The NFL blew right through silly season and has sailed into full-blown stupid season. Now is the time of year rife with bumbling "anonymous" scout quotes mixed in with foolish slander and praise to try and muddy the overall draft picture so badly that nobody really knows what anyone thinks. It rarely works but rest assured, Draft Bytes is here to help with 100% real takes and no bull.
1.)When someone (impossible to know who... nameless as they are) compares player A to player B and the comparison is so incredibly far off base, you begin to wonder why that person even works near a football. They have obviously never watched the players in question play, or if they have they simply do not know what they are looking at.
I just read where an NFL executive compared Robert Nkemdiche to Shawn Oakman, and I desperately want to know who this guy is.— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) March 22, 2016
That folks, in case you don't know, is like comparing orchard-fresh apples to rotten apples. I wrote about Nkemdiche here and he is a talented player. He might also be a serious head-case with a lousy personal support network (if the ever-popular rumors are to be believed), but he can play. Oakman is a stiff who will be lucky to be on a roster and active on game days next year.
2.) There is an old adage in the scouting world that if a player is really talented it doesn't matter where he plays; the NFL will find him. That ideal was born when scouts roamed the country in their cars with a trunkload full of clipboards, 3-ring binders and a stopwatch always at the ready. Things have changed to say the least. When watching a major pro day at a national collegiate powerhouse complete with NFL Network coverage, one-on-one interviews and a banquet afterwards it is easy to forget the hustling life of a scout out beating the bushes for the next great NFL prospect. Just when you think it has all gotten to be too "big-time" along comes the Montana State pro day:
Snow didn't stop scouts and TE coaches from coming out to watch Montana State TE Beau Sandland today in Bozeman. pic.twitter.com/k8Sof6MYam— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) March 22, 2016
Yup, it snowed. Scouts still turned up (outside no less) in Bozeman to check out TE Beau Sandland, who if you dressed him in flannel could pass for a working logger any day of the week. He's a solidly built guy who chugs a little bit getting off the line, but has a long stride and is very powerful. Sandland catches the ball better than you might expect. He could end up getting selected as early as the 4th round depending on how the run on TE's goes in the draft.
3.) If the Bears want to add some depth and thump to their backup inside linebacking corps they might look towards Boston College's Steven Daniels. He's excellent at coming downhill against the run and he packs a punch. He certainly has athletic limitations but if you squint hard enough watching his tape you can just about see a poor man's Reggie Ragland. That's not a bad comparison considering Ragland will likely go in the 1st or early 2nd and Daniels is being looked at in the 6th or 7th round range. Steven won't wow anybody in pass coverage but he makes way more plays than his athletic testing numbers indicate he should be able to.
4.) I mentioned another Boston College player in the comments section last week. Justin Simmons (safety) is someone I had a much higher opinion of than most of the draft media. I was consistently seeing him ranked in the 5th round and later range. That was very inconsistent with what I saw from Simmons on tape and I ranked him as a solid 3rd round possibility. It looks like things are starting to normalize a little bit now regarding his ranking:
RE: Justin Simmons. Big fan. Has reps at CB. Plays faster, more fluid than he ran in Indy. Gave him mid-Rd grade @derekbrooksXII— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 20, 2016
5.) I highlighted return specialists in Draft Bytes this February and made note of the fact that if you are taking a return specialist he'd better be good on punt returns because the NFL was looking to deemphasize kickoffs and the huge collisions they create. The league didn't wait long to add credence to that theory:
NFL owners discussing, and possibly voting, on rule change that move touchbacks to 25-yard line from the 20; could be voted on Wednesday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 22, 2016
Having teams get an extra five yards for NOT attempting a return is simply one more step in eliminating the play all together. Punts will be much harder to remove from the game, so returners who can produce positive field position changes on those plays will continue to hold some value.
Player's Lounge - Every week I will look at a player who is trending in the draft process
Quarterbacks routinely dominate pre-draft storylines and QB's expected to be taken early get the lion's share of that coverage. However a few prospects with upside always tend to bubble up later in the process. That is exactly what is occurring right now with a player who was on top of the world 12 months ago, but certainly lost a little bit of his shine over the 2015 college football season.
Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio State) was the talk of the town at this time last year; a newly-crowned national champion and conquering hero. Then he lost out in the starting QB derby at OSU and struggled to replicate any of his golden play from 2014's run to the title. He limped out of the season and into the predraft process, but he has been building serious momentum lately as analysts scour the second tier of QB prospects looking for value. Jones possesses prototypical size for the position (6'5", 253!) and has a big-time arm. While he has many less throws on tape than some of his peers, some of those throws are simply tremendous.
Stands in, takes a shot, drops one in the bucket. https://t.co/g6MvWOOfos— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 22, 2016
That folks is 50 yards in the air, on the money, right before a defensive lineman eats your lunch. In the scouting business that is known simply as a "big boy" throw. The issue with Cardale is not his ability but the consistency to showcase it. He shows every trait you need in a starting NFL QB (accuracy, power, decision making, running ability, pocket presence, etc.), he simply doesn't string it all together for 4 quarters, play after play. His biggest fault right now is his tendency to stare down receivers. Despite that some team will roll the dice on him based on all his upside, and I have the sneaking suspicion it will be much earlier than fans thought it would be even a month ago.
Reader Question of the Week - I'll pick a question from a reader each week and answer it here. If you have a question you'd like to be considered you can either leave it in the comments section below, or send it to me directly on Twitter (@thedraftsmanFB) with the hashtag #askEJ.
WCG user Ditka's Pushbroom asked: "What are your thoughts on Dean Lowry in the latter rounds? He has height and seems to get his hands on a lot of passes. Strong at the point of attack. Maybe a more gifted and athletic version of Unrein?..."
Lowry is an interesting prospect who made my list solely because the Bears need players at the 5-tech position. Physically, his frame matches the needs for the position almost perfectly. The fact that he played his college ball right up the road from Halas Hall didn't hurt one bit. The reason I picked this question this week was based on a player comparison for Dean that I had not heard up until now: the Colt's Henry Anderson.
I was a huge fan of Anderson coming out of Stanford last year and thought he'd be an ideal fit for the Bears and their switch to the 3-4 defense. As it turned out, Indy thought the same thing and chose Anderson in the 3rd round. He played very well for the Colts, starting 9 straight games in his rookie season before knee injury landed him on IR in November.
I certainly see some similarities in Lowry's game (size, power, ability to control his gaps) but don't think he has the quality pass rushing talent Anderson did coming out last year. This certainly drops his value but I am betting he will get drafted none the less... just likely in a little lower round (6th?). If that is the case the Bears should certainly consider him. They have multiple picks in the 6th and Lowry could work himself on to the roster as nice rotational/depth player early in his career.