Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Updated Big Board; Deshaun Watson Situation; DeVonta Smith Looks to Set New Precedent

What a wild week it has been. NFL free agency is onto Phase 2; Deshaun Watson is being sued by 11 women who claim the Houston Texans’ quarterback sexually assaulted them; and pro days roll on at colleges as the NFL draft is five weeks away.

We’ll get into all of this, but the best place to start the this week’s Scouting Notebook is to hit the reset button on the 2021 draft class. After all, that’s what most of us are here for.

The last week has been spent with a lot of film work and updating scouting reports as we roll out our Top 300 players and reports. And with more film study comes players moving up and down the board.

Let’s check out the updated Top 32 Big Board with player comparisons based on who the prospects relate to as prospects (not an NFL talent comparison).

1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
NFL Comparison: Andrew Luck

2. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
NFL Comparison: Amari Cooper

3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
NFL Comparison: Mike Evans/Darren Waller

4. Penei Sewell OT, Oregon
NFL Comparison: Jason Peters

5. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
NFL Comparison: Dak Prescott

6. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
NFL Comparison: Ryan Shazier

7. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
NFL Comparison: Joe Staley

8. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
NFL Comparison: Kyler Murray

9. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Marvin Harrison

10. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Tyreek Hill

11. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Stephon Gilmore

12. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
NFL Comparison: Marlon Humphrey

13. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
NFL Comparison: Steve McNair

14. Tre’Von Moehrig, S, TCU
NFL Comparison: Antoine Winfield, Jr.

15. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, S/LB, Notre Dame
NFL Comparison: Jamal Adams

16. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
NFL Comparison: Shaquill Griffin

17. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Matt Forte

18. Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
NFL Comparison: Darius Leonard

19. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
NFL Comparison: Stefon Diggs

20. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
NFL Comparison: Duane Brown

21. Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
NFL Comparison: Brian Orakpo

22. Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
NFL Comparison: Dee Ford

23. Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
NFL Comparison: Frank Clark

24. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
NFL Comparison: Isaiah Wynn

25. Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
NFL Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul

26. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Kirk Cousins

27. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
NFL Comparison: Jalen Reagor

28. Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
NFL Comparison: Josh Norman

29. Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
NFL Comparison: Kareem Hunt

30. Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
NFL Comparison: Taylor Moton

31. Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
NFL Comparison: Anthony Barr

32. Landon Dickerson, OC, Alabama
NFL Comparison: Erik McCoy

The Scout’s Report

—The Tennessee Titans made plenty of moves in free agency, but what surprised pundits the most were the players released instead of the players added. Tight end Jonnu Smith was allowed to leave in free agency, signing with the New England Patriots. The team also released right tackle Dennis Kelly—who many expected to replace the traded Isaiah Wilson—as well as Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro and Adoree Jackson. And while they did sign Josh Reynolds, Kendall Lamm and Bud Dupree, the secondary and wide receiver corps need considerable attention via the next phase of free agency and the early rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.

—The Alabama Pro Day is likely happening as you read this on Tuesday, but one notable exception to the event is wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Speaking to the media on Monday, Smith said he currently weighed 170 pounds. That would make Smith the second-lightest wide receiver drafted in the first round since 1999 (Marquise Brown being the lightest at 166 lbs).

Smith’s film is fantastic, but teams will worry about investing a top 15 pick on a smaller wide out. Already one scout has text me to say, “what the hell has he been doing since January if he’s only 170 now?”

Could Smith drop in the first round? Absolutely. The expectation is that he’ll be the second receiver drafted behind LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, but that is not a given with teammate Jaylen Waddle possessing the speed teams covet at the position.

—Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley has the most impressive film of the position group, but injuries might be a concern for teams. Farley had a non-contact knee injury and back spasms during the 2019 season, which will cause teams to rely on medicals to determine his draft spot. On the field, though, the former high school quarterback is just starting to scratch the surface of his talent. If he checks out medically, Farley has elite NFL potential.

*After publishing this article, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Farley would undergo surgery on his back. That update, plus a strong pro day performance by Patrick Surtain II, has Farley slipping in my rankings.

—Speaking of cornerbacks; could the Denver Broncos be eyeing another position in Round 1? A starter on the outside was long considered a favorite pick for the Broncos in Round 1 if the top quarterbacks were off the board. But after signing Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, the Broncos may have their guys for 2021 on the roster already. Assuming the top quarterbacks are gone, the Broncos could become a popular destination for Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons in mock drafts.

—The legal process must play out for Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson with 11 women alleging him of sexual assault as of this writing. However, the football implications are also on hold.

Watson has officially requested a trade from the Texans and teams have attempted to make calls about his availability. But that will all stop until the civil process plays out—which could be a while.

That has a ripple effect on the rest of the league. The New York Jets weren’t going to move Sam Darnold until they knew if he was part of a package to acquire Watson. The same for teams like the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers who have all been rumored to be in on Watson. Their offseason plans are now paused for the time being.

Football is obviously the least important part of this story, but questions about Watson’s professional future are very much on the minds of those around the NFL.

Parting Shots

10. Favorite Free Agent Signing — Haason Reddick to the Panthers

Consider me shocked that Reddick—coming off his best season with 12.5 sacks—didn’t see a bigger market. The Carolina Panthers stole him at $8 million and reunite Reddick with his former college coach Matt Rhule.

The defensive line of Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos and Reddick rushing off the edge and playing some in space has the potential to be nasty.

9. Most Questionable Free Agent Signing — Kenny Golladay to the Giants

$18 million per-year average for a 28 year old wide receiver coming off a hip injury and a five-game season? That scares me.

Golladay is a good player and he was the best available receiver on the market when the Giants signed him, but with the No. 11 choice in Round 1 the Giants will have options at the position. Maybe Dave Gettleman doesn’t like the receiver class. Maybe he knows something we don’t about Golladay. But this felt like a desperate signing.

And if Golladay isn’t an All-Pro candidate in 2021, the Giants will have overpaid for his services.

8. The NEW New England Patriots

They might have to hand out name cards at training camp this offseason for the Patriots. With 22 moves made in the opening week of free agency, Bill Belichick used his salary cap space wisely to add low-cost, effective, veteran starters.

Sounds a lot like what he did in 2001 when they added 21 free agents and started a dynasty that lasted 20 years.

7. Riser of the Week — FSU cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.

Sometimes size matters. FSU’s Asante Samuel, Jr. measured in at 5’10” during the school’s pro day and many scouts breathed a sigh of relief.

Samuel has NFL bloodlines and a feistiness to his game that teams will love in the slot. Measuring in at 5’10” keeps him in the top 75 conversation for many teams as he is now over a size threshold that still exists at the cornerback position.

A 4.50-second time in the 40-yard-dash isn’t ideal, but his toughness and short-area quickness are all over his tape.

6. Riser of the Week II— Indiana safety Jamar Johnson

Consider me way late to the party here. Turn on the Ohio State tape and remember why Indiana gave Justin Fields such a tough day—it was Jamar Johnson.

A versatile, hybrid-defender with experience at cornerback and safety; Jefferson is exactly what NFL teams want in the back-end right now. If he answers questions about deep speed, he could be the second or third safety off the board.

5. Sleeper of the Week — Charleston wide receiver Michael Strachan

Imagine being 6’5”, 225 pounds and setting the school record in the 400m (47.99s). That’s what Michael Strachan did at Charleston and NFL scouts are taking notice.

An opt-out in 2020 due to COVID-19, Strachan’s 2018 and 2019 tape were delivered to my inbox this week and the dude can ball. He’s a legitimate deep threat with very good 50/50 ability.

A likely Day 3 pick, Strachan has potential that should be very exciting to thrifty general managers who want to draft a unique combination of talent.

4. Fun with Numbers

The Seattle Seahawks have three picks this entire draft—Nos. 56, 129 and 250.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins have three picks in the top 36 overall.

Which brings up another interesting nugget: The teams drafting at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 overall each have a second selection in the first round.

3. Read of the Week — Peter King’s Football Morning in America

When I knew I was launching The Draft Scout and bringing this column with me, the first rule was that there would be no competing with Peter King’s Monday morning column.

The read this week was fantastic, as King touches on the Raiders’ struggles to build a winner with some great insights on what ESPN’s Todd McShay called “personnel ADD”.

2. Member Mock Draft Details

Our next Member Mock Draft is scheduled for March 29. This 7-round mock draft will feature 32 general managers from our paid subscriber pool. Sign up information will be in your inbox to reserve a team.

This isn’t a “live” draft—we can’t mark off three days for GMs to make picks—but rather will be done offline like a fantasy draft where the GMs submit picks and we’ll keep a posting of who has been picked.

1. Drink of the Week — The Manhattan

Here’s a couple of takes on one of the most classic bourbon cocktails. There’s no such thing as a bad Manhattan, but there may be one that’s better for you!

What You Need (per drink)
Luxardo Cherry
Angostura Bitters
Sweet Vermouth (we use Carpana Antica here)
Dry Vermouth
Bourbon (aka the good stuff)
Simple Ingredients – big flavors

***2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce***

You’ve Got Options…
We’re going to cover three different ways to build a Manhattan –all customizable to your preferences.

The first way will be a Standard Manhattan, served up - similar to what you’ll find at our bar – this one will consist of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and angostura bitters.

The next way will be what’s called a “Perfect” Manhattan (as if anything with bourbon isn’t perfect). This drink is served up and will have the same three ingredients as the standard with the addition of dry vermouth. If you’re trying to pace yourself or like a little bit of dilution, we can do this On The Rocks, where we’ll adjust the quantity ratios of the ingredients.

About That Drink…
Sometimes the simplest drinks are the best and this one has stood the test of time. The Manhattan is as old as the zipper – created in the late 1890s (definitely googled that).

People crossing into bourbon or just getting started with the flavor can sometimes be intimidated by classic cocktails like this – I see it at the bar all the time. People know that it’s a drink for a ‘bourbon drinker’ but don’t know why or what they would like (or not like about it).

So, when you’re at home, experiment with the portions to adjust to how you like it – and know with confidence next time you’re out ordering. Okay, let’s get weird.

Classic (served up)
Grab a shaker or travel mug
Add Ice
Add Bourbon (2-3 ounces -I have a heavy hand here, just sayin’.)
Add 0.75oz of sweet vermouth
2-3 Dashes of Angostura Bitters

***For On The Rocks, use 2.0oz of bourbon and 0.50oz of sweet vermouth***

Stir (about twenty seconds – always lean on the longer side). Do not shake, that is borderline blasphemous to the bourbon gods.

Grab a coupe or martini glass and place a Luxardo cherry in the bottom.
Strain over cherry
Drink it. Repeat it.

Perfect Manhattan (served up)
Grab a shaker or travel mug
Add Ice
Add Bourbon (2-3 ounces -I have a heavy hand here, just sayin’.)
Add 0.50oz of sweet vermouth
Add 0.50oz of dry vermouth
2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters (again, I tend to be on the heavier side here)
Grab a coupe or martini glass and place a Luxardo cherry in the bottom.
Strain over cherry