Scouting Report: Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold, USC

6’4 225 lbs

Tape Viewed: 2016 v. Cal, 2017 v. Washington State, 2017 v. Ohio State

 

OVERVIEW

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California

Make no mistake, Sam Darnold is a very good quarterback prospect coming out of USC, despite a fall-off in production and some very poor tape at times in 2017.

What sets Darnold apart from most is his willingness and ability to consistently try to place balls in the tightest of windows. He throws his receivers open, and threads the needle with the best of them. While this is an ideal mindset for a franchise quarterback, it has led to a significant uptick in turnovers in 2017. To take his game to an elite level, he must learn situational aggressiveness and read the field better from the pocket.

While Darnold is outstanding in much of the macro elements of playing quarterback, the devil is often in the details. He needs serious help on his footwork and windup. The long windup in particular directly led to a strip sack against Cal in 2016. There have been incremental improvements in both areas this past season, but he also stands to improve in manipulating the defense with his eyes, more subtle pocket movement, and identifying blitzes and hot routes.

Essentially, Darnold is a college quarterback. He’s raw, and will need time to develop before potentially becoming an above average NFL starter. It’s hard to envision Darnold becoming a top 5 quarterback at the next level, but he could turn in a decade’s worth of competent signal calling and, in the right situation, win a ring or two.

 

PASSING

Accuracy: 12 out of 15

When he misses, Darnold tends to miss high, regardless of where he is throwing on the field. That is mainly due to his below average footwork, clean that up, and he has the arm talent to make every throw on the field.

 

Power: 4 out of 5

While Darnold’s power is competent to make NFL throws and hit on deep balls, his velocity is not blistering, and he might struggle in the NFL trying to get the ball downfield beyond 45 yards.

 

On the run: 5 out of 5

Darnold is a natural passer on the run, this points to his outstanding arm talent. He can drive it in the tightest windows when on the run, as his footwork doesn’t get in the way. He’s also clearly more comfortable outside the pocket.

 

Consistency: 8 out of 10

Usually, what you see is what you get with Darnold, and that’s a healthy dose of good and bad. He’s got all of the passing prowess in the world, but struggles to manipulate defenses and can sometimes press and make bad decisions. Against better defenses, he tends to play a little worse, which is nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Field General: 16 out of 20

While Darnold shows flashes of ability in this area, it’s definitely not at an elite level. He’s ahead of spread offenses, or one read and runs, but it’s clear that he sometimes doesn’t see the field and locks in on his first read, as evidenced by the pick six he threw in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl against Ohio State.

 

Athleticism: 3 out of 5

Darnold will never be considered a plus athlete and likely won’t run many (if any) designed runs at the next level, but when asked of him, he runs with authority and determination and has decent enough balance.

 

Pocket awareness: 9 out of 10

Clearly, he has that innate sense of pressure, and makes adjustments, my main gripe is in the nuance, sometimes he runs himself out of trouble to get himself in more trouble. He’ll need to learn how to use micro-movements like side steps and shoulder turns to throw off defenders in the pocket or he’ll make some bad plays worse at the next level.

 

Poise: 8 out of 10

As referenced before, Darnold seems to be very comfortable when a play breaks down, and actually seems to thrive when throwing off-platform. The main concern is his ability to diagnose the blitz presnap, identify the hot read or adjust protection accordingly.

 

Clutch: 4 out of 5

Anyone who watched the Rose Bowl in 2016 against Penn State knows what Darnold is all about. The guy is a gamer and often takes his game to the next level under the brightest lights and in the biggest moments. There are some high profile letdowns on tape in crunch-time however. The entirety of the Ohio State and Notre Dame games, as well as the game-losing strip sack against Washington State spring to mind.

 

Size: 5 out of 5

Darnold looks rock solid as a player, with the ideal frame for a quarterback.

 

Reliability: 10 out of 10

No off-field issues to speak of, seems to genuinely love football, and hasn’t missed a game to injury yet in his career. He will be available on Sundays should his team need him.

 

Total Prospect Rating: 84 out of 100

 

Pro Comparison: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions

Sam Darnold

The more I watched of Darnold’s tape, the more I saw the pure grit and determination that exemplifies Stafford’s game. While not considered consistently among the elite, Stafford’s arm talent is second to none, and Darnold has similar ability. Like Stafford, Darnold has all the intangibles one could hope for from a franchise quarterback, but both are also prone to bone-headed mistakes when trying to rally their teams.

Mock Draft 1.0

  1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

6′ 233 lbs

Saquon Barkley

It’s time for the Browns to add a dynamic athlete to the backfield, one that teams will be forced to gameplan against, regardless if it’s Tyrod Taylor, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield or some other quarterback taking snaps. Barkley has a similar all-around skillset to Ezekiel Elliott, who brought an entirely different dimension to the Cowboys two years ago. Barkley will not make it to the Browns next pick, so jumping on him here makes the most sense in a draft where there is no consensus top player.

Team Needs:

  • Running back
  • Safety
  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Quarterback
  1. New York Giants: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

6’5 329 lbs.

Quenton Nelson

Do I think the Giants will be this intelligent? Not necessarily, but new GM David Gettleman is known to build a running game first, as opposed to Jerry Reese who built a running game never. The word out of New York is that Eli will remain the quarterback this year which, while a mistake, eliminates the likelihood of a player like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen here.

Nelson himself is an outstanding prospect, perhaps the best guard prospect I’ve ever seen. Watching his tape, it just looks easy for him, and I can’t point out a single flaw in his game. He’s a technician, has ideal size, and outstanding athleticism. He’s just as good in pass-blocking as run-blocking. Putting Nelson on this line will immediately improve a mediocre Giants offense and it is the right move. Will Gettleman make the right move? I’m betting on it, albeit accidentally.

Team Needs:

  • Offensive Tackle
  • Offensive Guard
  • Quarterback
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  1. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

6’4 269 lbs

Bradley Chubb

The way people are talking about Chubb, he reminds me of when Khalil Mack came out a few years ago. If that’s the kind of player he is, the Colts should jump on him immediately regardless of greater needs on the offensive line. It’s likely that Nelson would be the pick here if he were available, but Chubb is arguably the best defensive player in the draft and fits the MO of second year GM Chris Ballard.

Team Needs:

  • Offensive Tackle
  • Offensive Guard
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive End
  • Cornerback
  1. Cleveland Browns from Houston Texans: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

5’10 191 lbs.

Denzel Ward

Denzel Ward is the top corner available after he blazed a 4.32 at the combine and already had outstanding tape. He reminds me of Chris Harris and that type of impact could mean the world for a Browns defense loaded with talent and on the cusp of contention.

I view Minkah Fitzpatrick as more of a safety, and I’ve noticed a decline in the market of safeties in both free agency and the draft in recent years (Jamal Adams notwithstanding) so I would be extremely surprised if Fitzpatrick or James were the pick here, even with their outstanding potential.

Team Needs:

  • Running back
  • Safety
  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Quarterback
  1. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

6’5 233 lbs.

Josh Allen

This is a case where fit trumps who’s actually on the board at this point. Josh Allen is not the best QB in this class, and he may not be the fifth best, but John Elway has been trying to draft himself for years. To me, this is just another at-bat.

Allen has serious potential, an outstanding arm, and moxie to compete against higher competition which he displayed in the senior bowl. Case Keenum is a nice bridge quarterback, but the Broncos would be smart to start developing a future starter.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Tight End
  • Runningback
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Cornerback
  1. New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

6’3 220 lbs.

Sam Darnold

Here’s another team with a massive need at the game’s most valuable position even after resigning Josh McCown. Darnold has the potential to be a solid starter at the next level, which would be a massive upgrade at the postion for a Jets team mired in mediocrity for years. More importantly, Darnold can be a symbol of hope for a success-starved fanbase and a catalyst for a team that should continue to play hard for its coach.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Cornerback
  • Running back
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive End
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

6’6 265 lbs.

Marcus Davenport

The Bucanneers really need a running back, as I don’t buy Peyton Barber as a starter, but their defense was so disappointingly poor last year, that the opportunity of adding a dynamic athlete like Davenport to an already promising pass rush featuring Noah Spence and Robert Ayers can’t be passed up. Davenport is the best player at a position of need, and may be the best available player period at this juncture.

Team Needs:

  • Running back
  • Defensive End
  • Safety
  • Cornerback
  • Offensive Tackle
  1. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

6’0 189 lbs.

Calvin Ridley

The Bears also have serious deficiencies at each level of their defense, despite a bevy of promising young playmakers on that side of the ball. What they really need is to support the growth of their young quarterback by providing him with NFL-level talent to throw to. Even after signing Allen Robinson, they could still use more talent. Forget the combine, Calvin Ridley is a polished route runner with great hands and adequate NFL speed. He’s exactly the kind of quarterback friendly target Trubisky needs, and reminds me a lot of Michael Crabtree, who was integral to Derek Carr’s development.

Team Needs:

  • Defensive End
  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Wide Receiver
  • Tight End
  1. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia

6’5 250 lbs.

Tremaine Edmunds

Wow, the word from this kid is wow. 19 years old. 6’5 250 lbs, with the ability to excel in both pass coverage and run defense. The sky really is the limit for this kid, though having said that, he may not look brilliant on the field in his first year and whoever drafts him is drafting him on talent and potential and will have to be patient. The 49ers have a serious problem on their hands in the middle of the defense if Reuben Foster can’t get out of his own way with his off-the-field problems. Edmunds can be a worthy insurance policy if it doesn’t work out with Foster, and form an awesome tandem with him if it does.

Team Needs:

  • Wide receiver
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive End
  • Offensive Tackle
  1. Oakland Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

6’8 312 lbs.

Mike McGlinchey

This pick is based on the idea that the Raiders never value their need at linebacker as highly as they should (although it is dire). I believe the weakness of that offensive line has always lied on the right side, where a move like this will allow them flexibility to move around their assets. Donald Penn may not be the option at left tackle he once was, but this could be a perfect transition whenever McGlinchey and Penn are ready to switch spots. As for McGlinchey himself, playing next to Kelechi Osemele should mask nearly all of his minor issues.

Team Needs:

  • Linebacker
  • Wide receiver
  • Defensive tackle
  • Cornerback
  • Right tackle
  1. Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6’4 226 lbs.

NCAA Football: California at UCLA

Do I think Rosen lasts this long? Maybe. I definitely think two of the top four should survive the top ten, whoever they are. This isn’t a premium QB class by any stretch, although I do expect the usual trading frenzy to affect the top half of this first round. Because this is a non-trading mock draft, we’ll stick with the current order and in this scenario, I think the Dolphins jump at the chance to reset their quarterback position with a promising (and more pro-ready than Ryan Tannehill is now) talent in Josh Rosen.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Right tackle
  • Linebacker
  • Tight End
  • Running back
  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

6’0 230 lbs.

Roquan Smith

Smith could fall, due to the medical red flag that popped up during the combine. We don’t have extensive details on the issue, but a similar injury (paired with concerns about his ability to diagnose offenses) caused Reuben Foster to fall last year. I view Roquan Smith as perhaps the surest thing in the draft not named Quenton Nelson, and worthy of a top 5 pick if fully healthy. I’m splitting the difference here, and the Bengals would be ecstatic to add a playmaker of his caliber after getting by with journeymen like Emmanuel Lamur and Vincent Rey in recent years.

Team Needs:

  • Tight End
  • Left tackle
  • Right Tackle
  • Left Guard
  • Linebacker
  1. Washington Redskins: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

6’3 218 lbs.

courtland sutton

The Redskins swung and missed bringing Terrele Pryor in to help compensate for the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. They need to keep swinging, because Alex Smith has virtually no one to throw to right now. I’m honestly quite surprised about the lack of excitement surrounding Courtland Sutton. His height weight speed combination is ideal and he was highly productive in college. There are questions about his ability to separate, but I think an accurate thrower like Alex Smith is just what Sutton needs to maximize his potential early in his career.

Team Needs:

  • Wide receive
  • Offensive line
  • Linebacker
  • Safety
  • Cornerback
  1. Green Bay Packers: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

5’10 189 lbs.

Mike Hughes.jpg

Even before the Packers dealt Damarious Randall to the Browns, this move made a ton of sense. This is an opportunity to infuse a stale as day-old-pizza secondary with some young playmaking talent for new GM Brian Gutekunst. Hughes was a big reason why UCF was able to complete an undefeated season last year. He’s an ascending player that should only get better with NFL coaching and already has all the athletic gifts one could want in a corner.

Team Needs:

  • Pass rusher
  • Center
  • Tight End
  • Cornerback
  • Safety
  1. Arizona Cardinals: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

6’1 215 lbs.

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia

I think Mayfield has all the potential to be the best in this class. He reminds me a bit of Sam Bradford (who incidentally just signed a one-year deal here) coming out with his outstanding completion percentage and the fact that they’re both from Oklahoma. Mayfield has the added bonus of not being made of glass and having plus athleticism to boot. Forget his height, and forget the long list of quarterbacks that haven’t made it at 6 foot and under, Mayfield, like Brees, Wilson, Doug Flutie and Fran Tarkenton before him, is the exception to the rule.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Offensive tackle
  • Wide Receiver
  • Linebacker
  • Safety
  1. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

5’10 200 lbs.

Christian Kirk

I love me a true polished route runner. You can see just how much a player like that can transcend an offense by looking no further than Adam Thielen in Minnesota. Kirk has that kind of ability, though I think he compares a bit more to Jarvis Landry. He’s what Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense has been missing for years.

Team Needs:

  • Wide Receiver
  • Right tackle
  • Offensive guard
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

6’1 215 lbs.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

If you’re curious why Minkah Fitzpatrick would fall this far, you’re right to be because he probably won’t. I’ve explained earlier that I believe the safety position is being devalued, and Fitzpatrick has very little game experience as a corner. Some team will fall in love with his potential and combine numbers, and he’ll probably end up with a team in some kind of trading scenario. With no trades and as the board falls, I couldn’t find a place where fit met need until here with the Chargers. Fitzpatrick, if he does make it this far, could transcend a defense that’s already threatening to be one of the most exciting units in the NFL headlined by the pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

Team Needs:

  • Right tackle
  • Center
  • Linebacker
  • Safety
  • Defensive tackle
  1. Seattle Seahawks: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

6’1 192 lbs.

Josh Jackson

After jettisoning Richard Sherman (finally), and with the secondary rebuild already begun last season, pairing the ultra-athletic Shaq Griffin with a true ball-hawk like Jackson would be a coup. The Seahawks will need to find some answers at safety as the Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor connection seems destined to be broken, but with this pick, they will complete an impressive two year reset at one of the game’s most important positions.

Team Needs:

  • Tight end
  • Right tackle
  • Guard
  • Defensive end
  • Cornerback
  1. Dallas Cowboys: Derwin James, S, Florida State

6’3 215 lbs.

Derwin James

The Cowboys haven’t had an elite athlete at the safety spot since Darren Woodson, and it’s time to remedy that situation with a player whose stock fell just enough from last season for the Cowboys to reap all the benefits. Without his heart condition, Maurice Hurst would have been the pick, but the Cowboys can’t afford to pass on another elite secondary player after Choosing Ezekiel Elliott over Jalen Ramsey in the 2016 draft.

Team Needs:

  • Safety
  • Defensive tackle
  • Wide receiver
  • Left guard
  • Tight end
  1. Detroit Lions: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

6’4 347 lbs.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington

The ideal cut-and-paste replacement for Haloti Ngata, who will likely share a rotation with him for the next couple of years. Vea will help Ziggy Ansah maximize his massive potential and free up lanes for last year’s top pick Jarrad Davis to attack the running game. In short, he’ll make the whole defense better with his impressive athleticism and even more impressive size.

Team Needs

  • Linebacker
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Wide Receiver
  • Tight End
  • Guard
  1. Buffalo Bills: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

6’2 282 lbs.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan

Hurst doesn’t fall too far due to the heart condition, since I believe he’ll be ready to contribute for a defense immediately and should play at least through his first contract. It’s the team that wants to sign him in free agency five years from now and make the highest paid defensive player that will need to worry. Hurst’s ability can’t be overstated and he’s an ideal replacement for the departed Marcel Dareus precisely because they’re not the same type of player. Hurst is a penetrator and will add a pass-rushing edge to the middle of the Bills defense that they’ve been needing for years to disrupt Tom Brady’s rhythm.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Tackle
  1. Buffalo Bills from Kansas City Chiefs: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

6’5 235 lbs.

Mason Rudolph

And for their second pick, a quarterback who has been underrated throughout the process. Few quarterbacks are as natural with the deep ball as Rudolph is, but his massive production in the Oklahoma State offense suggests he gets it to all areas of the field effectively. Rudolph also has ideal NFL size, and that makes for a welcome change for Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott and company who struggled with the limits of their offense with Tyrod Taylor as a starter.

Team Needs:

  • Quarterback
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Tackle
  1. Los Angeles Rams: Arden Key, OLB, LSU

6’6 238 lbs.

Arden Key

This is perhaps the most natural fit for me of any of the first round picks. Wade Philips gets his true 3-4 OLB and elite pass rusher in Arden Key, who (if he keeps his nose clean) should be able to benefit from the elite talent around him. The defense the Rams are building is starting to look scary, and adding a top 10 talent like Key without having to trade up following a playoff season has to be considered a serious win for GM Les Snead.

Team Needs:

  • Inside Linebacker
  • Outside Linebacker
  • Tackle
  • Wide Receiver
  • Running back
  1. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

6’2 300 lbs.

Isaiah Wynn

The Panthers simply have to replace Andrew Norwell to keep that running game moving forward. It won’t go otherwise, and a roadgrader like Wynn should pair with the rest of the Panthers interior line nicely to form an intimidating power running game. Of course, they’ll also need to consider adding an every down runner at some point this offseason, as I don’t think McCaffrey is a true workhorse.

Team Needs:

  • Guard
  • Tackle
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive tackle
  • Cornerback

 

  1. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

6’3 252 lbs.

Harold Landry

It’s been far too long since the Titans had a high-impact pass rusher at the end spot. Brian Orakpo was past his prime by the time he arrived. Landry may not have the best tape in 2017, but it’s worth the chance late in the first round that he can regain his 2016 form.

Team Needs:

  • Defensive end
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Guard
  • Tight End
  1. Atlanta Falcons: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

6’2 311 lbs.

Da'Ron Payne

Don’t get me wrong, I like the talent at defensive tackle in this year’s draft. There are some excellent players, but the needs and fits caused some highly talented players to slide and the Falcons are happy to grab a cheap, young replacement for Dontari Poe as Dan Quinn continues to build a talented and exciting young defense to compete with some challenging and complex offenses in the NFC.

Team Needs:

  • Guard
  • Defensive tackle
  • Free Safety
  1. New Orleans Saints: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa

6’1 235 lbs.

Josey Jewell

I think I might be onto something here, as I feel New Orleans likes to throw curve balls and the end of the first round is where lines start to get blurred. I believe the Saints are candidates to trade up for defensive talent, but Josey Jewell perfectly fits the high football IQ, competitiveness and desire the Saints have come to all-but-require in their players. I believe he’s a highly underrated prospect and the Saints, should they choose to go this direction, will be rewarded handsomely.

Team Needs:

  • Defensive End
  • Tight end
  • Linebacker
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Wide Receiver
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

6’4 256 lbs.

Leighton Vander Esch

This is a case of perfect fit after the devastating, and very unfortunate, injury to Ryan Shazier (among the most exciting young linebackers in the game prior to his injury). Vander Esch may not have played against the strongest competition in the mountain west, but he was a production machine and flashed elite traits, which combined with his ideal size make him a highly enticing gamble at the end of the first round.

Team Needs:

  • Linebacker
  • Wide Receiver
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Cornerback
  • Quarterback
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

6’6 250 lbs.

Dallas Goedert

The Jags offense needs more sure-handed targets for Blake Bortles to throw to. With plenty of talent on the defensive side, the Jags find a player here at the bottom half of the first round that has the potential to be one of the best playmakers coming out of this class.

Team Needs:

  • Wide Receiver
  • Tight End
  • Quarterback
  • Tackle
  • Linebacker
  1. Minnesota Vikings: Conor Williams, OT, Texas

6’5 320 lbs.

Connor Williams

The Vikings fully revamped their offensive line after mighty struggles in 2016, now it’s time to start building on that foundation with a young stud like Conor Williams. Adept in both pass protection and run blocking, and with ideal size, I expect to see the more dominant 2016 Williams than the 2017 variety which struggled at times.

Team Needs:

  • Tackle
  • Guard
  • Cornerback
  • Strong Safety
  • Running back
  1. New England Patriots: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

6’4 291 lbs.

Taven Bryan

Make no mistake, somebody will be trading up to get Lamar Jackson, and I expect that to happen with this pick. Stay tuned for my trade-filled post free agency mock for all of that action. As it stands now, Taven Bryan looks like he could be a physical stud in the mold of Dominique Easley (who the Patriots drafted in about this spot a few years ago). The Patriots need more talent in the front 7 to continue to maximize their Super Bowl window.

Team Needs:

  • Tackle
  • Defensive End
  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Wide Receiver
  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

6’3 234 lbs.

AllState Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Alabama

Evans falling this far seems surprising, but guess what? Surprising things always happen on draft day. Evans is rough around the edges and may not be quite ready to contribute from a technique standpoint as a starter. He is, however, a good pickup for a team with two established starters in Hicks and Kendricks, and represents very good value.

Team Needs:

  • Linebacker
  • Tackle
  • Defensive End
  • Cornerback
  • Wide Receiver

Scouting Report: Derek Barnett

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

6’3 270 lbs

Barnett

Tape Viewed: 2015 vs. Alabama, 2016 vs. Alabama, 2016 vs. Texas A&M, 2016 vs. Florida

OVERVIEW

Barnett is bizzare to watch play. At times, he looks sluggish beyond belief and yet covers ground quickly. At times he looks like he’s carrying way too much weight on that relatively small (for the position) frame. And yet, you see this outstanding quickness, hand fighting ability, bend around the edge and excellent finish that have made him a premiere sack specialist in the SEC.

Derek Barnett also boasts the experience and consistency against top level competition, at times taking over the entire game against Alabama’s Cam Robinson (also a potential first-rounder). This is the one question mark in Myles Garrett’s game, so it’s certainly encouraging to see Barnett thrive regardless of who he’s lined up against.

PASS RUSH

Moves: 2 out of 5

It seems that this is the area on tape, consistently, where Barnett shows a lack of versatility. He’s pretty much just a finesse rusher, using superior agility and hand fighting to weave his way through lineman. He must add more to the arsenal at the next level.

Technique: 14 out of 15

Of this, Barnett may be among the cleanest in the draft, his hand use, footwork and control of his body allow him to consistently put himself in the correct positions and gain advantages on his opponents where sheer athleticism would seem to indicate that he should be less effective.

Bend: 4 out of 5

This is one of the biggest reasons Barnett was the leading sack specialist in his three-season span in the SEC. He has that uncanny ability to contort his body in any way to get around the edge, and also the knowledge of exactly when to do this for optimal opportunity at the QB. The one concern I’d have here is that he tends to round out his rush at times, though this is only a problem on a few snaps on tape.

Finish: 5 out of 5

This is the other aspect that leads to those insane sack numbers, Barnett knows what to do when he gets home, it’s a sack, a tackle, in fact he had a play where he tipped a pass to himself for an interception. If Barnett is near to making a play, it’s a safe bet he’ll make it.

Tenacity: 4 out of 5

Not to say that Barnett ever takes plays off, on the contrary, he’ll chase across formation when the play is moving away from him, but he seems to realize he doesn’t have the speed to catch plays that go beyond him, and he often doesn’t try.

Consistency: 10 out of 10

What more can you say for a man who has averaged 10+ sacks per season in his 3 years as a starter against the top-level competition he faces playing in college football’s premiere conference? He’s rock solid steady.

RUN STOPPING

Edge Setting: 8 out of 10

The only times I really see this to be an issue is when the play calls for a pass rush, his quickness and anticipation gets him upfield early and can sometimes take him out of running plays.

Tackling: 9 out of 10

While not a perfect tackler, there are very few discernable issues in positioning, technique, want-to or ability to bring down any ball carrier that comes his way. He’ll continue to develop that consistency at the next level and should be among the league’s most reliable.

Double Teams: 3 out of 5

I wouldn’t say that Barnett lacks the functional strength to hold up in double teams, but he does seem to lack the desire to use it, this is shown by his distinct lack of a bull rush, however, he is quite effective at using his finesse to work through double teams and make plays on ball carriers.

Lane Discipline: 10 out of 10

Barnett is as smart and pro-ready as any evaluator could dream in terms of his ability to see offensive plays developing and put himself in the right position to leverage the play to his advantage.

Consistency: 10 out of 10

Honestly, Barnett never looks to be out of position, or tired, or overwhelmed by level of competition and this quality extends to his run defense.

GENERAL

Reliability: 9 out of 10

Though perfectly available throughout his college career, Barnett has been limited in recent weeks (going into his pro day) with a hamstring injury. He is expected to perform regardless, and that’s been Barnett’s MO as a player, but going forward, teams will need to be aware of that potential and keep him in the ice bath after games.

Total Prospect Rating: 89 out of 100

Pro Comparison: Trent Cole, DE, Indianapolis Colts

Barnett 1

Cole

Sharing nearly the exact same dimensions, elite hand and foot technique, ability to get after the quarterback and penchant for punishing hits once they arrive, the comparison came to me pretty immediately. Cole has been an underappreciated impact rusher for most of his career, who boasts an all-around game that suits him to any defense. The kind of skills that Barnett boasts should give him similar versatility. I expect Barnett to get off to a quicker start than Cole, who took a few years before he became elite, production-wise.

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Scouting Report: Mitch Trubisky

By: Shae Dougall

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

6’2”, 222lbs

Trubisky

Tape Viewed:

North Carolina vs Stanford (2016)

North Carolina vs Florida State (2016)

North Carolina vs Miami (2016)

 

OVERVIEW

Mitchell Trubisky (also known as #MitchNotMitchell) is the young, talented up-and-coming quarterback out of North Carolina who is likely to fly up draft boards on draft day due to his immense talent, big arm, lack of injury history, intangibles, and a bunch of other things that NFL GMs moan about in their sleep. In my opinion, Mitch is being underrated in the draft process, as I think he could eventually develop into a Diet Aaron Rodgers type of player (more on that later).


Mitch is also technically a dual-threat QB who ran a boatload of read option plays in college, so he’d be well-suited to go to a team that is willing to let him tote the ball a bit, because he has a lot of experience in that area. As a result of these read option plays, Mitch will need to learn how to drop back in a proper, traditional NFL offense, but there’s no reason he can’t be successful as we recently saw Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota excellently transition from shotgun shotfun to taking snaps from under center. The key for Mitch is landing spot, he’ll need to find a situation where he can continue to develop. If he’s forced to start right away, I fear a worse fate than the perennially underwhelming Ryan Tannehill. Though again, this is not a knock on Mitch’s talent level, but rather his relative inexperience as a signal caller.

 

PASSING

 

Accuracy: 12.5 out of 15

Short- No issues on any quick routes or screens.

Intermediate- The first tape I watched had Mitch hitting an 18 yard streaking receiver into the endzone between two defenders. The window was fairly tight, and taught me all I needed to know about Mitch’s willingness to throw into coverage and to do so with excellent accuracy. Another note: Mitch completes 62.1% of his intermediate passes, easily outstripping other QBs in this class. I also saw him throw behind a receiver and throw a pretty bad interception, so

Deep- Mitch has a big enough arm and throws with enough velocity to consistently attempt the deep pass, but he’ll need to work on his accuracy in this area. He overthrew receivers a lot, which is at least better than underthrowing.

 

Power: 5 out of 5

Mitch has a big arm. There is no denying that. The ball explodes out of his hand with jaw-dropping velocity. I actually wonder if he can put consistent touch on his passes, but that’s a concern for a different category.

 

On the run: 5 out of 5

Mitch is absolutely brilliant on the run. I saw quite a few opportunities at the end of the Stanford game where he had to escape the rush and then make off balance intermediate-length throws without setting his feet…and he nailed every one of them. Unfortunately, almost all of them were dropped by the receivers!

 

Consistency: 7.5 out of 10

It was a little concerning that Mitch only started for one full season of his entire college career, and the team wasn’t particularly great during his tenure as the starter. This is a very hard category to judge because of the lack of data and tape to go off of, but it’s definitely concerning that he can complete 81.5% of his passes at Florida State and then hit under 40% at home against Virginia Tech the very next week! What the heck?

Generally, though, Mitch had a great season and very few head-scratching games. I’ll give him what I believe to be a fair score for a strong season.

 

Field General: 17.5 out of 20

Arguable the most important category for any quarterback is his ability to read the field and understand where pressure is coming from, in addition to understanding where the ball needs to be placed. Mitch is solid in both categories, making up for his slight blitz reading deficiencies with exceptional read quickness. He is very, very good at determining the assignments of downfield safeties, and I trust him to not make too many crushing mistakes. With just one year of starting experience, Mitch has so far shown tremendous potential to get even better.

 

Athleticism: 4 out of 5

Great speed and lower body explosiveness to get away from oncoming defensive ends. Frequently ran read option plays out of shotgun, so he clearly has the ability to outspeed slower defensive edge players and break through weak tackle attempts.

 

Pocket awareness: 8 out of 10

Competent in the pocket by any definition, but it remains to be seen whether or not Mitch has the ability to drop back in a traditional NFL offense, since 100% of his college snaps came out of the shotgun.

 

Poise: 10 out of 10

Mitch is consistently ready to go in any and all pressure situations. He can dodge defenders and make plays down the field with flair and spectacular awareness.

 

Clutch: 4 out of 5

Came up just short against Stanford in the Sun Bowl, but did have a spectacular final drive that featured no fewer than 4 dropped touchdown passes and terrible offensive line work. Lost close games against Duke and NC State (tape not viewed), but engineered a terrific game-winning drive against Florida State early in the season.

 

Size: 4 out of 5

Mitch has decent height at 6’2”. Plays at an appropriate weight for his height.

 

Reliability: 9.5 out of 10

Mitch is tough both mentally and physically, never missing a game due to injury or choking under pressure due to mental fatigue. Despite only being 6’2”, he plays much bigger than his advertised size, and probably won’t suffer too many early NFL career wear-and-tear related injuries since he rode the bench for much of his college tenure.

 

Total Prospect Rating: 87/100

 

Pro Comparison: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Trubisky 1

Rodgers

Okay, don’t freak out. I know that there is almost no way that Mitch will reach the career heights of Aaron Rodgers. But the category says to look for similarities in play styles and the number one thing that sticks out to me is how much Mitch is willing to gun the ball in there every single time. Seriously, the ball explodes out of his hands and he has great short and intermediate accuracy. Both players stand 6’2” and have the same playing weight. Both have outstanding read-the-field ability. WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY ASK FOR? Can you tell I love the prospect of Mitch Trubisky under center for an NFL franchise? Time shall tell if he works out, but my money is on Mr. Ohio.

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Scouting Report: Jamal Adams

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Jamal Adams, S, LSU

6’0 214 lbs

Adams

Tape Viewed: 2015 vs. Alabama, 2016 vs. Auburn, 2016 vs. Texas A&M, 2016 vs. Alabama

 

OVERVIEW

Already an outstanding player early in his LSU career, Adams added a new dimension of polish and urgency to his game in his final collegiate season.  Very few plays on tape show Adams even remotely struggling.

While he’s an outstanding in-the-box safety who clearly likes to be close to the ball and set the tone, some of his most impressive plays on tape showcase his insane range playing from the deep middle. One knock I have is that he doesn’t appear to have much experience playing that “last-line-of-defense” role. I do, however, think he projects really well into that role.

He also has an ideally sturdy build which goes well with his rangy, physical style of play. When you think of the term enforcer on a football field, you need look no further.

 

COVERAGE

 

Play Recognition: 14 out of 15

Adams looks like he has a deep intelligence and understanding of the keys to read nearly any offense. There are few times where he appears to be out of position.

 

Speed: 5 out of 5

His 4.56 40 time notwithstanding, Adams’ speed on the field pops on tape constantly. He covers ground so quickly that he often reacts on screens before the receivers do.

 

Pursuit: 8 out of 10

This is a tough one to grade because Adams has the ability to close space so effectively on horizontal plays, but when plays move vertically, he struggles a bit and gives up ground. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s often enough to be notable.

 

Man: 3 out of 5

On a 5-yard out against Texas A&M, Adams runs the route better than the receiver, coming from the middle of the field. This shows his potential and ability to read the hips of receivers. His reaction time is outstanding, but his hips aren’t as fluid as they need to be.

 

Zone: 8 out of 10

The knock I have on Adams here is his ability in deep zone. There are times where he allows receivers to get behind him which is a concern for the next level where better QBs will torch him if he doesn’t clean it up. He does, however, have brilliant plays all over the rest of the field in zone.

 

Tackle: 9 out of 10

Adams uses a player’s momentum and leverage against them by wrapping up their legs and allowing them to take themselves down. This is consistently effective. When a player is already engaged, Adams also knows to go for the ball.

 

Ball Skills: 3 out of 5

In 2015, he had 4 interceptions, but this was an anomaly. While Adams has all of the attributes to be a ball-hawk and didn’t drop any opportunities that I saw, he needs to find a way to be in position to pick the ball off more, or at least rack up more PBU’s.

 

RUN SUPPORT

 

Tackle: 8 out of 10

He improved a lot in this regard from early in his career to 2016, where he not only increased his total tackles, but TFL’s to career best. However, as Adams tends to be flying around near the line of scrimmage, he sometimes forgets to sink his hips which causes him to fly off the players he intends to tackle.

 

Play Recognition: 15 out of 15

Adams is pretty unbelievable in this regard. He’s almost always the first to recognize a play-fake. This is showcased in the 2015 game against Alabama on a fake end around bootleg where Adams was the only one that stayed with QB Jake Coker. He turned what was undoubtedly a 15 yard gain into a TFL.

 

Willingness: 5 out of 5

Adams appears to be happiest and most eager on the field mixing it up at the LOS, flying in, even through interior lanes, to be involved in run defense.

 

GENERAL

 

Reliability: 10 out of 10

Adams has the character, squeaky clean injury history, stout frame, leadership qualities and empty rap sheet that makes him among the safest picks in this draft.

 

Total Prospect Rating: 88 out of 100

 

Pro Comparison: Reshad Jones, S, Miami Dolphins

Adams 1

Jones

While Jones is a more accomplished ball-hawk, both players share the same leadership ability, knack for the tone-setting play and outstanding run defense. Jones and Adams share a stout frame which allows them to deliver serious force as tacklers, and serious range to make plays all over the field and rally the defense on any given play.

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Scouting Report: Solomon Thomas

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Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

6’3 273 lbs.

Thomas

Tape Viewed: 2016 vs. Kansas State, 2016 vs. Arizona, 2016 vs. Colorado, 2016 vs. North Carolina

 

OVERVIEW

Solomon Thomas stands out for his versatility, tenacity, quickness and sound hand usage. He’s also, by all indications, a fantastic guy with great work ethic that would fit in well in most locker rooms. He’s lacking the height that would ideally couple with a 270 pound frame on a defensive end which has caused some teams to view him as a tweener prospect.

None of that will matter once he hits training camp though, it will be clear immediately once the pads come on what kind of incredible prospect Thomas is. He could just be scratching the surface of his potential as he continues to learn the position on the edge.

He lacks the ideal bend that elite prospects have, but makes up for it with outstanding understanding of what an offense wants to do. This is on display against North Carolina as he tears up field towards Trubisky but pulls up on a dime and stops the screen back for no gain.

 

PASS RUSH

 

Moves: 5 out of 5

Rip and swim moves are Thomas’ bread and butter. The more tape I watched though, the more I saw him attack different opponents with different plans. He sometimes employed spin moves (to great effect) sometimes opted for straight up bull rushes, and sometimes he’d even win (both inside and outside) with his outstanding explosiveness on a speed rush.

 

Technique: 13 out of 15

The name of Thomas’ game is technically sound. He plays under control at all times, with nearly elite hand usage. He loves punching lineman away, which makes sense as he developed his game in the boxing ring. However, he can sometimes get his feet tangled and he’s still learning how to play on the outside as he lined up at 4-3 DT so much for Stanford.

 

Bend: 2 out of 5

This is the one area that will likely hold teams back from drafting Thomas in the Top 10, if they envision as a 4-3 DE. He doesn’t show natural ability to bend around tackles, and doesn’t even seem to understand how to do this. He tried once that I saw on tape, and it was almost hilariously bad. However, his balance and athleticism would suggest that he has potential to develop in this part of his game.

 

Finish: 4 out of 5

There are some frustrating misses for Thomas on tape, but they’re few and far between. In particular, one play in the Arizona game where he did a spin move to the inside, then chased the quarterback all the way to the sideline to force the incompletion shows Thomas’ ability to affect the game other than on the stat sheet.

 

Tenacity: 4 out of 5

Ordinarily, you will see Thomas showing off his exceptional motor straight to the whistle. But he also seems to have an understanding of when to turn the jets off since he can no longer affect the play. Because of this, sometimes he’s wrong and gives up on plays too quickly.

 

Consistency: 10 out of 10

What you see is what you get with Thomas on any given down. He’s an above average pass rusher that tries really hard and is physically intimidating.

 

RUN STOPPING

 

Edge Setting: 6 out of 10

Often on tape, Thomas shows his inexperience in this aspect, allowing lanes to form as he has the wrong leverage, however, there are some flashes that show his potential in the pros.

 

Tackling: 9 out of 10

Thomas misses some tackles, but very few, and even when he misses, he’s almost always a part of the reason the play ends prematurely. Besides that, he’s vicious, and delivers some serious body slams. A play early in the North Carolina game shows this aspect of his game quite brilliantly.

 

Double Teams: 4 out of 5

Thomas has the functional strength, leverage, and balance to consistently take on double teams through the whistle, though it would be nice to see him make more plays when he gets the extra attention.

 

Lane Discipline: 9 out of 10

On tape, there are some exceptional plays that show just how deep an understanding Thomas has of lane discipline and how to properly set up a team defense, and then there are plays like the one against Kansas State where he allows the QB to scoot right by him untouched for a 20 yard gain. Those are rare.

 

Consistency: 9 out of 10

I’ve seen on nearly every report of Thomas that he’s an outstanding run defender, PFF graded him number one among draft eligible players in fact. However, I do see times where his play falls off, particularly when he’s receiving extra attention or being stretched horizontally.

 

GENERAL

 

Reliability: 10 out of 10

Thomas is as rock solid as it gets. Seems to have the mentality any NFL GM would love. No character issues or injury question marks to speak of.

 

Total Prospect Rating: 85 out of 100

 

Pro Comparison: Michael Bennett, DE, Seattle Seahawks

Rice Stanford Football

Bennett

Though a lofty comparison for a player that hasn’t played a single down in the NFL, there really isn’t another player in the NFL that has the quickness and inside pass-rush ability, mixed with effective run defense like Bennett. Bennett has found a perfect niche as the designated Swiss army knife in Seattle’s defense, and has become one of the league’s best. I believe Thomas has that level of ability, but must find the right role to maximize  his potential. To me, a lot like Bennett, he’s a high floor high ceiling player.

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Scouting Report: DeShone Kizer

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DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

6’4 233 lbs.

Kizer

Tape Viewed: 2015 vs. Stanford, 2015 vs. Ohio State, 2016 vs. Texas, 2016 vs. Michigan State, 2016 vs. Miami

 

OVERVIEW

I’ve had the pleasure to watch every single start of DeShone Kizer’s Notre Dame career and this kid was perhaps the most precocious starter in his first season that I’ve ever seen. His deep accuracy, dropping dimes to current Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller especially, was jaw-dropping. He complimented that with a poise and moxie that rivaled NFL veterans.

People forget that Kizer led a comeback and was within a two-point conversion of knocking off Clemson in 2015 (Clemson would go on to be undefeated until the National Championship). This was all with a relative lack of NFL talent surrounding him, and a very poor defense that he was forced to make up for week in and week out.

2016 was more of the same for Kizer, except with a worse defense, and replacing Will Fuller with some tall guy named Equanimeous St. Brown. The point being, the talent around him got even worse, and he felt the pressure to will his poor team to wins. The struggles were predictable, and partly the fault of Kizer for setting his original bar so high. Kizer’s 2016 season is a very difficult study because it was such an unstable situation all year in South Bend.

 

PASSING

 

Accuracy: 12 out of 15

Kizer is the most accurate deep passer in this draft, and his accuracy on deep passes rivals anyone in the NFL. He has unbelievable touch to drop it to deep streaking receivers in stride. Kizer also flashes incredible accuracy on intermediate and short throws, but has strange lapses that could potentially be due to his inconsistent footwork and incredibly live arm.

 

Power: 4 out of 5

Can throw a heat-seeking missile at times: look no further than the Texas game with Kizer throwing to receiver Torri Hunter Jr. between 3 defenders. However, there are strange lapses in which Kizer’s velocity on short and intermediate throws fizzles.

 

On the run: 5 out of 5

Kizer can run off to the left, or the right, and throw an accurate ball without setting his feet. He can reach any area of the field, or work the sideline. It’s pretty incredible.

 

Consistency: 7 out of 10

This rating should seemingly be lower, with the huge disparity in wins from year one as a starter to year two. However, Kizer himself doesn’t see many drop offs in his overall game. The talent around him is often what lets him down. You’ll see this constantly, especially in the 2016 tape where three of the starters on his offensive line have no business being on the field.

 

Field General: 17 out of 20

Works through his reads quickly and naturally. Very decisive when he sees what he likes. He does have a tendency to tuck and run rather than take an easy underneath completion, but it really depends on the flow of the game. When Kizer is in a rhythm, he’s as decisive as you could ask for and usually gets it to the right guy.

 

Athleticism: 5 out of 5

For a player his size, he’s an incredibly fluid and natural athlete. He flashes impressive balance against the blitz, weaves in and out of run lanes with ease and can get skinny or even vertical when seeking the pylon on a rushing TD attempt.

 

Pocket awareness: 8 out of 10

Kizer is never taken unaware. He feels pressure immediately and slides in the pocket with very sudden moves. The problem is that he sometimes doesn’t trust his protection which causes him to feel pressure when it isn’t quite there.

 

Poise: 9 out of 10

Much more often than not, Kizer thrives under pressure. He can deliver a pinpoint accurate ball from any number of contorted poses, and he loves to stretch a defense on a broken-down play.

 

Clutch: 4 out of 5

All of Kizer’s biggest games of his career feature solid to outstanding individual performances by him. In fact, his game against Stanford in 2015 for a CFB Playoff bid was perhaps the best of his career. The knock though, is he lost that game, and the bowl game against Ohio State, and the game against Clemson. It’s a slight concern.

 

Size: 5 out of 5

He is the quarterback prototype, in every single way.

 

Reliability: 9 out of 10

Kizer is sturdy, he doesn’t get banged up despite his very physical style of play. The only slight concern here is the issues he had with Coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame and why he never quite seemed to get the keys to the Ferrari, so to speak.

 

Total Prospect Rating: 85 out of 100

 

Pro Comparison: Randall Cunningham, QB, Retired

Kizer 1

Cunningham

This comparison comes with a slight caveat: this is the Vikings’ Randall Cunningham, later in his career when he allowed his exceptional natural abilities as a passer to shine through. Cunningham and Kizer share that uncanny ability to deliver perfect passes running off to the left and right. They’re both outstanding natural runners that thrive on deep ball accuracy but flash accuracy to all areas of the field. Most of all, both appear to be very difficult to rattle and are borderline-unstoppable when in a rhythm. They also both happen to be prototype physical specimens.

 

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