Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: The Draft is Set at the Top

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The San Francisco 49ers trade up to No. 3 overall roughly 10 days ago sent a minor shockwave through the world of the NFL. Especially once news started to circulate from those well-connected around the league that the 49ers trade up wasn’t for Justin Fields or Trey Lance but for Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.

With the draft nearly three weeks away, Jones has become the odds-on favorite to be the selection by San Francisco. When asked this week who he expected to be the No. 3 overall pick, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said he would be “shocked” if Jones isn’t the selection.

That connects with what I’ve been hearing—and reporting—since the trade went down. And while the current 49ers front office isn’t known for leaks, this is a unique situation. We know the Jacksonville Jaguars are selecting Trevor Lawrence. We know the New York Jets are selecting Zach Wilson. That effectively puts the 49ers on the clock. And that means they don’t need to create doubt or smokescreens to throw off the scent of other teams—because no team can jump them in the draft order.

Many Niners fans may look at the information being shared by myself, Schefter and others and say, “this front office never leaks!” and while that may be true, it’s very important to read the above paragraph. They have nothing to hide this year. And while it’s all conjecture at this point, one former 49ers employee I spoke to this week said he believes there’s a “95 percent chance” Jones is the pick.

When Roger Goodell takes to the podium on April 29 in Cleveland, Ohio to start the 2021 NFL draft, he’ll announce that the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock. But in reality, it’ll be the Atlanta Falcons with the first moment of suspense as of this writing.

But with three weeks to go, even that could change.

For now, start your mock drafts like this:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

  2. New York Jets — QB Zach Wilson, BYU

  3. San Francisco 49ers — QB Mac Jones, Alabama

The Scout’s Report

—Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the near consensus top overall player in the 2021 Draft class, but who is No. 2?

Speaking to a handful of teams this week—most of them well out of the range to select a top five player—the consensus selection was Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Ahead of Zach Wilson, Penei Sewell or even Ja’Marr Chase.

Pitts’ athleticism at 6’6” and 250 pounds is unprecedented. And his 82” wingspan makes his catch radius something special. Teams know that, with one NFL general manager telling me that Pitts is the “safest pick in this draft but he also has the highest upside. That never happens.”

—Another bombshell report by Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated this week centered around the Atlanta Falcons (No. 4 overall) and Detroit Lions (No. 7) being interested in trading back from their respective first-round selections.

The report would be verified by Schefter, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and others.

The early thinking was that the Falcons or Lions would be willing to trade back so a team could jump the Carolina Panthers for a quarterback. But the Panthers pulled off a trade to acquire former New York Jet Sam Darnold and promptly picked up his fifth-year option for the 2022 season. So cross Carolina off the quarterback list in Round 1.

Would the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots need to jump to No. 4 overall to select a quarterback? Not now. Which is why I believe the Falcons are shopping their selection to a team with targets on Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase—two players the Cincinnati Bengals could select at No. 5 overall.

The Lions willingness to move back was likely under the likelihood that the Panthers would be all-in on quarterbacks, but with that no longer the case, it would be hard to imagine a pre-draft trade involving Detroit’s pick.

—This report might not be as important now that Sam Darnold has been traded, but one Jets source did tell me late last week that many in the team’s scouting and coaching staff believed Darnold could be rehabilitated and become a solid starting quarterback. That’s good news for the Carolina Panthers. And Darnold should be ecstatic to find himself in a favorable situation with the Panthers’ coaching staff and supporting cast.

—I’m a believer in Joe Douglas, the Jets’ general manager, as are most of my connections around the league. When he took the GM job in New York after the 2019 NFL draft, Douglas was my top available candidate for a top job. This is notable because Douglas’ reputation as a scout and team-builder should excite Jet fans given that the team has 21 picks in the next two draft classes. Douglas has to hit on the quarterback when he selects Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall, but those other 20 selections are vital to the Jets becoming a contender.

—One more Jets note: My dream fit for them in Round 3 is Duke pass-rusher Chris Rumph II in Robert Saleh’s scheme. He’s a smaller speed rusher but his ability to make impacts off the edge are dynamic and his hand use is very good for his size (6’3”, 235 lbs).

—For two years we’ve all expected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons to be the first linebacker drafted but don’t sleep on Tulsa’s Zaven Collins. One scout I spoke to said that Collins could be the top linebacker selected and pinpointed the Dallas Cowboys (No. 10 overall) and New England Patriots (No. 15 overall) as landing spots for his services.

—Five quarterbacks who were previously selected in the top five of their draft class will now play for a new team in 2021.

Matthew Stafford :: Los Angeles Rams
Carson Wentz :: Indianapolis Colts
Jared Goff :: Detroit Lions
Mitchell Trubisky :: Buffalo Bills
Sam Darnold :: Carolina Panthers

Updated Mock Draft

1. Jaguars — QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2. Jets — QB Zach Wilson, BYU
3. 49ers — QB Mac Jones, Alabama
4. Falcons — QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
5. Bengals — WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
6. Dolphins — TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
7. Lions — WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
8. Panthers — OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
9. Broncos — QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
10. Cowboys — CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
11. Giants — WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
12. Eagles — CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
13. Chargers — OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
14. Vikings — EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
15. Patriots — LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
16. Cardinals — OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
17. Raiders — LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
18. Dolphins — EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
19. WFT — S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
20. Bears — CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
21. Colts — WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
22. Titans — EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
23. Jets — CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
24. Steelers — LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
25. Jaguars — OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
26. Browns — IOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
27. Ravens — EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
28. Saints — CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia
29. Packers — WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
30. Bills — RB Najee Harris, Alabama
31. Chiefs — OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
32. Bucs — EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State

Parting Shots

6. Stock Up — OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

The offensive tackle group in 2021 shows exceptional depth; so much so that a few lucky teams will get starters outside the first round. Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown is one of those players.

He has excellent size and length and has the movement skills to play for a long time in the NFL. If you’re looking for a pro comparison, I see Brian O’Neill as his counterpart. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy recently compared him to Kolton Miller. An athletic but somewhat raw tackle like the two mentioned above is who Brown could be.

5. Stock Down — IOL Wyatt Davis, Ohio State

I loved the 2019 tape from Wyatt Davis, but his game got sloppy in 2020. He spent so much time on the ground in the run game and didn’t show the same balance and agility that made him a favorite of mine in 2019.

Davis has big name recognition, but the 2020 tape really wasn’t that good. If he weren’t a name and coming from a big program like Ohio State, Davis would probably be viewed as a Day 3 player. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finds himself there later this month.

4. Sleeper of the Week — P Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech

Earlier this week I got a text from NBC Sports’ Peter King asking about the best punter in the 2021 draft class, Mr. Pressley Harvin III from Georgia Tech. Yes, we text about punters.

And as Peter mentioned in his amazing Football Morning in America column, Harvin has an amazing story. He’s also a likely Round 5 draft pick and the favorite to be the first special teams player drafted.

3. Chiefs Jersey Proposal

This, I love. The Kansas City Chiefs proposed an NFL rule change that would allow players to wear a more expansive set of numbers than the somewhat rigid set of rules in place now.

Here’s how it would look.

QB, punter, kicker: 1-19.
RB, TE, WR: 1-49, 80-89.
DB: 1-49.
LB: 1-59, 90-99.
OL: 50-79.
DL: 50-79, 90-99

Jalen Ramsey wearing No. 8 again? Tyrann Mathieu rocking No. 7?

Bring it back! And drop in the comments which NFL player you’d like to see rocking a new number.

2. Crediting the Browns

Here's something that hasn’t happened a lot in my 10 years covering the NFL draft—it’s time to give the Cleveland Browns credit. And here’s why—they have almost no true needs (at least for the 2021 season). General manager Andrew Berry deserves a ton of recognition for his quick rebuild of this team—and he did inherit some solid pieces but the Browns being a playoff team and having one of the most solid rosters in the NFL.

1. Drink of the Week — The Kentucky Mule

An easy-to-make twist on a classic for those who want a cocktail but aren’t ready to give up their bourbon!

What you need (per drink)
1 Bunch of Mint
1 Lime
Regular Simple Syrup
Lime Juice
Ginger Beer
***2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce***

Let’s get the hard part out of way…
We’ll need to make a regular simple syrup for this one. To do this, in a pot with higher walls, add equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil for about 5-7 minutes and then simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and set aside. If you’re planning on having company or not trying to feel feelings this weekend, a pint of it is a good place to start.

About That Drink…
So, this is a play on the Moscow Mule, which is vodka-based, and, if you are more of a vodka person, just sub it in wherever you see bourbon.

Separately, this drink did not originate in Russia, but rather in New York City in the early 1940s, with the rumor going that a bar was trying to get rid of a large stock of unsold ginger beer and looking for creative ways to go through it. They combined that ginger beer with some citrus and vodka and that was it…The Moscow Mule.

Copper Mug
This drink was originally and is still traditionally served in a copper mug. The copper acts as an insulator and holds the drink ice cold while locking in all those flavors.

But…this drink is highly acidic. If your copper mug is not lined with another metal, there is a chance of copper leaching into the contents and causing copper poisoning, which I am pretty sure no one knew was a thing and sounds like just the worst thing ever.

Let’s get to it
If you have a copper mug (that isn’t apparently trying to slowly kill you), we’ll build the drink in mug itself. If not, we will use a shaker, or coffee travel mug.
First, we will add a couple of mint leaves (this item is optional and part of this specific recipe – if you hate mint or don’t have it, the drink will still work just fine)

Add 1 oz of Lime Juice
Add 0.5 oz of Regular Simple Syrup
Muddle with whatever tool you have available. You don’t have to go too crazy here, enough to break up the mint, but not enough that your forearm gives out.
Add ice
Add 2 oz Bourbon
Add Ginger Beer (Fill to top)
Stir for about 20 seconds.

Oh, She Pretty.
For this garnish, we will make a lime wheel. Place lime long ways in front of you, and slice off the end. Cut thin circular pieces – this may take some practice. When I first started doing this, my pieces were either super thick (looks ridiculous) or way too thin (will not sit on glass). Once you have the wheels, you’ll cut a small slit a from the outside to almost the middle (Is that a radius? Geometry was forever ago)

We will sit that on the rim of the mug or cup and grab a sprig of mint to place alongside it.