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Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Special Q&A Edition
This week we’re taking a different approach to the Scouting Notebook by answering all your questions. We’ll be back next week with a standard Scouting Notebook featuring all the NFL draft news, rumors, rankings, and notes you’re used to. For this week, with the craziness of the NFL news cycle, a break from the routine was needed.
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Who are the best QB prospects in next year’s draft and talent wise, what are their comparisons in today’s NFL?
MM: Where we’re at in the process right now, I see four quarterbacks vying for the top spot and one more with a lot of talent. Malik Willis (Liberty), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), and Kenny Pickett (Pitt) are the top guys—in that order for me. Add in Carson Strong (Nevada) as the next man up with room to rise. Each has a unique skillset from the others and each has his own question marks. Comparing them is a long process for me, but a surface-level comparison would be:
Willis - Kyler Murray, but less fast
Corral - Zach Wilson
Ridder - Marcus Mariota, but stronger
Pickett - Derek Carr, with less arm strength
Strong - Matt Ryan, but not as quick processing
There is still a ton of time for quarterback evaluating. I mentioned this in an interview this week with Michael Vick--right now is the time to watch games (ideally in person) and evaluate traits. January through April is the time for evaluating the person, the football IQ and the potential of the quarterbacks.
Should the Giants blow it all up? Can they be successful by just firing Gettleman? Who should be on the shortlist for GM and HC (if Judge is gone)?
MM: Blow. It. Up.
I can’t imagine ownership looking at the top of this organization--meaning the general manager, head coach, and quarterback--and thinking another year together will fix things. It won’t, because mistakes and poor decisions were made. Perhaps each component could work independently, but not together and not in the current situation. As part of that, firing only Gettleman doesn’t fix the issue because Judge doesn’t have the personality to be paired with a new general manager; and a new GM would likely want to pick their own quarterback.
As for the shortlist of candidates, this is a larger piece I’m working on for late December. Right now the top of the list for GMs would be Ryan Poles (Kansas City), Louis Riddick (ESPN), and Mike Borgonzi (Kansas City). Ryan Cowden (Titans), Ed Dodds (Colts), Terry Fontenot (Saints), Joe Schoen (Bills), and Monti Ossenfort (Titans) are all other names that will get interviews.
As for head coaches, I could see Riddick and longtime friend Josh McDaniels working well together here. McDaniels’ name has been sullied by the Indianapolis Colts fiasco, but he’s a good coach and the Giants’ organization would come highly recommended by his mentor Bill Belichick.
Outside of McDaniels, I remain a big fan of Byron Leftwich (Tampa) and Nathaniel Hackett’s work in Green Bay; plus what Kellen Moore has developed into with the Cowboys. Teams seem destined to build offensively in this day and age, so coordinators with offensive backgrounds will likely be the most sought after.
If the Rams can get it done and catch a ring could you see more teams willing to part with draft picks over the next few seasons or do you think they are an anomaly?
MM: This is a really interesting question and something a lot of NFL insiders are talking about too. And it’s a larger part of the question about just how valuable NFL draft picks are. What the Rams are doing--trading early round picks where the miss rate is very high (especially later picks in those rounds) for proven NFL talent while betting on their ability to fill holes through compensatory and later-round picks is actually how a lot of younger people within NFL front offices think. We can look at what Brett Veach has done in Kansas City as a similar model of this: When you have the chance to be aggressive, be aggressive and when you have the chance to bet on a low cost/high reward situation, do it. I think we’ll see the Carolina Panthers employ a similar strategy, too.
The Rams winning would no doubt spread this philosophy around the NFL faster, but I think we’re already seeing it take root.
Hey Matt, been following you for years and have learned a lot from you. Was hoping you might be able to answer this as well. I’m a senior in college, going towards my masters in sport management/industry. What would be your advice for future development in learning and growth for football? My life’s greatest passion is football and I’m always looking to grow myself in this area. Thanks Matt.
MM: I love this question because while so many people ask how to break into this industry, not as many ask about how to learn more about football.
I saw Daniel Jeremiah answer this question once and loved his insight. He recommended using YouTube or NFL Game Pass to practice evaluating film. Just get comfortable with watching players and writing your thoughts about them down in a notebook. As for learning, there are so many resources available. I loved the “Smart Football” books by Chris Brown. I devour everything Matt Bowen, Dan Orlovsky, Geoff Schwartz and Brian Baldinger post on Twitter because they have an insight into schemes and the game that I never will.
There is no one-stop-shop for this, but you can acquire an education in football online these days with the right curated Twitter list, an ESPN+ membership, and a willingness to learn.
Are the Browns the most ideal and analytically inclined team to dump Baker to not pay him, keep their roster fully stocked, and then invest multiple draft choices (trading up) to get a QB every five years? Quarterbacks worse than him seem like an automatic decision that the team has to move on (I.e Trubisky, Winston) and qbs better than him you have to keep.
In general is this a strategy you would employ unless you lucked into drafting a Mahomes/Watson at 10/12 or Lamar at 32? Just keep taking bites at the Apple, have a great roster, and maybe you find a top-8 qb? The browns, in particular, have had such bad qb luck that I can understand just keeping him for the sake of stability.
MM: I completely agree with the above, Luke. My only difference would be that you might not wait five years. Sure, that’s the contract for a first-round pick but if you know before then that the quarterback isn’t your guy long-term, I don’t think you hold onto them just because you have them. Josh Rosen is a good example of this. The Cardinals knew he wasn’t it, so they moved on after one year and got their guy.
The only caveat here is that you MUST have ownership’s support or it won’t work. In most situations the general manager is only given one miss at quarterback before they’re looking for a new job, so you can’t whiff twice and expect to be around to fix the mistake.
What was the hardest part about getting started in the industry and were there any points where you felt like your career was stagnating? How do you get past those points?
MM: First, some back story. I started writing when I was a senior in high school way back in 2001. From there I continued writing as a hobby for multiple NFL draft websites and even started a few of my own--SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft being one of those ventures--until ultimately finding the perfect fit with Bleacher Report in late 2010. So for nine years I wrote, coached, scouted, and had other full-time jobs while trying to find my way into the industry without a journalism degree or experience at a newspaper--which was so key at the time. Throughout those nine years I did take a few breaks and tried to focus on “real life” but constantly came back to my desire to write about the NFL and NFL Draft. By 2010 I had resigned myself to the idea that it would always be a hobby and nothing more. Then I applied at B/R and the rest is history.
I don’t have magic words for you that will guide you through the thoughts of quitting, I’ve been there. But hopefully you can use my story as proof that persistence does pay off and that hard work is still valued.
As for getting through the tougher times--since I was old enough to have a dream, this was it. So it was never about “giving up” so much as shifting priorities for small amounts of time to allow me to continue to write.
Would it be fair to say despite not having a season similar to his freshman year and recent injury that Stingley is the best CB prospect since Ramsey to enter the draft?
MM: My favorite (sarcasm) thing that we do as football media is get way too excited way too early about prospects. Derek Stingley, Jr. had a great freshman season and was quickly anointed the best cornerback prospect ever. Hell, I think I was probably guilty of it too. But since that time he hasn’t played up to those expectations and is now out indefinitely with an injury.
To compare him to Ramsey feels forced, to me. I think we have to look at former top five picks at cornerback like Jeff Okudah and Denzel Ward as better comparisons for where Stingley is at headed into the NFL draft process. He’s been banged up or under-performed for the last two seasons and is a descending player instead of an ascending player headed into his draft cycle. That’s not ideal.
One rule I’m trying to implement in my work is to draw a line between good, great, and elite prospects. Stingley can be good, really good, or even great without forcing a comparison to an elite prospect.
What is the ceiling with Mel Tucker at MSU? They’re winning big in year 2 and have a new $80-90m facility being built in the spring. Clemson 2.0?
MM: Clemson 2.0 is a situation a lot of fans want to find their teams in, but I think we have to look at the climate Clemson rose to prominence in. Not only did Dabo Swinney coach and recruit well, but he did so at a time that the ACC was on a downward trajectory outside of Death Valley.
Florida State? Not good. Miami? Not good. Virginia Tech? The end of the Beamer era. So the rise of Clemson was aided in part by the decline of the formerly powerful schools in that conference.
Mel Tucker is a heck of a coach and I believe he could build a very good program were he to stay in Lansing. The biggest obstacle for him would be the Big 10 conference. It’s unlikely that Ohio State takes a fall like Florida State has. Penn State could take a step back if James Franklin leaves, but you’re still looking at competent teams in Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern.
I do think Tucker could turn Michigan State into a perennial contender in the Big Ten, but making them more than a Penn State or Notre Dame-level team is hard to see.
For someone looking to break into the sports journalism world where do I start?
MM: The best answer is to simply START. If I were breaking into the industry today versus when I did in 2010, the current landscape offers a lot of opportunities that weren’t there at that time. Think about how many people can see your content on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter? And those are all FREE platforms you can create content on. Not to mention that it’s very cheap to start and produce a podcast in this day and age. None of those platforms really existed (or were very small) in 2010, so if I had to start over right now I would attack those platforms with content.
One other note: You can’t think of yourself as just a writer in 2021--you have to be a multimedia journalist. That means video, audio and written content. If you aren’t comfortable on camera yet, practice until you are comfortable and then start publishing the content. The same with a podcast. Get comfortable with recording yourself, get comfortable with making and following an outline, and get comfortable speaking either with a co-host or solo.
But where do you start? The platforms are all there for you to begin creating your own content and pushing that content out to the masses.
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