Scouting Notebook: An Introduction to 2019
If you follow my work at all, you know how much of a jumbled mess it can be at times. The order of content and list of priorities is unlike anything else in the NFL Draft community. Rest assured, there is indeed a method to my madness. Welcome to my scouting notebook where I go all over the board in the discussion. Whether it's an undraftable player from Tulsa or the first overall selection, I'm here to give you some scoops based on what I've seen. Let's roll.
Note: Underlined names have a report link attached. They are not filled out yet.
The majority of my time since May has been spent cutting tape and doing early reports on prospects, although not on the big name guys you'd initially think of. Throughout this process I've been mentally noting players that flashed during cutups. These particular players were dominant enough in their performances to draw my attention even if I did not focus on them. While some weren't as impressive as I anticipated after looking further, I feel like I should share the list and give some thoughts.
QB Devlin Hodges, Samford
Hodges has not received much fanfare for the draft process, and I don't anticipate he ever gets much love from big media outlets. His physical tools are unimpressive. Standing at only 6'0" and about 205 pounds, his body type is not that of a typical pro quarterback. That said, Hodges' control over the Samford offense against Kennesaw State last year was a joy to see. He consistently put the ball where it needed to go and made throws in the big time. His performance against the Florida State Seminoles earlier this year, a near upset for those unfamiliar, will be a decisive factor in whether or not he draws interest in the league. I think there's a shot.
RB Karan Higdon, Michigan
I had the pleasure of watching Higdon against some solid competition in Ohio State and Michigan State. I came away with a respect for the back that I didn't anticipate. It's not every day you see a 5'9" 190 pound back like Higdon who can finish through contact in the open field and make defenses fear him. Make no mistake, linebackers will get the job done against him in the NFL, especially if they get clean shots. But his combination of determination and moderate elusiveness as a runner will make those clean shots rare. His stock at the moment seems that of a mid rounder.
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor
Going into Mims' tape I knew I'd love him. The games I cut involving Baylor were pretty much just a series of highlights for the guy when the Bears had the football in their possession. With a catch radius that would make coaches fall out of their chair and the hands to rake it in, his floor is already that of a quality jump ball guy. What separates Mims from other receivers in this class is his athleticism. At 6'3" and 200 pounds he'd seem the type to get mirrored by good corners, but he has the acceleration out of breaks to pull away in his routes. I haven't handed out the first round label with ease this year, but I'd give it out here.
WR James Gardner, Miami (OH)
Gardner may have seen his 2018 campaign come to a disappointing close already, as he suffered an undisclosed injury that Redhawks head coach Chuck Martin said will result in surgeries. On the field Gardner possesses the size and physicality at the catch point to beat up on smaller defensive backs. It's unknown if he will declare for the draft given his eligibility for a medical redshirt. If he does declare and receives medical clearance from teams I believe he'll be a mid round selection.
TE Alize Mack, Notre Dame
I enjoyed what I saw from Mack in 2017, as he spent most of his reps working as an in-line blocker who brought adequate size and energy to the run game. When asked to take off and run routes he seemed serviceable for the next level. When I turned on the Michigan game I anticipated more of the same. As if he suddenly turned into a pass catching extraordinaire, Mack was lined up in the slot for a majority of his snaps. His smooth movements in the open field caught me off guard in a way few prospects have so far. With Ian Book in at quarterback for the Fighting Irish I'm convinced his value will only rise as we get further into the year. Circle Mack's name. He's going to be a top five tight end if his trajectory stays heading this way.
DL Zach Allen, Boston College
Allen has spent time between the interior line spot and playing edge for the Eagles. Although I ended up much lower on his athleticism following a full tape review, I loved what he brought to the table during cutups. His versatility is something scouts will see integral to his value at the next level. The hand usage and technical aspects of his game are a work in progress, but the size is appealing at 6'5" and 285 pounds with a frame that could likely add more muscle. I put a third round grade on Allen, but I'd understand why someone would bet on the upset. If he tests well expect him to have that Marcus Davenport style buzz around him.
DL David Moa, Boise State
Moa is another guy who ended up underwhelming in his full tape evaluation, but there were some awesome moments as a pass rusher that stood out on both cutups and full viewings. Moa may not possess high level athleticism but his ability to get moves out off the snap and head downhill came through. A bit of a one trick pony, he relies on his spin and swim too much to get the job done. The lack of a real anchor hinders his stock even more. On my board he's sitting in undraftable range, but some minor changes could lead to a move into late round territory.
DL Greg Gaines, Washington
The buzz around Gaines so far throughout most of the draft community has been average to below average. Although a lot of people believe Gaines is just an average nose tackle who has some occasional flashes, the guy I saw during cutups was much more than that. I want to buy into him as a legitimate day two prospect. While not the most athletically gifted player around I was stunned at his hand activity and how much juice he brought to the Huskies' pass rush. I need more time spent watching him and breaking down his game, but he's one of my favorites heading into real tape evaluations.
EDGE Chase Winovich, Michigan
Winovich was widely regarded as a day two or early day three prospect heading into the season, but I loved his games against Ohio State and Michigan State last year. Even during cutups it was easy to see how dominant Winovich was against former Buckeye tackle Jamarco Jones. He consistently drove Jones out of his way and utilized his length well in all facets of the game. Putting the community on notice against Notre Dame was likely just the start of a push towards first round consideration for the well-built defensive end.
EDGE Ben Banogu, TCU
I feel like Banogu is a name I've been bringing up quite a bit on all platforms, but I feel like reiterating how good he looked when I saw him over the summer. The conference he resides in is not known for being particularly strong in the trenches. He has made most of those guys look silly though. Despite being off to a relatively slow start, the bend and body control he possesses does not come around very often. I'm excited to see the Horned Frogs get further into conference play to see Banogu take on folks like West Virginia's Yodny Cajuste and Oklahoma's Bobby Evans. Both should be great tests for how he matches up against athletically gifted linemen.
EDGE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
Talk about a late riser, huh? Ximines was first brought to my attention on walterfootball.com as a name that scouts floated around as a day two prospect. While many folks will argue the merit of the information, I do believe Walter Football is connected with those in the league in some manner. No cutups were available until just recently, as his Liberty game for 2018 was made available. Heading into the Virginia Tech matchup the 6'3" 250 pounder was the headliner for an article by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. Ximines landed on Miller's top 32 board. After toasting Hokie OT Yosuah Nijman to the tune of two sacks and seven tackles it would not be a shock to see his name float higher and higher. While not the most technical pass rusher there are some good tools to work with.
EDGE/LB Kaden Elliss, Idaho
I had no clue what I was getting into when setting up to do Kaden Elliss cutups. The Idaho defender is set to take on much lower levels of competition this year as the Vandals have officially moved down to the FCS. In a blowout 79-13 loss to Fresno State, I was shocked at the versatility he displayed. Don't get me wrong, this is not a day two or maybe even day three talent at this point. Elliss was utilized as an outside linebacker who used his size to overpower at the point of attack early on in the game. The movement skills aren't there to hold up in coverage, but he did his job well in the run game. Then he put his hand in the dirt as a 5-tech and looked like a different player. When I wrote down measurables for the database this summer he was listed at 6'3" and 225 pounds. Now pegged at 6'3" and 240 pounds on the Idaho roster, I'm convinced he's much larger. Elliss looks every bit of 6'5" and 250-255 pounds. He flashed the ability to turn back into the pocket once taking the corner, and utilized his length well in getting to Bulldog QB Marcus McMaryion. He has been the most unique player I've watched so far this season.
LB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
Speaking of players who look different as seniors, throw Tranquill into the mix. Formerly a safety, Tranquill has spent time at multiple roles for the team. Last year he seemed to play outside linebacker and spent much of his time setting up over tight ends. He doesn't look as long and space-occupying this year, but his ability to cover ground quickly and make clean wrap up tackles is exciting. I'll be keeping a close eye on how they utilize his skill set. His medicals are gonna be the biggest question as a prospect, but where he plays at the next level will be another key.
CB Tyler Horton, Boise State
Much like his teammate Moa, Horton did not live up the expectations I had during a full film review. His inability in run defense and frequent lapses in coverage were enough to warrant an undrafted grade during my summer reports. That said, he moves around with the best of them and has the athletic talent to be an NFL player. I want to see him hold his own in man coverage on a down to down basis. Improvement in that area could shoot him into day three talk.
S Jah'Shawn Johnson, Texas Tech
Johnson is one of those guys I caught onto early and haven't shut up about since I first saw him. His range is near the top of this safety class as he gets around the field with an unnatural ease. While not an imposing tackler he does enough to impact the run game and finish the job. Always around the ball and ready to make a play, Johnson will likely be getting more love as we draw closer to the end of the season. He has been banged up through the early portions of the year and hasn't done much statistically because of it. The upside is starting caliber for the league if he gets a shot.
S Lukas Denis, Boston College
Notice the pattern? A lot of the guys that I think flash during cutups end up being lower on my board than I anticipated when I sit down to do a full look. Boston College already had one with Zach Allen and they add another to that category with Lukas Denis. Denis looks like a ball-hawking safety who always finds his way into the action when you look from afar. When you dive deep into his game, it becomes much more apparent the limitations he has. His range is decent but it doesn't always show up because he undercuts most of his angles. Denis runs in the same vein as Justin Reid and Minkah Fitzpatrick last year. He looks most comfortable as a nickel corner who can rotate back to play two deep if needed. His man coverage skills are worth a starting slot job thanks to change of direction abilities.
S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State
Now that we've got that pile of thoughts out of the way, we can start shifting that towards a much smaller weekly look at guys that stand out, rather than just pouring out a complete draft class breakdown to kick off the notebook. Really should have started these in the summer to avoid that kind of pileup. Anyways, we're moving onto the risers and fallers of late.
Risers and Fallers
In this category we're going to take a look at some of the big names of the class and how they've been doing as of late, along with some of the surprise breakouts that have occurred. It's worth noting that a large portion of these are not based on what I'm seeing, but instead what I'm hearing throughout the community. First off, we'll break into the risers.
QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The duo of Haskins and Herbert have separated themselves from the rest of this quarterback class at this point in the season. Both have put on resume performances this year against ranked teams. Both have displayed the arm strength, accuracy, and overall physical gifts to be drafted in the top ten. So far it seems like Herbert has the edge after putting on a clinic against the Stanford Cardinal last week. The Ducks blew a late lead after a costly fumble, but Herbert was surgical in his performance. The junior delivered strike after strike through tight coverage and gave his receivers near perfect placement to work with.
Haskins has looked good throughout the entire season, but his only real test so far has been TCU the weekend prior to last. The Buckeye has not been as accurate a passer as Herbert, but his willingness to make difficult throws and put passes through a valley stands out among other quarterbacks in the class. The velocity on his throws and the composure he displays in the pocket is something you don't see with most sophomore quarterbacks. The arrow is pointing up for both guys, and if I were doing a mock draft right now I'd have them going first and second overall. They've separated from the pack at the position.
WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Don't look now, but the 6'3" 225 pound receiver hailing from South Carolina has seven touchdowns on the season and is currently averaging 24 yards per reception. That's good for eighth in the nation at the moment. JAW's game is built around winning the jump ball and posterizing helpless cornerbacks. He has been great at that so far this year and looks like the most important piece to the Stanford passing attack. When the ball is in the air he's a shark out for a meal. Opponents either get out of the way or get eaten too.
QB David Blough, Purdue
For a quarterback who didn't win the starting job heading into the season, Blough has been putting together some good performances. He battled with underclassman Elijah Sindelar for the right to run the Boilermaker's offense this season, but Sindelar's arm talent and upside seemed to have won out. That was until Sindelar dropped a stinker against Northwestern in the season opener then got injured the following week. Blough's reign may not last the whole year, but he came out strong putting up nearly 600 yards against the Missouri Tigers in a losing effort. Last weekend he completed 75% of his passes and routed a ranked Boston College team that looked like one of the better squads in the ACC.
EDGE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
I mentioned Ximines earlier in my starred section, but he had to be brought up again in the risers section for obvious reasons after an excellent beginning to the 2018 season. He ended up totaling 14 TFLs and 8.5 sacks last season. Now he's on pace to shatter those marks with 7.5 TFLs and 5 sacks through just four games so far. His dominant showing against Virginia Tech in a stunning upset was the beginning of an upwards push that shows no sign of slowing down.
RB Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Kentucky is off to its first 4-0 start since 2008, and picked up season defining victories over the Florida Gators and Mississippi State Bulldogs. These performances were both brought about by big games from underclassman back Snell. Putting up 175 rushing yards against Florida and 165 against Mississippi State may not seem anything special, but Snell's violence as a runner stands out. He'll make yardage where none is available and create for offenses that can't create otherwise. There's a lot of love in the community for the man averaging 6.2 per carry so far.
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Has anyone's stock taken a much harder hit than Fitzgerald's since late last season? I honestly am not sure. Once talked about as a potential day two talent, his value has nosedived. A significant leg injury that drew a collective cringe across the nation made his medicals a concern. Fitzgerald was set to start the season opener, but was suspended for the game following a violation of team rules. Averaging 180 passing yards per game and completing on 51% of his passes has Fitzgerald looking more like an undrafted talent than a developmental project.
QB Malik Rosier, Miami
It seemed like Rosier had one more shot to right the ship and turn himself into a legitimate draftable quarterback. His time starting for the Hurricanes seems to have come to a close with the underclassman N'Kosi Perry coming in to play most of the game against Florida International last week. Rosier's statline this season includes a 52% completion percentage which helps to highlight his inconsistency as a passer. When asked to go downfield and make difficult throws it seemed impossible for Brad Kaaya's heir.
EDGE Trevon Hill, Virginia Tech
Following the disappointing collapse to Old Dominion, tensions seemed to be rising in the VT program. Hill put some questionable things on social media that may have drawn the ire of coaching staff and teammates. Regardless of what the truth of the story is, he was dismissed from the team due to detrimental conduct to the team. The talented pass rusher put up some highlight reel sacks and hits early on this year, but his future is now an unknown.
WR Jalen McCleskey, Oklahoma State
McCleskey has been the odd man out for the most part in a revamped Oklahoma State offense with Mason Rudolph now on the Steelers. With fifth year senior Taylor Cornelius running the show McCleskey wasn't getting targeted frequently enough to make a big impact. He has announced he will transfer as a graduate and has left the Oklahoma State football team. It's likely a good move long term for McCleskey, but it means one more year of waiting to go pro and the chance he falls into an even less optimal situation than what he faced in Stillwater.
There are plenty of places to get in-depth FCS discussion, but I don't think the level of competition is often given its due. I'll be using this section to break down what I'm seeing from FCS prospects in an honest and fair assessment of their game. First let's discuss some of the big producers from the lower levels.
QB Taryn Christion, South Dakota State
34-43 (79.1%), 651 passing yards, 9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Christion has only played in two games so far this year due to the South Dakota State vs. Iowa State game being cancelled. That said, he's off to a great start with excellent performances against Montana State and Arkansas Pine-Bluff. I graded him as a third rounder heading into this year, and I believe he'll gain more attention as we get into the heart of the season where FCS competition rises.
RB Ryan Fulse, Wagner
97 rushes, 660 yards, 5 touchdowns.
Fulse has posted over 150 yards on the ground in three of his four performances so far this season. However, he put up a disappointing 21-47-0 line against the Syracuse Orange in the second game of the year. His numbers will likely place him on the radar for teams, but he'll need to make an appearance at an all-star game during this draft cycle to show off his game against more reasonable opponents.
RB Jordan Gowins, Stony Brook
61 rushes, 510 yards, 4 touchdowns.
Once a Boston College player, Gowins came to Stony Brook with the intentions of being a starter for the Sea Wolves. After only posting 926 rushing yards through his first two seasons with the team it seems like he has stepped into his own. A disappointing 6 carries for 12 yards against Air Force will loom over his stock, but since then he has averaged 166 yards per game as a rusher. He's built thick at 5'11" and 230 pounds, and will be a name to keep an eye out for.
WR Kelvin McKnight, Samford
42 receptions, 566 yards, 5 touchdowns.
Want to talk about a player who has shown up in the big game this year? Samford's McKnight posted a magnificent 14-215-2 statline against the Florida State Seminoles. The talented receiver has 254 receptions, 3234 yards, and 28 touchdowns so far in his career. He has been productive since his freshman year and looks to be on pace for over 100 receptions this season alone. Only 5'8" and 185 pounds, he'll be drawing questions about his physical makeup, but there is good reason to have interest.
WR Reggie White Jr., Monmouth
28 receptions, 406 yards, 0 touchdowns.
White hasn't been the most statistically dominant receiver in FCS football, but his physical skills make him an appealing player for the NFL level. At a lean and mean 6'3" and 210 pounds White knows how to utilize his body to post up for the jump ball and make big plays. He looked excellent against Eastern Michigan and will end up being a name mentioned in the all-star circuit. The senior wideout is already on the Senior Bowl watch list as a potential selection for the event in January.
The Film Look
One of the few FCS guys I've gotten a look at this season in cutups is Villanova safety Rob Rolle. Rolle missed the majority of 2017 due to a torn ACL, but he received a medical redshirt to come back for another year. He doesn't have great space skills and may not be reliable as a deep safety. The tackling is something that can be worked with though. I don't know if I would buy in at this point to his potential as a draftable player, but I think he is worth the interest he has drawn from evaluators. You can check his game against Temple out with the video below.
Big Boy Throw of the Week
Every week it seems like there's one big throw that stands out to me on tape where I just pause and take it all in. This week we saw Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson launch it to his star receiver Anthony Johnson against Rutgers. Rolling out to the right and Jackson lets his mortar of an arm drop it downfield. Here's your big boy throw of week 4. 55 yards to the catch point but this thing could've easily been 60.
Week 5 Matchups
Another section I'm planning to implement to this is a weekly breakdown of the top prospect matchups that I'll be looking at each week. This segment will give you a plan of attack if you're trying to scout games you're tuning into on television.
Syracuse QB Eric Dungey vs. Clemson Defense
This one is going to be fun to watch, at least for the first quarter or two. Dungey has been banged up all throughout this season due to his physically tolling style of play, but he is looking to make magic happen here and upset Clemson for the second year in a row. I don't believe he'll do enough as a passer to get it done, but this will be the biggest game of his 2018 season.
Syracuse OT Cody Conway vs. Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell
Conway has been noted by those draft folks who've gone deep on the ACC (ahem, Joe Marino) but hasn't drawn national attention. He isn't a gifted athlete but the technical aspects of his game are a big part of why he has started over 20 straight games for the Orange. Ferrell is one of the top edge rushers in the nation and will get a good test here.
Kansas State OT Dalton Risner vs. Texas EDGE Charles Omenihu/Breckyn Hager
Risner has garnered mixed opinions in the draft community, but there are supporters who believe in him as a potential top ten selection in this upcoming draft. I don't have any real thoughts developed on him yet, but this is a matchup I'm going to take a good glance at. Hager and Omenihu haven't produced big numbers so far this year but both have their spot on my watch list of seniors. This is as good as the conference gets in the trenches.
South Alabama WR Jamarius Way vs. Appalachian State CB Clifton Duck/Tae Hayes
Here's one to circle if you're a fan of the smaller school guys. Way has been one of the better group of five receivers this year, averaging 7 receptions and 109 yards per game so far. He'll be taking on two draftable players in the Appalachian State secondary. Hayes is the less athletic of the duo, but he's a physical tackler who lights up screens and runs. Duck is much better in mirroring guys off the line of scrimmage and playing press. It's likely that Duck gets the majority of the reps on Way, but when Hayes and Way lock horns I'll be keeping my eye out for the seniors.
Florida State EDGE Brian Burns vs. Louisville OT Lukayus McNeil
This one may not be the sexiest pick for prospect matchups, but McNeil has been talked about as a potential mid round selection this year. He will have his work cut out for him taking on one of the most athletic defenders in college football with Burns. It seems like Burns has been getting some flak since he kicked off the season well against Virginia Tech, but the traits are there to be a future star.
Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. Wyoming Defense
This Wyoming defense will be taking on one of their toughest opponents this season in a Boise State offense that can operate efficiently and put points up on the board. Rypien has been solid early on this year despite some mediocre pass protection forcing him to make decisions prematurely. DE Carl Granderson and DT Youhanna Ghaifan will likely feast against an unsteady group of lineman protecting the Boise State signal caller.
Ohio State WR Parris Campbell vs. Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye
Campbell was once talked about as a first or second round talent but his stock has gradually drifted in the other direction. He's taking on a riser in Penn State's Oruwariye who has been talked up as an excellent man corner with the athleticism to match anyone along their routes. This test will be key in whether or not Campbell gets taken in the earlier rounds.
Stanford Offensive Line vs. Notre Dame Defensive Line
Let's talk about one of the best offensive lines in the nation taking on one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Stanford is rolling out some big name draft eligible guys like Nate Herbig, Brandon Fanaika, Jesse Burkett, and A.T. Hall. Notre Dame is led by explosive interior lineman Jerry Tillery, but has talented defensive ends in Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem. This is probably the most exciting OL vs. DL matchup in college football unless we see Clemson matching up with a team like Alabama or Oklahoma in the playoffs. Star this one.
BYU RB Squally Canada vs. Washington Defense
BYU's Canada had little to no attention around him prior to a huge game against the Wisconsin Badgers that helped result in an upset win in Madison. He reached nearly 100 rushing yards in the season debut against Arizona and put up 118 against the Badgers. He'll be forced to use his quickness to evade senior Washington LBs Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett.
Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf vs. LSU CB Greedy Williams
This may not end up being the real matchup that Greedy Williams faces in this game, as Mississippi will be rolling out a killer's row with DaMarkus Lodge, A.J. Brown, and the aforementioned D.K. Metcalf. Metcalf is the most physically gifted of the group and should draw Williams as a shadow in coverage unless LSU stays schematically stiff. This will be a big one for the draft stock of whoever ends up getting the matchup against the Tiger corner.
If you've made it this far I applaud your dedication to reading my brain dump on the story so far in college football. I'm not much of a fan of writing articles, but I figured I'd share a lot of what I'm seeing as we go through the college football season. There's a lot of no names and hooplah I'm gonna have for this article throughout the year because of the way I'm going through cutups and games, but I hope you stay tuned for what is to come. If you have any suggestions or questions on this article feel free to hit me up at @WhatsOnDraftNFL on Twitter with whatever you've got. I'd love to answer questions in this as well. I'll catch you fellas next week.