NFL Hot Press



Scout Reviews the 2018 Offensive Prospect Rankings

Updated May 31, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Early Look at the 2018 Skill Position Prospects

During the spring months leading up to the NFL Draft, a few team's area scouts are already working hard on the draft class of the next year even though it is more than a year away. The reason for that is their work is shared with National Football Scouting that provides early watch lists and ratings for prospects heading into fall camp. Those select area scouts are on the road for college spring ball to help set up the scouting community to start on the next draft class in training camp.

Previously, WalterFootball.com caught up with one of these scouts to get some insight into the 2018 quarterbacks and top defensive prospects. Here we reached out to find out which skill position players impressed as potential first-round talents. Here's what the scout had to say:

"Running Backs: Saquon Barkley, Penn State. Derrius Guice, LSU. A healthy Nick Chubb, Georgia.

Tight Ends: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma. Mavin Saunders, Florida State. Saunders is a ridiculous talent, but not productive yet.

Wide Receivers: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M. Calvin Ridley, Alabama. Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame.

"St. Brown is 6-foot-4, to 6-foot-5, 215 pounds or so, and [a] super-polished route runner with tremendous speed, athletic ability, body control [and] hands. I think he could be more gifted and talented than all three of the receivers that went in the top 10 this year. He doesn't get the volume in their offense like those three did.

"I like [SMU wide receiver Courtland] Sutton's skill set and upside. He doesn't separate early on routes versus more explosive cornerbacks. He specializes in red zone and winning contested downfield. He can win underneath with size and catch radius, but he's not automatic there. I like him though. I think he'll finish with a first-round round grade because it is tough to find that combination of size, strength, and play speed. Every scheme has a role for a size target, and it just depends on how high they value it. He'll be a first-rounder for teams looking exclusively for his skill set.

"I've also heard buzz on Ohio State's [wide receiver] Parris Campbell and [running back] Mike Weber.

"The tight ends will be a developing position. [Chris] Herndon IV from Miami was actually a better combination player than David Njoku. Similar height, weight [and] speed, but Herndon is a better blocker and probably slower."







Scout Reviews the 2018 Defensive Prospect Rankings

Updated May 24, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Early Look at the 2018 Defensive Prospects

During the spring months leading up to the NFL Draft, a few team's area scouts are already working hard on the draft class of the next year even though it is more than a year away. The reason for that is their work is shared with National Football Scouting, which provides early watch lists and ratings for prospects heading into fall camp. Those select area scouts are on the road for college spring ball to help set up the scouting community to start on the next draft class in training camp.

Last week, WalterFootball.com caught up with one of these scouts to get some insight into the 2018 quarterbacks. This week we reached out to find about some defensive prospects who impressed this advance scout. Here's what we heard.


"Off the top of my head, guys that I think will get first-round love come draft time include: Derwin James (FSU), Trent Thomspson (UGA), Dontavious Russell (Auburn), Malik Jefferson (UT), Sam Hubbard (OSU), Adonis Alexander (VT), Vita Vea (UW), Christian Wilkins (Clemson), Iman Mashall (USC), Kevin Toliver (LSU), Dre'Mont Jones (OSU), Tavares McFaddden (FSU), Josh Sweat (FSU), Andrew Brown (UVA) .... Ronnie Harrison and Matthew Thomas are wildcards because their physical talent is incredible. I'm not saying they'll all-go there, but physically and off flashes, they're clear first-round talents.

"Minkah Fitzpatrick is another. He'a prototype free safety this day and age, can drop over slot and play man, pro off hash, or roam as center fielder. Good size, speed, athletic ability, high football IQ, playmaker. 

"The quarterback class will push down guys who most years would go top five easy."

Here's a list of those players with their position and school. 

Derwin James, safety, Florida State
Trent Thompson, defensive tackle, Georgia
Dontavious Russell, defensive tackle, Auburn
Malik Jefferson, linebacker, Texas
Sam Hubbard, defensive end, Ohio State
Adonis Alexander, cornerback, Virginia Tech
Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle, Clemson
Iman Marshall, cornerback, USC
Kevin Toliver, cornerback, LSU
Dre'Mont Jones, defensive tackle, Ohio State
Tavares McFadden, cornerback, Florida State
Josh Sweat, defensive end, Florida State
Andrew Brown, defensive end, Virginia
Ronnie Harrison, safety, Alabama
Matthew Thomas, linebacker, Florida State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Alabama




Scout Evaluates 2018 Quarterback Class; Down on Josh Rosen

Updated May 16, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.



During the spring months leading up to the NFL Draft, a few team's area scouts are already working hard on the draft class of the next year. The reason for that is their work is shared with National Football Scouting that provides early watch lists and ratings for prospects heading into fall camp. Those select area scouts are on the road for college spring ball to help set up the scouting community to start on the next draft class in training camp.

WalterFootball.com caught up with one of these scouts to get some insight the 2018 quarterback prospects with a lot of discussion focused on Louisville's Lamar Jackson. Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 as he was a point-machine for the Cardinals offense. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder could come under the same criticism for pocket passing, accuracy, and size as other college running quarterbacks have. Below is a breakdown on the feedback from that scout who already has done a lot of work on the 2018 quarterbacks. That group of prospects includes USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, Washington State's Luke Falk, Marshall's Chase Litton, Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald, Auburn's Jarrett Stidham, and Memphis' Nate Ferguson.   

"Right now I have them rated Darnold, Allen, Jackson, and then Rosen. Darnold seems to have good talent and huge intangibles. Darnold gets outside the pocket or stays in it just as often, and his pure arm talent isn't as good as Lamar Jackson's. Darnold has size and moxie. After Allen and Rosen, Jackson is the best best arm talent.

"Allen has huge talent and obvious intangibles from what I've learned from folks close to him. Allen is a bucking bronco with a rare arm. 

"Rosen has huge talent and lacks intangibles. He is a prototypical pocket guy. I love his talent, but his own teammates don't like him. Being a prick is one thing, but there aren't many quarterbacks who stick around long-term and are successful that couldn't get along well with their teammates.

"Falk, I'm not big on. Huge production but very ordinary tools. Too system reliant to see him become a major playmaker at quarterback. I like the upside more with Litton, Rudolph, and Ferguson compared to Falk. As we get closer to draft time it wouldn't shock me to see much of the Falk hype die down.  

"Stidham has talent but hasn't played enough. You don't to elevate him too quickly like a Hackenberg. Stidham did what Baylor quarterbacks do, but the SEC has eaten alive some top quarterbacks. Malzahn has no true claim to fame as a quarterback developer. He had one season with Cam Newton and that's it. 

"Dan Mullen, meanwhile, had Josh Harris, Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and now Fitzgerald. In fact Mullen coached Cam longer than Malzahn. Four of those six had barely one offer coming out of high school. I'd trust Dan Mullen to develop a quarterback over Malzahn. Fitzgerald just broke his school season total offense record following the best player in school history and Fitzgerald is just three years removed from running a Wing T offense in Georgia high school. Plus he's 6-foot-4, 230-pounds. He's basically a faster better arm version of Tebow."

"People at Tennessee will tell every scout that Ferguson was their heir apparent to Tyler Bray. He had beaten out Worley, Josh Dobbs, and Peterman before leaving UT on his own. Ferguson is a better pure passer than Paxton Lynch, better initial season, and has better pro dimensions and arm talent than Peterman or Dobbs ever dreamed of (he was a big time recruit with Michigan and LSU offers). 

"Rudolph is talented but plays in that Oklahoma State offense that has never produced a good winning NFL quarterback under Gundy. 

"Lamar has huge talent and supreme toughness. His biggest issue is being consistent with his footwork because he's so physically gifted and he'll get away with a lot of stuff that bites him at other times. He has real arm talent. He's way more polished than Michael Vick coming out. Everybody's up in arm's about his games against Houston and LSU without mentioning he had arguably the worst offensive line of any power-five school. Houston just exposed it as they were the first team to beat up on that o-line. Versus LSU, Lamar was making Houdini escapes just to get back to the line of scrimmage. He had no chance in either game. His supporting cast was very average with just two NFL-caliber players in Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini. Jackson can see the field and work through progressions. Watching him his freshman year to his sophomore season his improvements from year to year were huge. Bobby Petrino is a very talented offensive mind and Jackson had near complete command of his system back in October and that says a lot. His FSU game was the most individually dominant performance of the season because that defenses has multiple NFL players including at least one first-rounder on every level and Lamar looked like he was playing at a different speed than them. 

"His upside is scary. His flaws are correctable compared to what he was his first year as he's already made a substantial jump. No reason to believe he won't make bigger leaps. His athleticism and speed are different level type stuff. I did Cam Newton coming out and know Mike Vick well, Lamar is more advanced in the passing game than either of them when they came out. Lamar will be fine sitting in the pocket and getting hit on the chin. It's the reason his toughness is seen already as arguably his best quality because he forces himself to stay in there wanting to show he's a true quarterback. 

"You don't know where Lamar's accuracy will top out just yet. He rarely threw the ball in high school. Thus, there is a long way for him to go to be a Russell Wilson type, but he's already made huge improvements. Lamar's biggest hurdle is putting on weight. He's borderline 6-foot-2. He might a tad under and he needs to get North of 215 pounds. 

"Quarterbacks depend on people's flavor as well of course. History tells us that quarterbacks with Lamar's skill set don't get outside the top 10. Critics outside the inner circle and some scouts will nitpick like they did with Deshaun Watson, Pat Mahomes, or Russell Wilson. But top evaluators will love Lamar's playmaking, leadership, explosiveness, the strain he puts on defenses, and his big arm talent. They all need development, but Lamar has proven to be a fast study. He's already showing he can throw from the pocket, call audibles (a must in Petrino's offense), and dial up hot reads. He makes just as many plays in the pocket as those other guys when you watch them all. Lamar's just noticed more for what he does outside of it because he's such a rare athlete for the position." 




Dalvin Cook was Bucs' Plan B at 19

Updated May 12, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.



One of the surprise slides in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft was Alabama tight end O.J. Howard falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the 19th-overall pick. Most projections had the talented Howard going in the top 16, and around the league, he was considered to be one of the best tight ends to come into the NFL in many years. The Buccaneers were the fortunate team that had Howard fall into their lap, and he is a perfect fit in Tampa Bay. In speaking to sources with the Buccaneers, if Howard had gone off the board just before the Buccaneers' pick, their plan B was to select Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. 

Here's how Buccaneer sources explained Tampa Bay's good fortune and what they were thinking, "Trubisky going 2 and then the other two quarterbacks going in the top 12 pushed guys down. There wasn't as much need for tight ends with the teams ahead of us, and typically tight ends don't go that high. We were lucky. If O.J. had been taken right before us Dalvin would've been the pick."

One of the potential landing spots for Howard was the Tennessee Titans. Sources with the Titans told WalterFootball.com days before the draft that the Titans were likely to go with an offensive weapon at five and a cornerback at 18. Howard was in the running for the Titans' pick at five along with Corey Davis and Mike Williams. Sources said Howard caused a discussion with Tennessee about taking him at 18. However, the Titans wanted to get a No. 1 corner. Alabama's Marlon Humphrey was a target, and sources said Adoree' Jackson was another top candidate. Hence, Jackson was slotted at 18 in our final 2017 NFL Mock Drafts, and Tennessee pulled the trigger on Jackson over Howard. If the Titans had deemed Howard too good to pass on at 18, Buccaneer sources said Dalvin Cook would have been their pick and that would have kept Cook from falling all the way to the 41st pick in the draft.





Saints Would Have Considered Patrick Mahomes at 11

Updated May 8, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.



One of the most active teams in the 2017 NFL Draft was the New Orleans Saints, as they had two picks on the first day of the draft and four selections on Day 2. The Saints filled a lot of needs on their roster, including beefing up their defense while also adding a few more talents to the offensive side of the ball. One need that will carry over to the 2018 NFL Draft is finding the eventual replacement for future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. The 38-year old Brees is still playing at a high level, but the Saints scouted the quarterbacks hard and have been on the lookout for a player they are passionate about to develop behind Brees. With that in mind, sources with the Saints tell WalterFootball.com that New Orleans had Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes II in consideration for the 11th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

Mahomes didn't get to the Saints, as the Chiefs jumped to the 10th spot in a trade with the Bills in order to take Mahomes. If Mahomes had gotten to New Orleans' pick, sources say they easily could have taken him. As the draft unfolded, the final three players under discussion before being on the clock for their pick were Mahomes, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. With Mahomes off the board, the Saints went with Lattimore to give them a badly needed No. 1 cornerback. 

Hooker would have helped the Saints' defense, but New Orleans already has young safety talent in Vonn Bell and Kenny Vaccaro. The 2017 draft was strong at safety, and New Orleans was able to draw on that strength with second-round safety Marcus Williams from Utah. The Saints have lacked a No.1 cornerback, and in a division with Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin, filling that cover corner need took precedent over a third safety. 

The Saints also held the 32nd-overall pick in the first round after trading Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. Sources say New Orleans went with Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk there because he was the highest-rated player available and the team feels it can never have enough good offensive line talent to make Sean Payton's offense work. Ramczyk could replace aging right tackle Zach Strief quickly, as Strief will turn 34 in September. 

While the Saints didn't come away with Mahomes to be their understudy to Brees, they feel optimistic that the 2018 quarterback class could be yield a number of options so New Orleans could come away with their future starting quarterback next spring.




Bills Would've Taken Marshon Lattimore; Owners Draw Harsh Criticism

Updated May 2, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.


One of the shocking quarterback trades in the 2017 NFL Draft was the Kansas City Chiefs moving up from the 27th-overall pick to the Buffalo Bills' 10th selection in order to select Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes. The Bills moved down and took LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White while also picking up the Chiefs' 2018 first-round pick. Sources with Buffalo say that if the Bills had not done the trade, they would have selected Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 10th-overall choice.

The day after the draft, Bills general manager Doug Whaley was fired along with the entire staff of the college scouting department. Sources say that Whaley didn't see it coming and the reports that he didn't get along with new head coach Sean McDermott were untrue. However, staffers think that McDermott went to ownership to push for his own guy being installed as the general manager. Team sources say that if Whaley had known what was coming, he probably would not have done the trade and would have taken Lattimore with the 10th pick. As it stands, the new Bills' general manager will have two first-round picks in their debut draft.

Sources from other teams around the league say they think the Bills made a big mistake in firing the entire scouting staff. They can understand that the new ownership and head coach might prefer to have their own guy at general manager rather than the one they inherited, however, other teams say that the Bills had a lot of good area scouts to go with a good director of college scouting in Kelvin Fisher. They say the Bills have a talented roster, and firing Fisher with all of those scouts was an unnecessary mistake by Buffalo.

In speaking with a general manager and scouting directors at other teams, they say that it will be tough to put together an entire college staff. They believe that Buffalo is going to get blocked regularly by other teams for speaking to their scouts and it will difficult to find good quality scouts for each territory along with national scouts, combine scouts, scouting assistants, etc. That general manager and scouting director said this move illustrates that the Bills' new owners, Terrence and Kim Pegula, don't really know what they are doing in terms of running a NFL franchise.


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