Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Senior Bowl Wide Receivers Climb the Board

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2020

Southern California's Michael Pitman Jr carries the ball as the North squad runs drills during practice for the Senior Bowl Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

Mobile, Ala. — The 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl was billed as a battle between top quarterbacks Justin Herbert of Oregon and Jordan Love of Utah State, and it has been. But evaluators are buzzing about the wide receiver group in Mobile.

Headed into the week of practices, the 2020 wide receiver class was well-known—but mostly for its underclassmen. Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb were receiving the majority of the buzz. And while those three are still the top-ranked receivers in this class, it's the second tier that will receive a shake-up thanks to the talent on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

With an average group of cornerbacks in attendance, the senior wide receivers feasted on the opportunity to dominate.

USC's Michael Pittman Jr. was the first star of the show. At 6'4" and 219 pounds, Pittman is the type of physical wide receiver teams want working down the field. The biggest on-film question was if he had the speed to separate against NFL-caliber cornerbacks. Pittman did that with excellent physicality and smart route running, and he has dependable hands to boot. He solidified his stock as a top-60 player.

Pittman was well-known heading into the week thanks to his production at USC, but this week is also about seeing and evaluating players who didn't dominate the stat sheet. That's Florida's Van Jefferson, who showed very good quickness while executing smooth routes. At 6'1" and 197 pounds, Jefferson doesn't have elite size, but when South team defensive backs tried to get physical with him, he responded and was able to still get open. He improved his stock this week and is a top-100 player.

Two other receivers who had name recognition but slipped in the draft process throughout the season also put on a display of their talents in front of scouts this week. Texas wideout Collin Johnson, with his 6'6" frame, showed that he's more than just a fade-route specialist with good routes and the type of quickness on a big frame that will get scouts excited. The same goes for K.J. Hill of Ohio State. His production dropped in 2019, but he's shown the pure speed to be a downfield threat in Mobile.

The NFL Scouting Combine next month in Indianapolis will give the underclassmen a chance to build their own buzz, but now there is a ton of talk about the strength of the seniors in this group.

                     

The Scout's Report

—The Los Angeles Chargers need a quarterback, and word around Mobile is that the team likes Utah State's Jordan Love. The Chargers own the No. 6 overall pick in the first round, which might be too early for Love, but as happens every year, a quarterback could rise up the board due to need at the position. Love's arm strength, athleticism and potential make him my QB3 in this class.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

—Auburn defensive tackle Marlon Davidson dominated in practice on Tuesday before a foot injury knocked him out of participating the rest of the week. At 6'3" and a very stout 297 pounds, Davidson showed he can handle playing on the interior or where he lined up at defensive end in Auburn's three-man front. He looks like a first-round selection.

—While many players see their draft stock rise at the Senior Bowl, others struggle and see their stock decline. That's the case for Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Michigan's Shea Patterson. Both quarterbacks struggled to win with accuracy and were routinely off-target when throwing in position drills that put wide receivers one-on-one versus cornerbacks.

—Davidson wasn't the only defensive lineman who showed up this week. Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore was a big winner with his quickness off the snap. At 6'2" and 304 pounds, he doesn't have elite size, but he can line up as a 3-technique and win with quickness and really good hand play.

Zack Baun was asked to get uncomfortable this week while playing off-ball linebacker after working primarily as a pass-rusher at Wisconsin and proved he can hang in space. Baun isn't the biggest dude at 6'2" and 240 pounds, which is why a move to linebacker is best for his NFL career instead of banging on the edge with offensive tackles. The good news for Baun and the team that drafts him is that his versatility will make him a big asset for any down and distance.

—The tight ends were awesome in Mobile this year. Purdue's Brycen Hopkins showed his catch radius and athleticism early and often. He's my TE2 (behind Notre Dame junior Cole Kmet) and would be a fit in any NFL scheme. Teams wanting an in-line tight end should be all over Hopkins and Dayton's Adam Trautman, a very good athlete for a small-school tight end who has been excellent up the seam. And one more—Florida Atlantic's Harrison Bryant won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end in 2019 and showed why with his awesome route running and very good quickness in space. He's perfect as an H-back/flex/U-tight end prospect.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

                                   

The Big Board

1. Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

2. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

3. Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

4. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

5. Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson

6. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

7. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

8. Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

9. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

10. Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

11. A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa

12. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

13. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

14. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

15. Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

16. Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

17. K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

18. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

19. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

20. CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

21. Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

22. Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

23. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

24. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

25. D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

26. Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn

27. Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

28. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

29. Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

30. Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

31. Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

32. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

                                            

Parting Shots

9. The 2020 quarterback class feels like one in which the order is mostly set—Burrow, Tua, Love/Herbert, Jacob Eason from Washington and then Jake Fromm of Georgia. There's a good chance we see all six drafted in the top 50 selections.

In talking to scouts this week, there is a strong feeling that demand will drive up the value of the supply. Take Fromm, for example. There are scouts who believe the Georgia quarterback's football IQ and experience will impress teams enough that they'll overlook a largely average career statistically at Georgia.

You could poke holes in every quarterback prospect in this class—Burrow's inexperience, Tua's injuries, decision-making from Herbert, Love and Eason—but the simple fact that so many teams need a 2020 starter or quarterback of the future is likely to drive value up.

When asked for a prediction, one personnel executive said five quarterbacks will be drafted in the top 15 picks.

     

8. The bad news about potentially six quarterbacks being drafted in the top 50 picks is that there isn't much depth after that. Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts struggled all week and was seen as maybe the next-best option at quarterback.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

On my current big board, there are six quarterbacks in the top 60, but after that, the next quarterback is Hurts at No. 130 overall and then Cole McDonald from Hawaii at No. 185. This lack of quarterback depth in the middle rounds is why we could see aggressive moves from teams to come up the board to take a passer.

This isn't a year to hold off until Round 2 or 3 to get a quarterback you can develop. There's no Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson waiting in this class. If you need a quarterback, you'll be drafting one early.

     

7. Where is the depth of the 2020 draft? It's easy to casually comment on the wide receiver depth, but what do the numbers say? Taking my top 32 players, here's the positional breakdown:

QB—4

RB—2

WR—5

TE—1

OT—4

OG—0

OC—0

DL—4

EDGE—3

LB—4

CB—3

S—2

   

6. The Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to submit their names for the draft has passed. Here is the official list of underclassmen from the NFL:

Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama S Xavier McKinney, Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Appalachian State RB Darrynton Evans, Arizona RB J.J. Taylor, Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State P Michael Turk, Arkansas S Kamren Curl, Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn EDGE Nick Coe, Auburn P Arryn Siposs, Baylor CB Grayland Arnold, Baylor DL James Lynch, Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver, Boston College RB AJ Dillon, BYU RB Ty'Son Williams, Cincinnati RB Michael Warren II, Clemson WR Tee Higgins, Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson CB A.J. Terrell, Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Florida CB CJ Henderson, Florida Atlantic CB James Pierre, Florida Atlantic WR Kyle Davis, Florida State RB Cam Akers, Florida State CB Stanford Samuels III, Fresno State IOL Netane Muti, Georgia QB Jake Fromm, Georgia IOL Solomon Kindley, Georgia RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson, Hawaii QB Cole McDonald, Illinois EDGE Oluwole Betiku Jr., Iowa DL A.J. Epenesa, Iowa S Geno Stone, Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa RB Toren Young, Kentucky WR Lynn Bowden Jr., Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson, Louisville OT Mekhi Becton, LSU EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU OT Saahdiq Charles, LSU IOL Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU S Grant Delpit, LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU WR Justin Jefferson, LSU TE Thaddeus Moss, LSU LB Jacob Phillips, LSU LB Patrick Queen, Maryland RB Javon Leake, Maryland RB Anthony McFarland Jr., Miami CB Trajan Bandy, Miami RB DeeJay Dallas, Miami WR Jeff Thomas, Miami DE Jonathan Garvin, Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan IOL Cesar Ruiz, Michigan EDGE Josh Uche, Michigan State CB Josiah Scott, Michigan State WR Cody White, Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr., Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr., Missouri OT Trystan Colon-Castillo, Missouri DL Jordan Elliott, Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri Western DE Marcus Brown, Monmouth RB Peter Guerriero, Notre Dame S Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame RB Tony Jones Jr., Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet, Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State EDGE Chase Young, Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray, Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins, Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State WR KJ Hamler, Rhode Island WR Isaiah Coulter, Rutgers DE Elorm Lumor, San Diego State IOL Keith Ismael, South Carolina TE Kyle Markway, South Florida WR Darnell Salomon, Southern Miss WR Quez Watkins, Stanford TE Colby Parkinson, Syracuse WR Trishton Jackson, TCU DL Ross Blacklock, TCU WR Jalen Reagor, Temple CB Harrison Hand, Temple IOL Matt Hennessy, Texas A&M WR Quartney Davis, Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M CB Debione Renfro, Texas A&M WR Kendrick Rogers, Texas San-Antonio WR Carlos Strickland, Texas Tech EDGE Houston Miller, UCLA TE Devin Asiasi, UCLA CB Darnay Holmes, USC OT Austin Jackson, Utah CB Javelin Guidry, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah State QB Jordan Love, Utah State LB David Woodward, UCF WR Gabriel Davis, Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech RB Deshawn McClease, Virginia-Lynchburg DB Thomas Newman, Virginia Union RB Tabyus Taylor, Washington RB Salvon Ahmed, Washington TE Hunter Bryant, Washington QB Jacob Eason, West Virginia DB Kenny Robinson, Wisconsin IOL Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor

               

5. Stock Down

Jalen Hurts needed a good week at the Senior Bowl to show people that he had developed since his Alabama days and was closer to the quarterback seen early this season at Oklahoma. Throughout three days of practices, Hurts routinely struggled to make touch throws. He was often high and outside on throws outside the hashes and didn't show touch needed to win on the boundary. Hurts is a great athlete and will wow with his legs—and he did look good throwing over the middle—but his inability to consistently hit passes is a major hurdle for his future as an NFL quarterback.

         

4. Stock Up

Cheating this week, I'm picking two stock up players. Both Jordan Love and Justin Herbert were really impressive throughout practices. Neither player had any red flags on the practice field. Of course, there are concerns with both players that would only show up in game situations (Love's decision-making and Herbert's progressions), but both really helped their stocks.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

A few others who stood out to me: Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins, Houston OT Josh Jones, Oklahoma State CB A.J. Green, Utah EDGE Bradlee Anae and LSU IOL Lloyd Cushenberry III.

          

3. Sleeper of the Week

The Senior Bowl is loaded with sleepers, but Ben Bartch from D-III Saint John's has been a small-school standout. Bartch has been incredibly physical and isn't afraid to mix it up with defensive linemen from the bigger programs. He's a little bit of a work in progress, but a top-100 grade isn't out of the question after he showed out in his first test against NFL-caliber competition. 

                 

2. Tailgate Tour

Come hang out with Mello, Connor and me on Tailgate Tour throughout the 2020 draft process. Here are the details:

B/R Gridiron House in Miami on Feb. 1 at 1 p.m.

Honeyfire BBQ in Nashville on March 13 at 12 p.m.

          

1. Stick to Football is on the road this week talking to Bills GM Brandon Beane, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Check out all our podcast episodes, also available on YouTube as a video series, 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.

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