before they were selected impact the 2020 NFL draft?

Each attended the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and saw their draft stock either improve or solidify because of it.

Now, senior quarterbacks Joe Burrow (LSU) and Justin Herbert (Oregon), as well as redshirt junior Jordan Love (Utah State), must weigh their options regarding a week under the watchful eye of NFL coaches, scouts and the football media as a potential aide to their draft stock. But there are potential pitfalls, too. At least according to some.

What's to gain? For each quarterback, the chance to spend a week practicing, learning, interviewing and interacting with NFL teams is invaluable. 

Daniel Jones went to Mobile last year as a potential first-rounder but a player whose shine had worn off late in the year following a broken collarbone and inconsistent play once he returned from the injury. But New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was sitting in the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for practices, fell in love with the former Duke quarterback and made him the No. 6 overall selection in the 2019 draft.

Daniel Jones reportedly won over Giants GM Dave Gettleman with his performance at the Senior Bowl.
Daniel Jones reportedly won over Giants GM Dave Gettleman with his performance at the Senior Bowl.Butch Dill/Associated Press

The same story can be told for Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen in 2018.

Facing a quarterback class that featured juniors Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville), the two took off for Alabama and competed on the same roster for the week of practices. Their performances helped each player's stock, but their personalities and work ethic are what sold evaluators on them.

Said one Browns' scout, "We knew Baker was fiery, but that week sealed the deal for a lot of us because you could see how much his teammates wanted to win for him. And he'd just met these dudes [at the beginning of the week]."

The Senior Bowl can no doubt improve your stock, but can it hurt it? Joe Burrow is already considered the top quarterback prospect in this class according to media reports. Does he really need to risk injury to prove himself more? 

Many agents have refused to send their players to the Senior Bowl in the past if that player was considered a first-round selection. That trend may be changing, but there is still an old guard that believes a top-ranked quarterback has no place risking injury at an all-star game. 

That argument is one you often hear while talking to quarterback agents.

"Turn on the tape, what else does he have to prove?" is how one well-respected quarterback agent put it. This same attitude has carried over even to the scouting combine, where top quarterbacks don't always participate in throwing drills at Lucas Oil Stadium because of unfamiliarity with the receivers on the field. 

Therein lies most of the issue: Why would Burrow (or Herbert) go to Alabama, throw to receivers he's never worked with and risk hurting his stock?

Thomas Graning/Associated Press

For Burrow, the question becomes whether he should accept an invite to the Senior Bowl, not to improve his own stock but to make sure neither Herbert nor Love can catch him.

"You have to wonder what the Browns would have done if Darnold could have spent that week in Mobile," said a former AFC director of player personnel who closely evaluated the 2019 quarterbacks. "Would [John] Dorsey have fallen for him as hard?" 

We'll never know. But even if you're the perceived QB1 in December, there's risk when things aren't set in stone. Sam Darnold was ranked as such, but Mayfield jumped him. The same was true for Dwayne Haskins last year as the perceived QB2 behind Kyler Murray, and he was jumped by Jones.

A week of practices and an exhibition game might seem pointless, especially if Burrow makes a College Football Playoff run. But to NFL evaluators, the potential risks are worth the reward. As one general manager told me a few years ago, "No one hurts their stock in an all-star game by playing poorly; you can only help yourself."

 

                                                

The Scout's Report

— What will Utah State redshirt junior Jordan Love do after the season? There are a lot of opinions but no set information yet. Love, who will graduate in December according to sources at Utah State, could accept an invite to the Senior Bowl, but he could also look to use graduate transfer rules to move to a more talented team and play immediately.

Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

The most likely scenario has Love leaving for the NFL and hopefully using the Senior Bowl in an attempt to improve his draft stock, but the grad transfer route can't be ruled out. Love at Oklahoma or Texas A&M next year would be fascinating.

—There could be three first-rounders on the field together at this year's Senior Bowl after the game announced Alabama's Raekwon Davis has accepted an invite. Davis will join South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw and could be joined by Auburn's Derrick Brown, who is rumored to be accepting his invitation.

After seeing 10 players from last year's game selected in the first round, the 2020 Senior Bowl looks to be solid once again.

—Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has a decision to make regarding his future before the Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft. In an in-depth interview with Cecil Hurt of TideSports.com this week, Tua said he's unsure of his future and has to talk to his family more. Notably, he said there's risk involved in returning to Alabama and suffering another injury, but that he also understands he's likely losing money by entering this year's draft.

—In a Thursday afternoon press conference, Tua echoed those sentiments and said he hasn't yet made a plan regarding the 2020 NFL draft. This is good. There should be no rush outside of the Jan. 20 deadline for him to make a decision. And even that date puts Tua in a difficult situation.

Tagovailoa and his family will likely seek information on his draft stock, but no one can answer that with any credibility today and likely won't be able to on Jan. 20. Tua's stock could be anywhere from No. 1 overall pick to undrafted based on how well his hip injury heals, how long his rehabilitation is expected to last, what his 2020 playing prognosis is and what the long-term effects of the injuries will be.

Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

NFL teams can tell head coach Nick Saban that Tua will be a top-10 pick, but that projection could change if medical evaluations at the NFL Scouting Combine go poorly. It's a complete guessing game at this time, which is why the ultimate advice from Saban and the NFL could be for Tua to return to school and give his hip time to heal completely. That is also risky due to the potential for future injury, which further highlights why there isn't an easy answer.

                            

The Big Board

1. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State

2. QB Joe Burrow, LSU

3. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

4. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

5. LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

6. DL Derrick Brown, Auburn

7. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

8. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

9. EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

10. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

11. DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

12. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

13. S Grant Delpit, LSU

14. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

15. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

16. OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

17. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

18. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

19. EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama

20. CB CJ Henderson, Florida

21. CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

22. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

23. EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU

24. CB Kristian Fulton, LSU

25. WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

26. WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

27. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

28. LB Dylan Moses, Alabama

29. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

30. IOL Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin

31. RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

32. RB Najee Harris, Alabama

                                           

Parting Shots

7. The Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to enter the NFL draft feels far away, but players are already announcing their intentions on Twitter and Instagram.

Here's an unofficial list of the players who have announced they intend to enter the draft:

  • Arizona RB J.J. Taylor
  • Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. 
  • Maryland RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
  • Michigan EDGE Josh Uche
  • Missouri OT Trystan Colon-Castillo
  • Missouri DL Jordan Elliott
  • Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam
  • Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins
  • Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
  • TCU WR Jalen Reagor
  • UCF WR Gabriel Davis

6. Game of the Week

No game can compete with the stage of the SEC Championship matchup between LSU and Georgia. Even in a weekend featuring solid matchups in the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC, this is the one.

Quarterback Jake Fromm (Georgia) has posted pedestrian numbers all season and must face off against the juggernaut that is Joe Burrow and the LSU offense. Can the Bulldogs keep up with the Tigers offense?

For Burrow, he'll face another strong test from an SEC defense. So far this season, he hasn't been slowed by Florida, Alabama or Auburn. Can Georgia's stingy group do what no one has this year and actually stop Burrow and wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson?

                 

5. Stock Down

FSU's Marvin Wilson was getting Round 1 attention early in the season, but the junior broke his hand and had to miss the rest of the season. Then, at least on my end, FSU game tape became available, and Wilson didn't look so hot.

He's a big man (6'5", 311 lbs) lined up at defensive tackle, but he doesn't play to his size. Conversations with scouts after checking the film echoed the fears that he's more hype than substance. Wilson has talent and potential, but right now, he's a very raw defensive lineman who needs to add strength and better hand play.

Wilson hasn't announced his 2020 intentions, but my grade on him is outside the first three rounds and would point to a return to college for his senior year.

         

4. Stock Up

Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

Updating my rankings this week in preparation for the mock draft that posted and next week's Big Board meant getting caught up on offensive line game film. No player stood out more when reviewing SEC tape than Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr.

Wills, who plays right tackle, has exceptional movement ability. Unlike most college tackles we watch, he's able to win with his hands but also has the agility to reset and recover. Wills' athleticism shows me he could play either left or right tackle in the pros.

In a clouded offensive tackle group, Wills has a chance to become my OT1 ahead of Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa).

          

3. Sleeper of the Week

Hello, Gabriel Davis.

The UCF junior announced his entry into the 2020 draft this week, and catching up on his film was a treat. Davis is a 6'3", 212-pound mover with a body type and athleticism that reminded me of Corey Davis at Western Michigan.

The looming question is how well Davis will run at the NFL Scouting Combine because he can look labored on film, but he's an exciting receiver prospect with a preliminary Round 2 grade.

                 

2. Tailgate Tour

Our Stick to Football tailgate tour was recently announced. If you get a chance to come out, these tailgates are free fan events with no ticket to the game required:

Dec. 7: SEC Championship Game (Atlanta)

Jan. 20, 21: Senior Bowl (Mobile, Alabama); Draft Picks Taproom, 7:30 p.m.

          

1. Stick to Football is back in house this week, with our podcast episodes also available on YouTube as a video series. 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. Salary-cap numbers courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise noted. Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.