Are the Cleveland Browns in love with a quarterback?
That’s the feeling many around the NFL have this week. I’ve spoken to multiple scouts, one general manager and even a prominent trainer who have all been told the Browns are enamored with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson—but not at No. 1 overall.
The Browns have two picks in the first round—the first one and then Philadelphia’s pick at No. 12 as part of last year’s Carson Wentz trade. It’s with their second pick in Round 1 that my sources believe the Browns would like to see Watson available.
Following a big national championship game, and with three years of starts under his belt, Watson may represent the type of quarterback the Browns didn’t see in last year’s class when they traded away the right to select Wentz at No. 2 after the Los Angeles Rams plucked Jared Goff off the board. Will Watson’s cool-headedness, big-game accuracy and running ability sell the front office on his skills?
There are still three months left in this process, but early infatuation with prospects generally stays. It was last year at this time when I reported the Rams liked Goff. The Browns may not have to trade up to get their guy if it’s Watson.
What else is going on this week? The Shrine Game practices are underway in St. Petersburg, Florida, and next week the Senior Bowl gets started. As we get ready for Mobile, Alabama, here’s what you can find below:
Updated Big Board
Scouts down on the QB class
Three questions with an AFC scout
…and five players who made money at the Shrine Game
The Scout’s Report
—Earlier this week I reported Watson wouldn’t attend the Senior Bowl. The director of the game, Phil Savage, confirmed the news on Twitter the next day. I have no issue with his sitting out after a long season, but there was a chance for Watson to improve his draft stock with a good showing in Alabama.
—Another player not attending the Senior Bowl is Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. The level of competition faced at Western is the biggest uncertainty for Davis, so attending the Senior Bowl would have answered questions about his skill set. However, he’s locked in as a top-15 draft pick already.
—All season we’ve talked about how poor this offensive line class is, but one scout has found a player similar to the Dallas Cowboys’ Zack Martin. “[Forrest] Lamp is like Zack Martin. Wait and see next week.” Western Kentucky’s Lamp will be at the Senior Bowl, where, like Martin, he’ll play guard after spending his college career at tackle.
—With a new top 300 Big Board taking shape, I sent the list around to multiple NFL scouts for feedback. When doing this, I’m basically looking for any outliers I’ve missed and need to do more film work on. The most telling reply came from a personnel director who said, “Way too many quarterbacks in the top 30. And you’re too high on [Mitch] Trubisky.” Trubisky is the top quarterback on the current board and ranked No. 10 overall.
—”Doesn’t matter who the head coach or general manager are, they have to draft a quarterback.” That’s what a rival general manager said to me about the San Francisco 49ers. This isn’t exactly breaking news, given the free-agent status of Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, and with Colin Kaepernick able to opt out of his deal, but the same GM expects the 49ers to use the No. 2 pick on a passer.
—If there was an award for most improved draft prospects, LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White would be on the short list. Ole Miss abused him in 2015, but his 2016 season showed a more confident cover corner and a more fluid athlete on the field. White’s length, speed and return skills will push him into the first round. Don’t be surprised if he goes top 20.
—With the Senior Bowl upcoming, I asked five scouts who they were most excited to see in person.
Scout 1: “The South Alabama tight end [Gerald Everett]. He was the best player in his conference, but I want to see how he handles better talent on the other side of the ball.”
Scout 2: “Nathan Peterman will be intriguing. Kid couldn’t start at Tennessee but looks like a solid No. 2 at Pitt.”
Scout 3: “Is the Forrest Lamp hype legit? I saw him handle Alabama in-season, but this will be a good test of his length and athleticism.”
Scout 4: “Everett from South Alabama. I know teams that absolutely love this kid, but this will be my first look at him.”
Scout 5: “Tre White. I think he can have a week like Janoris Jenkins had when he was there. Just dominate people and look good as a returner.”
5 Names to Know—Shrine Edition
5. EDGE Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic
The prospect whose name I keep hearing at Shrine Game practices, Trey Hendrickson, is dominating. The 6’4″, 270-pound pass-rusher also dominated this season, notching 15 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Given his power, length and production, Hendrickson will catch a lot of eyes. Where I’m most intrigued is in his ability to slide up and down the defensive line as an interior pass-rusher in a smaller front or stand up on the edge in an elephant package.
4. TE Eric Saubert, Drake
Eric Saubert first came on my radar when a scout went through Drake and was impressed by its pass-catching tight end. Scouts at the Shrine Game have been similarly impressed. At 6’5″, 251 pounds, Saubert is an ideal H-back. And with 4.70 speed he has enough juice to pull away from linebackers in coverage—which is what he’s spent the week of practices doing.
3. EDGE Deatrich Wise Jr., Arkansas
Deatrich Wise has the length and speed you look for in a 4-3 defensive end, and during the week of practices in Florida, scouts told me he’s shown the flexibility to potentially stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That echoes what I’ve seen on film from the 6’5″, 271-pounder. Wise is a player who needed to turn it on at a higher rate, though, which is why he’s ranked as a late-round player on my board.
2. QB Alek Torgersen, Penn
Here’s how smart I am: Alek Torgersen didn’t even make my last Big Board, and now he’s down at the Shrine Game torching people. Multiple scouts there have sent word that he’s the best quarterback of the bunch. That means I’ll be spending the weekend going back to watch the 6’3″, 230-pound passer’s tape to see what has scouts buzzing. Is Torgersen really a diamond in the rough, or has the poor level of quarterback play at the all-star game made him look better than he is?
1. WR Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Playing wide receiver at Air Force isn’t a lucrative position given the team’s triple-option offense. That kept Jalen Robinette from posting the numbers his fellow receivers did, but his size and athleticism are catching the attention of scouts. At 6’4″ and 215 pounds, he has the box-out ability to make an impact on the outside of an offense. Robinette is a name to track through this process, as he could be a riser in a wide receiver class that lacks size.
3 Questions with: An AFC Scout
Each week, I’ll pose three questions to an NFL draft prospect, current player, agent or current scout. This week, I spoke with an AFC scout who must remain anonymous for competitive purposes.
Bleacher Report: Let’s get right down to it. Did Deshaun Watson help his draft stock in the national title game?
Scout: Yes, but not as much as you guys want to think. It helps that he showed poise in a big game. It helped that after he got rocked a few times he didn’t crumble. But that doesn’t erase the 30 interceptions he threw the last two seasons or his lack of downfield accuracy.
B/R: I haven’t asked you yet this season, but how do you view the running backs now that they’ve all declared?
Scout: For our offense, we want someone who can catch the ball a little bit. I love [Leonard] Fournette, but he’s not going to be there for us. Dalvin Cook I worry about fumbles and the shoulders. For the price, give me Alvin Kamara [Tennessee] in Round 2. They’re basically the same guy, but Kamara has less wear and tear.
B/R: If you had to pick one player from this class and bet your job they’d be a solid starter, who would it be?
Scout: (No hesitation) Myles Garrett. He’s the best player in this class. Let the draftniks overthink him like you guys did with [Joey] Bosa last year. I’m telling you, Garrett is the best pass-rusher since Von Miller. He’s going to be a 10-sack guy every year, starting next season.
The Big Board
The final list of declared underclassmen is here, and at the same time I’m getting caught up on film study of the entire class. That has meant the biggest changes to the Big Board since early in the season.
10. Next week I’ll be in Mobile for the best event of draft season: the Senior Bowl. Rosters are close to finalized, barring any last-second dropouts, and scouts will be flooding the bay city on Monday. Here’s a look at the North and South rosters as they stand:
9. The South roster is generally loaded up with LSU and Alabama players, and this year is no different. Featuring first-rounders like Tre White and Ryan Anderson, if you’re betting on the game this is the team to feel good about:
8. The big news in the NFL world Thursday was the potential loss of a second-round pick for the Seattle Seahawks, as reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. The penalty would be for not reporting a knee injury cornerback Richard Sherman played on all season.
The NFL has yet to rule on this, and the fact that Sherman didn’t miss a single snap and is playing in the Pro Bowl should work in the team’s favor. The Seahawks are currently scheduled to lose a fifth-round pick for violating the CBA’s rules on offseason workouts.
This is something that may not be known for some time, but if there’s a chance for Seattle to lose a second-round pick, that’s huge. Especially in a draft where the team needs to make additions to the offensive line, defensive line, cornerback and running back.
7. Texas running back D’Onta Foreman has become a forgotten man in a draft class full of talented underclassmen running backs. It’s time to dust off the notes on his game and start off this week’s Scouting in 140 with a look at the Longhorn great:
6. The best tackling cornerback I’ve seen this season, Corn Elder has a real shot to make money in Mobile. Here’s my first look at him:
5. Garett Bolles is a name to know. The 24-year-old Utah left tackle could shoot into Round 1 now that he’s declared:
4. Cooper Kupp has dominated the FCS level and will get his shot to show up against top-tier talent in Mobile:
3. Caleb Brantley is a ferocious pass-rusher from the middle of the Florida defensive line. The arrow is pointing up on his stock:
2. The Senior Bowl is the best in terms of player access and what we’re able to see as evaluators. The NFL Scouting Combine gets more players together in one spot, but it’s a track meet. The Senior Bowl is real football in pads and with contact. That can’t be replaced.
With the week of practices carrying the most value to scouts, here are 10 players I’m excited to see next week.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: With Howard having been hidden in the Alabama offense, it’s time to see the traits that make him one of the most interesting tight end prospects in a long time.
Ryan Anderson, EDGE, Alabama: He’s a powerful three-down player. Does Anderson have the length and foot quickness to get into Round 1?
Desmond King, S, Iowa: A top college cornerback; I’m projecting the 5’11”, 200-pound King to safety based on his lack of size and speed. He can change my mind this week.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington: Kupp dominated the level of competition he faced and impressed when playing up against FBS teams, but can he hang with the elite cornerbacks he’ll face this week?
Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn: Adams wisely stayed in the game and can make money with his explosive first step. He needs to prove his motor runs hot all the time.
Nathan Peterman, QB, Pitt: Can the former Tennessee backup make money this week? His arm is good enough, but my exposure to him is limited going into a live viewing.
Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky: The first round isn’t a crazy projection if Lamp can have a good week showing that he’s able to handle power-rushers on the inside after spending his college career at tackle.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Primarily a pass-rusher at Temple, Reddick needs to come in bigger than 6’1″, 230 pounds while showing the athleticism to play in space as an outside linebacker.
Jaleel Johnson, DL, Iowa: There are times Johnson looks like a top-40 player. Can he show that quickness against a talented group of interior offensive linemen on a big stage?
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina: A record-setting wide receiver, Jones needs to show he’s not just a product of the system.
1. The January 16 deadline for players to declare for the 2017 NFL draft has come and gone. So too has the three-day window for players to remove themselves from the draft class after declaring. Here is the final list of underclassmen eligible for the upcoming draft:
QB Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
QB Brad Kaaya, Miami (Fla.)
QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
RB James Conner, Pitt
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
RB D’Onta Foreman, Texas
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson
RB Brian Hill, Wyoming
RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina
RB Aaron Jones, UTEP
RB Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
RB Marlon Mack, USF
RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
RB Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB Devine Redding, Indiana
RB Stanley Williams, Kentucky
RB Joe Yearby, Miami (Fla.)
WR Noah Brown, Ohio State
WR KD Cannon, Baylor
WR Malachi Dupre, LSU
WR Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
WR Shelton Gibson, West Virginia
WR Chris Godwin, Penn State
WR Derrick Griffin, Texas Southern
WR Chad Hansen, California
WR Carlos Henderson, La. Tech
WR Jerome Lane, Akron
WR Josh Malone, Tennessee
WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
WR Deon-Tay McManus, Marshall
WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
WR John Ross, Washington
WR Travis Rudolph, FSU
WR Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
WR Artavis Scott, Clemson
WR Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
WR ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss
WR Mike Williams, Clemson
WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor
TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
TE David Njoku, Miami (Fla.)
TE Adam Shaheen, Ashland
OT Garett Bolles, Utah
OT Roderick Johnson, FSU
OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
OT Cam Robinson, Alabama
OG Damien Mama, USC
OG David Sharpe, Florida
DL Caleb Brantley, Florida
DL Davon Godchaux, LSU
DL Nazair Jones, North Carolina
DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
DL Elijah Qualls, Washington
DL Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State
DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford
DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma
EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri
EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn
EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami (Fla.)
EDGE Garrett Sickels, Penn State
LB Alex Anzalone, Florida
LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
LB Ukeme Eligwe, Georgia Southern
LB Jermaine Grace, Miami (Fla.)
LB Elijah Lee, Kansas State
LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
LB Marcus Oliver, Indiana
LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern
LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC
CB Sidney Jones, Washington
CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
CB Teez Tabor, Florida
CB Howard Wilson, Houston
CB Quincy Wilson, Florida
S Jamal Adams, LSU
S Budda Baker, Washington
S Malik Hooker, Ohio State
S Josh Jones, North Carolina State
S Montae Nicholson, Michigan State
S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
S Marcus Williams, Utah
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com