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Move The Sticks notes: Teams divided about Deshaun Watson

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  • By Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks NFL.com
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Editor's note: NFL.com analysts and former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the Move The Sticks Podcast share some of their college-scouting notes, including:

» Jeremiah's pick for the Senior Bowl's biggest winner
» A WR who might go from sleeper to riser
» Two top prospects who'll be missing out on a big opportunity

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with what Jeremiah is hearing about this year's QB class.

Last year at this time, there was a lot of buzz and excitement starting to build around Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. This year, no such buzz exists about the draft's quarterback class. In talking to personnel executives last week at the Reese's Senior Bowl, I couldn't find anyone who was in love with any of the 2017 quarterback prospects.

Teams are split on Deshaun Watson -- some believe he would be a good late first- or early second-round pick, while others think he is a long-term project who should be a middle-round pick. Of course, all of these folks said they wouldn't be surprised if he went much higher than that -- however, they believe choosing him that high would be a mistake. I like the fact that he's going to throw at the NFL Scouting Combine next month and I'm anxious to see his official measurables.

I couldn't find a scout or executive who was excited about DeShone Kizer or Mitch Trubisky. When you're talking to teams that already have an established signal-caller, there's no reason for them to feed me false information. In fact, it would benefit them if these quarterbacks went early, dropping talented players at other positions into their lap. I'm sure one or more of these quarterback prospects will get hot and gather some steam as we head toward the draft. Will it be one of the three mentioned above or will we see another name emerge? Buckle up. This is going to be an interesting ride. -- Daniel Jeremiah

* * *

Biggest winner from Senior Bowl: Several prospects boosted their stock with solid performances at the Senior Bowl last week. However, Temple linebacker Haason Reddick clearly generated the most buzz in personnel circles following an outstanding week of a practice.

He checked in at 6-foot-1 1/2 and weighed 237 pounds. He primarily aligned on the edge of the Temple defensive front during the fall but he dominated as an inside linebacker in Mobile. He showed the athleticism to easily cover running backs and tight ends while also excelling during the blitz periods of practice. Most impressively, he showed excellent run instincts and the ability to sort through the trash and find the ball carrier in team drills. Reuben Foster is the top inside linebacker in this draft class, but Reddick is putting some pressure on Florida's Jarrad Davis for the No. 2 spot. -- Daniel Jeremiah

* * *

Stock for two DBs could skyrocket: As the league continues to evolve with ultra-athletic tight ends used as the queen on the chess board, NFL coaches are hunting for long, rangy players at the position with versatile skills to use on the perimeter.

While we've seen teams like the Patriots previously use Brandon Browner (2014) and most recently Eric Rowe as a designated stopper on the second level, I believe more teams are looking for big athletes with safety-like size and cornerback-like cover skills to use on the perimeter to better match up with the likes of Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce and other big-bodied pass-catchers in spread formations.

As I assessed the secondary talent last week at the Senior Bowl, I spotted a couple of prospects with the potential to serve in that capacity at the next level. UConn's Obi Melifonwu and Boston College's John Johnson earned rave reviews for their work throughout the week in man and zone coverage. Each defender showed outstanding athleticism, instincts and awareness in 1-on-1 and team drills. They were comfortable guarding receivers in space, and they were athletic enough to do so utilizing off or press techniques. In addition, each guy flashed the requisite physicality and toughness to harass pass-catchers all over the field.

"They did a nice job at both spots," said an AFC college scouting director. "I wouldn't want them to play outside extensively, but they are certainly capable of playing on the island in spots. ... Every team is looking for a guy who can (handle) dual responsibilities in this league."

Interestingly, Melifonwu and Johnson have spent time on the island as cornerbacks during their careers before finding their niche at safety as collegians. That experience is valuable and gives scouts a general idea of how to take advantage of their skills when they join the program. If they can continue to impress scouts, executives, and coaches with their football acumen in meetings, the duo could see their draft stock soar. -- Bucky Brooks

* * *

From sleeper to riser? Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor didn't grab the headlines for his solid work at the Senior Bowl, but the slick pass-catcher made a positive impression on scouts in attendance. When I asked a handful of evaluators about the most pro-ready receivers at the game, several mentioned the Hilltoppers' WR1 as a plug-and-play playmaker at the next level.

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"He can do it all," said an AFC scout. "He is a natural pass-catcher who can run all of the routes. He can make plays on vertical throws or make it happen on catch-and-run tosses. Plus, he can play inside or outside in a pro-style scheme. I loved him on tape and like him even more after watching him down here. ... I'm just mad that the secret is out on my sleeper."

I didn't know much about Taylor prior to the Senior Bowl, but he was definitely one of the most impressive receivers in attendance. He displays exceptional balance and body control as a route runner, particularly on intermediate routes like digs, curls, and comebacks. Taylor was so smooth getting in and out of his breaks that I believe he would be a perfect fit in an offense that places a premium on route running (see teams that employ West Coast Offense schemes like the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants).

In addition, I believe his crafty running skills would make him a dangerous WR2 on a team that frequently moves receivers around to exploit mismatches on the perimeter. When scouts reconvene in a few weeks to discuss intriguing prospects or potential sleepers, I would expect the Western Kentucky standout to enter the conversation. -- Bucky Brooks

* * *

Ascending DE poses dilemma for scouts: Scouts always say the Senior Bowl is the ultimate proving ground for small-school prospects. If a player from a lower-level program is able to hold his own or dominate a game featuring some of the best prospects in the country, scouts feel better about placing top grades on that player, even though he rarely faced a highly rated prospect during the regular season.

But what about a player who plays better against big-time competition than lower level foes?

That's why scouts are struggling with evaluation of Tanoh Kpassagnon after the Villanova defensive end played well at Senior Bowl practices.

Looking at the 6-foot-7, 290-pound defender from the sidelines, I thought he displayed impressive traits as a pass rusher (first-step quickness, hand skills and motor) in one-on-one drills while flashing disruptive potential in team periods. As a long, rangy edge rusher with outstanding agility and body control, Kpassagnon can use his length to keep blockers at bay or execute a variety of push/pull, arm over or swipe maneuvers to win at the line. The Wildcats' star also showed enough wiggle to slip inside on a double-jab-step, dip-and-rip move that gives overanxious blockers problems in space.

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With Kpassagnon's motor and relentless pursuit standing out in drills, I decided to cross reference the coaching tape from the regular season to see if his production matched the traits. When I studied the Wildcats' playoff games (St. Francis and South Dakota State), I was surprised at how he didn't dominate the competition. He looked nothing like the freak who flashed big-time potential at the Senior Bowl. Kpassagnon struggled getting off blocks and didn't exhibit the same combination of speed, strength and power that made him a nightmare to handle at the all-star game. In addition, he didn't exhibit natural instincts or awareness, which is troubling for a fifth-year senior.

Thus, scouts must decide whether to trust the tape or gamble on his potential based on his impressive physical traits and dominant flashes. Considering his size, length and solid performance at the Senior Bowl, Kpassagnon will likely come off the board sooner than expected, but I would have to consider him a boom-or-bust candidate based on his career resume. -- Bucky Brooks

* * *

Injuries take two out of combine drills: Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis will both sit out testing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine due to injuries. Neither player is dealing with an injury that is a long-term concern for NFL teams, but it's very unfortunate we won't get to see them work out on the same field as the other elite players at their position. I was looking forward to watching Hooker and LSU safety Jamal Adams compete in drills in Indianapolis. They are widely regarded as the top two safeties in this draft class. Some teams prefer Hooker, while others believe Adams is the superior player.

Davis is battling Clemson's Mike Williams to be viewed as the top receiver in the draft. I thought I was going to be on an island when I ranked Davis slightly ahead of Williams in my initial top-50 list, but after visiting with several scouts and executives last week at the Senior Bowl, I realized it was a rather popular opinion. Davis is an incredibly polished route runner and he's outstanding after the catch. I believe he will run the 40-yard dash in the high 4.4s, but we'll be waiting until his pro day to see his official timed speed. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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