A shortened workweek is here (happy Thanksgiving!) but the Scouting Notebook is still here to get you through those long Black Friday lines—yes, you can read this while your wife makes you shop. It’s a big week for football with college and NFL news affecting all things draft. Here’s what we’ll get to this week:
- The next Joe Thomas
- Updated NFL team needs
- News on Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer
- Senior Bowl roster update
- …and pro player comparisons for the Michigan/Ohio State and Alabama/Auburn games
The Scout’s Report
—What’s next for Texas running back and Heisman candidate D’Onta Foreman? A source in the Texas football program told me the Longhorns expect Foreman to declare for the 2017 draft if head coach Charlie Strong is fired. Foreman carries a Round 1 grade on my board at this time.
—The 2017 quarterback class is still tough to stack with so many underclassmen yet to make decisions about next season. A player in the running to be QB1—DeShone Kizer—is reportedly undecided, according to a Notre Dame assistant I spoke with this week. Kizer, says the source, is torn on whether to stay and risk not being further developed by head coach Brian Kelly.
—Connor Williams is only a true sophomore at Texas, but that hasn’t stopped scouts from peeking at No. 55 when they visit Austin. Said one scout this week: “[He] reminds me of Joe Thomas, and I’ve never said that before about a player.”
—With 151 catches this year, East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones is on the precipice of breaking the NCAA single-season receptions record, currently held by Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes (155 in 2009). A 6’1″, 200-pounder with top-notch route-running, Jones is currently a third-rounder on my board.
—Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported this week that the Cleveland Browns are “honing in” on North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. This is very possible, and it was last season around this time that scouts in Cleveland told me the team loved Jared Goff—but then those scouts were let go and the Browns never had a chance to get Goff at No. 2 overall. Trubisky is an Ohio kid (he’s from Mentor) and has the arm strength needed to survive in the AFC North.
—Auburn pass-rusher Carl Lawson will go through Senior Day activities this weekend, according to a team news release. When an underclassman does this, it ultimately means they’re leaving school early. Lawson, who battled back from a hip injury in 2015, has become one of the best edge players in the country. He has a firm Round 1 grade if his health checks out.
—Leonard Fournette has an ankle injury that’s bothered him all season, and Will Carroll of SEC Country reported it was a “chronic” condition and that the “loose ankle” is correctable with surgery. Will this affect Fournette‘s draft stock? I hesitate to answer definitively after what seemed like a routine meniscus tear caused Myles Jack to fall from top five to Round 2 this past year, but the early word I got from scouts is that they’re not concerned.
—In six years of covering the NFL draft for Bleacher Report, I’ve not met a more humble and genuine player than linebacker Jaylon Smith. So let’s end on a high note this week: Gil Brandt of NFL Network reported that the nerves in Smith’s knee have begun regenerating—quoting both Smith and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The injury Smith suffered last season in the Fiesta Bowl was catastrophic, and his future in the NFL hinged on the ability of his nerves to regenerate and “fire.” With that happening, the likelihood of him playing in the NFL is much better. The Cowboys taking Smith off the non-football injury list doesn’t mean he’ll be playing anytime soon—he won’t practice or play at all this season, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport—but it’s encouraging news.
5 Names to Know
5. T Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
I wrote about Lamp in this week’s “Hidden Gems” article, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite interior offensive line prospects in the country.
Lamp plays tackle for Western Kentucky but has the size of an NFL guard at 6’4″ and 300 pounds. He has the versatility to play at guard or even right tackle in a pinch. With excellent agility and an understanding of how to handle defenders in space, Lamp will be turning heads at the Senior Bowl.
4. CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
This year’s cornerback class is so good, which allows players like CordreaTankersley to easily be overlooked at times. That has to stop.
Tankersley, a senior, was thought to be the better pro prospect last season than teammate Mackensie Alexander, according to scouts. He has pro-level size (6’1″, 200 lbs) and the ball skills to make plays against the pass. Tankersley isn’t getting publicity alongside guys like Adoree’ Jackson or Jourdan Lewis, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s drafted higher than them in April.
3. DL Montravius Adams, Auburn
Every year, there is a defensive line prospect who flashes on film and has the look of an NFL starter but might have questions about work ethic or something off the field. This year, that’s Montravius Adams—a player who flashes the talent of a top-15 pick on film but doesn’t always play with the motor you’d like from an elite player.
Adams has incredible potential as an athlete, which could lead to the NFL valuing him above where his production would slot him. Given his ability as a 3-technique pass-rusher—and this being a fairly weak class at that position—Adams’ stock could skyrocket with a strong end to the season and a big showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
When I started this week’s film reviews, I had Adams with a Round 2 grade. After watching four more games to prepare for the Alabama matchup, I’ve moved Adams into the top 20.
2. G Dan Feeney, Indiana
The best offensive lineman in this class might not play tackle or center. He might not be at an SEC or Big 12 school. Indiana’s Dan Feeney, who has a Round 1 grade right now, has a legitimate chance to end up the highest-ranked offensive lineman by April.
Feeney plays with a mean streak but also has the agility and balance to finesse in pass protection. He is also athletic enough to get out in space and make plays on traps and pulls. Watching him use his hands and maul defenders at the point of attack, I see a player very similar to Ryan Kelly in last year’s draft.
1. TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Evan Engram leads all college tight ends in receiving yards and has already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation. His athletic profile is ideal for a flex-tight end, and from a physical standpoint, he’s reminiscent of Jordan Reed.
Engram isn’t an elite blocker, but if you want an athletic tight end (6’3″, 235 pounds) who can play in the slot and be a nightmare in the middle of the field, he’s your man. And as players like Reed and Delanie Walker become attractive to teams, Engram’s name will start to move up draft boards.
Source: Bleacher Report